Oceania Nautica

A Quality of Eternal Reassurance

Walking around the decks of Oceania’s 684 passenger ship Nautica, I could feel a warm, friendly but opulent atmosphere and realised that the only person missing from this ship was The Great Gatsby himself. There was a feeling so hard to explain, but an excerpt from the novel seemed to sum it up completely.

“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.

It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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Step back in time
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Ornate Ceilings

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Private Spa Terrace

Words don’t seem to describe this ultra luxury small ship and the feeling you experience  once onboard.  I can only liken it to how it must feel to fall in slow motion onto a big bed of white feathers with the smell of baby powder. The crew and passengers are friendly, furnishings are luxurious with attention to detail, art and decor is beautifully traditional with a touch of chic.

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From prints to Picasso’s

With Bob Binder’s passion for superb wine, Frank Del Rio’s artistic eye and Jacques Pepin’s world class cuisine, Oceania certainly have all the elements to deliver an exceptional onboard experience.

Oceania proudly declare that they have the best cuisine at sea.  They attribute this to two things.  Firstly, Oceania claim to spend more money per head on ingredients than any other cruise line and secondly, the man behind the culinary creations onboard is Jacques Pepin who turned down a request to cook for John F. Kennedy many years ago. It only seems fitting to serve food fit for Presidents, at tables set with Versace plates with a price tag of 250 Euros a piece!  Some cruise lines offer a cruise close to that price!

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Versace dinner plates

Speciality restaurants Toscana and Marco Polo Grill are no extra charge, however items from these menus can also be ordered in the main dining room giving you the freedom to choose your dining venue.  Unlimited soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, teas and juices are also included in the price.

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Waves Grill and pool area

The ship has a lovely pool with two jacuzzi’s, an extensive bar with poolside waiter service, luxurious sun-loungers and double luxury beds. There is ample room for everyone to have a lounger and plenty of space to walk around the deck.

If you’re in the mood for some laid-back alfresco dining, Waves Grill located near the pool area offers Gourmet Burgers which include a Black Angus Sirloin Burger and The Kobe Burger with Wagyu Beef, Black Truffle Sauce and Baby Cress.  Sandwiches range from a tapenade-laced freshly baked panini to the surf and turf of grilled lobster medallions and sliced filet mignon. With a choice of hand-dipped milkshakes and freshly made smoothies, there is certain to be something on offer that takes your fancy.

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Verandah Stateroom

The ultimate luxury stateroom experience starts with the Prestige Tranquility Bed.  This 1,000-thread-count-linen is an exclusive to Oceania Cruises. Other amenities include refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water, complimentary 24 hour room service and Bulgari toiletries. On the newer ships, Marina and Riviera you will get a full-size bathtub.

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State of the art gym equipment

On deck nine you have a state of the art fitness centre with stunning sea views and a variety of classes including indoor cycling, aerobics, yoga or pilates.  For those who want to take in the fresh air and ever changing views of your destinations, you may prefer to use the open air fitness track on deck ten.  On the larger ships, Marina and Riviera you can find a Kinesis exercise wall.

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Lockers and changing room for the Private Spa Terrace

Oceania have their very own Canyon Ranch Spa Club onboard their ships.  You can book in for a signature Canyon Stone Massage, a Thai massage or enjoy the sauna*, steam room and full service beauty salon.

For those of you concerned about piling on those extra pounds during your cruise, The Grand Dining Room and Terrace Cafe serve Canyon Ranch cuisine, to offer those healthier options.

Once you have enjoyed the relaxation room and heated ceramic loungers*, make your way outside to the Private Spa Terrace with thalassotherapy pool or whirlpool tubs, enjoying breathtaking views.  There is a charge for these facilities, however if you are booked in a concierge stateroom or above, you can enjoy unlimited complimentary access.

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The perfect place to unwind

If you like your nightly entertainment, the lounge on deck 5 is the place to find it.  Expect a good variety of shows from headline acts and lively jazz ensembles to comedians and magicians.

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The Lounge

After our tour of the ship, we were taken into the Grand Dining Room for a delicious six course lunch, consisting of a selection of dishes from each restaurant.   The food and wine were exquisite and certainly lived up to its promises.

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The Grand Dining Room
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Sturgeon Caviar for starters

After our amazing lunch it was time to disembark.  I never thought I would say it but I actually wished I was older.  Not because you need to be to cruise with Oceania, but as a parent to a toddler, this is not the sort of cruise that would be appropriate for him. So for me, I will have to wait until I take my first cruise with Oceania, but if you are considering taking a cruise with them, I sincerely urge you to do so as you will enjoy every minute of it.  I certainly did, albeit only a few hours.  I most definitely did not want to get off.

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One of my favourite pieces of art onboard


Bob Binder – Silver Trident Winery

Jacques Pepin – Chef

Frank Del Rio

The Great Gatsby

Canyon Ranch Spa Club

Kinesis Exercise Wall


Disney Magic Cruise Ship Review

To say the handful of staff and franchisees that were lucky to have been selected to visit the Disney Magic were excited, was a gross understatement.

Ship front

Cruising can be many things to many people, but put the name Disney in front of it and it changes the expectations completely.

Disney Magic Sign

Putting in a rare appearance at a UK port, the Disney Magic was docked at the Port of Dover and seemed to turn the port authority staff and travel agent visitors into a bunch of children.


The first thing you do when starting any Disney experience is look out for the well loved characters, and it wasn’t long before I caught my first glimpse of Goofy hanging off the back of the ship as he was adding the finishing touches of paint to it’s aft.

Bronze Mickey

As we embarked the ship we were greeted in the atrium by a bronze statue of Captain Mickey.


The beautifully styled atrium was nothing like I had been expecting. No bright colours or Disney images, just the subtle touches of Disney here and there.

Pool Movies

It was a gorgeous sunny August day and we made our way up to the pool deck. For me this is my favourite part of the ship. There was Goofy’s pool, which has a movie screen and the splash area with water slide for thrill seekers. There is also a quiet Cove Pool for the adults only to retreat from the excitement of the younger and older kids.


I was impressed to see pool vests available for children taking that extra step in safety as Disney is well known for.

Life Vests

Beautiful art can be seen throughout the ship which takes on many forms from sketches to oil paintings.

Art Wall

Every stateroom onboard a Disney ship has a separate bathroom and toilet, which is a godsend when travelling with children. Every bathroom has a bath in it as well regardless of which type of room you go for. The décor has a subtle Disney feel to it and nothing like I was expecting.


Needless to say there has been no skimping on facilities for kids clubs. Disney has huge areas for all age groups.

Kids Club 2

Kids Club

Animation Palate

The main dining room, Animation Palate is something else. As you enter the restaurant, you are surrounded by black and white sketch drawings. But during the course of the evening colour explodes from the paintbrushes and colours the entire room.

Walt Disney Mural

Of course it would not be Disney without it’s own theatre and the incredible shows they put on the ships.  I can’t help but thing of the movie “Saving Mr Banks” everytime I see a picture of Walt Disney.

Anna and Elsa

Of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have my photo taken with the lovely Anna and Elsa to end a wonderful day onboard the Disney Magic.


Disney Cruise Search

Port of Dover

Disney Magic

Disney Cruise Line


Cruising with a Baby

Josh with Captain Charlie Carr on Ventura

Tips for cruising with a baby

Not only was this my first P & O cruise but it was also my first time cruising with a baby, a six month old to be precise.  My daughter was 14 so it had also been a very long time since I’d done the baby thing.  My mum joined us too so I had an extra pair of helping hands.

Prior to the cruise I discovered that P & O offer more for parents with small babies. You can order a baby bath for your room, which no other cruise line does as far as I’m aware, please correct me if anyone knows any different.  A steriliser, bottle warmer, a cot (which is a travelcot) and baby food.  All at no extra cost.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
The twin beds are the same size although the one on the left looks really skinny, it’s not.

We arrived in the room to find a lovely balloon tied to some sweets as a little extra touch for Joshua.  The balloon came in very handy when I was trying to distract Joshua long enough to get ready to go out.  Surprisingly the travel cot fits easily between the two beds or even at the foot of the farthest bed.  Although if you have it there it obstructs the fridge which can be a bit of a pain.  I used to move it to the foot of the bed in the mornings when I was getting ready and then have it in the middle, at night.  I guess if, like most people, you are travelling with the baby’s father, you will want the beds as a double.  In which case you can either have the cot at the end of the bed or around the corner.  I’ll show you further down.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
Steriliser, bottle warmer, tea and coffee making facilities and UK plug sockets.

The steriliser and the bottle warmer, together with tea and coffee making facilities and a fridge.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
A lovely and unusual touch to welcome young cruisers.

My daughter Lucy was booked into a twin room with my Mum so that she didn’t have to pay a single supplement.  However, once we got onboard, we asked if Lucy could join Josh and I in our room.  The ship staff were great about it and issued us with another key card for Lucy.  If you are swapping rooms it is very important to notify the ship staff.  This is because, your allocated meeting point in an emergency, depends on where your cabin is on the ship and if you go to a muster station that is not expecting you, there may not be a seat on the lifeboat should you need one. Similarly, if you are required to disembark the ship, it will appear that you are still onboard and someone may risk their life trying to save you unnecessarily.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
Plenty of hanging space for clothes

This is the area outside the bathroom where you can hang your clothes.  The travel cot and bedding already in our room for us.  You can place the cot in this area if you prefer so the baby almost has a separate bedroom area.  It’s whatever you feel most comfortable with really.  Speak to your room attendant about your needs because they will put the cot up every evening for you and then fold it away during the day.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
The playroom for under 3’s is open all day

Ventura has a playroom which is open all day for parents and their under 3’s, and is complimentary.  Joshua was one of only about five babies onboard, so it will depend on when you travel as to how many children are onboard your cruise.  At night, the room turns into a night nursery with cot beds and curtain dividers.  As long as your child goes to sleep without a problem, you can drop them off from 6pm onwards so that  you can go and enjoy a meal and some entertainment with peace of mind.  You are given a pager so that you can be contacted at all times.  I think the nursery is open until about 1am, however I think the latest I collected Joshua was around 11.30.  I was really surprised that he just went straight off to sleep every night.  But it allowed me to have some time to relax and switch off.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
Sunrise while docking in Dubrovnik, Croatia

I like to get up very early in the morning and luckily with Joshua, I don’t need an alarm clock.  One of my favourite things to do is get up while most people are still in bed, around 6 am, and walk around the top deck taking in the views and the sunrise.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
Friendly ship staff

The staff were really friendly and loved Joshua.

Flavia Gray Cruising with a Baby Cruise Holiday Expert GoCruise
Milk, yoghurts and fruit to start the day

It was a great opportunity to try Joshua with different foods.  For baby food and yoghurts you need to ask a member of staff as they are kept in a separate refrigerator for your childs’ health and safety.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
I can’t resist a cooked breakfast on a cruise
Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Captain Charlie Carr is more than happy to pose for a photo with Joshua.

If you’ve seen the P and O adverts with Rob Brydon, you will recognise Captain Charlie Carr who is one of the cruise lines most loved Captains.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family

The public areas on deck have plenty of space to move around, and there is a large covered bar and seating area.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family

A big hit with the kids is the poolside grill that serves pizza, burgers, hot dogs and ice cream.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Larger balconies, but not so private.

Balcony cabins on decks C and D are larger than most, however bear in mind that you can be overlooked by those looking down from upper decks.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Award winning restaurant The Glasshouse

One of my favourite places onboard the Ventura is The Glasshouse.  Writer, tv presenter and sommelier Olly Smith who can be seen on Saturday Kitchen and This Morning, has developed a menu of 32 wines which can be paired with specially crafted dishes in this uniquely designed wine bar restaurant.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Learning about wines and food pairing in The Glasshouse

I was keen to attend the wine pairing seminar, which was held on a sea day at 11.30am.  As there is no childcare available during the day for under 3’s, I was concerned about what to do with Joshua.  The staff in the Glasshouse reassured me that I could bring him along, and if he became disruptive they would take care of him.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
If only this would catch on back home

I had to take a quick photo before they handed him back to me.  The staff were lovely.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Lost? This should help.

If you are worried about getting lost, you will find one of these deck plans by the lifts and stairs on each deck.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Light lunch

Feeling indecisive about what to have from the lunchtime buffet, I decided to try a little bit of everything!

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Bon Voyage Croatia

Ready to sailaway from Dubrovnik with a cheeky margarita.

There is usually a couple of formal nights onboard, however it only compulsory to wear formal clothes if you are dining in one of the restaurants.  For those people who prefer to stay in shorts and tee shirts, there is plenty to choose from in the self service buffet.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Marco Pierre White provides the Gala dinner menu

Formal night menu included a menu by Marco Pierre White.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids FamilyFlavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids FamilyFlavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids FamilyFlavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family


Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Don’t forget your Towelwizz

There is plenty of space around the pool to be able to move the sun loungers around.  A must have accessory is a Towelwizz band, which keeps your towel in place and doubles up as a luggage strap.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
The baby splash pool (far left) with surrounded with perspective glass for extra safety.

Babies in nappies are not allowed in the main pools due to strict health and safety procedures that apply to cruise ships.  I believe it’s something to do with the chlorine levels allowed on board being lower than those at public pools.  Not all ships have splash pools for babies, however Ventura does and it is at the back of the ship next to the kids clubs.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Cruising into Venice along the Grand Canal

Sailing into Venice is something that is hard to explain, but those who have done it say it is by far the best port to sail in or out of for breathtaking views.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Stunning views of Venice

Cruising along the Grand Canal while relaxing on a sunlounger or having a dip in the pool, is pretty hard to beat.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Marco Pierre White’s onboard restaurant The White Room

Mum and I spent our last night with a meal in Marco Pierre White’s onboard restaurant, while the sun set over Venice.

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family

Flavia Gray Holiday Cruise Expert P and O Ventura Children Babies Kids Family
Quality mother and daughter time.

Useful Links

Olly Smith

Marco Pierre White




New Ships for Azamara?

Sister ships get Royal Treatment

Azamara Club Cruises Larry PimentelAzamara President and CEO Larry Pimentel tells USA TODAY , “By April of next year we will have two ships that essentially are brand new.”

Pimentel says “the new design is the handiwork of the team responsible for new ship building at Azamara’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises who are known for some of the best designs in the cruise business.”

Tight Lipped

Azamara remain tight-lipped about the details of the enhancements but have released some of the artists drawings. This shows that these major upgrades will certainly add the modern, contemporary and brighter feel the cruise line are aiming for.

Azamara Club Cruises

“As we continue to evolve our destination immersive offerings, we also want to ensure our onboard experience is modernized to meet guests’ every need,” said Pimentel.

“We can’t wait for our ships to come out of dry dock, as these major upgrades are going to have an instant impact on our guests’ experience. Each corner of the ships will have a new look and feel, setting a brighter, more contemporary ambiance. While the new venues will bring guests fresh experiences. We’re also investing in new onboard innovations and paid close attention to the smallest of details. We really are redefining our onboard experience in every way.”

Azamara Club Cruises

A Runaway Success Story

I asked Richard Twynam, Managing Director UK and Ireland, a few questions about the plans for Azamara Quest and Journey.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 20.35.03Q.Why have you decided to invest in a major refit for both ships?

A. “Azamara Club Cruises is a runaway success story, and guests love our Destination Immersion concept and informal Club atmosphere on board. This success has justified this investment from the board.”

Q. Are you looking to appeal to a different demographic?

A. “Not necessarily, as we have over a 50% repeat guest rate. But I am confident that many guests who would normally travel on other cruise lines will want to experience Reimagined Azamara.”

Q. What changes will guests see onboard?

A. “Every single part of the ship from aft to the bow will be upgraded, from every state room, to restaurants and the spa, watch this space as we share more and more detail over the coming weeks.”

Azamara Club Cruises

Guest Feedback

Mr and Mrs Evans from Cheshire,  have recently returned from their Panama Canal cruise on the Azamara Journey. I asked what they thought about the announcement.

“Delighted to hear of the refit plans. We thought the itinerary for our last cruise was excellent and exceeded our expectations. An improvement in the quality of the onboard experience will only add to the appeal. We think Azamara continues to offer excellent value for money.”

Dry Dock Schedule

Azamara Journey – Bahamas January 2016

Azamara Quest – Singapore April 2015

Useful Links

Berlitz Cruise Guide 2014

Cruise Guide to Europe and The Mediterranean

Where My Passion for Flying Began

A Flying Start

When I was a child, my Dad worked as a baggage handler for British Airways. He used to wear a uniform that, to me, looked the same as the one worn by the Captain.  Sometimes Mum and I would have to drop him off at the BA building at Heathrow.  Seeing the aircraft flying so low and the sound of them, left me awestruck.

My first experience of flying was an 11 hour transatlantic to LAX in a smoke (tobacco) filled British Airways DC10 back in 1976.  I was a proud member of the Junior Jet Club and I would usually get the opportunity to go into the cockpit to meet the Captain and First Officer.  The Captain would fill in my Junior Jet Club book for me to keep a record of the flights I had done.  I still have it all these years later albeit a bit battered and bruised.

Junior Jet Club British Airways Kids Flying Club

Junior Jet Club British Airways Kids Flying Club

Junior Jet Club British Airways Kids Flying Club

Junior Jet Club

Getting My Wings

I didn’t go into the travel industry until 2009 when I worked a 6 month contract flying as cabin crew with bmi.  I had always wanted to work onboard an aircraft and after reading this book by Richard Branson;

I took his advice and it worked!  This was me a few months later.

Flavia Gray Cabin Crew bmi

I loved the training, although it was always shadowed by the stress of wondering if we would pass the final exams.  We had fun and made friends along the way though.  Unfortunately this poor guy didn’t make it.

Flavia Gray

I remember the first time during my training when I actually got to step on a real aircraft, I was so excited!

Flavia Gray

I still love to fly, especially take off, and have many friends who are still working as crew.  If you have always wanted a job in the air, here is a great link to get you started. Cabin Crew Jobs



What’s A Destination Immersion Cruise?

Destination Immersion does not mean a full immersion baptism in the Sea of Galilee (although don’t mention that to Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, or he will add that to the the list of Azamazing Evenings).  It means seeing the destination come to life and experiencing the myriad of cultures for yourself, creating memories that last forever.
Nigel Marven's Cruise Ship Adventures Azamara Club Cruises
Image source: watch.uktv.co.uk
Wildlife adventurer, tv presenter and film maker, Nigel Marven has recorded a 6 part series for Watch TV which documents his journey to the Caribbean, Scandinavia, Mediterranean, Central America, India and the Antarctic with the crew and passengers onboard Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.
This is a great opportunity to see another side of cruising and proves that there really is a cruise out there for everyone.  Tune into Watch on Sky Channel 109, BT Vision Channel 407 and Virgin Media 124 or 191 for HD.
The first episode airing 5 May, finds Nigel on Richard Branson’s exclusive resort of Necker Island where he find rare iguanas and goes head to head with sperm wales.
Nigel Marven's Cruise Ship Adventures
Image source: watch.uktv.co.uk


Kensington Roof Gardens

Events at Kensington Roof Gardens

I have been to the legendary Kensington Roof Gardens for a night out with family and friends and absolutely loved it.  So, I was interested to know what the venue would be like for a corporate event.
Kensington Roof Gardens Luxury London

Getting There

Kensington is not in the congestion charge zone, so there is no need to pay for that.  There is a local NCP who were charging £35 for parking.  Then I came across this site which directed me to the The Copthorne Tara Hotel, Kensington. They provide 8 hours secure parking for just £25.  It was easy to find, close to where I wanted to be and the staff were very friendly.  The atmosphere in the hotel seemed nice,  and would be worth considering for somewhere to stay in the future.

Kensington Roof Gardens Nightclub Conference Venue Restaurant London Luxury

The Venue

When you arrive at Kensington Roof Gardens, you need to take the lift to the 7th floor.  This takes you to the entrance of the club and location for corporate events.

The bar is conveniently located to your left on entering and was set up with teas and coffees for the delegates.  Usually the club is one big room, however for events it is divided into two areas.

Once the morning session was over we went had the opportunity to network and stretch our legs.  Outside in the gardens, I found a haven of tranquility amongst the hustle and bustle of London.

Kensington Roof Gardens Babylon Restaurant London Luxury Flavia Gray

Kensington Roof Gardens Babylon Restaurant London Luxury Flavia Gray
After a lovely barbecue lunch outside in the heated Spanish Gardens, the conference continued. The afternoon session was broken up with a break for coffee, scones and mini doughnuts.

Kensington Roof Gardens London Luxury Nightclub Events Restaurant Flavia Gray
Kensington Roof Gardens London Luxury Nightclub Events Restaurant Flavia Gray
Cocktails and canapés were served in the Spanish Garden, with a talented Caricaturist from wickedcaricatures.com on hand, both provided with compliments by eBay.  I certainly enjoyed the day learning so much about online publishing and e-commerce from leading experts, partnered with a stunning venue with first class hospitality. It was a great networking event and good to meet people in non travel related industries.
 Kensington Roof Gardens London Luxury Nightclub Events Restaurant Flavia Gray
Kensington Roof Gardens London Luxury Nightclub Events Restaurant Flavia Gray

Anthem of the Seas Review

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

It’s A Smart Ship

Putting together an Anthem of the Seas review is not an easy task as it would be hard to find anyone who has not heard about the newest addition to the Royal Caribbean International fleet. Her recent arrival into Southampton Docks for her inaugural season seems to have the whole cruise industry in a swirl.
With 24 ships in it’s fleet to date, compared to P and O’s eight, Royal Caribbean International have raised the bar to the point where we wonder what on earth they can do next. But after spending two nights on her pre-inaugural sailing, it is clear that they have found a whole new dimension to cruising, cruise ship art, cruise ship dining and cruise ship entertainment. Read my Anthem of the Seas review and feel free to add your comments or questions at the end.


My first impression, as I entered the atrium, was one of class and sophistication. It’s a grown-up version of Royal Caribbean International in as much as it’s not just about having cool stuff onboard, it’s about having the clever design, clever art, and clever menus.  In Wonderland, you have to paint your menu, which is presented to you in an elaborate picture frame, with a paintbrush and water to reveal the words.  It’s a fun and different concept.

Anthem of the Seas Review Flavia Gray Cruise Holiday Expert
I absolutely love the solarium onboard Anthem of the Seas

There is a lot more indoor space to enjoy the outdoor scenery, such as the adult only solarium with stunning views looking across the ocean from the front of the ship, and the pool bar which has a retractable roof.  This gives adults with and without children a place to enjoy a swim, a refreshing drink and a place to have fun or relax in all weather conditions”. 

Anthem of the Seas Review Flavia Gray Cruise Holiday Expert
In Two70 with Dominic Paul, Michael Bayley, Richard Fain and Stuart Leven

The Two70 venue by day is another incredible place to relax indoors in a cosy environment with a cafe and bar where you can enjoy incredible aft view of the ocean through the two and a half deck high windows giving 270-degree views.  At night, this venue transforms into an entertainment venue with robotic screens and 12K sound system with scenic images projected on the windows behind it.  That has never been seen on land before let alone at sea.  Watch the short video below and at one point you can hear me saying “how the hell”, which is quite literally what you think when you see what this ship has to offer.

From the first at sea of indoor skydiving to dodgems, the North Star (taking you 300ft above the water for breathtaking views) to rollerskating to their signature Flowriders and Rock Walls, Royal Caribbean International have certainly taken the cruise ship holiday experience to a whole new level, but what about the new concept of Dynamic Dining which has received a lot of negative comments?  Well, I love it!  At first, I thought I would miss the Main Dining Room as I always looked forward to that part of my cruise, but the complimentary restaurants onboard are still big restaurants.  The food is incredible and because each restaurant has it’s own style of cuisine you benefit from a much wider range of food to choose from overall. You really can do what you want, when you want.
Anthem of the Seas Review Flavia Gray Cruise Holiday Expert
A friendly waitress offers me a sample of their signature champagne cocktail in The Grande
They have added more in the way of entertainment as well. Not content with having the West End Musical, We Will Rock You in the main theatre and the incredible shows in Two70, there is the Music Hall.  This is a two deck high music venue with self-levelling pool tables upstairs and a stage and dancefloor downstairs. During my 2 days onboard the bands I heard playing ranged from the music of Pink Floyd to an 80’s tribute act.

They also have some incredible new suites and staterooms, one of which is the owners loft suite complete with three balconies and a hanging chair which I loved.

Anthem of the Seas Review Flavia Gray Cruise Holiday Expert
Testing the hanging chair on one of the three balconies in the Owner Loft suite
Take a look inside the Owners Loft Suite in this short video.

So having explored the whole ship over the course of two days, what sort of person would be best suited to a cruise on Anthem of the Seas?  Everyone!  At least anyone who doesn’t want to experience the same thing they do at home, when they are on holiday.  Anyone who has an inquisitive mind, a sense of adventure and likes to have a good time. There is something for everyone on this ship, as long as you are not grumpy, boring and miserable, you WILL have the BEST time ever on THIS ship!  TRY IT!

Buy one all inclusive cruise fare and get another at half price on selected 2018 European & Caribbea

MSC Magnifica Cruise Review

MSC Magnifica Cruise Ship Review

The Med Way of Life aboard MSC Magnifica

This was my first cruise with an Italian Cruise Line and the value for money was incredible.  I couldn’t have stayed in a Travelodge for £105 for 3 nights, let alone take a cruise. We topped up with the Allegrissimo drinks package which was around £25 per person per day.  It included Prosecco and speciality coffee and gelato’s.
Flavia Gray Cruise Holiday Expert MSC Magnifica
MSC Magnifica

After a hellish flight with a wriggly, impatient toddler, a plane full of non-English speaking passengers, an absent A2B transfers driver and a journey to 2 wrong destinations, we FINALLY arrived at right cruise terminal. As we stepped onto the pavement with our cases, pushchair and bags,  we were approached by a lovely Italian lady who kindly checked our cases were labelled correctly and showed us where to leave them.

We connected with my friends’ friend and her 5 year old daughter and joined the rather long queue for check in.  We were given priority boarding having the pushchair with us and checked in.  A handsome young man in a blue blazer greeted us and said “see you onboard”. I was already impressed.

MSC Magnifica Review Flavia Gray GoCruiseAs we boarded the ship, the children were wrist-banded and we headed up to the restaurant. The buffet style restaurant on the MSC Magnifica was by far the largest I have EVER seen. Spread into 2 rooms with fruit and salad stations at each end.  By the time I’d seen everything, I’d forgotten what was at the start. Having said that, once I knew how good the freshly made pizza was……….. nothing else mattered.  The plates are huge as well so you end up putting a lot more than intended on your plate. I must admit to looking for the ‘catch’.  I was expecting to find something that would explain the low cost of this cruise.  We went to our rooms to see what they were like. They were lovely, spacious, nicely decorated, nothing wrong with that at all, in fact on a par with the other mainstream cruise lines and better than some.  The bed was comfy, pillows lovely and plump, a good amount of hanging space and drawers for your clothes.

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I familiarised myself with the baby club and made sure I checked Joshua in for the drop off times.  For under 3’s they offer baby drop off onboard MSC Magnifica which is one hour at 1pm and one hour at 6pm. Perfect for parents to indulge in some time in the jacuzzi in the afternoon or a spa treatment, and an hour to get ready for dinner in the evening.  There is no charge for this and you can access the baby club all day if you want to let your little one run wild.

MSC Magnifica Review Flavia Gray GoCruise

This was Joshua’s 3rd cruise and I had taken my daughter 4 times prior to that.  As a single parent you can often feel like you are on the outside watching everyone else have fun.  I do believe that the best holiday you can have as a single parent is a cruise, but there are still some activities you feel you cannot be part of.

As I was walking through the main lounge known on MSC Magnifica as the Tiger Bar, a member of the entertainment team invited me to join them for the sailaway party.  I couldn’t think of anywhere else I needed to be, so I pulled up the pushchair put my bag down, ordered a drink from the waitress standing nearby, took off my jumper and sat down. Joshua took great delight in walking around the lounge, so with Prosecco in hand (mine), I followed him.  People were really friendly and by their friendly reaction you would have thought they’d never seen a baby before.  One thing I will say about Mediterranean cultures is that they embrace the presence of children which is refreshing.

MSC Magnifica Review Flavia Gray GoCruise

The entertainment team got up on stage and the music started. People of all ages took to the dance floor, so I picked up Joshua and joined them.  He loved it, I loved it. I couldn’t believe it was 6pm and the party was in full swing, what a great bunch of people.  My friends came along and we all danced together.  My friend and I both looked at each other and agreed that this was fantastic.

So now I was in the holiday frame of mind, and I’d danced off the stresses of the day, it was time to get ready for dinner.  We didn’t have long so I figured we would just freshen up, grab dinner and an early night.

MSC Magnifica Review Flavia Gray GoCruiseWe met in the main dining room and did our best to get through 7 courses including steamed mussels, salad, soup, an extensive choice of delicious entrees, cheese and biscuits, dessert and coffee.  Joshua was grumpy as it had been a long day and I was exhausted, so we ate what we could and we went back to our room.

One of the many benefits of cruising is that you end the evening when you are ready rather than have to do everything as a group.

I spent the next two days exploring MSC Magnifica, getting plenty of photos, spending quality time with Joshua, eating whatever I wanted, meeting new people and chilling out.

My three favourite areas of the ship were the pool with it’s retractable roof, the Tiger Bar and the nightclub, which didn’t start until 11pm but Josh and I went in during the day and had a good look around.  There are plenty of lounges on board and they all have great and varied entertainment to offer.

MSC Magnifica Review Flavia Gray GoCruise

For me, travelling with a baby, I found I preferred to feed Joshua breakfast in the buffet, then move to the coffee and chocolate bar for a delicious cup of speciality coffee while letting Joshua run about a bit.  Then push him around in his pushchair until he fell asleep and go into the main dining room for my favourite dish of eggs benedict.  Lunch would be in the buffet and after the first two nights I decided it was easier for us and the sake of other guests, if we had dinner in the buffet as well.  The only problem with that is you never stop eating.  You keep going back for more.  But afterwards I would let Joshua fall asleep in his pushchair and sit in the evening by the undercover pool and read and relax with another glass of prosecco.  My friends always seemed to find me and would join me for a while and then they would go off and do their thing.

MSC Magnifica Review Flavia Gray GoCruise

To sum up my overall experience and opinion of my short cruise on MSC Magnifica, I would say it far exceeded my expectations and delivered quality, class and fantastic service.  If you are not one of these people who wants to experience the British and their way of life when you go on holiday, then MSC is for you.  It really does give you a feeling of the Mediterranean way of life where people are friendly, positive and ready to enjoy themselves.  They are not reserved and will talk to you and welcome you like one big family.  It’s a place where age means nothing, old people don’t act old, in fact they act younger then the youngsters.  They are living life to the full with the people they love and it shows through.  What’s more is that under 18’s sail FREE all year round with two paying adults.  So if, like me, you are sometimes travelling with two children, you don’t have to pay for their cruise fare.  For more information feel free to contact me directly or go to MSC Cruises or your local travel agent.

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Quantum Of The Seas Review

Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas Cruise Ship Review

A question posed by anyone having knowledge of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships was always “How are they going to top this?”  The largest passenger cruise ships in the world had become cities at sea, so where could they go to top this?  The Sunshine Class as it was known left a lot of speculation and many people were saying these ships would be more ‘indoors’ suitable for colder climates.
When Royal Caribbean first announced the innovations onboard Quantum of the Seas they told us that they would have the North Star taking people 300ft above sea level for stunning ocean and port views.  With the installation of iFly by Ripcord you would be able to experience skydiving while looking out at the ocean.  Bumper cars, roller skating, circus school and basketball court were introduced into an indoor space call the SeaPlex.  This was incredible and you could see that Royal Caribbean really had taken the next step in on board activities for it’s guests.
However, as the ship neared it’s completion Royal Caribbean announced that Quantum of the Seas would be the first ‘Smart Ship’ in the World.  Not satisfied with being able to skydive or be lifted 300ft in the air, they wanted to ‘give the guest the first day of their vacation back’ by being able to pre book everything.   They wanted to eliminate lines at check in and guest services.  How have they done this?  By giving every crew member their very own tablet, taking away the desks and having staff standing around ready to assist the guest.  Next generation check-in or “no check-in, check-in” as Richard Fain refers to it, is designed to enable the guest to get from sidewalk to ship in 10 minutes, and it works!

When I arrived a City Cruise Terminal, Southampton with my set sail pass and photo already uploaded (see previous blog), I sheepishly approached a staff member standing with a tablet and asked her where I needed to go.  She zapped the barcode on my set sail pass and went through a series of steps on the screen, asked a couple of questions and then pointed me in the direction of security.  No sea pass card, no health questionnaire to fill out, nothing.  I thought that would be coming later, so carried on through security, again straight through, no queues and into the departure lounge.  As I entered there had been an announcement for people to board so I carried straight through to the ship.  No time to check my bag, go to the bathroom, get a coffee, get bored and restless, just straight onto the ship.  It felt very strange, I couldn’t figure out how they would let me on board, I didn’t have my sea pass card.  I thought there had been a mistake!  But sure enough, as I walked through the ship security they scanned the barcode on my set sail pass and let me on.

I stood in what appeared to be an atrium wondering what to do.  Do I need to go somewhere now?  Is that it?  and how the hell do I get into my room?  I looked around me thinking “this does not feel like a Royal Caribbean ship”.  To be honest I didn’t feel like I was on a ship at all!  It was light, sophisticated, arty and just downright cool.  I must have looked out of place because ‘cool’ places are where other people go, not me.  But with a quick glance around, I saw the familiar sight of Sorrento’s and new I was in the right place.  It was just different.  The Royal Promenade was no longer and instead there is a Royal Esplanade.

So I went to find my room in the hope that I would somehow be able to get into it.  On arrival I was please to find an envelope waiting for me with a sea pass card inside.  I waved the card in front of the door lock and it opened.  There before me was a brand spanking new balcony stateroom and my wow band awaiting me on the bed.  I loved the design of the room with a flat screen television, cool decor and the addition of two usb charger ports.

I went to the Windjammer to get some lunch to find, again, no queues.  If you have cruised on Celebrity Solstice class ships you will be familiar with the Oceanview Cafe layout.  This has been adopted on the Quantum class and eliminated queuing.

The lunch was delicious as expected on Royal Caribbean, so once I had finished I set off to explore the ship.
Wandering round it really was a case of wow, wow, wow.   Seeing the iFly and the North Star in action was like stepping into the future.  I took photos of everything and tried to take it all in.  It was clear by the reaction of other trade and press onboard that I was not the only person stunned into silence by the awesomeness of this ship of the future.  The full photo album can be viewed here.
So after a good walk of the decks, it was time for a cocktail.  I went to the Sky Bar and was instantly greeted by a friendly bartender.  This was the Royal Caribbean that I know and loved.  How they do it is beyond me, but the bar staff and waiting staff are always happy to see you and make you feel special.  No matter how much Royal Caribbean spend on their hardware, they know that it is all for nothing if the service isn’t there, and I am pleased to say it was.

Having introduced Dynamic Dining I was unsure how I would feel about the absence of the main dining room.  The reason for Royal Caribbean moving away from the traditional dining structure of a cruise is to encourage and appeal to the ‘new to cruise’ market.  As a big fan of the main dining room and formal night, we opted to dine in The Grand where every night is formal night.  The 1920’s theme and white glove service gave it a truly ‘Grand’ experience. Having 12 complimentary dining restaurants options include the American Icon Grill which speaks for itself, a Pan Asian restaurant, Silk, contemporary dining in Chic as well as the Solarium Bistro, Sorrentos, Windjammer and Two70 Cafe there is a restaurant to suit most palettes and preferences.

After a lovely meal it was time to check out the entertainment.  The one of a kind Two70 is an iconic venue that fuses technology with entertainment.  The production of Starwater was enchanting and edgy, mixed with the incredibly talented singer and a cellist performing on aerial wires.

For lovers of musicals and fun Mamma Mia is a must.  Superb acting, singing and dancing that was equalled to that of Broadway and the West End.

It seemed the the Music Hall was a favourite with most passengers.  The dance floor was nearly always packed and as the evening turned into the early hours, you could see this really was the ‘place to be’.  I wonder if Royal Caribbean have anticipated exactly how popular it will be with guests.

Having amazing additions such as the Bionic Bar, Wonderland, Two70, Music Hall and a fabulous array of unique and quirky art features, this new ‘Smart Ship’ really does offer the WOW that Royal Caribbean have promised.  It’s also added a touch of class for the more discerning traveller.

So after two nights on this incredible ship, I can put my hand on my heart and say Royal Caribbean have once again delivered the WOW.  Congratulations to everyone involved as you have changed the face of holidays let alone cruising, for the future.  

For more information feel free to contact me directly or go to www.royalcaribbean.co.uk or your local travel agent.


Quantum Of The Seas Smart Check-In

My favourite email is the one that says “It’s time to check in for your cruise”, but this one is extra special.  It’s the pre inaugural event for Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.  It known as the first ever ‘Smart Ship’ for it’s unrivalled technology, a ‘Game-Changer’ in the field of cruising.   So let’s see what it’s all about.

The on-line check in process now includes the option to add your own security photo and check-in time which is great for me, as I want to get onboard as early as possible.
Having completed my on-line check in, I can print my set sail pass and luggage tags.  Now it’s time to plan the on board experience.
With two nights onboard, there is a lot to fit it, so I need to pick my must do’s.  I start with the dining, which has been revamped from the traditional main dining room and renamed Dynamic Dining.  Not sure how I feel about this and I have heard mixed views from other people, but I think it will be like that song you hear at first and don’t like, but then it grows on you and ends up being one of your favourites.
One of the things I look forward to most on a cruise is the Main Dining Room Formal Night experience, so I opt for one night in The Grande, where every night is formal night.  Not wanting to overdress on the first night, I decide to try Silk, the pan asian complimentary restaurant.
Having booked my dining I move onto the shows.  The Quantum Class is all about entertainment, so it has to be top of the list to experience the production of Starwater in the most innovative theatre in the world, Two70.  I know that THIS, is going to be an experience I will be talking about for a very long time after.
With dining and entertainment reservations made, on-line check in complete, set sail pass and luggage tags printed, all that is left to do is pack.
Why not join me onboard and follow the live updates and photos on my twitter, Facebook and instagram pages.

Oasis Of The Seas

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas Southampton

With a 4am wake up call even my son looked a little shocked, but this was the day we would welcome Oasis of the Seas to the port of Southampton and I was not going to miss a moment of it. With nails and umbrella painted in yellow and blue, my camping chair, coffee flask, waterproofs, snacks, cameras, chargers, batteries and baby essentials packed, we set off for Mayflower Park.
We arrived at 7.30 am to find a group of around 20 people already gathered in anticipation.  This was to be the first time I would attend a ship’s arrival so I had no idea what to expect.  In my head there was a party going on but others appeared more relaxed and ‘in control’.
As I pulled into a parking space I saw my fellow cruise specialist, ship geek, cruise lover Lee Mudkins (who has since abandoned land based work for a life at sea) and his father, which made me feel at ease as I had cruised with them earlier in the year.  They helped me with my many bags and we set up by the railings.  This was a spot suggested to me by my trusted source Patricia Dempsey, who’s knowledge of Southampton’s best ship spotting locations and knowledge cannot be beaten.
I was prepared for a long and boring, cold and tiring wait.  Why I bothered to bring the chair I don’t know because with all the excitement I couldn’t sit down or relax.  Everyone was chatting about it and there was a real buzz in the air.  Over at the Pier you could see a huge crowd had gathered to get a closer look of Oasis and she passed.
There were a couple of men with walkie talkies listening to the Port of Southampton’s Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) for communication between them and the ship’s Captain.  Royal Caribbean had generously offered complimentary tea, coffee and bacon rolls for visitors that morning, so Lee kindly went and gathered supplies, which were proving popular with the local workmen as well as the slowly increasing numbers of people turned out to welcome the ship.  A tug boat moved out of the harbour starting whispers from people saying that it was ‘going to bring her in’.  To my relief some female faces started to fill the gaps in what had been a predominantly male crowd.  Like me, they were finding it a challenge to contain their excitement.
Then I saw my first sign, the jet.  The spray from the tug boat celebrating the first arrival of Oasis of the Seas into Southampton.  I jumped up and down and grinned from ear to ear. “Here she is” I said and the atmosphere grew.  Everyone was just staring for their first glimpse of the ship.  Then she finally came into view.  There she was, the awesome, the incredible, the amazing Oasis of the Seas.  A truly phenomenal feat of engineering.

It is impossible to describe or capture on a camera the enormity of the ship.  You can’t believe your eyes and you just have to keep looking at the other ships to compare.

Oasis blew her horn and a Saga ship and Azura responded with what seemed to be a squeak in comparison.
We watched her as she passed us, everyone clicking their cameras, eyes wide, lots of WOW’s could be heard along with an awe inspiring quietness.
Passengers lined the top deck and others were taking in all the glory from the comfort of their own balcony staterooms.  You could see the huge Aquatheatre, Boardwalk and interior balconies at the aft as she docked.
What an incredible ship, perfect for anyone who thinks cruising is too boring or don’t like the idea of being on a ship.  It’s more like a floating resort.  I was lucky enough to cruise the Caribbean in 2011 on Oasis of the Seas and it completely changed my view of huge cruise ships.
Feel free to contact me directly for further information on this ship and the cruises available.  Alternative ly you can go to www.royalcaribbean.co.uk or contact your local travel agent.


Celebrity Infinity

Celebrity Infinity Cruise Ship Review

The Ship Tour

Celebrity Infinity is older the Solstice Class ships I had previously experienced, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However my day onboard proved to me that Celebrity Cruises can deliver luxury and style in all cases.

The grand foyer took my breath away. It was beautiful, gorgeous, welcoming, luxurious but cool at the same time.  The quality of the decor and furnishings is un-compromised.  The crew are friendly, professional and attentive.

Celebrity Millennium Grand Foyer Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray

We headed to the Constellation Lounge located on deck 11.  It provides stunning views in a light and airy lounge which comes alive at night.
Celebrity Infinity Cosmos Lounge Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray
Constellation Lounge.

Taking a walk outside we saw the jogging track and the pool area with luxurious loungers.

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Pool area and Jogging track
Making our way to deck 4 we found ourselves at one of Celebrity Cruises signature features, the Martini Bar.  Located at the heart of the ship, it’s the perfect spot to hang out and mingle, people watch and meet up with friends.
Celebrity Infinity Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray
Martini Bar

Dining with a Difference

Qsine is a very different kind of dining experience.  Not only does the interior design give a playful but chic impression, you order your food on an iPad. Dishes include Disco Shrimp andSushi Lollipops.  The dessert menu is presented on its own version of a rubic cube where you can order the popular Strawberry Fields.
Celebrity Infinity Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray
Alice in Wonderland meets Heston Blumenthal at Qsine
Celebrity Infinity Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray

Celebrity Infinity Suites

Celebrity Cruises certainly offer outstanding luxury cruise ship accommodation.  Here are a few photos of the Penthouse Suite.

Celebrity Infinity Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray
Penthouse Suite
Celebrity Infinity Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray
Penthouse Suite
Celebrity Infinity Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray
Penthouse Suite
After a two-hour ship tour it was time for lunch. The Trellis Restaurant is the main dining room and offers fine dining on a grand scale.
Celebrity Infinity Luxury Cruise Flavia Gray
Trellis Restaurant

Everyone had an amazing time onboard.  We agreed we would feel confident recommending this ship to luxury cruise guests.

The full photo album can be viewed here.

Oceania Marina

Oceania Marina

Ship Review of Oceania Marina

Oceania Cruises Marina at Southampton City Cruise Terminal

With the sun blazing down in the port of Southampton, it was a perfect day to experience first hand all that Oceania Marina has to offer.

Sipping Champagne and Rum Punch onboard Oceania Cruises Marina in the Horizons lounge
Our tour started with a choice of champagne, rum punch and wine served in the Horizons lounge on Deck 15, offering stunning views of the bow of the ship with soothing music being played through a sound system to get you in the cruise holiday mood.   Bernard Carter, Oceania Cruises Managing Director for UK and Europe gave a welcome introduction, telling us of the many awards accumulated, as a result of spending more on guests’ onboard experience than any other cruiseline and setting new industry standards.  With a price point equal to Cunard, P and O and Celebrity Cruises but a delivery equal to that of Seabourn and Crystal Cruises, their aim is to offer an experience that exceeds the customers’ expectations.
The pool deck onboard Oceania Cruises Marina
Walking around the ship, it was clear to see Oceania’s unique style with $4 million of artwork onboard including six Picasso sketches and staircases, mirrors and chandeliers adorned with Lalique Crystal. The three Owners’ Suites at the aft of decks 8, 9 and 10 spanning the entire beam of the ship, with furnishing from the Ralph Lauren Home Collection.  The Oceania and Vista suites designed by New York designer Dakota Jackson and every stateroom boasts a Prestige Tranquility Bed with 1,000-thread-count linens.
Oceania Cruises Marina stunning Atrium with $1M Lalique Crystal Chandelier which can be seen in the reflection
Oceania are known as the ‘foodies’ cruiseline so it is not surprising that 25 per cent of it’s ships’ staff work in the Galley.  As well as the main ‘Grand Dining Room’, you can choose steak, chops and seafood at Polo Grill, Gourmet Italian dining at Toscana, French country cuisine at Jacques and bold, contemporary flavours of Asia at Red Ginger.  After our tour we were escorted to the Grand Dining Room for our 6 course gourmet lunch.
A nice glass of Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc from the Maipo Valley
Fingerling Potato with Sturgeon Caviar Echire Butter and Fresh Chives
Green Asparagus Risotto with Provolone Cheese and Black Truffle
Maine Lobster Cassoulet with Bisque Sabayon Vegetable Selpicon
Wellington of Veal Tenderloin with Porcini Mushroom Stuffing Harvest Vegetables and Crispy Parmesan
A la Minute Poached Floating Island Pink Pralines and Roasted Pistachio Cream
Petit Fours and Macaroons
After a delightful day onboard Oceania’s Marina it was time to say goodbye and thank the staff and guides for such a wonderful day.

Haven by Norwegian

If you like the idea of a large family ship but want that extra special luxury and a VIP area to get away from it all, look no further than The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line.
The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line
The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line
With keycard access, this private, ultra luxurious area has been a place for Celebs such as Oprah Winfrey and the well loved Donny and Marie Osmond.  24 hour butler service, a courtyard with private swimming pool, sun deck, loungers (some in the pool to cool off and refresh), fitness room and sauna are some of the features and benefits of this wonderful area.

The long list of benefits and amenities reads as follows:

  • Exclusive access to The Haven Courtyard area with private pool, sun deck and fitness area as well as a private restaurant on some ships
  • White tablecloth in-suite dining
  • 24-hour certified butler service
  • Distinctive platinum key card for shipboard recognition
  • Concierge service and Courtyard valet
  • Priority embarkation and disembarkation
  • Escort to your Suite on embarkation day
  • Priority boarding of tenders
  • Complimentary private car from pier to airport for guests in Garden Villas*
  • Champagne, custom selection of liquor, fruit, bottles water and soft drinks on embarkation day for guests in Garden Villas and (Deluxe) Owner’s Suites
  • Sparkling wine, bottled water and fruit on embarkation day for guests in Family Villas, Spa Suites and (Courtyard) Penthouses
  • 24-hour room service with exclusive Haven menus
  • Mini-bar and espresso/cappuccino machine
  • Gourmet treats delivered to your Suite each evening
  • Invitations to an exclusive breakfast and lunch
  • Cocktail party with ship’s officers
  • Bliss Collection by Norwegian pillow-top mattress
  • Fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu
  • Plush bathrobes, slippers and over sized towels

*Not available on cruises shorter than three nights

Photos of Family Haven Villas which sleep up to 6 people.  These were taken recently on Norwegian’s newest ship Getaway.

The Haven by Norwegian Cruise LineThe Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway Impressions……Part Two………

Following on from an exciting and thrilling day on Norwegian Breakaway, we headed down to the Atrium for a pre-dinner aperitif and took in the sounds of one of the regular duo performing acts.  The bar was buzzing with people and atmosphere. Some dressed up to the nines and others taking a more casual approach but with one thing in common, a smile, great conversation and a glass of something nice in their hand.  The Atrium is a great place to meet up before or after dinner with friends. I can imagine on one of the Southern Caribbean cruises, it would be a place where people would exchange their experiences and views on the port of call they have visited and perhaps giving tips they may know about tomorrow’s port.

After our drink we headed for the Manhattan Restaurant where we were greeted by friendly, first class waiters. There was no doubt that Norwegian Cruise Lines had picked the cream of the crop from the other ships, to work on their latest pride and joy. The selection on the menu was fantastic and as it was so difficult to chose I opted for two starters a main course and a dessert, whereas my guest, Alex save the double servings for pudding.
For main course I chose the surf and turf which was lobster tail and steak, however not being too much of a meat eater and being a huge fan of lobster, I asked if I could instead have surf and surf and replace the steak with a second lobster tail. “Of course Madam” was the waiters reply. We laughed and joked with the head waiter and his assistant throughout the meal who gave an excellent service whilst remaining friendly and relaxed. The cost of the meal?… well those of you who cruise frequently will know the answer, nothing. This is all included in the cost of your cruise.

Following our delicious meal, we took a stroll around the ship and decided we would visit Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Bar. By this time it was around 9.30pm and on entering the bar we found it was full of people of all ages seated at tables enjoying the music and singing along. It was really like a smokey old Jazz Club only without the smoke. Great atmosphere, great band and great choice of music. I really felt like I had stepped back in time and was experiencing something that I would never have done otherwise. For more information on the band have a look at their website www.slamallen.com

At around 10.30pm I was flagging and I had to leave Alex in the bar to enjoy the rest of his evening and go off to bed. Knowing that I had such a comfortable freshly made bed waiting back in my room for me, made it a very easy decision to make. I wish I could tell you more about everything we experienced yesterday, but I have taken plenty of photos which may help you build your own picture as to the type of things you can expect on a Norwegian Cruise and on their ship, Breakaway.
 I would like to thank Norwegian Cruise Lines for a wonderful day and evening, and for the opportunity to experience this wonderful ship.

Norwegian Breakaway Arrives In Southampton

Norwegian Breakaway NCL

Part One…….So the day has finally arrived. Wow! What can I say this ship is amazing.  Driving into Dock Gate 10 City Cruse Terminal in Southampton was the most incredible sight I have seen in this UK dock since I first saw Independence of the Seas here three years ago.

With my cruise virgin friend Alex in tow, we embarked the brand new Norwegian Breakaway and headed to the buffet to beat the crowds. There was a fabulous selection of foods on offer, so I endulged in a bit of everything. From salads to burgers, stir fry’s to curries, hot dogs, filled croissants, carvery, pizza and chilli, the hardest part was choosing what to eat. Then came the desserts. Freshly sliced melon, fruit salad, no added sugar deserts, gluten free jelly, chocolate praline cake, passion fruit cake, apple pie and an ice cream parlour with sprinkles, it was like being in heaven.

We then took on the marathon challenge of trying to see as much of the ship as possible before settling down at the bar for a well deserved drink. Alex seemed to fair better with his sense of direction which I put down to beginners luck. So we managed to see the aqua park and sports complex, The Haven by Norwegian, Mandara Spa with barbers and hairdressers, thermal suite and fitness centre. Splash Academy kids club, Breakaway Theatre, Maltings Beer Whiskey Bar and a selection of staterooms.

Having seen as much of the ship our legs could bear to take us, we sat by the pool on deck 15 and enjoyed a nice cold drink. If only this was my office everyday!  We are looking forward to a lovely three course meal in the main dining room this evening, which should give us enough time to decide how to spend the rest of the few hours we have left on board. I may even treat myself to a nice glass of wine.  To be continued ……..

One More Day Until Norwegian Breakaway

The excitement mounts as I am preparing for the launch of Norwegian Cruise Lines latest ship tomorrow, Norwegian Breakaway, in Southampton.  NCL’s latest ship promises to deliver many industry firsts including The Waterfront, a quarter-mile oceanfront promenade. With it’s shops and dining and stunning view of the Caribbean islands, I am sure it will prove a popular addition with the guests. Although the weather forecast for Southampton tomorrow is only 13 degrees, I will make sure to check out the Waterfront and all the outdoor facilities this new ship has to offer.

As far as her statistics read, Norwegian Breakaway boasts a guest capacity of 4,028, which explains the need for 28 dining choices, 22 bars and lounges, 3-storey sports complex featuring ropes course, mini golf and more. An Aqua Park with 2 swimming pools, 1 kids’ pool, 5 water slides and 6 hot tubs.
Breakaway’s inaugural sailing is on Tuesday 30th April 2013 as she leaves Southampton for her home port of New York. From there she will be sailing 12 night Southern Caribbean itineraries including Puerto Rico, St Thomas, St Maarten, St Lucia, Barbados and St Kitts,7 night Bermuda and 7 night Bahamas & Florida.
I’m off to pack my overnight bag and paint my nails. I promise to return on Tuesday with great photos of all the fantastic facilities on board.

Cruising From Harwich To Northern Europe

I have been fortunate to visit Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas in Harwich a couple of times. As you may know, Royal Caribbean also own Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises. Having worked for the company for two years, and loving the ships so much, I became part of the promotions team. This meant spending time on the ships themselves, showing guests around and being a proud representative of the company.
As a port, Harwich has a lot to offer. It is located on the East Coast of England in Essex. The nearest big towns are Colchester and Ipswich. Harwich has a train station which is literally next to the terminal building. There is only one terminal at Harwich so it’s not hard to find, and for those wishing to drive, there is also ample parking.

Another great benefit of sailing from Harwich is that there are no flights, meaning no luggage restrictions, no delays, no waiting around at airport and so on. The minute you step on the ship, your holiday has begun. Even if the weather is grey and miserable here, the moment you step on the ship you are greeted with a smile and you just seem to relax instantly as you leave the stress and strain back on shore.