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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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Discovering TUI Discovery

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Until now, the tour operator Thomson  just happened to ‘do’ cruises under the Thomson Cruises brand. With the launch of TUI Discovery and the recent announcement to launch Discovery 2 next year, they are now (officially) a cruise line. So what makes Thomson cruises different from other cruise lines?

 

The first thing to point out is when booking a Thomson cruise, you are booking a ‘package’ holiday. This means that your holiday with Thomson starts at the airport. If your flight is delayed, they will either delay the launch time of the ship or make sure you get to the next port. They offer packages from Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Shannon, so no matter where you are living, you should be able to fly from your local airport. Transfers, baggage and tips are all included in the price. Unlike many of their competitors, there are no hidden extras.

Originally launched by Royal Caribbean as Splendour of the Seas, it is now cruising the Mediterranean as TUI Discovery. It can carry 1830 passengers, which is relatively small compared to some of the larger cruise ships, ( Harmony of the Seas can carry over 5700). But that has it’s advantages too. Smaller ships can be more personal, less daunting, easier to navigate and can fit into more ports, so less tendering is involved.

Tui Discovery

The biggest ‘game changer’ is that TUI Discovery will be fully all-inclusive from Summer 2017. This means that everyone on board will be treated equally. No need to wear horrible wristbands, and no need to check who is buying who drinks, and all that palaver. I must say that is a pet hate of mine with all-inclusive holidays. There is nothing worse that listening to guests argue with the bar staff because their ‘drinks package’ doesn’t include certain drinks. And that awful feeling that you are being watched to see that you are not ordering drinks for other non all-inclusive guests! Ordering a drink can be like the Spanish inquisition sometimes! No need for any of that with the TUI Discovery. Branded drinks are also included, which is a nice touch. Ok, so maybe not Hendricks gin or Grey Goose vodka but you get the idea.

Bar Eleven on TUI DIscovery
Bar Eleven

I was on board for the official launch recently, so although only an overnight stay, it was enough time to see all the highlights 🙂  The first thing I noticed was massive open air cinema screen. I originally thought this was a temporary structure for the launch party but then was told by crew that it is a permanent fixture. I thought how cool it would be to watch the latest movies while having an evening swim in the pool! You can get blankets, popcorn and even hot chocolate from the nearby pool bar!

TUI DISCOVERY
Cinema screen

Speaking of pools, there are two, an outdoor and indoor pool, as well as four relaxing whirlpools. Both swimming pools are surrounded by comfortable sun loungers and I got the impression there wouldn’t be any difficulty securing a place to sun bathe on sea days. I particularly liked the ‘Glass House’ where the large indoor pool is located.

The Glass House Indoor pool on TUI DIscovery
The Glass House

After chilling out beneath the glass roof you can pop over to the classy dining area and have lite bites or tapas, juices or smoothies, all included in the price of your cruise. If you really want to push the boat out 😉 you can use hot stones to cook your meat to perfection, a small charge of £9.95 applies for this.

The Glass House on TUI Discovery
The Glass House dining area

Adjacent to the indoor pool is the Oceans Spa and fully equipped gym. You can get twenty minute manicures, eyebrow threading and even get botox on board, as well as teeth whitening and acupuncture! If you really want to chillax you can hit the adult only pool deck. It is quite small but comes complete with luxury loungers and comfy pods. They even have a call button to order drinks so you don’t have to move! And because TUI Discovery will be all inclusive for Summer 2017 so you can order as many drinks as you like! Remember they also include all tips / gratuities so if you happen to spend the day pressing the call button – no need to worry 😉

Adult only area on TUI DIscovery
Adult only area

The all inclusive package also lets you dine in five of the seven dining venues. The two speciality restaurants, a Surf & Turf Steakhouse and an Asian restaurant carry a supplement of £19.95, which is not bad considering the standard of food and the restaurants contemporary styling. TUI have invested heavily into their restaurant offerings. The steakhouse features crockery from Villeroy & Boch. The steak knives are designed to minimise contact with meat so as not to impact the taste. Celebrity chef Ian Pengelley oversees the menu in the Asian restaurant.

Surf & Turf Steakhouse on TUI DIscovery
Surf & Turf Steakhouse

I loved that the main restaurant offers waiter service. Not one for buffets, I was impressed to be handed a menu at breakfast time. Freshly cooked omelettes, an English breakfast (with nice rashers and sausages!) can all be ordered from your table. They also have, what I can only assume, will be a very popular Snack shack, offering ‘festival food’, i.e hot dogs, goujons etc. It has funky beach hut type booths which are named after their favourite ports of call.

Snack Shack on TUI DIscovery
Snack Shack

The bars are pretty classy too. Bar Eleven is a cool cocktail bar with stunning ocean views. The Atrium bar, complete with a featured staircase is a relaxed prosecco themed bar. Incidentally, prosecco is included in the all inclusive package too – how cool is that!

Atrium on TUI Discovery
Atrium Bar

If you are looking for a lively venue, the Live Room ticks all boxes. As the name suggests, it hosts live music as well as late night parties and discos. It’s design is modern, yet retro and it really works. The small casino is integrated into this room. Whilst this is great for anyone who doesn’t want to miss out on the entertainment, it’s not so great if you want a quiet game of blackjack…

Live Room on TUI Discovery
Live Room

Discovery also offers a broadway show lounge. With a team of big names from the world of showbiz, the entertainment promises to be their best yet. The secondary show lounge will offer interactive game shows where the audience will be able to vote for the winner. Teenagers will love the ‘Hideout’, a room complete with a karaoke booth and a teen disco. Let’s not forget the Gamerzone, with free Xboxes and assorted games. Wifi is available on board and although it wasn’t the fastest,  it is affordable at £49 for a week. They also offer entertainment for younger kids including ‘ Splash Live’ an interactive live show for 6 – 10 year olds. ‘Break out & Escape’ is a novel, real life escape game where kids need to work together to find clues to escape before the time runs out, there is an additional charge of £20 per per person for this. A baby centre, kids clubs, a climbing wall and mini golf are all on board too, and are free of charge.

Kids Club on TUI Discovery
Kids Club

You won’t find the latest Kate Spade or Michael Kors shops on board, you won’t find waterparks or ice skating rinks, that ship has sailed! You will find an intimate ship with contemporary styling, that has made a smart decision to include quality dining, drinks and entertainment in the price of your cruise. I have no doubt that a new style of cruising has been discovered.

 

Interested in cruising ? Check out more news, reviews and cruise deals by clicking here. For bookings or enquiries contact your local ITAA travel agent or click here for more details.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

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