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.

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!

First Time Cruiser Aboard the Norwegian Spirit

Posted By : melissa.duke/ 0 0

I must say, as a first time cruiser I was a little terrified to go on my first cruise through Europe. Crossing various waters, travelling to new places I have never dreamed of visiting; there is a first for everything right?

My opinion may be biased as I am a first time cruiser, but the Norwegian Spirit was a fantastic first time experience. With an incredible itinerary ahead of us, our journey started in Barcelona and we made our way through Casablanca, Las Palmas, Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Funchal, Malaga (Granada), Alicante, and back to Barcelona. During this 11 day cruise I had lots of time to take in the many parts of the ship itself, but this itinerary also had us on our feet exploring these incredible destinations.

To start, the food was incredible! Each morning we enjoyed fresh omelettes at the buffet, various options for lunch, and for dinner we went to the Windows restaurants and had new options to try every night. To change up our meals, we also tried the Cagney’s Steakhouse (honestly, the best steak I have ever had), and Shogun’s for an amazing assortment of Asian, Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine. I definitely never went to bed hungry! The drink package was beneficial for this cruise as we would have up to 2 days in a row at sea.

One of the highlights of being on the ship was the entertainment. I talked with some frequent cruises and the feeling was mutual; NCL has some of the best shows and performances at sea.

Again, being that this was my first cruise, one of the biggest concerns for me was the rocking of the ship and getting seasick. I was fully prepared for the waves, and when they came the crew on the ship took appropriate caution. This eased my worries and I felt very safe by the welcoming and friendly staff on board.

I would do this exact same itinerary in a heartbeat to view this side of the world again. Make sure you go for the excursions. There are so many to choose from, and each island had unique experiences hosted by NCL.

 

My Regent Seven Seas Explorer Experience

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

On February 17th I started a 10-day inspection cruise and tour of the Regent Seven Seas Explorer®. She is acknowledged as being the most luxurious ship ever built and I have to agree that she certainly is. She accommodates 750 guests maximum, all in suites, with an almost equivalent 552 crew complement providing at most a 1:1.5 guest:staff ratio resulting in the very high service level we encountered while on board.

It’s a six-star high quality experience with an atmosphere that is incredibly warm, welcoming, friendly, and family-like. This is in many ways due to the Staff’s pride in what they do and their career longevity. We saw crew members honoured for their 15 and 20 years of service.

My husband joined me and had reservations about spending 10 nights on a cruise with 4 days at sea. When the cruise ended, he actually felt that it was too short. He appreciated the great service and had over 30 staff identified by name to thank in addition to several staff teams. We met many wonderful people from the U.S. Canada, & Europe … some of whom could become life-long friends.

The ship has all balcony suite accommodation ranging from 308 – 4400 square feet (including the balcony). Most have walk-in closets, oversized balconies, are well appointed with walk-in showers, soaker tubs and double sinks in the bathroom. The Italian made beds are very comfortable and are complimented with Egyptian linens and bedding.
The most luxurious suite at over 4400 square feet, includes:
• 2 bedrooms,
• 2 private balconies,
• An in-suite spa with included treatments provided by Canyon Ranch®,
• A sauna, steam room, and whirlpool,
• A solarium,
• A private dining room (in a restaurant),
• Butler service,
• A private chauffeur & tour guide in each port of call,
• Plus many other luxurious amenities such as a master bedroom horse hair mattress made for royalty and a self-playing piano.

 

The ship has many different restaurants – French, Asian, Italian, a Steak & Seafood house, a Main dining room with open seating, a pool grill, a lunch & breakfast buffet, and 24 hour room service.

Regent Seven Seas® is the most inclusive cruise line available.
Fares include:
• Roundtrip business class air on intercontinental flights & economy on domestic routes,
• 1 night pre-cruise hotel package in Concierge & higher,
• Transfers between the airport and ship with Regent flights,
• Unlimited shore excursions in each port of call,
• Unlimited beverages including select fine wines and premium spirits,
• Open bars and lounges,
• In-suite mini-bar replenished daily,
• Specialty dining venues,
• Pre-paid gratuities,
• Unlimited WIFI,
• FREE Land packages before or after many of their exotic itineraries.

 

 

 

 

Review provided by
Adie Matus-Schlossberg
Independent Advisor with New Wave Travel
A division of Vision Travel, a Direct Travel Company

 

Photo c/o Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Oasis-Class Ship

Western Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

OASIS OF THE SEAS What a ship! So much to do, you actually need to create a schedule for yourself. Every night you get their “Compass” itinerary sheet for the next day. I found myself circling things I wanted to do so I wouldn’t miss out or forget. The kids club, Adventure Ocean was a hit. You could tell all the kids there loved it and didn’t miss not hanging out with their parents. We saw CATS on Broadway at the large theatre, the Ice Skating show was the best and we thoroughly enjoyed watching movies at the outdoor movie theatre in the evenings. I’m sure I have left a ton of things out, we did so much!

I had a BOARDWALK BALCONY Stateroom – 1 king bed, 2 night tables, loveseat. And to make it even better it had an interior view of the ship – we looked out over the Boardwalk – my son thought this was very cool, it was perfect. This is a great alternative to having an outside stateroom with a balcony. Only thing I would say is that it could be a bit noisy at times.

Ports: Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico, with 2 days at sea.

Labadee – this is Royal Caribbean’s private beach resort – this was the perfect way to spend a beach day without feeling like you were missing out on exploring an island. We did the venture out and do the dragon coaster thru the mountains for $26USD. Found out they charged someone else $10 so be careful not to get conned. The shopping market is run by the locals, a lot of them had the same product and we found that they were very pushy.

Jamaica – we did Jewel Runaway Bay Resort for the day. It had a great waterpark for kids and adults alike. The Jerk chicken was delicious!  I organized this myself, not through the cruise lines shore excursion option.

Cozumel – stayed on the ship that day, we had all been there previously so we felt it was a good opportunity to take advantage of all the ship has to offer while others were off exploring. I pampered myself at the spa and my son went to the kids club.

Food on the ship was fabulous. Breakfast and lunch were great in the Buffet, lots of options for everyone to choose from. We tried to eat at slightly off peak times just to cut down on waiting in lines.

Main dining had a nice variety every day but also had the standard/same menu every day so you knew there was always something you would enjoy – like the FRENCH ONION SOUP, it was DELICIOUS, I had it almost every day. The service there was so attentive and our server was amazing – we jokingly asked him if there was any curry and he said we have chicken curry, I will bring you a plate to all share. And everyday after that, he would bring out a plate of indian food for us to share. Such a nice touch and something he didn’t have to do for us!

We ate at 2 of the specialty restaurants. 150 on Central Park was fine dining and it was very difficult to make a decision on what to eat. Luckily there were a few of us so we were able have a taste of almost everything. The Lobster Gnocchi was perfect and my father had the Lamb Duo – I only got one bite it as he wasn’t interested in sharing after his first few mouthfuls.

We also had the opportunity to eat at the Mexican restaurant, Sabor, which is located on the boardwalk. It was pretty good – we all had the build your own tacos and we enjoyed the Guacamole with house-made tortilla chips and salsa.

Overall I was impressed with the service and staff – everyone was happy to help and would go out of their way to make sure we had a great time. The ship was very clean and well maintained. I was impressed with the stability of the ship as it was something I was a little concerned with, I barely ever felt it move. Generally I have been on All-Inclusive vacations so having to pay for a lot of the extras did take some getting used to but we were able to take advantage of a promotion when we booked that included the Soda Package for free – which was great to have. I would definitely look for that type of promotion again when booking as it adds a lot of value while onboard.

This was my first cruise and will NOT be my last. I had a wonderful experience and plan to cruise again and again! I would recommend this to family and friends who want to book a fun, active vacation.

 

 

Photo c/o Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Glass of wine from our balcony

Celebrity Mediterranean Cruise

Posted By : Nora Pearce/ 0 0

The Celebrity Silhouette is a beautiful ship and the staff onboard were fantastic.  The cabin stewards were very friendly and were always there to help if needed.  They were quick to respond to any requests that were made.  The waiter, assistant waiter and the wine steward were meticulous with their serving of the guests in the dining room.  Always going the extra to make sure the guests were satisfied.

The Activities staff were a lot of fun and made sure there was lots of activities and a good variety so no one was left out.  They were very inviting and always had a good crowd in all that they did.  Even the ships officers were readily available and they actually had a water polo game of ship staff against the guests and the officers were in the pool in uniform.  Lots of fun to watch.

The entertainment onboard the ship was amazing and a pleasure to watch.  They do such a great job and I never missed a show.  The staff onboard as well as the entertainers that they bring aboard are wonderful.

Ports of call were amazing and choices of land excursions were plentiful.  Anything you could imagine was being offered and I saw some amazing destinations in Italy, Israel, Greece, Turkey and Malta.  Whether sailing in the Caribbean or in Europe you can’t go wrong with a Celebrity cruise.

Two sailings with Azamara

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 0 0

We wanted to cruise but I was looking for something a little different, we finally decided that we would try Azamara. I had sailed onboard a few much larger ships, but my husband had only sailed on one larger ship, so he was a bit anxious to move to a smaller ship. After much convincing, I told him it would be fine. We sailed on the Azamara Journey on the ‘West Indies Hideaways’ cruise, for 10 days.

Well, it was better than fine. It was Azamazing! From the moment we arrived at the pier and checked in to being welcomed on board. The crew and staff were very happy to greet us with big smiles and of course a glass of bubbles. The crew went out of their way to learn what you preferred during the cruise. We met many friends that cruise and still talk about them.

I also was skeptical because of the ‘smallness’, but after only a day, I thought the Journey was just right. Our stateroom was pleasantly decorated. The food was delicious and lots of fresh fruit and veggies throughout the entire cruise. We had a few themed buffet lunches in the restaurant. We even had a ‘white night’ party around the pool. Everyone and everything was decorated in white. They had set up a hot/cold buffet and food stations so we had SO much to choose from, it was hard to decide what to indulge in.

Our itinerary was also very good with the Journey being able to visit many ports the larger ships cannot and also we stayed overnight in port once or twice. The scenery, the islands we visited, we will never forget.

The following year we found another cruise on the Azamara Journey and I really wanted to go this time because she had just come out of dry dock, so I wanted to see what was new. The Journey was even better this time. She had many upgrades all around the ship. This, however did not take away from her charm and elegance. The crew once again outdid themselves with their fantastic service and attention to detail. Our itinerary ‘Temples, Jungles and Beaches’ explored more of the western Caribbean. We tried the specialty restaurants. The service and food wonderful again. We had an Azamazing evening in St. Maarten with a steel drum band set up not far from the ship. The music and entertainment was great and when we returned to the ship (late), they escorted us to the observation lounge for cherries jubilee!

I also would like to say that the crew (captain, cruise director etc) were visible many times on both cruises we sailed on. They were very approachable and friendly, sat with us for some meals and attended events. This makes such a big difference when you sail on a smaller ship. It is refreshing. It is more intimate. You meet many nice people and learn more about them too.

I am looking for us to go on another Azamara cruise in the future, especially on the Journey OR maybe the Quest. Now there will be even more to see around the world with the addition the Azamara Pursuit.

Silver Wind Caribbean cruise

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 0 0

We boarded The Silver Wind in Barbados, after a pell-mell dash from Grantley Adams airport (due to the late arrival of our flight from Fort Lauderdale) , eventually arriving at 9:30pm, which felt like minutes before departure! After that headlong dash there was only one place to go – The Bar. We were greeted like long lost friends and served swiftly with flutes of bubbly; at last a quiet moment, to reflect and settle, in the cosy, clubby atmosphere. The rest of the interior of the ship was equally welcoming, more so after the recent refurbishment of the major public areas.

We had a Medallion suite on the 8th deck, for’ard of the swimming pool area, and from the start, our Butler, Vinay delightful Indian man, was courteous, efficient and endlessly patient. He served our breakfasts and afternoon canapés on the balcony and tended to our daily laundry, which was joy. The rest of the crew was equally friendly and courteous and seemed to know our names almost from the moment we boarded; they made it feel like a home away from home.

Our cruise departed from Barbados and took us to Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, Curaçao and back to Barbados. Our shore excursion on Aruba comprised a little sightseeing, including the lighthouse and then a trip in a semi-submersible to view the wreck German freighter, scuttled during the very early months of WW2. For the rest we wandered the local bazaars and soaked in the atmosphere.

Our voyage was made all the more pleasurable because we were upgraded to a Medallion suite, which included complementary laundry, free and unlimited wifi and a large walk-in closet; another joy. The veranda was large enough for two sun-beds, a small dining table and chairs and a lounger built for two. Overall we were impressed by the friendliness of the staff, the cosy, intimate feel of the ship and the leisurely relaxed pace of life. Would we cruise on the Wind again? Absolutely!

 

 

Contributed by Lynne Adams
An independent affiliate of Direct Travel

Paul Gauguin in Tahiti

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

In March 2017, I embarked on a Paul Gauguin cruise-7 day Tahiti and Society Islands.

We started from Papeete, Tahiti where I stayed one night pre cruise at the Tahiti Pearl Bearch Resort. We sailed from Papeete to Huahine, TaHa’a (Motu Mahana), Bora Bora, Moorea and back to Tahiti, I stayed another night at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort. It was the experience of a lifetime. I met many nice people and did a few shore excursions-swimming with lemon sharks and stingrays, and tons of snorkeling.

I must say the crew/staff on board were outstanding!! Although this ship is a smaller one, the crew have big hearts! They were genuine and we shared happy times while on board. The food and dining was one of the best I have had on a cruise ship. The entertainment was also very good – it was wonderful to be treated to local entertainment, really made you feel at home.

There was SO much beautiful scenery no matter where we were, I felt I was dreaming.

I would definitely sail on the Paul Gauguin again! I had such a wonderful time. I really would like to go again for longer this time and to explore some of the other islands in this paradise!