27/03/2015

Live From Onboard: Avalon Tapestry II

Avalon Waterways' Tapestry II in Paris

This week I’ve joined the christening cruise of Avalon Waterways’ new Avalon Tapestry II, before it starts regular sailings from Paris to Normandy and across France (north to south). The naming ceremony, held on the banks of the Seine River in the beautiful village of Les Andelys, was cold and rainy but the ship is looking good.

Here are five things I like about Avalon Tapestry II.

What are the five best things about an Avalon cruise? Read on.

26/03/2015

Does Britannia rule the waves?

Starburst! (photo courtesy Haydon)

Britain’s newest, biggest ship, Britannia, has created a wave of excitement for British cruisers, and Cruise Critic has been lucky enough to get onboard the ship several times to get a closer look at the beautiful behemoth.

One of those trips — from a competition we held with P&O Cruises — gave five of our lucky readers (and a guest) the opportunity to take a ship tour on Britannia before her maiden voyage and those who joined us have shared their pictures and thoughts about Britannia in our blog.

Take a look at what our winners thought

24/03/2015

Britannia: Hits & Misses

P&O Cruises' brand new ship Britannia

P&O Cruises’ brand new ship Britannia

It’s rare to get on a new ship and not find a few faults, or perhaps a better way of putting it would be, “to find a few areas that need tweaking.”

Well I’ve got to be honest, I’m struggling to find any on P&O Cruises’ Britannia’s maiden voyage, which I joined half way through in Monte Carlo.

I spent the night onboard before the naming, and I also got a sneak peek when the ship first arrived in Southampton, but there is nothing like being on an actual cruise to really get a feel for a ship, its rhythms, its flows, its quirks and its special places.

We’ve long been told that Britannia takes the most popular features on the rest of the fleet and redefines them in a modern setting.

But what does that actually mean – and more importantly – does it work?

Read on to find out more.

24/03/2015

Member review of the week: Western Caribbean Cruise

thomson cruises' thomson dream

Thomson Cruises’ Thomson Dream

This week we see what happens when two first time cruisers and two experienced passengers influence each others’ holidays – and the review that came from it!

Read on to find out more.

23/03/2015

Where in the world is Cruise Critic?

Children on a cobblestone road in Cuba (merc67/Shutterstock)

Ship: Cuba Cruise’s Celestyal (Louis) Cristal.

Where: Cuba (Havana, Santiago, Holguin, Cienfuegos & Trinidad) and a stop in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Who: Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor.

Why There? Canada-based Cuba Cruise is the first cruise line to allow Americans to visit Cuba through a partnership with several non-profit organisations, such as the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. I’ll be traveling on a people-to-people license, which stresses culturally-oriented shore excursions and meet-ups with Cubans (although I’m sure there will be time for a mojito or two).

We Can’t Wait: Long off limits to regular American tourists, Cuba has a mystique that sets it apart from the rest of the Caribbean. Even though the rest of the world has been able to visit, I’m looking forward to seeing the classic 1950s cars of Havana, listening to Cuban music and exploring the countryside.

Cookery Club on Britannia (P&O Cruises)

Ship: P&O Cruises Britannia.

Where: Mediterranean (Monte Carlo, Civitavecchia for Rome, Ajaccio (Corsica), Cartagena (Spain), Cadiz (Spain).

Who: Adam Coulter, UK Editor.

Why There? We’ll be checking out P&O Cruises’ new flagship – Britannia, which is currently on its maiden cruise, after being named by none other than HM The Queen.

We Can’t Wait: To sample the delights of Britannia’s gastronomic restaurant, Epicurean; Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu restaurant and sample a few of wine guru Olly Smith’s chosen wines in The Glass House. Not to mention trying to create my own half-decent cuisine at the first ever Cookery Club at sea! We’ll also be wine tasting in Ajaccio and exploring the Roman ruins of Cartagena.

Suite on Avalon Tapestry II (Avalon Waterways)

Ship: Avalon Waterways’ Avalon Tapestry II.

Where: France.

Who: Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor.

Why There? For the christening of this new ship before its first season of river cruises from Paris to Normandy in the north and Côte d’Azur in the south.

We Can’t Wait: To lie on our bed and watch the passing views, indulge in French food and wine, and visit historic sites such as the D-Day landing beaches, Rouen, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, and Napoleon and Josephine’s Château de Malmaison.

Restaurant on AmaSonata (AmaWaterways)

Ship: AmaWaterways’ AmaSonata.

Where: We’ll be sailing from Amsterdam on a quick trip through northern Holland.

Who: Jamey Bergman, Production Editor.

Why There? Kristin Karst, the co-owner of AmaWaterways, is holding an ‘AmaZing Showcase,’ and will be talking about the soon-to-launch ships, AmaSerena, AmaVista, and AmaDara as well as literally where the line will be going in 2016 and 2017.

We Can’t Wait: I haven’t personally been onboard an AmaWaterways ship before, and I’m excited to get to see one of AmaWateways’ newest. I’m even more excited to learn about what’s next for the line.

Where is Cruise Critic

Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations.

(Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)

 

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20/03/2015

Hot on the Forums: Lift or stairs?

ship stairs

I was interested to see that a piece on lift etiquette was up there with other hot topics on Cruise Critic’s annual review of the most popular stories and blogs of 2014. On one of my first cruises, I quickly realized that taking the elevator from point A to point B was not exactly smooth sailing.

First, the lift stopped at each and every deck. Some passengers held the door while having lengthy discussions on whether or not this was where they wanted to get out. Add in the pushing and shoving after shore excursions, and I decided only to take the lift when absolutely necessary (high heels for a formal evening).

The article on lift manners attracted plenty of comments from Cruise Critic members. On the other side of the coin, there are lots of cruisers who always take the stairs and have never pushed an elevator button at sea.

Cruising climbers sound off

19/03/2015

Cruise Critic Members React to Tunis Attack

map of Tunisia

When world events impact the cruise industry, Cruise Critic members turn to our forums to share stories, provide first-hand accounts and connect with others who are as passionate about cruising as they are.

Here’s what our members have been saying about the tragic situation in Tunisia:

From Miller3000 whose parents are onboard MSC Splendida: MSC has confirmed 12 passengers on a shore excursion in Tunis were killed, and Miller3000 spent several anxious hours worrying about his parents before they were able to call to say they were safe.

"They came back from their excursion at 1 p.m. local time. The ship should leave the harbor at 4 p.m., there they said that there was an announcement that not all busses were back and they had to postpone the departure. When my parents went back to their cabin, they saw that some busses came back to the ship accompanied by police cars and one ambulance. They still didn’t know what was going on. They realised what has happened not until they switched on the TV in their cabin. Then they saw that we tried to call them several times and called me back. 

Two persons of the group they are travelling with made the excursion to the museum that was attacked yesterday. Seems that those two guys had a lot of luck and left the museum early enough before the attacks."

When several members expressed their concern for Miller3000 and his family, he said, "Yes, they are all ok. Shocked but ok. … Meanwhile there was some kind of a press conference where they told the passengers about the victims. The atmosphere is pretty depressed."

Expressions of worry and concern were widespread.. From Pan_Am_Girl on our Oceania forum, a line that has had Tunisia on its itineraries:  "These attacks were targeted against the tourists. Keep them in your prayers if they are alive. Can you even imagine how frightening it would be? You set out in good faith to enjoy the day. Life is short, and difficult enough. Why can’t there just be peace?"

On our Costa Cruises forums, 5waldos and hawkeyetlse discussed  a Spanish couple found hiding in the Bardo National Museum where the attacks took place. Official word has come that the passengers are safe and sound, as was their unborn child. The expectant couple were taken to the hospital immediately, and both the woman and her child are reported well.

-by Jamey Bergman

Related coverage:

Cruise Lines Cancel All Calls to Tunisia Following Terrorist Attack

17 Cruise Ship Passengers Confirmed Dead; More Missing

Cruise Ship Passengers in Tunisia During Terrorist Attack

Related links from our forums:

Tunisia Terrorist Attack

MSC Cruises Forum

Costa Cruises Forum

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18/03/2015

My maiden maiden voyage

Britannia sets sail from Southampton

 

I had always wondered what it would be like to be part of the first sailaway on the maiden voyage of a brand-new ship. Last Saturday, this became a reality as I joined P&O Cruises’s newest ship Britannia in Southampton, fresh from its royal naming ceremony last Tuesday.

The sense of excitement began long before I got to the port. “I feel part of history,” said my taxi driver proudly. “You’re following in the footsteps of the Queen.” Well, not exactly, but I checked in and headed up on deck for the grand departure.

Sailaway had all the hallmarks of being a damp squib in the beginning; we were held up by a giant container ship that had to leave port before us. Darkness was beginning to fall as 3,000 passengers gathered on deck, shivering but in good spirits, partly thanks to the glasses of fizz being handed out by circulating waiters. A marching band played on the quayside below, but 16 decks up, we couldn’t really hear and I began to wonder if there would be much of a sense of ceremony, but…

Read on to find out more.

17/03/2015

Member review of the week: How Cunard convinced me

QM2

This week’s Member Review is about the powers of Cunard converting an unsure cruiser on their trip to Singapore and Hong Kong.

From embarking with notably, “mixed feelings” about the holiday, member Cookston had a big change of heart: “My only regret was that I had not booked a longer stay,” he wrote.

Read on to find out more.

16/03/2015

Is Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas heading to China?

It’s no secret that the cruise industry is paying more and more attention to the Chinese market.

In just a few months, Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas will move from Cape Liberty to its new homeport, Shanghai. And now there’s some indication that the newest Quantum-class ship – Ovation of the Seas, which is still under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg – will also head to China when it debuts in 2016.

The tipoff comes from a marketing document released by the U.K. branch of an official Royal Caribbean travel agent. First reported by the Royal Caribbean blog, the document lists Royal Caribbean ships that will be in China in 2016, including Ovation of the Seas (other vessels include Legend of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas).

As Cruise Critic reported last year, China has become a tempting target for cruise lines wooing the country’s fast-growing middle class. These would-be cruisers are drawn to new ships – which is one argument for bringing Ovation to that market.

Royal Caribbean is not confirming the travel agent listing. “Regarding this page, it was an unfortunate mistake in posting this preliminary concept,” Royal Caribbean spokesman Harry Liu said in an email. “Our unannounced deployments are still being finalized and only then can we know the exact deployment of our fleet for the 2016-17 seasons.”

But already, Cruise Critic members have been speculating over the possibility on the Royal Caribbean message boards.

“Build 3 Quantum Class ships, commit 2 to China before the first one even begins sailing there?!” said Dave85. “That’s an awfully bold move by Royal Caribbean.”

Stay tuned…

What do you think about Ovation of the Seas possibly going to China? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

–by Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor

 

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