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Virgin Voyages – The Most Irresistible Vessel on Earth?




Modern, Cutting Edge 18 and Over Sanctuary at Sea

It’s what all cruise lines are trying to do but will Virgin Voyages lead the way in persuading people to take their first voyage on a cruise ship? I’ve compiled the renderings in this short video, to try and capture the essence of the first Lady Ship.

In true Virgin style, the company has approached the creation of a cruise ship in a very different and risky way. No surprises there! The decision for the first ship’s experience to be “Adult By Design” (minimum sailing age is 18), was made after feedback received from future sailors and travel professionals who are looking for a more premium experience with some Virgin style surprises thrown in.

Tom McAlpin, CEO and President of Virgin Voyages announced at the latest ship design reveal in New York, “Adult by Design, means we are designing a modern, cutting edge 18 and over sanctuary at sea”.  Virgin Voyages also promises to be one of the cleanest fleets at sea.

Tom McAlpin President and CEO of Virgin Voyages speaking in New York at the latest ship design reveal.
Tom McAlpin President and CEO of Virgin Voyages speaking in New York at the latest ship design reveal.

The design team, otherwise known as the Creative Collective, are respected visionaries known for their forward thinking designs. Tom McAlpin credited them by saying “Our Creative Collective have contributed tremendously towards ensuring that we will become the most irresistible, alluring and recognisable vessel anywhere on earth”.

Part of Virgin Voyages Creative Collective Design Team talking at the design reveal in New York.
Part of Virgin Voyages Creative Collective Design Team talking at the design reveal in New York.

More Than A Cruise

McAlpin continued “At Virgin Voyages we pride ourselves on being more than just another cruise line, which is why in everything we do and every decision we make, we are always working to redefine how the world views sea travel.”

“It’s why we named the company Virgin Voyages, because we see this as more than a cruise. This is a journey. It’s why we designed our ships to be smaller than most, to provide a more personal and intimate experience for our sailors. and its why with each step we take we are working to change the way this kind of vacation not only looks, feels but most importantly how it is experienced.”

Virgin Voyages SVP Product Design, Dee Cooper, who was responsible for leading the design and experience work at Virgin Atlantic, had never been on a cruise ship before this project. Talking about her approach to this project in New York,  she said “We wanted to give our Sailors lots of  choice, and if you think about this amazing city that we are in at the moment, you choose to go uptown and glam it up and be refined and glamorous, and you chose to go downtown to the West Village and be a bit more relaxed. And we wanted to give our Sailors diversity across the ship.”

It’s Very Risky To Do What Virgin Voyages Have Done

Virgin Voyages Richard's Rooftop, VIP Space
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages Richard’s Rooftop, VIP Space – located right at the front at the top of the ship celebrating the ocean

Tom Dixon of the Design Research Studio in London, responsible for Richard’s Rooftop and the upscale Mexican restaurant, Pink Agave said,  “It’s very risky to do what Virgin Voyages have done here. To get a load of people that have never been on a ship before. But there’s a logic to that madness. Which is if you are going to encourage people to go on cruises of a new demographic, then why not use designers that have not been on a cruise and say ‘what would it be to entice you to go on a cruise?’ maybe.”

Richard's Rooftop VIP Lounge area on Virgin Voyages first cruise ship
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages Retrofuturism – The Romance of Sailing, where the glamour of the past meets the glamour of the future.
Virgin Voyages Richard's Rooftop
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Richard’s Rooftop designed by Tom Dixon

Tom says he has been influenced by the glamorous age and romance of cruising “which has partially vanished and been replaced by synthetic glamour in a lot of cases. Somewhere between the glamour of the 20’s and 30’s and the glamour of the future, which is something that doesn’t seem to happen anymore.” According to Dee Cooper, Tom fondly refers to this approach as Retrofuturism.

Virgin Voyages - Richard's Rooftop
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Richard’s Rooftop

Designers Thrive On Restrictions

Pink Agave – Upscale Mexican Restaurant

Virgin Voyages - Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon

When asked what was different about working in a cruise ship environment, Tom replied “The idea of diversity in a controlled environment was interesting and unique.  The challenges included technical, low ceilings, steel construction, vast amounts of restrictions in terms of  materials the flammability and wear and tear, but restrictions are what designers thrive on. Battling but being inspired by them equally.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon

Virgin Always Challenge the Cliché

Rob Wagemans – Concrete Founder Creative Director, responsible for The Test Kitchen and The Athletic Club said “Virgin is Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.” Rob is from Amsterdam with offices in the Red Light District and says that teaming up with Virgin Voyages “Could not be a better match. Virgin always challenge the cliche and they look at the world in a different way than the majority of the world does and they see that the modern society has a different behaviour than the past.”

“They really know how to treat me well on an airplane and no other airline can do it like Virgin does. So if they come to me and say – What I’ve done with the air industry I want to do again on the sea, can you help me? –  I say Hell Yes! As long as I don’t have to go on a Disney Cruise.”

Don’t Let A Cruise Line Dictate Your Lifestyle

Rob continued “What I like is that the ship is full of contrast. There are a lot of places that are calm and a lot of places that are extremely crazy, and luckily we have a lot of crazy spaces. So we really used this philosophy of being disruptive and trying to really change the perspective of what the audience wants. Do they want to have a 7 day calm experience that is different everyday? Or do they want to have fifteen different experiences throughout the day or throughout half a day? And I think the last thing is what people really like. They zap from one world to the other world and from sophistication into casual and that could happen in an hour and this ship will provide all these different worlds by different designers and they are all in contrast and you can live the lifestyle you like and not the lifestyle that the brand of the ship dictates.”

The Test Kitchen – A Restaurant and A Laboratory

You can visit The Test Kitchen many times and have a completely different experience. Concrete Amsterdam’s Head of Interior Design, Lisa Hassanzadeh explains “In the first place its not only a restaurant, its a laboratory and that’s very distinguishable from other restaurants we have done before. So it has a double function you can of course have dinner there, but during the day it’s a cooking school, but not only that it’s also a laboratory for being the best barista or becoming an expert in beer and wine. So you can get really your hands dirty there as well . But there is a great dining and drinking experience there in the evening.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam

The Athletic Club

Rob refers to this as “A contrast within spaces. Its a huge space on the top. We were inspired by the downtown Athletic Club in New York not just about sporting but the social life that happens in the dressing rooms where the muscled men would socialise and eat oysters. In the end, sports is about two things, being active, being sweaty, creating a better shape for your body and the second part is that you look at them, you look at the bodies, look at the winners, so we decided to combine these two spaces.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

“We have huge sunbathing beds where you can look at people jogging on the jogging track. The bar below with trophies dressed in gold as you are a winner. There is a boxing ring, basketball court, outdoor and indoor gym, cabana for a nap and privacy, brain training games, all kinds of things, interesting food to feed your body with healthiness, so everything is in harmony. We challenge every aspect of the concept. Total harmony within spaces.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

The Dock

Located at the aft (back) of the ship on deck 7, The Dock has been designed by Roman and Williams. Co-Founders, Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer wanted to capture the essence of what they love about the sea.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

When looking for inspiration, Robin Standefer says they “were thinking about a dock with an incredible restaurant, Morocco very salty, chilled.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Dock designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

Robin Standefer explains the vision for The Dock. “The design is understated, its beautiful but its more about the food and the people in the space.”

The Manor

Roman and Williams are well known for their incredible designs is New York’s top nightclubs The Boom Boom Room and The Guilded Lily. You can clearly see their design style in the elaborate and beautiful lighting throughout the venue.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

Robin Standefer says “We wanted to create a myth. Together we really helped to create a certain drama with the lighting. It’s got a Mezzanine and balcony and amazing lights, like mirrored ball, chandeliers that almost breathe like a jellyfish, as they curl up and down. We want to melt their inhibitions and then allow them to have a powerful and memorable experience.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

When talking about the nightclub, Dee Cooper declared “If Virgin can’t do the best nightclub at sea, no-one can. It’s in our DNA!”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages - The Manor - nightclub designed by Roman and Williams
Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

“We needed to do more on this ship.” said Dee Cooper,  “We needed to think about the lifestyles all of us lead in these amazing cities we live in around the world. Whether it’s New York or London, or it’s holiday destinations like Ibiza or Miami, we know that we all have amazing vacation and holiday experiences and our sailors expect the same, and these guys (Creative Collective) really created quintessential holiday romance for everybody.”

Cruise Cynics

But is the design of a cruise ship enough to encourage people to try out their sea legs? I talked to someone who has vowed cruising is not for her, to see if these renderings would give her second thoughts.

Image Credit : thelondoner.me Valentina needs a bit more convincing before stepping onboard a cruise ship.

Valentina De Pertis – Cyber Security CMO (and sister-in-law)  Instagram: @vdepertis

“It love the renderings, it looks absolutely stunning, the deck looks wonderful. It’s a good idea for Virgin to do something like this. However moving it to a completely different target audience, for example people who don’t like cruising, or people who wouldn’t normally go cruising, young adults or something, I think a nice deck and a beautiful ship isn’t enough.”

“There are already nice decks and beautiful ships and presidential suits on other boats. There are lovely areas that already exist. So it’s not enough to get the people who are stereotypically and unfairly biased against it.”

“You would really have to change the people. So having more young adults in the same industry, maybe young influencers, getting people blogging from a certain age interested in it.”

“Also, changing up the food, because the food is already really good quality, but just modernising it, and onboard entertainment.”

“So really the whole experience would have to change, apart from the destinations because going to multiple destinations is already beautiful.”

“You’re stuck on this boat, and if you’re stuck with people who might not be your type of people, or with food that’s absolutely gorgeous, but maybe not something that you would search out if you were on land. If they get all of that sorted out then I actually would book a trip I think and we (the family) all would.”

How A Cruise Ship Is Made

Although everyone was excited to hear about and see the renderings of the cruise lines first ship, Tom McAlpin gave an interesting summary as to the ship building process. He said “It starts with one year of designing followed by another full year of engineering before any construction even begins. Then they start construction by cutting a load of steel followed by the laying of the keel which is the first section of the ship. This is a big block and they place it into the dry dock. They include a lucky keel coin which is a maritime tradition for blessing the vessel for good fortune.” You can read more about this in my post  Getting Laid In Genoa with Boy George. 

Here is the video I took in Genoa of Richard Branson welding the lucky coin into the keel.

First main engine being installed into Virgin Voyages first ship - Chief Engineer Nikola Petrovic
Image Credit: Nikola Petrovic – Virgin Voyages Chief Engineer – “Proud moment to see the first main engine being installed in the engine room for our first ship.”

Virgin Voyages first Ladyship will be constructed of 108  blocks in total.  48 blocks weighing up to 6,000 tons each have been built so far and they are up to deck 16. The ship is being built in three different shipyards. Romania, Palermo and Genoa and will all come together in Genoa in July for the ‘Hook Up’ Event. She will sail 7 night Caribbean itineraries from Miami, Florida.



Sapphire Princess Cruise Part Two ‘The Love Boat’




Day Four – At Sea

One of the handy things that Princess Cruises offer, is the ability to view the daily planner on your phone. There is no charge for this. I found it automatically brought up this page when I opened my safari app. One of the really cool functions on this, is the ability to message other people on the cruise. I didn’t set mine up, but I thought it was an excellent idea.

You can also check your stateroom account to see how much you have spent, and keep a schedule of the activities you want to do. That way you don’t miss anything, and don’t have to keep looking at the daily guide to remind yourself what is going on.

I needed to take some dollars out of the cash machine, which is located in the casino. Most of you probably already know this, but for those of you who don’t, children are not allowed in the casino and they are only able to open when at sea. As this was a sea day, the casino was open early. I dropped Joshua off at the kids club and went to get my money.

If you are wondering what I needed dollars for, it was because I chose to pay my onboard account in cash. I had registered a credit card, but didn’t want it charged. Also, I like to tip my stateroom attendant and restaurant staff in cash. So I remove the gratuities and pay them directly.

With a fistful of dollars in my hand, it was hard to resist the temptation of a quick flutter. I decided to put $20 into a machine and just leave it at that. The casino was very quiet at the time, I think it was about 9.30am. I played away and then had a little win. The only problem was the machine lit up like Blackpool Illuminations, and played lots of bells and seemed to go on forever. Very embarrassing.

I finally escaped the casino, with a bit of extra cash in my hand, and paid my room bill. Then it was time for a massage. This is the one I opted for. It was amazing.

Exotic Lime & Ginger Salt Glow with Massage
50 minutes
An exotic exfoliation ritual that will invigorate and revitalize your body.
Warm oil is dripped luxuriously over your body before our Lime and Ginger Salt Glow is applied.
We then apply our Elemis Exotic Island Flower Body Lotion, leaving skin replenished and vibrant.
After rinsing away the salts, you will receive a Deep Tissue Muscle Massage

I picked Joshua up and we went off for lunch, quickly passing these gorgeous desserts.

The buffet is great, especially with kids, as you can see here Josh was tucking into pasta, roast potatoes and eating watermelon. This was after demolishing a bit bowl of egg fried rice.

I had to get Joshua back to kids club quickly as I had plans to do some filming for my video of the cruise. So we shall have to fast forward to the evening which was a formal night.

The group met in Crooners Bar. I love seeing everyone dressed up on formal night, I think it’s a lovely tradition. It doesn’t have to be black tie and ballgowns. In fact no-one was THAT dressed up. The Captain came over and spoke to our group, but I didn’t dare get my camera out after all the snaps we took on the Bridge.

The atrium looked lovely and colourful, ready for the balloon drop. I have never experienced this before and was excited for Josh and I to see it.

For dinner we were booked into Sabatini’s, the speciality restaurant. I even put a shirt on Joshua and brought him along.

Even in Sabatini’s he still had his milk.
Ben from Honest Cruising gives Josh a little practice at filming.

Once again, the food was delicious.

 

After a wonderful meal, we had half an hour before the balloon drop. So Josh and I went to the theatre to see some of the show.

Then it was all ready for the big balloon drop. It is a popular event with people of all ages. A DJ played music in the atrium and there was lots of people dancing waiting for the countdown.

At the end of a longer than usual day for Josh and I, we went back to our stateroom and flopped into our comfy bed.

Day Five – Le Havre

Despite a late night, I still woke up early to watch us sail into Le Havre. I just love watching the sun rise or setting from my balcony, with the sea stretching out all around us.

I enjoyed breakfast on the balcony, with a reminder in the Princess Patter that it would soon be time to say goodbye.

For our last day, I made the most of the sunshine.

The majority of our passengers were from Australia and the United States, so it was no surprise they all wanted to take the trip to Paris. This gave me the opportunity to kick back and relax for one last time, having the ship virtually all to myself.

The Love Boat

As I mentioned earlier, I had spent some time filming for my cruise review video. So to try and bring to life the experience of being onboard the Sapphire Princess, here is a video which includes many of the ships’ features, and a few special guests.

Day 6 – Southampton

Before we disembarked, there was just enough time for one last delicious Princess Cruises chocolate chip muffin.

A huge chocolate chip muffin served on Sapphire Princess
Someone looks happy

To sum up our time onboard Sapphire Princess, it was absolutely wonderful. Princess Cruises are really a cruise line for everyone, every age, new cruisers or those who have been doing it for years.

Recommended Reading: Sapphire Princess Part One 






Sapphire Princess Cruise Part One





This was Joshua’s first press trip. So I guess that officially now makes me a Luxury Mummy Blogger. Princess Cruises had invited us to join the Sapphire Princess on the second half of her 10 day cruise from Rome to Southampton. The newly refurbished ship was the first in the Princess fleet to be designed specifically for the Asia market. This makes her slightly different to her sister ships, not only with the multi lingual signage, but with the addition of the tiered pool area at the back of the ship, which was a real favourite with everyone onboard.

You will see the results of the refurbished areas and new features, as I share my experience of our time onboard.

Day One – Gibraltar

I have never been to Gibraltar before. Of course I have heard of The Rock, but didn’t think we would get the opportunity to see it for ourselves due to time restrictions.

After we landed, at what I later discovered to be one of Most Dangerous Airports In The World To Land, I turned around to take a photo of our aircraft. SURPRISE!!

Cruises don’t tend to start in Gibraltar, maybe this is why, but here is a photo (source: Wikimedia), that shows a rather short runway surrounded by water and a great big rock. I actually think it’s quite exciting and would do it again and again and again. Any nervous flyers, would have been a little put off as Josh announced with amusement, “We’re going to land in the sea!”

After no more than a ten minute taxi ride, we arrived at the port to board Sapphire Princess.

As soon as we stepped onboard, we went to our room to drop off the bags and get changed into our cruise clothes. As we entered the room I spotted a lovely welcome gift of champagne and rather smartly dressed chocolate strawberries. My impatience got the better of me, so I popped the cork, poured a glass and shared the strawberries with Josh. I stepped out onto the balcony with a glass in my hand, took a deep breath of sea air and smiled. Well, who wouldn’t?

I wasn’t the only one with treats. On the bed was a big teddy bear named Stanley. It didn’t take long for Josh to notice the huge wide screen tv on the wall and soon he was flicking through a choice of free movies including Cars 3, The Greatest Showman and a whole host of other favourite movies.

But there was no time for that. First thing any parent must do when they get onboard a cruise, is get their child registered in the kids club. Most cruise lines will have a welcome table on embarkation to give the kids wristbands, but as we were boarding mid cruise, it was for me to go and say hello. It was handy that I was able to complete a permission form online before our cruise, as it was one less thing for me to do when we arrived.

Part of Sapphire Princess’s refurbishment, included a totally new kids club theme. In partnership with Discovery™ the cruise line has given each centre an engaging theme that helps children to discover new interests and the world around them.

For 3 – 7 year olds the former Pelicans Club has been rebranded The Tree House.  

Princess Cruises are very generous with gifts. Joshua came back with three soft toys, a penguin, an eagle and a whale, a pirates hat with treasure, a rucksack and a teeshirt. All the children get these (apart from Stanley the Bear, who cam be purchased onboard).

The session times on sea days are 9am – noon, 1pm – 5pm and 6pm – 10pm. However when in port, they offer extended opening hours including lunch. These are all complimentary unlike other family cruise lines.

When we cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas last year, there was an additional charge for the lunch, which was $14. You also only get 3 x 3 hour sessions per day for free on Royal Caribbean, whereas Princess Cruises offers 1 x 3 hour session and 2 x 4 hour sessions per day for free.

There is an under 3’s area with soft play that parents can enjoy with their toddlers.

8 – 12 year olds have a new space called The Lodge, and teens have The Beach House. They have also introduced the Club 18-20, which is such a great addition. It was only last week my 18 year old daughter said that she was at the worst age for a cruise, as she wasn’t a kid or an adult. Well Princess Cruises have taken care of that.

After registering Joshua at the kids club, we grabbed our swimming gear and headed to the pool.

Staying onboard when you are cruising with kids really has it’s benefits. You practically get the whole ship to yourself. It might seem like a waste of a cruise not to get off, but when you take into account the experience you are having onboard, you are still creating wonderful memories with your family.

Here’s a short video to show you what a lovely time we had, with the pool all to ourselves.

After the swim, we headed back to our room to get ready for the evening. Princess Cruises pride themselves on their incredibly comfortable beds. As someone who never sleeps through the night, I can vouch for these beds being ultra relaxing, as I slept right through every night I was onboard. I even had to wake Joshua up, one morning it was as late as 10.30.

A lovely amenity kit in our bathroom included a calming spray for our pillows and a gel eye mask. I’m not sure if this is standard in every room, but it was certainly a welcome gesture.

Once ready, we there wasn’t much time left until I had to meet my group. I needed something quick. Our room was in a great location at the forward on deck 15. It meant we could just walk out of our room almost straight out to the pool and right by the Pizzeria. Joshua made his way through one of these huge slices of freshly prepared pizza, while I looked on longingly.

I dropped Josh off at the kids club and headed to Vines Bar to meet the group. Here we were greeted by Generoso, our charming and very hard working, Italian maître d. We were treated to some hor d’oeuvres and champagne.

After some very lively and fun conversation, we went into the Savoy Dining Room, which is one of the main dining rooms located on deck 5. The meal was delicious and the service was superb.

Prosciutto with Melon
Pan seared scallops and shrimp
Tiramisu
Who likes Limoncello? Yuk! Love the little glasses though.

A beautiful view to end a beautiful first day onboard Sapphire Princess.

Day Two – Lisbon

Waking up to this view is something I will never get bored with.

After dropping Joshua off at kids club, I went to the International Cafe to enjoy a cappuccino.

As part of their new entertainment programme catering for the British cruisers, Princess Cruises had featured a cool display of iconic outfits worn over the years by The Beatles.

At midday, we were due to arrive in Lisbon. There was a commentary being broadcast out on the decks for the 30 minute cruise into port.

After a quick lunch with Josh, I headed to The Sanctuary for some real Princess Cruises luxury. This is an exclusive over 18’s only area which offers deep cushioned sun loungers, extra fluffy towels, private cabanas where you can enjoy a massage, fruit infused water, complimentary light snacks and attentive service. This would be especially beneficial on a sea day when the main pools are busy. Although I can’t imagine that happens very often with five pools to choose from. Located at the front of the ship, you can enjoy sweeping views in every direction.

The pool deck all ready for Movies Under The Stars. There are usually two showings one around 7pm and the other around 10pm. Some ships serve fresh popcorn, but we didn’t have any on this one. The movie of the evening was the latest Jumanji – Welcome To The Jungle starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Heart.

We returned to the Savoy Dining Room again and had another delicious meal.

Avocado and prawns for starters.
Fish (possibly Seabass) with a delicious creamy leek sauce.
Black Forest Gateaux? How can I resist these desserts?

Day Three – At Sea

Josh and I couldn’t contain our excitement. We had both been invited to the Ships’ Ultimate Tour. This is a two hour behind the scenes tour of the ships crew areas.  For security purposes, these two guards escorted our group at all times. As you can see, someone needed a more hands on approach.

Our first stop was the best one of all. The Bridge. Oh I love Bridge visits. Josh had never experience it before so I was extra excited for this one. I think this is the first time the Captain has actually been there when I have been on a tour. Usually I find it it the First Officer who does it.

We had been asked to keep questions to a minimum, but Joshua was bursting to ask about everything. Thankfully our wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, did I say wonderful? Captain Paolo Ravera was erm wonderful with Josh and I can’t begin to tell you how that made me feel. It was very moving for me. To see your four year old son have a one to one with a Cruise Ship’s Captain is something dreams are made of.

Josh in the driving seat.

We had an onboard photographer with us to capture the moments between Joshua and Captain Ravera.

After the Bridge tour we visited the laundry facilities and the theatre. Joshua was getting a little restless by now, so we left the group in peace and went to get some lunch in the buffet.

There is always so much to choose from and everything is freshly made.

It’s a great place to enjoy lunch with a view. There is ample seating and once you grab, one of the waiting staff will come and offer to get you a drink.

After lunch I took Joshua to the kids club and wandered around the ship, enjoying the views and talking to people.

That evening we dined at Sterling Steakhouse, a speciality restaurant. There is a small cover charge which is subject to change but usually around $25. The meal was certainly delicious, but I can honestly say that I loved the main dining room and would be more than happy to dine in there every night. You don’t need to go to a speciality restaurant on Princess Cruises, to experience exceptional food and service. However Sterling Steakhouse and other speciality restaurants, just offer something different if you want it.

Scallops again for me. I love them.
A little glance at the other choices of starter.
The steak was delicious. I adore creamed spinach, and asparagus, so that was a big winner for me. The whole meal was lovely.

It was the end of another lovely day onboard the Sapphire Princess. We still had two more days left onboard, but for now it was time for bed.

Unlike some cruise lines, Princess Cruises still put those little chocolates on your bed as part of the turndown service.

Watch out for Part Two as Sapphire Princess arrives in Southampton for the first time, where she will homeport for the season.





M & S Woven Beach Dress – 3 Prints To Choose From

M & S Woven Beach Dress




M & S Woven Beach Dress

This pretty little dress is one of my favourite cruise items this year. It’s very flattering, and at first glance doesn’t look like a beach dress. That allows you the flexibility to wear it around the ship during the day, or on shore excursions, without looking too beachy.

It is so cute and so comfy and suited to girls and women of all ages. The black one is my favourite, but I did have all four in my online shopping basket for a while, until I finally settled with one. I’m still tempted with the pink palm print one though!

Browse the collection


Viking Sea Cruise – Last Day – Barbados

Flavia Gray Cruise Blogger sitting in Coast Beach Bar in Barbados




The last day of a cruise is always a sad one. However when it’s your first time in Barbados, it’s hard to be anything but completely excited.

During my cruise on Viking Sea I had met many lovely people. On my second day in Puerto Rico, we were gathered in the terminal to depart for our horse riding adventure, and Julia bowled up to our group to join us. Looking the part in her cowboy boots, I immediately took to Julia and her bubbly personality. We chatted non-stop on the drive to the stables. It turned out that Julia was working onboard Viking Sea as HR Manager. When I told her I was looking to get some amazing beach photos, she kindly offered to help and arranged the whole thing!

I met Cassie Wilcox, Senior Writer for Viking Cruises UK, in the check in queue at Heathrow. After a few days on the cruise, Cassie told me she was desperate to get that soft white sand between her toes asked if she could join us.

TAXIS EVERYWHERE

If you’ve never been to Barbados on a cruise, it is worth knowing that as you emerge from the terminal building you are greeted by hundreds of taxis. There seems to be one person managing the operation. They will ask you where you want to go and find the driver for you. They seem to prefer lots of passengers on shorter journeys, so for three of us looking for a two hour trip we were not getting any takers.

Thankfully Julia sorted it all out and a lovely retired gentleman name Marson said he would be our driver. I needed to be back to the ship by midday as we were flying home, so we didn’t have a lot of time and I wanted to see as much as possible.

BROWNES BEACH

Marson was a real charmer and told us some great stories of his ballroom dancing. The first beach he took us to was Brownes Beach just 15 minutes from the cruise terminal.

Brownes Beach Barbados Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Cruise Blogger
Pristine white sand and crystal blue water at Brownes Beach.

Dress: M & S Linen Blend Sleevless Tunic Dress

It certainly ticks all the boxes for that dreamy Caribbean beach. We arrived around 9.30am so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. Apparently it can get extremely busy so my advice is get there super early and head back to the ship when it gets too busy. All of the beaches we visited had sun-loungers and umbrellas for hire.

Julia and Cassie were really good fun to hang out with.

Cassie Wilcox - Senior Copywriter at Viking Cruises UK
A big smile from Cassie as she gets that powdery sand between her toes.
Julia Paradine Brownes Beach Barbados
I love this photo of Julia laughing at me.
Flavia Gray M & S Linen Blend Dress Brownes Beach Barbados Ships and Champagne Cruise Blogger
That’s why she’s laughing
Cruise Ships in Bridgetown Barbados
What a great shot, even if I say so myself.

From there, Marson drove 5 minutes south to Needhams Point. We stopped at the Hilton Barbados Resort to take in the views and have a quick wander around the grounds.

The hotel has several gorgeous pool areas, it’s right on the beach and offers stunning views.

If you fancy staying there, you can check pricing and availability for the Hilton Barbados Resort here.

Hilton Barbados Resort, Mia Tui, Fit Flops, Flavia Gray, Ships and Champagne Cruise Blogger
I love this hotel.

Get the outfit: M & S Woven Vest Dress, Mia Tui Jennie Bag and Sparkly Fit Flops.

Next stop was Worthing Beach just 10 minutes drive away. Since Marson had told us so much about his passion for dancing, I asked if he would show me a few moves. He kindly obliged.

Barbados taxi driver Marson Craigwell
The best taxi driver in Barbados. Marson Craigwell shows off his moves.

We wandered along the beach and found a great place to stop and reflect.

We stayed there for a while, just soaking up the beautiful atmosphere. What an incredible place Barbados is. I want to go back at the first opportunity. Maybe a Christmas cruise?

M & S Wide Leg Beach Trousers
Dipping my toes in the water for the last time

Outfit: M & S Wide Leg Beach Trousers and Sparkly FitFlops

There is a great restaurant and bar on the beach called Coast. We met the owner, Anna who bought the bar 4 years ago when she moved over from her home town of Milan, Italy. If you are visiting Barbados, make sure this is on your list of places to visit.

As you can see, I was far from ready to leave. What a gorgeous place. Barbados! I’ll be back!

The clothes in this post are my own and purchased by me. I have not been paid or gifted to endorse any of the products listed below. These affiliate links mean I will earn a small amount of commission on any purchases made via these links, at no extra cost to you.

  1. M & S Linen Blend Dress
  2. Black Beach Dress
  3. Sparkly Fit Flops
  4. Beach Trousers
  5. Hilton Barbados Resort

Recommended Reading: Viking Seas Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico



Viking Sea Cruise – Day Five – St Lucia

Pitons St Lucia Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Viking Sea





It looked like we were in for another gorgeous day in the Caribbean as I enjoyed breakfast on my balcony. I woke up early again, partly due to jetlag, but also because of my excitement for the day ahead.

I visited St Lucia with my family back in 2009. We had such an amazing time there and we still talk about it now.

Viking Sea Balcony Breakfast in St Lucia
Room Service Breakfast in St Lucia

For those of you who regularly read my blog posts, you will already know how much I love being in, on or by the water. When I saw the option for whale and dolphin watching in St Lucia, I didn’t hesitate to book it. Although it is worth mentioning at this point, that the excursion was full and had it not been for the gorgeous Becky Wiggins (English Mum) letting me take her place on the trip, I would be looking at her photos instead of mine. So a HUGE thank you Becky for giving me this amazing opportunity.

Like most cruises, shore excursion groups meet in the theatre at the time specified on the ticket. Once everyone has arrived, they are escorted off the ship to meet their tour guide. The great thing about this trip is that the boat is a five minute walk from the cruise ship. So before we knew it, we were all aboard and sailing out to sea.

We sailed three miles off the coast while the two crew members made us feel welcome. There was plenty of room on the boat for people to move around and a choice of seating downstairs in the open or covered, and upstairs in the open or under cover. The crew frequently offered us refreshments which included Rum Punch and the most incredible bananas. I know you would expect St Lucia to offer great tasting bananas, but they were so delicious I turned to my neighbour and said “you don’t get these in Tesco’s do you?”

There was a fair bit of movement in the boat, so it is not for those of you prone to motion sickness and your safety is really down to your own common sense. This is a trip for the semi adventurous. It’s not exactly mountain climbing (Michael English), but if you are someone who always thinks the worst is going to happen, I’d suggest giving this one a miss.

The Time Of My Life!

I told one of the crew members that I would be videoing the experience for my blog and could he give me an idea of the best place to stand. Well be careful what you ask for, because no sooner had I said that, I was following him along the side of the boat to the front. I sat up on the ledge for a while and took in the breathtaking view. This was an experience that I will never forget. It was one of those moments when you just can’t believe it is really happening. One where you feel truly alive and you want to try and share it with the world.

The trip lasted four hours in total. I moved to the upper deck after a while where I felt better positioned to enjoy a rum punch. During the trip we saw dolphins, pilot whales and a rare spotting of false killer whales. Here is a short video which condenses the sightings and hopefully gives you an idea of the incredible experience it really was.

If you are visiting St Lucia without a cruise, you can book this excursion directly with Captain Mike’s.

Last Day Onboard

Back onboard for what was to be our last afternoon on the Viking Sea. I grabbed some more of the delicious food at the Pool Grill for a late lunch and met with the rest of our group by the pool. A steel band came onboard to entertain the guests. They were very good and did a great rendition of Take On Me by Aha.

I love the fact that the pool area is used in many different ways. All the seats were turned towards the band, similar to the set up for when they have a  movie night.

Final Sunset and Sea View

It was that time that we all dread, that last day of the cruise, but inevitably it had arrived. I took one last wander around the decks while the sun was setting. Desperately trying to capture the feeling of that moment in a photograph, which is impossible. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? All cruisers do.

With bags packed, it was time for dinner. We had chosen to try another alternative dining venue. This time it was Chef’s Table, a five course wine pairing menu.

Chefs Table Viking Sea Lobster and Chicken Shu Mai
First Course – Lobster and Chicken Shu Mai

Having tried a variety of dining options during our Viking Sea cruise, I have to say that my two favourites were the main dining room and the seafood and sushi buffet. However, there is no additional charge to eat in alternative restaurants, so you can choose whichever you feel suits your palette.

Woah – It’s Not Over Yet

So the last day had finally come to an end and it was time for bed, but with one consolation – Barbados tomorrow!

Have you read Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.



M & S Linen Tunic Dress – Nine Colour Options




M&S COLLECTION – Linen Blend Sleeveless Tunic Dress

I must say I am not a fan of linen at all. Whenever I have bought linen clothes in the past I have regretted it. But when I was scrolling through the Marks and Spencer website, this coral linen tunic dress dress stole my heart.

The M&S Collection is a good value, great product range that suits a variety of age groups. This dress comes in nine different colours and patterns including navy, aqua, beige, striped, black, blue and some gorgeous prints.

Because of the linen mix, it does not crease up like pure linen, but it’s still going to need a bit more care in packing and handling than your polyester. If like Viking, Princess and P & O Cruises, your cruise ship has a laundry room, you will have no problem quickly running an iron over it, before putting it on.

It’s really versatile too. I wore mine to the beach with a pair of fit flops, but I think you could dress it up or down however you see fit.

M&S Collection Linen Blend Sleeveless Tunic Dress – £25

Marks and Spencer Sleeveless Coral Linen Tunic Dress
Happy to be at Brownes Beach – Barbados

Brownes Beach – Barbados

On the final day of my Viking Cruise, our lovely driver for the morning, Marson, recommended that we visited this beach. This was my first time in Barbados (read the post here) and it was the picture perfect Caribbean beach. We arrived around nine o’clock in the morning and the beach was virtually deserted. However, it is very popular with cruise passengers, so if you do want to spend the day there, get there first thing in the morning to enjoy the tranquility.

The water is very shallow so it is a great location to take children.


Recommendations and Affiliates

This is a product that I have purchased myself. The Brand have not endorsed or paid me to review this product. The product links on this page are affiliate links. This means, should you wish to purchase the dress, I will get a small commission from the brand at no extra cost to you.

M&S Collection Linen Blend Sleeveless Tunic Dress – £25

Take a look at My Best Body Confidence Bikini



Cruise News – Flavia – A Ship Of My Own





I am pleased to announce today that I have bought a cruise ship of my own, to bring a unique experience to cruising.

Cruisers have been asking for changes to be made for years, but the cruise lines just aren’t listening. I wanted to provide a solution to the topics that arise time and time again.

GRATUITIES

For guests who do not wish to pay gratuities at all, there will be a self catering option. You will be able to order your food online through your regular supermarket before your cruise. Instead of requesting a home delivery, you will be able to request a ship delivery. (Please note this is only available for UK departures and must be ordered no later than 7 days prior to departure)

All areas with service staff will have key entry facilities. Cruise cards for passengers with the Gratuity Free Package, will be restricted to self serve areas of the ship only.

There will be a dedicated room on each deck, where you can collect clean bed linen and cleaning products for use in your room.

DRESS CODE

The three main restaurants, ‘Top Hat and Tails’, ‘Flip Flops’ and ‘Never Happy’ have been created to help people choose the style that suits them.

KIDS ONLY CRUISES

With the recent rise in Adult Cruises, kids have been feeling very hurt and left out. My new cruise ship will offer kid only cruises in the half term holidays, which will give them a break from their parents.

Please let me know what you think of my brand new cruise ship in the comments below. Happy 1st April to you all.



Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four – Exploring The Ship

Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Viking Sea Infinity Pool




Good Morning St Kitts

Despite the forecast of rain, it was still warm and balmy as I stepped out onto my balcony onboard Viking Sea, to take a look at St Kitts.

Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne looking out to St Kitts from Viking Sea Balcony

I will forgive you for thinking I was crazy not getting off the ship in St Kitts. However, I really wanted to get to know the Viking Sea a little better and this was the only port I hadn’t booked an excursion for.

As there was no rush to be anywhere, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in bed.

Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Breakfast In Bed Viking Sea

When I was ready I headed out to explore the ship. Unlike other cruises I have been on, I found myself meeting and talking to other passengers. Maybe it was because we had met on the shore excursions, and the fact I didn’t have my son in tow. I think it was partly to do with me wanting to explain to people why I had a GoPro strapped to my head! I was also surprised to meet so many British passengers onboard.

Who Were The Vikings?

In keeping with the authentic experience Viking Cruises pride themselves on, there is a Viking Heritage Museum on deck two.

Viking Sea Heritage Museum

The impressive display of antiquities feeds the imagination of times gone by.

The people we now call “Vikings” were not a unified group or culture. Rather, they were the Norse peoples of Scandinavia – modern-day Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Principally they existed as farmers, but they also were settlers, traders, crafters, explorers and raiders.

Viking Sea Heritage Museum

Viking Sea Heritage Museum

Viking Sea Heritage Museum

Nordic Chic

Making my way outside, I walked through the Aquavit Terrace, which feels fresh with it’s nordic chic decor.

Aquavit bar and restaurant onboard Viking Sea

This leads you out to Viking’s signature infinity pool at the aft of the ship. I wasn’t the only one wanting to enjoy the onboard luxury. There were a few people in the pool and the hot tub.

Guests enjoying the infinity pool onboard Viking Sea whilst docked in St Kitts

Making my way upstairs to wander around the top deck, the view of the St Kitts mountains was stunning.

The Norwegian Flag blows in the Caribbean Breeze at St Kitts onboard Viking Sea

Lunch by the pool

Having missed lunch the last two days while off exploring, I didn’t want to miss it today. I had heard great reports about the Pool Grill which serves food until 2.30. It was getting close to that time already so I went to the main pool to get a closer look.

Viking Sea Pool Area by Day docked in St Kitts

The Pool Grill onboard Viking Sea

There was a lovely salad bar which included a gluten free Artesian Salad with Potato and Eggplant, a Marinated Fennel and Tomato and Prawns which was also gluten free. Although the food selection changes daily, I could have eaten the Eggplant salad every day. Burgers, hot dogs and fish are cooked to order at the grill and are served with coleslaw, red onion jam and a selection of toppings.

A delicious lunch at the Pool Bar onboard Viking Sea

After lunch I found a great spot to top up my tan and relax for a while.

Lounge area on top deck of Viking Sea in St Kitts

The bag I was using is a the Alex Folding Travel Bag by Mia Tui. They come in a wide range of designs including black, polka dots and multi coloured.

Afternoon Tea

Athough I was still full from lunch, my travelling companions were meeting in the Wintergarden for afternoon tea at 4.00pm. I popped by as I knew I would be off the ship the following afternoon.

It was a good job they had saved me a seat. Afternoon tea is hugely popular with the guests and I can see why. A classical trio created the perfect quintessential atmosphere for enjoying the delicate sandwiches and cakes. Fresh scones were served by hand and complimented by an extensive drinks menu including a wide range of teas. I opted for the mango tea, which was very refreshing.

Afternoon Tea in the Wintergarden onboard Viking Sea

A Perfect Moment

As we departed St Kitts, I jumped into the infinity pool to enjoy the view. I remember when I first saw an image of the Viking Cruise ships, and thought how much I would love to be in that infinity pool. I never imagined it would actually come true.

Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Sailing away from St Kitts looking out from the infinity pool on Viking Sea

The Beauty of Cruising

From one stunning view to another. I returned to my room to get changed and enjoyed the sunset from my balcony. It never ceases to amaze me the constant beauty you experience when you look out over the ocean from a cruise ship.

The sunset from balcony onboard Viking Sea sailing away from St Kitts Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne

Feeling all tanned and refreshed, I took a walk to the atrium to see what was going on. A very handsome guitarist sat playing classical guitar. The sound was beautiful and he smiled at me. (Ok I was pointing a camera at him, but just let me have this).

The World Cafe

I had been advised not to miss the seafood and sushi in the buffet restaurant, so went to take a look. I wasn’t disappointed.

I started with the seafood and a nice chilled glass of chardonnay. Wine and beer is complimentary with lunch and dinner, although I had the silver spirits beverage package which allows you drinks throughout the day for an additional $19.95 per guest per night.

Seafood Buffet in the World Cafe onboard Viking Sea

This was the best sushi I have ever had.

Sushi Buffet in the World Cafe onboard Viking Sea - Ships and Champagne

After dinner, I took another stroll around the ship. As the Viking Sea was now sailing, the shops were open. There are not many shops onboard Viking Cruise ships, but the ones they do have are worth a visit. If you are looking for a jumper for extreme cold, this is the place to get one.

As you can imagine, everything is Nordic themed including the jewellery, ornaments, books and these cute but slightly scary viking head stuffed toys.

The Viking Shop onboard Viking Sea - Ships and Champagne

Gift Shop onboard Viking Sea
Why not take one of these little chaps home with you?

Movie Under The Stars

The main pool on the Viking Sea has a retractable roof so people can use the pool in the evenings. They also have a movie screen which is not used during the day, but some evenings they transform the space into a movie theatre.

Before people started to arrive for the movie “A Dog’s Purpose”, I took this short video of the room set up. What a lovely place to relax and enjoy a film, whilst you are sailing to your next destination?

I stayed to watch some of the movie. It was a cute film but it featured a dog and I knew whatever happened in the end, it would have me in tears. So I left early to avoid the inevitable blubbing, and went to bed. St Lucia tomorrow!!

Have you read Day Three – St Croix

If so, why not go to Day Five – St Lucia

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.



Viking Sea Cruise – Day Three – St Croix





Waking Up In St Croix

There’s nothing better than having a balcony when you cruise, and on Viking Sea every room has one. Not only did I get a great view of the coastline, I also got a partial view of the Bridge.

It was warm and sunny outside with temperatures forecast for the high 80’s. I had booked a snorkelling excursion and was excited to try it for the first time.

View of St Croix from Viking Sea Penthouse Veranda
Waking up to a beautiful view of St Croix

As my body was still on UK time, I felt really hungry as soon as I woke up. I needed to eat something quickly, so I ordered breakfast in my room and enjoyed a delicious feast before getting dressed.

Room Service Breakfast onboard Viking Sea Fresh Fruit Plate, Bagel and Jams

Simple, Beautiful St Croix

I wanted to have a look at Frederiksted before leaving for the Buck Island trip. Thank goodness I did. St Croix is unlike any other Caribbean Islands visited by cruise ships.

Stepping off the Viking Sea to visit St Croix

There is no big terminal building, you simply walk along the pier into the quaint town of Frederiksted.

The Viking Sea docked in St Croix
The Viking Sea docked in St Croix

As you reach the Customs and Immigration building, there is a small welcome party where you can taste the local rum while the DJ plays Caribbean music.

The Port of St Croix
A warm welcome in St Croix

And if that doesn’t get you in the Caribbean mood, this lady will.

A lady dressed for carnival in St Croix
A vibrant welcome to St Croix

Frederiksted Historic District

There is a lovely area just at the end of the pier with benches facing the sea. The red building is Fort Frederik which was built in the 1750’s to guard the island from pirates. It now houses a museum and art gallery which can be visited for a small entrance fee. A clocktower overlooks Emancipation Park where in 1848, Danish Governor Peter Von Scholten emancipated the slaves.

I thought this was a really pretty place and not busy at all. There are a few tents set up with local sellers offering a range of local products but no big tax free jewellery stores or designer shops, which I find is a refreshing change. It might be different when one of the larger cruise ships visits. If you have any experience of this please let me know in the comments below.

Driving To Christiansted

We were the second trip of the day for our driver Stephen.

Religion is a very important part of Island culture and it wasn’t long before I had a sign from God.

Thankfully it was just the shadow of a window sticker on my leg. Or was it?

The drive to Christiansted, the largest town on the island, took around 20 minutes. En route I was surprised to see an oil production plant on the island, recently sold and renamed Limetree Bay Terminals LLC. More in keeping with the area was the Captain Morgan Rum Distillery, which has a visitor centre if you fancy a look around.

Arriving in Christiansted we gathered on grass area to meet our Caribbean Sea Adventures Crew. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of the colourful buildings around us.

Our Buck Island Adventure

The sun-kissed crew from Caribbean Sea Adventures, gathered our group together.

We headed to our boat.

Once onboard the boat, it became apparent that I was the only person on board that had never snorkelled before. Many people had brought their own equipment.

Buck Island is a protected National Monument. Two thirds of the island is surround by a coral barrier reef. This provides the perfect eco system for a variety of marine plants and animals including endangered species.

I didn’t go too far from the boat for my first snorkel but what I saw and experienced was something I will never forget. It is hard to put into words the peace and tranquility I experienced even just putting my face into the water, but it moved me to tears when I emerged from the water.

Here is a 3 minute video that I have put together to give you an idea of what it was like. Have you tried snorkelling? If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. If you like the video please visit my YouTube channel and give it a thumbs up and subscribe to help me get famous :-). I hope you like the song as much as I do.

Back On Board

Back onboard the Viking Sea, you are handed a much needed chilled flannel to refresh yourself, and a warm smiley welcome from the crew who greet you by name.

After our wonderful day trip, I was thirsty and needed to cool off a bit. I ordered myself a Margarita on the rocks, no salt, at the Aquavit Terrace Bar, and headed to the infinity pool.

I watched the beautiful sunset as we sailed away from St Croix.

Then it was time for dinner in Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant.

Manfredi's Italian Restaurant Viking Sea starter - Calamari
Manfredi’s starter – Calamari
Steak and Shrimp Main Course Dinner at Manfredi's Italian Restaurant onboard Viking Sea
Followed by melt in the mouth Surf n’ Turf

The meal in Manfredi’s was delicious but I was so exhausted after another action packed day, I could barely stay awake to eat it. So as soon as I finished dinner I headed back to my room and flopped into the incredibly soft, comfy, cosy bed.

Goodnight.

Have you read my Viking Sea Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico?

If so, why not read Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.



Proud To Be One of The Top 50 Cruise Bloggers

Top 50 Cruise Blogs





Is it me or does there seem to be a new cruise blog every week? It’s still a niche market compared to travel and lifestyle blogs, but as the cruise industry attracts more and more guests each year, so does the appeal to become a cruise blogger.

So how do you know which ones are worth following? Well the answer really depends on what you are looking for. Do you want facts and news updates? Are you looking for cheap tricks and tips? Do you want to know what the onboard experience is like? Are you focusing on a particular cruise line? These are all important factors to consider when researching blogs. What is right for one person, is not necessarily right for others.

To help narrow down your search, Feedspot have created a list of top 50 cruise bloggers. Yes that’s right, top 50! This is a completely unbiased list as Feedspot use a variety of metrics which determine the list order, including social media following.

I am thrilled that Ships and Champagne is included in the top 50 cruise blogs and looking at the list, I am honoured to be in the company of the cruise industry’s finest including Cruise Miss and Tips For Travellers. 

Feedspot have designed a website that makes it easier for you to follow and read your favourite blogs all in one place. They cover all industries and interests so you don’t have to keep looking up new websites and blogs. You can also create daily alerts, so that you are notified when your favourite blogger publishes a new post.

For more information and to check out the list of Top 50 Cruise Bloggers you can visit their website here.


Viking Sea Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico




A Room With A View

My Penthouse Veranda stateroom was on the starboard side which gave me the best views of the ocean in Puerto Rico. I sat down on my balcony to enjoy a coffee and the sun rising above San Juan and noticed a cruise ship in the distance. I love watching ships come alongside, so I was thrilled to see three other cruise ships entering the port, all from the comfort of my stateroom.

Disney Wonder sailing into San Juan
View of San Juan Port from Viking Sea 5011.

It was time for breakfast and to see the ship in daylight.

Viking Sea in San Juan
Taking in the Viking Sea with the beautiful San Juan back drop.

 

Deck seating area on Viking Sea
Walking to breakfast on the Viking Sea

 

Viking Sea Main Pool
The main pool onboard Viking Sea

Time For An Adventure

After a quick tour of the ship we headed out for our horse riding trip. There was no queuing to disembark the ship and we were offered chilled bottles of water to take with us as we left.

We took a mini bus to Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park located in Luquillo. Our driver gave us an entertaining guided tour during the 20 minute journey. However I had met a lovely lady named Julia, who works onboard the Viking Sea. We didn’t stop talking for the entire journey, so I missed the commentary, but made a great friend.

Everyone in the group was matched to a horse depending on their experience. Horse riding is second nature to me, so I was matched with Vulcan for the ride.

Horseriding in Carabali Rainforest Park Puerto Rico
Not quite Lady Godiva

It was a blazing hot day, so we took it easy and just walked. We stopped to rest and cool off by the river.

Horseriding in Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park
Time to cool off
Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park
I could have stayed there all day

 

Flavia Gray at Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park San Juan
With my new friends. Our guide, Jonathan and Julia from Viking.

It was a fantastic experience and the guys that took us out were great fun and really looked after us. We rode back to the farm, grabbed a beer and returned to the ship.

Thank goodness we were on a Viking Cruises shore excursion as we arrived back dead on 4.30, which was the all aboard time. That was cutting it fine. Had we been delayed though, the ship would have waited for us, unlike if we were doing the trip on our own.

Sailaway

Five o’clock was time for muster drill, so I had just enough time for a much needed shower. Being a 930 passenger ship, the drill took no time at all and we were soon sipping cocktails and watching the sunset.

View of San Juan sunset from Viking Sea
The sun setting on San Juan
Sunset and waves crashing against Castillo San Felipe del Morro
The waves crashing against the rocks of Old San Juan Fort – Castillo San Felipe del Morro
The dramatic San Juan coastline
The dramatic San Juan coastline

Our group met in the Explorers Lounge for a pre-dinner drink. Viking’s ocean cruise ships all have an Explorers theme encapsulated in their interior design.

Viking Sea Explorers Lounge Star Constellations
The Explorers Lounge with maps of star constellations framing the room
The Explorers Lounge Bar with star constellation mirror
The Explorers Lounge Bar with star constellation mirror
Ladies in the the Explorers Lounge Viking Sea
Meeting in the Explorers Lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail

For our first night, we decided to have dinner in the main dining room.

Smoked Sturgeon and Sevruga Caviar Viking Sea
Smoked Sturgeon and Sevruga Caviar
Oriental Style Scallops and Lobster on Viking Sea
Oriental Style Scallops and Lobster

After dinner we headed to the theatre for the Captains Welcome Aboard Speech.

Champagne on ice to welcome the guests onboard Viking Sea
Champagne on ice to welcome the guests onboard Viking Sea

There was not a spare seat in the house as Cruise Director Mark and the Viking Band kicked off proceedings with a wonderful rendition of Hello, Young Lovers.

The Captain was introduced to the stage and from the outset he was very funny. There was a lighthearted approach to introducing the rest of the senior management team as they walked onto the stage to the music of Pirates of the Caribbean.

By this time the travelling, jet lag and horseriding had made me feel extremely tired. So it was time for bed to be ready for more exciting adventures tomorrow.

Read Day Three – St Croix

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.



Viking Sea Cruise – Day One – Flying To Puerto Rico




Ever Considered Cruising from San Juan?

If you want to visit a different picture perfect Caribbean Island everyday, a cruise from Puerto Rico will deliver this and more. However, there are no direct flights from the UK to San Juan so flying to Puerto Rico puts people off for many reasons. When Viking Cruises invited me to be their guest on Viking Sea, I didn’t think twice about the journey, but I did learn things from it that will help you to get the best experience possible.

Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Cruise Blogger
All set for flying to Puerto Rico to board Viking Sea for a Caribbean cruise.

Snow Joke

Originally we were flying with BA via Philadelphia. However the reports of snow were making it likely that we would not get out of Philly for our connecting flight to San Juan. Luckily for me, Viking Cruises took care of everything and rebooked us on an American Airlines flight via Miami. However, this is a really important thing to consider if you are making your own flight arrangements. Flying via Miami also means your airbourne for a shorter period of time, however the stopover is longer so door to door, it will take longer.

Tip: If I were doing the trip myself, I would stay overnight in Miami and then fly to San Juan on the day of the cruise, or possibly book another overnight in San Juan. Also, book early and you may get a great deal on an upgraded seat and always, always, always have an airport lounge booked. For details on how to get the best deal for lounges read my Christmas In Florida blog post.

Flying To Puerto Rico with American Airlines
First glimpse of the sun above the clouds after taking off from Heathrow on American Airlines flight to Miami.

Standing Room Only

We weren’t the only passengers that had been re-routed to Miami, and this was clear by the lack of space on our flight. I managed to get my preferred window seat, however this meant I was trapped for 9 hours. When you travel with family, you don’t mind having to move them out of their seats, but as I was sitting next to an elderly couple, I didn’t want to keep disturbing them.

Mia Tui bag, wine, sunglasses and pretzels on lap tray in flight.
A few of my favourite things including this Mia Tui bag in rose gold.

There was only one thing for it. A glass of white wine, sunglasses and music on, and sit back and relax. For those of you who are thinking of flying on an American Airlines aircraft (check to see if you are on a codeshared flight), the wine and beer is complimentary, but spirits are $8 each. Cash is not accepted, so you must have a credit or debit card to hand. It wasn’t long before the wine and beer was gone, leaving no alternative than to abstain or pay up. Which one do you think I chose to do? Leave a comment below.

Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Cruise Blogger
Dreaming of the Caribbean

American Airlines do have wifi onboard, which was great news, however I couldn’t get mine to work. When I asked a crew member about it, she told me I had to have downloaded an app. It does state in the in-flight magazine that you can simply connect onboard, however my new iPhone X was having none of it.

Aerial photograph of Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Fort Lauderdale stretch of beautiful sandy beach.

As we began our decent into Miami, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Fort Lauderdale coastline. To my frustration the clouds covered Port Everglades, so my ship spotting would have to wait for another time. We then passed Miami Beach and I took this picture of the iconic crescent shaped Fontainebleau that was a well known favourite hotel of Frank Sinatra’s.

Fontainbleau, Miami Beach Aerial view from American Airlines.
Aerial view of the crescent shaped Fontainbleau along the stretch of Miami Beach.

Feel The Heat

In case you don’t know already, I LOVE Florida! We had four hours to wait for our connecting flight, so I went and sat in the little park area across from the main terminal building. I could feel the heat in the air as soon as I stepped out.

It is a long time to wait in an airport for a connecting flight which is why I recommend adding on a stay in Miami. I mean why wouldn’t you want to? Just jump in a taxi to a beach hotel. Kick off your shoes, grab a sunset cocktail and enjoy the view.

So by the time we were boarding our second flight, everyone was feeling a bit jaded. However the excitement of the cruise and the Caribbean was keeping spirits high.

We touched down in San Juan around 11.30 pm local time and collected our luggage. We were met by Viking Cruises representatives who checked us onto the transfer coach. The process was very quick and easy. The drive to the ship was no more than 20 minutes.

Viking Sea docked at Puerto Rico Cruise Terminal San Juan at night
Puerto Rico cruise port entrance and our first glimpse of Viking Sea

All Aboard

As we stepped onboard, the ship looked beautiful. I headed straight to my stateroom. I had a Penthouse Veranda on deck 5 which was easy to find on a ship that holds just 930 passengers.

Viking Sea Penthouse Veranda 5011 Starboard
My Penthouse Veranda (PV) 5011 Starboard onboard Viking Sea

The room was a welcome sight. The extra touches that Viking Cruises offers were very much appreciated after the long journey.

Viking Sea Welcome Sandwiches and Bottle of Wine
A lovely welcome snack and nightcap.
Viking Sea Penthouse Veranda 5011 Amenities
Viking Cruises really look after their guests by providing an in room coffee machine, golf umbrella, robe and slippers.
Viking Sea Penthouse Veranda Stateroom Amenities 5011
No need to buy bottles of water as it’s all provided in glass bottles to avoid single-use plastics.
Viking Sea Penthouse Veranda Bathroom Amenities 5011
Toiletries are provided and replenished daily.

It felt so good to be onboard. I was relieved to be able to finally put my bags in the room and had a quick look out on deck.

Although it was nearly 2am, the air was warm. I just couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

But now it was time to get some sleep to be ready for horse riding in the morning.

Products In This Post

  1. Blue Neck Scarf
  2. Mia Tui Travel Bag

Read More: Viking Cruise Day Two

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.



Cruise People – Sheri Griffiths Cruise Tips TV




Sheri Griffiths is the face of Cruise Tips TV. A huge fan of cruising herself, Sheri provides cruisers with answers to all their questions in her YouTube show. She has a great personality and I wanted to know more about her life off camera.

When was your first cruise?

My first cruise was onboard Carnival Ecstasy in 1991. My Mom accompanied me on a Caribbean cruise as a high school graduation present, along with my little brother. I loved the experience, but longed for the time when I’d be able to cruise with my future husband. The best part of the cruise was the resort scuba dive in Grand Cayman. My Mom let me go alone (with a ship sponsored excursion), and it was one of the highlights of my “under 20” life.

Finally, that next cruise happened in 2003 (or so) after my husband I had been married for about 6 years. I was so excited to share the experience with him after scraping and saving for years, but WOW, had cruising changed. Diamond Princess was HUGE, and he was instantly hooked. We’ve never looked back, and cruise as often as we can. We still DO love a good land vacation on occasion as well.

How many cruises have you taken so far?

Somewhere around 28 total to The Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Canada & New England.  We’ve sailed with Carnival, Princess, Holland America, NCL, and Royal Caribbean.

Sheri Griffiths - Cruise Tips TV enjoying the beach with her son
Sheri Griffiths – Cruise Tips TV enjoying the beach with her son

How long have you been doing Cruise Tips TV?

We’re in our 5th year of production. We have just over 350 videos for cruisers, ranging from packing tips to ship tours, and cruise vlogs.

How did Cruise Tips TV come about?

Our channel was born over a dinner table conversation. As cruise lovers, we would always film our trips, shore excursions and activities and create short movies, to preserve the memories. It occurred to us (one evening over chicken casserole!) that we could also create and share information, tips  and even full ship video tours, so we decided to take the plunge and chose YouTube as our platform.

Travel had always been the “prime directive” in our family, so it seemed like a natural step to bust out our film equipment and share our passion with the internet world. We’ve changed our approach, style and content many times over the years, based on subscriber feedback and changes in our lives.

How many shows do you do a week? And how long does it take to prepare for each one?

We generally produce two shows per week. Each show takes a minimum of an hour of content prep time. Some episodes can take up to 4 hours of prep time, depending on the amount of research involved. Really, it’s the editing that is time intensive. Mr Cruise Tips TV edits our content full time, and still wishes he had more hours in every day. We try to involve our son in the process when we can. He is learning basic editing skills and helps with ideas. Sometimes, we give him his own camera to vlog with on cruises. He loves the KidCam!

What is an average day in the life for you?

I wake up at 5:15am, hobble to my kitchen for coffee, and head off to my day job. My husband is self employed and works from home, so I’m fortunate to have his help with the day to day. He’s does all the laundry, cleans the house, and makes sure that our son is well cared for during the week.

When I get home from work, I squeeze in dinner with my boys, catch up on social media, take a hot bath, and get ready to do it all again the next day. On the weekend, my primary focus is to spend time with my son, get as much exercise and outdoor time as possible, and go live on YouTube every other Saturday.

Sheri Griffiths Cruise Tips TV with the Captain on the bridge of Star Princess
Sheri on the bridge of Star Princess

Do you have any tips for people thinking about starting their own You Tube channel?

Tip #1:

Be true to yourself. Mr. CTTV likes to say “keep your head down”, meaning, don’t look at what other people are doing to develop your content. BE YOURSELF, and don’t compare your ideas and content to others. People want to watch YOU because you offer something unique and individual. At the same time, it’s easy to delay starting a YouTube channel, because it can feel at times like “it’s all been done” already. News Flash – it has! But, you should still go for it!

Tip #2:

Consider whether you can be of service to others. The longer we’ve been creating content through our channel, the more we’ve realized the joy in being a resource. Those people then become a great resource for YOU. Our community of cruise enthusiasts bring ideas and tips to us week after week. We also count on them for honest feedback at times.

Tip #3:

Be Real. When we started our channel, I wanted to read from a teleprompter every episode, and sought to control every element of production. As time went by, our subscribers asked us to turn the camera around and vlog our cruises. I thought the notion was crazy. Each time the topic came up, my husband and I would look at each other and say “naaah, nobody wants to see that. It’s too real”. Then, in September of 2016, we finally jumped out of our cozy studio, and turned that camera around to capture the day to day of our cruise through vlogs.

As we’ve learned more about what our audience wants since that first cruise, one theme always surfaces. They want authenticity. They want to see when things don’t go as planned, they want to see me without makeup (aaah!). They want to be told when a shore excursion or experience falls short. They want to trust you to deliver the true experience.

Tip #4:

Expect to evolve. Listen to your audience (not to the trolls, of course) and consider if their suggestions can work for you. You can’t make everyone happy, but the more you expect to re-invent your content often, while staying true to being yourself, the more you can experiment and land on what works.

Sheri Griffiths - Cruise Tips TV and her son in Ketchikan, Alaska
Sheri with her son in Ketchikan, Alaska

What was your last holiday?

My last holiday was a partial transit through the Panama Canal on Caribbean Princess. It was 10 days of heaven!

Have you got your next holiday booked and what/where is it?

Our next cruise is on Carnival Splendor, to the Mexican Riviera.

Being a Mum with 2 jobs must require organisation and focus? What is one thing you do that really helps?

I’m a huge list maker. I use my iPhone to make lists for every area of my life, from packing to my weekly objectives to ideas for our next episode.

What are your hobbies?

I love hiking, Zumba, gardening and cooking.

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

A holiday to Tahiti and her islands. I must see Bora Bora. We’ve been dreaming of this destination since we were married.

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

I’d encourage them to research, but not to over plan. Pack comfortable shoes. Choose the right cruise line, and…watch lots of YouTube videos.  We have lots of content for newbies!



Making A Splash At The Cruise Show





As you all know I absolutely love cruising. I live for it. Cruising brings me joy like I have never known before. It makes me feel alive, free, excited and adventurous. So to celebrate that, I really wanted a special dress for the cruise show. Thanks to Amazon, I found one.

Be Careful Buying Clothes From Amazon

Now you have to be careful buying clothes from Amazon because some of the stuff on there is nothing like the picture, but this dress by Hell Bunny was an absolute winner for me. Not just because the material and the price were great, but the design is very flattering (I think) for those of us that are going a bit appley. They have 25 different colours to choose from.

Hell Bunny Salina Navy Blue Nautical 1950s Vintage Retro Swing Holiday Dress
Hell Bunny Salina Navy Blue Nautical 1950s Vintage Retro Swing Holiday Dress

As much as I would love to have worn a pair of heels, it wasn’t ideal for walking around the cruise show. I have always struggled to find a nice pair of flat shoes, especially when I spend a day exploring a new ship. I love sandals, but they weren’t really very practical for February. These Melissa shoes were extremely comfortable and they smell so good. Made in Brazil, these plastic shoes designed by Vivienne Westwood, have a unique bubblegum smell to them.

Vivienne Westwood & Melissa Women’s VW Ultragirl 19 Open-Toe Heels

 

I added a little neck scarf to give that 50’s look. This one was also on Amazon but it is not great quality, however they are fun to have and can be used to brighten up an outfit. I use mine now as a hairband which I think is quite cute.

Plain Square Chiffon 50s neck Scarf available in 25 different colours

 

 

Enjoying a glass of bubbly with Dan Corrie from Lanson Champagne.
Marks and Spencer Gold Button Jacket in Navy

I felt really comfortable in this outfit and I love the nautical theme dress. If you get the shoes you will fall in love with them I can assure you. I think I will make this my embarkation day outfit from now on. What do you think?

Disclosure: This post contains personal recommendations of items I have purchased and paid for myself. The links to the items are affiliate links, which means you pay the same price, but I may receive a small commission from the seller. 



Azamara – Cruises For People Who Don’t Cruise




It’s All About The Destination

Azamara Club Cruises are passionate about travel. They want to help you see the world in ways that no other cruise line does. How do they do that?  “With more port days than any other cruise line and longer in port than any other cruise line, allowing you to experience the destination”, says their UK Managing Director, Richard Twynam. The statistics speak for themselves with 80% of it’s itineraries in port. Out of those port days 47% are late nights and overnight stays.

Big Ship vs Little Ship

If you are looking for zip lines, surf simulators, sky diving and more, Azamara Club Cruises is not for you. These fancy features can be found on the mega ships of their sister brand, Royal Caribbean.

I took this photograph of Azamara Quest from Voyager of the Seas in Venice. You can see we were docked much further away, with the other ships.

Their recently renovated ships, Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey and new addition Azamara Pursuit, are more akin to boutique hotels than cruise ships. Accommodating just 686 passengers, with a 2 to 1 staff guest ratio, not only is the service impeccable but getting on and off the ship is a much smoother experience. Another small ship benefit is that they are able to dock closer to places they visit. So, when other ships passengers are queuing for a 30 minute coach ride into town, Azamara Club Cruises’ passengers are already there. Venice is a great example of this and, with the new regulations in place, Azamara Pursuit will be the largest cruise ship permitted to sail along the Grand Canal.

The most popular cruise port in Europe is Barcelona and most of the cruise ships dock a few miles away. Azamara Club Cruises on the other hand, dock at the World Trade Centre which is located at the bottom of Las Ramblas.

I took this onboard Norwegian Epic in Barcelona from the main cruise terminal. As you can see Las Ramblas is in the distance. You need a bus or taxi to get there.

They can also do river cruising and include itineraries that sail along the Kiel Canal, into the heart of Seville, Bordeaux and Ho Chi Min City. In Hong Kong most cruise ships moor at Kai Tack which is 40 minutes away from the city. Azamara Club Cruises dock at Ocean Terminal with panoramic view of the iconic skyline right from the ship.

Azamara Club Cruises are also offering country intensive voyages which gives guests get more than just one day in each country. These itineraries include Mexico, Cuba, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, Japan, Israel, France, Croatia and Australia. Speaking at a recent event with Six Star Cruises, Richard Twyman told guests that Sydney is the most congested cruise port on planet Earth, and only has 3 cruise berths which are all full until 2023. He continued to say that Azamara Club Cruises are committed to Sydney and will be there for three years. They have secured the most sought after dock, right in Circular Quay itself. So for example if you take the 15 night New Year’s Eve In Sydney Voyage, you will be able to see the opera house from your balcony (depending which way you are facing).

Azamazing Evenings

Lucky guests who are cruising for six days or more have a real treat in store.

Azamara Club Cruises are the only cruise line who offer these complimentary experiences known as Azamazing evenings. This is an event where the cruise line take all 690 guests off the ship, to a special event and bring them back. This in itself is a highly complex thing to do. However the experience they have at an Azamazing evening is something quite incredible, and they offer this in 70 countries all over the world.

The first Azamazing event ever held was in Florence. They took all the guests to a private set of castles that overlooked Florence. They were given a tour by an Historian who explained when they were standing in the grand hall, they were standing in the room where Michaelangelo carved David. As if that wasn’t jaw dropping enough, guests enjoyed a tuscan buffet outside, and as the sun was setting over Florence the Three Tenors from the Florence Opera House came out and gave them a private concert.

Azamara Club Cruises were also the first cruise line ever to do a private performance of the original Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in the heart of Dublin. These once in a lifetime experiences are offered all over the world in places such as Rio De Janeiro, Ephesus, St Petersburg and Wellington.

Win a pair of Azamara Gloves

The lovely people at Azamara Club Cruises have given Ships and Champagne readers the chance to win one of five pairs of mobile friendly gloves. Simply answer the question below to be in with a chance to win yourself a pair.

This competition is now closed. Thank you to all of those who entered.

To view itineraries and for more information visit azamaraclubcruises.co.uk



Free Tickets To The London Cruise Show 2018

free tickets to the 2018 cruise show





The London Cruise Show is just days away and I am so excited. I will be like a kid in a candy shop having all my favourite cruise lines under one roof. You will have the opportunity to visit all the cruise lines at their stands. They often have members of the Senior Management Team so you can meet them in person, plus all the latest brochures will be available for you to take home. In addition to the cruise line stands there are three theatres for interesting and informative talks, and a tasting area.

Is It For Me?free tickets to cruise show 2018

If you have never been to a Cruise Show, you are in for a treat. This year, Europe’s Largest Cruise Show, celebrates is 10th anniversary and has more to offer than ever. They have cruises for adventurers, explorers, foodies, singles, families, romantics, and even for people who don’t cruise. Yes that’s right, cruises for non cruisers. Well you will have to step onboard a ship, but Azamara Club Cruises are all about destination and experience. Don’t take my word for it, go and speak to them in person.

But I Don’t Want To Book A Cruise

It doesn’t matter, no one is going to force you into booking. In fact those people who do want to book at the show, usually have to get in line. The Cruise Show is a great place to do your research, ask questions, collect information and get an idea of what cruising has to offer.

Maybe you want to know more about a river cruising? Get a great overview by attending the talk on river cruising in Ask The Experts Theatre at 2.00pm. It is on both Saturday and Sunday and you can also visit them at their stands to ask about itineraries, facilities and special show offers.

The Expedition Theatre offers talks on those off the beaten track cruises – from Antarctica to the Amazon. Meet The Cruise Lines allows you to take a seat while a panel of cruise experts talk to you and answer your questions.

Win A Cruise

Some of the stands will be running competitions which range from luxury gift packs to cruises. What’s the catch? There is no catch, it just means you agree to sign up to their mailing list in return for a competition entry. You can always unsubscribe if you feel you are getting too much mail from them.

I will be at the show on Saturday so will tweet about any competitions I find out about.

What If I DO Want To Book A Cruise?

If you do want to book a cruise, I would suggest getting there early and get it done, so that you can enjoy the rest of the day. The offers at the show will be the best available for the year. You will be face to face with an expert who can guide you through the process. They will be able to go through the deck plans and help you pick the room you want.

Plan Your Day

You will get much more out of the show if you plan your day in advance. The Cruise Show has given me 25 free tickets, so you can book yours now and start planning what you want to do. This is my plan for Saturday 17th February. If you are coming along please let me know, I would love to meet you there. You can follow me on twitter on the day @flaviagray

10.00 – Say hello to the cruise lines, meet friends and enter competitions.

12.00 – Ask The Experts Theatre –  Luxury Cruising

1.00 – Gin Tasting with G’Vine (see website for times and registration)

1.30 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Azamara Club Cruises

2.20 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Crystal Cruises

3.10 –  Meet The Cruise Lines – Viking Cruises

All you need to know about the London Cruise Show…

What: London Cruise Show

Where: Olympia London

When: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018

Book Your FREE Tickets To the 2018 Cruise Show Now

The London Cruise Show is offering readers of Ships & Champagne the chance to pre-book FREE tickets to the show with no added fulfilment fee or booking fee. Use exclusive code SHIPSANDCHAMPAGNE at checkout at https://cruiseshow.co.uk/london



Cruise Me To The Moon On Independence of the Seas





It wasn’t so long ago that having an iPad on a cruise ship was innovative, but the latest thing to have now is a SkyPad. If anyone was going to do find a way to take you to the moon on a cruise ship, it was Royal Caribbean.

This incredible new feature is going to appear first on the UK’s favourite ship, Independence of the Seas which will shortly be undergoing a major multi-million pound refit. She will arrive in Southampton in May with new staterooms, waterslides, laser tag, a fish and chip shop, sports bar and much more.

Independence of the Seas will be fitted with the SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline
Independence of the Seas will be fitted with the SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline

How Does It Work?

The SkyPad combines a bungee trampoline park with a virtual reality experience. Guests can choose to walk across moon craters and enjoy the feeling of zero gravity. They can compete in inter-galactic games or simply enjoy a top deck view of the ocean without wearing the headset.

There will be no charge to use the SkyPad initially, but this could change depending on popularity. Royal Caribbean have already started charging guests to use the North Star which is featured on the Quantum Class ships, which was complimentary at first.

Join Us Onboard

Why not try this for yourself on the 3 night sailing on 17th May calling at Cherbourg. Josh and I will be onboard and would love you to join us.

The current price for an OCEANVIEW cabin is just £359pp (it has increased by £10pp in the last few days and is likely to go up or sell out). Here is a link to the cruise on the Royal Caribbean International website BOOK NOW

Or check out Royal Caribbean’s DEALS OF THE WEEK

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas will also feature the SkyPad
Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas will also feature the SkyPad


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



Ocean Liners Speed and Style – V & A Exhibition 2018





The romance of the golden era of cruising is something most of us can now only imagine. So, I was honoured and thrilled to be invited to the private view of Ocean Liners Speed and Style at the V & A last week.

This new exhibition is being sponsored by Viking Cruises, and gives an insight into the history of some of our most loved ocean liners through the decades. If, like me, you love the elegance, grandeur, opulence and extravagance of cruising, you will be in your element.

It’s not all about the glamour though. The curators have also shown the dangerous aspects of cruising in those days. Items on display include belongings that have been recovered from wreckages or salvaged before disaster struck. These include a Cartier tiara saved from the Lusitania which sank in 1915, and the the exhibition’s final piece is a panel fragment from the first class lounge on Titanic, where the ship broke in half. (See bottom of page for video)

Photo: Piers Macdonald
Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

As you step inside the V&A’s Ocean Liners Speed and Style exhibition it feels like you have travelled back in time.

The collection consists of over 250 objects spanning the years 1850 – 1970. A simply mesmerising exhibition that covers all aspects of the ocean liner, including engineering, safety and design, promoting and advertising through the eras to high society lifestyle and fashion.

Ships featured in the exhibition include; Queen Elizabeth, QE2, Titanic, Bremen, The Great Eastern, Canberra, Normandie, Queen Mary, Olympic, France, Lusitania, Mauretania, SS United States and more.

Advertising and Promoting The Ocean Liner

An enviable 1:48 scale promotional model of Queen Elizabeth made for Cunard in 1949, is the magnificent centrepiece of the first room at the exhibit. The walls are adorned with posters advertising grand voyages. This one (above) offers a first class return ticket to Australia for £140. Sounds affordable until you realise that would be over £7000 today. The ports of call from London would typically be, Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. So that is proof that cruising is much better value for money these days as for as little as £3,000 more you can see the whole world.

"The Largest Steamers In The World" poster for Olympic and Titanic, White Star Line 1911.
“The Largest Steamers In The World” poster for Olympic and Titanic, White Star Line 1911.

A selection of posters adorn the walls of the exhibition. Our obsession for the ill-fated Titanic is well catered for with plenty of pieces to capture the imagination.

A poster advertising the first sailing of the Titanic
Eerie: This poster advertising the first sailing of the Titanic that tragically never happened.

The Geeky Bit

If you are more interested in the technical side of things, there is a lot for you to get your teeth into. An entire section is dedicated to shipbuilding materials, engines, propulsion, hull design, speed, safety and comfort. Detailed design drawings and models of engine systems will captivate and fascinate you.

Politics and War

Footage of Adolf Hitler walking the decks of the Robert Ley in 1939, and details of how ships were designed to be able to quickly convert into armed merchant cruisers, serves as as a reminder of how important these vessels were in times of political unrest.

Glamour and the Grande Descente

The Grand Staircase on Olympic, with the Honour and Glory Crowning Time panel in situ c.1911
The Grand Staircase on Olympic, with the Honour and Glory Crowning Time panel in situ c.1911

Making an entrance was an important part of the cruise culture for the First Class passengers. The Ocean Liners grand staircase leading into the dining room, was the perfect place for them to show off their most fashionable evening wear. This pre dinner ritual was often referred to as the Grande Descent.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald
Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald

There is so much to see at the exhibition that I haven’t even touched half of what is there, but go and see it for yourself. This really is a charming, fascinating and enjoyable exhibit that will appeal to all ages. I am already planning a return visit with my son.

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style will be open from 3 February until 17 June 2018, at the V&A in London. It will then move to the V & A Dundee opening on 15 September 2018 until 24 February 2019.  Please purchase your tickets in advance to avoid disappointmen and are available at vam.ac.uk/oceanliners.

Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald
Ocean Liners Speed and Style Photo: Piers Macdonald



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Six Star Cruises Event with Azamara Club Cruises

Six Star Cruises Azamara Event at Burhill Golf Club




The sun made a surprise appearance last week, which was well timed with the Six Star Cruises event at Burhill Golf Club in Surrey. The stunning mansion house was the perfect place to talk about luxury cruising.

I was excited to find out more about Azamara Club Cruises, their newest ship Azamara Pursuit and their exclusive golf cruises in partnership with Perry Golf . Beth, from Six Star Cruises had told me that Richard Twynam was going to do a presentation, so I knew we were in for some great insight into the cruise line.

My friend Donna, and I  were welcomed with a glass of prosecco and a lovely goodie bag. Beth gave us an insight into Six Star Cruises and told us about the amazing Concierge service they provide to their customers. She said they had one guest who was so comfortable with her agent at Six Star, that when she was on her cruise ship, she called her agent to ask directions to another part of the ship! Now THAT’S service!

Azamara Pursuit

“It’s the first time in maritime history that the Carnival Corporation has sold one of their ships to the Royal Caribbean Corporation. It’s never happened so it’s quite historic” – Richard Twynam

The first thing everyone wanted to know, was about their new cruise ship, Azamara Pursuit. The addition of a third ship to their fleet will increase the cruise lines’ capacity by 50%. Azamara Pursuit will introduce a total of 61 more destinations. These will include 41 late nights and 26 overnights in port, allowing guests to truly experience their destinations. Bookings are open for sailings up until 2019.

Richard Twynam told us “[we] tried to do the deal three times to buy this ship. We thought the second time it had gone that we’d never be able to get her, and then out of nowhere it popped up and we were able to close the deal very quickly.”

He continued, “For any cruise aficionados, it’s the first time in maritime history that the Carnival Corporation has sold one of their ships to the Royal Caribbean Corporation. It’s never happened so it’s quite historic. She has had a very well known life. Before she was Azamara Pursuit some may have sailed on her as Swan Hellenic Miverva II, she was also Adonia and then she became Fathom, then she went back to the Adonia and then she’s becoming Azamara Pursuit. We get hold of her in Freeport in the Bahamas in the middle of March and we will take her out of the water and the first thing we are going to do, I cant wait, is spray her hull Azamara Blue so she will look pretty, and we will then sail her across with Captain Carl Smith to Belfast.”

Maiden Voyage and Christening

Azamara Pursuit’s maiden voyage will depart from Southampton on the 1st August sailing a 13 day  Norwegian intensive voyage. She will then sail to Iceland for 15 days then returning on the 28th August. Her Christening will take place in Southampton after which she sails off to Bordeaux for a wine cruise on the 30th August.

Suite Accommodation

Club Continent Suite – this is the entry level suite. Since the reimagination of the fleet, they have added a large vanity area with a lit mirror and hairdryer.  Forty percent of the club continent suites have bathtubs, the others have good sized rain shower.

Club Continent Suite #8066 Azamara Journey
Club Continent Suite #8066 Azamara Journey

Club World Owners and Club Ocean Suites have a huge wraparound living space and balcony. There are many added benefits included in these suites including butler service, welcome champagne and fruit basket, a bottle of the premium spirit of your choice in your suite and $200 on board credit.

Club World Owner's Suite #8091 Aft Azamara Journey
Club World Owner’s Suite #8091 Azamara Journey

A new suite has been introduced to the fleet. There are only two Spa Suites on each ship. Each one has an open plan bathroom and living space, and include a hot tub with a panoramic view of the ocean.  As well as the other suite benefits, guests can enjoy spa credit and their very own ‘Night Under The Stars’

Perry Golf Partnership and The Masters

For Golfers who have dreamed of playing private clubs that are closed to the public, Azamara Club Cruises have made it a reality. They are the only cruise line offering a Cruise and Masters option for 2019, and Six Star Cruises are the first partner to do this with Azamara.

The Partnership with Perry Golf means you turn up at the port on the first day of your cruise, Perry Golf will take your golf bag from you where they tranport it by land, while you go by ocean. The next time you see it will be when it’s sitting on the back of a golf buggy on the first tee.  They arrange all after game drinks, groupings, handicaps (doesn’t matter if you dont have a handicap), or if you want to play on your own or as a couple, Perry Golf take care of everything.

Most of the golf cruises are made up of 50% non golfers. For these guests, Azamara can arrange spa days for  or other experiences.

For more information call Six Star Cruises on 0800 107 1279.



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Stacy Shaw – Virgin Voyages VP Business Development




“I do work pretty hard.

It’s just that I don’t usually notice because I’m having a good time.” Stacy Shaw

Stacy Shaw is the Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Virgin Voyages, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When Stacy and I met at the #Shiptease event in Genoa last year, I asked if she would answer some questions for my Cruise People series. Thankfully she agreed, so lets find out more about Stacy Shaw.

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

After grad school, I moved from West Virginia to Florida… I was pretty tired of winter weather and wanted to be near my sister. We had been prepped by the Dean of Business & Economics, that it may take time to find a job. So I reached out to a recruiter as soon as I arrived, with the idea that I would wait tables for a while and enjoy some down time.

He sent me for an interview right away for an Accounting position that happened to be at a cruise line. I didn’t intend to start working in a office so quickly but it sounded pretty glamorous (the cruise line part), so I changed my plans. I lasted in that particular job for about six months before I got a little bored (sorry, Accountants) but it was the start to what would become a 23-year (and counting) career in travel and hospitality.

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

I love animals so if I was better at science, I might have been a veterinarian. I always knew I would work in some sort of business, I just didn’t know what. Before I started in this industry, I had traveled to five states … never once out of my time zone.

I’ve now visited many states in all US times zones and more than 65 countries. I have found the education that comes from learning about other people and cultures invaluable and I think it made me a better person. I’m very happy with how things worked out!

Stacy Shaw with Boy George at the Virgin Voyages Shiptease
Stacy with Boy George at the Virgin Voyages Shiptease

What makes Virgin Voyages stand out from other cruises?

People often ask which cruise line we will be most like and I find it impossible to answer that question. Our goal is to be unlike any other … to create a new category and be the only one in it. We’ve looked more to cool, hip hotel and land experiences for inspiration, so I think you’ll find it very easy to see what makes us stand out … when we can talk about that.

As VP of Sales and Business Development for Virgin Voyages, what is an average day like for you?

We’re a start-up so every day is pretty busy and very different. I try to learn something about Virgin or the other Virgin companies however and whenever I can. We have some great resources in the company who have worked for other Virgin brands, so I’m like a sponge around them. For now, we’ve been putting a strong foundation in place.

So I’ve been working on things like sales and distribution strategy, org charts and operating budgets … thinking about how we can be irresistible to our partners! I’ve also been working on finding a rock star leadership team in sales so there’s been a lot of Skype calls and interviews. We’re so fortunate to have a lot of interest when we post our gigs and we’re very focused on finding the perfect fit for every role.

What was your last holiday?

I tend to do more mini-holidays or weekend getaways than long vacations. I love exploring new places, most recently I went to Nashville for the weekend. It was great … the food, the nightlife, the music, the service, the people … I can’t wait until Virgin Hotels Nashville opens. I’m definitely going back.

I also did my first river cruise last year over New Years with a group of friends and loved that. Prague to Budapest on the Danube with AMA Waterways. We visited four countries that I hadn’t been to before (Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany and Austria) … all amazing. I would like to do another river cruise to the wine regions in France. And I love going to Spain any chance I get.

Have you got your next holiday booked and what/where is it?

I do. I’m going on a safari in South Africa with the same group of friends this summer. We’ll also spend a few days in Cape Town and visit some beautiful wineries. I did a safari in Kenya years ago but it was a site inspection with clients. Still, it was one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever taken but I’m very excited to do it again with people I love. That will be really special and a lot of fun.

Stacy Shaw Virgin Voyages Shiptease with Cruise Planners and ICE
Stacy hosts VIP Travel Partners at the Keel Laying Ceremony in Genoa.

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

I feel very lucky to be in an industry that I love and working for Virgin is a dream come true for me. It’s hard to think about what I do as “work”. I get paid to do the most amazing things and to think about ways that our company can make the world a better place. Don’t get me wrong, I do work pretty hard. It’s just that I don’t usually notice because I’m having a good time.

At Virgin Voyages, we’re creating something really special and I’m surrounded by the most creative, inspiring group of people. It’s hard not to be excited about anything I do in that environment. I would say the things that have helped me most in my career is a never-ending desire to learn, genuinely caring about the people involved with our business, always delivering on commitments, being respectful and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done without hesitation. Oh, and coffee, that helps a lot with focus and energy!

What are your hobbies?

I read and research a lot. More articles and historical info than novels … most everything online. I like to start my day with time to read (and drink coffee). I love learning new things and I like to understand a variety of viewpoints. Obviously, I love to travel and I do as much of that as I can. I’m interested in languages. I speak Spanish fairly well and know bits of Italian and French that I’ve picked up through travel. I find that people genuinely appreciate an attempt to speak to them in their language even if it isn’t perfect. I also enjoy trying local food and drinks wherever I am … always looking for a great restaurant.

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

Well, I think I’ve got the career and travel things covered. And I’ve met Richard Branson. So I guess the only thing left is an epic love story.

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

I would say take a voyage instead. 🙂

Stacy Shaw Virgin Voyages

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