Category Archives: Our Cruise Stories

Navigator of the Seas: Revitalized!

by Don McCann

When a ship goes into dry dock for some updating, or refreshing, we call it “refurbished“, but when a redo is this dramatic, we have to say the ship was “revitalized“!  Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas had an extended dry dock earlier this year.  Much more than the usual new carpets and perhaps new bed covers, this operation included such features as:

  • New Panoramic Oceanview cabins added up on Deck 12
  • The addition of a new Modern Mexican Specialty Restaurant, Sabor
  • Asian Specialty Restaurant, Izumi
  • A Flowrider surf simulator added to Sports Deck
  • Select interior cabins converted to “Virtual Balcony” cabins via a floor to ceiling digital video screen
  • Giovanni’s Table, Italian Specialty Restaurant in former Portofino
  • New Diamond Lounge for Diamond level Crown & Anchor members

We were treated to a one-night agent cruise last weekend so that we could experience some of Navigator’s amenities first-hand.  My first impression was how much the ship seems to feel virtually ‘new’.  The ship was built in 2002, but you’d never know it by taking a look around.  The cabin’s have been refreshed with new soft goods and all areas I was able to see seemed in very good condition.  The facilities and features of this ship are simply overwhelming for anyone who is boarding for the first time.  I was able to visit most areas of the ship and some of my photos are below.  Take a look and let us know if a voyage with Navigator of the Seas might be of interest to you!

Navigator of the Seas sails year-round from Galveston on 7-night cruises to the Western Caribbean.

Navigator of the Seas: Solarium on Deck 11 for adults only

Solarium on Deck 11 for adults only

Navigator of the Seas:  Viking Crown Lounge overlooking Pool Deck

Viking Crown Lounge overlooking Pool Deck

Navigator of the Seas: Izumi

Izumi – Deck 14

Navigator of the Seas: Izumi Asian Specialty Restaurant

Izumi Asian Specialty Restaurant, with stunning views of the sea from Deck 14!

Navigator of the Seas:  Giovanni's Table Italian Specialty Restaurant on Deck 11

Giovanni’s Table, Italian Specialty Restaurant on Deck 11

Navigator of the Seas: Chop's Grille, Steakhouse Specialty Restaurant on Deck 11

Chop’s Grille, Steakhouse Specialty Restaurant on Deck 11 (an outstanding dining experience!)

Navigator of the Seas: Chop's Grille Deck 11

Chop’s Grille, Deck 11

Navigator of the Seas: Royal Suite

Royal Suite. 1,336 sq ft + 266 sq ft balcony. Although most of us will never get the opportunity to stay here, it is very nice to have a look!

Navigator of the Seas:  Standard Balcony Cabin

Standard Balcony Cabin: 184 sq ft + 50 sq ft balcony

Navigator of the Seas:  Standard Oceanview Cabin

Standard Oceanview Cabin: 160 sq ft

Navigator of the Seas:  Interior Cabin with Virtual Balcony

Interior Cabin with Virtual Balcony: 150 sq ft. Provides live view of current location, complete with sound! (yes, it CAN be turned off if you prefer)

Navigator of the Seas:  Promenade Cabin

Promenade Cabin: 160 sq ft., overlooking the interior Royal Promenade

Navigator of the Seas:  Family Panoramic Oceanview Cabin

Family Panoramic Oceanview Cabin: 406 sq ft. Can accommodate up to six with a bath and a half.

Navigator of the Seas:  Sapphire Dining Room

The three level Sapphire Dining Room (stunning from each level!)

Navigator of the Seas:  Sapphire Dining Room

Sapphire Dining Room on Decks 3, 4, & 5

Navigator of the Seas: Sabor Modern Mexican Specialty Restaurant

Sabor: Modern Mexican Specialty Restaurant. The food here was varied in selection, nicely presented, and DELICIOUS!

Navigator of the Seas: Sabor, tableside guacamole preparation

Sabor, tableside guacamole preparation! Mild, spicy, or HOT – just tell him; a fun twist to a very nice dinner.

Navigator of the Seas:  Royal Promenade

Royal Promenade: the heart of the ship’s activities

Navigator of the Seas:  Cafe Promenade

Cafe Promenade, 24 hour complimentary pizza, sandwiches, and snacks

Navigator of the Seas:   Vintages Wine Bar in Royal Promenade

Vintages Wine Bar in Royal Promenade

Navigator of the Seas:   Bolero

Bolero, just off the Royal Promenade (great Mojitos are found here!)

Navigator of the Seas:  Schooner Bar

Schooner Bar on Deck 4; same design as all of their other ships, but never gets old!

Navigator of the Seas:   Royal Theater

Royal Theater on Decks 2, 3, & 4; home to varied and exciting entertainment options

Navigator of the Seas:  Cosmopolitan Club in Viking Crown Lounge

Cosmopolitan Club in Viking Crown Lounge, Deck 14; expansive views of the sea and pool decks below

Navigator of the Seas:  Johnny Rockets hamburger diner

Johnny Rockets hamburger diner, Deck 12

Navigator of the Seas:   Sports Court on Deck 13

Sports Court on Deck 13

Navigator of the Seas:  Rock Climbing Wall

Rock Climbing Wall, Deck 13 (not for me, but enjoyed my many others)

Navigator of the Seas:   Flowrider Surf Simulator

Flowrider Surf Simulator, Deck 13; great to watch the successes and wipeouts which occur here!

Navigator of the Seas:  Royal Promenade

Royal Promenade below (note Promenade view cabins on either side)

Questions?  Please ask us!

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Filed under Caribbean Cruises, Cruise News, Cruise Ship Dining, Navigator of the Seas, New Ship, Our Cruise Stories, Royal Caribbean, Virtual Balcony Cabin

Open House Sale Coming Soon

by Don McCann

We are very excited about our upcoming Open House Sale on Saturday, February 1.  Why be excited?  Well, it is always a treat for us to bring together our clients with some of our favorite cruise line representatives.  Nothing beats personal contact and most people really enjoy being able to meet and chat with some one from these lines.  They can tell you what is new, what itineraries have changed, or have been added, AND what specials we have to offer!  We’ve worked with these people for a very long time and we are fortunate to have them in our office to meet with our clients (both long-time and new clients).

If you are in the Dallas Ft.Worth area, we hope you will join us, along with Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Viking Cruises on Saturday, February 1, 2014 from 11am to 2pm in our office at 14464 Midway Road, Dallas 75244.

< more details, click here >

Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Viking River

Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Viking River

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Filed under Celebrity Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Our events, Princess Cruises, River Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Viking Cruises, Viking River Cruises

Azamara Journey, the Adriatic and the Amalfi Coast, September 21, 2013

by Alice Burkhart

Image

Alice in Fiskardo, Celphalonia, Greece
(see more photos at the bottom of this post)

My cruise aboard the Azamara Journey was “AzAmazing.” The cruise line’s motto is “You will love where we take you;” and, I truly did. The voyage from Venice to Rome touched the ancient shores of the Adriatic Sea with distinctive shore excursions which immersed you into the countryside as well. The size of the Journey allows her to go beyond the traditional large seaports to smaller, lesser-known ports. Our itinerary included beautiful Opatija, Croatia, once the resort of Viennese aristocrats, and the medieval walled city of Kotor, Montenegro, which is perfectly hidden in a maze of fjords. The tiny, pastel-painted port of Fiskardo, Celphalonia, which could be a sister to Bermuda and a mecca for day sailors, was a lovely respite for enjoying the day. When we visited Sicily, we were anchored at the base of Mt. Etna conveniently located to the hilltop resort of Taormina instead of being docked in the large port of Messina which is miles away.

Dubrovnik on Azamara

Dubrovnik

Azamara offers longer stays in ports, more overnights, and night touring in their voyages. Our INCLUDED night touring was in St. Ignatius Square in the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was an evening of music and dance presented by the word-renown Lindjo Folklore ensemble with samplings of Croatian food and wine. The walls of the buildings were even decked in neon lighting. It was truly an incredible evening that could have doubled for a Hollywood set. Our overnight stay was in Sorrento, Italy, perched on the rugged hills of the Amalfi Coast. Who doesn’t love the charm of that romantic town and to have two days there was a gift!

The Azamara onboard experience equals a fine boutique hotel where service reigns and friendliness is genuine. You immediately get the feeling that the staff is a caring onboard family who treats you as a guest in their home rather than a passenger. The cuisine was always a delight and the two Specialty restaurants went beyond being “special” in creative presentation and delectable food pairings.

Voyages on Azamara not only include exceptional European sites but just about everything else. There is no extra charge for select spirits and international beers, boutique wines, sodas, bottled water, coffees and your gratuities are complimentary.

So go beyond the traditional large ports and sail the up-market Azamara Club Cruises. You will love where they take you!

Montenegro on Azamara

enroute to Kotor, Montenegro

Mt Etna

Mt Etna

Amalfi on Azamara

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Colosseum on Azamara

Colosseum in Rome

 

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

That New Ship Smell

by Don McCann

On Sunday I’ll be boarding the Royal Princess for a 2-night agent preview cruise.  Although it began sailings in June of this year, next week will mark the ship’s U.S. debut and (just like a car) I think it will still have a bit of ‘that new ship smell’ which is so exciting!

Provided the onboard wi-fi cooperates, I hope to post some photos and thoughts as I explore this innovative new ship.  Some of the points of particular interest will be the Sea Walk (not for those with height issues!), the Bellagio-style pool fountains on the top deck, and the expanded Piazza.  I’m also hoping to see the new ‘Deluxe Balcony’ category as this is a first for Princess.

So stayed tuned for more on Royal Princess next week, the largest Princess ship ever!

Image

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Filed under New Ship, Our Cruise Stories, Princess Cruises, Royal Princess, Sea Walk

We’re Published!

by Don McCann

What is it about seeing your name in print that kind of gives you maybe just a little tingle?!  Come on, admit it, you know what I mean.  Well, leading Dallas wedding blogger, Emilie DesJardins, recently published an interview with me about honeymoon Cruiseship private balcony honeymoon couplecruises.  It’s always great to share expertise on our favorite topic, cruises, and it was flattering to be asked; we appreciate the opportunity.  Take a look: Honeymoon cruises: An option with many possibilities

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Filed under Dallas honeymoon blog, honeymoon blog, Honeymoon cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Uncategorized

Sweet Ratings

by Don McCann

My wife recently received a gift card for Godiva, so we set out for a trip to the mall to make our selections.  Talk about a kid in a candy store, how fun is it to gaze over all of those chocolate pieces of heaven and get to select some for ‘free’?!  Anyway, after some careful consideration, we made our selections (she allowed me to share in the decision making process).  As we exited the store, it occurred to me that any chocolate is a treat, but somehow they seem ‘rated’ and this reminded me of my own profession in the cruise business.

We’re frequently asked to ‘rate’ the different cruise lines and it occurs to me that one parent company embodies a similar rating scenario as some chocolates!  Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited is the parent to three familiar cruise lines.  First, you have the Hershey’s of the cruise industry – Royal Caribbean International; very popular, available to literally everyone, and always a treat.  Then there is the sister line, Celebrity Cruises, or I’d say the Dove of this group; widely available, well known, but just a bit more special and a ‘step up’.  Lastly, the boutique segment – Azamara Club Cruises or the Godiva of this family; definitely a special treat, a little more expensive, but well worth it, and something to savor!

OK, so maybe it’s a bit odd to make such analogies, but such enjoyable delights being compared make perfect sense to me; what do YOU think?!

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Filed under Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Royal Caribbean

Calendar Check

by Bill Edwards

2015!!! You’ve got to be kidding!  Try to get someone to book a cruise for 2015 when we’re barely through the first half of 2013?

Well, our Viking Cruise sales representative – you know the line

Downton Abbey aka Highclere Castle

Downton Abbey aka Highclere Castle

known for their river cruises and for advertising on the show we can’t wait to start again, YES, “Downton Abbey” – stopped by today to remind us that their ocean cruises start in 2015 AND they are already selling quite well!   Taking their mostly inclusive concept (i.e. soft drinks/wine/beer included with lunch and dinner PLUS a guided excursion in each port of call, FREE wi-fi, and port charges/government fees included) to ocean cruises is a “slam-dunk” in my book.   All the ocean cruisers that have fallen in love with river cruising’s

Viking Star

new for 2015: Viking Star

simplicity and value now have a no nonsense, easy to budget for, destination-oriented alternative on the oceans.  And with a little over 900 guests it will still be a fairly intimate atmosphere when compared to a ship of 2500 passengers!  So get your calendars out and give us a call if you’re thinking about Europe 2015!  And if you’re not, then perhaps you should!

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Filed under European Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Viking Cruises

J D Power Goes “Cruising”

by Don McCann

For the first time, J D Power & Associates has published a report on major cruise lines and guest satisfaction.  Disney Cruise LineDisney Cruise Line ranked highest with a score of 871 from a possible 1000.  My first reaction was “well they outta rank high for what they charge”.  Then I realized that this simply reinforces what we have told our clients for years, “Disney is noticeably higher than others, but we have never had anyone come back and say that they felt it was overpriced; in other words: they deliver”.  Nice to see that a respected firm like J D Power agrees!

(by the way, Royal Caribbean and Holland America came in second and third, respectively)

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Filed under Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Our Cruise Stories, Royal Caribbean

Christmas in June

by Don McCann

We often host client presentations, which our business calls “Cruise Nights”.  Last week, we had a cruise night called “Christmas in June” featuring Viking River Cruises and their Christmas Market cruises in Europe.    This event was great fun to plan and easy to decide how to decorate.  However, the most enthusiastic of our planners was my daughter, Rachel, who just moved back from Germany, after having lived there for 3 1/2 years.   While there, she LOVED the various Christmas Markets and she had TONS of ideas for our event.  Not only did she bring in some of her market purchases, but she baked authentic heart-shaped gingerbread cookies with ‘Merry Christmas’ in German, French, and Hungarian, as well as some cookies with the Viking River logo, AND she agreed to be one of our guest speakers!

Vikings great 3minute video was an effective visual introduction to the Christmas Markets, then Rachel added her personal experiences about the Markets, with some wonderful “show ‘n tell” items.  Next up, our local Viking River Representative, Carolyn Szekeres, did a great presentation on the cruises themselves and the fantastic new river ships the line is adding.  All in all, it was perhaps our most fun, and certainly our most festive, cruise night yet!

If you were not able to join us, take a look at some of the photos (click on each to enlarge):

Brats & cheese with pretzel bread

Brats & cheese with pretzel bread

Christmas in June lights and seating

Christmas in June lights at Cruise Escapes

 

Carolyn Szekeres of Viking Cruises

Carolyn Szekeres of Viking Cruises

Christmas in June CE staff

Cruise Escapes staff at one of our Market ‘stalls’ with Viking cookies!

 

Have any Christmas Market stories, or photos you’d care to share? – We’d love your reply!

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Filed under Christmas Markets River Cruise, European River Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Our events, Viking River Cruises

Freestyle Dining on Norwegian Breakaway

by Don McCann

In my recent post on the new Norwegian Breakaway I mentioned the dining would be featured in a separate blog.  Perhaps the easiest way to explain the need for this is that the Breakaway is all about the dining!  Yes, the ship has Norwegian’s signature entertainment of excellent quality and, yes, it has a great sports deck with a wonderful water park, but (for someone like me), it’s all about the dining.  Norwegian Cruise Line introduced “Freestyle Cruising” several years ago and one of the primary pillars of this program is the unstructured dining.  They felt that the traditional ‘early sitting & late sitting’ assigned dining times did not fit with the concept of a vacation and that you should be able to decide what time you wish to dine.  So they introduced Freestyle Dining where you not only have the option of choosing what time you will dine, but also where you will dine, as well.  They still have the traditional ‘main dining room’ with a continental menu, but great specialty dining options such as Italian, a Steakhouse, french Bistro, etc.  Several of these are all included in your cruise fare, but some have an additional surcharge and that does not seem to deter their popularity (many book up all their tables on virtually every sailing).

(click on images below to enlarge)

Norwegian Breakaway Manhattan Dining Room

Manhattan Dining Room

Onboard Breakaway I found the food to be of very good quality in both the included options as well as in the specialty additional charge venues.  The main dining room, Manhattan, it has a large dance floor in the center of the two level room so it has a decided supper club feel and is one of the most impressive I’ve seen on any ship.  Our table was just around the corner from the live orchestra, so this was perfect for me – great music, but not close enough to be too loud.  The impressive menu choices are presented in a tall menu with a the Empire State Building on the cover, so the Manhattan theme is carried out effectively and tastefully.  The same menu choices are also offered in both “Taste” and “Savor”, two smaller dining options which have a more intimate feel; a very nice idea in that you can dine in what feels like a “specialty” venue, but there is no additional charge.

Norwegian Breakaway Moderno

Moderno Churrascaria

During our short two night agent preview cruise, we were able to get reservations to sample two of the ship’s most unique specialty dining choices:  Moderno (churrascaria) and Teppanyaki.  Moderno features the same experience as it’s landbased counterparts with a great salad bar and roving gouchos serving you almost any cut of deliciously seasoned meats of which you can think!  The woven placemats set the stage right from the moment you are seated that this will be a unique dining experience and what followed was as great as expected and then some.

Norwegian Breakaway Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki

If you are not quite sure what Teppanyaki is, then simply think “Benihana”.  Here we were seated with four others around a large grill area where the master Asian chef not only creates a wonderful meal, but provides an impressive culinary show in the process.  Choices are decidedly Asian, but include both steak & lobster, as well as a tofu option which someone at our table ordered and loved.  All of the food is so freshly prepared that is outstanding, but it’s the entire experience of the entertainment mixed with the social aspect that really makes this a dining event.

Norwegian Breakaway Cagneys

Cagney’s Steakhouse

Other dining choices include Cagney’s Steakhouse, LeBistro (for French cuisine with great Paris artwork and even a ‘sidewalk’ dining option), O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub, LaCucina Italian, Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, and Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian.  Some of these even feature the choice of dining al fresco at The Waterfront, an exciting possibility to dine on deck overlooking the ocean!  Whether you elect to dine at a complimentary dining location, or splurge a little and pay for the specialty venues, the choices for dining on Norwegian Breakaway are almost endless during your 7-day cruise.

Waterfront on Norwegian Breakaway

Waterfront

Norwegian Breakaway sails year-round from New York, calling on Bermuda in the summer and Caribbean in the winter.  Her brand new twin sister, Norwegian Getaway, will be introduced early in 2014 and she will sail year-round from Miami to the Caribbean.

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Filed under Caribbean Cruises, Cruise Ship Dining, New Ship, Norwegian Breakaway, Our Cruise Stories