Category: review

Danube Christmas Markets Cruise

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

My niece and I were so excited to take our first ever cruise and to go on a river cruise was a great way to experience Europe in a way we never thought we would.  Especially during the holiday season and visiting the Christmas Markets.

We flew from Toronto to Budapest (with KLM) with a connection in Amsterdam.  On the way home we flew from Nuremberg to Toronto (with KLM) also with a connection in Amsterdam.  Surprisingly there were quite a few storms within Europe so we were glad we decided to fly a day earlier since you never know what could happen!

HOTEL

We spent one night at the Hilton Budapest City, which is centrally located, close to the train station, restaurants and shops as well as above West End City Centre Shopping Centre.

The rooms are large and clean.  All rooms, the lounge and restaurants have complimentary WiFi.  Modern fitness facility available.  Upon check in we purchased a package that included buffet breakfast.  Buffet had a wide selection of items i.e. cereal, croissants, Danishes, sausages, cold cuts and fruits.  Coffee, tea and juices readily available.

Front desk and hotel staff were friendly and efficient and they all spoke English.

The cab ride from the airport to the hotel took about 35 mins and cost approximately EUR40.  The cab ride from the hotel to the dock was approximately 15 mins drive cost EUR25.

CRUISE 
Finally the day arrived and we travel by cab to the dock to board AMA Serena which will be our home for the next 8 days!

The AMA Serena is a beautiful vessel and is a glow with decorations to celebrate the Christmas season.  From the minute we stepped on board we were greeted by the extremely friendly staff and crew.  We were given a glass of champagne and warm towels and were seated comfortably waiting to be checked in.  Everything went very smoothly.  There is no line up or waiting at the registration desk.  I strongly believe all check in procedures should be like this!

As a part of the check in procedure we each had a photo taken which is attached on their reservation/registration system to our room key fob.  Security and safety is key so whenever you are leaving the ship for any reason (i.e. Shore excursions) you must have your key fob scanned.  This helps the crew to know who is on board the ship at any given time (no one gets left behind! J).

There are 4 decks – the Sun deck with the heated pool, walking track, navigation bridge, bicycles, sun deck and lower sun deck, the Violin deck which has the reception, main lounge and piano bar and gift shop, 32 staterooms which includes 3 suites, the massage and hair salon, the Chef’s Table Restaurant, Fitness room, the Cello Deck with 33 staterooms, elevator down to the main dining room and the Piano Deck (our deck for our voyage) with 16 suites.

Each Stateroom had twin beds (in most cases) an en-suite bathroom, flat screen TV and keyboard (featuring various news and movie channels as well as a ship safety channel), 2 wardrobes, safe, telephone, coffee table and 2 chairs, 2 robes, hairdryer, a 110V socket as well a few more 220V sockets, and a bar fridge which is stocked with water (replenished daily).  Although the beds were small they were very comfortable. Staterooms on the Violin and Cello decks have French balconies.

Staterooms on the Piano deck (our deck for the trip) do not have French balcony but have porthole windows.

All decks are easily accessible. There is an elevator which runs from the Violin to Cello deck as well as to the Main dining room.

In the lounge you will find a bar with a piano and very comfortable couches, chairs and coffee tables throughout.  Most of us loved sitting in the lounge to mingle, read a book, while having a few drinks and looking out at the beautiful scenery.  All entertainment on board takes place in the lounge.  In the lounge daily there is a light lunch at 12 noon should you not want to eat in the dining room, tea time with tea, coffee and cakes between 4 and 5pm and at 10:30pm a light snack.

Off of the lounge there is a small library with daily news from the US and Canada depending on the guests nationality.  There were 4 Canadians (including us) and of course 2 Jamaicans (my niece and I) but no Jamaican news?!?!? J

There is also a 24 hour hot beverage area with seating off of the lounge and across from the gift shop.  Here you are able to sit and have coffee, an assortment of teas, hot chocolate, lattes, cappuccinos etc. or make a hot drink and take it to the lounge.

Whether you are seated in the lounge, library or the hot beverage area, you are able to see the various cities while cruising.

The entertainment on board consisted mostly of our pianist – Peter who was also a very good singer, or depending on the city we are visiting we had various entertainers i.e. an acapella group from Regensburg.

All meals and dessert on board were exquisite.  Breakfast and lunch were usually buffet style however you were able to order off of a menu.

The crew were very helpful and accommodating and by the 2nd day they knew each guests likes and dislikes.    They had very long hours but you would never know that they were tired as they were always full of energy and with a genuine smile.

I do feel that Riverboat cruising is quite suitable for a small group but during our cruise there was a group of American Real Estate Agents and it did tend to get quite loud in the lounge at night.

As this was my first cruise and being on a small ship made me think that this is the only way to cruise.  There is a smaller number of guests and so friendships among the guests and crew are formed very quickly.

ON SHORE

Budapest, Hungary

Our first evening was an Illuminating cruise on the Danube of Budapest’s Riverfront.  Budapest at night is quite beautiful.  We cruised along the banks and saw many illuminated buildings such as the Chain bridge, Buda Castle, Hungarian Parliament Building and Fisherman’s Bastion to name a few.  We docked for the night in Budapest.  On the second day we were taken by motor coach on a city tour of Buda as well as Pest.  We visited Heroes Square, Mathias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, the opera house and various highlights of Buda City.  We also visited the Pest side where we saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its spectacular views of Pest and Buda.  Our tour ended with our first Christmas Market visit.   That night we set sail for Austria.  Our first city to visit….Vienna.

Vienna, Austria

We sailed all night and woke up in Vienna, Austria.  The day began with a motor coach tour to Vienna where we drove by the opera House, the former Imperial house of the Hapsburg Emperors, Parliament, Town Hall and Vienna University.  Our tour ended in Vienna’s historic city centre where we were given a walking tour of the city, visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and other historic city landmarks.   At the end of our city tour we visited the Christmas Markets of Schönbrunn and Karlsplatz Schwedenplatz, Maria-Theresian-Platz and Rathausplatz.  After a long day we had a delightful dinner on board and sailed on to Melk.

Melk, Austria

On this day we arrive in Melk and were taken again by motor coach to Melk Benedictine Abbey were we are given a walking tour.

The abbey sits perched on a rocky hill above the quaint little village of Melk. The abbey is still to this day a functioning abbey with approximately 7 monks and schools approximately 900 co-ed students.  We were not able to take photos of the interior.  The Abbey is quite spectacular with gold frescoed ceilings and columns as well as one of the largest libraries in the world.  The view from the Abbey is quite spectacular as you are overlooking the River Danube and the village of Melk.

Passau & Salzburg, Austria

We sail overnight to Passau where we are taken on a 2 hour motor coach ride to Salzburg, the home of The Sound of Music, my favourite movie J! And also of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Enroute our tour guide gave us a little history of Salzburg and of course the movie.  For example at the end of the movie when the Von Trap family escapes the Germans over the mountain to Switzerland?  Well on the other side of that mountain…… is Germany! J

We arrived in Salzburg where we went on a walking tour through the historic town to the Christmas Market.  On the tour we pass Mozart’s birthplace, Mirabell Gardens (you know the place where Do Rei Me was filmed! J) and get a glimpse of Hohensalburg Fortress which overlooks the town.

Regensburg & Thurn and Taxis Christmas Market, Germany

We sailed overnight and arrive in Regensburg, our first Bavarian city.  Regensburg is well known for its High Gothic Cathedral and very quaint and charming cobblestone street, where we go on another walking tour of the city.  Close to the dock and next to the Stone Bridge is the oldest restaurant in Germany, Wurstkuchl (Sausage Kitchen), famous for its delicious Bavarian sausages.  Unfortunately the line-up was really long so we did not get a chance to partake is this delicious feast.

After lunch on board the ship, we are taken by motor coach (approximately 5 – 10 min drive) to the Thurn and Taxis Christmas Market.  This market is located on the grounds of the Palace Emmeram where Emperor Franz I family still resides.  The matriarch (Princess Gloria) has preserved the castle and all its surroundings and still runs the family business.  She is a collector of modern art and thus has assembled a large array of local artists and craftsmen for this very unique Christmas Market.

This was our second to last evening on board AMA Serena and so the staff and crew serenade us to say goodbye at the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail.  We were also visited by Santa Claus who has presents for all on board.

Roth & Nuremburg, Germany

The sailing from Regensburg to Nuremburg (with a technical stop in Roth) is mostly done during the morning.  The cruise enters the Main-Danube Canal (the European Panama Canal).  When we arrived in Nuremburg we were taken by motor coach on a city tour.   The city is famous for the Nuremburg Trials which was of a series of military tribunals held by the Allied forces under international and also laws of war after World War II.  Nuremburg was also known for its location of the Annual Nazi Rally’s. This was by far the coldest day on our trip and actually seeing the site and where Hitler stood making his speeches had us all thinking back to what it could have been like during his reign of terror.

At the end of our tour we are taken to the largest Christmas Market in the world which is in Nuremburg.  There is so much to see and so many people!

On this evening we are able to get a reservation to have dinner at the Chef’s Table Restaurant.  The meal consists of a delicious tasting menu accompanied by various wines.  Each course is described by the maître d’, and served by 2 waiters with a specific wine pairing.  Not only was the presentation beautiful but the meal and wine delicious.

 

 

Contributed by Kathy Gooden
Vision Travel, a Direct Travel Company

Hawaii Cruise cruise stories

7 night Hawai’ian Cruise

Posted By : Stephen Smith/ 0 0

My wife and I were very lucky to be invited and hosted by Norwegian Cruise Line on this trip. Most of the itinerary and meals on and off the ship were arranged and paid for by NCL. This is what our partners do from time to time so that we can experience their product and share that experience with our valued clients. We did enhance the experience with a few activities that we paid for ourselves.

Hawaii is a long way from Toronto. But it’s definitely worth the flight.

After a full day of travel, we arrived in Honolulu and spent the evening walking the beach and grabbing a bite to eat. A nice start to the trip.

The next morning, we woke up extremely early due to the time difference and decided to go hike Diamondhead which we could see from our hotel. It was a quick Uber ride away and just under an hour to go up and down. The views were spectacular, and the hike was quite rewarding.

Back to the hotel, we packed up and headed to the ship.

A Hawaiian cruise onboard the NCL Pride of America is not about the ship. It’s about the islands and the people. Don’t get me wrong, the ship does its job well. It is 13 years old but had a refurbishment most recently in 2016. The staterooms are comfortable, the restaurants nice and the staff were amazing.

Our first port was in Maui and when I woke up that morning and went up to the top deck to get a coffee I was greeted by the sunrise, a rainbow and a beautiful island. Should it be any other way, I am in Hawai’i after all. Apparently, that is typical!

First day in Maui featured a shore excursion that took us throughout the island. We toured the Ocean Vodka distillery (nothing quite like sampling vodka and rum at 10 AM) and then the Maui Gold pineapple plantation. The highlight for me was the lesson on how to choose a good pineapple in the store. Sorry, if you want to find out the secrets you just have to make your way to Hawai’i.

We then made our way to Paia town for some free time and finished our tour and at Iao Valley. This was a truly spectacular experience. A must see.

Since we were overnight in Maui, the next day we had to ourselves and took a zodiac to Malikani Crater – this was unreal. A mostly sunken crater poking out of the ocean with reefs on one side. We went snorkeling and then off to another coastal area to see some turtles. Now if you have been to the Caribbean to swim with turtles you will know that your hosts typically bring lettuce to attract the turtles. Not so in Hawai’i. Our hosts told us it was hit or miss with seeing these turtles as they now where they like to hang out but that’s it. Lucky for us, we saw two turtles by swimming around an area where a fresh water stream enters the ocean floor. Took about 15 minutes for them to reveal themselves amongst the coral formations 30 feet down. I found one heading to the surface for a breath of air and had a 30 second stare down with him (or her). Wow!

You will hear over and over again, Hawai’i is about the experiences and this was certainly holding true for us.

The next day we were off to Hilo Town in the Big Island for a media event and to visit the university and an expo on the amazing astronomical capabilities (fact check) they have.

Unfortunately, due to a nearby hurricane we were unable to port in Kona as we needed to tender in from the ship and it was too dangerous. Definitely disappointing as I am a coffee person and wanted to visit the home of Kona Coffee. However, my spirits were lifted when the captain of the ship announced that early that afternoon he would slowly sail by the Na Pali coast so we can see it up close and personal. What a site! For those of you who are not familiar, it is the setting for Jurassic Park, this movie and that movie (fact check). Unbelievable – the photos don’t do it justice.

Our next port was Kauai and we started our day off with a round of golf along the ocean at Kauai Ocean Course. A great way to spend a morning.

That night we were off to a Luau – a very spiritual ceremony with dancing and storytelling. I must admit the setting was not the best as we joined 800 other people but you can’t go to Hawai’i and not experience a Luau – the story is amazing and the dancing was captivating.

The ship stayed overnight in Kauai and we decided to spend our last day with some friends we had met on board. They had a great idea of renting a jeep, grabbing some food and refreshments and driving down the coast to find a beach for the day. We had an amazing time. We drove for about 45 minutes to a dirt road, headed along that for 2 miles, then hiked through a bit of vegetation to walk onto a beach that had only 10 other people on it!

We spent the day eating, drinking, swimming and soaking up the beautiful Hawai’ian weather. What more could you ask for?

That night we had a great dinner with our group of new friends and sadly packed our bags to fly home the next day.

Hawai’i was a destination I had yet to experience and had high expectations that were not only met, but definitely surpassed.

For a first time to Hawai’i, a cruise aboard the Pride of America is a great way to see these beautiful islands because you get to see them all. With the two overnights in Maui and Kauai, you don’t feel like you are rushing your way around the islands – you get to truly experience this tropical paradise.

Celebrity Edge - The Spa Float Room

3 Things I liked about the Celebrity Edge

Posted By : Shelley Greenan/ 0 0

I’ve cruised many times before never with Celebrity Cruises so I jumped at the chance to be part of a Travel Advisor opportunity to spend a few days on their newest ship, the Celebrity Edge. She is a beautiful ship with many many great things for everyone to enjoy, but I just picked 3 Things I liked best about this ship!

THE SPA
This is a wonderful wellness spa, with many options beyond the typical aesthetic services such as Salt therapy rooms, a Crystalarium, Float Room, Turkish baths and a steam room and sauna.

 

THE INCLUDED RESTAURANTS
We were in Aqua Class so we had access to Blu. LOVED Blu. Great food. Great service. Lovely setting. Comfortable chairs. If something wasn’t on the menu, they would get it for me.

I liked that some of the other included restaurants were smaller venues. Gave it a more intimate atmosphere, quiet instead of the huge, noisy two level dining experience you get on some ships.

 

SPACES
I loved the design and connection of sea with land onboard. Lots of greenery and wood all around, very calming and not overwhelming to the eyes. Plenty of comfortable spots scattered throughout to relax or people watch (one of my favourite things to do!)

 

Celebrity Edge, a must Cruise for 2019!

Posted By : Carol McLelan/ 0 0

Celebrity Edge, a must Cruise for 2019!

I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a few days on the new Celebrity Edge, as well as the honour to witness the Naming Ceremony with esteemed Nobel Peace recipient, Malala Yousafzai, as the Godmother of Celebrity Edge.  As eloquently introduced by Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO of Celebrity Cruises, “She was willing to sacrifice her life to bring quality education to the 130 million young girls around the world who still do not have access.  We are proud to be working alongside the Malala Fund to help achieve this goal” 

The ship makes a bold modern luxury statement, from Infinite Veranda staterooms, enlarging your room by 27%, to Iconic 2 bedroom Suites offering more than 2500 opulent square feet of sweeping, panoramic views from front to back!

So many intimate public sanctuaries including; the country club vibe of the exclusive Retreat; the Magic Carpet’s floating platform reaching heights of 13 stories, designed with a full bar and space for live music; to the ultimate gathering place of the Grand Plaza offering a majestic 3 story venue home to the Martini Bar, Café al Bacio, and the Grand Plaza Café.

The ship hosts a total of 29 restaurants, bars and lounges with 5 complementary dining venues. I relished in the Mediterranean inspired fare of Cyprus, incredible Seafood bar display of RAW on 5 and the lively gathering at the Martini Bar!

If wellness is a must have on you vacation the Edge is your ship! The “The Spa” offers up more than 22 ,000 opulent sprawling sq. ft featuring all the newest body treatments, along with a Turkish bath, soothing Salt room and Rainfall Water Therapy to sooth away any stresses.

The Fitness Center on Celebrity Edge has all the cardio equipment to challenge you while you enjoy the floor-to-ceiling windows but it’s the multiple hottest trends fitness classes that peaked my interest. On a 2 day cruise I thought I would take in as much as I could starting with Your Daily Workout at 7:30 am, moving on to Yoga on the Deck and finishing up with a late afternoon full body workout of Bungee Fitness, with lots of laughs as you bounced off the floor with a new twist to the Burpee!  The next day I was paying for it!

To sum it up this ship has a whole lot to offer that you just can’t experience in a few days.  I look forward to my return on the extraordinary Celebrity Edge!

    Viking River Cruises - Viking Lofn

    My first River Cruise to Europe

    Posted By : Morgan Gibson/ 0 0

    One of the things I liked the most about my recent Viking River Cruise is how easy it was.  I have been on quite a few ocean cruises and those are fantastic but have a completely different feeling to them.  I was worried that the river cruise would be too busy as there is a stop everyday but embarking and disembarking the ship was as easy as walking out of a hotel on land. The included shore excursions were great, giving us lots of destination information and showed off the highlights of the region.  There was always ample free time to explore on our own.

     

    The ship itself was beautiful, very elegant, with amazing staff. I really can’t say enough about the crew. One of our fellow traveller was gluten free and the dinning staff when out of their way to accommodate her needs. It was impressive. Every crew member we interacted with was warm, personable and happy to help.  The evenings on board are quieter than on an ocean ship but that’s ok – we were so tired from exploring all day and full from our delicious meals we couldn’t have stayed up late even if we wanted to!

    Sounds like Bliss to me!

    Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 0 0

    The BLISS certainly takes NCL to new heights.  It brings sophistication and elegance for the adults while adding some very attractive and fun features that keep it family friendly.

    Aboard for the inaugural sailing and christening of the ship, I enjoyed many aspects of the BLISS so here are a few highlights for me.

    The Observation Lounge with its 360 degree view, is the perfect place to gather with a group or to slip away to for some private time to watch the unfolding panorama of ever changing scenery.

    The Race Track with its hairpin turns takes up two decks on the ship, the first of its kind.  It will bring out your inner race car driver and perhaps you will achieve a podium finish.

    Sometimes we just need to indulge and Coco’s is just the place to do that.  Pralines, gelato and decadent milkshakes that you will not be able to resist.  Yes, that is a picture of me indulging in one of the desserts!

    One of the hidden gems on the ship is Spice H2O, which is inspired by the summer beach parties of Ibiza.  While relaxing by day, this adults-only venue comes alive at night and is a unique place to have some fun, dancing under the stars with the moon sparkling off the ocean behind you.

    Sound like BLISS?  It is!

    Queen Mary 2

    The Queen Mary 2: Crossing the Atlantic in style

    Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

    Sure, you can fly across the Atlantic: thousands do every day.  But to cross it and arrive relaxed, refreshed and totally charmed, there’s only one way to do it: on board Cunard’s legendary Queen Mary 2.

    The crossing takes seven days from New York to Southampton, and if the passengers on a June crossing this year were anything to go by, folks book the QM2 for all sorts of reasons.  ilovecruising was on board to give you the inside scoop.

    Not surprisingly, many passengers are bucket-listers.  Others are celebrating a special event or anniversary, while a smattering admit they are afraid to fly.  What’s worth noting is how many are repeat passengers who have clearly realized that the serenity, the excellent food, service and the lovely array of activities are so much nicer than the stress of flying. Not surprisingly there aren’t a ton of millennials on board:  not their scene.

    There’s also a mix of nationalities, with Britons and Americans dominating but with a nice smattering of Canadians, Aussies, French and more. The language on board is English, with US$ prices quoted in the shops and bars.

    And yes, there are the charmingly old-fashioned entertainments such as formal afternoon tea, ballroom dancing lessons, bridge games and passenger choir rehearsal and performance – even a well-attended  talent show.

    But there was also a ton of really interesting activities, including guest lectures (the New Yorker cartoonist was hilarious), the magical planetarium (the only one at sea), a 10,000 book library to peruse, and gatherings for LGBT, AA members and solo passengers. Trivia games were hotly contested with much hilarity from teams who assembled on the fly, including on this crossing the Roamin’ Catholics, who had met at the daily Christian fellowship gathering.

    On the sports side options include putting competitions, quoits (a sort of shuffleboard), invigorating walks around the deck, and a pool.  No rock-climbing walls or bungie jumping on the QM2.

    Come evening you have your choice of the main show – usually singing/dancing – the small casino, a choice of movies in-cabin or a quiet nightcap in a choice of bars including the champagne bar or elegant Commodore Bar.  There’s also an English pub, boasting first-rate authentic pub grub.

     

    A couple of useful tips:
    • The embarkation process in Brooklyn is not pretty as thousands of passengers and their luggage shuffle through the huge terminal. Pack your patience and don’t be afraid to keep asking if you are in the right line-up (one British couple lined up for an hour to learn that they were queuing for a taxi back into New York!)
    • There is WiFi, but it starts at US$47.95 for 120 minutes. Access is faster in the public areas.
    • The time change is handled in a very civilized manner: Every day at noon you are asked to move your watches/devices ahead one hour, so when you dock in Southampton you are on local time.
    • If you plan to extend your vacation in England or Europe but don’t want to shlep your sparkly duds with you, Cunard can ship a suitcase home from Southampton, for a fee.

    Above all be prepared for a time of disconnecting from the world.  Surrounded by the endless ocean, you have to surrender to the gentle speed of the ship, the sense that you are travelling in a luxurious bubble where there are no goals for today, no pressure, no stress.  When does life get any better?

     

    Review provided by
    Martha Chapman

    Oosterdam - At Sea

    Mediterranean onboard the Oosterdam

    Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 0 0

    When I am looking for a cruise, it is mostly the itinerary that I am interested in more so than the cruise line.  This year my Husband was turning 75 and I had always wanted him to see Venice and Rome.  The only cruise line that was doing these 2 ports of call at the time I was looking for was Holland America onboard the Oosterdam.

     

    Upon arrival in Venice we took a private boat transfer from the airport to the main pier in San Marco Square.  As I had stayed at the All Angelo Allegro Hotel in the past and it is about a 5 minute walk from the pier I booked the hotel again.  Upon check-in I was amazed that the agent at the front desk welcomed me back to the hotel as their records indicated that I had stayed at the hotel in 2008.  She advised me that my Jr. Suite which I had booked was not ready yet, but as a welcome back she upgraded us to a 1 bedroom suite on the 1st floor which was the only suite on that floor and overlooked the canal.  We spent a lovely 2 days exploring Venice and during one of our many walkabouts discovered a fantastic outdoor fish & food market on the far side of the Rialto Bridge which my Husband enjoyed as he is such a foodie.

     

    To get to the ship, I had booked a private boat transfer which came to the back of the hotel and picked us up.  The boat took us up through some of the small canals before joining the Grand Canal.  It was wonderful being able to cruise up the canal and see all the wonderful sites that we were unable to see by foot.

     

    After having been on many high-end cruises in the past I was unsure how quality of the service & food would compare – especially given the size of the ship and number of cruisers onboard. Upon arrival at the ship pier, we were greeted by some of the staff from Holland America who immediately took our luggage and advised us we that it would be delivered to our stateroom within the next few hours.

    They immediately pointed out the complimentary shuttle to the ship, but we opted to walk so they proceeded to give us instructions on walking to the ship.  At the pier we were given a check-in # and entered a very short line where we presented our boarding passes and passports and promptly received our ship key cards.  Our boarding # was called shortly afterwards and we quickly went through security and boarded the ship.  We went directly to our stateroom which was ready and after refreshing ourselves went to the Lido Market for a quick lunch.  I was immediately impressed by the selection of options available on the buffet for their luncheon menu.  My Husband who really enjoys fish had chosen a piece of Salmon to go along with his other selections.  After having a couple of bits of the Salmon he started to rave about how good the Salmon was, and told me that it was the best he had ever had.  Needless to say, whenever there was Salmon on either the buffet luncheon or on the supper menu, he had some.

     

    During the 12 days of our cruise I became more and more impressed that Holland America continued to more than exceed my expectations in regards too not only the service & food, but also the quality of the shore excursions and entertainment.  One of the shore excursions we booked was Olympia in 3D.  I didn’t really know what to expect, but when we got to the ruins of the first site of the Olympics BC our guide gave everyone an iPad to use during the tour.  At several of the areas that we visited, after the guide spoke about the history of the building that had been on that site, he would tell us which colour code to choose and then which # to pick and then we would do a 360 degree turn around and we could see in 3D what the original building looked like on the iPad.  Our group was the only ones who had the iPads.

     

    Our stateroom Stewart & his helper always greeted us by our names and asked if there was anything we needed, and asked if we had enjoyed our day.  If I should find another itinerary through Holland America that is what I am looking for I would definitely book them again.

     

    Our cruise ended in Rome and we were picked up again by a private car transfer from the pier in Civitavecchia and driven directly to our hotel.  Last year when I was in Rome with my Daughter & Granddaughter we had stayed at the Savoy for 2 nights, and because of the wonderful service we received I booked the hotel again. Our room was not ready, however, the bellhop promptly took our luggage and stored it for us.  We started out on a walk not really knowing what we were really going to do but ended up booking a hop-on, hop-off which took us around many of the major sites of Rome.  When we returned to the hotel we went to the check-in counter were upon presenting my passport the agent quickly looked up at me and recognized me from last year.  She came quickly around the counter and gave me a bit hug and welcomed me back.

     

    On the Saturday morning which was my Husbands 75th birthday, I had booked a tour into the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.  He again really enjoyed the tour. For supper we went to the Hard Rock Café to celebrate with a wonderful supper.

     

    On the Sunday we again had a private transfer from the hotel to the airport.  I have flown in and out of a lot of airports and must say that I was not impressed with this airport. It is one of the worst I have ever experience.

     

    My final thoughts on this cruise are, DON’T EVER HESITATE TO BOOK A HOLLAND AMERICA CRUISE.

     

     

     

    Posted with permission by
    June Longpre
    New Wave Travel, a division of Vision Travel

    Photo provided by Holland America Line

    Do You Love Cruising? Join ilovecruising.com

    Posted By : cruising/ 821 0

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    Our community is full of like-minded travellers sharing their input on any topic at all under the umbrella of cruising, and ask your fellow ilovecruising.com members to share their insights and experiences – the more honest the better! But most of all we look forward to hearing your stories. A cruise, it seems, is comprised of a million moments and we’d love to hear your memorable ones.

     

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    Oosterdam - At Sea

    Mediterranean onboard the Oosterdam

    Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

    When I am looking for a cruise, it is mostly the itinerary that I am interested in more so than the cruise line.  This year my Husband was turning 75 and I had always wanted him to see Venice and Rome.  The only cruise line that was doing these 2 ports of call at the time I was looking for was Holland America onboard the Oosterdam.

    Upon arrival in Venice we took a private boat transfer from the airport to the main pier in San Marco Square.  As I had stayed at the All Angelo Allegro Hotel in the past and it is about a 5 minute walk from the pier I booked the hotel again.  Upon check-in I was amazed that the agent at the front desk welcomed me back to the hotel as their records indicated that I had stayed at the hotel in 2008.  She advised me that my Jr. Suite which I had booked was not ready yet, but as a welcome back she upgraded us to a 1 bedroom suite on the 1st floor which was the only suite on that floor and overlooked the canal.  We spent a lovely 2 days exploring Venice and during one of our many walkabouts discovered a fantastic outdoor fish & food market on the far side of the Rialto Bridge which my Husband enjoyed as he is such a foodie.

    To get to the ship, I had booked a private boat transfer which came to the back of the hotel and picked us up.  The boat took us up through some of the small canals before joining the Grand Canal.  It was wonderful being able to cruise up the canal and see all the wonderful sites that we were unable to see by foot.

    After having been on many high-end cruises in the past I was unsure how quality of the service & food would compare – especially given the size of the ship and number of cruisers onboard. Upon arrival at the ship pier, we were greeted by some of the staff from Holland America who immediately took our luggage and advised us we that it would be delivered to our stateroom within the next few hours.

    They immediately pointed out the complimentary shuttle to the ship, but we opted to walk so they proceeded to give us instructions on walking to the ship.  At the pier we were given a check-in # and entered a very short line where we presented our boarding passes and passports and promptly received our ship key cards.  Our boarding # was called shortly afterwards and we quickly went through security and boarded the ship.  We went directly to our stateroom which was ready and after refreshing ourselves went to the Lido Market for a quick lunch.  I was immediately impressed by the selection of options available on the buffet for their luncheon menu.  My Husband who really enjoys fish had chosen a piece of Salmon to go along with his other selections.  After having a couple of bits of the Salmon he started to rave about how good the Salmon was, and told me that it was the best he had ever had.  Needless to say, whenever there was Salmon on either the buffet luncheon or on the supper menu, he had some.

    During the 12 days of our cruise I became more and more impressed that Holland America continued to more than exceed my expectations in regards too not only the service & food, but also the quality of the shore excursions and entertainment.  One of the shore excursions we booked was Olympia in 3D.  I didn’t really know what to expect, but when we got to the ruins of the first site of the Olympics BC our guide gave everyone an iPad to use during the tour.  At several of the areas that we visited, after the guide spoke about the history of the building that had been on that site, he would tell us which colour code to choose and then which # to pick and then we would do a 360 degree turn around and we could see in 3D what the original building looked like on the iPad.  Our group was the only ones who had the iPads.

    Our stateroom Stewart & his helper always greeted us by our names and asked if there was anything we needed, and asked if we had enjoyed our day.  If I should find another itinerary through Holland America that is what I am looking for I would definitely book them again.

    Our cruise ended in Rome and we were picked up again by a private car transfer from the pier in Civitavecchia and driven directly to our hotel.  Last year when I was in Rome with my Daughter & Granddaughter we had stayed at the Savoy for 2 nights, and because of the wonderful service we received I booked the hotel again. Our room was not ready, however, the bellhop promptly took our luggage and stored it for us.  We started out on a walk not really knowing what we were really going to do but ended up booking a hop-on, hop-off which took us around many of the major sites of Rome.  When we returned to the hotel we went to the check-in counter were upon presenting my passport the agent quickly looked up at me and recognized me from last year.  She came quickly around the counter and gave me a bit hug and welcomed me back.

    On the Saturday morning which was my Husbands 75th birthday, I had booked a tour into the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.  He again really enjoyed the tour. For supper we went to the Hard Rock Café to celebrate with a wonderful supper.

    On the Sunday we again had a private transfer from the hotel to the airport.  I have flown in and out of a lot of airports and must say that I was not impressed with this airport. It is one of the worst I have ever experience.

    My final thoughts on this cruise are, DON’T EVER HESITATE TO BOOK A HOLLAND AMERICA CRUISE.

     

     

    Posted with permission from
    June Longpre
    New Wave Travel, a division of Vision Travel

    Photo provided by Holland America Line