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.
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.
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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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.
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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There are four main types of cruise cabins: Inside, Oceanview, Balcony, and Suite. There are specialty cabins available within these types that meet the needs and interests of certain cruisers. Specialty cabins are available on many of the larger ships. Specialty cabin categories include: Family, Accessible, Luxury, Spa and Single Travel Cabins.
Family Specialty Cabins
Newer ships come with family cabins designed to accommodate parents and children. Often these cabins are suites that give parents and children separate sleep rooms, and have more than one bathroom.
Standard Inside, Oceanview, and Balcony type cabins with sleep sofas, or bunk beds, that pull down, are another option. These cabins have one bathroom. When packing, it is important to consider that storage space, and clothing closets have limited space.
Accessible cabins are double occupancy cabins that are designed primarily for persons having:
- Mobility issues and require the use of a wheelchair, scooter or other mobility devices. 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 and requiring portable ADA kits and closed-captioned televisions.
- Sight impairments and need access to Braille signage.
Luxury cabins enhance the experience of being in a resort at sea. They are referred to as suites, and come in different sizes and layouts. They are larger in size than other specialty cabins. Cabin amenities may include brand name toiletries, complimentary specialty dining, discounted laundry packages, and on board credits. Suite passengers have priority when boarding and leaving the ship.
Some of the Mega cruise lines offer suites in key access communities above the rest of the ship. These communities offer private dining, lounge, pool and deck area. Their amenities includes 24 hour concierge service, butler services, and preferred seating in the theater in the main ship. Passengers have the opportunity to enjoy the comforts of a small luxury cruise while having access to the activities of a mega ship.
Spa cabins are usually a few steps away from the spa. A spa cabin can be an Inside, Oceanview, Balcony or a Suite. However, spa cabins come with more amenities and cost more.
Spa cabins differ when it comes to amenities from cruise line to cruise line. The best spa cabin amenities are high-end bath products, personal toiletries, and aromatherapy. Free time in the spa facilities such as the relaxation room, or complimentary participation in a few classes are also attractive amenities.
Single ( Solo Traveler) Cabins
One of the rarer specialty cabins is the single cabin. Most cabins are double occupancy. In most instances, a cruiser traveling alone must pay his or her individual rate plus a single supplement for a double occupancy cabin.
The Norwegian Epic features 100 sq ft studio cabins and a private lounge for solo travelers. The studio cabins have a full-size bed and a separate bath area There is no single supplement for this cabin.
If you are thinking about taking a cruise, and want to know more about specialty cabins, please give me a call at 800-388-8781.
Welcome to “Can Do” Street Family Friendly Cruises, your website portal for planning and enjoying luxury vacations at sea. Our site content can help you decide whether a cruise vacation is a fit for you. Current information on individual cruises, destinations and accommodations will take the guess work out of choosing a cruise.
“Can Do” Street Family Friendly Cruises is my way of sharing the travel ease, fun, and affordability of cruise vacations. To make this possible, I became a Cruise Planners Franchisee. Cruise Planners is an American Express Travel Representative. When planning a cruise, I draw on my personal cruise experiences and 35 years as an educator and recreation therapist.
Cruising is my favorite means of travel. Over the past 25 years, I’ve taken 40+ cruises, including transatlantic and river cruises. As a result, I can share what makes cruises ideal for young children and teens, as well as solo cruisers, couples, and seniors. Because I am Certified Accessible Travel Advocate, I can help children and adults with special needs to cruise in comfort.
Together we will find cruises that meet your destination interests and travel needs, while staying within your budget. I provide planning assistance at no cost.
Why a “Can Do” Street Cruises Site?
“Can Do” Street is a family site and cruises are great environments for family-friendly vacations. Cruises give individuals and families access to luxury vacations that are convenient, comfortable, exciting, and fun. Cruises pamper by providing fine dining and excellent service. Most activities are complementary, beginning early in the AM, and going late into the evening. Professional entertainment, which is offered nightly, is Broadway quality. In addition, live music is provided throughout the ship, during the day and evening.
Cruise ships anticipate the needs of families traveling with children as a standard practice. High chairs and cribs are available. The ship’s store carries diapers and other child care necessities. Dining rooms have a supply of coloring materials on hand. Children can order from a kids menu. Most staterooms have a refrigerator that can store baby bottles as well as healthy snacks.
Today’s cruises open the world of cruise travel for children and adults with special needs. In addition to accessible cabin accommodations, there are hearing and sight assistance devices on-board. Wheelchair, scooter, and walker rentals enable children and adults with motor disabilities to get around the ship and in ports. Oxygen, hospital beds, recliner chairs, and other special needs rentals make travel possible for those with medical conditions. As a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate, I can assist with planning and making arrangements for the rental of equipment. My service is offered at no charge to the those booking a cruise through “Can Do” Street Family Friendly Cruises.
What Makes Cruises Luxury Vacations at Sea?
- Cruising is a cost-effective vacation: A cruise is often more cost-effective than a land resort vacation. Most cruise costs are included in the per person rate for the cruise.
- Packing/Unpacking: You pack and unpack once. Your luggage is picked up from you at the ship terminal. It is delivered to your stateroom. Luggage is picked up from outside your stateroom on the last evening of your cruise. You pick up your luggage in the terminal after leaving the ship.
- Sea activities: All activities during the day and in the evening are free, throughout the trip, with the exception of the game arcade, casino, and spa services.
- Youth programs: Most cruise ships offer complimentary youth programs during the day and evening hours. Children are grouped by age. Staff are professionals experienced in providing recreational activities and supervising children and teens.
- Family activities: There are complimentary activities that families can enjoy together, throughout the day, and evening.
- Laundry: Cruise ships either have self-service laundries on most floors, or they offer discounts for laundry services.
- Medical Care: Cruise ships have on board medical services. Medical services are covered by the cruise insurance plan purchased when you book your cruise.
Complimentary Dining on Cruises:
- Meals Traditional dining rooms with waiter service offer complimentary dining. Buffet dining is also complimentary, as are eateries featuring pub foods or desserts. They also offer specialty restaurants which carry a charge. However, most of charges are less than similar restaurants in any city.
- Snacks: Burgers, fries and hot dogs are available on the pool decks at no additional cost. Unlimited coffee, tea, juices, milk, and soft serve ice cream are also free throughout the trip. Soda and alcoholic beverages cost less if purchased through a beverage package.
Find What You Need to Know about Cruises:
- The major cruise ships sailing from ports world-wide to destinations all over the world and river cruises
- New ships coming on line
- Weekly cruise value packages that are an affordable vacation for families
- Value packages allowing kids to sail free or at a reduced rate
- Group rates with additional amenities for family members and friends sailing together
- Information about youth programs, meals, laundry, priority boarding, insurance, medical care, accessibility, and other special needs accommodations on shipboard, and in ports
- On-board cruise life, and ports of call
- Ships with accessible, on-board accommodations, and activities for children and adults with special needs
- Destinations with accessible ports and excursions.
In my next post, I will share the pros and cons of stateroom accommodations available on a cruise. In the meantime, if you are thinking about a cruise vacation and have questions, you can reach me at 800-388-8781.
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