July 21st, 2017 by Matthew Bayford
On Saturday 15th July, Carrie and myself along with 18 of our customers went for a ship tour and lunch onboard Oceania Cruises ship Nautica.
Once we checked in we all embarked and went into the Lounge and were given a brief talk about Oceania Cruises and a lovely glass of buck’s fizz! We were then split into groups and each group was allocated 2 guides from Oceania to show us around Nautica.
My first impression was “WOW” it was such a beautiful ship, having sold many Oceania cruises over the years, it was fantastic that we could finally see the product. You could certainly see the attention to detail and care taken.
Our first stop were the staterooms, and we were able to see the penthouse balcony, concierge balcony and owners suite and they were very impressive and such a high standard. Each stateroom is decorated with traditional hardwoods, rich fabrics and original art. The beds have a seven-zone mattress featuring 400 encapsulated springs and two inches of memory foam, a two inch think gel filled “pillow top” cushion wrapped in chamomile infused fibre which is meant to make you sleep better! Plush down comforter and hand quilted throws.
Facts about Nautica:
Gross Tonnage: 30,277
Year Built: 2000
Refurbishment Date: 2014
Guest Capacity: 684
Staff Size: 400
Other ships in the Oceania Fleet: Marina, Riviera, Regatta, Insignia, Sirena
What is featured in all suite and staterooms:
- Refrigerated mini bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water changed daily
- Twice daily maid service
- Full-size bathtub/shower
- Flat screen television with satellite
- DVD player
- 24-hour room service menu
- Handheld hairdryer
- Writing desk with stationary
- Thick cotton robes and slippers - what more could you ask for?!
After looking around the amazing staterooms, our tour continued to the rest of the ship to see what it had on offer. This included the Canyon Ranch Spa club, Horizons observation lounge, Grand Bar & Library. We then headed to the 2 speciality restaurants onboard, Polo Grill and Toscana. Each guest gets 1 free visit to either speciality dining restaurant on your cruise, if staying in a penthouse suite or above you can visit it as many times as you wish! In each room the décor is kept to the same standard and style throughout the ship, for Nautica this would be “Elegant boutique”
After our tour had finished we saved the best bit until last... a superb 4 course lunch! It was amazing and it certainly lived up to their reputation of being the finest cuisine at sea, rivalling even Michelin-starred restaurants ashore.
It was then time to leave, and everyone commented on how wonderful the food and ship were. The Oceania strapline is “Your World Your Way” and they certainly live up to that!
July 4th, 2017 by Matthew Bayford
Carrie recently went aboard NCL's Norwegian Jade and this is what she thought...
I was invited on board NCL's Norwegian Jade along with other agents to have a tour of the ship and lunch whilst on board.
There was a slight communication error at the beginning which held up the signing in process, however this was sorted and we were allowed on board. We were then greeted by a member of NCL staff whilst having a cup of tea in one of the meeting rooms.
First we were shown the Haven Suite, WOW how impressive! A 3 bedroom suite with its own private deck area with hot tub, a separate dining and sitting area all with an amazing view of the deck space.
The Haven area is a private area for the Haven Suites - absolutely stunning!!
Moving on, we visited most of the dining venues on board. There were quite a few to choose from, including Cagney’s – An a la carte steakhouse restaurant
Moderno – An a la carte Brazilian steakhouse
Jasmine – An Asian fusion restaurant
Grand Pacific – Main Dining Room
The outside areas have a lot of space and have a separate adults only pool. The Topside Grill serves all the tasty food you would expect whilst enjoying the lovely weather.
The Mandara Spa offers all of the treatments any spa at home would offer along with a lovely relaxation area with hot beds and a great view.
On the opposite side of the deck is the Pulse fitness centre, enjoying a work out to work off all the tasty food you can consume whilst on board.
Stardust Theatre – A fantastic venue to see the wonderful shows the NCL staff put on. Two shows are put on every night to ensure everyone can see it before or after dinner.
The Atrium – A really lovely area to share a quiet moment in
We were shown back to the restaurant for a 4 course dinner. The menu got me very excited to what was to come, however I felt that the food didn't quite deliver. The starter was melon and parma ham which was very nice, but felt it could be a bit more exciting. There was a slight mix up with the soup as I was meant to get baked potato soup however I was given a fish soup. This was very tasty, it was just a shame it wasn't what I ordered. The main course was a roasted beef, cooked very well but a little dry, although adding some extra Jus made it perfect. I had to refrain from have a dessert course as I couldn't fit in anymore food!
After lunch we disembarked and let the Norwegian Jade continue on to it's next port, Hamburg.
June 27th, 2017 by Matthew Bayford
Crew members: 37
Passenger Capacity: 128
Number of Cabins: 64
Entered Service: 2014
Date: 10/06/17 – 17/06/17
Reasons for being on board: An Avalon fam trip, to experience river cruising first hand.
Who are you? Matt – Marketing Assistant from Ocean World Travel
Name of the ship: Tapestry II
Cruise line: Avalon
A week spent aboard Avalon’s Tapestry II
I was lucky enough to sail down the River Seine on board Avalon’s Tapestry II. This is what I thought -
Food: The food was the best food I have ever tasted! Breakfast was a buffet and also had a menu waiter service. Lunch was a buffet with lots of variety. Dinner was usually a 4 course meal and on the farewell dinner it was 5! The food was mostly inspired by France and at a 5* standard, and if you did not fancy the set menu, they always offered alternative options.
Entertainment: This was minimal and it is what ocean cruisers will find the biggest difference (as well as the size of the ship) to their regular ocean cruises. Every evening we were treated with entertainment by the residential musician with well known songs to encourage sing-a-longs and dancing.
There were other musicians that came on board such as string trio and a local party covers band. One evening before heading to the Normandy beaches, there was also a lecture from Nigel Stewart who gave us some background information before going on the trip, which was very helpful and insightful.
Facilities: Facilities included 2 lounges for you to while away the time, a gym, a hair salon, bikes to hire, tea and coffee making facilities and the sky deck that had life size board games, premium lounge chairs and a hot tub. You also had access to free on board Wi-Fi.
Cabins: The cabins were very spacious and very luxurious. I stayed one of the Panorama suites, which are 200 square feet - 30% larger than the industry standard! We were also shown around the one of two Royal suites on board as well as the Avalon Deluxe stateroom. Having a panoramic window to look out of was amazing to see the different sceneries as you were traveling down the river. It was also nice to wake up to the view of the place that you were going to spend the day.
The Royal Suite -
Type of décor: The boat was a very modern and luxurious which suited the type of cruise.
Courtesy of the staff: The staff were an asset to the company, especially the waiters. Where it was a small ship it didn’t take them long to recognise you and remember what drinks you would like with lunch and dinner. They were very friendly and always had five minutes to spare if you wanted to talk, they also had some good knowledge of the ports that we were stopping at too!
Excursion staff also deserve a mention. They were so knowledgeable and engaging and were able to help you with any questions you had about the excursions you were on.
What did you like most of this ship? The things I really liked about this ship was the staff and the food. I also liked that excursions are included in the price. This meant that you were always off the ship and doing something and the lack of entertainment/facilities onboard didn’t matter because you were occupied elsewhere. It was also great that you were docked right in the centre of the city, this meant you could get off the boat when you wanted and be in the heart of the town instantly picking up the flavour of the city.
What did you like least of this ship? There was a couple of things that I believe let this ship down. The first is the lack of disabled access. However I think this is a common issue around all river cruising, and would hope in the near future this issue will be resolved. The second is that there was no pool. I was very fortunate to have nice weather all week, but there was a lack of pool area to cool down in. The boat does have a hot tub facility but this isn’t ideal in hot weather.
Overall my first experience in river cruising was a good one. It is very different to ocean cruising and would suggest that it was for people that liked the slower pace of life, or perhaps have done every ocean cruise imaginable. It may seem slightly more expensive but for all what's included, it’s a bargain! If you are looking to have the world on your doorstep within a truly luxury experience, river cruising is the one.
June 22nd, 2017 by Matthew Bayford
David, our Commercial Director, recently went aboard Oceania's Insignia. This is what he thought about his four day trip.
I was lucky enough to join Oceania’s Insignia for 4 nights (Lisbon to Bordeaux) during its world voyage. The ship is approx. 30,000 tonnes and carry’s around 650 passengers which means there plenty of space onboard given its size and the number of passengers onboard.
My cabin was on the concierge level veranda which are normally located in the most desired locations of the ship. You get a wealth of amenities including the services of a dedicated concierge. With approx 216 square foot with a private veranda, fridge stocked with soft drinks and bottle water, TV with movies and plenty of television channels, and a very comfortable bed - in fact seven-zone mattress featuring 400 springs and two inches of memory foam(!) makes for a very good night sleep! Overall the cabin was fab, if anything for the type of cabin the bathroom was a little on the small side and only featured a shower no bath.
Other privileges included concierge leave stateroom include:
- Priority Noon ship embarkation with priority luggage delivery
- Complimentary welcome bottle of Champagne
- Priority speciality restaurant reservations
- Unlimited access to Canyon Ranch Spa Club
- FREE unlimited internet
- Variety of Bulgari amenities
- Complimentary pressing of clothes
Once unpacked I went to explore the ship, really this didn’t take that long, as already mentioned she is a smaller ship in total only 11 decks with 3.5 decks for cabins. However, the ship had everything you could need. Reception, destination services and concierge on deck 4, show lounge, casino, Martins bar and the Grand Dining room on deck 5. Terrace café (buffet), waves grill (burger bar), pool area and spa on deck 9. Deck 10 has two speciality restaurants Toscana & Polo Grill, library and Horizons bar.
Before coming onboard, I knew a few people who had cruise Oceania and they have all raved about the food. Well they weren’t wrong, I must say during my 4 nights it’s the best food at sea I’ve ever had. Staring with the first night in Polo Grill with a menu that you needed a day at least to read! The French onion soup starter was a meal in its self, however the 20oz porterhouse steak was the icing on the cake, cooked just how I asked and so big I couldn’t finish it or possibility think about eating a dessert! The other restaurants were equally as pleasing with fresh Ravioli and lamb chops in Toscana, and duck confit in the Grand Dining room and this was just for dinner. Breakfast and lunch did not disappoint full waiter service breakfast option available in the Grand Dining room or an extensive buffet selection in the Terrace café were eggs benedict is cooked to order. For lunch, I mainly dine at the Waves grill, where fresh burgers and sandwiches are available - the burgers were to die for! One things for sure on this ship you’re not going to go hungry even if you have missed breakfast, lunch or dinner you always have the option of 24hr room service which is at no additional charge.
There was a range of entertainment onboard, two comedians, a girl group from XFactor and an entertainments team who put on a Beatles tribute act. In addition to this you also had the usual pianists and a string quartet. There was no fancy nightclub but a casino and the serval bars which are open until the early hours. The bars offered an extensive range of drinks and the staff were very attentive, although drinks prices were on the expensive side $8/$9 beer, $11/12 cocktail. I would recommend buying a drinks package if one isn’t included (they often are) these start at $59 per person per day but pretty much includes everything.
Overall if you want a premium cruising experience on a mid-size ship which offers mouth-watering food then look no further and book yourself an Oceania cruise today.
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June 20th, 2017 by Francesca Bandini
I travelled from Southampton to Portsmouth to embark on the Crystal Symphony. I was asked to escort 12 of our guests on board for a tour of the ship and a champagne lunch whilst on board.
The experience of using Portsmouth Port was a new one for me. Parking was very simple as there is a multi-storey car park available on site. I was welcomed into the terminal by a lady from Crystal who asked me to wait in the seating area as there was a slight delay in getting on board. This is where I met with my guests that I had invited on this visit. It was really lovely to finally put faces to customers I have spoken to many many times over the phone booking cruises for them.
Once on board, we were escorted to the Palm Court for a glass of Champagne and to hear a short speech from the Head of Sales of Crystal Cruises. From here we were given a tour guide and started our tour of the ship.
Crystal Symphony: ship tour
Starting in the Atrium, I was amazed by how much space there was available and it had a very light and airy feel to it.
From here we went in to the Crystal Dining Room. Very very clean restaurant and the décor was quite modern. Currently, there are two dining times to choose from, the early and late sittings. They are due to be changing this to “open dining”.
There were two other speciality restaurants on board, Silk Road serving Sushi and Pergo bringing the taste of Italy to the table.
The Sushi Bar offers an assortment of Nobu’s inventive sushi and sashimi, including Salmon Tartar, Tiradito Nobu-style and Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño, Silk Road presents his celebrated dishes such as Lobster with Truffle-Yuzu Sauce, Grilled Wagyu Beef Rib-Eye with Wasabi Pepper Sauce, and his signature dessert, a Bento Box filled with Chocolate Soufflé Cake with Shiso Syrup and Sesame Ice Cream.
At Pergo you can savour intimate tableside service and a seasonally changing menu of traditional favourites such as Scaloppine Di Vitello Servite Con Capelli D’angelo and Linguine Con Aragosta E Zucchini.
Moving on, we saw a couple of cabins ranging from a Balcony to a Penthouse Suite. The cabins/suites were quite spacious and were finished to a high standard.
We moved on and went out on to Lido deck. We saw the pool and jacuzzi as well the comfy sun lounger’s that were around the deck. I noticed that they have loungers everywhere so if you wanted sun or shade you could still lay out and enjoy. Opposite the Lido bar/Grill was a living wall, we were told that the chef’s collected all of their fresh herbs from this wall to cook with, what a great idea!
When we finished our tour, we went back to the Palm Court for a delicious Champagne lunch. We were served a range of bite-sized food which was all very nice along with a glass or two of Champagne followed by a lovely cup of tea/coffee.
We disembarked at about 2pm as guests were embarking on a wonderful cruise to the Baltics, I really wish I could have stayed on board!
May 31st, 2017 by Francesca Bandini
I have been onboard the ever so popular Crown Princess in Southampton last Saturday 27 May 2017 and wanted to share some pictures and insights with you. Princess Cruises is so amazing and offers itineraries for everyone, you can sail from Southampton or go on a fly cruise to the Caribbean, Alaska or Asia. With 28 ships and over 360 destinations, there is very little to dislike.
Find out more about my day onboard and read my Crown Princess ship review.
The food was divine and this is one of the elements that Princess is most proud of. Read below for more on Princess Cruises’s eating venues.
- International Cafè: this place is mouthwatering, from the fridges delicious cakes and many other delicatessens are visible. This is a complimentary venue, ideal for a bit to eat, 24 hours per day. The fresh is fresh, of course.
- Free tapas & sushi at the wine bar: when you order a glass of wine at the vibrant wine bar, you receive complimentary tapas and even sushi. A perfect spot for gathering with friends before dinner.
- Voted Best Pizza at Sea: on the upper deck there is a fresh pizza station that has also won the US Awards Best Pizza at Sea, I was lucky enough to try out a slice and it was very good.
- Convenient Speciality Restaurants: we viewed the steak house and a traditional Italian restaurant, prices are very competitive. At the steak house, you eat for $29pp whatever you like from the menu, they not only have massive steaks but also lobster and surf & turf are available too, for a supplement. At the Italian restaurant, the cost is only $25pp, another very good way to spend your onboard spend for example.
- Not just one dining area: there are various dining areas for the evening, not just a big dining venue, this allows guests to sit in a less crowded space and enhances the feeling of intimacy.
My lunch onboard
I couldn’t have asked for a better meal, the fish was very fresh and delicate. Nicely prepared.
Princess Cruises are well known for their distinguishable entertainment, in fact, the acts and performances on board are exclusively prepared for the cruise line. West-end shows are available which are not copied from the famous ones but crafted for the occasion. Famous musicians and producers have also worked with Princess to get the best entertainment possible on board. Walking through the ship on embarkation day you can hear the motivational song for the crew purposely written.
The venues are endless, there is the theatre, piano bar, jazz venue and also theme parties in a pub style bar.
There are many facilities on board, such as a spacious gym, various venues for pre-dinner drinks, a big theatre, many pools, a nice SPA and the outdoor cinema.
Suite guests have the advantage of being able to relax at the Sanctuary which is a specially reserved area of the deck, there are palm trees, and extremely comfortable chairs. There is also someone available to get your favourite drink, and there is a massage area too.
Types of Decor
The decor is very traditional, marble floors and columns can be found throughout the ship. Something more to say is that all the ships of the fleet have the same layout and decor and this because guests are able to choose a cruise because of the itinerary rather than the ship itself, such as the iconic atrium (photo).
What did you like most about this ship?
The Movies Under the Stars, this is a feature of Princess Cruises, which has been copied by other cruise lines. Notwithstanding the clones at sea, Princess seems still to be the best for this kind of entertainment, they provide blankets, popcorn and even hot chocolate. I also like the fact that the ships are very similar so the cruise line can focus on the itineraries.
What did you like least of this ship?
I would say that I prefer more modern and contemporary interiors, so the decor is not too my taste.
Any exciting news about Princess Cruises?
Yes, the Ocean Medallion. The Medallion will be onboard of some of the ships from November 2017, this wearable gadget will help to stay in touch with the people at home and on board and to customise your cruise, for example. The Ocean Medallion will allow a fast check in and works as a room card, so you can get all your expenses credited, it also gives you recommendations based on your preferences, allows you to share your memories on social media, to call the room service and to gather all your cruise photos. But the good news is that you can start using it even before your cruise, from home you can purchase your excursions, discover what’s on board and much more.
May 23rd, 2017 by Matthew Bayford
Carrie and Sally were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be invited to Saga Cruises first travel agent overnight experience, onboard Saga Sapphire. This is what they had to say about their day...