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

First Time Cruiser Aboard the Norwegian Spirit

Posted By : Melissa Dlugokecki/ 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.

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.

 

Crystal River Cruise on board the Crystal Mahler

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

I recently had the opportunity to experience a Crystal River Cruise on the Crystal Mahler doing a 7 night Danube cruise roundtrip from Vienna. The inaugural sailing was in the late fall of 2017 so the ship was in excellent condition. The guest capacity is 106 with a total crew of 68 which is very good ratio. Our Crystal River Cruise, like a Crystal Cruise, was all-inclusive.

The categories S5 & S4, Petite Suite are 188 sq. ft. but were plenty big enough as you don’t really spend much time in the stateroom. The categories S3, S2 & S1, Deluxe Suites are 253 sq. ft. All S category staterooms all have a panoramic window that makes into a Juliette balcony. The category CP, Crystal Penthouse is 506 sq. ft. and the CS, Crystal Suite is 759 sq. ft. These suites have suite wide panoramic balcony-windows.

When we arrived at the Crystal Mahler, we were greeted by the staff and escorted to the Palm Court Lounge where we were offered a drink. Shortly one of the staff came and did the check-in and afterwards a butler escorted us to our stateroom. Everything was so seamless. Our Butler and stateroom Attendant both came by shortly

Our stateroom (category S4) was beautifully appointed. We had a lovely walk-in closet that contained a safe, 3 drawers, plenty of hangers as well as 2 terry towel robe and 2 cotton robe and 2 pairs of slippers. There was a vanity with a chair as well as a comfortable chair and our queen bed faced the window. Our amenities included a wall mounted TV, bedside table with a convenient iPad for us to use on the cruise and an Inspresso coffee machine & a fully stocked bar and a bottle of red & white wine as well as a sparkling wine. There was also an adjustable height/extendable coffee/dining table. The washroom was quiet large with 2 sinks, toilet and a walk-in shower that had a rainforest shower head as well as a hand held showerhead. The toiletry amenities were of high quality and larger than what most cruise lines offer.

On deck 2 which is the lowest guest deck is the reception area and also a set up for coffee, tea and pastries which is available 24 hours a day. The Waterside restaurant is also located on this deck. A breakfast & lunch buffet are served in this location and in the evening an al ‘a carte menu is served. Each night there was the classic steak and chicken dinner available and then the rest of the menu changed daily with an assortment that changed each evening but always contained a fish dinner as other regional fares to choose from. Service was excellent.

On deck 3 there was a bistro which served a late risers breakfast from a menu, a limited buffet luncheon and dinner by reservations only. The dinner menu was a tapas and our waiter suggested that we order everything as it is a shared meal. My husband was so taken by how well everything was prepared and presented that he complimented the chef.

Deck 3 also contained the Palm Court lounge where nightly entertainment and special daytime activities took place. There is also a small jet pool at the aft of the ship with some lounge chairs and change rooms with a fridge stocked with bottled water and towels.

Up on Deck 4 there is a small bar that recedes into the boat when goes under low bridges, deck & lounge chairs & couches and a sun roof.

A real plus is that there is an elevator that goes only on the 2nd & 3rd floor, a small spa and exercise room.

Our Cruise Director Neal was a wonderful entertainer and knew everyone by name. Entertainment ranged from sing-alongs to an Operatic Tenor, Karaoke, Liar’s Club, a tribute to the Sound of Music, and The (Not So) Newly Wed Game. One afternoon we had a strudel demonstration put on by the head pastry chef and on the afternoon that we were in Bratislava, The Pressburger Duo played a selection of classical music and a also did a Musical Potpourri featuring unique traditional Slovakian instruments.

There is a wide range of complimentary shore excursions, but you can also purchase private excursions. We went on only the complimentary excursion and each one ran perfectly. On several of the excursions our Crystal River Cruise included additional little surprises. In Budapest when we did the Beautiful Budapest tour when we were up at the Fisherman’s Bastion they took us up the tallest of the Bastions were there was a champagne cocktail reception and 3 couples who came and danced a local folklore dance. In Bratislava we did a tour to a that included a beer tasting at a local pub were we got to sample 3 beers and each of us also received a homemade pretzel. In Krems our tour of the Old Town also included a workshop at a family run Confectioners. The demonstration was very well done and we got to sample chocolate from the most bitter down to the sweetest, as well as sample 2 different chocolate candies and a piece of their chocolate cream cake. Also included was your choice of beverages. Our evening excursion in Krems took us to a 400 year old Monastery were upon arriving there was a champagne reception and then a most wonderful concert by crossover classical violin master Barbara Helfgott. This was a Crystal River Cruise Signature Event that was beyond belief.

I have been on over 30 cruises, all on Mass Market Cruise Lines, but I must say that this was a very pleasant way to travel and see a part of Europe that the major cruise lines cannot take you to.

 

 

 

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

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.

 

 

Contributed by Meera La Rose
Vision Travel, a Direct Travel Company

Outstanding trip on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

We have just returned home after sailing on REGENT SEVEN SEAS “EXPLORER”.  All we can say is OUTSTANDING!!

This ship is beautiful, elegant, comfortable, spacious and warm, giving guests a comfortable feel of luxury.  The Explorer, being Regent’s largest ship offers many quiet areas where one can escape to reflect and enjoy and to just let the mind wonder.  Fresh flowers and orchids adorn the ship throughout including all suites and these arrangements were always looking fresh – never tired.  The entire team on board are a well oiled machine!!!

Our suite was located on Deck 6 #683 which happens to be the very last aft cabin on starboard side.  One, including myself, a cruise only Travel Advisor, would consider this to be a poor location but in essence, it was perfect for us.  We had no passing guest traffic, no laundry traffic or elevator/stairs traffic.  Even though one may consider this location as being over the engines……….yes, I would agree but we did not hear the engines, only the gentle rocking to sleep in ever so comfortable beds.  Engines (bow thrusters) were heard at time of docking and departing but never before 7.30am.

Our dinner experiences in Compass Rose, Pacific Rim and Chartreuse were all exceptional.  Ivana always insured we had a table for 2 in the quiet alcove in Compass Rose.  Arriana, our waitress made each evening memorable.  Her gracious and gentle style along with her attentive service was outstanding.  She made us feel special.  In Compass Rose, the delicious chef’s menu changed daily along with the standard menu choices allowed for a vast variety of choice options.  Select wines were poured with dinner but one could also request a specific wine from their vast pouring menu.  Excellent choices of wines were available and being poured by attentive Sommeliers.

Let’s not forget about breakfasts and lunch either in La Verandah or Pool Grill.  Here the food always looked fresh and tempting along with being delicious.  A variety of freshly made salads and food selection to choose from and perfect for the hot summer days in port or at sea.  Service was also impeccable in these areas.

Both Pacific Rim and Chartreuse were exceptional!!  Service is both of these dining venues were comfortable and attentive which allowed for a very pleasant experience.  In fact, we returned to Chartreuse for a second evening.  Food in both of these locations were deliciously outstanding.

Since we had already experienced this itinerary before (eastern Caribbean visiting St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia and Great Stirrup Key), we opted to make this cruise strictly an R & R with no commitments to any tours.  We did get off in each port for about an hour walkabout, but the comfortable life on board kept calling us back.  The Explorer is truly a beautiful ship with far too many positives to list.  In fact, as I write this, I am trying to recall any negatives.  None come to mind.

The EXPLORER is truly a style of luxury with high end features and amenities making it one of the most luxurious ships afloat today.  She recently won an award for Best Luxury Cruise Ship and we can certainly see why.

Again we say….OUTSTANDING and a beautiful experience on this luxurious ship from top to bottom.

 

 

 

Review provided by
Sheila Parsonage 
Independent Travel Advisor with Vision Travel, a Direct Travel company

 

Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises 

Mega Ship Experience on the Allure of the Seas

Posted By : Rene Schneeberger/ 0 0

With cruise ships getting bigger and bigger these days, many travelers wonder what that experience is truly like.  I had this same question and frankly some hesitation about sailing on a mega ship for years as I love to cruise on small intimate vessels between 250 and 1000 passengers.

However, in early January, I found a killer rate for a balcony cabin at $750 per person (normally these run for $1100 or more) and took the plunge by boarding Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class vessel Allure of the Seas for a 7-night exploration in Fort Lauderdale.  This review will take you through my week aboard.

As you can see from the picture I took in San Juan, the sheer size of the Allure of the Seas trumps everything in its sight.  Note the smallest vessel on the picture, Holland America Line’s Eurodam (2nd from the left) is itself not that small with 2104 passenger capacity. However, the Allure holds 3 times as many with 6488 passengers on my particular sailing.

Boarding/Disembarkation

It was a busy Sunday at Port Everglades with 7 vessels in port.  I was concerned at first that boarding would be a major effort.  However, I can attest to the fact that I have never boarded a ship faster. We went from curb side to cabin in 20 minutes – Absolutely amazing.  The entire experience reminded me of how Lufthansa boards 500 passengers on an Airbus 380 in 45 minutes while it takes as long or longer to get 120 passengers on a Boeing 737.  The lesson here is that “size matters” as it permits the use of better access infrastructure which Royal Caribbean purpose built at this port.

Similarly upon return, the ship crew is well versed in guiding guests to the gangway and off to customs.  We did the return journey in about 35 minutes from cabin to curb.

Amenities & Activities

One of the biggest advantages of a ship of this size is the space available for entertainment and activities.  Guests will notice right away that they are on a Mega ship the moment they step on board.  Large public spaces abound with expansive lounges, theaters and innovative activities to choose from.  My favorites were the Show lounge where I saw Mamma Mia and Blue Planet as well as the Aqua Theatre with the fantastic “Oceanaria” show. From a dining perspective, there are plenty of options as well, albeit several had long wait lines.  My personal tip is the Park Café on Central Park with fresh salads, sandwiches and paninis.   Favorite meal on board – Captain’s table which was a fantastic small, group experience with a $95 charge per person.  It is well worth the cost as it includes the 5 course gourmet meal and accompanying wine pairing.

Positives

With over 220,000 Gross Register Tons, this class of Mega-ships provides a smooth cruise experience even for folks worried about seasickness.  The ship just doesn’t move, even with decent waves, the motion is not noticeable.

Service and attention to detail by the crew was on par with smaller vessels and there is plenty of staff to serve large number of guests aboard.  Our stateroom a Category D2 Balcony on Deck 12, facing the ocean was very well laid out, had plenty of power outlets and the beds were very comfortable.  We toured a couple of Mini-suites which is the category I would pick on a future cruise.

Not a dull moment aboard either.  With flow riders (surf simulators), zip line, rock wall, ice rink, shows, games, movies, and so much more, there is always something happening aboard and the week just flew by. I used the walking/running track on deck 3 daily and I found it to be the perfect hide-away to enjoy ocean views on the handful of deck chairs in the very aft of the vessel.  Go check it out.

Challenges

To illustrate the biggest challenge, see the picture above.  Finding deck chairs on sea days was a frustrating experience to say the least.  There just are not enough spaces on deck for 6000+ people to lounge.  I have noticed the same issue on NCL’s Epic, Breakaway and Getaway where, to make matters even worse, the forward portion of the ship is taken up by the Haven – a Private Suites Club.  Another area of improvement for Royal Caribbean is the main dining room where during dinner service, noise levels are astronomical.  While the food was fine and the service attentive, don’t plan on a romantic dinner date or long conversations.  You would have to upgrade to Chops or Café 150 to have a tranquil dinner experience.  Mind you that these specialty dining venues cost from $35 per person and up – money well spent a couple of times during the voyage.

Tips:

  • Ask your travel advisor to book your show tickets in advance and know that you can see any show again on a stand-by basis. (Line up begins about 1 hour prior to the show).
  • Upgrade to Balcony or higher category for enjoyment and higher floors.  The lower levels are prone to noise from the 4 story boardwalk and all the activities going on.
  • Consider some of the “upgrade” restaurants and book them in advance (especially the Chef’s table)
  • This type of mega-ship is ideally suited for multi-gen family gatherings and for cruisers that want to experience the “latest & greatest”
  • Ask your travel advisor to plan custom shore-excursions (not booked with the cruise line) as a means to get away from the crowds and get personalized service – often at lower per person costs than the ship excursions

Final Reflections

After a week aboard, I was sad and at the same time glad to leave the vessel.  I am satisfied that I took the time to experience a Mega Ship with all its technical marvels, full-length Broadway shows and all the world-class entertainment.  Yet, my personal preference remain smaller, more intimate vessels of the 200 to 1100 category.  Peace and tranquility with plenty of personal space are more in line with my expectations than sharing lobbies, elevators and public spaces with crowds usually seen at malls.  It is a personal choice of course, and I heard many guests on board that were totally enamored with Allure and its sister ships.