Cruise People – Giles Hawke – The CEO

Giles Hawke




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Where Does Avalon Waterways CEO Giles Hawke Like To Go On Holiday?

For those of you who are not familiar with Giles Hawke, let me put you in the picture. He was Head of Sales for P&O Cruises, then became Executive Director for MSC Cruises, and is now the Chief Executive Officer for Avalon Waterways and Cosmos. So to kick off #CruiseMonth let’s get up close and personal with Giles Hawke and find out what makes him tick.

How did you come to work in the Cruise Industry and what was your first job?

My first job in travel was as a nightporter in a hotel in Chamonix straight after I finished my degree. I joined the cruise industry in 2001 as Head of Sales for P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises and Ocean Village.

If you could have chosen anything else as a career what would it have have been?

I love the outdoors, so a ski instructor and a mountain guide would have been fantastic alternatives.

Have you been on a river cruise? If so, which one?

Yes and with Avalon river cruises out of Amsterdam – a really unique and enjoyable experience and one I will definitely repeat. Although Avalon doesn’t focus on children I could see that my children would love it and will aim to take them soon

What would you say are the benefits of river cruising?

Similar ones to ocean cruising in the sense of only unpacking once and amazing food and service. In addition there are beautiful views constantly as the scenery changes and you are always right in the heart of the destination. There is no sense of motion as you cruise, so it’s perfect for anyone who gets any level of motion sickness. So much is included in the price and the cabins on Avalon with the Panorama balconies are very special.

What makes Avalon Waterways stand out from other river cruises?

The wall to wall floor to ceiling open air balconies, the beds facing the windows, the relaxed luxury approach – no dress codes or stuffy formality but an upmarket and modern boutique hotel type experience, Avalon Active Discovery cruises focusing on much more immersive shore activities.

Jane McDonald on the balcony of her Avalon River Cruise
Jane McDonald enjoying the incredible views onboard her Avalon River Cruise. As seen in TV Series Cruising with Jane McDonald.
As CEO of two companies, what is an average ‘Day in the Life’ for you?

When I’m in the office I’m usually up at 0445 and drive 90 miles to Bromley. I try and have as many meetings and one-to-ones with my team as possible when I’m in the office and make sure I’m up to date on what is happening. I study our sales figures every morning and look for trends and insight. I do send a lot of emails day and night and over weekends, but I try and take personal time too and will aim to get some form of exercise in most days if at all possible. I usually get home around 8 at night three or four days a week but try and work from home a day a week to catch up with everything, have a lie in until 0630 and have breakfast with my family!

How did it feel to win the Cruise Line International Cruise Agent Lifetime Achievement Award?

It was a lovely accolade and I feel humbled by it and a little embarrassed as there are so many people in the cruise industry who have done so much more than me. It does make me worry that I am expected to retire now though when I’m not quite ready!

What was your last holiday?

A week in Cornwall with the family surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, walking, running, eating and drinking!

Do you have your next holiday booked and what/where is it?

Heading to Italy in October with the family to Capri, Sorrento and Pompei

Your job role must require organisation, focus and a lot of energy. Do you have any lifestyle/ personal management tips you can give us?

My approach is to aim to always be positive and look for what can be done, rather than the challenges and how difficult something is. I enjoy ambiguity and concepts and ideas and trying to bring people and ideas together. In terms of tips, I would say to always keep your email inbox manageable and make time to clear it regularly, try and deal with things once rather than prevaricate, work with people who are real experts and positive, do seat the small stuff as it is important and creates a base for the bigger stuff!

What are your hobbies?

Cycling, skiing, running and latterly swimming as I’ve taken up triathlons in the last two years. I also enjoy good food, socialising with my good friends and reading, although it takes me a long time to read a book these days as I only read when I get to bed and normally only manage a page before I’m out!

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

I’d love to visit South America and do a big tour

Heli-skiing in Alaska

A Rhône river Cruise

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking their first cruise?

What are you waiting for!?

Discover River Cruising

More information can be found at avaloncruises.co.uk

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Fun Corporate Event Ideas with Celebrity Edge




Latest Reveal for Celebrity Edge

Event planners looking for fun corporate event ideas or an unforgettable conference experience, should look no further than The Meeting Place onboard Celebrity Edge.

The latest reveal for the long awaited new class of ship from Celebrity Cruises, is a 1,970 square foot, state of the art meeting venue. The Meeting Place will be located centrally on the ship to allow guests to experience breathtaking views like no other venue at sea or on land.

“Of course, the most advanced ship we’ve ever designed would include the most exciting venues for get-togethers, including The Meeting Place,” said Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service, Celebrity Cruises. “Imagine the spectacular conferences, trade shows, weddings, and reunions you can plan with the gorgeous Celebrity Edge as your setting and an ocean as your brilliant backdrop.”

Fun Corporate Event Ideas at The Meeting Room onboard Celebrity Edge

If you want to make sure your event is a memorable one that stands out from the crowd, then Celebrity Edge is the place to be. If you are not familiar with what to expect onboard this ship watch the video below.

“When designing The Meeting Place we asked ourselves what would be more appealing; being subjected to lectures in a conference room, or socializing with colleagues in a hip lounge?’ The latter seemed obvious. Thus the flexibility and functionality of a ‘state of the art’ meeting space was designed for pleasure first,” said Scott Butler, AIA, Founding Partner, Wilson Butler Architects. “The word that defines The Meeting Place is ‘connected’. It facilitates guests getting connected to one another; to the latest technology and to the greatest new ideas. It also happens to connect to other venues on the ship that vastly expand the opportunities for groups.”

The Meeting Room Facilities

It is no surprise that Celebrity Edge uses innovative technology.  From wireless microphones to a mini sound board, an electronic whiteboard and a 98-inch LED screen at one end of the room and a 75-inch LED screen at the other.

The room can be set in a variety of layouts. A separate office space is provided for the event planners and the venue has its own pantry and dynamic bar to suit all catering needs.

Fun Corporate Event Ideas at The Meeting Room onboard Celebrity Edge

Fun Corporate Event Ideas at The Meeting Room onboard Celebrity Edge

Fun Corporate Event Ideas at The Meeting Room onboard Celebrity Edge

The venue can transforms into a comfortable lounge area for networking, relaxing and mingling.

Fun Corporate Event Ideas at The Meeting Room onboard Celebrity Edge

Fun Corporate Event Ideas at The Meeting Room onboard Celebrity Edge

Booking enquiries for The Meeting Room onboard Celebrity Edge can be made through your Travel Agent or directly with Celebrity Cruises.

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How To Make An Impression At The Ritz

Oz Clarke and Flavia Gray at the ritz hotel london




Cruise International Awards 2017 at The Ritz Hotel, London

So as if it wasn’t a shock enough to be shortlisted for Cruise Agent of the Year Award for the second time, it was even more surprising when I received my invitation to the Awards ceremony. I checked the date was ok for my Mum to look after Josh and after agreeing she asked me where it was being held. I hadn’t checked the invite as these things are usually held in a nice hotel in London and I was sure this was no exception. Mum was still standing there waiting for the answer, so I rolled my eyes and checked the email.

I read the email again and grinning, I looked up and Mum and said “It’s at THE RITZ!” Mum’s jaw dropped and we turned into a couple of crazy ladies. It was so exciting. It’s times like this when you think, what other job could a single mum possibly have, that would give her the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon at the most famous and poshest (yes I said poshest), hotel in London?

Invitation for Cruise International Awards 2017 at the Ritz

Getting There

I decided to drive up to town. Mainly because I had experienced a weekday 6pm train journey from London Waterloo to Weybridge and after I thought there was no room for any more passengers, another 25 managed to squeeze in. I don’t know how people deal with this on a daily basis. Anyway, I was not prepared to put myself through that again. So for a few extra quid and a bit of traffic, I decided to drive.

Delays

I know the traffic can be heavy in Knightbridge, but it took me 20 minutes of sitting outside Harrods to realise that the only reason the traffic was moving slightly, was due to cars turning away from the queue and trying an alternative route. I like to be early and was on track to arrive at the Ritz at 2.45. The event started at 3pm and the awards ceremony at 3.30pm, so I had plenty of time. In my mind, I had planned on having a sneaky gin and tonic at the bar somewhere before anyone else arrived. However, the sudden road closure put pay to that and I suddenly found it was 3.15!

I did a u-turn and drove around the back of Harrods. I just hoped the satnav would work things out for me. As I got closer I knew I would have minutes to spare if I was lucky, so my plan was to pull up outside the hotel and jump straight out of the car. Then I pictured the front of the Ritz and couldn’t recall there being anywhere for cars to pull up. I was frantic. How could I be late to such an event. I am shortlisted for a prestigious award at the best hotel in London and I am going to be late.

First Impressions

In desperation, I pulled up outside the front door and looked for a Concierge. He was inside the door, on the phone, facing the other way! I had no choice. I bibbed my horn. Not once, but about five times. The glass on the doors must be pretty thick. I was so embarrassed, this was the worst thing I could have done, but I couldn’t think of any other way. The Concierge eventually realised that this bibbing noise wasn’t going away and turned around. I desperately beckoned him over. He reluctantly walked towards the car. In hindsight, I am surprised I didn’t end up being arrested. I asked him where the valet parking was. He looked at my car and it’s driver and questioned “Do you want the hotel ma’am?” I said “yes” and explained I needed to be at an event there. He informed me that I needed to go up the one way system, do a ‘U’ turn at the lights, (you have to have balls of steel to attempt one of those in London), come back along the main road, take second on left, then first right on bleurh-bleurh Street (the noise from the traffic was so loud I couldn’t make out what he had said but I knew I was looking for a road name that started with ‘B’), and that would bring me to the hotel entrance.

I’m Late For A Very Important Date

I looked at the dashboard clock, it was 3.25. I had one shot at this otherwise I was going to be embarrassingly late. I sped down the round, turned around, apologised to a few black cab drivers and flew down the turning. It didn’t look right but I followed the instructions. Then I saw it! The entrance of the hotel and two immaculately dressed and well composed doorman in top hat and tails, standing at the top of the steps greeting guests. I quickly pulled in, oversteering and mounting the kerb. So now they had noticed me but were keeping their distance. I beckoned them over whilst bending down changing my shoes. The bravest of them approached the car with caution. I put the window down and said “I need valet parking, I need to be in there at an event and I’m late”. The poor guy, who obviously stayed polite and professional at all times, and called me ma’am, stood by the drivers door as I handed him a rather worn car key card, held together with parcel tape.

Getting my car parked at the Ritz

Getting Down To Business

I was born in Westminster and come from a family of Londoners, so I am very patriotic. Many London hotels are plush but the Ritz is that and more. Walking into The Ritz makes you feel like you are royalty and is hard to put into words. For anyone looking for a memorable visit to London, afternoon tea at the Ritz is top of the heap.

Union Jack Flag hangs in the hallway at the Ritz

Everything about the Ritz is legendary and fairytale-like at the same time. The grandeur, the opulence and the Britishness.

People waiting in the hallway at the Ritz

Afternoon Tea At The Ritz
This is where afternoon tea is served.

The Music Room

I was directed to the appropriate part of the hotel, and as I entered the room I was greeted by two smiling ladies holding trays of champagne.

The Music Room At The Ritz

The guest speaker was the one and only International Award Winning Wine Writer and Broadcaster, Oz Clarke, also known for his collaboration with Celebrity Cruises. Oz was extremely funny and I thoroughly enjoyed his cruise anecdotes.

Oz Clarke in the Music Room At The Ritz

 

Oz Clarke in the Music Room At the Ritz

Whilst sipping champagne and nibbling on finger sandwiches, I couldn’t help notice the beautiful chandelier, the stunning ceiling and huge draped curtains framing the wall to ceiling windows. I had a wonderful afternoon at The Ritz and it was great to meet new people as well as catch up with a few familiar faces.

And The Winners Are…

Best Cruise Line

Princess Cruises – Winner

P&O Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Luxury Cruise Line

Seabourn – Winner

Regent Seven Seas Cruises – Highly Commended

Best River Cruise Line

Viking River Cruises ­– Winner

Riviera Travel – Highly Commended

Best Luxury River Cruise Line

Viking River Cruises – Winner

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection – Highly Commended

Best for Onboard Activities

Royal Caribbean International – Winner

Norwegian Cruise Line – Highly Commended

Best for Families

Disney Cruise Line – Winner

Royal Caribbean International – Highly Commended

Best for First-Time Cruisers

Princess Cruises – Winner

P & O Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Adventure

Silversea – Winner

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Value for Money

Thomson Cruises – Winner

Saga Cruises – Highly Commended

Best Boutique Cruise Line

Azamara Club Cruises – Winner

Silversea – Highly Commended

Best for Enrichment

Saga Cruises – Winner

Holland America Line – Highly Commended

Best for Wellbeing

Holland America Line – Winner

Oceania Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Food

Oceania Cruises – Winner

Viking Cruises – Highly Commended

Best for Onboard Entertainment

Norwegian Cruise Line – Winner

Disney Cruise Line – Highly Commended

Best New Ship

Silver Muse – Winner

Seabourn Encore – Highly Commended

Best Product or Service

Ultimate Balcony Dining by Princess Cruises – Winner

VIP Home Departure Service by Titan – Highly Commended

Best Escorted & Specialist Tour Operator

Titan – Winner

Riviera Travel – Highly Commended

Best UK Port

Southampton – Winner

Liverpool – Highly Commended

Best Destination (Europe)

Dubrovnik – Winner

Norway – Highly Commended

Best Destination (World)

New Zealand – Winner

Barbados – Highly Commended

Outstanding Contribution to the Cruise Industry

Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, Chairman, Silversea

Cruise Agent Lifetime Achievement Award

Giles Hawke, CEO, Cosmos Tours and Cruises and Avalon Waterways UK ­– Winner

Michael Wilson, Managing Director, Bolsover Cruise Club – Highly Commended

Best Online Cruise Travel Agent

Iglu Cruise – Winner

Bolsover Cruise Club – Highly Commended

Best Cruise Agency

Bolsover Cruise Club – Winner

Iglu Cruise – Highly Commended

Best Cruise Agent

Louise Thompson, Cruise.co.uk – Winner

Jane Chadwick, Go Cruise with Jane – Highly Commended

Best Blogger

Gary Bembridge, Tips for Travellers – Winner

Danielle Fear, Cruise Miss – Highly Commended

Recommended Reading

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Independence of the Seas Refit

independence of the seas refit




I’m So Excited About the Independence of the Seas Refit

Have you heard the news? Are you as excited as I am about the upcoming Independence of the Seas refit? With the Brits favourite Royal Caribbean ship back in the UK after it was greatly missed for one season, we are in for some special treats.

So let’s just recap on some of the incredible things you can already do on Independence of the Seas.

  1. Ice skating and enjoy spectacular ice shows
  2. Surf or boogie board freestyle or take lessons on the Flowrider
  3. Family activies on the full size sports court include basketball and football
  4. Golfing on the 9-hole miniature golf course
  5. Climb the rock wall 200ft above sea level
  6. Workout in the state of the art fitness centre
  7. Stroll along the Royal Promenade or enjoy a parade or street party
  8. A wide selection of dining venues and bars to choose from
  9. Enjoy a show in the Alhambra Theatre
  10. Indule in the spa
  11. Have a flutter in the Vegas style casino
  12. Let your kids loose in the kids club where they will have an amazing time in a safe environment (my number one reason to cruise in my Top 10 Reasons I Choose To Cruise post
  13. Take a dip in one of the 3 onboard pools
  14. Sit back in one of the 6 whirlpools. 2 of which extend 12 feet from the side of the ship

Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Independence of the Seas Activities onboard
Image: Royal Caribbean International

But There’s More …

Aside from these amazing features, Royal Caribbean are going to give our beloved Indy a multi-million dollar makeover. In March 2018, she will enter dry-dock in Freeport, Bahamas. On completion, Royal Caribbean will have added features that have already debuted on newer ships, but Independence of the Seas will be the first cruise ship to have it’s very own Trampoline park. Located on the top deck for extra exhilaration. Trampolining will not be everyones cup of tea, but those brave enough to give it a go will be jumping for joy.

The Escape Room was first introduced on Harmony of the Seas and is now being added to Indy. If you are a fan of mind games then this one’s for you. This is a game where you work as a group to solve clues which lead you to your escape route. It’s great for team work and gives your problem solving skills a workout.

Independence of the Seas Refit Escape Room
Image: Royal Caribbean International

In the Alhambra theatre you will now have the opportunity to experience the West End version of Grease The Musical which has proved a massive hit with the guests during its first season onboard Harmony of the Seas.

Independence of the Seas Refit Grease The Musical
Image: Royal Caribbean International

Even the pool deck is getting some attention in the Independence of the Seas refit as they will be adding Splashaway Bay for the kids to enjoy as well as three different waterslides.

Independence of the Seas Refit Splashaway Bay
Image: Royal Caribbean International
Independence of the Seas Refit Waterslides
Image: Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean are great at finding activities that are suitable for kids as well as adults who want to act like kids again. Laser Tag is perfect for this and will no doubt be very popular with all ages.

Independence of the Seas Refit Girl Playing Laser Tag
Image: Royal Caribbean International

The cruise line have proved they are confident this will generate higher demand for this ship as they also plan to add more staterooms.

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Le Soleal in Pictures by Andrew Sassoli-Walker




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Le Soleal in the Solent

Andrew Sassoli-Walker is an amazing photographer and many of us are already aware of the magnificent images he captures during his day to day life around the Solent, through posts he shares on social media. There are also numerous books Andrew has put together which highlight the P and O and Cunard fleets. These are available to buy online here.

I was thrilled when Andrew agreed to join me onboard Le Ponant’s luxury yacht, Le Soleal when she visited Portsmouth earlier this year. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, and Andrew managed to capture some fantastic images of the ship.

To me, what makes these photographs so special is that they are taken by someone who has a true passion and respect for the vessels themselves. This shows through in the character of the images Andrew took on the day.

Le Soleal Le Ponant Ships and Champagne

Le Soleal is more of a private luxury yacht than a cruise ship. She is only 142 metres long and has a guest capacity of 264 passengers.

Le Soleal Le Ponant Ships and Champagne

 

Le Soleal Le Ponant Ships and Champagne

Le Soleal Le Ponant Ships and Champagne

Le Soleal Le Ponant Ships and Champagne

It was hard to believe we were in Portsmouth but easy to imagine life onboard the luxury yacht basking in the Mediterranean Sun.

Le Soleal Flavia Gray Luxury Cruise Blog

Le Soleal Le Ponant Ships and Champagne

Ponant is the only French owned cruise line.

Ponant are very happy to allow guests to view the bridge whenever possible.

The casual dining restaurant onboard Le Soleal.

Spectacular all balcony suites onboard Le Soleal.

Luxurious spa treatments available onboard using Sothys range of products.

The onboard cinema.

My personal favourite, the lounge bar with stunning views, comfortable seating and beautiful skylight.

French bread anyone?

As expected, the food, wine and service was impeccable, with food served under a cloche.

 

 

More information can be found on my blog post Ponant – Luxury and Expedition Cruises

You can follow Andrew on Instagram.

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Mini Cruise Review onboard Celebrity Eclipse

Taster Cruise onboard Celebrity Eclipse Cute Little Boy on Lawn




Follow my blog with BloglovinTaster Cruise onboard Celebrity Eclipse

On the last night of our 10 night Greek Island cruise last year, my dear friend David announced that he would not be doing anymore cruises unless he was cruising with me. We were onboard Jewel of the Seas which was the first time David had cruised with anyone other than P & O.

So my first thought was that is I now had myself a permanent cruise buddy, I would need to introduce him to something a bit more, erm, refined shall we say. With a young child in tow, this was exactly the excuse I needed to “jump ship” to Celebrity Cruises.

David and I have a lot in common. We enjoy good food, wine, conversation, luxury décor and refinement. There is a good choice of cruise lines that tick the boxes, but the key combination for me was the kids club facilities.

Now most travel agents will let their customers know when there are great deals to be had. Not me. I have great customers that find the deals and call me to book. They are so good at knowing a deal that when I see what the price is, I want to book it for myself! This was the case with the two-night taster cruise. Kat emailed me or messaged me on Facebook and said she wanted to book this cruise for her and her friend. When I checked the price I went into overdrive and held off her cabin and two cabins for David and I.

Fast forward to 19 May 2017 and we boarded the elegant Celebrity Eclipse. We were welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne. I knew then that there would be no turning back for David.

As we walked towards the atrium to get our bearings, we spotted the speciality restaurant staff, taking reservations. I took the opportunity to get our dining times sorted as we were not able to get the times that worked with the nursery online.

With that done, we headed for the pool deck.

Taster Cruise onboard Celebrity Eclipse watching the water fountains

The dancing fountain display was beautiful and had a very calming effect on me. We found a nice little spot to set up camp and distracted Josh with an extra large chocolate chip cookie, while we flagged down a poolside waiter.

Taster Cruise onboard Celebrity Eclipse Poolside Lounger

After a few glasses of Prosecco (all included in the drinks package), and the mandatory dip in the pool, followed swiftly by a warm up in the hot tub, we headed back to our rooms to prepare for the compulsory muster drill.

Celebrity Cruises have adopted a different approach to the muster drill, which caused some controversy between passengers. It was presented as a kind of James Bond spoof, where one of the agents was on a mission and in order to complete it, they were put through a series of emergency procedures. Personally, I thought this was a refreshing change to the usual safety video, but some other guests, including my dear friend David, thought it was ridiculous. I guess you can’t please everyone.

Taster Cruise onboard Celebrity Eclipse Grass Lawn

We took a stroll to the Sunset Bar at the aft of the ship for spillway, passing the stunning lawn club. If you ever cruise with Celebrity, you really must do this, it was absolutely breathtaking. People were sitting on blankets on the lawn and chatting and taking in the view. The glass balcony means you can sit on the grass on what feels like the edge of the ship and look straight down to the water as you start to move away from the dock. Cafe del Mar style upbeat jazz tunes play through speakers located around the lawn, and there is a kind of cool, sophisticated, buzz in the air. The diversity of people was refreshing and ranged from my 3 year old running around on the lawn, to romantic couples of all ages. There was a group of same sex couples chilling out together and ladies letting their hair down for a well deserved weekend away. Some of which had never cruised before, and others who were almost part of the furniture.

After sailaway, I dropped Josh off at the X-Club and David and I excitedly headed to a restaurant I have always wanted to try, Qsine.

Taster Cruise Celebrity Eclipse Qsine Disco Shrimp
Trying the disco shrimp in Qsine

I think the Celebrity Cruises trainer, Leon Hand, aptly describes the experience as Heston Blumenthal meets Willy Wonka. That’s probably as close as you can get to an insight into this crazy, fun, delicious, quirky experience.

Taster Cruise onboard Celebrity Eclipse Sushi Lollipops
Sushi Lollopops in Qsine onboard Celebrity Eclipse

DAY 2

We docked in Le Havre but I decided I would rather stay onboard and enjoy the facilities on the ship. So did most others and the Solarium was quite full. I didn’t mind it too much until a lady opposite me decided to FaceTime someone, only they didn’t answer the first three times she called them. I politely GLARED at her when she first started calling, but I think that just made her more insistent that she would proceed with the call.

That is the one downside of a taster cruise. You do get a higher proportion of inconsiderate passengers. I don’t know why that is, but it’s just the way it is. Now one of the big benefits of a taster cruise, means you can book your next cruise whilst onboard and get a lower deposit, extra on board credit and cheaper prices (because you are booking earlier). We booked balcony cabins for a 10 night Canary Island Cruise in October. It cost us around £1300pp. I checked the prices yesterday and although the cruise is almost sold out, what balconies are left are starting at £1900pp. So there is a good booking tip for you. Make sure you put it in the name of your travel agent who should be able to give you a loyalty discount for booking with them.

So, after wandering around the ship and bumping into some familiar faces, we found the lawn club was once again the place to be. It was tranquil and spacious. The grass has a surprisingly calming effect on people for some reason. The pool area with the hot tub was more of a party atmosphere, but the lawn club was a real retreat from it all. We bumped into my friend and customer, Kat and her friend and sat on the grass having a good old chat. It threatened to rain for a moment, but fortunately it passed.

Taster Cruise Onboard Celebrity Eclipse Lawn Club

That evening David and I enjoyed a meal in Murano. Known for its fine dining, we opted for the wine pairing menu which was magnificent. The food, the staff, the service and the ambience was exceptional, so I knew David would be thrilled to hear I had booked our next cruise onboard. We raised a glass to the next cruise and enjoyed the rest of our evening.

Taster Cruise Celebrity Eclipse
Scallop Wellington was an excellent starter.

The after dinner plan was to visit the Martini Bar where we knew other people onboard would be. After bumping into a couple of familiar faces, we headed to the shops to spend our remaining on board credit. With cap in hand and a bag of goodies we were still left with some change. So we payed what was supposed to be a quick visit to the Roulette table. It seemed it was my lucky night, not because I was stood next to an extremely inebriated ex-colleague, but because I kept winning. David perched on a stool behind me and I just kept passing him the winning chips. Eventually we had to go because the kids club was closing. It was 1am!!

So it was no Martini bar for us on this occasion, but a great couple of days spend onboard a stunning ship and two (and a half) very excited people to be hopping back on board for 10 days in October.

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Royal Caribbean’s SeaSeekers Let Guests #SeekDeeper

Royal Caribbean's SeaSeekers




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The Ultimate Immersive Experience with Royal Caribbean’s SeaSeekers

Once again Royal Caribbean have taken the latest technology and media trends to another level. Passengers are now able to enjoy the beauty of the marine life around them on the ocean floor, without even dipping a toe in the water.

Adopting the cutting-edge application of Snapchat Spectacles, Royal Caribbean’s SeaSeekers are the focus of a vibrant aquatic event being held by the cruise line that enables the viewers to explore the mysteries of the deep. This five day event was launched on the 21st of June and you can follow it on social media channels using #SeekDeeper.

Royal Caribbean's SeaSeekers

Royal Caribbean’s SVP of Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer, Jim Berra said “The SeaSeekers will enable all adventure-seekers to get a front-row seat to the thrilling adventures found underwater in a way that has never been possible before. Snapchat continues to be a favorite channel for curious travellers and is the ideal platform for this first-of-its-kind undersea exploration. We are excited to find an innovative way to use the Snapchat Spectacles with our SeaSeekers mask so that we can bring the underwater experience to our guests as they visit the incredible destinations we sail to.”

Meet the Divers Behind Royal Caribbean’s SeaSeekers

Roberto Ochoa is a well known Conservationist and Marine wildlife photographer, He will be giving viewers the very rare glimpse of the annual migration of Whale Sharks as he dives into the Mexican waters of Cozumel. After which, guest will then be shown a coral reef restoration project by Marine Biologist Gabriela Nava.

Royal Caribbean's SeaSeekers

To top off the incredible experience, free diver Ashleigh Baird visits the Great Blue Hole In Belize. It is believed to be the largest underwater sinkhole of its kind.

Royal Caribbean are hoping to offer this event exclusively to it’s guests and have applied for a patent for the SeaSeekers mask.

“Our event promises the participants the blood-rushing excitement as in the aquatic adventure events. We are organizing this event to raise the awareness on the underwater kingdom. We are overwhelmed with the reaction of the participants. The credit for the success of this event is completely owed to the participants who have been out patron to crown this effort of us with success. The success of this event will motivate us to conceive more such events in the forthcoming time”, stated the spokesperson.

Although this five day experience draws to a close today, we very much hope that Royal Caribbean will look at bringing more events like this to it’s guests.

Cruising With Royal Caribbean

If you are new to cruise, here are my top 10 reasons for taking a cruise.  Or have cruised before but not tried Royal Caribbean, take a look at my Allure of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas cruise reviews for insights. I love them, they are one of my favourite cruise lines. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions you would like me to answer.

Royal Caribbean Weekly Deals

BUY ONE ALL INCLUSIVE CRUISE FARE, GET ONE HALF PRICE ON SELECTED 2017 SAILINGS FROM UK AND EUROPE

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Body Confidence – The Best Bikini

Best Bikini for Body Confidence




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Finding The Best Bikini for Body Confidence.

I had to share this with you all today. I have found the best bikini online and have just ordered one for myself. To all my male readers, you owe it to your female friends and relatives to share this article with them.

“To look good in the water you have to pick the right swimsuit. I own close to 500.” – Amanda Beard ( seven-time Olympic Medalist)

Sexy photo of Amanda Beard in a bikini on the beach
“To look good in the water you have to pick the right swimsuit. I own close to 500.” – Amanda Beard

When I am on a cruise, I do avoid the chips (french fries for my US friends) and cookies (thats biccies for the Brits), but for some reason the salad REALLY bloats me! So the odd gelato and a few beers isn’t going to hurt is it?

“What woman doesn’t want to feel comfortable in a swimsuit? It’s incredibly empowering.” – Sara Rue (American TV Actress)

Sara Rue in cute bikini
What woman doesn’t want to feel comfortable in a swimsuit? It’s incredibly empowering.” – Sara Rue

There are loads of colours and patterns available, so there is something for everyone. But the key selling point to me has to be that lovely loose fitting top.

Now THIS bikini design is perfect to hide that little bulge and I think it is very cute. So save yourself a day of walking around the shops to find your perfect holiday bikini and buy yours online now.

Nicetage Women’s Two Piece Floral Luau Beach Love Bandeau Halterneck Swimsuit Tankini Top

“I always say, ‘Do you have a body? Then you’re swimsuit ready.’ That’s all you need to worry about.” – Emily Ratajkowski (American Model and Actress)

“I always say, ‘Do you have a body? Then you’re swimsuit ready.’ That’s all you need to worry about.” – Emily Ratajkowski

To browse the various styles of this bikini or to buy click here.

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WOULD YOU LOVE TO WORK ON A CRUISE SHIP?

How To Work on a Cruise Ship




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HОW TO GET WORK ON A CRUISE SHIР

I have lost count of the amount of times people have asked me to do a blog about how to get work on a cruise ship. It’s no inѕidеr’ѕ secret but I guess when you have so many agencies online it can be daunting. If you have read my post about my journey in the industry, you will know how much I loved every minute of it. So here is a guide to avoid the scammers and improve your chances of a life at sea.

Finding work on a cruise ship

Cruise line or Agency?

Whеn it соmеѕ tо finding wоrk on a сruiѕе ѕhiр, thеrе аrе a numbеr оf thingѕ that you саn dо tо inсrеаѕе уоur сhаnсеѕ. It iѕ a соmреtitivе induѕtrу, аnd anything thаt you саn dо tо win thаt drеаm jоb should be саrеfullу considered. One of the best thingѕ thаt you can do iѕ tо get an agency to help уоu tо find a jоb.

Bесаuѕе of thе high volume of jоb аррliсаnts, thе cruise lines use аgеnсiеѕ tо hеlр thеm find the best candidates. They will interview the аррliсаntѕ аnd do all thе hiring on behalf of the cruise lines.

Agencies make their money by еаrning commission whеn you start wоrking, so their goal is to get you that job. They also hаvе thе contacts tо make thingѕ hарреn, аnd thеу will рrоbаblу knоw thе right реорlе tо аррrоасh tо find уоu thе wоrk, whiсh iѕ a hugе advantage fоr someone starting off in the business.

You can also send аn аррliсаtiоn dirесtlу to a сruiѕе linе. There are some useful links at the end of this post. If you do decide to use an agency, make sure you use the ones that don’t charge you any fees as thеу will receive a commission when they have secured you work on a cruise ship.

Smile!

Work on a cruise ship

Onе thing you must do to inсrеаѕе уоur сhаnсе of getting your dream job iѕ tо inсludе a photograph with уоur cv. Thiѕ аlwауѕ goes dоwn well with сruiѕе linеѕ аѕ it оffеrѕ ѕоmеthing a littlе bit extra, especially if you are applying for a position that is front of house. A warm genuine smile goes a long way. You would be surprised the amount of people who do not send a photo, so give yourself the best chance of success and include one in your application.

It doesn’t have to be a professional photograph. Aѕ long аѕ it is a рlеаѕаnt рhоtоgrарh that ѕhоwѕ you looking ѕmаrt аnd ѕmiling, thаt’ѕ аll they are lооking for. After all you will be representing the brand as a crew member, so look at it from their point of view.

What Sort of Work on a Cruise Ship Can I Do?

Work on a cruise ship

Thеrе are so many different jоbѕ to сhооѕе frоm, with so many ѕhiрѕ аt ѕеа these days. For instance, certain сruiѕе linеs will hаvе more “еntеrtаinmеnt” jobs, whereas others will have mоrе “hotel ѕеrviсеѕ” роѕitiоnѕ available fоr уоu to choose frоm.

Obviously уоu’ll bе working, but уоu’ll also bе trаvеling. Tо gеt dауѕ off in роrtѕ аnd ѕреnd аѕ much time аѕhоrе as possible, wоrk оut ѕсhеdulеѕ with your fеllоw со-wоrkеrѕ. You mау bе thinking that ѕоundѕ like a daunting task, but trust mе, it’ѕ nо biggiе аnd tаkеѕ аbоut thirtу ѕесоndѕ bеfоrе еvеrуоnе iѕ hарру. If уоu wоrk in сеrtаin dераrtmеntѕ, likе the еntеrtаinmеnt department, your department gеtѕ tо mаkе уоur оwn ѕсhеdulе. Othеr departments, likе саѕinоѕ аnd ѕhорѕ аrе nоt аllоwеd to wоrk whilе in роrt (not a bad jоb tо hаvе). If уоu саn, trу tо gеt a jоb on a ѕhiр that hаѕ a big flееt or thаt hаѕ a lot of dеѕtinаtiоnѕ.

Websites To Apply For Work On A Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Shipboard Careers

Carnival Careers At Sea

MSC Cruises Careers

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Handy Tips to Get The Most Onboard Credit




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How Much Do You Spend On a Cruise

Why would you need free onboard credit on your cruise? Well, despite having your food, entertainment and activities included in the price, there are many non essential extras on offer.  You could try a shore excursion or two, maybe have some professional photos to take home and treasure, or treat yourself to a relaxing treatment which is hard to resist when you have access to a spa like this one on the Allure of the Seas.

Certainly they are not an essential part of your cruise, and many people prefer to simply do their own thing in ports.  With the introduction of all-inclusive you won’t even need to pay for drinks or gratuities in some cases.  So why would you want free on board credit? The trouble is, the better value for money you get with your cruise fare, the easier it is to excuse that little treat, like this Dreamworks character breakfast on Christmas Morning.

Best Dollar Rate For Holiday Money

Firstly you need to check the type of currency that will be used onboard. Here is my currency guide to help you. It used to be advantageous to buy extra on board credit with the cruise line before you travelled. However since the fall of the sterling rate to the dollar, this may not be the case. For example, Royal Caribbean have dropped their rate for pre purchasing onboard credit, to approx $1.25 to £1 GBP.  If you settle your on board account by credit or debit card, you may be given an option for the currency to be converted by the ship or your bank. It is always far better for you to allow your bank to convert the currency. They give you a much more favourable rate of exchange.

Cash Out in the Casino

So, what if you have qualified for free onboard credit at the time you booked your cruise, but there is nothing you want to spend it on?  This is what I did on my last cruise on Celebrity Eclipse. The casino will give you $5 promotional chips to use on the roulette tables or you can use the credit for slot machines.  This was my first time on the roulette table and although it can appear quite intimidating, once you get comfortable, you get to meet some really fun and lovely people.

The Sting (well not quite)

So, stick to betting on black or red. Watch a few spins until the same colour has appeared two or three times, then start betting on the opposite colour. There’s no guarantee that you will win, but the law of average is the opposite colour will come in soon. Remember the zero can put a spanner in the works. Here you can either start again from scratch or carry on. I tend to carry on. Place your $5 promotional chip on your chosen colour when you are ready. If it wins, you get to keep your promotional chip and are given an additional $5 casino chip, which can be cashed out. Put that chip aside and continue to play with your promotional chips until you’ve lost them all. Hopefully, you’ll have converted some of your promotional chips to real chips.

If your colour doesn’t come in the first time, simply double your bet each time to cover your loss. So your first bet will be $5. If no win, place $10, then $20, then $40. If you start with $200 on board credit in chips then that should give you a run of up to 6 bets on any one colour. Please remember that this is not risk free if you want to keep your free on board credit, however it will not cost you anything from your own pocket. Be prepared to lose the entire $200 on board credit. My suggestion is to quit after 4 bets in a row and then start again from $5.

Image of Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas Casino
Harmony of the Seas Cruise Ship Casino

For a guide to cruise ship casinos, check out my post here.

*Information is accurate as of 0900 28 September 2017 and is subject to change at any time.

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Find the Best Cruise Line For Vegans?

Vegan Salad




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A Culinary Journey for Vegans

Deciding which cruise line is best for vegans, has become a lot easier since Oceania Cruises announced the introduction of an extensive vegan menu. Oceania already boast the only cold-pressed raw juice and vegan smoothie bars at sea. These are located on the pool deck onboard Oceania’s Marina and Riviera ships.

From 7am until 11am, guests can choose from an extensive menu, which includes options such as

  • Rise & Shine juice
  • Coco Island juice
  • Tropical Green smoothie
  • Sweet Green juice
  • Yellow Sunshine smoothie
  • Cacao Joy smoothie
  • Cold Brew latte
  • Acai Berry bowl
  • Chia Cashew Yogurt bowl
cruise line is best for vegans
Terrace Cafe will be serving a wide range of vegan food.

In addition to its already extensive vegetarian meal options, Oceania is the first cruise line to introduce a vegan menu of over 250 dishes. These are available in the Grand Dining Room as well as the Terrace Café on Regatta, Insignia, Nautica, Marina, Riviera, and Sirena.

President & CEO of Oceania Cruises, Bob Binder said “We are delighted to expand our culinary offerings to please an even wider array of palates and offer our guests more diverse choices to suit today’s wellness-focused lifestyles. Whether guests are looking for a healthy and invigorating start to their day or a refreshing and rejuvenating mid-day pick-up, the Raw Juice & Smoothie Bar has something to delight every palate.”

Examples of What To Expect on the Menu

cruise line is best for vegans
Versace charger plates in the Grand Dining Room onboard Oceania Marina.

Breakfast

  • Vegan Tortilla Española with potato, onions, and tofu
  • Vanilla waffle with freshberries; apricot and pistachio muffins
  • Cream of wheat or oatmeal served with cinnamon powder, organic sugar and choice of nuts
  • Vegan link sausage and Lyonnaise potatoes

Side dishes always available include: grilled tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms,

Lunch

  • Tuscan-style bean soup with garlic croutons
  • A Fantasia Italian salad with assorted greens, roasted bell peppers and toasted garlic bread
  • A succulent Involtini stuffed with tofu, spinach, and capers served with pasta and olive tapenade sauce
  • Italian chocolate vegan-ricotta pie with vanilla and raspberry sauce.

Dinner

  • Quinoa salad and vegetable tartare
  • Creamy truffle flavoured parsnip soup with chopped tarragon,
  • Thai red vegan curry with steamed jasmine rice
  • A decadent dessert of vegan strawberry sable,
  • A shortbread with passion fruit cream and strawberries.

Do you agree that Oceania Cruises is the cruise line is best for vegans? Would you like to see more cruise lines make these menu additions? What would be your ideal vegan meal to be able to order onboard a cruise? Please share you comments or ask any questions below.

If you would like to see more of Oceania’s ships, take a look at my photos taken onboard Marina and Nautica.

Recommended Reading

 

RAW CAKE

by the Hardihood

 

 

 

DELICIOUSLY ELLA EVERY DAY

by Ella Woodward

 

 

 

 

PROPER HEALTHY FOOD

by Nick Knowles

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The Dorchester Grill Room

Ships-and-champagne-the-dorchester-grill-room-london




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May-Fair Lady

It’s easy to get yourself out of bed when you know you are have a luxurious lunch at the Dorchester Grill Room to look forward to. If you haven’t been to the Dorchester Hotel, it is located on Park Lane in Mayfair, opposite Hyde Park. There is valet parking on site, so we just pulled up, got out of the car and walked straight in. Look for the huge Plane Tree (named one of the Great Trees of London) towering outside the front of the hotel, you can’t miss it.

One of the great Plane trees of London outside The Dorchester Hotel
One of the great Plane trees of London outside The Dorchester Hotel

Ain’t Misbehavin’

I thought I had high expectations of the most prestigious and expensive hotel in London, but these were surpassed the moment I emerged from the revolving door into the lobby.

The revolving door leading into the marble lobby at The Dorchester
The revolving door leading into the marble lobby at The Dorchester

Retired doorman of 50 years Ted Whitcombe, has seen some of the most famous stars and royalty arrive at the hotel. In an interview in 2008 he recalls “Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin had brought cases of rare Jack Daniel’s but were asked to leave because they were misbehaving with women in the corridors. They went to the Savoy and never came back for their case. It took us ages to get through all that booze.”

Afternoon Tea on The Promenade

The Promenade at The Dorchester is famous for it's afternoon tea
The Promenade at The Dorchester is famous for it’s afternoon tea

On entering the lobby you find yourself standing at the entrance to the promenade adorned with green and white blooms. We had arrived early so we walked the length of the promenade to find a coveniently located cocktail bar at the end. A refreshing gin and tonic was the order of the day, and although it was midday and quiet, within ten minutes the bar was buzzing with businessmen and ladies that lunch, as well as the occasional hotel guest.

The Grill Room

Designer Bruno Moinard worked with the Grade II Listed gold ceiling and doors to create a contemporary elegance.

Grade II listed gold doors at The Dorchester Grill Room
Grade II listed gold doors at The Dorchester Grill Room
An ornate hand blown Murano glass chandelier hangs from the grade II listed gold ceiling in The Dorchester Grill Room
An ornate hand blown Murano glass chandelier hangs from the grade II listed gold ceiling in The Dorchester Grill Room

Food That’s Better Than……..

Yes, I’m not going to say it, but it’s true. I must have sounded like the lady in the Herbal Essences advert with every dish I tried (who remembers that?). It was a gastronomic delight as I worked my way through the recommendations made by Arthur, our charmingly French waiter with good looks to go with it.

I grilled him (excuse the pun) on the source of the ingredients for every dish. Since they boasts on their website of the use of finest locally sourced ingredients where possible, I wanted to know the origin of the food.

We selected the set menu which is amazing value for money. An à la carte menu is also available.

The set menu is amazing value for money.
The set menu is amazing value for money.

Bon Appétit

A selection of bread includes their own recipe stilton bread. Arthur proudly informed me that some guests of the Dorchester Grill Room come to the restaurant purely because of this bread. I don’t know what they do to that bread, but with a smattering of butter, it is dangerously divine.
The Grill Room's freshly baked stilton bread is dangerously divine
The Grill Room’s freshly baked stilton bread is dangerously divine
Raw and cooked beetroot and goat's curd salad complimented with a lovely french dressing
Raw and cooked beetroot and goat’s curd salad complimented with a lovely french dressing
Delicate chicken liver terrine with red oignon chutney
Delicate chicken liver terrine with red oignon chutney
The 24 hour braised Scottish beef just melts in the mouth
The 24 hour braised Scottish beef just melts in the mouth
The Dorchester Grill Room have created a sweet soufflé menu which is the first of its kind in London
The Dorchester Grill Room have created a sweet soufflé menu which is the first of its kind in London

Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse’s protégé, Guillaume Katola is the executive chef leading the talented Grill Room team. Thanking him for a delicious meal, he insisted it was a combined effort and gave credit to his Pastry Chef, Ludovic Cuny and the rest of the team. We were honoured to be taken for a tour of the kitchen which is so big it is on two floors has an escalator to take you down to the lower level.

Chef’s Table

If you are looking for an immersive dining experience, you can book a meal at the Chef’s Table. This is located on the lower floor inside the kitchen. The glass windows are frosted, but with the press of a button they become transparent. The entertainment for the evening is a front row seat at the creation of your meal.

A unique dining experience inside The Dorchester kitchens at the Chef's Table
A unique dining experience inside The Dorchester kitchens at the Chef’s Table

The Girl Who Had Everything

Elizabeth Taylor was a frequent guest at the hotel in the 60’s and 70’s, so much so that it was like her second home. It was during a stay in the rooftop Harlequin Suite that she received news that she was to become the first actress to be paid $1 million, for her role as Cleopatra.

Entrance to The Harlequin Suite (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)
Entrance to The Harlequin Suite (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)
The Harlequin Suite Master Bedroom where Elizabeth Taylor's second home (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)
The Harlequin Suite Master Bedroom where Elizabeth Taylor’s second home (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)
The Harlequin Suite living room (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)
The Harlequin Suite living room (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

A pink marble bathroom was installed in the second bedroom especially for Elizabeth Taylor. It remains the same to this day.

The original pink marble bathroom installed especially for Elizabeth Taylor (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)
The original pink marble bathroom installed especially for Elizabeth Taylor (pic: The Dorchester Hotel)

You make your dining reservations at the Dorchester Grill Room via Bookatable. They offer excellent deals on all dining venues at The Dorchester Hotel, including Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, one of only four 3-Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK.

Hotel information:

The Dorchester Hotel, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA
Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7629 8888.   Reservations: +44 (0)20 7317 6530

Recommended Reading

Grand Livre De Cuisine: Alain Ducasse’s Desserts and Pastries

by Alain Ducasse

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