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Marella Cruises Asia and Far East Cruise Deals

Have you ever fancied spending your Christmas break, feeling the sand between your toes on a beach in Thailand? Or sipping a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar at the famous Raffles Hotel? These are a few destinations you can visit on one of the Far East and Asia Cruises onboard Marella Discovery. Enter discount code ASIA100 at checkout. Offer ends Monday 15th April at Midnight GMT. Read on for more information on the ship and destinations. Otherwise you can go straight to the website and start browsing here.

The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, Singapore – 2010

The Ship

The ship offers plenty to do onboard, with a selection of great restaurants and bars; a casino; a giant poolside movie screen; fitness, sport and spa facilities and more. The three deck high atrium is the centrepiece of this magnificent ship, with glass elevators and floor to ceiling windows.

Image Credit: Marella Cruises – Grand Atrium, Marella Discovery

Dining and Bars

Guests can choose from seven dining options.  The main restaurant is spread over two storeys with two speciality restaurants located on the top floor.

Image: Marella Cruises – Main Dining Room, Marella Discovery

Surf & Turf Steakhouse is a meat lover’s paradise. It’s also the place to enjoy lobster tails and other meaty dishes. If you are travelling with vegetarians, there is plenty on the menu for them too.

Image: Marella Cruises – Surf and Turf, Marella Discovery

The Glass House offers deli-style light snacks and freshly-squeezed juices. In the evening, the venue becomes a casual restaurant with a tapas-style menu. You can even try your hand at cooking your own steaks on hot stones.

Image: Marella Cruises – Al Fresco Dining, Marella Discovery

The onboard Sushi Bar serves everyones favourites. Spicy tuna rolls, salmon sashimi and seabass nigiri are on the menu. They also serve Asian beers such as Tiger, Cobra and Singha.

Image: Marella Cruises – Sushi Bar – Marella Discovery

Wellbeing

There are two pools onboard. One outdoor pool with two large hot tubs, and an indoor one.

Image: Marella Cruises – The Pool Deck, Marella Discovery

Image: Marella Cruises – The all-weather pool, Marella Discovery

The Ocean Spa and Beauty Salon offer a wide range of treatments and services.

Image: Marella Cruises – Ocean Spa and Beauty Centre, Marella Discovery

Entertainment

Enjoy high energy entertainment in the 800-plus capacity Broadway Show Lounge. With 11 different shows, you can see something different every night.

Image: Marella Cruises – Broadway Lounge, Marella Discovery

Special Offer

This weekend, Marella Cruises are offering £100 Discount for Asia and Far East Cruises on Marella Discovery departing between 1st November 2019 and 30th April 2020. Simply enter the discount code ASIA100 at checkout, or let your travel agent know at time of booking. You will have to be quick though, this offer expires on Monday. Search the deals here

Destination Highlights

These culturally rich, adult only cruises are the perfect way to tick off your bucket list. Here are some of the amazing places you can visit.

Muscat, Oman

One of the world’s largest mosques, the Grand Mosque can be found in Muscat.  Pay a visit to Barkha Fish Market, where locals haggle for the catch of the day. Take one of the shore excursions to Al Thowarah hot springs and the Nakhl Fort, an enormous castle that sits on a rocky outcrop surrounded by palm trees.

Muscat, Oman.

Browse sailings including Oman.

Bangkok, Thailand

Ornate temples and delicious Thai cuisine are the order of the day in the city of Bangkok. Head to Chinatown for an abundance of both. A huge reclining statue of Buddha is a must see at the Wat Pho Temple as well as the vibrant colours and fragrances at the flower market.

Image: Marella Cruises – Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok.

Floating Food Stalls in Bangkok

Browse sailings including Thailand

Langkawi, Malaysia

Anchored off the west coast of Malaysia, in the Andaman Sea, this laidback town has an element of paradise.

Stunning views Langkawi’s most popular attraction is the mountain-top cable car. This is accessed at the entertainment and shopping complex, Oriental Village which has been themed like a local settlement. For those who prefer to keep to stay grounded, there is the Rice Garden Museum which gives an interesting look at the history and tools used for rice farming.

Image: Marella Cruises – Langkawi Cable Car

Browse sailings including Malaysia

Colombo, Sri Lanka

The busy streets of Colombo are a fusion of classic architecture and modern skyscrapers. The city is home to many Colonial buildings such as the Town Hall and the Old Parliament, as well as tranquil temples and gardens.

 

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Browse sailings including Sri Lanka

Cochin, India

Experience the hustle and bustle of one of the largest ports in India. Visit St Francis Church, the  first European church in India and see wall-sized Hindu murals at the Dutch Palace.

For a more serene experience, take a tour to Alleppey, known as the “Venice of the East”. Take a boat ride along serene waterways lined with palm groves and paddy fields.

Image: Marella Cruises – Alleppey, near Cochin, also known as the “Venice of the East”

Browse sailings including India

Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui is most famous for it’s picture perfect beaches, and has the most beaches out of all the Islands in Thailand. Relax on Chaweng Beach, the island’s longest belt of sand lined with coconut trees. A real tropical paradise.

The explorer types will have plenty to discover with Koh Samui’s abundance of temples. The Big Buddha Temple has its own island and is connected to Koh Samui via a causeway. For far reaching seaviews, climb the hundreds of steps where the huge, golden Buddha statue sits.

Image: Marella Cruises – Koh Samui

Image: Marella Cruises – The Big Buddha Temple, Koh Samui

Browse sailings including Thailand

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Whether it’s sightseeing, shopping or culture, you will find an abundance of it in Dubai. Visit the iconic Burj Khalifa, which stands at 828 metres tall. From the observation deck of the World’s tallest tower, the sights are breathtaking.  If it’s shopping you like then try haggling for gold at one of the traditional Souk’s, or take a trip to the Dubai Mall.

Image: Marella Cruises – Dubai Palace

Image: Marella Cruises – Dubai Skyline

Browse sailings including Dubai

Singapore

From the colourful streets, temples and markets of Little India to the famous Raffles Hotel in the Colonial District, Singapore has a lot to offer.

Talk a walk around the Gardens by the Bay nature gardens. The incredible floral displays and supertrees are a must see.

Image: Marella Cruises – Singapore’s famous landmarks

Image: Marella Cruises – Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown, Singapore

Browse sailings including Singapore

Terms and Conditions

USE CODE ASIA100 TO SAVE £100

£100 off per booking: Offer valid on Marella Discovery sailings from 1st November 2019 – 30th April 2020. No minimum spend applies. Use discount code ASIA100 on the booking page of our website or tell your holiday travel advisor if booking in a TUI holiday store. For bookings made via your local travel agent, save £100 off per booking using discount code ASIA100. Offer is not valid on cabin only bookings. Offer must be selected at time of booking and applies to new bookings only, is subject to availability and may be withdrawn without prior notice. The code is not combinable with any other offer. Please see www.tui.co.uk/cruise or the relevant brochure for full booking terms and conditions that apply. Some of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services. Our website and/or brochure will provide you with information on the protection that applies in the case of each holiday and travel service offered before you make your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.caa.co.uk. Marella Cruises is a trading name of TUI UK Limited, a member of TUI Group. Registered Office: Wigmore House, Wigmore Lane, Luton, LU2 9TN. Registered in England No: 2830117. ATOL No: 2524. ABTA No: V5126.

Disclaimer – This is a sponsored post in collaboration with CJ.com. The links contained within this post are affiliate links, which means that a commission for each sale is given to the publisher.

MSC Bellissima’s Cirque Du Soleil Shows

Cruise News

The unique long-term partnership between MSC Cruises and Cirque Du Soleil, has changed the face of entertainment at sea.  In March 2019, two brand new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, SYMA and VARÉLIA, launched on board MSC Cruises’ new flagship, MSC Bellissima.

The Carousel Lounge

To house these amazing shows, MSC Cruises have designed a state-of-the-art live entertainment venue called the Carousel Lounge. It is equipped with the latest cutting-edge technology, complex rigging systems, a 360-degree rotating stage and high-specification audio & lighting equipment. What makes this venue even more unique is its 413 guests capacity, making the experience intimate, and the interaction between the guests and performers even more special.

The multi-million-Euro, custom-made entertainment and dining venue, allows guests to enjoy dinner or cocktails and then watch the Cirque du Soleil at Sea performances. The shows can be seen six times a week.

Image: MSC Cruises – Carousel Lounge

Image: MSC Cruises – Carousel Lounge

Video projection mapping is used during the show to project visual content, on tangible set elements and props.

Image: MSC Cruises – SYMA

Image: MSC Cruises – SYMA

The Shows

SYMA is a fantastical odyssey into the heart of an imaginary world, and the search for a mysterious island inhabited by phantasmagorical creatures. The guests on board MSC Bellissima are embarking on a journey of discovery, just like the main character of the show. Immersive video images, an original set design, bioluminescent lighting and acrobatic feats, make SYMA an unforgettable show.

Image: MSC Cruises – SYMA

Image: MSC Cruises – SYMA

VARÉLIA is a tale of modern chivalry where love and courage triumph over the greatest divides. A medieval tale with a futuristic twist, VARÉLIA follows a classic story arc in a cartoonesque world which adds a humoristic touch. Audiences will delight in the acrobatic feats, the laser show and the unique set design.

Image: MSC Cruises – VARÉLIA

Image: MSC Cruises – VARÉLIA

How To Book

Cirque du Soleil at Sea can be booked in advance at a reduced rate.  Any remaining seats will be available to book onboard. For a three-course meal before the show, guests pay €35. If they just fancy a speciality cocktail and enjoy the pre-show, that begins 30 minutes before the start of the Cirque du Soleil at Sea performance, guest pay €15

MSC Meraviglia was the first ship to debut the new Cirque du Soleil at Sea concept, with the launch of  two shows VIAGGIO and SONOR in June 2017. They recently celebrated the 1,000th performance on board. Work is already underway for the next shows for MSC Grandiosa, that will launch in November 2019.

Cruise With Flavia onboard MSC Bellissima

I look forward to finding out, as I will be stepping onboard MSC Bellissima on 25th October. Want to join me? Simply email shipsandchampagne@gmail.com to register your interest.

If you haven’t already, you might want to check out my post The Naming Ceremony of MSC Bellissima

Taste Of Edge – Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises have always been known for producing incredible onboard cuisine. The cruise line gave Londoners a preview of what can be expected in some of the 29 dining venues onboard their new ship, Celebrity Edge.

Michelin stared Chef, Cornelius Gallagher hosted the exclusive tastings at the foodies favourite Taste of London Festival in Regents Park last week. Dishes were perfectly paired with wines selected by Amelia Singer from the Wine Show.

I tried dishes from the Cosmopolitan Restaurant which is American inspired new cuisine. The starter of Grilled Carrot and Mozzarella Salad with smoked trout, fresh herbs and a delicious carrot vinaigrette was paired with Hugel Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region. It was a mouthwatering combination and the smoked trout gave a lively kick to the dish.

For main course it was the popular Grilled New York Strip Steak, served with roasted baby vegetables, parsnip puree, caramelised onions. The perfect pairing came with a Sonoma County Decoy, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Celebrity Cruises really have gone beyond borders with the dining offerings on their new class of ship. Check out the video below for more information.

Celebrity Edge will be larger than the Solstice Class ships at a size of 129,500 Gross Tonnes. At 1,004 feet long, 128 feet wide a draught of 27 feet, a cruising speed of 22 knots and a total of 4,694 horsepower, Celebrity Edge will have the capacity to carry a total of  3,373 guests.

Celebrity Edge will spend her inaugural season sailing alternating seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries before transporting guests to the stunning vistas of the Mediterranean with a range of seven- to 11-night sailings from iconic cities like Barcelona and Rome in 2019.

Homeporting in Fort Lauderdale, FL., Celebrity Edge will be making her first sailing November 21, 2018, and will be joined by three sister ships in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Hapag Lloyd Cruises At Polo In The Park

Award winning Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ are official sponsors of Polo In The Park this year. It’s the perfect fit with their reputation as one of the World’s leading luxury and expedition cruise lines.

Image Credit: Hapag Lloyd Cruises – Europa 2 sailing past the New York skyline

A Hapag-Lloyd Cruises lounge marquee area will be located next to the Polo pitch where visitors will be able to find out more about Europa 2 (rated as World’s Best Cruise Ship) and their new state of the art ultra luxury expedition ship Hanseatic Inspiration. Thoughtfully, there will be a phone/tablet charger in the marquee for people to use free of charge.

Image credit: Hapag Lloyd Cruises – Pool Bar onboard Europa 2

EUROPA 2

The leading cruise guide book,  Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation once again awarded Hapag Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 the highest distinction rating of 6-stars plus. “Having cruised on almost a thousand ships, I can honestly say the Europa 2 is one of the most beautiful ships I have ever seen. From the top notch service, to the luxury accommodations, to the superb gourmet food, the Europa 2 is in a class of her own,” said Steve Stern.

They also won Best Adventure / Expedition Cruise Line category in the 2018 Wave Awards. These are just two of a long list of awards recognising the outstanding level of luxury, service and attention to detail the cruise line are renowned for.

As well as stunning itineraries, details of which will be available at the marquee, there are two unique cruises for lovers of fashion and art.

fashion2sea is an entire cruise dedicated to fashion onboard Europa 2. Travelling from Lisbon to Hamburg, visiting cities with true style in mind. The format for the cruise includes exclusive collaborations with renowned designers, glamorous fashion shows, new collections, a pop-up store, a beauty lounge, make-up workshops, and a fashion dinner.

In partnership with the renowned art magazine Weltkunst the art2sea cruise sails from Monte Carlo to Civitavecchia and focuses on old masters and modern art. There will be guided visits to galleries, exhibitions and museums such as the world-famous Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Back on board and guests can enjoy lectures and discussions with knowledgeable experts.

Image credit: Hapag Lloyd Cruises – Europa 2

New Expedition Class

The 230 passenger Hanseatic Inspiration, sets a new standard for the expedition experience, including retractable glass balconies on the sun deck. These have been designed to give guests the feeling of hovering directly above the water.

The onboard experiences match the incredible design. To find out more, get your Polo In The Park tickets using SHIPSPOLO discount code to save £5 per ticket book now

The Most Irresistible Vessel on Earth?

Modern, Cutting Edge 18 and Over Sanctuary at Sea

It’s what all cruise lines are trying to do but will Virgin Voyages lead the way in persuading people to take their first voyage on a cruise ship? I’ve compiled the renderings in this short video, to try and capture the essence of the first Lady Ship.

In true Virgin style, the company has approached the creation of a cruise ship in a very different and risky way. No surprises there! The decision for the first ship’s experience to be “Adult By Design” (minimum sailing age is 18), was made after feedback received from future sailors and travel professionals who are looking for a more premium experience with some Virgin style surprises thrown in.

Tom McAlpin, CEO and President of Virgin Voyages announced at the latest ship design reveal in New York, “Adult by Design, means we are designing a modern, cutting edge 18 and over sanctuary at sea”.  Virgin Voyages also promises to be one of the cleanest fleets at sea.

Tom McAlpin President and CEO of Virgin Voyages speaking in New York at the latest ship design reveal.

The design team, otherwise known as the Creative Collective, are respected visionaries known for their forward thinking designs. Tom McAlpin credited them by saying “Our Creative Collective have contributed tremendously towards ensuring that we will become the most irresistible, alluring and recognisable vessel anywhere on earth”.

Part of Virgin Voyages Creative Collective Design Team talking at the design reveal in New York.

More Than A Cruise

McAlpin continued “At Virgin Voyages we pride ourselves on being more than just another cruise line, which is why in everything we do and every decision we make, we are always working to redefine how the world views sea travel.”

“It’s why we named the company Virgin Voyages, because we see this as more than a cruise. This is a journey. It’s why we designed our ships to be smaller than most, to provide a more personal and intimate experience for our sailors. and its why with each step we take we are working to change the way this kind of vacation not only looks, feels but most importantly how it is experienced.”

Virgin Voyages SVP Product Design, Dee Cooper, who was responsible for leading the design and experience work at Virgin Atlantic, had never been on a cruise ship before this project. Talking about her approach to this project in New York,  she said “We wanted to give our Sailors lots of  choice, and if you think about this amazing city that we are in at the moment, you choose to go uptown and glam it up and be refined and glamorous, and you chose to go downtown to the West Village and be a bit more relaxed. And we wanted to give our Sailors diversity across the ship.”

It’s Very Risky To Do What Virgin Voyages Have Done

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages Richard’s Rooftop, VIP Space – located right at the front at the top of the ship celebrating the ocean

Tom Dixon of the Design Research Studio in London, responsible for Richard’s Rooftop and the upscale Mexican restaurant, Pink Agave said,  “It’s very risky to do what Virgin Voyages have done here. To get a load of people that have never been on a ship before. But there’s a logic to that madness. Which is if you are going to encourage people to go on cruises of a new demographic, then why not use designers that have not been on a cruise and say ‘what would it be to entice you to go on a cruise?’ maybe.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages Retrofuturism – The Romance of Sailing, where the glamour of the past meets the glamour of the future.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Richard’s Rooftop designed by Tom Dixon

Tom says he has been influenced by the glamorous age and romance of cruising “which has partially vanished and been replaced by synthetic glamour in a lot of cases. Somewhere between the glamour of the 20’s and 30’s and the glamour of the future, which is something that doesn’t seem to happen anymore.” According to Dee Cooper, Tom fondly refers to this approach as Retrofuturism.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Richard’s Rooftop

Designers Thrive On Restrictions

Pink Agave – Upscale Mexican Restaurant

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon

When asked what was different about working in a cruise ship environment, Tom replied “The idea of diversity in a controlled environment was interesting and unique.  The challenges included technical, low ceilings, steel construction, vast amounts of restrictions in terms of  materials the flammability and wear and tear, but restrictions are what designers thrive on. Battling but being inspired by them equally.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – Pink Agave Mexican Restaurant designed by Tom Dixon

Virgin Always Challenge the Cliché

Rob Wagemans – Concrete Founder Creative Director, responsible for The Test Kitchen and The Athletic Club said “Virgin is Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.” Rob is from Amsterdam with offices in the Red Light District and says that teaming up with Virgin Voyages “Could not be a better match. Virgin always challenge the cliche and they look at the world in a different way than the majority of the world does and they see that the modern society has a different behaviour than the past.”

“They really know how to treat me well on an airplane and no other airline can do it like Virgin does. So if they come to me and say – What I’ve done with the air industry I want to do again on the sea, can you help me? –  I say Hell Yes! As long as I don’t have to go on a Disney Cruise.”

Don’t Let A Cruise Line Dictate Your Lifestyle

Rob continued “What I like is that the ship is full of contrast. There are a lot of places that are calm and a lot of places that are extremely crazy, and luckily we have a lot of crazy spaces. So we really used this philosophy of being disruptive and trying to really change the perspective of what the audience wants. Do they want to have a 7 day calm experience that is different everyday? Or do they want to have fifteen different experiences throughout the day or throughout half a day? And I think the last thing is what people really like. They zap from one world to the other world and from sophistication into casual and that could happen in an hour and this ship will provide all these different worlds by different designers and they are all in contrast and you can live the lifestyle you like and not the lifestyle that the brand of the ship dictates.”

The Test Kitchen – A Restaurant and A Laboratory

You can visit The Test Kitchen many times and have a completely different experience. Concrete Amsterdam’s Head of Interior Design, Lisa Hassanzadeh explains “In the first place its not only a restaurant, its a laboratory and that’s very distinguishable from other restaurants we have done before. So it has a double function you can of course have dinner there, but during the day it’s a cooking school, but not only that it’s also a laboratory for being the best barista or becoming an expert in beer and wine. So you can get really your hands dirty there as well . But there is a great dining and drinking experience there in the evening.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Test Kitchen designed by Concrete Amsterdam

The Athletic Club

Rob refers to this as “A contrast within spaces. Its a huge space on the top. We were inspired by the downtown Athletic Club in New York not just about sporting but the social life that happens in the dressing rooms where the muscled men would socialise and eat oysters. In the end, sports is about two things, being active, being sweaty, creating a better shape for your body and the second part is that you look at them, you look at the bodies, look at the winners, so we decided to combine these two spaces.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

“We have huge sunbathing beds where you can look at people jogging on the jogging track. The bar below with trophies dressed in gold as you are a winner. There is a boxing ring, basketball court, outdoor and indoor gym, cabana for a nap and privacy, brain training games, all kinds of things, interesting food to feed your body with healthiness, so everything is in harmony. We challenge every aspect of the concept. Total harmony within spaces.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Athletic Club designed by Concrete Amsterdam

The Dock

Located at the aft (back) of the ship on deck 7, The Dock has been designed by Roman and Williams. Co-Founders, Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer wanted to capture the essence of what they love about the sea.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

When looking for inspiration, Robin Standefer says they “were thinking about a dock with an incredible restaurant, Morocco very salty, chilled.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Dock designed by Roman and Williams

Robin Standefer explains the vision for The Dock. “The design is understated, its beautiful but its more about the food and the people in the space.”

The Manor

Roman and Williams are well known for their incredible designs is New York’s top nightclubs The Boom Boom Room and The Guilded Lily. You can clearly see their design style in the elaborate and beautiful lighting throughout the venue.

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

Robin Standefer says “We wanted to create a myth. Together we really helped to create a certain drama with the lighting. It’s got a Mezzanine and balcony and amazing lights, like mirrored ball, chandeliers that almost breathe like a jellyfish, as they curl up and down. We want to melt their inhibitions and then allow them to have a powerful and memorable experience.”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

When talking about the nightclub, Dee Cooper declared “If Virgin can’t do the best nightclub at sea, no-one can. It’s in our DNA!”

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

Image Credit: Virgin Voyages – The Manor – nightclub designed by Roman and Williams

“We needed to do more on this ship.” said Dee Cooper,  “We needed to think about the lifestyles all of us lead in these amazing cities we live in around the world. Whether it’s New York or London, or it’s holiday destinations like Ibiza or Miami, we know that we all have amazing vacation and holiday experiences and our sailors expect the same, and these guys (Creative Collective) really created quintessential holiday romance for everybody.”

Cruise Cynics

But is the design of a cruise ship enough to encourage people to try out their sea legs? I talked to someone who has vowed cruising is not for her, to see if these renderings would give her second thoughts.

Image Credit : thelondoner.me Valentina needs a bit more convincing before stepping onboard a cruise ship.

Valentina De Pertis – Cyber Security CMO (and sister-in-law)  Instagram: @vdepertis

“It love the renderings, it looks absolutely stunning, the deck looks wonderful. It’s a good idea for Virgin to do something like this. However moving it to a completely different target audience, for example people who don’t like cruising, or people who wouldn’t normally go cruising, young adults or something, I think a nice deck and a beautiful ship isn’t enough.”

“There are already nice decks and beautiful ships and presidential suits on other boats. There are lovely areas that already exist. So it’s not enough to get the people who are stereotypically and unfairly biased against it.”

“You would really have to change the people. So having more young adults in the same industry, maybe young influencers, getting people blogging from a certain age interested in it.”

“Also, changing up the food, because the food is already really good quality, but just modernising it, and onboard entertainment.”

“So really the whole experience would have to change, apart from the destinations because going to multiple destinations is already beautiful.”

“You’re stuck on this boat, and if you’re stuck with people who might not be your type of people, or with food that’s absolutely gorgeous, but maybe not something that you would search out if you were on land. If they get all of that sorted out then I actually would book a trip I think and we (the family) all would.”

How A Cruise Ship Is Made

Although everyone was excited to hear about and see the renderings of the cruise lines first ship, Tom McAlpin gave an interesting summary as to the ship building process. He said “It starts with one year of designing followed by another full year of engineering before any construction even begins. Then they start construction by cutting a load of steel followed by the laying of the keel which is the first section of the ship. This is a big block and they place it into the dry dock. They include a lucky keel coin which is a maritime tradition for blessing the vessel for good fortune.” You can read more about this in my post  Getting Laid In Genoa with Boy George. 

Here is the video I took in Genoa of Richard Branson welding the lucky coin into the keel.

Image Credit: Nikola Petrovic – Virgin Voyages Chief Engineer – “Proud moment to see the first main engine being installed in the engine room for our first ship.”

Virgin Voyages first Ladyship will be constructed of 108  blocks in total.  48 blocks weighing up to 6,000 tons each have been built so far and they are up to deck 16. The ship is being built in three different shipyards. Romania, Palermo and Genoa and will all come together in Genoa in July for the ‘Hook Up’ Event. She will sail 7 night Caribbean itineraries from Miami, Florida.

 

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four – Exploring The Ship

Good Morning St Kitts

Despite the forecast of rain, it was still warm and balmy as I stepped out onto my balcony onboard Viking Sea, to take a look at St Kitts.

I will forgive you for thinking I was crazy not getting off the ship in St Kitts. However, I really wanted to get to know the Viking Sea a little better and this was the only port I hadn’t booked an excursion for.

As there was no rush to be anywhere, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in bed.

When I was ready I headed out to explore the ship. Unlike other cruises I have been on, I found myself meeting and talking to other passengers. Maybe it was because we had met on the shore excursions, and the fact I didn’t have my son in tow. I think it was partly to do with me wanting to explain to people why I had a GoPro strapped to my head! I was also surprised to meet so many British passengers onboard.

Who Were The Vikings?

In keeping with the authentic experience Viking Cruises pride themselves on, there is a Viking Heritage Museum on deck two.

The impressive display of antiquities feeds the imagination of times gone by.

The people we now call “Vikings” were not a unified group or culture. Rather, they were the Norse peoples of Scandinavia – modern-day Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Principally they existed as farmers, but they also were settlers, traders, crafters, explorers and raiders.

Nordic Chic

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

This leads you out to Viking’s signature infinity pool at the aft of the ship. I wasn’t the only one wanting to enjoy the onboard luxury. There were a few people in the pool and the hot tub.

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

Lunch by the pool

Having missed lunch the last two days while off exploring, I didn’t want to miss it today. I had heard great reports about the Pool Grill which serves food until 2.30. It was getting close to that time already so I went to the main pool to get a closer look.

There was a lovely salad bar which included a gluten free Artesian Salad with Potato and Eggplant, a Marinated Fennel and Tomato and Prawns which was also gluten free. Although the food selection changes daily, I could have eaten the Eggplant salad every day. Burgers, hot dogs and fish are cooked to order at the grill and are served with coleslaw, red onion jam and a selection of toppings.

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

The bag I was using is a the Alex Folding Travel Bag by Mia Tui. They come in a wide range of designs including black, polka dots and multi coloured.

Afternoon Tea

Athough I was still full from lunch, my travelling companions were meeting in the Wintergarden for afternoon tea at 4.00pm. I popped by as I knew I would be off the ship the following afternoon.

It was a good job they had saved me a seat. Afternoon tea is hugely popular with the guests and I can see why. A classical trio created the perfect quintessential atmosphere for enjoying the delicate sandwiches and cakes. Fresh scones were served by hand and complimented by an extensive drinks menu including a wide range of teas. I opted for the mango tea, which was very refreshing.

A Perfect Moment

As we departed St Kitts, I jumped into the infinity pool to enjoy the view. I remember when I first saw an image of the Viking Cruise ships, and thought how much I would love to be in that infinity pool. I never imagined it would actually come true.

The Beauty of Cruising

From one stunning view to another. I returned to my room to get changed and enjoyed the sunset from my balcony. It never ceases to amaze me the constant beauty you experience when you look out over the ocean from a cruise ship.

Feeling all tanned and refreshed, I took a walk to the atrium to see what was going on. A very handsome guitarist sat playing classical guitar. The sound was beautiful and he smiled at me. (Ok I was pointing a camera at him, but just let me have this).

The World Cafe

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

I started with the seafood and a nice chilled glass of chardonnay. Wine and beer is complimentary with lunch and dinner, although I had the silver spirits beverage package which allows you drinks throughout the day for an additional $19.95 per guest per night.

This was the best sushi I have ever had.

After dinner, I took another stroll around the ship. As the Viking Sea was now sailing, the shops were open. There are not many shops onboard Viking Cruise ships, but the ones they do have are worth a visit. If you are looking for a jumper for extreme cold, this is the place to get one.

As you can imagine, everything is Nordic themed including the jewellery, ornaments, books and these cute but slightly scary viking head stuffed toys.

Why not take one of these little chaps home with you?

Movie Under The Stars

The main pool on the Viking Sea has a retractable roof so people can use the pool in the evenings. They also have a movie screen which is not used during the day, but some evenings they transform the space into a movie theatre.

Before people started to arrive for the movie “A Dog’s Purpose”, I took this short video of the room set up. What a lovely place to relax and enjoy a film, whilst you are sailing to your next destination?

I stayed to watch some of the movie. It featured a dog, so I knew whatever happened in the end it would have me in tears. I left early to avoid the inevitable blubbing, and went to bed. St Lucia tomorrow!!

Have you read Day Three – St Croix

If so, why not go to Day Five – St Lucia

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Three – St Croix

Waking Up In St Croix

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.

Our Buck Island Adventure

The sun-kissed crew from Caribbean Sea Adventures, gathered our group together.

We headed to our boat.

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.

Goodnight.

Have you read my Viking Sea Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico?

If so, why not read Viking Sea Cruise – Day Four

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

Viking Sea Cruise – Day Two – Puerto Rico

A Room With A View

My Penthouse Veranda stateroom was on the starboard side which gave me the best views of the ocean in Puerto Rico. I sat down on my balcony to enjoy a coffee and the sun rising above San Juan and noticed a cruise ship in the distance. I love watching ships come alongside, so I was thrilled to see three other cruise ships entering the port, all from the comfort of my stateroom.

View of San Juan Port from Viking Sea 5011.

It was time for breakfast and to see the ship in daylight.

Taking in the Viking Sea with the beautiful San Juan backdrop.

 

Walking to breakfast on the Viking Sea

 

The main pool onboard Viking Sea

Time For An Adventure

After a quick tour of the ship, we headed out for our horse riding trip. There was no queuing to disembark the ship and we were offered chilled bottles of water to take with us as we left.

We took a minibus to Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park located in Luquillo. Our driver gave us an entertaining guided tour during the 20-minute journey. However, I had met a lovely lady named Julia, who works onboard the Viking Sea. We didn’t stop talking for the entire journey, so I missed the commentary but made a great friend.

Everyone in the group was matched to a horse depending on their experience. Horse riding is second nature to me, so I was matched with Vulcan for the ride.

Not quite Lady Godiva

It was a blazing hot day, so we took it easy and just walked. We stopped to rest and cool off by the river.

Time to cool off

I could have stayed there all-day

 

With my new friends. Our guide, Jonathan and Julia from Viking.

It was a fantastic experience and the guys that took us out were great fun and looked after us. We rode back to the farm, grabbed a beer and returned to the ship.

Thank goodness we were on a Viking Cruises shore excursion as we arrived back dead on 4.30, which was the all aboard time. That was cutting it fine. Had we been delayed though, the ship would have waited for us, unlike if we were doing the trip on our own.

Sailaway

Five o’clock was time for muster drill, so I had just enough time for a much-needed shower. Being a 930 passenger ship, the drill took no time at all and we were soon sipping cocktails and watching the sunset.

The sun setting on San Juan

The waves crashing against the rocks of Old San Juan Fort – Castillo San Felipe del Morro

The dramatic San Juan coastline

Our group met in the Explorers Lounge for a pre-dinner drink. Viking’s ocean cruise ships all have an Explorers theme encapsulated in their interior design.

The Explorers Lounge with maps of star constellations framing the room

The Explorers Lounge Bar with star constellation mirror

Meeting in the Explorers Lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail

For our first night, we decided to have dinner in the main dining room.

Smoked Sturgeon and Sevruga Caviar

Oriental Style Scallops and Lobster

After dinner, we headed to the theatre for the Captains Welcome Aboard Speech.

Champagne on ice to welcome the guests onboard Viking Sea

There was not a spare seat in the house as Cruise Director Mark and the Viking Band kicked off proceedings with a wonderful rendition of Hello, Young Lovers.

The Captain was introduced to the stage and from the outset, he was very funny. There was a lighthearted approach to introducing the rest of the senior management team as they walked onto the stage to the music of Pirates of the Caribbean.

By this time the travelling, jet lag and horseriding had made me feel extremely tired. So it was time for bed to be ready for more exciting adventures tomorrow.

Read Day Three – St Croix

Thinking of booking your own Viking Cruise? Click My Viking Cruise to visit their website.

Cruise People – Sheri Griffiths Cruise Tips TV

Sheri Griffiths is the face of Cruise Tips TV. A huge fan of cruising herself, Sheri provides cruisers with answers to all their questions in her YouTube show. She has a great personality and I wanted to know more about her life off-camera.

When was your first cruise?

My first cruise was onboard Carnival Ecstasy in 1991. My Mom accompanied me on a Caribbean cruise as a high school graduation present, along with my little brother. I loved the experience but longed for the time when I’d be able to cruise with my future husband. The best part of the cruise was the resort scuba dive in Grand Cayman. My Mom let me go alone (with a ship sponsored excursion), and it was one of the highlights of my “under 20” life.

Finally, that next cruise happened in 2003 (or so) after my husband I had been married for about 6 years. I was so excited to share the experience with him after scraping and saving for years, but WOW, had cruising changed. Diamond Princess was HUGE, and he was instantly hooked. We’ve never looked back, and cruise as often as we can. We still DO love a good land vacation on occasion as well.

How many cruises have you taken so far?

Somewhere around 28 total to The Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Canada & New England.  We’ve sailed with Carnival, Princess, Holland America, NCL, and Royal Caribbean.

Sheri Griffiths – Cruise Tips TV enjoying the beach with her son

How long have you been doing Cruise Tips TV?

We’re in our 5th year of production. We have just over 350 videos for cruisers, ranging from packing tips to ship tours, and cruise vlogs.

How did Cruise Tips TV come about?

Our channel was born over a dinner table conversation. As cruise lovers, we would always film our trips, shore excursions and activities and create short movies, to preserve the memories. It occurred to us (one evening over chicken casserole!) that we could also create and share information, tips and even full ship video tours, so we decided to take the plunge and chose YouTube as our platform.

Travel had always been the “prime directive” in our family, so it seemed like a natural step to bust out our film equipment and share our passion with the internet world. We’ve changed our approach, style and content many times over the years, based on subscriber feedback and changes in our lives.

How many shows do you do a week? And how long does it take to prepare for each one?

We generally produce two shows per week. Each show takes a minimum of an hour of content prep time. Some episodes can take up to 4 hours of prep time, depending on the amount of research involved. Really, it’s the editing that is time-intensive. Mr Cruise Tips TV edits our content full time and still wishes he had more hours in every day. We try to involve our son in the process when we can. He is learning basic editing skills and helps with ideas. Sometimes, we give him his own camera to vlog with on cruises. He loves the KidCam!

What is an average day in the life for you?

I wake up at 5:15 am, hobble to my kitchen for coffee, and head off to my day job. My husband is self-employed and works from home, so I’m fortunate to have his help with the day-to-day. He does all the laundry, cleans the house, and makes sure that our son is well cared for during the week.

When I get home from work, I squeeze in dinner with my boys, catch up on social media, take a hot bath, and get ready to do it all again the next day. On the weekend, my primary focus is to spend time with my son, get as much exercise and outdoor time as possible, and go live on YouTube every other Saturday.

Sheri on the bridge of Star Princess

Do you have any tips for people thinking about starting their own YouTube channel?

Tip #1:

Be true to yourself. Mr CTTV likes to say “keep your head down”, meaning, don’t look at what other people are doing to develop your content. BE YOURSELF, and don’t compare your ideas and content to others. People want to watch YOU because you offer something unique and individual. At the same time, it’s easy to delay starting a YouTube channel, because it can feel at times like “it’s all been done” already. News Flash – it has! But, you should still go for it!

Tip #2:

Consider whether you can be of service to others. The longer we’ve been creating content through our channel, the more we’ve realized the joy in being a resource. Those people then become a great resource for YOU. Our community of cruise enthusiasts bring ideas and tips to us week after week. We also count on them for honest feedback at times.

Tip #3:

Be Real. When we started our channel, I wanted to read from a teleprompter every episode and sought to control every element of production. As time went by, our subscribers asked us to turn the camera around and vlog our cruises. I thought the notion was crazy. Each time the topic came up, my husband and I would look at each other and say “naaah, nobody wants to see that. It’s too real”. Then, in September of 2016, we finally jumped out of our cosy studio and turned that camera around to capture the day to day of our cruise through vlogs.

As we’ve learned more about what our audience wants since that first cruise, one theme always surfaces. They want authenticity, to see when things don’t go as planned and without makeup (aaah!). The audience want to be told when a shore excursion or experience falls short. They want to trust you to deliver the true experience.

Tip #4:

Expect to evolve. Listen to your audience (not to the trolls, of course) and consider if their suggestions can work for you. You can’t make everyone happy, but the more you expect to re-invent your content often, while staying true to being yourself, the more you can experiment and land on what works.

Sheri with her son in Ketchikan, Alaska

What was your last holiday?

My last holiday was a partial transit through the Panama Canal on Caribbean Princess. It was 10 days of heaven!

Have you got your next holiday booked and what/where is it?

Our next cruise is on Carnival Splendor, to the Mexican Riviera.

Being a Mum with 2 jobs must require organisation and focus? What is one thing you do that really helps?

I’m a huge list maker. I use my iPhone to make lists for every area of my life, from packing to my weekly objectives to ideas for our next episode.

What are your hobbies?

I love hiking, Zumba, gardening and cooking.

Name one or more things on your bucket list.

A holiday to Tahiti and her islands. I must see Bora Bora. We’ve been dreaming of this destination since we were married.

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

I’d encourage them to research, but not to over plan. Pack comfortable shoes. Choose the right cruise line, and…watch lots of YouTube videos.  We have lots of content for newbies!

Recommended Reading 5 Tips on How To Get Free Cruises

Free Tickets To The London Cruise Show 2018

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

Is It For Me?

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

But I Don’t Want To Book A Cruise

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

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

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

Win A Cruise

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

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

What If I DO Want To Book A Cruise?

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

Plan Your Day

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

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

12.00 – Ask The Experts Theatre –  Luxury Cruising

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

1.30 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Azamara Club Cruises

2.20 – Meet The Cruise Lines – Crystal Cruises

3.10 –  Meet The Cruise Lines – Viking Cruises

All you need to know about the London Cruise Show…

What: London Cruise Show

Where: Olympia London

When: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018

Book Your FREE Tickets To the 2018 Cruise Show Now

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

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.

Introducing Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Cruises have kept us waiting for 10 years to find out how they could create something more impressive than a real grass lawn on a cruise ship. So what makes Celebrity Edge a revolution in cruise ship design?

Well over the coming weeks and months, Celebrity Cruises will reveal more of what’s to be expected. But for now they have done a pretty good job of making the cruise industry sit up and pay attention.

Unique Experiences

So let’s start with the Magic Carpet. This multi purpose cantilevered platform the size of two tennis courts, extends out from the starboard side of the ship.

On port days the Magic Carpet provides an enhanced tender experience for guests. This is something Royal Caribbean President and CEO, Richard Fain has been looking to improve for a long time, rather than the traditional metal gangway. However, once the idea started to become a reality, he didn’t stop at that?

The Magic Carpet provides luxurious seating, a dining area and a cool and trendy bar. During the day, the platform is positioned on deck 5 for Al Fresco dining. Later in the day guests can board the Magic Carpet off the renamed resort deck and enjoy a sunset cocktail with live music. In the evening Deck 16 is the place to be, where guests can experience evening culinary events and enjoy Dinner on the Edge.

Croydon born architect Tom Wright who’s work includes the Most Luxurious Hotel In The World – Burj Al Arab, can be credited for the design of the Magic Carpet, as well as the Rooftop Gardens, which replace the Solstice Class Lawn Club. This groovy looking space was created for guests as an area to get away from it all. The tree sculptures incorporate a small platform for musicians and dancers to provide a unique entertainment venue. With it’s own movie screen, the Rooftop Gardens is the perfect place for Celebrity’s new dining concept Taste of Film.

New Suites

No one designs cruise ships like Celebrity Cruises. The mix of sleek, contemporary luxury is what gives Celebrity it’s Modern Luxury uniqueness. To guarantee their new ship class took the experience to another level, one of my favourite female entrepreneurs, British Interior Designer Kelly Hoppen MBE, created the most luxurious areas of the ship for guests occupying a suite.

The Iconic Suites and Edge Villas have been designed to give the feel of your very own luxury home. The two 2,600 sq.ft Iconic Suites with two bedrooms and two bathrooms are located above the ship’s bridge. The panoramic windows offer breathtaking 270 degree views that will take your breath away.

The other addition to the suite class are these gorgeous six, two-storey Edge Villas. As well as stunning views, each one has it’s own private plunge pool.

Innovative and Spacious Staterooms

A new class of stateroom has been created with the introduction of the Infinite Veranda. The rooms offer 23% more footage and the bathrooms are 10% larger. The room can transform at the touch of a button. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Price Tag

Celebrity Edge’s inaugural sailing will be from her homeport of Fort Lauderdale on December 16, 2018. The itineraries will alternate 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

These one of a kind suites are being snapped up quickly, with the two Iconic Suites already booked up for the Christmas 2018 cruise.

We know you can’t put a price on experience, but if you were looking to book an Iconic Suite today, you would have to wait until 3 February 2019 for the first available room. Yes they are all booked up until then. But based on 3 February 2019 sailing for a 7 Night Western Caribbean cruise here are today’s prices based on two people sharing.

Iconic Suite £16,979pp* including gratuities, wifi and drinks.

Edge Villa £8,079pp* including gratuities, wifi and drinks.

Infinite Veranda £1413pp* including drinks.

Interior Stateroom £1013pp*.

*prices subject to availability and change at any time. Prices correct at 0700 GMT on 16 March 2017

Ponant – Luxury and Expedition Cruises

WHY PONANT?

If you love the idea of an adventure or expedition cruise, but want an intimate and luxuriously elegant onboard experience, then you are going to love this.

A luxury cruise onboard these French-style Ponant ships, combines chic with casual to provide a je ne sais quoi more familiar to that of a private yacht.  With one staff member for every two guests, you will find yourself being welcomed onboard by name. The personalised service continues throughout your cruise, as the staff will remember your food and drink preferences from day one.

(Image credit: PONANT)

The intimate ships are small with the largest having just 132 staterooms. Interior decor for four of the ships is contemporary with a nautical feel.

In the evenings there is entertainment which includes parties outside on the top deck.  Music is provided by a DJ who plays Mediterranean club style music.

On selected sailings during the summer, children of the ages 4 and over are catered for with a small kids club, and children onboard tend to be well mannered and well behaved.

Destinations and Themed Cruises

Thanks to a reinforced hull, Le Boréal, L’Austral, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial have been awarded Ice 1C certification. This gives the ships access to polar regions that are not readily available to most cruise ships.

For details on Ponant’s Polar Cruises click here

Due to their size, not only are these ships able to reach every corner of the globe, but they can get much closer to the most stunning scenery.

(Image credit: PONANT)

Destinations for 2017 include The Arctic, Northern Europe and The Baltic, Asia, Oceania, Mediterranean, Canada and North America. 38 destinations include visits to Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Fleet

The four sister ships Le Boréal, L’Austral, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial are joined by the cruise lines flagship Le Ponant. With only 32 staterooms, this sailing ship is a truly exquisite experience.

Le Laperouse is the first of four new expedition ships for Ponant. Designed to be able to explore deeper than other vessels, the ships also feature an underwater lounge for a unique multi-sensorial experience.

(Image credit: PONANT)

In 2018 the fleet will be expanded with two of its four new explorer ships, Le Laperouse and Le Champlain with two to follow in 2019. These incredible ships will be smaller then their four predecessors and combine the sleek, contemporary design of the current fleet, with new environmentally-friendly equipment. New features also include a modular marina platform and infinity pool.

Accommodation

Onboard accommodation comprises 2 berth Deluxe and Prestige staterooms, 3 berth Superior staterooms, 2 berth Deluxe suites and 4 berth Prestige suites. The top suite is the Owners Suite which has the capacity for two guests.

PRESTIGE SUITE (Image credit: PONANT)

All rooms are equipped with:

PRESTIGE STATEROOM (Image credit: PONANT)

Individual Air Conditioning

  • King Size or Twin Beds
  • Shower (and Bath in Owners Suite)
  • French bath products
  • Mini Bar and 24 hr room service
  • Flatscreen
  • Satellite TV and video on demand
  • Desk with stationary, Internet access wifi
  • Ipod players
  • Safe, Hairdryer and Bathrobes
  • Satellite direct line telephone

OWNERS SUITE (Image credit: PONANT)

Onboard Facilities

An onboard theatre provides a venue for talks and lectures as well as shows, musical performances and film screenings. The fitness room with state of the art gym equipment, will ensure your workout regime doesn’t get disrupted whilst you are busy travelling the world.

(Image credit: PONANT)

Of course no luxury cruise ship would be complete without a spa to pamper and indulge. The well-being centres onboard Ponant ships provide an extensive range of treatments using only the best French Sothys products.

TREATMENTS IN THE WELL-BEING CENTRE IN ASSOCIATION WITH SOTHYS Paris . (Image credit: PONANT)

Luxury lounge areas decorated in soft nautical tones and sumptuous seating, allows you to relax during your cruise and take in the incredible views.

(Image credit: PONANT)

Dining

The ships offer two restaurants onboard. The Grill Restaurant on deck 6 has an open air dining area. The relaxed buffet restaurant serves a variety of delicious cuisine for guests looking for a faster meal service.

GRILL RESTAURANT (Image credit: PONANT)

On deck 2 is the gastronomic restaurant. Here you will experience the sophisticated elegance of traditional French service and cuisine, combining the best of the local flavours and fine wines.

GASTRONOMIC RESTAURANT (Image credit: PONANT)

An extensive complimentary room service menu is available 24 hours a day.

Environmental Commitment

Ponant are members of Charge Bleue d’Amateurs de France and IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators). They actively support Le Cercle Polaire and donate 10 Euros to Fablab every time a guest opts to receive electronic documents rather than paper copies.

The four sister ships use electric propulsion systems which are quiet and economical. The engines use less polluting Marine Diesel Oil which has earned them “Clean Ship” status.

(Image credit: PONANT)

In summary, Ponant’s French refinement combined with expedition and adventure cruising, makes this a firm favourite on my bucket list.

For More Information

Go to ponant.com for further details.

Best Oysters Ever at Loch Fyne Egham

Loch Fyne Egham

When my dear friend David comes to visit me from, it is always a challenge for me to find the right restaurant for us.  We enjoy fine dining, however we like to be able to relax, have friendly service and a good old laugh at ourselves in the process.  As a lover of seafood, I suggested we try Loch Fyne Egham.

I am a big fan of lobster.  I glanced at the other options on the menu but I had made my mind up.  David posed the question “are you having a starter?”  Then pointed out the Oysters.  I wasn’t sure at first, but there was something kind of naughty and indulgent about it and the temptation was too much for me to resist.  David and I are both easily led when it comes to spoiling ourselves, so we threw caution to the wind and went for it.

Oysters; Tequila & Lime, Beetroot & Horseradish and Natural

Oysters Galore

The oysters are served in four different ways; natural, tempura with chilli jam, beetroot & horseradish and tequila & lime (over 18’s only).  We decided to have one of each.  The tequila comes in a little pipet which you squirt onto the oyster along with a squeeze of fresh lime.  Then you simply tip the shell up and sip it all down. If you love tequila, as I do, then this is going to blow your mind!  These would be the ultimate party starter.

Of course it was only right that we enjoyed a chilled bottle of fizz with our oysters.  We went on to try the beetroot and horseradish oysters which were delicious, as were the natural oysters, but nothing could come close the the tequila and lime ones in my view.

I must say I wasn’t sure what to expect with the tempura oysters.  I couldn’t see how this could work, but my goodness, when I took the first bite I was in heaven. One of the most delicious foods I have ever tasted.

Time for main course. Whole baked lobster is usually served with french fries, but we chose not to have them.  With a beetroot, pomegranate and chicory, goat’s curd salad on the side, we tucked into the most delicious lobster.  Unfortunately for the lobster, it had been hugely upstaged by the oysters, and although I would highly recommend it, next time I will just order 6 – 12 oysters for my entire meal.

Overall Experience

Loch Fyne Egham has a friendly and sophisticated ambience.  We were served by a lovely man named Mark who made us feel very welcome, relaxed and well looked after. And that is not the prosecco and oysters talking!  The incredible food was certainly supported by great service and lovely interior design.

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

Guy Harvey Outpost – Rum Fish Grill

The Guy Harvey Outpost

Guy Harvey is responsible for the artwork on the hull of the Norwegian Escape, so I had to go and check out the Guy Harvey Outpost and the much talked about Rum Fish Grill restaurant.

The restaurant is probably the most interesting looking restaurant on Gulf Boulevard.

Rum Fish Grill main entrance

A Tradewinds Beach Resort

I arrived early so had plenty of time to look around and take photos.  The hotel is located behind the back of the restaurant, leading onto the beach.

Opposite the hotel entrance behind the restaurant

Everywhere you look there is more amazing artwork.  The hotel rooms from the outside looked very clean, fresh and appealing.  I would definitely like to stay here on my next visit.

Stunning artwork on the hotel walls

You can enjoy your Starbucks near the hotel reception while enjoying the beautiful artwork.

Both outside and inside the hotel lobby

Every part of the hotel reflects Guy Harvey’s passion for marine life and conservation. Even hallway to the pool and beach area is beautiful.

The ultimate place to spend Christmas on St Pete Beach

You can enjoy a drink or something to eat between cooling off in the pool.

2 pools and a lovely bar restaurant facing the beach

There is a surf simulator for hotel residents and private cabanas for hire, as well as hammocks to relax and unwind in.

Take it easy in one of these hammocks

or take in a sunset with friends at this luxurious lounge area

The kids get their own hang out

We headed back to the Rum Fish Grill as we still hadn’t seen one of the main attractions.

Joshua was fascinated by the fish and the tank

There is a viewing area for the fish tank which is outside of the restaurant.

An incredible dining experience

Rum Fish Grill

When you dine in the Rum Fish Grill, you get an ipad which not only has the menu and games for the children to play, but there is a fish identifier which is really fun and helps you to learn more about the marine life in the process.  Please note that the fish in the tank are NOT the fish on the menu.

ipad with menu, games and fish identifier

My mahi mahi fish tacos with healthy greens

I can honestly say the fish I had was so tender and tasty, it was the best fish I have ever had.

Grouper fingers and sweet potato fries from the kids menu.

The man himself, Guy Harvey, man of many talents.

There is a gift shop by the restaurant which sell all sort of things, such as clothing, artwork, homeware and this gorgeous flip flop plate.  I would have bought it, but didn’t think it would make it back in one piece.  It has given me the idea to do a transatlantic from Florida to Southampton after a big shopping spree here.

I wanted EVERYTHING in the gift shop

If you are visiting the St Pete Beach area, please go and check out this place.  This is a very popular place to eat, therefore you will require a reservation for the restaurant. This can either be done at the hotel or on Open Table.



Norwegian Escape Cruise Ship Review

Introducing the Norwegian Escape

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

Delicious cupcakes

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.

Useful Links

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville

Guy Harvey Outpost

Disney’s Magic Kingdom – Orlando

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom is a 90 minute drive from St Pete Beach, so it is well worth a day visit.  I bought my 1 day tickets online in the UK and set up a ‘My Disney Experience‘ account so that I could plan my day beforehand.

Tip – One day ticket options are only available online is if you change the language setting on the website from English (UK) to English (USA).  You also get 3 free fast passes when doing so, which really made our day a lot smoother and hardly queued at all.

Meeting Mickey Mouse

Pooh hugging Josh while Tigger tries to eat his leg

Take Two

If you are spending more than one or two days in Disney, I would strongly recommend staying on site and booking when you get free Disney Dining.  Not only is the food and drink extremely pricey, the parking is charged at $20 per day.  It also gives you the option to get to the park extra early, then go back to the hotel for lunch and a swim before returning later in the afternoon.  A full day from 8 am to midnight is not for the faint hearted.

How much?

Tip – Share an ice cream with your child for two reasons.  They are huge and they melt quicker than a child can eat one!

A must for every first time visitor to the Magic Kingdom

Taking a child on rides like ‘Dumbo’ and ‘It’s A Small World’ for the first time, is such a wonderful experience.

It’s A Small World

It’s A Small World

It’s A Small World

Cinderella’s Castle with Christmas decorations

I love the mosaics inside Cinderella’s castle

Just a reminder of what an incredible man Walt Disney was

“Saving Mr Banks” is an incredible movie about Walt Disney and the plaque on his statue really sums up his incredible contribution to our world.  It reads;

“We believe in our idea – a family park where parents and children could have fun together – Walt Disney”

The Pirates of the Caribbean

This one needs no introduction

The lovely Minnie Mouse

The gorgeous Disney Christmas Tree

Suggested Reading: Disney Magic Cruise Ship Tour

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

VIP For A Day Onboard Caribbean Princess

The Cruise Ship

You probably remember the four part fly-on-the-wall documentary about life onboard the Royal Princess, called ‘The Cruise Ship’ which, aired on ITV. Princess Cruises ran a competition for travel agents which was for the best tweet of the week to win a VIP Day onboard Caribbean Princess.  I tweeted like crazy and one of my tweets was picked as a winner.

Caribbean Princess Piazza

Caribbean Princess

On the day, Victoria Sneglar Princess Cruises Sales Communications and Events Executive, met us at the cruise terminal. One of the other VIP’s was Bruno the guide dog, which made the day extra special. Victoria was the perfect hostess and took us onboard.  We entered the Piazza on the Caribbean Princess.  These signature features reflect opulence and beauty combined with a very relaxed atmosphere. This is where you will find the popular International Cafe, serving delicious pastries, paninis, salads, cakes and desserts. Music fills the air as a pianist playing a white grand piano, gives popular songs an elegant twist. The marble floors, glass lifts and sweeping staircases give the air of being in a fairytale.

Bruno the Guide Dog

Bottoms Up

Vikki took us to Crooners Bar for a cocktail to start the day in style. Bruno the Guide Dog was with us for the day and attracted a lot of attention from embarking  passengers.  First of all, we sipped our wonderful cocktails. I ordered a margarita on the rocks, no salt which is my holiday drink. Victoria told us, while enjoying our cocktails, that we would shortly be taken to the Canyon Ranch Spa for a treatment.

Enjoying a 24K Gold Margarita prior to my spa treatment

Aerial view of the Piazza

I thought a neck and shoulder massage or a mini manicure was what we would get, but on arrival we were told we would be having a full body exfoliation and moisturising treatment, followed by a full body massage and a hot stone treatment. Each room has it’s own shower cubicle, so I was able to wash off after the exfoliation before starting the body massage.  All the products are Elemis and smell and feel divine.

Canyon Ranch Spa Treatment Room

After our treatments, we met the Cruise Director who showed us around a few of the staterooms.

A category S7 window suite located on deck 6 319 sq ft but no balcony Room F303

Window Suite category S7

A Galley Tour

We were given a lovely tour of the Galley.  I took this video and if you watch to the end, you will get a little glimpse of the crew mess.

For lunch and we were treated to the Crown Grill menu in the main dining room.  This is a speciality restaurant and there is usually a cover charge, but looking at the quality of the food, it is certainly great value for money.

Mediterranean-Style Spiny Lobster Cake, Tarragon Foam, Cured Olives, Grilled Asparagus

The Grill Salad – Grape Balsamic Dressing, Mesclun Greens, Roasted Bell Peppers, Hass Avocado

Chilean Sea Bass and Brioche Breaded King Prawns, Leeks and Mushroom Ragout, Champagne Mousseline

The Crown Dependence – The Executive Pastry Chef’s Sampling of their Featured Desserts

Bruno is such a good boy, and sits under the table at his Dad’s feet during lunch.

A Journey with a Difference

After eating ourselves silly, washed down with a glass of chilled chardonnay, Vikki told us they had a Chocolate Journeys experience lined up for us.  Ok, I thought, I can handle a couple of little chocolates, but this was more than that. Created by Norman Love, one of the top master chocolatiers in the world, Chocolate Journeys is an experience of chocolates, sweets and cocktails.

Sampling some of the Chocolate Journeys range of sweets

and delicious drinks

Caribbean Princess crew spoilt us rotten and the day, which far exceeded my expectations.  As we disembarked, crossing paths of boarding guests, I was still trying to take in what an incredible day it had been, but most of all, how kind and generous Princess Cruises had been to organise this for us.

It is a day I will never forget.  Thank you Princess Cruises.

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