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How To Choose The Right Cruise – The Cruise Guide

Cruise ships at Cococay (1)

Thinking about trying a cruise holiday but not sure how to choose the right cruise? My ultimate cruise guide should help.

It seems every month there is a new cruise ship launch with even greater innovation and ground-breaking facilities on board. The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas has eight different neighbourhoods on board, including Central Park complete with 20,000 plants! Norwegian Encore has a race track on the top deck, while Celebrity Edge has a floating platform where you can dine right at the water’s edge. Cruise companies are frantically trying to out do each other and knowing how to choose the right cruise is not an easy task.


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Cruising has changed dramatically in the last number of years. What was once considered the ideal vacation for retired couples, cruising has evolved to become more popular with families and the luxury market.

Gone are the days when you had to sit with strangers for dinner, wearing your finest ball gown. While formal nights are still popular on some cruise lines, you can choose whether to embrace them or not.


I have seen many cruise ships over the years and I can honestly say there is a cruise for everyone. However, knowing how to choose the right cruise to suit your style, requires a lot of planning. The quote ‘the journey is the destination’ springs to mind. It is not only the destination that you need to consider, the cruise line, cruise ship, and time of year are equally as important.


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My ultimate cruise guide should give you some tips and tricks on how to choose the right cruise, however, I recommend engaging with a cruise expert to book your cruise holiday. They will be able to recommend the right cruise to suit your own taste and budget, and will be able to book the right flights and transfers to meet the cruise. 

These cruise deals from Ireland will give you an idea of what is possible, but make sure to read my cruise guide below to know how to choose the right cruise.



How to choose the right cruise ship

how to choose the right cruise for families

A mistake that is often made when choosing a cruise is that people assume that the cruise line is the most important component of your cruise holiday. I believe the cruise ship and time of year you are travelling are equally if not more important.

Just because you liked cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas in the Caribbean in February, this does not necessarily mean you will like cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas in the Mediterranean in July.


Jewel of the Seas can hold 3,500 passengers and crew, but Wonder of the Seas can hold almost 9,300 passengers and crew. Both will offer a completely different cruise experience. Cruise ships are often referred to as floating hotels, but just as hotels vary greatly in size and standard, so do cruise ships.

There are mega cruise ships can carry 9000 passengers, as well as intimate river cruises, that carry 150 passengers. 




Before you choose the right cruise, ask yourself these questions:


What type of holidays do you like?


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When on holidays do you prefer to stay in a boutique hotel and dine out somewhere new each night, or is a lively all-inclusive resort more your style? There are cruise ships to suit families and thrill seekers, as well as more intimate cruises with exclusive spas and adult-only pools.


Pool games and karaoke bars might appeal to some, while others like West End style shows and live music. I loved the Aqua Theatre on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships and the late night outdoor bar on MSC Seaview. I also loved the relaxed  atmosphere on Sky Princess.


My favourite cruise experience was on Celebrity Beyond. I loved it modern design and relaxed atmosphere, but if I was travelling with younger children I would probably choose a different cruise ship.



What time of year are you travelling?

Independence of the Seas

Mediterranean cruises tend to attract a lot of families during the summer months, while Caribbean cruises in the winter attract lots of couples. Couples should avoid Easter holidays / Spring Break in the USA, and while Mediterranean cruises are very well priced in the winter time, do you want to be cruising the Med on a cold November day?



How old is the cruise ship?


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I was on some of MSC’s older cruise ships and didn’t like their dark interiors and traditional decor. However, when I cruised on MSC Seaview I had a completely different experience. MSC Seaview is bright, airy, elegant and sophisticated – she completely changed my view on MSC Cruises and now I consider it one of my favourite cruise ships.


TOP TIP: If you are booking an older cruise ship, check when it was last refurbished and read the latest reviews to know what to expect.

Read: My review of MSC Seaview



What is the dress code?


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Formal nights may be common on most ships but this does not mean you need to wear black tie. In fact I have cruised on many ships and have rarely seen anyone wear Black Tie suit or full length ball gown.

Royal Caribbean have one or two formal nights over a seven day cruise. If you don’t want to dress up, you can avoid these in most cases, by going to the buffet restaurant for dinner.


Norwegian Cruise Line offer a freestyle cruise concept where it is casual and relaxed throughout. There are no set times for dinner and no dress code, so for clients that do not want to dress up at all, this is ideal.


Cunard and P&O Cruises are more strict on their formal nights and encourage it for their guests. Cunard even offer masquerade balls, and the Royal Ascot Ball.




What is included in the cost?

best cruise holiday

Cruises vary in price and standard but one of the main things to consider is what is included in the cost. Most packages are more expensive to book on board so always try to get these included in the cost of your cruise.


If you are booking an all-inclusive cruise, check what the drinks package includes. Most ships have a variety of drinks packages available and you may need to opt for the premium drinks package depending on what your favourite tipple is.

If drinks are not included in the cost, I recommend pre-purchasing a drinks package in advance, as drinks prices can be expensive on board.

review of msc seaview

Check if gratuities are included and pre pay these if possible too. The recommended tip amount is 20% with many cruise lines, so pre-paying gratuities can be a massive advantage.



How many days are you at sea?



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If you are cruising the Med you will likely be stopping in a different port each day. You may want to dine out when in port and therefore not feel the need to pre-purchase a speciality dining package.


However, if you are on a transatlantic cruise or have lots of days at sea you may not want to eat in the main dining room or buffet restaurant for lunch and dinner every day. If that is the case it might be an idea to pre-book a speciality dining package in advance.


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The same applies to WiFi. You should be able to check emails and messages when in port so you may not need to pre-purchase WiFi if cruising the Mediterranean. However, the opposite applies if you have lots of days at sea.


I hope my top tips for booking cruise holidays have been helpful. I have listed some of my favourite cruises for first time cruisers, couples and families below to help you choose the right cruise. 



Best cruises for first timers:


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Many first time cruisers fear that that they won’t like cruising so tend go for a mainstream cruise that won’t break the bank. This is completely understandable, however, statistics show that over 90% of cruisers will want to cruise again.

A seven-night Mediterranean Cruise is always a firm favourite for first time cruisers. Flights are plentiful and usually inexpensive making them great value and easily accessible.

solarium on wonder of the seas

There are a variety of Mediterranean itineraries to choose from – Western Mediterranean cruises visit Spain, France and Italy, while Eastern Mediterranean cruises visit the Greek Isles, Croatia, Italy and sometimes Turkey and Montenegro too.


Marella Cruises, part of the TUI holiday group, offer great value all inclusive cruises with flights, transfers and checked baggage included in the cost.

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC and Princess Cruises are the most popular with Irish holiday makers during the summer months. However, it is important to remember that Mediterranean cruises are very popular with families during July and August.


Mega ships can be a bit daunting for first time cruisers, so it might be a good idea to try one of the main cruise lines’ smaller ships. Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas is still a massive cruise ship, but carries 4370 guests versus almost 7000 on the brand new Wonder of the Seas. 


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Princess Cruises offer kids clubs and entertainment for children, but they don’t tend to have waterparks, surf simulators or virtual reality games rooms, and therefore can be better suited for couples looking to cruise the Med in the summer time. Princess Cruises relaxed style will also suit first timers looking for great food and service.


For couples or friends looking for a more luxurious option Celebrity Cruises’ 5-star Edge class ships are cruising the Med this summer.



Best cruises for young couples:

MSC Seaview
MSC Seaview

Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises are the most popular with young people. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line or MSC Cruises newer ships are just some of the favourites and offer great entertainment, night clubs, and lively pool areas. If you don’t want lots of children at the pool, make sure you avoid school holidays.


Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships have seven different neighbourhoods, including the Boardwalk, and Central Park which is lined with trees and speciality dining options. You can fly across the ship on a zip line, enjoy surfing in the Flowrider, try your had at ice skating or rock climbing, and slide down the Ultimate Abyss.


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With robots serving you drinks from the bar, and a superb outdoor Aqua Theatre, they are a great choice for a young couple looking for some adventure, modern style. However, drinks packages are expensive with Royal Caribbean, so make sure to book these in advance to secure the best value – see more on this below.


Norwegian cruise ships are also very popular with young couples as they offer great value all-inclusive rates. Despite the name, Norwegian Cruise Line is an American cruise line, and is similar in style to Royal Caribbean with lots of activities on board.


Norwegian Encore has a race track on the top deck. Norwegian Epic is renowned for its lively atmosphere. There are 12 bars including an Ice Bar and an outdoor night club, as well as top performances by bands such as the Blue Man Group.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert reviews cruising
Norwegian Epic.

I loved the expansive outdoor space on MSC Seaview. She has 20 different bars and lounges but my favourite was the Sunset Bar which played music until the small hours.


Carnival Cruise Line are a good choice for young people looking for a lively cruise in the Caribbean, while Virgin Voyages unique adult-only cruises are perfect for couples who don’t want to share the sun decks with young children.



Best cruises for older couples:


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Older couples have the pick of the crop as they can usually travel at any time. Princess Cruises are a popular choice for four-star ocean cruises while Celebrity Cruises are arguably the best choice for those looking for a more luxurious option.


As well as the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords and Baltic Capitals cruises are popular for couples who don’t want to travel long distance. However, if flying time is not an issue, you can’t beat Alaska for the dream cruise destination for older couples.

More intimate cruises on smaller ships and the ability to dock in the heart of cities, has made river cruising one of the fastest growing sectors within the cruise industry. They tend to attract an older age group than ocean cruises, and are a great way to find out if cruising is right for you.


Travelmarvel River cruises offer great value 4-star river cruises which are ideal for couples or solo travellers who want to try a cruise for the first time.


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Uniworld are the more luxurious choice and offer a selection of 5-star river cruises. Owned by the parent company who owns Ashford Castle, these cruise ships feature lavish designs, and offer fine dining and outstanding service.

Read: A river cruise on Uniworld’s SS Antoinette


For the ultimate bucket list adventure, take a transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary 2. It is a very different feel and experience on board to other cruise ships, where dressing for dinner is still the norm.



Best cruises for families:

Despite what you might think, cruises are a great choice for families and offer excellent value for money when you consider your food, entertainment and most children’s activities are included in the cost.


We have enjoyed a few family cruises and I loved to see my children using their independence enjoying various activities on board, while I relaxed by the pool. I never worried that they will get lost, and if you choose the right cruise will never hear your children say ‘I’m Bored!’


MSC Cruises offer fantastic value for families – kids travel free up to the age of 18 once sharing a cabin with their parents. MSC Meraviglia and Seaside-Class ships have aqua parks and virtual reality games rooms on board, and many of their cruise ships have Lego play areas.


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Norwegian Cruise Line offer great value all-inclusive cruises that are packed with adventure. Most of the newer ships have waterparks, kids clubs and teen zones.


Norwegian Encore has a race track on the top deck, and I was the first person to test drive it! The race track is 1,150 feet long, sprawls over two decks and extends up to 13 feet over the side of the ship – it really is hard to fathom unless you see it, or in my case race it.

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There is also an outdoor laser tag arena and an indoor room with high-tech virtual reality games that is like nothing else I have seen on a cruise ship – this is a teenagers dream!

Read: My review of Norwegian Encore

Royal Caribbean are renowned for their family friendly cruise ships. With everything from water parks, surf simulators, zip lines and even sky diving simulators. Royal Caribbean also have a private island in the Bahamas with a water park on site, making a Bahamas cruise an ideal extension to a family holiday in Orlando. 

Read: My review of Harmony of the Seas

Read: 10 reasons to choose Royal Caribbean for family cruises

how to choose the right cruise for families - disney cruises

Disney cruises are ideal for families with young children, although there are also tween and teen clubs on board. Theme days like Star Wars and Marvel days are big hits with families, and getting the chance to meet your favourite Disney characters on board is a dream come true for many children.

Read: My review of Disney Magic cruise ship



Best cruises for adventure:

antartica bucket list cruise holidays

Hurtigruten will help you search for the Northern Lights. They are not a luxury cruise line and do not offer the same facilities on board as some of the main stream cruise lines, but they are truly made for adventurers. The stunning scenery and the true local experiences have made them extremely popular in recent years.


Expedition cruising is growing more and more popular with many choosing to cruise to places that are not easily reached by land or air – Antartica and the Galapagos Islands being two of the favourites.



Celebrity Cruises Xpedition ship is the luxury ship for adventurers but you will need to plan way in advance, this ship can get booked up as soon as it goes on sale.

Read: 25 bucket list holidays around the world



Best cruises for foodies:


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I have found the quality of food on board most cruise ships to be generally very good, however I was very impressed with the variety of food on Sky Princess – both the complimentary and speciality dining options were excellent.

Read: My Sky Princess – guide to dining and facilities

If you are looking for a five-star cruise experience, you will find it hard to beat Celebrity Cruises Edge Class ships. There are four different main dining rooms on board, which gives the impression you are dining in a speciality restaurant, without having to pay any additional costs.

The Magic Carpet on Celebrity Beyond
The Magic Carpet on Celebrity Beyond

However, food lovers such not miss the opportunity to dine on the Magic Carpet. This takes al-fresco dining to the next level. Favourite seafood dishes from RAW on 5 are served here which is one of Celebrity Cruises top speciality dining experiences.


Another unique experience is the use of 3D table animation in Qsine. As well as having the menu created by a Michelin Star Chef, your table comes to life with Le Petit Chef experience – this is available on Celebrity Edge Class ships.



Best cruise for luxury:


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Knowing how to choose the right cruise for a luxury experience is probably the most difficult. Silversea, Regent, Seabourn and Crystal cruises are the market leaders in luxury ocean cruising, however if you seek the luxury yacht feel then the smaller Silversea ships with butler service might be a better option.
I loved Celebrity Cruises relaxed modern style and are more reasonably priced than the above mentioned. Their food and service is excellent and the overall feeling is less formal than some of the other luxury ocean cruise lines.


If river cruising is what you seek, Uniworld offer 5-star all inclusive river cruises with fine dining and outstanding service.

how to choose the right cruise for a honeymoon
A suite on board Celebrity Reflection.




Best cruise for winter holidays

how to choose the right cruise for winter holidays

With the possible exception of Northern Lights cruises, the majority of people who cruise during the winter are looking for sunshine. The Caribbean is one of the most popular destinations, with various itineraries covering the Western, Eastern and Southern Caribbean islands.


However, if travelling from Ireland don’t overlook cruising around the Emirates. With daily flights to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, and sunshine almost guaranteed, this would be my choice for value.

Many cruise companies offer fly-cruise packages with drinks packages and speciality dining options included. You will find they are mostly 8-night itineraries that consist of seven night cruise which includes an overnight stay in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha.


I hope my cruise guide will help you choose the right cruise for you. Remember to contact a specialist cruise travel agency who can suggest the best cruise to suit your style, taste and budget.


Norwegian Encore Review – Go Karts, Moscow Mules & Kinky Boots!

Sarah Norwegian Encore race track

Mind-blowing activities, top class food and drinks, and great value for money – check out my Norwegian Encore review before booking your next cruise holiday!


Despite the fact that the inaugural sailing was on Halloween night, and I had two young kids at home, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to step onboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest and most innovative cruise ship – Norwegian Encore. It was my first time to cruise with Norwegian and I couldn’t wait to experience it. I crave new destinations, new cruise ships – well really anything travel related that I haven’t been to or experienced before. So a new cruise line and a brand new cruise ship, I was in my element!



Unfortunately I didn’t have the Caribbean sea views to go with it – Norwegian Encore’s inaugural sailing was from Bremerhaven in Germany to Southampton, UK on the 31st of October – not exactly the best time for good weather, or picturesque ports for that matter. But I guess this makes my Norwegian Encore review all the more interesting. I mean, if I liked Encore on rough November seas, then it must be good – right?

atrium on norwegian encore





Activities on Norwegian Encore

It was 4 degrees celsius when we arrived in Bremerhaven but, although cold, we had the all-important blue skies. I immediately set out to explore the outdoor areas to take advantage of the sunshine. Normally I would head straight for the pool, but Norwegian Encore has a go-kart track on its top deck, so that was my first port of call.

race track on norwegian encore

Norwegian Encore is one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Class Plus ships – Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss are her sisters, and also have racetracks onboard. However, Norwegian Encore’s is the biggest – to say I was blown away was an understatement. I was a guest of Sunway, Ireland’s cruise specialists, and they advised me to go to the racetrack as soon as I got onboard. Their advice was spot-on. I ended up at the top of the queue and was the first person to ever race the track on Norwegian Encore! 

norwegian encore race track


The race track is 1,150 feet long, sprawls over two decks and extends up to 13 feet over the side of the ship – it really is hard to fathom unless you see it, or in my case race it. I thought I was speeding away to my hearts content until my colleagues started beeping me from behind so they could over take me! It was hard to believe I was on a cruise ship – racing at 52 kilometers per hour.


As well as a massive go-kart track, Norwegian Encore is also home to the largest laser tag arena at sea – and it is also outdoors. Its theme is based on the Lost City of Atlantis, where you don virtual reality headsets and shoot serpents as they jump out in front of you. I didn’t try this personally, but decided to pose for pics instead 😉.


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The outdoor laser tag arena isn’t the only virtual reality experience onboard. I was amazed at the Galaxy Pavilion – an indoor room of high-tech virtual reality games that is like nothing else I have seen on a cruise ship. I am positive I would never see my 12-year-old son Luke if we cruised on Encore for a week.

I tried the Jurassic Park ride, where I was a passenger in one of the jeeps, racing away from chasing dinosaurs – it was brilliant. I also tried the rollercoaster ride but felt a bit nauseous, and ended up closing my eyes the whole time. I wasn’t brave enough to try the ‘Vertigo’ simulator – where you walk between skyscrapers on New York’s skyline. There are loads of shooting and racing simulators too – the Galaxy Pavilion is the best virtual reality experience I have ever seen.

galaxy pavillion norwegian encore


I think Norwegian cruise ships are amazing value for money (more on that later), but it is important to point out that these activities incur additional charges. The go-kart track costs US$15 for an eight-lap circuit and laser-tag costs $10 for five minutes. However, if you are travelling with teenagers I would advise buying a week-long pass for the Galaxy Pavilion for $199. It might sound expensive, but believe me it will be the best $199 you ever spent! If you really want to push the boat out (excuse the pun) you can also purchase a $399 pass that will get you unlimited rides at the Galaxy Pavilion, go-kart track and laser tag area for a week.

laser tag norwegian encore


Norwegian Encore also has two multi-storey water slides, and a kids aqua park with smaller slides and tipping buckets. The slides were not open during our sailing, but I am sure that the Aqua Racer, where you race your friends in inflatable tubes, would be a great ride for all the family. The Ocean Loops slide, with a floor that drops away at the top, and a slide that extends out over the ship – maybe not so much! Note that there is no additional charge for the water slides or the aqua park.

pool deck on norwegian encore


As well as amazing adrenaline-filled fun, there are kids clubs on Norwegian Encore to suit all ages – and they are also free of charge. There is a baby club for under 3s (which must be supervised by a parent), and kids clubs from ages 3 – 12 that are separated into three age groups: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12. The rooms were huge with lots of open spaces and activities are organised daily. 

kids club on norwegian encore


Teens are well catered for too. The Entourage teen club has a large lounge area, daily activities, a wall full of PlayStations and what I am sure would be a firm favourite, their own teen disco every night. Norwegian also allows you to leave your kids onboard when in port, if you want to take a shore excursion without kids in tow.

teen club on norwegian encore

As much as I was wowed by Encore’s facilities and outdoor space, I found the pool areas a little disappointing. The main pool is superb and has a large outdoor movie screen. There is also a small pool near the kids aqua park, as well as four hot tubs.

hot tubs on norwegian encore


However, there isn’t much else to choose from – unless you are happy to pay for the privilege. The spa incurs an additional charge, as does the adults-only Vibe Beach Club on the top deck – which is a whopping $99 per person for a day pass. If you are travelling without kids and have many days at sea, the week-long pass for $209 is actually better value. At least you know you will have a comfy sun lounger for the week.


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If money is not an object, then make sure you book The Haven. This exclusive area for suite guests is stunning and the best suite area I have seen at sea. As well as staying in luxurious accommodation, the pool area with retractable roof is superb, and the private restaurant and lounge offer the best sea views. This has a quiet relaxed vibe, completely different to the other areas of the ship – and so ideal for a couple. 

The Haven on norwegian encore



Entertainment on Norwegian Encore

Norwegian cruise ships have a reputation of having some of the best entertainment at sea, and once I experienced it for myself, I could see why. As well as nightly shows in the theatre, they have live music on in many of the bars throughout the ship. I loved that there were lots of small bars, rather than two or three large lounges. They have an intimate feel and you almost forget you are on a massive cruise ship. I also like that many of the bars and restaurants have outdoor areas. 

outdoor bars on norwegian encore


There is also a bigger bar in the Atrium with live music and a large TV screen that shows sporting events. If craft beer is your thing, pop into the District Brew House, where they have 24 beers on tap. The Cavern Club, a reproduction of the Liverpool club where the Beatles performed, was a big hit with my colleagues, although I preferred the Latin music in the Sugarcane Bar. I danced to my hearts content at the silent disco and decided to hang around for the DJ set too.

disco on norwegian encore


The Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots got all the headlines, but I thought the ‘The Choir of Man’ was superb. This feel-good musical was set in a typical Irish pub. The storyline and original songs were terrific and it deserved the standing ovation that it received. Incidentally, admission is included in the cost of your cruise to both shows and live music. 

the choir of man on norwegian encore


Food and Drink on Norwegian Encore

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea promotion, which is currently available on all sailings, allows you to enjoy three speciality dining meals and premium drinks over a seven-night cruise, for just €99. This is incredible value when you consider just how good the dining options are – and the cocktails! I found a new tipple onboard – a Moscow Mule. This is a delicious blend of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice and served me well over the two nights 😉.

cocktails norwegian encore


I found the quality of the drinks onboard to be excellent with most premium branded drinks included in the drinks package – more than I have seen on other cruise ships. You can substitute either of these packages for shore excursion credit or WiFi (which was fast btw), but I think the former are the most popular options. 

drinks on norwegian encore


There are six complimentary dining restaurants onboard Norwegian Encore. Similarly to the bars, I like that there are three main dining restaurants, rather than one large one. The Manhattan Room is the most impressive main dining room, although also the largest. Decorated in 1920s style, it has a luxurious old-world feel, but with a modern twist. The food was exceptionally good for a main dining restaurant, in fact all the food I had on Norwegian Encore was excellent. The other two main dining restaurants, Taste and Savour, are much smaller, and actually feel like speciality restaurants.



The choice and quality of food in the Garden Cafe buffet restaurant was excellent – probably the best buffet I have seen at sea. I couldn’t decide between the roast beef, wood-fired pizzas or Indian dishes – so I had to have all three! The dessert stations were pretty impressive too.

desserts in the garden cafe norwegian encore

There are also light snacks available in the Observation Lounge. I loved this massive lounge with floor to ceiling windows. It would be ideal in cooler weather, where you can still enjoy sea views in warm comfortable surroundings. Complimentary light-bites, sandwiches and pastries are served here – the perfect substitute for lunch, if you over indulged at breakfast.

observation lounge on norwegian encore


The 24-hour Local Bar & Grill, another complimentary restaurant, offers classic pub grub and great breakfasts. It is also located beside a large TV screen so I’m sure it is a firm favourite during sporting events.   

breakfast on norwegian encore

I didn’t get the opportunity to try any of the speciality restaurants, but the food was so good in the complimentary restaurants that this didn’t bother me. There are nine speciality restaurants to choose from. Onda by Scarpetta, the upmarket Italian restaurant, and Ocean Blue, the fancy seafood restaurant with ocean views, are sure to be the big hits, as will the Teppanyaki. Norwegian’s signature steakhouse Cagneys, as well as the French restaurant, Le Bistro, and Mexican, Los Lobos, are also onboard.

speciality restaurant norwegian encore


With the choice to opt for the premium drinks package and three speciality dining restaurants for just €99, it is no surprise that Norwegian Cruise Line offers some of the best-value cruise deals from Ireland. 

Read:  Check out my top 10 cruise deals with Norwegian Cruise Line




Cabins on Norwegian Encore

I toured many cabins on Norwegian Encore, from single studios, to luxury suites. It really struck be how important it is to speak to a cruise expert when booking your cruise holiday, as prices vary greatly between categories. I was staying in a balcony stateroom, which was nicely furnished and very spacious. The beds were extremely comfortable and it was well equipped with toiletries and a powerful hairdryer. However, I was amazed to learn that the Oceanview Family Room with Picture Window was a lot cheaper than my balcony cabin, and 50% bigger in size with a huge bathroom! The cruise experts in Sunway will be able to advise you of the best-value cabins available.
norwegian encore balcony stateroom



I loved the dedicated section of the ship for solo travellers, something I haven’t seen on any other cruise ship. Encore has individual studio cabins for single use, and an exclusive private lounge where solo travellers can enjoy a drink or arrange to dine together, or go on shore excursions. The single supplement is very reasonable too.

single studio on norwegian encore

I was really impressed with Norwegian Encore. Despite the fact that Encore holds 4,000 guests, has a massive go-kart track and a laser tag arena – it felt intimate. The variety of dining and entertainment options and the excellent Free at Sea promotion make Norwegian cruises great value for money too. I can’t wait to cruise with Norwegian again – I might opt for better weather conditions next time though!



For bookings and enquiries visit


Like cruise holidays? See more cruise reviews and cruise deals here. 




The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery


Luxury Caribbean Cruise & Stay Holidays, Flights, Accommodation & Cruise, From €1749!


Take your pick from these luxury Caribbean cruise and stay holidays with flights, accommodation and a five-star Celebrity Cruise included.


I have teamed up with American Sky to bring you my top three Celebrity Caribbean cruise and stay holidays. I was fortunate enough to be on board one of Celebrity Cruises Solstice class ships, Celebrity Silhouette recently and I absolutely loved it! All of the holidays below include a seven night cruise on a Solstice class ship, either Celebrity Reflection or Celebrity Equinox. You can expect five star luxury with a wide choice of dining and entertainment on board. Interiors are bright and modern and they even have a real grass lawn! This gives a country club feel, I found it hard to believe that I was on a cruise ship.

But that’s not all…

As well as a fabulous seven day Caribbean cruise you can also choose to add on a few nights in Miami or the Florida Keys, or even both! I have also chosen a cruise holiday with a stay in Orlando, which should satisfy any thrill seekers. Check out my top three Caribbean cruise and stay holidays below and get planning your next cruise holiday!



3 Nights Miami, 7 Nights Western Caribbean Cruise: Flights, Accommodation & Cruise, €1749!

caribbean cruise and stay holidays

This is such amazing value, I am tempted to book it myself! Miami has been on my bucket list for a long time and this amazing offer includes a three night stay in Miami and a seven-night Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Equinox. You will be staying at the highly rated Grand Beach Hotel, which is centrally located to explore the vibrant city of Miami. Shop till you drop, visit chic Little Havana or chill out on the beach right in front of your hotel. After three days in Miami you will board Celebrity Equinox for a Western Caribbean cruise. Visit the lively town of Key West, Puerto Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico, and then swim with sting rays in the Cayman Islands! You will also have two full days at sea to enjoy the facilities on this luxurious cruise ship.

View offer here


7 Nights Orlando &  7 night Eastern Caribbean Cruise: Flights, Accommodation, Car hire & Cruise, €1829! 

caribbean cruise and stay holidays

Spend a week in the theme park capital of the world and enjoy the thrills of Disney World, Universal Studios and lots more. You will be staying at Westgate Palace which is right in the heart of Orlando, close to International Drive and all the theme parks. After a week of non stop action, drive to Miami and board Celebrity Reflection for a seven night Eastern Caribbean cruise. Your first stop will be Puerto Rico where you can visit the old town of San Juan or take a trip to the rainforest. You will also visit the small Caribbean islands of St. Maarten and St Kitts, where you can chill out on some of the Caribbean’s white sandy beaches, or go off the beaten track and zip line through the jungle. There are also three days at sea so you can enjoy all of the fantastic facilities that Celebrity Reflection has to offer.

View offer here 


3 Nights Miami, 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise, 4 Nights, Florida Keys: Flights, Accommodation, Car Hire & Cruise, €1899!

caribbean cruise and stay holidays

Start this holiday of a lifetime with three nights in the trendy Albion Hotel on South Beach, Miami. Explore this cool city or just chill out and people watch, it is that sort of place! You will then board the luxurious Celebrity Equinox for a seven day Eastern Caribbean cruise. Visit San Juan, St. Maarten and St. Kitts, where you can enjoy some of the Caribbean’s white sandy beaches, or seek adventure in their tropical rainforests. You will also have three full days at sea to enjoy this luxury cruise ship.

caribbean cruise and stay holidays

Your holiday doesn’t end there… When you disembark in Miami, you will pick up a hire car and drive to Key Largo, for a four night stay at the Ocean Pointe Suites. You can snorkel, go kayaking or chill out on the beach. Of course no trip to the Florida Keys would be complete without driving the ultimate road trip, from Key Largo to Key West, and with five days car rental included, you will have plenty of time!

View offer here 


I hope you enjoyed my top picks for Caribbean cruise and stay holidays and that this inspires you to book a Caribbean cruise. If you want to change the above itineraries, add on extra nights, or choose to combine with different city, contact American Sky, they will tailor make a cruise holiday to suit your requirements.


Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by American Sky  but all views, as always, are my own.


Like cruises? Click here for the latest cruise reviews and the best cruise deals.



The Travel Expert


Cirque Du Soleil, Celebrity Chefs and The Promenade of Dreams on MSC Bellissima


Shop till you drop on the promenade of dreams, wine and dine in one of the 12 different dining venues, let the kids enjoy the amazing aquapark and sit back and enjoy Cirque du Soleil! Check out my review of MSC Bellissima and get planning your next cruise holiday.


MSC are renowned for their lavish launch parties. I was fortunate to be at the launch of MSC Seaview last year and it was a wonderful event. So when the invitation arrived to the launch of MSC Bellissima in Southampton, it was the quickest RSVP I ever made. It was MSC’s first cruise launch in the UK and the largest cruise ship ever to be christened in Southampton. It was going to be a great weekend and I wasn’t going to miss it for the world.

ariel view of msc bellissima


We flew directly into Southampton and transferred quickly to the port and straight on to the ship. The first thing that I noticed was the massive LED arched ceiling that lit up the main promenade. The promenade is impressive in it’s own right, but I was blown away when I saw the 80 meter LED dome overhead. This covers the entire ceiling and changes images like a TV screen. Depending on the mood MSC Bellissima is trying to create, it can transmit sunrises, starry skies, or even live sporting events. This really is the hub of the ship and created a great first impression as soon as I stepped on board.


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While my luggage was being transferred to my stateroom, I wandered along the promenade, popping in and out of the various shops, bars and restaurants. I enjoyed a nice glass of bubbly in the champagne bar, followed by some tasty treats in the Jean-Philippe Maury Chocolaterie and Chocolate Bar. Incidentally there are 20 varieties of champagne in the champagne bar and 91 different products in the chocolate shop – luckily I was only on board for two days!

champagne bar on msc bellissima



Staterooms on MSC Bellissima

My balcony stateroom was spacious, nicely furnished and was one of the many interconnecting staterooms on board. MSC Cruises are a family owned cruise line and cater extremely well for families. As well as interconnecting rooms, there are 175 family cabins on board which I was really impressed with. They have bunk beds for the kids and also have the option of interconnecting. They cater well for groups or multi-generation families too, with cabins that can be clustered together for groups of ten people.

MSC Bellissima also has it’s own ‘Yacht Club’. This has a private club feel, with luxurious suites, a 24 hour butler service and separate dining and pool areas. Top Tip: Over half of the staterooms on MSC Bellissima have balconies, so makes sure to enquire about an upgrade to a balcony stateroom when booking, it might be a lot less than you think.

balcony cabin on msc bellissima



Technology on MSC Bellissima

Before attempting to navigate my way to a restaurant for lunch, I decided to ask Zoe, the personal assistant in my cabin, for help. Similar to Amazon’s Alexa, Zoe can speak seven languages and answer over 800 of the most commonly asked questions. Zoe looks like a portable speaker and is available in all cabins on MSC Bellissima. Zoe’s main function is to suggest activities and give advice about activities on board and how to book them. The technology is incredible and I have no doubt that in time, we won’t want to cruise without her. Unfortunately while I was on board, all she wanted to do was turn on and off the TV!

To be fair to MSC, they have ground-breaking technology on board. I downloaded the MSC for Me app before I arrived, which allows mobile check-in and credit card registration, so once I got on board I was ready to shop, incidentally there are 13 different shops with over 200 brands on board! The app also allows you to check daily events, book shows, excursions and make restaurant reservations. Navigating a large cruise ship can be daunting, but there is a digital way-finder on the app, as well as interactive screens located all over the ship, so it is almost impossible to loose your way.

interactive displays on msc bellissima

Another favourite of mine is the messaging facility. You can message your partner or child via the app, without using WiFi. You can also locate them too, so if your teenager, or partner, goes missing for a few hours, you can check exactly where they are on the ship with the MSC for Me app. This incredible use of technology extends to the kids clubs too. A modern take on arts and crafts – MSC have their own 3D printer. Children can design objects using computers and print 3D versions to take home as souvenirs.



Dining options on MSC Bellissima

When I couldn’t manage to get restaurant tips from Zoe, I popped back down to the promenade and asked one of the many staff for help. If you don’t fancy using the MSC for Me app, or the interactive screens on board, there is always someone available to help. There is a crew member for every 2.9 passengers on board! 

crew on msc bellissima


I was advised by one of the friendly staff, to try some of the tastings in the speciality dining restaurants, so I duly obliged. MSC Bellissima has 12 different dining venues, including Hola! the tapas bar from 2* Michelin Star chef Ramón Freixa. If tapas are not your thing, you can try Kaito Teppanyaki & Sushi bar, the American steakhouse Butcher’s Cut or L’atelier Bistrot, the French bistro. Many of these have outside tables with views over the promenade, not exactly sea-views, but a great place to people watch.

butchers cut dining on msc bellissima

Each one was better than the next. I literally had to be dragged away from the Sushi bar, the freshly made Californian rolls with pickled ginger and wasabi were divine! I had fillet steak in the Teppanyaki bar and in the Butcher’s Cut Restaurant, both were delicious. I lost count at the amount of times I went back for ‘seconds’! The restaurant I was most looking forward to, Hola, the tapas restaurant, was probably my least favourite. I liked the décor and ambiance but I felt the offerings in the other restaurants were better. However, the free flowing Baron de Ley, one of my favourite Spanish wines, kept me there longer than I should!

speciality dining on msc bellissima


As well as the speciality dining, there are three main restaurants and a fabulous buffet restaurant. I was particularly impressed with the Marketplace buffet. The choice of fruit, cereals, breads and hot food was excellent. I loved the live cooking stations and had a hot breakfast with a freshly cooked omelette on both mornings!

msc marketplace buffet restaurant

Dinner in the main dining room was good too. I love the way the Italians serve four small courses, rather than over load your plate with one large main course. I know this may not be to everyone’s taste, but I like to dine that way. I had a delicious lamb cutlet on the first night and homemade pumpkin ravioli and an Angus beef fillet on the second night. The desserts were particularly good too – and I’m not normally a big dessert fan.

food on msc bellissima


Back to my first day! I was only on board a few hours and I was already loving MSC Bellissima. I hadn’t ventured very far at this stage, I found it hard to tear myself away from the main promenade, the copious amounts of Baron de Ley and the fabulous food tastings probably helped! The promenade is definitely the hub of the ship and was also my favourite part. I usually prefer outdoor areas on cruise ships, in fact I usually head straight for the pool deck, but having such a magnificent indoor promenade is such an advantage on a cruise ship, as pool decks can be crowded. Of course this would also be extremely beneficial if travelling during the winter time, or in poor weather conditions.

promenade on msc bellissima




Pool areas on MSC Bellissima

A few hours later, I felt it was about time I took a look outside…. I went straight for the Atmosphere pool deck. With a 25-meter pool, it is the largest pool area on the ship. It is beautifully designed with double sized pool beds and overall it felt quite sophisticated, not like a typical pool deck. It is also illuminated at night time and shows outdoor movies on the big screen.

atmosphere pool on msc bellissima

I rambled around the indoor pool and solarium too, which has more comfy loungers, jacuzzis and a retractable roof. I found another small aft pool, which I can only assume is great for sundowners when you are at sea. It also transforms into a dance space at night time.


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Kids facilities on MSC Bellissima

Like all MSC cruise ships, kids have their own pool area. On MSC Bellissima, they have a Grand Canyon themed Waterpark, with three large slides, a splash pool and a rope bridge that crosses the entire deck, 200 feet above the water. I know if I had my two (Luke & Alex, ages 11 and 8) with me, they would spend the day here!

aquapark on msc bellissima


There is a huge kids area indoors too, with separate rooms for different ages, including a baby room and a teen zone. MSC have teamed up with LEGO to offer two dedicated LEGO rooms and a baby room which was designed by Chicco. I love that the teens clubs are split into two age groups, 12 – 14 and 15 -17, let’s face it a 17 year old doesn’t want to hang around with a 12 year old. The teens also area serves as a cinema, gaming room and a disco and is fully equipped with the latest games consoles. There is also a multi-sports court and a TV studio that shows live football games.


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I was really impressed with the Sportsplex and Leisure Centre on MSC Bellissima. There is a bowling alley, two Formula 1 simulators and a Virtual Reality Maze, which allows you to immerse yourself into games such as Assassin’s Creed and Rabbids, in full 4K definition. Some of my colleagues tried this and were really impressed. I am sure if I managed to tear my son away from the pool deck, he would spend the rest of his time here. MSC Bellissima boasts 210 activities on board each week! I wondered how difficult it must be to get the kids to get off the ship, when you arrive in port! Note, some of these activities incur extra charges.

formula 1 simulator on msc bellissima



Entertainment on board:

Now that you know how well the kids are well looked after, I should tell you what is on board for adults to enjoy! One of the biggest draws are the two Cirque du Soleil shows, that can not be seen anywhere else in the world. I saw a taster of what is in store and it was spectacular. It was my first time to see Cirque du Soleil and I loved it, I only wished I could have seen a full show. MSC built a specific auditorium for it’s Cirque du Soleil shows, with a 360 degree rotating stage and 40 meter long LED screens. Note there is an additional charge for Cirque du Soleil and it needs to be booked in advance.

cirque du soleil on msc bellissima


If Cirque du Soleil is not your thing, don’t worry, there are six different broadway style shows to choose from. There are also 40 hours of live music each day and twenty different bars and lounges to choose from. Many of the bars and lounges are located close to atrium of the ship, where the dazzling set of Swarovski crystal staircases are located. These are a feature on all MSC cruise ships and are considered a symbol of sophistication and a focal point of the ship. There are 96 steps in main staircase ( there are actually 6 Swarovski staircases on board ) and each step has a staggering 640 Swarovski crystals! Ah sure I had to pose for a photo!


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If you really want to push the boat out (excuse the pun) you can show off your skills at the nightly karaoke, or party late into the night in one of the 11 different dancing areas. I sampled one of these on our first night, when the multi-sports court which transformed into a night-club for a white party!  

white party on msc bellissima

After a late night or hectic day in port, you can treat yourself to one of the many spa treatments in the MSC Aurea Spa. This massive Balinese spa offers 20 different body treatments, 26 facials, 21 massages and 22 beauty services! There is a Thalasso room, solarium and a thermal area too – suffice to say you could easily spend the day here!

msc aurea spa



The Christening Ceremony:

The Christening ceremony took place on our second night, in a purpose built marquee, adjacent to MSC Bellissima. Everyone dressed in black-tie, champagne was flowing and the glamorous Holly Willoughby was our host. Andrea and Mateo Bocelli opened the ceremony with their stunning duet, ‘Fall on Me’ – I was in heaven! Unfortunately my euphoria was short lived. The weather changed dramatically and gale force winds howled outside. The ceremony had to be curtailed and we had to leave the marquee and get back on to the ship. However, in true MSC fashion, they didn’t let that cramp their style. Holly Willoughby returned and introduced Sophia Loren, the godmother of all of MSC’s cruise ships to christen MSC Bellissima. We gathered together in the promenade and the LED screen transported images of the large champagne bottle, smashing against the bow of the ship. And just like that, MSC Bellissima was christened!

sophia loren on msc bellissima


So MSC have done it again, they have built another outstanding ship that I was really impressed with. After seeing MSC Seaview I didn’t think Bellissima would give me the WOW factor, but it did. Many have asked me which ship I preferred and my gut reaction would be MSC Seaview, but only because it has more outdoor space. MSC Bellissima and its sister ship MSC Meraviglia were designed as ‘ships for all seasons’, while MSC Seaview and MSC Seaside were made to ‘follow the sun’. Although the facilities and décor is similar, the main differences are in the outdoor space on Seaview and the promenade on Bellissima. There is no doubt if you are cruising during the winter, or to Northern Europe, where weather may not be as hot as the Caribbean, MSC Bellissima would be my ship of choice. If, however, you are looking to cruise in a hot climate, I would personally choose for MSC Seaview.


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Things to watch out for:

Meals are included in the main dining rooms and buffet restaurant only. I loved the speciality dining restaurants and I would highly recommend you try them, so pre book a dining package before you go. I would recommend pre-booking a drinks package too. MSC have a variety of drinks packages and they are better value than paying for each drink individually on board. There are also extra charges for WiFi and games in the Sportsplex, so it may be cheaper to pre purchase packages on these too.  

MSC Bellissima is cruising the Mediterranean during Summer 2019 and will move to cruise the Emirates during the winter season 2019 / 2020. See for more information or your local travel agent.


See my review of MSC Seaview here:

Superstars, Slides & Speciality Dining – My Review of MSC Seaview




Like cruise holidays? See more cruise reviews and cruise deals here.




The Travel Expert



Does Norwegian Cruise Line Offer The Best All Inclusive At Sea?


From Barcelona to the Bahamas, with premium drinks, tips and gratuities included, Norwegian Cruise Line offers some of the best all inclusive cruises on the market.


I am a big fan of cruises and I have been fortunate to be on board many cruise ships. The question I am asked the most is ‘what is the best cruise ship? A question that is impossible to answer! Some cruises are more suited to adults, others for families, and with itineraries varying greatly from Alaska to South East Asia, it is important to match the right cruise with each person. However, when it comes to all-inclusive cruises, there is one that springs to mind above all others, Norwegian Cruise Line.

all inclusive cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line have been cruising for over 50 years, have 16 ships and have been voted Europe’s leading cruise line eleven years in a row! They have also won North America’s Leading Cruise Line and Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Line for the third and sixth consecutive year respectively, making them the most awarded cruise line at the 2018 World Travel Awards. When they decided to change to all inclusive cruises, it was a real game changer in the cruise industry.

I have teamed up with who are agents for Norwegian Cruise Line and who have been selling holidays and cruises for over 150 years in Ireland. Suffice to say they know their stuff and will know how to choose the right cruise for you. Find out below why I think Norwegian Cruise Line offer some of the best all inclusive cruises on the market.

all inclusive cruises

ALL of Norwegian’s cruises are premium all-inclusive.

No matter which cruise ship or itinerary you choose, all meals and premium drinks are included in the price of your cruise. Imagine not having to think about money at all. Ordering branded spirits, cocktails, even speciality coffees without having to pay anything extra – even tips are included! So you can order drinks as many times as you like, any time of day, in all bars, all lounges and dining areas! You don’t have to wear a wrist band showing what drinks package you have paid for. The bar staff don’t have to check if you have the basic or premium drinks package – all cruises are sold on a premium all-inclusive basis. They even throw in 60 minutes of free WiFi per person, so you can instagram your pina colada to your hearts content!

all inclusive cruises

Norwegian offers ‘Free Style’ cruising:

It is not only the premium drinks that separate Norwegian Cruise Line from it’s competitors. Norwegian’s ‘free style cruising’ means you can leave your dinner jackets and cocktail dresses at home! Everything on board is relaxed and you can dine whenever and wherever you like. If you want to dress up and enjoy a four-course meal in the main dining room – you can. If you fancy casual dress with pizza and beer, that’s cool too! You don’t have to sit with strangers or dine at 8pm, there are dining options available 24/7. Norwegian Cruise Line also offer speciality restaurants including steakhouses, Italian restaurants and Asian offerings, featuring Teppanyaki and sushi cuisine. Note à la carte pricing applies.

all inclusive cruises

The facilities on board are superb.

Norwegian Cruises are famous for their superb facilities on board including thrilling aquaparks and Mandara spas. However their new innovative experiences are unprecedented. Norwegian Bliss has a multi-level go-kart track and open-air laser tag arena on board. Its 200,000-square-foot observation lounge offers the most expansive views at sea – perfect for seaviews and cocktails🍸. Complete with a full-service bar, (and remember all drinks are included in the price of your cruise), you may not want to leave! As well as a host of children’s clubs and activities available, parents will be happy to hear they can have a a ‘Date Night’ where kids are supervised and dropped back to their cabin before 1am.

all inclusive cruises

Enjoy award winning entertainment

From Broadway musicals to acrobatic shows, live music to comedy shows – Norwegian Cruise line know how to entertain. Favourites such as the acrobatic Cirque Dreams and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, as well as five-time Tony® Award-nominated musical, Rock of Ages, ensure memorable nights on board. Music lovers will enjoy ‘Legends in Concert’, the longest-running tribute show in entertainment history, with performances from tribute artists such as Adele, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. If you don’t fancy taking in a show there are plenty of other bars to choose from. Enjoy a cocktail at the Ice Bar or play a game of pool at the pub – the choice is yours!

all inclusive cruises have lots of special offers on all inclusive cruises with Norwegian which you can see here. If the dates on their website don’t suit, or you have particular requirements, call their dedicated sales team on 01 5310402 or 021 4851700. Alternatively fill out the enquiry form online and they will get back with the best options to suit you.

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. Note not all facilities and activities mentioned are on all 16 ships. Ask your Travelnet cruise consultant for more details on specific offerings. This post was sponsored by but all views, as always, are my own.







8 Reasons To Choose Princess Cruises For Your Next Cruise

Royal Princess at Sea Princess Cruises

World-wide itineraries across seven continents, cutting-edge activities and unique excursions. Choose Princess Cruises for your next cruise holiday….

Icebergs breaking, husky dogs racing and captivating world wide adventures – not exactly the promotional video you would expect from a luxury cruise line. No middle aged couples holding hands on a Caribbean beach this time. I guess this sums up where Princess Cruises differ from other cruise lines.


Princess Cruises sail to all seven continents – including Antartica! They have 17 ships cruising to 380 destinations. As well as their outstanding itineraries, they have teamed up with Discovery™ and Animal Planet™ to offer immersive activities on and off their ships. Check out this short video to give you a taste of what to expect.



It is not only world class itineraries that Princess Cruises are renowned for. They have also won Best Premium Cruise line numerous times and have a host of other awards and accolades that you can see here

I have teamed up with, who are part of the Barter Travel Group and have been selling holidays and cruises for over 150 years in Ireland. Suffice to say they know their stuff!


They have amazing cruise deals with Princess Cruises with low deposits,  onboard credit and cabin upgrades. Still need convincing? Here are eight reasons to choose Princess Cruises for your next cruise!

princess cruises



They offer outstanding itineraries

Cruising Antartica is a big deal, there are not many cruise companies that can boast that accolade. Of course it’s not just Antartica that excites me, Princess Cruises sail to 380 destinations and have won ‘best cruise itineraries’ 12 times from Cruise Critic – the cruise industries’ TripAdvisor.


We tend to think of Princess Cruises for Caribbean cruises and Alaska (voted best cruise line to Alaska globally), but Princess’ Mediterranean cruises are a popular choice during the summer months.

I love that in some cases you can cruise from one port and return to another, which maximises the amount of cities you can see. . See all of Princess cruise deals here.

princess cruises



They have an exclusive partnership with Discovery™ & Animal Planet™

Princess Cruises have partnered exclusively with Discovery™ and Animal Planet™ – two names synonymous with exploration, to bring immersive activities on their shore excursions and onboard their cruise ships.


Learn all about the major constellations from a Princess specialist as you stargaze from the top deck, get up close to sharks in Hawaii, whales in Alaska or sloths in Costa Rica. Discovery and Animal Planet tours are unique tours and are available only through Princess Cruises.

princess cruises




There is a Piazza on board

Like Piazzas in Italian towns, Princess Cruises have replicated this on most of their ships. Guests love to gather around the Piazza and enjoy a glass of wine from the wine bar and catch a spontaneous performance.


This popular place to hang out is like an Atrium and spans over three decks, with duty free shops and casual eateries. Princess’ newest ships, the Royal Class,  have an expanded Piazza and also have the first-ever SeaWalk, a glass bottomed walkway offering jaw dropping views beneath your feet.

princess cruises



Enjoy world class dining options

Food and Wine Magazine voted Princess Cruises the best cruise line for food lovers – I probably don’t need to say much more! Princess Cruises have partnered with three award winning chefs and boast the best cruise ship steakhouse in Crown Grill, a classic Italian trattoria, Sabatini’s, and a six course fine-dining experience at Share, from award-winning chef Curtis Stone.


Their mainstream offerings are pretty good too! Cruise Critic says they have the best burgers at sea in The Ernesto and USA Today gave Princess Cruises the award for the best pizza at Sea in Alfredos.

princess cruises



You will love their original, award-winning entertainment.

Unlike many other cruise lines, Princess Cruises have original shows that can only be seen in Princess theatres. Princess Cruises have partnered with Stephen Schwartz, the Oscar and Grammy award winner, and composer of the massive broadway hit Wicked.


This partnership has brought three exclusive shows to Princess Cruises, with a fourth due in 2019. It’s not just in the theatres that Princess Cruises excel, they have excellent shows such as Magic to Do and the hugely popular, Voice of the Ocean.

This interactive song contest brings the international TV show The Voice, to to the ocean. There are auditions, mentors and even the three “I Want You” chairs! The live final is not to be missed as guests choose the winner by using special voting remotes.

princess cruises



The Adult only Sanctuary is superb

I know adult-only areas are available on most luxury cruise ships, but the Sanctuary is on a different level! The Sanctuary is more than just fancy sunloungers and hot tubs – it is almost like a day spa. Enjoy an alfresco massage on one of the cabanas and enjoy cocktails served to you from the “Serenity Stewards”.


The food is complimentary, although there is a $3 delivery fee. You can enjoy regular top ups of water infused with fruit and healthy light snacks or go all out and have beef burgers and beer!

The only snag is you have to pay to enter, with prices from $20 for a half day pass or $40 for a full day.

princess cruises



They have excellent kids clubs – right up to age 20!

Princess Cruises kids clubs don’t just have art classes, pizza parties and talent shows, you can become an engineer for a day with programs from the California Science Centre, try your luck at the Lego boat-building contest or learn cake decorating and jewellery making!



There is a separate ‘Beach House’ for teens to hang out in. Learn cool dance moves and show off at the Rock the Boat Party. 18-20’s have their own club, with special events just for them without parents or official hosts.

princess cruises




There is a wide selection of family activities

I love the amount of family activities on board. Shows such as Magic to Do and the Voice of the Ocean are ideal for all the family as are Stargazing and Movies Under the Stars®. Watch blockbuster movies poolside, with complimentary popcorn, cookies and milk, and cosy blankets if required.


Mystery lovers will enjoy being a detective to solve the robbery of a rare necklace. This voyage-long search for the thief involves puzzles, clues and activities to help you narrow down the suspect.

The Family Fun Fair, a carnival themed party in the Piazza, has mascots, magicians and entertainers. Click here for more details on all the family activities available.

princess cruises
So now that I have given you eight reasons to choose Princess Cruises for your next cruise – the only decision is which cruise will you choose?


Information is correct at the time of issue ( August 2018), but is subject to change. Note not all facilities and activities mentioned are on all 17 ships. Ask your  cruise consultant for more details on specific offerings. This post was sponsored by




Early Booking Caribbean Cruise Deal, May 2019, Direct Flights, 2 Nights Miami & 7 Night Cruise in Balcony Cabin, €1499!


With over-night stays in Miami before and after your cruise, a FREE upgrade to a balcony stateroom and the advantage of direct Aer Lingus flights, this early booking Caribbean cruise deal is one of the best I have seen!


I have teamed up with Sunway Holidays who are agents for all cruise lines and have many exclusive offers, unavailable elsewhere. Their cruise experts have experienced many cruise ships first hand. They will be able to answer any queries you have, and recommend the right ship and cabin choice, to suit your requirements. Whether you seek a family cruise in the Mediterranean, a romantic cruise around the Caribbean, or a cruise and stay holiday in Alaska, Sunway have a cruise to suit everyone.

Caribbean cruise deal

This Caribbean cruise deal includes a seven-night cruise on MSC Seaside, a new, state-of-the-art cruise ship that was designed to ‘follow the sun’. MSC Seaside has more outdoor space than any other cruise ship in the world – perfect for those Caribbean sea views!  I was on it’s sister ship MSC Seaview this year and loved it. It is modern, elegant and sophisticated, with a host of different dining and entertainment options. It reminded me of a super yacht rather than a cruise ship and the Sunset pool at the back of the ship even has a South Beach Miami feel. You can read my full review of MSC Seaview here.

Caribbean cruise deal

Your cruise holiday begins with direct Aer Lingus flights to Miami, where you will spend a night before and after your cruise. Socialise, shop and swim on South Beach and discover a taste of Cuba in Little Havana – there is so much to do in Miami you will be spoilt for choice! After you set sail, your first stop is Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, where you will enjoy an over-night stay. Stroll through the historic old town, explore the tropical rainforest or simply relax on one of it’s stunning Caribbean beaches. Your next stop is the Caribbean island of St Thomas, where you can enjoy snorkelling with it’s resident turtles.

caribbean cruise deal

Day five brings you to St Maarten where you simply have to visit Maho beach! Made famous for it’s airplane landings, Instagrammers will be in heaven! You will then enjoy a day at sea before arriving in the Bahamas for your last stop. Visit Atlantis, the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, home to Aquaventure, a 141-acre water park! Swim with dolphins, chill out on the beach, the choice is yours. Your holiday ends with a return Miami for an over-night stay, before flying home directly to Dublin the following day.

Caribbean cruise deal

The facilities on board MSC Seaside are superb. There is non-stop entertainment day and night, a choice of 20 different bars and lounges, 9 eateries, a state-of-the-art spa and gym, as well as one of the largest and most interactive aquaparks at sea. You will also have the pleasure of admiring the Caribbean’s stunning seaviews from your own private balcony stateroom – which is included in this amazing offer! While this Caribbean cruise itinerary is no doubt one of the best, you may struggle to leave this amazing ship…

Fly from Dublin to Miami on the 9th of May and enjoy this amazing nine-night holiday for only €1499! This includes direct Aer Lingus flights to Miami, over-night stays in Miami, pre and post cruise, a seven-night cruise on a full board basis, with an upgrade to a balcony stateroom! Still need convincing? The deposit is only €250 to secure a booking….

Call one of Sunway’s expert cruise team on 01 2311868 or click here for more details:


Note this is just one of the many cruises that Sunway offer. If the above date or itinerary doesn’t suit you, contact one of their expert cruise staff and they will find a suitable cruise for you. This post was sponsored by Sunway, but all views, as always, are my own.


Interested in cruising, for cruise news, reviews and the best cruise deals, click here.




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Superstars, Slides & Speciality Dining – My Review of MSC Seaview

MSC Seaview

I was delighted to be invited to the christening of the brand new MSC Seaview in Genoa.  In two days I managed to dine in six restaurants, slide down a 367-foot water slide, swim, dance and even shoot a few zombies! Check out my review of MSC Seaview.

MSC are renowned for their lavish ship christenings, and this one was no exception. Hollywood legend Sophia Loren, the Godmother of all MSC ships, was there to cut the ribbon, and listening to Andrea Boceilli’s son Mateo sing, was a personal highlight for me. There were fireworks and an exclusive after party – all in true Italian style! To be honest, none of this really surprised me, what did, was the cruise ship….

review of msc seaview

I had pre-conceived ideas about MSC Cruise ships. I was on board MSC Splendida in Dublin port a few years ago, and expected MSC Seaview to be an upgraded, modern version of Splendida. I was wrong. In fact with the exception of the Swarovski staircases, I saw very little similarity between the two cruise ships.

MSC Seaview is extremely modern. She is bright, airy, elegant, sophisticated, I could go on and on. Live music bellowed from the atrium as we boarded. This four-storey dazzling masterpiece is the focal point of the ship. The Seaview bar is strategically placed at the bottom. This transforms from a morning café, to the perfect bar for an aperitif, and finally to a dance floor when the late night entertainment kicks in.

There is live music and entertainment in the atrium throughout the day, with a variety of bars on each deck. We went here on the first night and it reminded me of being at a great concert – the atmosphere was electric, people were singing and dancing on all decks overlooking the stage.

review of msc seaview

MSC Seaview has 20 different bars and lounges, each one offering something a little special. The Champagne bar was a favourite of ours. It serves a wide variety of bubbles to suit all tastes, and if you pre-purchase the drinks package before you sail (€26 per day), you can enjoy Prosecco here free of charge. Gin lovers will love the Platinum bar in the casino, where you can create the perfect Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic by infusing it with floral, spicy, or citrus aromas.

The sports bar is not your average sports bar either. There is sports memorabilia on the walls, and massive TV screens show a variety of sports, but the bar itself is classy. There are private booths with individual TV screens for private enjoyment, as well as football shaped bean bags for a relaxed casual atmosphere. It’s the type of bar than non-sports fans could go to and have a drink, while their partners watched the match.

 There are plenty of outdoor bars too, most serving up cocktails or whatever takes your fancy. I loved the Sunset bar at the back of the ship which conveniently plays music after dark. We enjoyed cocktails al fresco and danced until the small hours. It felt like I was on a super-yacht in Miami rather than a cruise-ship in Genoa!

review of msc seaview


Food glorious food on MSC Seaview

During my time as a travel agent I heard people complain about the variety of food on MSC cruises. To say MSC have upped their game is an understatement. The main buffet restaurant, called ‘Marketplace’ has a variety of options including its own pizzeria, offering delicious pizza slices. I also had tasty Nasi Goreng as well as breaded chicken fillets (I ate here twice!), and unlike some of my previous experience of buffet restaurants, everything was hot.

I am not normally a buffet fan, I hate the constant banging of plates and the hustle for seats. What I loved about this buffet is that it is surrounded on three sides by outdoor seating areas – I would happily dine there every day for lunch. They also have a small buffet restaurant close to the pool on deck 15, which has child accessible counters.

review of msc seaview

We ate in the main dining room at night-time. With the exception of one bland starter, the food was of a very high quality. I had a delicious crab and lobster starter plate, a beef fillet that was perfectly cooked, and a warm chocolate molten cake that literally melted in my mouth.

I asked our server if this was typical of the dinner that guests could expect on board, and I was told that it was a ‘special menu’ which would be typical of a gala night. So while fillet steak may not be on the menu every night, I would like to think that the standard and quality of the food would be the same.

I was lucky to be able to sample some of the specialty dining options too. The Asian Market Kitchen has three different dining experiences in one restaurant. Celebrity chef Riy Yamaguchi partnered with MSC to bring an à la carte Asian restaurant, a modern teppanyaki grill where chefs perform and cook in front of you, and last but not least, a Sushi bar. I tried all three and I think I would end up eating here a few times if I was on a typical seven-night cruise.

There is also a trendy steakhouse, the Butchers Cut, for those looking for American cuisine, and Ocean Cay by Spanish Michelin Star chef Ramón Freixa, served up mouthwatering seafood. 

review of msc seaview

The only way to follow this was to try the chocolate tasting in Venchi bar. This famous Italian chocolate maker has been making chocolate since 1878. A salted caramel gelato and some chocolate truffles later and I had reached my limit!

I was genuinely amazed by the variety and quality of the food available on this ship. Note there are additional charges for the six speciality dining restaurants, but they are a fraction of what you would pay in a similar restaurant in a city.

review of msc seaview

One of the most innovative things about MSC Seaview is the amount of outdoor space. There is more outdoor space per guest than any other cruise ship in the world, 3.2 square meters per guest to be precise. To use MSC’s own words, the ship is designed to ‘follow the sun’.

The Waterfront boardwalk wraps all around the ship and is the widest seen on any ship. The ‘Bridge of Sighs’ is a see-through walkway at the back of the ship where you can see the Sunset pool 40 meters below. There are other glass-floored catwalks, that make you feel like you are walking on water, and there are panoramic glass lifts to maximise the sea views.

Kids facilities on MSC Seaview

The facilities for kids on board are superb. The Forest Adventure Aquapark has slides and rope bridges, as well as faster slides for older kids – or adults, depending on your mood. There are two racer slides with clear loops that extend out over the ship, and a 367-foot water slide with lights and music that you slide down with a mat. I tried this and screamed the whole way down, but I loved it!

If all this isn’t enough you can race your mates on the dual zip lines – they are the longest at sea, test your skills on the Formula 1 simulator, or kill some zombies in the 4D interactive cinema. This reminded me of a simulator ride in Universal Studios rather than an interactive cinema.

Six of us sat in a car simulator with 3D glasses and watched as hundreds of zombies climbed on top of us. The object is to shoot as many zombies as possible, the winner being the person who shot the most. We laughed the whole way through, it was hilarious!

However for a more relaxed experience, you can enjoy a game of bowling or watch a movie in the outdoor cinema.

review of msc seaview

MSC is a family owned company, and they pride themselves on offering superb children’s facilities. It is not only the modern activities that kids will love, their kids clubs are excellent too. MSC have partnered with LEGO and offer two LEGO rooms, one for ages 3-6 and another from age 7-11. Toddlers will love the baby club which has the latest Chicco equipment.

Teenagers have their very own teen club. Expect sports tournaments, dance contests, social network games, flashmobs discos and parties. Teens can have their own cruise card, where you can set the limits and control their daily spend – this is available from age 7 – 17.

I love that you can always know where your kids are by locating them on the MSC for Me wristbands. This technology enables parents and staff to monitor their children at all times on the ship, so you can take a trip to the spa and not have to worry about their location.

review of msc seaview

I was really impressed with MSC Seaview. She ‘had me at hello’, when at first glance she reminded me of a super yacht rather than a massive cruise ship. And when I got to my stateroom and saw the pillow menu and a high speed hairdryer – I was sold! 

The attention to detail is evident throughout the ship. The classy bars, choice of dining options, the kids facilities, it even boasts the most state-of-the-art gym, and the largest spa at sea! MSC really has pushed the boat out with MSC Seaview.

review of msc seaview
MSC Aurea Spa


Things to watch out for.

Like all cruise ships, there can be extra charges. Drinks, speciality dining options, simulators, bowling, WiFi and spa treatments all incur additional charges. Check with your travel agent when booking and try to pre-book as many packages as possible to maximise value.  See for more details or your local travel agent.


Like cruise holidays? See more cruise reviews and cruise deals here.



The Travel Expert

In The Media

Choosing The Right Cruise Holiday – As Discussed with Ivan Yates on Newstalk FM

spectrum of the seas

Want to go on a cruise holiday, but not sure which cruise ship is right for you? Here are my top cruise tips and cruise deals to help you choose the best cruise holiday.


Peoples perception of cruises have changed greatly in the last number of years. While cruises were once considered more suitable for the elderly, nowadays most of the newer ships cater more for families. Not only have our tastes changed but cruise companies have adapted and now have a wider appeal.

I have been on board many ships and I can honestly say there is a cruise to suit all tastes. Cruise ships are often referred to as floating hotels, in some cases they are more like floating cities. You can choose the massive ships like Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas which can carry nearly 7000 passengers, or you can opt for a smaller intimate river cruise, like Uniworld’s SS Catherine, which carries 159 passengers.

It is not only the cruise companies that differ in style, cruise ships can vary greatly within each cruise company. I have been on some of MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises’ older cruise ships and they are completely different to their newer ships. Similarly with itineraries, while many of Royal Caribbean’s ships are family focused, if you choose a Norwegian Fjords or Baltic Capitals cruise, you will probably find mostly couples on board; families tend to choose Mediterranean or Caribbean cruises.

best cruise holiday

Cruising is now one of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry. Approximately 35,000 Irish people enjoyed a cruise holiday last year and this is likely to be even higher this year. (credit Eoghan Corry, TravelExtra). There will also be 400 cruise ships visiting Ireland this year, over 150 of those in Dublin port alone, bringing in 270,000 passengers.

It seems like every other month there is a new cruise launch, which makes choosing the right cruise, harder and harder. I have listed some of my favourite cruise ships and cruise deals below which may help you decide how to choose the best cruise holiday for you.

best cruise holiday

Royal Caribbean’s – Symphony of the Seas

If you want non-stop action and great facilities for kids, then it is hard to beat Royal Caribbean Cruises. Symphony of the Seas is the newest and largest ship at sea and was recently launched in Barcelona. I was lucky to be on board it’s sister ship last year for two days with my family, and we had a blast.

There are numerous swimming pools, a kids splash park, three water slides and also the largest slide at sea, the Ultimate Abyss. This is a pair of slides that offer a 100 foot drop over 10 decks. You can also zip line (I did and it was terrifying), ice skate, surf, use the rock climbing wall.

best cruise holiday

There are over 20 different restaurants on board, some with additional charges but there are plenty of dining options included in the cost of your cruise. This innovative ship has bionic bars (where your drinks are served by robots) and a bar that moves between decks so you don’t miss any action, kind of like a large elevator with a bar inside!

There are seven different neighbourhoods on board including the Boardwalk and Central Park which has 12,000 real trees and plants! They also offer amazing entertainment at night time with top class west end shows and an aqua theatre at the back of the ship.

This modern show sees acrobats and synchronised swimmers perform just as the sun sets over the horizon. The entertainment caters so well for Irish and UK holiday makers and a fun filled holiday is guaranteed. You can read my review here.

best cruise holiday


MSC Seaview

I am just back from a quick visit for the christening of this brand new ship in Genoa. I was previously on MSC Splendida and expected a more modern version but similar in style. I was wrong. This ultra modern cruise ship can hold 5,000 passengers, has 20 different bars and lounges, 10 different dining venues, a different show each night and a host of facilities for kids.

There are three different water slides and a separate adventure splash park for younger kids, with slides and rope bridges. Adrenaline junkies will love the zipline, it is the longest zip line at sea! There is also a bowling alley and two simulator rides, one of which is a Formula 1 simulator.

best cruise holiday
I loved all the open spaces on this ship, it has more open space per guest than any other ship at sea, 3.2 meters per guest. There is a boardwalk that wraps around the entire ship, with al fresco dining even from the buffet restaurant.

Most of the cabins are balcony cabins and they also have a five star area, the MSC Yacht Club which has exclusive suites, private dining and pool area. MSC Seaview is extremely stylish and classy, a great choice for a couple or a family.

Many believe that Royal Caribbean are the market leader in Ireland but MSC actually sold 2000 more cruise packages in 2017. They also have the best value drinks package on the market. For €26 per day you can have unlimited drinks including prosecco and selected branded drinks. Most of the other cruise companies charge about €60 per day for a similar package.


Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Silhouette

For those who are looking for something a little more upmarket then try 5 Star Celebrity Cruises. I was on Celebrity Silhouette when it was docked in Dublin and I loved it. It carries 2800 passengers which I believe is a great size, not too big but not too small either. It has a country club feel rather than a large cruise ship and interiors are bright and airy.

They have a manicured grass lawn and cabanas on deck and even the sun loungers are luxurious. Over 85% of the staterooms have balconies. Many opt to stay there reading a book on sea days, meaning the pools are never crowded. The restaurants on board are top class. There are plenty of dining options included in the cost of your cruise as well as speciality dining options.

They also offer plenty of over night stays which I think is great. They were docked in Cannes for the film festival and in France for the French Open so you can mix with the celebrities or see great sporting events, without having to pay €500 a night for a hotel room. Although there is a great mix of entertainment and kids facilities on board, it is a more relaxed ship and definitely offers modern luxury. Read my review here.

best cruise holiday

For people who don’t like flying, Celebrity Cruises cruise direct from Dublin Port to Iceland and the Norwegian Fjords. Their 2018 sailings have finished now but they are on sale for May 2019. For a full list of all 2019 cruises sailing from Ireland, click here.


Norwegian Cruise Line

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of cruising with Norwegian but I was on one of their ships, the Norwegian Star in Dublin port. They are similar in style to Royal Caribbean, with a lively atmosphere and a host of family activities on board.

They have been cruising for over 50 years, have 17 ships and they been voted Europe’s leading cruise line for the tenth year in a row. The big game changer is that all of Norwegian’s cruises are all-inclusive. And I don’t just mean local beers and cheap spirits. I mean branded drinks, as many as you like, any time of day, in all bars, lounges and dining areas – with tips included! 

The award-winning entertainment on board includes Broadway musicals, live music and comedy, as well as plenty of leisure facilities including aqua parks, kids clubs and a selection of sports activities.

best cruise holiday

Norwegian Bliss is their flagship which was launched in April. This ship has been custom-built to give jaw-dropping views from it’s revolutionary Observation Lounge, which offers the same views seen from the bridge, and has the most expansive views at sea. There are eighteen different dining options including exclusive speciality dining restaurants. 

The Waterfront is the place to go with thirteen restaurants and bars to choose from, many offering alfresco seating. The first full-service Starbucks at sea is on board too. Bliss has the largest competitive race track at sea where you can ride up to 30 miles per hour!

There is also an open-air laser tag course and an aqua park with multi-story The Broadway musical, Jersey Boys is shown nightly and at The Cavern Club, guests can enjoy their favourite songs from The Beatles. The talented cover band will play Beatles tunes in a setting inspired by the Liverpool Club where The Beatles famously performed countless times.

best cruise holiday

The Norwegian Star is one of Norwegian’s older ships but it has been fully refurbished and now offers fifteen different dining options and eleven bars.  You can sip champagne in Gatsby’s Champagne bar or drink a wide selection of international beers in the outdoor Bier Garten.

There are two main dining rooms as well as a variety of cafés and fast food outlets, as well as speciality dining options, which incur a separate charge. The pool deck has two waterslides and six hot tubs and there is an indoor lap pool in the Spa. Read my review here.

 best cruise holiday


Like Cruise Holidays? See all my cruise reviews and cruise deals here



The Travel Expert


Save €700 Per Person – Flights & Premium All Inclusive Med Cruise, 23rd September, €1435!

Norwegian Star

With flights, meals, drinks and gratuities included, as well as a whopping saving of €700 per person, this All Inclusive Med cruise is unbeatable!


Did you know that Norwegian Cruise Line have been cruising for over 50 years? They now have 17 cruise ships and have been voted Europe’s leading cruise line for the tenth year in a row! The big game changer is that all of Norwegian’s cruises are all-inclusive. And I don’t just mean local beers and cheap spirits. I mean branded drinks, as many as you like, any time of day, in all bars, lounges and dining areas – with tips included! Norwegian’s ‘free style cruising’ means everything on board is relaxed, with flexible dining and casual dress – you can leave your cocktail dresses and dinner jackets at home! The award-winning entertainment on board includes Broadway musicals, live music and comedy, as well as plenty of leisure facilities including aqua parks, kids clubs and a selection of sports activities. Have I convinced you yet?

I have teamed up with Sunway Holidays who are agents for Norwegian Cruise Line and have many exclusive offers, unavailable elsewhere. Their cruise experts have experienced Norwegian cruise ships first hand. They will be able to answer any queries you have, and recommend the right ship and cabin choice, to suit your requirements. Whether you seek a family cruise in the Mediterranean, a romantic cruise around the Caribbean, or a cruise and stay holiday in Alaska, Sunway have a cruise to suit everyone.  I have chosen this All Inclusive Med cruise because, not only will you will be stopping at some of the Mediterranean’s most stunning locations, but Sunway have an exclusive saving of €700 per person!

all inclusive med cruise

You will set sail from Venice and cruise to the medieval city of Dubrovnik. Climb the city walls and take in the views, meander through the cobbled-stone streets or chill out in one of the cool cliff-top bars. Your next stop is the bay of Kotor in Montenegro, where the southernmost fjords meet soaring mountain peaks. I visited Kotor a few years ago and feel in love with it. From there you will visit Katakolon in Greece, famous for it’s proximity to the ancient city of Olympia. You will also have the pleasure of stopping in Athens where you will marvel at the Acropolis and the modern city below. The final stop is the Croatian city of Split. Renowned for its beautiful old town, stunning beaches and crystal clear waters, you can choose to stay in Split or venture further afield to Plitvice Lakes or one of the nearby islands. After this seven day Eastern Mediterranean cruise you will sail back to Venice for your return flight home.

all inclusive med cruise

The Norwegian Star is one of Norwegian’s older ships but it has been fully refurbished and now offers fifteen different dining options and eleven bars!  You can sip champagne in Gatsby’s Champagne bar or drink a wide selection of international beers in the outdoor Bier Garten. There are two main dining rooms (menus are changed daily) as well as a variety of cafés and fast food outlets, all included in the price of your cruise. They also have a selection of speciality dining options, which incur a separate charge. I had lunch in the Teppanyaki restaurant when the Norwegian Star was docked in Dublin port – it was superb.

all inclusive med cruise

The pool deck has two waterslides and six hot tubs, although if you fancy a quiet place to swim, you can visit the indoor lap pool in the Spa. There is also a fitness centre with a jogging track, a golf driving net and a volleyball/basketball court. The Norwegian Star has a massive theatre showing the latest West-End style shows and there are plenty of bars with live music, if you fancy a more casual night.

Fly from Dublin to Venice on the 23rd of September and enjoy a seven-night Mediterranean cruise for only €1435. This includes a massive saving of €700 per person, which is exclusive to Sunway. Remember the price includes flights, all meals, drinks and gratuities!


Click here for more details:


Note this is just one of the many cruises that Sunway offer with all cruise lines. If the above date or itinerary doesn’t suit you, contact one of their expert cruise staff and they will find a suitable cruise for you. This post was sponsored by Sunway, but all views, as always, are my own.


Interested in cruising, for cruise news, reviews and the best cruise deals, click here.




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CruisesFamily Holidays

My Review of Independence of the Seas – The Ultimate Family Cruise Ship!


Royal Caribbean have launched the largest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas recently, but Independence of the Seas, the UK’s favourite cruise ship, wasn’t going to be left out of the limelight, she had a multi million pound makeover!


It seems like every other month there is a new cruise ship launch, which makes choosing the right cruise harder and harder. So what makes Independence of the Seas different from the rest? Dubbed the Ultimate Family Cruise Ship, the multi-million pound makeover is a family focused one. Many of the new experiences on board are geared towards families. I was fortunate to be able to cruise on the revamped Independence of the Seas on it’s inaugural sailing from Southampton. I was also able to bring my two children Luke (10) and Alex (7) to Southampton the following week to see what they thought.

We were on Harmony of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s larger cruise ships, last year, so we had something great to compare it to. I am so proud that Luke was chosen as one of Royal Caribbean’s Little Extraordinaires, a panel of six children who will act as consultants on future Royal Caribbean ships. The panel was introduced following startling research that 70% of parents will consult their children before booking a holiday! Luke’s first ‘job’ was to road-test Independence of the Seas, and I was delighted to have an excuse to get back on board!


Our first mission was to try the brand new Sky Pad. This virtual reality bungee trampoline experience is another ‘first’ for Royal Caribbean and is only available on Independence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas; another cruise ship that has had a $90 million dollar makeover. Sky Pad is suitable for adults and children, aged 5 and over. If you want to don the VR head-set you need to be at least 7 years of age. There are four trampolines encased in a bright orange sphere on the top deck of the ship. It looks impressive even before you try it! All three of us had a go and we loved it. Myself and Alex smashed candies in the sugar world while my son went into the future and dodged bouncing balls. There is a knack to bouncing and if you manage to balance in the centre of the trampoline you can go really high! Alex managed to do this and gave Luke and I a mild panic attack in the process!

Much to my surprise, Luke decided to try the Flowrider surf simulator. The expert staff let you use a bodyboard for an easier experience although it is only a matter of time before you fall off… The great thing about this and the Sky Pad is that you can try them over and over again and I would imagine by the end of your week’s cruise, the novice would become the master!

For all around family run there is a large aqua park called Splashaway Bay which is great for kids of all ages, with small slides and a large splash bucket. There are also two larger waterslides for older children, kids need to be 122cm to ride. These were a big hit with Luke and Alex who loved racing each other over and over again.

Independence of the Seas

After a morning at the pool, it was time for lunch. We debated between Sorrento’s pizza  or the Windjammer buffet restaurant, both included in the price of your cruise, but decided the Windjammer ticked all boxes for the three of us. The decadent array of hot and cold foods is enough to satisfy even the fussiest of eaters. The only problem I have with buffets is that I eat too much, but needless to say the kids were not complaining!

Independence of the seas

Independence of the Seas has four restaurants included in the cost of your cruise as well as six speciality dining options. Kids will love the Fish & Ships restaurant on the pool deck but it caters well for adults too, with lobster rolls and deep fried calamari. I wasn’t overly convinced about the deep fried chocolate bars though…. I ate in the main dining room for dinner and it was superb. The food, service and even the room itself is very impressive.

Independence of the Seas

I also tried the speciality restaurant, Izumi. This sushi and hibachi grill has the largest teppanyaki dining experience in the fleet. We enjoyed a lively presentation from our host Elvis, as he cooked up delicious asian food right in front of us. If sushi isn’t your thing, you can opt for the beef and tiger shrimp combo, sea scallops and lobster or even steak and chicken breast! It was a great experience and one I would urge everyone to book at least once during their cruise. 

Independence of the seas

There are eight bars on board. For kick-ass cocktails try the latin themed Boleros. There is also The Champagne Bar somewhere – I don’t know how I missed that one! The brand new sports bar Playmakers is impressive. With pool tables and live events on 30 large screen TV’s, it has a cool American vibe. You can also pick up some tasty wings, sliders and a wide selection of beers. 

Independence of the seas

Getting back to the kids! After lunch they played a quick game of mini-golf before trying the team game, Laser-Tag. This incredible set up is in Studio B, where the night club and ice rink are. Did I mention there is an ice-skating rink on board? In true Royal Caribbean style the floor rotates and the ice rink stays underneath, while the studio transforms into a glow-in-the-dark laser tag course, where aliens fight robots in the battle for Planet Z! This was another big hit with my kids and all the other children too.

Independence of the seas

There are plenty more activities on board that they didn’t get a chance to try. The rock climbing wall and multi sports court are no doubt huge draws as is Puzzle Break. This is an escape room where guests need to work together to find hidden clues and solve high-tech riddles to reveal the mystery. Unlike most of the activities on board, there is an additional charge for this. There is also an arcade room with a host of video games, including the latest Star Wars games. Independence of the Seas has traditional kids entertainment too, with a host of kids clubs, from a babies nursery to the teen club, as well as an outdoor movie screen by the pool!

Independence of the Seas

Parents are well looked after too with a spa and fitness centre, jogging track, a host of swimming pools, seven jacuzzis and a casino! There is also an adult-only solarium if you fancy escaping the kids for a few hours. Make sure you try the frozen pina coladas with mango, they are to die for!

Grease the musical is the on show in the Royal Theatre which is suitable for both adults and children. We saw this on Harmony of the Seas and loved it. I had to download the soundtrack and the movie when I got home and the kids watched it over and over again.

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

There are numerous live music and comedy acts each night, including a Take That tribute band. We were lucky to be able to see Mark Wright on the decks in Studio B. It was like being at a rock concert, the atmosphere was electric. Who said cruise ships are boring?

Another great show is the party on the Royal Promenade every night. People spill out of the bars and there is a street party feel to it. From Buck’s Fizz’ ‘Making your Mind Up’ to Elton John’s ‘I’m still standing’, the Royal Britannia show is holiday atmosphere at it’s best. This may sound cheesy, believe me it is, but it is also great fun and shouldn’t be missed! The Royal Promenade is one of the focal points of the ship and is full of shops, bars and restaurants. I bought some costume jewellery in one of the shops while the kids tucked into some Ben & Jerry’s! Sugar lovers will love the brand new Sugar Beach candy store. Packed with thousands of sweets and some cuddly toys, this is a children’s dream, or nightmare, depending on how you look at it!

Independence of the Seas

There are a wide selection of staterooms available including panoramic ocean view staterooms with floor to ceiling views, for the ultimate sunset views. We stayed in a spacious ocean view stateroom with a balcony. It even had a large walk in wardrobe!

Independence of the Seas

The revamped Independence of the Seas has 1929 staterooms. This is 830 rooms less than Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Symphony of the Seas. I loved the size of Independence of the Seas. It is a massive cruise ship with 15 decks and capable of housing over 4500 guests, but it doesn’t feel that big when you are on it. It is very easy to navigate, the lifts have all the facilities listed, I didn’t ask for directions once! My sense of direction is fairly poor and I have got ‘lost’ on many occasions on other cruise ships! If you were relaxing on your balcony you could meet up with the kids within minutes, regardless of where they were on the ship. I have no doubt it will continue to be regarded as the UK’s favourite cruise ship. I wonder in time will it be Ireland’s favourite too?

Independence of the seas

Royal Caribbean are revamping 10 cruise ships over the next few years and spending a staggering 900 million dollars in the process! They have been bringing industry firsts to the cruise industry for 49 years, and with over 40 national and international awards in 2017, they want to ensure that they continue to be regarded as the most innovative cruise line in the industry.


For more details visit This post was sponsored by Royal Caribbean Cruises but all views as always, are my own.



The Travel Expert



Royal Caribbean Previews World’s Largest Cruise Ship, Symphony of the Seas, in London


I’m a big fan of Royal Caribbean Cruises so when they invited me to see the first interactive cruise experience on dry land, I jumped at the chance!


The world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas will be cruising the Mediterranean this Summer and Royal Caribbean wanted to give the public a taste of what they can expect to find on a Royal Caribbean holiday.  This pop-up experience was open to the public for two days right in the centre of London, and was aptly named Symphony of the Senses.

Food glorious food! I have been fortunate to cruise with Royal Caribbean before and the dining options are superb. In true Royal Caribbean fashion we were greeted with champagne and canapés and throughout the experience there were indicators of just how much variety you can expect on board. We were treated to a rendition of La Bamba by Mexican singers – a reminder that El Loco Fresh, a delicious Mexican Restaurant, will be on Symphony of the Seas, serving up burritos, fish tacos and chicken enchiladas. You will find lots more dining experiences on board such as ‘Hooked’, Royal Caribbean’s first New England-style seafood restaurant as well as firm favourites, Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian and Wonderland. There are a staggering 18 different restaurants to choose from …..

Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas will also have a dedicated place for those with sweet tooths – Sugar Beach. This will be fully loaded with all your favourite sweets and homemade ice cream. Kids can even decorate their own cakes! We met ‘Lolly’ who showed us exactly what to expect.

Symphony of the Seas

We were allowed ‘backstage’ at Hairspray the Musical where Tracy Turnblad burst into song in front of us! The Broadway hit Hairspray will be one of the many shows on Symphony of the Seas this year.  You can also expect to be treated to an ice rink spectacular and the jaw-dropping acrobatic show at the AquaTheatre. I saw a similar show on Symphony of Seas’ sister ship, Harmony of the Seas. You can read all about my review of Harmony of the Seas here.

Symphony of the Seas

A walk through the jungle reminded us of how much adventure can be had on a Royal Caribbean holiday, both on board the cruise ship and when you dock in various ports. Symphony of the Seas will cruise the Mediterranean this Summer but will move to the Caribbean during the Winter time. Royal Caribbean visit 250 destinations in 77 countries across 6 continents, suffice to say there is plenty of adventure to be had when you are on land too.

Symphony of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas offers extraordinary facilities for families.  There is a kids waterpark, a trio of water slides, the Ultimate Abyss (the tallest slide at sea), surf simulators, a new glow-in-the-dark laser tag arena and Puzzle Break, where teams try to escape a submarine-themed room. There are many accommodation options to choose from, the ultimate family suite being the top of the range. This two bedroom suite can sleep up to eight and includes a floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, a slide from the kids bedroom to the lounge, a movie room with a popcorn machine and a 3D TV. And that’s just the inside! The 212 square foot wrap-around balcony touts a bumper pool table, a climbing experience and a full-size whirlpool that will provide unmatched ocean views.

Symphony of the Seas


It looks like a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas will provide the ultimate family holiday. I hope I get the chance to try it! For more details visit their website.


Interested in cruising, for cruise news, reviews and the best cruise deals, click here.



 The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery



3 Nights In Hong Kong & Dubai With A 5 Night Asia Cruise, 2nd May, €1539!

Ovation of the Seas

This eleven night holiday is a trip of a life time! Enjoy a five night Asia cruise on one of Royal Caribbean’s largest cruise ships, Ovation of the Seas with three night stays in Hong Kong and Dubai –  in one magical holiday!


Three nights in Hong Kong is just what you need to enjoy all the highlights! Ride the cable car, take a dragon boat ride, do some duty free shopping (there is no sales tax in Hong Kong), and enjoy one of the best night skylines in the world. Enjoy an action packed three days before boarding the luxurious Ovation of the Seas for five nights. You can enjoy the ocean views from your balcony stateroom before making your first stop in Vietnam.

asia cruise

Your Asia cruise includes two stops in Vietnam, Hue (Da Nang) and Nha Trang. Discover the famous ‘China Beach’ where American soldiers relaxed during the Vietnam war, or visit the Forbidden Purple City in Hue. Snorkel in the turquoise waters of Nha Trang amidst it’s tropical islands. Vietnam is renowned for it’s delicious food, why not try a street food tour in Da Nang or enjoy some of the best sea food in Nha Trang.

asia cruise

Although you are visiting exotic locations, you will also have plenty of time to enjoy all the facilities that Ovation of the Seas has to offer. I had the pleasure of being on board last year and I loved it. It is longer than three football pitches and taller than the Sydney Harbour bridge! Thrill seekers will love the circus school, surfing and sky diving, and if you just want to have some fun, try the roller skating or bumper cars. Let the robots pour you a drink in the bionic bar before sampling some of the top class entertainment on board. There are seventeen restaurants to choose from, including the popular Jamie’s Italian and fine dining options. For more information on Ovation of the Seas you can read my blog here.

asia cruise

Your trip doesn’t end there. After your five night Asia cruise you will then fly to Dubai for a three night stay in one of the World’s most impressive cities. Shop in the world’s largest shopping mall or haggle to your heart’s content in the famous souks. Visit the world’s tallest building or enjoy a desert safari, anything is possible in Dubai!  If all of this sounds like hard work, just relax and chill out on some of the Dubai’s magnificent beaches!

asia cruise

Whats included:

  • Flights from Dublin to Hong Kong
  • 3 Night stay in Hong Kong
  • 5 Night cruise on Ovation of the Seas in a balcony stateroom, with meals and entertainment included.
  • Flight from Hong Kong to Dubai
  • 3 Night stay in Dubai
  • Flight from Dubai to Dublin
  • All taxes & fees.

This offer is exclusive to Sunway and won’t be around for long so call their dedicated sales team on 01-2311868 or

Click here for more details.


This post was sponsored by Sunway, but all views, as always, are my own.



The Travel Expert




Like cruises? See my cruise reviews and more cruise deals here.

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My Review of Disney Magic Cruise Ship

Captain Mickey and First Mate Minnie on the Disney Magic

Read my review of Disney Magic cruise ship and find out was it really magical.

I had the chance to tour Disney Magic when it was docked in Dublin Port recently. The first thing that struck me when I saw the 2700 passenger cruise ship was how different it looked compared to other modern cruise ships. It appeared old-fashioned, but when I heard that it was specifically designed to resemble one of the iconic ocean cruise liners from the 1920s, (similar to the one that Walt Disney himself honeymooned on), I suddenly found myself loving its outward appearance.

It was a modern take on an old classic – how wonderfully Disney! Like everything on board, the attention to detail is exemplary. The hull is painted a marine navy that was especially designed for Disney to match Mickey Mouses’ coat, and the life-boats are yellow in colour to match Mickey’s shoes. Disney needed special dispensation from the US Coast Guard to use these colours, as all other life-boats are orange.

review of disney magic cruise ship

That pretty much set the tone for our tour. When you look closely you can see Mickey Mouse iconic ears everywhere, in the lampshades, the wallpaper and on occasion even the carpets. Some of our group felt it wasn’t ‘Disney’ enough but I liked the understated style rather than feeling you were in Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse all day long. 

The Atrium is classic cruise style, beige and gold colours, warm and welcoming and thankfully not too dark. The pool decks are as you would expect from Disney, full of fun for kids of all ages. There is a small splash park for the little ones with a large water slide. 

The entry to ‘AquaDunk’, is located in the one of the funnels of the ship close to one of the teen zones. The floor opens like a trap door and you slide right out over the side of the ship!

review of disney magic cruise ship

There are tween and teen zones on board too – the Edge from age 11 – 14 and Vibe from 14- 17yrs. Movies are shown in many areas, in the 3D cinema and at the large screen at the pool.  I was amazed to learn that new releases are shown on board too, on the same day that they are released in the US, so no matter when you cruise, you wont miss opening night. 

As well as shows and kids clubs, children also get a chance to meet their favourite characters on board. There will be specific meet and greet times in the Atrium, but they also allow the characters to wander around the ship at various times so children can also come upon them by chance.

review of disney cruise ship

The Small World Nursery takes babies from 12 weeks and the Disney Oceaneer kids club from age 3-12 years. This is home to Andy’s room from Toy Story, complete with all his favourite toys!

Even the corridor outside the kids clubs have lower ceilings than in other parts of the ship, to make children feel taller – Disney really do think of everything. All kids clubs are open from 9am to midnight and parents can drop their kids in at anytime.

review of disney magic cruise ship

Disney Magic is renowned for its shows and the 977 seater Walt Disney Theatre is impressive. Tangled the musical is currently showing and Beauty and the Beast is scheduled for the winter. These are top class West –End / Broadway style shows and suitable for all the family.

Disney are the only cruise ship to have fireworks at sea and in true Disney fashion, they have a Pirates IN the Caribbean show on pool deck where fireworks light the night sky.

Disney is also proud to have the largest collection of Marvel Super heroes and Super Villians ever assembled at sea. Following the show, guests will be treated to a deck party with music, dancing and of course fire works.

review of disney magic cruise ship

What surprised me most about the cruise ship was how it catered so well for adults. The rotating dining system means that you are able to dine in three different restaurants throughout the week, twice in each one, and all of this is included in the price of your cruise.

You are accompanied by the same serving team in all three restaurants so they get to know your names and tastes. Apparently after a couple of days they have your favourite drink poured when you arrive.

There is one specialty dining Italian Restaurant, Palo, but with three others to choose from you may just decide to give it a miss. If you do fancy a romantic meal for two, remember the children can stay in the kids clubs till midnight. There is also an adult pool area with a spa and hairdressers.

At night-time you can enjoy a lively drink in McGills Irish bar or a quiet one in the piano bar. Suffice to say if you want some chill time away from Mickey and Minnie, there is no shortage of options.

review of Disney Magic cruise ship

The cabins are spacious with a nautical theme. Most of them sleep two adults and two children, with some sleeping five, and there are also interconnecting cabins for larger families. 73% of cabins have an ocean view and the Disney touches are noticeable throughout.

 I particularly liked the cushion on the bed that read ‘A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep‘ 😍. The privacy curtain allows you to have some chill time if the kids need a nap during the day. Inside staterooms also have a ‘magic’ porthole where a monitor displays real time videos from HD cameras outside the ship.

review of disney magic cruise ship

We ate in Lumieres restaurant and once again there were subtle Disney references throughout. The over head lights have the enchanted red rose inside. The menu had plenty of choice and was very family friendly. I wouldn’t say it was the best meal I ever had, but then you don’t go on a Disney Cruise for fine dining. Mind you the ice cream sundae was superb!

I was particularly impressed with Animators Palate Restaurant which you visit twice during your cruise, at no extra charge. This black and white room transforms half way through dining.

The waiters change into coloured waistcoats and the walls ‘come alive’ with animation. Children are encouraged to draw pictures when they enter and their drawings come to life on the walls of the restaurant. Well it is Disney after all!

review of Disney Magic cruise ship

With Mickey Mouse as first officer and Minnie his first mate, non stop entertainment and the chance to hang out with Disney characters, a Disney Magic cruise can only be pure magic ✨


Interested in cruising, for cruise news, reviews and the best cruise deals, click here.





Silversea All Inclusive Luxury Cruise, 11th November, 4 Nights, €1395!


24 butler service, breakfast in bed, or dinner on your balcony. When it comes to luxury cruising, no one does it better than Silversea.


There are only a small number of six star cruises, or hotels for that matter, but Silversea hold that coveted prize. Their intimate cruise ships carry only 300 – 540 guests, a refreshing change from the many cruise liners that are constantly competing to have the largest ships at sea. While this may sound exclusive and beyond your budget, some of their prices are surprisingly good value when you consider the service you receive. Almost everything is included in the price, even in-suite dining, you could easily cruise on Silversea without putting your hand in your pocket. This incredible offer from Sunway will allow you to do just that.

silversea all inclusive luxury cruise

You will experience a taste of luxury cruising over four nights, with flights, baggage, transfers, gratuities and all meals and drinks included in the price. Sip champagne and wave goodbye to the eternal city of Rome, from your veranda suite, before cruising the Mediterranean for four days. Get up close and personal in each port, Silversea cruise ships can dock right in the heart of each city. Experience the glitz and glamour of Monaco, the lavender fields of Provence and the rolling hills of Tuscany, before cruising back to Rome.

silversea all inclusive luxury cruise

This taster cruise is on board Silver Spirit which is Silversea’s largest cruise ship, carrying 540 guests. Enjoy fresh sushi at the Asian fusion Seishin restaurant or authentic Italian cuisine at the à la carte La Terrazza. Chefs mix buffalo mozzarella from Naples, olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Umbria, with fresh pasta that is made daily on board. For more casual dining try the pool bar and grill, or the popular Stars Supper Club where you can enjoy some cocktails and live music afterwards. For an extra special evening try the six course tasting menu at Relais & Châteaux’s La Champange restaurant, where each course is paired with fine wines. Supplement of $40 applies.

silversea all inclusive luxury cruise

Although a relatively small cruise ship, you can still expect luxurious spa treatments in the 8,300 square-foot spa, which was voted best spa at sea by Condé Nast Traveler. There is also a heated pool, fitness centre and beauty salon. There are plenty of entertainment options including full scale production shows from their Show Lounge, sundowners at the Panorama Lounge and a selection of games at the casino. Shoppers will enjoy the designer boutiques on board including Gucci, Bvlgari and Swarovski.

silversea all inclusive luxury cruise

Fly from Dublin to Rome on the 11th of November and enjoy a four night all-inclusive cruise from €1395 per person. This price includes flights, transfers, checked baggage, all taxes and gratuities, 24 hour butler service, in-suite dining, complimentary beverages in-suite and throughout the ship. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a Silversea all inclusive luxury cruise, for an unbeatable price – don’t miss it!


Click here for more details: or call the cruise specialists in Sunway on 01- 2311868 .


This post was sponsored by Sunway Holidays but all views as always are my own 😎



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