Saga Sapphire Baltic Cruise Blog Part 3

Saga-Sapphire-Saaremaa

I left you last time with the mention of another dining experience in East to West and I did end up in a food coma. I couldn’t eat another thing until lunchtime the following day! I had Calamari to start – the best calamari I have ever tasted – followed by the sizzling beef. I can’t adequately describe what the food was like, it was quite literally heaven on a plate. We also had an amuse bouche of crayfish, which was amazing and my first time trying crayfish!!

On Sunday we found ourselves in Riga, Latvia. I had been looking forward to our call there as it was a place I had never been, but the weather was thoroughly miserable and there was a marathon taking place. It made getting in and out of the city quite a challenge. I had a walk around the city centre for a few hours, but there were so many streets shut down and the weather just didn’t let up, so in the end I decided to just head back to the ship. The shuttle bus service didn’t seem to be the most reliable. I checked and double checked the times and there was a bus due at 12:15, so I waited at the drop off/ pick up point from 12:05 and by 12:35 there was still no sign of the bus. I was cold and wet, but someone was watching over me that day as a few of the organised tour buses appeared and we jumped on one of those for a lift back to the ship. I would like to visit Riga again, but hopefully when Mother Nature is in a slightly better mood!

Riga-Latvia

We spent Monday at sea, which was a well-needed “day off”. Cruising is a fantastic way to see the world, but several ports in a row – that are jam packed with tours and explorations – really do take it out of you! I felt like we hadn’t stopped in over a week, and to be honest, we hadn’t! I had quite a lazy day, I logged onto the internet for a little while and caught up with a few things, had another look (and half an hour of quiet time) in the Spa, a light lunch, and then sat in Cooper’s Bar watching the Two Ronnies on TV. I love Cooper’s, I really do!! Definitely my favourite place onboard.

Saga-Sapphire-Spa

On Tuesday we arrived in Warnemunde, Germany. I had been arguing with myself for over 2 weeks on whether or not to do the tour to Berlin, but by the time I made my mind up it was full, so I left Saga Sapphire and had a wander into the seaside town. It was absolutely beautiful! The weather was better, only a few spots of rain, and the town was full of tourists and locals. I had thought that it may have been a little bit like Travemunde and it was, but better. Although I didn’t get to Berlin, I was far from disappointed with the port. I spent 5 hours walking around and popping in different shops before grabbing a Bratwurst and heading back to the ship. I dropped my bags and decided it was too nice an afternoon to waste (and we were in port until 7:30pm), so I changed my shoes and made my way back into the city for a German beer and a sample of Currywurst.

Currywurst-Germany

I still have so many things to tell you about Saga Sapphire! I have loved every second of my time onboard and I have met some wonderful people! Not once have I witnessed the side of the ship that a lot of people like to poke fun at. Every time I visit Cooper’s of an evening I find myself there until the early hours of the following morning, mixing and mingling with my fellow passengers. The Drawing Room also seems to be quite a popular evening haunt, but Cooper’s drags me back every time. I love the ambience, the décor and the resident pianist, Martin. It’s only a small bar – I’d say there is space for about 25 people – and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. It’s quite intimate and it’s full of character.

Coopers-Bar-Saga-Sapphire

There are many, MANY things I have been pleasantly surprised by with Saga too, for example I like the fresh hand towels in the public toilets (much nicer than a paper towel!), the free bottled water to take on shore excursions and the packed lunch that is offered, the jug in the cabin that is filled with fresh water every day, the clean blankets on the open deck that let you sit and enjoy the ocean without freezing, the free boiled sweets and ice cream at the Beach Club, and the eucalyptus towels that are available after a day ashore – and trust me, that is not all of the little perks!

Fresh-Towels-Saga-Sapphire

I know I am still a few years away from the “official” age to cruise with Saga, but if I was given the opportunity to cruise with them again I wouldn’t hesitate, I would be there in a second! The ship is beautiful, the food is superb, and the ports and excursions offered have been a refreshing change. Saga offer a lot of excursions that I can only describe as unique and a little something different. The majority, I have never seen before with other cruise lines – Oreshek Fortress and the Patarei Prison being prime examples of this! Even our guide at Oreshek said that cruise tours rarely go there, so we were a refreshing change and she was excited to show us around. One other thing with Saga is that they don’t seem to cancel tours if only a handful of people book. Our Oreshek Fortress tour consisted of 8 people and on the Patarei Prison excursion there were maybe 12 of us at the most – a superb example of the beauty of small ship cruising and travelling with a company that really does go the extra mile to fulfil the wishes of every single passenger. Both tours felt like private excursions because we were such a small group and had our own little mini-bus instead of a huge coach.

Today we are going through the Kiel Canal and will stop in Ijmuiden tomorrow before arriving in Dover on Friday morning. I am going to go and sit and enjoy the scenery – and ANOTHER BBQ!!!! :)

I will catch up with you all again very soon!

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Posted in Saga Cruises

Saga Sapphire Baltic Cruise Blog Part 2

Saga-Sapphire-Saaremaa

In my last blog I said goodbye on Sunday morning, so let me pick up exactly from where I left off.

On Sunday afternoon we went on a galley tour and what a tour it was. Dinner prep was in full swing, the bread was being freshly baked and we even managed to have a look in several of the food store areas – this ship is quite literally full of food! I always love going to these areas onboard, you get to really appreciate how much care and attention goes into every single aspect.

Saga-Sapphire-Galley

Saga-Sapphire-Food-Galley

We left the galley behind and had an hour to pass before dining in East to West, Saga Sapphire’s Asian fusion-style restaurant. I can’t say enough good things about the food there, it was absolutely superb, AND no additional charge! On other ships I have paid at least £15 to dine in such a restaurant but on here it is part of the overall cruise experience. To start I had Atlantic seared scallops with Thai basil, for main course I went with the sautéed tiger prawns infused with Galangal and coconut-curry milk, and to finish I had the crispy buttered brioche with saffron, cardamom sauce and nuts. In-between courses we enjoyed additional little treats, the best being the prawns in peanut sauce, oh my goodness, they were good! I am tempted to ask for the recipe, although I’d never be able to re-create it exactly as it was.

Saga-Sapphire-East-West

On Monday we found ourselves in Stockholm, Sweden under the glow of another beautiful day. We had a morning tour to Sigtuna, one of Sweden’s oldest towns, I believe. It was very pleasant, I enjoyed seeing the typical Swedish town and as predictable as it sounds I also enjoyed listening to ABBA’s greatest hits on the coach journey back to the ship. I wish we had also had time to go into Stockholm as the city is such a lovely place, but food was calling and we decided to spend the afternoon onboard in the sunshine. It was also nice to sail back through the archipelago. This is certainly one part of the world that I could never tire of!

Sigtuna-Sweden

Helsinki, Finland was next, another port I had never visited before. I really liked Helsinki, it rained on and off for most of the day, but it didn’t spoil our explorations. There was a market just a few steps away from where the shuttle bus dropped us and on offer were various local crafts and foods. The main city centre was bursting with designer names! I ventured in to one shop and found a beautiful pair of Chanel sandals, the price tag was around the £700 mark, so I swiftly stopped admiring them and put them back on the shelf! If shopping is your thing then Helsinki is perfect! We only had a 4 hour call there, so I would like to go back again another day and do a little more exploring.

Helsinki-Finland

Wednesday brought us to St Petersburg, Russia where we would spend two days – on day one I took a trip to Catherine Palace. During my last visit to St Petersburg I had taken in the beauty of Peterhof and I was excited to see another bold and beautiful palace. Catherine Palace did not disappoint – gold leaf was definitely the in thing back then! The gardens were beautiful too, not quite as elaborate as the ones at Peterhof, but certainly worth a look. I imagine during the summer they will be filled with tourists.

Catherine-Palace-St-Petersburg

Day two in St Petersburg was a little different, I decided to go on the Oreshek Fortress tour – I wanted to do something different, something other than grand and imposing buildings – and I am so glad that I did! There were only 8 of us on the tour and the ship provided a packed lunch – bonus! Obviously now that we are all cruise ship institutionalised we can’t go for more than a few hours without eating. It took around one and a half hours to get there, but it was worth it. Part of the fun for me is the drive, I like to SEE the places I visit, rather than just stay on the usual tourist track. We arrived at the ferry station and boarded our boat across to the middle of the Neva River – where the fortress is located. It was very interesting and our local guide was a fountain of all knowledge. She explained that although the area had been surrounded by the Nazi’s during the Second World War, they never managed to reach the island on which the fortress is located. There is also a prison there, but it was mostly used for what we today call domestic terrorists.

Oreshek-Fortress

On Friday we found ourselves in the beautiful port of Tallinn. I absolutely love Tallinn, such a gorgeous place and there is so much to see. I left the ship in the morning and made my way around the Old Town, I had an afternoon tour, so I only spent a few hours ashore before heading back to the ship for lunch and to get ready for the afternoon’s trip. The excursion was named ‘Legacies of Tallinn’ and included a visit to Patarei prison and the Lennusadam SeaHarbour Museum. I have to tell you that it was fantastic! By far the best excursion of the cruise for me so far. I was told that this is a new tour option and if you stop in Tallinn with Saga, I highly recommend that you try it. The prison was an eye-opener, very powerful indeed, but also a little odd. There was interesting artwork across many of the walls, some with rather tasteful language and depictions – certainly not for those who are easily offended. I am sure some people wouldn’t dream of visiting such a place, but I think that visiting places like Patarei is very important, we must all learn from the past in order to better the future.

Prison-Tallinn-Estonia

Our next stop in Tallinn was the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour Museum, which was absolutely superb! There are many aspects of the museum, including interactive simulators and uniforms that you can try on, but one of the main attractions is the Lembit submarine – which was built in England – as you can go inside and explore this fully restored work of art. I highly recommend you stop by – it’s only a short distance away from the port if you don’t want to do it as part of a tour.

Lembit-Submarine

Today we are on the Estonian island of Saaremma and I have just returned from a morning island tour. It was good, but quite cold!! We stopped at the Angla Windmill Park and Heritage Centre which was like stepping back in time. From here we visited the meteor crater and then went on to the town centre. I did enjoy aspects of the trip, but felt quite rushed in some places.

Windmills-Saaremaa

So, that is a brief overview of my ports since my last cruise blog, I will of course go into more depth on some of them once I am back on terra firma, but I hope you are enjoying travelling with me! I will also go into Saga Sapphire a little more soon, but before I forget, I must tell you that there is a laundrette onboard! Several passengers have said that they didn’t know if there was one or not as apparently it is just a new addition, but yes there is. There are 5 washing machines and 5 tumble dryers, 2 ironing boards, and FREE soap powder!

Saga-Sapphire-Laundrette

Tonight we dine in East to West again – I feel a food coma coming on!!!!

I will check back in with you all again very soon :)

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Saga Sapphire Baltic Cruise Blog Part 1

SagaSapphireatSea

Hello from Saga Sapphire! I thought now would be a good time to check in with you as I have been on the ship for a few days and we have a pretty hectic port schedule ahead of us.

I boarded on Wednesday afternoon and so far, so very good – the ship is beautiful and more importantly, the food has been fantastic! I spent my first few hours exploring and getting to know where everything was. She is quite small, in comparison to other ships I have cruised on, so it really isn’t that difficult to find your way around in all honesty.

SagaSapphireSunDeck

My cabin is a superior with balcony on Deck 8 and it is most spacious. The balcony is a little on the small side, but very nice to have. I love opening the door in the morning and seeing what is going on in the world. The bathroom is a good size and features a bath, marble sink and vanity area, storage cabinet, and of course, a toilet! The wardrobe storage is good and there is a separate space for the safe and fridge – yes, the fridge is in the wardrobe.

We spent Thursday at sea, and aside from moving to grab some food, I spent the entire day on the aft deck doing nothing but watching the world go by. I love the deck furniture, the oversized chairs are incredibly comfortable and perfectly finished off with big plump cushions, they are also spaced far enough apart so that you don’t feel like you are sitting on top of one another. But let me go back to the “moving for food” bit. I tried fish and chips from the Beach Club on Thursday and it was so good! Served in a fryer type basket, lined with “Sapphire Times” paper and finished off with a little tub of mushy peas – fish and chips the way it should be. The Beach Club also serves burgers, jacket potatoes and salad. On the port side of the Beach Club you will find the sweetie hut (I have been very good and only visited once!) where you can help yourself to a variety of boiled sweets, and on the starboard side is the ice cream machine.

SagaSapphireFishandChips

The Drawing Room is a beautiful space and filled with wonderful artwork, in fact the entire ship is bursting with quirky one of a kind features. There are lamps with Fez hats, lamps with what look like old fashioned cameras attached, impressive wall masks, a school of fish in the atrium (one with a red eye!) and so much more. My favourite onboard areas up to now are Coopers Bar (I think I love the pianist/ wannabe comedian), The Drawing Room, The Grill and the Verandah.

On Friday we entered the Kiel Canal and it was yet again another glorious day and one spent aft, lounging and enjoying what I can only describe as an EPIC deck BBQ. It truly was fantastic and one of the best BBQ’s I have ever had at sea! Several fresh fish options, rib-eye steak, chicken breast, veggies, cheese – you name it, it was served! I am hoping they will do another one at some point, but I’m not going to divulge all the info yet because I plan on doing a blog that highlights everything that was served – it truly was THAT good.

SagaSapphireBBQ

Saturday brought us to our first port of call which was Rønne in Denmark. Rønne was a tender port and rather scenic – the houses were lovely and the area was so clean! It almost felt like being on a film set. We stretched our legs for a few hours before deciding to head back to the ship, good timing really because it soon turned cold and started raining.

Today we are at sea and I started my day with a talk from actor Stephen Tompkinson. It was absolutely fantastic! I was totally engrossed in everything he was talking about and discussing with John Parton, our Cruise Director. Stephen seems to be a very passionate and humble man and it was an absolute pleasure to sit and listen to his stories – several times his eyes filled up as he discussed his parents and grandparents, and his passion for the brass band. **shameless plug alert** – Read all about the crime themed aspect of this voyage in an upcoming edition of World of Cruising Magazine!

StephenTompkinsonSagaSapphire

So, back to Saga Sapphire, what a lovely ship she is! I am enjoying every moment of my time onboard and I can say with an honest heart that a lot of the passengers are not THAT old! I keep getting the “you’re too young to be on here” comments, but they don’t seem to want to get rid of me, so I am off to a good start. There are a few fairly elderly people onboard, but the vast majority I would say are under 65 and they are certainly not shy when it comes to having a laugh and a few late night beverages!

I will check back in with you all again as soon as I can. I have several ports to explore, in fact I think we have 7 port days in a row, so it could get quite intense.

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MV Voyager: A Perfect Example Of Small-Ship Cruising

MVVoyagerVOD

The weather in Newcastle yesterday was thoroughly miserable, even worse at the port thanks to the wind, but my day was briefly brightened by a visit to Voyages of Discovery’s MV Voyager.

She is quite a pretty little ship, even in the pouring rain she had a charm about her, and I braved the elements to the other end of the dock to board her.

At the top of the gangway I found myself walking directly into Scott’s Lounge, it felt a little odd, but to be honest, if I had been a passenger coming back from a day ashore in that weather yesterday, I couldn’t think of a better place to step off the gangway and directly in to – service please, make it a large one!

From Scott’s Lounge (on Discovery Deck), I went to the Livingstone Deck and had a quick look in an outside cabin. It was pretty much standard in size, and there was a double wardrobe just as you entered the room. This was only the cabin I managed to have a look at, Voyager is currently sailing a British Isles itinerary and her cabins were occupied. One thing I did notice, again maybe because of her age and size, were the extra wide corridors on the cabin decks. You could walk side by side without bumping into each other or the walls.

MVVoyagerPortholeCabin

From Livingstone Deck I went to the top, Sun Deck, and worked my way back down. Thanks to the awful weather I wasn’t able to get outside and have a good look at her open decks. Sorry! I had already been drenched once, I didn’t want to be drenched a second, and then a third time. I can tell you, however, that the Jacuzzi on the Bridge Deck was full of bubbling warm water, it looked very tempting, and the Veranda Restaurant, Voyager’s buffet, was a lovely feature. It felt very café like and offered tasteful decoration – green spotty curtains and brown wicker chairs. I really liked this space because even though it was the buffet and would clearly get quite busy, it still felt cosy and private. Behind the main food service area was another seating area, I think there were only 9 or 10 tables – it was perfect! The variation in colour changed slightly from the other section, but it still worked well. There was also a small seating section on the aft deck where guests can dine al-fresco.

MVVoyagerVerandaRestaurant

This was the section behind the main food service area.

Next, I stopped at the Promenade Deck and had a peek through the door in the hair salon, it was small, as was the spa area, but on a ship Voyager’s size, it was enough.

My last stop was where I started, on the Discovery Deck. I passed back through Scott’s Lounge and found myself in the Discovery Restaurant. This too was a nice dining area, but with a lot of mirrors – it actually reminded me of the main restaurant on her former fleet mate, MV Discovery (God Bless her). A small space, perfect in size for the ship, but with mirrors everywhere to make it feel twice as big. I think I preferred the space on Voyager though, it felt kind of strange of Discovery – like I was in one of those weird attractions at a fairground!

The Library was packed when I walked through – many passengers obviously opting to stay onboard due to the weather – as was the Observation Lounge. The Darwin Lounge in-between was quite quiet, this is the ships main show lounge and has recently had a side corridor added to stop the flow of traffic going directly through the Lounge. Very good idea! I can imagine some guests would probably get quite upset having people passing in front of them all the time when they are trying to watch a show.

darwin-lounge

MV Voyager is a small ship and she was made even smaller for me thanks to Mother Nature, but she definitely a had a certain charm about her. One small feature that I liked very much was the Guest Information Board, a dedicated area in Scott’s Lounge where passengers can leave notes relating to various different things like card game meetings or sharing transportation to different places in port. There was one note on the board asking if anyone fancied sharing a taxi to Beamish, and then the cabin number to call to arrange the trip was noted at the bottom. I hope for their sake they didn’t go! They would have been soaked! It’s little things like this that you can only get on a small ship, but more often than not it’s those little, personal things that mean the most.

Hopefully (fingers crossed) I will get to actually cruise on MV Voyager in 2016. Watch this space………….

P.S. Apologies for the variation in image size in this post, because of the weather I didn’t take my camera (only my phone), and due to the amount of passengers still onboard it was difficult to photograph some areas, so I had to borrow a few shots from the VOD blog. ;)

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Posted in Voyages of Discovery

Carnival Vista Finds Her Voice In New Tour Video

CarnivalVista

Carnival Cruise Line’s newest, largest and most innovative ship, Carnival Vista finds her voice in a new tour video recently released by the cruise line.

Narrated by the ship itself in a carefree wise-cracking female voice that mirrors Carnival Vista’s online social media persona, the video ranges from bird’s-eye overhead views of the vessel to swooping careens through engaging public spaces and expansive outdoor decks.  The video also highlights the openness and indoor-outdoor integration of Carnival’s newest ship, set to debut in Europe in May 2016.

The video opens with a three-quarter exterior panoramic view of Carnival Vista plying sunny seas as the voice-over introduces herself and sets the casual, conversational tone the narration employs throughout the five-minute segment. The tour begins with a fly through the atrium, anchored at its centre by a three-deck-high LED column with ever-changing colours and shapes extending from the centre of the atrium bar.

From there, it’s on to the main pool area where the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar are situated on a bright yellow deck filled with blue deck chairs.  The video sweeps up to SportSquare, Carnival’s top-deck center of physical activities ranging from a running track and mini golf to a rope course and SkyRide — Carnival’s groundbreaking suspended cycling experience which Carnival Vista describes as “mind-blowing.” Still on the outer decks, the video swoops in on WaterWorks and its colorful Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first raft-riding water tube slide.

The pace slows down for a look at the relaxing Tides Pool on the aft deck that provides a panoramic ocean view and a great place to, as the Carnival Vista says, get lost in a “deep-sea thought.”

The video then plunges into the Lido dining area with its 24-hour pizzeria, New England–inspired Seafood Shack serving lobster rolls and other fare, and Guy’s Burger Joint, designed by celebrity chef Guy Fieri.  That’s followed by a visit to RedFrog Pub featuring the line’s first-ever brewery.

Carnival Vista then gives us a first look at the Family Harbour staterooms and suites, along with the Family Harbour Lounge where kids and parents can hang out, play games or help themselves to the cookie and snack bar.  Then it’s on to another exceptional accommodations category — tropical-themed Havana staterooms and suites, which feature outdoor sitting areas complete with hammocks. Nearby is the Havana Bar and Pool, which our narrator describes as “a slice of Old Cuba magically transported to the middle of the ocean.”

A quick tour of Carnival Vista’s kids’ facilities, including the marine-themed Camp Ocean and Dr. Seuss Bookville, a family reading venue that’s part of the line’s exclusive Seuss at Sea programme, is followed with a zoom through the Serenity adults-only retreat.

The voice of Carnival Vista informs us, “holiday isn’t just about relaxing,” as she introduces us to the ship’s multiplex featuring the first IMAX Theatre at sea.

There’s also a whirlwind tour of indoor-outdoor dining venues including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi, the Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant, and the Far East-inspired JiJi Asian Kitchen.

The video tour ends on a “sweet note,” our narrator suggests, at Cherry On Top, a candy shop and ice cream bar featuring outdoor seating, too.

Carnival Vista is scheduled to enter service from Europe on 1 May, 2016, then reposition to New York for a series of voyages in November 2016 followed by the launch of year-round Caribbean service from Miami later that month.

Info courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

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Posted in Carnival Cruise Lines, Cruise News

Some Motion In The Ocean (Exactly The Kind You’re Thinking Of!)

I have posted so many images over the last several years, most of which have shown people enjoying the fun and games onboard, ships docked at beautiful sun-kissed islands, and some very colourful sunsets, but then I realised that those days when the sea has been a little lumpy and the sky a little grey have been neglected. Well, not anymore!

Not everyone will like this post, but it is a fact that a ship on the open ocean may well run into less than perfect sailing conditions – Mother Nature strikes as and when she pleases and there is nothing we can do about it. I have been lucky enough (I mean that without sarcasm) to experience just about all weather conditions during my several years hitting the high seas and I thought it only right that I now share some of the grim sea days with you (and maybe one or two port shots), saying as the sunshine keeps getting all the attention!

Are you ready for a bit of motion in the ocean? ;)

I recorded the below during my Arctic Circle cruise in March 2014. We were in the Norwegian Sea at the time and the weather was pretty miserable. Oriana had been pitching for what felt like an eternity. Of course, I was loving every second of it, but there were a few people that were a little on the green side.

 This was taken in the Mediterranean in July 2011. It was a pleasant evening, the outside air temperature was nice, the sunset was very pretty, but every now and then the ocean had to get in on the action.

ChoppySeas

I think it is fair to say that St Petersburg had seen better days! Just a few moments later rain poured from the sky and the thunder and lightning swiftly followed.

StPetersburg

When we docked in Tenerife in October 2014 it was raining, and thunder and lightning had been following us for hours, but I hadn’t quite expected this just a few hours later!

Not the best picture in the world, but this is my lovely Ventura taking a battering in the Bay of Biscay. This was taken in April 2012, I was on Oceana at the time and we were being attacked by waves from all directions. I remember our Captain commenting that it was one of the worst Bay of Biscay crossings he had ever encountered. It was certainly my roughest experience at sea, but I loved it…………

VenturaBayofBiscay

………..until this happened! – Use the stairs? Are you kidding me! ;)

OceanaBiscay

The sun was shining, but the swell had other ideas, and it was very clear that the pool was not impressed. P.S. it’s not a body in the water, it was a blue boiler suit. How it got there remains a mystery!

OceanaPoolRoughSeas

Usually I wouldn’t use the below because the quality isn’t that great (it’s blurry because I almost got blown off my feet taking it), but it actually fits quite nicely into my blog today. Good job they were tied together and to the handrail!

RoughSeas

I have many more Images and video to share (you can find a lot of my videos on YouTube), but I will save them for another day! ;)

Happy Tuesday!

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Is She The New National Anthem? – Anthem of the Seas Review

AnthemoftheSeasReview

Anthem of the Seas – where do I even begin? I have just spent 2-nights aboard and I want to tell you everything! The rambling may kick-in, but stay with me!

As soon as I boarded, I began exploring, I didn’t even take my case to my cabin – I just dragged it along behind me. My first stop was the Royal Esplanade area on Deck 4. Boleros, La Patisserie, Michael’s Genuine Pub, Sorrentos, Café Promenade and a few shops were all at home here. It was a great area, you could go from the pub, to the café and straight into the shop – perfect! I made a stop at Café Promenade on Tuesday afternoon for a chicken roti and it was incredibly good, absolutely bursting with flavour and filling.

AnthemoftheSeasRoyalEsplanade

From Deck 4, I made my way up to Deck 5 where I found the Bionic Bar (which was AWESOME!), Wonderland, Izumi, Prime Table, Chops Grille, Schooner Bar, Jamie’s Italian, Café Two70 and more. I was totally hooked on the Bionic Bar, I couldn’t stop watching it! It had been one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing on the ship and I was not disappointed. Eventually I dragged myself away (only to return a short while later) and made my way to Wonderland. I wasn’t going to be dining in this restaurant, but I was desperate to check it out. It was smaller than I had expected, much more intimate, and the furniture and décor were fabulous! I loved the chairs that sported the large keyhole – I wouldn’t mind a few of those myself! The room really did have that Alice in Wonderland feel, but with a dark and interesting twist. I absolutely loved it!

Eventually, I made my way to my cabin and dumped my baggage – I had more exploring to do and the case was starting to slow me down. I had a balcony cabin on Deck 10 which was spacious, beautifully decorated and had a rather nice bathroom. I was very pleased with my onboard accommodations, although I had a small issue with the air conditioning. I like my cabin cool, I hate being too hot, especially when I am trying to sleep and the air conditioning is something I check the second I walk through the door – I don’t care what else may be of issue, the air-con comes first. I mentioned that I didn’t think the air was coming through properly and that I couldn’t get the temperature any lower than 20 degrees Celsius, which is 68 degrees fahrenheit. I was told that it was locked at 20 degrees Celsius and couldn’t be lowered. I was quite puzzled by this as on other ships they will alter the locked temperature. At the end of the day it’s down to the passengers preference, and let’s be honest, 20 degrees Celsius is not exactly cool, but the guys on Anthem point blank refused to alter it, so I slept with the balcony door open for both nights. Sleeping with the door open was actually quite nice, I could drift to the sound of the ocean and it didn’t get too cold because of the lovely spring weather we are having at the moment.

AnthemoftheSeasBalconyCabin

I left my cabin and made my way up to Deck 14 – I wanted to start exploring all the gadgets and technology! My first stop was Deck 14 mid-ships where I found the Sky Bar, NorthStar, Pool Bar, Pool, H20 Zone, Johnny Rockets, Windjammer Marketplace, Solarium, Devinly Decadence and Coastal Kitchen. I really liked the mid-ships pool area and thanks to Mother Nature and her warm sunshine, many other people were also enjoying the space, and the bar! You had a great view of the NorthStar from here too.

AnthemoftheSeasDeck14

The Solarium was enchanting and it was even more hypnotising in the evening. In the middle was a tiered pool going from top to bottom, and at the bottom was a huge swing that was fixed to the ceiling. There was also a bar in the Solarium, several Jacuzzi’s and various lounging/ seating options. The entire area is enclosed in glass, so you can imagine what the views are like. Had I been wearing something lighter than jeans I would have stayed here a lot longer than I did. If you are onboard then definitely add this to your list for areas to relax!

Solarium

Solarium

My next stop was going to be Deck 15, I had a mission – to find Gigi! I made my way up and along through SeaPlex, another incredible space – which I will come back to later – and out through the starboard side door. I walked right into Gigi. A selfie or two later and I made my way aft to check out the FlowRider and RipCord. I wasn’t brave enough to actually go on the RipCord, I just watched everyone else, but that suited me fine and I was enjoying watching the professionals show us how the FlowRider was supposed to be done. The sun was shining and I was quite content watching the world go by.

The time had come for some food, exploring is hungry business, and decided I would try Johnny Rockets. I ordered a Route 66 with Fries and a Cherry Fountain Soda. I have to admit that the service at Johnny Rockets was pretty slow, they clearly couldn’t cope with the amount of people that wanted burgers. I think I waited about 15-minutes for my order and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed when it came. The burger was quite greasy and the bottom bun a tad soggy because of it – it was tasty, but it just didn’t have the WOW factor I was hoping for. I gave it a second chance on Tuesday afternoon and the food was a lot better, I went for the onion rings and chicken burger, both of which were more along the lines of what I had expected. Again though, I waited an age, so eventually asked how long it would be and was told it was coming. 10-minutes later I asked again and it turned out they had actually lost my order, in all it took nearly 30-minutes for me to receive my food. During my wait, another passenger returned to complain about his order. They had not put his fries in the bag and he had no bread for his burger! In the burger paper he had a chicken breast, lettuce, mayo and cheese – no bun!!!

AnthemoftheSeasJohnnyRockets

Moving on from Johnny Rockets I continued with my ship exploration before it was time to change and take our seats for the muster drill and then Anthem’s naming ceremony. It was fantastic to be a part of such an important event. It was very different to the norm and inside the ship as opposed to on the dock, but it was certainly amazing to be part of it. There was a great atmosphere and the musical performances were wonderful, Anthem’s Godmother, Emma Wilby smashed her performance of Firework – she owned the stage and she has certainly made the North East of England very proud!! It was also great to see Bernard Meyer in the flesh!

After the naming came dinner, and Monday evening for me would be a steak experience at Chops Grille. To start I went with the pan roasted jumbo scallops and they were heavenly!!! For main course, I opted for the 9oz Filet Mignon, which was cooked to absolute and total perfection, it was so juicy, I am salivating just thinking about it, it really was delicious. We chose all 6 side dishes too so we could try a bit of everything – the creamed spinach, grilled asparagus and truffle fries were my favourite – and for dessert I reluctantly (I was so full) picked the Red Velvet Cake. I could have melted away beneath the table after one mouthful – it was the nicest Red Velvet Cake I have ever tasted!

ChopsGrilleAnthemoftheSeas

Following dinner I enjoyed a few drinks in the Schooner Bar before heading down to the Music Hall. The Music Hall was absolutely jam packed with people and I loved it. It is on 2 floors, with the upper level overlooking the dance floor beneath.There was a live band for a while and then the DJ took over. It was certainly the heart and soul of the ship that night and I stayed there until the early hours of the morning enjoying the atmosphere. I think the Music Hall was probably my favourite area onboard. It had a Rock n Roll feel to it, skulls coming out of the mirrors, leather bound chairs, some chairs that were covered in black feathers, and a winding staircase that led to a whole other floor of intrigue. It was my kind of place.

AnthemoftheSeasMusicHall

Day two began with more exploration and a visit to the bridge. I had to have my favourite place fix, it was inevitable it would happen at some point. It wasn’t disappointing – the bridge never is – and it even offered a few new experiences. Behind the bridge central console area was a Control Centre. It had small rooms either side which displayed images from the security cameras onboard (of which there are over 1,200) and right in the middle a long thin table which housed detailed plans of every single deck onboard the ship. The officer telling us about this particular area joked that it made a great air hockey table. I could totally see where he was coming from!

AnthemoftheSeasBridge

After my bridge visit I enjoyed a few lazy hours before my NorthStar slot at 4:45pm. I am not great with heights, but I was desperate to try it. I had watched it go up and down all day and finally it was my turn, and at the windiest point of the day! WOW is all I can say. It was incredible! It felt a lot higher than it looks from Deck 14, but the birds-eye view of the ship was fantastic. Once I plucked up the courage to actually leave go of the railing, I had a look out across the front of the ship from the other side of the pod. I can’t recommend this experience enough, it was something completely different and it offered some pretty spectacular photo opportunities. I was so glad that I tried it and given the chance to do it again, I would be at the front of the queue – clammy palms and all!

AnthemoftheSeasNorthStar

SeaPlex and a turn on the dodgems was next on the itinerary – another first at sea experience for me. I used to love the bumper cars as a kid and it brought back so many memories of amusement park visits and fun times, it was also surreal to be doing it at sea. The space used for the dodgems also transforms into a rollerskating rink and basketball court. The cars were full size and I think there were maybe 15 or 16 in use – that should give you an idea of the size of the area. It was a lot of fun, so much so that I went back for more. On the upper level there is an Xbox zone and a selection of table top games.

The Grande was the dining option on evening two. The menu looked delicious, but once seated we were given a menu that actually contained a little bit of everything from the specialty dining restaurants, I thought it was a nice idea, but I was a little disappointed to be honest. I struggled with a choice of starter, so in the end opted for the baked artichoke hearts, which I didn’t particularly like. There was nothing wrong with them, they were something I had never tried before and I just didn’t like them. Surf and turf was the main course selection. The prawns and asparagus were delicious, but I asked for my meat well done and it was a rather light shade of pink. It wasn’t to the point where I wouldn’t eat it, but it definitely wasn’t well done. It was OK, but Chops was a far better experience. Dessert, however, was delicious, a flourless chocolate cake with cream and a sprinkle of broken pistachio nuts.

AnthemoftheSeasSurfandTurf

I retired early for the evening and tried the Windjammer Marketplace on Wednesday morning for breakfast. The choice was incredible! Even the choice of breads was astonishing! I had a long journey home, so decided to have a cooked breakfast. I had a spoonful of scrambled egg, beans, some bacon and a few hash browns. I also picked up what I thought was eggy bread, but it turned out to be quite sweet, I have no idea what it was but it was very moreish! I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast, the scrambled egg was perfect! The best by far that I have had on any ship.

Anthem of the Seas was my first Royal Caribbean experience and I have to say that although I had a few issues here and there, I was totally hooked by that ship. I enjoyed so many things about her, including the wristbands! I would love to see something like that on all ships. Convenient, waterproof and it saved me so much time rummaging in my bag for the card when trying to get in the cabin, all I had to do was put my wrist on the sensor and voila, the door opened! You can use it to pay for purchases in the shop, to cover your bills in the restaurants, and to order your drinks at the bar.

WristbandRoyalCaribbean

I have said many times that I am not a massive fan of ships that are bursting at the seams with gadgets and technology, but I really did enjoy Anthem, she may have swayed me just a little bit, but I do wonder if after a few days I would be ready to have some peace and quiet and leave all the technology behind? I suppose time will tell – here’s to my next Royal Caribbean adventure, one that I am already looking forward to!

I hope you enjoyed my Anthem of the Seas review!

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Posted in Royal Caribbean International

Counting Down To Saga Sapphire And A Baltic Adventure!

Saga Sapphire in Funchal - Image credit: Sergio Ferreira

Saga Sapphire in Funchal – Image credit: Sergio Ferreira

On May 6 2015, I will once again find myself heading north to south, as I set-off to join Saga Sapphire on a 16-night Baltic cruise.

Yes, you read correctly, I said Saga Sapphire, and I can now see the puzzled looks on your faces – let me shed more light.

Since I started my blog, one of my biggest goals has been convincing non-cruisers that a holiday at sea is not just for the elderly or very wealthy, and that an adult-only ship does not ALWAYS mean the passengers are simply passing time until the inevitable. It is no secret that Saga is often joked about and ridiculed because of the so called “average” age of its passengers – the comedians at sea love to give the old “midnight buffet is at 7pm and everyone is in bed by 9pm on a Saga ship” joke to an adoring audience, but is it REALLY like that? Well, that is what I am going to go and find out!

I am 20 years off the 50+ age restriction that comes with Saga, but I have enjoyed many cruises where the average age of the people that I have socialised with onboard was indeed 50+, and let me tell you that I have had the time of my life. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, and it is so true! I have said time and time again that in my eyes a cruise is what YOU make of it and it really is that simple!

I have no doubt that there will be passengers onboard that keep to themselves and want to call it a night, every night at 9pm (the same could be said about any ship), but I am also positive that I will find the group of sociable rebels onboard who are quite happy to keep the bar open and conversation flowing for as long as possible, and just enjoy their holiday. If they exist on this cruise, then find them I shall – I’m not shy!

So, where am I going? Well, as I mentioned earlier, it is a Baltic cruise and our itinerary looks a bit like this: Ronne, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; Saaremaa, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Warnemunde, Germany and Ijmuiden, Holland.

There are a few new ports for me on this cruise (Saaremaa being the new port I am most looking forward to) and we have 2 Kiel Canal transits, which I can’t wait for! I enjoyed it so much the last time I ventured into that part of the world, it was so peaceful and nice to see people walking their dogs, lunching at a canal side pub and just generally enjoying their day – not really the kinds of things you usually see when “at sea”. Fingers crossed the weather is nice so it can be enjoyed from the open decks.

This particular cruise also has a crime theme and there will be a few famous faces onboard: Stephen Tompkinson, Phil Davis and Neil Stuke. I have never been on a theme cruise before (shock-horror), so I am actually looking forward to this aspect of the trip. Apparently there will be a murder mystery evening onboard, I suppose one will have to be on her best behaviour, otherwise I could be the one that gets the chop! ;)

Like the sound of this voyage? There are still cabins available! You can view the full details here.

19-days to go!!

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Posted in Saga Cruises

Anthem Of The Seas Arrives In Southampton

Anthem of the Seas arrives in Southampton.

Anthem of the Seas has arrived in Southampton – her home port for the summer season.

At 1,141 feet long, 136 feet wide, with 18 decks, and a guest capacity of 4,905, she was a spectacular sight as she sailed up the Solent and docked in Southampton this morning. There to greet her was future Godmother, Emma Wilby. Not the traditional celebrity Godmother, Emma was chosen for the honour after a months-long nationwide competition to find a young, talented star from within the travel industry.

Anthem of the Seas is the most technologically advanced cruise ship to be home-ported in the UK and is hard proof of Royal Caribbean International’s commitment to push the boundaries of the holiday experience.

Anthem of the Seas is the second of Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum-class ships, and offers many ‘firsts at sea’ such as robotic bartenders, a virtual sky diving experience, on-board circus skills training, innovative entertainment spaces and the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea, SeaPlex.

More than 80,000 people are anticipated to travel on the ship during the summer season, delivering around £50 million to the Southampton economy and surrounding area and creating jobs through direct and indirect employment.

Anthem of the Seas arrives in Southampton

Anthem of the Seas arrives in Southampton.

Anthem of the Seas arrives in Southampton

Anthem of the Seas arrives in Southampton

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Posted in Cruise News, Royal Caribbean International

Celebrity Cruises Launches New Shore Excursion Programme

CelebrityCruisesNewShoreExcursions

Celebrity Cruises has unveiled a new programme of shore excursions featuring everything from lavish luxury in Istanbul and Flamenco dancing in Barcelona to secret classical concerts in St. Petersburg and a castle treasure hunt in Copenhagen. With special-interest categories and more than 70 new shore excursions, guests can discover a destination through activities designed to match their interests.

From immersive sightseeing tours and wellness experiences to fully bespoke “Private Journeys” and premium “Celebrity Exclusives,” the new shore excursions line-up includes four new categories of experiences for guests to choose from:

Uniquely Celebrity: Exclusive adventures in destinations only available with Celebrity Cruises, which include:

  • A luxurious day spent as a Sultan in Istanbul, Turkey
  • The opportunity to row across the deep blue glaciers in Ketchikan, Alaska
  • A zero to sixty Ferrari adventure in Cannes, France

Culture and Locale: Culturally focused experiences for holidaymakers who are keen to delve into the heart of the destination:

  • An evening experience of classical music, champagne and rare works of art at the world-famous Faberge Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Live concert event in the 14th-century, secret Basilica del Pi in Barcelona, Spain

Lifestyle and Wellness: Guests can set their pace and choose to focus on creativity, rejuvenation, lifestyle and wellness to nurture mind, body and soul:

  • A scenic, guided nature walk in spectacular Melbourne, Australia
  • An interactive and enriching wellness experience in Skagway, Alaska

Family: Enriching experiences, sightseeing journeys and competitive adventures for the whole family that uncover the history and culture of the destination:

  • A family Flamenco dance-off in Barcelona, Spain
  • Exhilarating sailing plus a mini regatta in Kings Wharf, Bermuda
  • A castle and treasure hunt adventure in Copenhagen, Denmark

Celebrity Cruises has also launched more than 70 new excursions including exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences at world famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, as well as interactive wellness experiences which include a tour of the lush Jewell Gardens in Alaska.

To celebrate the new programme and for a limited time, guests can enjoy savings and special benefits when they pre-book shore excursion packages in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe on selected 2015 sailings.

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, Cruise News
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