Category Archives: New Ships

Just how big is Oasis of the Seas?

Click to see the full-size version. Image courtesy of IGLU.com

So just how big is Royal Caribbean’s mammoth Oasis of the Seas?

Our friends over at U.K. travel agency,  www.iglucruise.com, have created this fun graphic to show the true size of the 225,282-ton,  5,400-passenger ship!

It just goes to show how cruise ships have advanced over the years — according to this chart, Oasis is three times the size of the QE2 and five times bigger than the Titanic.

The picture also gives some handy information about ship building and the fast facts on how much food is consumed at sea!

One staggering fact is that Disney Cruise Line serves up 5,000 eggs each morning! Mind you, after seeing plates piled sky-high in the buffet restaurants at breakfast, we can see how this may be possible!

Do you have any fun cruise ship facts? Share them with us!

KR

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Why Cruise on Cunard?

On a visit to Fincantieri’s shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy (near Trieste) on Friday, I got a chance to visit with Queen Elizabeth (see our coverage, via photos and commentary, here!) . The line’s newest ship, it’s still under construction at the yard (and has a mere 11 weeks to go before its “release date” of September 30).

In the lobby, a-hammer with all kinds of builders pounding nails into concrete, cutting wood on buzz saws, and dabbing paint onto ceiling murals, a painting of the ship caught my eye.  Incongruously elegant, it was an oil of Queen Elizabeth-the-new, clearly done from renderings as the ship appeared fully operational (it was clearly cruising around Southampton).

Now the painting, by Dorset’s Harley Crossley, hasn’t been moldering amidst the dust and debris for long; it was purposely hung for the three-hour visit by a handful of cruise journalists (and promptly taken down and properly stored the minute we left the room). Ultimately of course it will be surrounded by a much more glorious – and of course completed – atrium when it’s mounted again, permanently.

Still, for a few minutes, probably longer than that, I stood in front of it, mesmerized. Among nautical enthusiasts who decry the loss of ships with elegant exteriors in an era in which so many look like 1990s condo blocks (or like NCL’s new Norwegian Epic, with appearances that frankly defy description), the new painting of Queen Elizabeth-the-new took me back in time.

“Let’s put it this way,” said one of the dozen or so Cunard staffers milling around us, “Would you really stop to admire a painting of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas?”

Look, I’m the first to say that as ugly as Norwegian Epic is, once you’re inside who cares what the ship’s exterior looks like? But that’s not the point with Cunard. Even as the line has made some modern compromises (building out the aft section of the ship to make room for more staterooms, for one, plenty of cabins with balconies for another), what’s important is this: Cunard’s very specialness is the fact that a passenger onboard its ships can cruise with a leg in the illustrious past of golden liners – and the other leg most definitely planted firmly in the present.

That’s why I want to cruise again on Cunard, whether it’s a crossing on Queen Mary 2 or a cruise on Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth.

On all three vessels, Cunard’s homage to its history, and to cruising’s golden era, is not lip service.  If that intrigues you as much as it does me, don’t miss spending time in Queen Elizabeth’s reincarnated Mid Ships bar (a QEII and Queen Mary institution). On a day with many highlights, the most memorable for me was the glimpse of the gallery that will be featured there – full of fantastic historic relics. My favorite was the Cunard White Star International Marine Radio Service Radiogram, dated October 9, 1946, from Queen Elizabeth’s maiden voyage:

Dear Belinda and Chris, grateful if you would check that our cabin, M45, is not more than five minutes walk from the sea. Stop.

“It’s one of the ways we’re bringing the experience of the old liners to life,” said Peter Shanks, Cunard’s president, a few minutes after he’d been spotted whipping out his own camera to snap shots of some of the pieces featured in display cases.

You’d think that the radiogram and other artifacts, such as newspaper clippings featuring Cunard ships, old teapots, and ship models, would all be culled from the line’s own collection. You’d be wrong! One of the best aspects of overseeing Queen Elizabeth’s art collection for Amy Lucena, an art consultant for the cruise line, is hunting for just the right antiques to display.

She found the telegram from an antique shop in Dania Beach, Florida. Teapots came from the gift shop onboard Queen Mary, which is now a hotel ship in Long Beach, California. And via eBay she unearthed a treasure trove of 25 manila envelopes filled with newspapers with Queen Elizabeth stories.

In its own way, Cunard’s the closest thing we have to connecting cruising’s past with its present. As I never had the chance to cruise on a ship during the golden era, I’m glad that there’s still an opportunity to experience this glamour – without having to compromise on any of contemporary travel’s modern necessities.

CSB

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Filed under Cruise Lines, New Ships, Opinion, Transatlantic Cruises

A Slice of Saturday Night on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth: the lowdown

Cunard has announced an eclectic-sounding line-up of shows for the new Queen Elizabeth, which launches in October. We’re particularly intrigued by ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’, a big production that uses all 29 actors, singers, dancers and musicians in the newly-formed Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company. It’s one of those shows you’ve sort of heard of, but not quite a headline-grabber like ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Chicago’ have been for Royal Caribbean’s two newest ships.

Coming soon on Queen Elizabeth!

Coming soon on Queen Elizabeth!

So we’ve done a bit of digging and present you with ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ – The Facts:

  • The show was written in 1989 by the Heather Brothers, four London-born brothers who were songwriters before they turned to musicals. They’ve adapted the production specially for Cunard.
  • After Saturday Night, they wrote ‘Lust’, which played at London’s Haymarket Theatre, and ‘Blood Money’, which enjoyed a run in Philadelphia as well as the UK.
  • The plot of ‘Saturday Night’ is essentially a group of seven love-struck teens (‘birds’ and ‘blokes’) flirting and fighting in a provincial disco, Club A Go-Go, in the 1960s, egged on by the club’s owner, Eric ‘Rubber Legs’ De Vere – perfect fodder for Cunard’s baby-boomer demographic.
  • The show was first performed in a pub in Brighton in 1989 but made its West End debut shortly afterwards in a sell-out run at London’s Arts Theatre.  It hit the big time with a 12-week spell at London’s Strand Theatre in 1993, with pop star Sonia as Sue, the main female lead, and Dennis Waterman as Eric, the lead ‘bloke’.
  • Time Out gave it a glowing review: The Heather Brothers’ musical spoof on the Saturday night rituals of pubescent 17-year-old delinquents in the 60s is full of such clever, self-mocking charm that it’s difficult to come away feeling anything but thoroughly entertained … the real pleasure comes from the Brothers’ shameless poaching of an eclectic cross-section of famous 60s numbers — Cliff and the Shads to Bob Dylan via the Beatles — superb comic pastiche and sharp, cuff-link humour.
  •  The show has been translated into nine languages and there have been more than 300 productions since, as well as four national tours of Britain, two European tours and intriguingly, two of Japan.
  • ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’ also had a run off-Broadway, billed as ‘Café A Go-Go’, receiving critical acclaim.
  • The cast started rehearsing in London and Northampton in mid-June and will move onto the ship for the launch in October.

Hats off to Cunard for trying something so ambitious; even if we’ve heard plenty of sixties material on cruise ships before, I like the fact that this is a full production with a plot and most importantly, proper musicians, not taped music.  SJB

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The last word

Okay, for the last word on NCL’s Norwegian Epic (well we make no promises — but this is the last word for awhile!), check out this Cruise Critic interview on U.S. radio magnet Peter Greenberg’s national show. It’s a frisky look at what works and doesn’t on the ship : http://bit.ly/ap9Gwx. Cruise Critic also got a very nice shout out from the BBC’s Fast Track program on Epic-related opinions but it’s not available to watch in the U.K. so…sorry about that.

And if you’re catching up on cruise news and reviews this weekend, here are a couple of other Cruise Critic stories from this week worth checking out:

*Strikes in Greece have impacted cruise travel (and travel in general) in Athens this week; we’re keeping an eye on the situation throughout the weekend: http://bit.ly/cOalRE.

*If you’ve ever thought about heading to Glastonbury for the famed rock festival (or more probably if you’re reading this blog, you haven’t ever considered such an experience — but maybe you know someone who has?), a cruise ship rock festival is a lot more intimate and you don’t have to deal with mud (and tents). Check out this virtual slideshow on sister site Cruisecritic.com (http://bit.ly/avNuI0 ) as Dan Askin takes us along with him on a trip aboard Carnival Inspiration. He keeps it pretty clean!

*For the latest reviews from Cruise Critic members just off ships, check out brand new submissions from Independence of the Seas, Thomson Celebration, Island Escape and Azamara Quest. Start here: http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/reviews/.

Have a great weekend!

CSB

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Filed under Cruise Lines, Destinations, New Ships, News, Singles Cruises, Theme Cruises, Virgin Cruises

If Britannia ruled the waves

We had to laugh at the weekend over the comments made by Carnival’s senior cruise director, John Heald, in his personal blog. John, as you may know, has an extensive cult following as well as providing valuable insight into the world of Carnival.

Anyway, John, blogging from Venice, where he was attending the naming of Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam, extended special, tongue-in-cheek congratulations to his friends from the USA on the occasion of Independence Day:

“Let me finish with a special wish to my American friends for a very Happy Fourth Of July… I hope you have a great family day celebrating killing my great, great, great, great grandfather. Personally, I wish we had won… then I could get a decent cup of tea on the ships.

“The Queen, The Mad Duke and the blind Prince with the jug ears and his horse… sorry, wife, would be living at the White House.

“The letter ‘U’ would be reinstated in words such as ‘colour’, ‘honour’ and ‘splendour’. Likewise, you would learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘ize’ would be replaced by the suffix ‘ise’.

“You would all say ‘bugger’ instead of ‘daaaaamn’.

“You would drive on the correct side of the road and eat with the fork in the left hand.

“The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Only proper British Bitter should be called beer.  Budweiser should be referred to as ‘NearFrozenCamel’sPisseiser.’

“The national sport would be cricket and Denny’s would serve Yorkshire Pudding and Spotted Dick… for breakfast.”

All this got us thinking here at Cruise Critic… If Britannia still ruled the waves, how might cruising have changed, other than being able to get a proper cup of tea on a ship?

The early dinner sitting would be much quieter, for a start. The gym on board would probably be empty, too.

Nobody would go to the shopping talks.

Those massive tray-plates in the buffets of the big cruise lines would be smaller as we Brits prefer to make return visits rather than pile our chocolate pudding on the same plate as the garlic prawns and blue cheese dressing.

The midnight buffet may never have evolved at all – perhaps it would have become a kebab stall instead.

Tipping would never have reached the level of complication it has today, although there might be a pot on the bar for loose change.

Yes, life at sea would be very different without the influence of our American cousins, to whom we at CruiseCritic.co.uk also extend our (belated) July Fourth good wishes. Do add your own observations to the list! SJB

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Epic’s Deluxe Balcony AKA the Mini-Suite

“This is like the perfect London flat. Everything has a place.”

Carmen Roberts, BBC World’s “Fast Track”

It feels more like a yacht cabin than any other big-ship stateroom, with full walls occupied by built-in cabinets and small touches, from perfectly placed hooks to hidden but accessible electric outlets (both European and US).

I’m going to go against the grain here and say that for all its quirks — and this is the quirkiest modern stateroom design I’ve ever seen! — I really love my cabin. It’s not going to be for everyone (and we’ve not even gotten to the wacky bathroom analysis yet!). What’s important to figure out is whether this style is for you.

In this deluxe balcony (in human-speak it’s called a mini-suite) the walls indeed gently undulate. It’s very narrow and smaller than average, by industry standards, as NCL’s cabins typically are. The mini-suite is roughly two-thirds the size of a mini-suite on Princess’ Grand class (Princess’ are especially generous).

First the basics: All cabins come with flat-screen television, interactive system (with movies, shore excursions and the like), a coffee pot (bring your own teabags), a desk with chair, hairdryer (decent power) and beds that convert from twins to a queen. The duvet is a nice crisp cotton, as are the sheets. Beside each bed is a nice built-in shelf unit with a little bedside light. And all cabins have a sofa bed/loveseat.

Like all ships’ standard cabins these days, those on Epic are built in a cabin factory, are identical within each category, and are trucked to the ship and essentially slotted into place. They interlock with the cabins on either side like a set of Legos. That’s a challenge for these curving walls.

The biggest controversy about these cabins is the fact that the bathrooms (shower and toilet) are in separate compartments, and we’ve already addressed this to some extent (the issue is by no means over!).

Enough of that, let’s move on to pros and cons.

Pros:

  • The bed — and this is fantastic and cozy — is set into the curved wall. It gives you the sort of feeling of nestling in your mother’s arms.
  • The lighting … finally a cruise line has softened the lights (it’s not dark, just softer), though I still think dimmer lighting would be a revolutionary step!
  • Overall ambience is lovely. The color scheme is much, much softer than that on NCL’s Jewel-class ships — here we have earth colors with pretty, dark wood veneer cabins. There are lots of mirrors, both floor-length and otherwise.
  • A curved curtain has been installed between the bathroom/foyer and the cabin itself. It looks like a last-minute addition (and the curtain’s kind of cheap looking), but it does the job — which is to give privacy between the two areas.
  • The bed is flanked by built-in shelves (for eyeglasses, cell phone, book) and has accordion-neck book lights.
  • The bed’s marvelous. Could stay there all day.
  • Nice hairdryer, decent voltage
  • I always love a mini-fridge — don’t always use it, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

Cons:

  • This is a pro and a con! The cabin is definitely narrow. I didn’t feel it because of the placement of the mirrors and the curved bed (it’s harder to walk around your bed on Silversea’s Silver Spirit than in here); the mirrors help a lot, and so does the built-in cabinetry all along the walls.
  • I’m not going to be the first to say that the couch/loveseat (which folds out to a bed) is awful (attractive but of no use), but it is. Because of the cabin’s configuration, it was designed to wrap around the curve that bulges into the room. It’s not comfortable (very hard back) and you sit sort of twisted. At this point it’s become a storage facility for my stuff. I can’t sit there.

Next post: I’ll tackle storage. It’s pretty creatively designed.

CSB

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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.

KR

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