A Taste Of Six-Star Luxury With Crystal Cruises

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I recently spent 4-nights aboard Crystal Cruises Crystal Symphony and what a truly incredible travel experience it was. I boarded in Port of Tyne – mid-way through her Noble North Sea voyage – and visited Hamburg (our call to Helgoland was cancelled due to bad weather) before disembarking in Amsterdam. It may have only been a small taste of six-star luxury with Crystal Cruises, but it has left dozens of lasting impressions.

I patiently waited at the bottom of the gangway for the two ladies in front of me to board the ship, it made it easier for me to take a run at the stairs with my case if there was no one else there, but before I even made it to the third step there was a man in front of me extending his hand to take my luggage. I followed him to the top, handed over my e-ticket and stepped aboard. I found myself in the atrium and instantly knew that I was about to experience something very, very special! It was beautiful – I could even feel the quality of the carpet beneath the sole of my shoe. I stood for a while, admiring everything, before heading to reception, checking-in and officially beginning my Crystal Cruises adventure.

Deck 10, the Penthouse Deck was my home for the 4-nights and I had a very spacious Penthouse Verandah stateroom with butler – the first female butler at sea to be exact!  It was absolutely beautiful and offered more than enough space for little old me. I had a Queen-size bed, large vanity area, sofa, walk-in wardrobe, balcony and a large area that housed a flat-screen TV, bottled water, champagne, wine, fridge and other little treats. The bathroom was also very impressive with his and her’s sinks, a large walk-in shower and a separate bath with Jacuzzi jets. In short, it really was pure luxury at sea.

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CrystalSymphonyPenthouseVerandahBathroom

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The bed was without a doubt the BEST bed that I have ever slept in. The mattress was firm and the pillows and duvet were absolute heaven! I was offered the pillow menu, but I kept the ones that were already on the bed as they suited me just fine. One morning I actually found myself struggling to greet the day because I wanted to be cocooned in the comfort of the bed and duvet for just a little while longer.

Crystal Cruises also recently started using ETRO bath products and I couldn’t get enough of the body lotion! I also tried the soap, shampoo and conditioner, which were nice, but the body lotion was the overall winner for me! It was so smooth, it almost felt like you were coating your skin in a fine layer of silk.

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As I mentioned, I had a butler for the cruise, which was a first for me and it turned out to be a rather pleasant first. I must be honest and tell you that I didn’t really utilise all aspects of having a butler service, for example you can request that your butler unpack and repack your luggage for you, but that’s not something I would ever take advantage of, I would rather do that myself. I did, however, arrange my in-suite dining via my butler and I asked her for an additional pillow. I always expected a butler service to feel somewhat intrusive but it was the complete opposite.

Symphony’s public lounges each offered their own unique feel and my favourite of them all was Palm Court. I liked the entire space and the views were wonderful, it really did ooze luxury and sophistication. Every single thing about it was perfect. You walked in and you knew you had arrived. I also enjoyed spending time in the Avenue Saloon, Crystal Cove, Luxe (which was part of the casino and although very different from Palm Court, it gave me the same feeling) and out on the Lido Deck. Of course, every area onboard was pristine and inviting, but we all have our own favourite little hideaways and they were mine.

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During the cruise I tried in-suite dining – with the menu from the Crystal Dining Room – Silk Road, Prego, Trident Grill and the buffet. I have to say that my favourite meal of all was the one that I had in Silk Road, but the mushroom soup in Prego was delicious and I absolutely loved that it was served in a bread bun! Yes, technically you could eat the bowl too! It looked so good that the couple next to me ordered it, once they had finished drooling over mine.

So what did I eat? Well, in Prego I had the warm lobster poached in sage butter, cream of mushroom soup and spaghetti pescatore, and in Silk Road I started with tempura shrimp which was followed by Nobu-style lobster with truffle-Yuzu sauce and to finish I had a small chocolate pudding with sesame ice-cream.

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Silk Road also offered an incredible selection of sushi, which I’m afraid was lost on me because I don’t eat raw fish. Other passengers were sampling just about everything on the menu and the lady sat to my right thoroughly enjoyed her sushi selections. It was busy in Silk Road from the second the door opened, so if you are sailing aboard Symphony or Serenity anytime soon then I would suggest you make your reservations within your cruise planner as soon as you can.

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Before I joined Symphony I had browsed the shore excursion options (just about the only thing you have to pay extra for with Crystal outside of the cruise fare) and came across a tour option to Neungamme Concentration Camp. I had wanted to visit a concentration camp for a long time, so I booked a ticket. I appreciate that it’s not something everyone wants to do, but history is important and places like Neungamme should be visited and learned from, and the people that suffered there should never be forgotten. It was a very moving experience, I couldn’t possibly imagine what those people went through. At one point our guide said that over 1,000 people died there every day and that 20 children were taken there from Auschwitz to be used for medical experiments. It must have been truly horrific. One other thing that I found incredibly sad was the camps location: it was nestled in the German countryside, with a beautiful tree lined road leading up to it and a village just a stone’s throw away. If you didn’t know any better you’d think you were just driving down a typical country road, but then, eventually, you come across the first signs that not all is as it seems. Many of my fellow passengers also booked this tour, I think in total there were 3 coaches of us that went to Neungamme.

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NeungammeConcentrationCamp

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On the last evening there was a party in the atrium. We had live music from Ben Mills (I’m told he appeared on X-Factor in 2006) and he was absolutely brilliant, I really did enjoy his songs, and there was also singing and dancing from Symphony’s resident performers. The party came to an end with the recognition of Crystal Cruises 25 year anniversary and a countdown to the balloon drop from Crystal Cruises President and CEO, Edie Rodriguez. I had seen crew members loading the balloons into the net earlier in the day and it really had me intrigued. I’d never seen a balloon drop at sea before – yet another thing that has now been ticked off my list.

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I left Crystal Symphony having had 4 of the best cruising days of my life. The entire experience was everything it was promised to be and so much more. Not a single thing was too much trouble: I overheard one of the other butlers on my deck requesting peanut butter cookies for one of his guests. I don’t know if it is something the galley usually make (I didn’t see any), but that passenger got his cookies!

Thank you Crystal Cruises!!!! :) 

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Posted in Crystal Cruises

A Visit To Seven Seas Voyager

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I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Seven Seas Voyager last Wednesday, during her call to Port of Tyne. It was my first time aboard any Regent Seven Seas Cruises ship and my first impressions were definitely good ones.

I haven’t covered Regent much on my blog, so for those of you that don’t know, Regent Seven Seas offers a five-star all-inclusive luxury cruise experience on three ships – Voyager, Mariner and Navigator – although there will be four in 2016 with the introduction of Seven Seas Explorer. EVERYTHING is included in the fare price and by everything, I mean everything: the cruise; shore excursions; gratuities; flights; soft drinks, premium spirits and wines; 24-hour room service; all dining options including specialty restaurants; and transfers. Basically, unless you want a fine bottle of Cristal then your cruise card need never leave your pocket unless you are leaving or re-boarding the ship.

So, as I said, I boarded Voyager last Wednesday for a tour and lunch, and I enjoyed every moment of it. We explored the casino, Observation lounge, Prime 7, Signatures, Compass Rose, CanyonRanch Spa Club, Pool Deck, Constellation Theatre, Library, Connoisseur Club, Voyager Lounge and one of the suites.

There were a few places onboard that I REALLY liked, one of them being Prime7. This is Regent’s signature steakhouse dining option and not only was the restaurant itself quite intimate, the menu was to die for. Prime7 is free of charge, like all the dining options with Regent, but they do recommend that you make a reservation as it is a firm favourite among guests. The menu, as steakhouse would suggest, was packed with meat and seafood: crab cake, whole Maine lobster, Alaskan King Crab, U.S.D.A. New York strip, U.S.D.A. prime bone-in steak, veal chop, lamb chop, and more. If I cruised with Regent then you would probably find me here several times throughout the voyage!

Seven-Seas-Voyager-Prime7

I also really liked the Pool Deck, but of course I would, it’s my favourite spot on any ship!! There were sunbeds placed in various spots around the deck, but it definitely wasn’t overcrowded, as you can see in the picture! There were also tables and chairs along the port and starboard side, a bar at one end of the deck and the Pool Grill at the other, where you could grab burgers, salads, ice cream and so on.

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I also liked the Constellation Theatre, given the size of Voyager, I hadn’t expected to see a two-level theatre – it was quite a nice surprise. I always think there’s something dominating about a space like this, it grabs your attention the moment you walk through the door.

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We managed to have a look inside one of the Category G Deluxe Suites – the ship was sailing at max capacity so we were lucky to see any suite – but I’ll get to the really important bit first, L’Occitane bath products! Before anyone asks, no I didn’t “borrow” any of them, I left the tray of goodies exactly as I found it (but it was tempting! ;) ). The suite was rather nice although I did leave thinking it needed more, I don’t know what more is, I haven’t quite worked out what is missing, when I do, I’ll let you know. The suite featured a nice marble bathroom that offered a separate bath and shower, a walk-in wardrobe, large bed, seating area with vanity space and TV etc. and then you had the balcony.

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We were also fed during the tour, yes, we had a five-star lunch! The venue was the Compass Rose restaurant on Deck 4, this would also mark the end of our tour, but first the food. We were offered Maine Lobster medallions, coconut and butternut squash soup, grilled sea bass, black Angus beef tenderloin and chocolate cheesecake. I really enjoyed it all, even the lobster starter with melon (which I didn’t think I would like), but my favourite was definitely the beef!

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Overall it was a great visit and I can certainly see why Regent has such a loyal passenger following and why people pay what they do in order to sail with the line. Because all of the shore excursions on offer are complimentary the ship was virtually empty when we boarded. I don’t think I have ever seen a ship so quiet, it was so nice and meant we could explore without getting in the way.

Go on then, get off my blog and go and book your Regent Seven Seas cruise – I’m packed, so just tell me when I need to leave! ;)

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Posted in Regent Seven Seas

A Photographic History Of P&O Cruises

 

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My blog today is more of a book review/recommendation as I was recently sent a copy of  ‘A Photographic History of P&O Cruises’ and it is fantastic!

“One of the world’s most loved cruise lines, P&O Cruises can trace its history back over 175 years. With an impressive and unique collection of imagery, this book details the history of P&O Cruises and explores the impact P&O had in shaping the British Empire. With a vast fleet of ocean liners that undertook voyages to all parts of the globe, P&O was instrumental in immigration to Australia and New Zealand, while acting as a gateway to the Far East and India. After the advent of jet aircraft, the venerable company reorganised their services to offer pleasure cruises. In Australia, P&O Cruises remains an iconic brand, offering British-based cruises, world voyages and a specialist Australian subsidiary that sails into the South Pacific.”

The book is quite literally packed, from front to back cover, with wonderful photographs – from the days of Tagus (Britannia) to Ventura – fascinating information and a real deep historical overview.

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Canberra, everyone’s favourite ship! The book has many lovely photographs of her and plenty of information to go with them. There are images of her from her maiden arrival into Melbourne, alongside in Southampton with Cunard’s Vistafjord, interior images, and the one I love the most: one of her docked in Southampton with the new Oriana sailing passed her. Two iconic sisters side-by-side.

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Himalaya also features, she was the first post WWII passenger ship built by P&O. She was one of those rare ships that had that indefinable ‘soul’ and immediately captured all who sailed on her.

Pacific-Pearl

We also have a glimpse at some of the newer vessels within the P&O Cruises Australia fleet, including this one of Pacific Pearl berthed at Circular Quay in Sydney.

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Also featured are some of the original P&O advertising posters. This one from 1910 depicts the traditional fortnightly service between England and Australia. There were 10 ‘M’ class ships and the Mantua, which is mentioned on the poster, was THE ship to cruise on out of London and Southampton both before and after WWI.

The book also offers lots of interesting ‘Did you know?’ fact boxes and these are some of my favourites

The first P&O ship to make a westbound transit of the Suez Canal was the 2,200 ton Nubia on 3 April 1870.

Victoria, Britannia and Oceana were fitted with gun platforms even during regular service. This meant that if the ships were called into military service, it was simply a case of installing the guns alongside, rather than having to place the ship into a lengthy refit.

By 1886, P&O had 71 vessels; comprising 50 ships, steam tugs and launches.

In 1939 a passenger, who apparently loathed music, travelling aboard Strathaird, gathered up all the instruments of the ship’s musicians and threw them overboard in the early morning hours while the rest of the ship slept.

A P&O liner carrying the Royal Mail always had right of way over other vessels.

While the British P&O Cruises fleet  has been re-registered in Hamilton, Bermuda, the Australian fleet remain registered in London, England.

Where to buy

The book ends with a mention of P&O Cruises newest ship, Britannia, and with her image is exactly how I am going to end my blog today.

A Photographic History of P&O Cruises would make a wonderful gift for a cruise ship enthusiast (or as a little gift to yourself ;) ) and I would definitely recommend a copy. It is available to buy online from Amazon.

All the information and images within my blog today are taken from A Photographic History of P&O Cruises by Robert Henderson, Doug Cremer, Chris Frame and Rachelle Cross.

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Posted in General Cruise Articles, P&O Cruises

Harmony Of The Seas Splashaway Bay Unveiled

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Royal Caribbean International has today revealed that Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, will be the first ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet to feature Splashaway Bay, an interactive aqua park for kids.

Splashaway Bay will join Ultimate Abyss, a 10 storey slide and The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, as the latest in a thrilling collection of activities that will make Harmony of the Seas the ultimate family holiday experience.

Splashaway Bay will be a vibrant waterpark for kids and toddlers with sea creature water cannons, winding slides, a giant drench bucket and a multi-platform climbing frame to keep everyone entertained for hours.

Guests of all ages will get the ultimate heart pounding thrill ride on Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea which boasts a dramatic 100 foot plunge that begins in the Pool and Sports Zone and journeys down to the Boardwalk neighbourhood below.

Spiralling five decks above the open-air Central Park in the centre of the ship, waterslides Supercell, Typhoon and Cyclone come together as The Perfect Storm, inviting guests to slide into an incredible adventure. Thrill seekers can test their mettle on Supercell, a champagne bowl slide which swirls guests around as they descend towards a big splash finale.

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Harmony of the Seas will be the first in a new generation of Oasis class ships which combines groundbreaking architectural innovation with breakthrough technologies found on Quantum class ships.

The ship will arrive in May 2016 for her inaugural summer season, showcasing Europe’s most popular cruise destinations on seven-night Western Mediterranean itineraries calling at Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Provence, Florence and Pisa, Rome and Naples.  In November 2016, Harmony of the Seas will arrive at her homeport of Fort Lauderdale, Florida offering seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.

Harmony of the Seas will be home to the seven distinct neighbourhoods for which Oasis class ships are known and feature technological advancements now synonymous with the award-winning cruise line. Revolutionary features include the Bionic Bar dancing robot bartenders on the Royal Promenade; Virtual Balconies in many interior staterooms offering sea and port views; Royal WOWBands with RFID technology to simplify the guest experience; and VOOM, the fastest internet at sea found exclusively on Royal Caribbean ships.

Harmony of the Seas Splashaway Bay 3

Catering to every culinary desire, Harmony of the Seas will offer the most dining options at sea, including new specialty restaurants Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, Sabor Taqueria and Tequila Bar, and Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, a wonderfully curious setting where Royal Caribbean chefs twist their culinary kaleidoscopes to offer experimental dishes.

Harmony of the Seas will span 16 guest decks, encompass 227,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,479 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,747 staterooms. The Oasis class is an architectural marvel showcasing Royal Caribbean’s exclusive seven neighbourhood concept, including Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Info courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

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Meet Saga Cruises NEW Captain – Nick Sunderland

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Nick Sunderland graduated from Durham University and headed straight out to sea with Holland America Line, a company he stayed with during a career that has seen him rise through the ranks.

“I love life at sea and I enjoy working hard” he said.

It was this ethos that saw him spending long periods at sea preparing to become a Staff Captain, something he achieved aged just 29. This certainly made him one of the youngest Staff Captains in the cruise industry!

“I come from an RAF family, so I really went against the grain when I decided to head out to sea” said Captain Nick Sunderland.

And after seven years in the role, he’s now ready to take on a new challenge with Saga, his first time as fully-fledged Master.

“I’m thrilled and just can’t wait to join the Saga family” said Nick. “The ships are smaller, and I’m very much a personable person, so it’s going to be great to really get to know everyone, meeting guests and socialising.”

“Home for me is with my family in Lincolnshire, in our house by the river. Even when I’m there I can’t get away from the water! And a holiday for me is being with my family and sleeping in my own bed. Time off is all about the simple pleasures in life. Spending time with my family, walking our dog, and playing golf when I get the chance.”

Nick spent the past 15 years in many exotic locales. “I’ve been so lucky and had many adventures, from sailing the coasts of Canada down to the Americas, to South East Asia and Australia. Rio has got to be a favourite port of mine – full of hustle and bustle and really multicultural and exciting. I know the Caribbean and Mediterranean well, but the Baltic cruises are going to be fairly new for me. I’m really looking forward sailing to St Petersburg too, I can’t wait.”

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Posted in Cruise News, Saga Cruises

Win A Seven-Night Cruise With Princess Cruises

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Princess Cruises is offering one lucky couple (or a pair of friends) the chance to win a Mediterranean cruise for two!

The winners will be filmed during their time onboard, capturing their unique experience and creating the ultimate holiday film!

The winning couple will enjoy:

  • 7 nights on Emerald Princess in a Balcony Stateroom (twin or double)
  • Return economy flights from London
  • Transfer from Rome airport to the ship, and transfer from the ship to Barcelona airport
  • Accommodation and housekeeping services plus gratuities
  • All meals in the main dining rooms and casual eateries along with 24-hour room service
  • Daytime activities such as the gym, sports court, pools, hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms
  • Selected Shore Excursions (for filming purposes)
  • Evening entertainment including West-End style shows, live music, comedy shows and Movies Under the Stars

The competition is open to UK RESIDENTS ONLY and you must be available to cruise from the 26th September – 4th October 2015. The closing date is August 21st – so hurry and get your entry in today!!!

You can enter the competition here – Come Back New

Vince and Bob were chosen as the lucky winners in Australia last year and this wonderful video follows their journey as they renew their friendship while sailing in awe of the majestic Milford Sound, connecting with the locals in Dunedin and Akaroa. Their perspective of the world changes as these old mates reconnect, experiencing wondrous New Zealand.

Good Luck!!!!

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Posted in Princess Cruises

Crystal Symphony Cruise Countdown

In less than 3-weeks I will be joining Crystal Symphony for the final 4-days of her ‘Noble North Sea’ voyage – with my ports of call being Hamburg (overnight) and Helgoland – and I am incredibly excited!

I have never sailed with Crystal Cruises before, so it’s going to be a whole new experience and Helgoland will be a new port. We were due to visit there 2 years ago on my MSC Magnifica cruise, but sadly the weather and sea conditions were against us and it wasn’t safe to tender. The most I got to see was a hill in the distance through a rain covered window, but fingers and toes are firmly crossed that this time I can get there! It looks like such an interesting place and it is tiny, with a population of just over 1,300 people and less than 2 square kilometres in size. Cars are not allowed on the island and it is a popular destination for wildlife photographers, as grey and common seals are popular visitors – along with several species of bird. Yes, I am very much looking forward to our call to Helgoland (German archipelago in the North Sea) and if Mother Nature ruins it for me this time then she and I will no longer be on speaking terms!

Before reaching Helgoland, however, Crystal Symphony will dock in Hamburg overnight. We arrive at 8pm and have the evening and then following full day in port. I picked a Crystal Adventure Shore Excursion for my Hamburg visit: Neungamme Concentration Camp & WWII Fire Storm. The Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial is the largest of its kind in northern Germany, the camp today commemorates the over 100,000 people who were imprisoned there during World War II. Most were incarcerated because of their race, resistance to the Nazi party or refusal to be forced into slave labour.

Crystal Symphony’s final stop, and disembarkation port, will be Amsterdam. I will wave her goodbye, meet up with my adopted Dutch family for a while and then spend 2-days in Amsterdam with my fellow travel blogger and friend, Travel Shop Girl, before sailing home with DFDS Seaways. It really is going to be a great trip!

I don’t think there is anything specific that I am most looking forward to about Crystal Symphony, I’m just excited to enjoy the whole Crystal Cruises experience, but I am looking forward to seeing this wonderful Lido Deck!

Symphony refurbishment 2009

19 days and counting………………

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Posted in Crystal Cruises

Norwegian Escape’s Signature Hull Art Comes To Life

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Famed marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey laid eyes upon his largest canvas to date for the first time this week – the hull artwork on the NEW Norwegian Escape, debuting this November in Miami.

Currently being built in Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape is Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the largest in the company’s history. She represents an evolution of the line’s innovative history of providing guests with the freedom and flexibility to enjoy their ideal cruise holiday. The ship yard visit took place as Harvey’s artwork is now beginning to take shape, bringing to life his perspective of the spectacular Caribbean marine life on the expansive canvas of Norwegian Escape’s hull.

Spanning more than 1,000 feet in length from bow to stern, the custom-designed artwork features a scene of marine wildlife which blends two underwater seas seamlessly together. Featuring Harvey’s signature sailfish, the design also showcases key Caribbean sea-life including sting rays, sea turtles, whale sharks and a variety of tropical fish.

The process of creating the artwork is a lengthy one, beginning with a laser that projects the design onto the hull. A team then outlines the art onto the curved hull, pencilling in the lines and then taping the edges in preparation for applying the paint by hand.

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Guy Harvey, widely recognized as one of the world’s finest marine wildlife artists and champion of ocean conservation, combines his unique artistic talents with his background as a marine biologist, diver, photographer and angler to create visually appealing and truly authentic art.

Alongside his artistic talent, Harvey is focused on ocean conservation. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation funds inspired scientific research and innovative educational programs to encourage conservation and best practices for sustainable marine environments. Hand in hand with Norwegian Cruise Line’s commitment to the environment, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation-produced documentaries will be shown on board Norwegian Escape in staterooms to educate guests on how they too can help with marine conservation.

About Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Escape will sail weekly seven-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on November 14, 2015. The 164,600 gross ton ship will be the largest ever to home port year-round in Miami, carrying 4,200 guests to tropical Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. Norwegian Escape’s signature hull artwork is designed by marine wildlife artist and champion of ocean conservation, Guy Harvey.

Norwegian Escape’s dining and entertainment will include outposts of several popular land-based outlets, including the first-ever floating Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant and 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, a music venue and outdoor bar on The Waterfront that will feature live nightly performances. James Beard Award-Winning Iron Chef Jose Garces will have two concepts onboard, a Latin seafood specialty restaurant and Pincho Tapas Bar, while Miami-based The Pubbelly Restaurant Group will develop the menu for the Food Republic, an upscale food emporium. The District Brew House, a hip, urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s own Wynwood Brewing Company, will serve up more than 24 draft beers while The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar, features an array of immersive wine experiences, focusing on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine. Norwegian Escape will also feature Miami’s oldest and most legendary bar, Tobacco Road.

Continuing with Norwegian’s commitment to excellence in entertainment, Norwegian Escape will feature two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals headlining in the Escape Theater: After Midnight, the smash-hit musical that combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington and the best dancing from Broadway; and Million Dollar Quartet, the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. In a new concept exclusive to Norwegian Escape, the Supper Club has been re-imagined for an unforgettable dinner and show. For The Record: The Brat Pack™ is a critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters in a one-of-a kind 360° post-modern cabaret.

The ship will feature the largest ropes course at sea, a three-story multiplex of heart-pounding challenges complete with two planks and five Sky Rails, zip tracks that allow guests to soar through the air. Norwegian Escape’s Aqua Park will be the largest at sea and includes a new Aqua Racer slide. Adding to the family fun, Norwegian Escape will also feature an expanded Kids’ Aqua Park, along with the line’s first dedicated nursery for young cruisers two and under.

Accommodations include the company’s largest signature luxury ship–within-a-ship complex: The Haven by Norwegian; along with Studios, designed and priced for solo travellers; and many options for families, multi-generational groups, spa enthusiasts and more.

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Posted in Cruise News, Norwegian Cruise Line

Costa Cruises To Build New Ships With World’s Largest Passenger Capacity

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Costa Cruises has announced an order to build two next-generation cruise ships that will have the largest guest capacity of any cruise ship in the world. The ships will feature a revolutionary “green design”, representing a major environmental breakthrough for the cruise industry; the vessels will be the first in the cruise industry to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel.

The two ships will be built by Meyer shipyard in Turku, Finland, with delivery expected in 2019 and 2020. Each will exceed 180,000 gross tons, offering more than 2,600 passenger cabins for a total of 6,600 passengers.

Costa’s order is part of a multibillion dollar contract with two Meyer shipyards in Turku (Finland) and Papenburg (Germany) that also includes two new ships for Aida Cruises, the German brand of Costa Group. The contract with Meyer is the result of a larger previously announced deal between Carnival Corporation & plc, the home company of Costa Group, and leading shipbuilders Meyer Werft, Meyer Turku and Fincantieri S.p.A. for nine new ships between 2019 and 2022.

Pioneering a new era in the use of sustainable fuels, Costa’s new ships will be the first in the cruise industry to use LNG in dual-powered hybrid engines to power the ship both in port and on the open sea. LNG will be stored onboard the ships and used to generate 100 percent of the power at sea. This will significantly reduce exhaust emissions, help to protect the environment and support the company’s aggressive sustainability goals.

The new order represents a remarkable employment opportunity for Italy. According to Costa Cruises’ forecast, approximately 750 Italian crewmembers are expected to be hired to work on the two ships. Furthermore Italy will be featured strongly in the onboard experience, the new ships to represent the finest of all things Italian at sea. The thousands of international guests will experience Italian style, hospitality, gastronomy and entertainment.

The new ship order will allow the Costa Group to continue to build on its leadership position in the continental European cruise market – a market in which five out of ten cruise guests in 2014 sailed onboard a Costa Group ship.

 

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Posted in Costa Crociere, Cruise News

Rule Britannia, Britannia Rules The (Air) Waves!

Britannia-Cruise-Ship

CruiseMiss guest blogger Scott Rogers recently enjoyed a Norwegian Fjords itinerary aboard P&O Cruises Britannia, it was his first time cruising aboard the new-build ship and I would say that it probably won’t be his last. One of the things that stood out for him during the voyage (and something also close to his heart) was the music. He asked me if he could share a blog about the onboard musicians and of course I said yes…………….

Entertainment on most cruise ships revolves in one way or another around music. Whether it be an orchestral backing for the production shows in the theatre, a jazz quartet playing chilled out tunes in a dimly lit bar, a classical trio filling the atrium with soothing background music or a loud rock band blasting out fist pumping anthems in a show lounge; there’s usually something for everyone.

Throughout my 14 cruise back catalogue I’ve seen and heard a wide variety of performers. For me guest entertainers can get me going and can be excellent standalone acts, but as the cruise goes on I tend to always find I have a growing affinity for the hard working resident musicians. They aren’t always the headline grabbers, but they work incredibly hard and are often taken a little for granted. People can seem ambivalent towards them and polite applause is more likely than whooping and wild applause. Being an occasional wannabe rock star (of very limited ability) myself, I associate with all musicians and even find the good in a performance that others may complain about as I have sympathy for their plight. Often things out of the artist’s control can adversely affect how an audience perceives their talent. Playing in a large atrium with hard surfaces and high ceilings, for example, can turn a performance into a mushy mess of reverb that neither the performer nor the sound man can do much about. One thing is for sure though, the sound engineers will be working within strict limits trying to balance the sound for the average listener whilst trying to give the artist the headroom they need to deliver an exciting and dynamic audio performance. It’s a challenge and they do a great job working with such varied instruments and voices.

My first P&O cruise was a couple of years ago on Ventura. The resident resident band impressed me with their own shows. They were tight had a good sound and played a variety of popular songs, but on that cruise there was a Freddie Mercury tribute act called Steve Larkin. The band played backing for his two shows, stepping in to big shoes fulfilling the roles of the other members of Queen. Their performance was nothing short of sensational. They performed with great gusto really giving it their all, bringing the music and Steve Larkin’s performance to life. It was clear they loved playing Queen’s music. The crowd rightfully gave Steve Larkin a standing ovation for a wonderful performance where he captured the essence of Freddie’s personality and his unique voice. I myself stood and applauded not just for him, but for the band that gave him the platform to deliver that performance and also the sound engineers that put all the pieces together.

Ventura-Queen-Tribute

On this Britannia cruise I’ve had a similar experience. I hate the term ‘party band’ it has connotations of cheesiness and of Simon Cowell delivering a damning critique saying an act is “very cruise ship” in such a derogatory way; but Britannia’s “party band” is an absolutely class act and the very best I have ever seen at sea. I would even pay to see them ashore if they had their own show. The band in question is “Pulse”. They are a group of 8 immensely talented musicians and singers, each blessed with incredible versatility, stage presence and chemistry that all come together to deliver faultless performances night after night, often playing three or more sets across several hours. One night they might be playing epic songs from movies such as Frozen or Ghostbusters (their rendition and arrangement of which is great fun and put big smiles on the audiences faces); the next it could be a Motown set, an 80s night or a set of contemporary and modern pop songs ranging from LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem to Beyoncé’s All The Single Ladies; the Oasis classic, Don’t Look Back In Anger or the musical masterpiece that is Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk. Another time two of them might be playing an acoustic set. All of which they deliver with sublime skills, high energy, consummate professionalism and envy inducing talent.

Pulse-Britannia

I must take a moment to give a special mention to the drummer, Jamie, who has bravely been playing on despite having suffered a fractured wrist recently. Not that anyone would have noticed, he has been playing most tracks with just one arm. It must’ve been exhausting and very frustrating for him, but like a true professional he carried on and still delivered performances that would put a lot of lesser drummers to shame. I’ll keep the praise going too for Sophie whose vocal performance and incredible range on ‘that’ song from Frozen was nothing short of stupefyingly brilliant. I’d like to go through each and every band member, but as there are eight of them I’d run out of space in this blog, sorry guys! But they did all give unforgettable performances from stunning guitar solos, to solid thumping bass lines and thunderous drums; soaring, sultry and gritty vocals to rousing keyboard melodies. Of course none of this would be possible without the back of house staff; the techs and engineers who put on a dazzling light show and who balanced a complex audio mix that made the band sound so great in the awesome Live Lounge.

Pulse-Britannia-2

Congratulations go out to whoever at P&O signed these guys up too.  They are a perfect fit for this amazing modern British ship; their repertoire caters to all manner of tastes and they are fresh and exciting. They are off now for a well-earned break but you should see them again onboard Britannia soon…except for one of the singers, Scott. He’s going home to become a Dad. Good luck to him, I’m sure the band and Britannia will miss him and I hope he explores his natural talent elsewhere ashore. I won’t be surprised to see him on X-Factor and if Simon Cowell says he’s “too cruise ship”, I think that should actually be taken as a compliment. This cruise ship has musicians and singers that are way better than a lot of acts in the charts right now.

Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the (air) waves!

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