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Cruise Holidays as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM

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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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Cruising – How to choose the right cruise for you.

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From surf simulators to spa treatments, designer shopping to sky diving, cruise companies are frantically trying to out do each other. Larger ships with ever more innovation are being launched each year. So for those of you who haven’t tried it yet, how do you know which cruise to choose?

 

Cruising is now one of the fastest growing markets in the travel industry with over 30,000 people cruising from Ireland last year. I have seen 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 almost 8000 passengers and crew, or a smaller intimate river cruise like Uniworld’s SS Catherine, which carries 159 passengers.

I decided for this post I needed some help from a cruise ‘expert’ so I spoke to one of Ireland’s top cruise specialists Niki Stanford, from Clickandgo.com. Nikki has been on 28 cruise ships and has been selling cruises for 16 years. Niki constantly keeps up to date with online training. The cruise industry is always changing and she likes to  ‘keep up to speed on it all”.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on which cruise to choose
A cruise ship docked in Venice.

Best cruise for first timers:

A seven night Mediterranean Cruise is always a firm favourite. Usually sailing from Barcelona or Rome and taking in the best the Western Mediterranean has to offer. For many people it is price driven and these tend to offer the best value. People don’t want to spend too much on their first outing in case they don’t like cruising. This rarely happens though because over 90% of cruisers will cruise again.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert reviews cruising
Barcelona.

Best cruise for young couples:

Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises are the most popular with young people. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line or MSC Cruises are ideal and have excellent facilities on board. Facilities are key as many want good entertainment at night time as well as sports activities on board. Royal Caribbean’s latest ships offer sky diving, zip lines, surf simulators and even an ice rink! With robots serving you drinks from the bar, they are a great choice for a young couple looking for some adventure, modern style! Norwegian are also very popular with young couples as they offer free style dining, with no formal nights and a more relaxed atmosphere on board.
Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert reviews cruising
Norwegian Epic.

Best cruise for older couples:

The Baltic states are always a firm favourite sailing with older couples. Sailings from Copenhagen or Amsterdam are very popular, particularly itineraries taking in the Norwegian Fjords and Russia. Some cruise lines include overnights in popular cities too.
This year has seen an increase in the transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary 2. With excellent prices on offer and it is probably on most cruisers  ‘bucket list’. It is a very different feel and experience on board to other cruise ships. The Queen Mary 2 is Cunard’s flagship and is “the most magnificent ocean liner ever built and probably the most famous cruise ship in the world”.
River cruising is also very popular. A more intimate cruise on smaller ships and the ability to dock in the heart of cities, has made river cruising one of the fastest growing sectors within the cruise industry.
Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert reviews cruising
Uniworld’s River cruise ship – SS River Royale

Best cruise for families :

Cruises are ideal for families and excellent value for money. Niki doesn’t understand why more families do not cruise. A fear of the unknown perhaps?  The food and service excellent – you would need to go to a 5 star hotel to find similar service, says Niki. The entertainment is superb from west end style shows to Cirque du Soleil, it truly is endless! You will never hear the children say ‘I’m Bored!’
MSC Cruises are fantastic value for families as child prices are heavily discounted in comparison to other companies. Kids aged 11 and under just pay port charges so technically they ‘cruise free’. Above 11 and under 18 they pay a little more, but still gives amazing value considering the food, entertainment and kids clubs are all included! Some of their ships have water slides on board, others have a lego club and even a Formula 1 simulator!
Royal Caribbean offer a more active holiday for families. With everything from rock climbing walls, surf simulators, zip lines and even sky diving simulators. These ships are a teenagers dream.

Best cruise for adventure:

Hurtigruten will let you search for the Northern Lights or Polar Bears!  They may not offer the same facilities on board  but they are truly made for adventurers. The stunning scenery and the true local experiences have made them extremely popular in recent years. Celebrity Cruises Xpedition ship is the luxury ship for adventurers but you will need to plan way in advance, this ship is booked up as soon as it goes on sale!
Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on which cruise to choose
The Northern Lights, Iceland

Best cruise for food:

It is difficult to choose one cruise line over another as the quality of food on board most cruise ships is excellent. However, some of the cruise companies are offering unique experiences, beyond the typical main dining restaurants and buffets. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises offer many speciality restaurants on board, some are included in the price of your cruise and some incur a supplement. “Qsine” on Celebrity Cruises is the ultimate in modern dining. From the iPad menu to the different tastes and experiences on offer it’s is more of a dining experience than a dinner date!  Wonderland restaurant on the Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas offer a bizarre take on the Alice in Wonderland movie, with unusual statues and odd chairs, you almost feel you are in the movie.  They call it imaginative cuisine! You are given a blank menu and a paintbrush, the waiter will then instruct you to dip the paintbrush in the water and paint the canvas and as if my magic your menu appears!

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on which cruise to choose
The Tuscan Grille, one of Celebrity Silhouette’s speciality restaurants.

Best cruise for entertainment:

Generally speaking entertainment is of a very high standard on most cruise ships. Niki loved the Two70 venue on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. “It takes advanced robotic and human artistry to a level, I have never seen on board a ship! It has to be seen to believed and experienced. That along with a Candy Floss martini, they offer in the bar!” It is a very personal choice however, some want west end style theatre shows and others want non stop daily entertainment. By speaking to a cruise expert, they will advise which cruise ship suits your needs and tastes.
Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on which cruise to choose
Theatre on board Celebrity Silhouette.

Best value for money cruise:

MSC Cruises are the leaders here. But Niki is keen to point out that just because they are cheap it doesn’t mean that they are not good! She has sailed many times with MSC and thinks the food and service is brilliant but they just don’t have the added extras that some of the companies offer these days, this is why they will not be higher priced. They offer modern service with a Mediterranean / Italian flare without breaking the bank. If you don’t need a huge choice of eating venues or rock climbing walls then they are ideal. Their staterooms and furnishings are beautiful. Sophia Loren is the godmother to their ships, so the sense of style and class flows through!
Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert reviews cruising
MSC Preziosa.

Best cruise for luxury:

Silversea and Crystal cruises are luxury at its best.  If you seek the luxury yacht feel then the smaller Silversea ships with butler service and luxury surroundings are one of the best in luxury cruising. Alternatively if you want to try something different, Uniworld is the ultimate in river cruising. Like a floating boutique hotel, Uniworld offer a 5* all inclusive cruise, with fine dining and outstanding service. Celebrity Cruises offer luxury with a modern style and are not as expensive as Silversea or Uniworld. Their food and service is excellent and the overall feeling is quite relaxed.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on which cruise to choose
A suite on board Celebrity Reflection.

Best Cruise if you don’t want to fly:

Fred Olsen’s MS Boudicca will operate six sailings from Ireland in 2016 including a nine night spectacular trip to the Norwegian Fjords in July and a 14 night Rugged & Rural Canada cruise in September.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on which cruise to choose
Norwegian Fjords

 

Any other advice?

Select your stateroom wisely.

Look at the deck plans before you choose your cabin / stateroom. You may wish to be close to the swimming pool or away from the nightclub. If you don’t want to be awoken at 7 am with the sound of people going to breakfast, don’t select a stateroom beside the lift or stairs. Some ocean-view staterooms may have a view of life boats, they are usually called obstructed view rooms. Perhaps it is better to select a full seaview room or even a balcony cabin and watch the sunset beneath the horizon.

 

Check the dress code.

Some cruises have one formal night, others have two or three. If you don’t want to dress up, you can avoid these in most cases, by going to the buffet restaurant for dinner. Norwegian Cruise Line offer a freestyle cruise concept where it is casual and relaxed throughout. There are no set times for dinner and no dress code, so for clients that do not want to dress up this is ideal! Cunard and P&O Cruises are more strict on their formal nights and really encourage it for their guests. Cunard even offer masquerade balls, and the Royal Ascot Ball!
You can see from the list above how varied cruise ships are. Some offer dress codes, speciality dining options, some have non stop entertainment, others are quieter and more low key. This for me is why speaking to a dedicated specialist is so important before booking your cruise.

Click here for more details: or Call 01-5397713 – Open 7 days a week!

Sarah  

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My review of Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette

Walking along the real grass lawn on board Celebrity Silhouette, I had to do a reality check. Was I actually on board a cruise ship?

I knew Celebrity Cruises were one of the leaders in luxury cruising, and I did expect to see modern luxury, but a half acre grass lawn, an ice bar and private cabanas –  I did not expect. Every deck I explored was more lavish than the next, not in a gaudy way, more like a relaxed country club. The furnishings are bright with no heavy carpets or gilded mirrors. Instead there are crisp whites, natural fabrics and bright flooring. The ship felt fresh and airy and above all, bright. There even appeared to be more windows on Silhouette than an average cruise ship.

Every evening a schedule of daily activities is left in your cabin, so there are no noisy announcements throughout the day. Over 85% of the cabins onboard have balconies, so decks are never crowded. Many people will happily stay on their balcony, reading a book or admiring the view, so thankfully there is no need to rise early for a sun lounger. Speaking of which, loungers are extremely large with comfy cushions. There are numerous places to relax: tub chairs, cabanas and hammocks are strategically scattered throughout the ship, giving the overall feeling of pure relaxation.

Solarium on celebrity silhouette

It’s not all about the large open spaces, the interior is pretty special too. Wandering through the shopping area and seeing the Breitling and Bvlgari stores, not to mention the impressive art gallery, I wondered how much people actually spend onboard? Did people get swept away by the romance and purchase a $10,000 watch? I’d like to think so.

There is also an iLounge, which is a combination of an Apple store and an internet cafe. It sells Apple merchandise, the only one of its kind at sea. There is a massive fitness area with spectacular ocean views, the nicest place to work out I’ve ever seen. The spa next door is the perfect place to unwind after a day on shore.

spa on celebrity silhouette

I was really impressed with the wine tasting area. When you find the one you like, you can order it for dinner that evening. Prices were very reasonable, I spotted one of my favourites, Villa Antinori which was only $5 a glass. If wine is not your thing, you could always try a cocktail at the ice topped martini bar, it is very cool.  

The main restaurant was very impressive, in fact, I am sure there are many people who eat there every night. If however, you want to try different restaurants each night, there are over ten to choose from. Each speciality restaurant offers tastings on your first day, so you can sample their dishes. You can then choose to pre-book a table anytime during your cruise. We ate at the Tuscan Grille. The fillet steak and lobster pappardelle were first class, and I was told by a colleague that the tiramisu was ‘to die for’.  They also offer fine dining restaurants, Japanese, Pizzeria, you name it it’s onboard. Some are included in the price of your cruise, others have cover charges which range from $7.50 – $50, depending on the restaurant. Contrary to what some people think you don’t need to eat with the same people each night. Celebrity’s select dining means you can select a table for two and eat together at anytime, once you pre-book.

Tuscan Grille Restaurant on Celebrity Silhouette

The evening entertainment includes top west end shows in a theatre which caters for 1500 people. They offer two shows each night and like most of the activities onboard, they are free of charge. After the show you can enjoy a drink in one of the many bars, both indoor or outdoor, or try your luck in the casino. For any night owls there is a night club open until 4am.

Celebrity Silhouette. Interior feature photos. Silhouette Theater

Although their standard staterooms are some of the most spacious at sea, you can also opt to go for one of their suites – the ultimate in luxury cruising. Complete with 24/7 butler, premium drinks package and a choice of dining options, these really are a different class. The one of a kind reflection suite (on Celebrity reflection only) comes with a jaw dropping shower, cantilevered over the ships side, you have to see it to believe it.

If the suites are beyond your budget, you can opt for a standard stateroom and book an outdoor cabana for the day. These are $149 during sea days or $99 when in port. Situated on the top deck beside the grass lawn, they come with iPads and wifi access. When you are feeling peckish you can pick up the phone and call your waiter. Not only will he bring refreshments, you can even choose to have a themed picnic from one of the speciality restaurants. You have arrived!

Bathroom of reflection suite onboard Celebrity reflection

The Celebrity Silhouette is one of the Solstice class ships. There are five ships in this class; Eclipse, Equinox, Reflection, Silhouette and Solstice. Most of the features on Silhouette are similar across all the ships. They cruise to 7 continents, stop in 286 destinations in 78 countries. They offer many overnight stays in top cities, even during festival periods. Their prices are extremely good value with many early booking offers available. They have listened to what their customers want and offered just that – modern luxury.

 

Sarah

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