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

A Visit To Cruise & Maritime Voyages Magellan

MagellanCMV

Cruise and Maritime voyages newest fleet addition Magellan was in Port of Tyne on Saturday and of course, I had to go and see her.

She may not be the most attractive cruise ship in the world on the outside, but on the inside, she is a little beauty!

I boarded via Deck 5 which led directly into the lobby, home to the shore excursions desk and reception. From here I would start my tour, beginning with cabins on Deck 7 and 8.

I started with an inside cabin and what a surprise it was! Much bigger than I was expecting and the décor was rather pleasant too. The outside cabins were more or less the same size as the inside and there wasn’t much, if any, size variation per deck. The suites were a step up and I instantly liked what I was seeing. The colour scheme throughout was very tasteful, there were large flat-screen TV’s on the walls, the bathrooms were wide and tiled, with some offering full size Jacuzzi tubs, and balcony sizes were quite good too – it felt like a very modern ship, even though she is coming up to her 30th birthday. There was bottled water and a few little nibbles in the cabins, but suite guests were also showered with champagne, fresh fruit and canapes. I also liked the light features that adorned the walls behind the beds in the suites, I bet they look very pretty in the evening with the lights turned off.

Twin inside cabin. Outside were exactly the same, but with a window.

Twin inside cabin. Outside were exactly the same, but with a window.

Partial view of the Windsor Suite - 1102

Partial view of the Windsor Suite – 1102

From the cabin decks I moved on to some of the public areas starting with the Main Pool on Deck 10. If the sun had been shining I imagine there would have been quite a few people relaxing in this area, but as it was not, it offered a chance to see the space sun lounger free – ahhh, those lovely wooden decks! There was also a poolside grill. Next it was on to Raffles Bistro, Magellan’s buffet option, which is directly behind the pool. It was very spacious with a nice central layout – plenty of space between stations! The food looked nice too, it had obviously just been put out and the calamari looked tempting. Raffles is right at the aft of the ship and also offers an al-fresco option – weather permitting – on the Lido Deck, which houses 2 Jacuzzi’s and a small round pool.

Continuing on with my tour I popped my head through just about every doorway that I came across. The spa was a decent size and well-equipped, as was the gym. Hampton’s Lounge was quite big and perfectly located right outside the Kensington Restaurant – perfect for pre and post-dinner cocktails! I have to say that I absolutely loved the Kensington Restaurant. The décor was a mix of dark wood and bright green carpet/ upholstery and it worked beautifully! Going on colour scheme alone it was my favourite area. If it were my main dining restaurant, I would be one very happy passenger.

Kensington Restaurant

Kensington Restaurant

The Show Lounge on Deck 9 was in use during my visit, passengers were watching a movie, so I couldn’t see it in full light but it was a massive space. Given the size of Magellan, I hadn’t quite expected her main lounge to be so vast. I “borrowed” an image from CMV to show you what it looks like with the lights on. This image was actually taken from where I was standing when I first walked in, which was on the deck above what you can see in the image and several rows deep with seating. Hopefully that gives you an idea of the size.

Magellan Show Lounge

Magellan Show Lounge

Sinatra’s Lounge, Scott’s Nightclub, Captain’s Lounge and the Waldorf Restaurant were my next haunts. The Waldorf was very similar in layout to the Kensington, but didn’t offer quite as an impressive colour scheme, it was quite bland in comparison to be honest. Sinatra’s Lounge oozed Rat Pack and vintage Hollywood glamour, and I loved it. You would definitely catch me in there for a pre-dinner drink (and maybe one for the road too).

Sinatra Lounge

Sinatra Lounge

One thing about Magellan that was instantly noticeable was the feeling of space! Not one single area felt cramped, even the cabin decks are super wide in comparison to a LOT of ships out there today – You could easily walk side-by-side from one end to the other and still have room to spare.Her public areas were exactly the same too. Picture Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music when the hills come alive in the opening scene – you could do that everywhere onboard Magellan and not touch another soul.

I chatted with a few passengers (whilst I cheekily waited for the shuttle bus) and they each said how nice Magellan was, how good her crew were and that they didn’t want to get off. There was also one couple I passed onboard who couldn’t say enough good things about their cabin stewardess, and you could see the girl was warmed by it. I guess that says it all really!

I left feeling like I should probably spend more than just an hour or two onboard, more like a week or two ;)

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Posted in Cruise & Maritime Voyages

Royal Caribbean Takes Delivery Of Anthem Of The Seas

AnthemDelivery

Royal Caribbean International today officially took delivery of its 23rd ship, Anthem of the Seas, at a signing ceremony held in Bremerhaven, Germany.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain received the second of the global holiday company’s Quantum-class ships from Meyer Werft Yard’s Managing Partner Bernard Meyer.

Anthem of the Seas now sails to Southampton, where she will be home-ported for her inaugural season of sailings to the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. The ship will be inaugurated on April 20, when travel agent Godmother Emma Wilby will be responsible for naming the ship before performing a special song for more than 1,300 invited guests and dignitaries.

Passengers on board the new ship can experience a wide range of unmatched onboard innovations, such as the North Star aerial observatory, a glass capsule that takes guests more than 300 feet above the ocean for incomparable panoramic views; RipCord by iFLY skydiving and FlowRider surfing simulators; and SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating and more.

Passengers can enjoy an expansive array of delicious fare in 18 distinctive on board restaurants and enjoy Royal Caribbean Productions’ industry-renowned entertainment in Music Hall, the Royal Theater, and the Royal Esplanade.

Anthem of the Seas spans 16 guest decks, encompasses 167,800 gross registered tonnes, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy and features 2,090 staterooms. In November, New York Harbour will be the ship’s permanent home, sailing regularly from Cape Liberty Cruise Port to Bermuda, the Caribbean and Canada and New England.

Enjoy the infographic below, it details everything about her fit out.

AnthemoftheSeas_FitOut

Info courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

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Posted in Cruise News, Royal Caribbean International

Britannia: A Maiden Voyage In Pictures

March 14th 2015, was a very special day indeed, as P&O Cruises newest fleet addition Britannia would leave her homeport of Southampton on her maiden voyage.

That 2-week cruise was quite possibly one of the most highly anticipated of my entire cruising life, so far. Waiting a year from booking until sailing was absolute torture, but it really was worth it!

There were many things I liked about Britannia – her atrium was out of this world and it became one of my favourite places to sit and watch the world go by. I knew it was going to be impressive, but seeing really is believing!

I was a huge fan of the food in The Glass House. The actual area of the atrium that it housed was very nice too, but I will be totally honest and tell you that I just kept going back for the food! Tapas (which included prawns) and steak (which could also include prawns) – what more could you possibly want?!

Her Lido Deck was fresh, modern and offered so much space! I imagine during warmer cruises that this area will be a hive of activity around the clock. I enjoyed sitting here in the daytime, reading my book, and I enjoyed passing through of an evening when the pools were lit up and the bars were closed – it was very peaceful.

Sunset Bar was another of my favourite places because from here you could watch the ships wake. Heaven. The deck furniture and greenery added a nice touch and you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were at a swanky beach front bar. I really did like this space. There was also a food station here, I never did see any food, but I expect when the weather is better it may become home to light snacks. I suppose we wait and see.

The Live Lounge was my preferred evening haunt, a nice space that offered nightly entertainment and then a live DJ. It was a great space to meet up with some of my fellow passengers that had ultimately become friends.

I didn’t find anything onboard that I would say I disliked or caused me a great issue, but there was one thing that I struggled to get used to and that was the fact that Britannia has no mid-ship stairwell above Deck 7. It didn’t matter how many times I trekked the Deck, thinking I could skip down the stairs further along the ship, I always arrived there and swiftly wanted to kick myself for forgetting the stairs were non-existent.

I can’t wait to cruise on her again. She was everything and more than I had expected and she is certainly a ship built for the next generation of loyal cruiser.

I suppose now would be a good time to actually show you some pictures, the blog being called ‘A Maiden Voyage in Pictures’ and all! ;)

Leaving Southampton on her Maiden Voyage.

Leaving Southampton on her Maiden Voyage

THAT Atrium!

THAT Atrium!

A baby monkey in Gibraltar - he was a bit smelly!

Baby monkey in Gibraltar – he was a bit smelly!

Tapas in The Glass House

Tapas in The Glass House

James Martin giving us directions in Barcelona ;)

Celebrity Chef James Martin giving us directions in Barcelona ;)

A dog with dreadlocks

A dog with dreadlocks going for walkies in Barcelona

Let me get the most important area out of the way first - SHOPPING!

SHOP! ;)

The Cookery Club

The Cookery Club

The Epicurean Restaurant - Britannia's fine dining experience, with questionable artwork ;)

The Epicurean Restaurant – Britannia’s fine dining experience, with questionable artwork ;)

EricLanlardAfternoonTea

Eric Lanlard Afternoon Tea in the Epicurean Restaurant

 

The Arena Bar - directly opposite the Basketball Court

The Arena Bar – directly opposite the Basketball Court

Brodies Bar

Brodies Bar

BritanniaAerial

At anchor in Monte Carlo

Menton, one of the last towns in France before you reach the Italian border.

Menton, one of the last towns in France before you reach the Italian border

One of her sexy tender boats

One of her sexy tender boats

Headliners Theatre

Headliners Theatre

One of Eric Lanlard's creations in the Market Cafe

One of Eric Lanlard’s creations in the Market Cafe

One of just 2 sunsets we were blessed with minus cloud!

One of just 2 sunsets we were blessed with minus cloud!

The Limelight Club - dinner and a show

The Limelight Club – dinner and a show

The new look deck plan - apologies for the wonky picture!

The new look deck plan – apologies for the wonky picture!

Soft shell crab in Sindhu

Soft shell crab in Sindhu – EPIC!!!

Probably my favourite area onboard

Probably my favourite area onboard

Sunset Bar

Sunset Bar

The Hydrotherapy Pool in the Spa

The Hydrotherapy Pool in the Spa

A great British sailaway!

A great British sailaway!

I hope you enjoyed the selection, I couldn’t possibly have shared every single one with you – it would have taken me a month to upload them all.

I wonder where she will take me next…………………….

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Posted in P&O Cruises

I Have NO Cruise Control

IHaveNoCruiseControl

I have no cruise control, so I suppose that means I am just like you – you must have a voyage in mind, it doesn’t necessarily need to be booked, but it will be something you check the price of on a daily basis – am I right?

My obsession started before I even left the port following my first cruise in 2007. I was genuinely sad to be leaving behind what would become my gateway to the world, and since that day I have always either had something booked, or had a particular itinerary hanging by a string that I will monitor on a daily basis.

I really wish I knew what it was about cruise that hooked me so much. That’s what I tell people when they ask me because I can’t give a simple, straight forward answer. All I can say is that I absolutely love it. The smell, the food, the rough seas, the muster drill, the friends I make in both passengers and crew, the places I see, the fact that the itinerary could change at the last minute depending on the weather – everything!! And it is all of those things combined that force me to always have something in the shape of a cruise ship on the horizon.

People say they are addicted to cruising, I have even said it myself several times, and I really do believe it. That is why we have no cruise control. Firstly we can’t control it and secondly, deep down, we don’t want to control it – well I certainly don’t! My escapades used to be of the 2-week kind and once a year, but now I am incredibly lucky to travel frequently and to some incredible places. I have many moments where I sit and remind myself just how fortunate I am to be doing what I do, and I don’t ever want it to come to an end.

The biggest problem we have as hardcore cruisers is that non-cruisers just don’t get it. It can be pretty frustrating trying to explain to someone just what it is that has gripped you, but we ramble on and on and try our hardest to make them “see the light”. Eventually some of them do and we find ourselves with more people who too share our passion and ultimately become friends. There really is so much more to a cruise than it being a simple holiday, it really is becoming a way of life.

Recently, I was asked by someone if I would class myself as a cruise addict and I replied with an instant, YES! I was then asked question after question about why I would class myself as a cruise addict – you know, the usual questions we get – and I loved answering them all. These people were intrigued and I could see that my passion and excitement was starting to weed its way into their thoughts. They wanted to know more!

I will end my blog today by telling each and every one of you to be PROUD of your addiction, it may be a rather expensive one, but it does have its perks! ;)

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Posted in General Cruise Articles

MSC Cruises Launches 2016/17 Cruise Programme

MSCCruises2016SplendidaUK

The MSC Cruises 2016/17 brochure, which launches on April 2nd 2015, promises to be one of the best yet and, wait for it, we will finally have another selection of ex-UK voyages!

While the emphasis remains firmly on great-value fly-cruises and cruise-only to the Med, MSC Cruises is ramping up the choice on offer for UK guests by featuring itineraries aboard all of its 12 ships for summer 2016 – offering a total of 270 sailings on 22 itineraries. These will be made up of nine ‘core’ Med itineraries of seven nights; seven ‘longer’ Med itineraries of between nine and 12 nights; new Baltic and Norwegian fjords options; plus the chance to sail on one of
MSC Cruises’ largest Fantasia-class ships (MSC Splendida) from the UK for the first time.

The programme features a greater focus on cruises of eight nights or more. Introduced for summer 2015, longer sailings will operate in the shoulder seasons from Venice and Genoa on four ships – MSC Fantasia, MSC Lirica, MSC Opera and MSC Splendida.

Also new is the return of a limited ex-UK programme. MSC Splendida will operate six sailings from Southampton, including a round-Britain itinerary and continental coast cruise.

Meanwhile, MSC Cruises will continue to offer its comprehensive selection of winter sailings in the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Caribbean and Middle East across seven ships. For the first time, the popular Dubai winter season will be operated by one of MSC Cruises’ largest, Fantasia-class, ships, MSC Fantasia, with a tweak to the itinerary to include the debut of Bahrain.

For 2016/17 MSC Cruises has opted for a more contemporary look for its brochure, with the majority of itineraries presented over two pages. Colour-coded grids detailing prices for each cabin and Experience type have been introduced, with each giving the cost depending on seasonality.

As an added bonus, the brochure features four teaser pages with information about facilities planned for MSC Cruises’ exciting new-builds. The company has four ships on order – the innovative all-season STX Vista project vessels [4,500 passengers double occupancy] will launch in spring 2017 and 2019, while Fincantieri’s Seaside project ships [4,140 passengers double occupancy], are set to join the fleet in November 2017 and 2018.

Details revealed include the news that both classes of ship with have larger MSC Yacht Club areas, including luxurious duplex suites and suites with private whirlpool bath. Both will also feature ‘cluster cabins’, where three adjacent cabins can be linked together for families.

As announced earlier in March at Cruise Shipping Miami, the first ‘Seaside class’ vessel will be named MSC Seaside, and based year-round in Miami. The ship will feature an innovative and high-tech aqua park with four thrilling slide rides.

MSCSeaside

MSC Cruises 2016/17 brochure: what’s included and what’s new

Summer 2016

Seven-night sailings: Itineraries aboard all of MSC cruises’ 12 ships are featured in the new programme, with the emphasis on the eight vessels operating nine ‘core’ seven-night itineraries in the Mediterranean from Venice and Genoa [Flexible embarkation at other European ports, including Barcelona, Civitavecchia and Marseille also available]. Examples include…

MSC Preziosa: Seven-night Western Med fly-cruise from Genoa (Portofino), calling at Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Tunis, Tunisia; Palma, Majorca; Valencia, Spain; Marseille, France and Genoa. [Civitavecchia embarkation available].

MSC Divina: Seven-night Western Med fly-cruise from La Spezia, Italy, calling at Cannes, France; Palma, Majorca; Barcelona, Spain; Naples, Italy; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy;’ and La Spezia. June-October 2016. [Civitavecchia embarkation available].

MSC Magnifica: Seven-night Eastern Med fly-cruise from Venice, Italy, calling at Bari, Italy; Katakolon, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Dubrovnik, Croatia and Venice. March-Oct 2016.

MSC Poesia: Seven-night Western Med fly-cruise from Genoa (Portofino), calling at Salerno, Italy; Messina, Sicily; Valletta, Malta; Tunis, Tunisia; Barcelona, Spain; Marseille, France and Genoa. June-Oct 2016. [Barcelona embarkation available].

MSC Orchestra: Seven-night Eastern Med fly-cruise from Venice, Italy, calling at Bari, Italy; Katakolon, Greece; Santorini, Greece; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Kotor, Montenegro; and Venice. April-Oct 2016.

MSC Armonia: Seven-night Western Med fly-cruise from Genoa (Portofino), calling at Marseille, France; Palma, Majorca; Ibiza (late night departure); Olbia, Sardinia; Livorno, Italy; and Genoa. June-Sept 2016.

‘Longer’ cruises: An extended selection of ‘longer’ summer season fly-cruises (from nine to 12 nights) is featured. Seven itineraries are offered, with 27 sailings across four vessels. Examples include…

MSC Fantasia: Alternating 11-night Eastern and Western Med fly-cruises from Genoa. Sept-Nov 2016. Western sailing calls at Barcelona, Spain; Casablanca, Morocco; Santa Cruz, Tenerife; Funchal, Madeira; Malaga, Spain; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy and Genoa.

Eastern sailing calls at Katakolon, Greece; Alexandria, Egypt; Haifa, Israel; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy and Genoa.

MSC Lirica: Alternating 12-night fly-cruises from Venice to Black Sea and Red Sea. March-May 2016. Black Sea sailing calls at Bari, Italy; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Odessa, Ukraine; Constanta, Romania; Istanbul, Turkey; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice.

Red Sea sailing calls at Bari, Italy; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Haifa, Israel; Limassol, Cyprus; Alexandria, Egypt; Katakolon, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice.

Northern Europe (cruise-only): In response to customer enquiries two Northern Europe itineraries – to the Baltics Capitals and Norwegian Fjords – have been opened up to UK guests.

MSC Fantasia: Heading north for the first time, MSC Fantasia will operate a seven-night Baltics Capitals cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark. The ship calls at Stockholm, Sweden; Tallinn, Estonia; St Petersburg, Russia; Kiel, Germany and Copenhagen. May-August 2016.

MSC Opera: Seven-night Norwegian Fjords cruise from Copenhagen, calling at Warnemunde (Hamburg), Germany; Bergen, Norway; Hellesylt and Geiranger, Norway; Flaam, Norway; and Copenhagen.

Ex-UK sailings: MSC Splendida will offer six ex-UK sailings – the first time UK guests have been able to experience a Fantasia-class vessel in home waters.

The Southampton departures will include two 11-night round-Britain sailings in April and May  with calls including Le Havre, France; Hamburg, Germany; Invergordon; Kirkwall; Greenock; Dublin and Cork.

Additionally there will be four seven-night continental coastal cruises, featuring calls in Le Havre; Zeebrugge, Belgium; Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Hamburg.

MSCFantasiasummer2016cruises

Winter 2016/2017

Mediterranean: For some winter sun closer to home guests can opt for seven-night or 11-night cruises aboard MSC Splendida and MSC Magnifica.

MSC Splendida: Seven-night Western Med fly-cruise from Genoa (Portofino), calling at Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Tunis, Tunisia; Barcelona, Spain; Marseille, France and Genoa. Nov 2016-April 2017. [Civitavecchia embarkation available].

MSC Magnifica: Alternating 11-night Eastern and Western Med fly-cruise from Genoa. Nov 2016- April 2017.

Western sailing calls at Barcelona, Spain; Funchal, Madeira; Santa Cruz, Tenerife; Casablanca, Morocco; Malaga, Spain; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy and Genoa.  [Civitavecchia embarkation available].

Eastern sailing calls at Katakolon, Greece; Alexandria, Egypt; Haifa, Israel; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy and Genoa. [Civitavecchia embarkation available].

Caribbean: UK guests will again have the choice of two ships in the Caribbean – MSC Divina from Miami, US and MSC Poesia, operating out of Bridgetown, Barbados. Both ships will offer 14-night itineraries. In addition, MSC Divina will offer two special 10-night sailings to the Dutch Antilles and Central America.

MSC Divina: 14-night Western Caribbean fly-cruise from Miami calls at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Nassau, Bahamas; Miami; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; Nassau; and Miami. Nov 2016-March 2017.

10-night Central America sailing from Miami calls at Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Cartagena, Colombia; Cristobal, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Cozumel, Mexico and Miami. November 2016.

10-night Dutch Antilles cruise from Miami calls at La Romana, Dominican Republic; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Nassau, Bahamas; and Miami. November 2016.

MSC Poesia: 14-night fly-cruise from Bridgetown, Barbados, calling at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; St George, Grenada; Roseau, Dominica; Fort de France, Martinique; Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe; Philipsburg, St Maarten; Road Town, Tortola/British Virgin Islands; La Romana, Dominican Republic; Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis; St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda; Fort de France, Martinique; Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe; Castries, St Lucia; and Bridgetown. Dec 2016-Feb 2017.

Emirates: Demonstrating commitment to the region, MSC Cruises is raising capacity with the introduction of MSC Fantasia for its seven-night cruises from Dubai. The itinerary has been tweaked to give guests the opportunity to overnight in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, plus seen the introduction on up-and-coming tourism hotspot Bahrain.

MSC Fantasia: Seven-night fly-cruise from Dubai, calling at Abu Dhabi, Bahrain; Muscat, Oman and Dubai. Dec 2016-March 2017.

The Canary Islands: MSC Armonia returns to its winter home of the Canaries to operate more seven-night itineraries between Dec 2016 and Feb 2017. Two alternating seven-night sailings will combine the islands with either Madeira or Morocco. For example…

MSC Armonia: Seven-night Canary Islands and Morocco sailing from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria calls at Casablanca, Morocco; Agadir, Morocco; Arrecife, Lanzarote; Santa Cruz, Tenerife; and Las Palmas.

I am incredibly excited that MSC Cruises will be offering a collection of ex-UK sailings – we would love to have a ship here full time though! ;)

Info courtesy of MSC Cruises

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Posted in Cruise News, MSC Cruises

The Demons Of Disembarkation Day

DisembarkationDay

The title of my blog today may seem a little harsh, but I think we can all agree that at one time or another, we have each come across another passenger on the morning of disembarkation that we would have gladly thrown overboard – even though we were tied up alongside at the time. ;)

We spend a large part of our voyages getting to know new people, everything always seems so calm and relaxed, and incredibly friendly, but then disembarkation day arrives and suddenly people we once smiled at and said hello to in the cabin corridor have turned into stark raving lunatics that we just want to avoid. People suddenly lose their cool over the smallest of things.

Disembarkation day arrives and what are we all trying to do? We are ALL trying to get off the ship via the same exit – naturally, this takes time, but so many people seem to forget that and get themselves into such a miserable mood. Picture the scene. There are THREE AND A HALF THOUSAND PEOPLE trying to leave the ship and you are one of them, but it can’t be done on a first come first served basis, it needs to be structured and staggered. You are given instructions on where to meet and at what time – can we all just get there without the nastiness in-between, please?

I know that the biggest issue is the usage of the lifts, this is always the key ingredient when it comes to arguments, and I do appreciate that it is super frustrating when you have been waiting a long time – after 28 cruises, I too have done my fair share of waiting for lifts on disembarkation day, but only if I physically can’t walk down the decks because of the amount of baggage I have – but there is no excuse for taking that frustration out on other people.

Recently I watched two older gentleman exchange a balloon full of heated words during disembarkation, and then one pushed the other out of the lift. I know it can be stressful, but that’s no excuse for rudeness or a physical altercation. One guy had a bag on the floor, the bag was between the lift wall and his feet and was very small – essentially whether the bag was on the floor or not was irrelevant because it wasn’t big enough to cause a problem. A man got in the lift and with such a bad attitude said to the owner of the bag “does that bag have to be on the floor?” to which the other man simply replied “yes”. Words then went back and forth and eventually the man that owned the bag pushed the other out of the lift – twice. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears.

Disembarkation is not all negative though! Some people simply don’t let anything bother them. They sit there, quite content, waiting for the crew member in charge of the area to tell them they can leave and then off they go with not a care in the world.

I don’t think my blog today has a point as such, I just wanted to share some of my disembarkation day demons with you. I think 85% of us go about the process with a calm head, but I ask the other 15% to please just chill out! We are all trying to get to the same place and get there we will – 10-minutes, in the grand scheme of things, really makes NO difference.

Happy Disembarkation! ;)

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