Tag Archives: Mediterranean-Cruise

Virgin Voyages ‘Valiant Lady’ to Head for the Med

Virgin Voyages today announced their second ship debuting in May 2020, will be called ‘Valiant Lady’, and is be based out of Barcelona, Spain. From here she will sail 7-night Mediterranean itineraries, with late-night stops and overnight stays in ports such as Ibiza.

Valiant Lady will sail 3 different itineraries with breathtaking ports of call, open for booking in December 2019.

  1. The exotic delights of Barcelona, Ibiza, Monte Carlo, Marseille and Olbia
  2. A fantastic sampling of the Med featuring Barcelona, Ibiza, Toulon, Ajaccio, Marina di Carrara, and Cagliari
  3. Spanish immersion, stopping by Barcelona, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and the British port of Gibraltar

A Home in Barcelona for Summer 2021

Most cruise ships dock at Termina C in Barcelona, which is a 10-minute bus ride to the first point of interest, Las Ramblas. However, Virgin Voyages have secured a prime location usually reserved by luxury liners and mega-yachts. Valiant Lady will dock at the World Trade Center Barcelona, just steps from Las Ramblas, allowing Sailors to be as close to the heart of the city as possible. It gives walking access to the most popular spots such as Poble Sec, el Raval, Barri Gotic, Port Vell and the famed urban beach of La Barceloneta. Departing every Sunday, sailors can enjoy extra time in Barcelona and take advantage of a range of flight options.

Later Stays and Overnights

Sailor and First Mates (travel partners) wanted later stays in ports, which Virgin Voyages have delivered on every itinerary. Sailors can now make the most of their time in port. Every sailing features a Friday overnight stay in Ibiza, one of the most stunning and thrilling Balearic Islands. Whether it’s a beach club, market, spa, sunset, or a late-night out, there is no other place like Ibiza.

Introducing ‘Valiant Lady’

The name ‘Valiant Lady’ was inspired by the Latin valere and the French, Vaillant, meaning “bold”, “strong”, and “courageous”. The image of women historically only graced the bows of ships to bring protection to a vessel. However, ‘Valiant Lady’ embodies the idea that women design, captain, lead and champion change in the maritime industry.

Scarlet Squad

Valiant Lady will continue Virgin Voyages’ ‘Scarlet Squad’ program. This is aimed at recruiting, supporting and mentoring female shipboard talent and growing opportunities to access leadership roles onboard. This includes areas such as marine, technical and hotel management that statistically show low numbers of female leadership.

Recommended Reading Champagne Delivery at the Shake of Your Phone

Future Sailors, First Mates, and travel advisors are invited to check out Virgin Voyages by visiting www.virginvoyages.com or following @virginvoyages on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

5 Reasons To Cruise From Sicily

5 Reasons To Cruise From Sicily

If you want to visit numerous destinations and travel without the stress of getting from one spot to the next, a cruise is a wonderful way to travel. Some of the best cruise companies have itineraries that start and end in one of my favourite places, Sicily.

Before embarking on a cruise, it is so lovely to be able to relax in a beautiful spot (especially if you’ve never been there before), and when a destination is as gorgeous as Sicily is, it is a must! If you choose to do so, you’ll want to set up comfortable accommodation for yourself before being at sea. Luckily, there are many locally owned villas where you can stay on the island. Tools like WishSicily can help you find the perfect beach villa for your holiday. Then you can set off on your cruise relaxed and ready to go.

That being said.. there are many good reasons as to why one should go to Sicily a few days early and enjoy the island before embarking on a cruise. Here are 5 of them:

1. Beaches

The island of Sicily has over 1,000 kilometers of coastline. So naturally, if you love to spend some time at the beach and relax with some sea views, you’ll be very happy in Sicily. You can find sandy beaches all the way up to those with dramatic rock formations.

2. Archaeological Sites

If you spend some time on the island, visiting some of the archaeological sites is a must. There are 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the island, including an active volcano called Mount Etna and the Valley of the Temples, which will ignite your imagination as to what the site looked like in its prime.

3. Cuisine and Wine

Italian food and wine is famous worldwide. Sicilian food, in particular, has something extra special to it with a mix of influences from different cultures. You can happily spend a significant amount of time eating and drinking your way through the island and tasting the true flavours of Sicilian cuisine. A couple Sicilian dishes to try are: caponata (eggplant stew), arancini (stuffed rice balls) and cannoli (ricotta-filled sweet).

4. Intricate Culture

Sicily has a rich and intricate culture unlike anywhere else in the world, including the rest of Italy. Mediterranean culture historically met in Sicily, mostly due to its location, and the island has seen civilizations ranging from Roman, Greek, Byzantine, Norman, Arab, to Catalan. The civilizations that once inhabited the island have each left their mark on the Sicilian culture, creating this beautiful blend of something purely.. Sicilian.

5. Beautiful Borghi

There are 19 borghi (very small towns) in Sicily that are quaint and sure sights to see. They were once designated among Italy’s most beautiful towns by I Borghi Piu Belli d’Italia. You’ll see a lot of port cities while on a cruise, so taking the time to visit the smaller villages adds something extra special to a trip.

Spending a few days on this wonderful island is a great way to set the mood for a great holiday. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in Sicily, you’ll be in holiday mode before you board your cruise!

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Emily Jones.

My Top Summer Cruise Destinations

My Top Summer Cruise Destinations

As the nights begin to get a little bit lighter and temperatures start to rise, it’s only right that we start to think about the summer months ahead.

With children on an extended school holiday and warm temperatures arriving, summer is a great time to set sail on the cruise of a lifetime.

There are a great range of summer cruise destinations for you to explore. To help you decide which is right for you, here are my top summer cruise destinations for you to consider as you start to plan your summer break.

Western Mediterranean

Packed with world wonders, the western Mediterranean is equal parts enticing, charming and magical. Plus, in the summer months, the temperatures reach the mid-20s, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to use the ship’s pool as you port-hop.

From the Coliseum and the ruins of Rome to the ancient streets of Cadiz, and the party island of Ibiza, on a western Mediterranean cruise, you can have a little bit of everything – sampling history, architecture and sun-kissed shores in the process.

One of the great joys of a western Mediterranean cruise is that you can be as flexible as you like. Itineraries stretch from as little as three days to as long as two weeks. Plus, with specialist sites such as www.cruisedeals.co.uk, you can compare a wide range of holidays and find which works best for you and your budget.

Canary Islands

If you’d like your summer holiday to be all about the sun, then the Canary Islands are the place to go. Although they’re a go-to cruise destination all year round, the average temperature in the Canary Islands in August is 24°C, so you’re practically guaranteed the weather. This makes the Canary Islands perfect, regardless of whether you’d like to explore at your own pace, take it easy on the beach, or get the adrenaline pumping.

A cruise to the Canary Islands offers a little bit of something for everyone. You can climb Mount Teide, witness the lunar landscapes of Lanzarote, or even go camel-riding in the desert. There’s always an option for you in the Canary Islands. Each island allows you to top up your tan and tick unforgettable experiences off your bucket list. The only problem you’ll have is narrowing down which ones to visit!

Alaska

If you’re looking for an adventure like no other, then a cruise to Alaska is the perfect choice. In the winter months, temperatures in Alaska can reach -10°C in some places, which makes the summer a much better time to travel. Plus, thanks to extended daylight hours, you’ll have a better chance of spotting wildlife.

A cruise to Alaska can be as rewarding as it is fascinating. With stunning scenery and lush landscapes, Alaska provides you with unspoilt views of glaciers and forests. The Glacier Bay National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is a particular highlight, but you can also take in other great Alaskan experiences, such as fresh seafood, dog-sledding tours and lumberjack experiences.

If you’d like to extend your Alaska cruise, you can also add stops in America and Canada.

The Baltics

During the summer sailing season, temperatures in the Baltics reach a pleasant 15°C to 20°C, which make these cities and ports the perfect location if you don’t like it too hot.

On your cruise, you’ll be surrounded by world-famous landmarks, breathtaking scenery and historical attractions. Plus, if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the stunning Northern Lights one evening.

The Baltics are a cultural paradise for people who love to explore, and with top destinations such as St Petersburg, Denmark and Finland all available, a summer cruise to the Baltics allows you to explore the iconic landmarks of northern Europe and beyond.

The British Isles

If you’re looking for a summer getaway that won’t break the bank, then why not consider a cruise around the British Isles? It’s the perfect starting point if you’ve never been on a cruise before and you’d like to test the waters.

The British Isles actually consist of over 6,000 islands, and there’s no better way to see them all than on a cruise. There’s so much to see and do. The port of Southampton gives you access to London and Stonehenge, while a stop at St Peter Port in Guernsey lets you visit the historic Candie Gardens. You can even sample the Guinness in Cork or Dublin – the choice really is yours.

Plus, depending on the itinerary you choose, you can even tag on a visit to mainland Europe.

Whether you’re looking to book for this year, or if you’re planning ahead for 2020, my top summer cruise destinations are sure to provide you with unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime. So, which one will you choose?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored guest post on behalf of www.cruisedeals.co.uk

Cruise Me To The Moon On Independence of the Seas

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

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

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

How Does It Work?

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

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

Join Us Onboard

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

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

Or check out Royal Caribbean’s DEALS OF THE WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Image: Royal Caribbean International

But There’s More …

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

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

Image: Royal Caribbean International

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

So Do You Think Britannia Rules The Waves?

9 Things I Love About Britannia

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

1. Grand Atrium

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

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

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

2. The Pool Deck

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

Britannia’s Main Pool as seen on Saturday Night Takeaway

Relax in one of the Jacuzzi’s onboard

3. Cabins and Staterooms

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

A nice seating area in the balcony cabins.

A very comfy looking bed in the balcony cabins

4. The Crow’s Nest

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

The Crow’s Nest offers amazing sea views

Enjoy the views while a pianist plays your favourite tunes

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

5. Luxuriate in the Retreat

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

Relax and enjoy the serenity of the retreat

Cool down with a dip in this pool of tranquility

Relax in bistro style 

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

6. Relax in the Oasis Spa

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

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

Step into thalassotherapy pool as your cares melt away

7. A Food Hero for Everyone

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

The Cookery Club

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

The Epicurean

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

Enjoy Eric Lanlard’s afternoon tea at the Epicurean

The Glasshouse

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

The perfect place for your #shipsandchampagne moment

Sindhu

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

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

8. The Limelight Club

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

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

A lovely atmosphere awaits in The Limelight Club

 

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

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

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

Jewel of the Seas Greek Isles Cruise Review

A Different Kind of Cruise

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

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

Naples, Italy

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

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

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

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

Santorini, Greece

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

Mykonos, Greece

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

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

Athens and Kusadasi

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

Katakolon, Greece

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

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

Onboard Jewel of the Seas

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

Things to do

Would you?

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

Free Champagne

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

Adventure Ocean

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

Formal Night

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

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

Recommended Reading

Independence of the Seas – The Best Cruise Of My Life

Your Guide To Cruise Ship Currency

Onboard Currency

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

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

British Pounds

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

US Dollar

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

EURO

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

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

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

Cruising with a Baby on P & O’s Ventura

Tips For Cruising With A Baby

Not only was this my first P & O cruise but it was also my first time cruising with a six-month-old baby.  As my daughter was 14 by this time, it had also been a while since I’d done the baby thing.  We were joined by my mum, so I had an extra pair of helping hands.

Pre-Cruise Planning

Before the cruise, I discovered that P & O offer more for parents with small babies than other cruise lines. You can order a baby bath, a steriliser, bottle warmer, a cot (travel cot) and baby food.  All at no extra cost.

The twin beds are the same size although the one on the left looks really skinny, it’s not.

On Arrival

We arrived in the room to find a lovely balloon tied to some sweets as a little extra touch for Joshua.  The balloon came in very handy when I was trying to distract Joshua long enough to get ready to go out.

Surprisingly the travel cot fits easily between the two beds or even at the foot of the farthest bed.  Be aware, if you have it there you obstruct the fridge which can be a bit of a pain.  I used to move it to the foot of the bed in the mornings when I was getting ready and then have it in the middle, at night.  I guess if like most people, you are travelling with the baby’s father, you will want the beds as a double.  In which case you can either have the cot at the end of the bed or around the corner.  I’ll show you further down.

Steriliser, bottle warmer, tea and coffee making facilities and UK plug sockets.

The steriliser and the bottle warmer, together with tea and coffee making facilities and a fridge.

A lovely and unusual touch to welcome young cruisers.

My daughter Lucy was booked into a twin room with my Mum so that she didn’t have to pay a single supplement.  However, once we got onboard, we asked if Lucy could join Josh and me in our room.  The ship staff were great about it and issued us with another key card for Lucy.

If you are swapping rooms it is very important to notify the ship staff!

This is because, your allocated meeting point in an emergency, depends on where your cabin is on the ship and if you go to a muster station that is not expecting you, there may not be a seat on the lifeboat should you need one. Similarly, if you are required to disembark the ship, it will appear that you are still onboard and someone may risk their life trying to save you unnecessarily.

Plenty of hanging space for clothes

This is the area outside the bathroom where you can hang your clothes.  The travel cot and bedding were already in our room for us.  You can place the cot in this area if you prefer so the baby almost has a separate bedroom area.  It’s whatever you feel most comfortable with really.  Speak to your room attendant about your needs because they will put the cot up every evening for you and then fold it away during the day.

Playroom

The playroom for under 3’s is open all-day

Ventura has a playroom which is open all day for parents with under 3’s and is complimentary.  Joshua was one of only about five babies onboard.  It will depend on when you travel as to how many children are onboard your cruise.

At night, the room turns into a night nursery with cot beds and curtain dividers.  As long as your child goes to sleep without a problem, you can drop them off from 6 pm onwards so that you can go and enjoy a meal and some entertainment with peace of mind.  You are given a pager so that you can be contacted at all times.  I think the nursery is open until about 1 am, however, the latest I collected Joshua was around 11.30.  I was surprised he went straight off to sleep every night, but it gave me some time to myself.

Sunrise while docking in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Morning Stroll

I like to get up very early in the morning and luckily with Joshua, I don’t need an alarm clock.  One of my favourite things to do is get up while most people are still in bed, around 6 am, and walk around the top deck taking in the views and the sunrise.

Friendly ship staff

The staff were really friendly and loved Joshua.

Milk, yoghurts and fruit to start the day

It was a great opportunity to try Joshua with different foods.  For baby food and yoghurts you need to ask a member of staff as they are kept in a separate refrigerator for your child’s’ health and safety.

I can’t resist a cooked breakfast on a cruise

Captain Charlie Carr is more than happy to pose for a photo with Joshua.

The public areas on deck have plenty of space to move around, and there is a large covered bar and seating area.

A big hit with the kids is the poolside grill that serves pizza, burgers, hot dogs and ice cream.

Larger balconies, but not so private.

Balcony cabins on decks C and D are larger than most, however, bear in mind that you can be overlooked by those looking down from upper decks.

Ships and Champagne

Award-winning restaurant The Glasshouse

One of my favourite places onboard the Ventura is The Glasshouse.  Writer, tv presenter and sommelier Olly Smith who can be seen on Saturday Kitchen and This Morning, has developed a menu of 32 wines which can be paired with specially crafted dishes in this uniquely designed wine bar-restaurant.

Learning about wines and food pairing in The Glasshouse

I was keen to attend the wine pairing seminar, which was held on a sea day at 11.30 am.  As there is no childcare available during the day for under 3’s, I was concerned about what to do with Joshua.  The staff in the Glasshouse reassured me that I could bring him along, and if he became disruptive they would take care of him!

If only this would catch on back home

I had to take a quick photo before they handed him back to me.  The staff were lovely.

Lost? This should help.

If you are worried about getting lost, you will find one of these deck plans by the lifts and stairs on each deck.

Light lunch

Feeling indecisive about what to have from the lunchtime buffet, I decided to try a little bit of everything!

Bon Voyage Croatia

Ready to sail away from Dubrovnik with a cheeky margarita.

Dress Code

There is usually a couple of formal nights onboard, however it only compulsory to wear formal clothes if you are dining in one of the restaurants.  For those people who prefer to stay in shorts and tee shirts, there is plenty to choose from in the self-service buffet.

Marco Pierre White provides the Gala dinner menu

Formal night menu included a menu by Marco Pierre White.

 

Don’t forget your Towelwizz

There is plenty of space around the pool to be able to move the sun loungers around.  A must-have accessory is a Towelwizz band, which keeps your towel in place and doubles up as a luggage strap.

The baby splash pool (far left) with surrounded with perspective glass for extra safety.

Nappies and Swimming

If you are cruising with a baby in nappies are not allowed in the main pools due to strict health and safety procedures that apply to cruise ships.  I believe it’s something to do with the chlorine levels allowed onboard being lower than those at public pools.  Not all ships have splash pools for babies, however, Ventura does and it is at the back of the ship next to the kids’ clubs.

Cruising into Venice along the Grand Canal

Sailing into Venice is hard to explain, but those who have done it say it is by far the best port to sail in or out of for breathtaking views.

Stunning views of Venice

Cruising along the Grand Canal while relaxing on a sun lounger or having a dip in the pool, is pretty hard to beat.

Marco Pierre White’s onboard restaurant The White Room

Mum and I spent our last night with a meal in Marco Pierre White’s onboard restaurant, while the sun set over Venice.

Quality mother and daughter time.

Recommended Reading Cruise People – Family Cruising – The Bruce-Low’s

New Cruise Ships for Azamara?

Sister ships get Royal Treatment

Azamara President and CEO Larry Pimentel tells USA TODAY , “By April of next year we will have two ships that essentially are brand new.”

Pimentel says “the new design is the handiwork of the team responsible for new ship building at Azamara’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises who are known for some of the best designs in the cruise business.”

Tight Lipped

Azamara remain tight-lipped about the details of the enhancements but have released some of the artists drawings. This shows that these major upgrades will certainly add the modern, contemporary and brighter feel the cruise line are aiming for.

“As we continue to evolve our destination immersive offerings, we also want to ensure our onboard experience is modernized to meet guests’ every need,” said Pimentel.

“We can’t wait for our ships to come out of dry dock, as these major upgrades are going to have an instant impact on our guests’ experience. Each corner of the ships will have a new look and feel, setting a brighter, more contemporary ambiance. While the new venues will bring guests fresh experiences. We’re also investing in new onboard innovations and paid close attention to the smallest of details. We really are redefining our onboard experience in every way.”

A Runaway Success Story

I asked Richard Twynam, Managing Director UK and Ireland, a few questions about the plans for Azamara Quest and Journey.

Q.Why have you decided to invest in a major refit for both ships?

A. “Azamara Club Cruises is a runaway success story, and guests love our Destination Immersion concept and informal Club atmosphere on board. This success has justified this investment from the board.”

Q. Are you looking to appeal to a different demographic?

A. “Not necessarily, as we have over a 50% repeat guest rate. But I am confident that many guests who would normally travel on other cruise lines will want to experience Reimagined Azamara.”

Q. What changes will guests see onboard?

A. “Every single part of the ship from aft to the bow will be upgraded, from every state room, to restaurants and the spa, watch this space as we share more and more detail over the coming weeks.”

Guest Feedback

Mr and Mrs Evans from Cheshire,  have recently returned from their Panama Canal cruise on the Azamara Journey. I asked what they thought about the announcement.

“Delighted to hear of the refit plans. We thought the itinerary for our last cruise was excellent and exceeded our expectations. An improvement in the quality of the onboard experience will only add to the appeal. We think Azamara continues to offer excellent value for money.”

Dry Dock Schedule

Azamara Journey – Bahamas January 2016

Azamara Quest – Singapore April 2015

Anthem of the Seas Review – 2015

It’s A Smart Ship

Putting together an Anthem of the Seas review is not an easy task, as it would be hard to find anyone who has not heard about the newest addition to the Royal Caribbean International fleet. Her recent arrival into Southampton Docks for her inaugural season seems to have the whole cruise industry in a swirl.

With 24 ships in it’s fleet to date, compared to the 8 that P & O Cruises have, Royal Caribbean International has raised the bar to the point where we wonder what on earth they can do next. But after spending two nights on her pre-inaugural sailing, it is clear that they have found a whole new dimension to cruising, cruise ship art, dining and entertainment.

Anthem of the Seas Review

My first impression, as I entered the atrium, was one of class and sophistication. It’s a grown-up version of previous Royal Caribbean ships, in as much as it’s not just about having cool stuff onboard, it’s about having thought-provoking design, art, and menus.  You can experience Wonderland, a unique speciality dining experience which starts when you have to paint your gold-framed menu to read it.

I absolutely love the solarium onboard Anthem of the Seas

There is a lot more indoor space to enjoy the outdoor scenery, such as the adult-only solarium with stunning views looking across the ocean from the front of the ship, and the pool bar which has a retractable roof.  This gives adults a place to enjoy a swim, a drink and relax in all weather conditions without kids, whether it be their own or someone else’s.

Two70

In Two70 with Dominic Paul, Michael Bayley, Richard Fain and Stuart Leven

The Two70 venue by day is another incredible place to relax indoors. It’s a cosy environment with its own cafe and bar, lets you enjoy incredible 270-degree views, spanning two and a half decks of floor to ceiling windows.  At night, this venue transforms into an entertainment place with robotic screens and 12K sound system with scenic images projected on the windows behind it.  That has never been seen on land before let alone at sea.  Watch the short video below and at one point you can hear me saying “how the hell”, which is quite literally what you think when you see the technology capabilities of these robo screens.

Introducing more firsts at sea such as indoor skydiving, rollerskating, dodgems, the North Star (elevates guests 300ft above the water) to compliment their signatures like the Flowrider, rock wall and Royal Promenade, Royal Caribbean International have certainly taken the cruise ship holiday experience to a whole new level.

A friendly waitress offers me a sample of their signature champagne cocktail in The Grande

A friendly waitress offers me a sample of their signature champagne cocktail in The Grande

They have added more in the way of entertainment. In addition to We Will Rock You and the incredible shows in Two70, there is the Music Hall.  This is a two-deck-high music venue with self-levelling pool tables upstairs and a stage and dancefloor downstairs.

Accommodation

They also have some incredible new suites and staterooms. The two-storey owner’s loft suite is incredible with three balconies and a hanging chair.

Getting comfortable on one of the balconies in the Owners Loft Suite

Take a look inside the Owners Loft Suite in this short video.

Having explored the ship over the course of two days, I asked myself “who would enjoy a cruise on Anthem of the Seas?” Everyone!  At least anyone who doesn’t want to experience the same thing on holiday than they do at home.  Anyone who has an inquisitive mind, a sense of adventure and likes to have a good time. There is something for everyone on this ship. If you are not grumpy, boring and miserable, you WILL have the BEST time ever on THIS ship!  TRY IT!

Why not take a look at How Long Is the Allure Of The Seas?

Celebrity Infinity Cruise Ship Review

The Ship Tour

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

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

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

Constellation Lounge.

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

Pool area and Jogging track

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

Martini Bar

Dining with a Difference

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

Alice in Wonderland meets Heston Blumenthal at Qsine

Qsine

Celebrity Infinity Suites

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

Penthouse Suite

Penthouse Suite

Penthouse Suite

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

Trellis Restaurant

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