Princess Cruises Announce Key Features Of Majestic Princess

Majestic-Princess

Image: Cruise Trade News

Princess Cruises has announced the design and key features of Majestic Princess, the newest ship in the fleet. Majestic Princess will sail her inaugural voyage on Tuesday April 4, 2017, on a five-day Adriatic Sea cruise roundtrip from Rome with stops in Kotor and Corfu.

The 3,560-guest Majestic Princess has been built specifically for the Chinese market but will sail the Mediterranean for six weeks following her maiden cruise. UK guests will have a unique chance to experience the ship on 7, 14, 21 and 28-day cruises departing from Rome, Barcelona or Athens.

A repositioning voyage will depart from Barcelona on Sunday May 14, 2017, to the ship’s permanent homeport in Shanghai, where Majestic Princess will carry guests to a variety of destinations in Japan and Korea.

The Royal-class ship is a sister ship to Regal Princess and Royal Princess. The ship will offer many of the same distinctive features onboard the sister ships, including the Piazza atrium, the central focal point of the ship; the unique over-the-ocean SeaWalk – a glass-floor walkway extending 8 metres beyond the edge of the ship; the Princess Live! TV studio; and the special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds guests in a curtain of light.

Majestic Princess will also boast new features unique to the ship. These include:

Two new specialty restaurants:

  • Harmony Cantonese Restaurant, created in partnership with Chef Richard Chen, former chef of ‘Wing Lei’ – the first Chinese restaurant in North America awarded a Michelin star. Harmony will feature Chinese cuisine, serving Chef Chen’s interpretation of classic Cantonese dishes.
  • Le Bistrot, located in the Piazza, will offer casual French home-style dining with a modern twist. Similar to a Parisian bistro, guests will enjoy traditional escargots casseroles, braised ox tongue and mushroom ragout, along with baguettes, tartines, tourtes and French patisseries.

New dining options:

  • The World Fresh Marketplace (Horizon Court buffet on other Princess ships), will feature a diverse range of food stations offering guests cuisine from around the world, including Mediterranean dishes, an Italian pasta specialty counter, and a new ‘east meets west’ street food specialty counter. The Bakery inside the World Fresh Marketplace will serve Western, European and Asian pastries.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetable juices at the Ocean Terrace Juice Bar.
  • Lobster Grill and Dim Sum Bar.
  • Chopsticks Noodle Bar.
  • Leaves Tea Bar (Boba Tea).

‘Sing on the Sea’ Karaoke suites:

  • Private Karaoke rooms with a modern design, fitted with sofas, large TV screens and a mini-bar.

The Shops of Princess:

  • Nearly 1,100 square metres of luxury boutiques which include designer brand shops from Cartier, Bvlgari and Chopard, leather goods from Burberry and Gucci, and designer watches by high-end brands including Montblanc and Rado.
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Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

9 Things Only Cruise Lovers Will Know!

Things-Only-Cruise-Lovers-Know

Exclusive destinations only cruises uncover

There are some places that you can’t drive to and don’t have an airport – meaning they’re only accessible by boat, and can be the exclusive haunts of cruise goers. What’s more, on a cruise ship you can travel there in luxury.

For example, an Amazon cruise is an amazing way to see for yourself how long this river really is. Or you could take the family to Disney Cruise’s exclusive island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, which has plenty of Disney magic for the kids as well as more serene areas that are adults-only.

The VIP treatment can cost less than you’d think

You can get a good deal on a cruise and still get star treatment, and added extras won’t usually break the bank. For less than £10 per half day you can lounge in Princess Cruises’ Sanctuary, a child-free deck area with butler service and spa treatments.

It’s also worth travelling on smaller ships where the crew to passenger ratio is much higher as this gives you more personal attention, for an experience that feels close to ‘VIP’.

Cabins don’t have to be pokey

Obviously, the more you’re willing to pay, the more you get for your money in terms of onboard accommodation. Even if you can’t push to a suite, the rooms – or staterooms as many lines call them – can be surprisingly spacious, especially if you get a balcony room with large doors exposing open views.

Norwegian Spirit has a 281-square foot stateroom that is the same price as its other interior rooms, so it’s worth going over the ship plans to try and find the biggest. Some other interior rooms now come with virtual views so you have the illusion of more space, without paying the extra.

You’ll never be bored on board

For many, the main point of a cruise is to travel to lots of exciting, far flung destinations, but even during the port stops in between the options for things to do are seemingly endless. Some of the largest cruise ships, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, are kitted out with full sized gyms, mini golf, rock climbing and even carousels.

Another winner on the entertainment front is Carnival Cruises, which calls its vessels ‘Fun Ships’ due to the shopping, spa and activity areas, big-win casinos as well as lavish shows put on daily.

There’s a cruise line that has activities and classes to suit you and your family, from Disney Cruises with entertainment for young and old to Cunard with high class entertainment for the discerning traveller.

Excursions of a lifetime

The best way to make the most of your time off the ship is with shore excursions, some of which are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as sledding with Alaskan huskies or zip wiring through the South American jungle.

You can even get to know the destination in a truly authentic way with host families taking you into their homes for a meal or activities like local dancing.

If you’re worrying about not having enough time to explore, cruise companies like Azamara Club Cruises provide a Destination Immersion experience. You’ll have more time to fall in love with the places you visit as they give you longer off the boat and more overnight stays on their voyages.

One of the most sociable holidays you can have

Making friends will fellow cruisers is so easy due to the range of activities and social areas to mingle with others, as well as the relaxing atmosphere of cruise ships which makes conversations flow. If you want to socialise as much as possible you can ask to be seated on a group table for meals and chat with different people every night.

The mix of passengers has changed significantly as cruise ships have modernised and provide state-of-the-art facilities that suit all ages and persuasions. Some have Wi-Fi so good you can stream music and videos, other have adult comedy shows aimed squarely at 18-30s. If cruises were the reserve of the older generation they wouldn’t install zip wires to whizz you from one end to the other or surf simulators on deck. So whatever age you are, you’re sure to meet likeminded people.

It’s great fun travelling on your own

Solo travellers can be very well catered for on cruises, which often have shore excursion escorts and host welcome events for those travelling alone as well as singles parties. On Crystal Cruises, solo travellers make up 25% of passengers for some trips and on ships such as P&O Cruises’ Azura there are dedicated solo cabins so you don’t have to pay a singles supplement.

There are just as many group activities designed to help people travelling on their own to find companions as there are programmes that don’t require partners, so you can enjoy your solitude while painting, wine-tasting or whatever you fancy.

Exquisite dining opportunities

Aside from buffets full of all types of international cuisine, the options for eating on a cruise ship are extremely wide. You can eat al fresco at restaurants on the deck and on some of the high-end liners they have dining establishments to rival the world’s finest.

For example, at Crystal Cruises Silk Road and the Sushi Bar, the food is created by chefs personally trained by the head of the famous Nobu Japanese-inspired restaurants.

Some of the most phenomenal views on the planet

For that wow feeling when you’re travelling towards your next destination and get the most incredible panoramic views, an airplane window simply can’t compare. And with some cruises the whole journey is a feast on the eyes, such as cruising through the Norwegian fjords or floating between glaciers and icebergs in Alaska.

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Posted in General Cruise Articles, New To Cruising

American Road Trip: Washington D.C. And Baltimore

Washington D.C. was our next stop and it was another scorcher of a day, I can’t even begin to tell you how humid it was! Before we started exploring, we checked in to our hotel, The Carlyle in Dupont Circle, and it was beautiful. The room was huge and offered a large bathroom, small kitchenette area and dining table. I even liked the lobby and it’s vintage furniture and old fashioned telephone – it added a little unique character. I would definitely recommend this hotel if you are thinking of visiting D.C.. It was actually awarded the “Certificate of Excellence, 2016” by TripAdvisor and it was easy to see why. They offer a complimentary wine hour every evening which seemed to be popular, If you are travelling with your pet, then you are more than welcome, and they have a selection of bikes that guests can use to explore the city. The hotel is also home to The Riggsby, which offers upscale American cuisine with distinctly European influences. I wish I’d been able to explore the area more that surrounds the hotel as some of the streets looked absolutely beautiful – tree lined and quaint. I suppose I can put that on my list for next time.

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Carlyle-Hotel-Kimpton-DC

We set out and boarded one of the Big Bus tours through the city, but we didn’t stay onboard for long. It was so hot, it felt better (at first) to walk between points of interest. We made our way to the Lincoln Monument, the National World War II Memorial, Washington Monument and then finally we arrived at the White House. It had been a day of overwhelming sights and by the time we got to the end of the White House lawn I was exhausted and starting to feel a little unwell because of the humidity. We took some pictures, then walked a little further into the city before ordering a Lyft and making our way back to the hotel, where we could freshen up and simply relax. For dinner, we ordered Italian food from a local restaurant and it was delicious, just what we needed after a long day of driving and then exploring.

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The-White-House

The following morning, we made a stop at Arlington Cemetery. We got there first thing and it was already upwards of 26 degrees Celsius, so needless to say we didn’t stay there for too long. Arlington Cemetery is huge and you need at least 3 or 4 hours to really cover ground there. I hadn’t quite realised how big it was. We walked through the main gates and around to the resting site of the Kennedy family, where the eternal flame burns, before walking across to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and seeing the changing of the guard. It’s a very impressive site and I would have liked longer there to read and learn more about the cemetery, but it was just too hot. I did buy a book from the gift shop on the way out, so at least I can do my homework.

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John-F-Kennedy-Gravesite

We dragged ourselves back to the Mustang, cranked up the air conditioning and hit the road again, this time we were spending the evening in Baltimore.

We had a suite each at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor hotel and they were both absolutely incredible. In fact, I was impressed with the hotel before we even made it through the lobby door. The valet was friendly and was happy to have a chat while I waited for TravelShopGirl to park the car. The reception staff were also polite and very helpful, we spent quite a while having a general chit chat with the girl that checked us in, she was so funny. Each room was huge and offered a large bedroom, lounge area and 2 bathrooms! Oh, and I can’t forget that each also had 2 access doors! I was also impressed with the views from my living area and bedroom, it was nice to open the curtains the following morning and greet the day with sunshine in the sky and a smile on my face.

We got ourselves acquainted with our rooms and then set off on the short walk across the street for food and drinks at the Inner Harbor.

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Baltimore-Inner-Harbor

There are several bar and restaurant options there, but we had pre-arranged a visit to Bubba Gump and I was so excited! I think we ordered just about everything on the menu, we were both hungry and thirsty, and ready for some down time before the evening baseball game. Our waitress at Bubba Gump was called Helen and she was awesome! She really made our visit there enjoyable and she clearly loved her job – thank you, Helen! The food was great, I ordered the shrimp cocktail to start (and some seafood hush pups) and then followed it with Shrimper’s Heaven. I was so full by the end of it, I could hardly breathe! Of course, we both had room for a cocktail each, too. When I return to Baltimore in the future, I will most definitely be going back to Bubba Gump. The food was great, the service was excellent and the atmosphere was fun – I really did enjoy it.

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Bubba-Gump-Food-Shrimp-Baltimore

Shrimpers-Heaven-Bubba-Gump

That evening brought me my first ever baseball game – we went to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Colorado Rockies at Camden Yards. The atmosphere pre-game was electric and we stopped at Pickles Bar and had a few drinks before heading across the street and into the stadium. WOW! That’s all I can say! It was such a beautiful ballpark, it really was, and everyone was excited for the game ahead. We had a walk around – paying a visit to the fan station so I could get a certificate to mark my first ever baseball game – and then we took our seats.

Camden-Yards-Baltimore

The Orioles lost that night, but I can tell you that I am now a baseball fan. I enjoyed every minute of that game – even the slower parts of it! It’s pretty easy to follow, we had great seats, there’s no aggressive team rivalry spoiling it, and when the batter hits that ball everyone comes alive. Here’s hoping I get to attend many more baseball games in the future.

Baltimore-Orioles-Baseball

I didn’t want the day to end, it had been so much fun, but we were both tired and we needed a good night of rest before we set off for Philadelphia, as there was a ghost investigation to be had there!

 

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Posted in Destinations

American Road Trip: Atlantic City and Delaware

I disembarked Queen Mary 2 on July 24th following one of the most incredible port arrivals I have ever experienced. Sailing into NYC had long been a dream of mine and I was not disappointed. The Verrazano Bridge glimmered in the distance and before long, the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline also came into view – the whole experience was simply fantastic. They say that the best way to arrive in NYC is by ship and they weren’t lying. I hope I’m lucky enough to have that same experience again one day and I’m sure if I do, it will be just as magical as it was the first time.

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I’d opted for self-disembarkation and it was as easy and straight forward as I’d hoped. I was off the ship, cleared by U.S. immigration and in the terminal car park within 30-minutes of arriving at the onboard meeting point, The Queen’s Room.

Once I left the ship, I was swiftly scooped up by my friend and fellow travel blogger, TravelShopGirl. We hired a convertible Ford Mustang through AVIS for our adventure and what a car it was! The heat and humidity on the U.S. East Coast was intense to say the least, so being able to have the top down on the car was a real treat.

Ford-Mustang-Convertible-Road-Trip-America

We left the Brooklyn cruise terminal and set off on the journey to Atlantic City, stopping several times en route to grab cold drinks and take photographs. We also made a pit-stop on Staten Island so that I could see a large painted mural that had been put up in memory of Angela Raiola. Angela, or ‘Big Ang’ as she was known, appeared on a show I used to watch called Mob Wives, but unfortunately she passed away from cancer earlier in the year.

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Eventually, the Atlantic City skyline appeared at the end of the freeway and it was time to check-in and explore! We spent the night at the Golden Nugget Resort and Casino, which was huge. We had a double queen room and a great view across the outdoor pool. We explored the Casino, having a flutter on a few slots and a cool drink, and then made our way down to the boardwalk. It was still unbearably hot outside, so we didn’t stay out on the boardwalk for long, but it was fun and full of life. Ready to cool down and eat, we returned to the hotel and ordered food and drinks from the Deck Bar. The Deck is across the street from the hotel, but is part of the same complex. We had front row seats to several super-yachts, the drinks were tasty and the food was good, there was even live music which added nicely to the overall atmosphere. Just to be clear, the pretzel on the menu at The Deck is 28oz – double check the size of what you order before you actually do order it! When it arrived at the table I literally didn’t know what to say or how to react. Our short time in Atlantic City and our evening by the water was the perfect way to end the first day on our mini East Coast road trip.

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Pretzel-Golden-Nugget

Golden Nugget also offers the Haven Nightclub, H2O Pool and Bar, Chart House, High Limit Slots, The Chocolate Box, Bar 46, Rush Lounge and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse – in short, it has everything you need, in one location.

The next morning brought an almighty thunder storm, but it soon passed and we were up, dressed and back in the car, ready for the several hour long journey to Harrington in Delaware. Before really hitting the road, we needed to eat and our choice that morning was IHOP. I’d never been before, but my friend always rants and raves about how good it is, so finally it was my turn to tuck in. I was super hungry and wanted to try a bit of everything, so that’s exactly what I did. I ordered a combo option, which included eggs, hash browns and sausage, and a generous stack of pancakes. I certainly couldn’t eat it all, but it had seemed like a great idea at the time. I have to say that it was the best breakfast I had on the entire trip. I’d really wanted to visit another IHOP during our time in America, but we just didn’t get the opportunity.

IHOP-New-Jersey

IHOP-Breakfast-America

Once refuelled, we hit the road for a short time before stopping at Wildwood on the Jersey Shore to stretch our legs. The boardwalk there is certainly worth seeing. It was incredibly busy and full of life, and a great place to stop and grab some refreshments. I loved it and had it not been so hot, I would have walked much further than we did.

Our reason for visiting Harrington was for the annual Delaware State Fair. We arrived a little later in the day than anticipated, but we were both glad to be honest as by now the sun had started to set and although still incredibly humid, the air had cooled a little bit. We spent a few hours at the fair, petting the animals and then enjoying the atmosphere, sights, sounds and smells. I even tried my first ever corn dog – not something I’d recommend – however, I would definitely recommend the french fries from Outlaw Fries, they were SO good! I love a good fair, we have one every year in my city, but it was interesting to see how things differ – we don’t have deep fried oreo’s here, that’s for sure! During our stay in Harrington we spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, which was ideally located just a short drive away from the fairgrounds. I was quite impressed with the hotel, I have to be honest. The staff were incredibly friendly, the room was large and we had a great view over the pool. The room also had a rather intense air conditioning system, much too my delight!

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Delaware-State-Fair-food

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Swimming-Pool-Holiday-Inn

Next, we would head for Washington D.C….

You can follow the hashtag #TwoChicksAndARoadTrip on Twitter for more images and posts from TravelShopGirl, too.

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Posted in Destinations

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.

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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!😉

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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
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