Category Archives: Mediterranean & Europe Cruises

Technology – It’s a Thing!

by Don McCann

Last week we received a preview video of Holland America Line’s new Koningsdam, which will be introduced next Spring. The ship is, as you might expect, quite impressive and I’m sure it will be a wonderful addition to the Holland America fleet. However, equally as impressive to me is the technology of the video itself! We see many of this type of ‘preview’ videos these days, but I continue to be amazed at the ability of the digital ‘renderings’ to come to life in such a way that it’s difficult to remember that this is not ‘real’ just yet!

Take a look at this short 3minute video and see if you agree that this visual technology is quite a ‘thing’! ……

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Filed under Caribbean Cruises, Cruise News, Cruise Ship Dining, Holland America Line, Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Mediterranean Cruises, New Ship

Potholes in the Road

by Bill Edwards

As some of you know, last fall I spent 2 weeks in Europe — a 7 night cruise on the Azamara Journey between Monte Carlo and Rome with additional time at both ends in Nice and Rome.  In a nutshell it was an absolutely wonderful trip – the ship AND the itinerary.  But since returning I’ve been thinking about what were my favorite things about the trip and my favorite stops.

Being a cruise agent since 1985 I’ve noticed a few changes in my thinking over these past almost 30 years – call it the aging process if you want—I won’t be offended!  But where I used to be focused on details of a trip,  I now seem to look more at the “big” picture and how the things that we DO and DO NOT have control over affect our perception of a vacation.  Let me cite a couple of examples:

Cinque Terre

Lovely Cinque Terre

The weather – which we never have control over – affects your experiences and how you remember a port of call.  I’d so looked forward to Cinque Terre – the pastel painted villages that literally hang on the cliffs overlooking the azure seas of the Mediterranean.   Well – our day there was overcast and a little bit drizzly at times.  It didn’t ruin things for us by any means but in contrast to our stop later in the cruise at Ravello on the Amalfi coast – what a difference.  The weather was perfect and thus, in my mind, I would rank Ravello as one of my favorite stops on the entire trip.

Location – Location – Location.  How many times have you heard that word used in relation to buying real estate?  Well it applies just as importantly

Colosseum in Rome

The Always Impressive Colosseum in Rome

to the location of your hotel on a trip—which is something one DOES have control over.  I have to be honest and say that while I was looking forward to visiting Rome for the first time I did NOT think I was going to like it.  I had visions in my mind of a dirty, bustling city with somewhat rude people.  Was I ever surprised in so many ways!  Not only was it much cleaner than I expected – the locals were nice — and again it didn’t hurt that the weather was near perfect.  But I think what really helped was the location of where we stayed.  We were just steps down a side street from the Pantheon.  We walked EVERYWHERE – the Colosseum and Forum, Piazza Navona, and the Vatican.  How many times do we “scrimp” on hotel costs rather than pay for location and thereby enjoy more of what a city has to offer?

So in the end – yes we can control some things; others we can’t.  Keep your travel eye on the big picture and…

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey” – Fitzhugh Mullan

Pantheon in Rome

The Pantheon in Rome

Tuscany

Scenic Tuscany

Pompei

Ruins of Pompei

Florence

Overlooking Florence

Ravello

With my wife, Lisa, in Ravello

Amalfi Coast

Dramatic Amalfi Coast

Ravello

Ravello

Interested in more info on this itinerary, or details on Azamara, email: Bill@CruiseEscapes.com

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Filed under Azamara Club Cruises, European Cruises, Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Mediterranean Cruises, Our Cruise Stories

When in Rome: Hotel Napoleon!

Our own John Lane recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise onboard Oceania Marina; his impressions and experiences continue……

In the center of Rome, there is a hidden gem of a hotel called Hotel Napoleon.  The Cioce family runs this 75 room hotel within walking distance to the Coluseum. 

Hotel Napoleon

Apon arrival you are graciously greeted by Roberto, the Conceirge and he welcomes you and takes care of your needs while your room is being prepared for your stay.  I was immediately taken to the breakfast room to enjoy the morning buffet of fresh rolls, pastries, breads, cheeses, meats, eggs, bacon, cereal and of course hot coffee.  It is a small room seating about 40 to 50 and it was a popular spot.  The breakfast is included in your price. 

The rooms are tastefully done in light shades of blue, yellows and greens.  Mine was quite spacious with a sitting area, flat screen TV, safe,

Tasteful, European decor

mini refrigerator, walk in closet and two sets of balcony doors that opened to a courtyard.  The bathrooms were brand new with marble floors and counter tops, towel warmers, a large shower with rain head shower and very nice toiletries. 

On the second floor of the hotel a large spacious sitting room offers a large flat screen TV, a computer with free internet service a lounge offering drinks and restaurant that is open for dinner nightly offering Italian cuisine. 

Hotel Napoleon lobby area

The Napoleon is a great hotel in a city where pricing for hotels is outrageous.  The rates are much lower and the personalized service (you are always addressed by your name) makes your stay even much nicer and you feel like you are at home.  

John Lane, MCC
Personal Cruise Planner
Cruise Escapes
972-404-0505
800-288-1190
John@CruiseEscapes.com

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Filed under Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, New Ship, Our Cruise Stories

Specialty Dining 101 on the Oceania Marina

Our own John Lane recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise onboard Oceania Marina; his impressions and experiences continue……
Prior to sailing on the Oceania Marina, I pre-reserved my specialty dining times for my cruise.  The four dining options are Jacques, Polo Grill, Toscana, and Red Ginger.  All of these are complimentary to guests onboard Marina. 
When I made my reservations,  my group would dine in Jacques first, Toscana second, Polo Grill third, and last, but not least, Red Ginger.  Of the four, I was least excited about dining in Red Ginger.  Boy, was I wrong!  It was our last stop on the specialty dining evenings, but it was by far the best dining experience of the cruise.   
The total dining experience at Red Ginger made this my top dining experience onboard the Marina.  From being greeted at the door by the female maitre d’, to the personal attention by our table waiters.  Myself and table mates were always addressed by our name with each course. They made each one of us feel very special that evening.
Starting out with a choice of several chop sticks, I was the only one brave enough to try chop sticks.  We were given choice of teas and then our hot water came in our glass tea pot…I could see this was not going to be your typical meal in a chinese restauant.  We started with edamame, then a hot towel to clean our hands from the sea salt.  Next was my beef tenderloin salad with ginger, lime and spring vegetables…it could of been a meal in itself.  That was followed by coconut and chicken soup which was excellent, too.  But the crowning dish of this meal was the entree:  Sea Bass.  It was by far the best piece of fish I have ever had.  It had been marinated for eight hours in ginger, then seared and grilled to perfection just before serving. 
To end the meal I tried the exotic sherbet trio.  Mango, pineapple and coconut sherbet were served in bamboo cones stuffed with leaves…what a presentation and way to end this meal.  So

sherbet trio

Red Ginger's Sherbet Trio dessert

remember, if you think something is going to just be average and get excellent in return you will be one happy person!

John Lane, MCC
Personal Cruise Planner
Cruise Escapes
972-404-0505
800-288-1190
John@CruiseEscapes.com

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Filed under Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, New Ship, Our Cruise Stories

High Tea on the High Seas

Our own John Lane recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise onboard Oceania Marina; his impressions and experiences continue……

John Lane in Corfu, Greece

After a long day in port and having exhausted yourself with sightseeing and shopping, it was nice to come back to the Marina for a relaxing hour of High Tea.

Fine china designed exclusively for Oceania

On Oceania Cruises, High Tea is served everyday on every ship on every itinerary from 4 pm to 5pm in the Horizon Lounge.  A string quartet greets you with gentle background music.  The center piece of sterling silver platters of pastries, sandwiches and other delicacies await you.

A sampling of the sandwiches and pastries at Oceania's High Tea

Once seated in the airy lounge you are offered your choice of tea and then come all the treats.  White gloved servers continually circle the lounge offering an array of pastries, sandwiches, cakes and scones.  A flaming dessert was always prepared daily.  The crepe suzettes were my favorites.

A four piece orchestra for wonderful background music!

Oceania takes great pride in the white gloved service that they offer every day while many cruise lines have discontinued this ritual or only offer tea once a cruise.  So when on the Marina, or any Oceania ship at 4:00 p.m., head to the Horizon Lounge for High Tea…see you there!

John Lane, MCC
Personal Cruise Planner
Cruise Escapes
972-404-0505
800-288-1190
John@CruiseEscapes.com

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Filed under Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, New Ship, Our Cruise Stories

A View from the Top

Our own John Lane is currently sailing onboard the Oceania Marina in the Mediterranean; the following is the latest in his ongoing series of blog posts:

Some of the best views in the Med can be seen from mountaintop villages perched at the highest peak.

San Gimignano, Italy

Whether it is Eze, or St. Paul de Vence on the French Riviera, or looking at the Tuscan countryside from the towers of San Gimignano, they all give you breathtaking views.   Taormina offers panoramic views from several vantage points.  In Corfu, take a trip to Bella Vista, perched at the top of the highest point in Corfu for breathtaking views of Corfu and the Adriatic.

So once you get to port just don’t stay in town.  Hike up, take a mini bus, or a taxi to get to the highest point for views you won’t forget and will make your day!

John Lane, MCC
Cruise Escapes
972-404-0505
John@CruiseEscapes.com

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Filed under Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Our Cruise Stories

Siena Sunburn

Our own John Lane is currently sailing onboard the Oceania Marina in the Mediterranean; the following is the latest in his ongoing series of blog posts:

Are shore excursions for you?  Do you want to be part of a group? Today I experienced my third shore excursion, an 11 hour tour to Siena and San Gimignano.  We left Livorno with our pleasent guide who talked about the area and what we would see. Then once we got to Siena, we picked up a local guide who was well versed on the area….and well versed she was.  She talked about every brick and stone each building had.  I just wanted the basics and she was telling me too much.  We did get free time after her one hour tour and I ate lunch on the square in Siena …pizza and chianti.  Siena is the Chianti region so I HAD to drink chianti.  The tour director left us and then we drove to San Gimignano and guess who met us there?

You are right: the same local guide was going to tell us once again about all the bricks and stones in the towers.  I kind of drifted to the back of the group and just soaked in the local color which I enjoyed and would have to say that San G. has been my favorite stop.  So when you get to a port of call think about do you just want to learn the basics or want get the lengthy
detailed version of every brick and stone.

John Lane, MCC
Cruise Escapes
972-404-0505
John@CruiseEscapes.com


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Filed under Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Our Cruise Stories