Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sailing the brand new Norwegian Escape

We just returned from CruiseOne’s National Conference onboard the brand new Norwegian Escape.  Our National Conference is a yearly meeting, usually on a cruise ship, where agents get together with top industry executives and leaders and staff of our organization.  We had over 700 attendees, and industry professionals from other cruise lines, tour companies and others.  It’s pretty amazing to have a group like that and to hear from all of those amazing people.  Being away from my office for a week is tough, as I certainly did miss some new business.  However, it is well worth it to be able to learn new things that will help me personally and my business in the future.  Okay, so enough about that … on to this beautiful, amazing new ship!

Being that we were attending our conference, it was work related.  We did have to attend meetings and functions, so there were certain things that we did not get to see or attend.  But, there is plenty for me to tell you about the experiences we did have.  I do have to confess that the new ships by Norwegian are a favorite of mine (Epic, Breakaway, Getaway and Escape).  If you have sailed on Breakaway or Getaway, the Escape is a slightly larger version, layout is basically the same.  It does flow nicer and feel more spacious.  There are some new venues on Escape as well.

So, let’s start with the hull artwork on the Escape.  What a beautiful job by Guy Harvey!  This is my favorite hull design by Norwegian.  It is the perfect design for sailing in the Caribbean.  And to our surprise, Guy Harvey was actually on board our sailing attending a VIP event put on by Park West Gallery.  He did speak to our group and was very personable throughout the cruise.  We saw him by the elevators and he was more than happy to stop and say hello and take a photo with us.

Our accommodations:  For this trip we booked a Mini Suite.  Norwegian’s staterooms tend to be a little smaller than other contemporary cruise lines, so our mini suite was about the size of a standard balcony room on other lines.  The bathroom was where the big difference was.  It was nicely appointed with a large shower, a fantastic shower head with body sprayers, and a dual faucet sink.  Plenty of room to move around.  The stateroom itself was very nice.  Not a ton of storage, wish there were some drawers, but there was not.  There were some shelves around though.  All in all, the room was very comfortable.  We were in meetings, so we were not in there a whole lot, which is why we chose not to book the Haven for this trip (the Haven is an exclusive, key card access only area of the ship with concierge and butler service.  We did the Haven over the summer on the Getaway and it was amazing!).

As for the food … if you are looking for cuisine heaven this ship is it!  We did not even get to sample all of the dining options, but here is a recap of what we did get to partake in:

Night one, we ate at Teppanyaki, which is the Japanese hibachi restaurant.  This has been a favorite of ours, and certainly did not disappoint this time.  I had the lobster and filet, hubby had chicken and filet.  With that comes salad, soup, edamame, fried rice, veggies and dessert.  The cover charge for this restaurant is $29.95 per person.  Well worth it for the food and the experience.  The chefs are always entertaining.

Night two, we were off to Moderno Churasscaria, which is the Brazilian style steakhouse.  You know, where you have that little two sided card … one side is green where they will keep coming around with an endless supply of different meats and the other side is red where you are saying I have consumed way more than I have room for, please don’t give me anymore!  There is an endless salad bar with not only salad but other offerings as well, along with a few side dishes.  The food here is delicious as well.  Cover charge for this restaurant is $24.95 per person.

Night three, it was Cagney’s Steakhouse for us.  We had a nice table by the window and the food was absolutely amazing!  Filet and lobster for me again … hubby does not eat seafood, so if I get the chance to have it, I am all over it!  The price at this restaurant is a la carte, so it varies depending on what you have.  Again, well worth it!

Night four was Italian for us at La Cucina.  Pasta and tiramisu for me!  Always delicious.  Priced a la carte here as well.

Night five we went to Bayamo, which is Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant onboard.  The menu here consists of mostly seafood with Latin flavors.  This is a smaller venue, so make reservations early for this one!  The food was incredible, and the service was top notch.  Pricing is a la carte here as well.

Night six, back to Teppanyaki.  Yep, it’s that good!

Night seven, back to Moderno.  Hey, you stick to the good stuff!

For lunch, we sometimes ate at O’Sheehan’s, which is included in the cruise fare (no extra cover charge here).  O’Sheehan’s is a bar and grill, offering American cuisine.  Our favorite lunch spot was Food Republic though.  This place was awesome!  Food Republic is a fusion of foods and cultures from around the globe, curated by the Pubbelly Boys from South Beach.  This is a specialty dining venue, and food is priced a la carte.  This is such a great venue, I wish it was on all ships!  The items are ordered off an iPad and brought out to you when they are ready.  The dishes are sized where you need to order a few, especially if you are sharing.  Each trip we ordered about 5 different items.  The Brussel sprouts and sliders were favorites of ours.  We actually craved going here!

Almost forgot … there is a wine bar onboard, The Cellars, which is a Michael Mondavi bar.  Located on Deck 8, right in the middle of everything.  We spent a couple nights here sipping wine.  A great hang out spot!  You can do wine tastings here as well.

Sadly, we did not attend any of the shows, but we were told by many that the Supper Club, which is a dinner show was outstanding.  Next trip we will have to do this.  We did make it to Howl at the Moon one night for about an hour.  This is one of our favorites on board.  Here is where you will find the dueling pianos playing your requests.  The musicians are fantastic, and very entertaining!

As a final note … I would definitely sail this ship again and recommend it highly.  It is a ship that fits for just about any type of traveler.  If you love larger ships with lots of activities, this is for you.  If you love smaller, more intimate ships, hey, the Haven fits that bill.  If you love food, this ship has you covered!
I just loved the napkins on board!  Had to throw this photo in.

There is so much more that I did not get to experience or cover here.  If you would like to know more about Norwegian Escape, please feel free to contact me.  You can get my by email, by phone, 888-882-5793 or 321-735-0202 or you can even visit my personal Norwegian Escape website to browse through everything the ship has to offer!  Of course you can visit my full website as well to browse any cruise line vacation!

Vacations create memories that last a lifetime.  I would love to help you create those memories!

Happy Vacationing!
Kathy Freer
CruiseOne Freer & Associates

Monday, October 19, 2015

Promo Alert!

Some exciting news here, but only for a short time!

Many people know that October is CLIA's (Cruise Line International Association) time for Cruise Month.  For the most part, that means that cruise lines are offering their best and richest promotions to entice people to book their cruise vacations.  To go along with Cruise Month, we have some extra on board credit for you as well (on board credit is applied to your on board spending, and comes off your bill.  For example, if you have $75 on board credit and your total on board spending comes to $475, the $75 comes off and you are responsible for $400).  Here are the details:

Booking Window:  October 19 - 23, 2015
Valid Sailings:  All cruise lines, itineraries that sail 7 nights or longer, booked in ocean view categories and above.
Departure Date:  Sailings must depart between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016.

On board credit info:
Ocean View Staterooms:  $50 on board credit
Balcony Staterooms:  $75 on board credit
Suite Staterooms:  $150 on board credit

This promotion applies to new bookings only made during the booking window listed above.  It is also combinable with any offers that the cruise lines may be running during this time as well.

So, if you are on the fence about booking your next cruise, now is a great time!  I would be happy to provide rates and cruise itineraries and help you plan your perfect cruise vacation.  You can give me a call anytime at 888-882-5793 or 321-735-0202, send me an email or visit my website for more information.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Norwegian Getaway, The Haven Courtyard Penthouse

My husband and I just returned from a 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise on board Norwegian Getaway.  We stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola and Nassau.  This cruise was a relaxing getaway for us, and we only briefly got off the ship in St. Thomas so I could buy a new pair of sunglasses and visit Senor Frogs.  We wanted to just enjoy the ship and go at our own pace.

Category H5, Courtyard Penthouse

Haven Pool Area
I had toured The Haven in the past, but not stayed there.  For this trip, we booked a Category H5, The Haven Courtyard Penthouse with Balcony.  The room was spacious, about 270 square feet, and very well appointed.  The bed was super comfy, upgraded amenities for the bath, I could go on and on, but I won’t!  Being in The Haven, you have exclusive key card access to The Haven area, which has a private lounge, private pool and sun deck, private dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner, butler and concierge service.  Talk about being spoiled.

On the day of embarkation, we got to the cruise terminal in Miami at about 11:45 am.  There is a separate check in location for guests sailing in The Haven.  This was nice, as there was one person ahead of us.  We were finished in no time.  We then waited in another area (which was rather small) for an escort on to the ship to meet our concierge team.  This was a nice change from waiting in long lines for check in.  Our rooms were also ready when we boarded, so it was nice to drop our stuff off so we could walk around the ship.

There was a lot to do on board, but we chose not to partake in a lot of activities.   We did some trivia, watched some movies (pay per view movies in The Haven are free), and played in the arcade.  We also walked the ropes course and walked the plank, which was a fun and unique experience.  For the ropes course, you are harnessed in, and walk along ropes and beams.  There is an actual plank that hangs over the side of the ship that you can walk out on if you wish.  The one thing I wish we were told is that if we pulled the rope, a photo would be taken.  Nobody informed us of this, so we missed the money shot of us being out on the plank.  We spent an evening watching comedy, another listening to the dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon.  We also did a cake decorating class, as there is a Carlo’s Bakery on board.  This was a fun (expensive) experience, as I enjoy baking and decorating.

Norwegian has so many dining options:  main dining rooms, casual dining, buffet area, and specialty dining (which has a per person fee).  We had the entire week planned out, eating in different venues each night.  Day one was Teppanyaki, which is the Japanese Steakhouse/Hibachi restaurant.  We have eaten in this restaurant on other ships, and it is our favorite.  Dinner was delicious as usual.  Day two, we ate in Moderno, which is the Brazilian restaurant.  Here you get continuously served different kinds of meat, and keep eating until you tell them to stop.  Good way to sample different meats and tastes.  Day three we ate at La Cucina’s Italian Restaurant, yummy!  Day four, Cagney’s Steakhouse.  Day five, we ate at the Illusionarium.  This is a magic/illusion dinner show, which was fantastic.  Need to inject here about being a Haven guest … we were escorted to the theater by the Haven Concierge at 8:00pm for an 8:45 show start.  We went down in the crew elevator, which let us out right outside the Illusionarium entrance.  We bypassed the regular line (in fact, didn’t even see the regular line).  The doors opened for us, we were greeted by the cast and had front row seats.  Pretty cool perk!  Day six we were back at Teppanyaki and day seven we ate dinner in The Haven restaurant, which exceeded my expectations.  Yes, you do pay extra to dine in these venues, but we feel it is worth it.   Our breakfast was spent each morning at The Haven restaurant.  I cannot tell you how fantastic it was to sit in a restaurant without waiting, without battling crowds.  Lunches were scattered between The Haven restaurant, O’Sheehan’s which is a 24 hour bar and grill, and the buffet area.

On night two, while we were dining in Moderno, we heard the Captain come over the speakers “Code Oscar, Port Side” and we watched numerous staff members rush out of the restaurant.  At this point, we felt the ship turning.  We knew exactly what this meant, a cloud of concern and sadness filled the area.  My husband went out on deck, he could see the staff members, the spectators.  He also saw search lights scanning the water.  It was pitch black out, except for the occasional flash of lighting alerting us that a storm was nearby.  The Captain came back over the speakers stating that there was a man over board situation and that the ship was being turned and to be careful as items could shift.  Keep in mind that the Norwegian Getaway is 1,062 feet long, 18 decks high and weighs 146,600 gross tons.  She is a big ship that was traveling probably somewhere between 18-22 knots at the time.  About 20 minutes or so after the initial “Code Oscar” call was made, the Captain came back on and announced that the rescue was successful.  Cheers and applause could be heard from every area of the ship.  I am mentioning this for a reason … a huge kudos to the Captain of Norwegian Getaway and the staff.  I cannot even imagine how difficult it is to turn a ship around in that amount of time and actually find a passenger that jumped overboard.  Very impressive, and that passenger is luckier than one can imagine.  Back on course we were … never missing a beat and arriving to our port on time as scheduled.

So, is The Haven worth it?  Well I certainly say so!  It is quite a bit higher of a price tag (and yes, I pay for my cruises just like you do), but there is so much that comes with it.  It was so nice to have a quiet place to go to.  Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with the crowds and this was a perfect escape.  We are wondering if we will ever be able to sail Norwegian any other way!  We have already booked The Haven for July of 2016 on the Breakaway to Bermuda, which we will take all the kids on that cruise.

Would you like more info on Norwegian or The Haven?  Just let me know and I would be happy to answer all of your questions!  You can reach me by phone at 888-882-5793, by email or visit my website.

Happy Sailing!
Kathy Freer
CruiseOne Freer & Associates

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Savor Your Moments

When I was a kid, I can remember thinking that my 9 month school year seemed to take 3 years to get through.  Everything seemed so slow, time often stood still or crept by at the pace of a snail on a Sunday drive.  My parents would always tell me “enjoy it now, because when you get older it will go by too fast.”  Boy, they sure were right on this one, time has been flying by for me.  The other day I picked my kids up from school (I have a 5 year old and a 12 year old).  They both were talking about how fast the school year has gone and it seems as if they have only been is school for a short time.  Hmmm … well that’s strange.  I never said that at age 5 or 12.  That got me thinking … what is so different now that my kids seem to think time flies by so quickly?  I then realized that we never truly shut down.  In today’s world, there is always something that is stimulating us.  The television, movies, everything is on demand, computers, internet, phones, tablets, texting, face-timing … it never ends.  When was the last time you saw a 13 year old without a phone stuck in his or her hands?  God forbid you ask them to put it down for any length of time.  That goes for us adults as well.  God forbid we miss that email or a Facebook status update.  We seem to never shut down and just enjoy the quiet life.

I was on a short cruise this past weekend with my husband, celebrating our wedding anniversary.  We try to do a quick getaway every year at this time.  This was the first time that my husband did not bring his computer, which was a complete miracle in itself.  Now, of course, he still had his phone and did occasionally check emails, but, I accept one step at a time!  I have to say, it was fantastic!   We just completely shut down for the most part.  I realized that I do not do this enough.  Sure, we go on vacations and cruise fairly often and take the kids with us most of the time.  But it really isn’t ever quality time.

So, what’s the moral of my blog?  Take the time to savor your moments.  There really are not enough of them.  Have no regrets.  Don’t put things off, you never know what tomorrow will bring.  Here is an example from my life:  Back in 2011, my husband and I convinced my in-laws that they should go on a cruise with us.  They had never cruised, my mother-in-law thought she might be sea sick the whole time.  It took some work!  But, we all went.  My sister-in-law and brother-in-law joined us as well.  We were on board Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas for a week.  We spent a lot of time together; dinners, shore excursions, playing bingo, just hanging out as a family.  It was great.  My husband and I always said “we will have to do that again someday.”  Well, we can’t.  My husband’s father passed away a few months ago.  That was certainly not in the plans.  One thing my husband’s mother said after the service was “I’m so glad we went on that cruise with you.”  We were very glad too.

Those bucket list plans, those “I will go one day” trips … try not to put them off.  And when you do go, savor the moments and cherish your memories.  One day, they might be all you have left.  Create as many as you can!

Happy Savoring!
Kathy Freer
CruiseOne Freer & Associates

Friday, February 20, 2015

On Board Credit Promo, Do You Want to Build a Sandcastle ... to be entered into a cruise give-a-way?

Okay, we have TWO very exciting things going on right now ... an on board credit promo for cruises (up to $250, details below) and a Cruise Giveaway for two!

So, lets start with the on board credit promo ... For cruises booked from February 20th through March 2, 2015, that depart from March 15th through December 31, 2015, we will fund up to $250 on board credit.  What are the rules you ask?  Well, the sailing must be 7 nights or longer, all itineraries qualify as long as they are in the sail date range, and you must book in an ocean view stateroom or higher.  The stateroom will receive $50 per person in on board credit, up to 5 passengers in the stateroom.  This is valid for new bookings only. Pretty simple right?  So, if you have two passengers in the room, you get $100 on board credit.  Three passengers, you would get $150.  You get the picture.   One of the best things about this promotion is that it IS combinable with any cruise line promos that might be out there.  For example, many cruise lines are running their own promotions now (Celebrity Cruises has the 123go promo, Royal Caribbean has the BOGO Half Off promo, Norwegian has their Freestyle Choice promo).  You would get any promotion from the cruise line that your cruise reservation qualifies for PLUS our on board credit promo.  Pretty sweet deal I would say!  So, if you are thinking of escaping the winter, booking your summer cruise or a holiday cruise, now is the time to do so!  What are you waiting for?  Give me a call,888-882-5793!

Now, on to our cruise giveaway ... 

Would you like to win a 7 night cruise for two in an ocean view stateroom sailing this year on either Norwegian, Royal Caribbean or Carnival?  Silly question, of course you would.  All you have to do is post your most creative photo or video of your sandcastle (for those that cannot use sand, be creative!) with the hashtag #doyouwanttobuildasandcastle on the social media site of your choice (does not matter which one, the hashtag is being monitored).  There will be a random selection for the winner on April 1, 2015. This promo will run from February 20, 2015, through March 31, 2015.  I would love for you to post a copy on my Facebook page as well so I can see all of those amazing sandcastles!  You can also send me a tweet with your photo @CruisingTheSea.

So, ready to book that cruise?  Ready to build that sandcastle?  Give me a call, send me an email, or visit my website.  I would be happy to help (well, I'm not very good at sandcastle building, but I can help you with your cruise vacation)!

Happy Cruising and Happy Sandcastle Building!  I cannot wait to see your photos or videos!

Kathy Freer
CruiseOne Freer & Associates
888-882-5793 / 321-735-0202

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mystery Money On Board Credit Promo is Back!

Happy New Year everyone!  To start off 2015, CruiseOne has brought back the Mystery Money promotion, but this time it is even better!

Here are the details:

The promotion runs from January 12, 2015, through January 26, 2015.  Cruises must be booked during this promotion window.

The promotion is applicable to sailings that depart from February 12, 2015 through December 31, 2015.

On board credit amount ranges from $25 per stateroom, up to $225 per stateroom, and it is dependent on the cruise length and stateroom category booked.  This is an offer from CruiseOne, so if the cruise line has their own offer, it is combinable!

Here is the on board credit amounts, based on sailing:

This is one of our richest promotions that I have seen.  Great time to book that Spring Break, Summer or Holiday cruise!  Especially when this promotion is combinable with any promotions that the cruise lines may be offering.

Visit my website, send me an email or give me a call, 888-882-5793 to check sailings and rates!

Happy sailing!
Kathy Freer
CruiseOne Freer & Associates