Oh how cruise industry has changed since the 1990’s

What a difference decades have made on cruise styles

 Patti Covello Pietschmann

Silversea  helped redefine luxury cruises in 1994
Silver Muse debuted in 2017 raising the bar higher on  top of the line cruising
The following article, by me, was published in 1992, just after Crystal Cruises (1990)  and before Silversea Cruises (1990  redefined luxury cruises.  Many of the ships and cruise lines are long gone, but it is interesting to read about cruises back in the day…..so much has changed. There are now more balconies, freebies such as your tips, drinks, WiFi, higher standards but it was still fun to cruise….


Top Ships For Cabins, Food, Fitness And More Cruising  published April 05, 1992 |By Patti Covello Pietschmann. Special to the Tribune.

Once upon a time, back in the 1990s, a savvy seafarer set out in search of the best cruise ship. Not an easy task, considering the number of passenger vessels, around 150 at last count, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Relentless in his quest for quality, this seafarer (hereafter to be called S.S.) booked voyages on dozens of luxury liners. She scrutinized each ship from stern to bow, top deck to lower, outside cabins and suites to below- waterline closets that pass as berths.

From ship to ship S.S. searched until she could no longer stand to elbow her way through another midnight buffet, watch one more magician pull a rabbit out of a hat, listen to another off-key singer belt out oldies or endure one more washed-up comic trying to revive his career. When her mission was accomplished, S.S. concluded that while all cruise ships had something going for them, some did a few things better than others. Eager to share the knowledge with other potential seafarers, S.S. jotted down a few important categories (such as food) and matched them with the ships that excel in each.


In this old Chicago Trib piece the S.S. went public in this exclusive Savvy Seafarer`s Somewhat Scientific Ship Survey:

The best nautical cuisine (remember we’re talking the 1990’s

Sure there`s always plenty of chow on a cruise, but only a handful of galleys dish out the quality fare of a Crystal Harmony (Crystal Cruises), Sea Goddesses I and II (Cunard), Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Spirit (Seabourn), Wind Star and Wind Song (Windstar Sail Cruises) or Song of Flower (Seven Seas Cruises). We`re talking tasty, creative, beautiful dishes designed for discerning palates, gourmets, gastronomes, foodies who know their way around quail soup, pheasant and foie gras.

Also recommended: Paquet`s Mermoz (for fabulous French Provencal food); Alas this line has since bit the dust, but it was wonderful.

Princess Cruises` Star Princess, Crown Princess and Regal Princess for homemade pasta dishes, Royal Cruise Line`s Golden Odyssey and Crown Odyssey`s Greek salads and entrees and Holland America for its fresh fish and outstanding pastries.

Most civilized meal hours (This has completely changed with many lines now offering dine when you like options and/or reserved or open seating alternative dining venues)

Usually you have only one choice in this matter: early sitting (6:30 p.m.) or late (between 8 and 8:45 p.m.). The savvy seafarer just hates that. If you feel the same way, these are the ships best suited to your taste:

Sea Goddesses I and II (now under the SeaDream Yachts moniker), Wind Song, Wind Star, Wind Spirit, Seabourn Pride and Spirit (expanded in several more ships such as Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn EncoreSeabourn Quest, Seabourn Ovation) , Club Med 1 and Seven Seas Cruises` (now Regernt Seven Seas) Song of Flower and Crystal Harmony. If you don`t feel like going to the dining room, you can have a full-course meal served in your stateroom, and, in most cases, in courses.

Dawning of a more deluxe era with Seabourn Encore in the 2000’s

While the late great Crystal Harmony had two seatings in the main dining room, passengers had the option of dining at two other restaurants between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Today’s Crystal Cruises swank ships Symphony and Serenity have open seating and alternative  dining choices in an Italian, Asian and continental restaurants).

Classiest cruise ship

Back then it the 900- passengers Crystal Harmony since replaced by Crystal Serenity and Symphony. Most cabins on both boast balconies, free WiFi, spacious sitting areas, twin beds that convert to queen or king, mini-fridges, upscale toiletries, terry robes and round-the-clock room service. Bulters man accommodations on Penthouse decks.

In the small-ship division, it doesn`t get much better than Silversea’s fleet of fancy vessels:  Seabourn`s equally elegant chic offerings, Regent Seven Seas and for an amazing sailing experience  Windstar Sail Cruises four-masted, 440-foot sailing ships sport diving platforms and luxurious staterooms.

There was also the now defunct fledgling Song of Flower, (former Explorer Starship until Japanese-owned Seven Seas Cruises bought and renovated it), has garnered rave reviews since its debut a year ago. The 172-passenger luxury liner has a crew of 144 along with outside staterooms that range from 183 to 258 square feet. Ten larger suites (321 square feet) have private verandas and another 10 have 398 square feet.

Tops in entertainment

I wrote back then that this area is in dire need of improvement on most ships. Too often the

Gregory Porter performed  outstandingly on  QM2  last fall

“talent“ just doesn’t have any. I can’t tell  you how many shows we walked out of in the past (1990s).  But today’s another story with class acts appearing on Princess, Crystal Cruises, Cunard especially QM2 crossings, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas. Even Carnival’s gotten more into the act.

Back in the day my  exceptions included the SS Norway, a luxury liner that housed the Saga Theater, the best Broadway-style theater at sea and presented a floating jazz festival each fall. That year the 10th Annual Floating Jazz Festival took place Oct. 24-31 featuring 65 performers-among them: Dorothy Donegan Trio, Anita O`Day, Gary Burton and His Quintet and a special trio of Ed Higgins, Keter Betts and Jackie Williams.

Free-flowing booze and wine was pretty much a dream in the 1990’s but is now  a reality on Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal, Regent Seven Seas and SeaDream with lines like Viking Cruises offering complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner.  Even Champagne is free on Silversea, Seabourn and Crystal.

The then most exciting ship on the horizon was SSC Radisson Diamond, a twin-hulled, 354-passenger catamaran-like, hi-tech, knocked-your-socks-off , Today’s most exciting new launch to look forward to is Celebrity Edge which debuts with a blast in December 2018.

Shopping  has now  gone overboard on many ships with glitzy boutiques purveying high-priced goods, but back then the glitziest lobby/shopping arcades were  on Crystal Harmony`s showstopping Crystal Plaza atrium features glass sculpture, a waterfall and the 3,000-square-foot Avenue of the Stars shopping arcade. Princess Cruises` Crown and Regal`s three-story atrium lobby with its circle staircase and fountain sculpture is topped by a two-level Galleria shopping arcade. The Star Princess Plaza, another three-story affair, has a vivid kinetic sculputure with a circular staircase leading to shops and restaurants.

Boffo cinemas in the 1990s  for late run movies  was Crystal Harmony`s 270-seat Hollywood Theatre and the Star, Regal, Royal and Crown Princess theaters are some of the most comfortable and also offer the best sound systems and wide screens. Today Princess show films on a behemoth screen over the pool and in the theater. Crystal continues to run new releases, too, in its theaters.

Best casino bets were on Crystal Harmony`s Caesars Palace at Sea which at the time was  the most authentic Las Vegas-like casino afloat, with a staff direct from the gambling capital of the world. Now Carnival Cruises is king of the gambling game.

Best pools for swimming i the 1990s

Crystal Serenity pool  2016 by Richard Pietschmann
Not all ship pools were made for swimming. Notable exceptions include Carnival`s Ecstasy`s attractive 50- by 16-foot pool, complete with water slide and two Jacuzzis.
The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line`s (RCCL) Monarch of the Seas (to debut in November), Sovereign of the Seas and Majesty feature two 13- by 46-foot pools on deck. Crystal Harmony also has twin pools: the Seahorse, measuring 40 feet long and the 21-foot-long Neptune, an indoor/outdoor arrangement. Princess Cruises` Royal Princess boasts a true lap pool that measures 14 by 33 feet, in addition to its 50 by 16-foot main pool. The main pool on the Star, Crown and Regal Princess sports two Jacuzzis, a swimup bar and measures 18- by 27-feet. On the Crystal Harmony, there are Jacuzzis at either end of the Seahorse pool while the ship`s indoor/outdoor pool (the Neptune) is about 21 feet long and has a swimup bar.

Today best pools are on Silversea Silver Muse and Crystal’s two ships. The water’s inviting also on some of the behemoth builds from NCL, RCL  and Carnival.

Best tipping policy was pretty nebulous back then  and tedious, passengers used to fill envelopes with cash to dole out. Then came automated adding to your shipboard tab and on Crystal,  Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn a no tipping policy.

There was little or no WiFi in the early 1990s but now every ship offers it for a fee or free.

Want to read more about cruising in the 1990s? Go here.

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Four faces of food created by clever cruise line chef

 

‘Food Faces’ by Chef Rudi Sodamin of Holland America

Patti Pietschmann

 Foodies and cruise fans have to love this.  Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin just released a coffee table art cookbook called “Food Faces” that  illustrates more than 150 vibrant images of edible creations that display a cast of unforgettable characters expressing a whimsical spectrum of human emotion.

Sodamin, who  began to design and photograph his stylized Food Faces several years ago as a labor of creative love, has since captured hundreds of distinctive characters through his lens. His artistic inspiration comes from culinary ingredients and human expression, and he created each plate personality from food items including vegetables, fruit, meats, fish, grains and sweets.

Fish toast
Sodamin captured the images in his photography studio, working with his perfectionistic approach to bring each piece of art to life, fine-tuning the emotional coloring of each Food Face as he adjusted lighting, depth and focus.

Hair, hair

 

Thomas Keller, chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, wrote the forward to the book saying, “Rudi has a keen eye, playful sensibility and a willingness to let inspiration take him where it will. Rudi puts happiness front and center.” “Rudi is an icon in the cruise industry for his culinary talent and creativity in the kitchen and is regarded as the hospitality industry’s most innovative chef, but today we congratulate him for his innovation as an artist with his beautiful new book,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Rudi is esteemed throughout the world for his passion for his craft and his ability to translate that creative energy into serving thousands of guests each day on our ships. ’Food Faces’ allows people to be inspired by Rudi’s work every day in their homes.”

Holland America passengers that dine in Rudi’s Sel de Mer pop-up restaurant can enjoy his dynamic Food Faces on exclusive limited-edition plates made by Bernardaud, the leading French manufacturer of Limoges porcelain. Each plate charger features a different image from the “Food Faces” book, creating a table setting unlike any found anywhere in the world.

“Food Faces” was published by Welcome Books, an imprint of Rizzoli, and is available for purchase in bookstores nationwide.  Sodamin will be exhibiting his Food Faces art in Miami, Florida, and in Europe in 2018.

For more information on HAL call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (1-877-724-5425) or visit hollandamerica.com.

Holland America chef creates  many faces of food

‘Food Faces’ is  perfect gift for cruise lovers and former HAL passengers

Patti Pietschmann

 Foodies and cruise fans have to love this.  Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin just released a coffee table art cookbook called “Food Faces” that  illustrates more than 150 vibrant images of edible creations that display a cast of unforgettable characters expressing a whimsical spectrum of human emotion.

Sodamin, who  began to design and photograph his stylized Food Faces several years ago as a labor of creative love, has since captured hundreds of distinctive characters through his lens. His artistic inspiration comes from culinary ingredients and human expression, and he created each plate personality from food items including vegetables, fruit, meats, fish, grains and sweets.

Fish toast


Sodamin captured the images in his photography studio, working with his perfectionistic approach to bring each piece of art to life, fine-tuning the emotional coloring of each Food Face as he adjusted lighting, depth and focus.

Hair, hair

Thomas Keller, chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, wrote the forward to the book saying, “Rudi has a keen eye, playful sensibility and a willingness to let inspiration take him where it will. Rudi puts happiness front and center.” “Rudi is an icon in the cruise industry for his culinary talent and creativity in the kitchen and is regarded as the hospitality industry’s most innovative chef, but today we congratulate him for his innovation as an artist with his beautiful new book,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Rudi is esteemed throughout the world for his passion for his craft and his ability to translate that creative energy into serving thousands of guests each day on our ships. ’Food Faces’ allows people to be inspired by Rudi’s work every day in their homes.”

Holland America passengers that dine in Rudi’s Sel de Mer pop-up restaurant can enjoy his dynamic Food Faces on exclusive limited-edition plates made by Bernardaud, the leading French manufacturer of Limoges porcelain. Each plate charger features a different image from the “Food Faces” book, creating a table setting unlike any found anywhere in the world.

“Food Faces” was published by Welcome Books, an imprint of Rizzoli, and is available for purchase in bookstores nationwide.  Sodamin will be exhibiting his Food Faces art in Miami, Florida, and in Europe in 2018.

For more information on HAL call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (1-877-724-5425) or visit hollandamerica.com.

The art of cruising

Great  expectations for newbie cruisers

First cruise?  Here’s what’s in store:

An exhilarating experience. Fresh sea air, wind in your hair, leaving woes behind in the wake, completely relaxing.

Better way to see new ports without having to catch planes and re-pack often.

Cuisine you may have never tasted before. (Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven  Seas, Oceania).

Diving off the back of a ship into the water (Windstar, Seabourn, SeaDream).

Eating as much and whenever you want (Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven  Seas, SeaDream).

Fitness options such as gyms, jogging tracks, paddle all, golf, swimming, exercise classes—on every ship worth its salt.

Great days at sea with never ending activities fro Bingo to disco.

Heavenly spa treatments, for an extra fee on Cunard Queen Mary 2 Canyon Ranch Spa, Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess.

Islands in the sun (cruises to the Caribbean, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Fiji).

Love it’s not call  the Love Boat (re: popular Princess Cruises TV series) for nothing. It’s all around you on a cruise. You just need to sidle up to the bar, put your lips together and blow.

WiFi to keep you connected, although it doesn’t often move too fast or at all depending on the ship’s position at sea. Sometimes you’ll just have

Pick, plan, put it together on Cruiseable.com

Indulge in the wild wonders of Carnival in Rio on Silversea’s new mystical Muse

museOne of my most memorable experiences was a cruise to Rio de Janeiro that began with a fast flight from Miami on the since defunct Concord,  and included three booze-soaked, fun filled days attending Carnival. The cruise line, which is long gone, had secured tickets to the balls for passengers to attend. It was surreal with people partying day and night, scantily-clad carioca women dancing on tables, and many next morning hangovers.

Although a flight on the SST is no longer on the table, you can indulge in the wild wonders of Carnival in Rio on Silversea’s new, super sonic Muse which is heading south from Fort Lauderdale on a 69-day Grand Voyage on Jan, 3, 2018. The spiffy vessel will completely circumnavigate South America, visiting 34 ports in 14 countries, while experiencing the mystery and pulsating rhythm of this vast continent on an intimate, ultra-luxury voyage that is Simply Divine™.

The  Grand Voyage 2018 combines the luxury of sailing aboard an intimate, elegant ship with the excitement of discovering fascinating destinations. Highlights include a crossing of the Panama Canal, cruising Chile’s majestic fjords, a three-day stopover in Rio de Janeiro in time for Carnival, plus overnight calls in Valparaiso, Punta Arenas, Buenos Aires, and Manaus, nestled in the heart of the Amazon.

“Grand Voyage 2018 is perfectly tailored to travelers who have the time and passion to indulge in travel on a grand scale. It combines adventure and immersive cultural experiences with leisurely days wrapped in the exquisite luxury and impeccable service of our beautiful new Silver Muse,” said Mark Conroy, Silversea’s managing director for the Americas.  As usual passengers will enjoy free drinks from Champagnes and cognacs an beyond, have tips covered, get transportation in ports,  and savor culinary experiences. Through Silversea’s association with Slow Food Italy, a selection of Ark of Taste products, such as Ecuador’s Nacional cacao, Peru’s native potatoes, Chile’s Merkén chili peppers, and sugarcane products from Santa Rita, Brazil, will be sourced locally by Silversea chefs to introduce guests to the remarkable flavors of these cultural treasures, which are being catalogued by the Ark of Taste to help ensure their preservation.

Exclusive Added-Value Benefits

In addition to a gala Bon Voyage dinner and overnight stay at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Fort Lauderdale on January 2; a unique “Panama Hat Party” event at the Montecristi Golf Club in Manta, Ecuador on January 12, showcasing the talents of local artisans; and a box-seat view of the Carnival Winners’ Parade at the Sambadrome in Rio on February 17, full-voyage guests will enjoy a generous array of benefits, including:

–$2,000 Onboard Spending Credit (per suite)

–Free unlimited Wi-Fi

–Baggage valet service

–Visa service (U.S., Canada and select markets)

–Commemorative gifts

Fares for Grand Voyage 2018 start at $36,955 per guest, based on double occupancy. For further information and the complete itinerary, please visit Silversea.com/destinations/grand-voyages-cruise/grand-voyage-2018-south-america.

 

Setting sail on a magical Alaska cruise

Regent Seven Seas stylish Mariner surpassed expectations

DSCN1365.JPG

I knew we were in for a fabulous time on our Alaska cruise, especially since we were familiar with Regent Seven Seas attention to detail and passenger comfort. The 700-passenger actually exceeded expectations, and I mean it even as a guest of the cruise line.

The Alaska cruise began in Anchorage where we boarded a ship’s shuttle bus to ward, Alaska–a 2 1/2 scenic drive that we hadn’t actually looked forward to  doing since we had to get up at 3 a.m. to catch a 6:15 a.m. Delta flight that would stop in Seattle first.  It was worth it. The seven day cruise ended in Vancouver, British Colombia with mesmerizing scenery of icebergs, glaciers and rain forests combined with all the heavenly comforts of luxurious 700-passenger Regent Seven Seas Mariner. While the Mariner sports an inviting swimming pool few have dared to dive in as baby it’s cold outside. But there are two well-used Jacuzzi’s and a spa with steam and saunas to keep us warm. There is also delicious food to comfort the body and soul and much more, read the first entry here. The many splendors on board the feisty Mariner– from exceptional dining to luxurious appointments–aside Alaska takes the spot light. So follow along on the first three days with stops at the Hubbard Glacier and Sitka by the slideshow photos that are worth a million words especially from America’s Last Frontier.

Embarkation in Seward on the spiffy 700-passenger, 48,075-ton Mariner, that was stylishly refurbished in 2014 , was seamless with glasses of Champagne  proffered as we boarded. Stewards escorted us to our  suite  (the ships is the first all suite, all balcony vessel built in 2001). Our deluxe Veranda suite  805 measures 301 square-feet including balcony. It’s furnished with desk, vanity, king bed, flat screen TV, walk-in closet, lots of drawers, mini-fridge stocked with free beverages, robes, slippers, hair dryer, sofa, and table.

The Hubbard Glacier, pictured below, was one of the highlights of this trip.

hubbard deck shotRegent Seven Seas fares are the most all-inclusive offered which translates into all tips covered, most shore excursions, select wines and Champagnes, top shelf spirits, and all meals even in alternative dining venues such as Signatures and Prime7.

The RSSC Mariner runs smoothly and fairly seamlessly with an accommodating suite crew. Sailing on her in Alaska sitting on your balcony you might catch a bald eagle majestically gliding in the sky or a whale or two. Today in Sitka we are heading off on a bicycle/walking tour so come back for a report on that plus more about cruising Alaska on the gorgeous not so ancient Mariner.

DSCN1152
The RSSC Mariner is manned by the company’s first female captain Serena Melani (pictured above) from Livorno, Italy who is did a fine job slowly gliding the ship up close and personal to the 400 to 700 year-old Hubbard Glacier (feature to come next on this amazing Ice Age formation) and into Sitka, yesterday and Juneau today, June 25. The vessel debuted in 2001 and was spiffed up stylishly in 2014. She sports all suites each with balconies, spa by Canyon Ranch, fitness center, large pool, Jacuzzi, four dinner venues, 24-hour room-service, very attractive bars ad lounges, and deck sports as well as indoor fun, shows and lectures. I wrote  this while on the ship with my laptop on top of a desk, where it was all week so I could post stories on websites and social networks.  Richard, my  first mate, and I shared  deluxe veranda 805 which is appointed with a desk, vanity, king bed, big bathroom with sink and shower, flat screen TV, free movies on TV and DVD, one free unlimited WiFi hookup per cabin meaning just one passenger gets to go on line without a fee and only one device at a time–much to the chagrin of a few passengers who nearly incited a cyber mutiny when they learned the service wasn’t free for everyone in their suite.

Catching the sites of kitschy Ketchikan from Regent Seven Seas Mariner

arrival Ketichan It was what locals call a bluebird day, a beautiful, sunny day in Ketchikan—one of the rainiest cities in the world with an average yearly downpour of about 14 feet. According to a local, it was the best day in more than two weeks, the sun shining gloriously and the temperature hovering around 70 as passengers disembarked spiffy Regent Seven Seas Mariner. Like Richard and I most of the 700  passengers were taking one of the line’s complimentary shore excursions offered on this all-inclusive seven-day Alaska cruise from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, BC. The voyage lived up to or exceeded expectations.

 Before we even left home we booked our complimentary shore excursions (and made dinner reservations, on Regent Seven Seas web site). We were happy we selected the Rain Forest Expedition tour  in Ketchikan– which proved n easy hike alongside a roaring stream feeding into Ward Lake, about eight miles from the port. It was led by a knowledgeable guide named Carly, who was more naturalist than hiker and explained the glacier-created terrain, the spongy peat bog and identified the spruce, cedar, hemlock and alder trees. She pointed out the broad-leafed skunk cabbage plants that had been nibbled at and uprooted by hungry black bears after their long winter hibernation. In late June the pink salmon endemic to the creek hadn’t yet began their spawning runs, an event the bears no doubt eagerly awaited. But the tour group loved the sight and sound of the pristine water rushing past through dense screens of old growth trees. DSCN1313There was the usual warning that if a bear was spotted one must remain avoid screaming and particularly running, something that signals prey to the poor-sighted blacks, smaller and less aggressive than their brown bear (grizzly) cousins passenger had seen in Sitka, but still dangerous wild animals. No furry animal was sighted, however.

Following the two-hour walk  we strolled around Ketchikan, which is Alaska’s fourth largest city, despite its small population of about 14,000, and stopped for lunch at a local spot called Annabelle’s.  Annabelle's frontThis is a city of water, where even the airport must be reached by ferry and with no land connection to the outside—the only highway ends 10 miles in either direction beyond the center of town. What it is best known for, besides salmon and rain, is the size of its floatplane fleet, the largest in the world. Every day around 1,000 takeoffs and landings occur in the same tight sea lanes used by ships much larger than Mariner and were as easily seen as the curious juvenile bald eagle that flew within feet of the anchored ship.

Annabelle’s  was a bit of a disappointment. The  salmon  was over-cooked, the olive oil had a strange taste but the bread and salad was good. We popped for wine and a beer (which is proffered free on Mariner, but hey one isn’t in a Ketchikan restaurant every day). The typical Alaska eatery was filled with what looked like locals but also passengers from Marina, Holland America’s Voledam and the Coral Princess which were also docked there. After lunch it was back on a launch that took passengers back to the anchored Mariner for a night and one more day at sea before arrival in Vancouver.

Once back in our deluxe veranda suite 805 we sat on the veranda and watch while the captain sailed out of Ketchikan to the final stop  in Vancouver B.C. I love this ship so much that I can’t wait to do another  cruise on her, perhaps in Caribbean or Med next time. But Regent Seven Seas is well-known for getting things right and everything about this seven day journey was ideal.  Remember RSSC fare are truly ALL INCLUSIVE with everything covered from tips to shore excursions, drinks, alternative dining venues Prime7 (that serves kick ass steaks) and Signatures which offers continental cuisine in a romantic setting (most ships charge extra for meals outside the dining room, except this one and Seabourn.brunch buffet ketichan arrivalAbove is a buffet served on the Mariner during arrival in Ketchikan.