Cruise Republic Gets the Bronze

Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 | 0 comments
The International Cruise Council is an association of the leading cruise lines that is dedicated to the industry of cruising worldwide. Part of what they do is recognising the leading travel agents who make the cruise industry what it is, and the International Cruise Council Australasia Cruise Industry Awards were held in the Sydney Hilton Hotel on Saturday night, and Cruise Republic was happy to receive the Bronze in the 'Cruise Agency of the Year 2011- New Zealand' category. Well done to our great Cruise Consultants!

Ryan accepting the award


Author: Ryan Posa+

Milford Sound- Scenic Cruising

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Cruising Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sound (sounds like some of the names of the 7 dwarfs) is my one of my favourite cruise experiences. I cruised Fjordland on the Pacific Princess and it is probably because of this experience the Pacific Princess rates as my favourite ship.

It was a very calm morning when we arrived at the entrance of Milford Sound. Mist was rolling out of the sound, creating a very dramatic cruise experience that everyone who was up on deck that morning would never forget. Although it was a calm morning and in the NZ summer, it was very chilly up on deck so crew were there to hand out blankets to passengers who needed to warm up and they also were serving hot drinks, which was a nice touch.

As we went into the Sound, the beauty was simply breath taking and it is such a beautiful destination for scenic cruising, as it is scenic in the extreme- 15km of majestic mountains and cliffs dropping straight into the crystal-clear waters of the valley carved by glaciers. Stunning! It draws many visitors from all over the world each year, but isolation and geography mean that most see the sound by boat, and create little to no impact on the environment, leaving it unspoiled. Highlights are the magnificent Stirling Falls and soaring Mitre Peak at 1600m..

Our Millford Sound experience  was so special that a tender boat was lowered and the ships photographer boarded the tender craft to take photos of the ship and capture the experience. At the time I was working for Carnival Australia hosting a group of travel agents onboard so I was able to speak with him later that day and ask for copies of the photos. Unfortunately I did not get his name so can not credit him with these photos displayed below. I am sure you will agree they are stunning and capture that misty morning perfectly.

As the day went on the mist cleared and we were greeted with a clear blue sky. This made for the perfect day for scenic cruising Doubtful and Dusky Sound. They were equally as beautiful but without being so dramatic as Milford. However they gave more of a feeling of being untouched and less visited than Milford. As the day went on and the sun came out I remember lying in the pool (still working very hard) thinking I love cruising and what a great job I had.

Many cruise lines offer scenic cruising in Milford Sound so look for it on any itinerary that cruises to and around New Zealand before you book. It is important to point out that Milford Sound does possess the ability to disappoint. The weather in this region can be extreme and when it turns bad, making a visit by a cruise ship is not possible so the sounds can sometimes be missed because of weather.

See our great Milford Sound cruise deals and cruises on the Pacific Princess at Cruise Sale Finder.


















Author: Ryan Posa+

Queen Elizabeth Down Under

Posted on Monday, February 27, 2012 | 0 comments
The great ocean liner the Queen Elizabeth has graced our shores as part of its 2012 World Voyage. Cunard Line is known for impeccable service and true british luxury, and is gearing up to celebrate the human Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. 2012 marks 60 years of her reign, and to honour the Queen, the three Cunard ships Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary(sold out) and Queen Victoria will berth together in Southampton on the 5th of June in a rare 'meeting of the monarchs.'

Until then, they are sailing the seven seas- with the QE spending late February down under. We spotted the regal, 100,000-tonne liner at princes Wharf in Auckland on the 20th, and she then headed down to the Capital before traversing the Tasman to Australia. She will then make her way back home to Southampton and do some short European cruises before the big celebration.

The Queen Elizabeth in Auckland


Author: Ryan Posa+

Poised Pool Tables

Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2012 | 0 comments


A video showing the amazing self-leveling pool tables aboard Radiance of the Seas- the floor is moving, but those balls are staying perfectly still!

Author: Ryan Posa+

The Love Boat!

Posted on Thursday, February 9, 2012 | 0 comments
It's the great divide when it comes to cruising- (usually older) couples enjoying a sedate holiday, or crazy young singles out for a good time and a party. For Erin Picard and Todd O'Neill of Peabody, Massachussets, their cruise was somewhere in the middle.

In 2010, Erin was having a hard time working several jobs and looking after her sick grandmother when she took a cruise to Bermuda with a girlfriend- and met Todd. The two spent the whole cruise together, and now are engaged.  Erin's mother remembered receiving an overjoyed phone call from her daughter, telling her how amazing the ship, food and staff were, and that she had met the love of her life.

After they got engaged, Erin's mom emailed the cruise line just to share with them the happy story and it's great ending- and the line got in contact with them. After learning they weren't planning a honeymoon, Norwegian Cruise Lines offered Erin and Todd a 12-night Mediterranean cruise as a wedding gift. The cruise will take place onboard the Norwegian Spirit, the very ship where they first met.

A real story of love on a cruise ship! Great stuff, Norwegian Cruise Lines.

 Norwegian Spirit
by Purple Slog Flickr Creative Commons


Author: Ryan Posa+

Rhapsody Refurbishment

Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 | 2 comments
Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas is due to be fitted out in March as part of the line's Royal Advantage program, which will bring the mid-sized ships more in line with the Oasis and Allure, their newest and largest ships.

The refurbishment will give the Rhapsody many of the dining options mentioned in an earlier post about the Radiance of the Seas- Izumi, a Japanese restaurant, Giovanni's Table for Italian, the Chop's Grille and the fine-dining Chef's Table, as well as the complimentary Park Cafe deli.

Wifi will be made available throughout the ship, and flat-screen televisions put in all rooms and a big screen by the pool. A very cool tech feature that Royal Caribbean is also bringing to guest cabins is iPads- they can be used to access timetables, onboard accounts (only your own of course!) and make restaurant reservations. Is this the future of cruising?

The centrum atrium will get a make-over, with the hanging sculpture being taken down to make room for aerial acrobatics, and several of the public space and bars will be changed.

Rhapsody of the Seas
by Rennett Stowe Flickr Creative Commons


Author: Ryan Posa+

Disney's Fantasy Arrives

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 | 0 comments
Disney Cruise Lines is set to become a 4-ship line very soon with the handover of their latest ship tomorrow- the Disney Fantasy.

The ship has been undergoing sea trials in the North Sea after construction in Papenberg, Germany, and will be officially handed over to Disney on Thursday the 9th Feb in Bremerhaven. It will leave the Continent on the 16th and, after a transatlantic crossing stopping in several places, will arrive in New York on the 1st of March for it's christening, starting cruises from Florida on the 31st of March.

The ship will be a sister to Disney Dream, and will provide the amazing Disney experience that is so good for families. Interactive entertainment will include a new concept dinner called 'Animation Magic,' during which diners can draw their own characters on placemats and 'Imagineers' will draw a cartoon in which the character interacts with traditional Disney characters. A movie theatre will show first-run 3D Disney movies, and there will be a wide range of shows in the Walt Disney Theatre. Disney is of course known for its entertainment, and its cruise line doesn't disappoint. A Disney Cruise will be a magical experience for the young ones- and the older ones too, due to the great Adult-Only areas of which Disney ships often have plenty!

by pop culture geek Flickr Creative Commons


Author: Ryan Posa+

Aboard the Radiance of the Seas

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Some Cruise Republicans got onboard Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas this week while she was in port at Auckland, for a good look around and lunch! The Radiance is not one of Royal Caribbean's biggest ships, but she sure appears large and looming in our modest Waitemata Harbour. The original of the Radiance class, like Dr Who's Tardis she seems bigger on the inside too- due to her famed glass walls illuminating the interior. Nothing seems tucked away in the bowels of the ship, and even on the lifts you are in natural light- they are located near the outside glass walls and made of glass. Quite an experience it is dropping down 8 or more floors with a view of the ocean!

The atrium is a sight to see, soaring eight levels high and with an impressive sculpture suspended from the top. In the Crown and Anchor booking office near the top of the ship, there is a glass floor which allows you to stand over the atrium and look down on the many metres to the bottom- very cool! Around the outside of the atrium you can find various bars, library, duty free shops, the main restaurant, the casino, and the photo centre and tours desk.



There are a lot of specialty restaurants on this ship- although you certainly wouldn't go hungry or lack any variety by eating at the complimentary dining venues, which include the Windjammer buffet restaurant, the Cascades restaurant which is the main dining area with 6:15pm and 8:30pm dining times, (with the option of My Time Dining, where you can dine at any time, preferably with prior notice), the Boardwalk Dog House for very casual hot dogs and such, and the Park cafe in the adults-only Solarium which offers healthy options. We ate lunch in the Cascades Restaurant and I was very pleased with my beef stroganoff and apple pie, as well as with the surroundings- a nice-looking restaurant on two levels with a grand staircase and cascading waterfall, which does not feel at all like a dining hall.

Lunch in the Cascades:




The buffet looked extensive, and the Dog House was conveniently located near the pools and outdoor activities for a quick bite.

Windjammer:
Dog House:



The specialty restaurants are dotted all around the ship, so it would be necessary to note which places are complimentary and which have a cover charge before wandering in to the wrong one! The Chops Grille is a good one, with a USD$40 charge, or Giovanni's if you would like to dine Italian at USD$25. There are several more casual ethnic restaurants around, which are generally cheaper- a la carte Japanese at Izumi, tapas at Rita's Cantina or Brazilian BBQ at Samba Grill. The epitome of fine dining comes at the Chef's Table, where only 16 people per night can enjoy a 3-4 hour degustation experience with fine wine pairings at USD$95 a head. These will add up if you want to try them all- and this is where the amazing Chef's Dining Package comes in. I was impressed with this- for just USD$120 you can dine at the Chef's Tavle, Chops Grille, Giovanni's, the Samba Grill and Izumi. This is a great deal, and would pay for itself with just the Chef's Table and Giovanni's. Room service is free but incurs a small delivery charge between midnight and 5am.

Chops Grille:

Giovanni's Table:
Chef's Table:
Samba Grill:

Rita's Cantina:
Izumi:


We could only see the public areas of the ship as it was on a port visit and all cabins were occupied, so unfortunately couldn't get in to a cabin. However what struck me about the public areas was the light- a ship can easily become poky and dark, but the huge glass windows in the center of the ship sorted that problem for most areas. Often tucked away in the middle of the ship, the gym had large windows looking over the stern for views as you sweat, and the spa also had natural light in the thermal suite and elsewhere.

Thermal Suite:


Bars and clubs are scattered everywhere- there is the Quill and Compass, an English pub with live sports playing, the Star Quest nightclub with a rotating bar, and many other areas where you can purchase drinks and chill lout before dinner or a show. These are used as venues for quizzes and games during the day, and often have live music in the evenings- There are even self-levelling pool tables so you can enjoy a game even when there's a bit of motion. To help you figure out what's going on there are interactive info screens outside the lifts on all levels. I thought these were great- they have a touch screen and you can get directions, find out what's on at various venues and even get menus for the restaurants.

Quill and Compass:
Star Quest:

On the outside decks you will find the requisite pool, which is quite small as in most cruise ships. If you are over 16, you can use the pool in the Solarium, a great climate-controlled area with a retractable roof. Also outside there is a half basketball court, a rock-climbing wall, 9-hole mini golf, a kids area with pool and waterslide and a jogging track. Also, of course, the many sun loungers!


Solarium:


Entertainment inside the ship is just as extensive. The main theatre is called the Aurora theatre adn shows a variety of things- musicals, circus-type acts, comedy and music. Shows play twice each night to accommodate early and late diners. We could not take photos in the theatre as rehearsals were in progress but it was a good size and looked as though it would be easy to get a seat. There was a bar in the theatre and you can order drinks from your seat.


There is also a small movie theatre with movies playing on board, and these are screened on the in-cabin televisions a few days later. The casino is open when the ship is in international waters, and there are duty-free shops for those who can't wait for port stops to do their shopping. The aforementioned self-levelling pool tables are a very popular option. When we were there, we walked past a pub quiz in progress, which looked like a lot of fun and quite intimate and friendly as most people were off the ship visiting Auckland.

The kid's programmes include all ages up to the teens, who have a well-equipped hangout area with many games- both electronic and not! A new addition from the recent upgrade to the ship is a nursery for "Royal Babies and Tots."


Overall, the Radiance is a great mid-sized ship. I particularly liked the big windows and glass lifts, and the variety of outdoor entertainment available- mini golf and rock-climbing would be right up my alley! The Chef's Dining Package struck me as a great deal for specialty restaurant dining, and I was impressed with the extremely useful 'Cruise Compass' information touch screens. For antipodean customers, be aware that everything is priced in USD- but the upside of the US-focused ships is the extravagance. Royal Caribbean ships are a lot fancier and usually larger than the more modest tastes of the south pacific, making them a treat to travel on.




Author: Ryan Posa+

Cruising with Comedy

Posted on Monday, February 6, 2012 | 0 comments
Cruise comedians have often been the laughing-stock of the comedy industry- and not in the way they might hope. 'Boat Acts' have been billed as the end of a comedian's career- but the cruise industry is looking to change this, notably P&O and Carnival with their latest comedy initiatives.

Carnival has hired George Lopez to be their new Director of Comedy. Part of the 500 million dollar Fun Ship 2.0 initiative which will overhaul the guest experience on Carnival ships, the Punchliner Comedy Clubs will become Punchliner Comedy Clubs presented by George Lopez. One of his routines will be offered on in-cabin televisions, and pre-recorded introductions by George will precede acts in the Comedy Club shows. He will also play an active role in finding and securing the acts which will perform onboard, which is expected to raise the calibre of comedy.

P&O in Australia also has a focus on comedy this year, but is aiming at specific cruises- it is offering several short-break comedy cruises in 2012. As these are focused on having a laugh, they feature top-notch Australian and international comedians. These include Tom Gleeson, Fiona McGary, Mad Mike Bennett,  Mick Meredith and many, many more.



Author: Ryan Posa+

Seabourn Tops Conde Nast Again

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Seabourn's luxury ships have once again topped the list for the prestigious luxury travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler. They publish each year a list of the top 100 cruise ships- the top 20 small ships, top 20 medium ships, top 20 large cruise ships and the top 40 river ships. In the most recent one Seabourn Odyssey was rated highest of the small ships, with Seabourn Pride coming in second, Seabourn Sojourn fourth and 2 other Seabourn Ships giving the company five out of the top seven.

This is an impressive result for the company, and Richard Meadows, Seabourn's president, says the credit lies with the staff and crew that make Seabourn an amazing experience. The ships' spacious suites, superb dining venues and open bars help the cause too, surely! The ships are also smaller than the numerous mega-ships we see today, meaning they have a wider range of ports available to them.

Other ships that featured high in the list included the Lindblad, the National Geographic Explorer ship, at number three and the Paul Gauguin at number five, a small ship which does luxury cruises to the smaller islands of Tahiti.

Give Seabourn a try if you want true luxury.

Seabourn Odyssey
by Sean MacEntee Flickr Creative Commons


Author: Ryan Posa+

Private Islands

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2012 | 0 comments
Several cruise lines have private islands in the Caribbean which are reserved exclusively for the ships and their passengers. These are designed to be small paradises catering to every tropical fantasy, and they often succeed. Everything is arranged and prepared for the passengers to step off and into the perfect island visit.

Private islands can cause a bit of a rift in the cruising community, with some salivating at the idea of a private paradise and others labelling it fake and staged. Both valid opinions, and whether or not you will enjoy a private island depends on what your tastes are and what you want to get out of your holiday. A private island does not have the cultural authenticity of a real city or town, that much is true. While they are often staffed by native islanders, and there may be cultural performances and handmade souvenirs, it is not real life. If you are not a beach-lover and more of a sightseer, a private island is likely not the place for you, and if you love to get off the ship, get amongst the locals, wander the side streets and get a real taste of the destination, it definitely won't be your favourite stop.

However, don't write off a private island completely- they have their perks. After all, if you were looking for an action packed adventure of local culture and little-known sights, wouldn't you be backpacking in Africa rather than cruising the Caribbean? A cruise is a holiday, and a private island delivers an incredible opportunity to relax that many other ports don't. The beaches are raked in preparation for passengers arriving, lounge chairs are provided, and the island is staffed with people whose intention, like the staff on the ship, is to look after the passengers and make sure they have a good time.  The islands are always beautiful too, with white sand and turquoise water- the very best of the Caribbean. The island is set up to be the perfect beach port, where you can relax in the sun if you want to or experience the natural wonders with watersports.

There are no hawkers forcing their wares upon you, no traffic and no need to bring wallet with you if you don't want to or pay extra to eat- the food onshore (usually a BBQ banquet) is free- an extension of the ship's dining area- and most rentals of snorkelling equipment or the like can be put on your cruise card. Be aware however that at a lot of private island souvenirs must be paid for in cash. Another big plus is that a lot of the islands run kid's programmes onshore- so your kids can be looked after and have fun whilst still getting off the ship!

Here are some of the cruise lines' islands:

Royal Caribbean's CocoCay

This white-sand beauty is located in the Berry Islands chain of the Bahamas. Hammocks and lounge chairs are scattered all over for some serious relaxing, and if you want to get moving, the nature trails have recently been updated and there is Caylanas Aqua Park, a floating playground. Parasailing is also available, as well as the usual watersports- snorkelling, diving and the like. Very minimal souvenirs are on sale- wallets not required! An island-style seaside BBQ is complimentary, and sodas and alcohol can be purchased with your cruise card as aboard the ship.

CocoCay
by DJ Speiss Flickr Creative Commons

Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay

Disney's private island is an extension of the magical Disney experience. The line is aimed at kids, and Castaway Cay is no exception. There are 2 water play areas which will delight the young ones, and a teens-only activity area onshore. There is a supervised 3-12 yrs youth program, so parents can enjoy one of the island's highlights- Serenity Bay, and adults-only beach with open-air massages, a bar and yoga classes. Paradise! There is swimming, snorkelling and kayaking to be done, glass-bottom boat, stingray encounter and parasailing adventures available, bikes for hire, a shipwreck and Disney characters around. Cook's BBQ is free on the island from 11am-2pm, with non-alcoholic drinks free. Castaway Cay also has a pier, so it is not a tender port, making it easy to get on and off the ship.

Castaway Cay
by Anthony Flickr Creative Commons

Shipwreck at Castaway Cay
by Mike Miley Flickr Creative Commons

Princess Cruises' Princess Cays

Located on the tiny island of Eleuthera, Princess Cays is a resort exclusive to Princess passengers. here you can relax in a hammock, enjoy the beach BBQ or get up and take a wild banana-boat ride. There is ana rea for children's activities, a BBQ lunch, sports and of course a white-sand beach. You can enjoy the beautiful water by renting a foating mattress or take a closer look at what's underneath with snorkelling over the coral reef. As Princess Cays occupies only part of the island, it is possible to venture further to the "real world!"

Princess Cays
by Derek Hatfield Flickr Creative Commons

Norwegian Cruise Line's Great Stirrup Cay

The first of the cruise line private islands, Great Stirrup Cay. Here there are the usual beach BBQs, coconut palms and pristine water which you can enjoy with a multitude of watersports. Recently upgraded, with features still being added, it has a water slide and kid's play area, a straw market, a new bar and dining facilities. Should you want to get out and about a bit, you can try parasailing, a waverunner tour circling the island, Eco-Adventure boat tours, kayaking or snorkeling. There are also nature trails where you can work off your BBQ lunch and see some of the tropical island.

Great Stirrup Cay
by jenn Flickr Creative Commons


Author: Ryan Posa+