Tag Archives: All-Inclusive-Cruise

Pitons St Lucia Flavia Gray Ships and Champagne Viking Sea

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Five – St Lucia

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.

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.

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.

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four – Exploring The Ship

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.

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.

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.

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.

Nordic Chic

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 went to take a look at the seafood and sushi in the buffet, as I had been advised not to miss it and 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.

This was the best sushi I have ever had.

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.

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 featured a dog, so I knew whatever happened in the end it would have me in tears. 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.

Azamara Club 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.

Las Ramblas, Barcelona.

River Cruising

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. Richard Twyman spoke to guests at a recent event with Six Star Cruises. He said that Sydney is the most congested cruise port on planet Earth. Their 3 cruise berths which are full until 2023, and that Azamara Club Cruises have secured their place 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. The guests visited a private set of castles that overlooked Florence, accompanied by an Historian as their guide. When they entered the grand hall, the historian told them they were standing in the room where Michaelangelo carved David. Guests were treated to a tuscan buffet outside, as the sun set over Florence.  The Three Tenors from the Florence Opera House gave a private performance.

Azamara were the first cruise line to offer private performances of the original Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. These unforgettable experiences are offered all over the world including Rio De Janeiro, Ephesus, St Petersburg and Wellington.

Win a pair of Azamara Gloves

Azamara Club Cruises have given 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

Take an MSC Cruise To The Taj Mahal

Have You Ever Fancied A Cruise To The Taj Mahal?

Now you can take a cruise to the Taj Mahal with MSC Cruises. They announced today a move to double their sailings from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The totally refurbished MSC Lirica will join MSC Splendida for 2018 to 2019 Winter Season. This comes after continued growth and strong demand for cruises in the region.

MSC Lirica will offer brand new 11 and 14 night itineraries with longer stays in port. There will be an overnight stay onboard in Dubai, allowing guests to enjoy the city by night. The real jewel in the crown however, is the introduction of three new destinations, New Mangalore, Goa and Mumbai. An overnight stay in Mumbai allows guests an opportunity to really explore the treasures of India.

Discounted Shore Excursions

In addition to the new itineraries and excursions, MSC Cruises are offering new excursions on MSC Lirica.

  • Dubai – EXCLUSIVE DUBAI: BURJ KHALIFA & LUNCH AT BURJ AL ARAB     

Visit iconic symbols of Dubai. The Dubai Mall, Burj Al Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Dubai’s famous gold souk to name a few.

  • Abu Dhabi – THE LOUVRE MUSEUM & ABU DHABI EXPLORATION      

 Guests can tour the “Manhattan of Arabia,” with a visit to the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.

  • Bahrain – BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT IN A 4X4  

A real adventure as guests blaze through the Bahrain International Circuit in the Sakhir Desert.

  • Muscat – MYSTICAL MUSCAT     

Guests will have the opportunity to experience Oman’s spiritual and cultural heritage. The tour visits the Grand Mosque, old Muscat and Muttrah Souk. They will stop at the Bait Al Zubair Museum to view the archaeological find and the traditional dress and jewellery of Oman.

  • Qatar – DESERT SAFARI AND RELAX AT THE BEACH

Guests can ride through Qatar’s surrounding desert across the sand dunes. The journey will end up at Gulf Adventure camp. This oasis of tranquillity is located in the Arabian desert, kissed by the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf.

  • Goa – CROCODILES, MANGROVE & RIVER CRUISE  

This one-of-kind river cruise, allows guests to discover Goa’s verdant landscape. As they head down to the mangroves where the Cumbarjua River flows; the will be impressed by the magnificent birdlife and freshwater crocodiles.

  • Mumbai – OVERLAND TO THE TAJ MAHAL       

This incredible three-day tour takes guests through Mumbai, New Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra – where guests will experience the breath-taking Taj Mahal – and Cochin. They will experience an express tour through some of India’s most famous and memorable landmarks and get to spend two nights in luxury hotels.

  • New Mangalore – Jain & Udupi Temples

From the 15th Century Moodbidiri temple, to Udupi’s Krishna Temple, guests will visit the famous Jain temples of Mangalore.

Free Status Match

MSC Splendida will be offering 7-night itineraries in the region, and now is a great time to book. MSC Cruises are currently offering to match your loyalty status with them, to that of your regular cruise line. You just pay for port taxes.

Recommended Reading MSC Magnifica Restyled for UK Guests

Cruise People – The Professionals

You Don’t Have To Be A Cruise Fanatic To Cruise

Dave, originally from Yorkshire, and his wife Lorraine, both have office based jobs in Surrey and love to travel. Last year they took their first cruise. I wanted to get their views on cruising for the first time and to see if it is something they would like to repeat.

When was your cruise? Which ship was it and where did you cruise too?

Our first cruise was to Norway, we cruised on Celebrity Eclipse and it was at the end of August 2016.

Celebrity Eclipse in the Norwegian Fjords

What made you book a cruise?

I have always wanted to cruise to the Fjords. It was for my 50th birthday, although I had to do all the booking so it wasn’t a surprise.

What did you like/dislike about your first cruise?

We went from Southampton.  What a great way to start a holiday. No queues, fast check in.  Within 2 hours or so from leaving our house, we were on board.

I liked the variety of things to do on board, the theatre was good although some of the acts were a bit cheesy.  I’m convinced that the the comedian on the first night was made of pure gorgonzola. The best act was a Freddie Mercury Tribute act, closely followed by a British singer from The Netherlands.

It was good to go to a show and then walk to dinner.  Its like living in a ‘happening’ city centre.

I enjoyed the fact that we visited loads of different towns in Norway. Some of the towns were so small that you had to book excursions, if you didn’t you would have been stuck in a small town (although they still had loads to do on board) but I don’t think you go to Norway to stay on board. The service and food were amazing.

As we were in a cold climate, nobody was using the outside space, this meant that at lunch time the buffet was packed.  We had to find a table first, then one at a time we went to get our food.  If we both went they would clear our tables as they thought we had left.  This is the only time we felt a bit packed in.

What is it that appeals to you about cruising?

Seeing different places, experiencing different things (with the excursions), and the quality of the food/service etc.  We are not dedicated cruises but will happily go on one but will also do a different style of holiday.

The Flam Railway

What is your next cruise? What are you most looking forward to?

We are doing the Alaskan cruise.  I am looking forward to the whale watching, glacier trip and zip wire excursions.  Life on board is quite good too, I enjoy the luxury.  I am also excited about the drive around Alaska which we are doing after the cruise.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying a cruise but is worried they will feel trapped on a crowded cruise ship?

Do you feel trapped when you go into your local town?  Well the cruise ship is like a small city.  Unless you go on a rowing boat you wont feel trapped.

Do you have an general cruise tips?
  • Yes, quite soon after you set off you will be called for a muster drill.  This is where you have to meet at a certain place and have a roll call.  Before you attend this go to the bar and get a big cocktail. Take the “things to do list that should be in your cabin). When the meeting has finished sit back and relax with your drink.  If you leave at the same time as everyone else it is like being herded like cattle, you also see people at their worst.  After you have finished your drink and read the ‘things to do list’ you can then leave at your leisure.
  • Use your ‘things to do sheet’ and plan your day/evening.
  • Dont be scared to complain.  We did an excursion that was rubbish.  We complained and they offered a partial refund.  We did not accept it and was then given a full refund and asked not to tell anyone else.  We told everyone!
  • The waiters all test the food at the beginning of their shift so when they recommend your meal they are not trying to get rid of food they are really giving you what they think is the best food on the menu.
  • The waiters hold quite a lot of power within the kitchens.  If they think a dish is not up to scratch they will not recommend it and the chefs will change the way it is cooked.
  • Take the recommended wine from the wine waiter also.
Do you have any tips for booking a cruise?

Shop around to get the best deal. Pick mid ship cabins to minimise sea sickness. On the Norway cruise it was good to see the fjords from the balcony.  We spent quite a lot of time cruising in places with good views.  If you are going around the Med then I would say an inside room would be best value as the weather is warm so you can see every thing from the decks.

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There’s A Cruise For Everyone

The London Cruise Show 2017, is promising its biggest and most exciting luxury cruise show ever.  If you don’t think cruising is for you, I challenge you to go to the show and see what’s available. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

Star Clippers

There are expedition cruises, adventure cruises, luxury cruises, river cruises, family cruises, informal relaxed cruises.  You can choose your itinerary too. So if you want to have lots of days relaxing at sea, or experience a quick overview of many places, or if you prefer to take your time and immerse yourself in the local culture with a few days at the same port, it’s up to you.

If you can’t or don’t want to fly, you can cruise from the UK, choosing to take adult only cruises or family cruises. There are short breaks for a taster to see if you like it, or just a fun weekend away with your mates.

With so many cruise styles and so many destinations around the world, I will eat my hat if you can’t find something that tickles your fancy at this show.

My London Cruise Show 2017 top picks are:

  • Avalon Waterways
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Princess Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Silversea
  • Star Clippers

READER’S TICKET OFFER

I am able to offer my readers reduced price advance tickets to the show with a 2 for 1 offer of just £6. Get your tickets for only £3 each (that’s a saving of £7 off the door price!!) by quoting
‘S&C’ when booking tickets online at www.cruisingshow.com or when calling 
0871 620 4024. (Calls cost 13p per minute plus network extras).

Opening Times and Getting There

 

How Long Is the Allure of the Seas?

My Allure of the Seas Bridge Tour Invitation

 I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found the invitation for the Allure of the Seas Bridge Tour.

Our concierge Dexter, met us in the forward lobby on deck 12.  Security came and checked us for any concealed weapons, and made it clear that under no circumstances were we allowed to take video footage.

The atmosphere on the bridge was very calm and relaxed.  The Captain wasn’t there but the First Officer, Fernando, kindly posed for an ‘action’ shot while the Quartermaster, from Philippines looked on in amusement.

Incredible views of the ship that you couldn’t see anywhere other than the bridge.

The Second Officer was Estevan from Argentina.  He gave us a tour of the bridge and talked through the amazing feat of engineering behind the Allure of the Seas.  Facts and figures are coming up, so bear with me.

I spent most of my valuable bridge tour time listening intently to Estevan, with the theme tune from “An Officer and A Gentleman” playing over and over in my head.

Who wouldn’t want an office view like that?  A great place to sit and relax for the crew during a long shift.  After all, with that amount of space, you need to put a bit of furniture in it right?

The “Not-So” Technical Bit

It looks a long way down from deck 12, especially when you are extended over the side of the ship.  It is very convenient for the crew when ‘parking’ though.

So, for those of you who don’t know how things are done on the Bridge, this is what I learned in Layman’s terms.  There are three sets of controls.  You have the main console that faces the front of the ship and two smaller consoles, one on the left of the bridge and one on the right.  The main console has the exact same instruments and controls that the two side consoles have and more.  The reason for this is so that whoever is manouvering the ship, can have a clear view of the area they are navigating.  This add to the views they have on the cameras which you can see in the image below.

I promised you some facts and figures from my Allure of the Seas Bridge Tour didn’t I?  Well the lovely First Officer Fernando, was kind enough to give me a Pilot Boarding Card.  Probably due to the fact that I was so busy writing notes that I hadn’t realised I was the only guest left on the Bridge, and that this was the only way they could politely point it out.

How Long Is The Allure of the Seas?

Every details about the ship can be found in the pilot boarding card. The best keepsake you could give to a  cruise ship enthusiast.

 

Allure of the Seas – Cruise Review

You can read all about our Christmas cruise on the Allure of the Seas here

Useful Links

Nautical Terms

Royal Caribbean

How To Become A Cruise Ship Captain