One Picture is Worth …….

by Don McCann

This week, our own Bill Edwards is on a preview cruise with Scenic Cruises‘ new ship, the Scenic Jasper, sailing from Budapest to Vienna.  Even though Bill is not here yet to share his thoughts and review of the ship & itinerary, he’s been good enough to send back some photos as a preview of this trip.  Here are just a few examples to view until he returns next week when he can share some ‘words’ to accompany these great photos………

Scenic Jasper in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Scenic Jasper in Budapest

Bill Edwards enjoying the balcony on Scenic Jasper with Scenic Cruises

Bill Edwards enjoying the balcony on Scenic Jasper

Scenic Jasper Portabello's alternative Dining Room with Scenic Cruises

Scenic Jasper Portabello’s alternative Dining Room

Budpest's famed Parliment building with Scenic Cruises

Budpest’s famed Parliment building

Matthias Church in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Matthias Church in Budapest

Heros' Square in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Heros’ Square in Budapest

Chain Gate Bridge in Budapest with Scenic Cruises

Chain Bridge in Budapest

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A Special Treat

by Don McCann

Obviously, we love talking about cruises (duh, right?).  However, we also love it when we can have a guest cruising expert talk about cruises with our clients.  Next week is one of those special times.  Sheila Bielich of AMA Waterways is going to be here in our office next Tuesday, April 21, 2015.  Sheila is a wealth of information on many destinations worldwide and she always provides for lively, enthusiastic presentation when we are lucky enough to host her.  We really hope that those in the DFW area will be able to join us for a great talk on river cruises, both in Europe and some other exotic locations.  We’ll have some great wines and cheeses to sample and we’re sure you’ll enjoy the evening (and maybe learn a thing, or too, as well !).

If you wish to RSVP, just click the link here and we’ll see you next week!

AMA Waterways in Durnstein

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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

Love that LOVE BOAT ? !

by Don McCann

Princess Cruises recently announced that the ‘godmother’ for their new ship, Regal Princess, will be the cast of the original Love Boat TV show (Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing) Fred Grandy (Gopher, the chief purser), Ted Lange (Isaac,the bartender), Bernie Kopell (Doc, the ship’s doctor), Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki,the captain’s daughter).  The full article can be viewed here.

Regal Princess godmother photo 2014

TV’s original Love Boat cast will gather to be the ‘godmother’ of the new Regal Princess on Nov. 5, 2014

Seeing this photo causes many of us to remember that somewhat iconic show.  I seem to remember that is was aired mostly on Friday nights and we sometimes decided to watch depending on “this week’s guest stars”.  Nine times out of ten, at least ONE of the three, or so guest stars would be enough to have me tune in.  However, there was a cast member who was on every week, but was never named in the opening credits …. the ship itself, Pacific Princess!  I was not yet in the travel business, but was very much captivated by the concept of a vacation at sea, the ports of call, not to mention that lavish dining.  Each week, we’d see the classic Pacific Princess glide across the water, carrying her guests to whatever adventure, romance, or farce that the writers had scripted for that episode.  I honestly feel that while the show was very ‘light’ in content, it was the premise of being on that ship, at sea, that kept us all coming back week after week for more of the Love Boat.

I can’t say that the Love Boat TV show was responsible for getting me interested in the travel business as a career, but it certainly played at least a part.  As for our readers, do you remember this show and do you think it had any influence on your travel and cruise plans you may have made years later?  Let us know; we’d be curious to hear from you!

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Filed under Cruise News, Love Boat, Our Cruise Stories, Princess Cruises, Regal Princess

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

Will Current Russia Tension Affect Summer Cruises?

US Russia flags

by Don McCann

Cruises to the Baltic Sea region are very popular in the summer and most include a stop in St. Petersburg.  I’ve taken one of these cruises and, while each port was truly great, St. Petersburg was a highlight.  A number of clients who we have booked for this summer have called this week asking “What will happen to our cruise if things escalate with Russia; will they cancel the cruise?”.  To begin with, cruise lines virtually never ‘cancel’ a cruise, they simply alter the itinerary (since ships can easily be moved around).   So we fully expect all scheduled Baltic cruises to sail on schedule, but some of the planned ports of call could change.

So what do we think?  What do we know?  Well, we don’t know anymore about the current events than anyone else who follows the news.  As for what we think, it’s sort of uncharted territory.  Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have not been to this level in recent memory.  However, if we had to guess, we’d say that things will most likely calm down to the point that Baltic cruises will sail right into St. Petersburg and all visiting passengers will have a fantastic experience there, just as I did a few years ago.  If things escalate, or relations deteriorate to lower levels, then these Baltic cruises could drop St. Petersburg and alter the itineraries to add other ports, or extend their scheduled times in other ports.

It is simply a ‘wait and see’ situation at this point……..

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Filed under Baltic cruises, Cruise News, European Cruises, Russia cruise

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