Tag Archives: Best-Cruise

Essential WAVE Season Survival Guide

What Is Wave Season?

It’s the time of year that the cruise industry goes into overdrive.  January and February (fondly referred to as ‘Wave’ Season, are the biggest booking months of the year. Many cruise lines and cruise agencies impose a holiday embargo on their staff during this period as they want all hands on deck. Why? Because what happens in these two months, will have a huge impact on the sales strategy for the rest of the year.

How Does Wave Season Work?

It’s no surprise that the objective of any cruise line is to sell every cabin on every sailing at full price right? So, that is the aim of Wave Season. Here are the 4 key steps to ensuring its success.

1. Cruise lines create a sales strategy otherwise known as a Wave Campaign. This consists of booking incentives for customers and sales incentives for travel agents.

2. Travel Agents are bombarded with information daily if not hourly, about the offers and deals from cruise lines and seduced by irresistible booking incentives. These are very generous and vary greatly from cruise line to cruise line. Some offer between £20-£100 per booking on a pre-paid MasterCard (in addition to the usual commission). Others will tempt agents with the opportunity to win free cruises, or gain access to special events. Or they might be in with a chance of getting the latest Apple device, concert tickets, shop vouchers and more.

3. Direct and electronic mail is sent out by cruise lines and travel agencies, to coincide with tv, radio, newspaper and social media adverts. With a multi-channel approach, they inevitably generate enquiries from potential customers.

4. The result is, the customer is prompted to call a travel agent or cruise line as they have seen an offer that they like, the agent is looking to get that incentive so does everything in their power to turn that enquiry into a booking with them. The customer gets a great deal on their cruise, the travel agent gets the incentive and the cruise line has one less cabin to sell. Win, win, win. Or is it?

Is It Best To Book In Wave Season?

When is the best time to book a cruise? This has to be the most frequently asked question other than Should I prepay gratuities? I can only give you my opinion on this, based on my 10 years experience as a cruise agent.

The answer is YES if;

There is only one particular cruise you want to go on.

You are travelling in peak seasons such as school holidays or Christmas.

You MUST have a particular cabin type; i.e non obstructed, accessible, midship. (See Can My Cruise Cabin or Flight Change Without My Knowledge?)

You want to guarantee the flight cost and know the cruise line will look after you if there are any issues with the flights.

You want to have as much included in the price as possible, such as drinks, parking etc.

Your party wants to dine at a specific time.

The answer is NO if;

You want the cheapest cruise fare no matter what.

You are happy to book a guarantee cabin. (See What Is A Guarantee Cabin)

You don’t mind what time you dine in the main dining room.

You can go last minute.

If you don’t drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day (on a cruise that is).

What Happens After Wave?

The honest answer to this question is that no-one really knows. I imagine a handful of top executives have plans in place depending on the outcome of Wave, but the travel agent (see Who Should I Book My Cruise With) that you speak to has no idea what is coming until the day it arrives. The top cruise agencies and cruise line staff may be told one or two days in advance about an offer at best, but the truth of it is, the next offer will depend on how many cabins have already been filled.

Here Is My Advice To Booking A Cruise

I believe there are two things to think about before you make your final decision to book your cruise. Firstly, if you can’t make your mind up between Cruise A or Cruise B, I always suggest imagining that both cruises are free. Then you can find out which one you REALLY want. I believe it is worth paying a little bit extra for the cruise that you want, rather than comprising your total satisfaction for the sake of saving money.

Secondly, you may have decided on which cruise you would like, but think it will be better to hold off to see what happens with the prices. Before you decide to put yourself through months of checking prices, the stress of waiting to see if it will go down in price, and hoping there will still be availability, think about the fact that you could get the booking done and then relax in the knowledge that you are going on a cruise.

My Advice to Cruise Agents

If you give your best to your customers, the rest will follow. Don’t be distracted with the carrot of a freebie or the temptation to feed your ego and be at the top of the sales chart. Think about your relationship with your customers. If you can gain a trusting relationship with one customer, they will be yours for life. Not only that but they will tell their friends about you. In the long run, you will have a solid business which you can take with you anywhere. This will give you value as an employee and longevity in the business, as well as respect within the industry and amongst your customers. Reputation is key.

Sapphire Princess Cruise Part One

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

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

Day One – Gibraltar

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

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

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

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

Sapphire Princess

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

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

Camp Discovery

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

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

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

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

Princess Cruises Kids Club Session Times

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

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

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

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

A Cruise Ship All To Ourselves

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

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

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

After the swim, we headed back to our room to get ready for the evening.

The Best Nights’ Sleep At Sea

Princess Cruises pride themselves on their incredibly comfortable beds. As someone who never sleeps through the night, I can vouch for these beds being ultra-relaxing. I slept right through every night I was on board. I even had to wake Joshua up, one morning it was as late as 10.30.

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

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

I dropped Josh off at the kids club and headed to Vines Bar to meet the group.

A Delightful Evening

Here we were greeted by Generoso, our charming and very hard working, Italian maître d. We were treated to some hor d’oeuvres and champagne.

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

Prosciutto with Melon

Pan-seared scallops and shrimp

Tiramisu

Who likes Limoncello? Yuk! Love the little glasses though.

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

Day Two – Lisbon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avocado and prawns for starters.

Fish (possibly Seabass) with a delicious creamy leek sauce.

Black Forest Gateaux? How can I resist these desserts?

Day Three – At Sea

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

Meeting The Captain

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

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

Josh in the driving seat.

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

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

Cruise Ship Buffets

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

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

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

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

Scallops again for me. I love them.

A little glance at the other choices of starter.

The steak was delicious with creamed spinach, and asparagus. The meal was lovely.

It was the end of another lovely day onboard the Sapphire Princess. It was time for bed, but we still had two more days left on board.

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

Read Part Two which includes my video of The Love Boat with some special guests.

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.

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

Free Tickets To The London Cruise Show 2018

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

Is It For Me?

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

But I Don’t Want To Book A Cruise

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

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

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

Win A Cruise

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

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

What If I DO Want To Book A Cruise?

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

Plan Your Day

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

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

12.00 – Ask The Experts Theatre –  Luxury Cruising

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

1.30 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Azamara Club Cruises

2.20 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Crystal Cruises

3.10 –  Meet The Cruise Lines – Viking Cruises

All you need to know about the London Cruise Show…

What: London Cruise Show

Where: Olympia London

When: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018

Book Your FREE Tickets To the 2018 Cruise Show Now

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

Cruise Me To The Moon On Independence of the Seas

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

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

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

How Does It Work?

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

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

Join Us Onboard

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

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

Or check out Royal Caribbean’s DEALS OF THE WEEK

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

The Big Debate – Should I Prepay Gratuities?

Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this one, so here is mine.

Would You Do It In A Hotel or Restaurant?

Would you? So why would you do it on a ship? Can you imagine calling a restaurant to make a reservation and they ask if you would like to prepay your gratuities? The same goes for a holiday booking. You wouldn’t pay extra if you were booking an all-inclusive holiday, would you? So why is it any different on a cruise ship?

Is It Cheaper To Prepay Gratuities or Give Cash Directly?

This depends on how many people are in your cabin and how old they are. If I am travelling with both of my kids, pre-paying gratuities seems like quite a lot of money for one adult and two children. In this case, I prefer to tip the stateroom attendant and waiters myself. Also, my kids won’t eat with me in the main dining room and there is a lot more work for the stateroom attendant with three of us in a room.

When I am travelling with just my son I tend to pre-pay gratuities, because I will use the dining room a lot more with him when it is just the two of us as I don’t have someone to help me watch him in the buffet area. I need to be able to sit down and watch him while the food is brought to us. I think generally when travelling as a single parent, you rely much more on the staff in all areas of the ship.

Who Gets The Tips?

Who knows! The staff aren’t allowed to talk about it, the cruise lines say it is shared out equally among the staff but I had one stateroom attendant tell me something quite interesting. He said that when they are guaranteed a minimum wage which factors in the anticipated prepaid gratuities. If that minimum is not met, then the cruise line has to make up the difference.

So, let’s suppose that no-one prepaid their gratuities, would the cruise line then have to dig deep and make up the wages? Would that then mean that the cash received directly by the staff would be extra money? I don’t know. I guess they have to declare it. But the truth is, the staff risk losing their jobs if they talk about it so I say that gratuities should be included in the price and we have the option of leaving an additional tip onboard if we wish.

Recommended Reading Essential WAVE Season Survival Guide

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.

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

 

Cruise People – Danielle Fear – Cruise Miss

Why This Young Lady Loves Cruise and The Best Cruise Tip Ever!

Danielle Fear is a young lass from Newcastle. She lives for cruising and this is reflected in her multi-award-winning blog Cruise Miss. Not one for flying, Danielle is proof that not only is cruising from UK ports the gateway to a world of adventure, it is also an activity that young people do enjoy. So let’s get Danielle’s take on cruising and see what tips she can offer.

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

My first cruise was in 2007 aboard P&O Cruises ‘Oriana’. It was a 12-night Canary Islands sailing and I was hooked from the moment I stepped aboard. I’d deliberately booked a cruise that was less than 2 weeks in duration, just in case I didn’t like it, and I regretted it almost immediately as I didn’t want it to end.

What did you like/dislike about your first cruise?

One thing that had always put me off cruising was the dress code. I didn’t want to dress up and be forced into a personality that wasn’t really me. Once onboard, I realised that the dress codes weren’t in fact written into the law books and that you could opt-in or opt-out, which I thought was great. However, I soon realised that it also meant if you opted out, you would be the victim of the evil eye from several of your fellow passengers and this is still something I don’t like about cruising. We have the right to decide what we want to do and if I decide I don’t want to wear a formal dress on formal night and that instead, I want to go casual and dine in the buffet, then that’s my choice. We don’t need people throwing the stink eye around.

What is the best cruise you have been on and why?

I’ve been on a lot of cruises, but I think I’d still say that my trip to the Arctic Circle remains one of my favourites, followed closely by my sailings to the Caribbean and America. The Arctic was just spectacular and the excursions were more connected to nature and adventure than any others I have ever experienced; husky sledding, reindeer rides and chasing the Northern Lights.

What is it that appeals to you about cruising?

Everything appeals to me, even the smell of the ship. It’s no secret that I am happiest when I am at sea and I genuinely do love everything about the experience, well, maybe not formal nights, but everything else. I’d go as far as to say that I am addicted to it.

How do you decide which cruises to take?

I always look for at least 1 new destination. I don’t over analyse these things anymore because being able to travel anywhere is a huge privilege. If there’s 1 new place for me to explore, I’m happy, if not, I’m sure the cruise will be just as much as it would be if I’d never been to any of the ports. I also like to make sure the ship suits me – I don’t like HUGE cruise ships when it comes to my own relaxing time away. I want something I can navigate from bow to stern in under an hour! ?

Do you have a bucket list of places you want to visit?

I want to go everywhere. If there’s a port, I want to go there. Simple as that.

What’s the first thing you do when you step onboard a cruise?

Check to see if my case is outside the cabin so I can unpack. If it’s not there, I’ll likely grab a drink from the bar and mark the start of what is sure to be yet another amazing adventure.

What items do you always take with you on a cruise?

I take the obvious things like hair straighteners and so on, but one thing I started doing in 2016 was taking my own hangers, but with a twist! I don’t just pack the hangers on their own, I pack them with my clothes already hanging on them. It sounds crazy, but it means when I open my case, all I do is grab the hangers and then hang them – the clothes are already on! It makes unpacking your case five times quicker. Obviously, you need to pack them carefully so you don’t damage your clothes, but I’m yet to have an incident.

What was your last cruise and what did you like/dislike about it?

My last cruise was with Saga Cruises and we visited Iceland. The only thing I didn’t like was the wind and rain – I genuinely cannot fault anything about Saga. The ship, accommodation, crew and food are EXCELLENT. The ports on this cruise were nearly all new to me and the choice of excursions was ideal.

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

My next cruise is the cruise of all cruises, I’m going around the world with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. It still doesn’t feel real, but it is happening. 108-nights aboard Black Watch. I’m looking forward to everything about this cruise, especially South America, Asia and French Polynesia. There are destinations on the itinerary that I thought I would only ever dream of visiting, but here I am, about to visit them. I think I’m most looking forward to Bora Bora, Mumbai, Havana, Aqaba and Yangon.

What is your dream cruise?

My dream cruise would be the world cruise, but Fred. Olsen’s January 2019 ‘Californian Dream’ sailing is definitely on my radar! Not only is it aboard one of my favourite ships (Balmoral) it’s visiting destinations that are on my bucket list, including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas.

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?

Don’t keep overthinking things, just go and do it. You never know unless you try and with some of the MEGA ships out there, the last thing you will feel is trapped!

Can you offer any onboard tips for people who have never cruised?

The last thing you do in cruise club is talk about the cost of your cruise. I’ve warned you.

To follow Danielle on her travels around the world and the cruise ships she’s sailed on visit cruisemiss.com

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Recommended Reading

P&O Cruises drops discretionary Gratuities

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

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

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

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

Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Image: Royal Caribbean International

But There’s More …

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

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

A Day Onboard the Royal Princess

Elegance, Class and Beauty

Royal Princess is the first in it’s class of ship, and Princess Cruises have taken their elegance, class and beauty to the next level.  Regal Princess was launched shortly after Royal and Majestic Princess, their big sister also arrives in April 2017.

A Royal Princess

I can’t write about this ship without first mentioning the Godmother.  Princess Cruises could not have picked a more perfect Godmother to continue the theme of elegance, class and beauty.  On 13 June 2013, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge christened Royal Princess in true style while being heavily pregnant with Prince George.

This onboard display shows the coat worn by Kate together with the scissors used to cut the ribbon and photographs of the day.

Bridge Tour

I was extremely lucky to be in a group selected for a tour of the bridge.  It is always an immense honour to be invited to the bridge. The ship measures 141,000 Gross Tonnes and has a capacity of 3,600 passengers so, you can imagine they have a fair few instruments and displays.

The Seawalk

A cruise industry first, this glass bottomed cantilevered walkway towers 128 ft above the sea.  That’s 16 decks high!

Music Concerts and Movies Under the Stars

It’s such a great experience being on the deck of the ship, relaxing and watching your favourite artists in concert.  Movies are even more spectacular so, one evening I watched “Gravity”. Being at sea at night, wrapped in a cosy blanket eating fresh popcorn, is incredible.  The sound was amazing, just like a night at the movies. The screen itself is larger than any of the other Princess ships I had been on.

Staterooms

Royal Princess has a selection of staterooms to suit all tastes and budgets. From interior cabins to suites and all outside cabins have a balcony.

The Lotus Spa

Lotus Spa is adjacent to the piazza on deck 5 making it easier for people to locate and access. Voted one of the “Best Cruise Ship Spas” by USA Today Travel and receiving Travel Weekly’s Magellan Gold Award for Spa Design, the Lotus Spa has alot to offer. Facilities include a Hydrotherapy Pool, 18 treatment rooms, 2 couples villas, steam rooms, heated beds and sensory showers.

Bars and Restaurants

International Cafe in the piazza is a Princess favourite, serving a selection of fresh teas, coffees, paninis and pastries. Bellini’s Champagne Bar is a great place to meet for pre show or dinner drinks.  The view of the piazza from here is spectacular.  If you are a fan of seafood, you ill probably want to visit the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar.  Items onboard are priced in US Dollars for other cruiselines see Cruise Ship Currency

ITV’s The Cruise Ship

For those of you who watched the three part fly on the wall documentary, you will remember gorgeous George. We were lucky enough to be serenaded by him during our visit, in addition, I managed a quick cha cha cha tutorial with him.

WaterColour Fantasy

Each night the fountain pool comes to life with this incredible water and light show.  Despite the wind and the cold, we couldn’t miss seeing the show so, the crew put blankets over our shoulders to keep us comfortable.

My Video of the Royal Princess Cruise Ship

To sum it up, here is my video tribute to this magnificent Royal Princess.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

 

SaveSave

Your Guide To Cruise Ship Currency

Onboard Currency

If you are new to cruising, this guide will help you understand how the onboard payment systems work. Cruise ship currency varies from one cruise line to another.  In some cases it can even change depending where the ship is sailing.

Here is a review of the main cruise lines and which onboard currency they use. Of course you are not required to use cash onboard, but it helps to know in advance so you can get the best rate of exchange.

British Pounds

  • P & O
  • Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
  • Cruise & Maritime
  • Noble Calendonia
  • Thomson

US Dollar

  • Azamara Club Cruises
  • Carnival
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Costa – in non European countries
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Cunard
  • Disney Cruise Lines
  • Holland America
  • MSC – in non European countries
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Princess Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Seabourn
  • Silvers

EURO

  • Costa – in Europe
  • MSC – in Europe
  • Star Clippers

With the fluctuation in currency conversion rates, sometimes it is better to pre-purchase your on board spending money as you will see in my post on How To Get Free Onboard Spend.  Check with your cruise line to see what they are offering at the time.

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

Allure of the Seas Christmas Cruise Review

All Aboard the Allure of the Seas

I woke up at 4 am and just could not get back to sleep.  I was ridiculously excited to be spending Christmas with the kids onboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.  Although I was aiming to get to the port early, travelling as a single parent with a toddler, a teenager, four suitcases, a pushchair, a changing bag and a handbag with travel documents, it put best-laid plans to rest.

We had to drop the rental car off at Fort Lauderdale airport and get a shuttle to the port.  But first, I needed to stock up on nappies, wipes, hairspray, pencil sharpener and other random items. We eventually arrived at the car drop off point only to remember I was supposed to have refuelled the car.  So off we went again in search of a gas station.  Note to self – Bring another adult with me next time I travel!

A Moment In My Life

There are moments in your life that you will NEVER forget.  Trying to convey the emotion I felt as I stepped onto the Allure of the Seas Royal Promenade is making me well up now.

The reason this was such I moment for me is that three years before our cruise, I had decided to leave the comforts of my Royal Caribbean family to become a travel agent franchisee specialising in cruising. That was shortly followed by some personal difficulties which left me in an unenviable financial situation.

Following the arrival of my son Joshua in 2013, the closure of the Royal Caribbean call centre in the UK and a strong and healthy cruise business, I was now able to pat myself on the back for surviving and being able to get myself and my two children onboard the largest cruise ship in the world.  Some achievement even if I say so myself, and to top it all off, it was Christmas.

Royal Promenade ready for Christmas

A Lovely Suprise

In our stateroom, was a lovely welcome bottle of bubbly and fruit plate from Dominic Paul, SVP Royal Caribbean International.  Gestures like this make you feel special. The staff onboard the Allure of the Seas were so genuinely friendly and caring that I felt relaxed and at home.

I unpacked whilst Joshua tried taking everything out of the minibar and kept trying to call people on our room phone.  Once that was done and I’d signed up for the drinks package and the wifi package and changed our dining venue from Silk to the Grande (because I adore the decor in there including the chairs).

Royal Babies and Tots

Joshua went to the nursery for a couple of hours so that I could visit the salon. After that, we were all ready for dinner.

The Grande Restaurant

Allure of the Seas still has the main restaurant but the set time dining is on deck 4, The Grand and deck 5, Silk.  For people who are after flexible dining, the My Time option takes place on deck 3 in the American Icon Grill.  The only difference between the restaurants is the decor, otherwise, you are still dining in a three-storey dining room as before.

Nassau, Bahamas

Is it worth paying extra for a balcony?  Most definitely, but if you are on a budget, an interior or oceanview stateroom is usually the same size, it just means you have to get yourself out of your room to experience the views, which is not a bad thing.  Having said that, if you time it right you can get a balcony for not a lot more and some cruise lines offer free balcony upgrades.  Speak to your cruise specialist for details.

Balcony view in Nassau Bahamas

Atlantis Resort

I decided that it was more beneficial for us to stay on board the Allure of the Seas because we only had 7 days to explore the ship and already we were on day two.

The Boardwalk

Tips for Parents

First I needed a coffee, but I knew Joshua wouldn’t sit down quietly while I enjoyed my first one of the day. I walked onto the Boardwalk as I knew it was an area that Joshua could safely run around in without me having to keep stopping him from touching things.  There is a Donut Shop on Allure of the Seas, where you can help yourself to coffee in ‘to-go’ cups so it was perfect.  I found a couple of other parents with their children who were doing the same thing, so I had company while I drank my coffee, and the kids made new friends.

Play area on the Boardwalk

I thought that choosing the Windjammer (self-service buffet) would be the best choice for us, with its wide range of foods to choose from.  However, walking with a pushchair and trying to plate up some food is pretty tricky especially without getting in everyone’s way.  I tried giving Josh a yoghurt and going off to get more food, but I just couldn’t be sure he would stay put.  A staff member came up to us and asked if I wanted any tea or coffee.  She brought me a coffee and offered to sit with Joshua while I got myself some breakfast.  It was a relief to be able to get something, but I could see that I would have to rethink this for the rest of the cruise.

Breakfast whilst docked in Nassau next to Regal Princess

Vitality Spa

Lucy and I had booked a seaweed soak treatment which promised to help with all sorts of things including detox, restoring alkaline and helping to remove cellulite.  We thought we would give it a try, so I dropped Joshua off at the nursery and we went off to the Spa.

When you go to the Vitality Spa onboard the Allure of the Seas, you step into a completely different zone to the rest of the ship.  It is tranquil and the sights, sounds and smells just make you instantly relax.  The staff were lovely and showed us to the relaxation lounge.

The Relaxation Lounge in the Vitality Spa

We waited there for a few minutes until we were shown to the treatment room and told how to change the temperature and water levels if necessary.

After a lovely hour spent catching up on girl talk and hopefully doing some good to our bodies, Lucy and I went to the thermal suite to relax on the heated beds.   I needed to get back to the nursery to pick Joshua up, so all too soon our spa visit was over and it was time to be Mummy again.

At the nursery, Joshua had enjoyed himself, and having a giant-sized piano to walk over, meant it took longer than planned to leave the Adventure Ocean area. We went to the Windjammer to grab a bit of lunch, then met Lucy by the pool in the H2O zone.

Swimming For Babies In Nappies (Diapers)

Joshua and I played in the baby splash zone for a little while which is for children in swim nappies.  There are restrictions on how much chlorine can be used on cruise ships, which is why they do not allow children in swim nappies in the main pools.  Many Royal Caribbean ships have a dedicated splash zone for these children which is fantastic for families, otherwise, someone would have to sit with the child while everyone else enjoyed the water. Although Royal Caribbean has introduced these facilities to their newest ships like Allure of the Seas, they are not common on other cruise lines so it is best to check before you book if you are looking for one.

Captain and Officers address the guests

That evening was our first formal night and the Allure of the Seas Captain and Officers introduced themselves from an elevated platform on the Royal Promenade.  Complimentary champagne was being handed out and there was a festive atmosphere.

Lucy and Joshua in the Grande on our first formal night

After dinner, Lucy went off to meet her new teen friends and Josh and I had a little stroll on the Boardwalk which, at night, looks stunning.

The Carousel on the Boardwalk

Our towel elephant looking very cool

A Day At Sea

So after my experience of trying to enjoy a lovely breakfast with a toddler in the self-service restaurant, I thought I would try the main dining room. That way all I had to do was keep an eye on Joshua and the breakfast would be brought to us.  It was a bit of a challenge, but the staff were really friendly and helpful and not only made me feel welcome, but they also interacted with Joshua as well.  I was thrilled to see my favourite breakfast of Eggs Benedict was on the menu, so I didn’t hesitate to order it….. every day for the rest of our cruise!

Breakfast in American Icon Grill

There is a hot breakfast menu, but you can also get pastries, cereal, fruit, juice, tea and coffee.

Eggs Benedict – my favourite

First thing on the agenda for the day was a welcome back party for Royal Caribbean’s guests who are members of the Crown and Anchor Society.  This was held on the Boardwalk and we were greeted by a selection of cocktails, champagne and mimosas.

Welcome back party on the Boardwalk for loyalty members

The Allure of the Seas Captain and Cruise Director

I got caught out taking a sneaky picture of the officers

Then it was a quick visit to the nursery to drop Joshua off before attending another little reception in one of the many music venues onboard Allure of the Seas, Jazz on 4.  Aptly named due to the fact they play Jazz and it’s located on deck 4.  I met the lovely Marina Baklarova, Hotel Administrative Assistant who made me feel extremely welcome and told me I could contact her if I needed anything.   When you are travelling as the only adult, it is very reassuring to know you have someone like Marina to call on if you need any help with anything.

Jazz on 4 VIP reception

Wi-fi

After collecting Joshua from the nursery, who seemed to be having the time of his life there, we went for lunch and after which I pushed him around the vast areas of the ship until he fell asleep. This allowed me to upload some videos and photos and update my Allure of the Seas blog. The wifi technology on this ship is amazing and the connection was so instant it was just like being at home.  For a cruise ship, that is hard to achieve in port, let alone on a day at sea.

There is a daily cruise compass which is like a daily paper, placed in your room.  This tells you all the activities that are going on during the day and evening onboard, as well as locations and opening times of various restaurants and sports facilities.  I had seen there was a family disco in Dazzles from 7 – 8, which fitted in perfectly with our dinner sitting of 8.30.  I planned to wear Joshua out at the disco so that he would sit quietly in the restaurant.  On the way to the disco we walked along the Royal Promenade and a gorgeous Gingerbread village had appeared. I couldn’t linger as Joshua was trying to grab at it, so I took a quick blurry photo and rushed off to Dazzles.

Gingerbread village on the Royal Promenade

Family Activites

There was a great atmosphere in the family disco and they were playing various games.  I enjoyed a pre-dinner gin and tonic at the bar, while Joshua danced his socks off with the other children.

Family disco in Dazzles

Joshua worked up an appetite after all that dancing and tucked into a lovely chicken dinner.

A great dinner for Joshua in the Grande

St Maarten

We ordered room service which meant I could enjoy a coffee and get ready, while Joshua picked his way through the fruit, cereal and pastries.

I wanted to get out on the deck and enjoy the view as soon as possible. So we walked up to the top deck via the beautifully decorated Royal Promenade.

Festive Royal Promenade

There was plenty of time for a stroll around the ship before we docked in St Thomas.

Would you Zip Line across the middle of the ship?

Mini-Golf Course

As I had read about Magens Bay being one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. This made it an absolute must for me to get off the ship to see it for myself.

Allure of the Seas docked in St Thomas

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Docked in St Thomas

The Boardwalk and Aqua Theatre in all it’s glory

Our lovely waitress, Mitzi had this waiting for us at our dinner table.

Christmas Eve

It was a dream come true, to be on a ship in the Caribbean at Christmas

A friend told me there was a silver dog on the ship and with some hints, we found it.

After 4 days I realised I had not yet walked through Central Park.  I was starting to realise that 7 days simply wasn’t going to be long enough.  So off I went to take a walk and some photos and videos.

The loyal Royal cruisers’ favourite speciality restaurant Chops Grille

Another place I realised I hadn’t visited so far, was the Boardwalk Dog House.  I love hot dogs, and this place offers a whole range of different types. The thought of having a hot dog and a beer for lunch on Christmas Eve made me smile. I headed down to the Boardwalk.

After a bite to eat it was time to soak up the sun.

After lunch, the family got together for some fun in the sun

Well a sleep more like

With a nice bit of tanning done, we got ready for our Christmas Evening.  It was a big one for the teens as they were having a party.  I had booked Joshua into the nursery so that I could relax and enjoy a nice meal.

Joshua and I went to the Windjammer for some dinner. I kicked off my Christmas Eve celebrations with and a glass of Prosecco.  Keeping in the spirit of things you are least likely to do on Christmas Eve (after the hot dog and beer lunch), we headed to the Boardwalk for a ride on the Carousel.  This is when it hit me what we were doing and how amazing it was. Once I’d signed Joshua into the nursery I went off to enjoy a three-course meal in the main restaurant.

I started with a crab claw salad

Followed by lobster

My waiter Harley, suggested a glass of Baileys, which went down perfectly with dessert

After collecting Joshua from the nursery, we walked along the Royal Promenade. It looked extra festive with green and red ceiling lights.

Christmas Day

It was the best present I could have given myself.  To be waking up on the Allure of the Seas in the Caribbean.  What could be the further from being in our pj’s unwrapping presents on a cold and dark Christmas morning?  Breakfast with the Dreamworks Characters of course!

The Dreamworks Breakfast Menu

Alex, King Julien and Gloria came along to join us.

Santa’s elves looked a lot like the nursery staff, and they were magic because they knew Joshua’s name.

In the Caribbean, Santa prefers to wear his shorts and shades and meet the children in person. It’s only in cold countries that he uses a chimney when everyone is asleep.

My Christmas present from Royal Caribbean, I was thrilled.

Trying something different in the Champagne and Martini Bar, an appletini. As expected, I didn’t get it to my table without spilling it.

Christmas Dinner

Harley recommended the Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay which was perfect.

Turkey dinner for Christmas, even in the Caribbean.

During dinner, the restaurant staff paraded around the restaurant singing Jingle Bells.  This was my favourite part as our Head Waiter Oscar, and main waitress, Mitzi, walked past us singing and smiling.  Oscar is in the front.  We loved him.

After dinner, I took a walk around the ship. As I admired the beautiful surrounded I thought about what I should do next.

View of Central Park from deck 15.

I decided the most unusual thing I could do was to go and sit in the hot tub.  Most guests were travelling with large families and spending time with them, so I had it all to myself.  It was heavenly.

Boxing Day

By day 7 of your cruise, you have learned where everything is.  You have less than 24 hours on the ship and want to get as much in (your stomach) as possible.  So Joshua and I started with doughnuts on the boardwalk.  I had mine with a coffee and Joshua with his milk.  I had the key lime pie ring doughnut and Joshua had the chocolate one. They were heavenly.

Once that had gone down, we headed for American Icon Grill which is where they were serving breakfast.  I had my last eggs benedict of the cruise.

It was a glorious day, so I spent a couple of hours topping up my tan.

Then it was time for our Bridge Tour

The full Allure of the Seas Bridge Tour review can be found here

A lovely surprise gift waiting for me in my room.

A lovely memento from the nursery

We couldn’t miss our last chance to see our favourite Dreamworks characters. Luckily for us, Shrek and Princess Fiona stopped right in front of us.

The final sunset from our balcony on the Allure of the Seas. A rainbow peaks through the clouds to promise that we will return.

You Might Like To Read : St Pete Beach New Year Celebrations