Tag Archives: Family-Cruise

Disney Teases New Design of Disney Wish

Disney Cruise Line Unveils New Design of Disney Wish, Due Summer ’22

With less than a week to go until their grand ship reveal, Disney teases new design of Disney Wish.

The fifth ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, will introduce a brand-new concept unlike anything at sea. Enchantment will be the design theme,  weaving imagination, emotion and adventure into every corner of the ships’ unique personality.

Imagineering an Enchanted Ship

Enchantment is that special ingredient of Disney films.

Inspired by nearly a century of Disney fairytales, Walt Disney Imagineers have captured the essence of enchantment, using:

  • fairytale castles, emulating the classic storybook charm at the core of many enchanted tales;
  • forests and animals, bringing to life fascinating natural worlds and the animals that inhabit them; and
  • spirit of the sea, embodying the magic and mystery of the watery world below.

A wide range of stories that will be represented on board, from Disney and Pixar to Marvel and Star Wars.

Designed with Character

The Disney Wish will continue the Disney tradition of incorporating an elegant, classical exterior design.

Every Disney cruise ship features two character art pieces on the hull of each ship. For the Disney Wish, elegant artwork on the bow, will feature Captain Minnie Mouse.

The stern of the ship will feature a custom sculpture of the optimistic and adventurous Rapunzel. The Disney Princess will be suspended by her golden tresses and appear to be “decorating” the exterior of the ship with the help of her chameleon pal, Pascal.

Imagineers have taken it one step further. By adding a whimsical curvature to the deck edge along both sides of the ship, they have created a sense of magic and visual movement both inside and out.

A Castle on the Seas

Image Credit: Disney Cruise Line – The Grand Hall onboard the Disney Wish

The spellbinding Grand Hall is a bright, airy and elegant space that will greet guests the moment they step on board. The fairytale castle-inspired atrium is touched with Gothic, Baroque and French Rococo influences that gives life to the columns, carvings, trimmings and adornments.

The Grand Hall will be Disney Cruise Line’s castle on the seas. An enchanted realm where glittering trails of pixie dust climb majestic columns, spill across the ceiling and animate the shimmering chandelier  with a burst of magic. The chandelier is the manifestation of wishes come true.

Cinderella stands at the base of a grand staircase, beneath the glow of the wishing star. The story of Cinderella is the epitome of magic transforming wishes into dreams and dreams into reality. The beautiful bronze statue of this beloved princess is just one of many tributes to her story in the Grand Hall’s design. Others include railings that glisten with elegant stained glass, and sophisticated nods to her carriage and glass slipper in the delicate metalwork and light fixtures.

The Grand Hall will be the enchanted gateway to everything that awaits on board the Disney Wish including;

  • fairytale worlds
  • heroic challenges
  • epicurean indulgences
  • thrilling adventures
  • galactic encounters
  • peaceful escapes

Details on the experiences, itineraries and booking dates for the Disney Wish will be revealed next week. For more information, visit the Disney Parks Blog.

Recommended Reading Disney Magic Cruise Ship Review

Caribbean Princess Opens Water Playground

Caribbean Princess Opens Water Playground on the top deck of the 3,140-guest cruise ship.

The Reef Family Splash Zone includes a water play area, newly-refurbished pool and lounge area.

The Reef’s family-friendly features comprise:

  • An interactive water playground including a splashpool, water sprays and showers. Winnie the Whale ‘rains’ from her fluke and sprays from her spout. Children can find Winnie in Camp Discovery Youth and Teen Centres, and learn about humpback whales
  • A refurbished spa and bar area including a family pool and jacuzzi. ‘Morgan’s Bar’ has child-friendly mocktails with drinks such as ‘Crazy Coconut’ and ‘Berry Nice to Meet You’
  • A new outdoor lounge area with a range of single sun loungers, sectional chairs and sofas with tables. The space also has new fixtures, finishes and canopies offering plenty of shade
  • A multi-generational game zone with oversized activities such as giant Connect Four and Jenga

Destination Themes

In addition, directly below The Reef in the Camp Discovery outdoor area, children can interact and explore with a destination-themed water table. It features the many locations and iconic landmarks Princess visits including the Sydney Opera House and Golden Gate Bridge and also highlights how a cruise ship moves through water, waves and weather.

Discovery Channel

Caribbean Princess boasts a wealth of additional family-friendly features, which were recently expanded via a multi-million pound upgrade. They include three youth and teen clubs, each themed around Princess’ partnership with the Discovery Channel; activities and games for children such as hands-on science experiments, mini golf tournaments, talent shows and stargazing; and interconnecting staterooms for use by larger groups of family and friends.

Caribbean Princess Opens Water Playground

Cutting Edge Technology

Caribbean Princess was also the first ship in the Princess fleet to be fully OceanMedallion-activated. The multi-award winning OceanMedallion, which is the same size as a 10p piece, has been designed to deliver an entirely new level of service and create a holiday that is more simple, effortless and personalised. It supports a number of features such as a family and friends locator, which allows guests to easily find other people onboard.

Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises vice president UK & Europe, said: “The Reef Family Splash Zone forms part of our ongoing commitment to offer families a fun and relaxing onboard holiday. Caribbean Princess now has a wealth of features designed to appeal to guests of all ages, perfectly complementing the stunning destinations the ship sails to.”

Princess Cruises is offering a 14-day ‘Circle Caribbean’ voyage on Caribbean Princess, from £1,599 per person including complimentary drinks packages. Departing February 2, 2020 and sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, ports of call include St Thomas, St Maarten, St Kitts, Martinique, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Bonaire and Aruba. Includes up to $1,100 spending money for a family of four staying in the same stateroom.

For more information or to book visit www.princess.com, speak to your local travel agent or call 0344 338 8663.

Cruising Alaska with the Sassoli-Walkers Part 3

It’s great to see that you are all enjoying these updates as much as I am. Andrew really has an amazing talent for capturing the beauty of the landscape.

Cruising Alaska with the Sassoli-Walkers Part 3, sees the family sail through the Tracy Arm Fjord, visit Juneau and Skagway and enjoy whale and dolphin sightings.

Day Five

Sailing through the Tracy Arm Fjord was amazing!

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Sailing through the Tracy Arm Fjord

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Sailing through the Tracy Arm Fjord

The liquid sunshine that so often falls in Alaska came down big time in Juneau,

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Juneau, Alaska

but that didn’t stop us having a wonderful tour that encompassed a visit to the Meadenhall Glacier,

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Meadenhall Glacier, Juneau

followed by whale watching.

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Whale Watching, Juneau

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Whale Watching, Juneau

What a day! This cruise is exceeding expectations at every turn!

Day Six

It was a rainy day in Skagway, but we enjoyed a nice wander around this town that made it’s name and fortune from the gold rush.

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Emerald Princess docked in Skagway

Rocks around the port are painted with various ships that have visited. One that stood out was a P&O / Princess captain who retired.

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – Skagway rock art with tribute to Captain I.G. Clark

Day Seven

A day at sea, and the sun has finally returned! A Bridge visit and within minutes we saw dolphins off the starboard bow.

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker – View from the Bridge of Emerald Princess as she sails Alaska

Photo Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker Dolphin spotting from the Bridge of Emerald Princess as she sails Alaska

It was a day of relaxing, larking about in the pool and watching some concerts on the screen. In the evening there was a lavish gala dinner followed by another movie under the stars.

This really has been a cruise full of wonderful experiences and memories that will last a lifetime…



Have you read part 1 & 2. If not you can find the links below.

Cruising Alaska with the Sassoli-Walkers Part 1

Cruising Alaska with the Sassoli-Walkers Part 2

Recommended Reading: Princess Cruises to build two LNG cruise ships

Godmother of Independence of the Seas

Have you ever wondered how they pick a cruise ship Godmother? Cruise lines generally look for a Celebrity. In 2008 Royal Caribbean introduced Independence of the Seas.  At that time the vessel was the World’s largest and most innovative cruise ship.  The cruise line decided that the Godmother for their newest ship should be an ordinary woman. Someone who was doing something extraordinary in her community.

1700 entries were narrowed down to just four finalists after a nationwide search. The judging panel, including Sir Steve Redgrave, chose Elizabeth Hill as the special lady to carry the honour.

I met up with Elizabeth recently, while she was visiting relatives in their country farmhouse. It was great to hear all about her experience of becoming Godmother to the UK’s favourite Royal Caribbean ship.

How Did You Become Godmother of Independence of the Seas?

“It was a series of good connections in a way. I actually didn’t know I had been entered into the competition. Sir Steve Redgrave had retired from rowing and set up his own sports foundation which was being sponsored by Royal Caribbean, at the same time Independence of the Seas was being built. Royal Caribbean had already run a search for an “ordinary” Godmother in America and it had been very successful.”

“For the UK competition, they were asking for the public to nominate an ordinary woman who had done extraordinary things for the community. At the time I was running a charity and I guess I was pioneering what I was doing, lots of people do it now but nobody had seriously done what I was doing which is called care farming now. So my daughter who was 12 was poorly and at home one-day watching daytime tv and Sir Steve Redgrave went on This Morning and Loose Women and he put out this call on both shows I think.”

Loose Women

“All I know is that Alicia had seen Loose Women and she got on the computer and sent off this email. She said to me later “Well, I fancied a holiday Mum” However, in the email she told them that the day of the naming ceremony was her 13th Birthday.”

“Well I knew nothing about it so when they actually rang me to tell me they had sifted through thousands of entries and got down to the last six and they were doing a telephone interview, I thought one of the kids had entered me into something like Big Brother. So I said “Oh I am really sorry I don’t do reality television” and they said “No no no don’t put the phone down let me explain what it is” so then they explained and I was gobsmacked because I had no concept of it, I had not seen it, I had no idea about the ship and cruising was not in my experience, I knew nothing about this at all. I explained this to the woman that rang me, and she thought it was hilarious.”

6 out of 1700

“She asked if she could go through some questions as they had got 1700 entries down to six but were trying to narrow it down to four. So she asked me a series of questions and that was it as far as I was concerned.”

“A few days later I got a phone call and they said, “have you got a passport because we’ve narrowed it down to four and we’d like to take you to Finland to see the ship and the handover”.

“I was shocked again. But the funny thing was after I said “yes that would be fantastic”, I went to get my passport and it was out of date! So it was a mad dash to the passport office to get all the stuff within two days.”

Private Jet

“We got down to Stansted and were flown in a private jet to Finland, the four of us and Richard Fain were onboard. That was fabulous because we were in this private jet and he talked to all of us. He tended to talk to me more than the others and I know why because my husband is a farmer but he also loves engines and engineering, so he had asked me all sorts of questions about the ship which I asked Richard Fain. Richard Fain is not just the Chair, he likes to take interest in every little part of it and particularly the engineering side of it. He spent most of the time explaining to me in great detail about the engines, what sort of engines they were, the stabilisers, and all the innovative things that were on this ship. It was absolutely fascinating, he knew everything.”

“When we arrived, Captain Tao met us and we went on board the ship”.

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean

Was this your first time on a cruise ship?

“Absolutely I had never seen anything like it, I’d never even seen one! Yes, It was gobsmacking I absolutely could not believe the size of this ship. It was so fabulous, so beautiful, such a fabulous feat of engineering and I just thought it was absolutely wonderful”.

“I got chatting to Captain Tao and told him I had a daughter. He also has a daughter the same age as Alicia and his family were farmers so we had some things in common. Things just fitted into place”.

“We had a wonderful night onboard and we were at this lovely ball and had a meal to celebrate the handover ceremony from the Shipyard to the Americans. We were all involved in that and had been told to take an evening dress so it was fabulous.”

Sir Steve Redgrave

“Then we came back. We weren’t flown back on the jet but went back to the office in England and were interviewed by the panel with Sir Steve Redgrave. He was really interested in what I did, which was to have kids who had been excluded from school coming up onto the farm and we were doing recognised qualifications with them without them knowing that they were actually doing it. They weren’t in a classroom we were doing literacy, numeracy in all sorts of innovative ways that involved animals, tractors, Land Rovers, woodwork, metalwork and all those sorts of things.”

Gamelea Farm – The Care Farm that Elizabeth and her husband ran to help young people learn through farming.

“They were mainly boys all of whom had been in trouble with the police. Most of them had got tags on. We were just being very successful because they didn’t want to be in a classroom, they hated being in a classroom and it wasn’t meeting their needs and we ended up giving them skills to go and get jobs which a lot of them did. So a lot of them just needed somebody to find what they were interested in and tap into that.”

“Throughout the whole experience we were treated so wonderfully well and the other three were lovely, lovely women. So that would have been enough for me because I’d had this exciting few days, it was fabulous.”

The Phone Call

“They said they would let us know the outcome the following day. At about 8 am the next morning I had a telephone call to tell me I had won but it didn’t enter my head that I had actually won. I thought someone else had won. I said oh that’s absolutely fabulous, I had such a lovely time oh please send her my congratulations. She said no Its YOU. I said me? Oh!  She said yes we have rung you early because when we release it, we think you might be inundated. We have spoken to the local television crew, we’ve spoken to the local radio we’ve spoken to the local newspaper, we think you are going to be inundated... and yes we were.”

“The television crew were there around about 9 o’clock and local radio station arrived shortly after.  Talk about fifteen minutes of fame, well I certainly had it. It literally was madness, being thrown into this world that I had no experience of whatsoever.”

“Then it was only a few days until the naming ceremony. They said put your list together of guests you would like to bring. So I said obviously I would like to bring my husband and my daughter. It’s our second marriage so we’ve got children from other marriages. So we ended up bringing our own parents, who were alive then, and our extended family and their partners. I can’t remember how many of us there were but possibly at least 15 of us.

Presidential Suite

Edward (my husband) and I, my Mum and sister, Edward’s parents and Alicia and her friend, were all put in the Presidential Suite and all the rest of the family were in nice suites not far away. They all used our suite. It was one big party for my family because literally as one bottle of champagne was emptied they had another one. I don’t drink so it was wasted on me, but I didn’t get to be part of the party because once I got onboard I just had time to do my things in my cabin and then I had to go through the rehearsal. Sir Steve Redgrave was held up so we didn’t have time to go through the whole rehearsal. I actually pressed the red button on stage and broke the champagne in the rehearsal, so I did it twice!”

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean

The Ceremony

“They do it from the stage electronically so you see the champagne smashing on the hull of the ship from a big screen. It’s a spectacular thing to be part of its total razzmatazz. What they had forgotten to do is tell me I had to say something and I hadn’t even got a speech or anything.

So Richard Fain actually called Alicia up onto the stage because it was her birthday and got everyone to sing her happy birthday to her and he gave her a little pendant with a heart and a diamond in it and then he gave me a diamond brooch and I just said thank you and went and sat down.

Then Captain Tao said to me it’s your turn to say something now. Anyway I don’t know how my legs carried me back to the front of the stage. I have absolutely no idea and apparently, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, so I didn’t say very much but what I said was very emotional for people.

A Celebrity

They always have celebrities like footballers and television people that you see on a regular basis, Coronation Street people, there were quite a few faces that I recognised and I signed my autograph for them. My family was getting people’s autographs and they were getting mine which was funny.”

“After that, we went to a cocktail party, and the owner of the shipyard was there and they presented me with a gold and diamond necklace, and there was a little plaque in the box saying who I am and what I did and that was a real surprise that was wonderful. Then we went off and had the dinner and Richard Fain sat one side of me and Sir Steve Redgrave sat the other.”

“I’ve always been treated extremely well and when I speak to some of the seasoned people their ambition has always been to work for Royal Caribbean because they always say its best.”

What are you doing now?

“I take my job as Godmother seriously. I do get some perks so I try to give back wherever I can, by answering things on blogs or giving talks to ladies groups, I feel then that I’m not getting something for nothing.”

“I still get involved in Voluntary work. I am involved with our local church, I’m the president of our WI, I run and organise an older peoples group and I volunteer for home start. I may be retired but I still want to do things so I do something for the local community and its good because I meet new friends.”

“Because I am on the speaker circuit for the WI, I do go around and do a talk Five Things I Learned from being Godmother of the Independence.”

“I know that some people have booked cruises as a direct result of my talk. Because my husband has Parkinson’s Disease, I do a talk to the Parkinson’s group.  I explain to people that being disabled is brilliant being on a ship. There are plenty of things to do onboard if you don’t want to get off the ship and there is food 24 hours a day.”

Godmother Duty

“When I am on board the staff are always trying to do nice things for me like get the best table and I say no no no I am going to do my Godmother duty and I am going to sit at shared tables and talk to people every night. If I’m in a really nice suite I will invite people back who aren’t in suites for afternoon tea so they can see what a suite is like and once we were lucky enough to have the Presidential Suite I invited loads of people back. I want Royal Caribbean to think that they have chosen the right person.”

Royal Treatment

“When I get onboard they always meet me I never have to queue to get on board. I’m always escorted off, so they do treat me in a very special way. And they always say if we are in Southampton that we must come onboard.

So the crew very much want me onboard and there is a huge superstition which is quite interesting because one of the officers saw me and said oh The Godmother, the Godmother, Elizabeth I can say good morning to you in person because I always say good morning to your picture and he said he and his partner do that and it brings us good luck and it’s true because one day I was so busy and I didn’t do it and my day was such a terrible day that I never want to do that again.”

“Because there’s a huge superstition around it. The Godmother is supposed to be keeping the ship safe, she is the mother that keeps the ship safe. That’s how I interpret it. I’ve researched it and that’s the best I can find. If you go back to the days of the Vikings they used to have women carved on the front. Its always a woman and the ship is always female. They really do take it very seriously.”

Have You Kept In Contact With Any of Your Care Farm Children?

“We are still in touch with some of them and they still come and visit us it’s great they’ve got jobs and homes and families and we’re really proud of that and I did it for nearly twenty years and in that time we were employing 20 people so it was pretty big.”

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

“Do it because it suits everybody from the youngest to the eldest. People are very surprised what its like, the fact that you get all this wonderful treatment. It’s better than all your top-class hotels. You don’t have to get off the ship if you don’t want to. Your holiday starts as soon as you get on board the ship.”

Cruise Like A Godmother

Elizabeth started a blog. This gives insights into her daily life as well as stories of her role as a Godmother. You can subscribe to Elizabeth’s blog and read articles here

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work as a Cruise Director? In this interview, Marc Walker tells us all about it. Cruise People – Marc Walker – Royal Caribbean

Sapphire Princess Cruise Part Two ‘The Love Boat’

Day Four – At Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even in Sabatini’s he still had his milk.

Ben from Honest Cruising gives Josh a little practice at filming.

Once again, the food was delicious.

 

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

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

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

Day Five – Le Havre

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

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

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

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

The Love Boat

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

Day 6 – Southampton

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

Someone looks happy

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

Recommended Reading: Sapphire Princess Part One 



Sapphire Princess Cruise Part One

This was Joshua’s first press trip. So I guess that officially now makes me a 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.

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

So Do You Think Britannia Rules The Waves?

9 Things I Love About Britannia

So it wasn’t actually my first time onboard Britannia, but as you can imagine, the launch event was pretty hectic. An opportunity to revisit P & O Cruises newest ship came up, so I jumped at the opportunity to take another look.

1. Grand Atrium

If you have been on any of Britannia’s predecessors, you will notice the difference in her interior design. The atrium is contemporary and more luxurious than the rest of the fleet. The chandelier dominates and Wows you as you walk in. The bar looks lavish with its sparkly lighting and black marble top. In my opinion, a ship’s atrium sets the scene for the rest of the cruise experience. It kind of gets you in the mood for what is to come.

The Atrium onboard Britannia has a contemporary and more luxurious feel.

The glitz and glamour of the atrium bar is a new addition to P & O Cruises design.

2. The Pool Deck

The most important part of any cruise ship in my opinion, is the pool deck (ok apart from the lifeboats). Britannia offers two pools in this area, as well as jacuzzis, attractive sun loungers, a platform/stage which has been graced by Ant and Dec in the Saturday Night Takeaway hosted onboard, and of course a pool bar.

Britannia’s Main Pool as seen on Saturday Night Takeaway

Relax in one of the Jacuzzi’s onboard

3. Cabins and Staterooms

The main difference between Britannia and the other P and O ships, is that there are no oceanview staterooms. What I mean is that you can have an inside, or a balcony but nothing in between. They do have single cabins and accessible cabins available, but these do get booked up quickly.

A nice seating area in the balcony cabins.

A very comfy looking bed in the balcony cabins

4. The Crow’s Nest

It wouldn’t be a P and O ship without one, and Britannia is no exception. The Crow’s Nest is a real favourite with the regular P and O cruisers, and it’s not hard to see why. With stunning views of the ocean, ample seating, a piano and a bar, it is the perfect place to relax and take in the scenery as you cruise to your next destination.

The Crow’s Nest offers amazing sea views

Enjoy the views while a pianist plays your favourite tunes

A great place to sit and enjoy panoramic ocean views (have I mentioned the views?)

5. Luxuriate in the Retreat

Whether you are looking to get away from the kids or just like that bit of extra luxury, the Retreat is a private adult only area to relax and unwind.

Relax and enjoy the serenity of the retreat

Cool down with a dip in this pool of tranquility

Relax in bistro style 

What could be more luxurious than a treatment in this outdoor spa room

6. Relax in the Oasis Spa

So you are not a sun worshipper, or the itinerary you are sailing on is not quite warm enough. This is a great excuse to take a trip to the Oasis Spa. With hundreds of different types of treatments on offer, you can pamper yourself to your heart’s content.

Feel the warmth penetrate your back muscles as you relax on one of these heated loungers

Step into thalassotherapy pool as your cares melt away

7. A Food Hero for Everyone

We all need a hero, but P and O have five of them. I’ll take James Martin and you can all fight over the rest. In fact, we heard James was onboard the same day as us and I was hoping to say hello, but it wasn’t to be. We can but dream. Having said that, my knees did buckle when I came face to face with Marco Pierre-White on Ventura once, but to me James seems more of your boy next door type. Oh what am I talking about, I’d accept a date with either of them! 

The Cookery Club

This is a great addition for P & O Cruises but they won’t let me onboard when James or Marco are hosting their cookery classes. 

The Epicurean

A speciality restaurant that offers an afternoon tea created by French Pastry Chef Eric “Cake Boy” Lanlard. This is a not-to-be-missed experience whilst cruising onboard Britannia, and comes at a fraction of the price you would pay in a London Hotel. And it includes champagne.

Enjoy Eric Lanlard’s afternoon tea at the Epicurean

The Glasshouse

One of my favourite features onboard P & O ships is Olly Smith’s  Glasshouse. Find out more when I took part in a wine tasting class onboard Ventura.

The perfect place for your #shipsandchampagne moment

Sindhu

As a cruise line that caters primarily for the British market, P and O made a good call when creating the onboard Indian restaurant Sindhu with 2 Michelin Star chef Atul Kochhar. 

Beautiful mahogany decor at Sindhu adds atmosphere to the fine dining Indian cuisine

8. The Limelight Club

This is my favourite feature onboard Britannia. It was first described to me as a sort of Ronnie Scott’s at sea. There is a cover charge for this venue and you can enjoy a beautiful meal, followed by performances from first class musicians. 

The Limelight Club invites you to enjoy an evening of fine dining and live performances.

A lovely atmosphere awaits in The Limelight Club

 

When I attended the Britannia launch event, I was adamant not to miss out on seeing Jaki Graham performing live. As an 80’s chick, it was a big deal to me.  

9. I Love P & O Cruises No Hassle Caribbean Fly Cruise

P & O Cruises have designed a unique hassle free Caribbean fly cruise experience. Depart from your preferred regional airport and once you check in your luggage, you won’t see it again until you get onboard the ship. You fly out the same day and as the aircraft is chartered, everyone is going to the same destination. There is no need for an Esta as you are not visiting the United States and no need to overnight in a hotel before your cruise.

Jewel of the Seas Greek Isles Cruise Review

A Different Kind of Cruise

I wanted to compare my last cruise on Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, to something smaller. Jewel of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s Radiance Class ship.  Due to their outward-facing glass lifts, they provide stunning views and are fondly referred to as ‘ships of light’.

One benefit of a smaller cruise ship like Jewel of the Seas, is getting access to more ports of call. You will find more detail regarding the onboard experience, at the end of this article. Let’s look at the destinations first of all.

Naples, Italy

The Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus tour was probably the best option for us, due to travelling with a child and an elderly man.

The traffic is slow as you would expect in a city and the bus stops very often and as a result, seems like quite a while at each stop.  It is a great value for money option at 17 Euros per person (Joshua was free). Driving around the city in the sunshine for an hour gives you a sense of the local culture.

My tip would be to fill your bag with essentials such as water and snacks and make the most of the free wifi onboard.

After our bus tour, we took the long way back to the Jewel of the Seas via horse and cart.  For just 20 Euros for 3 of us, it was an incredible experience and one I will never forget.

Santorini, Greece

I have always wanted to visit Santorini. The mode of transport was a choice between donkey (which will hopefully be withdrawn shortly), cable car or a hike up the mountain, so in this instance, I decided against it.  The majority of people disembarked the ship, as a result, I was able to relax by the pool.

Mykonos, Greece

Mykonos is stunning, romantic, friendly, quaint and more.  It was a short ferry ride from where we docked to the town.

The bus will take you to one of the stunning beaches.  After the ferry ride, we took the option of wandering around the town, with a quick dip in the sea, followed by a relaxing lunch in a local taverna. The waterfront restaurant we went to was called Kavos. We ordered a bottle of local wine and the most delicious calamari I have ever tasted. It even beats my favourite seafood restaurant at home, Loch Fyne where I told you about the Best Oysters Ever.  So we followed that with another bottle of wine and more calamari.

Athens and Kusadasi

While I love travelling and experiencing new things, cruising became attractive for me because, in addition to offering value for money, being onboard a cruise ship is a safe and convenient option when you are looking for to holiday in the sun with children.  Athens and Kusadasi have amazing sights, but I will return to see them when Joshua is a bit older.

Katakolon, Greece

This was a great place to stroll off the ship and into the local village.  The street is lined with shops selling souvenirs, jewellery, hats, handbags, clothes and various forms of art.  There are restaurants, bars and coffee shops on the water’s edge, for you to sample the local cuisine.  The people are friendly and the goods are very reasonably priced. This is a great place to stock up on all your presents for people back at home.

Pro Tip – this was the cheapest place for duty-free goods compared to everywhere else on our trip.  The shop is right outside the ship as you disembark.

Onboard Jewel of the Seas

The currency used on all Royal Caribbean ships is the US Dollars.

Things to do

Would you?

At the centre of the ship is the atrium which is 9 decks high. When you visit the loyalty desk on deck 12, just outside the Adventure Ocean kids club, you can stand on a glass platform and see the decks below.

Free Champagne

I attended my first art auction purely because free champagne was on offer,  however, I enjoyed it. You get to see a huge collection of amazing artwork.  On entry, you are given a complimentary print to keep and take home with you and some raffle tickets for prizes drawn throughout the auction.  So sit back and relax for an hour with your glass of bubbly and whatever you do, DON’T raise your hand!

Adventure Ocean

Royal Caribbean offer great facilities for children and the Adventure Ocean program is fantastic.  There are three sessions per day which are free of charge for children between the ages of 3 and 17.  Almost all of the larger ships offer a drop off nursery for 6 months – 3-year-olds.  While this was not available on Jewel of the Seas, they did have a play area where parents could come in with their children.  The toys were changed daily in addition to the free toy loan service as well.

Formal Night

I love the formal night. Royal Caribbean doesn’t enforce a strict dress code, so you have the option to dress up or not.  I enjoy it, and although I am not one for souvenirs, I was pleased to add Jewel of the Seas to my collection of photos with the Captain.

In conclusion, Jewel of the Seas is a lovely ship.  With great staff and facilities. We had the added benefit of fantastic ports of call and great weather.  It seems like bigger is not always better when it comes to cruise ship sizes. It all depends on what you are looking to get from each cruise that matters.

Recommended Reading

Independence of the Seas – The Best Cruise Of My Life

Crystal Symphony – Family Friendly Luxury

Crystal Cruises offer the small ship ultra luxury cruise for all generations. The all-inclusiveness of Crystal Symphony means there is no need to sign a check every time you order a drink. With a capacity of 940 passengers and staff to guest ratio of 1 to 1.6, there is always someone only too happy to cater to your every whim.

Penthouse Suite with Verandah

Boutique Hotel with a Different View Every Day

Crystal Symphony recently underwent a $15m redesign, so I was invited onboard to see the results. Crystal’s largest ship in the fleet has the stylish elegance of a boutique hotel, in addition to the benefit of waking up somewhere new every day.

Penthouse Suite with Verandah

Crystal Cruises have Something for Everyone

The 19th-century gentleman’s club style piano bar Avenue Saloon, is one of the ship’s most popular venues with its leather sofas, velvet curtains and mahogany woods. Palm Court located at the top of the ship offers breathtaking views and is the perfect place to enjoy afternoon tea.

Palm Court with panoramic views is reminiscent of classic Hollywood glamour.

Crystal Cruises’ Fantasia and Waves programmes for children and teens are divided into age groups 3-7, 8-12 and 13-17.  Onboard activities include, pool games, scavenger hunts, cookie baking, pizza making, fashion shows, karaoke, late night parties, teen discos and much more.  The library offers plenty of children’s books and board games as well as a Sony Playstation and Xbox 360.

Waves – Crystal Cruises Teen Club Hangout

Crystal Fine Dining, Casual and Alfresco

Crystal Cruises serves a range of cuisine to suit all tastes. Enjoy a poolside meal or snack at the Trident Bar and Grill with beef, chicken or veggie burgers, tuna melts, wraps and pizzas is available.  The ice-cream bar stocks a selection of delicious Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, fresh cookies and non-fat frozen yoghurt.

The Trident Bar and Grill has an all weather alfresco feel, with a retractable roof.

For something more formal the Crystal Dining Room offers three menus of Modern, Classic or Lighter Fare.

Full Ship Tour of Crystal Symphony

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

MSC Magnifica Cruise Ship Review

The Med Way of Life aboard MSC Magnifica

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

MSC Magnifica

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.

Our Cabin

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.

Baby Club

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.

Family Fun

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.

Early Dinner

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.

Exploring Magnifica

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


Recommended Reading  7 Ways MSC Cruises Is Reducing Plastics

Celebrity Infinity Cruise Ship Review

The Ship Tour

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

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

We headed to the Constellation Lounge located on deck 11.  It provides stunning views in a light and airy lounge which comes alive at night.

Constellation Lounge.

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

Pool area and Jogging track

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

Martini Bar

Dining with a Difference

Qsine is a very different kind of dining experience.  Not only does the interior design give a playful but chic impression, you order your food on an iPad. Dishes include Disco Shrimp andSushi Lollipops.  The dessert menu is presented on its own version of a rubic cube where you can order the popular Strawberry Fields.

Alice in Wonderland meets Heston Blumenthal at Qsine

Qsine

Celebrity Infinity Suites

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

Penthouse Suite

Penthouse Suite

Penthouse Suite

After a two-hour ship tour it was time for lunch. The Trellis Restaurant is the main dining room and offers fine dining on a grand scale.

Trellis Restaurant

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