Cruising The Olsen Way – French Riviera aboard Bolette – Part 4

The sea day, a time to relax and recharge, and find out what’s happening onboard! Earlier in the cruise, I’d spotted something in the Daily Times called Deck Tennis, and I was intrigued. There are no nets on Deck 9 to stop a ball going overboard, so what on earth is it? I had to go up and investigate. In short, it’s the same set up as tennis but you play with a rubber ring, as opposed to a bat and ball. I still can’t quite get my head around it and I would have joined in, but the people already playing were spending more time reaching to pick the ring off the floor than they were catching it and having a game. No offence, people! I won’t repeat what one gentleman said to his wife (under his breath so she didn’t actually hear him) but I got the vibe that he wasn’t impressed with her Deck Tennis skills…

There was always plenty to do on sea days, so you could either pack your day out, pick and choose, or simply sit back and relax. There were quizzes, kitchen creations, shuffleboard, Baggo, live music, table tennis, Pilates, you name it, it was happening. One thing I am really annoyed at myself about is not joining in on the flower arranging class. Now, this is not something I’ve ever done before nor have I ever wanted to do it, but I kept looking at it in The Daily Times. When I finally decided to go, it was the day of what would be a formal evening and they were making corsages. I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to go full throttle and try arranging a nice bouquet, so I missed out on that, but I will do it on my next Fred. Olsen cruise if it’s offered. I think it was £30 per person, but you get to keep your creation and if possible, you can take it home with you at the end of your cruise.

Good morning, Gibraltar! Oh, how nice it felt to see that rock! We didn’t have long here, it was literally a disembark, grab what you wanted and run back kind of call. I made the poor choice (and I know better!) of doing the trek into town in my flip flops! And I don’t just do part of Main Street, I must go all the way to the top because that’s where my favourite shop is. By the time I got back to the ship, my little feet were on fire. I did enjoy being back in Gib, though. Not much had changed there. I think Gibraltar for many is one of those places that you either love or hate and for me, personally, I love it. There’s quite a bit to do if you’ve never been before and several years ago, I had a superb dolphin watching tour there.

I think I mentioned the buffet briefly in a previous post, so I’ll come back to that now and share a few pictures of what was available. I felt like it was never closed, it was a continuous operation from morning until night, and the selection was fabulous! I don’t really know where to start on telling you what there was, but to give you an idea, there was one station that was available every night and it included burgers, hot dogs and usually tacos. You could have stir-fry, curry, fresh meats and cheese’s, soup, lasagne – you name it and at one point or another, they had it. The seafood buffet also made an appearance and that was nice, but not as nice as the garlic prawns I had one day – they were heaven! In fact, I spotted them on my way to the Poolside and thought a few prawns won’t spoil my fish and chips, I just couldn’t walk past them and I’m glad I didn’t. I also really enjoyed the chicken quesadillas, and I had a chicken stir-fry at one point that was also delicious. The stir-fry is cooked to order and in front of you, so you can pick and choose what you want in it.

As the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations began before we disembarked, we had a little country fayre-type event on the Lido Deck. There were various stalls, including the human fruit machine, face painting, name the teddy and so on. All the money raised was to be donated to the RNLI and I think Bolette raised something in the region of £2000.

Not forgetting the cake decorating competition, which was hilarious! The sync between the crew was just brilliant. The competitors were the Captain, Ents Manager, Chief Engineer, and the Hotel Manager. I’ll put my hands up and say that I didn’t give the Captain my vote, it went to the Hotel Manager. Not sure he was too thrilled by second place because he threatened to take the stabilisers in! He had plenty of jokes, I liked him!

For the purpose of research, I also documented some fabulous cakes in the Bookmark Cafe…

Before reaching Southampton, there were 2 more things I had to do, and one was to go back to Colours & Tastes. I’d spotted the new menu by chance as I passed one morning on my way to Guest Services, and I had to try it. This time, it was coconut fried shrimp with green mango salsa to start, followed by Indonesian chicken satay with peanut sauce. I was so happy! I loved the fact the skewers for the chicken were lemongrass, so there was so much flavour in every bite. For dessert, this time, I tried the five-spice pear with chocolate sorbet and peanut brittle. I enjoyed every meal I ate on Bolette, but this one was my absolute favourite.

The dreaded ‘day before the day’ had arrived and once I’d finally sorted myself out with some packing, I took time to wind down with a Traditional Afternoon Tea in The Observatory. I’ve tried this several times when sailing with Fred., but this time it was a little different, and I liked it! I get the impression (but forgot to double check) that the menu for this must also change now and I don’t recall it ever changing previously. I only say this because the captain was on the next table and the tea he asked for, the waitress had to go and get from the Bookmark Café. The ladies he was having afternoon tea with said that’s not on the menu, to which he then realised it wasn’t and said they must have changed the menu. So don’t hold me to it, I was just eavesdropping on another conversation, as you do. Anyway, the set-up is the same as it has always been – white gloved service in a sectioned off area with soft live music. It was lovely. I had a lower level of four sandwiches, middle level of petite cakes and pastries and the top level was clotted cream, butter, and jam. It was all very nice; I particularly liked the chargrilled chicken sandwich and the egg sandwich. When I asked for a scone, a plate of 6 arrived! 2 plain, 2 fruit and 2 cheese – that was new to me. They were warm, light, and delicious!!! I think out of the 3, the cheese one was my favourite. I enjoyed all of this alongside some loose leaf wild Roobis tea.

And just like that, it was all over! If I could have stayed onboard, I would! My first impression of Bolette – I loved her! I felt comfortable and at home from the second I stepped onboard and in a strange sort of way, I felt like I knew the ship. I rarely took a wrong turn and within just days of being onboard, I felt like I’d been there forever. I’ll always miss ‘my girls’ but having so many aspects onboard Bolette that were familiar, seeing so many friendly faces and then clicking on to the fact that Jupiter was watching over us, it all just felt so right. I’m already looking forward to seeing her again and hopefully at some point cruising on Borealis, but my lovely Balmoral must have some love, too! Braemar’s still too busy relaxing her propellers in Rosyth, so she’ll have to wait until last! 😉

Until next time, Fred.! #TheOlsenWay

Press trip – I was a guest of Fred. Olsen on this sailing.

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Cruising The Olsen Way – French Riviera aboard Bolette – Part 3

It’s time for port days and our first was Alicante. I had booked the ‘Alicante & Elche’ tour. The sun was shining, I’d been given a packed lunch to take with me and it was time to head ashore. Emilio was our guide, and he was excellent! I wish every tour guide could be like him. We visited a public garden, which was stunning, but the jewel in the crown was El Huerto del Cura (the Priest’s Garden). It’s probably the most impressive private garden I’ve ever seen, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the space in which I was standing. The Mediterranean and tropical plants are arranged to create an atmosphere of tranquillity, and they did just that. If I lived near the gardens, I’d probably visit every other day in the summer months. Everything felt so still and relaxed, well, they did until the peacock made itself known and started screaming from the top of its beak! But there were ducks, turtles, other little animals and then just this fascinating mix of plants and flowers. It was fabulous.

As the sun broke on May 27th, we found ourselves in Barcelona. I’ve visited here many times and it’s not one of my favourite places. If you’re visiting for the first time or even the second, I’d highly recommend you book a tour. I’ve been there and done that, so I took myself off on foot along Las Ramblas. Although Barcelona itself isn’t on my top 20 list, it’s Mercado de la Boqueria is! I can’t visit this city without stopping off at the market. I rarely buy anything, I just like to look around and see all the fresh fruits and vegetables, the sometimes very peculiar seafood offerings and to smell the fresh coffee. It’s always busy, but the atmosphere is just electric. It’s been open since 1836 and there are over 200 vendors. It’s just off Las Ramblas on the left side of the street. I would say you can’t miss it, but in fact, you probably could – so keep your eyes wide open.

Happy Birthday to me! Yes, our call to Cannes on May 28th marked me being another year older (21 again!). At first, I had full intentions of going ashore and then I thought, no. I’m going to have the day at leisure for myself and take advantage of a quiet ship before my evening meal in Vasco.

I started with a late riser eggs benedict breakfast at the Poolside, and then I found a sun lounger and enjoyed sitting in the sun for about an hour or so. I used to love sitting in the sun, but now I just get restless, so off I went for another ship-based adventure. I came across a room on Deck 7 that’s not on the deck plans and obviously isn’t open for public use, but it was a fair size! I couldn’t see in the windows, but I did have a sneaky look through the squares in the door, but I’m still no further forward. The crew were doing a lot of work on Deck 9 during my cruise, so I wonder if in time we’ll be greeted with additional spaces or features. It’s quite exciting. In fact, Fred. Olsen just released some images a few days ago of the new art space on Bolette, so maybe I am seeing into the future! 😉

In the afternoon I had a hair date with Alberto. During lockdown, I cut my ponytail off twice and still I hadn’t seen a hairdresser. I love having my hair cut onboard, so Alberto worked his magic. It might sound silly, but I’ve never had such a good blow dry and straighten in all my life! That man really is the business, and he ensured my hair was smooth and silky, ready for my Goan cuisine delight. The salon also offers some wonderful views, thanks to its floor to ceiling windows.

In Vasco, you are first served a selection of warm Indian breads and sauces, this is a sign of where your meal is going – in a taste bud explosion direction. Even this is so tasty to the point where I this time couldn’t stop eating it! Next you get your starters, yes, plural – they serve you the entire selection unless you state otherwise. You choose one main course and again, unless you mention it, they also serve all the side dishes. For my main course I went with the xacuti, which was Goan chicken curry, spices, poppy seeds, sliced coconut, and red chilli – it was divine! The side dishes offered are steamed rice, spicy potatoes, dhal, Palak paneer and vegetable pilau. I’m hungry just thinking about it all. Again, it’s only a £15 per person cover charge and it’s worth every penny!

 Our next port was one I’d really been looking forward too, Villefranche! I first visited here in 2008 and until this cruise, I hadn’t been back. It was exactly as I remembered it being. It’s such a beautiful place and not very big, so if you want to have a short explore and then sit and have some local food while watching the world go by, this place is ideal. I was very happy to be back and so pleased the weather held out, as it had been forecast for rain! It’s easy to get to other places from here, such as Monaco, Nice and Cannes, as the local train network is quite efficient. A few people did in fact get the train to Monaco.

Port day numero cinco and we arrived in Bandol. Honestly, I’d never even heard of the place until I looked at this cruise and after doing some quick research online, I decided to book a tour. Titled ‘Cassis & It’s Calanques’ this trip would take us through the Mediterranean countryside, past numerous vineyards and finally, to the fishing town of Cassis. Again, another stunning little harbour area that reminded me a little of Villefranche, only there was a bit more going on there.  

We boarded an Ecological Hybrid Boat and made our way out towards the Calanques National Park. To begin with, it was quite cool and cloudy, but as we reached the first bay, the sun came out and the water suddenly became this intense colour of green. We sailed down numerous canyon-like inlets, one of which had the most beautiful white beach at the end of it! I was so desperate to just jump in and swim, but that wasn’t allowed. Our last spot on the tour was at the bottom of another limestone cliff and the skipper joked that the other Captain likes to think he can get the boat through the crack between the cliffs. We all laughed and then suddenly he was sailing us right in between them – you could have reached out and touched the cliffs, it was a nice end to what had been a visually impressive tour. Before re-joining the little train, we had some free time in the town to explore and grab a quick bite to eat, so that’s exactly what I did. If you visit Bandol, PLEASE do this tour! It really was brilliant!

Back home, it was time to unwind with a day at sea before we arrived in Gibraltar.

Cruising The Olsen Way Part 4 soon…

#PressTrip – I was a guest of Fred. Olsen on this sailing

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Cruising The Olsen Way – French Riviera aboard Bolette – Part 2

Bolette has 2 speciality restaurants onboard – Vasco and Colours & Tastes – and I would highly recommend them both! The cover charge is a mere £15 per person and the food is exceptional. In fact, it was so good that I visited Colours & Tastes twice! I would have also gone back to Vasco if I’d had time. Each has 3 menus, and they change every few days. I like this idea because one menu for the entire cruise duration might not suit a lot of people.

I tried Colours & Tastes first and my gosh, it was delicious! You’re served a selection of breads and sauces while you wait for your starter dish, but I tried to only sample and not eat all of it – I needed to leave space for the rest of the meal. To start, I went with the salt & pepper calamari fritto with kafir lime jelly, and it was excellent. The calamari were perfectly cooked, there was lots of flavour, and the tempura aspect was very light. For my main course, I decided to keep the seafood theme going and I ordered the spice paste marinated cod with tamarind chutney, wilted Asian greens and coconut rice. Another home run from the chef! It’s not a dish I’d usually order, but I was so glad that I did. It was a beautiful piece of fish! By now, I can hardly breathe, and I didn’t really want a dessert, but the girls twisted my arm, and I went for the mango & lychee mille-feuille with street graffiti and raspberry sorbet. However, it didn’t end there! In typical Fred. style, they also brought out the five-spice chocolate cake with hazelnut and chocolate sauce. I was nearing a food coma by this point, so I had a sample of each and the winner for me was the mille-feuille.

As we continued our sea days, I found some familiar places – The Morning Light Pub, Oriental Room, Neptune Lounge (albeit three times the size and with an additional deck), The Poolside (HEAVEN!) and the Bookmark Café. These were comfort spaces; I knew them well. I also found some new places including the Auditorium, a mid-ship pool with a roof and my absolute favourite, the Piano Bar – I adore that space! It was something outside of the box and new for Fred., and I was smitten with it.

FOOD! It’s a huge aspect of any cruise and the Poolside Café is just perfect! I was also pleased to see this time that the menus were changed more frequently (although I still wish they would bring back the chicken skewers with hummus and warm tortilla bread – that was my absolute favourite) and I’d probably say some of the portion sizes had increased slightly, too. I must admit, I definitely over-indulged and I would tend to have my main meal of the day at the Poolside and then explore afternoon tea – having also had breakfast! So, to break it down for you, the Poolside is exactly as it sounds, it’s the poolside restaurant on the Lido Deck and you can get everything from fish & chips to a small Ploughman’s. The reason it’s one of my favourite dining options (and not just on Fred., I mean in general) is because it mixes light and casual with naughty and fried. You can always order a beef burger or fish & chips, but they also do some very nice grilled chicken and salad dishes, and fresh tuna steak. It’s just a variety of incredibly good food that has had effort put into it. I really like the Santa-Fe-salad, the fish & chips are always excellent, and the grilled halloumi with salad & balsamic is a tasty vegetarian option.

The Poolside also does breakfast between 10am and 12 noon. This includes fresh omelette, 2 options for poached eggs, Swiss Muesli, and a tropical fruit platter with yoghurt.

Yes, I enjoyed those sea days, I acquainted myself with Bolette and I was now ready to put my feet on some warm international soil…

Cruising The Olsen Way Part 3 soon…

#PressTrip – I was a guest of Fred. Olsen on this sailing

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Cruising The Olsen Way – French Riviera aboard Bolette – Part 1

When I disembarked Boudicca in March 2019, I had no idea that would not only be the last time I’d ever see her again, but that I’d not step foot on another Fred. Olsen ship until 26-months later! It really is so very true when they say it’s best we never know what’s around the corner!

Let’s fast forward to May 22, 2022, and I was at the QEII terminal in Southampton eagerly waiting to board Bolette. When I say eager, what I really mean is that I was almost ready to burst with excitement and emotion! Waiting in the baggage area for my Covid-test result, I could see her, those Fred. Olsen colours shining brightly on the starboard side – I was so close!

Check-in was very smooth. They had us sat in colour sections while we waited for our test results, so then the whole section, once clear, could proceed as one unit into the main terminal. Following my negative result, I waited no longer than 6 minutes before entering the terminal and producing my documents at the desk. Once all had been checked and my cruise card had been issued, I was also given a TraceSafe band. Every passenger had to have one. You could either wear it as it was (almost just as if it were a watch) or you could carry it in your bag or pocket, but you had to always keep it with you – unless swimming, using the sauna or showering. The idea is that they monitor how much time you’ve spent near someone should anyone test positive for Covid. They can then test those people to ensure no one else is Covid positive. I took the actual TraceSafe device out of the strap and just kept it in my bag. Some other people did the same thing, some wore it as it was, some clipped it to their lanyard and others, well, a few decided to wear it like an ankle tag – each to their own!

So, back to Bolette. I’m now on the gangway, I can smell the ship and I can SEE that familiar Fred. carpet! I could have cried! Now it was very real, and I was FINALLY going home! I stepped onboard, scanned my cruise card, and took the biggest sigh of relief! I’M HOME!!! The Hotel Manager was there greeting everyone, and I was raring to get to my cabin.

I got out of the lift on Deck 7 and went looking for 7043. A few twists and turns later and I’m there. I knew at check-in that my cabin had been changed because the number on my booking was different to the one on my cruise card, but I never for one moment expected what I saw when I opened the door. In short, I had a Premier Suite which was more like a small apartment! ‘All of this just for me’ I mumbled as I stepped inside. You know the scene in Home Alone 2 when Kevin walks into his room at The Plaza? Yes, I pretty much re-enacted that! I was gobsmacked. It was magnificent. A wonderful seating area, huge Queen bed, dressing area with three decent sized wardrobes, and a bathroom with a shower AND a jacuzzi bath! I’m in heaven! But more was to come! When I opened the balcony door, I thought for a quick minute that a divider must have been left open, but no, all of that was also just for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in some very nice staterooms on cruise ships over the years, but this was by far one of the biggest (coming in second to a Penthouse Suite on what used to be Crystal Cruises) and one of the most impressive. The balcony was the biggest I’ve ever had the good fortune of enjoying.

Once I was over the shock of the suite, it was time to go and do some exploring. I’d already bumped into several familiar faces among crew and passengers, and probably the most emotional being when I hugged Camille and she started crying. Fred. Olsen crew are more like family to me, and I hadn’t seen some of them for a very long time, it was emotional! She’d missed me and I had missed her, and I’d missed Kevin, Freddie, Chandra, Fernando, Bambs, Rakesh, Honey, and a fair few others. It was nice to see their happy faces in the flesh again, instead of in a photo. 

One of the first things I came across was the clock and I loved it! It’s such a statement piece and when it kicks into action every hour, it’s impressive to see and hear. The Planeto Astrolabium onboard is an ancient celestial clock with four faces, it was used by classical astronomers, mariners, and astrologists to chart paths of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. In the medieval Islamic world, it was also used to calculate the qibla, the direction of Mecca.

We sailed from Southampton on time, and I decided that evening was for me to catch up with friends onboard, old, and new. We had a great night and it felt so nice to once again be enjoying that fabulous Fred. Olsen hospitality. Some passengers I’d known from previous cruises and when I was back in the presence of one lady, we just picked up where we’d left off on the Grand Voyage, it was such a nice feeling.

Before reaching our first port, we had a few days at sea and I took every opportunity to sample various parts of the ship – I wasn’t trying to see and do everything in 72-hours, but I did want to enjoy the ship before our five-day stretch of back-to-back ports.

I found even more impressive artwork! Aside from the clock, my other favourites were the 2 ladies that dominated over the Neptune Lounge, the Polar Bears at the Lido Pool (including the baby grizzly next to The View doors), the Chinese terracotta-style gentlemen at the Orchid Room, the fish at the Lido Pool, the bird cage in The Observatory, and, saving the best to last, JUPITER! Yes, the lovely Jupiter that once had pride of place on Black Watch now sits on Deck 8 aft on Bolette, overseeing her new kingdom.

Cruising The Olsen Way Part 2 soon…

#PressTrip – I was invited as a guest of Fred. Olsen on this sailing

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Costa Luminosa to transfer to Carnival Cruise Line – beginning service in November 2022

Carnival Cruise Line has announced that Costa Luminosa will join the Carnival fleet in September and will start guest operations as Carnival Luminosa in November 2022 from Brisbane, Australia. The acquisition of Luminosa is an update to the previously announced plans for Carnival to take Costa Magica, which will now remain at Costa Cruises.

 After this delivery, Carnival Luminosa will operate seasonally from October through April from Brisbane, then reposition to Seattle, where it will sail Alaska itineraries from May through September, before returning to Brisbane.

 Luminosa is a sister ship to the four other popular Spirit class ships that already sail for Carnival.  Entering service in 2009, the ship accommodates up to 2,826 guests and 1,050 crew at 92,720 gross tons.

 “With our full fleet back to guest operations and the pent-up demand for Carnival we are seeing every week aboard our ships, the chance to expand with Luminosa and then the arrival of Carnival Celebration in November provides our guests with more choices and new ways to enjoy a Carnival vacation,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “Our Spirit class ships are very popular with our guests and Luminosa will be a great addition given the large number of balcony cabins which make her an ideal ship for this deployment.  And equally important, this will allow Carnival to finally start our highly anticipated itineraries from Brisbane, so we’ll have two ships operating in Australia for the high season Down Under.”

Given the short timeline to get Carnival Luminosa ready for service, the ship will go through some modest updates to change over from Costa to Carnival over the next few months ahead of the November service start-up. The ship will not initially have all of the Funship 2.0 branded spaces that are seen across the Carnival fleet. The entire vessel will be staffed by the Carnival Cruise Line crew, renowned for their outstanding hospitality and fun. Cruises out of Brisbane will be announced shortly, and Carnival will sail a variety of itineraries that will initially include visits to Australian favorites such as the Great Barrier Reef and Airlie Beach, and, as destinations open over time, ports of call such as Noumea and Lifou Isle in New Caledonia, Port Vila and Mystery Island in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Duffy said, “The opportunity to deliver these bucket list itineraries will be exciting for our guests and we are thrilled to see the growing number of guests from the U.S. sailing on Carnival in Australia.”

In addition to Carnival Luminosa out of Brisbane, Carnival Splendor will arrive in Sydney to resume sailing year-round on October 2, 2022.  With the arrival of Carnival Celebration this November, Carnival’s fleet will number 24 ships, and its lower berth capacity will be seven percent higher than at the end of November 2019.

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Enchanted by a Princess

enchanted princess

Having sampled Sky Princess last year, I was excited when Princess Cruises invited me to join Enchanted Princess in May for a 5-night sailing to Bruges, Rotterdam, and Guernsey. This would be my second cruise since the Covid lockdown and my first time on international land since March 2020, I couldn’t wait to get back out there!

I’m a big fan of the Royal-class ships and I was certainly charmed by Sky Princess, so could Enchanted keep my interest? We’ll find out! Although I was excited to explore ashore, I wanted this trip to be more about the ship than anything else, so I only went ashore in Rotterdam. I’d never been before and had always wanted to visit, so I joined a beer crawl tour which was packed with far more than I expected! It was also a lovely city walking tour and if it’s offered on your next Princess cruise, I’d highly recommend you consider it. I’m not a huge fan of beer, but I was pleasantly surprised, and each stop offered something different – there was more to it than just alcohol and nibbles.

As I said, I wanted this to be more about the ship herself, so let’s get down to business!

She’s beautiful! Very similar to Sky Princess, so when I first started exploring, I had the advantage of already knowing the brief layout of the ship. I was given a mini-suite and it was perfect. One thing I really like about Princess Cruises is that you know what you’re going to get. I’ve sailed with Princess several times and I’ve never been disappointed. I was on the Princess Plus fare option for this cruise, so certain drinks (up to $12 in value) were included, along with Wi-Fi and gratuities. Personally, I would always book this option. For £40 per person per day, it’s well-worth the additional cost.

Onboard, you’ll find a wide variety of dining options, including World Fresh Marketplace, The Salty Dog Grill, Slice Pizzeria, Crown Grill, Sabatini’s, and Bistro Sur La Mer. Some restaurants are included in the fare price, but others, such as the Crown Grill, Sabatini’s and Bistro Sur La Mer do require an additional charge.

On this cruise I dined in Sabatini’s and the Crown Grill, and both were excellent! In Sabatini’s, I ordered the calamari to start (along with a burrata that I shared because I was desperate to try that, too) and then the lemon and rosemary chicken scaloppine for my main course. I was too full for dessert, but I was utterly content with what I’d been served. There wasn’t a single thing on any plate that I didn’t enjoy. The warm bread and sliced ham were also a nice touch while we waited for our starter courses.

In the Crown Grill, I had to go for it! It’s my favourite dining option on Princess and there was no question as to what I was going to order. To start, it had to be the seared jumbo sea scallops, followed by Crown Grill’s signature surf and turf – 8oz filet mignon with a 6-7oz main lobster tail. It was just heavenly! Again, perfectly cooked and presented, and paired with creamed spinach and garlic and herb French fries, what more could you ever want from a plate of food? I’ve never been on a Princess cruise and not dined in Crown Grill. In fact, I’ve always dined in Sabatini’s, too!

Enchanted Princess also boasts several swimming pools and hot tubs, Crooners, Princess LIVE!, Take Five, Casino, Movies Under the Stars, a huge sports court and a kids’ club. There are so many nice areas to enjoy, and my favourites were Take Five (such a beautiful space), the atrium and the Sea View Bar. In my option, the latter offering some amazing sunset viewing opportunities and as we were blessed with such great weather, it was also a nice place to chat with other passengers.

I managed to have a look around the kids’ club on this cruise and what great spaces they offer! Obviously, I usually wouldn’t venture into these areas – I think I outgrew trikes and toddler-sized chairs a long time ago – but as it was offered, I went and had a look so I could share some pictures with those of you that may be thinking of cruising with children. The clubs cater for children aged from 3 to 17 years and from what I could see, they’d never be bored! In fact, I could have quite happily stayed in the teen zone – they had incredible views from up there! The kids’ clubs on Enchanted Princess are located on Deck 17 aft.

When I first ventured into the buffet (World Fresh Marketplace) on Sky Princess, I didn’t know where to look and Enchanted Princess was no different. The quality of ingredients is exceptional, and the choice is out of this world. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner could be a huge culinary feast if you’re not careful.

MedallionClass, I love it! I have heard people complaining about the app and some features not working, but aside from the odd glitch here and there, I can’t say I had any problems using my fob or the app for ordering food or drinks, checking menus, or accessing my account and so on. The only issue I did have started maybe 2-days before the end of the cruise when the cabin door system wouldn’t recognise the fob at a distance, so rather than approach the door and it unlock, I’d have to tap the fob on the screen. I could have gone to Guest Services and had it fixed, but I can’t say having to lift my arm was any sort of effort!

I like the ease of it and being able to order food and drinks to anywhere onboard. I like not having to swipe my card to open the cabin door and I really like the fact I can load the screens dotted around the ship with info specific to me. I decided to try one of the games, so logged in by tapping my medallion and I was in a quiz one moment and then a treasure hunt the next! OK, I know, they’re geared more towards the kids, but come on, I had to try it, for research purposes, obviously! 😉

Another nice area to relax in onboard is The Sanctuary. It’s one of those places where you can just shut the world out for a while and enjoy lounging, sunning yourself, reading, or even watching something on your own private TV. I’m not a huge fan of these types of areas onboard, I must be honest, but I do always like to visit The Sanctuary when I’m on a Princess ship. It’s an adult-only area and it does come with an additional charge, but for peace and quiet away from the rest of the ship, it’s ideal. Enchanted Princess offers 8 private cabanas where you can enjoy light meals and al-fresco massages.

Overall, I had a wonderful time on Enchanted Princess. I met some lovely people, whom I socialised with every day from embarkation, ate some superb food and enjoyed the hospitality of a cruise line that I’ve come to enjoy very much in recent years. Princess Cruises has something for everyone and that’s very appealing to me. She’s a big ship, but she doesn’t feel as big as she is once you’re onboard, yet at the same time you have this constant feeling of space – it’s an odd one. I’d hands down recommend her for couples, solos (I was travelling solo), families and groups of friends. How you create your Princess experience is entirely up to you, but the abundance of options makes it so easy to tailor-make every aspect of your cruise.

Ad | I was a guest of Princess Cruises for this sailing. #PressTrip.

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Posted in Food and Drink, No Fly Cruises, Princess Cruises

A step BEYOND with Celebrity Cruises

I was invited to join Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship ‘Celebrity Beyond’ several weeks ago and I thought it was about time I told you all about her!

The third in Celebrity’s Edge-class series, Celebrity Beyond really is something else. I can honestly say that I was blown away from the moment I stepped onboard. Everywhere I went around the ship, I found something I liked. Whether it was a chair, a piece of art, a glass in one of the bars – everything felt like it had been thought through to the very finest of detail. Nothing had been overlooked, literally, nothing.

Although she leans in at the big end with a gross tonnage of 140,600 and accommodation for 3,260 passengers, she felt surprisingly compact. Maybe compact isn’t the right word, but I don’t really know how else to describe her. She felt very easy to navigate – I never once felt like I was going around in circles, and I do often feel like that on some of the larger cruise ships. Her design kept everything straight forward.

I had a Sky Suite for the duration of my stay, and it was stunning! I loved the size of the space and the fact the bed was positioned facing the balcony doors, so you could sit and watch the world go by. I also really liked the stylish box on the dressing table that conveniently concealed a selection of plug sockets and USB points – nice touch! The bathroom was huge with a colossal bath/shower system. I’ll admit, when I first used the shower, I didn’t know what things to turn or press, so much so, it took me a few minutes to figure out how to turn the shower head I was using off, once I finally got it on.

The food onboard was superb and when it came to the buffet, the choice was unbelievable! If you weren’t sure what you wanted before you went in, you were being held for ransom once you finally stepped through the door and saw what was on offer. There was just food for what felt like miles and a wide choice of cuisine styles. Quite possibly the best buffet I’ve seen at sea.

If we put more of the ship into perspective, she offers 32 food and dining experiences; 14 cafes, bars & lounges; 8 speciality restaurants; 4 main dining restaurants, 4 complimentary casual dining options; and 2 exclusive restaurants.

Being in a Sky Suite afforded me exclusive access to The Retreat and its restaurant Luminae. The food here was very good and I opted for smoked tomato soup, grilled filet mignon and chocolate ganache tart. It’s now positioned at the very front of the ship on Celebrity Beyond, so the views as we made our way through the Solent were a nice addition to the experience.

My absolute favourite feature onboard was the Magic Carpet. I’d been desperate to try this since Celebrity Edge was launched and finally, I had the chance. This space just fills me with happiness because I can sit and watch the majestic beauty of the ship as she glides through the water. Such an innovative idea.

Other onboard areas that I liked very much were the Resort Deck, Eden, the Solarium, The Grand Plaza and the Rooftop Garden. I like how Celebrity has taken back its upper decks and not just filled them with dozens upon dozens of sun loungers. There’s charm up there, wonderful places to sit and relax, enjoy the sun, or watch some TV on the big screen. As I said earlier, everything about this ship has been pin-pointed down to the finest detail.

There was a lot of distinct artwork onboard and some of it was so beautiful! You must look out for some of these pieces during your time onboard. My top 3 were the lady with the duck rubber ring, the elephant and the silver peacock.

On my second and final night onboard, I dined at EDEN and again, it was another superb meal. Of all the areas onboard, I think EDEN had to be my favourite. It offered incredible aft views with floor to ceiling windows, and it was spread across 3 levels. You could sit and enjoy the view, sip a drink from the bar or head down to the dining section and watch your chefs prepare your delicious meal.

I wasn’t onboard long enough to see, do and sample everything, but I’m hoping it won’t be long before I can join her, or one of her Edge-class sisters for another Celebrity Cruises experience. Was I sold? Definitely!

#PressTrip – As stated, I was a guest of Celebrity Cruises.  

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Posted in Celebrity Cruises, General Cruise Articles

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines unveils new hand-crafted programme of cruising for 2023/24

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has unveiled its full programme of cruising for 2023/24, with more than 100 hand-crafted sailings and the introduction of new Journey Navigators across its fleet of smaller ships.

The new programme includes opportunities to witness Norway’s famous Langfoss Waterfall in the spring, when the water is at its heaviest, explore the remote islands of the Azores, and visit Lapland in the summer months.

Durations range from two to 93-nights, with regional departures from Liverpool, Newcastle, Rosyth, Southampton, Dover, London Tilbury and Belfast. In addition, the programme features the return of a fly-cruise programme, with Braemar to be based in the Caribbean for the winter months.

The new brochure also unveils Fred. Olsen’s new Journey Navigators – Nature Scouts, Culture Curators, Maritime Guides and Entertainment Hosts – plus new signature experiences to celebrate the Joy of the Journey on each cruise.

Guests who book onto one of Fred. Olsen’s new 2023/24 sailings can enjoy up to £250 per person to spend on board, or up to £500 when booking a suite.

Plus, those who book a 2023 cruise but are also looking to get away this year can take advantage of 10% off any new booking for 2022.

Highlights of Fred. Olsen’s 2023/24 programme of cruising include:

Bolette’s 14-night T2318 ‘Summertime in Lapland and Scandinavia’ cruise, departing from Newcastle on 1st July 2023. Prices start from £2,099 per person.

Itinerary: Newcastle, England – Turku, Finland – Cruising Turku Archipelago, Finland – Oulu, Finland – Kemi, Finland – Holmsund, Sweden – Sundsvall, Sweden – Stockholm, Sweden (overnight stay) – Cruising Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden – Aarhus, Denmark – Newcastle, England

For more details: Visit T2318 ‘Summertime in Lapland and Scandinavia’  

Bolette’s 15-night T2327 ‘Volcanic Islands of the Canaries, Azores and Madeira’ cruise, departing from Southampton on 14th October 2023. Prices start from £2,099 per person.

Itinerary: Southampton, England – Praia da Vitoria, Portugal – Ponta Delgada, Portugal (overnight stay) – Santa Cruz, La Palma – Santa Cruz, Tenerife – San Sebastian, La Gomera – Funchal, Madeira – Southampton, England

For more details: Visit T2327 ‘Volcanic Islands of the Canaries, Azores and Madeira’  

Borealis’ 10-night S2322 ‘Touring Southern Spain, Portugal & Gibraltar’ cruise, departing from Liverpool on 22nd October 2023. Prices start from £1,399 per person.

Itinerary: Liverpool, England – Lisbon, Portugal – Cruising Mouth of River Tagus, Portugal – Gibraltar, Gibraltar – Málaga, Spain – Cádiz, Spain – La Coruña, Spain – Cruising by Tower of Hercules Lighthouse, Spain – Liverpool, England

For more details: Visit S2322 ‘Touring Southern Spain, Portugal & Gibraltar’  

Braemar’s 14-night M2401 ‘Latin America Civilisations’ fly-cruise (flights from London Gatwick/Manchester), departing from Havana, Cuba on 2nd January 2024. Prices start from £2,699 per person.

Itinerary: Havana, Cuba (overnight stay) – Progreso, Yucatán, Mexico – Cozumel, Mexico – Colon, Panama – Cartagena de Indias, Colombia – Santa Marta, Colombia – Santiago de Cuba, Cuba – Havana, Cuba (overnight stay)

For more details: Visit M2401 ‘Latin America Civilisations’  

Balmoral’s seven-night L2411 ‘Mighty Waterfalls and Norwegian Fjords’ cruise, departing from Newcastle on 26th April 2024. Prices start from £1,099 per person.

Itinerary: Newcastle, England – Cruising Lysefjord, Norway – Cruising Hardangerfjord, Norway – Eidfjord, Norway – Cruising Maurangerfjord and Furebergfossen, Norway – CruisingÅkrafjord and Langfoss Waterfall, Norway – Bergen, Norway – Cruising Nordfjord, Norway – Olden, Norway – Cruising by Hornelen, Norway – Åndalsnes, Norway – Cruising Romsdalfjorden and Isfjorden, Norway – Newcastle, England

For more details: Visit L2411 ‘Mighty Waterfalls and Norwegian Fjords’  

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Posted in Cruise News, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

New 2023 and 2024 sailings with Cunard

Cunard has unveiled over 110 international voyages, sailing on its iconic fleet between 23 October 2023 and 14 May 2024, including the maiden voyages on new ship Queen Anne.

Across the new itineraries, the four-ship fleet comprising of Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne, will call at 126 unique ports in 51 countries, with voyages ranging from two-night city breaks to a 108-night world voyage.

Queen Anne is scheduled to call at more than 32 ports across the world during her maiden season, all sailing out of Southampton. Following her maiden voyage to the enchanting city of Lisbon, the newest Queen will embark on a collection of enticing sailings in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Northern Europe as well as an Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing.

In 2024, Queen Victoria will embark on a 107-night World Voyage, departing Southampton on a full circumnavigation.  The ship will sail westbound to North America, including a transit of the Panama Canal, onwards to Australia, Asia, and returning to Europe via South Africa, visiting 32 unique destinations across her new voyages.

Queen Mary 2, the world’s only ocean liner, will begin her season with an Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing from New York, before setting off from Southampton on a 108-night World Voyage.  The liner will sail to the Mediterranean, Asia via the Suez Canal, Australia and returning to Europe via South Africa. 

Following a fly-cruise season in Barcelona, Queen Elizabeth will relocate to Singapore before starting her Australian residency with a 6-night voyage from Fremantle. She’ll then embark on a series of short break and roundtrip voyages from Melbourne and Sydney, including a Christmas and New Year voyage to New Zealand, a 10-night exploration of Queensland, and a new 14-night voyage calling in the South Pacific.

“Announcing every new programme for Cunard is always exciting, but this year is even more so, as guests will be able to choose itineraries across four magnificent ships in the fleet for the first time since 1999,” said Sture Myrmell, President, Carnival UK. “In the newly announced programme, each ship offers a unique experience with distinct itineraries.  With Queen Anne based out of Southampton, Queen Elizabeth out of Australia and Japan, and Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 both sailing world voyages, one with a full circumnavigation and one exploring the finest destinations across the Mediterranean, Asia, Australia and Africa. Our new voyages bring opportunities to explore all corners of the world in luxurious surroundings while enjoying our White Star Service as well as all the other special touches that make a trip with Cunard so special.”

Please sign up Shine Rewards Club at www.shinerewardsclub.com for further information.

Welcome to The World 2023 & 2024 New Voyages – Key Itineraries

Maiden Voyage (H403)

Guests can join an illustrious guest list on board Queen Anne’s maiden voyage to Lisbon as we celebrate a new chapter of Cunard history. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton on 4 January 2024, this 7-night voyage will offer an overnight port call in which to savour Lisbon’s UNESCO-listed Belém Tower, the exquisite palaces of Sintra, and the wonderfully atmospheric nightlife of the Barrio Alto. On her return to Southampton, our newest Queen will be joined by her sister ships Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, marking the first time these three Queens will come together – a fitting end to a voyage filled with celebratory moments. Inside staterooms from £1,299 per person.

Eastern Caribbean (H405)

Guests can relax and take pleasure in all that the newest ship has to offer on this 35-night Caribbean adventure that takes in the tropical islands of Barbados and St Lucia amongst others. Queen Anne departs Southampton 27 January 2024. Inside staterooms from £5,299 per person.

Western Mediterranean (H408)

This 16-night voyage comprises a mix of days at sea and time in port, offering the chance to discover the delights on board Cunard’s new ship as well as the fascinating histories of Lisbon, Cadiz and Rome. Queen Anne departs Southampton 29 March 2024. Inside staterooms from £2,299 per person.

Full World Voyage (V404D)

This stunning 107-night World Voyage offers the perfect opportunity to see the four corners of the world. Destinations including San Francisco and Fiji plus overnights in Hong Kong and South Africa. Queen Victoria departs Southampton 11 January 2024. Inside staterooms from £12,499 per person.

Southampton to Sydney (M403B)

Blissful days at sea on board provide a relaxing balance between time ashore in Portugal, South Africa and Australia on this 47-night sailing that includes three overnight port calls. Queen Mary 2 departs Southampton 11 January 2024. Inside staterooms from £5,699 per person.

Queensland (Q405)

The wondrous white sands of the Whitsunday Islands and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Great Barrier Reef are among the natural highlights of this 10-night voyage. Queen Elizabeth departs Sydney 22 January 2024. Inside staterooms from £1,399 per person.

Southern Islands (Q417)

The 10-night round trip voyage sailing from Tokyo will transports guests from neon-lit streets to historic shrines, stately castles and natural habitats, abundant with beauty. Queen Elizabeth departs Tokyo 14 May 2024. Inside staterooms from £1,399 per person.

From the bustle of vibrant cities, beauty of tropical shores to the wonder of historic treasures, the inspiring new itineraries from Cunard bring an ocean of opportunities to explore all corners of the world.

The 2023 and 2024 new voyages sailing on Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are available to book from 24 May 2022 and Queen Anne’s maiden sailings are available to book from 17 May 2022.

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Posted in Cruise News, Cunard Cruise Line

Norwegian Prima Introduces New Spa And Fitness Offerings

Norwegian Cruise Line has shared details surrounding its elevated spa and fitness offerings for its highly-anticipated Norwegian Prima Class vessels – Norwegian Prima and Viva.

The first two of six ships within this cutting-edge class will feature the cruise industry’s first charcoal sauna at sea as well as a two-story cascading indoor spa waterfall. The Cruise Line has also incorporated several guest favourites including thermal experiences and hot-stone loungers.

Award-winning architecture firm Rockwell Group masterfully designed the perfect environment for tranquillity and rejuvenation in Norwegian Prima and Viva’s spa and fitness venues. 

Awaken the Senses at the All New Mandara Spa

Industry’s First Charcoal Sauna at Sea

As part of the ongoing only-found-on-NCL’s Prima Class holiday experiences such as the world’s first three-level racetrack at sea and dry drop slides, the Brand will unveil the industry’s first charcoal sauna.

Derived from Japanese and Korean wellness practices, the charcoal sauna uses a radiant heat system with an outer charcoal layer to reach temperatures between 30-50 degrees Celsius. Guests can recline into relaxation as the sauna helps boost circulation and metabolism while also removing toxins from the body. The sauna also effectively treats muscle stiffness and tension, including relief from backache, headache, and arthritis, by promoting the deep release of connective tissue and muscles.

Thermal Experiences

The charcoal sauna is just one of eight thermal spa offerings available at the elevated Mandara Spa. Guests can also indulge in a series of blissful experiences such as a salt and steam room, as well as a gambit of Brand-first spa experiences including an Ice Room, Experiential Showers, a Flotation Salt Pool, and Infrared Sauna.

·       The Ice Room: After unwinding in the sauna or steam bath, guests can cool off in the refreshing Ice Room. The cold air helps to increase blood circulation, invigorate the respiratory tract, and strengthen the immune system. 

·       The Experiential Showers: Multiple water jets and lighting effects help invigorate the body, lower body temperature, and stimulate blood circulation.

·       Floatation Salt Pool: This treatment allows guests to fully relax all their muscles while floating in warm water. An experience similar to experiencing zero gravity due to the buoyancy of the saltwater. The Floatation Salt Pool is beneficial for easing mental anxiety and muscle tension. 

·       Infrared Sauna: Unlike traditional saunas that use conventional heat to warm the air, infrared saunas utilise infrared lamps to directly warm the body — and at lower temperatures than traditional saunas. This promotes relaxation, better sleep, sore muscle and joint relief, improved blood circulation, and detoxification.

New Services

NCL is also introducing several new services at the spa, including two new beds from the Gharieni Group, the Gharieni Welnamis and the Gharieni Wellmassage5D. The Welnamis bed utilises Binaural Acoustic & Dynamic Stimulation, a computer-controlled acoustic and vibrational therapy that trains the brain to relax and benefit from deep relaxation techniques. Meanwhile, the award-winning Wellmassage5d bed provides a whole-body wellness massage experience utilising eight specially pre-programmed positions and the Brand’s “Signature Treatment” technique.  

Other new service menu items include:

·       Ocean Spa Wave Massage: This unique treatment lets guests relax on a water-filled cushion. The cushion features a therapeutic warm wrap of nutrient-rich sea plants and marine algae releasing stress and tension from the body. The treatment also includes a deep cleansing seaweed mask, aromatherapy essential oils, and scalp and foot massages.

·       Musclease Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap: This wrap contains a warming blend of pine and rosemary essential oils to help guests ease the pains of rheumatism, arthritis, muscular spasms, and fatigue. 

·       Cellutox Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap: Excellent for guests seeking to improve the appearance of cellulite and reduce fluid retention. This treatment contains a detoxifying blend of juniper and lemon essential oils, which decongest and stimulate the body.

·       Zero Gravity Wellness Massage: High-tech meets high touch in this next-generation 75-minute wellness treatment. Producing a zero-gravity effect, the body is suspended on an advanced treatment table that maneuver a series of sophisticated massage techniques to the user. Eight table positions enable effective and precise reach of every muscle group, including intensive work on the back and main muscles, resulting in release of tension and improved body mechanics.

The spa will also feature a relaxation area featuring 22 hot stone loungers. Guests can also arrange to stay in one of the 28 exclusive spa balcony staterooms on board Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, providing travellers with premium access to the elevated Mandara Spa and its suite of thermal spa experiences.

First-of-its-Kind Design

At the spa, guests can visit either the Vitality or Salt Floatation Pool where they can immerse themselves in the tranquil sounds of the two-story cascading indoor spa waterfall. This space also features an impressive marble spiral staircase. Additional design highlights include the relaxation area in the spa, and the Pulse Fitness Centre. Both spaces are front facing on the ship, allowing guests to enjoy sweeping 270-degree views of the ocean. This is also the first time that NCL’s fitness centre will be located at the front of the ship.

The gym will also include the all-new Performance Recovery room, an interactive, engaging wellness experience utilising a selection of Hyperice products in workshops, group fitness classes, and services to maximise user benefits.

Returning Favourites

Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva will also feature enhanced guest-favourite spa and fitness amenities, including the Vitaly Pool, steam sauna, and Finnish sauna. The spa will offer a wide range of services in its 20 treatment rooms, including massage, acupuncture, manicures and pedicures, facials and more. In the Pulse Fitness Centre, guests will have free access to the state-of-the-art fitness equipment they have come to expect from NCL. Yoga and spin classes will also be available.

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