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My Kids LOVED NCL

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

I just took my kids on their first cruise and it was fantastic. NCL is perfect for families. There was a ton to do for every age group and the food options are limitless. We had a balcony stateroom, and there was enough room for the four of us. I loved sitting out on the balcony – it meant I could see the sunset even if we were back in our room getting changed for dinner.  The staff on board were excellent.

We sailed from NY to Bermuda – the experience of sailing out of NY harbor past the Statue of Liberty is something everyone should experience.

My kids are already planning their next cruise. 

Paul Gauguin Private Island

Posted By : Sandie Harman/ 0 0

I have cruised on the Paul Gauguin twice.  The first time was a 7 night Society Island itinerary and the second time was a 10 night Society Island and Tuamotus itinerary.  I preferred the 10 night itinerary, it allows you to time to visit and explore the beautiful Tuamotus islands.   One of the stops on either itinerary is Paul Gauguin’s private island.  It is a wonderful relaxing day spent sitting under palm trees.

If you’d like a drink no problem, wade into water to their floating bar where Le Gauguins will be happy to mix you up an ice cold beverage of your choice.   Lunch is served on the island.  If you want to work off a few of the calories you consumed during lunch you can take out the complimentary kayaks or snorkel in the crystal clear water.  It is truly a day spent in paradise!

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

Honeymoon in Alaska

Posted By : Morgan Gibson/ 0 0

Alaska isn’t the destination most people think of in conjunction with a honeymoon but it’s where my husband and I ended up going and it was fabulous.  We got married in the late summer, which corresponds with hurricane season in the Caribbean and we were unwilling to risk the weather.  Europe was also a consideration; however, we were concerned it would be too busy after the intense business of organizing a wedding.  We really just needed to relax!

 

A cruise to Alaska it was! I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest it to anyone – it was quiet romantic to be able to snuggle under warm blankets on our balcony and enjoy the majestic scenery of the inside passage.

Travelling with a little one

Posted By : Sydney Hodgins/ 0 0

Before going back to work after my maternity leave we decided to take a cruise. We had been on several cruises in the past but always opted for the more economical cabin because really how much time do you spend in it?  But travelling with a baby we knew we would need to be in our cabin more for nap times and bed time so we splurged and got a balcony.  Best decision ever!

We were still able to have our daughter nap without feeling “stuck” in the cabin.  We could grab some lunch and bring it to our room and eat it on the balcony while she slept.  And in the evenings after she went to bed we were able to unwind on that balcony without feeling like we were missing out on too much.  Surprisingly, that was one of our most relaxing trips.

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!)

 

A New Twist On Great Ships

Posted By : Stephen Smith/ 0 0

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days on Norwegian Bliss and wanted to share 5 thoughts.

Food/Restaurants

I did not have a chance to eat in all the restaurants but overall enjoyed the food experience. I am always a big fan of a pub on a ship.  The Local did not disappoint.  Good beer selection and some tasty pub grub. Food Republic was very cool – always a fan of shareables! We also ate at Tappenyaki one night and it was a lot of fun as was to be expected with a great show.

 

Go Carts

The Go Cart experience was far superior to my expectations.  The process to get started was smooth and the track was longer and more adventurous than I anticipated.  Most impressive was the speed and handling of the go carts themselves.  I was able to move at a good pace and take corners hard.  I really thought that it would be a very basic experience and it was truly thrilling.

 

Décor

The décor of the ship was great.  Modern and crisp with soothing palettes. One thing I am impressed with is that NCL seems to improve their decor with every ship – they don’t just keep it the same.

 

Entertainment

I am always impressed with a professional production of Jersey Boys – the story is great; the music is fantastic – and it was no different on the Bliss. We took in a comedy routine at the Social Comedy and Night Club and both the host and the comedian were very entertaining – a nice way to laugh off feeling full after dinner!

 

Observation Lounge

This may have been the most impressive space on the ship. Primarily because it was a major upgrade from previous Escape class ships.  It was well designed, extremely inviting and I was very impressed with the small food stations they had that allowed you to grab a snack or light lunch during the day.

More Pasta Please

Posted By : Sydney Hodgins/ 0 0

I’ve been on a few Princess Cruises and one thing that I always look forward to is my Fettuccine Alfredo.  My first cruise was with a seasoned Princess cruiser and they told me I must try it – so of course I did!  It was delicious!  It came in a crispy parmesan basket, was creamy and buttery and just darn tasty.  So now anytime I sail with Princess I have it at least twice a cruise – it is on their “always available” menu so I know I won’t be disappointed.  My husband started getting it as an appetizer and when I travelled with my extended family our waiter knew to bring us a few bowls to share around the table each night so everyone got to have some.

 

Oh and don’t forget to try the Princess Love Boat Dream for dessert!!!

Image courtesy of Travel Pulse News  
Whale viewing from ship

Whale Spotting from our Balcony

Posted By : Morgan Gibson/ 0 0

It was day four of our Alaskan Cruise and I sat luxuriating on our private balcony, drinking a glass of wine, and admiring the rugged beauty of the snow-capped mountains that lined the horizon.

Gazing over the railing , I mentally reviewed the wildlife we had been fortunate enough to spot so far: Noble bald eagles soaring with amazing grace, the black bear who wandered across our path during a drizzly ride to the Mendenhall Glacier and a  playful otter we spotted out for a swim in Sewards port. Abruptly my thoughts were interrupted. An orca spectacularly breached the ocean, propelling itself high into the air and then crashing back down with a tremendous splash.  It was so exciting!  We had been waiting to see a whale! It really made our trip complete! My husband came out and joined me on the balcony and we sat and watched the whale play. Amazing!

 

 

 

Photo credit:  Holland America