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Best Cruises Overall Part 2

Kategori: Ukategorisert | 0 kommentarer » - Skrevet torsdag 15. juni , 2017 kl. 16:00

Celebrity Silhouette

 

More energetic and with more extra-fee attractions than its three Solstice-class predecessors, the 122,400-ton, 2,886-passenger Celebrity Silhouette debuted in July 2011 as the fourth of five ships in the now-iconic series. The Solstice signatures — a stable of themed dining venues, a public hub that smells of crepes and waffles, a strikingly green and grass-covered deck space, the use of glass and marble throughout — are all there. But Silhouette also reflects a handful of significant modifications to the blueprint.

The most visible are found on the Lawn Club, a half-acre of spongy grass that tops every Solstice-class ship’s stern sun deck area. On Silhouette, the public park has become something of a gated village green, and the space is much more exclusive — and expensive — to use than those planted on Solstice, Eclipse and Equinox. Gone is the (free) Corning Glass Show, replaced by the breezy Lawn Club Grill, where participants pay for a combination meatfest and cooking class under Caribbean or Mediterranean skies. The Porch, a fee-extra casual breakfast and lunch option modeled after a private deck in the Hamptons, has also been slotted into space previously free to occupy. But the most controversial additions to Silhouette’s Lawn Club are the eight alcoves, private cabana rentals that occupy prime real estate in what was a common sunning area on previous lawns.

Silhouette’s custom-collated multimillion-dollar art collection is also a key differentiator. Two installments that draw the most shouting, laughing and exuberant pointing: caged birds on video screens and the enchanted forest with piped-in chirps, positioned in a vestibule through which hundreds of passengers walk en route to the ship’s specialty restaurant hub. Intrigued? Check out our 7 Hits and Misses on Celebrity Silhouette.

Still, despite these distinctions (or perhaps in spite of them, considering the Lawn Club changes), Silhouette is nothing if not quintessential Solstice class. It’s the most sophisticated experience you’ll find on a nearly 3,000-passenger ship — see the focus on wine, sleekly styled spaces and slightly upscale dining — without being overly stuffy. Celebrity does a commendable job of keeping the pretentiousness quota in check by inserting playful touches, like an ice-topped martini bar that features juggling bartenders, the aforementioned cook-your-own steakhouse and another restaurant, Qsine, where passengers are encouraged to play with their food. Solstice-class stalwarts won’t miss a beat, and for first-timers, Silhouette will showcase why the series has become one of the most acclaimed in modern cruising.

Celebrity Silhouette Fellow Passengers

Celebrity draws a wide range of upper-middle-class couples and groups, with the average age of passengers being in the mid-50’s. Especially on European cruises from Rome and Venice (the ship is a Caribbean-European dual passporter), expect a large contingent of Brits and Continentals — and a more international feel. The ratio of families with kids to couples may increase during the Caribbean season, bringing the average age down.

Celebrity Silhouette 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 Silhouette Gratuity

Tips aren’t included in the cruise fare, 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; and $17 per person/per day, for passengers in suites. If you would like to adjust the gratuities, you can make do so through the Guest Relations desk. An 18 percent charge is added automatically to all beverage and mini-bar purchases as well as spa and salon purchases. You can’t remove these gratuities but can add to them.

Regal Princess

Regal Princess

Regal Princess is unmistakably elegant, accomplishing something mainstream cruise ships occasionally struggle with: finding a balance between fun and refinement. The decor is comfortable, with warm tones and plenty of wood and marble. The Piazza, a hallmark of the line, is truly grand; it’s large, encompasses three decks and has three bold spiral staircases. At night, it’s where you’ll want to spend your time watching people, listening to music or sipping cocktails.

Regal Princess is a near twin of fleetmate Royal Princess, and, as such, it has mostly the same features that debuted on that ship just a year earlier. That includes the SeaWalk, a cantilevered glass walkway that juts out from the Lido Deck, allowing passengers to take in unobstructed views of the sea below. It’s a fun touch, though it loses its appeal after you’ve taken the walk once. Editor’s Tip: For a fun photo, station one person on the promenade on Deck 7, directly below the SeaWalk. Have the model look up to the SeaWalk and wave. Snap a pic looking down through the SeaWalk.

When Royal Princess debuted, passengers complained that two staples on the lines’ other ships were lacking: the aft pool and the promenade deck. In response, Princess made changes to get versions of those on Regal Princess, with some success. The aft pool is a solid, though small, addition to Regal Princess, but the promenade still misses the mark. It doesn’t wrap the ship like a true promenade; instead, it comprises two outdoor decks — one portside, the other starboard side — that are only accessible by cutting through the ship.

One item Princess didn’t fix, unfortunately, is the weird staircase midship, which mysteriously ends at Deck 7. If you want to get up to higher decks from that location, you’ll have to take an elevator. Walkers must go forward or aft and take the stairs there.

A highlight onboard is the food, which we enjoyed in most venues. The buffet offers tremendous variety, with many options for international palates, and the for-fee restaurants — specifically Sabatini’s and Crown Grill — are reasonably priced. Still, those who don’t want to pay have enough options that they won’t feel slighted. Conversely, those who want to splurge on the Chef’s Table and the Winemaker’s dinner will likely feel as if it was money well spent.

While Princess fans will recognize the things they love about the line onboard Regal Princess, this class of ships represents a major evolution for the line. Careful thought has clearly been given to many of its public spaces, restaurants and activities, resulting in an overall vibe that’s relaxing and fun — exactly what you want a vacation to be.

 

Regal Princess Fellow Passengers

Passengers tend to be a solid mix of older and younger couples, as well as families, which are more prevalent during the summer and holiday seasons and while Regal Princess sails the Caribbean. While many passengers are North Americans, Europeans and Asians do sail the line, especially during Regal Princess’ Mediterranean season, which runs roughly from late spring to early fall. In the Med, the passenger mix is decidedly international, with Japanese, Chinese and Korean cruisers heavily represented.

Regal Princess Dress Code

During the day, casual is the name of the game, with shorts, swimsuits and flip-flops the norm. In the evening, passengers wear resort-casual attire. For men, that generally means khakis or slacks and button-down or collared shirts. Women wear dresses or skirts, capris or slacks and blouses.

On formal nights, evening attire is the standard. For men, that includes suits, jackets and slacks or the occasional tuxedo. Women wear cocktail or evening gowns or formal pantsuits. Cruises of four days or fewer won’t have formal nights, but those with five or six days will feature one formal night, seven- to 13-day sailings will have two formal nights and voyages of 14 to 20 days will feature three formal nights.

Regal Princess Gratuity

Princess automatically adds a gratuity of $12.95 per person, per day, ($13.95 per person, per day, for mini-suites and suites) to passengers’ shipboard accounts. Passengers have the option of increasing or removing these gratuities from their accounts. Wait staff, cabin stewards, buffet stewards and housekeeping staff will share the gratuities.

A 15 percent gratuity is added automatically for beverage and spa services.

Tipping for room service is not included but is appreciated; usually a dollar or two is appropriate. The U.S. dollar is the onboard currency.

 

 

Allur of the Seas

was the world’s largest cruise ship — for six years — before that title was stolen by sister Harmony of the Seas in May 2016. It can carry 5,492 passengers at double occupancy or 6,452 when every berth is full.

It has two famous near-twins, Oasis of the Seas and the aforementioned Harmony, with which it shares roughly 95 percent of its DNA — including a novel neighborhood concept that divides the ship into seven distinct spaces. It also shares inward-facing balcony cabins, arguably the biggest (and best) kids program at sea, an ice rink, a bar that rises between three decks, simulated surfing, rock climbing walls and an outdoor high-diving AquaTheater.

The ship is breathtaking, both in scale and ambition. Although it’s vast, it never feels overwhelming because its public spaces are broken up into seven neighborhoods. On Deck 4, you’ll find Entertainment Place, complete with an indoor ice skating rink and various clubs and lounges. The Royal Promenade is the signature shopping area, the length of a football field, with a pair of enormous tented skylights to let the sunshine pour in. The outdoor Boardwalk neighborhood was inspired by Coney Island, with family-friendly restaurants, shops, a carousel and the AquaTheater. The foliage-filled Central Park — covered in some 12,000 plants, 60 of which are trees — is a more upscale restaurant and retail hub. The fronts of decks 6 and 7 are given over to fitness and well-being in the Vitality at Sea Spa. Deck 14 is all about the kids in Adventure Ocean, and, at the back of the ship, right up on Deck 15, you have the Sports Area, complete with FlowRider surf simulators, a zipline, mini-golf, Ping-Pong and basketball courts.

The ambience and atmosphere in each area are so distinct, it’s as if there are seven different ships on one.

Astonishingly, Allure of the Seas also rarely feels crowded. The only places where you get a sense of the sheer number of people onboard are in the Royal Promenade during parade times, on sea days round the pool deck, and prime food times in the Windjammer Cafe buffet restaurant. You can sit in Central Park under a tree, drink in hand, stars above you, (piped) birdsong all around, and feel almost alone — despite being overlooked by hundreds of cabins.

The ship is ideal for first timers, whether they’re a family dipping their toes in the water for the first time, a group of friends looking for a fun-filled break or a couple celebrating a significant wedding anniversary.

Allure came out of a May 2015 refurbishment with a number of changes, including new dining options, shops, lounges, cabins and super fast Wi-Fi. Some of the post-dry dock tweaks — which include a breathtaking Suite Lounge and suites-only dining room, Coastal Kitchen — also point to a move by Royal Caribbean making a significant play for the high-end cruisers who perhaps have previously been put off by Allure’s sheer size.

A word of warning: Allure of the Seas is so flooded with bill-busting offerings — ice cream, extra-charge Mexican food, build-your-own stuffed animals, Coach bags — that it’s easy to forget about the included offerings, many of which are exclusive to the Oasis Class. You can surf or zip-line, ride a carousel or watch a first-run DreamWorks movie in 3D, and tap along to some Broadway showtunes. The Lady Gaga dance class had to be more fun than filling up on Skittles and gummy worms from the for-fee candy store. In other words, Allure can be enjoyed for the price of the cruise fare alone. But with so many temptations, it sure isn’t easy.

 

Allure of the Seas Fellow Passengers

Families flock to Allure of the Seas, a ship that celebrates youthful exuberance in the form of surf simulators, rock climbing walls and some of the best children’s facilities at sea. But the ship also clearly appeals to active couples, mainly in their 30s to 50s. Numerous spaces, especially the foliage-filled Central Park, provide a relatively kid-free ambience. In the Caribbean, passengers are predominantly American. However, when the ship sails in Europe, the passenger mix could not be more eclectic, drawing travelers from Europe, the U.S., the Middle East, Japan, China, India and Israel.

Allure of the Seas Dress Code

Weeklong cruises consist of two formal nights and five casual nights. On casual nights, expect a mix of jeans and slacks in the main dining rooms and nicer restaurants (no shorts); elsewhere T-shirts and shorts are fine for both men and women. Many men choose to wear tuxedos for formal dining, though dark suits are more common. Women are typically found in cocktail dresses or gowns.

Allure of the Seas Gratuity

Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $13.50 per person, per day ($16.50 for suite passengers). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to cruisers’ SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs. The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.

 

Royal Princess

 

Editor’s Note: During a September 2016 drydock, Royal Princess became the first ship in the fleet to receive the line’s new livery design. Other upgrades, mostly routine, included the addition of a midship staircase and new Princess Luxury Beds, developed by board certified sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus and HGTV Designer Candice Olson, to all cabins.

Princess Cruises doesn’t set out to dazzle with gimmickry (no bumper cars at sea, ropes courses or simulated surf pools for this Princess), and it’s never wanted (or needed) to. The line opts for a more traditional style of cruising, even as it does occasionally push the bounds in terms of innovation. It’s certainly come up with some great ideas — Movies Under The Stars, the adults-only Sanctuary and the transformation of a functional ship’s atrium into the buzzing Piazza — that are now widely copied by other lines.

Arguably, what Princess does better than any other mainstream cruise line is embrace innovations and enfold them into an otherwise traditionally minded cruise experience. Royal Princess is no exception. Here, the Piazza has been significantly expanded, Movies Under the Stars is the biggest in the fleet, and the Youth Center has some exciting new features, including a private, outdoor sun deck for teens. New twists onboard Royal Princess include the SeaWalk, a walkway that hangs off one side of the ship 16 decks up and offers vertigo-inducing views through strengthened glass. On the pool deck, a magical fountain — between the main pool and the upgraded Movies Under the Stars screen — does a Vegas-like water and light show at night. And there’s Princess Live!, the first television studio in cruising, featuring with audience seating and participation.

A renewed focus on food means that, of the 16 eateries, several are new, including the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar, Pastry Shop and Gelato parlor, as well as pop-up restaurants Crab Shack and the Fondue Dispensary in the Horizon Court buffet area. Old favorites get new twists, including the expanded Alfredo’s, the line’s stand-out pizzeria, with a few menu additions and a lot more seats.

Tradition is honored, as well: one dining room is dedicated to set-seating, cocktail lounges have an elegant ambience, lovely classical music performances are mixed in with jazzier tunes, and afternoon tea is still a staple.

One aspect where Royal Princess does fall down is cabin sizes, which, in certain cases, come in significantly smaller than those found on Grand Princess. It’s particularly noticeable with the balconies, which are tiny — barely enough space for two chairs and a table.

You could argue that Princess is merely «playing it safe» with Royal Princess and trying to please everyone, but as a prototype — cruise industry parlance for a new design, rather than the «third ship in a series of» — the first impression is a simple one. Royal might represent an evolution for Princess, but it’s still offering an experience that will feel familiar to fans.

Royal Princess Fellow Passengers

Princess passengers are typically sophisticated, but not stuffy. They’re mostly Americans (on Caribbean routes) and Brits (when the ship is sailing the Mediterranean) who enjoy a quality product in an atmosphere of casual elegance. Many families choose Princess; multigenerational groups (grandparents, adult children, grandkids) enjoy the dining and entertainment options and the line’s solid family programs. During the Caribbean season, the average age is mid- to high-40’s; on European itineraries, the average age skews higher (except during school holidays).

Royal Princess Dress Code

«Smart casual» is the way Princess prefers to label its general dress code, and passengers generally dress appropriately. Most cruises will have two formal nights; think lots of beaded gowns for the ladies and tuxes for the men, although cocktail dresses and dark suits are perfectly acceptable. No swimwear, jeans, tank tops or shorts are allowed in the restaurants at dinnertime.

Royal Princess Gratuity

Princess adds $12.95 per day to each adult’s onboard account as a prepaid gratuity ($13.95 for those in suites and mini-suites). An automatic 15 percent is added to bar and spa bills. Although not required, it is recommended that gratuities be offered for room service, usually just a dollar or two. The currency onboard is American dollars.

 

Island Princess

 

island Princess is one of the two 92,000-ton Coral-class ships — the other is Coral Princess — that offer transits through the Panama Canal. They were custom built to do so and are the only two Princess ships in the fleet small enough to get through the locks.

A 2015 dry dock added 121 staterooms and reorganized and refurbished certain public areas of the ship to accommodate the new cabins. The Horizon Court was remodeled to improve passenger flow, and its updated design includes the addition of an Italian pastry shop. If you sailed the ship previously, you will feel like a first timer as many public spaces have changed locations: The Sanctuary sun deck is now on one deck instead of two and its pool is gone; the teen center has moved to Deck 14, while the kids club has lost its outdoor space; the fitness center exchanged its former Deck 14 location to one on Deck 6; and even the shore excursions desk and future cruise booking office have new locations. The multipurpose Universe Lounge is no more. The end result is that the remaining public areas can feel more crowded with the addition of the extra passengers.

Despite the refit, the ship still feels a little dated, especially in the corridors (which can be uneven in places) and cabin bathrooms. While the four-story atrium — undoubtedly eye-catching with its lovely, tinkling waterfall, glass-fronted elevator, comfortable seating, white grand piano and profusion of greenery — is the centerpiece of the ship, the area still has a cramped feeling, which is particularly noticeable on sea days.

Island Princess is a comfortable ship. It won’t intimidate virgin cruisers like some of the newest behemoths might do, and staff throughout the ship are pleasant and willing to help with queries or requests. With plenty of onboard entertainment opportunities, a good selection of shore excursions, good food and fantastic kids’ programs, the ship makes it easy for guests to have an enjoyable holiday.

Island Princess Fellow Passengers

Island Princess attracts families, couples and a few singles. Although it is a ship for all ages, summer holidays tend to attract more families with children and teenagers. Our Mediterranean cruise attracted a good mix of ages, with the bulk of passengers hailing from the United States, followed by Brits and a healthy smattering of Australians. Other nationalities — including Chinese, Japanese, Canadians and Italians — made up the balance. Depending on itinerary, however, it would be fair to say that the majority of Island Princess passengers are American. Announcements are kept to a minimum.

Island Princess Dress Code

During the day, anything goes, although beachwear is not allowed in the restaurants without a cover-up. On most nights, recommended evening dress is smart casual — an open-neck shirt and trousers for men and a dress, skirt ensemble or trouser suit for women. Cruises of five nights or longer include at least one formal dining night, while cruises of seven to 13 nights have two formal evenings.

Although Princess asks that passengers observe the dress code, particularly in the main dining rooms, we saw many people flouting the rules. Men, in particular, turned up in short sleeve, open-neck checked shirts, casual trousers and sneakers. Generally speaking, ladies were better turned-out; while less than a handful wore evening gowns, most turned up in cocktail dresses or elegant trouser suits. Staff seemed to turn a blind eye to any dress code infractions.

Island Princess Gratuity

A daily gratuity of $12.95 is automatically added to every passenger’s onboard accounts, including children; $13.95 is added for those in mini-suites and suites. A 15 percent tip is added to bar purchases, dining room wine accounts and spa bills. Currency onboard is the U.S. dollar.

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