Category Archives: Mediterranean & Europe Cruises

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……

Camera icon click here mod

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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…..


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


Classic view of Venice!


Windsurf in Venice, ready for embarkation


From the port of Rovinj, our excursion was to Motovun


The Croatian countryside, out from Rovinj


Split, Croatia, as seen from our ship


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


Fortress of Kamerlengo, Trogir, Croatia


“Walking the wall” in Dubrovnik


Dubrovnik as seen from the cable car station atop the hill


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


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


“Our Lady of Health” church, overlooking Kotor below


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


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


the square at the entrance to Taormina


colorful, picturesque Taormina


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



The famed Blue Grotto on the isle of Capri


overlooking Capri from atop Anacapri


The Colosseum, of course


Arch of Constantine, Rome


Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome

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



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

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


Scenic Tuscany


Ruins of Pompei


Overlooking Florence


With my wife, Lisa, in Ravello

Amalfi Coast

Dramatic Amalfi Coast



Interested in more info on this itinerary, or details on Azamara, email:

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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

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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

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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

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