WindSurf: photo follow-up

by Don McCann

In our last post, I promised to post photos of the WindSurf from our recent cruise in Italy & Croatia.  The photo link is below, but I also want to add a few comments…

Although WindSurf looks unlike a traditional cruise ship from the outside, the interior is very much like many ships.  It is very comfortable for someone looking for the Lounge, the Dining Room, or a Specialty Dining alternative.  It’s very stable; we had only one night of ‘some’ motion and the winds were such that I’m sure ANY cruise ship in the area had motion, as well.  The cabin is designed to look like more of a yacht-type accommodation, than a cruise ship, but you’ll find all of the same amenities, but with maybe more storage (the storage was really great).  What you don’t find is a crowd.  With only 310 guests, it’s very relaxed, with no lines, no competition for best seats in the lounge, etc.  If you’ve only cruised on large ships, it’s difficult to imagine how much better the experience can be on a smaller vessel (maybe ask someone who’s taken a river cruise).

Regardless of which of the Windstar Cruises’ yacht ships you might select, you’ll have an upscale experience – trust me!

Now for those photos……

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Filed under Croatia Cruise, Cruise Ship Dining, European Cruises, Italy Cruise, Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Mediterranean Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Our Cruises, River Cruises, Uncategorized, Windstar Cruises, Windsurf

Cruise Report: Windstar Cruises

 

 

by Don McCann

I recently returned from Windstar Cruises’ Windsurf on an 8-Night itinerary from Venice to Rome.  I’d sailed with Windstar several years ago, but that was on one of their smaller ships (Windsurf is their largest sailing yacht).  For those not familiar with the line, Windstar has three “sailing yachts” and three “motor yachts”.  They use the term “yacht” because of the small number of guests onboard and the overall experience related to the smaller size.

Windstar’s two smaller sailing yachts each carry 148 guests and the larger Windsurf carries 310 guests.  The three motor yachts, recently acquired from the deluxe line Seabourn, each accommodate 212 guests.  While each ship offers enough space and amenities to be comparable to a traditional, large cruise ship, the ambiance is definitely more intimate and yacht-like.

Unlike the more expensive ultra-deluxe cruise lines which carry smaller numbers of passengers, Windstar provides a very upscale experience at a much lower rate.  They don’t claim to be like Crystal, or Regent, but they deliver a premium level cruise experience which some would put more in league with say Azamara, or perhaps Oceania.

Aside from the advantage of the relaxed and spacious onboard experience, the smaller size of the ship allows Windstar to physically dock, while larger ships have to tender (anchor out and shuttle boat back & fourth) in certain ports.  On our cruise this was the case in Kotor, Montenegro and while we had to tender in Dubrovnik, we did so from very close in, while the larger ships were WAY far away from town and not visible from the port.

I’ll post a future blog with photos from the ship itself, but for now, I’d like to share just a few photos of the fantastic ports on this itinerary.  We had a port every day (only one day at sea) and we truly loved them all.  Take a look and see why…..

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Our water taxi enroute to our pre-cruise hotel in Venice

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Classic view of Venice!

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Windsurf in Venice, ready for embarkation

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From the port of Rovinj, our excursion was to Motovun

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The Croatian countryside, out from Rovinj

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Split, Croatia, as seen from our ship

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recently restored Cathedral of St. Duje in Trogir, an excursion from Split

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Fortress of Kamerlengo, Trogir, Croatia

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“Walking the wall” in Dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik as seen from the cable car station atop the hill

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The stunning ‘fjord-like’ access into Kotor, Montenegro

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climbing the 1,350 steps to the top for great views of Kotor!

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“Our Lady of Health” church, overlooking Kotor below

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We made it!  All 1,350 steps to the top at Kotor’s Castle of San Giovanni

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Windsurf in the distance, as we drive up to Taormina, Sicily

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the square at the entrance to Taormina

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colorful, picturesque Taormina

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The Gambino Vineyards on Sicily (no, not THAT Gambino!)

 

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The famed Blue Grotto on the isle of Capri

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overlooking Capri from atop Anacapri

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The Colosseum, of course

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Arch of Constantine, Rome

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Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome

For more information on Windstar Cruises, call us, or click here

 

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Filed under Capri, Italy, Croatia Cruise, Dubrovnik, European Cruises, Italy Cruise, Kotor, Montenegro, Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Mediterranean Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Our Cruises, Rome, Rovinj, Croatia, Taormina, Uncategorized, Venice, Windstar Cruises, Windsurf

Land Chefs @ Sea

by Don McCann

More and more, we are seeing noted chefs from restaurants on land being tapped by cruise lines to bring their trademark styles to shipboard dining.  Just this week I was at a presentation on Norwegian Cruise Lines‘ newest ship, Norwegian Escape, which will boast something like 29 different dining options (a brand feature of their ‘Freestyle Cruising’ amenities).  But what caught my attention was the two short videos they showed on their partnerships with these noted chefs.  Both videos are very short, but very cool……..take a look:

For information and itineraries on this exciting new ship and Norwegian Cruise Line, contact us.

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River Cruise? Don’t Wait!

by Don McCann

European River Cruises have become quite popular in recent years, so that many people are now ‘aware‘ of river cruising and many people are interested in actually taking one, too.  However, we see time and again that potential river cruisers are surprised that their cruise of interest is either already filled, or has very limited availability.  Unlike ocean cruises which accommodate hundreds, or thousands of passengers, river cruises usually accommodate about 160 guests!  So if you do some simple math: high demand + low capacity…then it only stands to reason that planning in advance is essential.

So when to plan?  Well, September is actually one of the peak months for booking European cruises in the following year; in other words, NOW is a good time!  While this does not mean that you will not be able to find anything if you wait, it does mean you’d have to be flexible on date and accommodation type (the lowest deck is actually the least popular and what is usually “leftover”).  September is also when some of the last advance booking discounts expire.  One such example is with Avalon Waterways…..they currently have a discount on their 2016 cruises, plus they also have an airfare discount, as well.  If you’d like more info, just click here.

In our office we’ve all been on river cruises and we all love them (in fact our Alice Burkhart is onboard one right now!).  So if this is of interest to you, please contact us; we’d love to assist you in planning YOUR River Cruise!

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Powerful Normandy

by Don McCann

My recent cruise on Avalon Waterways’ Tapestry II on the Seine River included a full day in Normandy.  I’ve never been a ‘war buff’, but I knew a little about it, so I was glad that the cruise line had a guest speaker who gave us an overview the night before we arrived.  His presentation included some details and photos which really made a great difference in our experience on our tour the following day.  However, I have to say that whatever you may, or may not know about this historic area, actually being there in person is very powerful; it is a moving and sobering experience.  I could go on, but I think the photos say it best; take a look and note the captions which I’ve included….

Arromanches, the sight of the artificial harbor created by the Allied Forces; constructed by the British

Arromanches, the sight of the artificial harbor created by the Allied Forces; they used these ‘barge-like’ stuctures which had been constructed by the British

The stunning coastline in the Normandy region

The stunning coastline in the Normandy region

A view from inside the German bunkers, looking out to the toward the oncoming invasion area

A view from inside the German bunkers, looking out to the toward the oncoming invasion area

More fantastic scenery along the coastline

More fantastic scenery along the coastline

Leading up to the bunkers, there are craters everywhere from the bombing during the invasion

Leading up to the bunkers, there are craters everywhere from the bombing during the invasion

Omaha Beach memorial

Omaha Beach memorial in memory of the soldiers who landed on June 6, 1944. (around 2000 Americans died).

Memorial area at cemetary

Memorial area at the American cemetery in Normandy. The speaker to the right gave our group a brief presentation and led us in the pledge of allegiance.

A virtual sea of crosses and stars of David in the U.S. cemetary; more powerful than you could expect

A virtual sea of Crosses (and Stars of David) in the U.S. cemetary; more powerful than you could expect. Also of note: this is U.S. soil, despite being within the country of France!

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We were each given a rose to place on the grave or our choice. We located one who had passed on the same date as our visit, July 7.

Normandy American Cemetery entrance

Normandy American Cemetery entrance

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Thatch & Sea

by Don McCann

One of the stops on my recent Avalon Waterways cruise on the Seine River was Caudebec, which provided for a tour to a country village with thatched roof cottages and homes in the morning and to the coast to Honfleur in the afternoon.

Similar to our previous stop in Les Andelys, we docked right in the heart of town and could easily walk to everything this community had to offer.  However, there was no time for exploring when we arrived; that would come later!  After our arrival, we boarded a motorcoach into the countryside to visit a small village of half-timbered houses with long, sloping thatched roofs.  Like so many times on a river cruise, this tour was great in its simplicity.  We had an overview from our guide on the coach, then we made a stop to simply wonder the area in a small group to see the homes and gardens.  It was such a delight!  We’ve all heard of ‘thatched roof’ homes, but many of us have not seen one, certainly so up close.

The remainder of the day was spent visiting the seaside town of Honfleur, which is a place I’ve wanted to visit for several years.  Think of a quaint port town in Maine, a bit larger and French-style.  Yes, there is much history in Honfleur, but to be honest, it’s mostly about the photo ops!  We followed our guide down a side street, then into an ‘alley’- type street, but with cobblestones under our feet and buildings oozing history all around us.  Next, we were directly at the marina, or harbor in the center of town with cafes, shops, and bars on each side of the u-shaped inlet.  Oh, and did I mention that it was sunny?!  The weather was picture-perfect!

We returned to the Tapestry II in time for dinner, then we ventured out in to town to walk along the wharf and through the neighborhood nearby.  Charming architecture, impressive church in the town square (just like all the other towns), and a lovely evening.  We felt very safe and it was a great end to an activity-packed day.

Thatched roof home in the Normandy region

Thatched roof home in the Normandy region

Can you name this?  Neither could we!

Can you name this? Neither could we!

Honfleur sidestreet as our tour began

Honfleur sidestreet as our tour began

Picturesque Honfleur

Picturesque Honfleur

Honfleur waterfront

Honfleur waterfront

The church in Honfleur was built by ship makers, thus the inverted "ship" shaped roof!

The church in Honfleur was built by ship makers, thus the inverted “ship” shaped roof!

Caudebec-en-Caux Notre Dame Church, outside & inside

Caudebec-en-Caux Notre Dame Church, outside & inside

Lovely manor home being restored in Caudebec

Lovely manor home being restored in Caudebec

Caudebec speed sign - note if you are within the speed limit - it says "Merci"!

Caudebec speed sign – note if you are within the speed limit – it says “Merci”!

For more information on Avalon Waterways, click here.

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We Like That Name!

by Don McCann

At Cruise Escapes, we always take notice when a similar name comes along. A couple of years ago, Princess Cruises used a tagline of “Escape Completely”; we liked that! Now, Norwegian Cruise Line is about to launch their newest and largest ship ever, the Norwegian Escape. The ship will sail from Miami and it begins in November. There’s a nice overview, with some photos & a video if you click here

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