Ms Thomas Hardy

Reviewed by and sailed to: Andrew Mevissen, six-day, round-trip

Christmas market cruise from Budapest to Slovakia and Austria

Date: December 2019

Cruise line and ship: MS Thomas Hardy (named after famous British author) – one of a fleet of five-star ships operated by Riviera Travel River Cruises

Size of ship: 3600 GT, 4 decks

Passenger capacity: 169

Year built (refurbed): 2017

Currency onboard: Euros

Where the ship cruises: The Rhine, Moselle and Danube rivers

Most suited to: Riviera Travel River Cruises is a popular British cruise line and hence attracts English passengers as well as Americans but an increasing number of Australians are also being drawn aboard by competitive fares. Riviera is also popular with solo travellers, with every cruise offering a selection of supplement-free cabins. Plus, there are a range of cruises throughout the year exclusively for solo travellers, with every cabin free of any single supplement. Most passengers are over 55.

Embarkation/De-embarkation Process:In Budapest, Riviera offers a complimentary pick-up service from a centrally located Hotel. A cruise concierge greets passengers in the hotel before they are transferred to the ship. An impressive line of staff welcomes guests onboard the ship where another free bon voyage drink is offered. Baggage was delivered to cabins in minutes and the whole embarkation process was quick and seamless

Atmosphere: Thomas Hardy is a spacious, five-star ship but the atmosphere is elegantly casual and charmingly relaxed with a light-filled, marble-floored lobby greeting guests on arrival. There are rich hardwoods, gleaming brass and polished copper, sparkling glass and intricate wrought iron, all creating a harmonious ambience of understated elegance and all designed to make guests as relaxed as the flow of the Danube. With only 169 passengers onboard, the friendly and personable crew quickly remember your face and name and you get to know your fellow passengers quickly as well. There are no formal nights so the dress code throughout the cruise is smart casual although you can dress up a little if you like.

MS Thomas Hardy

Staterooms: All the staterooms are branded suites. Like most of the ship, our lovely 17sqm suite sported a French balcony – a panoramic, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door that, when opened, turns the room into an alfresco sunroom. All cabins enjoy a river view and it was joyfully mesmerising to lie on our big, comfy bed and watch the scenery float by, listening to the gentle, lapping water through our open glass door.

The marble bathroom boasted Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries and a great shower. The suite also offered a sitting area, ample space under the bed for luggage, flat-screen TV with a bridge camera channel, individually controlled airconditioning, phone, hairdryer, handy USB ports for phone charging, bathrobes/slippers and tea and coffee-making facilities including a small coffee pod machine – a nice and unusual touch. There’s an evening turn-down service too with chocolates on the pillows.

There are bigger suites with private balconies and the lower deck offers cabins with smaller, fixed windows just above the waterline. Some of these are available for sole occupancy on every cruise – with no supplement, subject to availability.

MS Thomas Hardy

Dining Options & Service: Flanked by panoramic windows, the main restaurant offered tables for two, four or six guests, beautifully laid out with crisp linen. Seating is anywhere, anytime, with dinner typically available from 6.30-8.30pm.

The cuisine is typically English but there’s enough on the menu to please all. The final night’s eight-course degustation dinner was a stand-out – a delectable and veritable feast featuring seared prawns, rillette of duck, winter bisque, pan-fried halibut and rum balls. As this was a Christmas market cruise, there were festive inclusions such as Christmas pie, mulled wine granita and Christmas baked Alaska.

Breakfast is a buffet or made to order with an extra early bird breakfast available in the lobby from 6am for early risers. There’s a second, smaller bistro at the rear of the ship offering alternative dining and it’s complimentary – with great vistas over the wake and back along the river. The Bistro is my tip for lunch, with deliciously hearty pasta and burger dishes. A buffet lunch is also available in the main restaurant. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge.

Drinks are not included in fares, which helps to reduce fares, especially for passengers who are not keen drinkers. An A$149 per person drinks package could be purchased for our five-night cruise which covered drinks with lunch and dinner- pretty good value at A$30 per person per day. Drinks from the bar outside lunch and dinner are extra but very reasonable. Service by all staff is efficient, proactive, warm and friendly. Gratuities are not included in fares either, which also helps to keep fares down so that passengers can tip what and who they like- a freedom Australians will appreciate.

Entertainment: A pianist plays in the lounge for pre and post-dinner drinks and there are regular talks by the cruise director about ports and excursions. A highlight was an Austrian string quartet that came aboard the ship while moored in Vienna to regale passengers with a moving concert featuring composers who loved Vienna, such as Mozart, Bach and Strauss. An in-cabin TV offered movies/programs and a small library nook featured books authored by the ship’s namesake, Thomas Hardy. Most of Riviera’s ships are named after famous British writers.

Onboard Activities: The observation lounge and bar, with its inviting leather armchairs and sumptuous sofas, was very popular although I think I was the only person to use the small exercise room! There was also a massage room and hairdresser onboard as well as a souvenir shop. The top sun deck featured plenty of deckchairs, a mini golf course and a small, plunge pool – an unusual but welcome inclusion on a European river ship. The pool is heated comfortably in summer but on our winter Christmas cruise it was toasty hot – an indulgent jacuzzi in which we could soak in the passing scenery, drink in hand. Many passengers had not thought to bring swimwear so pack it for a dip. There are also bikes onboard, free for passengers to use in port, which we did with glee!

Excursions: I was very impressed with the complimentary excursions offered during the cruise. In each port there was a free excursion which typically included a guided coach and walking tour for half a day or so, leaving the rest of the day to explore on your own – including the stunning Christmas markets of Bratislava, Vienna and Budapest. There were other optional tours available for purchase as well but we loved the free tours available as well as the complimentary transfers to and from the ship and to Christmas markets.

Favourite Experiences on the Ship: Our two favourite activities were time spent cruising the famed Danube by day – so relaxing, with epic castles and quaint villages passing by – and enjoying the ship-top plunge pool/jacuzzi at dawn as the town woke up and at night, under the stars, surrounded by the majestic splendours of Europe.

Families: A river cruise would suit teenage children who take an interest in the passing scenery and ports visited and able to entertain themselves on the ship.

Self-Service Laundry: No, but for a charge, staff will launder your clothes.

Uniqueness: Riviera Travel River Cruises likes to do river cruising a little differently, partly to make river cruising as affordable as possible. The tours may not be as long as those of other cruise lines, but they were very enjoyable and informative, leaving us time to explore on our own as well. There’s the flexibility of buying your own drinks package and tipping what you want and Riviera does not discount its already reasonable fares so everyone in the same cabin type has paid the same fare.

The fare structure is also very simple to understand. Riviera has gained a strong reputation also as a solo-friendly cruise line with a selection of supplement-free cabins available on every cruise (but book early for these) and a range of cruises every year exclusively for solo passengers with every cabin open to solo guests, free of any surcharge – and no need for sharing with other solo passengers. 

Bookings are only available via travel agents so to learn more about some great offers, contact Cruise Express today on 1300 766 537 or email info@cruiseexpress.com.au

Vasco de Gama

Reviewed by: Filippa Banfield 

Date: December 2019

Cruise line and ship: Cruise and Maritime Voyages – Vasco de Gama

Cruise name or itinerary: Cruise & Maritime East Coast Discovery (SYDto ADL) 

Size of ship: 55,877 GRT 

Passenger capacity: 1,220 pax 

Year built: 1993 

Year refurbished/revitalised: 2015 

Where the ship cruises: Worldwide 

Currency onboard: AUD for UK Southbound / Northbound plus Australian summer season 

Embarkation/disembarkation: On my arrival to White Bay, I was welcomed by friendly staff assisting me with my luggage, they put my bag tag on with the cabin number and asked me to go inside to the check-in counters. The cruise was not fully booked so the check-in process went very quick and smooth. I showed them my travel documents and they took an imprint of my credit card for onboard expenses and on we went. My bag was already waiting outside my cabin when I got onboard. 

Disembarkation in Adelaide was quick and problem-free. The night before, I got my bill delivered to my cabin for all onboard expenses which was all in order and that helped when getting off the next day. I had to get to the airport for my flight back to Sydney so I decided to take my bag off myself. 

Main features/highlights: Vasco da Gama is a beautiful ship offering an intimate and elegant style where you straight away feel like home. 

There are many cosy lounge areas to just relax, read a book, have a drink or catch up with friends or loved ones. One of my favorite areas would have to be the Blue Room with its luxurious blue velvet sitting area or the Dome Observatory on Deck 12 where you can choose to watch the world sail by or dance the night away. 

On sunny days enjoy the Oasis and pool area on the Navigators Deck, it really is stunning, relaxing and sophisticated. If the weather is not allowing you to do this, you can still swim, as on Deck 11, there is the retractable pool roof. 

Most suited to: The average age onboard is 60+. Families are welcome however there are no kids clubs or babysitting provided – so best to leave the littlies at home for this one. 

Atmosphere: The atmosphere onboard  is happy, friendly and relaxed. 

Encounters with service staff: We were very well looked after on our cruise. Our cabin steward cleaned our cabin twice daily and a high level of service was provided. 

When relaxing by the pool someone would always approach you within five minutes to take your drink order. Excellent and professional service in all dining rooms with very little waiting time. 

Staterooms: There is a wide choice of comfortable staterooms to choose from. Vasco da Gama has 120 balcony cabins and 29 spacious suites. 

I had a lovely ocean view cabin which was very spacious and offered a natural light from a large porthole. The stateroom had a queen bed that could be converted to two single beds, a sofa with a table and your private ensuite. My bathroom had a shower over the bath which can be tricky for some, so make sure you check this when making your booking. 

Dining options: There are three main Waterfront Restaurants

– Waterfront Restaurant to enjoy classic cuisine 

– Waterfront Mediterranean Restaurant offers Mediterranean classics in a modern surrounding 

– Waterfront Eurasia inspired menu serves up modern Pan-Asian cuisine with an air of eastern mystery. 

No set dining times. 

The Club Bistro is your buffet option open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Deck 11. You can also grab hot dogs, burgers or hot chips throughout the day from the Alfresco Grill on the Lido deck. 

Specialty dining options onboard are “The Chefs Table” and “The Grill” at an additional cost. 

Entertainment: The fabulous two-tiered show lounge “Hollywood’s” is very impressive and we were fortunate enough to enjoy some fantastic shows every night by the talented singers and dancers. 

The Ocean Bar offers classical music and The Blue Room has a piano and singer most days and nights. On some nights there was entertainment on the Lido deck and The Dome Observatory offers gameshows, cabarets and a disco at night. 

Activities: During the days at sea there are a lot of fun activities you can choose to participate in, or not, like any cruise holiday the choice is yours, but it’s always good to have options. Every night your cabin steward will deliver tomorrow’s agenda to you to make sure you don’t miss out on all the happenings of the following day. 

Usually, the day starts with a Fitness class in the gym which is included in your cruise fare. This cruise was an Australian Military History Cruise and every day offered interesting presentations from educated hosts with expertise in these areas. 

Bingo and quizzes seem to be a highlight for many onboard and family-friendly activities were always on the agenda. The Gym is open from early until late and has great equipment including machines and weights if you missed the morning class. There is also a jogging and walking track on Deck 12 or the promenade deck on Deck 6. 

If you feel like getting a little pampered, th Jade Wellness Centre is the place to visit. 

Family facilities: Essentially Cruise and Maritime Voyager ships are ‘child-free’, and although there are no dedicated children’s facilities they welcome guests of all ages onboard. 

Exclusions: Spa treatments, specialty dining, most beverages and gratuities. 

Self-service laundry: This can be found on Main Deck 5 and the Verandah Deck 9. The charge is $8 per wash and $3 per dry. Washing powder is included with the wash and tokens can be purchased at the ship reception desk. There is no charge for the use of an iron and ironing board. 

Insider tips: Don’t miss the Thermal Spa Suite hidden behind the gym. This was my absolute favourite place to rewind. There is a spa bath, steam room, sauna and the amazing thermal beds that heat your body lovely, relaxing you while watching the ocean sweep by. And the best thing, it’s included in your cruise fare!

 

Sea Princess

Reviewed by: Erica Ward

Date: October 2019

Cruise line and ship: Sea Princess

Passenger capacity: 2,000

Crew: 910

Passenger to Crew: 2.2:1  

Size of ship: 77,499

Year built:  1998

Year refurbished/revitalised:  Various and latest was 2017

Where the cruise line cruises:  South Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Circumnavigate Australia, Hawaii, World  

Currency onboard:  Australian based cruises are AUD, otherwise USD

Main features/highlights: Small ships like Sea Princess make for a more intimate experience. There are two adults only spaces onboard – one aft called The Oasis with a lovely pool and deck chairs and a bar, and The Sanctuary (a cover charge for The Sanctuary and only a splash pool). The midship Neptune’s pool where Movies Under the Stars is held has plenty of room and lots of deck chairs and the pool is large. Pizza, beer and burgers on a hot day would go down a treat here. 

Most suited to: Mature travellers. While there are family facilities onboard there is not a lot to entertain children. The itineraries Sea Princess cruises are longer so she generally does not get many youngsters. 

Atmosphere: Relaxed and stylish – more like the golden age of cruising. On longer cruises there are formal nights. 

Dining options: There is certainly a huge selection of dining options to chose from!

  • Rigoletto – Main Dining Room, Flexible Dining. Dinner
  • Traviata – Main Dining Room, Formal Dining. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Cafe Corniche – Italian. Lunch, Dinner
  • Riviera Grill – Burger Bar. Open from around 11am to 7pm. Situated outside the Horizon Court on the Lido Deck and serves a range of burgers (including vegetarian), hot dogs, kebabs and fries
  • Sundaes – Ice Cream Bar. Serves free ice cream during the day. Milkshakes incur a small charge
  • Horizon Court – Self Service Buffet. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Explores Bar – Additional charge coffee house serving specialty coffees and fresh warm cookies (complimentary)
  • 24-hour Room Service – Passengers can make use of the complimentary room service ($3 charge for pizza delivery) at any time of the day or night. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ultimate Balcony Dining – $32 per couple breakfast, $50 per head dinner. For passengers wishing to enjoy a romantic dining experience with breathtaking views from their own balcony
  • Chef’s Table – $95 per person. Dinner. The Chef’s Table experience provides the chance to tour the ship’s busy galley during dinner service, where the ship’s executive chef previews the evening’s menu with a selection of hors d’oeuvres and Champagne for guests to enjoy
  • Sterling Steakhouse – Seafood, Steak House. $20 per person. Dinner

Sea Princess

Bars: As with dining there is certainly no shortage of options here either, with a little something for everyone.

  • Crooner’s Bar – piano bar for the martini lovers
  • Riviera Bar – poolside
  • The Wheelhouse – nautical themed ol’ English Pub
  • Seaview Bar – adults-only pool
  • The Nook – whiskey bar
  • Legends Sports Bar – speaks for itself

Entertainment: The Princess Theatre is home to dazzling stage shows produced by the Oscar, Grammy and Tony award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz. The Vista Lounge has more relaxed audience participation shows like the Voice at Sea and trivia. A Monte Carlo Casino is on offer. Movies Under the Stars is a Princess original – poolside with free popcorn you can enjoy the latest releases, sporting events, concerts and more on the giant 27 metre screen with a 69,000 watt sound system.

Staterooms: Rooms have recently been refurbished and every one has the award-winning Princess Luxury Bed. The rooms are spacious with classic lines. Mini-Suites and Club Suites are the same with the Club Suites receiving all the upgraded amenities and services of priority embarkation and disembarkation, one-time complimentary wine setup, evening canapés, luxurious terry shawl bathrobes and exclusive Main Dining room seating with dedicated waitstaff and more. The aft suites are bigger with larger balconies.

Family facilities: Camp Discovery is an option for ages 3-17 and is split into 3 spaces.

  • Treehouse – ages 3-7
  • Lodge – ages 8-12
  • The Beach House  – for the teens

Inclusions:  All main meals, entertainment and some beverages. Gratuities included when departing from Australia.

Exclusions: Spa treatments, specialty dining, most beverages and gratuities.

Sea Princess

Self-service laundry: $2 per load for washing and for drying, and detergent is $1.25; ironing equipment is available without charge. Captain’s Circle Elite members receive complimentary laundry and professional cleaning services (regular, not express service). Located on Plaza Deck 5.

Insider tips: The aft suites are a lot more spacious with bigger balconies. Not a lot of children onboard so you don’t really need to pay the cost of using The Sanctuary. The oceanview staterooms are larger than the balcony (room size) as the balconies are formed by cutting into the hull.

Overview: A lovely older ship that harks back to the golden era of cruising. She is definitely not modern but has been well looked after with tasteful refurbishments. Small ship cruising without all of the bells and whistles.

Explorer Dream

Cruise Express’ Bec Barnes, recently spent time onboard Explorer Dream. This was Explorer Dream’s much-anticipated inaugural visit to Sydney. Below are Bec’s thoughts on this beautiful ship.

Reviewed by: Bec Barnes

Date: October 2019

Cruise line and ship: Dream CruisesExplorer Dream

Size of ship: 75,338 GRT

Passenger capacity: 1,856 pax

Year built: 1999

Year refurbished/revitalised: 2019

Where the ship cruises: Australia and New Zealand

Currency onboard: AUD

Embarkation/disembarkation: The team of four from Cruise Express received a very warm welcome from Dream Cruises. We were met at the terminal with a champagne reception and had a very smooth embarkation process onto the ship. We were boarding for lunch so only a driver’s license was required. This welcome reception at the port was given because it was her first arrival into Sydney Harbour.

Main features/highlights:  The Dream fleet features all the comforts of authentic Asian hospitality combined with the finest experiences from around the world. The Dream Cruises team state that they are Asian at heart and international in spirit.

Expect most of the usual shipboard facilities including a la carte and buffet dining, a number of specialty restaurants, several bars and lounges, the main show lounge, midship pool with waterslide, gym and shops. The Dream difference is the offer of The Palace – a ‘ship within a ship’ concept that includes private VIP facilities including an exclusive pool and deck space, lounge and restaurant. The Palace guests stay in luxurious suites with private butler service, all-inclusive drinks and complimentary access to all specialty restaurants.

Most suited to:  Families will love it, however there is also plenty on offer for couples and older travellers.

Encounters with service staff: Friendly staff, however some with limited English in the dining room.

Dining options:  We had a five-course lunch in the well-appointed Dream Dining Room including Australian Freshwater Crayfish, Saffron Risotto and Red Braised Wagyu Short Rib. Generally, food in the Dining Room is a Chinese/Western fusion style and possibly one of the best places on the ship. We also tasted canapes from Seafood Grill by Mark Best (good), Umi Uma (excellent) and Silk Road (good).

Seating up to 342 passengers, the Lido Grill is buffet-style restaurant located outdoors at the aft of the ship. With sensational outdoor undercover seating areas, the Lido Grill appears to have lots of international options as per other cruise line buffets and is included in the cost of your cruise.

Also worth visiting are the specialty restaurants (but not included in your cruise cost):
  • Seafood Grill by Mark Best – Deck 13
  • Hot Pot (authentic Chinese) – Deck 8
  • Umi Uma -Deck 8
  • Silk Road – Deck 7
  • Mozzarella Ristorante and Pizzeria – Deck 7 ( modern classic Italian)

There is also the Candy Kingdom for those with a sweet tooth.

Staterooms: 

  • Interior – from 12sqm – max occupancy 3
  • Oceanview – from 13 sqm – max occupancy 2-4
  • Balcony – from 18sqm – max occupancy 4. Queen bed, plus a small sofa beside the bed.

Entertainment: What we saw of the entertainment was excellent, first-class and very impressive.

Family facilities: There is a great kids club on Deck 12 called “Little Dreamers Club” with games, workshops, costume parties and even a DJ booth – for children up to 12 years. Esc Experience Lab – the latest in virtual reality technology and a games arcade for older kids (extra cost). Also The Zone is a multipurpose lounge featuring video game consoles and an air hockey table for older kids. There is also a substantial outdoor area for the kids with a large jumping castle and cubby house.

Activities: Fitness centre, kids club, evening shows, movies on deck, tour talks and port info, live music, video game challenges, sail away party, talent shows.

Sports and leisure: Jogging track, sportsplex, Caesar’s slide, Parthenon pool and boardwalk. A gym on deck 12 that is quite spacious and overlooks the outdoor pool area as well as views to the sea.

A spa and salon with a large selection of services , for example, you can have a facial from $156 for 75 minutes. There are also plenty of boutiques on Deck 7 and 8 mid-ship in the atrium area.

Inclusions: Dining – Dream dining room, Pavilion (Chinese cuisine), The Lido (buffet). Some entertainment and use of the gym.

Exclusions: Shore excursions, all specialty dining, some shows, some kids club activities, gelato bar, arcade, VR experience, spa, salon, Candy Kingdom and boutiques.

Self-service laundry: No, however you can do a special wash whilst cruising  – fill a bag for AU$20.

Celebrity Edge

Reviewed by: Clive Heath

Date: May 2019

Cruise line and ship: Celebrity Edge

Cruise name or itinerary: Reviewed on her Inaugural sailing from Southampton and first European cruise – to Rome, via Spain and Portugal

Passenger capacity: 2,918

Year built: 2018

Size of the ship: 130,818 gross tonnes

Where the ship cruises: Europe and the Caribbean

Currency onboard: USD

Main features/highlights: The ‘Magic Carpet’ – predominantly designed as a platform to expedite shore embarkation when in tender ports, this moving platform has multiple uses. When not in operation for its prime purpose, it becomes a sunset and sail away venue on either Deck 14 or Deck 5.

Passengers are not allowed on the platform when it moves from one deck to another so it can be a little annoying when you find a good spot to then be asked to leave for moving time.

Most suited to: For Australian clients, this is the much-loved Celebrity Solstice taken to a whole new level. It would suit all age groups with options for all. The mix on our cruise was considerable and shows the broad positioning for these luxury ships aiming for the affluent traveller who like large ships. 

Atmosphere: Following on Solstice’s sleek lines and non-cruise ship feel, this cutting edge ship is a luxury hotel coupled with diverse dining and entertainment areas.

Staterooms: As with all large ships there are numerous cabin grades on Celebrity Edge.

  • Inside cabins – more square than any of the ocean facing cabins these have exactly the same appointments, sleek bathrooms and amenities as outsides and balconies.
  • Oceanview (outside) cabins – Like Balcony grade cabins these tend to be long and thin stretching more into the width of the ship but with smaller exposure to the ocean than on other ships. All beautifully appointed.
  • Balcony cabins – Either in Balcony, Concierge or Aqua grade these cabins are the same in size differing only with the amenities offered in the cabin. There are limited traditional balconies with doors and external seating. Most balconies are ‘internal’ or ‘infinity’ with similar slide down windows used on river cruise vessels. These can be automatically closed by the bridge in bad weather. This adds floor space taken away by the narrow cabin. There are no curtains but automatic blinds that can be lowered as required to provide a blackout at night. The bathrooms have a large walk-in shower but no bath. Guests requiring a full bath will need to look at the Sky Suite grades upwards. The walk-in shower is the largest I have seen at sea.

  • Concierge – This grade offers some additional benefits such as a dedicated Concierge for bookings, afternoon canapés, fruit bowl and a bottle of sparkling wine one day of your cruise. Concierge services for shore tours and restaurant bookings are supposed to be exclusive but with only two desks and thousands in that grade, it is not always helpful.
  • Aqua – Aqua guests have access to the exclusive  ‘Blu’ dining room, offering more healthy food options. Additionally, Aqua guests have access to the Spa’s facilities. Other grades (excluding suites) pay $50 per person, per day for this access.
  • Sunset Verandah cabin – These are at the rear of the ship facing backward offering a larger balcony and have altogether more space.

  • Sky Suites – These entry-level suites have access to ‘The Retreat’ and are located only on Deck 15 (more on that later), they are a larger cabin but represents excellent value given the additional amenities offered.
  • Celebrity suite – This is the first traditionally ‘true’ suite with a separate bedroom from the entry and lounge area.
  • Edge suites – These are located on Decks on 14 & 15 and consist of a bedroom upstairs and a lounge downstairs with a private plunge pool on the balcony. These are superb for a private retreat experience and unique. My favourite pick!
  • Epic and Royal suites – The benefits of these are too numerous to describe. Suffice to say they are spacious and OTT!

Dining: Edge has numerous dining options which are skilfully managed by the app available for your iPhone and Android devices. Overall the quality in all the restaurants was of a high standard. Apart from your normal main dining option, you can book online any specialty dining venue by date and time reducing that run around for the best venues.

  • Main dining – there are four main venues. You will be assigned to one but can eat around if space permits. They are Normandie, Cyprus, Cosmopolitan and Tuscan.
  • Specialty restaurants (with a surcharge) – Eden (degustation), Fine Cut Steakhouse, Raw on 5 for seafood & the Rooftop Grill BBQ. Check the surcharge in advance as these can be up to USD$60 plus per person.

Other Activities/Offering:

  • Main pool and spa – The main pool is on Deck 14 with spa baths cantilevered over the pool area from Deck 15 presenting great spots for a sailing viewpoint. The pool has a bar (of course) and the Mast Grill – churning hamburgers and hotdogs at an impressive rate. Always hot, freshly cooked with great choice of salads.
  • Cabanas – On the port-side midship you’ll find private cabanas that can be hired by anybody by the day. Apart from a menu of elected dishes served to your cabana on request, they come with a bottle of champagne or vodka, towels, soft drink and a waiter.  They line the side of the pool area next to the ‘Magic Carpet’ when it resides as a bar on Deck 14 for sail away. Over the first 7 days of our cruise these were not occupied however come a ‘hot’ Caribbean or Mediterranean sailing I can see these being popular.
  • The Retreat – This area, towards the front of the ship, is reserved for Suite guests only and includes pools and the spa as well as exclusive Luminie dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Absolute Highlights: There is a lot to like about this ship but here are my main likes:

  • Artwork is everywhere, it’s priceless and deserves attention
  • The main atrium is the best at sea – just an amazing feel
  • Plug and adaptor box in every cabin aims to keep all your electronic devices charged and together. Alas mine looked like spaghetti junction in 5 minutes
  • Cabin appointments are the best at sea for this grade of ship
  • Food is always hot even room service – a first for me on any ship
  • Adequate bars and nooks and crannies to get away
  • Hidden gems like the sunset bar behind the hidden garden on deck 15 (don’t tell anybody)
  • Variety of main dining without supplement – 5 venues
  • Coffee! Amazing for an American ship they make good coffee!