Category Archives: Amenities

Table for three

Cruise lines have plenty of events for single travellers

Most big cruise lines offer social activities for minority or special interest groups, but I’ve never seen a line embrace the subject as enthusiastically as Princess Cruises does.

On the day we boarded (Monday), there was a Singles’ Mingle, which I missed as we were having dinner, a special gathering for 18-20 year olds, who are too old for the teen club, and a GLBT Get-Together (whatever happened to Friends of Dorothy?).

On Tuesday, the Friends of Bill W had a meeting (for those of you who are not familiar with the term, this is the wording used in the daily programme for an AA group and all big cruise ships have them).  I missed the Singles’ Mingle yet again on Wednesday as it was at a weird time (5.15) and we were swimming, although the golfers, scrabble players, GLBT and 18-20s on board all had a chance to hook up.

Today is a sea day and it’s non-stop opportunities for finding kindred spirits. There are social events for bridge players, first-time cruisers, Service Club members, GLBT passengers and freemasons, a Friends of Bill W meeting, a veterans’ gathering and a service for anybody wanting to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath.

No Singles’ Mingle today, though, which makes me worry that I’ve missed the boat, as it were. Maybe all the singles paired off on the first couple of days?

I appreciate that I’m including a religious event and an AA support group with the social activities all in one stream of thought here, but it seems there is something to encourage everybody to connect – except me, as a single parent on a cruise. Even if there were a single parents’ mingle, I expect I’d be the only one there as I haven’t spotted any other obvious candidates. Everybody is either paired off or travelling in a big group. The three of us – me and two kids – certainly seem a curiosity to the crew and every time we sit down in a bar or restaurant, I am asked, “Where is your husband?”

I don’t mind at all and this is not a sob story, although we are thinking of inventing some colourful reason as to why he’s not here; ran off with a showgirl, perhaps, or on a secret mission somewhere. It just seems strange to me that more single parents aren’t attracted to cruising, as it’s such an easy holiday. The kids love it, I’m quite happy lying around reading, we’re ashore every day and we’re very happy having dinner together and going to the shows in the evenings.  But if I did want to hook up with people, it might be easier if I were travelling solo, a scrabble enthusiast or a masonic Friend of Dorothy.




Filed under Amenities, Cruise Lines, Family Cruises, Mediterranean Cruise, Singles Cruises

Dine With Nick Stars!

This morning I had one of the most lively breakfasts of my life. The location: The colourful Spiegel Tent on Norwegian Epic. The event: A character breakfast with the stars of Nickelodeon.

Now, since this isn’t a revenue cruise – and  the ship is mostly full of weary travel agents who may have had one too many glasses of Champagne last night – the atmosphere was perhaps not quite as electric as it would be on a regular cruise when families will be flocking into this eatery.

However, we got into the spirit of things, and as our cooked breakfast came out (sausage, eggs, bacon, pancakes),  so did the stars of the kids TV programmes.

SpongeBob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer, Jimmy Neutron (who posed for a picture with me!) and pals paraded on stage and sang their rendition of “Celebration” – that certainly woke us up!

There were a couple of children in the restaurant and when we were all given the chance to meet the characters, you could see the excitement on their faces. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of fully grown adults standing in line to have their photos taken with the stars!

It’s a great addition for NCL, and if you’re planning to sail with your kids, definitely try to check it out – it’s on three times a cruise and you can book in the Box Office. For children aged 4-12 the cost is $10 per child; ages 13 and upwards, the fee is $15 per person.


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Filed under Amenities, Dining, Entertainment, Family Cruises, New Ships

All booked up on Norwegian Epic?

Norwegian Epic’s first two-night cruise ended this morning in Rotterdam, and I really don’t think we still know what’s going to be hot and what’s not. The ship is designed with enough options to keep things — dining and entertainment especially — fresh for seven full nights and days, and a mini-cruise like this one is by nature more compressed. Everybody’s trying to eat everywhere and see every show in a two-day period, which lends a frenetic nature that I trust won’t be felt on Epic’s regular schedule.

Tonight’s a one-nighter between Rotterdam and Southampton (we arrive there early in the morning), and with just half the time onboard, I suspect the atmosphere will be even more caffeinated.

Even if the rhythm is not what it will be, I was curious: If we’re really going to do the “freestyle” thing — which at NCL means do what you want when you want to — what restaurants and shows were available to me? At 4 p.m. I went to the restaurant reservations desk and inquired. You don’t need reservations for Tastes and the Manhattan Room as they are the fee-free eateries (and the Garden Cafe is one of the nicest buffets in cruising, no need to book there either). But I wanted to try one of the specialty restaurants.

Guess what? Basically I was out of luck. Of all the alternative restaurants, the only venue with pretty open opportunity was Shanghai (not a good sign?). Oh and yes, I could slip into LeBistro, the ship’s French restaurant, at 10:15 p.m. Every thing else, Teppanyaki, Charrascuria, Cagney’s, La Cucina, etc. was fully and completely booked. So be prepared to be a bit — un-freestyle — if you really have your heart set on a particular dining venue. Book ahead. Still, having dined in all three of the fee-free places, they’re quite lovely as well.

I was curious also about entertainment venues and their availability. Now mind you, some shows, like Blue Man Group, were extremely limited (it only played one night) on our abbreviated cruise. Cirque Dreams is small venue so by nature it’s tough to get into (though the fact that it does two shows a night alleviates some of the congestion). The Ice Bar was waitlist only. Space was available at Second City’s only show — a 7 p.m. performance, and not a bad time. In fact, going to Second City and then dinner afterwards, at LeBistro, would have been a great option (and if I were on my own schedule, I’d opt for that happily).

Other performances, like Howl at the Moon’s dueling pianos, Legends Unplugged in the Manhattan Room, and Fat Cats’ house band (again, second night in a row, seriously standing room only — do not miss this!), neither require nor accept a reservation.

By the way, there’s a desk on deck six, between the main theater and Cirque Dream’s Spiegel Tent, where passengers can make entertainment reservations for Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams, Murder Mystery (not available on our short cruise, but I’d love to try it!), Nickelodeon’s character breakfast, Slime Time Live, and Legends in Concert (the Legends Unplugged folks in a longer, more theatrical format). The first day onboard the reservations desk was mobbed; since you can make advance bookings via the Internet before you leave home (and that goes for restaurants too), I’d suggest that you do so for anything for which your heart’s really set.

An interesting question at a press conference yesterday: Would the fact that passengers could pre-reserve restaurants and shows mean that those who waited until they got onboard be locked out? We were told that the advance reservations system will only offer so many spots for pre-reservations so that people can be flexible once on their cruise.



Filed under Amenities, Dining, Entertainment, New Ships