Admittedly, going on a cruise wasn’t something I’d seriously considered, but my partner and I had a few spare days during an overseas business/pleasure holiday in Miami and I thought, why not check out what’s available? And that’s exactly how we found ourselves on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas for a 4 night cruise through the Bahamas.
We boarded at the Port of Miami with similar ease to checking into a flight only instead of waiting at the gate or in the airport lounge we found ourselves immediately enjoying lunch on the ship. Rooms were cosy and perfectly fine for two, because really, who books a Bahamas cruise to stay in a cabin?
The ship offers all you’d expect – swimming pools, sun decks, restaurants, shopping outlets, a cabaret theatre for nightly entertainment, children’s activities and more (including a rock climbing wall.) Additionally, the wealth of excursions available can make it tricky to choose just a few and pack them into your time in port.
The first stop in Nassau allowed us to wander around the port enjoying the area before experiencing a swim with a dolphin on Blue Lagoon Island, a private island with plenty of opportunity to engage with dolphins, sea lions and more. Guests also have the option of visiting the popular Atlantis Resort and experiencing the water park as just one of the resorts several facilities.
Stop two, the private island of CocoCay, owned by Royal Caribbean and set up as your own private paradise. Guests are encouraged to make the most of the sunshine with lounge chairs and hammocks everywhere. A large range of activities including water slides, snorkelling and more are also available for guests.
The final port before our return was Key West, Florida where we ventured off to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the island via parasail before wandering the port village and enjoying a slice of the famous key lime pie (delish).
Prior to our journey, we were told by a colleague, “Once you’ve been on a cruise, you’ll never want to travel any other way,” and now it’s easy to see exactly what they meant. Destination, activities and general ‘we’re on holiday’ atmosphere aside, it simply makes sense.
So much time of our holidays is spent in transit, waiting at gates, riding in taxis, queuing up for checking in at hotels, airports, etc. Why wouldn’t you unpack just once and actually enjoy your transit time, stress free and hassle free. Cruising is (for the most part) all-inclusive, making it easier to budget and allowing you to make the most of your holiday experience without any extra surprises. No worrying about who to tip as gratuities are all pre-paid (which can be a huge relief for many travelling to cities in the USA.)
One tip to note, the demographics or the cruise (as we quickly discovered when we also boarded an Alaskan cruise a few weeks later) can change dramatically based on destinations. For the Bahamas, we found ourselves surrounded by younger singles (23-45) as well as couples, newly-weds, larger groups of friends travelling together and families.
Sold on cruising as our new favourite way to travel, all our ‘wish list’ holiday talks now start with where to sail next.
About the author Gwen O’Toole is an accomplished writer focussing on travel, events management and food and wine. She also published a fiction novel while spending the past eight years as a magazine editor and travelling the globe before launching The Ideas Library, a creative services and event management company. She is regularly featured in a variety of travel and leisure publications and blogs.
Have you got a cruise anecdote to share? Drop us a line in the comments below :-)
It’s where the journey began and ended – Barcelona, Spain – one of our favourite places. It’s the kind of city you visit and think, ‘yep, I’d love to live here’. Architecture, art, food, colour – Barcelona is nothing short of brilliant. It’s a BIG city though, so don’t rush through in only a day.
See our video adventures from the very splendid MSC Splendida cruise here YouTube/TheSarahBlinco and peek inside my cruising virgin diaries here (or search MSC).
We also visited Barcelona with Expat Explore in 2011. Tour tips for this beautiful city: TRAVEL BARCELONA
Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun. Today is our last day, how did that happen? We enjoyed probably one too many Long Island Iced Teas with Barry and Paulo at our new favourite on-board restaurant/bar, Aft, last night. But, being the warriors that we are, we “battled” on to be up bright and early to embark on yet another astoundingly well organised shore excursion, this time, into France.
[More travel videos feature on YouTube’s TheSarahBlinco channel]
Marseille is a gorgeous port city; the ‘second city’ of France, and capital of the Provence-Costa Azzurra region. The city stretches along 37km of Mediterranean coastline, and the area is renowned for offering over 300 days of sunshine per year. Today was not one of those days. While I’m not one who dislikes the rain – quite the contrary, the only time it puts a ‘dampener’ on my spirits is when I want to photograph beautiful landscapes. Our images are a little light on from today’s adventure as the weather was terrible, but the city is far from awful. We toured around its rather large perimeter; past grand, typically French architecture, through narrow alleys and up steep hills to visit outstanding cathedrals, one namely being the spectacular Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Garde.
The city comprises of buildings dating from a wide range of time periods, which means a feast for the eyes (and lens), whether you’re viewing from the top of one of Marseilles’ highest vantage point, or within the new marina at the city’s heart.
We hit Marseille’s shores on day 1 of a year-long annual festival celebrating its status as the ‘European Capital of Culture’ for 2013; a title which says something for all that is delightful and on offer here in this elegant French port stop.
Do you have a cruising story, or a Mediterranean travel tale to share? Let us know, tweet @sarahblinco or find us on Facebook. You can also read the rest of the stories in this series (more to come in coming days) HERE.
Following a huge meal last night, the ‘welcome dinner’ of seven courses, we emerged at leisure from a peaceful night’s sleep. For me, sleeping on a ship feels a little similar to being on a water bed. I found it quite soothing, anyway.
The nicest part about the day (aside from the general opulence of this place!) had to have been stretching and Yoga on water this morning, with the class held in Club 33 at the top of the ship, featuring 240 degree views of the sprawling ocean. Following this healthy start, I began the day with a sensible breakfast of cereal and fruit, however the lure of the darn buffet (ever present, ever tempting) drew me back in mid-morning for a sweet treat. Ever since, Cooper and I have been eating like the world is running out of food and I fear the rest of the trip may be a little (or a lot) more of the same.
[more travel videos on YouTube’s TheSarahBlinco channel]
Today was an ‘at sea’ day as we cruise in the direction of the north African coast, therefore proving to be an ideal time to explore and rest. We even enjoyed a drink with some of the new American, Canadian and Puerto Rican friends we met at dinner (and subsequent Latin dancing) yesterday evening.
Obviously, this is the first time either of us has ever been in the middle of the ocean, at present, we’re somewhere in between Spain and Africa. I never imagined that at the beginning of 2012! It’s all very cool. My only stress is that the Internet is non-existent. Usually, not a major problem, however I’m on a deadline this week. Great! Fortunately I worked ahead (there are benefits to being a total deadline nerd) so not all will be lost. I am suffering technology withdrawals though (this post is being written in ‘real time’ but to be uploaded later on … shhh don’t tell)! How can we Tweet our every gorgeous cocktail with no Internet?
Meanwhile, must be off as we’ve just discovered free champers and Martinis are being served for an hour as part of the Captain’s Ball celebrations. Would be rude to not partake…
Gentle waves are lapping against the side of the ship to my right hand side, and the landscape is illuminated by soft glowing light from the deck below, and the sparkling city of Barcelona in the distance. I’m sitting on the little balcony outside our cabin on board the MSC Splendida. It’s about 8.30pm and the ship sailed from port about an hour and a half ago.
We had an early start this morning from London − 4am for check-in at Gatwick, followed by a simple-enough coach transfer to the dock but a very long wait until cruise check-in at 1.30pm. Fortunately, the cappuccinos are strong (and good) in Europe, so that kept us motivated until we made our way with excited anticipated onto the (huge) ship which is to take us on our first cruising adventure! Admittedly, I didn’t book a cruise for the sake of experiencing such a mode of transport. London had been the aspiration for a Christmas escape this year, but we wanted to explore elsewhere during our five weeks abroad. Generally the weather is unpredictable over here in winter, and as such, a ‘Mediterranean tour’ was all I could find that was operating. Open to new experiences − and great bargains (via Archersdirect.co.uk, out of interest, but you should also check out Cruise.co.uk and MSCCruises.co.uk) − this seven-night package promised us destinations never before experienced in these little travellers’ lives.
[more travel videos on YouTube’s TheSarahBlinco channel]
Neither Cooper or I had really thought too much about what to expect. In all honesty, I’ve been so busy working (managing my own business), and organising the general travel itinerary for the past few weeks, that I didn’t even have a chance to explore the ship’s website. I assumed it would at least be generally satisfactory. Turns out, the ship is only two to three years old, absolutely HUGE, glamorous, brimming with activities and facilities and … we have been pinching ourselves all afternoon trying to figure out how we wound up here, on the most-definitely-splendid MSC Splendida.
As I type, I am caught between looks to the mirror where I’m practising my ‘glitter pout’ (that is, I’ve spent the past half hour down in the duty-free store trying on Dior perfume and Lancôme lip-gloss which I’m kind of loving right now), and recalling the afternoon’s activities. We recently returned to our cabin following the 5.30pm safety briefing (just in case we need to make a run for it like Kate and Leo did). All guests were completely in awe of the M.C who continued to amaze with his narrative in five or six languages! We explored the ship only to discover one beautiful themed lounge and bar after another; pools, spa baths, gym, casino, saunas, beauty facilities, shops, restaurants, child-friendly areas and a niteclub (where we are heading later on).
We’re completely enamoured with the staircase in the entry foyer – each step of the two flights of stairs decks 6 to 8 (I believe) appears to be illuminated, and sparkles with crystals (Swarovski, apparently). At present, pianists, singers and other performers are entertaining the masses, while each of us wanders the decks in awe of Splendida’s beautifully designed spaces. We’re about to head off to the opening dinner … we are meant to be dressed in either formal (suit and tie) or ‘informal’ (cocktail) attire, but are prepared for neither. Here’s hoping they’ll be lenient tonight, or it’s back to the buffet for us (not that it’s a horrible option − actually, secretly we love a good buffet and had to be dragged out at 5pm this afternoon, dessert in hand). Still, so far we’re having a ball; and I’m about to be late for the ball so better sign off for now. S x
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