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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!

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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 Sunway.ie

 

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

 

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 
CruisesEurope

U River Cruises – Luxury Cruises For Younger Travellers

u river cruises 2

Think river cruises were for over 55’s? Think again! U River Cruises are a luxury river cruise line dedicated to younger travellers, with prices from only €899!

 

Before you start thinking of all night parties and fast-food, I should point out that U River Cruises are luxury cruises. The food on board is superb, their cruise ship is beautifully furnished and they provide immersive experiences across some of Europe’s most sought after cities. Expect culinary delights inspired by street food, with creative mixologists and international DJ’s onboard, as well as longer stays in each port to get off the beaten track.

dining on u river cruises

Unlike ocean cruises, you will dock right in the heart of the city – so no lengthy disembarkation or bus journeys to reach your destination. You can choose one of U River Cruises guided excursions, or choose to go it alone and explore independently. Whatever you choose, the U staff will be on hand to recommend choices to suit you, whether you are a foodie, an adventure seeker, romantic or even a night owl.
 

 
Each cruise offers many shore excursions and many are included in the cost of your cruise.Enjoy a canal tour of Amsterdam,  wine tasting in Eberbach Monastery (filming location of Game of Thrones), or a Mixology class at House of Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience, “the world’s largest cocktail experience” in Amsterdam!

u river cruises a ship

Unlike most cruises you are free to disembark the ship at night time and in some cases you overnight in cities. Take in a concert in Vienna, enjoy a night hike up to Rheinstein Castle, or let one of the U hosts bring you to their favourite nightclub in Amsterdam. When you return back to the ship there will be entertainment on board, including a silent disco or karaoke, as well as an international DJ to play tunes into the small hours.

u river cruises rooftop bar

What are the facilities on board U River Cruises?

U River Cruises cruise ship is simply called ‘ The A’. It is a sleek matte black ship that carries up to 120 passengers. All staterooms are tastefully furnished and come with waterfront views, built-in bluetooth speakers and BeeKind amenities.

‘The A’ boasts a rooftop venue and a spa so if you don’t fancy leaving the ship, you can opt for some ‘U’ time on board. Work out in the gym and enjoy complimentary yoga classes. There are also painting, wine, mixology and cookery classes on board. I love that the Chefs Table Cooking Classes are co-ordinated to show local dishes from each destination you visit. If you just want to relax, let one of the mixologists make you a cocktail and take in the scenic river views from the contemporary rooftop lounge. Just check out their hashtag #TravelforU for some dreamy shots like this one!  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Where do U River Cruises cruise to?

U River Cruises have three eight-day itineraries, The Danube Flow, Germany’s Finest and Rolling on the Rhine, with overnight stops and longer stays in major cities like Vienna, Amsterdam and Budapest. U River Cruises also offer a Christmas itinerary, Dashing through the Danube, which is a great way to sample some of Europe’s best Christmas markets. If you are looking for something more unique, check out their dedicated themed cruise itineraries, ‘U In Drag’ on the 6th of July 2019 and ‘Tattoo on U’ on the 17th of August 2019.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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What is the typical age on board a U River Cruises?

U River Cruises are geared toward the young and young at heart, typically travellers between 21-55, however all ages above 18 are welcome. If you are over 55, check out Uniworld Boutique River Cruise collection, which caters for guests of all ages. You can read my review of Uniworld’s SS Antoinette here.

u river cruises rooftop yoga

What is included in U River Cruises?

  • Three meals each day, typically brunch and dinner as most guests are out exploring during the day.
  • Non alchoholic drinks such as water, tea and coffee, juices etc. You can choose to pre-purchase a premium drinks package for €299 per week which includes unlimited alcoholic drinks throughout your cruise.
  • One shore excursion per day which is tailor made to suit your tastes.
  • All gratuities including tips for shore excursions.
  • Onboard entertainment including rooftop yoga, mixology classes and a welcome party.

u river cruises

 

 Call a U Specialist on 01 906 9408 or your local travel agent for more details. 

 

This post was sponsored by U River Cruises but all views, as always, are my own.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 
Travel News and Reviews

U by Uniworld – The Luxury River Cruise Line for Younger Travellers!

UbyUniworld_Bedroom_TheB

Think river cruises were for over 55’s? Think again! The world’s most luxurious river cruise line Uniworld, has launched the first-ever river cruise brand dedicated for younger travellers, U by Uniworld.

 

Before you start thinking of all night parties and fast-food, I should point out that U by Uniworld’s river cruises are on luxury five star ships! The food on board is superb, the ships are beautifully furnished and they provide immersive experiences across some of Europe’s most sought after cities. Expect culinary delights inspired by street food, with creative mixologists and international DJ’s onboard, as well as longer stays in each port to get off the beaten track.

Unlike ocean cruises, you will dock right in the heart of the city – no lengthy disembarkation or bus journeys to reach your destination. You can choose one of U by Uniworld’s guided excursions, or choose to go it alone and explore independently. Whatever you choose the U staff will be on hand to recommend choices to suit you, whether you are a foodie, an adventure seeker, romantic or even a night owl.

U by Uniworld - the luxury cruise line for younger travellers

Yes you did read that night, unlike most cruises you are free to disembark the ship at night time too, in some cases you even overnight in cities. Explore Paris alone to see the Eiffel Tower lit up, take in a concert in Vienna or let one of the U hosts bring you to their favourite nightclub in Amsterdam. When you return back to the ship there will be entertainment on board as well as an international DJ to play tunes into the small hours.

U by Uniworld - the luxury cruise line for younger travellers

U by Uniworld have two ships and both can carry up to 120 passengers. If you don’t fancy leaving the ship you can opt for some ‘U’ time on board. Work out in the gym and enjoy complimentary yoga and TRX classes. There are also painting, wine, mixology and cookery classes on board. I love that the Chefs Table Cooking Classes are co-ordinated to show local dishes from each destination you visit. If you just want to relax, let one of the mixologists make you a cocktail and take in the scenic river views from the contemporary rooftop lounge. Just check out their hashtag #TravelforU for some dreamy shots like this one!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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So where do U by Uniworld cruise to?

U by Uniworld features four eight-day itineraries. Choose from the Rhine, Main, Danube and Seine Rivers, with overnight stops and longer stays in major cities like Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam and Budapest. U by Uniworld also offers two five-day holiday itineraries for those who want to experience the Christmas markets or be away for New Year’s Eve.

U by Uniworld - the luxury cruise line for younger travellers

What is the typical age on board a U by Uniworld cruise?

U by Uniworld river cruises are geared towards travellers between 21-45, although once you are 18 you are allowed on board. If you are 46 or older, check out Uniworld Boutique River Cruise collection, which caters for guests of all ages. You can read my review of Uniworld’s SS Antoinette here.

U by Uniworld - the luxury cruise line for younger travellers

What is included in a U by Uniworld cruise?

  • Two meals each day, typically brunch and dinner as most guests are out exploring during the day.
  • Non alchoholic drinks such as water, tea and coffee, juices etc. You can choose to pre-purchase a premium drinks package for €299 per week which includes unlimited alcoholic drinks throughout your cruise.
  • One shore excursion per day which is tailor made to suit your tastes.
  • All gratuities including tips for shore excursions.
  • Onboard entertainment including fitness classes and a welcome party.

U by Uniworld - the luxury cruise line for younger travellers

How much does a U by Uniworld river cruise cost?

Prices for an 8-day river cruise start at €1,499 per person while the 5-day seasonal cruises start at €999 per person.

 

Want to know more?  Visit ubyuniworld.com or call your local travel agent for more details.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

Travel

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

MSC_seaside

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.

 

Sarah

 

travel deals

 

Cruises

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

MSC Seaview

I was delighted to get 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 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 a the perfect bar for an aperitif, and later 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 was like being at a great concert, the atmosphere was electric with people 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. We hung out in the Champagne bar (as you do!). 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 playing 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 homely atmosphere. It’s the type of bar than non-sports fans could go to and have a drink, while their partners watched the match.

Not all bars are indoors. There are plenty of outdoor bars 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 many buffet restaurants, everything was hot!

I am not normally a big 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, which changes the whole buffet dining experience. 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. Ocean Cay, by Spanish Michelin Star chef Ramón Freixa, served up mouthwatering seafood, while the Asian Market Kitchen has three different dining experiences in one restaurant. I loved this restaurant and I think I would end up eating here a few times if I was on a typical seven-night cruise. 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 – purely for research purposes! There is also a trendy steakhouse, the Butchers Cut, for those looking for American cuisine.

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 panoramic glass lifts to maximise seaviews.

Kids facilities on MSC Seaview

The facilities for kids on board are superb. There is a separate kids Forest Adventure Aquapark with 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 ziplines – they are the longest at sea, test your skills on the Formula 1 simulator or kill some zombies in the 4D interactive cinema. We tried this and it was hilarious! It 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.

MSC Seaview cruises the Mediterranean during the Summer of 2018 and will move to Brazil for the winter before returning to the Mediterranean for Summer 2019. See msccruises.ie for more details or your local travel agent.

 

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

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

CruisesIn 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

Special Offers:

7th October, 9 nights Western Mediterranean cruise.

Visiting Barcelona, Majorca, Provence, Florence, Rome, Naples, Valencia.

€1748 including flights, checked baggage, all meals, drinks, gratuities

Click here for more details: 

OR

1st February, 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise

Visiting Bahamas, St Thomas, St Kitts & Nevis with a 2 night stay in Miami.

€2099 including flights, hotel, central park view stateroom, meals, drinks, gratuities, checked baggage.

Click here for more details:

 

 

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.

Special Offers:

Caribbean Cruise on MSC Seaside ( sister ship)

November – February ( excluding Christmas & New Year ) 9 Nights, including two night stay in Miami and a 7 night cruise visiting Mexico, Grand Cayman, Bahamas and Jamaica.

€1399 including a balcony cabin with all meals and drinks included.

Click here for more details:

OR

Mediterranean Cruise on MSC Seaview 

4th May 2019 – 7 Night Mediterranean cruise visiting Barcelona, Genoa, Rome, Cannes, Majorca and Corsica.

€810 with all meals included.

Click here for more details:

 

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.

 

Special Offers:

Alaska Cruise 13th September 2018

9 nights including a two night stay in Seattle and a 7 Night cruise visiting Seattle, Oregon, San Francisco ( overnight stay ) Victoria, Vancouver.

€1749 per person with an ocean view cabin, all meals, classic drinks package and WiFi.

Click here for more details:

OR

Ireland & Iceland cruise 06 May 2019 

10 nights Ireland & Iceland cruise, €1,579 per person  including all meals.

Click here for more details:

 

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

Special Offer: Caribbean Cruise

18th January 2019, 9 Nights, Direct flights to Miami, over night stay pre and post cruise, 7 Night cruise visiting Miami, St Thomas, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Miami

€2085 per person including flights, all meals and drinks on board.

Click here for more details:

 

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

Special Offer: Eastern Mediterranean Cruise

23rdSeptember, Norwegian Star, 7 night cruise, visiting Croatia, Montenegro, Athens, Venice.

€1435 per person including flights, all meals and drinks on board.

Click here for more details:

 

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

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

Travel

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.

 

Sarah

 

travel deals

 

CruisesFamily Holidays

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

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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 RoyalCaribbean.ie. This post was sponsored by Royal Caribbean Cruises but all views as always, are my own.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

Travel

Premium All Inclusive Fly Cruises to the Med & Caribbean, With Prices from €1340!

cruise drinks

From Barcelona to the Bahamas, Venice to the Virgin Islands,  All Inclusive cruise holidays with Norwegian Cruise Line offer some of the best value cruises on the market. The only decision is which one will you choose?

 

Did you know that Norwegian Cruise Line have been cruising for over 50 years? They now have a whopping 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! 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 hand picked some of my favourite all inclusive cruise holidays from Norwegian Cruise Line to tempt you.

All prices include flights, and remember with Norwegian Cruise Line, all meals, drinks and gratuities are included too!

 

Norwegian Epic: 28th October, 7 Night Cruise,  Spain, Italy & France, €1340!

This amazing offer is available over the October bank holiday weekend! Take advantage of less time off work or avail of the kids mid term break. This classic Western Mediterranean itinerary cruises from Barcelona and visits Naples, Rome, Pisa, Cannes and Palma. See many of the Italian highlights by touring the Amalfi Coast, visiting the ancient city of Rome and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Chill out on one of the stylish beach resorts on the Cotes d’Azur and shop till you drop in Palma.

all inclusive cruises

Norwegian Epic is one of Norwegian’s largest cruise ships and carries over 4,000 passengers. This innovative cruise ship has twenty-four different dining options, mind-blowing entertainment and one of the largest spas at sea. The top deck spans the entire length of the ship and has lots of bars, restaurants and swimming pools, as well as water park with huge water slides.  There are numerous clubs for kids as well as a dedicated kid’s centre and a teen disco. Sports enthusiasts will love the climbing walls, bowling alleys and state of the art fitness centre on board. If you fancy a quieter place, the adults-only bar and pool area has two hot tubs and a bar serving drinks, to cool you down! At night time movies are shown here too.

all inclusive cruises

There are lots of delicious dining options included in the cost of your cruise but if you fancy trying something special, the Cirque Dreams & Dinner should not be missed. This unique theatrical dining experience presents world class acrobatics with mouthwatering food. Cagney’s Steakhouse is another favourite, offering choice cuts of Black Angus steak, as well as their, made-from-scratch jumbo crab cakes and truffle fries!

Click here for more details:

 

Brand New Norwegian Bliss: 18th January 2019, Miami, Bahamas & Virgin Islands, €1898!

Be one of the first to cruise Norwegian’s newest and most incredible ship, Norwegian Bliss. This ship has been custom-built to give jaw-dropping views from it’s revolutionary Observation Lounge. Located at the front of the ship, this offers the same views seen from the bridge and has the most expansive views at sea. Complete with a full service bar, you may not want to leave! This state-of-the-art cruise ship features the same freestyle dining and premium all-inclusive drinks available on all Norwegian cruises. 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. Texas Smokehouse – Q is new to Bliss and the first full-service Starbucks at sea, is here 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 slides (one of which extends over the edge of the ship). The Tony Award®-winning 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.

all inclusive cruises

This amazing offer includes direct flights with Aer Lingus to Miami, an over-night stay in a four star hotel in Miami and a seven night Caribbean cruise, visiting the Bahamas and the Caribbean islands of St Thomas and Tortola.

Click here for more details:

 

Note all of the above cruises are just a sample of the many cruises that Sunway offer with Norwegian Cruise Line and other cruise lines. If the above dates or itineraries don’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.

 

Sarah

 

travel deals

 

 

Travel

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

RCI-THE-NEW-SOUND-OF-ADVENTURE

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.

 

Sarah

 The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

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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. For a moment it seemed ‘old-fashioned’. However, 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 thought it was just perfect 💛. 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 need 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, there are subtle Disney touches throughout. 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. When you look closely you can see Mickey Mouse iconic ears everywhere, in the lampshades, the wallpaper and even in some places, the carpet.

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. There is also a second 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

The teen zones in general are great, 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 deliberately 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 – how thoughtful is that! All kids clubs are open from 9am – 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 – very smooth! 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, some sleeping five and there are also interconnecting, cabins for larger families. 73% have an ocean view and the Disney touches are noticeable throughout.  I particularly love the cushion on the bed that reads ‘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 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.

 

Sarah

 

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A River Cruise on Uniworld’s SS Antoinette

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I blame Uniworld for the dent in my bank balance when I got home from my recent river cruise. Within 24 hours of my return, I was in House of Fraser buying new pillows and bed linen…

 

My handcrafted Savoir of England bed on Uniworld’s SS Antoinette was the most comfortable I have ever slept in. I’m not a great sleeper generally, but once my head hit those pillows and the 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, I was out like a light. This is typical of the attention to detail and high standard I received throughout my river cruise on Uniworld’s SS Antoinette. Nothing is left to chance, 57 staff cater for 154 guests, there is always someone ready to assist you. “No request too large, no detail too small” is the motto of the Uniworld staff. This ethos, along with your own personal butler, are some of the reasons why Uniworld have won numerous awards, such as the best luxury cruise line, for the past seven years.

Uniworld's SS Antoinette

Furnishings are old world style but with a modern twist. Cabins are compact but with an excellent use of space. They are fitted with two flat screen TV’s including one on the French balcony. I loved the balcony,  you can sit back read a book or watch TV, while taking in the scenery outside – regardless of weather! The bathrooms are stocked with l’Occitane products and even the sockets cater for all plugs, so there is no need to bring adapters!


When checking-in I couldn’t help but notice the ornate chandelier in the reception area. When I remarked on its beauty, I was informed that the 10 foot blue Strauss Baccarat chandelier, once hung in New York’s Tavern on the Green! This is just a sample of the lavish decor you can expect on board. Speaking of checking-in, this is a dream. Unlike ocean cruises, Uniworld river cruises carry on average of 130 people, so there are never long queues to check-in or when disembarking in ports. And when you arrive at a new port, there are no bus journeys to get to your destination, you are already in the heart of the city.


Excursions on ocean cruises can work out expensive. With Uniworld, excursions are included in the price of your cruise and there are excellent choices available. A day in the medieval town of Regensburg is a typical example of the excursions you can expect with Uniworld. Some might like a gentle walking tour of the town, others will enjoy a full tour with Jewish History. Car enthusiasts can take a trip to the BMW factory! There are also bicycles on board for use at any port so if you chose to do your own thing, that’s fine too. After a day’s sightseeing, you can take a dip in the indoor pool or enjoy a treatment in their luxury spa. I was surprised at how reasonable the prices were in the spa. €65 for an hour long massage, not bad for a five star luxury cruise.

 

Nice #pool on #ssantoinette #uniworlditaaconf @uniworldcruises #rivercruise #luxurylife #luxurytravel #itaaconf16 #rivercruise

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During the day there was a cookery demonstration, wine tasting and a cocktail making masterclass. Activities, wines and menus are themed with the region you are cruising through. If you want to relax you can take in a movie in their cinema or enjoy a drink in one of the luxurious bars or lounges. With Uniworld ALL drinks are included in the price, even champagne! The food on board was excellent. Breakfast and lunch is buffet style although there are menus where you can order a lá carte. I tried the eggs benedict for breakfast and it was excellent! At dinner time there is a set menu with great choice. On the gala nights (there are on average 2 per cruise) the level steps up a notch. Fine dining at its best, we had appetisers a pre desert and the beef wellington was one of the best I have tasted.

Evening time is low key, with a pianist for entertainment. I was on a two night cruise from Amsterdam to Cologne at the Irish Travel Agents Association conference and we were the only passengers on board. The pianist duly obliged when we decided to take over the microphone and sing Abba songs, but somehow I doubt this would happen on a regular itinerary! In fact I am told that as well as the resident musician, performers board the ship in various ports. You may have opera singers one evening, broadway singers the next, entertainment is also local to the area where the ship is cruising. Overall relaxed nights are the norm, but it is always nice to get dressed up for gala nights!

Thinking of a Christmas market break? Why not see five cities instead of one. Want to go wine tasting in France? Cruise three rivers to see the Chateaux and vineyards of Bordeaux, Bergerac and Medoc. These are just a sample of the itineraries available on Uniworld’s Boutique river cruises, with intimate excursions in each town included in the price. If you want lively cruise ships, with non stop entertainment and sports facilities then these are not for you. For a personal experience with fine dining and relaxed surroundings, check out Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

 

Sarah

 

 

 

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Travel News and Reviews

5* Celebrity Cruises Will Cruise From Dublin in 2018

Aerial Celebrity Eclipse

I am delighted that such a prestigious cruise line, Celebrity Cruises, will cruise from Dublin in 2018! This is the first time a major cruise line will homeport out of Dublin. Not only is this great news for Irish cruisers, but also for our local economy too!

 

Cruise itineraries on the 5* Celebrity Eclipse have already been announced and are on sale in travel agencies across the country. I had the pleasure of touring Celebrity Silhouette while it was docked in Dublin recently and I loved it. Celebrity Silhouette is very similar to Celebrity Eclipse, they are one of the five Solstice Class ships. There are fantastic on board features, including swimming pools, spa and a selection of top class entertainment and dining options. They even have a manicured grass lawn, just to give it a country club ambiance! You can read my full review of Celebrity Silhouette here.

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Fancy a ten night cruise to Iceland on the 30th of April, 10th or 28th of May? Prices are available from €1,369.  If you have always wanted to see the Norwegian Fjords, well now is your chance. Celebrity are offering an eight night Norwegian Fjords cruise from €1368, on the 20th of May. For those who want to stay closer to home, there is a 12 night cruise to Paris, Liverpool and Amsterdam on the 7th of June from €2239. This cruise gives you the opportunity to see the French Open as well as stopping off in Belfast, Waterford and Cork. All prices include port taxes and charges. Celebrity’s early booking offer guarantee, means that if you book and pay a deposit before the 28th February 2017, you can re book the exact cruise without any loss of deposit, if the price reduces at any time before your cruise! That’s confidence!

Celebrity Cruises from Dublin in 2018

Celebrity Cruises are modern luxury cruise line that cruise to 282 destinations in 77 countries across all seven continents. They include overnight stays in forty-one cities and double overnight stays in seven. They offer opportunities to visit destinations during key global events, that otherwise may be impossible to secure tickets or accommodation.  Highlights include the British Open, The Cannes Film Festival and in 2018, the FIFA World Cup matches in St Petersburg.

Celebrity Cruises will cruise from Dublin, exciting times ahead! Lets hope it is the start of many more to come! For more details visit celebritycruises.ie or see your local Travel Agent.

 

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

 

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Sarah

 The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery
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My Review Of Norwegian Star

Norwegian Star

I had the pleasure of stepping on board the Norwegian Star while it was docked in Dublin recently. This was my first time to see a Norwegian cruise ship, check out my review 🙂

 

The first thing that needs to be said is that despite the name, Norwegian Cruise Line is actually American! It also cruises all over the world and not just to Norway and the Baltics… Avid cruisers may well know both of these important facts but it is amazing how many people are mislead by their name! They have been cruising for 50 years, have 14 ships and they have received the World Travel Award as Europe’s leading cruise line for the ninth year in a row! Norwegian’s slogan is free style cruising and they provide just that. Everything on board is relaxed, with flexible dining and casual dress – you can leave your cocktail dresses and dinner jackets at home!

Norwegian Star

The Star is one of Norwegian’s older ships. Built in 2001, it was refurbished in 2015 as part of Norwegian’s ongoing $400 million extensive upgrade of it’s fleet. (They claim that their ships will look better than the day they were launched!) Although relatively small in today’s cruising terms ( carries 2348 passengers), it still has 15 dining options and 11 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 many speciality dining options, which incur a separate charge. We had lunch in the Teppanyaki restaurant and it was excellent. We had wasabi cocktails with mouthwatering prawns and fillet steak, all cooked in front of us. The chefs even showed us their tricks and got the whole group involved. It was a fantastic experience and one I would highly recommend. This room only seats 12 at a time so make sure you make a reservation at the start of your cruise, or even before hand.

We had great fun dining #teppanyaki style on #norwegianstar @norwegiancruiseline #cruise #foodie #freestylecruising

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The pool deck comes complete with two waterslides and six hot tubs. This is great for families although if you fancy a quiet place to swim, you should visit the indoor lap pool in the Spa. There is a charge to use the indoor pool, jacuzzi and hydropool however, I was a little surprised at this. There is also a fitness centre with a jogging track, a golf driving net and a volleyball/basketball court – so plenty of ways to expend some energy on board.

Norwegian Star

The kids facilities on board are excellent. There are slides in the main pool but also in the kids pool. This is equipped with two rocket-shaped slides and a kid’s hot tub. Their kids clubs offer activities for kids from 3 -12 including a cinema and a jungle gym. They also have crèche facilities for babies from 6 months old. For teenagers the ‘Entourage’ program offers activities from age 13-17. They have their own exclusive teen-only area, with a jukebox, dance floor and a communal area to ‘hang out’. This area comes equipped with computers, an air hockey table and a video gaming zone. And this is where is gets really interesting….. Parents can have a ‘Date Night’ where kids are supervised and dropped back to your cabin before 1am!

Norwegian Star

Speaking of  ‘date night’, Norwegian has a massive theatre showing the latest West-End style shows. The theatre holds 1000 people so you don’t need to make a reservation. If shows are not your thing, there are plenty of bars with live music as well as their own in house entertainment shows. Norwegian are renowned for their top class entertainment both in their theatres and throughout their ships.

Norwegian Star

Norwegian’s newer and larger ships, Breakaway, Escape, Getaway and Epic have even more features. You will find that ten pin bowling, rock climbing and state of the art aqua parks are the norm (see image below). They are also famous for their rope courses which have zip lines and planks that hang over the side of the ship – definitely not for the faint hearted! Sadly they are too big to fit into Dublin Port so I’ll have to actually go on one of their cruise holidays to see them properly 😉 Fortunately, Epic will be cruising from Barcelona for Summer 2017 and there are some excellent early booking offers, including free drinks packages, free speciality dining packages, free wifi and even free spending money – so watch this space!

Norwegian Star

Norwegian’s freestyle cruising brings more than just flexible dining. Their action packed cruises will ensure you have a fun filled holiday with top class entertainment and activities on board. So leave the cocktail dresses at home, pre book the all-inclusive drinks package and simply enjoy 🍹

For more details visit their website or see your local ITAA travel agent.

 

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

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

CruisesIn The Media

Cruise Holidays as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM

The-Travel-Expert-As-Seen-on-TV3

Thinking of cruise holidays but not sure which ship to choose? I discussed cruise holidays on TV3’s Sunday AM this morning, here are the highlights.

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For anyone who thinks cruises are only for elderly people – they are completely mistaken. I have been on board many ships and I can honestly say there is a cruise for everyone out there. Cruise ships are often referred to as floating hotels and in some cases they are more like floating cities. You can choose the massive ships like Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas which can carry 6,700 passengers, or opt for a smaller more intimate river cruise like Uniworld’s SS Catherine, which carries 159 passengers.

 

Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas

Cruise Holidays - Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

Special offer:  28th August, 7 Nights, €1479pp! Includes flights,transfers, baggage and cruise in a neighbourhood balcony stateroom. Click here for more details.

 

If you want non stop action and great facilities for kids, then it is hard to beat Harmony of the Seas. This is the newest and largest ship at sea and was recently launched in Barcelona. I was on board 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. See what I mean about non stop action! 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. It is really dramatic and quite an experience.

Cruise Holidays - Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

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 is the most innovative ship I have ever seen, even the wifi on board is super fast. They have 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! It is enormous, but there are so many different places to go, that it can handle all 6,780 passengers. For more information on Harmony of the Seas, read my blog here.

 

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Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Silhouette.

Cruise Holidays - Celebrity Silhouette

Special Offer: Celebrity Constellation 8th December, 9 night Dubai & Emirates Cruise, €1299 per person. Includes over night stays in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, direct flights, transfers, baggage, oceanview stateroom, with classic drinks package. Click here for more details.

 

For those who are looking for something a little more upmarket, try Celebrity Cruises. I was on Celebrity Silhouette when it was docked in Dublin and I loved it. It carries approximately 3000 passengers so in my opinion a nice 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.

Cruise Holidays - Cabanas on Celebrity Silhouette

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 or you can choose specialty restaurants which range from $7.50 – $50. They also offer plenty of over night stays which I think is great. They were docked in Cannes for the film festival this year so you could mix with the celebrities 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. For more information on Celebrity Silhouette, read my blog here.

 

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Thomson Cruises – TUI Discovery

Cruise Holidays - TUI Discovery

Thomson Cruises have just this month launched TUI Discovery. This was an old Royal Caribbean ship, Splendour of the Seas but they have revamped it and added some great extras like an outdoor cinema and an adult only sundeck. This is a smaller more intimate ship that carries 1800 passengers. For anyone who finds the larger ships daunting, this might be for them. The big ‘game changer’ is that for Summer 2017 it will be all-inclusive as standard. Most cruise ships offer drinks packages and some even give them away free as a booking incentive.  Some can have beer and wine, others can have spirits. It can get confusing at the bar and also expensive, depending on which package you have booked. I love that with the Discovery, everyone is treated equally, no need for wrist bands or the Spanish inquisition when you are ordering a drink. They include branded drinks and prosecco too, so it’s not just local beer and wine!

Cruise Holidays - Live Room on TUI Discovery

They have plenty of good dining options too and two speciality restaurants which carry a supplement of £19.95 each. This is good value compared to similar restaurants on other ships which cost a lot more. Another plus is that it is a package holiday so everything is included flights, transfers and baggage. Fights are available from Cork and Shannon too. I think this will be a very popular with new cruisers, groups or people who like all inclusive holidays. For more information on TUI Discovery, read my blog here.

For more cruise news, reviews and the best cruise deals, click here.

 

Sarah

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