Category Archives: Cruise News

Something Different

by Bill Edwards

So it’s not unusual to have our clients ask if we know of or have done anything different lately. ….Well, I can say YES! Having just returned in August from a Croatia-intensive cruise on CroisiEurope.  Chances are you’ve not heard of CroisiEurope.  It is a France-based company which is actually Europe’s largest river cruise operator.  (Yes, Viking is larger but we consider them US-based).

La Belle de l’Adriatique in Split

La Belle de l’Adriatique in Split (see more photos below)

If you’re familiar with river-cruising then take that concept, put it on a slightly larger version of a river cruise ship, and cruise along the beautiful ports and islands of the Dalmatian coast.  The ship “La Belle de l’Adriatique” sails a regular series of 7-night roundtrip cruises from Dubrovnik going to Mljet, Korcula, Sibenik, Trogir, Split, Hvar and Vis (all in Croatia) and ending with one last stop in Kotor, Montenegro before returning to Dubrovnik.  I’m sure we have quite a few clients that have taken a Mediterranean cruise that might have included a stop in either Dubrovnik or Split, but this was Dalmatian coast immersion….and I LOVED it.  Croatia is a cross between Italy and Greece…. Beautiful water and beaches (though largely pebble beaches; not sand beaches)…medieval history…friendly English-speaking locals….good food and local Croatian wines.  Getting to Dubrovnik is really quite easy.  There are schedules with one change of planes via Philadelphia (on AA) or via London or Madrid by flying American and British Airways.  We added extra time in Dubrovnik and rather than staying right in town, we stayed in a quieter area about 5 miles outside of town at a lovely Sheraton resort on the coast.  From the Sheraton there is a local ferry that takes you right back into Old Town Dubrovnik so it was the best of both worlds.  I would highly recommend staying at the Sheraton!

So back to CroisiEurope.  Is it for everyone?  Perhaps not…but it’s probably for a lot more people than it isn’t.  The ship, built in 2007 carries a little less than 200 guests, has the feel and design of a river cruise ship (4 decks rather than the usual 3 found on river cruises)  with similar attributes to river-cruising:

  • Single seating dining
  • An included excursion at each port
  • Soft drinks, beer, wine AND standard spirits INCLUDED throughout the cruise, not just at mealtime, (the only extra expense would really be gratuities).

There were some differences, though:

The ship has a definite, pervasive French flair.  I was told the cruise my wife and I were on was typical of what one could expect on any of these Dalmatian coast cruises….meaning a little more than half the ship was French and the remainder being mostly from other European countries.   There was a group of about 35 Norwegians and a smaller group from Spain.  We were seated with the other US guests onboard at a table of 6.    Yes, a total of 6 Americans.  Did we feel out of place? Absolutely not!  ….everyone was friendly (staff AND guests alike).  Announcements were made in French and English and we were on English-speaking tours (which meant small groups as the Norwegians joined in with some of us other English-speakers on tours).

The other big difference, which I grew to like, was with regards to lunch and dinner.  At both of these meals there is a pre-set menu served to everyone….meaning everyone is served the same starter, entrée and dessert.  I think not having choices on the menu actually resulted in the galley being able to put their best efforts into quality and presentation…and resulted in streamlined service.  Dietary needs are certainly accommodated as well as any particular dislikes.  In our cabin by noon each day we had the FOLLOWING day’s lunch and dinner menus so that it was possible to addresses those concerns with the dining room manager in advance for accommodation.  We did have lunch buffet twice during the cruise along with an elaborate buffet dinner on deck one evening while in Split.  There was a selection of 4 red wines; 4 white wines and 2 rose wines each day…mostly Croatian wines, with some from France, of course.  Wines were poured and then bottles were left at the table for self-pouring….so there was no excuse for an empty wine glass!  Breakfast was always buffet with eggs/pancakes cooked to order.  Some of you have sailed into Kotor and would appreciate this, but the morning we sailed into the bay of Kotor our breakfast was served on the top deck…so we had the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular approach to Kotor while enjoying breakfast.  This was one of the highlights of the trip.

Entertainment felt similar to what you would find on river cruises.  One night some local entertainment was brought onboard.  On another night, the Filipino crew put on a show of native dances and song.  The cruise director and a trio of Filipinos put on a wonderful concert one night.  But, like river cruising it’s an early to rise and early to bed routine for the most part.

These cruises, just like river cruises in general, tend to fill early so if you’re interested in 2020 don’t delay in making plans.  Europeans book most of their vacations earlier than Americans, too.  Prices for this 7-night cruise start at about $3000 per person for a cabin with portholes (which I had).  Cabins with 2 big windows start at about $3400 per person….but again that’s EVERYTHING included except gratuities (and airfare).

Please contact me for more information about cruising the Dalmatian coast on CroisiEurope

Pork filet with olives and sweet & sour sauce

Pork filet with olives and sweet & sour sauce

Delicious pasta dish

Delicious pasta dish

Creative, wonderful dessert

Creative, wonderful dessert

One of many featured Croatian white wines

One of many featured Croatian white wines

La Belle de l’Adriatique docked in Trogir

La Belle de l’Adriatique docked in Trogir

La Belle de l’Adriatique standard cabin

La Belle de l’Adriatique standard cabin

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

 The island of Mljet

The island of Mljet

Different & Fun Shore Excursion

The island of Korcula

The island of Korcula

The island of Sibenik with an excursion to Krka Falls

The island of Sibenik with an excursion to Krka Falls

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro

Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

Bill at the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

Bill at the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel

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Filed under adventure cruising, Croatia Cruise, CroisiEurope, Cruise Escapes, Cruise News, Dubrovnik, European Cruises, European River Cruises, Kotor, Montenegro, Mediterranean & Europe Cruises, Mediterranean Cruises, Our Cruise Stories, Our Cruises

Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge

by John Lane

I was recently given the opportunity to spend an afternoon at Celebrity Cruises’ Innovation Lab featuring their new ship, Celebrity Edge.  The 10,000 square foot venue behind Celebrity’s headquarters in Miami offers a look at the design elements and technology that will be featured on this new ship for 2018.

The Celebrity Edge is the first ship to be 100% designed in 3-D.  With special shoes and our 3-D glasses on we stood in front of a large screen where the outdoor deck appeared.

We watched as people moved about the deck and they could evaluate the space to see if there was enough space for good traffic flow.  We then saw how they could move structures to make more room, change the color or even the size of any object for it to be more pleasing …all of this in 3-D!

The biggest news of the ship is the infinite verandas.   They are 23% larger than Celebrity’s current verandas sailing today.  From their surveys Celebrity found their guests wanted:

  1. larger bathrooms
  2. larger beds
  3. more storage space
  4. larger living area
  5. larger veranda

Celebrity Edge infinite veranda

With the infinite veranda guests will experience all five.  This new veranda brings the outside in.  Glass French doors open to the veranda which gives you more living space or they can be closed off to create a traditional veranda.  A wall of glass that opens with a press of a button brings the fresh air and sunlight into your stateroom.  (click photos to enlarge)

CCelebrity Edge Magic CarpetThe Magic Carpet which started out as a new design for a tender platform transformed into a moveable multi purpose area that will be a luxury embarkation station on Deck Two.  When on Deck Five, it becomes an extension of one of the restaurants.  On Deck 14 it becomes an extension of the pool area and on Deck 16 it will host “Dinner on the Edge”.

New suites include six two-story Edge Villas offering 950 squareCelebrity Edge Villafeet complete with outdoor living space and plunge pool along with two Iconic Suites perched atop the bridge offering 1880 square feet of luxury along with 685 square feet of outdoor living space with Jacuzzi.  These two suites along with the Penthouse, Royal, Celebrity and Sky Suites will be part of the “Retreat” offering a private lounge area, pool and dining in Luminae, the private dining venue for Retreat guests.

These are just a few of the reveals offered at this time.  More amazing reveals are to come and will definitely raise the bar on cruising.  Beginning December 16, 2018 it will embark on 7 night alternating Eastern/Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale.

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Filed under Celebrity Cruises, Cruise Escapes, Cruise News, European Cruises, New Ship, Our Cruise Stories, Our Cruises

Scenic Eclipse

by Don McCann

Scenic Eclipse

We went to a presentation yesterday on a brand new ship and new offering from Scenic Cruises.  Currently, Scenic offers river cruises in Europe and some exotic locations, but this new ship will be an ocean-going vessel.  However, this is not ‘just another cruise ship’; on the contrary, this will be somewhat unique in several ways.

Scenic Eclipse is a luxury yacht-inspired cruise ship accommodating 228 guests and it will launch in August, 2018.  So your first thought might be “2018!?”  Why talk about it now?  Well, there are several reasons.  To begin with, the ship will sail primarily very intriguing, trip-of-a-lifetime type of itineraries, such as around Iceland, Antarctica, or some smaller European ports.  Such trips usually take some advance planning, not to mention that with only 228 passengers, the ship will most likely fill much farther in advance than larger ships.  Also, it’s not cheap.  It’s a true luxury experience, with pricing to match, and this often evokes careful consideration before a commitment is made.  That being said, while price is one thing, “value” is another and Eclipse will definitely be a good value with the experience AND the inclusions.  Just as with Scenic Cruises’ river ships, the Eclipse fares will include all gratuities, all beverages, specialty dining options, and shore excursions.  The only exception will be the excursions available from the two onboard six passenger helicopters, or the seven passenger submarine.  These unique options will make the overall experience just THAT much more impressive.

We feel confident that the Scenic Cruises management team can truly ‘deliver’ a wonderful and exciting cruise experience with Scenic Eclipse.  Take a look at some of the photos & video links below and contact us for more details!

Scenic Eclipse preview brochure cover

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Filed under adventure cruising, Cruise News, European Cruises, European River Cruises, Italy Cruise, luxury adventure cruising, Mediterranean Cruises, New Ship, Our Cruise Stories, Our events, River Cruises, Scenic Cruises, Scenic Eclipse, Uncategorized

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

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