On Friday a few of us from the Iglu team were treated to a day onboard the Crown Princess, hosted by Peter van der Schee the Head of Brand Marketing at Princess Cruises. A tour of the ship and a four course lunch were on the agenda, and definitely beat a day in the office.
The day started with everyone meeting at Clapham for the usual train to Southampton and a takeaway breakfast of an almond croissant and a coffee. On arrival at the cruise terminal we were met by Peter, who had taken time out of his busy schedule to show us around and keep us abreast with what is going on in the world of Princess Cruises.
This was a day trip I had been looking forward to as a former Princess bartender, and within around 30 minutes of being on board I had the pleasure of bumping into a former colleague who was still loving the life at sea.
With Princess you know what you are getting; the Grand Class ships are similar to P&O's Azura and Ventura in size, standards and layout. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere is more akin to Celebrity Cruises than the often compared Royal Caribbean.
After the initial pleasantries and introductions we took a tour of the ship, taking in the various cabins, restaurants and lounges. The cabins are almost identical to those on the Azura, though offer a slightly different decor. The Wheelhouse Bar, remains my favourite due to the music, atmosphere and the 'Pub Lunch' on sea days, an American-style ship with a British twist.
The sanctuary toward the rear of the ship is fabulous. If you need somewhere to unwind, or are on a romantic holiday where pampering is top of your priorities the small fee to use these sun loungers and facilities is more than worth it. There is the adult-only pool, the Spa and a great selection of therapies can all be enjoyed in this serene location.
The highlight of the day had to be the lunch. Whereas many modern ships have gone down the path of multi-tiered, open restaurants, Princess have decided to break their main dining room into three elegant and intimate restaurants. We were served a gorgeous four course meal in the Botticelli Dining Room, with Alaskan Salmon, Chateaubriand beef and chocolate souffle all on the menu.
After coffee and petit fours, it was time to head home, happy in the knowledge that Princess had lived up to my memories and I was left hoping to cruise with them again.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of enjoying a fantastic five course lunch in Southampton's premier country hotel, Oceania Cruises flagship the Regatta. Technically I was on a cruise ship, but Oceania Cruises have tried their utmost to make their fleet feel as country club as possible, to the extent you forget you're on a ship.
The whole feeling of the Regatta is elegant and understated, where chinos and deck shoes are more welcome than dinner suits and dickie bows. Every port hole in the passenger areas is decked out with curtains and tie backs, to give the impression of a luxurious family-run hotel, opposed to the usual obvious bulkheads and white coloured metal of most ships.
The ship is furnished with comfy arm chairs and sofas, offering a more homely feel than the usual leather cushioned benches and trendy modern furniture of the new super liners. You almost feel as if the views from your cabins verandah will be if lush green gardens, and maybe a PGA class golf course, rather than the ocean waves.
The Regatta may not be offering the best food in Southampton today, as she's on her way to the Baltics, but yesterday she did. I was fortunate enough to enjoy 28 day dry hung beef, beautiful Maine lobster, morels mushrooms and black truffles and topped off with fabulous, white glove service. From recent personal experience I would place the food somewhere between the Hotel du Vin and Claridge's.
The atmosphere and decor has the understated elegance of the QM2 and the informal, country manor feel of Swan Hellenic. The service though is again comparable to the attentive yet unimposing waiters of Claridge's or Fortnum and Mason, without the need to break out the dinner suits and cocktail dresses.
Oceania Cruises have found a superb blend of style, comfort and standards that will appeal to fans of Cunard, Celebrity, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, who are looking for the best food, service and itineraries, yet are after a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere. I can see why on the 1st Jan this year they were 95% sold out for 2010, and 2011 is selling just as fast.
If a grown, yet informal attitude, intimate ports and truly fine cuisine are on your priorities, when sales start on the 1st September I would get in quick, before you can't!
Written by Stephen Adam
On Friday I had my first experience of Disney Cruise Lines due to a day visit on the Disney Magic. Now I must say (and I probably shouldn't!), that I was a little fearful of a trip to a Disney ship. Though I have worked on ships and recently enjoyed both the Azura and Independence of the Seas, my initial thoughts of Disney Cruise Line were of a full-on, almost intimidating Disney experience. I had pictures in my head of over-excited Americans, 6ft Disney characters everywhere and too many bright lights and kid's sing-a-long theme tunes.
I couldn't have been further from the truth if I tried! A pleasant relief for myself was the instant impression Disney made. The ship, a little older at 12 years than most modern liners in Europe, boasts beautiful sleek lines from the outside and a classy, relaxed and friendly atmosphere onboard.
We boarded the ship straight into the atrium, which has a very traditional and classic feel to it, combining a contemporary 100-glass-trumpet-piece chandelier with a subtle and classic Mickey Mouse statue. As we walked through the ship we visited the variety of bars and restaurants, most of which were understated and relaxed with a subtle splash of Disney opposed to an imposing presence.
Up on deck they have a fantastic balance of family entertainment and quiet relaxation, there are family friendly pools with water slides and character animations, then further along the deck the other pool offers a more chilled feel with the bar, hot tubs and huge outdoor screen playing classic Disney films. There are both the child only kids club areas and one of the adult only bars all within a stones throw from one another, as well as the adult only luxurious spa and salon.
There are two fantastic theatres onboard that offer character inspired Broadway-style shows and a combination of the latest and greatest Disney films, from Toy Story 3 (in 3D) to Caddy Shack. The restaurants offer a fantastic variety from the vibrant, Caribbean themed Parrots Cay to the classic ballroom inspired Lumieres. My favourite had the be Animators Palate, when you arrive the restaurant is totally black and white, like the famous 101 Dalmatians, but at the evening goes on the 'animations' develop colour, as do the waiters uniforms. The food was also exceptional, I would even say comparable in standards (if not style) to the Queen Mary 2, the last ship I visited.
Before I arrived I was a little dubious about the appeal of these ships but the Disney 'Magic' has completely changed my perception of this fantastic cruise line. This really a the perfect family cruise ship, and one I intend on cruising on soon.
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