The savvy seafarer’s cruise album

By  Richard and Patti Pietschmann

We’ve taken cruises on ships of every size and style from mega liners to small luxury vessels and written about  them in newspapers,magazines and on the web (most recently  www.cruiseable.com) and here are a few good photos from our voyages:

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Spa  time

Crystal Cruises deck and butler for our  penthouse stateroom

 Morning buckwheat pancakes on Crystal Cruises 

 A birthday/anniversary celebration on Silversea

 Dining on the deck of the Seabourn Quest

 A seafood fest on board Regent Seven Seas Mariner Alaska Cruise

 Regent SS Mariner stateroom stewardess

 A veal chop  on RSSC Mariner

Seabourn

 A veal chop at  Silversea Hot Rocks

Dining a Le Champagne on Silversea

 Leaving Bora Bora

Paddle  tennis  on Crystal Serenity

 Happiness is having room service breakfast on Crystal Cruisses

 Bora Bora

 The mighty Amazon from Seabourn Quest

French Polynesia from a Princess Cruise

Ruby Princess

And it doesn’t end here, next trip Queen Mary2 from New York to Southampton, England; Seabourn Encore, Silversea Muse, RSSC Explorer and others. Stay tuned.

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Mostly hits with a few misses on board Golden Princess

the Golden Princess cruise bithdy baloonsto Hawaii was a fantasy-filled birthday/anniversary celebration  for the savvyseafarer and her first mate.   Hardly strangers to the Princess product, we expected the voyage to run smoothly.  But it turned out better than ever.

To review a 109,000-ton, 2,600-passenger ship properly one must take into perspective its class. While not considered high-end by industry standards of price (think Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea), the Golden held her head up well with some of the best service at sea we’ve ever encountered on the line. The crew was simply sensational, helpful, attentive, the quality of a much higher-priced spread actually.

And while our enjoyment ranked as a ‘10’, in all honesty the reviewers can only award it four stars (which is hardly chopped liver). Why? Because the ship failed in two categories. Granted this is purely subjective, but the spread in the Horizon Court buffet barely passes muster. It was uninventive and sometimes hard to eat. However the crew working the room was exceptional. The coffee, served in this setting, which is open from morning to midnight, is undrinkable. You can get better joe by buying it, however.

The other area that was lacking is the Lotus Spa. Not the facility itself, but the staff and quality of the three treatments experienced. The attendants sort of stared and seemed lackadaisical when passengers walked in. A special ‘head to toe’ treatment than ran $139 was way below par for the course, perfunctory at best.  Another “Fire and Ice” manicure that ran $50 didn’t even include cuticle cutting. There was a light hot stone massage of the arms that was barely felt. And, get this, there was so few polish choices, I had to fetch my own from my mini-suite.

To accentuate the positive, meals in both Sabatini’s and the Crown GrillSabatini's salt crusted branzino—two alternative dining venues that cost $25 a person—were exceptional as were our servers. The hotel manager, wine steward (seen here) IMG_4675 maître ‘d and captains were phenomenal. Because we are consider ‘Elite’ passengers who have sailed several voyages with Princess, we were invited to have breakfast each day in Sabatini’s with only about 70 other passengers of the same ranking. It was real treat that came with extraordinary service, fresh orange juice, specialty dishes, and cappuccinos or espressos. Princess does take care of its repeat passengers, especially the ‘Elite’ category for which we also got free laundry and cleaning service, priority boarding and disembarking, an Internet package of 250 minutes and first dibs on reservations in the alternative dining venues—which was welcome since we ate most of meals there, opting out of the crowded dining room.

Another really nice touch was the relaxed dress code of ‘resort casual’ at night, which meant no tie and jackets for guys, and optional formal attire on three evenings.Me in blue dressrich in tuxe

The shows, activities and Hawaiian diversions on board rated a ‘10’. We didn’t partake of shore excursions this time but they are usual tops on Princess and we heard no complaints.

Our mini-suite was excellent with two flat-screen TVs, king-sized bed, sitting area with sofa and table, desk/vanity, mini-fridge and a one-time complimentary set up of libations. The bathroom had a tub with a shower, robes and slippers and upscale spa products.

The ship was sparkling clean everywhere. Deck space was ample for a ship that was filled to capacity. The four pools (two of which are large) were all kept at a comfortable temperature and deck stewards were always on hand to bring you anything you desired.

The cruise director was entertaining and informative. Our captain, Ronald Wilson, a pure delight, and our cabin steward efficient if not effusive.

The 14-day cruise provides five days each way at sea with island stops in Hilo, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.  Days at sea were filled with choices such as the line’s Scholarship@Sea, lei making, photography classes, treasure hunts, trivia sessions, ping pong tournaments, movies, shows and more than we have space for here. Of course there’s also a casino, which was well-attended, a  well-stocked fitness center, also used extensively, a jogging/walking deck, and plenty of bars and nooks and crannies.

The Golden Princess makes these Hawaii cruises through the end of March before heading north to Alaska for the summer. She returns in the fall to continue the highly-recommended itineraries.

Fitness At Sea Aboard Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises Offers New Fitness Options

Just in time for my fitness entry (see below) Princess Cruises comes out with an innovative fitness program on its stellar fleet,  here’s the skinny:

The program includes the  industry’s first in-room fitness program, fun yoga classes for kids and teens, and a new array of Lotus Spa classes featuring the three vital components of balanced health.

Designed for cruisers of all ages and activity levels, it’s designed to get passengers  off their duffs and on their feet in the privacy of their own staterooms with Fitness@Sea hosted by celebrity trainer Gillian Clark; strike a pose in an interactive yoga class for junior cruisers; or test their mettle with a “Tour de France” spin class as part of the line’s new Core.Balance.Strength. program. 

“We know that many of our passengers are interested in maintaining their exercise programs while on their cruise, and still others like to try new things to stay in shape,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises senior vice president. “Our new fitness programs are a great way to do both.”

Fitness@Sea
Led by celebrity fitness trainer and bestselling fitness DVD host Gillian Clark, passengers can participate in a series of Fitness@Sea classes in the comfort of their own staterooms to challenge their minds and bodies. Produced as an industry first for Princess, the classes are designed as a way for passengers to comfortably start off their day with beneficial exercise. Clark leads nine different classes shown exclusively on the line’s Wellness Channel, including:

• Core strengthening
• Flexibility
• Arm and leg strengthening
• Big muscle groups and an overall body workout
• Cardio training
• Stretching
• The mind/body connection
• Breathing to enhance your workout
• Back strengthening

Fitness@Sea debuts fleetwide this month. On ships with Movies Under the Stars, morning sessions are offered on the signature 300-square-foot-screens for those passengers who want to enjoy the open air on deck and work out in a group setting.

Yoga for Kids and Teens
In another industry first, Princess will introduce yoga to kids and teens in a fun and imaginative way, while promoting exercise in a positive environment. With the worldwide popularity and widely known benefits of yoga, Princess brings this mind and body exercise to kids and teens ages 3-17.
The program promotes building coordination, breathing, balance and emotional strength with an element of play incorporating music, chants and singing. With yoga mats provided, kids can participate in a variety of yoga animal poses from Downward Dog to Cat and Mouse. Classes are complimentary and are currently rolling out fleetwide in the onboard youth and teen centers. Classes range from 30 minutes to one hour and parents are welcome to participate.

Core.Balance.Strength.
This exclusive new onboard fitness program focuses on three vital components of balanced health called Core.Balance.Strength. Using a variety of energetic new options for health-conscious passengers, these classes are offered in Princess’ Lotus Spa.

Core.Balance.Strength. is designed to help guests maximize their wellness potential by focusing on three fitness components, each with a series of corresponding classes. The Core component is designed to create a strong foundation on which to build, and is based primarily on the principles of Pilates and correct postural alignment. Balance focuses on centering both mind and body, and features fusion yoga classes. Strength includes a high-energy mixture of both strength and cardio classes designed to get the heart racing and the endorphins flowing.

As part of the new program, passengers who’ve dreamed of bicycling in the famed Tour de France can now get a taste of the action with a new Tour de Spin program, offered as part of the strength course options, which will benefit LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The new Core.Balance.Strength. program is currently being rolled out fleetwide and is expected to be in place aboard all Princess ships by the end of the year. A nominal fee is charged for each class, which includes the following:

Core
• AbSession: A 20-minute abdominal blaster
• Core Strength and Stretch: Pilates based, concentrating on creating a strong foundation
• Pilates Basics: An introduction to classic Pilates moves
• Fitball Pilates: Innovative core class utilizing the Pilates ring to develop a strong center

Balance
• Meditation Series: A guide to a clearer more enriched life
• Yoga Basics: Suitable for all fitness levels, this yoga series introduces the ancient concepts of yoga
• Strong Centered and Stretched: Fusion class incorporating yoga and Pilates, focusing on posture, strength and the individual’s chi

Strength
• Body Challenge Conditioning: The ultimate all over body workout set to chart topping hits
• Tour de Spin: Offered in association with LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Tour de Spin program will consist of three different 45-minute classes, each featuring a ride named after various stages of the Tour de France. Each spin class offers a different profile based on the class theme: Les Alps features multi-level resistances, Time Trial offers a fast interval workout and Alp D’Huez consists of a mind/body climb. One dollar from each class series will be donated to LIVESTRONG to fight cancer, and at the conclusion of the three-ride program each participant will receive one of the foundation’s famous yellow wrist bands.
• Step to My Groove: Beginners step aerobics, simple, easy and fun

In addition, the new program will continue to offer a selection of complimentary classes, including:
• Long and Lean Stretch class: An introductory stretching class with an emphasis on postural imbalances and tight muscle groups
• Ab Workshop: An in-depth look at the perfect sit-up with an informative and results-driven workout
• Circuit City: Using resistance machines, guests will experience the ultimate full body workout and learn the best way to use exercise machines
• Aerobically Challenged: A low impact aerobics class for beginners – easy and simple
• Chillax: Chill out and relax on the ultimate wind down
• Lotus Tai Chi: A meditative workout to promote inner peace and calm using slow rhythmic movement

Wii Fit
All Princess ships, which have long featured Nintendo’s popular Wii™ systems onboard, also offer the revolutionary Wii Fit™ balance games, challenging passengers of all ages to put their athletic skills to the test with active video game tournaments such as the ski jump, Hula Hoop® or heading soccer balls. Exciting family competitions are held onboard – including on the dramatic Movies Under the Stars poolside screens. Youth and teen centers are also offering younger cruisers the opportunity to participate in Wii Fit activities on their vacation.

1-800-PRINCESS, at http://www.princess.com.

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