Tag Archives: Ship-Review

Viking Sea Cruise – Day One – Flying To Puerto Rico

Ever Considered Cruising from San Juan?

If you want to visit a different picture perfect Caribbean Island everyday, a cruise from Puerto Rico will deliver this and more. However, there are no direct flights from the UK to San Juan so flying to Puerto Rico puts people off for many reasons. When Viking Cruises invited me to be their guest on Viking Sea, I didn’t think twice about the journey, but I did learn things from it that will help you to get the best experience possible.

All set for flying to Puerto Rico to board Viking Sea for a Caribbean cruise.

Snow Joke

Originally we were flying with BA via Philadelphia. However the reports of snow were making it likely that we would not get out of Philly for our connecting flight to San Juan. Luckily for me, Viking Cruises took care of everything and rebooked us on an American Airlines flight via Miami. However, this is a really important thing to consider if you are making your own flight arrangements. Flying via Miami also means your airbourne for a shorter period of time, however the stopover is longer so door to door, it will take longer.

Tip: If I were doing the trip myself, I would stay overnight in Miami and then fly to San Juan on the day of the cruise, or possibly book another overnight in San Juan. Also, book early and you may get a great deal on an upgraded seat and always, always, always have an airport lounge booked. For details on how to get the best deal for lounges read my Christmas In Florida blog post.

First glimpse of the sun above the clouds after taking off from Heathrow on American Airlines flight to Miami.

Standing Room Only

We weren’t the only passengers that had been re-routed to Miami, and this was clear by the lack of space on our flight. I managed to get my preferred window seat, however this meant I was trapped for 9 hours. When you travel with family, you don’t mind having to move them out of their seats, but as I was sitting next to an elderly couple, I didn’t want to keep disturbing them.

A few of my favourite things including this Mia Tui bag in rose gold.

There was only one thing for it. A glass of white wine, sunglasses and music on, and sit back and relax. For those of you who are thinking of flying on an American Airlines aircraft (check to see if you are on a codeshared flight), the wine and beer is complimentary, but spirits are $8 each. Cash is not accepted, so you must have a credit or debit card to hand. It wasn’t long before the wine and beer was gone, leaving no alternative than to abstain or pay up. Which one do you think I chose to do? Leave a comment below.

Dreaming of the Caribbean

American Airlines do have wifi onboard, which was great news, however I couldn’t get mine to work. When I asked a crew member about it, she told me I had to have downloaded an app. It does state in the in-flight magazine that you can simply connect onboard, however my new iPhone X was having none of it.

Fort Lauderdale stretch of beautiful sandy beach.

As we began our decent into Miami, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Fort Lauderdale coastline. To my frustration the clouds covered Port Everglades, so my ship spotting would have to wait for another time. We then passed Miami Beach and I took this picture of the iconic crescent shaped Fontainebleau that was a well known favourite hotel of Frank Sinatra’s.

Aerial view of the crescent shaped Fontainbleau along the stretch of Miami Beach.

Feel The Heat

In case you don’t know already, I LOVE Florida! We had four hours to wait for our connecting flight, so I went and sat in the little park area across from the main terminal building. I could feel the heat in the air as soon as I stepped out.

It is a long time to wait in an airport for a connecting flight which is why I recommend adding on a stay in Miami. I mean why wouldn’t you want to? Just jump in a taxi to a beach hotel. Kick off your shoes, grab a sunset cocktail and enjoy the view.

So by the time we were boarding our second flight, everyone was feeling a bit jaded. However the excitement of the cruise and the Caribbean was keeping spirits high.

We touched down in San Juan around 11.30 pm local time and collected our luggage. We were met by Viking Cruises representatives who checked us onto the transfer coach. The process was very quick and easy. The drive to the ship was no more than 20 minutes.

Puerto Rico cruise port entrance and our first glimpse of Viking Sea

All Aboard

As we stepped onboard, the ship looked beautiful. I headed straight to my stateroom. I had a Penthouse Veranda on deck 5 which was easy to find on a ship that holds just 930 passengers.

My Penthouse Veranda (PV) 5011 Starboard onboard Viking Sea

The room was a welcome sight. The extra touches that Viking Cruises offers were very much appreciated after the long journey.

A lovely welcome snack and nightcap.

Viking Cruises really look after their guests by providing an in room coffee machine, golf umbrella, robe and slippers.

No need to buy bottles of water as it’s all provided in glass bottles to avoid single-use plastics.

Toiletries are provided and replenished daily.

It felt so good to be onboard. I was relieved to be able to finally put my bags in the room and had a quick look out on deck.

Although it was nearly 2am, the air was warm. I just couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

But now it was time to get some sleep to be ready for horse riding in the morning.

Products In This Post

  1. Blue Neck Scarf
  2. Mia Tui Travel Bag

Read More: Viking Cruise Day Two

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

VIP For A Day Onboard Caribbean Princess

The Cruise Ship

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

Caribbean Princess Piazza

Caribbean Princess

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

Bruno the Guide Dog

Bottoms Up

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

Enjoying a 24K Gold Margarita prior to my spa treatment

Aerial view of the Piazza

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

Canyon Ranch Spa Treatment Room

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

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

Window Suite category S7

A Galley Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Journey with a Difference

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

Sampling some of the Chocolate Journeys range of sweets

and delicious drinks

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

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Quantum Of The Seas Cruise Ship Review

Having knowledge of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships I couldn’t imagine how they could top that. The largest passenger cruise ships in the world had become cities at sea, so where could they go to top this?

When Royal Caribbean first announced innovations for Quantum of the Seas we heard about the North Star. A glass pod which takes people 300ft above sea level for the stunning ocean and port views. With the installation of iFly by Ripcord you would be able to experience skydiving while looking out at the ocean. Bumper cars, roller skating, circus school and basketball court were introduced into an indoor space call the SeaPlex.  This was incredible and you could see that Royal Caribbean really had taken the next step in onboard activities for its guests.

The First Smart Ship

However, as the ship neared its completion Royal Caribbean announced that Quantum of the Seas would be the first ‘Smart Ship’ in the World.  Not satisfied with being able to skydive or be lifted 300ft in the air, they wanted to ‘give the guest the first day of their vacation back‘ by being able to pre-book everything.   They wanted to eliminate lines at check-in and guest services.  How have they done this?  By giving every crew member their very own tablet, taking away the desks and having staff standing around ready to assist the guest.  Next-generation check-in or “no check-in, check-in” as Richard Fain refers to it, is designed to enable the guest to get from the sidewalk to ship in 10 minutes, and it works!

Smart Check-In

When I arrived a City Cruise Terminal, Southampton with my set sail pass and photo already uploaded (see previous blog), I sheepishly approached a staff member standing with a tablet and asked her where I needed to go.  She zapped the barcode on my set sail pass and went through a series of steps on the screen, asked a couple of questions and then pointed me in the direction of security.  No sea pass card, no health questionnaire to fill out, nothing.  I thought that would be coming later, so carried on through security, again straight through, no queues and into the departure lounge.

As I entered there had been an announcement for people to board so I carried straight through to the ship. No time to check my bag, go to the bathroom, get a coffee, get bored and restless, just straight onto the ship.  It felt very strange, I couldn’t figure out how they would let me on board, I didn’t have my sea pass card.  I thought there had been a mistake!  But sure enough, as I walked through the ship security they scanned the barcode on my set sail pass and let me on.

First Impressions

I stood in what appeared to be an atrium wondering what to do.  Do I need to go somewhere now?  Is that it?  and how do I get into my room?  I looked around thinking “this does not feel like a Royal Caribbean ship”.  To be honest I didn’t feel like I was on a ship at all!  It was light, sophisticated, arty and just downright cool.  But with a quick glance around, I saw the familiar sight of Sorrento’s and new I was in the right place.  It was just different.  The Royal Promenade was no longer and instead, there is a Royal Esplanade.

New Ship Smell

I went to find my room in the hope that I would somehow be able to get into it.  On arrival, I was pleased to find an envelope waiting for me with a sea pass card inside.  I waved the card in front of the door lock and it opened.  There before me was a brand spanking new balcony stateroom and my wow band awaiting me on the bed.  I loved the design of the room. The flat-screen television, cool decor and the addition of two USB charger ports gave a modern feel.

New Look Buffet

I went to the Windjammer to get some lunch to find, again, no queues.  If you have cruised on Celebrity Solstice-class ships you will be familiar with the Oceanview Cafe layout.  This has been adopted on the Quantum class and eliminated queuing.

The lunch was delicious as expected on Royal Caribbean, so once I had finished I set off to explore the ship.
Wandering around it really was a case of wow, wow, wow.   Seeing the iFly and the North Star in action was like stepping into the future.  I took photos of everything and tried to take it all in.
After a good walk of the decks, it was time for a cocktail.  I was greeted by a friendly bartender at the Sky Bar.  This was the Royal Caribbean that I know and love.  The crew are always happy to see you and make you feel special.

 

 

Dinner Time

We opted to dine in The Grand. The 1920’s theme and white-glove service gave it a truly ‘Grand’ experience. The twelve complimentary dining restaurants, offer restaurants to suit all palettes.

 

Entertainment

After a lovely meal, it was time to check out the entertainment.  The one of a kind Two70 is an iconic venue that fuses technology with entertainment. The incredibly talented singer and aerialist-cellist gave an enchanting production of Starwater.

For lovers of musicals and fun Mamma Mia is a must.  The performance and production equalled that of Broadway and West End standard.

It seemed the the Music Hall was a favourite with most passengers. As the evening turned into the early hours, you could see this really was the ‘place to be’.  I wonder if Royal Caribbean have anticipated exactly how popular it will be with guests.

Additions including Wonderland, Bionic Bar, Two70, Music Hall and other unique and quirky features, delivers the WOW factor.

After two nights onboard, I can honestly say Royal Caribbean has once again delivered the WOW.  Congratulations to everyone involved as you have changed the face of holidays let alone cruising, for the future.

Recommended Reading

Amazing Features for Odyssey Of The Seas

Smart Check-In Guide For A Royal Caribbean Cruise

Step-by-Step Guide to Royal Caribbean’s Smart Check-In Facility

My favourite email is the one that says “It’s time to check-in for your cruise”, but this one is extra special. It’s the pre-inaugural event for Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.  It is known as the first-ever ‘Smart Ship’ for its unrivalled technology, a ‘Game-Changer’ in the field of cruising.   So let’s see what it’s all about.

The online smart check-in process now includes the option to add your own security photo and check-in time which is great for me, as I want to get onboard as early as possible.
Having completed my on-line check-in, I can print my set sail pass and luggage tags.  Now it’s time to plan the on board experience.

Cruise Planner

With two nights onboard, there is a lot to fit it, so I need to pick my must do’s.  I start with the dining, which has been revamped from the traditional main dining room and renamed Dynamic Dining.  Not sure how I feel about this and I have heard mixed views from other people, but I think it will be like that song you hear at first and don’t like, but then it grows on you and ends up being one of your favourites.
One of the things I look forward to most on a cruise is the Main Dining Room Formal Night experience, so I opt for one night in The Grande, where every night is formal night.  Not wanting to overdress on the first night, I decided to try Silk, the pan Asian complimentary restaurant.
Having booked my dining I move onto the shows.  The Quantum Class is all about entertainment, so it has to be top of the list to experience the production of Starwater in the most innovative theatre in the world, Two70.  I know that THIS is going to be an experience I will be talking about for a very long time after.
With dining and entertainment reservations made, on-line check-in complete, set sail pass and luggage tags printed, all that is left to do is pack.

Recommended Reading

Mia Tui Travel Bag Review – Jennie and Alex

 

 

Oasis Of The Seas Visits Southampaton

 

With a 4am wake up call even my son looked a little shocked, but this was the day we would welcome Oasis of the Seas to the port of Southampton and I was not going to miss a moment of it. With nails and umbrella painted in yellow and blue, my camping chair, coffee flask, waterproofs, snacks, cameras, chargers, batteries and baby essentials packed, we set off for Mayflower Park.
We arrived at 7.30 am to find a group of around 20 people already gathered in anticipation.  This was to be the first time I would attend a ship’s arrival so I had no idea what to expect.  In my head there was a party going on but others appeared more relaxed and ‘in control’.
As I pulled into a parking space I saw my fellow cruise specialist, ship geek, cruise lover Lee Mudkins (who has since abandoned land based work for a life at sea) and his father, which made me feel at ease as I had cruised with them earlier in the year.  They helped me with my many bags and we set up by the railings.  This was a spot suggested to me by my trusted source Patricia Dempsey, who’s knowledge of Southampton’s best ship spotting locations and knowledge cannot be beaten.
I was prepared for a long and boring, cold and tiring wait.  Why I bothered to bring the chair I don’t know because with all the excitement I couldn’t sit down or relax.  Everyone was chatting about it and there was a real buzz in the air.  Over at the Pier you could see a huge crowd had gathered to get a closer look of Oasis and she passed.
There were a couple of men with walkie talkies listening to the Port of Southampton’s Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) for communication between them and the ship’s Captain.  Royal Caribbean had generously offered complimentary tea, coffee and bacon rolls for visitors that morning, so Lee kindly went and gathered supplies, which were proving popular with the local workmen as well as the slowly increasing numbers of people turned out to welcome the ship.  A tug boat moved out of the harbour starting whispers from people saying that it was ‘going to bring her in’.  To my relief some female faces started to fill the gaps in what had been a predominantly male crowd.  Like me, they were finding it a challenge to contain their excitement.
Then I saw my first sign, the jet.  The spray from the tug boat celebrating the first arrival of Oasis of the Seas into Southampton.  I jumped up and down and grinned from ear to ear. “Here she is” I said and the atmosphere grew.  Everyone was just staring for their first glimpse of the ship.  Then she finally came into view.  There she was, the awesome, the incredible, the amazing Oasis of the Seas.  A truly phenomenal feat of engineering.

It is impossible to describe or capture on a camera the enormity of the ship.  You can’t believe your eyes and you just have to keep looking at the other ships to compare.

Oasis blew her horn and a Saga ship and Azura responded with what seemed to be a squeak in comparison.
We watched her as she passed us, everyone clicking their cameras, eyes wide, lots of WOW’s could be heard along with an awe inspiring quietness.
Passengers lined the top deck and others were taking in all the glory from the comfort of their own balcony staterooms.  You could see the huge Aquatheatre, Boardwalk and interior balconies at the aft as she docked.
What an incredible ship, perfect for anyone who thinks cruising is too boring or don’t like the idea of being on a ship.  It’s more like a floating resort.  I was lucky enough to cruise the Caribbean in 2011 on Oasis of the Seas and it completely changed my view of huge cruise ships.
Feel free to contact me directly for further information on this ship and the cruises available.  Alternative ly you can go to www.royalcaribbean.co.uk or contact your local travel agent.