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The best cruise ships overall chosen by cruisers

Kategori: Ukategorisert | 0 kommentarer » - Skrevet onsdag 14. juni , 2017 kl. 08:32

 

 

 

 

Disney Dream was Disney’s first new ship in 12 years when it debuted in 2011, and it represented the company’s step into bigger, bolder and smarter ships. So it’s not surprising that the 128,690-ton, 2,500-passenger vessel (4,000 max occupancy) — and its near-twin, Disney Fantasy — is 40 percent larger and two decks taller than the company’s previous ships, Magic and Wonder. And while Disney kept the same classic design inspired by the ocean liners of the 1920s and 1930s, this ship is far from the same-old; a closer look reveals many innovative features and spaces.

Advanced uses of technology throughout the ship include virtual portholes in inside cabins and «Enchanted Art,» digital paintings that come to life as you admire them. Families can pick up a packet at the Midship Detective Agency and use the digital works to solve a mystery. Interactive Magic Play

Floors, a ship-limited social network and a sound studio enhance the kids clubs, and «Wave Phones» in every cabin can be used to call or text other passengers, as well as receive messages from the youth staff.

A late-2015 refurbishment added even more impressive features, including spruced-up adults-only spaces, a spa juice bar, a «Wreck It Ralph»-themed sweet shop and high-tech kids club play areas that will amaze even the most tech-savvy adults.

If you’re a huge Disney fan (or your kid is), you don’t need to be convinced to sail with one of the best family entertainment enterprises around. If you’re not — or have never seen a Disney ship — you might have the mistaken impression that this line is only for families with little kids who love Mickey Mouse and princesses. Sure, young Disney fans are the line’s bread and butter, and they always have been. Princess meet-and-greets take place daily and are hugely popular, the shows feature character cameos and songs from the Disney movies, and the family pools are definitely overrun with splashing, shrieking young-uns.

The influence of the Mouse ranges from subtle to obnoxious. It’s omnipresent but generally not overwhelming. «Hidden» Mickeys can be found just about everywhere on the ship: in artwork, on railings, on dinnerware, in cabins. What’s endearing to some, though, might be overkill to others. And a few areas on the ship were definitely overlooked. The «sports» deck, for example, offers a cute nine-hole mini-golf course and a basketball court but nothing strikingly groundbreaking or athletic.

But, Dream does offer evidence that a Disney cruise is not only for kids or overgrown Mouse fans. The art deco decor onboard is elegant and jazzy and imparts an old-world luxury, mostly refined, but with a touch of glitz. The pioneering, tech-friendly kids clubs, with spaces themed on Pixar and Disney movies, have a huge amount of beanbag-chair- and videogame-filled real estate dedicated to tweens and teens, a noble effort to better cater to the older-than-8 crowd.

Entertaining dinner shows help keep fidgety youngsters occupied during long sit-down meals. Adults can appreciate high-quality, multicourse dining at Remy; the creative use of costuming and technology (and some mildly adult humor) in the shows; and grown-up activities, such as wine tastings and late-night games and dancing. They have access to a pool, a sun deck, bars and lounges, restaurants and even shore excursions where those younger than 18 are not allowed. That’s good because, in the words of Walt himself, «You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.»

Above all else, the line pays attention to details — little things like putting lids on kids’ drinks to minimize spills and pouring ketchup in the shape of Mickey’s head in the dining rooms, and adding touches like a life preserver and pair of Donald Duck legs to the side of the funnel to make it look as if the loveable character has gotten himself stuck.

Disney Dream Fellow Passengers

Disney is strongly influenced by American and Canadian travelers, and its primary market, of course, is families (especially those with kids younger than 8). Its new approach to teen cruisers may help the line appeal to families with older kids. Beyond that, Disney has strong appeal for multigenerational travelers, and its superb spa, bar district and alternate dining facilities mean that adults of any age will find their own spaces onboard.

Disney Dream Dress Code

Disney Dream has two dress codes: Princess Formal and Pirate Casual. We’re kidding, of course, but it’s true that princess dresses and other costumes for kids (and fun-loving adults) are always in style.

The actual dress code is casual during the day and what we’d call «family resort casual» most evenings. Nice shorts and jeans are allowed in the dining rooms, but tank tops and swimwear are not. However, Disney cruisers love to dress up, and themed evenings — whether formal-optional, Caribbean or pirate night — are wholeheartedly embraced. Dream’s three- to five-night cruises feature one night each of pirate/tropical and formal-optional dress, with the remainder of the evenings being cruise casual.

The dress code in Palo and Remy is fancier — no shorts, capris, flip-flops or sneakers. Jeans are allowed in Palo but not Remy. A jacket (but not a tie) is required for men at Remy.

Disney Dream Gratuity

Gratuities, which are given to the waiters, assistant waiters, head waiters and stateroom attendants, are $12 per person, per day. You can prepay gratuities up to three days prior to sailing or add tips to your onboard bill. Envelopes are distributed on the final evening so you can personally thank your room steward and wait staff with cash if you choose, or use cards denoting the prepaid amount. An automatic 15 percent service charge is added to cocktail and other beverage purchases; an 18 percent charge is added to spa treatments.

Celebrity Reflection

Cool sophistication is the unmistakable vibe onboard Celebrity Reflection, the final — and biggest — of the five ships in the line’s Solstice Class. Sure, the Solstice Class blueprint is still in place; you can’t miss the Lawn Club, Solarium and themed dining venues found onboard all five ships. But Reflection, which debuted in October 2012, turns it up a notch. There’s also the sheer size of the 126,000-ton, 3,046-passenger ship. It’s bigger and about two feet wider — a change necessary to accommodate the additional weight. You might not notice the change in width, but Reflection is loaded with 89 more cabins and about 150 more passengers than its siblings.

With ample room, Reflection added 42 suites, including three new classes: the Reflection Suite, the Signature Suite and the AquaClass Spa Suite. While the Reflection Suite, with its cool all-glass cantilevered shower, gets high marks for creativity, the 32 AquaClass Spa Suites might be the most coveted among suite-lovers. Passengers booked in AquaClass and AquaClass Spa Suites receive complimentary access to Blu, a private dining room with a focus on light yet flavorsome «spa cuisine». Suite passengers also receive complimentary access to Blu, based on availability, as well as their own dedicated restaurant, Luminae.

This time around, the line did away with nightclub Quasar, replacing it with a conference center that can serve as a meeting center, conference room or banquet hall, but mostly it’s used for art auctions. Night time activities have shifted to the pool deck and to the Grand Foyer, where entertainment ranges from low-key in the evening to full-throttle after hours, and the DJ is usually found in the Sky Observation Lounge.

It’s impossible to miss the art, a multimillion-dollar investment, on Reflection. It’s big. It’s bold. And it’s everywhere. Perhaps the most stunning piece is the Grand Foyer showstopper: a live tree that grows tall, while an illuminated aluminium tree hangs from the base. Celebrity calls it a tree reflecting on itself and, of course, reflection is the theme of the art onboard. Photography is also a feature with an eclectic range of images lining the stateroom corridors. You could spend hours trying to figure out how each piece expresses the theme, ranging from the grand to the puzzling.

Celebrity’s famous Lawn Club onboard Reflection hasn’t changed much from Silhouette’s design, with its half-acre of grass, up-charge restaurants (the Lawn Club Grill and The Porch) and eight alcoves — private rentable cabanas for those who want shade and a little privacy but away from the pool area. Whereas the Lawn Club on Solstice, Equinox and Eclipse is wide open and has a real park feel, the later iterations feel decidedly more divided, with less space for playing bocce, enjoying lazy picnics or sunning.

Other old favorites return, as well, including Sky Observation Lounge with its stunning sea views and the Martini Bar, famous for its entertaining bar staff and elegant cocktails. Celebrity espouses the virtues of «modern luxury» and there are touches of that throughout from comfy chaise lounges with oversized cushions to the glass-enclosed Solarium.

Entertainment is a hit, from big production shows to more low-key options, such as a guitar and vocal duo. Service overall is warm and attentive however the widespread upselling of drink packages and specialty dining, particularly during the first 48 hours of the cruise, can be somewhat off-putting for those seeking a relaxing cruise vacation.

Reflection represents the evolution of the Solstice class, encompassing the best of each of its sisters, with tweaks here and there to make it stand out. And with the addition of new suite class benefits, this elegant ship is more attractive than ever.

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Celebrity Reflection Fellow Passengers

Celebrity draws a wide range of upper-middle-class couples and groups, with the average age of passengers in the mid-50s. During the Caribbean season, expect more families with children.  Nationalities vary depending on the itinerary with Mediterranean cruises having a more international mix of passengers.

Celebrity Reflection Dress Code

Smart-casual and formal dress is in play on Reflection. Sailings of seven to 11 nights have two formal nights, 12- to 15-night cruises include three formal nights, and sailings of 16 nights or more have four formal nights. Reflection’s passengers typically dress for the occasion, which means suits and tuxedos for men and cocktail dresses and gowns for women. On other nights, smart-casual is required in the dining room and theater for evening performances. For women, smart-casual means skirts and slacks with sweaters or blouses. For men, that means slacks or trousers with collared sports shirts or sweaters. T-shirts, swimsuits, robes, bare feet, tank tops, baseball caps and poolwear are not allowed in the main restaurant or specialty restaurants at any time. Shorts and flip-flops are not allowed in the evening hours.

Celebrity Reflection Gratuity

Tips aren’t included in the cruise fare, but suggested gratuities are automatically added to your onboard account. The rate is $13.50 per person/per day if you’re in a standard cabin; $14 per person/per day for Concierge Class or AquaClass; and $17 per person/per day for passengers in suites. If you would like to adjust the gratuities you can do through the Guest Relations desk. An 18 percent charge is added automatically to all beverage and minibar purchases as well as spa and salon purchases. You can’t remove these gratuities, but can add to them. Onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.

Celebrity Equinox

Celebrity Equinox, launched in 2009 as the second of five Solstice-class sisters, has all the signature Solstice touches: multiple dining venues (like the spa-restaurant Blu and continental Murano), a gelateria and enhanced coffee shop, and tons of balcony cabins. Yet it retains the original innocence of life before the commercialization of the ships’ signature top-deck green space, the Lawn Club.

While a few more added-fee features (like the cabanas and Lawn Club Grill on Reflection and Silhouette) might not seem like much of a change, Equinox is a better place for their absence.

When you sit outside on the real-grass lawn for a sailaway or take in the free hot-glass show at the Corning Museum of Glass pavilion, you become aware of a communal feel on the top deck that’s reminiscent of summertime in a small town. Ultimately, the friendliness of that stretch of grass and the revelatory stripped-down design of the Lawn Club on Equinox is replicated again and again onboard the ship. Crewmembers are as friendly as they come. Thoughtfully designed delights await in nearly every public space, from the art-adorned walls of the Ensemble Lounge on Deck 5 to the adults-only Solarium pool on Deck 12, with its «living wall» of plants and dancing fountain.

Walk through Equinox’s other main public spaces, and it becomes clear why Celebrity chose the metaphor of light and sun for the Solstice-class ships. From the ship’s heart on Deck 3, glass elevators sweep you up through a soaring central atrium that reaches, through 10 decks, for the sun and sky. On the way to the top, a tree, floating in mid-air and soaked in sunlight, and the words «Here Comes The Sun,» written on consecutive balcony walls, prepare you for a bright, windowed reception on the ship’s uppermost decks. The curved, winding walkways suspended above the pool deck, the solarium-enclosed pool and the Sky Observation Lounge add to the airy and bright ambience of the ship’s top-deck spaces.

Bottom to top, Equinox evokes a luxury high-rise hotel. The ship’s light, bright design and friendly feel create a continuity and harmony of elements that is unequaled on other big ships.

Celebrity Equinox Fellow Passengers

Celebrity passengers are generally upper-middle-class couples and groups, with an average age in the mid-50s. Especially during its Mediterranean season (the ship is a Caribbean-European dual homeporter), expect large numbers of British and European travelers and a more international feel. During the Caribbean season, the ratio of families with children to couples will sometimes increase, for a younger average age.

Celebrity Equinox Dress Code

During the day, dress is resort casual, but Celebrity passengers tend to dress up for dinner — typically button-down or dressy Tommy Bahama-type sport shirts and slacks for men and dresses or smart-casual pants for women. Formal night on Celebrity has been replaced by «evening chic» in the main dining room. This means that men can ditch the full suit and tie in favor of a sport coat and collared shirt, with designer jeans. Women can wear cocktail dresses, sundresses or designer jeans or nice pants. In the buffet, almost any form of dress is allowed except swimwear, flip-flops, spa robes and bare feet.

Celebrity Equinox Gratuity

Tips are not included in the cruise fare. They are automatically added to your onboard account daily. If you want to pay anything other than the «suggested gratuity,» you’ll need to make those arrangements at the Guest Relations desk while onboard.

The suggested gratuity is $13.50 per person, per day, if you’re in a standard cabin or $14 per person, per day, if you’re in a Concierge Class or AquaClass cabin. It’s $17 per person, per day, for passengers in suites. An 18 percent charge is also automatically added to all beverages, mini-bar purchases, the a la carte eatery Sushi on Five and the parfait bar at the AquaSpa Cafe, as well as spa and salon services; those charges cannot be removed, but you can add an additional gratuity if you wish.

 

 

 

Celebrity Eclipse

When the first Solstice-class ship debuted in 2008 (Eclipse is the third, launched in 2010), the phrase «game changer» was used to describe it. With a real grass lawn, a living tree suspended in the atrium, stunning cabins with character, quirky art, a glass-blowing studio, an achingly hip Apple store and a restaurant so innovative that land-based establishments took notice, the reviewers had a point: Ships in the Solstice Class blew all other mainstream vessels out of the water.

However, fast forward almost 10 years and some of these features are looking, well, a little worn. For example, Qsine, which really did set the bar high in terms of quirky cuisine, is now looking a bit gimmicky (sister brand Royal Caribbean’s Wonderland restaurant has taken on the Qsine concept successfully).

That living tree? — No-one gets quite what it’s for. And the glass-blowing? — was long ago removed from sister ships, to be replaced by a restaurant. We even heard people say the iLounge seems a bit dated.

Celebrity Eclipse regularly pulls in high marks for passenger satisfaction, and it has won Cruise Critic awards for the Best Mainstream Ship for several years in a row. Plus, Celebrity gave it a significant refurbishment in May 2015 (the first since its launch), introducing a number of new features that spoke to what cruisers want. These included a craft cocktail bar, World Class Bar; a craft beer bar, Gastrobar; and a dedicated restaurant for passengers traveling in suites, Luminae.

Eclipse is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful big cruise ships we’ve ever sailed. Its interiors blend sophistication with a bit of whimsy — akin to a trendy W Hotel, but with softer edges.

And, perhaps most importantly, the ship positions itself perfectly for the first timer — not so big that it’s overwhelming, but not so small that you get bored. It’s got a good selection of restaurants, the real-grass lawn is still a great spot to just hang out, the entertainment is still of a high quality and generous-sized cabins are bigger than the industry average.

It’s also got that all-important celebrity (with a small c) link up with the the U.K. TV show, The Wine Show; and rugged Brit adventure expert Ben Fogle, who gives talks onboard and helps design some of the line’s more adventurous excursions.

On the downside, the rampant upselling and fee surcharges are a bit of a turnoff, and on sea days, the pool deck, beautiful as it is, can feel crowded and chaotic. Service is often overwhelmed, not just on the pool deck, but at all bars; and the Oceanview Cafe often feels like a motorway service station.

But none of the negatives is enough to deter us from taking another cruise on this fine ship.

Celebrity Eclipse Fellow Passengers

The average age onboard Eclipse is younger than on many U.K.-based ships, as Celebrity has done a good job at positioning itself to couples and families. On short cruises to France, the ship often attracts hen (bachelorette) parties, as well as large groups celebrating significant birthdays.

When homeported in Miami, Eclipse attracts a similar passenger demographic — just with a greater percentage of Americans. During school holiday periods, you will find a lot of families onboard.

Celebrity Eclipse Dress Code

The two levels of dress on Eclipse are smart casual and evening chic. Two evening chic nights take place per seven-night cruise. On smart casual nights, sport shirts and slacks are appropriate for men, while women will be comfortable in skirts or pants and blouses, or casual dresses. On «evening chic» evenings, men can ditch the full suit and tie in favor of a sport coat and collared shirt, with designer jeans. Women can wear cocktail dresses, sundresses or designer jeans or nice pants. n the buffet, almost any form of dress is allowed except swimwear, flip-flops, spa robes and bare feet.

Celebrity Eclipse Gratuity

Onboard currency is the U.S. dollar. Tips aren’t included in the cruise fares, but suggested gratuities are automatically added to your onboard account at a rate of $13.50 per person, per day, if you’re in a standard cabin; $14 per person, per day, if you’re in a Concierge Class or AquaClass cabin; and $17 per person, per day, for passengers in suites. If you would like to adjust the gratuities, you can do so through the Guest Relations desk. An 18 percent charge is added automatically to all beverage and minibar purchases, as well as spa and salon purchases. You can’t remove these gratuities but can add to them.

 

 

 

 

Disney Fantasy

When Disney Dream debuted in January 2011, it was a watershed moment for Disney Cruise Line (DCL), which had been on the new-build sideline for 12 years. While maintaining the line’s distinctive ocean-liner silhouette, the ship was bigger, bolder and — let’s face it — better than its older sisters (Disney Magic and Disney Wonder). Despite all of its innovations and sleek design touches, there were areas onboard deemed lacking by some, particularly the top deck.

Enter Dream’s sibling, the 128,690-ton, 2,500-passenger Disney Fantasy (4,000 max occupancy), which debuted in March 2012. Substituting brighter art nouveau flourishes for art deco and homing in on Dream’s shortcomings, DCL has delivered a ship that seems light-years improved over its predecessor — though it’s only modestly different.

Unlike Dream, which embarks on three- and four-night excursions out of Port Canaveral, Fantasy is geared toward seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries (including a stop at Castaway Cay, DCL’s private island). So the ship comes equipped with new shows and activities to kill time at sea, though these things would surely be welcome additions to Dream.

Indeed, Fantasy has many of the features already found on Dream, including the AquaDuck «watercoaster»; «Magical Portholes» showing real-time sea views in inside cabins; the uber-deluxe Remy French restaurant; and sophisticated venues for kids, teens and adults. Public spaces remain a sea of polished wood and Disney artwork, and cabins are largely identical. So what’s new?


«Wishes»
is a Broadway-style musical focusing on three Disney-loving teenagers who are facing tough decisions about relationships, dreams and adulthood as they near high school graduation. Also, a musical based on the Disney animated film «Aladdin» makes the leap from the Disney theme parks into repertory in the ship’s Walt Disney Theatre.

The Muppets make their at-sea debut as part of an interactive mystery game that takes passengers around the ship in search of clues.

On Fantasy, the adults-only «district» — here called Europa — fills the same space as the one on Dream, but with different offerings and a reconfigured layout. Themed around European travel, all the bars and lounges have been tweaked, some dramatically.

The AquaLab is a new 1,800-square-foot water play area on Deck 12 (it replaces the under-peopled Waves bar). Expect pop jets, geysers, bubblers and all manner of watery mayhem.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a Disney parks transplant making its premiere on the seven seas. This pint-sized salon turns girls into their favorite princesses — for a (hefty) price. On Pirate Night, budding buccaneers can go the eye patch-and-scabbard route.

A new top-deck adults-only area called the Satellite Sun Deck is centered on a water feature called Satellite Falls, a circular splash pool with benches and a fountain that runs its circumference and drips water down on the overheated masses. In addition, the upper deck of the Quiet Cove Pool and Cove Bar, both line staples, have been reconfigured with protective canopies to provide shade and a small wading pool.

Disney Fantasy Fellow Passengers

Disney’s primary market, of course, is families, especially those with kids younger than 8; however, teen cruisers will find much to like in the venues geared toward them. Beyond that, Disney has strong appeal for multigenerational travelers, and its spa, bar district and alternate dining facilities mean that adults of any age will find their own spaces onboard. The passenger makeup is dominated by American and Canadian travelers.

Disney Fantasy Dress Code

Dress code is casual during the day and resort casual most evenings. (Think jackets for men, but no ties, and pants outfits or summer dresses for women.) Recently, though, the cruise line tweaked its definition of resort casual to include shorts, which means passengers may wear shorts in the main dining rooms in the evening (note: while jeans are allowed in Palo, shorts and flip flops are not). Dress-up is part of the Disney shtick, however — be it princess gowns for young girls or tuxes for dads. Many passengers dress to the nines on Fantasy’s sole semiformal evening, and you’ll be shocked at how many people throw themselves into pirate night — so pack your eye patch and fake parrot.

Disney Fantasy Gratuity

Gratuities — which can be prepaid or added to your onboard account and are given to dining room servers and stateroom attendants — are $12 per person, per day. There’s an automatic 15 percent levy for service on cocktails and other beverages.

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