Recently we sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas on it’s inaugural voyage from Miami, Florida. She is the reigning queen of large ships with so much to see and do on-board that it would take several vacations just to experience it all.
Here’s a sample of what we experienced: water slides, robot bartenders, world class fine dining, high energy Vegas show, Broadway show – Hairspray, Water show with high diving into an ever changing pool , fireworks, balloon drop, wine tasting, fresh seafood lunch, organic italian pasta, laser tag, a real boardwalk carousel ride, a musical staircase, a bar that’s also an elevator, mini-golf, the international space station, and the Wright brothers flying a plane above the theater audiences heads. I’m sure i’m forgetting something – and we were only there for 4 nights!
As there is so much, we’ve created a photo & video gallery if you wish to see more
By the numbers she is 1188 feet long and 215.5 feet wide. She occupies 228,081 Gross Tons. 18 Decks with 24 guest elevators. 4 Bow thrusters with 7500 horse power each. There are 7 neighborhoods (really our favorite feature of this class of ship) Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool & Sports Zone, Spa & Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone. There are 2759 Staterooms which accommodate 5518 guests with double occupancy. 2200 crew members.
There are 9 complimentary dining venues and 11 specialty ones.
And this is all just the beginning – there is so much to see and do including Rock Climbing Wall, Water slides, Escape Room, Surfing, Zip line, laser tag and not to be missed the Ultimate Abyss. Will we head down the tallest slide at sea? Only one way to find out!
Certainly one of the great things about cruising is you are always close to destinations with amazing seafood. Last month in Halifax, Nova Scotia we had lunch at McKelvie’s Restaurant – a short walk from the cruise pier and not very far from another favorite spot – Halifax Distilling Co. You can tell from the photos below that we had a great lunch and would definitely go back on our next trip.
If you have never seen the Aura music and light show inside this cathedral it is definitely a must see. However, Even during a normal daytime visit the lighting provides an amazing scene. Just check our photos from our visit last month. Montreal was the final stop on our Canada New England fall color cruise. We had great time and highly recommend this itinerary. More photos coming soon!
I’ll admit it. I’ve been lots of places all around the world, but have never been to Boston. Two things I know about Boston: First is Sam Adams. Jim Koch believed that beer drinkers deserved a better American beer than what was available in the 1980’s. And was he right! Look at the proliferation of craft beers and breweries all across the US. Samuel Adams Boston Lager had a huge impact on the future US landslide of flavor packed beers. Second thing I know about Boston is Boston Rob from the CBS show survivor. Rob and his wife Amber both individually won different seasons – her in 2004 and him in 2011 after his fourth appearance! As a couple they both appeared on Season 7 of the Amazing Race – they were masters of the game, and finished in 2nd place, just short of the big prize.
For this trip, we’ll be in Boston a couple days early and will visit Freedom Trail sites in the downtown area. The city was founded in 1630 and got its name from an English village. Many of the events that led to the American revolution including the infamous Boston Tea Party in 1773, started here In 1775, Paul Revere helped spread the word that the British were coming (no tweeting in those days). The next day “the shot heard round the world” was fired, signaling the start of the American Revolution. And the rest as they say is history.
Being offered a “free” dining or beverage package seems to the be sign of the times today in ocean cruising bookings. Every cruise line has its own twist on the perks offered but these two are always in the mix of offerings.
So, which do you choose? You love to eat and…. okay you like to consume adult beverages too, thus the dilemma exists.
Now, my first recommendation is talk to your travel professional because all “free” perks are not created equally. For example, some lines charge service fees associated with their “free” while others do not. Most lines have a dollar limit to drinks available using the perk and the big difference is how they handle those drinks that hop over that limit. For example, let’s assume your drink limit is $13 but you really want to try that $16 martini. On some lines, you would pay only the $3 extra, on other lines you would not be able to use the beverage package and be charged the full $16. Note from one wine snob to another: Serious wine drinkers (those who won’t drink the house wine at a bar and who don’t drink much in the way of other alcohol) should think twice about the “free” beverage package because it isn’t likely to have wines that will make you happy. You, may want to consider choosing the free dining perk and then buying your own wine package.
Dining packages are no different, you really have to do the math regarding which perk will be best. Example: you are on a 7-day cruise, your perk is 3 nights in a specialty restaurant, on board credit, free wifi or the beverage package. What is the value of those 3 nights dining? Let’s say the price is $35 per visit to the specialty restaurant x 3 = $105 but the onboard credit is $150 per person…..which is better?
Remember a particular cruise line can only speak to and only wants to sell you their product, they cannot offer you a side by side comparison like a travel professional. We can help sort all that out and can search across all cruise lines for the best perk offering out there.
At GetAway Travel, we pride ourselves on great professional service to our customers. Travel industry surveys continue to relate that travelers that work with travel agents have more fulfilling vacations than those that do not. We certainly believe it is true, and obviously so do our clients. Our clients expect to be treated like friends and family. They are confident in our abilities. They do not expect to be “sold” on travel as we already know they want an amazing vacation, what they want is our opinions, our help and our support. One of the ways we support them is by maintaining professional agency affiliations. The affiliation that we are always most excited about is with MAST Travel Network – and unless you are in the industry, you likely have never heard of them. We’ve been MAST members for many years now, and in fact Sue currently is serving a term on the board of directors. MAST helps keep us up to date on the travel industry and products, but more importantly puts us face to face with suppliers.
This week was the 12th annual MAST awards night and GetAway Travel came home with 2 awards which bring us great pride. The first award is for “Best Travel Show”, for our “Afternoon in Italy” event last February. The second award is the “Directors Achievement Award”, recognizing one of MAST’s smaller agencies for outstanding sales and support with highest percentage increases from one year to the next. This was a new category and we are truly blessed with being the first agency to ever receive this award.
You should expect great things from your travel agency, and we hope that for you that the travel agency you rely on first and foremost for amazing vacations is us.
Best Travel Show Award 2015 for our “Afternoon in Italy”
European vacations continue to hold great value. The US Dollar remains at historic low levels vs. the Euro. This is good news for travelers to Europe as you definitely get more bang for your buck. Our best advice for Europe is to plan ahead – this is not a destination that typically rewards the last-minute traveler. The best way to start planning your European vacation is to schedule a consultation with Sue.
River Cruising continues to grow and for very good reasons. Our clients absolutely love to take River Cruises. All it takes is to try it once and you will rave about it forever. Be aware however that not all river cruise companies are equal. You can research endlessly on your own, or you can call us to discuss. Our goal is to find out about what you want to do, how adventurous you are, what you like and what you don’t like. What are your travel dreams? Our recommendations are simply based on you and your needs, that’s it.
All Inclusive vacations will remain hot, hot, hot. The industry continues to upgrade old properties and build new ones. There are All-Inclusives for all tastes and budgets. Well we know you want a warm weather, beach destination, but are you looking for a romantic escape or a family/multi-generational getaway? Do you want basic dining choices or a more gourmet experience? How does a canopy covered bed and open air shower sound? Or a private plunge pool within mere steps of your suite? The choices go on and on. We can help narrow it down to something you will love.
According to the experts, air ticket prices are down but add-on fees are up. The simple fact, is you need air tickets to get to many vacation destinations. They are the transportation, not the vacation.
Cheap will remain, well….cheap. While the dictionary defines cheap as inexpensive, it also defines it as something of poor quality or shoddy. Continue to be cautious about anything advertised as cheap, supercheap, ultracheap, etc. A fantastically cheap vacation is not a good value if it is actually craptastic (this is our official industry word for cheap vacations!). Everyone wants good value and that’s where we help – get the best value for your money that actually gets the vacation experience you are looking for. Will it be cheap? We certainly hope not.
The best things in travel continue to come to those who plan ahead. For example, how about planning 2017? You may not be ready yet, but we are. We have 2 special group options worth considering.
Join us in January 2017 for our GetAway on the Getaway. We will do all the following: go down the highest water slides at sea, attend award-winning Broadway shows, experience Iron Chef dining, walk the plank and be endlessly entertained and pampered. Book now and choose between Free unlimited drinks, Free Specialty Dining, Free Shore Excursions or Free WiFi.
In September 2017 we will be hosting a very special Wines of Western Europe group on the Azamara Journey. Beginning in England, we will sail to France, Spain and Portugal. Azamara specializes in unique itineraries that include overnight stays in many ports. Our group will be in Bordeaux, one of the world’s foremost wine regions for 3 days. But that is not the only World Heritage region we will visit – see our web page for all the details.
Our national holiday stems from the feast held almost 400 years ago by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. The Pilgrims came from religious congregations who originally fled the volatile political environment in England for the relative calm and tolerance of Holland in the Netherlands. They were known as Brownists, named after Robert Browne an Anglican priest who preached against the doctrines of the Church of England. The Brownists were advocates of a congregational form of organization for the Church of England starting in the time of Henry VIII. Openly disagreeing with the monarchy however, was a rather hazardous affair.
Mary I, Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 – 1558, was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon that survived to adulthood. As the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Mary is most remembered for her restoration of Roman Catholicism after the short reign of her younger Protestant half-brother. Mary was fond of executing protestants by burning them at the stake and earned the nickname “Bloody Mary”. After her death, Mary’s successor Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn re-established the Protestant Church of England – where the Monarch is the Supreme Governor, rather than that power residing with the Catholic Pope. Regardless of who was in charge – it was a messy time to not agree with the only official religion in town, even though it could change depending on who was in charge. Under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services with a fine of one shilling for each missed Sunday and holy day. The penalties for conducting unofficial services included large fines and imprisonment. Your activities contrary to the Church could also be interpreted as Sedition, which generally resulted in execution.
So back to our intrepid Pilgrims. They had a different set of ideas and it was a dangerous time for that sort of thing so they packed their bags and went to Holland. Holland? I thought they went to America? Gouda Cheese is not a traditional Thanksgiving item! Well they did not stay there – apparently Holland was a bit too tolerant as the Pilgrims were worried about losing their cultural identity so they hatched plans to establish a new colony in North America.
As the trip would be long and arduous, it was thought that the initial settlement should be undertaken primarily by the younger and stronger members. The remainder agreed to follow if and when they could at a later date. It was time to go, so a small ship was procured to set sail for North America – the 60 ton Speedwell. Speedwell? Wait a minute – that does not sound right. My first grade project was to build the Mayflower with toilet paper tubes and tongue depressors. Well all was not well with the Speedwell. It was supposed to bring some passengers from the Netherlands to England and then set sail for North America, but…. it leaked. A second larger ship, the Mayflower had already been leased for other transport and exploration services. Once the Speedwell was officially deemed not to be seaworthy, plans were changed and some crew and passengers were transferred to the Mayflower.
The Mayflower was no cruise ship. She was a merchant vessel and not built for passengers at all. She was a typical English merchant ship of the time, square-rigged with high castle like structures fore and aft that served to protect the crew and main deck from the elements. But having such structures made the ship extremely difficult to sail against the wind. As a result the voyage to America took over 2 months. There were roughly 102 passengers and 30 crew members aboard. The Mayflower carried stores aboard to supply the Pilgrims with essentials needed for their journey and future lives. Among them would have been tools, weapons, live animals including dogs, sheep, goats and poultry.
The crossing would be miserable, with huge waves constantly crashing against the topside deck which eventually fractured key structural supports. After long delays to even get the voyage started, the passengers put up with shortages of food and supplies, and also had to help repair the ship. One passenger and one crew member died during the voyage and one child was born. The Pilgrims lived ‘Tween decks with no privacy and only a chamber pot for a toilet. They suffered injuries from being thrown against the walls of the wind tossed ship and when they weren’t seasick they were mostly bored. The rare opportunities to go above deck and get fresh air occurred when it was time to empty chamber pots.
The Pilgrims eventually arrived in the New World, but it was winter – making it very difficult for them to find food and build shelters. Already weakened by their 66 day voyage, most passengers failed to survive the first few months. Fortunately, native Americans called the Wampanoag lived in the area and shared knowledge of local game and crops, helping the colonists survive. Waterfowl such as duck was plentiful and during the winter wild game such as rabbit, squirrel, deer and yes, turkey. The first Thanksgiving feast was held in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the first successful harvest.
So what does this have to do with travel?
Well you can still make the voyage between England and America. One great way to do this is aboard the Queen Mary 2 – recognized as Best Luxury Cruise Ship by readers of Travel Weekly. It won’t take you 66 days, but only 7 or 8. The Queen Mary 2 entered service in 2004. Built in France and coming in at 148,528 tons – over 800 times the size of the Mayflower at 180 tons. The Queen Mary 2 is 1132 ft long – 10 times longer than the Mayflower at 100 ft. The Mayflower had 4 decks, the Queen Mary 2 has 14.
Queen Mary 2 holds about 2600 passengers (Mayflower 102) and a crew size of 1253 (Mayflower 30).
OK – obviously there is really no comparison, and you certainly won’t have to live ‘tween deck and only get to go up top to empty your chamber pot! Also you won’t be bored. There is a long list of daily activities – Fitness class, card games, dance lessons, lectures, and watercolor instruction to name but a few. The on board planetarium is a big draw with 3 shows a day produced by the NY American Museum of Natural History. Computer, IPod and IPhone classes are offered as well as interactive fun gatherings in the Golden Lion Pub for trivia contests.
In the evening, entertainment comes alive in the plush Royal Court Theatre. The spectacular Queens room lounge recalls the main ballroom of a 1930s ocean liner with all the glitter. Veuve Clicquot lent its name to the Champagne Bar. The Chart Room is a great place for pre-dinner drinks, being kind of a traditional ocean liner smoking room, but without the smoke. Across the way is the wine bar, Sir Samuel’s.
The Canyon Ranch Spa is the largest ever mounted in a ship, with a staff of 50 to perform an array of services. Movies are shown under the stars on warm nights. The deck space has the longest promenade at sea. Five swimming pools, some with adjoining whirlpools are available in the open and under a Magrodome. Sports include: tennis, golf driving range, basketball and shuffleboard.
The main dining venue is the soaring Britannia Restaurant, a spectacular space with 3 tiers. Spaciousness and elegance are apparent in all the public room corridors, foyers and lounges.
If the Pilgrims were aboard the Queen Mary 2, they may have never left the ship when it arrived in America, and we would miss out on our annual Thanksgiving feast (and day of Football). So let’s give thanks to the Pilgrims, thanks to the native Americans that kept them all from starving to death in the new world – and thanks for the many amazing travel options we have today!
May you and your family have a great Thanksgiving holiday.
We are putting together a group for an Inside Passage Alaska Cruise in June 2015 and you’re invited! Join the group and get a close up view of Alaska’s famous glaciers, abundant wildlife and inspiring natural beauty. Journey round trip from Seattle Washington aboard the stunning Crown Princess. The Crown Princess is the largest ship Princess Cruises has ever put in Alaska – which means more entertainment, dining and relaxation options on-board for you. Walk on a glacier in the morning, spend the afternoon in the spa and finish the day with gourmet dining and a broadway show.
We have special pricing and amenities just for you in several stateroom categories. We are also starting to put the finishing touches on a custom add-on for this trip – Pacific Northwest Wine Tour. We can’t release the wine tour details yet, but the timing will coincide with the cruise dates so you choose to do both the Cruise and Wine tour together.