Friday, 30 September 2011

Get Crafty on a Cruise: Make a Journal

The travel journal I made on a cruise
I love doing craftwork and so, when on a cruise, I often join in their craft classes. Give me some paper, glue, beads, wire and paint and I'll keep busy for hours!
  Paper blossoms, wine charms, earrings, ceramic painting and scrapbooking are some of the things I've tried at sea.   
  On one Holland America Line cruise I made a journal. We were provided with the actual book and a whole selection of scrapbooking papers, stickers and other bits and pieces. I didn't finish it during the class so at our next port of call I rushed ashore to a stationery shop to buy some glue so I could continue making  it.
   That journal is one of my favourite 'souvenirs' now. Each cruise I write in the funny moments and the magical ones. Leafing through the pages when I'm back on dry land after our holiday reminds me of  lots of pleasant memories. I can imagine myself being at sea all over again!
  There's quite a range of art and craft to try at sea. Have a go! Bringing home a souvenir of your trip that you have made yourself makes it extra special.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Going Up and Down at Sea

And I don't mean when the cruise ship is in stormy weather. I mean going up and down in the onboard elevators. Because funny things happen at sea in those!
   Holland America Line ships have floormats in their elevators which, very conveniently, tell you what day it is. When all those lazy days at sea roll into one, when you can't remember if it's Monday, Tuesday or perhaps Friday, you just need to go and stand in an elevator and the answer is right under your feet.
   I always imagine the placing of those floormats to be a little like the 'Elves and the Shoemaker' fairy tale. When the shoemaker went to his workshop each morning, the elves would have been in at night and done some work. I like to think that, late at night, there is a team of crew members scurrying around with bags of floormats and, on the stroke of midnight, they whisk the old ones out of the elevators and put in the mats showing the new day!
   One morning I stepped into an elevator to go up to breakfast. I was wearing a black and white top, white trousers and black and white shoes. There was already a woman in the elevator wearing a black and white top, white trousers and black and white shoes. 'Why, honey," she drawled when she saw me. "Ain't we off the same page of the catalogue!"
   Many designers of cruise ship interiors seem to think that glass-fronted elevators are fantastic. Some elevators, like those on SuperStar Virgo, are edged with lights like the mirrors in a movie star's dressing room. Others, like the ones on Sapphire Princess, have cut-out brass scenes.
   But for people like me who don't want to see the deck falling away from under them, or conversely, the deck rising quickly to meet them, glass-fronted elevators aren't fantastic. They're just plain scary!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

About the MV Orion Expedition Cruise Ship

mv Orion
Lynn and Brien loved their time aboard the Orion which was built in 2003. They liked the smaller size of the ship. The five star Orion carries 106 passengers in 53 exterior suites and staterooms on three decks, with 75 crew. This high crew to passenger ratio ensured the excellent service that so impressed Lynn.
   The top deck of the Orion has an observation lounge with wraparound deck. This is the prime viewing site on board. On deck six there are the Galaxy Lounge, health spa, lecture theatre and sundeck with jacuzzi pool. On deck four are the hairdresser, boutique, reception, library, Leda lounge and outdoor cafe. Deck three has the Constellation Restaurant.
   Because it is an expedition ship, Orion has a specially strengthened hull for cruises that go into Antarctic waters, and the latest technology in communications and onboard engineering systems. Safety features exceed international standard requirements.
   Two tender boats, 10 inflatable Zodiac craft and several kayaks are carried on the Orion. These allow passengers to explore further afield, away from the ship, up rivers, in shallow waters, and to land on otherwise inaccessible shorelines. It's all part of the service on an Orion expedition cruise adventure!
   Many thanks to Lynn and Brien for answering my questions about the cruise, and for their photographs. They had a great time.

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Typical Day on Board Orion

Delicious food on board Orion

On the Orion Kimberley expedition, Lynn told me about a typical day on board. "There was a choice of three venues to have breakfast, all of them excellent. Freshly baked muffins and brioches were put out on the bar to have with coffee throughout the day. There was usually something on in the morning, either a shore tour or exploring in the Zodiacs. Then back to the boat for a sumptuous buffet lunch and another activity in the afternoon."
   The afternoon's activities could be: another shore excursion; a lecture about the history, environment, art or wildlife of the area; a presentation such as cake decorating and sugar craft, about mineral make-up or Paspaley pearls where passengers were shown how the pearls were grown and the shells opened; a tour of the navigational bridge or the galley.
  4 p.m. was afternoon tea time, followed by a game of trivia. Passengers met in the Leda Lounge before dinner for a drink and a briefing about the next day's destination.
   After dinner, which was a degustation menu, different every night, there was music and dancing to while away the evening.
   No wonder Lyn and Brien enjoyed themselves so much on the cruise! Eating all that wonderful food, visiting all those interesting places and being looked after by the friendly, knowledgeable and helpful crew.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

On a Kimberley Expedition with Orion Cruises

On Orion's Kimberley Expedition
Lynn and Brien chose the Kimberley Expedition in Australia's northwest because they wanted to see more of the region. By going on this Orion adventure cruise, they were able to access some of the most remote and scenic places in Australia that would not be possible to visit on larger cruise ships.
   Their 10-day cruise started in the town of Broome and leapfrogged up the Kimberley coast, to Yampi Sound, Raft Point and Montgomery Reef, Talbot River and the Horizontal Waterfalls, the Hunter River, Vansittart Bay, King George River, and the town of Wyndham. Then they sailed across to East Timor, and back to Australia to end in Darwin.
   At each day's destination area, they transferred, in small groups, to Zodiac craft (inflatable rubber boats) to go ashore or stay out on the water to explore rivers, reefs or waterfalls. Some days they landed on deserted beaches and hiked to see ancient Aboriginal rock art. At other times they could go on a fishing tour, or a flight over the Bungle Bungle ranges, an area of great natural beauty, or on a helicopter flight to Mitchell Falls, or walk to see the wreck of a World War II transport plane. 
   Another aspect of the cruise was the opportunity to see an interesting array of bird life and, sometimes at very close quarters, crocodiles and snakes. Some great photo opportunities there!
   I asked Lynn if passengers needed a certain level of fitness to go on this Orion expedition cruise as some of the activities involved walking up steep hills and over uneven ground, as well as getting in and out of the Zodiacs.
   She replied that when she booked the cruise, she was told very specifically about what passengers needed to be able to do physically and what they would need to take in the way of clothing, but also that help would be available from the Expedition Team.
  Lynn thoroughly enjoyed all the shore tours, especially the treks to see Aboriginal rock drawings and the scenic flights over some really interesting rock formations. Out on the water, one of her favourite experiences was seeing the Horizontal Waterfalls - "a real adrenaline rush."

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Small Ship, Big Excitement on an Orion Cruise

Going ashore by zodiac on a Orion cruise
My friends, Lynn and Brien, are recently home from a small ship expedition on the Orion. They cruised the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia, from Broome to Darwin, an area of dramatic red rock formations, waterfalls, and Aboriginal rock paintings.
   Lynn kindly agreed to answer my questions about the Orion cruise. After talking to her, I want to put it on my bucket list! 
W: What made you choose an adventure/expedition type cruise rather than a 'lie in a deckchair and sip cocktails' one?
L:  We had previously been on an ordinary cruise and enjoyed it. Friends were going on the Orion cruise and it sounded like something we would like.
W:  Orion has several itineraries. Why did the Kimberley Expedition appeal to you?
L:  We'd been to Broome before and thought we'd enjoy an extensive look around the region.
W:  Orion is a five-star ship and the crew to passenger ratio is high; 75 crew members to 106 passengers  Tell us about the level of service on board.
L:  It was superb. The crew pride themselves on helping you.
W: What were some of the highlights of the places visited?
L:  I especially enjoyed the Horizontal Waterfall at Talbot Bay, the plane ride over the Bungle Bungle Ranges and Montgomery Reef. The waters cascading over the reef were spectacular and the added bonus was that we had a drink there at sunset! 
W:  Which of the shore tours did you like the best? 
L:  The visits to the towns of Wyndham and Kununarra were interesting as were the treks to see Aboriginal rock drawings. 
W:  What was your overall impression of the cruise?
L:  All in all, it was a great trip. We liked the smaller ship and the friendliness of the crew. 
   In my next post, I'll write more about Lynn's experiences on Orion's Kimberley Expedition.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Convicts and Kangaroos - Shore Tour From Hobart

At the Bonorong Wildlife Park
With the southern hemisphere cruising season about to kick off next month, many ships will be calling into Hobart, Australia as part of their Pacific intineraries. I thought I'd tell you about a Princess Cruise shore tour we did from Hobart.
   History and native animals - two of my favourite things - combined on this bus trip that went to the convict-built town of Richmond and the Bonorong Wildlife Park.
   Richmond was beautiful. The little town was built by the earliest settlers, convicts exported from England in the early nineteenth century for often petty crimes, to a life of hard labour in the young colony. They quarried the sandstone with pickaxes to construct the Richmond bridge in 1834, and many of the town's buildings. In the sunlight, the sandstone has a golden glow which reminded me of villages in the Cotswolds in England.  Pete toured the tiny jail and learnt more about convict-era history while I browsed the craft and gift shops. I would liked to have spent longer in Richmond.
   The Bonorong Wildlife Park was a chance to get up close and personal with some Aussie natives. The kangaroos and wallabies roamed freely and were unafraid of visitors. A koala bear posed for photos. The Tasmanian devils were fascinating to watch. About the size of cats, they were hyperactive, chasing each other around and scrapping over food. With their jet black fur, ears that glowed red and ultra-sharp claws, they looked like vicious little beasties. Perhaps they could be hired out as extras in a vampire movie! 

Friday, 9 September 2011

Which Cabin Shall I Choose?

This is a question I hum and ha over every time I'm planning a cruise. We love to cruise but we also have a budget to stick to so ....Which type of cabin? Which deck? Where on the ship? How much will each grade cost? Is the extra, significant expense worth it for a balcony cabin?
   I look at the itinerary, check out the number of ports of call versus number of sea days, and hum and ha some more.
  But so far, on the cruises we've been on round the Pacific and Asia, we've been perfectly satisfied with an interior cabin, midships, on a lower, rather than upper deck. There's less chance of seasickness then and we hardly spend any time in the cabin anyway.
   I don't choose the cheapest option, but make the position of the cabin the deciding factor. Close, but not too close to the elevators; not near the laundromats; not underneath high traffic, possibly noisy areas such as restaurants or music venues. It's great that cruise lines put deck plans on their websites. You can really do your research before you book.
   And I know I should be calling them 'staterooms' not 'cabins', but I'm the one who calls 'gangways' 'gangplanks'! I think I read too many books about pirates when I was a child!
   Mind you, finding our cabin each day can be a challenge! Take me out of an elevator, put me in a long, long corridor lined with doors on each side, and I totally lose my sense of direction! I can't tell where I am, which way the 'pointy end' of the ship is, where on earth our cabin might be.
   Except on a Pacific cruise last year. Just along from us, someone had stuck a giant paper bird with a fat stomach onto their door. I always knew where our cabin was on that cruise - four doors past the pregnant parrot!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Temptations Galore: Food on a Cruise

Cakes, cakes and more cakes on the Volendam
Look at those cakes! Could you resist them? All that sugar, butter and cream, you're thinking. But don't they look delicious. Aren't you tempted? You'll have just one. But when the waiter puts two on your plate it would be rude to refuse, wouldn't it?
   Every day on a cruise the food temptations are there. In the buffet, in the restaurants, out on the deck at the barbecue, beside the pool at the pizza parlour, at a themed dinner, during a formal high tea, not to mention the afternoon cookies and ice cream. What would you have?
   Some people go on a cruise and pile their plates high at every meal, determined to get their money's worth. Others are more choosy, picking the healthier options at the salad bar and declining cooked breakfasts in favour of fresh fruit and cereals. Still others eat more or less the same amount as they do at home, with a few extra treats gobbled up along the way.
   The enjoyment of food is a huge part of a cruise. You may be watching a culinary demonstration, taking a hands-on cooking class, perusing the menu at dinner, or lying in a deck chair thinking about your next meal.  But you can be sure that the chefs, the bakers, the pastry makers and the kitchen staff have all been working very hard to produce delicacies to enhance your cruise experience.  
  Now, which cake shall I choose? 

Saturday, 3 September 2011

On SuperStar Virgo: What to do When the Sun Goes Down

Lido show lounge on Superstar Virgo
Once the sun goes down, the music, dance and magic come alive on SuperStar Virgo. There are several venues for evening entertainment and I wandered between them, enjoying the contrast between Broadway-style shows, piano music and dance parties.
   The Grand Piazza was the setting for pianist Shunmin to play oriental ballads on the grand piano. On the next night, the Santinig Trio entertained with 'Evening Melodies'.
   In the Galaxy of the Stars things were hotting up on the first night of the cruise with an Adults Only 'Hot Strip Off' party at midnight, promising that you could 'go crazy, feel sexy and be naughty tonight'! Hmmm!
   At other times in the Galaxy, there was a dance party with the Sound Clippers Lounge Band, easy listening music in the wee hours of the morning with the Elan Show Band, ballroom dancing, game shows and bingo.
   The Lido is the huge show lounge, seating over 850 people. I saw two of the best shows I've seen at sea there: a magic show and a Broadway-style production of song and dance.
   The magician was Philippart and his assistant, Anja. Direct from Monte Carlo, they combined comedy with tricks that were amazing. Colourful, kooky costumes, lighting and sound effects made their act quite a spectacle.
   'Reflections of Russia' was a stunning show with performers from Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine and Brazil. Acrobatic performances of skill and strength, and classical and modern dance numbers were all performed with grace and high energy. Add to that the visual effects beamed onto a huge screen background, the fantastic costumes and the rousing music. It was truly a spectacular performance.