Category Archives: European Cruises

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

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…..

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

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Classic view of Venice!

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Windsurf in Venice, ready for embarkation

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From the port of Rovinj, our excursion was to Motovun

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The Croatian countryside, out from Rovinj

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Split, Croatia, as seen from our ship

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

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Fortress of Kamerlengo, Trogir, Croatia

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“Walking the wall” in Dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik as seen from the cable car station atop the hill

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

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

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“Our Lady of Health” church, overlooking Kotor below

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

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

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the square at the entrance to Taormina

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colorful, picturesque Taormina

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

 

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The famed Blue Grotto on the isle of Capri

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overlooking Capri from atop Anacapri

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The Colosseum, of course

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Arch of Constantine, Rome

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Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome

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

 

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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

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

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