Westbound Transatlantic Voyage Aboard Queen Mary 2

Image Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker

Image Credit: Andrew Sassoli-Walker

I boarded Queen Mary 2 in Southampton on July 17, and we are currently steaming west across the North Atlantic towards New York City – in fact, we are almost there! I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for our arrival in the Big Apple, but first let me tell you all about this grand ocean liner and what I’ve been doing.

Sea-Day-Queen-Mary-2

My Britannia Club Balcony Stateroom has been absolutely perfect. I really couldn’t have asked for better accommodation. I have a Queen-sized bed (with several HUGE and very comfortable pillows), a sofa, vanity area, large flat-screen TV and lots of wardrobe space. The bathroom is a reasonable size and features a shower, basin and toilet. The balcony is one of the biggest I have ever had on a ship and you can comfortably recline both chairs and still have room to manoeuvre. I have to say that I’ve fallen in love with the bed and the bedding. On Monday evening I was feeling extremely tired, so I decided to have an early night and within minutes of my head hitting the pillow I was in a deep sleep. I didn’t stir until  the following morning, I’d had roughly 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and I literally can’t tell you the last time I slept for longer than 4 hours at a time. If only there were a way to get the bed off the ship without anyone noticing!😉

Britannia-Club-Balcony-Queen-Mary-2

Before I joined Queen Mary 2, I selected first sitting in the Britannia Restaurant via my Voyage Personaliser, and as I’m on my own, I was placed on a table with 5 others whom are also travelling alone. It’s a nice mix of people and dinner with them has been a most pleasant experience. I even went along to the flower arranging class to see what Susan had been making during the hour – her delightful arrangement found its home on our table for dinner during the second formal night. I’ve not experienced fixed dining for quite some time and the change has been nice, we are also incredibly lucky to have a table right in the centre of the restaurant on Deck 2, which means we have marvelous  views all around and up to the level above.

Britannia-Restaurant-Deck-2-Queen-Mary-2

I’ve been really impressed with all of the food selections throughout the voyage. In the Kings Court I’ve had prawn skewers with peanut sauce at lunchtime, delicious link sausages and waffles at breakfast and a rather tasty shrimp salad for dinner. I’ve had lunch in the Golden Lion Pub a few times and that was also very good – I highly recommend the Chicken Tikka Masala and the fish and chips. The Britannia Restaurant has offered some very nice dishes, including delicious scallops from the CanyonRanch menu, Chateaubriand, pumpkin soup, seared sirloin steak and guinea fowl, the latter of which I’d never had before but really enjoyed. I can’t fault the food at all, it really has been superb and better than I had expected. I also want to take this opportunity to say how fantastic our waiters have been in the Britannia Restaurant. A team of young men who clearly take great pride in what they do. 

Chicken-Tikka-Masala-Golden-Lion-Cunard

Scallops-CanyonRanch-Cunard

The weather was very kind to us on our first day and then it went south until Friday when once again the sun made a welcome appearance. On day one, I found a seat on one of the aft decks and sat for most of it people watching and reading. Before I left on this trip, I found myself with a new little toy: a Kobo aura H2O. Usually I prefer to read a paper book, but I thought I’d give this new gadget a try – saying as I was limited on packing space – and I absolutely love it. I downloaded a few books before I left – which was incredibly easy to do, including what I am now finding out is a rather exciting ghost story about a family that move to a new house in the Sussex countryside, a house that seems to be cursed and haunted by an elderly lady and young family. I rarely get to read at home, but I can hardly put the Kobo down. It’s incredibly light, offers a full HD screen and, just in case, it’s waterproof! It also features a few built in games and a dictionary. I’ve literally carried it all over the ship and it fits perfect into my small handbag.

Kobo-Aura-H20

I’ve explored virtually everywhere now, I even went up to Deck 12 to see the dogs. There are 17 of them on this voyage (and 2 cats) and they include a gorgeous 12 year old Golden Retriever named Gatsby. I also had the pleasure of meeting the lovely lady below, her name is Ridley. She has travelled to more than 30 countries and enjoyed voyages aboard Queen Mary 2, several times. She is a beautiful dog and I’m hoping to give her a little spotlight in a future blog post. Watch this space…

Dog-On-Queen-Mary-2

Throughout the crossing I have been going along to the Royal Court Theatre for talks by former Brooklyn Borough President and current Vice President of NYC & Company, Emeritus Marty Markowitz. They have been so much fun and really got me in the mood for my time in NYC. His first talk focussed on Brooklyn and Staten Island, and his second talk was all about the Bronx, Queens and then Manhattan. He highlighted many points of interest – aside from the obvious – and really got your mind ticking over on all of the things that you could potentially see and do in the city. He also mentioned a place called Junior’s, which apparently do the best cheesecake in the world. I’m not a huge cheesecake lover, but he said they also do pretty good red velvet and I would never say no to a good slice of red velvet!

To my surprise, I’ve also managed to get my space fix during the crossing thanks to the onboard planetarium – the only one at sea – and several space related talks from Dr. Chris Crowe. I know pretty much everything these is to know about stars. His talks were fascinating and he really kept you engaged. I find sometimes that speakers can leave you feeling lost and worn out, but he really made it so easy to follow and to learn.

The planetarium was actually one of the venues I was most looking forward to experiencing onboard and it has been absolutely fantastic! The first short movie I watched was called ‘Asteroid-Mission Extreme’  and it was fascinating. It looked at ways in which mankind can prepare for asteroid impacts in the future and how we can possibly even use them to create fuel, which can be used in space to allow crafts to explore further than ever before. It was a great way to spend 25-minutes on a Wednesday afternoon at sea when it was blowing a gale outside. On Thursday, I also went along to watch the new short-movie ‘Cosmic Collisions’ and it was very good, probably my favourite of the two. This movie gave insight into how our moon came to be, and what will happen to some of the galaxies out there in the next few billion years. I have to admit that I’m a little bit in love with the planetarium, It is my new favourite place of any ship! Unique and educational at the same time – I hope they have some new offerings during my eastbound crossing.

qm2-planetarium

Boarding this ship for a voyage to New York has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and I’ll admit that as we sailed from Southampton, I felt quite teary-eyed at the fact that I was finally doing it. It really is a huge privilege to be here and now we are almost in New York, everything is becoming very real. I’ve had the most wonderful time onboard and I’ve met some very interesting people. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to them all, but I’ll also look forward to meeting new people and hearing new stories on my eastbound crossing.

Britannia-Restaurant-Queen-Mary-2

I will be getting up before sunrise tomorrow, to ensure I have enough time to get ready and be on deck before we pass under the Verrazano Bridge, and I am so looking forward to it! I can deal with the tiredness another day! I’m also trying self disembarkation for the first time, so I’ll let you know how that goes, in a future post.

I’ve got so much more to tell you, there are lots of future blog posts to come – that’s how fantastic this ship is!
When I leave Queen Mary 2 in Brooklyn I will be doing a 16-day east coast road trip with a friend of mine before boarding QM2 for the eastbound crossing back to Southampton on August 9, so I will check back in with you all as soon as I can. You can follow my day-to-day adventures, however, via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Posted in Cunard Cruise Line

Cunard Westbound Transatlantic Countdown

Queen-Mary-2-NYC

It’s almost time to begin my Cunard and American road trip adventure and I’m so excited that I had to do another pre-cruise blog.

I’ve never sailed on Queen Mary 2 before, but I did visit her once in Greenock in Scotland. As soon as I stepped aboard I felt like I had been taken back in time and I absolutely loved that about her, I had that same feeling when I boarded Queen Victoria, too. A lot has changed onboard Cunard’s flagship, however, since my last visit as she recently returned to the fleet following a multi-million-pound refurbishment – one of the most expensive refurbishments a cruise ship has ever had!

During her refurbishment she received 15 new Single Staterooms (I have one for my Eastbound crossing), which were definitely needed, and 30 additional Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms – her pre-existing Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms were all refurbished. All of her Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites were also refurbished as were the accompanying restaurants. The Winter Garden was transformed into the Carinthia Lounge, the Kings Court buffet was given some care and attention and The Verandah Restaurant was added. She also had extensive work done to her kennels, including the addition of some new homes at sea for our four legged friends. I think just about every single inch of her received some kind of attention, even the grand atrium was given a new lease of life and from the photos I have seen, looks absolutely wonderful.

This really is going to be an incredible experience and it’s one that I have been looking forward to for many, many years! I have a Britannia Club Balcony stateroom for my crossing to New York, but I’ll still be out on those open decks before sunrise on July 24, so I can see absolutely everything. I’m told you should be out on deck no later than 04:30, so I’ll be there 15 minutes early just to be sure. I should see the Verrazano Bridge dead ahead and Long Island to my right, as Queen Mary 2 passes under the bridge, the Manhattan Skyline should come into view and last but not least, the Statue of Liberty. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like the perfect way to not only start a day, but to start a road trip.

My arrival into Brooklyn will be a nice little teaser as I am not staying in New York City right away, in fact, the Big Apple is my last stop before once again joining Queen Mary 2 and sailing home, so I can have a glimpse of what is to come before returning for 5 days at the end of my east coast road trip.

I have only 2 more nights left in the UK before the adventure begins. It feels quite surreal to be honest, it’s taken such a long time to plan and map out and now all of a sudden the day is almost upon me. It has been 15 years since I was last in New York City and I’ve never been to the other places that I am visiting (Boston, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Lancaster Count, Washington D.C., Virginia, New York state, Lexington and Salem), so there are literally going to be new experiences around every corner.

I’ll be blogging live from Queen Mary 2 during my crossing, but I will have to go into radio silence during my time in America. I will be in a new location virtually every day, so it will be pretty difficult to write whilst on the road. However, if you do want to keep track of where I am and what I am doing, then please join me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – all of which will be active throughout the trip.

Until I board the most magnificent ocean liner in the world…have a great day!

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Posted in Cunard Cruise Line, General Cruise Articles

Never Cruised Before? Then You’re REALLY Missing Out!

Conquest

If you have never cruised before, then you REALLY are missing out on a wonderful holiday experience and I’m not just saying that because I love cruising, I’m saying it because it is true. There are some things about a cruise holiday that you will never experience on a land based break: visiting several destinations in one trip and only unpacking once being two of the biggest differences.

I’ve experienced so many wonderful things since I first started cruising and a lot of those things were born from my time onboard the ship. Of course, your time ashore is always going to leave fond memories behind, but there really is something about the ship herself that creates a whole other dimension to the holiday.

These are just a few of the things that I think make a cruise the perfect choice:

Sunsets

You will see some of the most amazing sunsets at sea, sunsets that you just don’t get on land. Imagine – you’re in the Caribbean aboard a cruise ship, the sun is starting to set and the only thing on the horizon is a sailing boat…unless you’re incredibly lucky, you’re not going to see that at home every day. I typically have the view of my neighbours’ house and their motor home, not quite the same!

Friendships

You can make friends on any type of holiday, but the beauty of a cruise born friendship is that you instantly have something in common: the love of cruise holidays! You have both picked your holiday because it is aboard a ship – and then comes the “so, is this your first cruise?” question and the rest as they say is history.

Food

The food onboard is superb and many dining venues at sea rival some of the best restaurants on land. You can eat around the clock (quite literally) and the majority is included in the cost of your cruise. There are a few restaurants onboard some ships that require an additional charge and I must admit, 95% of them really are worth trying! Some cruise lines also also offer all-inclusive options, so you don’t need to worry about a sky high onboard account at the end of your cruise.

Amazing Destinations

A cruise is the only type of holiday that lets you visit several destinations while only having to unpack once and for me that is absolutely perfect. Going back to the actual destinations, however, there are so many incredible places you can visit and some of those places are not accessible by land – you have to sail the Seven Seas to reach them! You could go from the remote and relatively untouched landscape of Antarctica to a 2-week family cruise in the Mediterranean. The choices are endless!

Kids and Family Activities

OK, so a lot of land based hotels have some pretty cool kids facilities, but the ones at sea (on some ships) are on a whole other level. Many of the cruise ships today that are aimed towards families not only have dedicated kids club areas (per age group) they also have an impressive selection of other features and activities that the entire family can enjoy together: water parks, slides, ice rinks, climbing walls, SkyRide (Carnival Vista), The Plank (Norwegian Escape) and very soon, thanks to MSC Cruises, a go-kart track!

These are just some of the things that make cruising such a great choice, but I could continue this list for another 4 days! I haven’t mentioned the onboard accommodations, the fact that the crew are absolutely superb and look after their passengers like their own family, or the time I was sunbathing on deck and spotted a submarine surface!

What do you think makes cruising the ideal choice? Leave your comments below.

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Posted in General Cruise Articles, New To Cruising

2017 Strictly Come Dancing Themed Cruises With P&O Cruises

Strictly-Come-Dancing-PO-Cruises

Strictly Come Dancing is back on board P&O Cruises in 2017 for more dazzling performances across the Med and Baltic from some of your favourite professional dancers and the outspoken judges everyone loves to hate. Guests can sit back and enjoy the sizzling shows, or get in on the action and try the Tango, Quickstep or Salsa.

2017 dates for P&O Cruises Strictly Come Dancing themed cruises include:

  • A 14-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Azura (A708) departing April 2, 2017.
  • A 14 night Western Mediterranean cruise on Ventura (N711) departing April 30, 2017.
  • A 14-night Baltic cruise on Britannia (B716) departing June 4, 2017.
  • A 14-night Central Mediterranean cruise on Britannia (B718) departing June 25, 2017.

The Strictly professional dancers and judges who will be on board each cruise will be announced later in the year.

In association with BBC Worldwide, each cruise will feature a guest judge and four of the BBC’s show’s favourite professional dancers with the opportunity to meet them and maybe learn a move or two from the experts themselves during the regular dance classes on board.

The Strictly team will offer up close and personal interviews on board, photo and meet and greet opportunities, and spectacular Strictly Come Dancing showcase performances produced by BBC Worldwide.

P&O Cruises will also be joined by a team from DanceSport International, suppliers of dresses and costumes to the show. A stunning selection of these costumes will be on display around the ship, and available to buy, with organised fashion events to showcase them at their very best.

The highlight of the two-week cruises is the passenger dance competition which culminates in a grand finale performance in the ship’s main theatre, with a judging panel including a Strictly professional dancer and guest judge.

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Posted in Cruise News, P&O Cruises

MSC Meraviglia Will Be Summer 2017’s Ultimate Destination

MSC Meraviglia by night

With just twelve months to go until the first guests set sail on board MSC Meraviglia, MSC Cruises – the Swiss-based world’s largest privately-owned cruise line and brand market leader in Europe, South America and South Africa – has today revealed further details of its first next-generation smart ship.  Designed around meeting every need of its guests, MSC Meraviglia will introduce new, cutting edge ways to connect holidaymakers seamlessly with the experiences that matter to them, whether at sea or on land.

With the first cruise scheduled for 4 June 2017 MSC Meraviglia will feature the ultimate in entertainment, a broad range of dining options and luxurious wellness choices. In addition to the onboard experience, the ship will spend the inaugural summer season sailing the western Mediterranean – calling at beautiful, historic destinations with a unique, tailored programme of excursions to immerse guests in local culture and tastes.

Exclusive, world-class entertainment from Cirque du Soleil

The highlight of the onboard entertainment will be represented by the world leader in artistic performance, Cirque du Soleil, thanks to the exclusive Cirque du Soleil at Sea partnership with MSC Cruises.

Two unique Cirque du Soleil shows will be performed 6 nights per week in the purpose-built Carousel Lounge on board. An exclusive on-site dinner service for up to 50 of the 450 guests booked for the show, which elevates MSC Cruises’ exquisite dining and award-winning entertainment to yet another level. This is a unique experience that cannot be had anywhere else at sea – or in the world.

Enriched family offering and cutting-edge entertainment for all ages

With MSC Meraviglia, MSC Cruises continues to evolve and enrich the family options that have historically been at the core of its offering. The facilities and services for families on every MSC Cruises holiday are designed to ensure that it is engaging for all members of the family, both together and individually.

For the first time on any MSC Cruises ship, all the facilities for families, children and teens are in one place in a super amusement park and children’s area.  This means families have a dedicated area especially designed for their needs, providing a safe place for children and an opportunity to meet and get to know other families. This area includes the DOREMI Studio Lounge, a dedicated lounge for all family activities; DOREMI Tech Lab, a must-visit destination for children who love technology, as well as facilities designed in partnership with family experts including the LEGO Group and Chicco.

Amongst other features, the onboard Aqua Park will include four action-packed water slides, a splash pool and champagne bowl. And the Himalayan Bridge will thrill adventure seekers who can attach themselves to a rope and cross the ship, 60 metres above the water.

MSC Meraviglia, Young Club

Comfortable accommodation to meet every need

The innovative accommodation on MSC Meraviglia demonstrates the way that MSC Cruises puts the guest at the heart of its designs and ship building – the way in which only a family-owned business can. With 10 different types of cabin to choose from, there really is something for everyone.

The Yacht Club – MSC Meraviglia features an enhanced Yacht Club with luxurious accommodation, now spanning three decks with 78 suites, 15 inside cabins and two apartments. The two coveted apartment suites are designed with a large living room and two balconies, one of which is a large outdoor space that has a dining table for eating al fresco and a private whirlpool.

With luxury comparable to that of a private yacht, it also provides key benefits including the Top Sail Lounge, an entirely self-contained private club offering panoramic sea views, and the One Pool Deck, featuring a private pool, whirlpool baths and solarium.  A private lift will transport guests discreetly to the MSC Aurea Spa to experience the delights of an authentic Balinese spa, with an exclusive MSC Yacht Club massage and treatment room.

Modular cabins designed with the needs of families in mind – The trend for multi-generational holidays is further met on this ship with a clever modular cabins system, unique to MSC Cruises.  Up to three cabins can be combined together to accommodate up to 10 guests.

In addition to the modular cabins, quadruple cabins can accommodate a family of up to four people each. With a living space in the daytime, and a sofa that turns into a comfortable bed by night the set up makes the most effective use of space in the cabin.

MSC Meraviglia, Family cabin

A truly unprecedented choice of both fine and casual dining options

An array of both fine and casual dining options are available across 12 venues on board MSC Meraviglia, all of them serving fresh, authentic food. The buffet is open 20-hours a day, which will serve a delicious array of Mediterranean specialities and international cuisines – including world food, “itinerary” and wellness corners plus a multitude of other tastes and dietary needs catered for around-the-clock.

In addition, fine dining options examples include the award-winning Kaito Sushi Bar, the new Kaito Teppanyaki Restaurant and an American-style steakhouse with specialty meats from around the world (details of additional fine dining options will be revealed in due course).

The 96 metre-long Mediterranean-style promenade

Another outstanding feature of MSC Meraviglia is the impressive Mediterranean-style indoor promenade, featuring an 80 metre LED sky that creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere 24 hours a day.  With stunning visuals and effects, the Promenade will be the social centre of the ship and a focal point for a broad range of leisure activities. Guests can stroll up and down, sit back and soak up the atmosphere, shop until their hearts’ content or snack on delicious ice cream or crepes from Jean Philippe Maury, the award-winning French chocolatier and pastry chef.

MSC-Meraviglia-Ship

Elegant pools for daytime relaxation and night-time entertainment

MSC Meraviglia offers guests a choice of three elegantly designed pools:

  • The main pool on deck 15 is inspired by the cool vibes of Miami’s South Beach. At approximately 25 metres long, it has the most generous poolside space at sea. By night, the pool becomes a visual spectacle, illuminated with special lighting.  There is also a buffet nearby with inside and outdoor dining options, providing guests with more convenience and optimal relaxation time.
  • As MSC Meraviglia is the ship for all seasons, there is a 10 metre indoor pool with a magrodome that can be opened when the ship is in port or simply when the sun is shining!
  • Finally, the Aft Pool on deck 16 offers spectacular views from the back of the ship, while by night it is transformed into a space where guests can dance the night away under the stars.

Aft Pool by night

MSC-Meraviglia-Pool

These are just some of the special features of the incredible MSC Meraviglia and more will be revealed soon.

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Posted in Cruise News, MSC Cruises

ORCA Celebrate A Decade Of Wildlife Spotting On Saga Cruises

Saga-Sapphire

ORCA was formed in 2001, devoting time to studying sea life and protecting it for future generations. In 2006 Saga and ORCA started their Wildlife partnership, with members of their team spending time on board Saga ships, particularly where the itinerary and locations are perfect for spotting an abundance of marine mammals. Now, a decade on, ORCA are reporting record sightings of wildlife from Saga’s cruise ships, Saga Sapphire and Saga Pearl II.

In 2015, ORCA Wildlife Guide Teams were present on 6 Saga cruises sailing to Norway, the Arctic Circle, Iceland, and Mediterranean and traversing the Atlantic to Canada. ORCA Wildlife Guides on board spotted an amazing 5,866 marine mammals – showcasing these beautiful creatures to the passengers on board.

This included an incredible 19 different cetacean species (the collective term for whales, dolphins and porpoises), along with various seal, turtle, shark and fish species.

Common-Dolphins-Ice-Fire-Fjords

Marine wildlife highlights include:

  • A pod of 128 long-finned pilot whales including 25 calves seen in Norway in March 2015
  • A blue whale, the largest animal that has ever existed on earth, seen off the cost of Portugal in July 2015
  • Rare and illusive True’s beaked whales sighted when crossing the Atlantic on the way to Canada in October 2015
  • 20 orca and killer whales seen in one day in Iceland – all showing themselves very clearly and close to the ship giving passengers some wonderful and memorable sightings
  • Juvenile humpback whale seen when leaving Dover in March 2015 – a very unusual sighting!
  • An incredible 1,270 individual animals seen in one day on a Mediterranean cruise in July 2015

Since ORCA and Saga began their partnership an incredible 20, 196 cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) have been recorded. Of all marine life (including seals, turtles, and some shark species) 20,834 animals have been recorded.

When ORCA Wildlife Guides are on board Saga cruises, passengers can look forward to deck watches, a programme of talks and optional wildlife excursions, to get up close to many of these amazing animals.

Humpback-Whale-Ice-Fire-Fjords

In 2016 ORCA Wildlife Guides will be present on 11 Saga cruises, with a further 11 cruises confirmed for 2017 including:

Saga Sapphire

  • Anniversary Cruise – 20 May 2017
  • The Faroes and Land of Ice and Fire – 18 June 2017
  • Canada in the Fall – 15 September 2017

Saga Pearl II

  • Northern Lights Adventure – 28 February 2017
  • Azores and Canaries in Spring – 22 March 2017
  • North Cape Adventurer – 28 May 2017
  • A Med Trio – 12 June 2017
  • Icelandic Explorer – 30 June 2017
  • Summertime in the Fjords – 28 July 2017
  • A Spanish Sojourn – 20 August 2017
  • Contrast of the Canaries and Cape Verde – 1 November 2017

During my cruise last summer aboard Saga Sapphire, the ORCA team were onboard and it really added a wonderful depth to the voyage. It was nice to stand out on deck and know that if you spotted something, it could be more or less instantly identified. It was also incredibly interesting to learn more about ORCA and how their research is vital in maintaining the safety of our marine life. You can read more about it in my ORCA blog.

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Posted in Saga Cruises

Cunard Reveals Queen Mary 2 Remastered

Queen-Mary-2-Refurbishment

Queen Mary 2 will set sail today on her first voyage following an investment in the region of $132 million, one of the most significant refurbishments undertaken by the world’s most venerable passenger shipping line, now marking 176 years in operation.

Today, she sailed into Southampton and will this afternoon set sail for New York, continuing her schedule of iconic transatlantic crossings, a unique journey that has been enjoyed across the decades by famous personalities from the Golden Age of Ocean travel including Audrey Hepburn, Clarke Gable and Winston Churchill, to political figures and luminaries of today such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President George H.W. Bush, film maker Wes Anderson, actress Tilda Swinton, James Taylor, and many others.

The luxury liner has been lovingly remastered with new contemporary interior designs and guest experiences, some of which take inspiration from the original Queen Mary that launched at the height of the art-deco movement in the 1930s. Cunard’s investment, marking 80 years since the original liner launched, has ensured every detail from the carpets to the curtains recalls that iconic vessel which became a symbol of British elegance.

 The remastering features:

  • Redesign and refurbishment of the Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites and restaurants, as well as Britannia staterooms, the latter to be fully complete by the end of the year
  • The addition of 30 further Britannia Club staterooms, 15 Britannia single staterooms and five Britannia inside staterooms
  • Redesign of key public spaces and restaurants, including the transformation of the former Winter Garden into the Carinthia Lounge, the introduction of The Verandah as the ship’s new speciality restaurant, and the complete refresh and restructuring of the Kings Court, the ship’s popular buffet area
  • 10 additional kennels, complete with Liverpool lamp post and New York fire hydrant to make dogs feel at home in the world’s only transatlantic kennel service
  • And as befitting the flagship of the Cunard fleet, a complete repaint of the ship exterior and significant technical enhancements and structural changes

Over one million man hours has gone in to the refurbishment, over a 25-day period, 594,000 square feet of luxurious new carpets (the equivalent of 10 British football pitches) has been laid, 4,000 new framed pictures have been brought on board and over 3,900 gallons of paint have been applied to the ship’s hull – are just a few examples of the sheer size and scale of these refurbishments.

The essence of Queen Mary 2 lies in allowing guests to lose themselves in a world of glamour, timeless sophistication and luxury. Alongside brand new dining experiences, guests can sample the delights of the world’s finest wine cellar at sea, with a unique collection of 486 fine wines and a stunning collection of Ports, dating back to 1840.

This modern icon also plays host to some of the finest quintessential British and international brands, with an exclusive co-branded travel collection from Aspinal of London, and sought after Cartier products available for guests to purchase whilst on board.

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Posted in Cruise News, Cunard Cruise Line

Cunard And An American Road Trip

Queen-Mary-2-New-York

My next big trip of 2016 is just a few weeks away (26-days to be exact!), so I wanted to start telling you about it – I’ve not mentioned it much, but as the planning stages are almost complete, it’s definitely time to share!

I’ll be joining the newly refurbished Queen Mary 2 on July 17 for a 7-night transatlantic crossing to New York (I’m so excited!). If that wasn’t enough, I will then be staying in America for just over 2 weeks before sailing back to Southampton, again aboard Queen Mary 2.

Although I am cruising solo to and from America, I won’t be on my own once my feet touch dry land. I’ll be picked up from the Brooklyn cruise port by my friend Marian (a.k.a. TravelShopGirl) and we are hitting the road and exploring several states on the east coast: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts – with a drive through Connecticut en-route to NYC.

It really is going to be an incredible trip and it has taken months of planning, but it will all be worth it! My aim is to give you tips and ideas on things to do and places to see if you wanted to do a pre-or-post-cruise land stay in one or more of the states that we visit, or if you just wanted to hop on a plane or jump in the car and visit one of these wonderful places without a cruise ship even being involved. Several of the states on our route have major cruise ports at their finger tips, so for us cruise lovers, they are pretty much the gateway to hundreds of amazing little adventures that you could have on the U.S. east coast.

America-East-Coast

I don’t want to tell you everything that we are doing…I have to keep some surprises, but so far our trip looks a little like this:

New jersey – A night at the Golden Nugget Resort and Casino in Atlantic City. I’ve always wanted to stroll the AC Boardwalk and Steel Pier, so finally I have the opportunity.

Delaware – We are driving all the way to Delaware just to enjoy the festivities of the annual summer state fair, which is held in Harrington. Hot dogs, cotton candy and traditional fairground rides await.

Washington D.C. – I think this one is pretty obvious – I’m going to the White House – but we will also be crossing into Virginia to visit Arlington Cemetery.

Maryland – it’s all about baseball in Baltimore! I’ve always wanted to watch a baseball game, so we are going to cheer on the Orioles as they take on the Colorado Rockies.

Pennsylvania – OK, this is where it gets really interesting (and rather unique), as Marian and I spent a long time arranging a Paranormal Investigation at Eastern State Penitentiary. Don’t worry, we aren’t going on our own – several friends are joining us. During our time in Pennsylvania we will also be exploring Lancaster County A.K.A. Amish Country. I’ve wanted to visit this area since I was young, I’ve always been quite fascinated with the Amish, so this is a bucket list thing for me, for sure.

New York – We are visiting the city,  of course, but first we will be taking a mid-journey break at Bear Mountain. After a lot of time on the road and visiting so many new places, it will be nice to just enjoy nature and that – along with some outlet shopping – is exactly what we are going to do. At the end of the trip we will spend 5 days in New York City and do all the tourist stuff!

Massachusetts – We are visiting Lexington, Salem and Boston, so it’s going to be an action packed few days! I’m really looking forward to visiting the House of Seven Gables in Salem, a colonial mansion built in 1668 that was made famous by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables.

So that’s a brief outline of what we will be doing and as you can see, when it comes to attractions, we have a selection of many things to suit many tastes. As it is the summer when I visit, a lot of the things we are doing are outdoors, but you can still do many of them in the spring and autumn months, too.

I have a mini road trip and 2 cruises to think about, so I better start considering packing – and keeping it sensible!

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Posted in Cunard Cruise Line, General Cruise Articles

Norwegian Jewel To Sail From Australia In Autumn 2017

Norwegian-Jewel-Australia

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced several itineraries for the company’s autumn/winter 2017/2018 deployment, featuring a wide array of itineraries that include exciting new Australia & New Zealand itineraries from Sydney and Auckland, all offering Norwegian’s signature freedom and flexibility cruise experience.

Beginning on 3 October 2017, Norwegian Jewel’s inaugural Australasian itineraries will bring guests to some of the region’s most incredible ports, with a variety of Hawaii, French Polynesia and South Pacific cruises, as the ship sails from Vancouver to Sydney.  Highlights of Norwegian Jewel’s inaugural season in Australia include seven Sydney round-trip cruises featuring a five-night Sydney-Tasmania-Sydney cruise departing on 12 November, 2017, as well as a nine-night voyage visiting many burgeoning regional destinations including Eden, Kangaroo Island and Tasmania’s Burnie, departing 14 December 2017. Norwegian Jewel’s ten to 16-night Australia and New Zealand itineraries depart between November 2017 and February 2018, with highlights including cruising through New Zealand’s striking Milford Sound and the spectacular Bay of Islands. Norwegian Jewel will make her way from Sydney to Singapore on an 18-night adventure departing 20 February 2018 where guests can enjoy the best of Far North Queensland, Darwin, and enjoy a visit to the enchanting Komodo Island. In a nod to Norwegian Jewel’s new homeport, guests will be treated to the finest local Australian cuisine including regional beef, lamb, seafood, fine wines and ales on her voyages, along with award-winning entertainment featuring the epic home-grown ballroom spectacular Burn the Floor while she’s in Australia.

Following her Australian season, Norwegian Jewel will undertake a range of exotic Asian itineraries visiting Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Korea and more, offering Australian travellers the opportunity to explore some of the best Asia has to offer.

 

 

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Posted in Cruise News, Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Fjords With Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Fred-Olsen-Balmoral-Norway

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral sailed into Newcastle with the promise of a 5-night scenic cruising voyage to Norway, taking in 2 ports of call: Bergen and Eidfjord. I visited Norway a few years ago on a cruise; that particular itinerary was to the Arctic Circle and as you can imagine, it was rather cold! This cruise, however, would bring stunning scenery, warm days, superb food and a ship that has so much charm and character that I was reluctant to disembark in Port of Tyne, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves… I’ve not told you anything about the trip yet!

It was a wet and miserable day, but Balmoral was warm and inviting and I was desperate to get aboard. Check-in was swift and I was soon in my cabin, unpacking. I had a balcony cabin on Deck 6 and it was a lot bigger than I had expected- I was rather pleased, I have to say. Not only was there enough wardrobe storage, the cabin was also wide enough to allow me to keep my suitcase open on the floor without it being an obstruction – it was a 5-night cruise, I wasn’t going to unpack completely! My cabin also had the best air conditioning of any ship I have ever been on! I turned it down and it was instantly cold, I turned it up and it was instantly hot. I whinge and moan about one thing on every cruise and that’s the air con in the cabin, but this time I was a very happy cruiser. I hate nothing more than being too hot when I am trying to sleep, but Balmoral kept me nicely chilled.

Balcony-Cabin-Fred-Olsen-Balmoral

Balmoral is traditional in many ways and that’s one of the things I love about the Fred. Olsen fleet as a whole. I can sit on the open deck and see the sea – it may sound ridiculous, but you don’t get that from a lot of cruise ships these days because they are bursting with this, that and everything in between. I spent every evening on Balmoral outside watching the world go by and I was in my absolute element. That is my happy place and the place where I can think, collect together my ideas and just enjoy being at one with the world. There’s nothing more peaceful than watching the sun set across the open ocean – or in this case, in a stunning Fjord where snow-capped mountains tower above you and remind you just how small you are in the world.

Sunset-Norway-Fjords-Cruise

Sunrise-Norway-Fjords

My main dining venue during the cruise was The Spey restaurant on Deck 10 and what superb views it offered! We were very lucky that our table was right at the back of the restaurant, set against the glass doors, so we almost had panoramic views. I’m jumping ahead a little now, but on the evening we left Eidfjord the views were absolutely beautiful. I have NEVER been in such awe of my surroundings as I was that night. The huge round windows in the restaurant became moving picture frames and it was just incredible. My pictures will never do it true justice, you really had to see it for yourself, but I’ve added a few below for you to see – yes, I managed to sneak outside so that my pictures weren’t taken through glass.

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Our first port of call was Bergen and I was quite excited to head ashore and explore. I’d missed out on the port during a previous cruise thanks to Mother Nature throwing an almighty tantrum, but this time I made it, and off up Mount Fløyen I went. I was incredibly lucky as the day had started off quite damp and overcast, but by the time our coach arrived at the ticket office, the sun was out and the clouds had lifted considerably. Our group boarded the funicular and started the ascent. The views from the top were nothing short of breath-taking – as you’d expect at 1,000ft above sea level! I’m not good with heights and I was a little nervous on the train on the way up, but once at the top, I was transfixed with the scenery. We only had 30 minutes at the top of the mountain and ideally I would have liked longer to explore more and simply take my time, but by the time we left it was very busy! Our guide really did make the right call by going there first. Once back on the coach we had a drive around the city before heading back to the ship. I was going to go back out after lunch, but once again the clouds rolled in and it started raining quite hard, so I stayed in the dry and warmth of Balmoral – taking part in the afternoon quiz and getting a respectable 13 out of 20! I would definitely recommend a visit to Mount Fløyen if you are ever in Bergen, but ideally you should get there as soon as it opens and possibly do it on your own as opposed to an organised excursion. I’m told there are some beautiful walks you can do through woodland and past lakes, so if you like the outdoors then this is definitely ideal for you.

Mount-Floyen-Norway

Balmoral-Fred-Olsen-Bergen

Our second port of call was Eidfjord and I’d not planned anything here, I just wanted to walk around and enjoy this very small Norwegian town. Before leaving the ship, I went out on deck to get a birds-eye view of where we were and I felt as if I were docked right in the middle of a toy town – that’s the only way I can describe Eidfjord. A very beautiful toy town. Mountains with waterfalls towered above us, it really was a spectacle. If it had been a warm day, I would have spent our time there just sitting on the grass next to the ship. It’s a place you could probably sit for hours and not be bored because every direction you turn you are greeted with something so incredibly beautiful. If you would prefer to do something more adventurous, then one attraction here is kayaking; A few people onboard went out on that excursion and said they absolutely loved it – so there’s an idea for you.

Eidfjord-Norway

The food onboard Balmoral was delicious! Every evening the menu was exciting and there was always good variation between dishes. I ordered a pasta dish on my first evening aboard which was incredibly tasty, I do love pasta in a white sauce and aside from it making my taste buds happy, it was visually very pleasing. I had steak twice during the cruise – both were cooked exactly to my liking – and I had soup at just about every other opportunity. If there’s one thing you can’t go wrong with on Fred. Olsen it’s the soup!!

Food-Fred-Olsen-Cruise-Lines-Balmoral

On my final evening aboard I dined at The Grill, Fred. Olsen’s specialty restaurant, which on Balmoral is located at the back of The Palms restaurant (when not warm enough to enjoy al fresco). It is £20pp to dine at The Grill, but it is definitely worth every penny. The menu is quite small, but for steak and seafood fans it’s more than enough. There are 4 starters to choose from, including lobster pasta (which was delightful) and beef carpaccio. As an entrée you can choose either an 8oz fillet (this was my choice), sirloin or rib-eye, or if seafood is your thing then the only choice you need to make is the grilled mixed seafood. Each main meal comes with your choice of 2 side dishes, including thick cut chips, grilled asparagus, garlic mushrooms and salad. If you still have room left after all of that, then I highly recommend the chocolate and orange Bavarian cream tart to finish.

The-Grill-Fred-Olsen-Cruise-Lines

Overall, the cruise was absolutely fantastic. It felt much longer than 5-nights and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The scenic aspect of the trip – which was a big selling point – didn’t disappoint, we were presented with some splendid sights, including the Furebergfoss Waterfall, which was magnificent. The water was thundering down the side of the fjord and there we were, on this huge ship, just sitting in front of it. Every day, there was something to see, even if it was just an oil platform in the North Sea, there was something to look at. Once we left the North Sea and got into the Fjords, it really was stunning. Several times, we simply just stopped in the middle of a Fjord and sat there for a while before doing a 360 degree turn and heading back out the way we came in.

Furebergfoss-Waterfall-Norway-Cruise-Ship

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Norway is such a beautiful country and no matter what time of year you visit, it offers captivating views and scenery. I’ve seen the country in 10 foot of snow and I’ve seen it in glorious, warm sunshine and both were equally impressive. The only criticism I have is that 5-nights with Fred. Olsen simply wasn’t long enough for me!😉

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Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line
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