I spent Christmas at Sea on the Norwegian Escape this past December. Our destination was the Eastern Caribbean. We visited Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas, as well as Nassau.
Over 1, 500 of the passengers were youth ranging in age from infants through 18 years. On board activities in the Splash Academy for children and Entourage for teens gave participants the option of participate in programs throughout the day and evening hours.
The Norwegian Escape’s Kids’ Aqua Park was a big draw for many young cruisers especially the enclosed tube slide. Another favorite, which was always busy, was the two-story climbing structure.
Families could be seen on the Sports Deck playing miniature golf together, shooting hoops, or playing bocce ball. Additionally, there were the many video games to share. Of course, there were also all the Christmas activities to enjoy.
Getting into the Christmas Spirit
The Christmas holiday began as soon we boarded the ship. Brightly decorated Christmas trees lit up the public areas. Holiday favorites and carols played softly in the background.
The dining rooms and buffet areas featured displays of creative winter scenes made of foodstuffs. Each of the specialty dining restaurants also had their own unique decorations that added to the spirit of the season.
Besides the dining room decorations, staff and crew created a village display in the small atrium. A set of trains chugged their way around the display. The train whistle would blow every few minutes and small puffs of white smoke would come out of the steam engine’s smoke stack. This display put many a fussy member of the under five set in a good mood almost immediately.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there were traditional holiday meals including prime rib of beef and turkey. Dessert offerings included pies, puddings and Christmas cookies.
Christmas Eve was our first port of call day. Guests going ashore boarded tenders for the trip from the Escape to Great Stirrup Bay. Besides enjoying beach activities, guests had five excursion options:
- Marine Life Encounter Eco Boat Tour
- Kayak Tour
- Stingray City Bahamas
- Wave Runner Tour
For guests staying on the ship on Christmas Eve, holiday activities began in the AM. Christmas trivia was followed by Christmas crafts. In the afternoon, Christmas movies trivia drew a huge crowd!
The Escape choir and crew led guests in singing Christmas carols in the Atrium at 9 PM. At midnight, there was an Interdenominational Christmas service in the Theater.
Christmas Day dawned early with Santa’s arrival in the Atrium. He didn’t come alone. Mrs. Claus made a rare appearance, as did some of his elves. Santa didn’t come empty handed either. He brought gifts and invited the children to have their photographs taken with him.
Guests spending the day in Nassau, our second port of call, had a choice of five shore excursions:
- Atlantis Aquaventure
- Discover Atlantis
- Discover Nassau by Land and Sea
- Blue Lagoon Beach Day
- Charm and Beauty of the Bahamas
Ship Christmas activities included a viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on the large screen in the Atrium. A family holiday glow party was well attended.
Evening activities included a performance by four time Grammy winner, Melba Moore, in the Escape Supper Club. Overflow crowds attended the Escape Holiday Spectacular, in the theater at both the 7 PM and 10 PM performances.
Many families chose to celebrate Christmas at sea on the Norwegian Escape. As a result, they got to enjoy being together at Christmas without all the work of holiday preparations.
In December 2018, I had the opportunity to experience family friendly cruising on the NCL Escape. The Escape calls NYC its home port and cruises to destinations in the Eastern and Western Caribbean, and Bermuda. After spending three weeks on this ship, I can say that the NCL Escape is a family resort at sea!
When it comes to making family members comfortable, from the youngest child to grandparents, Norwegian has thought of it all. Beginning with the staterooms, the Escape has accommodations that include family mini-suites, balconies, oceanviews and inside staterooms. Multi-room suites and interconnecting staterooms offer additional options for families. The Haven by Norwegian™, the line’s exclusive ship-within-a-ship concept, offers stateroom categories perfect for the multi-generational family. Families staying in The Haven have access to their own private lounge, restaurant, courtyard and pool. Each suite has a 24-hour butler.
The Escape features one of the largest Aqua Parks at sea. It includes four multi-story water slides, a dedicated Kids’ Aqua Park, two pools and four hot tubs. Slides include the Aqua Racer, Norwegian’s first tandem water slide at sea, Additionally, it has the Free Fall, the fastest water slide at sea. For those who prefer a more relaxing ride, there is a family-friendly open-flume body slide. Norwegian Escape’s Kids’ Aqua Park features a multitude of splashing fun including an enclosed tube slide. There is also a two-story climbing structure for kids to explore. Family members looking for adventure, can conquer the three-story Ropes Course with two planks and five sky rails. There is also a Kids Ropes Course for young children who don’t meet the Ropes Courses’ height requirement. Members of the family who like to take it easy can play mini-golf while enjoying the ocean views.
The parents I spoke with, that had young children, had high praise for the kids water park. They shared that, weather permitting, their children spent hours a day in the water park. While their children made new playmates, parents got to socialize while supervising their children’s activities in the water park.
Splash academy is a complementary youth program offered on all Norwegian ships. Splash Academy hours begin in the AM and continue throughout the day and evening, usually until 10:30 PM. Programs break for lunch and dinner so children can join their families for meals. Splash Academy is split into four categories for ages 3-12 and Entourage for ages 13-17.
The Norwegian Escape is the only ship in Norwegian’s fleet to offer childcare services for children ages six months to three years. It is part of the Guppies program. Before spending time by the pool or enjoying the many on- board activities, parents head to Guppies Program. Here they can drop off their children with an early years coordinator at the nursery. The nursery includes an active area for play time, and a separate space for napping. In addition to the nursery services, the Guppies program offers a dedicated open play area for parents and babies to play together. The play area features sensory-based games, interactive media and themed activities.
Splash Academy Space
The Splash Academy areas are colorful, inviting, immaculate and attractively furnished. Staff are educated and experienced working with children. I had the opportunity to see teens enjoying their evening activities around the ship. It was also great to overhear kids at breakfast hurrying their parents to finish so they could get to their Splash activities.
While kids had fun in the youth programs, during the day, parents enjoyed a variety of day time activities. When kids participated in the evening Splash Academy, some parents had a romantic diner in one of the specialty restaurants. Others attended award-winning entertainment in the theater, many enjoyed the comedy club, visited the casino, or had drinks with new friends.
The complementary dining rooms and the buffet restaurant offered kid friendly foods at every meal. Menus were varied, foods well prepared, and had eye appeal which is so important to young diners. Even fussy eaters found something they liked. Dining wait staff asked about any food allergies and other food restrictions at every meal. Every dessert menu included one or more no sugar added desserts, including ice cream.
Each day, following lunch and dinner in the buffet area, you could watch children headed to the soft serve ice cream machines. They would take their cones and fill them with as much ice cream as their cones could hold!
Family friendly cruising on the NCL Escape is the perfect family vacation any time of the year!
To Be Continued on February 7th-Christmas at Sea on the NCL Escape
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Cruise promotions and on-board credit, are incentives that make one cruise, to a specific location, more attractive than another. They are what adds value to a cruise package. In some cases, they make a value packed cruise more cost effective than buying a bare bones cruise selling at a lesser price.
The Norwegian advertisement featured above is all about NCL promotions for the new year. It offers six free incentives that will enhance enjoyment and savings when choosing an NCL cruise. These promotions apply only to first and second passengers in a stateroom. This promotion, like all promotions on most cruise lines, can be seasonal or have certain limitations. Promotions do not apply to X cabins as they are no frills cabins.
Unlimited Open Bar
Enjoying drinks over a several day cruise can add quite a bit to the final bill for your cruise. Having wine with dinner, enjoying umbrella drinks poolside, and evening cocktails adds up. Guests 1 and 2 in a stateroom can enjoy spirits and cocktails, wines, draft beer, juice and soda at no cost when they have an open bar promotion. However, there is a gratuity charge for an open bar, which is charged to your account in advance of the cruise, usually at booking.
All cruise ships have complimentary dining for passengers. The also have specialty restaurants that charge a modest supplement. Being able to enjoy a steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, Asian cuisine, a French Bistro and other specialty venues, at no extra cost, adds to the enjoyment of the cruise.
Shore Excursions are expensive. As such, many cruisers opt not to take an excursion in every port they visit. Free shore excursions for 2 people can be a savings of several hundred dollars or more on a seven day cruise.
Keeping in touch with family back home, or keeping up with your business isn’t cheap while you are at sea. Many of the ships bill Internet use in minutes. Given the frequent slowness of Internet access at sea, passengers find they are using minutes far faster than they anticipated. WiFi use can add substantially to your final cruise bill. Free WIFI is a significant money saver for those who need or want to be connected via the Internet.
Friends and Family Sail Free
On selected cruises. passengers 3 and 4 sail free when sharing a stateroom with passengers 1 and 2. This is an excellent savings for parents with small children. It is also a cost effective way for 4 family members or a group of friends to travel together. However, adults need to consider that they will be sharing a stateroom designed for 2 adults and having one bathroom, and limited closet space. Additional sleep areas will be either sofa beds or bunk bed accommodations. However, tight quarters maybe a small price to pay for this significant savings.
Free Air Fare
NCL Cruisers 1 and 2 get free air fare or reduced round trip airfare on some cruises with Free Air Available.
On-board credit can also be part of a cruise promotion. It is the gift of free cash that is added to your on-board account, which you can use to purchase goods and services during your cruise. It can be used for:
Shopping in Ship Boutiques
Cruise Promotions and On-board Credit
Sometimes, cruise lines will offer a value package that includes free services as well as on-board credit. Credits can and do come from the cruise line, as well as your travel agent. If you book a cruise in advance, while on a cruise, the cruise company will often include a generous on-board credit for that next cruise. Cruise lines value returning passengers. Most recognize and reward passenger loyalty by giving on-board credit to those who continue to sail on their ships.
If you are planning a cruise promotions, including on-board credit, will increase your enjoyment while cruising and give you a significant savings. If I can be of help in planning and booking your next cruise, please call me at 800-388-8781.
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When you book a cruise, you will be encouraged to take cruise travel insurance. It doesn’t matter whether you book your cruise through a travel agent or the cruise line. The agent or the cruise line’s representative will share what the insurance will cover and coverage rates.
Why is it so important to have comprehensive cruise travel insurance? Insurance is the only way to prevent you losing money due to a travel emergency or a personal circumstance.
What Does Cruise Travel Insurance Cover?
All cruise travel insurance is not same. Some cover more than others. Most cover the following circumstances:
- You Have to Cancel Your Cruise Because of a Medical Emergency: You become seriously ill or need emergency surgery a week before your cruise. If you did not take cruise travel insurance and must cancel your trip, you will be facing a sizable financial penalty. If you have insurance, you will be reimbursed for the monies that you paid for the trip that are not refundable.
- Plane Delayed/You Miss Your Cruise: Your plane is delayed by bad weather, and you miss your cruise departure. If you have travel insurance, you are covered for flight and other transport delays that resulted in your missing your cruise.
- Your Luggage is Delayed or Lost: While you arrive at your cruise port in plenty of time to board, your luggage does not. You board the boat with only the clothes you are wearing and carry on bag that has important papers, medicines, your wallet and phone. Your policy will state what you will be reimbursed for based on the amount of hours your luggage is delayed. Usually this will include replacing a new outfit and personal toiletries to use until you receive your luggage. Should you luggage be permanently lost, you can submit a claim for the luggage and its content. Your policy will state what you will be reimbursed for, and identify a cap amount for your claim.
- Medical Expenses on the Cruise and In Ports of Call: Medical services are available on most cruise ships. If you have insurance, payment for these services are covered. If you do not have insurance, you will be billed for your care. You want an insurance policy that covers you, not only if you need care on-board, but in ports of call. Out of pocket costs for doctors and hospital care outside the U.S. can be high. It is important to choose a policy that will cover your immediate care while in a port outside the U.S.
- Medical Emergency Evacuation: If you or a member of your family have a medical emergency, medevac may be a life-saving necessity. Emergency evacuation from a cruise ships to a medical facility is very expensive. However, it’s covered in a number of cruise travel insurance policies. If you choose to buy insurance through a cruise line, confirm that they include emergency medical or evacuation benefits.
- Your Cruise is Interrupted and All Passengers Must Disembark: If your cruise ship experiences a mechanical failure, or other damage, you will have to disembark at the next port. Usually the cruise line will help guests in these circumstances But, having cruise travel insurance will insure that you will be reimbursed for such things as lodging and food while you wait to catch a flight home.
What is Usually Not Covered by Cruise Travel Insurance?
- Weather–Inclement weather is not a legitimate claim. However, severe storms can interrupt, delay or cancel a trip. In which case, you would be eligible for trip cancellation or interruption insurance claim.
- Changes to Itinerary- Sometimes high winds, or other circumstances, make it hard to dock safely in a port of call. In this case the Captain will decide if skipping a port is the best choice.
- Car-rental Collision Coverage is usually not included, but can be purchased at a minimal day rate.
How Do I Purchase Cruise Travel Insurance?
Many people prefer to purchase travel insurance at the time they book their cruise. This is especially true when they are booking on the Internet through a cruise line. While this is convenient, it isn’t always the most cost effective. Also, it may not result in getting the most comprehensive insurance plan. You travel agent can identify the best policy to meet your needs. It is wise to comparison shop.
Be sure that whatever policy you select, it is underwritten by a reputable and licensed insurer. You can check out licensed insurers at the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.
Why I Purchase Insurance for Every Cruise I Take
Before my first cruise, 30 years ago, I debated buying insurance since I was in good health. But, I wanted the peace of mind of knowing I would be covered if anything unexpected happened. The travel agency I booked with declared bankruptcy two weeks before my cruise. The travel policy I had purchased reimbursed me, in full, for the cost of my cruise.
Years later, I was scheduled to take an extended transatlantic cruise. I chose to cancel my cruise when an immediate family member was diagnosed with a serious illness and I needed to be of support. My travel insurance policy reimbursed me for all the payments I had made to the cruise line.
Cruising is my primary means of travel. I take 3 cruises a year and have for years. I never cruise without insurance. I’ve learned, through experience, that the unexpected does happen.
Differences in the Cost of Cruise Travel Insurance
Most cruise travel insurance can be purchased at a nominal cost, which is a small price to pay for the coverage it affords. You need to be aware that there are differences in price for the same coverage.
Some of the factors that influence the price variations include:
- Coverage based upon age which tends to be more expensive for senior travelers
- Coverage based upon the price of a cruise which may or may not include taxes and fees. If you do not take the cruise, there are no taxes.
- Coverage based upon a time period whether for the cruise only; the travel period from when you leave to when you return; a specific 30 day period or a per cruise basis.
Here are two coverage examples for the same price of $268:
- The fist coverage is for a transatlantic cruise for 2 traveling from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl to Southampton, UK with a trip to Toulouse, FR. The trip included air fare from NYC to Ft. Lauderdale, round trip air fare from Gatwick Airport to Toulouse, and return air fare from Gatwick to NYC. The total price of the trip was $3,000.
- This December, I booked 2 cruises for 2 people. The first cruise is for 12 days, and the second is for 7 days. Since the total cost for both cruises is under $3,000 and within a 30 day period, the insurance on the 12 day cruise covered both cruises.
I was surprised and delighted to find America’s Test Kitchen on the Rotterdam. During the week I was on my cruise, I participated in a pastry workshop and attended two demonstrations.
In the following post Fleet manager Barbara Mills-Schuchardt shares about America’s Test Kitchen and its popularity. We met her on the Rotterdam, while she was installing a new host; Chef Odette Oliver from South Africa. Oliver, a gifted chef, left a position as head chef at Cape Point Nature Preserve to join this unique group of Test Kitchen chefs at sea.
For more than 25 years Cooks Illustrated magazine has been a culinary cornerstone for its subscribers.
This successful business model provides its readers with unbiased reviews of culinary equipment, ingredients and fool-proof recipes that have been tasted to be the best. America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Country are the delicious offspring of this culinary publishing powerhouse.
America’s Test Kitchen is the most watched instructional cooking show on television. This iconic cooking show along with its sister show Cooks Country delivers the science of good cooking to avid fans all over the United States.
Holland America Line, a decidedly different cruise line, has been making waves for more than 145 years with its elegant medium-sized ships, scrumptious food and incredible itineraries. In 2016, looking to re-imagine its on-board entertainment, Holland America Line and America’s Test Kitchen whipped up a brand new culinary adventure at sea. Take a cruise on any of Holland America Line’s 15 ships and you can enjoy a live America’s Test Kitchen cooking show on board. The shows are engaging, informative, and just plain fun. The hosts of these shows are talented chefs from all over the globe, trained at the Test Kitchen, and on board, to bring you an array of delicious recipes that will inform your cooking with the science of why a recipe works. There are several shows: 20 in all have the look and feel of a live America’s Test Kitchen broadcast production.
You can take a deep dive into chocolate, learn to create perfect buttermilk biscuits with pimento cheese spread, prepare perfectly poached salmon or take home a recipe for the best black bean burger you have ever tucked into a brioche bun.
The shows have been standing-room only and guests are willing to sit on the floor to just to get of whiff of this terrific program. The shows open with an intro that takes you inside the Test Kitchen and then segues into an interstitial video hosted by the talent in Boston explaining the science inside the recipes. At the close of each show, guests get a glimpse of a website created just for them which includes all the recipe for all the shows, links to cookbooks, equipment and additional recipes. Episodes of Cooks Country and America’s Test Kitchen also are available for viewing from your stateroom. But the real culinary collateral for the guests are the complimentary magazines and glossy over sized recipe cards featuring decidedly organic photos of these amazing recipes. The cards sail out of the Test Kitchen to be packed away for friends and family and the next great party at home.
A cadre of 20 chefs overseen by Fleet manager Barbara Mills-Schuchardt expertly deliver the voice of this tasty brand. Mills- Schuchardt, a classically trained chef, has been a culinary instructor for more than 25 years. She cooked up a career that included artisan bread baking at King Arthur flour, cheese making in Vermont, lead instructor for several cooking schools and owner of her cooking school, television show and cooks store. She is uniquely qualified to provide support and brand integrity to the chefs on-board.
The relationship between Holland America Line and America’s Test Kitchen is so intuitive, that three of Holland America Lines’ ships call Black Falcon terminal in Boston their home port. The ships dock in the shadow of the Test Kitchen, located at 21 Dry Dock avenue. I can only describe this relationship as a perfect culinary paring taking the science of good cooking to avid home cooks world-wide. What a well-seasoned culinary adventure.
In addition to excellent service, Holland America is known for its cruise destinations. Rotterdam Canadian Cruise destinations offer guests the opportunity to visit several ports during a seven day cruise. Beginning in Boston, and before ending in Montreal, guests get to explore five destinations. After disembarking in Montreal, guests purchasing an excursion through the Rotterdam, can enjoy touring Montreal before heading home.
You can purchase excursions, for each of the destinations, at the time you book your cruise, or on-board. The EXC Tours Desk on Deck 4 is open throughout the cruise. The EXC Tours Team can help you choose an excursion that is a match for your interests.
Rotterdam Canadian Cruise Destinations And Excursions
Bar Harbor, Maine is a quaint coastal town surrounded by the beautiful Acadia National Park. The town streets boast everything from snack stops to full service restaurants. Lobster is the fish of the day. The ice cream shops are a great place to get dessert, or just a snack. A number of clothing boutiques offer a variety of shopping options.
Boat tours explore the waters and islands that surround Bar Harbor. Guests that take these tours get to see the lighthouses, which seem to be everywhere. Additionally, each season brings the opportunity to see different wildlife, such as whales. Guests can hike, bike or take a horse-and-carriage ride to explore Acadia’s lakes and striking coastline.
If you opt to see Bar Harbor on your own, be sure to take advantage the of the free Island Explorer buses. They take guests to Acadia’s major sites and to other nearby destinations.
Note: Bar Harbor is a Tender Port. This port is not accessible to large cruise ships. Since the Rotterdam is a large ship, it drops anchor a distance from the port. Rotterdam guests board small ships, called tenders, from the cruise ship to get into the port.
Guests who have mobility issues may have problems getting on and off the ship while tendering because of the steepness of the gangways and steps. This is especially true when trying to do so during low or high tide. The Rotterdam is retrofitted with a tender lift system. It enables guests using wheelchairs to roll directly on and off the tenders while staying in their wheelchairs. However, wind and swells or extreme tide levels may prevent using the ship’s tender lift equipment.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
There is so much to see in the port of Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia! It offers history museums, along with music, excellent food and nautical experiences. The Harbor Walk is a mixture of shops and restaurants. You can catch a tour of the harbor on a tugboat, or a land and sea vehicle. You can walk to the center of Halifax or take public transportation.
Excursions arranged through the Rotterdam include guided tours of Halifax. A favorite of many is Peggy’s Cove, a fishing village a bus ride away from downtown Halifax.
Before you return to the Rotterdam, check out the local crafts on display in the terminal. The kilts, sweaters, hats and jewelry are beautiful.
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Sydney, on Cape Breton Island, is accessible by causeway to the rest of Nova Scotia. Rotterdam guests can begin exploring Sydney in the the harbor by visiting the shops where local crafts are sold. You can see the world’s largest fiddle towering beside the port’s cruise pavilion. Sydney boasts of historic homes and houses of worship dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
A favorite EXC excursion, a visit to Eskasoni, is a multicultural tour that reflects the two different and distinct cultures of Cape Breton.
Prince Edward Island
The smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island, is charming. It is an easy walk from the harbor to Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island. There are Victorian houses to admire and parks waiting to be explored. Be sure to visit the shop that is all about the classic children’s best seller, Anne of Green Gables. It was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a native of Prince Edward Island.
Rotterdam EXC Tours features a theater production, Anne & Gilbert, in Charlottetown. It is a musical based on the lead characters from the book, Anne of Green Gables.
There is more to see in this beautiful, historic city than can be seen in the several hours we were in port. I chose to spent my time in the historic district of Quebec. Here, you can walk the streets as they looked centuries ago. Boutiques and restaurants are housed in buildings that reflect the architecture of that time.
Excursions include coach tours of Quebec City and a trip to the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre and Montmorency Falls.
When the Rotterdam docked in Montreal, guests that purchased an excursion boarded buses for a tour of the City. Since I was getting back to NYC on Amtrak, I asked my cab driver to give me a half hour tour of Montreal. I got to see quite a bit of the downtown area before heading to the train terminal. I purchased an assortment of freshly prepared french foods to have on the train. The ride home, although long, was through beautiful farmland, small towns, and villages in upstate New York.
I enjoyed the various entertainments and activities offered on the Rotterdam. I was delighted to find that America’s Test Kitchen was offering cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops. I was able to attend 2 cooking demonstrations and participate in a pastry workshop.
On 11/14, the 3rd post of this 3 part series, will focus on America’s Test Kitchen aboard the Rotterdam.
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From the time I boarded Holland America’s Rotterdam in Boston, to disembarking seven days later, in Montreal, I enjoyed excellent service on the Rotterdam Canadian cruise. It was not my first cruise on a Holland America ship, but it had been awhile. I was eager to see if the level of service I experienced several years ago was available on the Rotterdam. It was, and then some!
As a frequent cruiser, I’ve gotten on and off 50 cruise ships. Some ships were easy, but time consuming to get on and off. Others were an ordeal with long lines that moved ever so slowly. The Rotterdam goes to the top of my list as the easiest, fastest, and most comfortable experience of getting on and off a cruise ship.
Once on the ship, guests were guided by staff to the elevator banks. Staff rode the elevators with guests, stopping at each floor and directing guests to their cabins. Guests were able to go directly to their cabins, which is often not the case on other ships. On a number of other cruises I’ve been on, guests are often directed to the buffet restaurant to have lunch, and wait until the cabins are ready. On the Rotterdam Canadian cruise, guests got to settle into their cabins before going to the buffet restaurant and enjoying a relaxed lunch.
My inside cabin measured 180+ square feet. It equaled the space of some balcony cabins I had on other cruise lines. I was please to find generous clothing hanger areas, storage cubicles and drawers. The bathroom was roomy and stocked with personal care items.
Cabin Steward Service on the Rotterdam Canadian Cruise
Shortly after I got to my cabin, the two cabin stewards responsible for my cabin, came by and introduced themselves. They told me that if there was anything I needed, to just ask them. Each day, they cleaned my cabin in the AM, after I left for breakfast, replacing towels and personal care items as needed. Each evening, they freshened up my cabin while I was out for dinner. They picked up laundry in the evening and returned the next evening. The cabin stewards were pleasant and genuinely helpful throughout the cruise.
Dining Room and Lido Market Buffet Service
The main dining room, offers a serene environment with sea views from three sides of the restaurant. Open for breakfast and dinner it is an attractive and comfortable setting in which to enjoy fine dining. The menu is varied, with something for everyone including guests on special diets. Background music is pleasant but not intrusive, enabling guests to easily engage in conversation.
Wait staff worked in pairs serving guests at their tables. They were attentive, pleasant and provided consistently professional service throughout the meal. They routinely asked each guest about any dietary needs or food allergies. At the end of each meal, I and other guests, with food allergies, were given a preview of the next evening’s meal. We were asked to make our selections in advance. This enabled the culinary staff to substitute ingredients, where possible, for the ones that could cause us problems. Then we could safely enjoy our meal choices.
The servers in the Lido Market, the buffet restaurant, readily answered guest questions about buffet offerings. The explained how foods were prepared for those with food allergy questions. Other servers quickly stepped up to assist guests with walkers, scooters and wheelchairs make their selections. Servers then found them seating in the dining areas and got their beverages. These servers double back when it was time for dessert selections and coffee or tea. Throughout the buffet dining areas. other servers stood by ready to assist all guests with refills on beverages and anything else they might need.
Service Throughout the Rotterdam
The quality of service on the Rotterdam is consistent throughout the ship. It compliments the warm, comfortable, attractive atmosphere guests experience in the atrium, lounges, dining venues, entertainment areas, and daily activities. Officers, crew, and staff go out of their way textend themselves.
A mid-sized ship, with a guest capacity of 1,404 and 600 staff, the Rotterdam is a favorite of mature cruisers. It has 25 accessible cabins for guests with special needs. The ship is fully accessible for those with mobility impairments. The Rotterdam is a perfect example of the excellent service that Holland America is known for in the cruise world.
On 10/30, in the 2nd of this 3 part series, I will post about – Rotterdam Canadian Destinations, Excursions and Activities.
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Over the past 20 years I’ve had several opportunities to take advantage of cruises for under $500. I got to visit destinations I always wanted to see, but could not have otherwise afforded.
Before I became a Cruise Planners Franchisee, I relied on my travel agent to help find cruises for under $500. Today, as a cruise specialist, I assist my clients in finding these cruises.
Most cruises that are under $500 fall into a couple of categories that make them affordable for cruisers on a modest budget. These categories tend to include: Older ships, repositioning cruises, and seasonal discounts.
Older Ships offer Cruises for Under $500
Older ships are usually more budget-friendly because they don’t have all of what the newer, larger ships can offer, namely, more features and amenities. Also, these cruises are more often shorter in duration than cruises on the newer ships. There are overnight cruises, three and four night cruises, and seven-day cruises. While these ships may be older, they are refurbished regularly. Refurbished ships offer the same level of service, Broadway-quality entertainment, and a variety of excellent food venues found on the newer, larger ships. Cruisers, on these ships, also can enjoy pool, spa, gym, shopping, casino and many of the games and activities available on the newer ships for a much more affordable price.
Repositioning Ships offer Cruises for Under $500
Ships that are seasonally repositioned from one home port to another offer a wonderful opportunity for very low nightly per person rates. They give cruisers the opportunity to experience sea travel to interesting and exciting destinations on a high end cruise ship. Trips are usually about 10 days. Cruisers need to figure in the cost of an air flight home.
A few years ago I took a transatlantic cruise out of Tampa on the Norwegian Jade that was being repositioned to Europe. Our first destination was Key West, then on to San Juan. From there we headed across the Atlantic. Like many first time transatlantic cruisers, I was concerned about so many days at sea, without the break of getting off the ship for several hours. It turned out to be the most relaxing part of the journey. Each sea day offered a wide range of activity choices and entertainment. There were special interest lectures, pool parties, ship tours and social Meetups for adults. Youth programs began at 9 AM and ran until 10:30 PM.
The ship’s library and many lounge areas gave readers hours of uninterrupted time with a good book. The Internet Center, casino, spa, pool and gym were open from early morning to late in the evening. Evenings were spent in the theater enjoying Broadway quality shows or attending one of several music venues. Some nights, weather permitting, I watched newly released movies under the stars.
Time at sea went quickly, and we were soon in our first port of call in Portugal. From there it was on to Cork, Ireland and Falmouth, England. I disembarked in South Hampton, England where I spent a few days sightseeing in London before catching a flight home to NYC.
Seasonal Discounts for Cruises under $500
Seasonal discounts make cruising to destinations you always wanted to visit a possibility. You can book at the very beginning of a season or at almost the end of a season for Alaska and take advantage of reduced rates. You can do the same for the Mediterranean in winter, and the Caribbean in the autumn.
If you have questions or want to book a cruise, please call me. In the meantime, visit my post, Tips for First Time Cruisers and make your planning and packing easier!
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Cruise ships are categorized as mass market, premium, or luxury ships. Oceania Cruises has the one of a kind classification of luxury-premium. Guests on Oceania Cruises enjoy the same elegance, personal service, and outstanding dining experiences found on luxury ships. However, traveling on Oceania Cruises is significantly more affordable given what is included in the pricing, and in the on-board amenities.
Traveling in Luxury All Over The World
Oceania ships include: The Regatta, Insignia, Nautica, and Sirena with a guest capacity of 684 persons and a guest to staff ratio of 1.71 to 1. The two larger ships, the Marina and the Riviera, each have a guest capacity of 1,250, with a guest to staff ratio of 1.56 to 1. Personal attention and impeccable service are a hallmarks of cruising on these ships. Mature cruisers often choose the personal service, unique destinations, fine dining and value filled cruise packages of Oceania Cruises over other luxury cruise experiences.
Oceania ships visits more than 400 destinations all over the world. Ships frequently stay overnight in a port so guests can experience the night life. Cruises vary in length from 7 days on the low end, to 180 day around the world cruises.
Because Oceania ships are mid-sized, they can enter and dock in smaller ports. Larger ships often have to drop anchor a distance from a small port. Under these circumstances, passengers need to use small boats, call tenders, to get to a port. Tenders are a problem for guests with mobility issues that use wheelchairs or other mobility equipment.
Each ship offers a warm, cozy atmosphere that lends itself to passengers meeting and enjoying each other’s company. There are no long waits for elevators, or for getting on or off the in ports of call.
Guest accommodations include inside, ocean view and balcony staterooms, and suites that range in size from 420 sq. feet to 2, 000 sq.feet. Suite guests have complimentary 24 hour butler service.
Oceania Cruises Dining Experience
Oceania is known to have the finest cuisine at sea. The Five-star menus offered in the six on-board restaurants are curated by Oceania Cruises’ Executive Culinary Director and world renowned Master Chef Jacques Pépin. Menus include: Continental, Italian, French Country, and Asian cuisines as well as steaks, chops and seafood. Guests can also choose from extensive vegan menus. When Norwegian Cruise Holdings purchased Oceania Cruises in 2014, Jacques Pepin was asked to design a new menu for Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Open seating insures that guests can eat when they want in all of the restaurants. Meals are cooked to order. A Country Club Casual dress code enables guests to dine without having to dress for dinner.
Entertainment and On-board Activities
All Ocean ships have Broadway quality theater, and other forms of live entertainment. Each ship also has a card game room, a casino, a large, comfortable library, a gym, and a full service spa. There are boutiques offering selections of fine jewelry, clothing, and other specialty items. Many guests enjoy the pool and lounging in the pool area.
Oceania guests have the unique opportunity of participating in a culinary center. They learn to make a variety of dishes in a state-of-the-art cooking school. For those guests who have always wanted to try to paint sketch, or work with clay, there’ the Artist Loft.
Oceania Cruises’ deluxe ships feature a fully staffed computer lounge, enabling guests to keep in touch with family and friends at home.
At 4 p.m. each day, guests can participate in afternoon tea and enjoy tea sandwiches, scones and tarts.
Value Filled Cruises
One way of figuring out the value of a cruise is to use the cost per night evaluation. Prices will vary by length and total cost. However, cost per night will give you an indicator of real value.
The chart below gives an indication of how Oceania Cruises can be a better value, for the money, when compared with a luxury cruise or a premium cruise.
Oceania Ocean View/OV Cabin Pacific Cruise
Luxury Ship OV Cabin
Premiun Ship OV Cabin
I am pleased to announce that I now share a co-branded site with Oceania Cruises! Please visit our co-branded site at http://jeancampbell.oceania.wvgcruise.com/
When you visit the site you can learn more about Oceania and the see the latest Oceania offerings. If you are interested in cruising on Oceania, call me at 800- 388-8781. I can help you plan your Oceania sea vacation
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Accessible cruises, that are resorts at sea, give persons with special needs the freedom to enjoy a sea vacation. Accessible cruises include accessible cabins, access to the entire ship, and ports that are accessible for persons with motor impairments.
While all cruise ships entering and leaving United States ports must adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, some cruise ships do more. They give passengers, with special needs, access to all that their ships have to offer. They go to ports where ships can dock, and don’t require small boats called tenders to get into a port. Once in port, persons using mobility equipment can get around, and have access to bathrooms, and places to eat that are accessible.
When we think of accessible cruises, many of us think of a cruise ship having accessible cabins for persons with physical disabilities. Actually, Accessible cabins are double occupancy cabins designed for persons with:
- Mobility issues that require the use of a wheelchair, scooter or other mobility device. Cabins are larger than the standard cabins. They have wider doors than the standard cabins, large bathrooms with roll-in showers, grab bars, and turning space.
- Hear impairments who require portable ADA kits and closed-captioned televisions.
- Sight impairments who need access to Braille signage and/or accommodations for a service dog.
But, a mobility impairment is not the only reason someone may need special assistance while cruising. Accessible cruises are ones that can meet the diverse needs of many passengers. The following cruisers may have special needs:
- Slow walkers
- Those requiring special diets for religious, medical, or personal preference
- Families with young children
- Returning Veterans
- In recovery following surgery or cancer treatment
- Children with physical or cognitive disabilities
- The elderly
- Those with occasional mobility conditions
I am a cruise travel agent certified by Special Needs Group (SNG), www.specialneedsgroup.com. SNG is the leading global provider of special needs equipment for the travel industry.
As a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate, I provide planning services that help to insure a comfortable, accessible cruise vacation. I bring 35 years experience in my services as a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate. During these 35 years, I developed educational and recreational programs for children and adults with physical and cognitive impairments. For several years I worked with adults going through and recovering from cancer treatments.
Accessible cruise planning services are provided at no cost for persons booking a cruise through me. You can reach me at 800-388-8781.
My Cruise Planning Service Includes:
- Identifying cruise ships that are fully accessible for persons with mobility impairments and traveling to accessible ports.
- Port Assessments:Is the terrain level and paved? Are there accessible bathrooms and restaurants?
- Determine if service dogs, for persons who are blind, have permission to come ashore.
- Securing priority embarkation and disembarkation.
- Making arrangements for cruise travel, including rental of wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility equipment aids, and portable oxygen.
- Making on-board arrangements for passengers with sight impairments that need Braille signage and those traveling with service dogs.
- On-board arrangements for persons with hearing impairments needing in-cabin ADA kits, TTY phones and assisted listening devices in the theater.
- Arranging for special diets including but not limited to diets for religious observance, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, low sodium, diabetic and other medically required special diets.
- Ordering an in-cabin refrigerator specifically for medications.
- Assisting with registering a special needs child in an on-board youth program.
- Arranging for a bottle warmer, crib, stroller, highchair and other necessities when traveling with a young baby.
Planning and arranging for needed services on board, in ports and on excursions takes time. It is important to get started well in advance of a sail date.
Don’t let a disability or special need keep you from enjoying the freedom of a cruise vacation. If you have a disability or a special need, a fully accessible cruise can be a resort at sea! Just call me at 800-388-8781 and together we can plan am accessible cruise to where you have always wanted to go!
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