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.
Want to see more? Watch the video below -
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 from Lisbon to Bordeaux, during its world voyage. The ship is around 30,000 GT and carries around 650 passengers, which means there is plenty of space onboard given its size and the number of passengers onboard.
I was staying in one of the concierge level verandas which are mostly located in the most desired locations of the ship. You get a wealth of amenities including the services of a dedicated concierge. Staterooms are approximately 216 square feet 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, a seven-zone mattress featuring 400 springs and two inches of memory foam – it makes for a very good night’s sleep! Overall the cabin was fabulous. The bathroom was a little on the small side and only featured a shower, with no bath.
Other privileges included with a concierge level 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. This really didn’t take that long, as already previously mentioned, she is a smaller ship, and comprises of 11 decks. However, the ship had everything you could need. Reception, Destination Services and Concierge are located on Deck 4. The Show Lounge, Casino, Martins Bar and the Grand Dining room are situated on Deck 5. The Terrace Café (the buffet), Waves Grill (a burger bar), pool area and Canyon Ranch Spa are on Deck 9. Deck 10 has two speciality restaurants, the Toscana & the Polo Grill, as well as a library and the Horizons bar, whoch offers views overlooking the front of the ship.
Before coming onboard, I knew a few people who had cruised with Oceania and they raved about the food. Well they weren’t wrong. I must say, during my 4 nights, it was the best food at sea I’ve ever had. Starting with the first night in the Polo Grill with a menu that you needed a day at least to read! The French Onion Soup 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 possibly 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, with a full waiter service breakfast option available in the Grand Dining room or an extensive buffet selection in the Terrace Café, where Eggs Benedict is cooked to order. For lunch, I mainly dined at the Waves Grill, where fresh burgers and sandwiches are available - the burgers were to die for! One thing's 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 X Factor, 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 playing in bars throughout the ship. There was no fancy nightclub, but the casino and several bars were open until the early hours. The bars offered an extensive range of drinks and the staff were very attentive. 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.
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.
Our latest offers:
Sailings are part of OLife Choice*, which offers you the flexibility to personalise your holiday experience. Easily stay in touch with FREE Unlimited Internet, PLUS select one from a choice of generous amenities: FREE Shore Excursions, FREE House Beverage Package or a Shipboard Credit.
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...
October 14th, 2016 by Francesca Bandini
Going on a weekend cruise is the ideal way to break from the routine – especially if you live in Southampton where the port is literally at your door step! I recently went for my first mini cruise with P&O cruises and these are my thoughts. Are you settled? This is my cruise from Southampton to Bruges, on board Ventura review.
Sailing date: 10 September 2016
Cabin type: Interior
Itinerary: Southampton – Zeebrugge – Southampton Read the rest of this entry »
September 14th, 2016 by Francesca Bandini
Harmony of the Seas is the biggest ship in the world with plenty of things to do. It might feel overwhelming when you are there and don't know what excursions to do or which entertainment you should go and watch, or even get involved in. That's why I have decided to compile a list of the best attractions you cannot miss!
Top 10 things to do on board Harmony of the Seas
1. Have a coffee in Central Park: you don't need to go to New York to enjoy the rejuvenating air of Central Park. In fact, Harmony of the Seas hosts an amazing spot where you forget that you are on a ship. There are many trees around and I swear I could hear some birds (despite not being there)! On the promenade there are various other tranquil venues for a coffee, snack, a cocktail or even a meal.
2. Alice in Wonderland restaurant: have you ever dreamed of being in a fairy tale where houses are made of marzipan, trees of chocolate and clouds of candy floss? You can make this dream come true on board of Harmony of the Seas, at the Alice in Wonderland restaurant. The restaurant features modern imaginative cuisine, where you can eat dishes inspired to the six elements: sun, sea, earth, ice, fire and dreams. The decor adds to the magic, but perhaps not as much as the menus - They only reveal what is on them with the help of a magic brush! A six course dinner costs $45 per person.
3. Puzzle break: I am sure that when you read on the journal 6 pm Puzzle Game: Escape the Room you will think of a board game. However, what seems a boring game turns out to be one of the most entertaining and amazing experience of your life! This game involves teamwork to escape a space in the ship by solving riddles and puzzles, with just an hour to do it in. To know more about the game read the article The most intense hour of my life.
4. Surf experience: have you always dreamed of surfing but you were a little too scared? You can now surf on the Flowrider, where instructors can guide you to be the next big thing!
5. The tallest slide at sea: the Ultimate Abyss is the tallest slide at sea and is for those adrenaline junkies amongst us all. The people I met said that is was very fast and dark... I'll have to take their word for it!
6. Watching a show on Ice: at Royal Caribbean, they are well known for the amazing entertainment. It is worth spending at least one evening watching a show that you wont forget.
7. On air Club: this bar is really nice, not only a stage for karaoke enthusiasts but also includes various games for everyone earlier in the evening.
8. Bionic bar: There are very few places where you can experience the bartender of the future. However on this ship you can. It is not everyday you get served a cocktail from a mechanical hand!
9. Water show: Harmony of the Seas provides an excellent water show in the Aqua Theatre. This is another exciting show put on by Royal Caribbean and involves so many talented acrobats.
10. Eat a meal at the Solarium bistro: a low calorie and tasteful lunch can be found at the Solarium bistro, a buffet style meal packed with high energy and no regrets food. I really enjoyed my meal there, the setting is nice and was almost like a greenhouse.