Thursday, 30 October 2014

Surviving the Cruise Ship Buffet

Surviving the Cruise Ship Buffet

Surviving the Cruise Ship Buffet
Anchors aweigh! 
Food, glorious food — it’s one of the top reasons people go on cruises. In one week, the cruise ship the Queen Mary 2 serves 16,000 meals a day, including 50 tons of fruit and vegetables, eight tons of poultry, 13 tons of fish and seafood, two tons of cheese and dairy, two tons of sugar, 5,000 gallons of milk, 32,400 eggs, and more, using 610 miles of plastic wrap and 87,000 pieces of glassware and china.
Though many people love the experience of fine dining in the so-called dress-up dining room, the 24-hour buffet is a great quick, casual option — if you know how to navigate it. When it comes to cruise buffets, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do them. Here are some of my best buffet tips, culled from decades of cruising.
scrambled egg cruise buffet

Get your scrambled eggs from the omelet station. 
One of the most important things to know about eating at a cruise buffet is what to stay away from. At breakfast, it’s the static, chafing-dish scrambled eggs. It may seem quick and easy to just scoop some up — after all, they’re already prepared, and really, how bad could they be on a fancy cruise, right? Wrong. They’re made hours before they are put out and are still almost raw even when they hit the buffet. The eggs are scrambled lightly and then left to cook via the heat from the hot station. On the other hand, omelets are one of the things you’ll find made to order at the buffet, so ask the omelet cook to make you a quick scramble instead — he’s already got the eggs. That way you know you’re eating fresh, fully cooked eggs. (Incidentally, eggs Benedict is always done as you order and usually excellent.)
If you’re not an egg person, you can also get fresh pancakes and waffles — again, forget those nasty ones that are somehow simultaneously crusty and soggy from sitting in the serving dish. Butter won’t even melt on them. If you walk over to the cafeteria and nicely ask the cook to give you some pancakes off the griddle, you’ll be much happier with the result. 
cruise buffet stir-fry

Don’t let them overly season your stir-fry with soy sauce. 
Salads and stir-fry are big at the cruise buffet lunch. Though the stir-fries are made to order, the cooks tend to overuse soy sauce, so ask them to go easy. As for the salads, watch out for the raw onions — the self-serve lettuce always seem to be overloaded with them.
cruise buffet salad bar

Beware of onions on the salad bar.
Another lunch option to be careful of is the smoked salmon. (It’s on all salad and breakfast buffets.) If the edges are beginning to curl or are slightly brown, stay away. Believe me, I know. There was that time cruising to Turks and Caicos … ew. 
cruise buffet pasta station

Don’t be afraid to speak up at the pasta station. 
Important fact: They have the same dinner entrées on the Lido-deck buffet as they do in the dress-up dining room. Same food, supereasy. If you’re not into the chafing-dish options, you can also have a steak cooked to order. But beware: The quality of the meat used at the buffet is not as good as the meat used for the main dining room.
Other important dinner tips? If you’re a fan of fish, stick to whatever fish they’re cooking to order.
And who doesn’t love an all-you-can-eat pasta dinner? You at the cruise buffet if you order correctly. Though the pasta dish is put together in front of you, the pasta itself is precooked. When you order your noodles, the cook will put them in a strainer and submerge them in hot water to warm them while finishing the sauces. The problem is the straining of the noodles: The cook will lift them out, give them a shake, and throw them in the pan with the sauce — and you will end up with a watery mess. If you’re willing to speak up and ask for a better strain or for the sauce to be thickened, then pasta is a good option. If you do choose pasta, do it the day after the sit-down dining room serves meat — they take the leftover high-quality meat and throw it into sauces. And ask the cook to add some marinated veggies from the pizza station rather than the raw ones they use, since they never seem to cook properly.
cruise buffet desert bar

Go wild at the dessert bar. Just avoid the cake.
Sweets are one of the best parts of the buffet (just make sure the plates holding the desserts are on ice). Puff pastries, petits fours, crème brûlée, and the like all hold up better than cake, which dries out quickly. So pile on the goodies — don’t forget the whipped cream! — and you can even take your dessert to your cabin if you like.

Carnival resumes single price for beverage package

Carnival Cruise Lines has resumed charging a single price for its beverage package, after experimenting with a variable price system.

Starting Oct. 25, the price for the "Cheers!" package became $49.95 per person, per day, for cruises of all lengths.

In August, Carnival began testing a system in which Cheers! cost more on short cruises. Earlier this year, Carnival expanded the package to three-day cruises, for which it hadn’t previously been available.

Under that concept, Cheers! cost $55 per person, per day on a three-day cruise, $45 on a four-day cruise, $42.50 on a five- or six-day cruise and $37.50 on a seven or eight-day cruises.

The package provides flat-rate daily pricing for alcoholic drinks, nonalcoholic frozen drinks, wine by the glass and soda. Drinks $10 or less are covered and there is a limit of 15 alcoholic drinks per day.

Carnival resumes single price for Beverage package

By Tom Stieghorst

Mississippi paddlewheeler to be named American Eagle

Mississippi paddle wheeler to be named American Eagle

By Michelle Baran

American Cruise Lines’ new Mississippi paddle wheeler has been named the American Eagle and will sail its first revenue cruise on March 28.

After announcing last December that it would introduce four new U.S. riverboats between 2015 and 2017, ACL has finally provided details about the first of those vessels, the 149-passenger American Eagle.

The paddle wheeler is being built at the Chesapeake Shipbuilding yard in Salisbury, Md. It will feature 19 single staterooms and 65 double cabins, ranging from between 300 and 600 square feet.

With the exception of six lower-deck cabins, staterooms will have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors with private balconies.

The public areas will include the Magnolia Lounge, the Sky Lounge, the Paddle wheel Lounge, the Grand Dining Room and the Mark Twain Library and Chart Room.

An outdoor exercise area and putting green will be located on the sun deck. Elevators will be available with access to all decks.

There will be guest laundry service, complimentary wireless Internet and complimentary breakfast room service.

The American Eagle will sail mostly seven-day cruises along the Mississippi River. It will join ACL’s existing Mississippi paddle wheeler, the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi.

ACL has said that a Columbia and Snake river paddle wheeler will be launched later in 2015, but no details on that riverboat have been provided. 

Celebrity Cruises packages combine ocean and river voyages

Celebrity Cruises packages combine ocean and river voyages

By Tom Stieghorst

Celebrity Cruises said it will offer 11 itineraries next year that combine an ocean cruise with a river cruise in Europe.

The fully commissionable packages range from 16 to 24 nights and will be available on four well-known rivers: the Danube, Rhine, Rhone and Seine. Celebrity's river cruise partner is Amras Cruises.

“By introducing these river-and-ocean cruise packages, travellers can immerse themselves in Europe more so than ever before, with the ease of choosing a vacation package exclusively created by Celebrity,” said the cruise line's president, Michael Bayley.

The deluxe packages will be sold with airfare, pre-cruise hotel stays, transfers and a beverage package, making them similar to a luxury cruise in concept. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Queen Victoria Cruise Ship To Get Multi-Million Upgrade

Queen Victoria Cruise Ship To Get Multi-Million Upgrade

Cunard Line is continuing its fleet upgrade with a multi-million refurbishment scheduled for January 2015.
The Queen Victoria will have a dry-dock at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. The shipyard is also the same place where sister ship Queen Elizabeth recently had its upgrade.
Queen Victoria’s multi-million dollar refit will ensure this much-loved ship remains in tip-top condition for her World Cruise in 2015 and beyond, said David Dingle, CEO for Cunard Line.
The refurbishment will include 9 brand new single staterooms which will offer an even wider range for cruisers sailing single. More shade will be offered by new sun awnings near the ships open deck pool. Another large part of the refit will be new environmentally friendly filters for the ships propulsion systems.
When a cruise ship gets a major upgrade it usually includes all the hotel spaces which the Queen Victoria will receive. New carpets and flat TV’s will be installed to freshen up the vessel. Also hotel departments including the gift shops will get a new fine jewellery and watches sections along with a new layout.
Queen Victoria’s dry-dock was originally scheduled for December 2015 but due to a propulsion unit bearing problem the dry-dock has had to be brought forward to January 2015. The propulsion issue has caused Cunard to cancel two cruises in January, a 12-day cruise to the Canaries departing January 3rd and a five-day cruise to Amsterdam departing January 15th. Passengers booked on those cruises have been informed and the cruise line is offering a $175 onboard credit. Passengers can choose another cruise or get a full refund of their booking.
While we are sorry to be cancelling the two cruises, we are looking forward to welcoming all those affected back aboard a Cunard ship in the near future, perhaps on Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth, both of which will be sailing in 2015 fresh from their make overs, Dingle said.
The Queen Victoria will be all set for its world cruise starting on January 20th 2015. The ship will offer guests all the latest onboard features which will be added during the upcoming dry-dock in Hamburg.

Costa Cruise's Latest New Addition.

Costa Cruise's Latest New Addition. 
Costa DiademaCosta Cruises has received its newest cruise ship the Costa Diadema from the Italian ship builder Fincantieri.
The ship was built at the Fincantieri Marghera shipyard which is a popular choice for Carnival owned cruise ships. The large vessel will also be the new flagship of the Costa fleet. Costa Cruises has invested a total of around 550 million euro in the construction of the Italian based cruise lines most advanced ship.
The project has involved approximately 1,000 shipyard workers plus another 2,500 subcontractors and about 400 contracted suppliers, most of which are Italian firms, engaged for the fitting-out of the interiors of the cruise ship. Costa Diadema is the 12th cruise ship built-in Italy by Fincantieri for Costa, with a total investment worth more than 5 billion euro.
“Costa Diadema is our new flagship, she will set new standards in the European cruise industry and further strengthen Costa’s leadership in Europe. She is the best expression of our new brand positioning: Italy’s finest. It`s passion and modern Italian lifestyle, hospitality and elegance” commented Costa Crociere S.p.A CEO, Michael Thamm.
At 132,500 gross tons, more than 300 meters long and 37 meters wide, Costa Diadema has 1,862 guest cabins and will be an Ambassador of Italy’s finest offering the best of Italian lifestyle, entertainment, gastronomy and hospitality. The new flagship’s interiors are even cozier, roomier and more modern in terms of facilities and layout of her public areas. She is a cutting-edge vessel which offers large, split-level rooms directly overlooking the sea and conveniently interconnected, thus evoking the atmosphere of a buzzing Italian seaside resort.
The perfect example is the outside promenade on deck five – a real “terrazza all’italiana”, extending over 500 meters, where guests can go for a stroll and enjoy the spectacular view over the sea, or, even better, relaxing in one of the several bars and restaurants, drinking a cocktail or having a romantic dinner.
Giuseppe Bono, CEO of Fincantieri S.p.A. said:“Costa Diadema is the 44th cruise ship we have built since 2002, the 12th cruise ship we have built for our friends from Costa Crociere. This is thus a very special occasion to us and we are very proud to present the latest result of the Italian excellence, which confirms our leading position in ship design and construction for cruise sector, a sector without parallel in terms of technological complexity and competitiveness.” Bono concluded: “Today, during this day of celebration, I express my wish that this fruitful cooperation between two main national companies may continue and bring good luck to the whole country.”
After the delivery, Costa Diadema will set sail from Venice on October 30 and will reach Trieste, from which her “vernissage cruise” will start on November 1, then will call at Dubrovnik, Corfù, Malta, Naples, to then end in Genoa on November 7, for the Christening event. After the vernissage, from November 8, she will depart for three 7-day inaugural cruises.
As “Regina del Mediterraneo”, Costa Diadema will be deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. From November 8 until the end of 2015 Summer season, the new flagship will leave from Savona on 7-day cruises in the western Mediterranean Sea, calling every week at Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Naples and La Spezia. They will offer the chance to visit during a single cruise Florence and Naples, two of the most popular Italian cities, and beautiful Mediterranean cities like Barcelona and Marseille.

Royal's Quantum heads to UK for trade preview

Royal's Quantum heads to UK for trade preview

Royal's Quantum heads to UK for trade preview
Royal Caribbean International took delivery of new ship Quantum of the Seas ahead of a trade preview sailing from Southampton at the weekend.
The formal handover in Bremerhaven from its German shipyard came ahead of the 4,180-passenger ‘smart ship’ arriving in the UK on Friday.
More than 500 agents have been invited on a two-night inaugural sailing before Quantum of the Seas accepts its first passengers on Sunday for a transatlantic crossing to Bayonne, New Jersey.
Quantum of the Seas will then sail from New York to the Bahamas and the Caribbean for her inaugural season before departing for her new homeport of Shanghai (Baoshan) in China next May.
This weekend’s preview will allow agents to gain an insight into the facilities to be offered by sister ship Anthem of the Seas which will be based in Southampton from April 2015 for a summer of Mediterranean itineraries.
The Quantum-class ships feature the line’s largest cabins, including interior accommodation with virtual balconies offering real-time views of the ocean and destinations.
Additional bandwidth allows the ships to offer 500 times more connectivity than any other cruise ship, Royal Caribbean claims, in addition to technology designed to speed up the boarding process with passengers able to track their luggage.
Other features include the first skydiving simulator at sea, a viewing pod that lifts passengers more than 300 feet above the ocean, the SeaPlex indoor sports and entertainment complex with bumper cars and roller skating, and a Bionic Bar featuring the world’s first robotic bartenders.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Learning from RCCL’s cruise line partnerships

Learning from RCCL’s cruise line partnerships

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightForming partnerships to operate cruise lines is a tricky business that can have hard-to-predict consequences.

Take, for example, two cruise lines that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) got involved with in Europe.

One, Spain’s Pullmantur, has been a qualified disaster. As the economy in Spain soured over the past decade, Pullmantur’s results worsened. Because RCCL had acquired Pullmantur outright in 2006, it had to accept the subsidiary’s losses as its own on profit or loss statements.

Last year, RCCL took a $414 million writedown of Pullmantur’s assets. The only positive has been Pullmatur’s growing business in Latin America.

The other cruise line Royal took an interest in is Germany’s TUI. It remains 50/50 partners in TUI with TUI AG, which means it can’t incorporate either losses or profits directly in its bottom line.

In this case, it wishes it could. Unlike Spain, the German economy has mostly been strong and TUI has been highly profitable.

“TUI Cruises has been a very solid performer,” RCCL Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said in a recent conference call with Wall Street analysts. “I dearly wish they were included in our yield stats because it would make them look very good.”

Royal Caribbean reported $18.8 million of “other income” in a third quarter in which it earned $490.2 million. Most of that came from TUI, CFO Jason Liberty said.

The exact structure of how cruise line partnerships are formed is worth keeping in mind as both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corp. negotiate joint ventures in China to further their interests in that key country.

The devil is in the details, as they say. It should be interesting to see what the details are if and when these Chinese ventures are finalized.

4 Reasons A Balcony is a Good Choice

4 Reasons A Balcony is a Good Choice

Departing Cozumel

1) The Sights

Imagine waking up in the morning to a whale breaching the surface or a tropical port city approaching on the horizon. Yes, while these sights can also be seen through a standard porthole, you’ll be amazed at how these sights will leave you in awe or transport you to your “happy place” as you stand there and watch these sights in their true element – in the open air.

2) Sailing Away

While similar to the aforementioned sights, soaking in the excitement of sail away from your private balcony is truly the way to enjoy the sail away experience. You’ll find this exciting time of your cruise much more relaxing and fun as you enjoy your own reserved space along the rail sailing away from Miami or Cozumel. It’s truly hard to beat.
Nieuw Amsterdam Day 1 149

3) Suntanning (Well, kinda)

This one can be tricky as it depends on your balcony’s actual design. Many cruise ships feature balconies that are partially covered or fully uncovered. This unique design practically creates a private suntanning area reserved just for you and your fellow cabin mates. Many of these “sunning” balconies may even feature full sun loungers depending on the stateroom’s design or category. Many “sunning” balconies aboard Princess’ Grand Class ship feature not only two sun loungers, but a table and chairs as well.
Lanai Stateroom (Room 333 Cat CA- Deck 6 MidshipVeendam - Holland America Line

4) Extra Space

One of my favourite reasons I sail with a balcony is the extra space it provides. Let’s be honest, most cruise ship staterooms aren't exactly generous in space, so having some extra room to stretch out, take a nap, or even to just escape the indoors can be priceless. Plus, many families can take advantage of this extra space for changing before dinner or getting ready for the day. Rather than wait turns to use the bathroom to change, families can use the bathroom, stateroom, and balcony to change simultaneously.

Royal Caribbean accepts delivery of Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean accepts delivery of Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean accepted delivery today of its newest cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, from ship builder Meyer Werft.
The ceremonial exchange occurred at Bremerhaven, Germany where officials from Royal Caribbean met with Meyer Werft officials to officially welcome Quantum of the Seas into Royal Caribbean's fleet.
Quantum of the Seas will depart from Bremerhaven to Southampton, England later today, October 28, 2014.  Once she reaches Southampton, she will set off to her Atlantic crossing on November 2nd.
Royal Caribbean has scheduled her official maiden voyage for November 23 from Cape Liberty, New Jersey to the Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean opens new terminal in Bayonne

Royal Caribbean opens new terminal in Bayonne

By Tom Stieghorst

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. held a dedication ceremony for a new 125,000-square-foot terminal at Cape Liberty in Bayonne, N.J.

The new terminal is located adjacent to the original 2004 terminal and will serve as the passenger processing center for Quantum of the Seas when it arrives on Nov. 10.

The new facility is the first phase of a $55 million expansion and includes a 950-space parking garage. Bayonne already earns an estimated $500,000 a year from a parking tax inaugurated in 2008.

Cape Liberty Cruise Port Opens New Terminal
PHOTO: Cape Liberty Cruise Port has opened a new terminal to house Royal Caribbean's new Quantum of the Seas. (File photo courtesy of Cape Liberty Cruise Port)
The first phase of the $55 million port expansion includes a state-of-the-art guest terminal, with 125,000 square feet of check-in, customs and immigration, and luggage-processing space, as well as a 950-car parking structure. The new facility is at 4 Port Terminal Boulevard, adjacent to the first terminal that opened in May 2004. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey have dedicated the second cruise terminal at Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., which will house the new Quantum of the Seas starting Nov. 10.
Cape Liberty is about 15 minutes from Newark Liberty International Airport and seven miles south of Manhattan. The port has been the year-round home of Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas and seasonal homeport for Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit.
Quantum of the Seas will sail to the Caribbean and Bahamas starting in November, but will move to Shanghai, China, in May. It will be replaced by Liberty of the Seas for the summer and then Quantum’s sister ship, Anthem of the Seas, for winter 2015.
Cape Liberty has the second-largest passenger volume among Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coast ports, according to a study titled “The Contribution of the North American Cruise Industry to the U.S. Economy in 2011.” The facilities generate an estimated $500,000 per year to the City of Bayonne and help generate $390 million annually.

This Abandoned Ship Is About To Hit Land. That’s Not Even The Scary Part… What’s Inside Of It Is.

This Abandoned Ship Is About To Hit Land. That’s Not Even The Scary Part… What’s Inside Of It Is.

 Could you imagine purchasing a nice piece of land that offers you ocean front property, only to get word that there is an abandoned ship headed your way. Well an abandoned ship isn’t THAT bad! The part that is bad is that the ship is now full of cannibal rats, who have survived on this ship by eating each other. You can’t blow the ship up due to the debris that would land in the ocean and be harmful for sea life, not to mention all the garbage that would come ashore. And you don’t want it to reach shore in case the rats somehow get off the boat and invade the ocean’s shore. So what are you supposed to do? Here is a little history of the Lyubov Orlova!

The Lyubov Orlova is a ship that was made in Yugoslavia. It was designed so the Russians could take some of their most elite citizens on tours of Antarctica and the Arctic Circle. It was designed to withstand these extremely cold waters with Finnish-Swedish Ice Glass 1A in order to break through any ice that may be floating in the ocean.
Over the years, the ship was sold to a variety of different owners, the last owner being Cruise North Expeditions. They were ready to set sail but the trip was canceled due to some issues with the ship that made it unsafe for travel. In 2010, the ship was impounded in Newfoundland, Canada and then sold in 2012 to a company called Neptune International Shipping to be turned into scrap metal.
Once impounded, the Lyubov Orlova ws docked for two years in St. John’s harbor. It was then decided that it would be towed from this harbor down to the Dominican Republic. It was originally tugged by Charlene Hunt, a tug owned by American tug operator Hunt Marine. This all began on January 27, 2013. But one day after they left the dock, the tow line parted. They tried to reconnect, but due to horrible weather they were not able to get the tow line connected again. This caused the Lyubov Orlovo to slowly drift east.
Because Hunt Marine was not able to gain control over the Lyubov Orlovo, a new company was hired. An offshore supply vessel named Atlantic Hawk was hired with this task. The boat had become a risk to oil and gas operations in the southeastern end of the Avalon Peninsula in Canada. Transport Canada announced that on January 31, 2013 the Atlantic Hawk had regained control of the Lyubov Orlova.
Once Lyubov Orlova was in international waters though, Transport Canada decided to cut her loose and call it good! They said, “The Lyubov Orlova no longer poses a threat to the safety of offshore oil installations, their personnel or the marine environment. The vessel has drifted into international waters and given current patterns and predominant winds, it is very unlikely that the vessel will re-enter waters under Canadian jurisdiction.” They stated that due to safety concerns they were no longer going to salvage the giant ship.
After the ship was abandoned, it was spotted in various parts of the Atlantic Ocean. This ship could have drifted anywhere from the Norwegian Arctic to western Africa! The reason that this was more scary than normal is that it was believed that this ship was filled with hundreds of cannibalistic rats, that survived by eating each other. On February 23, 2013 this ship was spotted 1300 nautical miles from the Irish coast. Because of this spotting, there was a caution issued to smaller vessels. On March 1, 2013, it was reported by the Irish media that a signal from the ship’s emergency positioning beacon was received. It was 700 miles off the Kerry coast, but still in International waters. Transport Canada made it clear that the owners of the ship were still the ones responsible for its whereabouts, even though they had every intention of transporting it for scrap metal. There was another distress signal sent from the Lyubov Orlova on March 12, 2013.
There were rumors that the ship was headed toward the coast of England, but it is now believe that the ship sunk shortly after the last distress signal was sent. It has not been seen or heard from since.
Share This Abandoned Ship Story With Your Friends.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Experience the ultimate getaway with Norwegian Cruise Line

Experience the ultimate getaway with Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line’s latest ship boasts contemporary design and extra touches that make it ideal for cruising the Caribbean.

It’s 9.30pm, we’re somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean sea and on stage in the Illusionarium a magician’s assistant has just disappeared. There isn’t any smoke and there aren’t any mirrors, or at least none that any of us can see, and we all have a good look. When she reappears a minute later from the box she vanished from there are gasps of genuine amazement and rapturous applause. Now that’s the way to grab attention.

The Norwegian Getaway experience is full of surprises like this. From simple touches like the coffee maker, thoughtfully provided in the staterooms, to the excellent entertainment and huge range of dining options, there is extraordinary attention to detail throughout.

Our Caribbean cruise from Miami included calls at Saint Martin/Sint Maarten (two islands in one) and St Thomas, but we started off with two full days at sea, which gave us a chance to discover all that the ship has to offer.
The beautiful, colourful livery decorating Norwegian Getaway’s hull gives you a taste of what’s to come on board. This is a glamorous but laidback cruise ship, with lots of cool bars (not including the Ice Bar), and plenty of spaces to hang out on sea days. There’s an impressive pool deck, and the ambience is friendly and relaxed; no unseemly battles for the buffet or towel wars on the sunbeds here.

For me, though, the biggest revelation was The Waterfront, the open-air promenade that wraps most of one deck. The chance to sit outside on a balmy Caribbean evening and enjoy first cocktails and then dinner al fresco, lulled by the warm ocean breeze, is an absolute joy. At a quarter-of-a-mile long The Waterfront is also ideal for strolling round first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee and admiring the ocean views (who needs to go to the gym?)

If you’re travelling without kids then it’s worth paying the $79 a week to enjoy the relative seclusion of The Vibe, where you’ll find hot tubs, an assortment of sun beds and a bar; you’re also served complimentary fruit on sticks and cold towels, very welcome in the Caribbean heat.

For those who want an even more exclusive experience, The Haven is a ship-within-a-ship, with its own restaurant, swimming pool and suites. In fact, you could probably stay in The Haven and never see any of the other passengers.

My ocean-view balcony stateroom had plenty of space, a good-sized balcony and was tastefully furnished in turquoise and glossy mahogany-coloured wood. The bathroom was roomy, too (shampoo and body wash provided); my room was cleaned almost as soon as I left it to go out in the morning and at night the turndown service included a satisfying succession of hilarious towel animals and chocolates.

We were all intrigued by the Studios – single cruisers even get their own two-storey hangout with drinks available so they can mingle freely (although they’re not allowed in each other’s staterooms, apparently).

Of course we tried the Ice Bar (for about 10 minutes – you’re given furry ponchos and gloves to put on but it is seriously freezing in there) but preferred Sugar Cane Mojito on The Waterfront, where we could enjoy being outside while sampling the mojito menu.
Norwegian Getaway Cruise Video
Norwegian Getaway Cruise Video
My friends, braver than I, ventured on to the ropes course and The Plank, which juts out to sea, and declared it the most terrifying thing they’d done in their lives (they loved every minute, of course). They also hit the gym, where they joined in with the various yoga and spinning classes on offer. I preferred lounging in The Vibe and watching the waves, but that’s the beauty of Norwegian’s freestyle cruising concept: you never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do (or don’t want to be photographed doing).

The room service menu is fine, if a little limited: for breakfast you’re better off getting dressed and heading toSavor or Taste where you can choose from delicious pancakes with fresh berries, waffles, bacon, and omelettes made to order, with table service at no extra charge; or simply helping yourself in The Garden Restaurant. The Flamingo Bar and Grill rapidly became my favourite lunch venue. It offers Cuban/Miami-inspired food; excellent empanadas (stuffed pastries), plantain and yucca chips, and again you can sit outside.

There are several speciality restaurants (booking with Virgin Holidays Cruises gives you complimentary dinner in one of these), including Geoffrey Zakarian’s Ocean Blue, which serves excellent seafood including moreish calamari, and the French-themed Le Bistro. The food in the complimentary Tropicana Room is less impressive, but with 28 onboard restaurants you’re never going to run out of places to eat.

Kids’ clubs are spacious and well thought-out, while for grown-ups, the spa has restorative sea views, a pool and whirlpools, and a good menu of treatments.

Entertainment on board is of a high standard. Apart from the magic of the Illusionarium (there’s a $29.99 cover charge for this, which includes dinner), we saw Burn the Floor, a Latin American dance extravaganza which will have you signing up to the onboard salsa dancing classes first thing the next day. There’s also the Grammy Experience, a nightclub and a slightly bizarre duelling piano bar (held in the comedy club).

But even with all the attractions, it was a great feeling to disembark and get out and about on St Martin/Sint Maarten, where we joined a visit to a rum ‘factory’ (more shop, less factory, a lot of tasting) followed by a cookery class from a local chef at a restaurant on Grand Case beach, and then swimming in the clear warm water.

On our final evening we enjoyed the fireworks at sea. Norwegian is one of only two cruise lines currently offering these and for sheer spectacle, there’s nothing quite like watching bursts of gold, ruby, emerald and silver glittering against the night sky while you’re in the middle of the ocean.

The next morning we were able to enjoy an excursion to the beach at St Thomas, before catching our flight back to Miami. We were sad to say goodbye to Norwegian Getaway – our stay had been as short and sweet as a passion fruit mojito, but it gave us a real taste of what this fabulous ship has to offer.

Oasis of the Seas in Southampton

Oasis of the Seas in Southampton
Oasis of the Seas has now finished having her refit and finally came into the port of Southampton earlier today. It was a big deal to have the world’s largest cruise ship (joint with her sister Allure) stop off at the UK’s port. Many visitors made their way to Southampton just to get a glimpse of just how larger Oasis is.
If you were not lucky enough to see Oasis of the Seas in Southampton, there are pictures over on the Daily Echo, as well as a video of her entering the port below. This was such a big occasion and so we had tug boats spraying water, as well as helicopters circling her as she manoeuvred into City Cruise Terminal.
This is the first time that Oasis of the Seas has visited the UK, and so took a lot of skill to get such a large ship into port, although the experience of the Captain and pilots made certain everything went smoothly.
Many cruise lovers made the trip down to Southampton in order to see just how magnificent this giant of a cruise ship is.
She is due to set sail again later tonight, once the more than 6,000 passengers have boarded. Once she leaves port, the destination will be Fort Lauderdale, Florida, calling at Vigo, Spain along the way.
 Oasis of the seas in Southampton

Friday, 24 October 2014

Top 10 Things to Do on a Cruise on a Rainy Day

Top 10 Things to Do on a Cruise on a Rainy Day

rainy day on cruiseIf you’ve taken enough cruises, chances are you’re going to experience your fair share of rainy days while at sea.  On my last cruise it was cloudy or rainy almost the entire trip, so it inspired me to write this post on some fun things you can still do even if the skies are a little foreboding.  Don’t let a little rain ruin your vacation.
These are my top 10 things to do on a rainy day at sea but feel free to add your own to the list in the comment section below.

Spend some time in the spa

No matter how much rain is pouring out of the sky it will always be calming and relaxing in the spa.  Besides getting a facial or some other treatments you can always just enjoy watching the storm from the warm tepidarium or sauna if the ship has these features.  There is usually an indoor hot tub in the spa as well, and this is a great place to avoid the rain while enjoying some relaxation.

Check out a book from the library

The library on a cruise ship is often overlooked by most passengers.  You will not find a vast array of books here, but it’s a nice place to sit and read and get away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the ship.  And besides finding a few good books to read during your cruise you can also check out some games to play with your cruise mate or family.
Hit the arcade
Even if video games aren’t really your thing you should check out the arcade at least once anyway.  My wife and I seem to always end up playing air hockey on every cruise we go on, in addition to a competitive game of skee-ball.  You might have to endure some adolescent interaction, but a rainy day is a great time to feel like a kid again.  Just remember that the cost of those arcade games adds up fast on your cruise account. It catches me by surprise every time.

Order room service and enjoy the storm from your balcony

This is an activity I look forward to the most every time it starts to rain at sea, provided the wind is not blowing the rain onto the balcony of course.   With some food delivered by the room service staff you can simply enjoy watching the rain from your balcony.  The rain at sea is so different from watching it on land, and it provides quite the relaxing spectacle in my opinion.


Even if you don’t feel like singing your heart out  in front of a bunch of strangers you will probably never see again anyway, it’s always fun to listen to the singing talent (or lack thereof) on board.  Check the ship’s itinerary but there is almost always karaoke going on, especially on a sea day.

Find a covered  place to watch the pool deck TV screen

As soon as it starts raining the lounge chairs on the pool deck usually clear pretty quickly, but you can sometimes find a place that is covered and still has a view of the pool deck TV screen.  But even if watching what’s on the screen isn’t your thing it’s a fun place to people watch as well.

Get a galley tour on the cruise ship

Not every cruise line offers a galley tour for free, but often on sea days you can get the tour as an excursion.  It’s a fun thing to do if you’ve never seen the inner-workings of the kitchen, and it really is amazing how the well-trained staff serves so much quality food on a daily basis.

Watch a movie in your cabin

In your cabin you will be able to watch a number of newly released movies.  The charge for each movie will be applied to your on board account and usually you will have 24 hours to watch the movie.  And while some would think it crazy to be in a cruise cabin watching the television on vacation, others will find it the perfect way to relax on a rainy day at sea.

Get a workout at the gym

Now I know a few readers will be very opposed to this idea as well (after all, a cruise is time to do nothing, right?), but the gym is a great place to get out of the rain but still be active.  This is for those who can’t stand to sit still.  They can still enjoy watching the rain storm while burning a few calories from the chocolate melting cake.

Explore the ship

Cruise ships have so many little hidden gems that most cruisers will overlook simply because they didn’t take the time to read over the daily itinerary or explore the ship.  I always enjoy roaming the ship and exploring each floor to find rooms and spaces I didn’t know existed before.  Just make sure you don’t go anywhere that’s off limits.
 So what would you add to your list?  Let us know what you like to do when it rains on a cruise in the comments below.

Royal Caribbean’s third Quantum Class ship commenced construction

Earlier this week, Royal Caribbean’s third Quantum Class ship commenced construction at Meyer Werft’s Papenburg shipyard. In addition to celebrating the construction of the new ship, Royal Caribbean also announced the ship will join the fleet as Ovation of the Seas.
Ovation of the Seas, sister to both Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, will be constructed at Meyer Werft’s primary yard in Papenburg, Germany. The new ship will feature similar features and design to her earlier Quantum Class sisters, including North Star, RipCord, The Bionic Bar, SeaPlex, the Two70 entertainment complex, and virtual balconies.
Ovation of the Seas is scheduled to debut with Royal Caribbean in the fall of 2016. At this time, Royal Caribbean has made no indication of the new ship’s potential itineraries or homeport.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Cruise Ship Orderbook

Cruise Ship Orderbook
Costa DiademaCosta 2014October4,53700132,500Fincantieri, Marghera
Quantum of the SeasRoyal Caribbean2014November5,04180167,000Meyer Werft
P&O BritanniaP&O Cruises2015February
3600141,000Fincantieri, Monfalcone
Viking SeaViking Ocean2015Spring5,594447,000Fincantieri
AIDAprimaAIDA2015March3250125,000Mitsubishi, Nagasaki
Anthem of the SeasRoyal Caribbean2015Spring5,04100167,000Meyer Werft 
Mein Schiff 4TUI2015May 250097,000STX Finland
Le LyrialLe Ponant2015May6,0 26411,000Fincantieri
Norwegian EscapeNorwegian2015October5,04200164,600Meyer Werft
ms KoningsdamHolland America Line2016February5,0266099,000Fincantieri
Carnival VistaCarnival2016Winter4,54000135,000Fincantieri
Viking SeaViking Ocean2016Spring5,594447,000Fincantieri
Mein Schiff 5TUI2016Spring 250097,000STX Finland
unnamedAIDA2016March 3250125,000Mitsubishi, Nagasaki
Ovation of the SeasRoyal Caribbean2016Summer5,04100167,000Meyer Werft
Viking SkyViking Ocean2016Summer5,594447,000Fincantieri
unnamed (Oasis class)Royal Caribbean2016Summer5,05400227,500STX France
unnamedSeabourn2016Autumn6,0 60440,350Fincantieri
unnamedStar Cruises2016Autumn 3360150,000Meyer Werft
Norwegian BlissNorwegian2017Spring5,04200164,600Meyer Werft
unnamedMSC Cruises2017Spring
4500167,600STX France
unnamedViking Ocean2017Spring
Mein Schiff 6TUI2017Spring
250097,000STX France
unnamedStar Cruises2017Autumn
3360150,000Meyer Werft
unnamedMSC Cruises2017November
unnamedMSC Cruises2018May
unnamed (Oasis class)Royal Caribbean2018
5,05400227,500STX France
4200164,600Meyer Werft
unnamedMSC Cruises2019Spring
4500167,600STX France
4200164,600Meyer Werft