Best Views at Sea – Captains reveal their top scenic spots!

With the best views from the bridge and a job that involves gazing out to sea (amongst many other things of course), ships’ captains are in a prime spot to take in the world’s most spectacular sights every time they sail into port.

In a bid to uncover the top panoramas from around the globe, Royal Caribbean International asked the captains who sail the fleet’s 23 ships to compile a list of destinations that take their breath away – no matter how often they see them. From the English Channel to Sydney Harbour, today they reveal the top 12 sights – and provide Cruise Critic with an exclusive snapshot of their own photos.

Read on to see these exclusive images!


The hills are alive…!

The author with Elisabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of Maria.

Elisabeth von Trapp strums the familiar opening bars on her guitar and counts us in. On three we break into a heartfelt — if not entirely pitch perfect — rendition of ‘Do-Re-Mi’, oblivious to the amused glances of fellow tourists. As more than 60 of us are virtually blocking the steps in Salzburg’s Mirabell Gardens, where the namesake scene in The Sound of Music was filmed, there’s little the fellow visitors can do but stop and stare until we reach the end — some reach for their cameras.

But, in the lyrics immortalised by Julie Andrews, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start… Read on to find out more.


When Sophie met Guy Harvey onboard Norwegian Escape

“It’s like being on the set of Star Wars,” exclaims Guy Harvey — the artist behind the artwork adorning the hull of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest addition, Norwegian Escape.

We’re stood on one of the ship’s upper decks in a vast hangar in Germany’s Meyer Werft shipyard where Harvey has been watching his huge design being transferred onto the ship. Coils of wires, piles of wooden planks and mounds of metal pipes litter the floor around us, while the whirr of heavy machinery is accompanied by the shouts of the 800 or so workmen beavering away to ensure the ship’s completion for its launch on October 27 – and you can be one of the first to see it (see below for a chance to get onboard!).

Read on to find out more.


Cruise Critic Live! All About Cunard

We’re very excited to announce we have lined up two senior Carnival execs – UK boss David Noyes and Cunard director Angus Struthers – for an exclusive Cruise Critic Live! chat tomorrow (Wednesday September 16) at 10.30 a.m. GMT.

The pair will be answering all your burning questions about Cunard and Carnival UK in an hour-and-a-half long chat.

Read on to find out more!


7 great reasons to visit Guernsey

St Peter Port

St Peter Port, the capital of Guernsey, seen from Castle Cornet

Guernsey – the second-biggest of the Channel Islands – is becoming an increasingly popular port of call for cruise ships.

And we’re not just talking about the ones you might expect to call in at a UK island (ie UK-based lines), but everyone from Celebrity Cruises to Silvsersea, Cunard, Tui Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises have made St. Peter Port a port of call this year.

The island is expecting a total of 110 ship visits this year, which will lead to an increase in passenger numbers by a fifth year on year to 130,000.

Part of this growth has been driven by a fictional account of a love affair in World War II – the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – which has fuelled the imagination of thousands of romantic Americans (the book was a massive success in the US; and there are now plans for a movie).

So what else is there to see on this tiny island measuring just 15 miles by six miles (at its widest point)?

We went there to find out. Read on to find out more.


Enjoying the spotlight – the sun shines on Cruise Critic contest winners during Celebrity Eclipse visit!

Cruise Critic contest winners and guests enjoying lunch in Tuscan Grille

Celebrity Cruises’ recently refurbished Celebrity Eclipse has won several Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice 2015 awards, including Best from the UK.

We recently ran a competition providing 14 of our lucky readers and their guest who had never cruised before, the opportunity to enjoy a ship tour onboard Celebrity Eclipse. Those lucky enough to win, and attend the visit have shared their pictures and thoughts about the day in our blog.

The ship

With the sun shining, and a cloudless sky, the day got off to a good start. But, most importantly, what were the guests’ first impressions of Eclipse?

One of our lucky winners, Steve, who had yet to experience Celebrity Eclipse, summed up his thoughts of the ship as being “magnificent in every way” and “stylish and sophisticated without being overdone.”

Impressed with the ship’s interiors, another winner Sarah commented on how the ship was “beautifully designed and very high quality”, while Jan first noticed how clean, modern and luxurious the ship appeared. Jan explained: “I have sailed on her before but my friend Janet hadn’t and was amazed at how elegant she is!  I haven’t seen Eclipse since her makeover in May and my first impression was one of a much lighter airier ship.”

Just back from Celebrity Eclipse – Find out what’s new onboard.

During the tour guests were taken to view cabins, and Peter described the accommodation as being “great and very compact”.

Tija, who attended with mother-in-law Karen, and hadn’t yet cruised commented on how ship felt like a 5* hotel from the moment she got onboard “with every member of staff smiling and greeting us. Interior was first class and looked modern and stylish with a wow factor.”

Sarah liked the ship overall, but said it felt “showy and very large, although this is not a criticism, however I did think the pool area was crammed with beds.”

Elaine said: “I was very impressed. I have been on a cruise ship before but this was even better. It was great to look around the cabins. The facilities, the gym, the spa and pools were excellent.”

The service and food

We can try them all?! Wine tasting in Cellar Masters

Following the tour of the ship, guests enjoyed a wine tasting followed by a four-course meal in speciality restaurant Tuscan Grille, an Italian steakhouse. The feedback on the service and food was positive for most, and Jan couldn’t get over how nice the staff were – “right down to the cloakroom attendant.”

Sue enjoyed the wine tasting and described the food as “excellent,” while Sarah B enjoyed the “gorgeous meal, which was truly superb.”

Margaret commented on the “amazing” food and how “Celebrity really know how to look after their guests.” Steve concurred: “In the Tuscan grill, I dropped my knife below the table, I had barely reached down for it when the head-waiter noticed, and was immediately there with a replacement, I was impressed with that attention to customer service.

Room for dessert? Yum… Pistachio Creme Brulee


“The boat was amazing, and so completely ‘me’.  Sarah and I had a great time, and it was really useful to see the boat ‘live’, and to get a feel for the lounges, bars, relaxation areas, outdoor areas, and obviously experience the different standards of room, and the faultless dining,” said Diana.


Overall impressions – would they recommend it?

Tija initially started the day with scepticism, and assumed that while the ship would be nice, a cruise wouldn’t suit her due to being in her early thirties, and therefore not something she’d consider in the next 20 years. However, she explained: “Coming off the ship I changed my opinion completely. I was pleasantly surprised that everything is up to a very high standard and spacious –even cabins. Restaurants and bars were Michelin star-like. Everything on this ship was designed for traveller’s comfort. The only thing you have to do is relax and enjoy the experience.”

Jan who has sailed on Celebrity Eclipse before successfully convinced friend Janet why she loves it so much, and commented: “I am sailing on Eclipse in January for four weeks and was wowed all over again by how lovely she is and how helpful the staff were when queried about arrangements.  Janet is now hoping to join us with her partner – fingers crossed!”

Fiona’s overall impressions were that “the food was excellent, the ship was spotless and the staff very helpful and polite.  The wine tasting was also a great experience and very informative.  The only point I would make is that my guest would probably be a solo traveller so it would have been nice to have been shown an inside cabin as well. There is a good chance I may sail on Celebrity Eclipse and I have shared my photos and tales of the day with a colleague who is also keen.”

One of the most important considerations for Sarah is the kids club, and while she wasn’t sure this was quite right for her requirements, she explained: “I would definitely recommend it to others. It would suit my sister down to the ground, for example.”

“I would not hesitate to recommend celebrity to everyone. So many friends have asked me about it and are looking to book one up themselves,” concluded Margaret.

• To view further images of Celebrity’s ships, including Eclipse, please view our gallery.


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September 2015 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper: Cruising the Danube River Gorge

September Cruise Calendar

Get your September 2015 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper! So many places in the world can be accessed through cruising, including some countries that you might not consider as a typical vacation. Case in point? The Danube River, between Serbia and Romania. River ships here float by some stunning scenery, including the Danube River Gorge pictured here (For more, read Cruising Eastern Europe on the Danube River).

Here’s how to put this photo on your computer, tablet or cell phone:

1. Click on the following links to get the size that you want. Each link will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper, in the appropriate format for your screen size.

2. For the desktop versions, right-click on the image, and choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something similar. The wording depends on your browser. Mac users should ctrl-click and save the photo on their computer in the “Pictures” folder.

3. If the image does not fit your desktop background neatly, you may have to go to your preference panel (on a Mac: System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop; on Windows: Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose”Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.

4. For phone and tablet, open the link and center the photo on your phone so it fills the screen. Take a photo and save it on your device. Then go to your Settings and find your Wallpaper (on an iPhone, this is under “Wallpapers & Brightness.” Set the saved calendar photo as your wallpaper.

2560 x 1440 | 1200 x 800 | Tablet | Mobile

Check back on September 30 for the October 2015 calendar.


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Just back from: Regent Seven Seas Mariner

I was onboard Seven Seas Mariner for a cruise that took us from Lisbon, Portugal, through southern Spain, southern France and northern Italy, before we disembarked in Civitavecchia (Rome). The itinerary, which Regent Seven Seas calls “Celestial Sojourn,” is a pretty typical one for the cruise line, which specializes in luxury experiences in small ports.

Check out my impressions from my first Regent Seven Seas cruise.

Regent cabin

Cabins. Talk about space! Even the smallest cabins (Regent calls all of its cabins “suites”) are large by industry standards, at 252 square feet with a 49-square-foot balcony. So you have plenty of room to spread out without getting in the way of your travelling companion. All cabins include spacious walk-in closets, with more than enough room for hanging anything you packed, and then some.


Cruise cabin bathtub

Bathtubs and L’Occitane. After a long day exploring ports, I love a good soak. Every one of Seven Seas Mariner’s cabins includes bathtubs — the kind of tubs that are really deep (though a little on the short side). It’s the extra touch that really got me, though: an Effervescent Revitalizing Sugar Cube, by L’Occitane. This fizzy cube smells like mint and pine, and bumps up the bathing experience. Plus, they’re replenished every day, so you could soak daily, if you were so inclined. (I might be so inclined.)

The Pool Deck. While Mariner accommodates 700 passengers, the pool deck never feels crowded. That’s because crew continually make sweeps of the deck to remove used towels and ensure open loungers are ready for the next sun seeker. All loungers are covered with thick pads, and sunbeds are available (and popular!). Crewmembers hand out cold towels, which are a refreshing relief on a hot day, and they are quick to provide drinks, which are included in the cruise fare (except some premium selections). The best part might be the genuine teak deck, which is becoming rarer in the cruise industry — it doesn’t scorch your feet the way painted steel can on a hot day. The biggest problem with the pool deck is it closes down early many nights (sometimes by 6 p.m.); that means fewer evening dips or hot-tub visits.

Regent bike tour

Excursions. Part of the draw of a line like Regent Seven Seas is the cruises include virtually everything, including a fantastic selection of port excursions. Some lean toward more casual coach tours, while others offer more active pursuits. The bike city tour in Malaga was fun and informative without being particularly strenuous; it appealed to the more active passengers on our sailing, who easily kept pace with the guide. Other common included options are wine tastings, city walks, beach days and boat tours. Excursions for an extra fee are also offered and generally are longer in duration and include meals.

The Block Party. Regent Seven Seas is legendary for its block party, essentially a way to get people out of their cabins to meet their neighbors. The captain and cruise director go from deck to deck to say hello, and share cocktails with new friends.

I’m a bit of an introvert, so the thought of forced socialization doesn’t really appeal to me. And then there’s the announcement, which was made in-cabin and followed by music; it’s impossible to turn it off — or even down. Still, it was a relatively short affair, and some passengers loved the opportunity to chat with one another. Which is actually something great about a Regent Seven Seas cruise: The ships are small, and passengers naturally become fast friends via shared meals and excursions.

–Colleen McDaniel

Read what our members have to say about Regent Seven Seas Mariner.

Read our professional review of Regent Seven Seas Mariner.



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Cruise Tip of the Week: Cruising with Kids

Family cruise

Tip: Cruising with little ones? Sign them up for the youth clubs on the first day. Most ships, especially newer ones, have dedicated areas for various age groups. Kids can enjoy games, activities and more with experienced counselors — and it’s better to reserve your spot early, even though there’s no requirement to attend. Find out which cruise lines are the best for families.

Full Article: Read more dos and don’ts for your first day onboard.

Want More? Check out our related links below for more info, tips and advice.

15 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Embarkation Day

What to Expect on a Cruise: First Day Onboard

Have you just been on a cruise? Share your cruise experience with us.

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Member Review: A Cruise of Baltic Brilliance


The member review of the week comes courtesy of matthewbaty, After several years bringing up young children, with both him and his partner working busy jobs, matthewbaty decided to take his family aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance Of The Seas for their first proper holiday — a twelve night cruise from Harwich across the Baltic sea. The family found it to be an impressive experience filled with fascinating history and excellent service, as you can read in the full review.

Read on to find out more.