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Some pictures from Navigator of the Seas

In early 2019, Royal Caribbean “amplified” its ship Navigator of the Seas to include a tiki bar, a blowdry bar, waterslides and a redesigned pool area, and so much more! Here are a few pictures from my recent three-night cruise on Navigator.

Navigator of the Seas sails 3- and 4-night short cruises from Miami to Nassau and Royal Caribbean’s redesigned island experience Perfect Day at CocoCay. Message me if you’d like to know more or start planning your Navigator cruise!

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Freedom of the Seas Photo Gallery!

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Best of the Bliss!

I’m starting to receive some client inquiries about Alaskan cruises in 2019, which has got me to thinking about my awesome transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Bliss last April. Along with her sister ship Norwegian Joy, Bliss will be sailing 7-night Alaska cruises out of Seattle starting in late May. Book soon for the best rates!

Should you cruise on a Oasis-class ship?

Royal Caribbean has recently introduced its fourth Oasis-class (read: big) cruise ship, the Symphony of the Seas. She joins her sister ships Oasis, Allure, and Harmony of the Seas, and the four ships share a number of common characteristics.

One of my first Royal cruises was on Allure of the Seas in 2015. It was a transatlantic, and we loved it – we had eight sea days, and we never ran short of things to do. It was almost like we’d moved to a new city! We had different restaurants to eat at every day and there was always something to do – go to the gym, go to the casino, participate in the onboard activities, etc. The entertainment was fantastic – Allure’s performance of Mamma Mia was just as good as the one I saw in the West End in London. The variety of public spaces on the Oasis-class is also one of my favorite things about the class – I love the Central Park area myself, but I can see where if I had kids, I would want to take them to the Boardwalk. Just look at that carousel!

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One of the things that surprised me about the Oasis-class ships was that they didn’t feel overly crowded. On our Harmony cruise, we had three sea days, where all passengers were on board. Even still, we often found decks full of empty chairs, and we didn’t really see a huge crowd in the Windjammer until the very last day.

As much as I loved our two Oasis-class cruises, I’m not sure I would recommend this kind of ship for everyone. On our most recent cruise, on Harmony of the Seas, the hubby and I agreed that, well,  it didn’t really feel like we were on a cruise ship. Everything on the ship seemed to face in, not out, and there were very few places we had to just sit and look at the ocean. (We didn’t have an oceanview or outside balcony room.) We still enjoyed our experience, of course – the entertainment was still stellar, and we feel like the range of specialty restaurants on the Oasis class ships is a real bonus. But the size of the ship felt like a real inconvenience on Harmony, because our room was all the way at the front of the ship – I felt like we spent so much of our time walking down the hallway to our cabin.

So let’s answer the question: Should you go on an Oasis-class ship? I decided to become a travel agent in large part because I love helping people find the right cruise for them. With that in mind, I think going on an Oasis-class ship is good for you if:

  • You love entertainment on your cruises. With Broadway-style shows and a variety of music venues, there’s always something to watch or listen to on the Oasis class of ships.
  • You’re traveling with a bigger group, or with kids. Your group will never get bored and will always have a place to hang out, and your children will love the variety of slides and rides, not to mention the ship’s dedicated children’s activities.
  • You like fine dining – the Oasis class has some of the best specialty restaurants in the fleet. Our meal at 150 Central Park on Harmony of the Seas was one of the best I’ve ever had! (You can read my post on getting this dining at a discount here.)
  • You love seeing the latest and greatest the cruise industry has to offer. The Oasis-class ships are the newest and primarily they have all the bells and whistles.
  • You like an energetic vacation with a lot of activities – as I said, you’ll never be bored on an Oasis-class ship (even if you spend eight days at sea like I did!).

While the ships in the Oasis class are great options, they might not be the best fit for some cruisers – and that’s okay! If the following describes you, you might want to think about taking a cruise on an older, smaller ship:

  • You like to sit on a lounge chair and look out at the ocean. Sure, the bigger ships do have lounge chairs (you just saw pictures of them earlier), but you’ll find significantly less places where you can do this on the newer ships.
  • You don’t like to walk a lot, or have difficulty walking a lot. The big ships are, well, big. You might find that you spend a lot of time walking from one end to another, or planning your day so you don’t have to do so – and that’s not always what you want to have to do when you’re on vacation.
  • You consider yourself an “old-school” cruiser. This point might be a little controversial, and certainly I’ve met plenty of long-time cruisers on Oasis-class ships that love these new ships. But these new, big ships often attract a different breed of cruiser, one who doesn’t much care for the traditional formalities such as dress codes in the dining room (you’ll see a lot of shorts). If that’s something that bothers you, then maybe the Oasis-class ships aren’t for you.

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Would I book another cruise on an Oasis-class ship? You bet I would, especially to see Mamma Mia or Hairspray (on Allure or Symphony), eat at 150 Central Park, etc. As a travel agent, though, I just think it’s important that people know what they’re getting into. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Oasis class or booking a cruise, click here to contact me!

Some quick thoughts on our Harmony cruise

I’ve just gotten off a week on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, which is (for now) the world’s largest cruise ship. I’ll be posted a much longer review soon at my friend Emma’s blog Cruising Isn’t Just for Old People, but for now, here are a few quick thoughts. (UPDATE: My review is now live! You can read it here.)

  • The ship really is big, and that’s a good and a bad thing. I’d been on an earlier Oasis-class ship, Allure of the Seas, a little over two years ago. But since then, it’s been mostly small ships for us, and to be honest I think I prefer the smaller ones. A big ship means more things to do, but it also means more planning and a little too much thinking for my taste, especially since I mostly cruise to relax and not to do things.
  • Having said that, I never felt that the ship was particularly crowded, except for the morning of disembarkation in the Windjammer. There are so many options and things to do that I think it just naturally spreads people out. Even though there were over 6300 passengers on our sailing, there were definitely times when we were alone on the deck – which is kind of amazing.
  • Would I cruise on Harmony or her Oasis-class sisters again? Yes, for some specific reasons that I’ll detail in the blog post. (Spoiler alert: dinner in the 150 Central Park specialty restaurant was practically life-changing.) I certainly wouldn’t turn down an Oasis-class cruise, and I think there are some conditions where these ships are a good option: If you have kids, or someone in your group does; if you have a big group or one with diverse interests; or if you’re into the thrill-ride aspect of things like slides and wave pools.

In the end, I’m pretty happy to learn that I like cruising on the older, smaller ships just as much – maybe more? – as the big, shiny new ships. After all, there’s something for everyone in today’s cruising industry!

Going to the C&A event (again)

I’ve written before about the Crown and Anchor Top Tier event (for Platinum level members and higher) that the hubby and I attended on our Majesty of the Seas cruise in the Bahamas. I was intrigued to attend the similar event on the Explorer on the Seas because this is a much bigger ship, and I was curious how many people would attend.

One thing that was different on the Explorer cruise: we didn’t get our invitation to the event until midway through the week, and the event was held on the last day of our cruise. No problem – the event was held on our last sea day, and we had a pretty clear calendar. 😉 We attended the event, which was held in the ice rink, a feature found in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis, Freedom, and Voyager class ships.

(Side note: I just don’t get ice skating on a cruise ship. You can both attend skating performances and participate in an open skate yourself, but I’ve never found myself wanting to do it. I guess it’s a matter of personal preference!)

Indeed, there were a lot more people attending this Top Tier event, which was not surprising as it was a much bigger cruise ship. Waiters were walking around with the usual drinks (I opted for champagne again) and even some small hors d’oeuvres. The program was similar, but with one noticeable difference: The top cruisers had far fewer nights at sea than did the ones at the Majesty C&A event.

I didn’t mind attending the event because we really didn’t have anything to do, and we got a few free drinks out of it. I think the hubby is getting a little sick of them, though – he opted out of the event on our next cruise. (As it turns out, I kind of wish that I had too….)

Cruising on Majesty: A blast from the past

My mother took me on my first cruise in 1990, when I was 13 years old. She loved cruising, and I got to spend a lot of time with her on cruise ships – which is no doubt a big part of why I still cruise every chance that I get.

In the “arms race” of cruise lines, bigger and bigger ships have been making their debuts every year. My husband and I cruised for almost two weeks across the Atlantic on Allure of the Seas, and we took a fun one-week cruise to the Caribbean on Norwegian’s Escape. These ships are undeniably remarkable: Chock-full of activities, they’re filled with things to do and places to do them.

But to be honest, while I enjoyed my time on these larger, newer ships, I’ve also felt that there’s been something…well, different about them. They really do represent a new era of cruising that’s designed to attract a wider audience and – if you ask me – to pander to our modern sensibilities and our shorter attention spans.

Lately, I’ve been seeking out older and smaller ships, and my trip on Majesty fit nicely into that trend. I have to say that I was beyond pleased with the way that the ship evoked a nice sense of cruise nostalgia – nothing seemed old, per se, but even the layout of the ship was a throwback to the days when I began cruising with my mom. While the Majesty does have a rock-climbing wall, one of Royal Caribbean’s newer innovations and upgrades, most of its entertainment falls right into the sweet spot of cruising: Theater shows, a little gambling in the casino, and a nice drink with a great view of the ocean. What else does a person really need?

Should you go to the Crown & Anchor event? (Heck yes!)

At the time of our Majesty cruise, my husband and I were at the Platinum level of the Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor Society, which gives frequent Royal cruisers bonuses for their loyalty. One of those perks is an invitation to some sort of onboard party, which we attended in the late morning of our first full day on the cruise.

I love going to these events because, well, I’m a cruise nerd. I like hearing about the industry and I often hear updates on advancements and improvements being planned by the company – this time it was discussion of the massive CocoCay renovation, which will include a pier for ships to dock at and other additional facilities on the island. (At our event, they suggested a salt-water wave pool would be among the additions – a neat touch as the water at CocoCay doesn’t have many waves to speak of.)

I also love going to the C&A events because, well, they give you free drinks! Most of them will have waiters moving among the crowd with a tray featuring a number of different drink options (mimosa, rum punch, etc) but if you ask nicely, they can often bring you something else. I usually drink champagne, myself – it’s not the best vintage around, but hey, it’s free!

I really love the camaraderie at these events – at the event on Majesty in particular, cruise guests and staffers were greeting each other like old friends. Clearly, our group included a number of very frequent cruisers – many were at the Pinnacle Club level, earned by cruising over 700 nights, and one cruiser had over 2800 nights! (Our cruise left from Port Canaveral in Florida, which likely contributed to the number of frequent cruisers, many of whom lived within driving distance.)

After an event around 30 minutes, my husband took our glasses of champagne up to the Viking Crown Lounge to watch the sail in to Nassau. Even though it was gloomy weather at the time, this was a very pleasant way to spend the morning!

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Hanging out: Public Areas on Majesty OTS

When you’re staying in an inside cabin, as I was on Majesty of the Seas, you tend to spend a lot of time in public areas such as bars and lounges. Since my inside room on Majesty was a wee bit small, I was pleased to find so many lovely public areas to hang out in while we were on the ship.

One of my favorite parts of Royal Caribbean’s ships is the Viking Crown Lounge. This much-loved feature can be found in most of Royal’s older ships, although it was replaced by a suites-only restaurant on Oasis-class ships. The Viking Crown Lounge on Majesty is used at night to host a reception for elite loyalty guests (Crown and Anchor Diamond level and above), but you can still access part of it at this time, and the whole area is available during the daytime. Its height above the deck makes it an excellent perch to people-watch on the pool deck or watch the ship sail away from a port. (In our case, we had a noon arrival into Nassau, and found this a fantastic viewpoint to watch our entry and docking.)

Another great place to gather on Majesty is the Schooner Bar, another iconic feature in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. I especially liked the size of the Schooner Bar on Majesty, as well as its lovely large windows. Majesty’s Schooner Bar is also full of fun touches that make for great pictures, like this Viking sculpture. (The hubby and I had a little fun with this one. 🙂

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Right outside the bar, I found a great spot for a photo – full speed ahead, Captain! They may seem cheesy, but to this long-time cruiser, these small things are reminiscent of a bygone era in cruising that brings back lots of fond memories.

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