Tag Archives: Cruise Ship

Laundry dilemma

Laundry dilemma

Planning on using the self-service laundry during your cruise? Well, as I’ve discovered on Ruby Princess, you’d better have some American quarters with you.

The logic behind getting coins to use the passenger laundry room is bizarre. We’ve trekked up Vesuvius, slogged around Pompeii, sweltered on a public bus in Livorno, hiked up and down the zig-zag cliff path on Santorini and got sand in everything on the beach in Mykonos. So it’s not unreasonable to expect I might need to do a batch of washing by now.

The washing machines only take American 25c coins, as does the machine that dispenses powder. So I asked at reception if I could change a couple of Euros to dollars as I’m not in the habit of taking American coins on a cruise around the Med. The answer is no. They will convert dollar notes to dollar coins, but not Euros. So can I change some Euros for dollars to get my dollar coins? No, they don’t offer currency exchange at all, as there is a machine on board that does that.

I need $4 for powder, one wash and one dry. So the smallest Euro note, a five, should do. But no; the machine charges $3.50 commission, regardless of the amount of the transaction. So I need a 10 Euro note and in any case, the machine is broken. At which point I get annoyed and go back to reception. The kind assistant purser patiently explains that even if the machine is broken and they do have to change money for the laundry, they still have to charge $3.50 commission.

So essentially, if you don’t have US dollars on you, notes or coins, you will pay $7.50 for one batch of laundry instead of $4. I know it’s petty of me to raise the issue, and Princess Cruises is by no means the only line to offer washing machines operated by US coins, and there is more to life than this, but still.

Eventually, I got my 25c coins and noticed that one was a Princess token, the kind you get in the casino. It struck me then how stupid I’d been; I should have nipped in there and played the fruit machines for a bit. I could have won my laundry money!

SJB

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Filed under Cruise Lines, Mediterranean Cruise, Opinion

Mykonos Top Tip

Agios Stefanos, a mere 15 minutes' walk from the ship

Ruby Princess spent yesterday docked at Tourlos, the big ship port on Mykonos. Small ships anchor off the pretty town and ferry passengers ashore by tender but anything sizeable goes alongside further down the coast.

Tourlos is a nothing kind of place, just a dock and no facilities, but it was a perfect day. I didn’t fancy a tour, having been here many times before, and I was too late to book the beach trip to Platis Yialos, one of the most popular stretches of sand on the island; it had sold out before we got onboard. So it was a shuttle into town (which is too far to walk) and a taxi to a beach, or taking pot luck with a walk along to Agios Stefanos, the nearest beach to the dock, 15 minutes on foot over a low hill.

You can see Agios Stefanos from the ship and it looked like a decent little cove to me.  And it was more than that: we all loved it. We pitched up at 11 and there were plenty of sunloungers (5 euros each, with a big umbrella). The sea is beautifully clear, the beach spotless and sandy, there’s a lifeguard in attendance and a huge, roped-off swimming area. Not a jet ski in sight and no noise except the waves and the bustle of the three tavernas that line the bay.

The perfect Greek taverna

We lazed, read, swam and had lunch in Epistrophi, a real Shirley Valentine-style place, right on the beach, with a vine-shaded terrace and tables with blue cloths. A huge Greek salad, assorted hot and cold starters, stuffed vine leaves, two bowls of pasta, soft drinks and half a bottle of Retsina came to 75 Euro. Not the cheapest, but it was spectacularly delicious and the owner gave me a big platter of iced watermelon to take back to the sunlounger.

The ship’s Platis Yialos tour would have cost me $107 for the transfer alone for three of us – umbrellas, loungers, food and drinks are all extra. And it was only a half day. We had a full six hours on Agios Stefanos. So I’m quite grateful that I was too slow to book the official tour!

SJB

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Filed under Cruise Lines, Destinations, Mediterranean Cruise

Join us as we cruise around Britain & Ireland

If an around-the-region Great Britain/Ireland cruise may seem a little bit too “in my own back yard” style of holiday – well you might be surprised.  This style of cruise is actually the hottest thing going not just around Ireland and the U.K. but also in Australia. (The U.S. would be a fantastic itinerary as well – can you imagine a trip that goes from Boston round to Miami, over to New Orleans, and then through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles and onward to Alaska? Unfortunately, antiquated American laws make it difficult to try such a itinerary.)

Anyway, I’ll be sharing vignettes from my 10-night cruise onboard Holland America’s Westerdam. We start off today from Rotterdam (photo taken this morning shows the ship heading up Holland’s Nieuwe Maas or New Meuse river, from our balcony in the fantastically retro Hotel New York). Then we head for ports of call that include Portland, Guernsey, Waterford, Dublin, Holyhead, Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle, before returning to Rotterdam (the blog ends at Newcastle, however, as we’re hopping off the ship there).

I hope you’ll come along – and feel free to share your insights, opinions and questions.

CSB

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Filed under Advice, Cruise Lines, Destinations, Round-Britain Cruise

Working on a cruise ship: the good, the bad and the ugly

Ever stop to think that when you trudge down to lifeboat drill on the first morning of your cruise, half the crew are smiling their best party smiles through crushing hangovers?

This is just one of the funny and revealing facts in a long and heartfelt discussion on the Facebook group ‘Working on Cruise Ships’. Members were asked what they liked least about their jobs and yep, they let rip!

Crew area

What goes on below deck?

Smelly roommates (remember, the crew have to share), early morning US Public Health inspections, norovirus, cruel spa managers, unsociable working hours… it’s enough to put you off a life at sea forever.

Mind you, some of it sounds self-inflicted, with shades of the hotel workers’ raunchy party in Dirty Dancing.  Reading comments like “Getting up for gangways at stupid o’clock after a heavy night in the disco” and “I hated feeling so tired and unhealthy because of the long partying hours and the bad food” makes you wonder just what it’s like down there in the crew bar.

Some responses are more poignant; a lot of people hate saying goodbye to their friends, and no wonder, after six months at sea together with barely a day off. I found this one: “Missing tender ports when your family is waiting on the shore” particularly touching.

Passengers, naturally, come in for a hammering and we deserve plenty of it. “Guests asking stupid questions!!! ‘Does the crew live on the ship?’ (we will be on our second sea day) or ‘is the toilet water fresh water or salt water?”’ (put a cup in and find out for me).”

And how about “Passengers picking up their kids one hour later after ‘closing’ the kids zone activity center (midnight) because they were in the bar having too much fun, or picking them up during the day all drunk.” Ouch!

Then there’s the tipping. “The worst thing is the attitude of most of the passengers, they will demand all your attention the entire cruise and on disembark day give you $5 tips, come on!! Or give you hugs and I wish the best. I don`t need it.”

We bet you don’t. So put yourself in their shoes. If you worked on a cruise ship, what do you think would annoy you most? Vote in our new poll here!

SJB

5 Comments

Filed under Opinion

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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Filed under New Ships

Norwegian Epic’s trials: Are they over?

In a news piece yesterday, Cruise Critic’s Dan Askin writes about the varied and many trials and tribulations that Norwegian Epic’s experienced in its short life as a ship. The latest — the malfunctioning propeller that altered some preview cruises here in Europe and in England — is clearly on the minds of many and we’re working on a news item about that.

The ship arrived in Southampton late yesterday as you all know. For the expected next cruise, a two nighter to nowhere, which we’re on now, Epic’s stayed tied up at the dock. But good news! We’ve just learned that we’ll take to the high seas at 1 p.m. for a one night cruise to nowhere!

One of privileges of being able to experience a ship on a pre-inaugural basis is that you get to see it while it’s brand spanking new. One of the challenges is that all new ships come with kinks and they need to be worked out. Some require passengers onboard to help in discovering kinks. Others are mechanical. That’s the way it works. What I’m seeing now onboard is that everything is really coming together beautifully. As long as NCL gets the mechanical problem sorted, I think the lucky, lucky folks who are on the Atlantic crossing, which departs tomorrow night, are going to have a grand time.

CSB

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Filed under New Ships, News

Norwegian Epic’s just arrived in Southampton!

It’s a very pretty cruise into Southampton and the ship got a nice welcome from the folks at Carnival UK, who took to the rooftop to cheer on the ship (not sure you’ll be able to tell from photo).  Fred. Olsen’s pretty Black Watch is tied up alongside — talk about David vs. Goliath, sizewise. It looks tiny next to Epic. Alas, vista of piles of garbage on a dock that I’m looking at right now — and smelling — isn’t too nice; god help us if we dock right next to it.

CSB

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Filed under New Ships, News