Princess Cruises Innovative Technology
The Ocean Medallion is a wearable device that is being used in place of the cruise card, on some of Princess’s ships, Ruby Princess being one of them to start, with a view to this innovative technology being rolled out on all of their ships.
It is approximately the size of a 10 cent piece and is worn in a number of accessories, including pendants, bracelets, sports bands and clips. This waterproof device is interactive for guests and staff alike.
The medallion is given to you at check-in, the same as a cruise card. You will need to download the MedallionClass App through your app store on your phone before sailing. Once downloaded, follow the instructions to create your Ocean Profile. The features on the app that I enjoyed the most was firstly the ease of access to my stateroom. The medallion recognises you as you approach your cabin and automatically opens your cabin door.
The WiFi connectivity called MedallionNet is reliable and incredibly fast, often better than land-like connectivity. Allows you to stream shows, movies and sport easily and anywhere on the ship. A bonus with this offering is that you can make voice and video calls too. A good thing with this also is that the bandwidth doesn’t vary depending on what plan you purchase, it’s all great. You can pre-purchase this package through your cruise personaliser or get it once onboard.
Another wonderful feature was being able to locate my friends on the ship. You are able to see their location on your phone and even message them through the app. I was also able to order a drink from my sunbed while lying around the pool. The waiter then brought the drink to me, very spoilt! Another great feature of the Medallion for staff is that they are able to recognise when you have left your cabin, making it easier for them to service your room. They can then be more efficient with their time and don’t have to constantly interrupt guests to see if they can make up your room.
The medallion is a great new concept to make customers onboard experience smoother sailing, pardon the pun. While I didn’t use all of its features, the ones I did were great!
Probably one of the most common questions our Travel Specialists are asked by those new to luxury cruising is, “but is it worth it”? With a globally booming luxury ocean cruise segment, it seems the answer to that is yes!
Naturally, budget is a major factor in being able to consider such a cruise, and at the end of the day it comes down to what you want out of a cruise holiday, where you are travelling to and with whom. Keep in mind that while these cruises are more expensive up front, there are no surprise out-of-pocket expenses at the end of the day, and its this all-inclusive nature of the luxury market that has increasingly come more attractive.
Depending on the cruise line, generally included are gratuities, a fitness centre, 24-hour room service, all drinks and meals (including specialty dining), your personal preference stocked mini-bar, unlimited Wi-Fi, shore tours, enrichment and entertainment options, even a butler who will unpack your bags and cater to your every whim. The only thing that won’t be covered is the high-shelf liquor, as well as spa and salon services. However, if you manage to book at the right time you may be entitled to shipboard credit that will cover these extras.
The onboard dining is also a luxurious experience with many cruise lines offering Michelin-inspired menus partnered with some of the world’s most prestigious chefs and gastronomic societies. These extraordinary culinary options are often accompanied by master sommeliers and connoisseur wine lists.
Luxury class ships generally offer all suite accommodation with the majority offering a private verandah. In-suite amenities usually include luxurious custom mattresses, premium cotton linens, pillow menus, walk-in wardrobes and your choice of bathroom products from brands such as Molton Brown, L’occitane and Bvlgari. Your hostess and waiters (often with a 2:3 passenger ratio) will offer personalised service knowing your name and your seating/drink preferences, amongst other things. There is a smaller number of passengers onboard compared with the mega-ships, offering more room to move freely and rarely a queue to be seen.
Increasingly, first-class luxury ships offer destination-rich itineraries, sailing to some of the most incredible places on our planet. Usually being more intimate ships, they can access more remote waterways in exotic destinations, stopping at more exclusive ports of call and giving passengers more quality time on-shore.
Booking a high-end cruise also entitles you to access exclusive shore excursions and activities. Some of these ships have zodiacs, kayaks and other aquatic toys all included in the price. These cruises are designed to be more educationally immersive with naturalists, historians, geologists and many more specialists at your disposal making it a perfect holiday for the young and old.
At the end of the day, cruise ships like all of us, have their own personalities, quirks and all, so what may be a wonderful ship for you may not be for the person next to you. Unlike any other cruise experience, choosing to sail away on a high-end luxury ship is the making for a most unforgettable holiday. Please talk with our Travel Specialists as they are equipped to explain the differences between the luxury cruise lines so you can pick the best ship and experience for you.
If the idea of a holiday that includes NO shopping, cooking, cleaning, sitting in traffic or scooting around to after-school activities sounds appealing then read on Mums (and Dads)!
For most of us, family getaways over the years have involved packing up the car for that trip up or down the coast, a few nights here and there, trips to the airport, stopovers and jetlag… what part of that is a ‘holiday’?
Instead imagine starting your well-deserved break only a few minutes down the road while still being able to travel to new destinations, enjoy delicious meals (that you didn’t make), have someone else make your bed and even clean the bathroom – every day! Yes, we are talking about a cruise holiday. Here are some points for you to consider when thinking about organising a local cruise:
Close to home: Once those bags are checked in at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay (or White Bay depending on which ship you are cruising on) you are officially ‘on holiday’. It’s that simple – all a little too exciting!
All inclusive: Experience twice daily cabin service, almost all day dining, 24/7 room service, entertainment around the ship day and night including live shows, a gymnasium, and many child-friendly activities – it’s all included. PLUS revel in spa treatments, high-end dining and local touring (at additional cost).
Kids Club: No surprises here! Kids Club is divided into age groups (from 3 years old) with age-appropriate activities, facilities and evening events. Some cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Cunard, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International offer baby ‘club’ (usually from 6 months) and evening babysitting services – usually for a nominal fee.
Fun for the kids (meaning life is easier for you): At the end of the day, you want the entire family to have a wonderful holiday. Many of the ships cruising to and from Sydney have water slides, rock climbing walls, wave-surfing pools and zip lines which are huge hits with older kids. On these child-friendly cruises, there will be lots of kids onboard so your troops can make friends easily. A word of warning, if you actually want to spend lots of time with your children then cruising may not be for you!
Holiday festivities: Yes there are more children onboard in school holidays (although you’d be surprised how many cruise outside these times) but if you are able to sail during peak holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the experience onboard is out of this world. For example, during the festive season ships are decked out with all the trimmings and you might spot the odd roaming group of carollers! Or perhaps you might take part in a ship-wide Egg Hunt during an Easter cruise. Remember the onboard staff are also celebrating and are far from home, family and friends so be extra nice to them.
Intergenerational: Cruising is a great holiday option for three generations of the one family as you can be as independent or together as you like. There are so many activities onboard that everyone will have something to do from bingo to enjoying cocktails at a fancy bar to simulated skydiving.
Room tips: If your children are small, sharing a four-person cabin with bunks is ideal but if they are older, you’ll be falling over each other. Many ships offer interconnecting cabins or you can opt for neighbouring cabins – next to each other – or an Oceanview or Balcony cabin and an Inside cabin directly opposite the hallway to save money.
Balcony safety: Some parents may worry about little ones falling off balconies – it’s actually not possible to ‘fall’ as they are high. It is hard to even access the balcony for littlies as your balcony door is so heavy. However, if your little monkeys are young (and love climbing), we still suggest a balcony cabin requires adult supervision at all times. An interior room with a virtual balcony or oceanview cabin with a window or porthole will be just as exciting for the kids and you won’t need to keep an eye on them as much.
While cruises are available year-round to and from Sydney, during our warmer months (Nov-Apr) more ships visit our shores giving even more options. We can help you choose which ship is best for your family and then secure the best cabin/s available.
There’s nothing to lose and a whole lot of R&R to gain – contact us so we can organise your cruise, anywhere, anytime!
When is the best time of year to travel to Antarctica?
We all know that wherever you journey in the world you will be impacted by the time of year. However, more than any destination, the time of year you travel to Antarctica will make a big difference. There is no perfect time to visit Antarctica – each and every day is inspiring and magical.
With the help of our expedition specialists’, we have highlighted what to expect during different months:
Early summer offers pristine conditions with more snow and the largest icescapes largely undisturbed from winter. It is still a very cold time of year however the polar ice has begun to break up. It’s important to know that some areas may still have limited access. The scenery is truly captivating, incomparable to any other time of year, yet the wildlife may not be quite as plentiful.
Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adélie penguins do come ashore to breed. Their courtship and nest building can be quite comical to watch. By the end of November, there are plentiful nests full of eggs. Other wildlife to enjoy include seabirds such as petrels, skuas and albatross. While there are no guarantees, the elusive Emperor penguin can sometimes be found during special icebreaker tours along the Weddell Sea.
At this time of year, South Georgia, known as the home of King penguins, is also the area where Elephant seals are courting and breeding.
This time of year offers the warmest days (as high as 5 deg C!). There is also a lot of sunlight (around 20 hours a day) so it’s also a great time for photography.
December and January are traditionally the most popular months to visit. There is the added bonus of plentiful penguin chicks beginning to hatch. With longer warmer days, this time of year is also great for more and longer land expeditions.
For history enthusiasts, the ice surrounding East Antarctica is breaking up enabling tours to the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott. While this is a spectacular time, travelling to Antarctica over Christmas and New Year’s are unfortunately the most expensive.
Now the temperature begins to drop again and while the land is more rocky and muddy, there is still a lot to enjoy. Penguin chicks have started to grow their adult coat and have begun to fledge. This can bring in predators such as Leopard seals which not ideal for the chicks but a spectacular sight for us.
Fur seals are more bountiful and their pups have become more independent, sometimes becoming quite playful with visitors. Much of the wildlife has retreated to the sea by this point. However these months are the peak time for sighting whales such as Humpbacks, Sperm and Orca which have returned south to feed.
The Sub-Antarctic islands such as South Georgia and the Falklands have a large and different array of flora and fauna. The islands can be just as spectacular if not more than Antarctica. Unfortunately, there is still no calm time for crossing the notoriously rough Drake Passage. Please read our blog on alternative suggestions on how to reach Antarctica if this concerns you.
Go on, what are you waiting for?
This ultimate bucket list destination has never been more accessible…
It wasn’t that long ago Antarctica was only accessible to explorers, researchers and scientists – fortunately, this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its spectacular rich wildlife, can now be reached by almost everyone.
An exhilarating trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most inhospitable and remotest of destinations can be achieved in several ways dependent on budget, tastes and other requirements. The options now available vary to suit intrepid explorers, to luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly. Alternatively you can just fly over the continent for several hours!
With so many options to choose from, there’s almost nothing stopping you… Outlined below are a few of our favourites:
Imagine immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on a smaller, more intimate expedition ship. One of the beauties of this style of cruising is that it allows you to get up close and personal when seeing the icebergs, glaciers, seals, penguins and whales.
Carrying between 50 and 200 passengers, expedition vessels are able to travel through smaller waterways, and their zodiacs are take passengers right onto the shore. As they have less passengers (and tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time) everyone will ultimately have more visits to ashore.
If you love cruising with all the bells and whistles of parties, shows, discos dancing, gambling and shopping, then expedition cruising may not be for you.
Expedition holidays are more about immersion and education, suiting travellers who are there to really get into the destination and prefer a challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that expedition ships vary from ex-Russian research vessels with shared accommodation and facilities. Current expedition ships are much more modern and luxurious!
The luxurious Ponant line ships, including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts who know about the destination. These experts are available to you throughout your journey and they include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.
Super-fit and ultra-adventurous? We suggest you look into the cruises offering kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides and camping!
CRUISE SHIP VOYAGES
Large cruise ships are generally more comfortable in rough seas (particularly the Drake Passage) and offer more facilities and activities onboard. Approximately ninety percent of cruise ships depart from the very southern ports of Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile.
One of the downsides of the larger ships (those with less than 500), is that because there are very strict guidelines limiting the number of people that are permitted to embark onshore at one time, the opportunities for you to land are ultimately limited.
The ‘over 500-passenger’ cruise ships are not permitted to land passengers at all, so the views can be appreciated from the ship decks only. This may suit some (probably not most), particularly those with mobility issues.
Although the length of cruise holidays can vary, they are usually between 10 days and three weeks, with longer voyages incorporating South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
FLY & SAIL
If you are time poor or suffer seasickness, the best way to see Antarctica would be to fly directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. By doing this you can save on the ‘lost’ days at sea and avoid notoriously arduous waterways. The best part is that you then get to enjoy sailing in the regions calmer waters.
Fly and sail is almost always a more expensive option, but it does cut out a lot of time and enables you to tick one off the bucket list in merely a week or so while still experiencing so much of the majestic landscape and wildlife.
The most popular departure option is from Punta Arenas in Chile, one of the southernmost cities in South America. From there it’s a mere three-hour flight to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Although this is a highly appealing way to visit Antarctica, we do suggest you keep in mind that flights to Antarctica are less frequent and less predictable than regular flights.
Chartered Qantas 747’s have been flying over Antarctica on day trips for over 20 years. The approximately 12-hour trip only operates in summer from either Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. As the warmer weather brings temperatures that start to break up the ice, it’s a great way to put the grand scale of Antarctica into perspective.
It’s an easy way to enjoy the scenery as the planes can descend to around 11,000ft and slow to 240 knots. With a glass of bubbles in hand, you also have the opportunity immerse yourself with onboard Antarctica education, documentaries, as well onboard environment and history experts.
From Australia, it’s a mere three and a half hours until you’ll see the first glimpses of ice sheets and icebergs. Up for something even more remarkable? Go for a 31 December departure from Melbourne to welcome in the near year!
For more information on booking the trip that bucket list dreams are made of, call the travel experts at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537 or email email@example.com.