Archive for the ‘Cruise Ship Reviews’ Category

Norwegian Jade Ultimate Cruise Ship Review

June 11th, 2018 by Jordan Bailey

When you think of Norwegian Cruise Line, you probably picture their gigantic new modern ships such as Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway, or Norwegian Escape, packed with adventurous activities such as rope courses and waterslides. So why would you want to cruise on a much smaller, older vessel such as Norwegian Jade which doesn’t have these features?

Well, it still feels like a ship and it’s small enough to get into some of the smaller ports of call in Europe. For seasoned cruisers, or Norwegian loyalists, you probably picture Norwegian Jade as a garish, floral and colourful vessel better suited to the 80s than modern times, even though the ship only launched in 2006 as the then named Pride of Hawaii (that name should explain the reason behind the former orange and pink floral décor). Thanks to the multi-million pound fleet-wide makeover programme called Norwegian Edge, Norwegian Cruise Line is working hard and investing an impressive amount of money to modernise its older ships and dispel those garish colour schemes from memory.

Norwegian Jade was recently refurbished back in 2017 just in time for her first season operating from the UK and she’s never looked so good – she’s like a new ship! At 94,000 tons and carrying 2,400 passengers, she is the perfect size for those who prefer sailing on a smaller vessel. But despite Norwegian Jade’s smaller size, she still packs in a lot of things to see and do.

Norwegian Cruise Line is largely considered a family cruise line, and that’s certainly the case on many itineraries in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, but you may be surprised to learn that for the most part on Norwegian Jade, the clientele are the opposite. The average age onboard is around 55, and on sailings from Southampton, guests are predominantly Americans and Asians with around 40% being British. On some sailings, such as to Iceland or the Baltic, there may be less than 60 children on the whole ship, so it’s certainly a cruise line to still consider if you are looking for a more mature cruise holiday.

A few years ago, Norwegian Cruise Line became a Premium All-Inclusive experience for the UK market. You may have seen an NCL cruise while searching for you next holiday and been put off by the price when comparing it to other similar itineraries with other cruise lines, but it’s important to remember what is now included with Norwegian Cruise Line. You’ll enjoy premium all-inclusive drinks, the most impressive choice of complimentary and speciality dining options at sea, award-winning entertainment, your gratuities included and 60 minutes of free Wi-Fi for each guest. On top of all of that, you get even more when you book a suite, such as an additional 250 minutes of free Wi-Fi, $50 onboard spend per person, and speciality dining included. It’s an added value experience that is worth more than £1200 per stateroom in total. Now when you next look at Norwegian’s pricing, you’ll see just how great value they really are!

The Haven complex is an exclusive area on Deck 14 on the ship. Home to just 13 spacious and luxuriously appointed suites, these come with butler service, private access to an exclusive sun deck and a courtyard featuring a pool with retractable roof perfect for enjoying in any weather, and the exclusive use of Cagney’s Steakhouse for breakfast and lunch. These impressive suites are ideal for those who usually sail with Norwegian’s sister brands Oceania Cruises or Regent Seven Seas Cruises and are perhaps looking to take their family away together, or for those who want excellent quality and luxury, but a more relaxed, casual and fun atmosphere onboard. The most impressive suites on Norwegian Jade are the two Garden Villas which have a gigantic two-storey balcony with a full size hot tub, as well as a piano, lobby area, dining table, and separate bedrooms for up to 8 people. With suites, the first two people will pay the standard price, but then anyone else will pay a reduced price, so it’s certainly an option to consider looking at if you are planning to travel in a large family group.

Norwegian Jade has a good proportion of Inside, Outside and Balcony accommodations, as well as several mini-suites. Which are slightly larger versions of the Balcony staterooms, but include a bathtub, as well as a few small additions. Staterooms are average-sized with a small sofa area and vanity table. Staterooms that can also sleep 3 or 4 people will feel very compact, with the balcony not accessible when the sofa is made into a bed and the pullman bed is lowered from the ceiling at night. There is a mixture of glass-fronted balconies and partially enclosed balconies, as well as variants of outside staterooms with various-sized windows and differing layouts. Those mid-aft on Deck 8 have a different configuration and seemed to offer slightly more space.

For a ship the size of Norwegian Jade, she features an impressive 15 dining outlets, 8 of which are complimentary. The Grand Pacific and Alizar are the two main dining rooms on the ship. The Grand Pacific is the larger of the two and has a stunning backdrop of the wake from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Norwegian Cruise Line operates a freestyle dining policy, where you have no set dining time, or seat assignment. You are free to dine at a time that suits you, which gives you more flexibility to try any of the dining options onboard. There is also no enforced dress code, so you can dress up or stay casual, depending on your preference. Both main dining rooms serve the same menu, with several dishes that remain the same on the menu each night, as well as a wide choice of dishes that change daily. One of the restaurants will also be open for a waiter-service breakfast or lunch – a much more pleasant and quieter experience to enjoy, especially on embarkation day. The Garden Café is the main buffet and situated on the starboard side of Deck 12. From a traditional carvery to sandwiches, salad, noodles and sweet desserts, there’s something tempting for everyone. At the back on Deck 12 is The Great Outdoors, a perfect place to enjoy an alfresco meal on a sunny day, with a bar and even a dedicated buffet serving area outside. O’Sheehan’s Neighbourhood Bar & Grill occupies the second level of the main atrium and is a sports pub open 24 hours a day for beers, chicken wings, and burgers free of charge.

On the pool deck is The Pit Stop and Topsiders Bar & Grill, the ideal place for a poolside snack. Jasmine Garden Asian Restaurant is a complimentary venue serving authentic Asian cuisine. When it comes to speciality restaurants, Norwegian Jade has a diverse selection. Le Bistro is a traditional French brasserie featuring traditional French cuisine, such as escargot, scallops, mussels, and onion soup. The restaurant is beautifully decorated in golden colours and deep red fabrics. Veuve Clicquot is the featured champagne served. Le Bistro is a la carte and items are priced individually. Appetizers are around $5, soups and salads average at $4, main dishes are priced around $20 and desserts are approximately $4. Cagney’s Steakhouse serves juicy steaks up to 20oz that are cooked to perfection and again is priced a la carte. La Cucina is a traditional family Italian style restaurant serving antipasto, pizzas, pastas and seafood, priced a la carte. Moderno Churrascaria has a set cover charge of $24.95, which will allow you to enjoy the traditional Brazilian style of churrascaria service known as rodizio. Servers will come round the restaurant frequently and continue to carve you meat cut from a skewer until you turn over a little disk indicating that you have had enough. It’s a bit like an all you can eat buffet, except the food comes to you! It means you can try different cuts of meat such as beef tenderloin, sirloin, ribs, chorizo and chicken. Before your meal why not sit and relax in the stylish Sugarcane Mojito Bar and enjoy an authentic Brazilian cocktail?

For sushi lovers, you’ll be amazed at the choice on offer at the Sushi Bar & Teppanyaki restaurant. Named after the Japanese style of cooking you’ll experience, watch as the chefs prepare delicious meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables on an iron griddle known as Teppan, while expertly showing off with flare as they dice, slice and juggle ingredients! The Sushi Bar is a la carte with most items costing around $6. Teppanyaki has a cover charge of $29.95. The Atrium Café with The Bake Shop Treats is a speciality coffee shop with amazing cakes and macarons, and because it’s located in the heart of the atrium, it’s the perfect meet up point.

There are 11 bars and lounges onboard, all with a unique vibe. The Spinnaker Lounge comes alive in the evening with alternative entertainment to the main Stardust Theatre, such as game shows, trivia and musical performances and Norwegian’s signature White Hot Party (so don’t forget to pack a white outfit – you’ll be in for a treat!). In the day, this is an observation area and a quiet place to come sit and relax with panoramic views of the sea. The Bliss Ultra Lounge is a sparkling and swanky disco with several seating enclaves surrounded by a metallic mesh curtain. In terms of décor, you couldn’t get much further away from the tropical theming of the former Medusa Lounge that was once located here. It’s now completely unrecognisable and another testament to the amount of money spent of transforming Norwegian Jade.

In the middle of the expansive casino, where smoking is allowed, is the Jade Club Casino Bar. This 360 degree bar has a beautiful feel to it with traditional Chinese red hanging lanterns. On deck 6 are three separate specialty bars, as well as a cigar lounge. Whisky connoisseurs and ale fans will enjoy a tipple in the Tankards Beer & Whisky Bar, shake it up in Mixers Martini & Cocktail Bar, while the adjacent Magnum’s Bar is a refined place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or champagne that opens up into a stunning two-deck-high atrium with beautiful stained glass panels on the ceiling and a grand staircase leading up to the Sake Bar which serves both Teppanyaki and the Jade Garden restaurants. Outside enjoy a poolside refreshment at the Topsiders Bar, or watch the world go by while taking in the sea air at The Great Outdoors Bar.

When it comes to entertainment, Norwegian Jade delivers. In addition to the many lounges where entertainment and live music takes place throughout the day, you’ll be able to enjoy a spectacular evening watching a magician, a comedian, or a colourful performance from the resident singers and dancers in the huge Stardust Theatre. For a little R&R, the Mandara Spa is a haven of tranquillity. Or for those looking to stay active after all of the dining options available, head to the large Fitness Centre or giant Sports Court on top deck.

Kids will have a blast in the dedicated children’s clubs. Splash Academy is for those aged 3-12 and hosts craft sessions, discos, movie screenings, and fun games. Entourage is the teen hangout zone for those aged 13-17. They’ll enjoy listening to their favourite songs on the jukebox and playing on one of the games consoles or perhaps a game of air hockey and table football. It’s a place they can chill, hang out and make new friends.

Norwegian Jade is based out of Southampton in summer 2018 offering Northern Europe itineraries to Iceland, the Norwegian Fjords, Baltic and the British Isles. The ship will then head to the Mediterranean later in the year. In 2019, the smaller Norwegian Spirit will be based in the UK, offering similar itineraries. Call 0800 368 9059 to find out more about booking a Norwegian Cruise Line holiday, or find inspiration by searching below for the latest sailings and availability.

P&O Britannia: A Ship Guide

February 12th, 2018 by Jordan Bailey

At 143,000 GT and with a capacity of 3,647 passengers, Britannia is P&O Cruises newest flagship vessel. Launched in 2015 and named by the Queen, Britannia is the largest ship ever built specifically for the British cruise market. Let’s take a look around…

Britannia has over 12 passenger decks, filled with amazing facilities and spacious accommodation, perfect for the modern British holidaymaker. There are over 10 places to dine and unwind, 7 fantastic entertainment venues, and 8 bars to socialise. Decks 5, 6, and 7 are where most of the onboard venues are located. The atrium is the heart of the ship, and the glistening Starburst sculpture is the main focal point.

Britannia has three stunning main restaurants – Meridian, Peninsular, and Oriental – serving classic British cuisine and regionally inspired dishes. The Meridian and Peninsular Restaurants are dedicated to those on Freedom dining. Freedom dining offers the most flexibility, allowing you to simply turn up at anytime to eat. You won’t get the same table each night with the same waiters like the traditional dining at set times in the Oriental restaurant. The Horizon is the buffet restaurant onboard Britannia serving up popular comfort food, and themed dishes. If you’re by the pool and feeling peckish, the Lido Grill offers burgers, fish and chips, pizza and ice cream. If you’re looking for a special treat, why not experience one of the many speciality dining venues onboard Britannia. The Epicurean is the pinnacle of fine dining and using the very best ingredients. Enjoy exquisitely prepared Dover Sole or taste the most succulent 28 day dry aged beef sirloin. For the ultimate indulgence, treat yourself to Eric Lanlard’s sensational afternoon tea at The Epicurean. This is an experience not to be missed, with delicious sandwiches, and tempting cakes. Sindhu uses the rich flavours of India and combines them with unique British twists conceived by celebrity chef Atul Kochhar. If you love the finest wines, The Glass House has an impressive selection of over 40 wines handpicked by award-winning wine expert and foodie, Olly Smith. You can enjoy wines by the glass or by the bottle, or why not pair wines with the great food also on the menu here. The Limelight Club is an adult-only venue which combines great food and exclusive live entertainment.

When it comes to entertainment, Britannia has it all. From dazzling West End style performances in the Headliners Theatre, to comedy shows and cabaret in The Live Lounge. There’s music to be enjoyed throughout the ship. The Crystal Room is a stylish lounge, with a large dance floor, perfect for flaunting those dance moves! Why not take part in one of the dance classes, if you’re feeling a little rusty? The Studio has many uses. From cookery demonstrations and a cinema showing the latest popular movies, to a lecture room hosting some of the most fascinating guest speakers. If you want to improve your cooking skills and learn new things, then The Cookery Club will be ideal for you. Learn techniques from the skilled chefs onboard, and on selected cruises learn from the man himself, TV chef James Martin. Cookery classes include the Best of British and how to make the perfect Cornish pasty, a chocoholics dream making delicious desserts, as well as a class dedicated to baking the best bread.

There’s never a dull moment on P&O Cruises’ Britannia. There are plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. From lively deck parties to the traditional deck quoits and shuffleboard. If you’re looking to unwind, Britannia is perfect or that too. The giant Oasis spa complex houses various treatment rooms, a salon, and a hydrotherapy pool. Speaking of pools, Britannia has 5 of them. The Serenity Pool is an adult-only haven, with plush seating, spacious loungers, and a quiet place to relax. If you’re looking for a luxurious relaxation experience, head to The Retreat. Enjoy spa treatments with a sea breeze, or sit back and relax on one of the inviting cabanas, with a smoothie or fruit platter.

There’s accommodation to suit all budgets and requirements. From great value inside cabins, large family rooms, spacious balcony cabins, luxurious suites, and dedicated single cabins too.

If you would like more information about a P&O cruise aboard Britannia, call us on 0800 368 9059. Have you been on Britannia? Tell us what you loved most about the ship. Leave your comments below.

 

U by Uniworld’s The B: River Cruise Ship Review

October 12th, 2017 by Jordan Bailey

Take it from me, The B is unlike any other river cruise ship currently sailing on European rivers. I spent 4 days on the first ever sailing with U by Uniworld and visited Paris, Rouen, and Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Check out my daily blogs here, and if you want to learn more about the U by Uniworld experience, click here.

The B stands out in port no matter what ship is in. The all black exterior certainly looks different, especially with the glowing neon logo and exterior lighting. It’s clear this is a party ship, but The B is also so much more than that.

There are 2 passenger accommodation decks and there’s a variety of accommodation to suit all types of travellers and budget. From comfortable studio cabins, to spacious suites, and futuristic sharing pods. All cabins have plenty of storage space, with a large wardrobe and shelving around the amazingly comfortable beds. There’s a built-in Bluetooth speaker system, for playing your personal music in the cabin while getting ready. The powerful bathroom shower is spacious and comes with complimentary BeeKind toiletries. The deep red velvet fabrics and European-style window shutters, give the cabins a chic, contemporary feel. There’s a wide selection of free on demand movies, European, UK, and American television channels.

The U Lounge is the social heart of the ship. With a blend of gothic and punk decor, this lively venue is a favourite place to chat and make new friends over a drink, or dance the night away during the popular discos with International DJs. If you’re looking for a quick snack, try one of the amazing Burger Sliders. Drinks prices are quite steep – a soft drink is £4 for a small glass. The signature cocktails look and taste great. Why not have a go at making one during one of the mixology classes onboard?

The Ice Bar is located on the sun deck, but doesn’t actually feature any ice. This is decorated in a pop/punk theme, reminiscent of the 60s, and is the ideal decor for a fun disco. To fit under low bridges, the whole lounge folds down, so this venue is mainly used while docked, or when there are no low bridges on the route. The Ice Bar is often used for demonstrations and classes, silent discos, plus morning yoga.

The long couches, oversized cabanas, and the beach-style deckchairs on the sun deck are a great place to relax while watching the world go by. From a community drumming session on deck, to a silent outdoor cinema with a giant movie screen, there’s always fun to be had around the ship.

U Dine is an informal and stylish restaurant focusing on farm-to-table food. A casual coffee and pastry station is put on in the U Lounge between 6am and 10am. A buffet brunch is then served between 10am and 2pm, offering a selection of cooked breakfast items, pastries, a daily live cooking station, a superb salad, cheese and cold cuts selection, plus amazing desserts. There’s plenty for vegans and vegetarians too, and you can always speak to the chef if you have any other dining concerns. Dinner is served from 7:30 pm and is open seating. Grab a chair, or a stool, and meet fellow travellers. Sharing experiences together is a big part of the U by Uniworld experience, and most meals are served on sharing platters. Help yourself to whatever you fancy, just make sure you have first dibs on desserts! I really enjoyed the food during my time. The sharing salad platters, burgers, and tempting chocolate desserts, along with local specialities, such as the St Honore cake were great.

The Gym is very spacious and there is a variety of exercise machines. The Spa is a former cabin (#120), which has been reconfigured into the Spa. It would have made more sense to convert the cabin next to the Gym into the Spa, as the Spa is somewhat discreet and hidden among the other cabins further down the corridor on the lower deck. It’s very basic, with just a massage bed, but it’s better than having nothing, and offers a selection of treatments.

There’s a 24 hour tea and coffee station located just outside the U Dine, as well as a self-serve laundry room. The reception is manned 24 hours and they can help with any concerns both on and off the ship. Whether that’s arranging a taxi or recommending the best places to go. There’s a small shop onboard, offering branded clothing, as well as jewellery and bags. If you get hungry at any point, there’s a well-stocked vending machine near reception.

The ship is a really great social hub. A U by Uniworld cruise is so much easier than trying to arrange several different hotels, and excursions yourself. Simply turn up, unpack once, and almost everything else is included. What could be easier than that!

To find out more about U by Uniworld and to book, call 0800 368 9055.

The Ultimate Guide To Cruising With U by Uniworld

October 12th, 2017 by Jordan Bailey

I thoroughly enjoyed my 4 night cruise aboard U by Uniworld’s very first sailing along the Seine, on The B. I went in detail about what I got up to each day in my daily blogs (If you’ve not checked them out yet, click here), but now I want to talk about the overall experience, and what makes U unique. This is the ultimate guide to U by Uniworld…

What is U by Uniworld and who is it for?

U by Uniworld is a new river brand from river cruise experts, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. It’s the first river cruise line targeting younger people, within the ages of 21 and 45. Just because it is targeting younger travellers, doesn’t mean prices are incredibly cheap compared to existing operators. Cruises are still very reasonable at around £150 per night, when you consider all the included excursions and food you get. U by Uniworld is attracting affluent, mainly American travellers taking a trip of a lifetime, and those that are looking to explore Europe in comfort, and as part of a social group, rather than as an independent explorer. If you’ve never thought about trying a river cruise, this is the cruise line to try!

Destinations

U by Uniworld two ships, The A and The B, sail along 4 of Europe’s most impressive rivers and visit 27 ports of call in 6 countries. The A sails along the Rhine, Main, and Danube, offering three itineraries in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Netherlands. The B focuses on giving travellers an authentic taste of France along the Seine.

The A

The A, formerly River Ambassador, is a sister to The B. Both ships offer a high-level of customer service, and amazing experiences, while also having distinctly different decor.

The B

Formerly the River Baroness for sister brand Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, The B carries 120 adventure-loving 21-45 year olds. It’s received a ship-wide transformation. What once was a refined, and chic looking vessel, with rose pastel colours and plenty of gold. Now it is an ultra-modern stylish and contemporary ship for partying and socialising. There is a range of accommodation. Comfortable studios, spacious suites, and even 3 berth bunk beds for groups, or those happy to pay a lower price and share with other travellers.

Onboard life

The U Dine restaurant is open for brunch and dinner. The food onboard is built around a farm-to-table concept, so everything is freshly made, with plenty of healthy options, and local cuisine. Dishes are designed for sharing, so you’ll find plenty of sharing platters and large communal tables. The ships have 2 bars. The U Lounge is the main social hangout space, with plenty of seating. The other bar, called the Ice Bar, disappointingly has no ice in sight. This is used for other social occasions, such as demonstrations, classes, and discos. The rooftop deck is a chilled area, for simply relaxing as the scenery goes by. There’s even a giant movie screen that is put up for the silent cinema sessions. For the size of the ship, the gym is very spacious. There’s a spa onboard, which was formerly a cabin, offering several treatments.

What I liked…

I really enjoyed exploring the destinations on a U excursion, and the best part is they’re free! Some ‘U Time’ excursions, which offer a more in-depth tour, may have an additional charge. Excursions are a great way to get a flavour of the place, while taking away all the hassle of independent exploration. Excursions are suited to the younger crowd, with more walking, photo stops, and adventurous activities, such as kayaking, bike tours, and even a 20k marathon (I gave that one a miss!). The decor is certainly very different. I heard mixed feedback during my time. Personally, I quite liked the gothic/punk theme throughout. I loved the technology used onboard. Instead of a daily paper schedule, everything is emailed to you, or sent to the ship-wide Whatsapp group.

What I didn’t like…

During my time onboard, drinks were free, but looking at normal bar prices, these seemed rather steep at €4 for a small glass of soft drink. Entertainment in the evening was minimal. If you didn’t drink, or if you don’t enjoy dancing to a disco, then there was very little else for you to spend your evening doing. This was a stark contrast to the day time when there always seemed to be an excursion or onboard even taking place. It would be nice to see some other form of entertainment, maybe a fun quiz or game show, especially when there are 2 disco lounges onboard. Although brunch was a great concept, it would have been nice to see some more substantial dishes on offer. One thing I thought The B lacked was a swimming pool, or hot tub to relax when not on an excursion or partying.

Top tips…

There’s plenty of charging spaces in cabins – 9 in total, plus a hidden charging socket in the wardrobe for the excursion headsets. Take this plug out and you’ve either got another European plug to use, or a handy portable USB plug. You probably won’t be stuck for sockets though. There’s loads of handy USB ports dotted throughout the ship, both inside and outside. Feeling peckish in the day after an excursion? Try one of the Burger Sliders in the U Lounge for that perfect snack to tide you over.

When can you go?

The first official cruise departs in April 2018, and sails from Amsterdam to Frankfurt on The A, and a roundtrip along the Seine from Paris on The B. Prices start from around £150 per night for 8 days.

I started the day having Brunch as we gently approached the French town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, located just 15 miles from the centre of Paris. The farm to table dining concept really works on The B, and it’s great to try amazing healthy foods, sourced locally where possible.

Due to a national strike in France, we were all told that unfortunately the tour to Versailles would be cancelled as it would be closed for the day. I got off the ship and explored the hilly surroundings of the riverfront. Visiting Conflans-Saint-Honorine was a chance to see the true French way of life, instead of bustling streets filled with tourists like Paris and Rouen. The charming alleyways and tree-lined roads were just waiting to be explored.

Just before 1 pm, I got a message from the U Hosts, on the Whatsapp group chat, saying the strike had been called off and that Versailles was open. Yay!

I walked back to the ship and enjoyed a drink in the gothic/punk-themed U Lounge, before heading ashore again to board the coaches which would take us all to Versailles. It was around 45 minutes to get to the Palace. We arrived in front of the beautiful giant golden gates, where we waited for our guide to sort out the tickets. Due to the earlier planned strikes, the tour reservation the ship had booked us all on was not possible, so we were denied access while the U by Uniworld representatives scrambled to arrange alternatives. The managers successfully secured us a private tour led by a Versailles expert guide, as well as arranging for us to go to an otherwise fenced off area of the Palace, the Chapel. This is what I love about U by Uniworld – when there’s a problem, they will go above and beyond to solve it and secure us exclusive experiences, something not possible when you travel independently. We were shown around the grand palace, where the treaty of Versailles was signed, and into one of the most famous rooms in the Palace, the Hall of Mirrors. 17 floor-to-ceiling mirrors run along this gigantic hall, along with beautiful chandeliers.

The Chapel was simply stunning. The detailed paintings on the curved roof, depicting scenes of heaven and biblical teachings was amazing, and we had this whole area to ourselves thanks to U by Uniworld and the team at Versailles. We continued our tour around the other rooms, before heading back to the ship.

We were almost an hour late arriving back, which meant the planned beer tasting on one of the rooftops in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine was cancelled. It didn’t stop the crew bringing a crate of the local craft beer back onboard for guests to try in the lounge. Once everyone was back onboard, we swiftly departed.

We didn’t have too far to sail – we were due alongside in Paris just after midnight. Tonight was a self-serve buffet in the U Dine restaurant. There was an amazing French onion soup, salmon coulibiac, macaroons, and a regional specialty for dessert called St. Honoré. It was fabulous! I will really miss the food onboard. To commemorate our final night onboard, there was a giant pyjama party onboard! The ship docked just after midnight, and I was awake and off the ship at 6 am.

And that’s it. My time onboard U by Uniworld’s first ever river cruise is over. It’s been a blast! Thank you for coming align with me on my adventures through this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Au Revoir.

Day 3: Rouen – Medieval Discoveries With U by Uniworld

October 10th, 2017 by Jordan Bailey

There was some confusion this morning over the time to meet for the kayaking excursion along the Eure River. We were due to meet at 8:15 to head ashore, but the ship was delayed and the meeting time was changed to 9:45. Sadly without much notice, the meeting time was changed to 9:20. I missed the excursion, but in a way it was a blessing. Hearing other people’s stories when they returned later that afternoon, they talked about how exhausting it was, with 2 miles of rapids, and people falling in the water. I had a relaxing afternoon on deck as we continued to sail to Rouen where we would now arrive at 3pm.

As soon as we docked, it was time to disembark and head off on the afternoon excursion. Despite knowing we would be docking on a Monday, the Behind the Dials of the Gros-Horloge tour had to be changed to a Medieval Rouen tour because most museums are closed on Monday. Nevertheless, the new tour was equally fascinating. Our guide told us about Joan of Arc and how she was burned at the stake in the market place of Rouen. We went inside the iconic Joan of Arc church with its boat shaped ceiling, and magnificent stain glass windows depicting the earliest scenes of the city.

We continued the tour down the main shopping street. We passed the spectacular Justice Courts where our guide managed to snag us an exclusive tour inside. The security guards were so passionate about the place, unlocking court room doors and showing us a rather rude gargoyle on the roof! It was evident that they were head over heels for our tour guide too! The court room ceiling was soooo impressive and grand!

The Gros-Horloge was the next sight we walked to. It would have been great to go inside, but it was still impressive just looking at it. There is a lot more going on with the clock, than you may first realise. There is only the hour hand as when the clock was constructed it took 3 days just to get to Paris, so minutes were not really a necessity. The clock also has a giant silver ball which shows the moon cycle, as well as a rotating disk with scenes that depict the month.

Next stop on the tour was the majestic Rouen Cathedral. We went inside and the scale of the place was unbelievable! Well worth a look inside if you visit Rouen.

Back on the ship, after taking a quick bike ride along the river bank, it was time for dinner as we set sail. Tonight’s dinner was my least favourite so far, but still great nonetheless. I had a BLT sharing salad with quiche, followed by a flavoursome potato and cumin soup. There was a choice of swordfish or stuffed pepper – I went for the pepper. Dessert was certainly unique. Chefs are usually used to beautifully making exquisite creations. Tonight that was different. They were allowed to make as much mess as possible throwing sweets and sauce all over the food counters and the pre-made brownies and tiramisu. We could then come up and help ourselves to whatever we fancied.

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Day 2: Paris – We Set Sail With U by Uniworld

October 9th, 2017 by Jordan Bailey

I’m writing this daily blog from a giant cabana on the top deck of The B as we sail towards Rouen…it’s a hard life!

It was an early rise this morning to head of on the first excursion of the day – a panoramic breakfast bus tour. Taking in the impressive sights of Paris, this stylish double decker bus (painted the same matt black as The B) had a kitchen downstairs and several dining tables upstairs. As we slowly made our way between the Louvre, Arc de Triomph, and several other top tourist spots, we elegantly dined over breakfast. To start we’re some traditional pastries, followed by some cold cuts and cheeses, Eggs Benedict, and finally a plate of fruit. It was a unique way to enjoy breakfast.

The breakfast tour lasted for a few hours, so almost as soon as we returned, it was almost time for the afternoon excursion – a trip to the Paris Catacombs. Meeting dockside, we walked to the nearby metro stop and caught Line 6 to Denfert-Rochereau. U by Uniworld excursions are all about being active and getting a taste of local life, so where possible you’ll either walk or use local transport to get to places, rather than a mundane coach ride. At the Catacombs, we skipped the several hour long line outside the Catacombs entrance and went straight in – just one of the perks of an organised tour with U by Uniworld instead of independent travel. Heading down the spiral staircase to the old quarry tunnels, we learned about the history of the Catacombs. 6 million bodies were transported to the tunnel network. It was quite moving and creepy seeing thousands of bones and skulls stacked in every nook and cranny, though slightly tarnished by the word ‘Alaska’ written in permanent marker on one of the skulls and some chewing gum in one of the eye sockets.

After resurfacing, we stumbled across a celebration parade on one of the main streets. Old military vehicles and dancers in wartime clothing. It was a great community event we just happened to come across in the moment. After, we got the metro back to the ship.

Back onboard, I enjoyed a couple of drinks in the U Lounge and tried out the Burger Sliders – just to calm my appetite until dinner just a few hours away. There’s also a vending machine onboard in case you get peckish when there is no food served in the restaurant.

At 6:45 pm we began to cast off from Paris. We didn’t get very far before stopping in the middle of the Seine for the christening of the ship. A few speeches were made before bottles of champagne were opened using swords over the side of the ship. We were all then invited to join in with a community drumming session at the back of the ship, to illustrate the community beat of The B. Afterwards we were all ushered into the U Lounge for a safety briefing by no other than Uniworld’s President & CEO Ellen Bettridge.

It was another fantastic meal, with a sharing niçoise salad to start. Next was a chicken and barley soup and my second burger of the day, accompanied with both potato wedges and chips! Finally there was a delicious chocolate lava cake for dessert. Yum! During the meal one of the U Hosts came round with a lantern. Our table were asked to make a wish for The B, which would then be used as part of the renaming of the ship. We decided to each come up with a sentence which caputured the essence of the. Rand and used the letter B and U. Our wish was “Be Safe, Be Adventurous, Be Unique, Be You.”

After dinner we all went on to the top deck, where Ellen and the ship’s guardian angel Petra Nemcova made speeches before we ignited our lanterns and let them drift away into the dark sky. It was a magical moment as several dozen balloons gently glided further and further away.

It was then party time in the U Lounge for the rest of the night.

Tomorrow, I’m in Rouen. Check back to see what I get up to!

 

Day 1: Paris – Making History With U by Uniworld

October 8th, 2017 by Jordan Bailey

WOW! What a ship. I’ve just joined U by Uniworld’s new ship The B for the maiden cruise on the Seine, and I already know it’s amazing. U by Uniworld is a cruise line exclusively for 21-45 year olds, and the onboard experience is perfect for millennials. Arriving at the riverside, the jet black hull of The B is just one of the things that make this ship standout from other river ships. After checking in, which involved a quick scan of a passport and a photo, followed by writing down your phone number to be added to the ship’s Whatsapp group, I went to find my studio. It was on the small side, but there was plenty of storage space, and a large shower. The studio features a selection of plug sockets. There’s 9 sockets in total – a UK socket, an Australian, a US socket, plus four European sockets. There are also two USB ports and even a Bluetooth sound system. An interactive TV displays the daily events, meeting times, as well as movies and a range of television channels from around the world. Along the walls in the accommodation corridors are portraits of famous 21-45 year old faces, such as Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Zayn Mallik, and James Cordon.

Brunch was served in the U Dine restaurant. There was a mix of breakfast items, salads, and soup. Choices were excellent for those who are health conscious, vegetarians or vegans. It’s a casual dining affair.

After settling in and exploring what The B has to offer, I headed out with the group on our first shore excursion – a bike ride along the Seine. This 2 hour bike ride took in some of the best sights of Paris, including the Louvre and Notre Dame. Considering I hadn’t got on a bike in years, and that I could barely touch the floor, I don’t think I did too bad!

After getting back, there wasn’t too long to wait until dinner in the restaurant. This is a very social affair, with sharing platters, perfect for sharing on Instagram. There’s no traditional menu, instead each course is displayed on television screens. To start was a platter of antipasti, pizza bread, and other little nibbles. Up next was a thick tomato soup. Another platter followed, consisting of zucchini lasagne and chicken skewers. The meal ended with a platter of choux pastry desserts. Just want to say here…who thought sharing desserts was a good idea? I want that all to myself!

It was straight outside after dinner to join the evening excursion. We walked over to the Eiffel Tower and went up to witness the amazing views. The impressive structure looked so impressive glowing above the Paris skyline.

Excursions are included in the price of a U by Uniworld river cruise and there is a focus on exploration, rather than looking out of a coach window all day. Returning to the ship, The B looked magnificent with purple neon lights glowing around the name and top deck.

Join me tomorrow as I experience more of Paris with U by Uniworld!

MSC Magnifica Cruise Ship Review

September 29th, 2017 by Jordan Bailey

Overview

On September 7, Ocean World Travel and a group of our customers boarded MSC Magnifica in Southampton for a ship tour, and lunch. 

MSC Magnifica was launched in 2010 and can accommodate 2,550 passengers. 2018 will see the ship homeport in Southampton with several enhancements, including a British cruise director and tea making facilities in all cabins.  

Accommodation

Accommodation on MSC Magnifica is spacious and comfortable decorated in pastel colours. Cabins feature either two soft chairs or a sofa which can also be turned into a double bed. There's also a vanity table with a pouffe. When the ship sails from the UK, the cabin will have a kettle, with a selection of tea and coffee, including Yorkshire Tea. Bathrooms are standard size for a cruise ship and feature a shower. 

Dining

For an Italian ship, it's no surprise that the pizza and pasta aboard is always amazing! In the Sahara buffet, pizza chefs work their magic expertly cooking various flavours of pizza. Best of all you can see the process from them kneading the dough, to adding toppings, and popping them into the oven, before guests tuck into them within minutes. The buffet has plenty of choice and has a range of worldwide cuisine as you enjoy eating with floor-to-ceiling views of the destinations outside. MSC Magnifica has two main restaurants, the Quattro Venti and L'Edera. The food in the restaurants is a let down compared to other cruise lines, but the food is still nice enough. It's likely that food offerings will change to meet British expectations when the ship sail from Southampton for the season in 2018. 

Life Onboard

The magnificent emerald green Royal Theatre is nothing short of spectacular. Here, there's not much the MSC entertainment team don't do; They sing, dance, do magic tricks and perform amazing stunts. There are plenty of bars onboard MSC Magnifica to enjoy a drink in - there's 11 in total, and plenty of seating areas dotted around the ship. The purple L'Amestista lounge is the main evening entertainment lounge, home to evening disco cabaret, game shows and comedic acts. This is a great sociable space, with a mix of small tables, large bench seating for groups, and high tables for drinking near the bar. And for when you're ready to move on for the night, head straight up to the T32 Disco - a late-night lively disco on the top deck of the ship, playing all the latest popular chart music, and Latin dance music. For any sports fan, the L'Olimpiade bar is the best place to be on the ship. The lounge is filled with iconic sporting memorabilia, and shows the latest sports games, including top UK football games and popular events, such as Wimbledon, and the World Cup.

The MSC Aurea Spa is the perfect place to relax on a day at sea. Enjoy a beauty treatment with a spectacular view, or enjoy a tranquil day in the thermal spa. With impressive vistas out to sea, going to the gym and exercising is definitely worth it. Deck 16 is home to an exclusive sun deck, accessible for an additional charge, with waiter service, private hot tubs, and giant sun loungers. MSC Magnifica has two main pools. A spacious outdoor pool and an indoor pool which remains perfectly warm no matter what the weather is like outside - definitely useful for the unpredictable climate of the UK!

Overall

With fantastic family facilities, a combination of traditional and glitzy decor, plus spacious accommodation, MSC Magnifica is perfect for the UK market. If you are looking for a great-value cruise, perfect for the family, look no further than an MSC cruise from Southampton.

Call 0800 368 9059 or contact us to discuss booking your perfect cruise with MSC Cruises. Remember, when you book with Ocean World Travel, you'll benefit from exclusive savings, plus great customer service.

A Ship Visit Aboard Oceania’s Nautica

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!