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The view was breathtaking. As was the ride to get to the top of St. Thomas Island.
Whenever I return, this will be an island trip I will have to take again. And again.
First, we caught an island shuttle for a winding trip to the top of St. Thomas Island, appropriately named Mountain Top. Our driver “Toothpick” (“because I’m so skinny”) expertly guided the vehicle up the narrow road to the highest peak on the island and gave us a history lesson at the same time.
Carnival Cruise Line has seen a lot of additions and changes over the last couple years. New sports bars, craft beer on ship, a Guy Fieri signature burger place on many ships… but the main dining rooms could be seeing a major upgrade soon.
Flying is stressful enough. Unpredictable weather and delays can turn a dream trip into a nightmare quickly, especially if baggage gets misplaced or lost. There’s no worse feeling than sitting in a hotel without much besides what came with you on the plane, waiting for a bag to show up so that you can get a change of clothes or take care of something else essential. Here in the office, we’ve thought quite a bit about this lately – and we’ve come up with a list of some of the essential items that every carry-on bag should have that can be lifesavers when the checked bag doesn’t make it to your destination when you do.
Shortly after entering my luxurious suite with its marvelous ocean view – all guest rooms aboard the Seabourn Odyssey are suites and all have marvelous ocean views – I was greeted by a knock on the door from my room attendant Timea.
She was carrying a tray with caviar hors d’ouevres, a glass of champagne and some special bath soaps. Gifts from her to welcome me aboard.
We like to look ahead in the office, and when it comes to ship announcements – we sometimes like to look far ahead. Royal Caribbean’s last big unveiling was three years ago with the Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, and we’re about a year away from Quantum of the Seas, the largest ship to ever be homeported in the New York area. But last week, more plans for the Anthem of the Seas – scheduled to launch sometime in 2015, about 18 months away.
The cruise is booked and you are set to sail for the very first time! Cruises are a really excellent way to see the world in a relaxing, stress-free environment, but its a very different type of travel than a guided tour or something on your own. There are secrets and strategies that make an experience extra special, and we want to share them with you. So without further ado, here are five tips to help you cruise like a pro!
When Lewis Hankins dons his white suit to take the stage as Mark Twain, he has a long- time routine. Before greeting his audience, Hankins says a simple prayer.
“I say, ‘David, this is for you. Daddy has never forgotten you.’”
How Hankins came to be on stage as his favorite author seems to be an act of destiny. The retired Kentucky state policeman grew up reading Twain’s works. He delved deeply into the life of the man born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who chose the pen name Mark Twain to become known as the father of American Literature.
If not for a tropical beach poster, Mark Dexter might not be the captain of the sensational Seabourn Odyssey. As a teen, his dream was to become an airplane pilot.
“I was devastated that I couldn’t be a pilot,” he says. “It was career day in high school and I was looking around for some other career. I remember the various pitches.”
Then the 17-year-old saw the eye-catching poster featuring one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with two Merchant Marine uniforms with flashy epaulets lying on the beach while their wearers frolicked in the water.
My grandson Logan did a double take when we walked into Parrot Cay for dinner the first night of our Disney Magic cruise and a server called him by name. How did anyone know Logan’s name? We sure weren’t wearing nametags.
The mystery was solved when Simoun Olba introduced himself as our server for the entire cruise. When he saw us walking toward Table 67, I guess Simoun had no trouble figuring out who was Logan since the other three of us at that table were women.
But a few days later, I was surprised myself. Looking over the dinner menu, I was about ready to order when Simoun said he bet he knew what I would be choosing.
Oysters Rockefeller for appetizer? Correct. Lobster entrée? Right again.
So how did Simoun know what my dining choices would be? Because on Disney Cruise Line the same server goes with the passenger for the entire cruise. Although we may dine in the ship’s three main dining room on different nights, we always have the same servers. And these servers are experts at paying attention and knowing what their diners like. Plus I almost always go with seafood.
After that first day, our assistant server Eduar Centeno Suazo always had a Coke by my plate soon after I sat down for lunch. For dinner, it would be Sprite instead of Coke. No caffeine after lunch for me. He also knew the drink preferences of the rest of my group.
“We are the first to have rotating servers who move along with our guests,” says Hotel Director Thomas Praxmarer. “We are very proud of that because we think it lets our servers and guests get to know each other so we can take better care of our guests.”
As a cruiser for over three decades, I have noticed that serving sizes have gotten smaller – thank goodness. I always felt guilty leaving food on my plate on those early cruises and I sure didn’t need to eat everything that I was served. Thomas confirmed that change.
“In 2006, we noticed that we served too much so we kind of scaled it down,” Thomas says. “We’ve gotten good comments about that.”
I agree. With all the dining options and delicious cuisine on Disney Cruise Line, it’s great to be able to eat a little here and there. And always save room for luscious desserts.
By Jackie Sheckler Finch
Recently, travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet released its lists of top destinations for the upcoming year. It’s hard to believe 2014 is right around the corner, but it is the time of year where lists start finding their way into the news. Today, we noticed their top ten family destinations for 2014, and there’s a lot of great calls in our opinion.