Itineraries may be changed during hurricane season or bad storms, but a cancelled cruise is an extremely rare occurrence.
It’s more uncomfortable for the guests, but ships are built to handle rough seas.
Monitoring The Weather
If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting the bridge on a cruise ship, you will have seen the huge array of equipment, which is constantly monitored by the crew and officers. The navigational systems include weather maps, satellite images, computer models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and third-party meteorologists.
Behind the scenes at The Bridge of Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.
In January 2017, Royal Caribbean International appointed TV meteorologist James Van Fleet to head up operations at the Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami. Part of Van Fleet’s job during the hurricane season, is to monitor a 25-foot wall of weather screens and share information with the crew of all the Royal Caribbean family of ships and the executive team.
Carnival Corporation monitors weather from its multi million dollar command centre. The first facility of its kind in Southern Florida is staffed 24/7 and has a 74-foot-long video wall with 57 LED screens that shows the status of all the line’s 27 ships, including weather and safety updates.
Making The Decision
The number one priority for cruise lines is guest safety. It is not just the decision of the onboard crew, it’s a team who makes that decision based on the latest weather patterns, based on the options or other alternatives.
Cruise Lines will reroute the ship if the forecast is serious enough. Ship captains study forecasts and will alter course to avoid storms. Sometimes rough seas are unavoidable or storms are worse than expected. On rare occasions, a ship may have to go through the outer bands of a storm to reach safe haven in a port. Most times however, the ships will go out to sea to avoid storms.
All modern cruise ships have stabilisers to keep rocking and rolling to a minimum. Cruise ships can typically “outrun” most storms, passengers may still experience rough seas as their ship skirts the edges of a storm.
MSC Grandiosa docked in Southampton
Cruise ships are made of heavy steel that’s even heavier with a full load of passengers and crew onboard. With all that weight, they can roll with the waves. In the roughest seas a ship may list, or tilt to one side, but even that’s unlikely. Shipbuilders test things such as buoyancy and centre of gravity during construction. This includes putting scale models of ships through all sorts of storm simulations.
What To Expect If Your Ship Hits Bad Weather
A cruise ship can list enough to send deck furniture skidding and bar glasses crashing. While passengers might be scared or uncomfortable, the ship is typically not in any actual danger of capsizing.
If you’re already on a ship and meet rough conditions, listen to the instructions of the captain and crew. It’s common for the crew to put down non-slip mats and add signage reminding you to exercise caution when walking. Van Fleet says part of his job is communicating with the crew when such procedures may be necessary.
All is calm on the Allure of the Seas
Listen to the captain’s report from the bridge everyday which will include a description of sea conditions. This will help you to decide what preparations you need to make for the day. If you get seasick, be prepared with over-the-counter motion sickness medications, homeopathic remedies, or a prescription patch from your doctor.
Note that attractions such as the pool and water slides may shut down, or the outdoor decks may be closed altogether. In very rare situations, the Captain may require all passengers stay in their cabins. In general, you’ll likely feel some rolling, but that goes for the entirety of your trip, too.
Even if you’re not usually prone to seasickness, cruising through rough waters can test even the strongest of stomachs. Effective solutions to seasickness include acupressure wristbands, antihistamines and Dramamine. If you didn’t bring any with you, the ship’s store will have some in stock, and the purser’s desk will usually have Dramamine for free. Once you start feeling the symptoms it might be too late, so don’t delay!
What To Do If Your Itinerary Changes
Listen to the ship’s intercom for announcements of port or itinerary changes. You may also receive information via a letter delivered to your stateroom. Even if it’s not cancelled your cruise may be affected. Ports that require tendering often have to be skipped because high winds make the process unsafe.
Although cruise lines don’t generally issue refunds for missed ports, they do have to refund port fees.
The cruise line or organisers may cancel your excursion, even though the port may not be skipped. The cruise line will issue refunds automatically, private operators will usually issue a refund if your ship never docked, however you may need to contact them to request it.
Look for alternatives to outdoor activities like spending an afternoon at the gym or the spa. The cruise line will usually put on extra activities. Make reservations for a speciality restaurant or a show immediately to avoid disappointment.
An Entirely New Approach To Delivering Safety Information To Guests
Royal Caribbean Group is replacing the traditional safety drill, with the new innovative Muster 2.0
The process will be faster and have a more personal, which encourages higher levels of safety.
Tested on Symphony of the Seas in January 2020, Muster 2.0 has been more than a year in the making. Guests who took part in the mock process indicated a strong preference for the new approach. They also reported better comprehension and retention of the safety information.
The New Royal Caribbean Muster Drill Approach Will Help Guests Enjoy A Smoother Sail Away
Muster 2.0 enables guests to access the key elements of the safety drill. This includes things like; What to expect and where to go in case of an emergency and life jacket instructions.
eMuster provides information on mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs. Guests can avoid large group assemblies by reviewing the information at their own time prior to setting sail.
The new approach also allows guests to enjoy more of their vacation with no interruption.
After reviewing safety information individually, guests will complete the drill by visiting their assigned assembly station, where a crew member will verify that all steps have been completed and answer questions. The ships will not depart until all guests have completed the drill.
The distributed muster for ocean-going vessels concept is patented in the United States and is patent-pending in major markets around the world, including the various cruise industry flag states. The company has also worked with international regulators, the U.S. Coast Guard and other maritime and government authorities to ensure it meets all safety requirements.
Cruise Lines to Eliminate Crowding By Using The Technology
In addition to introducing the new process on the ships of its own cruise lines – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara – Royal Caribbean Group is offering to license the patented technology to interested cruise operators and will waive patent license fees during the time the world and industry battle the global pandemic. Patent licenses have already been granted to the company’s joint venture, TUI Cruises GmbH, as well as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
Anthem of the Seas is a Royal Caribbean QUANTUM Class ship. She was built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Her Maiden Voyage was on the 22nd April 2015 from Southampton, England.
Accommodating 4,609 passengers at full capacity, Anthem of the Seas is still not the largest cruise ship in the world. She is however, a close second to the largest in the world, her sister Oasis Class ships.
Image Credit: Royal Caribbean International – Outdoor Pool Deck and North Star
The 18 passenger decks offer plenty of space, which is great for those looking for somewhere quiet to relax.
Anthem of the Seas Dining
The ship has 17 dining options to choose from, ranging from casual buffet-style to multi-course fine dining and 24 hour snacks. These include an array of international cuisine and most dietary requirements are catered for.
Image CreditL Royal Caribbean International – Onboard Dining Room Chic
Activities Onboard Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas has plenty of activities for all ages. High adrenaline activities for thrill seekers, a west end musical for theatre lovers and high tech shows are just some of the things on offer.
Image Credit: Royal Caribbean International – We Will Rock You
Children will love the Adventure Ocean kids club. Free daily sessions are available for children aged 3 – 17. Check your planner onboard as the opening times may vary. These are a pretty good guide to how they usually work.
Morning Session 9am – 12pm
Afternoon Session 2pm – 5pm
Evening Session 6pm – 10pm
Late nights, lunch and dinner sessions are available at an extra charge, allowing the adults to enjoy everything the ship has to offer, without the guilt.
The Vitality Spa and Fitness Centre offers a state of the art gym, a range of fitness classes and some of the most advanced spa services at sea.
At the front of the ship is a stunning glass covered, adults-only solarium. Cascading pools, whirlpools, luxurious loungers and a dedicated bar, makes it the perfect place to unwind.
Image Credit: Royal Caribbean International – Adult Solarium
Anthem of the Seas is perfectly suitable for people with mobility issues. Corridors built to allow wheelchairs to turn 180 degrees, along with all public rooms featuring entrances with gradual inclines.
A wide choice of stateroom types are available, from single rooms to multi-bedroom family suites and two-storey loft suites. Rooms for five people or more cannot be booked online. Please contact your travel agent or the cruise line directly.
Anthem of the Seas is the perfect multi-generational cruise ship.
If you are new to cruise here is an easy guide to cruising with Royal Caribbean that answers the most frequently asked questions.
Cruising With or Without Kids
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of Royal Caribbean, is kids. Whether you are travelling with or without children, there is still a Royal Caribbean cruise for you.
Every Royal Caribbean ship (unless otherwise stated below) has a sports court, FlowRider, rock climbing wall, in-stateroom movies, family events, and the Adventure Ocean kids club. This is a fantastic facility for kids which both of my children loved. So there is certainly plenty on board to keep them entertained.
Tips For Avoiding Kids on a Royal Caribbean Cruise
If you are not looking to cruise with kids, and the idea of having them onboard fills you with dread, don’t worry because not all Royal Caribbean cruises are the same.
First of all, the smaller ships are less likely to have as many young families on board, as all the exciting new features such as Splashaway Bay, Laser Tag, Bumper Cars, Trampolining, and water slides are mainly on the larger ships.
Secondly, if you avoid school holidays, you will not find too many kids onboard anyway. If you do book a larger ship during the school holidays, then you need to expect a lot of kids around.
Which Ship Should I Choose?
People cruise for different reasons. Not everyone wants to get off at every port and explore. For those with mobility issues, a cruise offers a great way to enjoy a resort-style holiday without staying in the same place. As a single mum, I would relish the port days when I could enjoy the pool deck all to myself while my kids were having fun in Adventure Ocean.
So before choosing a ship, you need to decide what you are looking for in a cruise. If you are going to be getting off at every opportunity, the chances are you will not have time to enjoy the vast array of activities onboard the larger ships. Some ports are only accessible by smaller ships, so that will also play a role in your decision.
If your cruise is more about spending quality family time together, with a bit of time to relax and unwind, then you may want to spend more time onboard the ship. This is when you should take a closer look at the onboard facilities.
What Are The Different Classes of Ship?
The first Royal Caribbean ships were called Sovereign Class and Vision Class. These ships are classic in design and feature a rock climbing wall.
Radiance Class ships are known as “ships of light”. This is due to their outward facing lifts and floor to ceiling glass windows in the atrium. Royal Caribbean introduced the sports court to this class of ship.
Voyager Class were the first ships to introduce the Royal Promenade. A street inside the ship with shops and bars. They also introduced an ice rink for guests to enjoy skating at their leisure and stunning ice show performances.
Freedom Class introduced the FlowRider surf simulator.
Oasis Class are the largest cruise ships in the world. They introduced an aquatheatre, a zip line, a carousel, 7 different neighbourhoods including Central Park.
Quantum Class take technology to a whole new level. The north star is a glass capsule that lifts guests 300ft above sea level. Guests can try the iFly skydiving simulator, drive bumper cars, roller skate and much more. Quantum Class ships do not have an ice rink.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships Newest to Oldest
Empress of the Seas – June 1990
A maximum guest capacity of 1840. Empress of the Seas does not have a sports court, FlowRider or Adventure Ocean kids club.
Majesty of the Seas – April 1992
A sovereign class ship with a maximum guest capacity of 2767. Majesty of the Seas does not have a sports court, FlowRider or Adventure Ocean kids club.
You never forget your first cruise. Mine was in 2011 on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. I had no idea what to expect and will admit to being a little apprehensive. Like many first time cruisers, I was concerned that I would feel trapped on a ship with lots of people. As soon as I stepped onboard, that feeling melted away.
The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the atrium was. It felt like I had stepped into a fairytale. Thankfully, I had been tipped off about taking my swimwear in my carry on bag so that I could head straight for the pool. That is exactly what I did (see photo above).
Grandeur of the Seas has undergone a major refurbishment since my cruise, so the photos here were taken before the updates. All I can say is that for my first cruise I was totally blown away.
First Sail Away
After a swim and getting settled into our room, we headed to the top deck for the customary sail away party.
This was my first sail away. As we started moving away from the Port of Palma de Majorca, I felt a huge sense of excitement, adventure, and freedom. I’d never experienced a feeling like it and I loved it. That was the moment I fell in love with cruising.
After the sail away party, we went back to our cabin and got ready for dinner. The group I was travelling with, arranged to meet up in the Schooner Bar. This was another place that totally amazed me. The atmosphere was relaxed but upbeat and friendly. The floor to ceiling glass windows gave incredible views of the mediterranean sea.
I stepped outside onto the promenade deck, gin and tonic in hand, and just could not believe what I was experiencing. I was in my element.
We enjoyed a three course meal in the stunning main dining room. Once again, I had never experienced anything quite like it. The room was grand, the service was attentive and the crew made us feel really special. The food was amazing and everything was perfect.
After dinner we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. My first sunset at sea.
Exploring The Ship
Even the smaller Royal Caribbean ships have a rock climbing wall. I had to give it a go. I may have thought twice had I known I would end up looking like this!
When I climbed to the top I rang the bell. It was quite a challenge, but it’s worth noting that the larger ships have higher rock walls. I tried rock climbing on Independence of the Seas last year and only made it two-thirds of the way up.
In the evening we went to one of the lounges which was having a few hours of karaoke. Of course I couldn’t resist singing a couple of songs.
Access All Areas Tour
I love the Access All Areas Tours. You can book them either before your cruise or when you are onboard. One of the places we were taken to was the Galley. It was fascinating.
The highlight of the tour for me was our visit to the Bridge.
So that was my first cruise and the start of my love of cruising. If you are looking at cruising on Grandeur of the Seas, these photos are not a true reflection as they were taken before an extensive refurbishment.
If you have any questions about the ship feel free to email me at email@example.com
With seven ships in the region, the cruise line is offering 70% new itineraries and new ports of call.
Royal Caribbean International has today announced European itineraries for 2021, with a new mix of destinations and industry-changing ships.
Family-favorites Anthem of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas will return to Southampton and Barcelona respectively whilst the brand-new Odyssey of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s second Quantum Ultra class ship, will sail through Turkey and Greece.
All itineraries are available to book as of today except for Odyssey of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas which will be open to book w/c December 9.
New Itineraries From Southampton
Anthem of the Seas will be the first Quantum-class ship to take guests to ports in Norway including Stavanger, Kristiansand, and Geiranger. Other new stops for Anthem include Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark and Bordeaux, France. Select sailings include late nights in Paris, France, and overnights in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Lisbon, Portugal.Explore Europe from Barcelona
Harmony of the Seas will be sailing7-night itineraries through the Western Mediterranean from Barcelona. For those wishing to start and end their trip in Italy, round-trip sailings from Rome are also available.
Vision of the Seas will continue to offer 12-night Mediterranean itineraries from Barcelona sailing the Greek Isles and making stops in Kotor, Montenegro; Nice, France; Rome, Florence/Pisa, Italy and include an overnight in Venice, Italy and late nights in Split, Croatia.
Jewel of the Seaswill end the summer homeported in Barcelona where she’ll transport guests to the Iberian Peninsula and Greek Isles including stops in Cannes, France; Athens and Santorini, Greece.
Italian Adventures from Venice
Rhapsody of the Seas will spend another summer season in Venice offering 7-night sailings alternating between Greece/Croatia and the Greek Isles. Select sailings will offer late nights in Kotor, Montenegro.
British and Baltic Exploration
Select Jewel of the Seas sailings from her homeport of Amsterdam to the British Isles and Baltics will include overnights in Edinburgh (S. Queensferry), Scotland and in St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as late-nights in Liverpool, England. This marks the first time a Radiance class ship calls to the city – and Bordeaux, France.
Adventure of the Seas will offer 7- to 11-night sailings including overnights in St. Petersburg, Russia from Stockholm, Sweden and will also sail to Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia, and Visby, Sweden. Adventure will be open for booking the week of December 9.
Royal Caribbean International recently announced details on the newest Quantum Ultra Class ship Odyssey of the Seas.
Odyssey of the Seas is the 27th vessel to join the Royal Caribbean International fleet and looks like it is going to have the most action-packed top deck to date.
Amazing features for Odyssey of the Seas include a two-level pool deck with two open-air resort-style pools and four whirlpools. The new design provides plenty of sunny and shady space, so guests to soak up the sun and relax and cool off in the shade.
The two-storey Lime & Coconut has a tropical vibe with pool-front views, which replaces the old style pool bar. This will be a great place to hang out during the day and in the evening.
Image: Royal Caribbean International
El Loco Fresh, serves poolside authentic Mexican food, from tacos and burritos to quesadillas and fresh salsas. This provides guests with a convenient food option without having to leave the poolside.
Splashaway Bay features waterslides, fountains and water cannons, giving kids hours of fun.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Splashaway Bay
The Adult only Solarium has an exclusive space on the top deck, offering a retreat for some quiet time, with dedicated swimming pools and whirlpools. Daybeds and hidden nooks will be the ultimate place to relax whilst sipping on a drink from the full-service bar.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Solarium
Young cruisers will be able to choose their very own immersive experiences, as Adventure Ocean will have a whole new layout.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Adventure Ocean
The teen lounge will be maxed-out with gaming consoles, music and movies, which will provide endless hangout options.
Entertainment across the ship will include Royal Caribbean’s signature theatre productions and mind-blowing high tech shows in the innovative Two70.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Two70
Boasting 270-degree panoramic windows with sweeping ocean views at the aft of the ship, the expansive open area living room transforms into a 135-foot-wide and 22-foot-tall screen. At night, the iconic venue becomes a multidimensional theatre – where six Roboscreens come to life in sync with the music, special effects, live performers and aerialists.
I recorded this video onboard Anthem of the Seas in Two70. It was an afternoon show, which I will never forget.
The Music Hall provides the perfect place for a variety of live performances.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Music Hall
The Bionic Bar with robot bartenders allows you to order from an iPad, choosing your favourite drink from the menu, or design your own cocktail.
Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade will be found in the SeaPlex. Sports fans can follow all the sports action, with TVs at every angle. The club-level views will offer great vantage points of the competition below. Guests can enjoy an ice-cold beer and order a range of bar food including the Playmakers Burger, buffalo wings and sliders. There will be a selection of classic board games available, trivia quizzes and pool tables. For an extra special experience, guests can reserve the Owner’s Box VIP area.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Playmakers Sports Bar
Odyssey of the Seas will have diverse dining to suit all tastes.
Serving Far East flavours, Japanese Teppanyaki Restaurant will make its first appearance in North America.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Teppanyaki
Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, will serve rustic Italian dishes with a contemporary flair, from hand-tossed pizzas fresh out of the oven and made to order, to charcuterie delights including a wide selection of wines and limoncellos, from many of Italy’s well-known regions.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Chops Grille
Onboard restaurants include Izumi, Chop’s Grille, Chef’s Table and Wonderland.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Izumi
Fun For All The Family
Odyssey’s top deck SeaPlex is the largest indoor activity space at sea, offering fun for all the family. Drive the only bumper cars at sea, soar from a flying trapeze at circus school or battle for survival in a glow-in-the-dark laser tag arena.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – Seaplex Bumper Cars
The upper level of SeaPlex will be dominated with the most interactive arcade at sea. Virtual Reality games offer individual and group play, with augmented reality walls and floors, for high-tech competitions and family experiences.
There is plenty on offer for thrill-seekers including the FlowRider , Rock Wall, RipCord by iFly and SkyPad.
Image: Royal Caribbean International – SkyPad
The iconic North Star boasting 360-degree views, will share a whole new perspective of some of the world’s most legendary shores from 300 feet above sea level.
Royal Caribbean Announce World’s First Carbon Neutral Private Cruise Island
Royal Caribbean have announced their second ‘Perfect Day’ resort will be in the heart of the South Pacific. Perfect Day at Lelepa in Vanuatu, will be the first carbon neutral* private cruise destination in the world.
Created in partnership with the local community, it will provide fantastic employment and education opportunities.
“Vanuatu is a true paradise for both our people and the visitors we welcome to our shores each year. Today marks a major step forward in our island nation’s close relationship with Royal Caribbean and one that will support sustainable growth for future generations. The Ni-Vanuatu people look forward to welcoming Royal Caribbean guests from around the world to enjoy extraordinary adventures and relaxation during their Perfect Day at Lelepa.”
Vanuatu Prime Minister Salwai
Perfect Day at Lepela will be built with sustainable features designed to protect the island’s ecosystems.
Perfect Day at Lepela will be located in the South Pacific Vanuatu Islands.
The new destination will have a different look and feel to Perfect Day at CocoCay. The
‘Anyone who has encountered the tremendous natural beauty of Lelepa, can understand why it is the perfect setting for ‘Perfect Day’. Our guests who travel to the South Pacific are seeking authentic adventures and genuine relaxation, and they will find both here.’
Royal Caribbean International President and CEO, Michael Bayley
*Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at Lelepe will be audited and certified by an independent third-party expert to ensure it meets the standards for carbon neutrality. Details on the extensive and innovative techniques used to achieve carbon neutrality will be released soon.
This announcement is further evidence that Royal Caribbean are committed to reducing their carbon footprint. It is a big challenge for the cruise industry as a whole, but new technologies are making this a reality.
Royal Caribbean International has announced the name of the next ship to join the fleet. Wonder of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship in the world and will set sail from Shanghai, China in 2021.
Royal Caribbean President and CEO, Michael Bayley, revealed details at a global cruise industry conference event in Shanghai. Wonder of the Seas, will be the first Oasis Class ship to sail the Asia Pacific. This will be the start of a new era of cruising.
Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International at the press conference in Beijing. Photo provided to China Daily
“Royal Caribbean is known for its innovation and constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and anOasis Class ship inChina is proof of that,” said Bayley. “Wonder of the Seas will redefine the ultimate vacation and be revolutionary in her own right, and she marks one of Royal Caribbean’s most exciting chapters to come.”
What to expect on board
Wonder of the Seas will be part of the Oasis class of ships which are the largest in the world. The ship will feature the iconic seven-neighbourhoods and a bold lineup of thrilling experiences, imaginative dining, unparalleled entertainment and the latest technology.
Image Credit: Royal Caribbean International Wonder of the Seas will be like her sister, Oasis of the Seas. (Pictured View of Central Park)
Construction of Wonder of the Seas took place this week,at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France. Wonder’s keel, a 970-tonne block measuring 155 feet by 65 feet, was lifted onto the building with a 1,400-tonne crane. This ceremony marks the beginning of her construction.
The coin ceremony is part of a long maritime tradition that takes place during the keel laying. You can read more about this in What Is A Keel Laying Ceremony?
Sustainable Tours Increase Across Royal Caribbean Brands
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd has announced 1,400 sustainable tours for the Caribbean, Mediterranean and beyond.
These special tours are available across all Royal Caribbean brands, and are offered by certified sustainable tour operators. Experiences include kayaking along Majorca’s west coast, underground Mayan River Cenote in Cozumel and grape harvesting at Pizzorno Winery in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Commitment to Sustainability
The initiative began as part of the company’s 2020 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) target. Royal Caribbean’s goal was to offer guests 1,000 tours, provided by operators certified to the UN-created Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) standard.
Educating Tour Operators
Engaging with its global independent tour operators was a key part of the programme.
RCL’s Global Tour Operations team and GSTC conducted educational sessions for its tour operators. They educated on the company’s commitment, the importance of certification and sustainable operations, and the process to become GSTC certified.
GSTC Criteria consists of four main themes;
effective sustainability planning
maximising social and economic benefits for the local community
enhancing cultural heritage
reducing negative impacts on the environment.
Unprecedented Scale and Scope
“The scale and scope of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ commitment to sustainable shore excursions and accomplishments to date, are unprecedented,” says Jim Sano, VP for Conservation Travel, WWF.
“GSTC commends Royal Caribbean for taking these important steps, encouraging tour operators to adopt–and seek GSTC accredited certification for sustainable tourism practices,” stated Randy Durband, GSTC CEO. “Royal Caribbean’s efforts to boost the global supply of certified sustainable shore excursions is a watershed moment for the cruise industry. Having almost 1,400 tours in Royal Caribbean’s portfolio is an important milestone, and we congratulate them for their ongoing efforts.”
In 2016, RCL announced a partnership with WWF to take its sustainability performance to the next level. This partnership set ambitious sustainability targets in three key areas:
sustainable food supply
This takes the company beyond its self-contained operations, with the support of sustainable travel and livelihoods at RCL destinations.
It’s taken me nearly a year to write this blog post about ‘The Best Cruise Of My Life’ because the experience was so mind-blowing that I just couldn’t find a way to put it into words. Being a traditional type of cruiser, I am always in awe of the ships’ Captain and Godmother. Call me old fashioned, but I love that side of things. So when Elizabeth Hill, Godmother of Independence of the Seas, commented on my Facebook page, I was thrilled. Elizabeth is such a lovely lady and she agreed to a telephone interview for my blog. We soon became friends and I helped Elizabeth create a blog of her own.
We had talked about doing a cruise together. Then I received a message from Elizabeth to say she had confirmed the date she would be cruising and would love for us to join her. I was absolutely beyond excited! To be cruising on a ship with the Godmother was the most amazing experience I could imagine. And that’s exactly what it was, but better than I could have imagined.
There were nine of us in total and we all enjoyed dinner together in the main dining room.
Our cruise itinerary was the Norwegian Fjords. We sailed from Southampton and stopped at Bergen Geiranger, Alesund, Skjolden, and Stavanger.
Joshua and I took a tour of the ship while we were docked in Gerainger
One of the benefits we enjoyed onboard was access to the Concierge Lounge. This is a dedicated area for top tier loyalty members and VIPs. Elizabeth was kind enough to extend the invitation to the entire group so we enjoyed a complimentary pre-dinner drink and appetizers, with stunning views.
Joshua enjoyed his Independence on the seas and would help himself to a chilled glass of water.
We were invited to a special ice show presentation.
We arrived at our first port of call, Bergen and joined a walking tour led by Cruise Director Craig Freeman. They were a little too fast on their feet for our group, so we dropped back and found our way to the lovely little fish market. The gentlemen of the group were struggling a bit with the walking (not that they would admit it), so we headed back to the ship.
Joshua entertains Elizabeth with some of his magic.
Day 3 saw our arrival into the Norwegian Fjords. I set my alarm for 4 am and made my way to the helipad, as I wanted to experience every minute of it. Anyone contemplating on doing the same, please note that I didn’t see a thing for the first hour, including other passengers.
As the light came up, the towering Fjords appeared. It was an unforgettable moment of ultimate beauty and tranquility, despite being battered by the wind.
Around 5 am a few other passengers appeared.
By 6 am we were well into the heart of the fjordland, and so it was time for me to pop back to the cabin.
Joshua enjoying the view from the comfort of his bed. As soon as Adventure Ocean was open, I dropped Josh off and went to explore Gerainger.
I will share more about the ports and the cruise itself on another post, but for now, there is so much to share about cruising with the Godmother!
One afternoon, Elizabeth invited us to her Grand Suite to enjoy a glass of champagne as we sailed off from Alesund.
We enjoyed a lovely send off too.
Here is a photo of “Mother and I”, on a formal night.
Cruise ship royalty, Godmother Elizabeth Hill with her husband Edward, rightly taking to their thrones in the concierge lounge.
There’s nothing like a good old quiz after dinner to get everyone together. Elizabeth and I in the Star Lounge enjoying the fun.
At The Request Of The Captain
We were having the time of our lives which became even better when we received this invitation.
It had never even crossed my mind that we would receive an invitation like this. I wish my Mum could have captured the look of sheer amazement on my face at the time.
Working in Royal Caribbean’s call centre 8 years prior, I could never have dreamed something like this would happen.
The exquisite food and wine in Chops Grille were perfectly complemented by our host and Master. Although Captain Iv was keen to get to know us, we were more interested in hearing his funny and fascinating stories as we quizzed him on his life at sea.
Elizabeth’s daughter, without whom none of us would have been there (Alicia nominated her Mum for a competition to be the ships’ Godmother), is an opera singer. The most spellbinding moment of the evening came at the end of our meal. Alicia stood up and gave an impromptu tableside performance of the famous aria from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.
The excitement didn’t end there. Captain Iv had offered us all the opportunity to visit the bridge. When we arrived, the Captain presented Joshua with his very own model Independence of the Seas.
I can’t put into words how grateful I am for such a wonderful opportunity. One that I shared with my son who, I hope, realises what a lucky little lad he is. This truly was the best cruise of my life!
CELEBRITY CRUISES OFFER FROST SCIENCE S.T.E.M PROGRAMMES AT SEA
This month sees the launch of a great new experience for kids and teens cruising onboard Celebrity Equinox. Budding scientists, mathematicians, engineers and tech savvy children with have the opportunity to take part in activities focused around S.T.E.M subjects. This is a result of a new partnership with Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.
S.T.E.M Programmes at Sea follows after Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd donated $1.2 million to support ongoing programs at Frost Science earlier in the year. The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, is a leading science museum. They are dedicated to “sharing the power of science, sparking wonder and investigation, and fuelling innovation for the future”.
The first-at-sea activities will be a new addition to the current Camp at Sea on-board programme that provides children and teenagers with opportunities to uncover the world around them through a series of specially tailored activities.
The interactive programming focuses on two science topics – one on the identification of and solutions related to micro plastics and another on the importance and diversity of plankton to the Earth’s oceans and the environment, both designed to nurture the next generation of inventors and innovators.
The micro plastics activity looks at how plastic pollution breaks down over time in the water and how micro plastics form. Tasks for the children include identifying micro plastics, examining filtered samples with microscopes, gathering samples and determining how many micro plastics are in any given area. Activities related to the importance and diversity of plankton include identifying and discussing the form and function of plankton, collecting water samples and looking at live samples.
The newly relaunched Camp at Sea still continues to feature Celebrity Cruises favourites. Young guests can learn how to mix music and take part in the Scratch DJ tournament. Budding film directors can record their own movies using a Go Pro camera and screen the film to their family and friends with the iTake programme. No two cruises offer the same series of Camp at Sea programming, and the on-board youth teams can deliver fun learning across a diverse range of topics to suit the interests of each child on-board.
Michael & Colin are Climbing 6189m to raise funds for Reubens Retreat
Michael English at Everest Base Camp
Michael English (Celebrity Cruises) and Colin Jones (Royal Caribbean International) are setting out on an incredible expedition that will be the biggest mental and physical challenge the pair have ever faced. Michael and Colin’s 15 Day Expedition to Stok Kangri will be their personal best reaching the summit.
Their training started back in January and has included climbing Snowdon four times, Ben Nevis once, Winter Survival Training and 100km walk. They are both now on final countdown to their summit attempt.
Colin Jones in Scotland
Snowdon 1089m v Stok Kangri 6189m
“Provided we get the right weather and our acclimations goes to plans Team RCL UK will summit Stok Kangri @ 6189m the morning 7th September and raise a Royal and Celebrity flag. This will be highest mountain climbed for Reuben.” said Michael.
Stok Kangri is the highest mountain in the Stok Range of the Himalayas, the journey to the summit is 15 days, their summit day will be a gruelling 14hrs to reach the summit.
Michael said “Colin and myself would love it if you could share this on your Facebook and Twitter accounts to get as much sponsorship for Reuben’s Retreat as possible.
We will be posting while we are away and you can follow our journey via facebook/instragram. This is Celebrity Cruises chosen charity and one which is very personal to both of us and so many in the UK Travel Industry.”
Michael and Colin’s 15 Day Expedition to Stok Kangri
About Reubens Retreat
On Friday 31st August 2012 Reuben’s family Mike, Nicola and Isaac Graham said their final goodbye to their gorgeous 23 month old son and little brother during a beautiful ceremony in their home village of Mottram 11 miles from Manchester.
Photo Credit: reubensretreat.org
Reuben had suffered an ATRT which is Atypical terratoid rhabdoid tumour, it is a very rare and aggressive form of Cancerous tumour, only 4 to 5 children will be diagnosed with this tumour in the UK per year and there are very few symptoms.
Despite the devastating grief that comes when a quarter of your family is gone, his brave and inspirational parents have set up a charity in his name, they plan to have a retreat in the north west countryside for children with life limiting and life threatening illnesses, with a bereavement support and counselling centre for Mummy’s, Daddy’s and Siblings who have lost their precious children. A place where families can take in the rolling hills and countryside, a place of comfort, peace and tranquillity, a place where memories can be built.
Royal Caribbean International has designed and built a first-of-its-kind tool that transforms holidaymakers’ most memorable photos into an original, shareable soundtrack, with a video to match.
SoundSeeker is the latest technological advancement Royal Caribbean have introduced. With a legacy of nearly 50 years of innovation, the cruise line has pioneered many technological “firsts.” These include: VOOM, the fastest internet at sea; Virtual balconies, giving interior rooms a view; a mobile app that boasts smart features like expedited arrival and X-ray vision into behind-the-scenes areas of the ship, such as the navigational bridge; RFID technology, cocktails served by robots at the Bionic Bar and SeaSeeker, a custom-engineered scuba mask for Snapchat Spectacles.
Royal Caribbean teamed up with experts from Berklee College of Music (Boston, USA), Unit 9 (London) and Plan 8 (Stockholm). The innovative tool is specifically designed to use machine learning to seamlessly create original soundtracks based on the content of each photograph.
Users can upload three photos of their choice, and the AI analyses them based on colour, landscape, backdrop, emotion, body language and facial expression. SoundSeeker then turns them into a shareable and one-of-a kind soundtrack – virtually DJing life’s most brag-worthy moments. Fans can follow along on Royal Caribbean’s social channels, and by searching #SoundSeeker.
The Technical Bit
SoundSeeker uses machine learning, an artificial intelligence technique that enables computers to simulate human intelligence and make decisions on their own without explicit instructions. The learning process entailed more than 600 hours in which Royal Caribbean and a team of musicians and technologists reviewed hundreds of music tracks along with 10,000 photos, matching each of the 2.5 million combinations to one of 10 moods.
The AI in SoundSeeker uses Google Cloud Vision to identify objects, facial expressions and colours in a user’s photo by referencing the roadmap developed by the leaders in music theory at Berklee. SoundSeeker then finds the musical elements corresponding to each mood in the photo to compose a genuinely distinct audio and visual photo album. The Royal Caribbean tool is equipped to generate over one million unique tracks, based on custom base tracks, composed exclusively for the cruise line. The customised tracks take inspiration from a wide variety of music, including 90s hip-hop, rock, modern and electronic dance music.
Berklee leveraged music theory to create a roadmap for the tool that helps determine the musical pairing to photos, accounting for pitch, tempo and instrumental combinations, among others.The contributors from Berklee’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) – an on-campus initiative that promotes entrepreneurialism in part by engaging Berklee students and faculty with emerging creative technologies – included Electronic Production and Design Chair Michael Bierylo, associate professors Ben Hogue and Michael Sweet, and assistant professor Jean-Luc Cohen.
“We were excited to work with Royal Caribbean International on this new technological innovation, and in the process, redefine what creative collaboration means,” said Panos A. Panay, Berklee vice president for Innovation and Strategy and managing director of BerkleeICE. “The work of BerkleeICE expands our students’ definition of what can be accomplished with music education by pushing the boundaries of creative expression utilising technology. By harnessing AI to develop customised soundtracks for treasured memories, together, we have created a new way for people to share their experiences with one another.”
Give It A Go
I have played around with Soundseeker and here is my favourite video.
Have you ever wondered how they pick a cruise ship Godmother? Cruise lines generally look for a Celebrity. In 2008 Royal Caribbean introduced Independence of the Seas. At that time the vessel was the World’s largest and most innovative cruise ship. The cruise line decided that the Godmother for their newest ship should be an ordinary woman. Someone who was doing something extraordinary in her community.
1700 entries were narrowed down to just four finalists after a nationwide search. The judging panel, including Sir Steve Redgrave, chose Elizabeth Hill as the special lady to carry the honour.
I met up with Elizabeth recently, while she was visiting relatives in their country farmhouse. It was great to hear all about her experience of becoming Godmother to the UK’s favourite Royal Caribbean ship.
How Did You Become Godmother of Independence of the Seas?
“It was a series of good connections in a way. I actually didn’t know I had been entered into the competition. Sir Steve Redgrave had retired from rowing and set up his own sports foundation which was being sponsored by Royal Caribbean, at the same time Independence of the Seas was being built. Royal Caribbean had already run a search for an “ordinary” Godmother in America and it had been very successful.”
“For the UK competition, they were asking for the public to nominate an ordinary woman who had done extraordinary things for the community. At the time I was running a charity and I guess I was pioneering what I was doing, lots of people do it now but nobody had seriously done what I was doing which is called care farming now. So my daughter who was 12 was poorly and at home one-day watching daytime tv and Sir Steve Redgrave went on This Morning and Loose Women and he put out this call on both shows I think.”
“All I know is that Alicia had seen Loose Women and she got on the computer and sent off this email. She said to me later “Well, I fancied a holiday Mum” However, in the email she told them that the day of the naming ceremony was her 13th Birthday.”
“Well I knew nothing about it so when they actually rang me to tell me they had sifted through thousands of entries and got down to the last six and they were doing a telephone interview, I thought one of the kids had entered me into something like Big Brother. So I said “Oh I am really sorry I don’t do reality television” and they said “No no no don’t put the phone down let me explain what it is” so then they explained and I was gobsmacked because I had no concept of it, I had not seen it, I had no idea about the ship and cruising was not in my experience, I knew nothing about this at all. I explained this to the woman that rang me, and she thought it was hilarious.”
6 out of 1700
“She asked if she could go through some questions as they had got 1700 entries down to six but were trying to narrow it down to four. So she asked me a series of questions and that was it as far as I was concerned.”
“A few days later I got a phone call and they said, “have you got a passport because we’ve narrowed it down to four and we’d like to take you to Finland to see the ship and the handover”.
“I was shocked again. But the funny thing was after I said “yes that would be fantastic”, I went to get my passport and it was out of date! So it was a mad dash to the passport office to get all the stuff within two days.”
“We got down to Stansted and were flown in a private jet to Finland, the four of us and Richard Fain were onboard. That was fabulous because we were in this private jet and he talked to all of us. He tended to talk to me more than the others and I know why because my husband is a farmer but he also loves engines and engineering, so he had asked me all sorts of questions about the ship which I asked Richard Fain. Richard Fain is not just the Chair, he likes to take interest in every little part of it and particularly the engineering side of it. He spent most of the time explaining to me in great detail about the engines, what sort of engines they were, the stabilisers, and all the innovative things that were on this ship. It was absolutely fascinating, he knew everything.”
“When we arrived, Captain Tao met us and we went on board the ship”.
Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean
Was this your first time on a cruise ship?
“Absolutely I had never seen anything like it, I’d never even seen one! Yes, It was gobsmacking I absolutely could not believe the size of this ship. It was so fabulous, so beautiful, such a fabulous feat of engineering and I just thought it was absolutely wonderful”.
“I got chatting to Captain Tao and told him I had a daughter. He also has a daughter the same age as Alicia and his family were farmers so we had some things in common. Things just fitted into place”.
“We had a wonderful night onboard and we were at this lovely ball and had a meal to celebrate the handover ceremony from the Shipyard to the Americans. We were all involved in that and had been told to take an evening dress so it was fabulous.”
Sir Steve Redgrave
“Then we came back. We weren’t flown back on the jet but went back to the office in England and were interviewed by the panel with Sir Steve Redgrave. He was really interested in what I did, which was to have kids who had been excluded from school coming up onto the farm and we were doing recognised qualifications with them without them knowing that they were actually doing it. They weren’t in a classroom we were doing literacy, numeracy in all sorts of innovative ways that involved animals, tractors, Land Rovers, woodwork, metalwork and all those sorts of things.”
Gamelea Farm – The Care Farm that Elizabeth and her husband ran to help young people learn through farming.
“They were mainly boys all of whom had been in trouble with the police. Most of them had got tags on. We were just being very successful because they didn’t want to be in a classroom, they hated being in a classroom and it wasn’t meeting their needs and we ended up giving them skills to go and get jobs which a lot of them did. So a lot of them just needed somebody to find what they were interested in and tap into that.”
“Throughout the whole experience we were treated so wonderfully well and the other three were lovely, lovely women. So that would have been enough for me because I’d had this exciting few days, it was fabulous.”
The Phone Call
“They said they would let us know the outcome the following day. At about 8 am the next morning I had a telephone call to tell me I had won but it didn’t enter my head that I had actually won. I thought someone else had won. I said oh that’s absolutely fabulous, I had such a lovely time oh please send her my congratulations. She said no Its YOU. I said me? Oh! She said yes we have rung you early because when we release it, we think you might be inundated. We have spoken to the local television crew, we’ve spoken to the local radio we’ve spoken to the local newspaper, we think you are going to be inundated... and yes we were.”
“The television crew were there around about 9 o’clock and local radio station arrived shortly after. Talk about fifteen minutes of fame, well I certainly had it. It literally was madness, being thrown into this world that I had no experience of whatsoever.”
“Then it was only a few days until the naming ceremony. They said put your list together of guests you would like to bring. So I said obviously I would like to bring my husband and my daughter. It’s our second marriage so we’ve got children from other marriages. So we ended up bringing our own parents, who were alive then, and our extended family and their partners. I can’t remember how many of us there were but possibly at least 15 of us.
Edward (my husband) and I, my Mum and sister, Edward’s parents and Alicia and her friend, were all put in the Presidential Suite and all the rest of the family were in nice suites not far away. They all used our suite. It was one big party for my family because literally as one bottle of champagne was emptied they had another one. I don’t drink so it was wasted on me, but I didn’t get to be part of the party because once I got onboard I just had time to do my things in my cabin and then I had to go through the rehearsal. Sir Steve Redgrave was held up so we didn’t have time to go through the whole rehearsal. I actually pressed the red button on stage and broke the champagne in the rehearsal, so I did it twice!”
Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean
“They do it from the stage electronically so you see the champagne smashing on the hull of the ship from a big screen. It’s a spectacular thing to be part of its total razzmatazz. What they had forgotten to do is tell me I had to say something and I hadn’t even got a speech or anything.
So Richard Fain actually called Alicia up onto the stage because it was her birthday and got everyone to sing her happy birthday to her and he gave her a little pendant with a heart and a diamond in it and then he gave me a diamond brooch and I just said thank you and went and sat down.
Then Captain Tao said to me it’s your turn to say something now. Anyway I don’t know how my legs carried me back to the front of the stage. I have absolutely no idea and apparently, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, so I didn’t say very much but what I said was very emotional for people.
They always have celebrities like footballers and television people that you see on a regular basis, Coronation Street people, there were quite a few faces that I recognised and I signed my autograph for them. My family was getting people’s autographs and they were getting mine which was funny.”
“After that, we went to a cocktail party, and the owner of the shipyard was there and they presented me with a gold and diamond necklace, and there was a little plaque in the box saying who I am and what I did and that was a real surprise that was wonderful. Then we went off and had the dinner and Richard Fain sat one side of me and Sir Steve Redgrave sat the other.”
“I’ve always been treated extremely well and when I speak to some of the seasoned people their ambition has always been to work for Royal Caribbean because they always say its best.”
What are you doing now?
“I take my job as Godmother seriously. I do get some perks so I try to give back wherever I can, by answering things on blogs or giving talks to ladies groups, I feel then that I’m not getting something for nothing.”
“I still get involved in Voluntary work. I am involved with our local church, I’m the president of our WI, I run and organise an older peoples group and I volunteer for home start. I may be retired but I still want to do things so I do something for the local community and its good because I meet new friends.”
“Because I am on the speaker circuit for the WI, I do go around and do a talk Five Things I Learned from being Godmother of the Independence.”
“I know that some people have booked cruises as a direct result of my talk. Because my husband has Parkinson’s Disease, I do a talk to the Parkinson’s group. I explain to people that being disabled is brilliant being on a ship. There are plenty of things to do onboard if you don’t want to get off the ship and there is food 24 hours a day.”
“When I am on board the staff are always trying to do nice things for me like get the best table and I say no no no I am going to do my Godmother duty and I am going to sit at shared tables and talk to people every night. If I’m in a really nice suite I will invite people back who aren’t in suites for afternoon tea so they can see what a suite is like and once we were lucky enough to have the Presidential Suite I invited loads of people back. I want Royal Caribbean to think that they have chosen the right person.”
“When I get onboard they always meet me I never have to queue to get on board. I’m always escorted off, so they do treat me in a very special way. And they always say if we are in Southampton that we must come onboard.
So the crew very much want me onboard and there is a huge superstition which is quite interesting because one of the officers saw me and said oh The Godmother, the Godmother, Elizabeth I can say good morning to you in person because I always say good morning to your picture and he said he and his partner do that and it brings us good luck and it’s true because one day I was so busy and I didn’t do it and my day was such a terrible day that I never want to do that again.”
“Because there’s a huge superstition around it. The Godmother is supposed to be keeping the ship safe, she is the mother that keeps the ship safe. That’s how I interpret it. I’ve researched it and that’s the best I can find. If you go back to the days of the Vikings they used to have women carved on the front. Its always a woman and the ship is always female. They really do take it very seriously.”
Have You Kept In Contact With Any of Your Care Farm Children?
“We are still in touch with some of them and they still come and visit us it’s great they’ve got jobs and homes and families and we’re really proud of that and I did it for nearly twenty years and in that time we were employing 20 people so it was pretty big.”
What would you say to someone who is thinking of taking their first cruise?
“Do it because it suits everybody from the youngest to the eldest. People are very surprised what its like, the fact that you get all this wonderful treatment. It’s better than all your top-class hotels. You don’t have to get off the ship if you don’t want to. Your holiday starts as soon as you get on board the ship.”
Cruise Like A Godmother
Elizabeth started a blog. This gives insights into her daily life as well as stories of her role as a Godmother. You can subscribe to Elizabeth’s blog and read articles here
Azamara Club Cruises are passionate about travel. They want to help you see the world in ways that no other cruise line does. How do they do that? “With more port days than any other cruise line and longer in port than any other cruise line, allowing you to experience the destination”, says their UK Managing Director, Richard Twynam. The statistics speak for themselves with 80% of it’s itineraries in port. Out of those port days 47% are late nights and overnight stays.
Big Ship vs Little Ship
If you are looking for zip lines, surf simulators, sky diving and more, Azamara Club Cruises is not for you. These fancy features can be found on the mega ships of their sister brand, Royal Caribbean.
I took this photograph of Azamara Quest from Voyager of the Seas in Venice. You can see we were docked much further away, with the other ships.
Their recently renovated ships, Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey and new addition Azamara Pursuit, are more akin to boutique hotels than cruise ships. Accommodating just 686 passengers, with a 2 to 1 staff guest ratio, not only is the service impeccable but getting on and off the ship is a much smoother experience. Another small ship benefit is that they are able to dock closer to places they visit. So, when other ships passengers are queuing for a 30 minute coach ride into town, Azamara Club Cruises’ passengers are already there. Venice is a great example of this and, with the new regulations in place, Azamara Pursuit will be the largest cruise ship permitted to sail along the Grand Canal.
The most popular cruise port in Europe is Barcelona and most of the cruise ships dock a few miles away. Azamara Club Cruises on the other hand, dock at the World Trade Centre which is located at the bottom of Las Ramblas.
Las Ramblas, Barcelona.
They can also do river cruising and include itineraries that sail along the Kiel Canal, into the heart of Seville, Bordeaux and Ho Chi Min City. In Hong Kong most cruise ships moor at Kai Tack which is 40 minutes away from the city. Azamara Club Cruises dock at Ocean Terminal with panoramic view of the iconic skyline right from the ship.
Azamara Club Cruises are also offering country intensive voyages which gives guests get more than just one day in each country. These itineraries include Mexico, Cuba, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, Japan, Israel, France, Croatia and Australia. Richard Twyman spoke to guests at a recent event with Six Star Cruises. He said that Sydney is the most congested cruise port on planet Earth. Their 3 cruise berths which are full until 2023, and that Azamara Club Cruises have secured their place there for three years. They have secured the most sought after dock, right in Circular Quay itself. So for example if you take the 15 night New Year’s Eve In Sydney Voyage, you will be able to see the opera house from your balcony (depending which way you are facing).
Lucky guests who are cruising for six days or more have a real treat in store.
Azamara Club Cruises are the only cruise line who offer these complimentary experiences known as Azamazing evenings. This is an event where the cruise line take all 690 guests off the ship, to a special event and bring them back. This in itself is a highly complex thing to do. However the experience they have at an Azamazing evening is something quite incredible, and they offer this in 70 countries all over the world.
The first Azamazing event ever held was in Florence. The guests visited a private set of castles that overlooked Florence, accompanied by an Historian as their guide. When they entered the grand hall, the historian told them they were standing in the room where Michaelangelo carved David. Guests were treated to a tuscan buffet outside, as the sun set over Florence. The Three Tenors from the Florence Opera House gave a private performance.
Azamara were the first cruise line to offer private performances of the original Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. These unforgettable experiences are offered all over the world including Rio De Janeiro, Ephesus, St Petersburg and Wellington.
Win a pair of Azamara Gloves
Azamara Club Cruises have given readers the chance to win one of five pairs of mobile friendly gloves. Simply answer the question below to be in with a chance to win yourself a pair.
This competition is now closed. Thank you to all of those who entered.
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
It’s just that I don’t usually notice because I’m having a good time.” Stacy Shaw
Stacy Shaw is the Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Virgin Voyages, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When Stacy and I met at the #Shiptease event in Genoa last year, I asked if she would answer some questions for my Cruise People series. Thankfully she agreed, so lets find out more about Stacy Shaw.
How did you come to work in the Cruise Industry and what was your first job?
After grad school, I moved from West Virginia to Florida… I was pretty tired of winter weather and wanted to be near my sister. We had been prepped by the Dean of Business & Economics, that it may take time to find a job. So I reached out to a recruiter as soon as I arrived, with the idea that I would wait tables for a while and enjoy some down time.
He sent me for an interview right away for an Accounting position that happened to be at a cruise line. I didn’t intend to start working in a office so quickly but it sounded pretty glamorous (the cruise line part), so I changed my plans. I lasted in that particular job for about six months before I got a little bored (sorry, Accountants) but it was the start to what would become a 23-year (and counting) career in travel and hospitality.
If you could have chosen anything else as a career what would it be?
I love animals so if I was better at science, I might have been a veterinarian. I always knew I would work in some sort of business, I just didn’t know what. Before I started in this industry, I had traveled to five states … never once out of my time zone.
I’ve now visited many states in all US times zones and more than 65 countries. I have found the education that comes from learning about other people and cultures invaluable and I think it made me a better person. I’m very happy with how things worked out!
Stacy with Boy George at the Virgin Voyages Shiptease
What makes Virgin Voyages stand out from other cruises?
People often ask which cruise line we will be most like and I find it impossible to answer that question. Our goal is to be unlike any other … to create a new category and be the only one in it. We’ve looked more to cool, hip hotel and land experiences for inspiration, so I think you’ll find it very easy to see what makes us stand out … when we can talk about that.
As VP of Sales and Business Development for Virgin Voyages, what is an average day like for you?
We’re a start-up so every day is pretty busy and very different. I try to learn something about Virgin or the other Virgin companies however and whenever I can. We have some great resources in the company who have worked for other Virgin brands, so I’m like a sponge around them. For now, we’ve been putting a strong foundation in place.
So I’ve been working on things like sales and distribution strategy, org charts and operating budgets … thinking about how we can be irresistible to our partners! I’ve also been working on finding a rock star leadership team in sales so there’s been a lot of Skype calls and interviews. We’re so fortunate to have a lot of interest when we post our gigs and we’re very focused on finding the perfect fit for every role.
What was your last holiday?
I tend to do more mini-holidays or weekend getaways than long vacations. I love exploring new places, most recently I went to Nashville for the weekend. It was great … the food, the nightlife, the music, the service, the people … I can’t wait until Virgin Hotels Nashville opens. I’m definitely going back.
I also did my first river cruise last year over New Years with a group of friends and loved that. Prague to Budapest on the Danube with AMA Waterways. We visited four countries that I hadn’t been to before (Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany and Austria) … all amazing. I would like to do another river cruise to the wine regions in France. And I love going to Spain any chance I get.
Have you got your next holiday booked and what/where is it?
I do. I’m going on a safari in South Africa with the same group of friends this summer. We’ll also spend a few days in Cape Town and visit some beautiful wineries. I did a safari in Kenya years ago but it was a site inspection with clients. Still, it was one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever taken but I’m very excited to do it again with people I love. That will be really special and a lot of fun.
Stacy hosts VIP Travel Partners at the Keel Laying Ceremony in Genoa.
Your job role must require organisation, focus and a lot of energy? Do you have any lifestyle / personal management tips you can give us?
I feel very lucky to be in an industry that I love and working for Virgin is a dream come true for me. It’s hard to think about what I do as “work”. I get paid to do the most amazing things and to think about ways that our company can make the world a better place. Don’t get me wrong, I do work pretty hard. It’s just that I don’t usually notice because I’m having a good time.
At Virgin Voyages, we’re creating something really special and I’m surrounded by the most creative, inspiring group of people. It’s hard not to be excited about anything I do in that environment. I would say the things that have helped me most in my career is a never-ending desire to learn, genuinely caring about the people involved with our business, always delivering on commitments, being respectful and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done without hesitation. Oh, and coffee, that helps a lot with focus and energy!
What are your hobbies?
I read and research a lot. More articles and historical info than novels … most everything online. I like to start my day with time to read (and drink coffee). I love learning new things and I like to understand a variety of viewpoints. Obviously, I love to travel and I do as much of that as I can. I’m interested in languages. I speak Spanish fairly well and know bits of Italian and French that I’ve picked up through travel. I find that people genuinely appreciate an attempt to speak to them in their language even if it isn’t perfect. I also enjoy trying local food and drinks wherever I am … always looking for a great restaurant.
Name one or more things on your bucket list.
Well, I think I’ve got the career and travel things covered. And I’ve met Richard Branson. So I guess the only thing left is an epic love story.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking their first cruise?
Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this one, so here is mine.
Would You Do It In A Hotel or Restaurant?
Would you? So why would you do it on a ship? Can you imagine calling a restaurant to make a reservation and they ask if you would like to prepay your gratuities? The same goes for a holiday booking. You wouldn’t pay extra if you were booking an all-inclusive holiday, would you? So why is it any different on a cruise ship?
Is It Cheaper To Prepay Gratuities or Give Cash Directly?
This depends on how many people are in your cabin and how old they are. If I am travelling with both of my kids, pre-paying gratuities seems like quite a lot of money for one adult and two children. In this case, I prefer to tip the stateroom attendant and waiters myself. Also, my kids won’t eat with me in the main dining room and there is a lot more work for the stateroom attendant with three of us in a room.
When I am travelling with just my son I tend to pre-pay gratuities, because I will use the dining room a lot more with him when it is just the two of us as I don’t have someone to help me watch him in the buffet area. I need to be able to sit down and watch him while the food is brought to us. I think generally when travelling as a single parent, you rely much more on the staff in all areas of the ship.
Who Gets The Tips?
Who knows! The staff aren’t allowed to talk about it, the cruise lines say it is shared out equally among the staff but I had one stateroom attendant tell me something quite interesting. He said that when they are guaranteed a minimum wage which factors in the anticipated prepaid gratuities. If that minimum is not met, then the cruise line has to make up the difference.
So, let’s suppose that no-one prepaid their gratuities, would the cruise line then have to dig deep and make up the wages? Would that then mean that the cash received directly by the staff would be extra money? I don’t know. I guess they have to declare it. But the truth is, the staff risk losing their jobs if they talk about it so I say that gratuities should be included in the price and we have the option of leaving an additional tip onboard if we wish.
The Globe Travel Awards 2018 were celebrated in style at the Grosvenor House last night. With the Wave Season in full swing, the event gave the travel industry elite an opportunity to celebrate their achievements of 2017 and let their hair down for the night.
Lucy Huxley, Editor in Chief of the Travel Weekly Group was joined by comedian Harry Hill, to reveal the nights winners to an audience of over 1300 travel agents.
Three Wins For Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean and her sister brands, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, were winners in all of their categories.
Best Mainstream Cruise Company – Royal Caribbean International
Ben Bouldin, UK and Ireland Sales Director “This is the one award that we really cherish. It’s the most important one. It’s voted for by our agents, and the trade is critical to our success.”
Best Premium Cruise Company – Celebrity Cruises
Jo Rzymowska, Managing Director UK and Ireland “We never take it for granted to win this award. We have won it for many years now. It means so much every year. We try to make sure that we stay on top of our game.”
Best Specialist Cruise Company: Azamara Club Cruises
Richard Twynam, Managing Director UK and Ireland “This is the travel industry equivalent of scoring a hat trick at Wembley or winning Wimbledon or the British Grand Prix. It’s all about destination, and the trade clearly recognise that. The competition is amazing so to win it three times is amazing.”
Richard Twynham – Azamara Club Cruises Managing Director UK and Ireland
River Cruise Awards
Favourite River Cruise Company – Viking River Cruises
Viking Cruises added another award to their coveted collection. The company are sponsors for the incredible Ocean Liners: Speed and Style Exhibition at the V&A which opens on 3rd February 2018. Click here for more information.
Best River Cruise Company – Uniworld
Unique in many ways, Uniworld cater for families and teens whilst maintaining an outstanding level of quality and service. No two ships are the same, as each one has been cleverly decorated to be an extension of the region it calls home.
Favourite Ocean Cruise Company – P&O Cruises
With more ships operating from Southampton than any other cruise line, P & O will welcome a brand new ship in 2020. The yet to be named ship will be their largest vessel to date, with a guest capacity of up to 5,200.
The stunning Atrium onboard P & O Britannia
Best Luxury Cruise Company – Silversea
The all inclusive luxury cruise line offer one of the highest space-per-guest ratios of any luxury cruise accommodation, and are expecting delivery of their tenth ship, Silver Moon in 2020.
Best Insurance Provider – Holiday Extras
For the tenth year running, Holiday Extras have proved themselves to be ahead of the competition.
Howard Dove, Managing Director “We’re ecstatic. Just wow! Last year we launched our new medical plus product which provides a better integrated service for our customers. We’d like to thank all the agents who have supported us through this time”
Best Airline – Emirates
Winning both categories, Emirates were voted Best Premium Airline Service and Best Long-Haul Airline. I was certainly impressed when I visited the Business Class Lounge at Heathrow. Check out the photos of my day courtesy of Gold Medal here: Tour of the Business Lounge and A380 at Heathrow
Travelling First Class with Emirates
Best Attraction (worldwide) –Walt Disney World Resort
Always a favourite with the young at heart, Walt Disney World Resort, Florida came out as the Best Worldwide Attraction. The recent revamp of Downtown Disney to the quaint and quirky Disney Springs has doubled the number of venues on offer as well as creating an additional 4,000 permanent jobs. Go Disney!
My kids with Tigger and Pooh at the Magic Kingdom
Outstanding Achievement Award – Steve Dunlop
Although I wasn’t at the awards in person, it was clear from the twittersphere that the travel industry LOVES this man. “not a dry eye in the house” said one tweet. You can read more about Steve in an interview I did with him for my Cruise People series. He didn’t even realise they were talking about him until the very end.
Steve Dunlop “I’m in shock. It’s the most amazing thing, extraordinary. I never expected anything like this, even when it was being read out. I only realised at the end when she said pictures followed by blonde locks.”
Photo by Steve Dunlop
Other highlights of the evening included appearances by DJ Trevor Nelson, a performance of Everybody’s Free by Rozalla and Giles Hawke, Cosmos and Avalon Waterways CEO, taking to the stage in a Badger costume.
Here is the full list of winners of the Globe Travel Awards 2018.
Penny Akam Unsung Hero Award, sponsored by Affordable Car Hire:
Lisa Read, Hays Travel
Innovation in Travel Award, sponsored by Travelport:
Outstanding Contribution Award, sponsored by Avis:
Consumer awards, sponsored by Mail Brands UK
Favourite Airline – British Airways Favourite Hotel Chain – Hilton Hotels Favourite Online Booking Platform – Booking.com Favourite Ocean Cruise Company – P&O Cruises Favourite Escorted Tour Operator – Kuoni Favourite Short-Haul Operator – Jet2holidays Favourite Ferry Company – P&O Ferries Favourite UK Operator – Center Parcs Favourite River Cruise Company – Viking River Cruises Favourite Long-Haul Operator – British Airways Holidays
On the Water, sponsored by Traveltek
Best Ferry Company – P&O Ferries Best Mainstream Cruise Company – Royal Caribbean International Best Premium Cruise Company – Celebrity Cruises Best Specialist Cruise Company – Azamara Club Cruises Best River Cruise Company – Uniworld Best Luxury Cruise Company – Silversea
Destination sector, sponsored by Travelzoo
Best Tourist Board – Visit California Best All-Inclusive Resort Operator – Sandals Best Hotel Chain (worldwide) – Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Best Attraction (worldwide) – Walt Disney World Resort
On the Move, sponsored by P&O Ferries
Best Rail Company – Great Rail Journeys Best Mainstream Touring Company – Trafalgar Best Premium Touring Service – Insight Vacations Best Car Rental Company – Flexible Autos Best Adventure Operator – G Adventures
Flying, sponsored by The Holiday Team
Best Short-Haul Airline – Jet2.com Best Long-Haul Airline – Emirates Best UK Airport – Manchester Airport Best Premium Airline Service – Emirates
Long-haul, sponsored by Air Travel Guide
Best Long-Haul Operator (multi-destination) – Gold Medal Best Long-Haul Specialist Operator – Wendy Wu Tours Best Luxury Operator – Kuoni Best Consolidator – Gold Medal
Short-haul, sponsored by Hurtigruten
Best Short-Haul Operator – Jet2holidays Best Operator for Activities – Inghams Best Accommodation-Only Provider – Super Break Best Operator UK Holidays – Super Break
Serving the industry, sponsored by HolidayPirates
Best Add-Ons Provider – Attraction World Best Technology Provider – Amadeus Best Insurance Provider – Holiday Extras Best Trade Sales Team – Attraction World Best Trade-Friendly Brand – Jet2holidays
Royal Caribbean have just announced that their third Quantum Class ship, Ovation of the Seas will be spending the Summer Season 2019 cruising Alaska.
It has been announced today, that Ovation of the Seas is to be based in Seattle, Washington in 2019. Having a Quantum Class ship in Alaska will offer guests a unique and exciting experience. Alaska is undoubtedly one of the most sought after cruise destinations. It’s awe-inspiring beauty and magnificent wildlife continue to attract more than a million passengers each year. Now guests will be able to experience these sights whilst being elevated 300 feet above sea level, with 360 degree views of snow-capped mountain peaks and stunning shoreline. Ovation of the Seas will sail a variety of seven night itineraries taking in much loved ports including British Columbia, Victoria and Juneau.
The best news for us Brits is that Oasis of the Seas is coming to Europe. She will be sailing from Barcelona and her itineraries will include the beautiful port of Palma de Mallorca (one of my favourites). After finishing her summer season in Europe, Oasis of the seas will undergo a massive transformation from bow-to-stern, before she repositions to Miami for the winter season. She will be joined by her three sisters; Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas cruising Caribbean itineraries from Florida.
Back in Europe and four new ports have been added, Visby, Sweden; Zadar, Croatia; Portofino, Italy and Porto, Portugal. The cruise line have not yet confirmed the ships headed for the UK or Australia.
Anthem of the Seas remains in Cape Liberty. New York continues to be a popular destination to cruise from and Royal Caribbean will be bringing Adventure of the Seas to join her.
Open For Business
Royal Caribbean 2019 – 2020 on sale dates are as follows:
13 November – 7 Night Caribbean Cruises
20 November – Short Caribbean Cruises
4 December – Northeast, Canada and Bermuda Cruises
11 December – Europe Phase 1 and Alaska 2019
Spring 2018 – Remaining Deployment
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