Cruise Blog

Our Sue’s Saga Trip

Saga Sapphire Trip, December ‘16


I would, here and now, like to quash the rumours that Saga Cruises are for ‘old people’! I know I am of a ‘certain age’ but I don’t feel old, and I certainly don’t act it (most of the time), so I was extremely pleased to be given the opportunity to sail with Saga in order to dispel the myth that I would be surrounded by masses of walking aids and wheelchairs. There were a few, admittedly, but not nearly as many as I had imagined. Age is, after all, just a number! I hadn’t realised that 50 is the minimum age limit, but one can be as young as 40 if travelling with someone of 50 or above. As 60 is the new 40, apparently, there were plenty of ‘young’ people on board this cruise!

The atmosphere on board was very calm and pleasant; the staff were wonderful – smiles everywhere; and because she is not huge, I could find my way around on board, most of the time. At each lift (no, I didn’t use them once) there is a diagram to show where you are, plus all main venues for each floor are listed, for easy access. Absolutely no excuse for getting lost – facing the wrong direction, on the other hand, was quite easy for some reason in my case, and I invariably had to turn around and retrace my steps to find my cabin!
Cabins are very spacious and well appointed, and mine had both shower and bath which meant that I could have a soak when I didn’t have to rush from one appointment to another – well, from one meal to another! Apart from a lack of coffee/tea-making facilities in the cabin – we decided this was probably due to health and safety reasons – there was nothing missing. For those who couldn’t face a walk to either the Drawing Room or the Verandah to get a drink, there was an extremely efficient 24-hour room service option which meant that anything could be requested at any time of day. This was a definite bonus for the younger element of our party who felt they couldn’t manage to get through the night without a burger! However, the walk meant, for me, that I earned an extra scone at Afternoon Tea time – the best I have ever tasted.

Public areas on board include the very lovely Drawing Room, which is their equivalent of an observation-cum-cabaret lounge; the Library with a good selection of books plus a couple of computer terminals (free wi-fi) for passenger use; card room; chess/backgammon tables; jigsaws constantly on the go; the Britannia Lounge (theatre) where they also hold the afternoon teas; the main dining room Pole to Pole, plus the Asian restaurant East to West (where I had one of the best and most beautifully presented vegetable curries I think I’ve ever had); the Beach Club (fish and chips daily); the Verandah Club (buffet dining); Spa/Hair Salon (sauna, steam room, pool, gym). I couldn’t believe the range of shops on board, where one could buy a postcard, a Radley handbag, or £2000+ worth of pearl necklace (should have tried harder on the lottery!).

I think in the seven days I was on board I tried everything there was on offer: al fresco and restaurant dining (the food was amazing); drink (this was an all-inclusive sailing); Spa facilities; quiz night; dancing; galley and bridge tours; Captain’s Cocktail party and formal dinners (two); sweets and ice creams from the kiosks at the Beach Club on Pool Deck; cake decorating competition (for us agents – my team came 3rd); sunbathing; deck walking (six laps, one mile); shore excursions; oh, and a personal visit to the Medical Facility, which cost me a bit, but at least gave me an insight into what one can expect if that unfortunate! I was very well looked after, thank you.

We did have a very sad experience one day, in that one of our fellow passengers had to be airlifted to hospital, just off the coast of Lisbon. He had fallen downstairs and smashed his shoulder which could not be dealt with entirely by the medical team on board. Having never experienced this close-up before now, I was very impressed by the skill of the staff in quickly clearing the decks of passengers and equipment (chairs, tables etc.), being only given 20 minutes’ notice. The pilot had to hover above the ship whilst the casualty was put on a stretcher which was then winched up to the ‘copter, closely followed by his wife and a member of the crew. Overall, the manoeuvre must have taken a good 30 minutes. Very well done to all involved.

A few things REALLY worth remembering are:

FREE* door-to-door transfers, whether you are sailing out of Southampton or flying from a UK airport.
*First 75 miles are private, up to 250 miles are shared, over 250 miles are charged at £1.40 per extra mile.

The inclusion of travel insurance (with very few clauses, I believe). If insurance is not required there will be a reduction in the cruise cost, dependent on cruise duration.

Included gratuities – tips are not expected whilst on board, although exceptional service can always be rewarded at passengers’ discretion.

Wine with lunch and dinner, unless the sailing is all-inclusive (there are 42 over the coming year) when drinks are included all day.

No cover charge for dining in the speciality restaurant, East to West, but bookings do need to be made. If a sailing is not full it may be possible to book a second (or third) visit.

Princess Cruises Update

warningWe have been notified by Princess Cruises that due to the safety risk posed by the Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone, they have requested that guests please avoid bringing the device on board and this applies to replacements purchased after 15th September 2016.

Any Guest in possession of a Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone while on board must take the following precautions:

1. Turn off device
2. Disconnect device from any charging equipment
3. Protect the power switch to prevent unintentional activation of the device

‘the safety of our guests and crew are always our highest priority’ Princess Cruises

caution

We are Award Winners

sue-2
Congratulations to our Sue Winsby who has received Highly Commended in the Best Cruise Agent Award for The Cruise International Awards 2016!!! We couldn’t be more proud!!

“I am very flattered to receive this accolade. It’s easy to say “I am just doing my job” but that is how it is! Here is to the next 20 years!!” Sue Winsby
Find out more about the awards here

Top Family Offers

It’s #family week and Celebrity Cruises have some fantastic offers for you. A Celebrity Cruises holiday is the perfect break for your family with fun packed kids clubs (open 9am-10pm daily), tailored onshore experiences, flexible accommodation, a range of dining options, plus much more.
Print
Click on the flyers below to find out more then call 01524 509 809 to book

familyweek-1
familyweek-2

Goodbye Our Janet

Harmony of the Seas

After working for the company for 35 years, we are saying farewell to our Janet Hall. All the girls here are very sad to see her leave but we all wish her all the best for her new ventures!

“Having worked with you lovely ladies for a trillion years I am leaving for pastures new. It has been a pleasure and a joy every day coming to work with my extended family. We truly are like sisters and I will miss all of you. I wish Cruise Connections every success for the future as I say ‘Bon Voyage” to you all.” Janet Hall

Our Jackie’s Family Cruise

Our Jackie’s Family Cruise on board Carnival Vista

14063975_10154388159774463_8612372568197005801_n

Carnival Vista – 8 night Mediterranean cruise – 26th August 2016

This year we decided to try a Carnival cruise as their newest ship, Carnival Vista, spent her inaugural summer season cruising the Mediterranean. Carnival have not regularly deployed a ship to Europe so I seized the opportunity to experience a cruise “Carnival style”.

As I guess most people do, I have pre-conceived ideas of what to expect: casual, loud and perhaps a little lacking in quality. In fact, like many ships these days, there were two elegant nights in the eight nights we were on board and, as ever, people’s interpretations of dress code varied greatly but certainly, excluded attire standards were upheld. The use of hand gel was not strictly enforced.

The Cruise Director was a charming Brit who has the charisma required to undertake this role successfully without being brashly irritating. There was the odd game and music around the main Beach Pool but there were plenty of quieter sun bathing areas and two smaller pools away from the entertainment if preferred. Carnival Vista has Serenity (+21yrs only) a dedicated deck space with cabana-style sun loungers for more secluded sunbathing. You do not pay extra, unlike some other Cruise Lines. On the one sea day, towels left on sun loungers for an excessive period of time were removed by staff, I saw this implemented.

IMG_2651

The facilities on board were excellent and kept our 7 year old thoroughly entertained. She had three go’s on the Sky ride – we timed this to avoid excessive queuing, maximum 20-30 mins, miniature golf, high ropes, water park and the kids club – Camp Ocean, not to mention the 3D Imax cinema (approx. $12pp extra) on the one afternoon it had the audacity to rain!
We ate in three speciality restaurants, the Italian was acceptable but I personally preferred the Oriental (both $15 per adult plus 15% gratuity) and found Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse exceptional and worth the $35pp (plus 15% gratuity) surcharge for the outstanding service, ambiance and quality of food offered. We opted for Open dining for the remaining nights, and on each occasion we arrived during peak times (between 19.00 – 20.00 hrs) without pre-booking a time and were seated immediately. I found the quality of most meals I chose to be of a high standard, with the exception of a couple of poorly chosen starters. I believe some passengers had cause to complain but I did not. The buffet area offered the usual fayre of burgers, pizza, carvery, deli, burritos, tacos, and selection of themed meals – Caribbean or Mongolian Wok – plus complimentary ice creams, cakes, cookies, sweets and refreshments.

As we travelled in peak summer, the heat was at times slightly uncomfortable when wishing to undertake some sightseeing. One of the many aspects that worked well for us on Carnival, was the chance to have our daughter kept entertained out of the intense heat in the kid’s club, whilst we explored some of the ports of call. We would not have left her for the full day trips to Rome and Florence, but we had visited these places of interest before so took the opportunity to enjoy the ship’s facilities on those days, whilst many were ashore.

In the evenings our daughter ate with us in the restaurant, or had kid’s tea if we had opted for a speciality restaurant. She then either went to Ocean Camp whilst we enjoyed one of the four comedians who featured on our sailing, joined us for the show in the theatre or demolished some popcorn (free) whilst watching a film on deck. Carnival’s evening venues all had a fantastic atmosphere and each venue was popular. We enjoyed the pub singer Ed Carr in the Redfrog Pub, playing table shuffleboard with fellow cruisers, adults and children both. We also enjoyed Essencia – an electric string player and acoustic sound with the talents “Me and My Cousin” in the Atrium Bar. The Havana Bar was vibrant with Cuban music and mambo dancing. The Piano Bar sing-along with Ben, although not for us, always appeared busy and the Ocean Plaza also offered singing, games and quizzes. There was also a sports bar and the Liquid Lounge for late night dancing – we never made it there! The choice was amazing. If I had to be critical, having seen the full production of Mamma Mia on Anthem of the Seas last year, the shows weren’t up to the same standard but then I’m not a huge show fan and we had so many other choices of evening entertainment. The comedians were all American and tailored to the American humour but then 45%-50% of the passengers on board were American. Having four different comedians on an eight night sailing, I thought, demonstrated excellent variety.

14117772_10154392335144463_4787967749554157537_n

There were the usual shops on board, bingo to play, murder mystery events, a Spanish Flamenco Fiesta, deck parties, spa experiences, art events and a casino: a whole host of events we did not participate in but were available if you found the time.

Gratuities were $12pppn and ours were added to the on board account. These can be adjusted if required towards the end of the cruise. We purchased the “Cheers Drinks” package for two and the “Bottomless bubbles” drinks package for our daughter in advance. The total cost for 8 nights for the three of us on the exchange rate post Brexit equated to £700 in total. We never reached the 15 drink limited so I can’t confirm if this is strictly adhered to. The gratuity for bar service was included in this. The only mild irritation was only being able to purchase one drink on each cruise card at a time when occasionally we wanted bottled water in addition to our alcoholic beverage of choice.

Ocean Camp is complimentary during the day and from 7pm-10pm in the evening. You can pay $6.75 per hour plus 15% gratuity between 10pm -1am if you wanted an occasional late night.
We did pay $17 per person roundtrip in Marseilles and Palma for Carnival’s shuttle buses from the port into central locations, which was a little excessive but in no way would this spoil what was a truly wonderful holiday.

14117980_10154392332589463_5168908305560355952_n

Wi-fi was offered on board, different packages ranging from $5 per 24 hours for the social plan (included access to Facebook Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp etc), Value Plan $16 per 24 hours (which offered e-mail, news, sports, weather and social media) or premium plan $25 per 24 hours.

Whilst I fully appreciate these large ships are not to everyone’s taste, they do offer us the facilities that we want to enjoy a family holiday whilst also representing excellent value. I would still choose Royal Caribbean’s Quantum & Oasis class ships as my first preference to cruise, perhaps just a little more elegant than Carnival, but I would certainly consider a Carnival cruise again, Carnival Vista’s sister ship comes out in 2018 together with two new Royal Caribbean vessels, decisions, decisions………!

Jackie Heap
Office General Manager
Cruise Connections

Queen Mary 2 Remastered

As well as an enhanced customer experience and new service concepts, you can expect an array of exciting transformations and bold new designs across the ship.

All 172 Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites are being refitted along with the addition of 30 brand new Britannia Club Balcony staterooms and 15 brand new Single Oceanview rooms. All existing Britannia staterooms across all categories will also be refurbished throughout 2016. Tea and coffee making facilities will be added to all staterooms and suites and Cunard are adding 10 new kennels for our four legged friends.

Your dining experience will also change on board Queen Mary 2, with Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants getting a full redesign and reconfiguration in order to offer you the customer the more sought after tables for two. The Britannia Club restaurant will also be refurbished and extended. Cunard will introduce the brand new Carinthia Lounge which will serve light breakfasts, lunch, speciality coffees and will also have a patisserie. The popular and traditional French restaurant, The Verandah will replace Todd English restaurant and Kings Court will be transformed, offering 80 new lunch and 50 new dinner dishes, as well as alternative dining of Italian, Indian, Pan Asian, Mexican and American Smokehouse menus on rotating basis in the evenings.

See the post refit deck plan here>>>

Seabourn’s new restaurant

Three-star Michelin chef Thomas Keller and designer Adam D. Tihany have collaborated exclusively for Seabourn to create The Grill by Thomas Keller. The Grill by Thomas Keller which has a menu, wine list and ambience inspired by a classic American chophouse officially opened for dinner on Seabourn Quest on 21st May 2016.

“The opening of The Grill by Thomas Keller marks the start of a new chapter in Seabourn’s long history of award-winning cuisine,” said Seabourn President Rick Meadows. “We are excited for guests to enjoy the restaurant’s top-quality ingredients matched by a tremendous wine list, while travelling the world with Seabourn.”

The Grill will be open for dinner daily and you can also secure a reservation online before you cruise. As with all Seabourn’s all-inclusive rates there is no extra charge to dine in one of their speciality restaurants.

Stories from Harmony

Harmony of the Seas

Four of us out of the office have just returned from a fantastic visit to Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Harmony of the Seas. Although the ship is huge (17 decks and 6000 capacity) the feel of it is friendly and personable.
We managed to try a lot of the restaurants as they had tasters from noon to 4 p.m. every day and each sample was exquisite. Both our dinner arrangements were perfect, the food was delicious and the waiters were very attentive. The shows were amazing, we managed to see Grease and the Ice-Show, which we enjoyed thoroughly. Jackie was the bravest of us all and did the Ultimate Abyss, whilst Susan and I managed the children’s carousel!! I was going to try the zip wire but was relieved when they said it was closed due to the weather! With the wet stuff coming out of the skies on Saturday we managed to look around the staterooms, which were opened for viewing. My favourite was of course the Presidential Suite but I do have delusions of grandeur!
Overall the experience was first class and hopefully in the future I will be on Harmony again as a client and not on business.

Janet Hall
Accounts Supervisor

Harmony has arrived!

Harmony of the Seas has finally docked in Southampton. Our girls Jackie, Janet, Susan and Michaela are embarking on Friday for a 2 night mini-cruise. We are looking forward to them letting us know what they think. With instructions to try everything, including • The Perfect Storm, an exhilarating trio of waterslides
• Ultimate Abyss—the tallest dry slide at sea
• The first ever two-storey Wonderland restaurant
• Seven distinct, individual neighbourhoods including Central Park and the Boardwalk
• Thrilling activities like the Zip Line and FlowRider® surf simulators
• Entertainment including the hit musical Grease

To welcome Royal Caribbeans newest and most amazing ship Harmony of the SeasSM into Southampton they wanted to celebrate by offering you a very special booking offer!

WHEN YOU BOOK ANY ROYAL CARIBBEAN® SAILING FROM EITHER THE UK OR EUROPE YOU WILL RECEIVE UP TO $200 ONBOARD SPEND.*
BOOK BETWEEN TUESDAY 17TH MAY AND SUNDAY 29TH MAY 2016
FOR DEPARTURES FROM 1ST JULY TO 30TH SEPTEMBER 2016.

Call us to now to get on board 01524 509 809