It’s the last instalment of the Sassoli-Walkers bucket list cruise as they spend a day in Victoria, Canada before taking the train from Vancouver to Seattle.
Andrew’s photographs never fail to amaze and this cruise has certainly given him the platform to show his skills at their best. If you have enjoyed the first three blog posts, you are going to love Cruising Alaska with the Sassoli-Walkers Part 4 just as much.
Here it is in Andrew’s own words and pictures.
A visit to charming Victoria in Canada on our last evening onboard Emerald Princess which rounded off our Alaskan adventure very nicely indeed!
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Emerald Princess docked in Victoria, Canada
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Victoria, Canada
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Inner Harbour with Canadian Parliament Building at dusk. Victoria, Canada
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Last sailaway – Emerald Princess
The cruise might be over, but for us we still have another day in Seattle followed by a 3 night stay in Vancouver.
So, normally a cruise comes to it’s conclusion and one disembarks with a tinge of sadness that it’s over. Not for us, as we decided on a one night stay in Seattle followed by a trip to Vancouver for a few days!
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Pike Place Market is a public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Washington, United States. The Market opened August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States (source Wiki)
Instead of going to admire the view from the Space Needle, we opted for the Sky View Observatory at the Columbia Tower which happens to be the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest.
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – View of the Space Needle and Emerald Princess in Seattle
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker: Emerald Princess sails away on another Alaska cruise from Seattle
Whilst up there we had a grandstand view of Emerald Princess departing on another Alaskan cruise.
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker: Seattle Southside at Sunset from the Sky View Observatory at the Columbia Tower, the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest.
Another highlight of our adventure was taking the Amtrak Cascades train from Seattle to Vancouver.
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Amtrak, King Street Station, Seattle.
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Amtrak, King Street Station, Seattle.
Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Amtrak, King Street Station, Seattle.
Anyone familiar with the line between Exeter and Teignmouth will always be impressed when the line hugs the coast around Dawlish. Well this was the same but magnified to an phenomenal scale! We opted for business class which, was worth the extra as the train was packed solid. Certainly a trip I would wholeheartedly recommend!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Andrew’s family cruise. Links to parts 1, 2 and 3 are below, in case you missed them.
Andrew has his own website and is available for professional photoshoots. Details can be found at solentphotographer.com
One of the handy things that Princess Cruises offer, is the ability to view the daily planner on your phone. There is no charge for this. I found it automatically brought up this page when I opened my safari app. One of the really cool functions on this, is the ability to message other people on the cruise. I didn’t set mine up, but I thought it was an excellent idea.
You can also check your stateroom account to see how much you have spent, and keep a schedule of the activities you want to do. That way you don’t miss anything, and don’t have to keep looking at the daily guide to remind yourself what is going on.
I needed to take some dollars out of the cash machine, which is located in the casino. Most of you probably already know this, but for those of you who don’t, children are not allowed in the casino and they are only able to open when at sea. As this was a sea day, the casino was open early. I dropped Joshua off at the kids club and went to get my money.
If you are wondering what I needed dollars for, it was because I chose to pay my onboard account in cash. I had registered a credit card, but didn’t want it charged. Also, I like to tip my stateroom attendant and restaurant staff in cash. So I remove the gratuities and pay them directly.
With a fistful of dollars in my hand, it was hard to resist the temptation of a quick flutter. I decided to put $20 into a machine and just leave it at that. The casino was very quiet at the time, I think it was about 9.30am. I played away and then had a little win. The only problem was the machine lit up like Blackpool Illuminations, and played lots of bells and seemed to go on forever. Very embarrassing.
I finally escaped the casino, with a bit of extra cash in my hand, and paid my room bill. Then it was time for a massage. This is the one I opted for. It was amazing.
Exotic Lime & Ginger Salt Glow with Massage 50 minutes An exotic exfoliation ritual that will invigorate and revitalize your body. Warm oil is dripped luxuriously over your body before our Lime and Ginger Salt Glow is applied. We then apply our Elemis Exotic Island Flower Body Lotion, leaving skin replenished and vibrant. After rinsing away the salts, you will receive a Deep Tissue Muscle Massage
I picked Joshua up and we went off for lunch, quickly passing these gorgeous desserts.
The buffet is great, especially with kids, as you can see here Josh was tucking into pasta, roast potatoes and eating watermelon. This was after demolishing a bit bowl of egg fried rice.
I had to get Joshua back to kids club quickly as I had plans to do some filming for my video of the cruise. So we shall have to fast forward to the evening which was a formal night.
The group met in Crooners Bar. I love seeing everyone dressed up on formal night, I think it’s a lovely tradition. It doesn’t have to be black tie and ballgowns. In fact no-one was THAT dressed up. The Captain came over and spoke to our group, but I didn’t dare get my camera out after all the snaps we took on the Bridge.
The atrium looked lovely and colourful, ready for the balloon drop. I have never experienced this before and was excited for Josh and I to see it.
For dinner we were booked into Sabatini’s, the speciality restaurant. I even put a shirt on Joshua and brought him along.
Even in Sabatini’s he still had his milk.
Ben from Honest Cruising gives Josh a little practice at filming.
Once again, the food was delicious.
After a wonderful meal, we had half an hour before the balloon drop. So Josh and I went to the theatre to see some of the show.
Then it was all ready for the big balloon drop. It is a popular event with people of all ages. A DJ played music in the atrium and there was lots of people dancing waiting for the countdown.
At the end of a longer than usual day for Josh and I, we went back to our stateroom and flopped into our comfy bed.
Day Five – Le Havre
Despite a late night, I still woke up early to watch us sail into Le Havre. I just love watching the sun rise or setting from my balcony, with the sea stretching out all around us.
I enjoyed breakfast on the balcony, with a reminder in the Princess Patter that it would soon be time to say goodbye.
For our last day, I made the most of the sunshine.
The majority of our passengers were from Australia and the United States, so it was no surprise they all wanted to take the trip to Paris. This gave me the opportunity to kick back and relax for one last time, having the ship virtually all to myself.
The Love Boat
As I mentioned earlier, I had spent some time filming for my cruise review video. So to try and bring to life the experience of being onboard the Sapphire Princess, here is a video which includes many of the ships’ features, and a few special guests.
Day 6 – Southampton
Before we disembarked, there was just enough time for one last delicious Princess Cruises chocolate chip muffin.
Someone looks happy
To sum up our time onboard Sapphire Princess, it was absolutely wonderful. Princess Cruises are really a cruise line for everyone, every age, new cruisers or those who have been doing it for years.
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.
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.
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!!
There’s nothing better than having a balcony when you cruise, and on Viking Sea every room has one. Not only did I get a great view of the coastline, but I also got a partial view of the Bridge.
It was warm and sunny outside with temperatures forecast for the high 80’s. I had booked a snorkelling excursion and was excited to try it for the first time.
Waking up to a beautiful view of St Croix
As my body was still on UK time, I felt really hungry as soon as I woke up. I needed to eat something quickly, so I ordered breakfast in my room and enjoyed a delicious feast before getting dressed.
Simple, Beautiful St Croix
I wanted to have a look at Frederiksted before leaving for the Buck Island trip. Thank goodness I did. St Croix is unlike any other Caribbean Islands visited by cruise ships.
There is no big terminal building, you simply walk along the pier into the quaint town of Frederiksted.
The Viking Sea docked in St Croix
As you reach the Customs and Immigration building, there is a small welcome party where you can taste the local rum while the DJ plays Caribbean music.
A warm welcome in St Croix
And if that doesn’t get you in the Caribbean mood, this lady will.
A vibrant welcome to St Croix
Frederiksted Historic District
There is a lovely area just at the end of the pier with benches facing the sea. The red building is Fort Frederik which was built in the 1750’s to guard the island from pirates. It now houses a museum and art gallery which can be visited for a small entrance fee. A clocktower overlooks Emancipation Park where in 1848, Danish Governor Peter Von Scholten emancipated the slaves.
I thought this was a really pretty place and not busy at all. There are a few tents set up with local sellers offering a range of local products but no big tax-free jewellery stores or designer shops, which I find is a refreshing change. It might be different when one of the larger cruise ships visits. If you have any experience of this please let me know in the comments below.
Driving To Christiansted
We were the second trip of the day for our driver Stephen.
Religion is a very important part of Island culture and it wasn’t long before I had a sign from God.
Thankfully it was just the shadow of a window sticker on my leg. Or was it?
The drive to Christiansted, the largest town on the island, took around 20 minutes. En route I was surprised to see an oil production plant on the island, recently sold and renamed Limetree Bay Terminals LLC. More in keeping with the area was the Captain Morgan Rum Distillery, which has a visitor centre if you fancy a look around.
Arriving in Christiansted we gathered on grass area to meet our Caribbean Sea Adventures Crew. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of the colourful buildings around us.
Once onboard the boat, it became apparent that I was the only person on board that had never snorkelled before. Many people had brought their own equipment.
Buck Island is a protected National Monument. Two-thirds of the island are surrounded by a coral barrier reef. This provides the perfect ecosystem for a variety of marine plants and animals including endangered species.
I didn’t go too far from the boat for my first snorkel but what I saw and experienced was something I will never forget. It is hard to put into words the peace and tranquillity I experienced even just putting my face into the water, but it moved me to tears when I emerged from the water.
Here is a 3-minute video that I have put together to give you an idea of what it was like. Have you tried snorkelling? If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. If you like the video please visit my YouTube channel and give it a thumbs up and subscribe to help me get famous :-). I hope you like the song as much as I do.
Back On Board
Back onboard the Viking Sea, you are handed a much needed chilled flannel to refresh yourself, and a warm smiley welcomes from the crew who greet you by name.
After our wonderful day trip, I was thirsty and needed to cool off a bit. I ordered myself a Margarita on the rocks, no salt, at the Aquavit Terrace Bar, and headed to the infinity pool.
I watched the beautiful sunset as we sailed away from St Croix.
Then it was time for dinner in Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant.
Manfredi’s starter – Calamari
Followed by melt in the mouth Surf n’ Turf
The meal in Manfredi’s was delicious but I was so exhausted after another action-packed day, I could barely stay awake to eat it. So as soon as I finished dinner I headed back to my room and flopped into the incredibly soft, comfy, cosy bed.
If you want to visit a different picture perfect Caribbean Island everyday, a cruise from Puerto Rico will deliver this and more. However, there are no direct flights from the UK to San Juan so flying to Puerto Rico puts people off for many reasons. When Viking Cruises invited me to be their guest on Viking Sea, I didn’t think twice about the journey, but I did learn things from it that will help you to get the best experience possible.
All set for flying to Puerto Rico to board Viking Sea for a Caribbean cruise.
Originally we were flying with BA via Philadelphia. However the reports of snow were making it likely that we would not get out of Philly for our connecting flight to San Juan. Luckily for me, Viking Cruises took care of everything and rebooked us on an American Airlines flight via Miami. However, this is a really important thing to consider if you are making your own flight arrangements. Flying via Miami also means your airbourne for a shorter period of time, however the stopover is longer so door to door, it will take longer.
Tip: If I were doing the trip myself, I would stay overnight in Miami and then fly to San Juan on the day of the cruise, or possibly book another overnight in San Juan. Also, book early and you may get a great deal on an upgraded seat and always, always, always have an airport lounge booked. For details on how to get the best deal for lounges read my Christmas In Florida blog post.
First glimpse of the sun above the clouds after taking off from Heathrow on American Airlines flight to Miami.
Standing Room Only
We weren’t the only passengers that had been re-routed to Miami, and this was clear by the lack of space on our flight. I managed to get my preferred window seat, however this meant I was trapped for 9 hours. When you travel with family, you don’t mind having to move them out of their seats, but as I was sitting next to an elderly couple, I didn’t want to keep disturbing them.
A few of my favourite things including this Mia Tui bag in rose gold.
There was only one thing for it. A glass of white wine, sunglasses and music on, and sit back and relax. For those of you who are thinking of flying on an American Airlines aircraft (check to see if you are on a codeshared flight), the wine and beer is complimentary, but spirits are $8 each. Cash is not accepted, so you must have a credit or debit card to hand. It wasn’t long before the wine and beer was gone, leaving no alternative than to abstain or pay up. Which one do you think I chose to do? Leave a comment below.
Dreaming of the Caribbean
American Airlines do have wifi onboard, which was great news, however I couldn’t get mine to work. When I asked a crew member about it, she told me I had to have downloaded an app. It does state in the in-flight magazine that you can simply connect onboard, however my new iPhone X was having none of it.
Fort Lauderdale stretch of beautiful sandy beach.
As we began our decent into Miami, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Fort Lauderdale coastline. To my frustration the clouds covered Port Everglades, so my ship spotting would have to wait for another time. We then passed Miami Beach and I took this picture of the iconic crescent shaped Fontainebleau that was a well known favourite hotel of Frank Sinatra’s.
Aerial view of the crescent shaped Fontainbleau along the stretch of Miami Beach.
Feel The Heat
In case you don’t know already, I LOVE Florida! We had four hours to wait for our connecting flight, so I went and sat in the little park area across from the main terminal building. I could feel the heat in the air as soon as I stepped out.
It is a long time to wait in an airport for a connecting flight which is why I recommend adding on a stay in Miami. I mean why wouldn’t you want to? Just jump in a taxi to a beach hotel. Kick off your shoes, grab a sunset cocktail and enjoy the view.
So by the time we were boarding our second flight, everyone was feeling a bit jaded. However the excitement of the cruise and the Caribbean was keeping spirits high.
We touched down in San Juan around 11.30 pm local time and collected our luggage. We were met by Viking Cruises representatives who checked us onto the transfer coach. The process was very quick and easy. The drive to the ship was no more than 20 minutes.
Puerto Rico cruise port entrance and our first glimpse of Viking Sea
As we stepped onboard, the ship looked beautiful. I headed straight to my stateroom. I had a Penthouse Veranda on deck 5 which was easy to find on a ship that holds just 930 passengers.
My Penthouse Veranda (PV) 5011 Starboard onboard Viking Sea
The room was a welcome sight. The extra touches that Viking Cruises offers were very much appreciated after the long journey.
A lovely welcome snack and nightcap.
Viking Cruises really look after their guests by providing an in room coffee machine, golf umbrella, robe and slippers.
No need to buy bottles of water as it’s all provided in glass bottles to avoid single-use plastics.
Toiletries are provided and replenished daily.
It felt so good to be onboard. I was relieved to be able to finally put my bags in the room and had a quick look out on deck.
Although it was nearly 2am, the air was warm. I just couldn’t wait for tomorrow.
But now it was time to get some sleep to be ready for horse riding in the morning.
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.
Most travel agents will let their customers know when there are great deals to be had. Not me. I have great customers that find the deals and call me to book. They are so good at knowing a deal that when I see what the price is, I want to book it for myself! This was the case with the two-night taster cruise. Kat emailed me or messaged me on Facebook and said she wanted to book this cruise for her and her friend. When I checked the price I went into overdrive and held off her cabin and two cabins for a friend and I.
Fast forward to 19 May 2017 and we boarded the elegant Celebrity Eclipse. We were welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne.
As we walked towards the atrium to get our bearings, we spotted the speciality restaurant staff, taking reservations. I took the opportunity to get our dining times sorted as we were not able to get the times that worked with the nursery online.
With that done, we headed for the pool deck.
The dancing fountain display was beautiful and had a very calming effect on me. We found a nice little spot to set up camp and distracted Josh with an extra large chocolate chip cookie, while we flagged down a poolside waiter.
After a few glasses of Prosecco (all included in the drinks package), and the mandatory dip in the pool, followed swiftly by a warm up in the hot tub, we headed back to our rooms to prepare for the compulsory muster drill.
Celebrity Cruises have adopted a different approach to the muster drill, which caused some controversy between passengers. It was presented as a kind of James Bond spoof, where one of the agents was on a mission and in order to complete it, they were put through a series of emergency procedures. Personally, I thought this was a refreshing change to the usual safety video.
We took a stroll to the Sunset Bar at the aft of the ship for spillway, passing the stunning lawn club. If you ever cruise with Celebrity, you really must do this, it was absolutely breathtaking. People were sitting on blankets on the lawn and chatting and taking in the view. The glass balcony means you can sit on the grass on what feels like the edge of the ship and look straight down to the water as you start to move away from the dock. Cafe del Mar style upbeat jazz tunes play through speakers located around the lawn, and there is a kind of cool, sophisticated, buzz in the air. The diversity of people was refreshing and ranged from my 3 year old running around on the lawn, to romantic couples of all ages. There was a group of same sex couples chilling out together and ladies letting their hair down for a well deserved weekend away. Some of which had never cruised before, and others who were almost part of the furniture.
After sailaway, I dropped Josh off at the X-Club and excitedly headed to one of Celebrity’s speciality restaurant I have always wanted to try, Qsine.
Trying the disco shrimp in Qsine
I think the Celebrity Cruises trainer, Leon Hand, aptly describes the experience as Heston Blumenthal meets Willy Wonka. That’s probably as close as you can get to an insight into this crazy, fun, delicious, quirky experience.
Sushi Lollopops in Qsine onboard Celebrity Eclipse
We docked in Le Havre but I decided I would rather stay onboard and enjoy the facilities on the ship. So did most others and the Solarium was quite full. I didn’t mind it too much until a lady opposite me decided to FaceTime someone, only they didn’t answer the first three times she called them. I politely GLARED at her when she first started calling, but I think that just made her more insistent that she would proceed with the call.
That is the one downside of a taster cruise. You do get a higher proportion of inconsiderate passengers. I don’t know why that is, but it’s just the way it is. Now one of the big benefits of a taster cruise, means you can book your next cruise whilst onboard and get a lower deposit, extra on board credit and cheaper prices (because you are booking earlier). We booked balcony cabins for a 10 night Canary Island Cruise in October. It cost us around £1300pp. I checked the prices yesterday and although the cruise is almost sold out, what balconies are left are starting at £1900pp. So there is a good booking tip for you. Make sure you put it in the name of your travel agent who should be able to give you a loyalty discount for booking with them.
So, after wandering around the ship and bumping into some familiar faces, we found the lawn club was once again the place to be. It was tranquil and spacious. The grass has a surprisingly calming effect on people for some reason. The pool area with the hot tub was more of a party atmosphere, but the lawn club was a real retreat from it all. We bumped into my friend and customer Kat, and her friend, and sat on the grass having a good old chat. It threatened to rain for a moment, but fortunately it passed.
That evening we a meal in Murano. Known for its fine dining. We opted for the wine pairing menu which was magnificent. The food, the staff, the service and the ambience were all exceptional. We raised a glass to the next cruise and enjoyed the rest of our evening.
Scallop Wellington was an excellent starter.
The after dinner plan was to visit the Martini Bar where we knew other people onboard would be. After bumping into a couple of familiar faces, Captain Greybeard and Jo Rzymowska, we headed to the shops to spend our remaining on board credit. With cap in hand and a bag of goodies we were still left with some change. So we payed what was supposed to be a quick visit to the Roulette table. It seemed it was my lucky night, not because I was stood next to an extremely inebriated ex-colleague, but because I kept winning. Eventually we had to go because the kids club was closing. It was 1am!!
So it was no Martini bar for us on this occasion, but a great couple of days spend onboard a stunning ship and two (and a half) very excited people to be hopping back on board for 10 days in October.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The latest addition to Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet, Norwegian Escape, towered over the Ocean Terminal building in Southampton as she waited to greet travel agents and press for her pre-inaugural sailing. One of the unique features of a Norwegian cruise ship is the painted hull and the Norwegian Escape was no exception.
Having chosen the well known marine artist, Guy Harvey, Norwegian Cruise Line was sure to get a show-stopping design.
The first Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea
There are so many dining and entertainment features on this ship and with less than 24 hours onboard, I had to choose my favourite venues to see. My video includes highlights of the adult only Spice H2O with an incredible waterfall, the luxury of the exclusive Haven and Courtyard, a suite that looks like something out of a James Bond movie, the teen and kids clubs, and of course the spa. I hope you enjoy it.
A Few More Favourites
One of the bars onboard is called the ‘It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” Bar. As if the name wasn’t cool enough, I loved the design of the quirky tables they used.
The 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar
Norwegian Cruise Line give you the freedom to choose to do whatever you want, and offer so many options that there is guaranteed to be something for everyone. Deciding which bars to try when you only have one night is tricky, so we opted for the totally cool Mojito Bar, Sugarcane. Norwegian Cruise Line caters well for indecisive people like me, and I was thrilled to see a Martini Flight option on the menu, allowing me to try a little bit of six varieties.
Unusually, I decided to opt for an evening in the Spa, rather than late-night drinking and dancing.
I like to eat healthily so my breakfast consisted of a selection of fresh exotic fruit…….
…… some fruit loops and a yoghurt…….
….. muesli and fruit compote ……….
……. a couple of pastries (they were only tiny)…….
………. smoked salmon and cream cheese ………
………. bacon, sausage and eggs ……….
……….. finishing up with french toast and maple syrup ………
As they rolled me off the ship, I thanked Norwegian Cruise Line for such a wonderful time onboard. Next time though, I plan to stay a bit longer.
You may have heard the original White Stripes recording of their huge hit Seven Nation Army, but one of MSC’s cruise ships, Magnifica, surprised onlookers in Hamburg by playing the song on it’s horns. This was as part of the celebrations to mark the 825th anniversary of the Port of Hamburg. Here is the moment when an MSC cruise ship plays Seven Nation Army.
The 95,128-ton MSC Magnifica has the capacity to carry 3,223 passengers and approx 1,038 crew members.
The ships 16 decks include 3 swimming pools, 5 restaurants, theatre, 4D cinema, casino, 9 bars and lounges, fitness centre and spa, 52 suites with private balcony and a massive 779 balcony cabins as well as outside and interior options.
A great advantage to cruising with MSC if you are travelling with children, is that on most sailings kids go free. You still pay for port taxes and gratuities but it’s still a massive saving. They have the same kids facilities as most other major cruise lines, so there is no compromise there.
They live up to their heritage as an Italian cruise line, as I would say they definitely serve the best fresh pizza, gelato and coffee at sea.
The Italian flair can be seen in the opulent furnishing in the public areas. I particularly loved the Tiger Bar with it’s ‘Hollywood Glamour’ style staircase.
Of course it wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity for some designer shopping. Onboard MSC Magnifica you can find all sorts of shops from designer handbags, Ralph Lauren, logo shops, perfume and duty free.
It’s hard not to pop in and have a little look, when you pass a window display like this one.
It’s a great excuse to treat yourself to a little souvenir from your cruise.
MSC are truly a family cruise line, whether travelling alone or in a group, you always get that sense of family.
This was my first cruise with an Italian Cruise Line and the value for money was incredible. I couldn’t have stayed in a Travelodge for £105 for 3 nights, let alone take a cruise. We topped up with the Allegrissimo drinks package which was around £25 per person per day. It included Prosecco, speciality coffee and gelato.
Not A Great Start
After a hellish flight with a wriggly, impatient toddler, an absent A2B transfers driver and a journey to 2 wrong destinations, we FINALLY arrived at the cruise terminal.
It All Changed
As we stepped onto the pavement with our cases, pushchair and bags, we were approached by a lovely Italian lady who kindly checked our cases were labelled correctly and showed us where to leave them.
We connected with my friends’ friend and her 5-year-old daughter and joined the rather long queue for check-in. We were given priority boarding having the pushchair with us and checked in. A handsome young man in a blue blazer greeted us and said “see you onboard”. I was already impressed.
As we boarded the ship, wristbands were put on the children. After the journey we were hungry so we headed straight to the restaurant. The buffet-style restaurant on the MSC Magnifica was by far the largest I have EVER seen. Spread into 2 rooms with fruit and salad stations at each end. By the time I’d seen everything, I’d forgotten what was at the start. Having said that, once I knew how good the freshly made pizza was……….. nothing else mattered. The plates are huge as well so you end up putting a lot more than intended on your plate.
I must admit to looking for the ‘catch’. I was expecting to find something that would explain the low cost of this cruise. We went to our rooms to see what they were like. They were lovely, spacious, nicely decorated, nothing wrong with that at all, in fact on a par with the other mainstream cruise lines and better than some. The bed was comfy, pillows lovely and plump, a good amount of hanging space and drawers for your clothes.
I familiarised myself with the baby club and made sure I checked Joshua in for the drop off times. For under 3’s they offer baby drop off onboard MSC Magnifica which is one hour at 1 pm and one hour at 6 pm. Perfect for parents to indulge in some time in the jacuzzi in the afternoon or a spa treatment, and an hour to get ready for dinner in the evening. There is no charge for this and you can access the baby club all day if you want to let your little one run wild.
This was Joshua’s 3rd cruise and I had taken my daughter 4 times prior to that. As a single parent, you can often feel like you are on the outside watching everyone else have fun. I do believe that the best holiday you can have as a single parent is a cruise, but there are still some activities you feel you cannot be part of.
As I was walking through the main lounge known on MSC Magnifica as the Tiger Bar, a member of the entertainment team invited me to join them for the sailaway party. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I needed to be, so I pulled up the pushchair put my bag down, ordered a drink from the waitress standing nearby, took off my jumper and sat down. Joshua took great delight in walking around the lounge, so with Prosecco in hand (mine), I followed him.
People were really friendly and by their friendly reaction, you would have thought they’d never seen a baby before. One thing I will say about Mediterranean cultures is that they embrace the presence of children which is refreshing.
The entertainment team got up on stage and the music started. People of all ages took to the dance floor, so I picked up Joshua and joined them. He loved it, I loved it. I couldn’t believe it was 6 pm and the party was in full swing, what a great bunch of people. My friends came along and we all danced together. My friend and I both looked at each other and agreed that this was fantastic.
So now I was in the holiday frame of mind, and I’d danced off the stresses of the day, it was time to get ready for dinner. We didn’t have long so I figured we would just freshen up, grab dinner and an early night.
We met in the main dining room and did our best to get through 7 courses including steamed mussels, salad, soup, an extensive choice of delicious entrees, cheese and biscuits, dessert and coffee. Joshua was grumpy as it had been a long day and I was exhausted, so we ate what we could and we went back to our room.
One of the many benefits of cruising is that you end the evening when you are ready rather than have to do everything as a group.
The next two days were spent enjoying quality time with Joshua, eating whatever I wanted, meeting new people and chilling out.
My three favourite areas of the ship were the pool with its retractable roof, the Tiger Bar and the nightclub, which didn’t start until 11 pm but Josh and I went in during the day and had a good look around. There are plenty of lounges on board and they all have great and varied entertainment to offer.
Tips For Cruising With A Baby
I found it worked best to give Joshua breakfast in the buffet first. Then I would go to the coffee and chocolate bar for a speciality coffee where Joshua could run around safely. After that I would push him around in his pushchair until he fell asleep. Once he was off I could go into the main dining room for my favourite dish of eggs benedict.
Lunch was in the buffet. After the first two nights, I decided it was better for us and other guests if we also had dinner in the buffet. The problem with eating at the buffet is that you can go back for more. But afterwards, I would let Joshua fall asleep in his pushchair and sit in the evening by the undercover pool and read and relax with another glass of prosecco. My friends always seemed to find me and would join me for a while and then they would go off and do their thing.
To sum up, my short cruise on MSC Magnifica far exceeded my expectations.
You really get the feeling of the Mediterranean way of life. The people are friendly, positive and ready to enjoy themselves. It’s a place where age means nothing, old people don’t act old, in fact they act younger then the youngsters. They are living life to the full with the people they love and it shows through. For more information go to MSC Cruises
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