Tales of a Transatlantic Traveller

A crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by ship is on the bucket list of many of those who enjoy cruising. A route once traversed by famous explorers like Columbus, European Immigrants in search of a better life, and famous vessels such as the Queen Mary and the Normandie, it gives those who take it a sense of history.

Most transatlantic cruises happen in both spring and fall as the lines reposition their ships between Europe and the Caribbean, for the beginning or end of the summer or winter seasons. Some itineraries will include a stop in the Azores, Bermuda, Iceland or other islands along the route. A few lines, such as Cunard, do Transatlantic year round.

Our friend Michael recently returned from a crossing on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, as she repositioned from Barcelona, Spain to Tampa Florida. The fourteen night cruise included stops in the Canary Islands as well as Coco Cay, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas.

Michael tells us about his exciting journey and reasons to choose a Transatlantic cruise.

” You can get some great deals on repositioning cruises, it’s also a good chance get some peaceful days at sea and enjoy the ship.” explains the Toronto resident. “Crossing the Atlantic Ocean is also a unique experience and getting to see the Canary Islands is a huge bonus”.

Joined by one of his friends, he boarded Rhapsody of the Seas in Barcelona, Spain on November 5th. The ship spent the first two days at sea, then arrived at the first port, Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

“Lanzarote is known for its mostly volcanic landscape, with scarce vegetation – we chose to do a ride on a camel, a fun adventure, and a great way to see the island. The tour also visited the salt flats and “Los Hervideros”, some interesting rock formations and caves formed by hot lava colliding with the cool sea. At the conclusion of the tour, a motorcoach brought us back to our ship.”

 

The next port was Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, the capital of the island. At this port, Michael chose to enjoy a walk around the beach and the downtown area. “The waters of the Atlantic were a bit chilly to swim in, okay when you got used to them. The downtown was quite vibrant with lots going on.” Later, he joined a local tasting tour, one of the ship’s shore excursions. “It was a great chance to try some local cuisine, including dried meats, cheeses and desserts – one of the highlights of the cruise!”

 

Before making the trek across the Atlantic, Rhapsody made one final call at the Canary Islands at Santa Cruz De La Palma, another beautiful scenic island. “We took a 16 person, 4×4 tour bus into the mountains, where we were able to walk around the edge of a volcano – it was a good thing we brought our jackets as it got quite windy and cool”.

 

Once all passengers were back on board, Rhapsody of the Seas began her six day journey, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, toward to the Bahamas. This was a great opportunity for him to relax, take it easy, enjoy the ship and a slow pace of life. “We had a smooth ride during most of the six crossing days, with one evening passing through a thunderstorm. Made full use of the lounge chairs to enjoy a book, watched the theatre shows in the evenings and was up well past midnight each night dancing in the disco. Tried out the rock climbing wall a few times, and was able to improve since my last cruise! With six days at sea, life really slows down.”

 

On day thirteen, Rhapsody of the Seas approached Coco Cay Bahamas, Royal Caribbean’s private island resort. Unfortunately, the Captain started the morning with some bad news. “We hovered in place close to the island for about 20 minutes, and then it was announced that the port was being cancelled due to rough sea conditions. It was very disappointing as after six days we were really looking forward to a day at the beach.” Instead, the vessel spent the day at sea and then continued on to the final port of Tampa, Florida.

“Despite the last stop being cancelled, I still had a good time and would consider doing another transatlantic in the future, in a few years – although on a larger ship, with more on board amenities to enjoy during the sea days”.

Thanks Michael for sharing your experience with us! We will take a closer look at Rhapsody of the Seas, and the Canary Islands in future posts!

Royal Princess – Southern Caribbean Medley

We are back from our recent 10 day voyage to the Southern Caribbean, onboard Royal Princess.  Departing on November 30, 2017, our ship called at 6 ports with 3 days at sea. Here are some of the highlights of the destinations we visited, plus some thoughts on the ship.

 

Princess Cays, Bahamas

Princess Cays is a beautiful private resort owned by Princess Cruises, and was the first port on our journey. A short tender ride from the ship will take you to a lovely island with an abundance of free beach chairs, a nice white sandy beach with clear water, plus an included island BBQ with a variety of items and fresh fruit – they were even able to cater to a vegetarian request!  There was also bar service available, where you can use your cruise card to pay.  For those looking for some extra fun, they had water sports rentals available, or for peace and quiet private cabanas were offered for a fee.

We loved this stop, and it was an excellent way to begin our vacation. Next visit we would probably bring some water shoes, as parts of the water have sharp rocks and coral that can hurt when you step on them.

St. Thomas

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A few months prior to our cruise, St. Thomas was ravaged by a category five hurricane. Although there is still evidence of  some destruction, the island is mostly ready to receive tourists, with the shopping areas and most businesses re-opened. We took this opportunity to visit Magen’s Bay, rated as one of the top beaches in the world.  Beautiful white sand and clear water, plus no developments in sight, we can see why this rates as one of the best, even after Hurricane Irma. This was our third time in St. Thomas, and it still is our of our favourite Caribbean destinations.

Martinique

When we had originally booked this itinerary, it included Dominica, however due to unfortunate hurricane damage, Dominica was not able to receive our ship and was replaced by a stop at nearby Martinique. We had both read negative reviews of this port on Facebook and other social media sites, however once we stepped off the ship, we were greeted by lovely local music and dancers. There were also tour guides offering free maps and assistance to cruise passengers. We decided to take a walk around town and found it to have a very French Riviera type feel, with beautiful architecture and a wonderful historic Cathedral a short distance from the ship. It is a French speaking island, and most shops only accept Euros, with a few tourist souvenir shops taking US dollars.  Along the pier, close to the ship, there was a ferry service being provided to a beach across the bay. $7 US dollars was the return fare, and it was great for some excellent views of the town, the bay and our ship. The beach was not that impressive, especially after being at Magen’s Bay and Princess Cays earlier in the week, so we took the next ferry back to port, and explored the town a little more. It was overall a nice day, and we both learned not to worry too much about what online reviews say, it’s best just to go and create your own experience. Look for a future post, featuring more about this port!

Grenada

Living in Toronto, Canada we both have come in contact with people who immigrated from Grenada.  They are a very friendly and warm people and have nothing but good things to say about their former home. Needless to say, we were both looking forward to this stop and what it had to offer.  Grenada was an island full of beautiful lush vegetation and greenery. We booked a river tubing excursion on board the ship, and as the bus took us away from the port and town, we couldn’t help but notice how spotlessly clean the island was. Even as we got further into the countryside, not one trace of garbage and all the brush at the side of the road was kept neatly trimmed, even the curbs were painted in the country’s colours! The river tubing was a fantastic experience, a good way to experience the rainforest, and rainforest it was!, as we got soaked in a couple of downpours – we didn’t mind at all! The only negative aspect was our ship left port at 1:30 in the afternoon, so we didn’t get time to visit Grand Anse beach, we will just have to do this on another visit.

Bonaire

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Having visited Aruba and Curacao, part of the “ABC” islands, on previous cruises, we were looking to complete that and visit Bonaire. Luckily this cruise provided that opportunity. We found Bonaire to be similar to her sister islands in terms of climate and terrain, however, much less commercialised. The shops in town were mostly family and locally run businesses, which was a nice change from Aruba and Curacao.  We booked a bike ride excursion off the ship, which took us along the coast line and gave the chance to get different photos along the shore. We also rode by a flamingo preserve and were challenged with some hills and climbs with the bikes. After consuming all those delicious extra calories on board, this was a great way to get some fun exercise and learn a few things along the way. We would definitely visit Bonaire again, and perhaps check out one of their beaches, it was some of the clearest water we’ve ever seen anywhere!

Curacao

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This was our second visit to Curacao, as we visited there on the Carnival Splendor last year. Always a nice destination with it’s European vibe and plenty to do within walking distance of the ship. We found fellow passengers who were looking for a beach and got together and hopped in a cab and spent the morning and early afternoon at the Blue Bay Beach resort. $60 U.S. dollars between the 8 of us for the cab, plus $8 dollars each entrance fee, not a bad deal at all. It was a fantastic private resort for swimming, snorkelling or just enjoying the nice Caribbean sun. Before heading back to the ship, we took a stroll around town to pick up some souvenirs and took some photos with the CURACAO sign. This was our last port, our ship would then spend two days at sea returning to Fort Lauderdale.

 

Royal Princess

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We had previously cruised on Royal Princess to the Mediterranean a few years back and it being a port intensive cruise, didn’t have much time to actually enjoy the vessel to it’s fullest. This cruise had 3 days at sea in total, so it was a good chance to explore and enjoy the ship.

As we have come to expect with Princess Cruises, the service and food were phenomenal. Very much enjoyed such features as the Alfredo’s Pizzeria and the huge World Fresh Marketplace buffet, which provided many different foods from all over the world. “The Piazza”, the ship’s atrium, was always a happening place and usually had some sort of live music, demonstration or art auction going on. Our balcony cabin was clean, a little on the small side, but good enough for the two of us.

The only thing that didn’t satisfy us this cruise, was the entertainment selection in the Princess Theatre, the ship’s main show venue. For a ten day voyage,  three production shows were offered, which became two, as one was cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”.  Some of the guest comedians and musical acts brought on we felt would have been better suited to one of the ship’s smaller lounges, as we, along with some fellow guests, didn’t find them that entertaining. However, the ship’s party band was loads of fun, as was the Disco Deck party held one evening on board, which in a way made up for some of the shortcomings of the Princess Theatre.

We hope you enjoyed this review of the cruise. To enjoy the video of our journey, just watch below!

 

 

So concludes another cruise adventure with Chris and Brad – Until we sail again!

Meet Richard : Carnival Guest Services

22835685_10212864338342298_1806761388_nThey are the first cruise line employees we see at the terminal, they make sure all our documents are in order and tell us when and where to go to board the ship. They also give us great tips and advice for when we first board. This week, we speak with one of the Guest Services Agents who works at the check-in counter at Port Canaveral, Florida – Richard.

Richard recently joined the Carnival family as an employee, and speaks with us about his experiences working on the opposite side of the counter.

Q: What made you decide to work for Carnival Cruise Line?

A: “I decided to work for Carnival simply because I enjoy everything there is about cruising, and after taking so many trips on different ships, I feel it is a great way to share my experience, passion and knowledge with others, especially the first time cruisers.”

Q: Can you share with us, some of your duties and responsibilities?

A: ” I check in the guests for each voyage, ensure that they have any questions or concerns addressed. I also ensure that guests that require special assistance, such as those in mobility devices like wheelchairs are assisted up the gangway and on board the ship. I also assist with guests disembarking the ship, ensuring that luggage gets to where it’s supposed to go.”

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Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: “I enjoy seeing everyone so excited and happy to be on vacation and to begin a fun cruise. It’s great to be a part of that experience and to be the first face they see when they begin their cruise.”

Q: We know that you also love to cruise, how many have you been on?

A: “I have been on 16 cruises and hold Platinum status with Carnival. Currently I have two booked for 2018, on the Carnival Liberty and Carnival Magic.”

Q: What do you love about cruising?

A: “I really love being at sea, meeting new people and making new friends. It’s great to explore the ports of call and of course, most especially enjoy the wonderful food on board!”

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Thank you, Richard, for allowing us to learn more about the faces behind the cruise lines. We thank you for your hard work, for always doing your part to ensure us cruisers have the best experience possible!