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A Customer Review of the Rhine with Emerald Waterways

clock 16th July 2018 | comment0 Comments

Some of our lovely customers – Marjorie and Bob Hewiitt – have recently returned from a wonderful European river cruise on the Rhine, with the brilliant Emerald Waterways. Luckily for us they were kind enough to share their thoughts about the experience in this helpful and authentic review.

 

Amsterdam

 

The following comments are honest, and include opinions gathered from the many other passengers who we came into contact with on our cruise. River cruising is a far more intimate affair than deep sea cruising in large ships, and the Emerald Dawn held just 180 passengers as opposed to the several thousand in a deep sea cruise ship. This meant that we not only enjoyed repeated contact with our fellow passengers, but formed good friendships with a number of like-minded people. If anything, however, it was a common view that this ship was a little too large and many passengers reported a preference for smaller ships with say 100 guests.

It was clear however that the vast majority of passengers were very happy with the holiday, and with the general management of the ship. In fact we only met one passenger who was unhappy with his holiday, but his main complaint seemed to be that it suffered in comparison with a more expensive experience. Perhaps it would help if I broke down the different elements of the holiday separately.

 

The Ship

 

The Emerald Dawn is a relatively new ship, and this showed in the general condition of the fittings. In fact we have to say that it was absolutely the cleanest vessel we have yet travelled in. Everything was sparkling clean from cabins to common areas. Robert, the hotel manager, deserves much praise for his attention to detail and for the incredible attitude of his employees. Bali, our cabin steward, kept the place spotless without being in any way obtrusive.

The management of the ship was excellent. The captain and crew were highly professional and provided a smooth and trouble free experience. One, and possibly the greatest attribute, was the incredible energy and humour of Alexander Berger - the cruise director. He seemed to be involved in everything, and kept things moving seamlessly through the day. His commentary on the afternoon when we passed the castles on our way to the Lorelei was very informative and amusing. His two evening events, one a form of dance bingo and the other a game of lies, were a triumph. He really got everyone involved and a good time was had by all. He definitely deserves a high level of praise, as do the staff on the reception desk who worked tirelessly to resolve any query which arose.

 

Cologne

 

Embarkation

We thought this went seamlessly, but there was some criticism that we had to spend many hours in the lounge awaiting the message that our cabins were ready. I think many passengers would have spent the afternoon in Amsterdam had they known, but felt it necessary to stay in the lounge until called for.

 

Disembarkation

The organisation for getting off the boat was brilliant. Once again Alex was to the fore moving cases from cabin to bus. We went down to breakfast at 7am, and there he was beavering away with luggage; what an asset to the ship, he truly deserves a medal.

 

Food

The general opinion was that the food onboard was excellent. Of course individual customers noted that they had enjoyed better previously, but it always transpired that they were comparing it with more expensive holidays. There was some irritation with the queues at breakfast particularly when a queue for one item meant joining another one for additional items. A little further thought may be helpful if a solution could be found which removed the need to join multiple queues. We coped with this by arriving in good time, and joining different queues with one getting toast and eggs while the other dealt with other items such as bacon and sausages, etc. These are small things however, and I have only mentioned them as the issue was raised by many of our fellow passengers. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed all the meals and found the restaurant staff to be extremely helpful and attentive. In short; full marks for food from us.

 

Strasbourg

 

Excursions

These were well-organised and very interesting. On the whole the guides were good, but the lady who looked after us on the final day in Strasbourg was exceptional. The coaches were well-appointed and very clean, and the drivers were careful and helpful.

 

Entertainment

The entertainment onboard was relatively low-key compared with the shows provided on the large ocean going cruise ships. Nevertheless, the cruise director Alex did a great job on a number of occasions. A violinist came onboard one day and two classical singers on another. The resident pianist, Benny, did a great job and proved to be a popular member of the team. Given the size of the ship the entertainment was perfectly adequate and once again the cruise director proved his worth.

 

Overall Impression

We have enjoyed a significant number of cruise holidays, both deep sea and river. This was one of the best. As we have already noted, the ship was quiet and clean and the staff were ever helpful and courteous. The food was excellent and the entertainment wholly adequate. Our fellow passengers were similar to ourselves. There were no children onboard, a ‘leisure’ option was provided for excursions, there was no abuse of alcohol or any gratuitous noise. All passengers arrived on time for excursions and the whole experience was one of respect and calm.

 

Basel

 

This is definitely a holiday which I would recommend to anyone looking for a river cruise; we have no complaints to report and would be happy to use Emerald Waterways again. In fact, we are already booked onto a cruise on the Douro River next May and are looking forward to that.

 

If Marjorie and Bob have inspired you, take a closer look at the places you could discover on a Rhine river cruise.



A Sneak Peek into whats in Store onboard P&O Iona

clock 9th July 2018 | comment0 Comments

As the construction of the highly-anticipated Iona continues, we’re eager to get our hands on all the information we can about what she’ll be like. How will the cabins be decorated? What restaurants will there be? How many pools will she have? Well as time goes on, we’ll be hearing more and more, so register your interest with us to make sure you get all the latest updates. But for now, read on for a sneak peek into what’s in store onboard P&O’s Iona.

 

 

With an absolute commitment to bringing guests’ attention to the sea, P&O Cruises informed their esteemed designers – Richmond International and Jestico + Whiles – to ensure they well and truly stuck to this theme. And the result is idyllic.

 

 

What we know About the Atrium on Iona

 

The glorious atrium – the focal area of the ship – will span three decks: 6, 7, and 8. The surrounding ocean will always be in a prime position with floor to ceiling, panoramic windows on all three floors, enabling guests to gaze out at the horizon at any time. The staircase itself will be reminiscent of cruise ships of the past, having been designed in a commanding and highly impressive fashion.

 

 

The atrium will be one of four popular entertainment spaces onboard, and throughout the day guests will be treated to some unexpected performances including aerial circus-style shows. These will be visible from the various cafes and restaurants located in the atrium as well;

 

  • The Keel & Cow – a first for P&O Cruises, this down to earth, gastronomic pub will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Expect favourite British dishes like fish and chips at lunch, and a variety of hearty meals in the evening. You’ll even be able to choose from some fabulous cuts of steak from the dry-aging fridge.
  • The Glass House – this venue offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with a fantastic selection of wines from a list curated by wine expert and P&O Food Hero Olly Smith. Each bottle has been specifically chosen, and the venue hosts regular wine talks, tastings, and wine-pairing dinners for guests to attend.
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  • Emerald Bar – a wonderfully sophisticated area to enjoy drinks before dinner, or a tasty cocktail afterwards. Guests can socialise with new friends or relish in an intimate evening with loved ones while sipping a drink and gazing at the sea.
  • Vistas Café Bar – this casual area is perfect for a treat during the day should you need to recharge! Order a tea or coffee and choose from a selection of snacks including cakes and desserts curated by P&O Cruises Food Hero and highly-esteemed patissier, Eric Lanlard.
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    What we know About the Other Facilities on Iona

    P&O's new vessel will introduce some fantastic firsts for the cruise line, not only eateries but also entertainment and activities. Here are a few of the onboard opportunities you can look forward to:

  • 710 Club – this adult only club is perfect for an evening of fun and socialising. Think Covent Garden-style ambience, with live music ranging from acoustic covers, classic and modern Jazz, rock classics, Rat Pack, and all sorts in between.
  • Sky Dome – we are particularly excited about this new feature; a roofed pool with retractable stage. During the day this is the spot for dining, relaxing, and activities, but by night prepare for deck parties, engrossing shows, and even aerial performances.
  • Ocean Studios - here guests have a choice of four, boutique-style cinema screens where they can watch both recent blockbusters and some fantastic classic cinema.
  • Offering such a wealth of choice when it comes to how to spend time on Iona, another fantastic comfort to the adults is the onboard children's clubs. Separated into five different age groups (6mnths - 2yrs, 2-4yrs, 5-8yrs, 9-12yrs, and 13-17yrs), all younger cruisers will find plenty to keep occupied with. There's even a night nursery at which little ones from 6 months to 4 years can be left during the hours of 6pm to 2am; rest assured parents are given a pager so they will be alerted straight away if their child wakes or there are any problems.

    With so much provided in the atrium area alone we can’t wait to find out more about what will be onboard rest of the ship. Be sure to sign up to our mailing list, and register your interest in P&O’s Iona with us.



    What Not to do on the First Day of Your Cruise

    clock 29th May 2018 | comment0 Comments

    If you’re fortunate enough to have a cruise booked and coming up shortly, you’re probably getting more excited every day, and might even be thinking about packing and preparing to get going. If this is the case, take a look at our hints to help improve your holiday from day one. Even seasoned cruisers make faux pas on embarkation day, so we thought it would be helpful to put together a handy guide to explain what not to do on the first day of your cruise.

    1. Don’t ignore the crew

    The staff onboard the ship are there to help make your cruise holiday the best it can be, so take time to introduce yourself, and remember a friendly smile can go a long way. Embarkation day can be hard work for the crew, so try to be patient and remember you are not the only guest they are looking after.

     

     

    2. Don’t rush to the buffet

    Many cruisers consider the buffet to be their quickest and easiest option for the first day, and because of this, buffet restaurants tend to get very busy very fast. Keep this in mind, and consider trying a different restaurant in which you can enjoy a more peaceful atmosphere and great service.

    3. Don’t miss the Muster Drill

    Those who have been on a number of cruisers might feel that the muster drill – a safety talk – is not necessary for them. Remember however, that layouts and safety procedures are likely to be different on every ship, and attendance at the muster drill is mandatory.

    4. Try not to use the lifts

    If you can help it, try to use the stairs instead of the lifts on embarkation day. They can get very busy with cruisers getting to know the ship and of course transporting luggage to cabins, so avoid the wait and use the stairs - and in so doing you’ll free up the lift for those less able.

     

     

    5. Don’t stay in the sun all day

    When cruising in a sunny destination it can be all too tempting to bask in the sun all day soaking up the rays. This is a mistake however as too much time in the sun is likely to cause sunburn, headaches, and even sun stroke – putting a damper on the first few days of your holiday.

    6. Don’t drink too much alcohol

    If you’re on an all-inclusive cruise, or have opted for a drinks package, it can be easy to get a bit carried away on your first day onboard. Avoid a hangover so early on and try to limit yourself; a good tip is to drink one soft drink (preferably water) between every alcoholic one.

    7. Don’t stay in the outfit you travelled in

    Get in the holiday spirit straight away by changing your outfit as soon as possible. Getting out of your travel clothes will help you feel fresh and ready to get started with your cruise, whether this is by relaxing, swimming, or simply exploring the ship.

     

     

    8. Don’t forget to mention dietary requirements

    Even if you informed your cruise agent of allergies and dietary requirements at the time of booking, it’s a good idea to ensure this information has been logged by mentioning to the maître d of any restaurants you’ll be dining in.

    9. Don’t automatically dine in the main restaurant

    As with the buffet, many cruisers will look no further than the main restaurant for dinner on their first day. This means speciality restaurants usually have plenty of availability – so make the most of this and see what you’d like to sample onboard.

    10. Don’t forget to book activities

    Whether this be the children’s club for your little ones, a lesson on the surf simulator, or a space in the Pilates class, if there’s an onboard activity that you’re desperate to do, make sure you get it booked as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

    See our advice for first time cruisers for more useful information.



    5 Things to do on a Sea Day

    clock 11th May 2018 | comment0 Comments

    People might choose a cruise holiday for all sorts of different reasons, from the destinations you’ll visit and experiences you could have, to the food and features on the cruise ship. Whether you love them or hate them, if you’ve chosen an itinerary with widespread ports – or even a transatlantic crossing – sea days are inevitable. Instead of wishing these days away, make the most of what’s onboard with our 5 things to do on a sea day.

     

     

    1. Try a New Hobby

    There is an abundance of new and exciting activity options onboard cruise ships today. Classes can cover everything from learning Spanish and astrological presentations in a planetarium, to the Japanese art of Origami and culinary knife skills. As well as classes there are all the onboard features to consider. You can go ice-skating, simulated-surfing, play laser tag, and have a go on a zip-line, to name just a few of your choices. Be sure to explore the ship early on to see what you can try.

    2. Eat Something Different

    Cruise ships offer some of the finest cuisine in the world. With each of them competing, it’s good news for us cruisers who get to enjoy better and better food. There are unusual dishes and innovative restaurants to choose from, so you should never be bored when it comes to dining. Here are some of our favourite cruise line restaurants;

    - Qsine, Celebrity Cruises – this fantastic, creative venue allows guests to choose from an array of unusual dishes from an iPad, all of which are served with the utmost style and attention.

     

     

    - Aqualina, Azamara Club Cruises – here guests can enjoy contemporary twists on Italy’s favourite dishes. The desserts here are particularly inventive so be sure to save some room!

    - Butcher’s Cut, MSC Cruises – spoil yourself by selecting your own steak from a glass, meat-aging fridge, and then watch on as it’s prepared before you in the open kitchen.

    3. Enjoy Some ‘Me Time’

    Many cruisers consider their sea days to be a blessing, in that it’s as if they’ve been given the gift of time to simply relax. With this in mind, there are all sorts of things you can do onboard to help you chill out and rejuvenate. Your first thought could be to simply lounge by the pool taking in the sun, having a dip every so often to cool off. While this is a great way to relax, you should also consider the other facilities on offer to you – specifically the spa. Whether or not you opt for a treatment like a deep-tissue massage or facial, the spas onboard cruise ships usually offer a variety of calming spaces. As well as saunas and steam rooms look for other options like the Snow Grotto on Viking Cruises ships, and the Thalassotherapy Baths with Costa Cruises.

     

     

    4. Meet New People

    Whether you consider yourself a social butterfly or not, there are bound to be a fair few people of like mind on your cruise, who could indeed become lifelong friends. One of the best ways to get to know others is striking up a conversation at a class you’re both taking part in, or in the queue for the rock-climbing wall you’re both about to face. If you’re friendly, approachable, and open to some good conversation, the rewards will surely be rich.

     

     

    5. Take Care of Yourself

    In addition to trying new things and having some fun, and taking some time out to relax, another valuable way to spend time on your sea day is working out. There are some brilliant exercising facilities on cruise ships, with most offering state-of-the-art equipment in onboard gyms, pools large enough to swim lengths, jogging tracks on deck, and even sports centres. The sports deck with Norwegian Cruise Line for example, has facilities for guests to play bowling, football, basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and mini golf.

    For more inspiration about what to do on your cruise ship, take a look at our 10 best complimentary things to do onboard.



    River vs Ocean Cruising

    clock 9th May 2018 | comment0 Comments

    If you’re new to cruise, or indeed have always stuck to either river or ocean cruising, you might be curious to know more about the differences between the two. The fact is, both kinds of cruising offer some incredible opportunities, but of course there are many aspects which contrast. Find out more with our overview of river vs ocean cruising.

     

     

    The Destinations Visited

    There aren’t many crossovers when it comes to the destinations travelled to on river and ocean cruising. While an ocean liner can sail across the seven seas transporting you to countries and islands all over the globe, river ships traverse the world’s rivers, from The Rhine in Europe to the exotic Mekong in Southeast Asia. Usually, a river cruise will allow guests the opportunity to be in a new destination every day, with the ship sailing through the night, whereas on an ocean cruise you might find one or more sea days. So depending on whether or not you’re looking to spend time relaxing on the ship, or prefer a port-heavy itinerary, this could sway your decision.

    Activities on the Ship

    With the above in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that ocean liners will generally offer a lot more in the way of things to do onboard than river ships. You’ll usually find a plunge pool, gym, and possibly spa facilities on a river ship, however on an ocean cruise ship there will this plus a lot more. From F1 simulators with MSC Cruises and ice rinks with Royal Caribbean, to cookery schools and Strictly Come Dancing events with P&O Cruises, there’s no denying that ocean ships offer a lot more onboard activities. This is one aspect specifically worth considering if you’ll be cruising with children.

     

     

    Atmosphere Onboard

    There is a certain family-friendly, excitable atmosphere on larger, mainstream ocean cruise ships that you won’t find on a river cruise ship. With more guests, – Symphony of the Seas can hold almost 7,000 – more attractions, and larger social areas, these vessels are great for kids and those looking for fun and thrills. Alternatively, if you want to relax and soak up the surroundings and local culture, a river cruise could be the better option. With a much lower passenger-count, and often just one bar and one restaurant, the ambience on a river cruise ship is calmer and arguably more refined. Having said this there are a number of luxury ocean cruise lines which provide a similar experience.

    Onboard Food and Drink

    Those travelling with little ones, or foodies who enjoy plenty of choice and variation, would probably prefer an ocean cruise where dining is concerned. Some of the bigger lines offer a fantastic array of restaurants, for instance Carnival Cruises boast everything from Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que to the brilliant Dr Seuss themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast for kids. On a river cruise on the other hand, you’ll often get just one or maybe two restaurants, serving a small a la carte menu. While the food onboard is delectable, there is limited choice. Those with dietary requirements should mention these at the time of booking, and then again when onboard.

    Entertainment on the Ship

    Generally speaking, entertainment on a river cruise ship involves some unique experiences which allow the guests to become immersed in local culture. You can expect things like local musicians and dancers, or talks about upcoming destinations. These sorts of opportunities are also seen on ocean liners, however you’ll also often get some extravagant productions. Find the likes of Hairspray and Jersey Boys among other Broadway/West End style performances, and a fantastic aquatic acrobatic show with Royal Caribbean.

     

     

    Conclusions

    The differences between river cruising and ocean cruising can be seen as pros and cons depending on your likes and dislikes, and what you’re looking to get out of your cruise holiday. Each certainly have their merits, and while cruisers might tend to stick to one or the other, it can be refreshing and usually rewarding to try something new, so be sure to be open minded and consider all options. If you’re still unsure of what option to go with, talk to our sales team for more expert advice.



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