Cruise Reviews, Ship Reviews by The Avid Cruiser http://www.avidcruiser.com helping you make informed vacation decisions through cruise reviews, ship reviews and destination reviews, personal, passionate, informed and inspired Tue, 18 Nov 2014 21:53:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Quantum of the Seas Recap http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/16/quantum-seas-recap/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/16/quantum-seas-recap/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 21:29:31 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42200 Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas Delivers Aaron Saunders, reporting for Avid Cruiser The truth of the matter is that two days is not nearly enough to experience everything you can possibly do aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas. In fact, two weeks might not be enough. She’s not just a cruise ship... [Read More]

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Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas Delivers
Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas sails past the Statue of Liberty in New York on the evening of Wednesday, November 12, 2014. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas sails past the Statue of Liberty in New York on the evening of Wednesday, November 12, 2014. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Aaron Saunders, reporting for Avid Cruiser

The truth of the matter is that two days is not nearly enough to experience everything you can possibly do aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas. In fact, two weeks might not be enough. She’s not just a cruise ship that takes you from Point A to Point B; she’s a destination in her own right.

After just shy of 48 hours onboard, that’s my takeaway from Quantum of the Seas: she could do circles in the Atlantic for seven days and her passengers likely wouldn’t complain. There’s too much to do and see right onboard this 168,666-gross-ton ship that is 1,141 feet long, 136 feet wide, and has 16 passenger decks. In fact, you’ll barely notice you’re sailing with 4,180 other guests.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite features onboard:

Two70

Is Two70 the best feature on Quantum of the Seas? It very well could be. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Is Two70 the best feature on Quantum of the Seas? Some say it could be. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Without a doubt, Two70 was the highlight of my Quantum of the Seas experience. By day, the area functioned as a spectacular aft-facing lounge that recalls the same kind of grand scale that Royal Caribbean has used in the past for its main dining rooms. By night, Two70 featured entertainment that was innovative and imaginative — a complete departure from cruise ship entertainment as you may know it.

Original shows and high production values make for some of the most innovative entertainment at sea. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Original shows and high production values make for some of the most innovative entertainment at sea. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The production values alone are staggering, with a list of technical and creative credits that reads like a feature film. In addition to Starwater, which I enjoyed, Two70 will also offer Virtual Concert and Sonic Odyssey: original shows designed by Royal Caribbean Productions and Montreal-based Moment Factory. I’d sail Quantum again just to see them.

NorthStar

There's no getting around it: NorthStar is just plain cool. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

There’s no getting around it: NorthStar is just plain cool. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Yes, the London Eye-esque NorthStar capsule was a winner,  and it will be for you too, even if you plan to only ride it once. NorthStar gives you a perspective of your cruise ship that has, until now, been impossible to obtain. It will also no doubt turn heads when she sails to the Caribbean in a few weeks and Asia in 2015.

Inside NorthStar's capsule. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Inside NorthStar’s capsule. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Even better, North Star can operate while the ship is at sea – something I had my doubts about. It’s also free – unless, of course, you’d like to get married on the NorthStar. You can do that, but for a fee.

Dining Options

There are plenty of free and pay dining options onboard Quantum of the Seas. Pictured here is Jamie's Italian on Deck 5 aft. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

There are plenty of free and pay dining options onboard Quantum of the Seas. Pictured here is Jamie’s Italian on Deck 5 aft. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Royal Caribbean’s main dining rooms were some of the most beautiful afloat. Grand and sprawling, the main dining room on Mariner of the Seas still stands as one of the nicest I’ve ever been in. But although these large grand rooms are gone, Quantum of the Seas has something better: a multitude of more intimate venues featuring unique menus and décor.

Enjoying lunch in the American Icon Grill, Deck 4. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Enjoying lunch in the American Icon Grill, Deck 4. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I didn’t get to try a lot of the dining venues during my two days onboard, but of the ones I ate at (American Icon Grill, The Grande, Silk, and the Windjammer Marketplace), Silk was my undisputed favorite both in terms of ambiance and cuisine.

Elegant Styling; Efficient Flow

Quantum's interior design and decor is surprisingly elegant and soothing. Shown here is The Via, Deck 5 aft. The lighting changes colours depending on the time of day. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Quantum’s interior design and decor is surprisingly elegant and soothing. Shown here is The Via, Deck 5 aft. The lighting changes colors depending on the time of day. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Quantum of the Seas absorbs her guests better than the Voyager and Freedom-class ships. On a cruise aboard Mariner of the Seas a few years back, getting a seat in the Schooner Bar or the Café Promenade was damn near impossible at the best of times.

The Schooner Bar, Deck 5. Plenty of different bars and lounges ensure Quantum of the Seas doesn't feel crowded. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Schooner Bar, Deck 5. Plenty of different bars and lounges ensure Quantum of the Seas doesn’t feel crowded. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

On Quantum of the Seas – which sailed nearly full during my previewl – the increased multitude of bars and lounges helped to distribute guests better than her predecessors. Coupled with the fact that most entertainment venues are spread across Decks 3, 4 and 5, the next alternative is only steps away if your favorite watering hole is full.

The Solarium

The Solarium on Deck 14 overlooks the bow of Quantum of the Seas. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Solarium on Deck 14 overlooks the bow of Quantum of the Seas. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This stunning space could almost do double-duty as the “new” Viking Crown Lounge. Situated at the bow right above the navigation bridge, this area is part pool, part relaxation area, part bar and lounge. The views from here were unparalleled. My biggest concern was that Quantum of the Seas would have a lack of connection with the sea. It connected well.

The Solarium offers an awesome connection to the sea. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Solarium offers an awesome connection to the sea. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Solarium, in fact, is all about the ocean and the sights around you.

So who is Quantum of the Seas right for? As it turns out, there are plenty of people that will probably find something to enjoy about sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s latest ship.

Climbing up to the North Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Climbing up to the North Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our take:

Sail Quantum of the Seas if:

  • You enjoy sailing on big ships with the latest bells-and-whistles; Quantum has them in spades.
  • You’ve sailed with Royal Caribbean before; past guests will find lots to love about Quantum of the Seas.
  • You’re are or are not technologically inclined; while high-tech features are offered for those who like to stay connected 24/7, a smartphone is by no means needed to enjoy your experience onboard. Even if you don’t own a smartphone, you can get by without the Royal iQ app.
  • You enjoy ships with a multitude of high-quality dining and entertainment options, and are willing to pay a little extra for some of them.
  • You’re looking for a one-of-a-kind cruise experience.

Avoid Quantum of the Seas if:

  • You want a small-ship cruising experience. This most certainly isn’t it.
  • You’re deeply attached to more classic Royal Caribbean features, like the Viking Crown Lounge and traditional set dining.
  • You’re put-off by additional costs; Quantum of the Seas has more onboard items that come with a surcharge, including some room service menu items.

For those who have already sailed with Royal Caribbean in the past, it won’t take long to get used to the new features and style of cruising found aboard Quantum of the Seas

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas has sadly come to a close, but tune for more Live Voyage Reports by following the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport on Twitter.

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Quantum of the Seas Live Report – Day 2: Exploring Quantum http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/15/quantum-seas-live-report-day-2-exploring-quantum/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/15/quantum-seas-live-report-day-2-exploring-quantum/#respond Sat, 15 Nov 2014 20:38:47 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42195 A Quantum Day at Sea Aaron Saunders, reporting for Avid Cruiser November 13, 2014 My first full day aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas was jam-packed with activities. There was so much to see and do aboard the massive new ship and, with the clock ticking down, I armed myself with a deck... [Read More]

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A Quantum Day at Sea
Come with us as we spend a day at sea exploring Royal Caribbean's new Quantum of the Seas! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Exploring Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, reporting for Avid Cruiser

November 13, 2014

My first full day aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas was jam-packed with activities. There was so much to see and do aboard the massive new ship and, with the clock ticking down, I armed myself with a deck plan and set out to cram as much as I possibly could into my day.

As it turns out, I managed to do a lot. I explored nearly every nook and cranny, walked every deck and climbed every staircase. Over the course of 15 hours of activities, both scheduled and unscheduled, I ended up with more than 600 photographs to sort through – yet I still barely scratched the surface.

Elevators all feature individual artwork - and it became a bit of a task to see if you could "collect them all." Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Elevators all feature individual artwork — and it became a bit of a task to see if you could “collect them all.” Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Because there is so much to talk about when it comes to Quantum of the Seas, I’m going to begin with a broad overview of some of the public spaces and technological features of the ship today and then delve into more in-depth articles on the ship’s technological achievements and dining options later this week.

What truly surprised me was that many of the most heavily promoted features of Quantum of the Seas were really only well-designed footnotes. What I mean by that is that as a ship Quantum of the Seas would have been a winner without the SeaPlex. Or the Bionic Bar. Or perhaps even the RipCord by iFly. These things are cool, but you’ll probably only do them once during your voyage, tick it off your list, and move on.

The forward promenade area of Deck 4 (seen from Deck 5) is reminiscent of Celebrity's Solstice class. Throughout the ship, there is a surprising amount of natural light and ocean views. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The forward promenade area of Deck 4 (seen from Deck 5) is reminiscent of Celebrity’s Solstice class. Throughout the ship, there is a surprising amount of natural light and ocean views. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

More significant than the gee-whiz features is how well she’s designed. Quantum of the Seas isn’t a direct evolution of the Voyager and Freedom class; she’s a radically different vessel. She shares more similarities with Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-Class than she does with her Royal Caribbean predecessors. This was particularly apparent as I walked along the forward section of Deck 4, which featured ceilings that extended to Deck 5 and windows that filled the promenade with natural light. It was a far more elegant ship than Royal Caribbean has built in the past, with the possible exception of the still-gorgeous Radiance Class.

Lifejackets are now provided at individual Muster Stations, and not in staterooms. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Quantum of the Seas also does a number of things differently. For example, as on Oasis and Allure of the Seas, you won’t find lifejackets in your stateroom closets. Standard-issue on nearly every cruise ship, the thought was that it makes more sense to provide lifejackets at your muster stations. In the event of an emergency, you would be heading to your muster station anyway.

The Bionic Bar, Enhanced Internet & Smart Apps

The Music Hall spans Decks 3 and 4, and is situated just aft of the Royal Theater. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Music Hall spans Decks 3 and 4, and is situated just aft of the Royal Theater. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

At a press conference held in the Music Hall, Royal Caribbean’s Executive Vice President of Operations, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, revealed that the Bionic Bar was an idea that only came to fruition this past April. Royal Caribbean execs had seen a robot demoed at a technology conference in Las Vegas, discussed the concept, then flew to Italy to meet with the manufacturer. Fast-forward six months and the two robots were installed in their new home in the Bionic Bar. Featuring a DJ at nights, the Bar works far better than I had expected with regard to how well it fits with the flow and design of the ship.

The Bionic Bar was actually a late addition to Quantum of the Seas. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Bionic Bar was a late addition to Quantum of the Seas. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

It also features a DJ with live music by night, and opens up attractively to the Royal Esplanade just off-screen. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I liked and appreciated the frankness with which Lutoff-Perlo, Chairman Richard D. Fain, and Executive Vice President, Marine, Harri Kulovarra spoke with journalists. When asked about the inclusion of wi-fi onboard and why it was so critical to offer enhanced connectivity, Fain drew a parallel to ATM machines. Twenty or thirty years ago, they were scarce, he said. If you wanted to get cash out, you had to go to your bank. Of course, nowadays we couldn’t live without an ATM. Fain views shipboard enhanced internet connectivity in that same light: something we’re finding we can’t live without.

The Royal iQ app is handy for seeing what you've got booked...but I still don't like having to rely on it. However, many guests will no doubt love this.

The Royal iQ app is handy for seeing what you’ve got booked … but I didn’t like having to rely on it. However, many guests will no doubt love the feature.

I have to admit that the Royal iQ app was handy for making reservations without having to queue up. In that respect, it’s a home-run. The downside, though, was that I was clipped by four people who were walking down the corridor, staring like zombies at their iPhones. I’ve never had that happen on a cruise ship before. Yet, I still caught myself checking my email – and more often than not, I had fun posting photos of my journey to Twitter. Maybe that’s a good way for people to share their vacations? Time will tell.

The beautiful decor of The Grande, Deck 3. Waiters use digital technology that transmits orders instantly to the galley. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The beautiful decor of The Grande, Deck 3. Waiters use digital technology that transmits orders instantly to the galley. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas has sadly come to a close, but tune in this week for more in-depth articles on her accommodations, dining and technical features. Be sure to follow along on twitter by following the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

The post Quantum of the Seas Live Report – Day 2: Exploring Quantum appeared first on Cruise Reviews, Ship Reviews by The Avid Cruiser.

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Quantum of the Seas Live Report – Day 1: In A Word, Wow! http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/13/quantum-seas-live-report-day-1/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/13/quantum-seas-live-report-day-1/#respond Thu, 13 Nov 2014 06:44:19 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42187 Royal Caribbean Introduces Another Winner Aaron Saunders, reporting for Avid Cruiser I had my doubts about Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas. I really did. When someone promises they’re going serve the moon up to you on a platter – even if it’s one of the most successful cruise lines on the planet –... [Read More]

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Royal Caribbean Introduces Another Winner
Royal Caribbean has done it again with Quantum of the Seas. Shown here is a scene from Starwater, one of the minboggling production shows at Two70. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Royal Caribbean has done it again with Quantum of the Seas. Shown here is a scene from Starwater, one of the minboggling production shows at Two70. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, reporting for Avid Cruiser

I had my doubts about Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas. I really did. When someone promises they’re going serve the moon up to you on a platter – even if it’s one of the most successful cruise lines on the planet – I tend to be skeptical. And there were promises aplenty: ten-minute check-in. The fastest internet at sea. Revolutionary new amenities. Plugged-in components.

Amazingly, in Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has designed a ship that makes its existing fleet look positively frumpy. If there’s a single downside to Quantum, it’s that she’s so innovative she’s prematurely aged the Royal Caribbean fleet by ten years.

Hello, Quantum of the Seas! The view from between Decks 15 and 14, facing the North Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Hello, Quantum of the Seas! The view from between Decks 15 and 14, facing the North Star. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I arrived at the new Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal just after Noon. It’s a colossal improvement over the old “tent-and-building structure” that was just horrifying. If you hated the shuttle bus ride as much as I did, good news: It’s ancient history now, replaced with a modern terminal that has – gasp! – tide-sensing gangways.

While check-in wasn’t quite the ten-minute-wonder Royal Caribbean had promised, it was among the fastest I’ve experienced on any large mainstream ship, clocking in at 26.5 minutes from start to finish. Which is darn good. I should point out that I had problems checking in online, and that the time listed includes the time for the pierside staff to check me in. Your mileage may vary.

You can access your stateroom with the traditional keycard or with the new RFID WOWband. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

You can access your stateroom with the traditional keycard or with the new RFID WOWband. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Once onboard – oh my. This is one gorgeous ship. Quantum of the Seas is a colossal improvement over the Voyager and Freedom-class vessels. She is representative of the new Royal Caribbean, and almost no trace of the ‘old’ Royal Caribbean is present. The entire styling and décor of this ship is unlike anything that has come before her. The Royal Caribbean trademarks of the 1980s and 1990s – the curved staircases, Viking Crown Lounge, marble surfaces – are all gone, replaced instead with an elegant, modern look that wouldn’t be out of place in a fine hotel.

The first thing most guests will see aboard Quantum of the Seas is the Royal Esplanade that spans Decks 4 and 5. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The first thing most guests will see aboard Quantum of the Seas is the Royal Esplanade that spans Decks 4 and 5. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Initially, I was concerned that Quantum of the Seas would suffer from a disconnect from the ocean, but that simply isn’t the case. While she still doesn’t boast as many windows as I’d like to see in her public rooms, she’s far more connected with the sea than the Voyager and Freedom class cruise ships. Windows line nearly every venue, and if there aren’t windows near your favorite watering hole (hello, Schooner Bar), clever lighting helps to mimic daylight outside.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at Quantum of the Seas!

Welcome to my stateroom: a Category D8 Balcony Stateroom on Deck 6. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to my stateroom: a Category D8 Balcony Stateroom on Deck 6. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The room measures 198 square feet with a 55-square foot balcony. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The room measures 198 square feet with a 55-square-foot balcony. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The bathroom is cleverly designed. Note the glass sliding shower door; a huge improvement over the dreaded "shower curtain." Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The bathroom is cleverly designed. Note the glass sliding shower door; a huge improvement over the dreaded “shower curtain.” Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Come along with me! Right outside my stateroom door - some inspirational messages. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Come along with me! Right outside my stateroom door – some inspirational messages. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas continues tomorrow with an extensive look at this fabulous ship as we sail the Atlantic Ocean! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following  the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

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From Cape Liberty: Quantum of the Seas Live Voyage Report http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/12/quantum-of-the-seas-cape-liberty/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/12/quantum-of-the-seas-cape-liberty/#respond Wed, 12 Nov 2014 17:09:17 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42178 Our Journey to New York to see Royal Caribbean’s Latest Innovation(s) She has been billed as the most eagerly awaited new cruise ship of 2014. Her features, amenities and even her dual deployment in North America and Asia have turned heads. This week, we’ll give you our take on one of the most talked-about ships... [Read More]

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Our Journey to New York to see Royal Caribbean’s Latest Innovation(s)
Royal Caribbean's brand-new Quantum of the Seas sails into Southampton, England in late October. We'll join her this week in New York for a quick preview cruise out to the Atlantic and back. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean’s brand-new Quantum of the Seas sails into Southampton, England in late October. We’ll join her this week in New York for a quick preview cruise out to the Atlantic and back. Note the extended North Star capsule towering high above her. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

She has been billed as the most eagerly awaited new cruise ship of 2014. Her features, amenities and even her dual deployment in North America and Asia have turned heads. This week, we’ll give you our take on one of the most talked-about ships of the year.

Beginning Wednesday, Avid Cruiser’s Aaron Saunders will be spending two nights aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas as she embarks on her first North American media preview voyage before her christening on November 14, 2014.

Aaron’s voyage is a simple one, only 48 hours or so – but that’s okay. This one is all about the ship, and a simple loop into the Atlantic and back will be just what the doctor ordered.

What's new aboard Quantum of the Seas? As it turns out, a lot. Illustration courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

What’s new aboard Quantum of the Seas? As it turns out, a lot. Illustration courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Everything about Quantum of the Seas is designed to be new, innovative or different in some way – and that includes the terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. Dubbed Cape Liberty, the cruise terminal has been Royal Caribbean’s home in New York since 2004. The old terminal was nothing to write home about, and involved a cumbersome bus ride from the terminal to the ship itself.

To prepare for Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean built a new 125,000-square foot terminal adjacent to the existing terminal. Pegged at an estimated cost of $55-million dollars, the new state-of-the-art terminal is crucial to one of Quantum’s key new features: an all-digital embarkation process that, Royal Caribbean says, will have you from the curb to the ship in just 10 minutes. The bus ride is also a thing of the past; embarkation will be conducted via enclosed gangways that lead directly to the ship.

Quantum of the Seas as seen at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany following her recent float-out. She will enter service this fall. Photo courtesy of Meyer Werft.

Quantum of the Seas as seen at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany following her float-out. Photo courtesy of Meyer Werft.

Known as SMART Check In, all necessary forms for your sailing are filled out pre-cruise on the Royal Caribbean website. You can even register your credit card and upload a digital photograph to use as your shipboard ID photo that will then be attached to your SeaPass card or wristband (more on that in a minute). Once that’s done, you’ll receive a digital boarding confirmation which you’ll take to the pier, presumably to present to security personnel. Royal Caribbean promises “no check-in counter, no forms to fill out, and no lines to wait in.” You’ll tap your barcode against a scanner, swipe your passport, and away you go.

This is something we’re excited about; if Royal Caribbean can pull it off, it will revolutionize the way guests embark for their cruises. Although, the airline industry made the same promise more than a decade ago when web-based check-in began to take off.

Royal Caribbean's new RFID-equipped bracelet will let you in to your stateroom and act as your onboard purchasing device. It also comes at an additional cost. Illustration courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean’s new RFID-equipped WOW Bands will let you in to your stateroom and act as your onboard purchasing device. Illustration courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

At the terminal, you’re going to notice two new developments. One is that your luggage will be tagged with an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag. This will allow you – and presumably, shipboard hotel operations – to track where your luggage is in real-time. Unfortunately, for this short preview cruise we won’t have a chance to check this out; we’ve been asked to bring carry-on luggage only due to the short sailing time.

One thing Aaron might get to test out is the new RFID WOW Bands. The new bracelet – which will do everything from open your stateroom door to purchasing onboard items – is one thing he’s eager to try. Traditional SeaPass cards will also be offered to guests at no additional cost.

There are more digital tricks in Royal Caribbean’s toolbox, including an app called ROYAL iQ that will allow you to make reservations for meals, excursions and special activities right from your phone. From an ease-of-use standpoint it sounds phenomenal.

One of the stunning Royal Loft Suites aboard Quantum of the Seas. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

One of the stunning Royal Loft Suites aboard Quantum of the Seas. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum is an attractive ship, with nicely proportioned lines, a swept-back forward superstructure, and a tapered stern. The upper-deck windows of the SeaPlex look a little “disco” – and we can’t work out what the giant red bear is or does – but by and large, the ship’s exterior and open deck spaces have already won us over.

What’s the SeaPlex, you ask? A gigantic multipurpose area spanning Deck 15 and 16 that will offer “a circus school, full-size basketball court, and the first-ever roller rink and bumper cars at sea. Not to mention delicious bites provided by the first food truck to ever set sail and music from a floating DJ booth suspended overhead.” In other words, if you have kids – this will probably keep them happy for hours.

The SeaPlex aboard Royal Caribbean's new Quantum of the Seas features the first bumper cars at sea. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

The SeaPlex aboard Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas features the first bumper cars at sea. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Also frequently talked about is the North Star, a gigantic glass ball mounted to the end of a hydraulic arm and situated high atop Deck 16, just aft of the radar mast. It will take guests on panoramic rides high above their already-massive ship.

There’s also Two70, a two-story show lounge bordered by 180 degrees of glass walls. Situated at the stern on Decks 5 and 6, this multi-purpose venue will sport robotic performers and even the ability to turn that magnificent wall of glass into a gigantic projection screen, which Royal Caribbean can turn into anything it would like, from a jungle to a bustling city.

The North Star will showcase the ocean - and your ship - in a way that's never been done before. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

The North Star will showcase the ocean – and your ship – in a way that’s never been done before. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

The Bionic Bar features robot bartenders. Your drinks will be ordered via Windows tablet PC’s and then whipped up by the robotic bartenders, which look like they were lifted straight from the Toyota factory. Aaron says he’s going to see if the robots can make him a decent Moscow Mule. Again, if this works, it’s a nifty technological feat. But where’s the crew? Unlike an actual person, the robot can’t engage in witty bar talk. Or can he?

Cover Your Eyes, George Orwell: Robot Bartenders! Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Cover Your Eyes, George Orwell: Robot Bartenders! Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Aaron says he’s eager to take a look at the Solarium, a glass-enclosed oasis overlooking the bow high up on Deck 14. It gives way to a large, Magrodome-covered Indoor/Outdoor Pool area just aft of it. He’ll also check out the Vitality At Sea Spa and Fitness Center that is so massive it spans the forward sections of Decks 15 and 16.

The Solarium aboard Quantum of the Seas spans two decks in height and is situated at the bow of the ship. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

The Solarium aboard Quantum of the Seas spans two decks in height and is situated at the bow of the ship. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Also noteworthy is Michael’s Genuine Pub on Deck 4, which is supposed to have an amazing selection of American-made craft beers. He’ll also check out Quantum’s Navigation Bridge and Engine Control Room, take a tour of the Dining Options, and a look at some of the ship’s Staterooms and Suites, including the much-awaited Virtual Balcony staterooms that feature an LED display designed to mimic a real balcony inside what is essentially an interior stateroom.

Is Quantum of the Seas worth the hype? Join us this Wednesday through Friday as we discover the ins and outs of Royal Caribbean’s latest technological marvel.

Join us Wednesday as we sail out into the Atlantic Ocean for two nights aboard Quantum of the Seas! Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Join us Wednesday as we sail out into the Atlantic Ocean for two nights aboard Quantum of the Seas. Note the soothing blue colour of her hull – nice touch. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

 

 

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Six Shore Excursions From Livorno: Which Is Best? Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre, Chianti, Siena & San Gimignano? http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/10/six-shore-excursions-from-livorno/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/11/10/six-shore-excursions-from-livorno/#respond Mon, 10 Nov 2014 22:19:01 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42130 Livorno is the gateway port to cypress-studded landscapes, rolling hills draped in vineyards and cities crowned by some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. From fine art to fine wines, we assess six shore excursions from Livorno: Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre, Chianti, Siena & San Gimignano. Here's a sampling of shore excursions from Livorno.

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Tuscan landscape

Draped in vineyards, Tuscany’s cypress-studded landscapes stand ready to welcome cruise passengers calling on Livorno. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Livorno is the gateway port to cypress-studded landscapes, rolling hills draped in vineyards and cities crowned by some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. Typically, however, cruise ships dock for only one day in Livorno, limiting the options available to cruise passengers. With a half dozen or more shore excursions from which to choose, the cruise passenger visiting Livorno will need to choose a single shore excursion — often at the expense of other experiences that could have been equally as enriching.

Many cruise passengers choose to visit Florence, for example, passing up Cinque Terre, where five picturesque villages cling to seaside cliffs. Others forego charming medieval towns such as Lucca, Siena or San Gimignano. Some skip the castles in Chianti; and others miss Pisa, with its leaning tower and UNESCO World Heritage monuments.

You can’t do it all, but you can pack in as much as possible. To do so, you should prepare to hit the ground running. Which shore excursion should you choose? While that’s a personal decision based on your interests and aspirations, you may find some help here.

Recently I spent a week in the Tuscany region to explore the breadth of shore excursions available to cruise passengers. My ambition with this post is to provide you with information that you may find useful in helping you to make informed decisions about how you’ll spend your day when your ship docks in Livorno.

Following is my take on six shore excursions from Livorno.

A Full Day In Florence

Florence is phenomenal. Few, if any, European cities can be compared to Florence. Paris has its Eiffel Tower, Venice has its canals, Rome has its Coliseum. What Florence has is the beauty of Tuscany framing a city crowned by masterpieces.

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

Florence as seen at sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

You could allow yourself to get lost in Florence and have a perfectly memorable day. I don’t advise that, however. It’s a good idea to have a plan of what you want to experience so that get the most from your visit.

First, though, you need to get yourself to Florence. From Livorno, that takes as long as 90 minutes along highways that offer picturesque glimpses of the Tuscan countryside.

Ponte Vecchio

Florence’s iconic Ponte (bridge) Vecchio spanning the Arno River. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Once you’re in Florence, make your way to the Old Town, where you’ll take a stroll through this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to bring comfortable shoes. To see Florence properly involves at least two miles of extensive walking, and some of it on cobblestone streets.

You may want to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia, a museum where you will want to step inside to admire Michelangelo’s statue of David,  representing the Biblical hero David. A masterpiece of the Renaissance, the sculpture ranks as one of the world’s most revered art pieces and is a must-see for any visitor to Florence, that is, unless the lines to get into the Accademia are too long. If that’s the case, you can find a replica of the statue in Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square). In fact, when the original David was unveiled in 1504, it was placed outside at Signoria Square. It wasn’t until 1873 that the statue was moved inside the museum.

Florence

A replica of Michelangelo’s David at SignoriaSquare. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

From Gallerias to Gelaterias

As you stroll Florence, you’ll certainly be tempted by gelato, which you’ll have no trouble finding — but much trouble resisting. You’ll certainly see whipped miniature mountains of the Italian-style ice cream coaxing you into a plethora of shops that you’ll pass on your walk through Florence.

The presentations and the flavors will have you salivating within seconds — at least that’s the way it works for me. While nearly all gelato is good gelato and nearly any shop can serve a scoop that will make you squeal in delight, there are some shops that serve exceptional gelato. For a listing, see Top 10 Gelato Shops in Florence.

Gelato

In Florence, you will find mountains of gelato to tempt the tastebuds. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

You would be hard-pressed to miss the Florence Cathedral, with its stunning pink, green and white marble facade. Spend a few minutes outside to frame the perfect photograph, then head inside to admire the cathedral that is known poetically as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower. Sounds beautiful, and it certainly is.

Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral, or officially, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower). © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Building started on the site of the Florence Cathedral in 1246, but the structure wasn’t completed until 1496, when it was crowned by its magnificent dome. The finishing touch was a remarkable feat. Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi designed the dome and raised it without the use of temporary supports. I’m not sure how he did it, but to better appreciate the dome I climbed the nearly 500 steps to the top, where I walked outside and around the dome. Alternatively, you could go up the adjacent bell tower to admire the dome from another perspective. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with commanding views of Florence and snapshots stunning enough that you’ll immediately want to change your Facebook profile photo.

Florence

View from the Dome at Florence Cathedral. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

If you skipped the gelato and have a hankering for something substantial and delicious, try Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Beefsteak Florentine style). It’s a T-bone that is traditionally sourced from select breeds of cattle and grilled over a wood or charcoal fire.

The steak is seasoned with salt, sometimes with black pepper, and olive oil, applied immediately after the meat is removed from the heat source. I enjoyed a memorable thick cut of this Tuscan favorite, reasonably priced, at La Spada.

In olden days, you would have found the makings for Bistecca alla Fiorentina at the famous Ponte Vecchio, the iconic Medieval stone-closed bridge crossing the Arno River. Butchers were the original occupants of the shops lining both sides of the bridge. Today souvenir shops and jewelers occupy this prime stretch of real estate crossing the river between the neighborhoods of Ponte Santa Trinita and Ponte alle Grazie.

© 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Shops, primarily selling souvenirs and jewelry, line Ponte Vecchio. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

There is so much more that you could do and experience in Florence, including a visit to Piazza Santa Croce and the beautiful Basilica of Santa Croce. A day in Florence simply isn’t enough to see it all, but at least you have sampled a taste of this fine city. You can always return for a longer stay at some other time. I know I intend to.

Chianti & Its Castle

Castello Vicchiomaggio

View from Castello Vicchiomaggio in the Chianti region. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

If there’s one place that may make you think about passing up Florence, it is the Chianti region. The rolling hills, adorned by leafy vineyards and stately cypresses, are breath-taking to admire — as are the stone castles that watch over many of the vineyards.

You don’t need to love wine to appreciate the beautiful countryside in this renowned wine-producing region in central Tuscany. If you do enjoy wine, however, you’re in luck.  A member of the latter group, I made my way to Castle Vicchiomaggio, where I enjoyed tasting the vineyard’s select Chianti Classicos, which were exceptionally quaffable and perhaps even more tasty than they might have been elsewhere because of the setting.

Castello Vicchiomaggio

Enjoying a glass of Chianti Classico at Castello Vicchiomaggio. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

As with Florence, you’ll travel about 90 minutes from Livorno to reach Castello Vicchiomaggio and the town of Greve, the unofficial capital of the Chianti region. With its unusual triangular main piazza, the town is worthy of a quick visit. Stroll the local market, which has been running more-or-less continuously for centuries. Situated in the piazza, the market serves Castello Vicchiomaggio, and the nearby communities and hamlets.

Scintillating Cinque Terre

You probably have not heard of the “Five Lands,” but you may know them by another name, Cinque Terre, a cluster of five tiny and extremely picturesque villages clinging to a rugged coastline.

Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is gorgeous, even on an overcast day. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

The Cinque Terre National Park is made up of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. To see all five villages at a leisurely pace would require a week, but you can get a taste of Cinque Terre on a daylong shore excursion from Livorno.

http://avidcruiser.avidtravelmediai.netdna-cdn.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/20141020-livorno-P1130260.jpg

Monterosso, one of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Travel by motorcoach to Manarola, a charming fishing village with a typical fishermen’s wharf. After a short tour of the village, board a boat to reach Vernazza, another picturesque fishing village — though different from Mararola. Next stop, Monterosso, which some say is the prettiest village of the Cinque Terre.

With hues dabbed from a palette of bubblegum pinks, mustard yellows and Chianti reds, the homes and buildings along the Cinque Terre are as much an attraction as the natural spectacle that has earned this stretch of coast its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Be sure to sample some of the Cinque Terre products, particularly the local farinata, a thin, unleavened pancake or crepe made from chickpea flour (in Nice, France, it is known as Socca and La Cade in Toulon).

Medieval Siena & San Gimignano

The medieval villages of Siena and San Gimignano are good options for shore exursions, particularly for those who have seen Florence.

Siena

Siena’s medieval skyline. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Centuries ago Siena was an extremely wealthy city-state. Between 1260 and 1348, well-heeled citizens contributed to a major civic development program, the results of which are evident in Siena. You need do no more than stroll Siena’s winding streets to absorb its enchanting — and still intact — medieval atmosphere.

Siena

Palazzo Salimbeni in Siena. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

An 18-month siege imposed by the neighboring Florentines froze Siena in time (that, and a rather nasty bout of Bubonic Plague). Today most of Siena’s medieval buildings have been carefully renovated and restored. In fact, the entire historic center is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Siena

Siena’s Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

You’ll want to visit the Church of San Domenico, which contains the relics of the famous Saint Catherine, notably, her preserved head. Also make your way to Piazza del Duomo, with its magnificent Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, built on Siena’s highest hill in black and white marble. Step inside the cathedral to see the beautiful inlaid marble floor and pulpit by Nicola Pisano.

Snap a few photos at the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, flanked by original 13th-century palaces that symbolized the Golden Age of the city. The Palazzo Pubblico, situated in the square, has been the seat of Siena government since the 13th century.

Siena

Piazza del Campo in Siena, where the Palio di Siena horse races take place. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

I didn’t have time to climb the Torre del Mangia bell tower’s 505 steps, but I heard from others who did that the effort rewarded them with beautiful views across Tuscany.

San Gimignano

Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

About 30 minutes away from Siena, the town of San Gimignano appears as a hilltop city of skyscrapers. The skyscrapers, in fact, are medieval towers, more than a dozen of them, remarkably preserved. Like Siena, San Gimignano’s historic center is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. San Gimignano is such a picturesque town that director and producer Franco Zeffirelli chose it as the setting for his masterpiece Tea with Mussolini.

San Gimignano

At Piazza della Cisterna in San Gimignano. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

In addition to the towers, check out the Piazza della Cisterna, with its lovely well at the center; the Old Podest Palace, the 1353 Florentine fortress, and the simple Sant’ Agostino Church. The latter hides a heavily decorated Rococo interior by Vanvitelli — architect to the Kings of Naples.

The Tuscan Village of Lucca

Built between 1504 and 1645, Lucca’s ancient walls are among the best-preserved defensive structures of Renaissance Europe. Today, the massive red brick walls double as a pedestrian walkway and bicycling roadway. You could literally walk around — or cycle around — the walls and see the entire town. But be sure to head down into Lucca for the full treatment.

Shops and cafes are enclosed within the walls. Walk Lucca’s narrow streets past medieval houses to the Cathedral of San Martino with its richly adorned Romanesque façade. Stroll along the Via Fililungo, little Lucca’s version of the Via Veneto in Rome. Visit Piazza Mercato, which occupies the site of the ancient Roman theater, and is surrounded by fascinating medieval houses built against the wall of the amphitheatre. Its shape is unmistakable.

A visit to Lucca typically can be combined with visits to other sites in Tuscany, including Pisa.

Pose At Pisa

Sure, it is a little touristy, but strike a pose at Pisa, pretending that you are holding up the leaning tower. I see hundreds of tourists posing each time I visit Pisa. The setting can make a pretty picture, as Pisa is but one of the monuments at Piazza dei Miracoli, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pisa

Posing at Pisa. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Pisa

On top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Piazza dei Miracoli

Monuments at Piazza dei Miracoli, a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Pisa. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Summing Up Shore Excursions From Livorno

Tuscan sunset

Ending our visit under Tuscany’s golden sun. © 2014 Avid Travel Media Inc.

Offering beautiful landscapes, UNESCO World Heritage sites, storied cities and vibrant villages, Livorno serves up a lot to see and experience under the golden glow of the Tuscan sun. Plan your day here accordingly and extract as much for your experience as possible.

Trouble viewing the slideshow? View on Flickr.

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Recapping Our Silver Wind Voyage: 10 Days Of Peak Experiences http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/31/silver-wind-voyage/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/31/silver-wind-voyage/#respond Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:26:33 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42121 It’s hard to believe that we covered so much ground — and sea — during  our 10 days on Silver Wind. To think that our voyage began about a week and a half ago seems unreal. How could we have possibly experienced so much in so little time? We boarded in Rome, docked in Naples,... [Read More]

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© 2014 Ralph Grizzle

One of the highlights of my voyage: visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

It’s hard to believe that we covered so much ground — and sea — during  our 10 days on Silver Wind.

To think that our voyage began about a week and a half ago seems unreal. How could we have possibly experienced so much in so little time?

We boarded in Rome, docked in Naples, sailed past Stromboli, docked in Messina, spent a day at sea, called for a morning in Greece, continued to Cyrpus (where we enjoyed an ATV adventure), then spent two days exploring Israel. Another sea day, followed by a full day in Santorini before ending our cruise on Halloween in Athens.

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Another highlight: a wonderful birthday celebration on Silver Wind. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Captain Samuele Failla says we covered 2,192 nautical miles in those 10 days, the longest stretch of which was Messina to Aghios, Greece, 558 nautical miles.

ATVing in Cyprus

Exhilarating: I also enjoyed our ATV adventure in Cyprus. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

My top three experiences on this voyage were visiting Jerusalem, my birthday on board and our ATV adventure in Cyprus. I also enjoyed our in-suite breakfast on almost all mornings and grilling on the Pool Deck.

Silver Wind Grill

Something else I enjoyed: dinners at The Grill on Silver Wind. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Thank you Silversea for giving me and the others on board such a memorable voyage. I look forward to our next adventure together, wherever that may be.

Here’s a list of posts from our voyage, day by day:

  1. Coming Home To Silver Wind
  2. On Silver Wind, Exploring Sorrento & Beyond
  3. On Silver Wind: Silhouettes Of Stromboli & A Video Tour Of Royal Suite 601
  4. On Silver Wind: Our Day At Sea Begins With An In-Suite Breakfast Feast
  5. Silver Wind Dining: Steaks & Lava Stones, An Evening At ‘The Grill’
  6. On Silver Wind: A Fun Day On ATVs In Cyprus
  7. On Silver Wind: A Birthday Celebration
  8. On Silver Wind: A Moving Day In Jerusalem, Israel
  9. Silversea Entertainment: A New Production Rolls Out On Silver Wind
  10. On Silver Wind: Sneak Peak Of The New Production Show, Musica Maestro
Suite 601 © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Home ‘Suite’ Home for 10 days on Silver Wind. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

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On Silver Wind: Sneak Peak Of The New Production Show, Musica Maestro http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/31/musica-maestro/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/31/musica-maestro/#respond Fri, 31 Oct 2014 08:58:22 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42113 In yesterday’s story, Silversea Entertainment: A New Production Rolls Out On Silver Wind, I wrote about being among the first to see Silversea’s elaborate new show “Musica Maestro.” Embedded below is a video that I produced to give you an idea of how the show plays out as well as interviews that reveal the thinking behind Musica... [Read More]

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Musica Maestro' © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Cast of ‘Mind The Gap’ and ‘Musica Maestro’ on Silver Wind. © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

In yesterday’s story, Silversea Entertainment: A New Production Rolls Out On Silver Wind, I wrote about being among the first to see Silversea’s elaborate new show “Musica Maestro.” Embedded below is a video that I produced to give you an idea of how the show plays out as well as interviews that reveal the thinking behind Musica Maestro and other shows that Luna Rossa Productions Ltd. has produced exclusively for Silversea.

A video sneak peak of Musica Maestro, one of the new productions that Luna Rossa Productions Ltd. is bringing to Silversea Cruises, Silversea Entertainment: A New Production Rolls Out On Silver Wind from Ralph Grizzle on Vimeo.

Musica Maestro, The Thinking Behind The Show

“What we’re trying to do with our production shows at Silversea is work on the success that we’ve had for the past few years,” says Andrew Poulton, manager of entertainment and enrichment programs for Silversea.

Poulton says that Silversea used to have singers and dancers in its production shows, then decided to go just went with singers. “That worked really well, the ratings were good, the guests seem to really enjoy it,” Poulton continues. “So what we’re doing now is taking that to the next level. We’re adding some scenery to the production shows and also some digital projection. With those two elements, we’re going to add another layer to something that we already know is successful and enjoyed by the guests.”

Getting London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Involved

All of the shows (read about them here) were produced for Silversea by London-based Luna Rossa Productions. The company pulled some strings to add a few special components to its signature show, Musica Maestro.

“We went to the world’s greatest orchestra, London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” says Marc Sorrentino, a director, along with Michelle Tough, for Luna Rossa Productions. “So every note that you hear in the music from Musica Maestro is live. For us it was an incredible experience to be in the studio with the Royal Philharmonic.”

Sorrentino says that guests on Silversea who see Musica Maestro will appreciate, first and foremost, that they’re hearing “the most beautiful tracks you’ll ever hear,” Sorrentino says. “You could just sit back and listen to the tracks on their own without any vocals, but when you add the vocals from our extremely talented and international cast, you very quickly realize that you’re experiencing something very special and quite unique to the cruise industry.”

An interesting side note, Sorrentino’s brother plays lead cello on many of the tracks. He’s the principle cellist for the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

We’ll be watching for reviews from these new shows. If this week was any indication, Silversea has a real winner on its hands.

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Silversea Entertainment: A New Production Rolls Out On Silver Wind http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/30/silversea-entertainment/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/30/silversea-entertainment/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:09:51 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42100 It’s always fun to discover something new on Silversea Cruises. I was there, for example, when Silver Spirit was launched in 2009 with its innovative restaurants and dining venues. The Grill, which I wrote about recently, still ranks as one of my favorites. Last night, we watched as Silversea rolled out new entertainment on Silver... [Read More]

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@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

The new Silversea cast performing Musica Maestro last night on Silver Wind. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

It’s always fun to discover something new on Silversea Cruises. I was there, for example, when Silver Spirit was launched in 2009 with its innovative restaurants and dining venues. The Grill, which I wrote about recently, still ranks as one of my favorites.

Last night, we watched as Silversea rolled out new entertainment on Silver Wind. It was a great show, and it’s soon to go fleetwide. The new production shows feature live singing complemented with musical tracks recorded exclusively for Silversea by such renowned artists as London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Musica Maestro. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Seven different shows, featuring rich costuming, imaginative set designs, and special visual effects, will spotlight the talents of an international ensemble of accomplished vocalists, known collectively as the Voices of Silversea. Following is a snapshot of the three principal productions that will be performed in the main Show Lounge fleetwide:

Musica Maestro: A grand ballroom is the elegant backdrop for this signature show, a 45-minute tribute to popular operatic arias and classical crossover music. Led by renowned conductor Richard Balcombe, its captivating musical score has been arranged, performed, and recorded by London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra exclusively for Silversea guests.

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Musica Maestro. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Mind the Gap: Mod fashions and the iconic imagery of a London tube station propel this lively journey back to the 1960s and the British Invasion that conquered the airwaves with such legendary pop and rock stars as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Lulu, Tom Jones, and more.

Don’t Stop the Music: Guests are welcome to don their best retro dancing shoes to join in this foot-tapping, sing-along homage to the disco era’s pulsating rhythms and colorful funky fashions — and then take to the dance floor when the ship’s DJ steps in to keep the party rolling.

Four additional shows will be rotated among the ships to provide guests with a total of four full-scale musical productions on each sailing.

The additional shows include Caliente, a Latin-flavored production encompassing tunes from Spain and South America; Shaken Not Stirred, celebrating the intrigue, glamour, and sophistication embodied in 50 years of James Bond films; Première, a chronological musical tribute to some of the world’s greatest movies; and Amore, featuring timeless love songs.

While we were able to see Musica Maestro, guests sailing aboard Silver Cloud next week will be treated to similar a sneak-preview selection of some of the new shows, all of which have been produced for Silversea by London-based Luna Rossa Productions.

The entire entertainment program will then roll out fleetwide on the following voyages:

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Musica Maestro. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Musica Maestro. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Musica Maestro. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

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On Silver Wind: A Moving Day In Jerusalem, Israel http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/29/cruises-to-jerusalem-israel/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/29/cruises-to-jerusalem-israel/#respond Wed, 29 Oct 2014 17:13:43 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42092 Silver Wind dumped half of its passenger load in Limassol, Cyprus. The reason: Our next two ports of call were in Israel, and apparently quite a few people were afraid to travel to this country in the Middle East. So they booked a half voyage. I can only say, Boy did they miss out. My... [Read More]

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Silver Wind dumped half of its passenger load in Limassol, Cyprus. The reason: Our next two ports of call were in Israel, and apparently quite a few people were afraid to travel to this country in the Middle East. So they booked a half voyage. I can only say, Boy did they miss out.

My own mother opted out of this voyage for fear of “something happening.” A pity, because her lifelong dream had been to visit the Holy Land.

So that she could feel she was a part of my visit, I phoned her while I was walking the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus was said to have walked while bearing a cross from Praetorium (where he was judged) to Golgotha (where it is believed that Christ was crucified and resurrected). I sent a photo from my phone so that she could at least experience being at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre through her son being there.

I am so glad that I visited Jerusalem. It will go down as one of the most interesting cities I have ever visited. I was surprised to see Muslims, Jews and Christians living in what appeared to be relative harmony within the city.

Of course, Jerusalem felt like a fortress, with armed police and military always within sight, and cameras monitoring all movement. There were checkpoints that reminded me of being in Berlin back in the 1980s.

Military service is obligatory for all Israelis, and I saw many young adults carrying machine guns over their shoulders, including one girl who had the gun strapped over one shoulder and a pink purse strapped over the other. She was the perfect symbol for this city of contrasts.

Jerusalem felt safe, by virtue of brute force if for no other reason. In fact, tourism has suffered because of recent events in Israel and safety concerns. Israel is eager to welcome tourists, and the underlying message from tourism officials is that traveling here is safe. We were given certificates that recognized us as ambassadors for tourism to the Holy Land.

I chose to capture my day primarily in photos, which you can view in the Flickr slideshow embedded at the top of this post. If you have problems with the viewer, you can view the photos on Flickr by clicking this link.

Cruises To Jerusalem, Israel

While there are no cruises to Jerusalem, Israel, you can cruise to Ashdod, about 90 minutes away from Jerusalem.

Be sure to check back for my final reports from Voyage 2433 as I wrap up my sailing on Silversea’s Silver WindFollow along on twitter by using the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport. Coverage runs from Tuesday, October 21 – Friday, October 31, 2014.

Our full journey:

Silver Wind's Voyage 2433 will take us from Rome to Athens. Illustration courtesy of Silversea

Silver Wind’s Voyage 2433 will take us from Rome to Athens. Illustration courtesy of Silversea

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On Silver Wind: A Birthday Celebration http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/28/silver-wind-birthday/ http://www.avidcruiser.com/2014/10/28/silver-wind-birthday/#respond Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:48:25 +0000 http://www.avidcruiser.com/?p=42080 In 1957, at a hospital in Danville, Virginia, the 20-year-old wife of a 25-year-old Southern Railway station master, pushed from her womb a baby boy. “Happiest day of my life,” the husband wrote in a nearly empty, small leather journal. The happy couple took their baby boy home and began their new lives as parents.... [Read More]

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In 1957, at a hospital in Danville, Virginia, the 20-year-old wife of a 25-year-old Southern Railway station master, pushed from her womb a baby boy. “Happiest day of my life,” the husband wrote in a nearly empty, small leather journal. The happy couple took their baby boy home and began their new lives as parents. Who could have imagined that from those humble beginnings, 57 years later, I’d be celebrating my birthday on Silver Wind, docked in Haifa, Israel?

Yet, here I am, and what a nice birthday celebration I experienced. I was surprised to be invited to the bridge for a champagne toast and cake. Videographer Chris Stanley caught the surprise on camera.

Birthday Celebration on Silver Wind from Ralph Grizzle on Vimeo.

Next, we had dinner in Le Champagne, the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea. The dinner was absolutely delicious. Le Champagne is a good place to celebrate special occasions. While the service on Silversea is always top-notch, service is notched up a bit in Le Champagne — and so is the cuisine. It’s a meal to remember.

When we returned to our suite, our butler Mustafa had decorated the entire room with electric candles, ribbons — and, of course, more cake. It was a good day. I spoke with my loved ones and spent the day with friends in a country I had never visited on a ship with crew that I appreciate. Thank you Silversea!

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Dinner in Le Champagne began with a glass of champagne. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Amuse Bouche in Le Champagne. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Birthday table set up in our suite by our butler Mustafa. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

@ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

A delicious birthday cake. @ 2014 Ralph Grizzle

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