Opinions, Tips on Cruises by the Industry leader! Find out which cruise lines and which destinations are appropriate for you through reading the insight of the industry leaders!
Home Beginners Guide Cruise Destination Guides Cruise Ship Reviews General Tips on Cruises Hotel Reviews Press Releases

May 25, 2014

Silversea Cruises - Silver Shadow

SILVER SHADOW REVIEW

silver_shadow_review.jpg

Silversea Cruises is the only privately owned cruise line in the world. This is something they are very proud of. When I boarded the Silver Shadow I was reminded of this by the Cruise Consultant and told after you've sailed on Silversea Cruises the next best thing is heaven. I thought to myself what am I about to see...

I was escorted to view the Suites onboard Silver Shadow. What a place to start! These Suites are the most beautiful I've seen on any ship. The layout, the decor and the amenities were excellent.

The smallest Suite onboard Silver Shadow is a Vista Suite. It is 287 square feet offering a large sitting area with sofa and writing desk, a picture window or floor-to-ceiling windows, queen-size bed (or two twins), walk-in closet and marble bathroom with double sinks, large separate shower and bathtub.

silver_suite.jpgveranda_suite.jpg
From there I viewed the Silver Suite. This is a great value because its large enough to entertain and still keep your sleeping area separate from the living area. The Silver Suite is 701 square feet offering a teak veranda with patio furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass doors, a living room with sofa bed, two arm chairs, bar and dining table that seats four, queen-size bed that is surrounded by glass doors and curtains that can stay open or be closed when entertaining, CD player, two remote controlled televisions with VCRs and satellite reception, and a marble bathroom. The bathroom in the Silver Suite is very large and separated into two areas; there is a double sink with a separate bathtub & shower and in a secon section there is a toilet with an additional sink. The bathroom in the Silver Suite is great for when you are entertaining guests.

Each Suite onboard Silver Shadow includes Champagne upon arrival and is replenished as you desire. Each suite includes fine bed linens, plus robes and slippers, down pillows, personalized stationery, Bulgari bathroom amenities, walk-in closet with a full-length mirror, in-suite safe, remote controlled TV/VCR with complimentary in-suite movie channels and video rental, hair dryer, beverage cabinet stocked with your selection of wines, spirits and beverages, fresh fruit and flower arrangements, and twice daily suite service with turndown service each evening.

The public areas onboard Silver Shadow are elegant and well maintained. All public areas focus on the views with large windows and lots of glass. Walking around the ship I felt like I was in a five star resort. The service was gracious and friendly. The cuisine was incredible.

silver_shadow_cruises.jpgsilver_shadow_dining.jpg
Dining onboard Silver Shadow offers many options. There is in-suite dining on evenings you just want to relax and unwind with a book or a movie. There is La Terrazza offering an excellent selection of Italian cuisine. There is the Pool Bar & Grill offering casual eats next to the pool on deck. There is The Restaurant offering three meals per day on sparkling silver and crystal with international cuisine. And last but definately not least, there is Le Champagne offering a wine tasting menu by Relais & Chateaux - Le Champagne is must one evening of your cruise!

I was impressed with the layout of the Silver Shadow and all of the deck space. Silversea Cruises really wants each guest to enjoy their time onboard and it shows. There are many different activities offered, but with all the choices onboard you can easily just relax as well. The spa is tastefully done and offers a range of treatments. There is a good size library with many items guests can borrow during the cruise.

I hope to return to the Silver Shadow, or any of the Silverseas Cruises fleet, very soon! Addio amico mio!

Click Here To View More Information About Silversea Cruises Alaska Cruises

Written by Denise Blackmore, MCC

Additional information about Alaska cruises are available through our websites:
www.Cruising2Alaska.com

Posted by Denise at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2014

Holland America Line - Zaandam

ZAANDAM REVIEW

zaandam_review.jpg

In mid July I sailed on Holland America's Zaandam to Alaska with my husband and his parents. We chose the Zaandam for its intimate size (we did not want a mega ship) and the traditional style of cruising for which Holland America is famous. We were looking for a ship that offered comfortable accommodations, classic decor, good food and service, and quiet shipboard life, all of which we found onboard the Zaandam.

Our oceanview stateroom included the newly upgraded mattress, fluffy bathrobes and plush oversized towels. The bathroom also had a tub which is appreciated as most ships on other lines do not offer a tub unless you are in a balcony or suite category. A fruit bowl was replenished as it was consumed but we were disappointed not to find a fridge. Instead a selection of soft drinks and bottled water were placed on the vanity next to the ice bucket.

zaandam_cruise.jpg

The Zaandam exudes classiness with cozy public rooms adorned with antiques and historical artworks, spectacular fresh flower arrangements at every corner, wraparound promenade deck with teak loungers, and quiet corners to chat with friends or watch the passing seas. Food and service in the Rotterdam dining room was superb. Each menu had a wide choice catering to all taste buds. A nice touch is the Indonesian dishes that are offered at a few dinners and lunches, allowing guests to try different flavours. By the second night all of us were sold on the complimentary cappuccinos after dinner and soon our assistant waiter brought them to us without having to ask. We also dined at the Pinnacle Grill which was superb in its sterling beef selection and a variety of seafood and rack of lamb. There is a cover charge of $20 but on the first night it is offered at half price and once more in the middle of the cruise. It is well worth the price for an excellent meal.

Onboard staff is friendly and smiles are everywhere, however many have minimal fluency in English and if anything out of the ordinary was asked for, it often received confused looks and not carried out properly. In 3 different lounges my father in-law ordered a single malt scotch which he asked for water to be brought in a separate glass (so he can add it himself) and all 3 times the scotch arrived in different glassware (once in a sherry glass and once in a tall glass with a straw!). It was clear that they did not understand what he wanted because he did not order a regular scotch on the rocks.

This being an Alaska cruise, daily activities was kept to a minimum so that guests can enjoy the scenery and shore side visits. On sea days as well as in Glacier Bay National Park, naturalists provided commentary on the wildlife and landscape. Each evening after dinner we had a chance to listen to various musicians and danced in the lounges. We noticed however, that if a production show was in progress all other entertainment venues shut down, so it forced guests to watch the shows, which unfortunately were not all that great. The headline singers were not the best we have heard, and the productions seemed very hokey. But Holland America was never known for its entertainment so we were not surprised. The performance that got the best reviews was the Crew Show in which the Indonesian and Filipino crew donned traditional costumes and performed their countries song and dance.

One element which we did not expect onboard a Holland America ship was the number of announcements. Especially annoying were the calls to bingo every day. As you are out on deck enjoying the spectacular glaciers or whale watching, the PA comes alive with The Bingo Cash King calling you to the latest jackpot game. As well in the afternoons we had to endure the Cruise Director's announcements on what activities are happening onboard today. We commented in our guest questionnaire to let the daily newspaper do its job rather than filling the air with announcements. Announcements may be more acceptable in the Caribbean or on a more casual party ship but on a classy vessel in the serene landscape of Alaska it just is out of place.

We must praise Holland America for its efforts in keeping guests from catching or spreading the dreadful gastrointestinal germs that have plagued many ships. At embarkation each guest had to pass by a disinfectant dispenser which sanitized your hands. At the start of the buffet line a steward hands out a disinfectant wipe as you collected your tray, and upon returning to the ship from ashore, a disinfectant dispenser is set up at the gangway and a steward ensured you washed your hands before continuing on.

Holland America continues to attract loyal guests who favour the olden days of cruising onboard classic ships. Because of its traditional style, onboard ambiance and decor, it attracts an older clientele which in turn brings about a quieter shipboard life. Nightlife is subdued especially in Alaska as most people are active during the day. So after dinner they go to the show, maybe a couple of dances, and are off to bed by 11pm. So don't expect the disco to be going on til the wee hours. If you are looking for a quiet relaxing vacation a Holland America cruise will be perfect for you.

Click Here To View More Information About Holland America Line Alaska Cruises

Written By a Cruise Specialist at Cruising2Alaska.com

Additional information about Alaska cruises are available through our website:
www.Cruising2Alaska.com

Posted by Denise at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Sun

NORWEGIAN SUN REVIEW

norwegian_sun_review.jpg

We picked Norwegian Cruise Line for our group as it seemed to be good value for a 7 day Inside Passage to Alaska and suited the price range for most people in the group, majority of whom had not cruised before.

Dining
With 9 restaurants onboard, it provides a variety of dining experience ranging from sushi and teppanyaki to French as well as fine Italian cuisine. The Specialty restaurants are Ginza - Teppanyaki & Sushi Bar (A la Carte pricing). I personally recommend the Teppanyaki and a reservation would be required as it only takes 10 at one sitting.
East Meets West - Asian Fusion cuisine (cover charge of $15).
Il Adagio - Fine Italian cuisine (cover charge of $12.50).
Le Bistro - French cuisine (cover charge of $15; also highly recommended).
For the health and weight conscious guests there is also Pacific Heights Restaurant (no cover charge) which serves light cooking food mainly pasta and a variety of salads.
The main dining rooms are Four Seasons and Seven Seas with equally attentive waitresses and waiters providing excellent service.
Buffet food is served in the Garden Cafe with a wide selection of salads, main courses, and desserts. There are also cooking stations that would provide guests with food cooked to their liking. Available also is the pizza bar, ice-cream bar and tapas bar. Sprinkles ice-cream is free but Hagen Daz may be purchased if required.

Onboard activities
The gymnasium, internet cafes and video arcades are open 24 hours daily. Mandra Spa along with sauna and steam facilities are open from noon till 11:00pm.
There are only 4 hot tubs and I found that this can get crowded quite quickly at busy times and the hot tubs are fairly small. The swimming pools are uncovered and are fine for nice days but can be a bit cool when it is slightly windy. There seem to be sufficient deck chairs on the pool deck for guests.
Other activities include cha-cha dance class (very popular), aerobics (including step and cardiodance), art auction, bingo, bridge play, cooking demonstrations, lecture seminars, karaoke (also popular), movies, scrabble, wine tasting, backgammon, treasure hunts, chocoholic buffet, BBQ parties on pool deck and ping-pong, basketball and volleyball. Children's activities are extensive and seem to be popular. There is also a party organized for them on the last night of the cruise whereby they have dinner together.

Stateroom
We were in a Mini-Suite Category AE with a king-size bed and a sofa bed which converts to queen size bed with privacy curtains. Decor is pleasant with mainly blue and yellow theme. The suite is on Deck 11 at the front of the ship. The balcony has a view of both sides but can be slightly breezy on some days. There are 2 desks, 1 television and fridge, and 4 deck chairs on the balcony.

norwegian_sun_minisuite.jpg

Amenities in the room include a bottle of champagne, and a bowl of fresh fruits which was replenished daily, coffee/tea making facility and also concierge services. In the bathroom is a walk-in closet, dressing table and chair, bath (with shower), marble top sink, and separate toilet. There are two cotton bathrobes, (not toweling robes) for use and also hairdryer.

For breakfast, the room service menu is slightly limited as there are no cooked food such as omelettes, eggs, pancakes or waffles. The menu consist of muffins, Danish pastries, variety of fresh fruits including fruit compote, yogurt, toasts, and beverages such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate and fruit juices.

Garden Cafe where the buffet is served can be crowded at peak times and sometimes difficult to get a table. You can however get the food and then walk across to Pacific Heights where it is much quieter (but there is no coffee or tea served here), or sit outside when the weather is nice.

Entertainment
Nightly entertainment is presented mainly by The Jean-Ann Ryan Company in the Stardust Lounge (main theater). On the first night there was only one show at 9:00pm. For the rest of the week there were two shows nightly at 7:30pm and 9:30 pm. As well as the main production, there are comedy game shows throughout the week in Dazzles lounge. Captain's welcome party was on the first day at sea (Monday night) for an hour with champagne served at the atrium.

What I loved about the cruise is the variety of dining experiences it offered. Freestyle dining whether in the main dining rooms or in the specialty restaurants provide so much choice and the service throughout remain consistent.
What I also like is the option given for disembarkation. You can choose what time you want to leave, be it earlier or later. We picked approximately 10:30am and therefore managed to have a nice leisurely breakfast before leaving.
What could be improved is the emergency lifeboat drill. It was held at 5:00pm (before ship sailed) and went on for slightly longer than necessary, (not so on other ships) and most guests were getting quite uncomfortable at the long procedure involved.

Click Here To View More Information About Norwegian Cruise Line Alaska Cruises

Written By a Cruise Specialist at Cruising2Alaska.com

Additional information about Alaska cruises are available through our websites:
www.Cruising2Alaska.com

Posted by Denise at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)