The time has arrived - there is 0 days left on your countdown, you’ve got through the tedious packing and you have arrived at the port where your ship stands eagerly waiting for you.
With your heart racing and your excitement levels at an all-time high, check-in is already a distant memory and you have stepped onboard for the cruise holiday of a lifetime. But with so much to do and see, where do you start? Where do you go first? Do you want to eat already? Can you get into your cabin yet? What activities are starting?
Although extremely exciting, the first day onboard can be slightly daunting for some. Once you’ve found your cabin, had some lunch, participated in the guest muster drill, and taken a minute to reflect on the journey you are about to encounter – your holiday officially starts.
People often wonder what to do during their first day onboard and worry about missing out on something. After years of experience, both as a crew member and a guest, I wanted to put together a small guide to help you get the most from your first day onboard.
Unpack – After not long packing your cases ready for your cruise, the thought of unpacking is far from appealing . However, my advice would be to unpack straight away and then you will not have to worry about wasting valuable exploring time during your second day. I guarantee you will feel relieved and settled in your cabin once it’s complete.
Meet your cabin steward – Your cabin steward will become your best friend during a cruise. They are likely to come and introduce themselves within the first few hours of being onboard and make you feel extremely welcome. By the time your cruise is over, they will be one of the most memorable people of your cruise.
Check your dining arrangements – Dining arrangements are organised by the cruise line before you cruise so it is important to express your seating preferences and dining times to your agent. However, this will only be a request and can not always be catered for. I advise you to check the dining times you have been allocated (normally found on your cruise card) and if you are not satisfied with them, try to have it amended as soon as possible. Normally a dining room co-coordinator will be available at a certain time slot during the first day for dining inquires.
Go to the sail away party – Sailing away from port is one of the most memorable experiences of a cruise, especially the first sail away. With everyone in high spirits, cocktail in hand, and congregating on the top deck to marvel at the incredible passing skylines - the sail away party kicks off your cruise in style.
Know your way – If a few years ago someone would have said to me "I like to know my way around the ship" I would of rolled my eyes in the opinion that not knowing the way is part of the fun. However, I now realise what a good idea it is to gather your bearings at the beginning of you cruise. I do not think you need to get your ship map out and know exactly where everything is but it is a good idea to work out where your cabin is in comparison to the dining room, outer decks, pool etc.
Book shows – Not all, but some cruise lines require you to make reservations for shows onboard only and not before hand. Yes, do expect ques of people getting their tickets on day one, but isn’t it better to stand in a line for a little while on the first day then waste sun-bathing time on day two?
Make dining arrangements – Cruise ships offer an array of speciality dining restaurants with everything from Italian bistros, sushi bars and luxurious steak houses. These are normally popular with guests, especially those wanting to experience something different or celebrating a special occasion. Therefore, I would recommend making a reservation in advance if you want to dine at one of these exclusive restaurants.
Take a selfie – I know this may sound like a silly thing to do, well not for those who have jumped on the latest craze of taking a selfie at every single opportunity! Taking a selfie, or more appropriately getting someone to take a picture of you on the first day of the cruise is a great idea for so many reasons. At the end of your cruise take a little look back at this picture and I guarantee it will make you giggle. Have you developed a tan? Increased the size of your smile? Gained fresher looking skin?
Have an early night – After a busy day of travelling and the excitement of your first day exploring onboard, take advantage of the first night to retire to your bed early. The remaining nights of the cruise will have all sorts of entertainment going on until the early hours of the morning and you will find this far more appealing than sleeping!
By Sally Grimes
1,112 feet long, 15 passenger decks high and bursting with the most innovate features at sea, Independence of the Seas raised every industry bar when she made her grand entrance in 2008.
This floating master-piece by Royal Caribbean has dominated the Mediterranean since her arrival. Gaining the title of Southampton’s most popular ship she has docked with pride in this busy UK port. Boasting a host of industry firsts she gives British cruisers the chance to experience one of the most innovative ships afloat - right from their doorstep.
With various cruise line’s bringing ships to Southampton to take advantage of the fascinating cities that line the sun-drenched Mediterranean during the summer, she has helped cater to the rapidly growing UK cruising market. Independence of the Seas, commonly known as Indy, has been the largest ship to sail from here and docked alongside other popular ships including Celebrity Eclipse, P&O Cruises Azura and Emerald Princess.
With British holiday-makers craving to cruise and experience new ships, it was no surprise that when the largest ship in the world Oasis of the Seas announced a one off sailing from Southampton, it sold out in record time. Did this spark an idea in Royal Caribbean’s head - Do we need a newer ship in Southampton?
A couple of months ago the big announcement was made - new ship Anthem of the Seas will call Southampton her home. It did not take long for speculation to start – will she replace the much loved Indy?
With no 2015 itineraries being released for Independence of the Seas and calling the 13th October 2013 sailing her 'farewell' cruise, we know Anthem is set to be the new 'cool kid' of Southampton.
With this in mind, I wanted to make a short comparison for you to see the changes you can expect in Southampton for 2015…
Independence of the Seas
Gross tonnage: 154,407 GRT
Length: 1,112 feet
Width: 185 feet
Passenger Decks: 15
Guest Capacity: 4,375
Anthem of the Seas
Gross tonnage: 167,800 GRT
Length: 1,141 feet
Width: 136 feet
Passenger Decks: 16
Guest Capacity: 4,905
Independence of the Seas – Home to one of the largest entertainment programmes at sea, Independence of the Seas has you covered from morning to night. The Alhambra Theatre seats 1,200 guests and showcases the best in musicals, Broadway style shows, comedians and other exciting productions. Studio B, the innovative ice-rink boasts spectacular ice-shows from a world-class international cast. The Olive or Twist Jazz Club enables guests to simply sit back and take in the idyllic sounds of a live pianist. As-well as a large casino, pub with live music, karaoke, nightclub and intimate champagne bar, the entertainment programme caters for every single taste.
My entertainment rating – 9/10
Anthem of the Seas – Set to raise every bar in cruise ship entertainment, Anthem of the Seas is expected to boast the most exciting array of entertainment at sea. The main theatre will showcase the smash hit musical, MAMMIA MIA! Making its debut at sea it is set to unveil the best singers and dancers the fleet has had. Music Hall will be a bold, spacious venue with an electric atmosphere. This will be the place to experience great bands, fantastic solo acts, party nights and world-class Dj’s. The place I am most excited about it Two70. A venue like this has never been built on land, let alone at sea. A panoramic venue to admire 270° ocean views during the day, then turn into a spectacular entertainment venue in the evening. As the sun goes down the walls will transform into hi-tech digital projection screens with breath-taking performances from gymnasts, aerialists and dancers. As-well as these new venues, she will boast Royal Caribbean favourites such as the nightclub, casino, cocktail bars and more.
My entertainment predicted rating - 10/10
Synopsis - Whilst Independence of the Seas offered a feast of entertaining options, Anthem of the Seas will utilise the very latest in entertainment technology to bring onboard experiences like you've never seen before. Balancing innovative developments with classic favourites are sure to strike the right chord with passengers.
Independence of the Seas – One of the first ships in the fleet to feature such a large dining selection, she sends guests on an exciting culinary journey. The three-tier main dining room with its deep red and gold décor is the perfect place for cherished family meal times. For alternative dining the options are endless, from a casual burger in Johnny Rockets to a juicy steak in Chops Grille. After her upgrade in April 2013 she gained my favourite onboard restaurant, Italian bistro - Giovanni’s.
My dining rating – 10/10
Anthem of the Seas – Royal Caribbean appear to remain tight-lipped about the dining onboard Anthem of the Seas, which makes me think they have something amazing up their sleeve. I wonder if she will boast more of a British cuisine experience as she will be sailing from Southampton? I am sure she will offer a host of restaurants, cafes and dining rooms to stun us once again.
My dining predicted rating – Hard to predict at the moment.
Things to do
Independence of the Seas – The Freedom class ships really changed things in the cruising industry, making the impossible possible. From wave machines, ice rinks and water parks, so much adventure can be had. The first ships to introduce the H2O Water Park, she allows children to have as much fun as adults. The rock climbing wall, mini golf, Flowrider and ice-skating are great for adventure-seeking families, couples and singles. For the more relaxing cruiser, she is home to a large spa, whirlpools, cupcake classes and the adult-only Solarium.
My activity rating – 9.5/10
Anthem of the Seas – Anthem of the Seas will completely redefine what there is to do on a cruise ship. Boasting a whole range of industry firsts, guests are sure to be impressed when they see what they can do onboard. Fly onboard? Why not! In true Royal Caribbean style, they just had to push boundaries even further by adding an indoor skydive onboard. RipCord by iFly will allow guests to experience a once in a lifetime skydive simulator. If that has not excited you enough, on top of the ship will be North Star, a pod like capsule that will slowly lift you 300 feet above sea level to enjoy 360° panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding areas. Become a kid again in SeaPlex, the biggest sports and entertainment complex at sea. This ground-breaking venue will home a full sized basketball court, circus school, roller-skating, floating DJ and bumper cars.
My activity predicted rating – 10/10
Synopsis - As industry leaders in onboard innovations it's no surprise that the newest member of the family offers even more unique experiences never attempted at sea before. With so much in one place the ship shall be a new destination in herself.
Independence of the seas – The accommodation on Independence of the Seas offers the perfect selection of stateroom types for every cruiser. From interior, outside, balcony and suite there is something for every taste and budget.
My stateroom rating – 8/10
Anthem of the Seas – As expected, Anthem of the Seas will even spice up the staterooms. Offering the well-known outside, balcony and suite rooms, as-well as a range of new room categories. Interior staterooms will feature virtual balconies that project real-time video footage of the ocean onto an LED screen – a truly innovative design, I cannot wait to see what these look like. Set to have more family accommodation than any other ship, she will be home to the ground-breaking family connected staterooms that allow families the option to be together, as well as take some alone time when needed. The suites are set to raise the bar even further with the hugely spacious two-storey loft suites that give sensational views with their floor-to-ceiling windows.
My stateroom predicted rating – 10/10
Synopsis - Anthem of the Seas is set to offer innovations in stateroom design to cater for all budgets and party arrangements and pays particular attention to families.
Independence of the Seas – Based in Southampton for almost eight years, she has spent many summer months in the UK. Sailing to the fascinating cities that line the charming Mediterranean sea, she has continuously proved to be a popular choice for those wanting a sun-drenched getaway without having to fly. The Norwegian Fjords itineraries have also proven popular with the British market.
My itinerary rating – 10/10
Anthem of the Seas – Much anticipation was circulating about Anthem of the Sea’s itineraries and when they were released last week, everyone was delighted by her sailings. Her schedule includes a range of 2 to 14 night cruises to the popular Mediterranean cities and Canaries. No Norwegian Fjords itineraries will be offered, but Adventure of the Seas is set to return to Southampton in 2015 and offer a range of Mediterranean and Fjord itineraries.
My itinerary predicted rating – 9/10
Synopsis - Whilst Anthem will offer more of the Med, those looking to view the heights of the Fjords from the North Star will have to wait for another season.
Will Anthem of the Seas Fill Indy’s Shoes?
From my comparisons it is clear to see both ships are a floating resort of fun, adventure and new experiences. With both ships carrying almost the same amount of passengers, it will not affect the amount of people that can cruise on Royal Caribbean from Southampton during the summer.
Independence of the Seas has become such a popular ship with the British market that I do wonder if Anthem can match the strong opinion.
I think British cruises will love the fact we are finally getting a new ship debut here, instead of having to fly to experience a new ship. It will be great for us to experience amazing Europe itineraries on a new and innovate ship.
It will be an extremely exciting time to have the most innovative ship right on our doorstep. With the British cruising market rapidly growing I expect Anthem of the Seas to be very successful here and open even more eyes for those new to cruising. Royal Caribbean predict 80,000 will holiday on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton during 2015 alone and expect this will contribute around £50 million to the local economy.
Anthem of the Seas will be an excellent ship for families. To sail from Southampton during the school summer holiday months is a huge advantage for family holiday-makers that prefer not to fly. Independence of the Seas is already a family favourite, so I expect Anthem to easily live up to this with her fantastic array of activities.
I think those who sail on Independence of the Seas that have grown to love her size and onboard amenities may now opt for Adevnture of the Seas from Southampton or some may even fly to reunite with their much-loved Indy. One thing is for sure, I think it will hard for anyone to be disappointed by any Royal Caribbean ship they choose.
With Anthem of the Seas pre-registration proving hugely popular, it appears the whole of England are eagerly waiting to welcome the new sister to their home.
Bring on 2015....
There is nothing that excites me more than a new ship, and this one appears to be even more special. P&O Cruises brand new ship Britannia is set to offer the line’s most exciting experience yet while combining classic P&O features along with a host of brand new innovative concepts.
The biggest ship ever built for Britain, she already gives a sense of patriotic flare and love for our country. I never forget when I was working onboard during the 2012 Olympics Open Ceremony and the intense passion and pride I had for my country. I didn't expect to have this feeling again, but was shortly proven wrong at the Britannia launch evening last night.
Not only will she have our iconic flag spread proudly across her hull, every inch of her will raise the bar in British cruising. Designed with the future in mind, whilst celebrating P&O Cruises' much loved past, she is sure to wow every single person that sails on her.
We all knew Britannia was launching in Spring 2015, but that was all we knew. Design, itineraries and other information remained tightly guarded. With P&O Cruises' lip’s firmly sealed for some time, last night finally saw them open with all the details we had all been waiting for.
The press release event was held by P&O Cruises at London’s prestigious Forman’s Fish Island. Advised to be an 'interactive event' I was slightly unsure of what to expect but none the less could not wait. With so much hype and anticipation around this ship my expectations were high.
A British Welcome
Arriving in East London, we were greeted by two handsome Captains (well, dressed up Captains!) proudly held the door open and greeted us with a typical P&O 'Welcome Aboard'.
If the 90 mile per hour gusts of wind were not sweeping us inside it would have felt like we were boarding a ship, although the unsatisfying weather added to the quintessentially 'British' evening we were about to experience. Behind these doors P&O Cruises had created a mini version of feature venues to star on the new ship - a perfect sample of things to come.
Welcome to The Limelight Club
After a warm welcome from P&O Officials and a glass of champagne we were guided to a restaurant. With a bold 'The Limelight Club' sign positioned at the entrance, I felt like I was walking into a restaurant on a ship. My colleague Laura and I were given a signature cocktail on the way to our table, which tickled my thirst quenching taste buds.
Still in ore of everything around me, I did not even check the menu before a waitress presented me with a plate of food that looked too good to eat. A duck pate to start, followed by Braised Daube of Beef with truffle mash and a truly divine raspberry chocolate basket to finish. An amazing meal, it wet my taste buds for other dishes that will be served in this remarkable restaurant. The Limelight Club will offer a traditional supper club experience onboard with spectacular food matched by smooth entertainment.
In true cruise style, after our meal we hoped to see a show and that's just what we got. Ushered to our seats we were treated to a performance from the extremely talented P&O Cruises singers and dancers along with stars from the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing.
The ten minute performance gave us a taste of how much effort and planning has gone into the Britannia entertainment programme. Featuring Craig Revel Horward the show was a huge hit with all present.
After Show Wine
In high spirits from the show, we strolled into The Glasshouse for some wine and tapas. On a quant table in the corner we sat examining the wine menu, accompanied perfectly by the intimate atmosphere. Just as we were choosing a wine to order, we looked up to see Olly Smith asking if we needed any assistance in choosing. Was this really happening? Not only did we feel like we were on a cruise ship, but the famous wine expert has casually strolled over and joined us. He explained the wines and tapas that were on offer and engaged with us in a very down to earth manner. What a perfect way to enjoy an evening onboard.
The Cookery School
One of the major announcements made about Britannia was the 'Food Heroes'. For the first time ever, Britannia will have five famous chefs working alongside each other on the same ship. With food being a significant focus on cruises, P&O Cruises wish Britannia to represent the varied, cultural and unique food that our country loves.
The five celebrity chef 'Food Heroes' were announced as Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar, Olly Smith, James Martin and Eric Lanlard.
TV chef James Martin has helped develop The Cookery School which will be the first cookery school on a British ship. The spacious open kitchen will be home to a range of different cookery lessons from the renowned chefs, giving passengers the opportunity to cook alongside their hero’s and learn the secrets behind their signature dishes.
I would never have expect these chefs to be at this event but as we were sat down in a mock-up cookery school, out strolled Marco Pierre White in his typical noble manor. Being one of Laura’s foodie idles, she scurried to the front row to get prime viewing. I felt like I was sitting in a live TV cookery show as he demonstrated how to make salted sea bass.
I had so much fun here and I predict it to be a huge hit onboard - what an experience to be able to cook alongside a famous chef onboard a cruise ship.
Sending love back home
When cruising on Britannia passengers are going to have the opportunity to film a short weather report postcard to send home.
I love this idea. Sending physical postcards can be a hassle, however this enables passengers to boast what a wonderful time they are having to friends and family back at home without having to find a post office.
To experience what this will be like, Day Break Weather Reporter Laura Tobin was on hand to give us some presenting tips before donning the spotlight to film a short weather report from Britannia.
This was so much fun, here is my attempt:
Sally's Britannia Weather Report
Anyone for a cake?
Just when we thought we had seen it all, we were drawn to the tempting scent of The Market Café. A foodie’s heaven, this café is home to every cake imaginable.
Made by famous patisserie Eric Lanlard, each cake has been thoroughly prepared to bring the most heavenly selection of treats at sea.
I went for the Gluten-free orange and almond cake with white chocolate. To say it was delicious would be an understatement!
Eric happily took us through each creation with the knowledge and enthusiasm of a true master. In fact, we spoke to all five of the chefs and I was surprised with how sociable and happy they were to answer any questions we had. They appeared just as excited as being part of Britannia as we are.
You’re saying we are not a ship?
Sitting laughing with friends, enjoying a drink and talking about our evening was pure enjoyment and it was not until a colleague reminded me our car was here that I suddenly remembered where I was. The way P&O Cruises had set up the event gave a true feeling of being onboard. Strolling from one venue to another, choosing to do what you want, having a constant flow of food and drink and genuinely enjoying your time with friends.
I have been to many cruise events, including ship launch events but this was by far the most unique and one that gave me a true insight to how the ship will be.
This event only covered a tiny part of what will be featured onboard Britannia and from this I am already dying to cruise on her.
She will be a true reflection of the proud British heritage that P&O Cruises represent and raise many bars in the cruise world.
With a strong emphasis on food, she will take passengers on a culinary journey like nothing else available at sea, let alone being able to learn and try preparing it yourself.
Her venues, staterooms and entertainment are sure to wow everyone and are the recipe for a cruise of a lifetime onboard this iconic ship.
After receiving a Britannia goody bag (which included some glittery macaroons by Eric Lanyard, delicious!) we began our journey south. With big smiles on our faces and an excited buzz in the air, it was like we had just had a mini vacation on the real Britannia.
The only thing on my mind when I left was...who can I take with me to cruise on Britannia?
The Real Thing
Our Managing Director, Simone was lucky enough to fly to Venice for the Britannia float-out ceremony today and was honoured to be part of the celebration that enabled her to get a first glimpse of the ship.
Here are the exclusive pics she sent me:
By Sally Grimes
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