Posted by: travellerlynne | December 3, 2015

AMA Serena – the ship

The AMA Serena is a beautiful ship. We were in a category AB on deck 2. This category has a french balcony and a regular balcony. We were only able to step out onto the balcony to take pictures as the weather just wasn’t agreeable to sitting out there.

We had very comfortable twin beds each with a nightstand beside it. Lights could be controlled from the nightstand. The cabin also had an easy chair and dresser/desk with a good size flat screen TV with free access to the internet. There were 2 closets, one for hanging and one with shelves and a safe. They were certainly large enough for two women.

The bathroom was lovely. It was marble and the shower had a glass door. Lots of room in the shower. This was the only place we found someone “strange”. There is a window from the bathroom to the main cabin. It has a diffused light so no one can see in, however there is a switch on the bathroom side that will remove the defuser so one can see into both rooms. We did inquire what the purpose of this was, but never did get a satisfactory answer.

The meals were excellent.   There is one dining room which will seat everyone at the same time.  The dining time starts at a specific time but not everyone shows up exactly on time.   Unlike ocean ships, there was never a line up for seating.   Because the number of passengers is relatively small, you definitely get to know everyone.

Breakfast and lunch do have buffet but there is always a menu if you prefer.  Eggs are always cooked fresh whether you prefer an omelet or poached eggs.

Wine, beer and pop are served at lunch and dinner without any additional charge. There is a different white and red served each day.

There is also one specialty restaurant called the Chef’s Table at the back of deck 3.   It has a total capacity of approximately 28 people.   There is no extra charge and it has a set menu that does not change.

At the front of the boat is the main Lounge.  Here they have entertainment, although not every night.  It has comfortable couches and chairs and a constantly running coffee/tea/hot chocolate machine.  There also set a light breakfast and lunch here and late night snacks.

On the open air deck there are plenty of chairs and tables along with a walking track.   There is also a pool (a couple of very hardy souls actually used it.)

There are always several choices for the included excursions.   They have a regular walking and easy walking to a variety of places.  The buses they use to transport to some of the areas are all new Mercedes-Benz buses.  Each group within an excursion did not have more than 20 people, usually less.   The Guides were outstanding.  They all spoke excellent English and knew the history of the various areas.  There were also bicycles available for those who preferred them and they came with a guide.

The Captain was an affable gentleman who invited anyone who wanted to to visit the “control room.”  When we did, he took the time to explain the running of the boat and answered all questions.

We sailed past a number of castles.  The cruise director spoke about each one as we passed by.

The crew was very friendly and helpful.   Always a smile and always an answer to any questions.

I would be pleased to answer any questions or, better yet, book your next cruise on one of the beautiful AMAWaterways ships.

Just a side note – AMA is now offering Canadian rates.

Posted by: travellerlynne | November 28, 2015

AMASerena – Nov. 2015

We left Toronto flying KLM (which I would recommend) on an overnight flight landing in Amsterdam early on the morning of November 16. We had decided not to pre-book transfers from the airport to the hotel, instead opting to either take the train or book a transfer when we arrived. We asked a train employee if there were stairs or an elevator we could use. She was very unhelpful as she said their were only stairs – not true. We did end up taking a transfer at a cost of 17 Euros each. That was acceptable but the train employees wasn’t as we did find out later there are elevators.

I had intended to book the Doubletree however it wasn’t available so we were staying at the Inntel Hotel, actually a short walk from the Centraal Station, which suited us. The hotel was nice. Clean, (most important) included WIFI, comfortable beds. We were on the third floor. They have a security feature I did like. You need to use your room card to get the elevator.

Our room was ready when we arrived which was very early. This was really good, as it meant we could check in, drop our luggage, freshen up a bit and start our walk about with breakfast.

There are many restaurants to choose from and most were just around the corner from where we were staying. We didn’t intend to eat in the breakfast room at the hotel as it is extremely expensive.  We settled on a small place where we had a “full English Breakfast”.   It was very good but coffee is not their strong suit, at least not the way I liked it.

After breakfast we started exploring.   This was my second time in Amsterdam so I had a idea of where I was going.   The streets are cobble stones, a little tough on my knee but we walked and checked out the buildings and site of Amsterdam for the next several hours.

Amsterdam is a city of canals, so many of them with a lot of bridges.  Traffic was interesting.  When you go off to the side streets where the canals are you are competing with the traffic as the streets are extremely narrow.  Of course there are hundreds and hundreds of bicycles where every your turn and the drivers will run you down if you aren’t careful.

We saw them fishing bikes out of the canals.   We were told they have to move retrieve them as there are thousands of them in the canals at at given time.  The bikes that are particularly around the train station where there are huge bike parking lots are older and not particularly good bikes as they disappear regularly.   It’s not unusual to go to retrieve a bike only to find it’s not there so they just take another.

I had pre-booked a tour of the Anne Frank house for early on the second day.   I won’t even try to describe my feelings as we toured this building where Anne Frank and her family as well as others spent their time locked away on two upper floors only reachable by very narrow stairs.  For anyone going to Amsterdam, this should be high on your bucket list.

There is a small Tulip Museum just down the road from there, across a bridge.   I was able to buy some certified tulip bulbs to bring home.   (Just to note – there is no problem bringing them into Canada as long as they are certified with a certificate on the package.)

What trip to Amsterdam is complete without a quick walk through the red light district.   I had been there once before, so new how the area works.

A couple of things before I move on the river cruise, Amsterdam does not doing early mornings.   It seems that nothing really starts before 8/9/10 AM and goes well into the evenings.   We were looking for breakfast around 7 AM and there wasn’t too much open.

Second, it seems everyone is pulling a carry-on size suitcase.   I’ve never seen anything like it, at least 7 of 10 were pulling one.

Third, we did not see any refugees/immigrants, either in Amsterdam or any of the other places we visited.   Once and only once, we were asked by a young fellow pulling a suitcase, if we knew where the homeless shelter was.   Because of his accent and look, I’ve assumed he may have been an immigrant.  I directed him to where I knew a Youth Hostel was and he went on his way.  That was all.

On Wednesday, we checked out of the hotel before 11.  (The one thing that did annoy me about the hotel, if you wanted a late check-out there was a charge of 50 Euro.)  We had already walked to the area of the Centraal Station and I knew from my previous rive cruise that the dock was almost directly behind the station.  We had decided to walk even with our luggage.  It took us about a half hour.

Part 2 will continue.

 

 

 

Posted by: travellerlynne | October 25, 2015

Upcoming Cruises/Vacations

I will be sailing on AMASerena in November. This is AMAWaterways newest boat.

I am not only looking forward to a vacation, I’m looking forward to reviewing the ship to better serve my clients.

In April 2016, I will be sailing a Transatlantic cruise on Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas. The Jewel is my favourite class of RCCL ship – Radiance Class. This is going to be a 15 night cruise from Fort Lauderdale with stops in the Canary Islands.

For any of the above, or any other vacation, contact me.

Posted by: travellerlynne | January 27, 2015

Wind Star – Dec. 12 – 20/14

With the weather being what it is right now, I think this is a good time for you to consider sailing on the Wind Star from Barbados. I sailed her in December and this is my review. Feel free to contact me to book your wonderful vacation sailing on her.

Windstar – Dec. 13/20/14 – Barbados/Barbados

I had never done a sailing ship before but had admired this one many times when sailing past it particularly near the Pitons in St. Lucia. I wasn’t disappointed. She is a beautiful ship. Passenger limit is 148 although our sailing only had 122 people with a crew of 100.

There are 2 decks with cabins. All cabins are exactly the same with 2 portholes. I believe there is one larger cabin only. The only difference is location on the ship.

The cabin had 2 portholes oceanview. We were on deck 2 which is the higher of the 2 passenger decks. The cabin itself was very spacious. Lots of storage room. Every nook and cranny is utilized with so much storage space we didn’t use it all. Suitcases fit nicely under the beds. There is a small table with seating which can be folded out if one chooses to eat in your cabin. There is a flat screened TV, DVD and Bose sound system.

The bathroom is extremely adequate. Although it’s one room it seems to be divided into three sections which give it more room. The shower was very good.

Going up to the next deck, there is the reception in the middle, a small shop and the computer/library/games room and in front of that a small casino. There is a large lounge with a bar and entertainment nightly. The entertainment when I was onboard were a couple of England. They sang well and were very good with the banter.
There are 2 dining areas. The restaurant to the back on this deck is very elegant and is used for dinners only. It is open seating and I did notice there were never line ups as passengers took their time arriving so that everything went very smoothly. The second, more casual dining for breakfast and lunch is on the top deck with both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating is also used at night for romantic dining (although it doesn’t have to be romantic – just really nice) and is called Candles.

At the forward end is the bridge where guests are welcome anytime. Due to new maritime laws, guests cannot go into the bridge while in port, but any other time the crew welcomes the guests to just walk in and they will answer any and all questions.

At the back is the open air deck. There is a small pool and hot tub here. There is a bar and a lot of loungers and tables. There never seemed to be anyone waiting or looking more than a minute or two for a lounger. Towels are right there so you can just help yourself.
One evening they brought a steel band onboard and had a bar-b-que on the open deck. There was so much food – it was phenomenal. They also do a bar-b-que on a private island that has a beautiful beach. The bar manager was on the beach showing how to make various drinks. It was a lovely day.

Each evening as the ship set sail, it played a song called 1492 (I have it if anyone wants to listen) and unfurled the sails. It brought almost everyone onto the deck each night. It was a wonderful way to do sail-a-way.

If you like to snorkel and dive this is definitely the ship for you. Every day it would have excursions for them. Except for Barbados, where we started and finished and St. Lucia, everything is tendered. One of the best things about the yacht is the fact it goes to small ports and you aren’t going to run into ships with 2, 3, 4, 5 thousand other people.
There is a watersports deck at the back of the ship, however it was not open during this cruise. We were told it wasn’t necessary because of where we were. They did issue snorkeling gear to anyone who wanted it and they moved all equipment to the beaches so they could be used from there.

I have to say, the crew on the Wind Star are the friendliest, nicest crew I’ve met on any ship and I’ve been on a lot. Within 2 minutes they know your name and maybe 5 more to know your likes. They will stop and chat anytime. The officers are absolutely hands down the friendliest officers I have ever met.

The quality of the food was great. The choices were excellent and the service impeccable.

The only thing I would point out strongly – this ship is not designed for handicapped individuals under any circumstances. There are no elevators and going anywhere requires climbing stairs. As most of the week is tendering it is impossible for someone with a walker or wheelchair to leave the ship. The regular boarding is a relatively narrow set of stairs alongside the ship and for someone in a wheelchair absolutely impossible.

Again, I highly recommend the Wind Star for anyone who would like something different, excellent food, water sports, and friendly crew.

Posted by: travellerlynne | January 18, 2015

Independance of the Seas – Nov. 30/14

Independence of the Seas – November 30/14 – 6 night Western
The Indie is a lovely ship and I would definitely recommend it, however it is no longer for me. I prefer the small Radiance class and will be returning to them.

I sailed solo in a Junior Suite. (The price was right). It was huge. The balcony had 2 loungers, 2 regular chairs and a table and still room to spare. There is a huge walk in closet and good size bathroom. The room itself has so much room I could easily see having at least 4 people fit comfortably.

I had a very good room steward. I traveled with 2 carry on size suitcases and someone managed to rip off the tags. Luckily he was good enough to hunt it up and when I came back from dinner the first night it was in my cabin.

Embarking is rather strange. The Indie was at pier 29, the farthest away from the entrance. I was there very early, not because I had intended but because my cab at the hotel showed up so quickly. The clerk at the desk had said it would be at least an hour so I was quite surprised when he was there within 2 minutes.

Following directions I was able to check in immediately. That took less than 10 minutes. I was then directed to the area for suites and upper tier members. As I sat there I watched the staff leave their stations with their computers one by one and go through a door that was being guarded. It seemed strange as there were no more than 500/600 people checked in at that point. About 45 minutes later we were called on to be led through that same door. It turns out we were not in the main check-in area and were being allowed to board before they opened the regular check-in. Kind of strange, but at least we didn’t have to wait outside the building.

The ship is in very good shape. The first time I was on her was when she first came over from England on her first year. The only thing I really didn’t like – the deck chairs are awful. That crappy plastic – a lot of them were actually broken and the half that weren’t looked dirty and well warn. They really should replace them. One has to remember to take at least 2 pool towels to cover them before sitting.
I was at a table for 6. I stayed at the table for 3 nights and then for reasons that had nothing to do with the cruise, I choose not to return to the dining room. But the food was very good although the service was extremely slow. Dinner at 6 and I wasn’t able to leave before 8/8:15. That is really too long.

I was in the Windjammer a number of times. The food wasn’t too bad and although it always appeared crowded, I never had an issue getting a table to myself. I guess just the sheer volume of people may have made it seem extra crowded.

I used the concierge lounge for continental breakfast every day. I just picked up what I wanted and took it back to my cabin since it was on the same deck. In the evenings I went to the Diamond lounge but as it was too crowded I just sat at the bar outside the lounge and used the pre-loaded drinks on my card.

I did report a smoker on the next balcony. There are still a lot of people who think the rules don’t apply to them.

I didn’t attend the shows so I can’t say anything about them.

Debarking was so very easy. Just as the week prior in Miami, I walked out of my cabin and never stopped until I was off the ship. I hope this is the ongoing trend for self-walk-off.

One other thing – I stayed at the Holiday Inn on 17th. I wouldn’t do that again. The room was nice but it was mid-afternoon before I could get in. They don’t have a pool, bar, restaurant or outside park type seating area. Not slightly worth the money I paid – $200.
From now on I will be staying in Plantation where the cost is much less, there was a lot of restaurants as well as easy shopping handy and their shuttle will take you back to the airport the next day.

To book your next cruise on this ship:

marilynfraser@cruiseshipcenters.com

Posted by: travellerlynne | January 11, 2015

Celebrity Reflection – Nov. 21/14

My first cruise alone since my DH passed away at the end of January. No matter which way I look at it, it was different.

This was my third time on the Reflection. I was in Aqua class. The cabin itself was the same as a regular balcony. The shower was the best part. With five jets lined up, the shower alone was worth the extra cost of an Aqua class.

Blu was beautiful with excellent food and service, but not suited for a single. The tables are set for two’s with only about 3 large tables and they are specific for large family/friend groups. Therefore, there is no one to really speak to. Tables are so close you can hear whatever is being said at the next table, but then I found people give you strange looks or start talking behind their hand. I have to say, I would never stay in Aqua again based on this alone. For some reason, I had thought Blu was child free – I was wrong. They were running around as much or more so, than in the main dining room.

First night I did eat at the Lawn Club as they were offering your choice of the speciality restaurants for 50% off. I made the reservation shortly after boarding, however they didn’t give them reduction info to the restaurant. I had to have them change the bill and they were quite confused by the request (to be kind.) Nevertheless, it was done and I paid half. The food was excellent and I quite enjoyed it all. I didn’t bother with the rest of the speciality restaurants although I enjoyed them the last two cruises and if the Lawn Club is any indication, I would still enjoy them.
I had lunch on boarding day at Bistro on Five. Still my favourite for lunch. It has gone up to $7 from $5 with no changes on the menu that I noticed. I would pay that again, but I think that is as much I would go.
I did not see any chair hogs!!! At 8 or 9 or 10 there were still seats around the pool and lots of chairs in the solarium. I soaked in the hotel tub early morning or late evening and never had any problems with room.
If I have any real complaint it was too many kids onboard. I had forgotten I was sailing during U.S. Thanksgiving, so I suppose that had a whole lot to do with it. I would prefer to sail with few or no kids but that is just me.

The Captain’s Club breakfast has been changed to menu rather than buffet – something I thought was an excellent idea. I’m not a big buffet person anyway and I did prefer the changes.

On the last sea day, I went to the main buffet. I quickly left. I couldn’t believe the pushy shovey people. Just too many rude oinkers to suit me. Instead I had a burger at the Mast Grill. I really don’t understand why people have to be so pushy because they are in a buffet. I honestly don’t think they are going to run out of food.

I enjoyed the entertainment they are now doing in the atrium but it does make it very crowded and rather annoying when you’re trying to get around.

I went to the shops, which run alongside the casino. I was shocked by the mess. They had a “Black Friday Thanksgiving Sale”. I have never seen such a disgusting mess with women yanking and pulling the bits of clothing in particular that are available for sale on a ship. Piles of stuff all over the place. I was looking for a luggage strap. I left quickly. I hate those types of crowds.

I would not sail American Thanksgiving again for all the above reasons, but I really do like Celebrity and will be back.

The ship is still in excellent shape and the crew have improved.

I would be happy to book your cruise on the Reflection or any other Celebrity ship. Email me at marilynfraser@cruiseshipcenters.com for more information.

Posted by: travellerlynne | October 14, 2012

Jewel of the Sea – Baltics – August 7-19/12

We were lucky enough to cruise on the Jewel of the Seas out of Harwich, England in August.  Our goal on this cruise was Russia.  All the other stops were just gravy on a long anticipated cruise.

We flew on Air Canada, which for a change wasn’t too bad.  I had used air miles for the flights but I did have to pay taxes.  Taxes from Toronto are ridiculously high.  Sometime as much as the flight itself and sometimes even more.  That’s why I generally prefer to fly from Buffalo.

I had booked a private transfer to drive us to Harwich.  I had met another couple from California online who were flying in within an hour of our flight so we hooked up for the transfer.  It made the cost much more reasonable.  There is a train from Liverpool Street that will take you directly to Harwich  and right along side the ship.  However, since this was the middle of the Olympics and I have a bad wrist, we decided not to try the train.  Any other time we are in England we always use the train for transport.

We arrived a day early as we always do, so I had booked us into a very nice bed and breakfast.  There were no hotel rooms available in Harwich so we stayed in a little town by the name of Clacton-on-Sea.  Since our room was on the second floor, we were able to leave our big suitcases on the main floor in the front room.  They were completely safe.  The room was small but very comfortable.

We were just a half block from the seashore so we took a walk.  The gardens along there are lovely.  You can see the town has been hit by the poor economy as there were a lot of places (hotels, stores etc.) closed and this was in the middle of summer.  It’s a very pretty and quaint place so I hope it gets back on its feet once the economy over there picks up.

When our friends arrived, we walked around the corner to get some dinner even though it was raining.  What’s a little rain when you’re on vacation.  We had fish and chips but it left something to be desired.  Breakfast at the B&B the next morning was fabulous!!!

We had ordered a cab to pick all four of us up in the morning.  While the mileage as the crow flies, isn’t far, it’s a roundabout way for a cab.  It took about 45 minutes.  Cost of the cab was pre-set at 35 pounds.  I’m afraid our driver got a little confused once we reached Harwich and had to ask for direction.  Not a problem though.  We got to drive through Harwich, which is a pretty little town.   We saw the hotel our transfer companions had stayed.  They told us later there was really no place to eat around there.  I think we go the better end of that deal.

Our arrival was well-timed,  Our luggage was taken directly from the cab so we only had our hand luggage.  We walked in, lined up, and within 5 minutes were heading into check-in. This had to be the easiest check in we’ve ever had.  We are Diamond plus therefore there was a separate check in behind a small wall.  It was done very quickly and we were told to head right on the ship.  We had been given a red card to show on the ramp up and that was our ticket to boarding immediately.  I noticed the enforced that rule as well.  Those that tried to board without the red card were turned back.  (And some were not particularly happy about that.)

Radiance class is probably my favourite class of ship.  There is a lot of glass which give a lot of light and space.  My favourite two spots – the Concierge Lounge and the  Solarium area.  I’m not big on the pool but I do enjoy the hot tub.

The Jewel has yet to receive its revitalization but it certainly didn’t show.  I felt the ship was in excellent condition.  The service and staff were excellent although the food in the dining room certainly left something to be desired.  We didn’t eat there too often choosing to either go to the Windjammer or Chops.  We also used room service on many mornings.  The weather was excellent almost the whole journey so we were able to have breakfast on our balcony.

The staterooms have ample space.  We had more closet and cupboard space than needed.  Our cases fitted nicely under the bed.

We visited the concierge lounge each evening for our pre-dinner drinks.  It was never too crowded, however it is a bit disappointing to see they now allow children during the cocktail hour.  Complaints from suite guests caused these changes.  C’est la vie.  At least there were very few children on this particular cruise that had access to the lounge.

Our main purpose of this cruise, besides enjoying the ship, was the two days in St. Petersburg.  However, we did enjoy all the countries we visited.  We visited, Sweden, Estonia, Denmark and Finland.  We didn’t do much by way of tours as we were saving our energy for Russia.  We did use either a hop on hop off bus or walked wherever we could.  If we were able to go again, we would spend more time at the various ports.

Our piece de resistance – St. Petersburg – prior to leaving I had booked us a semi-private two day tour with TJ Tours.  There were twelve people on the tour.  So glad we didn’t take a ships tour.  We saw so much more than they did.

Prior to leaving, TJ’s had sent us instructions on disembarking along with our tickets.  You cannot just get off a ship in Russia and wander around.  You must have a visa.  We were lucky in that TJ’s had a blanket visa that covered all of us.  To disembark we required our ticket, passport and a form we had to complete for the Russian authorities.  We were instructed not to talk to the immigration people, not even to smile at them.  They didn’t crack a smile – nothing – just banged the counter if you were fast enough (and I wasn’t because I accidentally dropped my passport.)

Our guide and driver were waiting on the other side.  We were taken to a 16 passenger very clean mini van.  From there we headed out for a long day of sight-seeing. We had a guide and a driver. The guide spoke excellent English. The driver not so much but that was OK as the guide was the only one who had to speak.

This is the itinerary I received: Other than some things were not necessarily in the order given, everything on this list was supplied as well as a stop at the Synagogue which I had requested.

The lunches supplied on each day were delicious and the little restaurants well worth visiting.

Two day “All St Petersburg Highlights” 2012.

You will have a great opportunity to visit all famous highlights of St Petersburg:

• An early entrance to the Hermitage
• A guided tour of Catherine palace with the Amber room
• A walk along Fountain Park in Petergof
• A guided tour of St Isaac’s cathedral
• A guided tour of Spilt Blood church

• A guided tour of Peter and Paul fortress
• A guided tour of Yusupov palace
• A boat trip along the rivers and canals,
• A hydrofoil back to the city from Petergof.

During this two day program you will get to know:
• The history of St Petersburg and its founder Peter the Great
• The Romanovs dynasty (facts and anecdotes)
• St Petersburg as the cultural capital of Russia and Soviet Union
• St Petersburg – city of 3 revolutions
• Soviet Regime: Lenin and Stalin
• Gorbachev: “the father” of the Perestroika
• Modern life in Russia and St Petersburg: housing, educational system, health care system, family life – don’t hesitate to ask any questions

During exciting touring days you will be offered two traditional Russian lunches in the local restaurants/cafes.

The tour covers the most of St Petersburg for a very reasonable price and it is limited to 16 people.
We organize this tour from most of the ships arriving at our city
(please contact us for more details)

The price of the tour is 300 US dollars per person

Note please, this tour is not suitable for any mobility restricted traveler.

All St.Petersburg Highlights tour

Day 1,
7.30-8am Meeting by the ship. City tour in St Petersburg
10:00-10.30am Travel to Petergof by hydrofoil
10.30-12.00pm guided tour of the Fountain Park and Upper gardens
12.00-1.00pm Traditional Russian lunch
1.00-2.00 pm Travel to Tsars’ Village
2.00-3:30pm Inside guided tour of Catherine Palace with the Amber Room
3.30-4.30pm-Driving back to the city. Visit to the subway station
4.30-5:00pm Inside guided tour of St Isaac cathedral
5.30-6.00 Inside guided tour of the Church on Spilt Blood
6.30pm Return to the ship or evening optional program
Day 2,
8am Meeting by the ship
8:30-9:30am Boat Ride along the rivers and canals with a glass of Champaign
9:45-12:00am Inside guided tour of the Hermitage Museum (Early entrance, before official opening hours)
12:30-1:15pm Traditional Russian lunch
1.30-2.30 pm Inside guided tour of St Peter and Paul fortress/Cathedral. Payment for the tour. Shopping
3.00-4.30pm Inside guided tour of Yusupov palace
5 pm Return to the ship

Price includes:
• Admission fees to all museums in the program as well as the cost of hydrofoil ride and a boat trip along rivers and canals
• services of a friendly, and a highly professional guide for 2 days
• Driver’s services for 2 days (Comfortable (Mercedes) mini van with A/C)
• Photo and video permissions at the museums (except Yusupov Palace, camera pass is 5$ p.p, video pass is 12$ per person)
• All port fees
• the cost of blanket visa,
• all local taxes
• Cost of traditional Russian lunches
• Bottled water for each day
• Ear phones sets for the group from 10 people

If you would like to have a private All Highlights tour, the cost of the tour is below:

Number of people in the group 2 4 6 8 10 12 – 16

Price per person in USD
( with included lunches) 650 450 370 345 310 300

Price per person in USD (without lunches included) 610 410 330 305 270 260

Please note:

• The tour includes two lunches that will be in a local cafes or restaurants. You will be served 3 course typical Russian menu.
Please let us know if you have any food restrictions

• If hydrofoil ride cancelled due to the unfavorable weather conditions it is not refunded: we use our van instead to get to/from Petergof

If anyone wants a contact email for TJ’s just let me know, I can’t emphasize enough how well our tour went and how much we enjoyed it.

*******Much more to come***********

Posted by: travellerlynne | August 31, 2012

Radiance of the Seas – Hawaii to Vancouver – April/May 2012

We flew Toronto – Honolulu where we stayed a few days prior to boarding the ship.  We had been to Hawaii a few years before therefore we decided that 3 days would be more than enough.  We stayed in the Waikiki area.  It is lovely and we did enjoy it, but if we were to go again we wouldn’t stay in Waikiki Beach again.  It is a very long street of very cosmopolitan stores – no different that New York, LA or any other big U.S. city.  And it is very expensive so be prepared.

I had booked a transfer service prior to leaving.  The were truly a disappointment.  They weren’t at the airport when we arrived.  I had to phone them.  They turned up about 20 minutes later.  We had a time agreement to pick us up at the hotel to take us to the ship.  After waiting a half hour, I finally called him (again).  After some humming and hawing he said he was sending someone else for us.  We waited another 10 minutes at which time I phoned him back and basically told him to stuff it – we would take a cab.  Certainly would never recommend this company –

We were not particularly happy with the hotel we stayed in – Pacific Beach, and wouldn’t recommend it.  I had to ask for a room change as they put us right behind an elevator which we heard all night long.  They moved us the next day after some discussion with a manager.  They charge to use the safe and there is a charge for the internet in the rooms.

A had bought a 3 day pass for one of the hop on hop off buses that circle the island.  It took us up to Diamond Head and the mouth of the crater.  The charge to get into th crater is $1 which is no problem at all.

We were using this advance time to adjust before boarding the Radiance so we primarily wandered the beach and main streets.

The cab dropped us off at the port about 11:30.  There was quite a line-up.  The way they handle the baggage was very different from any other port we’ve been to.  You handle your own luggage as you snake along the line until you come to the small room where you throw it on the conveyor belt to the ship yourself.  The porters only help you if they see you struggling.  As I said, very different.

However, once we boarded everything was OK.  We had lunch in the Windjammer and were able to get into our cabins earlier than expected.  We took a look at the new additions on the Radiance.  One side of the Windjammer secondary area has been turned into Izumi’s and the other side into Rosa’s Cantina.  Portofino’s has been replaced by Giovanni’s.  I must admit I preferred Portofino’s.

Chop’s is still Chop’s and we still love it.  We ate there 4 nights.  If it hadn’t cost $30 each, we would have eaten there more.

I had bought the dining package prior to leaving home.  That gave us Izumi’s, Giovanni’s, Chops and Samba’s Grill.  We also had our D+ coupon which gave us a BOGO coupon to be used the first night.  We used it in Chops of course.  We had also booked into the Mystery Dinner (which I’m told is no longer being offered.)  It was held in Giovanni’s.  It was hilarious.  The meal was delicious and the acting troupe were – well hilarious.

They have added the Park Cafe where you are able to have fresh salads made to order.  This has been set up inside the Solarium. Not as nice as on the Allure but OK.

The Boardwalk Dog House was a disappointment.  It has been set up just outside the Windjammer and we were never able to get a “HOT” hot dog.  We only ate in the Main Dining room twice for dinner and once for lunch.  It was OK but we found the food in the Windjammer better.  I must say, that has never happened before.

We visited the islands enjoying them immensely.  If we were to go back to Hawaii we would definitely stay on one of the islands rather than Honolulu.

Our cabin had plenty of room.  We after we had unpacked, we still had a lot of space to store more had we have had anymore than we did.

The Solarium is our favourite spot for soaking in the hot tub.  I’m not big on the pool but my DH enjoys it.

The weather held up fairly well as we were sailing back to Vancouver.  Everything went fine until we hit rain.  With the changes made to the ship, the Seaview Cafe has been renovated and made larger.  It is now Samba’s Grill.  As I found out very painfully, some of the changes they have made are not good for the cruiser on a rainy evening.  We had reservations.  We had to go up the elevator and across the very wet deck.  When we entered, the waiter greeted me with a wrap, which was very helpful since I was cold by then.

We started dinner and it was delicious – at least as much as I had.  To use the facilities, one has to go outside into the rain and across the slippery deck past the children’s play area.  Too far when having to go outside – way too far.

On my return, I walked back into the restaurant, took a few steps on the carpet only to step with wet and slippery shoes onto the only square of tile in that restaurant.  I went done like a rock. Before I go on, I want to point out that when they made the changes and expanded this restaurant, they took out a staircase right outside the door that could be used to go down to the Windjammer.  That would have been much safer than having to walk across the wet deck.

I was “lucky” in that there were three first responder sfrom Winnipeg – two |EMS and one fireman, in the restaurant that evening and they were at my side in seconds.  They were very helpful is ordering ice for my wrist and checking me out.  They didn’t think my wrist was broken, but it was.

The medical staff was very quick to respond.  I was taken to the medical facilities where I met one of the two doctors onboard.  She was extremely kind and very competent.  She ordered x-rays immediately.  They showed a break and some other damage.  Because of the swelling, she couldn’t set it that night.  She gave me meds and said to come back the next morning so she could set it.  Without going into piles of details, we returned the next morning, she put me out and set my wrist.

I have to say, the medical facilities are excellent.  Very clean with a knowledgeable staff who were very good to me and my husband.  I certainly  didn’t want to see the medical area this way.

Even with the pain, we enjoyed this cruise.  We probably wouldn’t it again because this was the second time for us, albeit not on the same ship.  There are so many places in the world we would like to go I don’t think we’ll have time to return to Hawaii for a third time.

Posted by: travellerlynne | May 5, 2011

Uniworld – River Duchess – April 24 – May 3, 2011

We returned on Tuesday, May 3,  from our first river cruise.  It was called Tulips and Windmills and sailed from Antwerp to Amsterdam.  We were on the River Duchess by Uniworld.  One of the first things I would like to point out – River Cruises are not for children.  There are no programs and no children’s area.  Children would be bored to death for a variety of reasons.

We flew out of Toronto on KLM.  We had been able to upgrade to Business Class at a nominal fee when checking in.  That made for a good flight!!!  Lots of room – so important on a long flight.  We landed in Amsterdam but as we were heading to Wales for a few days, immediately picked up a flight to Manchester.  Once in Manchester, we were able to take the train from airport directly to Llandudno, Wales.  Rather an easy procedure.

The weather was perfect for the first few days.  We stayed at the St. George’s Hotel in Llandudno.  Beautiful hotel.  Rooms were very nice and breakfast was included.   Of course the best part of being in Llandudno was seeing some of my family whom I hadn’t seen for over 12 years.  But that is another story.

Llandudno is a beautiful town on the seashore.  We spent 2.5 days there and would do it again.  There is a lot to see and do in the area.  The pier is great.  You walk out quite some distance.  There were children’s rides, little food places and you could just sit out there.  The tides are quite big there from the north sea so it’s interesting to watch at various times of the day. I just didn’t allow us enough time there.

On Friday, we took a late train back to Manchester airport.  We stayed at the Radisson Bleu at the airport.  We had stayed there previously – probably about 4 or 5 years ago.  It’s a tired hotel and needs some work.  We wanted to get something to eat about 9:30 but the whole restaurant area was closed.  They told us to use room service.  When we looked at the prices we decided to forgo the food – prices were far too high.  $20 for a hamburger was ridiculous.  Not a hotel I would recommend unless you really are just going to sleep and head for your plane in the morning.

We had a 10:30 am flight to Brussels on Brussels Air.  Repacking to get down to 40 pounds was a bit of a chore but we managed.  We had decided to spend one night in Brussels before going over to Antwerp on Sunday.  Brussels is a beautiful city. 

After checking into the hotel, we just wandered around the corner to the center of town.  The town square is gorgeous.  All those beautiful buildings.  Lots of eateries where you can get anything you want.  You can eat inside or outside, but outside is better for people watching.  All the eateries were very crowded and, in the end we had to go inside one to get our dinner.  We would rather have sat outside, but …….. nothing we could do about it.

The hotel we stayed at, Royal Windsor Grand Place was a great disappointment.  So much so, in fact, I will be sending a letter of complaint.   When we arrived it was hot.  The air conditioning in the hotel was not working.  The front desk told us they were working on it and it would be fixed sometime that day.  As it turns out, it had not been working for several days and they were not working on it at all.  Had we known that, we certainly would have cancelled and gone to another hotel.  As it was our choices were – close the window and not sleep because of the heat or leave the window (unscreened) open and listen to the screaming, horns honking and all sundry noises all night.  Needless to say, we did not get any sleep.  (I did get a response to my letter of complaint.  There was an apology and offer of upgrade with all their amenities next time we are in Brussels.  As we hope to return, I will accept that.)

However, before leaving Brussels we went back to the square for waffles the next morning.  Nothing like a Belgium waffle to start your day.

As we were only a block from the rail station, we decided to take a quick walk over there to see about a train the next day to take us to Antwerp.  We were able to buy our tickets and get the schedule so we knew when we would have to leave.  We were able to spend the morning in Brussels and caught a train at 11:30 am.  We were in Antwerp in less than  a hour.

I had no expectations when we arrived never having been on a river boat before.  We were amused from the beginning.   We were pulling our luggage along when we met the captain.  He told us to leave it and they would take care of it.  He took it onboard. 

Uniworld has a very casual atmosphere about it.  When we boarded, we were just handed our room keys asked for our passports and sent on our way.  We were told we could deal with our onboard account later.  They actually meant on the second to last day.  They didn’t want a credit card.  Our passports were returned to us the next day. 

The cabins are smaller than a “regular” cruise ship.  They did tell us we were only allowed to bring one regular and one carry-on size luggage.  Not a problem though as that is all we normally take these days.  With being charged on planes for luggage one learns to lighten the load.

There was sufficient closet space and our bags stored nicely under the beds.  We were on deck 3.  Personally, after taking this cruise, I would not take a cabin on deck 2 or deck 1.  Far too close to the water and the one night when we were crossing an extremely large lake, the water splashed up on the windows enough to bother me.  I don’t like being close to the water.  Riverboats are basically low in the water and very long.

On deck 4 (top passenger deck) the dining room is at the back then the cabins.  At the half way mark you go down half a deck where the reception is and straight ahead to the lounge.  There is also a small library which has two computers.  Internet is free (it was very much hit and miss – more miss than hit.)  You have to remember there are only two computers so you do have to share.  For those who carry their own computers, you can set up in the library or go down to the coffee-room on deck 2 and set up there.

Deck 3 is where we were.  There are 24 cabins per deck.  Deck 2 is below and then deck 1.   All really seem to be half decks from each other.  On deck 2 there is a small coffee area where coffee, tea, iced tea and cookies are always available.  There is also a shop (very expensive) and a work out room with equipment on this level.

There is a top-level with a small room that I believe allows smoking.  It is glass enclosed and is a nice place to sit and read.   Also on that level is an outdoor area where you can play shuffleboard and just sit and enjoy.  We were really only able to do that for the first couple of days as the weather cooled and it started to get windy but it was still lovely there.  They had dinner served on that deck for 16 people one evening.  They had intended it for three evenings but it turned far too chilly.

Our cabin, while small, was adequate.  The bedding is quite nice – the bed itself rather hard.  We had a half picture window so we were able to see out quite nicely.  As I have already said, I would not want to stay on either deck 2 or deck 1 as they are too close to the water to suit me.  There was a small nightstand on either side of the bed.  There is a small table under the window and a small fitted table at the end of the window area. 

Closets were OK.  There were 2 that took hanging clothes and four drawers – this was sufficient for us.   The bathroom – well – a bit of a challenge.  The shower was just fine – lots of room and water was excellent.  The rest of the room – rather tight.  When you get out of the shower you rather have to open the bathroom door to dry off and move around or you’re going to be thumping yourself.  It was OK and we managed fine but for some people, it could be an issue.

There was a TV but it wasn’t particularly good.  A little thing set high up on a shelf above the closet.  We like to watch the news and it did get CNN (Europe) and BBC.  We were also able to watch the Royal Wedding.  They do run a different  movie every day on one channel.

Breakfast and lunch are buffet and each served over two hours.  Breakfast is normally 7 – 9 with lunch being anywhere from 12 to 1 running to 2 or 2:30.  Breakfast does have an omlette bar where you can get fried eggs as well.  There is a toaster so you can make your own hot toast.  (I hate cold toast.)  The buffet also has a variety of breakfast foods, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, fruit, potatoes of one kind or another, breads, muffins etc.  Certainly a good veriety to chose from. 

In the afternoon, 4 pm to 5 pm they serve tea in the lounge.  The bar is open, and they serve a light lunch of finger sandwiches, soup, desserts, fruits tea and coffee.  Great if you missed lunch or just want a little snack to hold you over til dinner. 

During some evenings, after dinner, there is local entertainment in the lounge.  We had a group of retired seafarers who sang a lot of “ditties” – sort of sailor songs from over the years.  We had some local dancers in costume one night.  They were all wonderful and a lot of fun to watch and listen to.

We usually turned in early, but if you want to get off the ship and take a walk, there is nothing stopping you.  There are some lovely towns and we never felt concerned about anything. 

There was one rough patch as

More to follow……

Posted by: travellerlynne | March 7, 2011

Allure of the Seas – just returned – Feb. 27 – March 6/11

I  returned from the Allure last night.  It was a beautiful ship so I can tell you, you are in for a treat.  These ships are just like no other.  I have been on almost 40 cruises and nothing compares. I booked all of the shows we wanted to see in advance and found it was the best thing to do.  They do have note via a hand-held computer system that will let them know who has and who hasn’t booked.  The entertainment on the Allure was the best I had ever seen.  I know it would  shows that are different than on the Oasis but I would expect the same caliber of show.  My sister-in-law was with me.  She regularly attended plays in Toronto and New York and agrees with me that these shows are as good as anything you would find in either of those cities.There were a lot of wonderful dining venues.  My favourite is Chops.  Make sure you go to Central Park where there are several to choose from.For the best view be sure to go to the Viking Crown Lounge on the 17th deck for a drink.  It has a gorgeous view.  These ships have so much to see and do, it is difficult to get everything done in just seven days. We did the best we could but I know we didn’t see it all.Borelo’s and the Schooner bars are excellent.  Don’t forget the Rising Tide Bar which we thoroughly enjoyed.  This one takes you from deck 5 to deck 8 while you are enjoying a drink. 
Now that I have actually been on this ship, I would recommend everyone sail on it at least once. On that note, I do have a group available for January 2012. Take a look at the excellent pricing.

 This ship is designed for families with children.  They have a wonderful children’s program from babies to tots to teens.  There is so much to do for the kids I can’t imagine a child getting bored.  We had a balcony overlooking Central Park which we found suited us.  We were able to people watch, read and enjoy our breakfast on our balcony.

 There are also balconies overlooking the Boardwalk but I would advise, it can be noisy back there.  The noise does tend to quieten down by 11 PM and the balconies overlooking the Boardwalk are excellent for watching the water shows and other functions that go on at the back of the ship.  

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