Today we docked at Harvest Caye Belize, which is one of Norwegians private getaways. Since Oceania and Regent are owned by Norwegian, they are able to dock here as well. For more information on Harvest Caye on its own, I will be writing an article on it and I will edit this post with the link.
I decided to sleep in this morning until about 9:30AM and took it easy on my Verandah as we docked. I skipped breakfast and started my walk into Harvest Caye down the pier. For those who are elderly or handicap they provide a golf cart service that will take you to the main area of the island, but I prefer the walk.
It is a scene walk down the pier and on arrival you are welcomed by many smiling faces. Even though Harvest Caye is owned by the cruise line, it is cash and credit card only for all purchases, nothing can be charged to your ship stateroom.
I enjoyed my time in a private beach villa and went back and forth from the beach to the villa many times. There was a bar/restraurant right in the middle of the villas and I had a delicious lunch and beverage there. When in the villa’s, there is also a server who will make their way around to get you what you want.
It was a tad stormy today and they had a few lightening strikes throughout the day which would close the pool and and water areas down temporarily, but I still enjoyed the tropical feel of laying on a chair and listening to the ocean and the island music. I spent about 4.5-5 hours there on the beach before wandering around some of the shops and talking to some of the locals who work on the island. It was all together a great time.
As I wandered back down to the pier towards the ship, I glanced over the side and saw two sting rays gracefully gliding through the water and stood there for about 30 minutes just watching them in their natural habitat.
As always on Oceania, boarding the ship was a breeze, from dock to room in about 6 minutes because its a small ship there are never lines! I could for sure get used to that part of it!
I had a beautiful view from my Verandah of us pulling away from Harvest Caye, right on time. My room is right below the pilots “wing” from the bridge so I can see the officers working and doing their things and making their calls on the radios which is interesting.
I decided to eat dinner in the main dining room this evening and was dining solo tonight, so requested a table with other people. He sat me with two nice ladies from Atlanta. I ordered the Tuna Tartare appetizer that was good, a classic Caesar salad and a Parmessan Encrusted Beef Tenderloin, it was all delicious.
After dinner I retreated to the Insignia Lounge for the evenings entertainment which was “Acoustic Sessions”, featuring the most recognizable pop music of the last four decades in an “unplugged” acoustic style, live band setting. It featured the Insignia dancers, singers and orchestra. It was a great show featuring songs from Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and more!
I have an early morning tomorrow so off to bed. We will be in Roatan, Honduras in the morning and I will be doing a catamaran trip for some snorkeling!
So today was our first day at sea, and just like on any cruise line, it was boring because we were at sea. As always, there were events around the ship all day long, but I took it easy. I started my day with a trip to the buffet for breakfast where I enjoyed some scrambled egg whites, whole wheat toast, bacon and some fruit.
After breakfast I retreated to the pool area to relax. After a bit, it started to cloud up and rain so the staff rushed to remove all of the chair cushions and the bed pads around the pool, however the weather only remained temporarily and cleared up when they welcomed visitors again.
I made a relaxing day of it today and enjoyed the comforts of the ship. At lunch I decided to go to the Main Dining room where I enjoyed some Tuscan Bean Soup and a Peppercorn Hangar Steak. After dinner, I retreated back to the pool for some hours of relaxation.
At 4:00pm I decided to take part in one of Oceania's oldest traditions of afternoon tea. I was welcomed by a very formal staff. Upon seating I was offered a variety of teas, and then the trolleys kept rolling by with a selection of finger sandwiches, scones, sweets and more. I was joined by the Social Hostess who is also on the production staff. It was a pleasure to chat with here during teat and learn about her background and history in Mexico City. One of the biggest joys of sailing on Oceania was the staff ability to socialize with the guests without fear of taking to much time. They felt the ability to stand and talk with you and get to know you and this was so refreshing.
After tea I went to my room to shower/shave and get ready for my evening. I ate in the main dining room for dinner where I enjoyed a shrimp appetizer, caesar salad and an entree of duck. Dinner was amazing. After dinner I was able to proceed to the lounge for an evening of some great Irish comedy, followed by happy our in the main bar with some newly made friends.
This was a nice leisurely day at sea, tomorrow we will be in Harvest Cay, Belize and I am looking forward to some beach time, as well as some time in our private villa followed by some snorkeling!
Today was our first port of call, Key West. I have been on over 100 cruises and this is my first time to Key West and I was so excited. So what can I say about it, it could be classified as slightly strange, but what a great place. Now when I say strange, please consider that the annual event "Freak Fest" was taking place, so there was a lot of nudity and costumes walking around in addition to a naked bike ride and lots of other events! Why don't I rewind and start from the morning.
As we pulled into port, I enjoyed looking at the cute city nestled against the harbor. We passed a few private islands on our way in, and people welcomed us with waves as we pulled up next to the dock. Tied up right behind us was Royal Caribbeans Empress of the Sea's.
I decided to do Key West on my own, as many had told me that it is an easy place to walk. As I exited the square, we were docked right in town next to Mallory Square. I exited the ship and walked through some of the shops before heading to the the Truman Annex and Harry Truman's Little White House. For those of you who don't know, the Little White House was built in 1890 and served as headquarters during the Spanish American War, WWI and WWII for the Key West Naval Station. President Truman liked the spot so much, he used it as a vacation home for 175 days on 11 different visits during his presidency, and it became known as the Little White House. Many presidents since him have stayed as well. If you pay the tour fee, you get to see all of the rooms, I decided to just walk through the free areas before proceeding down the road towards the Naval Station.
As I walked down the street, I admired all of the homes, I am guessing old Officer's Quarters that have now been converted to private homes and townhouses as well as a few bed and breakfasts. I was told that the homes range from $1,000,000 to $30,000,000, and decided to hold off on a down payment. The homes were magnificent, so quaint and quiet of a neighborhood where all of the residents were friendly! I proceeded to the Harry Truman Park which housed an old Coast Guard Ship with a museum onboard. This day there was also a local farmers market set up, so I walked through the booths and tasted some of the products. I then proceeded down the road to the Naval Station and the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and Fort. The Fort was full of history and I enjoyed my time there prior to to proceeding down to the beach. After listening to the waves a bit I proceeded back to town, it was hot and humid this day (about 89 degrees and VERY humid!), the sun was blaring so I stopped for water and gatorade many times! I enjoyed walking around the town and enjoying my time in the shops. I probably spent about 4 hours walking around and enjoying the locals while getting my 7 miles of walking in!
Having the Freak festival town sure added a little color and a lot of skin (I won't include those photos!). For those of you who have not cruised to Key West before, I would totally suggest it. I am looking forward to my next cruise here and cant wait to come for a long weekend!
After boarding the ship I enjoyed some time at the relaxing pool prior to my dinner in Toscana. For those of you who have not sailed on Oceania before, the speciality restaurants are included, but reservations are recommended. They do limit some of the rooms to one visit per cruise to make sure everyone gets a chance to enjoy. Toscana means Tuscan, and just as Tuscan cuisine evolved from rich family traditions, many of the recipes here originated with the mothers and grandmothers of Oceania's own Italian Culinary Staff. All of the food is presented on elegant, custom-designed china by VERSACE! The masterfully prepared dishes exemplify the essence of Tuscany and celebrate Italy's culinary passion.
I started my meal with the calamari, an appetizer portion of lobster risotto and then moved on to a full lobster with pasta and finished the night with a piece of caramelized cheesecake! Please make sure to try Toscana on your next cruise.
Following dinner I retired to the Insignia Lounge to catch the end of Michael Minors show who is a entertainer, singer, ventriloquist and impressionist!
Day # 2 is done and tomorrow is a Sea Day!
If you have never cruised on Oceania, you are missing out. It's not just a cruise, its an experience. From the day you receive your travel documents, you will feel special. You will receive that special blue folder personalized just for you. It will include information about your particular stateroom, excursions, dining, etc. It will tell you about Oceania and the inclusions and it will include your 3 luggage tags so you don't have to fumble around at home trying to print them.
On arrival to the pier, its not business like usual as you would expect on a cruise. With just 670 people onboard, there is no crowd. I am in the Concierge level, so I am able to board through an expedited line. From the time I step into the door of the pier, go through security, check in and board, I am literally on the ship in less then 15 minutes, truly amazing. They greet each guest at the the door with a refreshing bottle of water and a smile. As you board the ship, a crew member in the traditional red hat and uniform smiles and welcomes you onboard and as you enter the main area, someone will be there to help you find what you need, and let you know which time your room will be ready. If you are in a Suite it is 12:00, Concierge 13:30 and all other rooms 15:00. I chose to lounge on the gorgeous sundeck as I waited and enjoy a little lunch at the Waves Grill. The prosciutto panini was amazing.
As they page to let us know our rooms are ready, I proceeded to deck 7 forward to room 7010, a Concierge Verandah Room. The ship is recently updated and you can tell immediately. There is plenty of closet space, a nice king bed, flat screen tv, a small but nice bathroom, comfortable couch and desk area and a beautiful verandah with nice outdoor furniture. Also sitting on the table is a chilled (on ice) bottle of champagne. There is a fridge with complimentary sodas and also a large bottle of water.
On Oceania, all juices, coffee (including specialty coffee), tea, soda, ice tea, non-alcoholic blended drinks and more are complimentary. There is also no charge to eat in the specialty restaurants and free wi-fi.
My luggage is already at my room and they do offer complimentary pressing of 4 items in this category and a minimal charge for pressing of other items. On my floor there is also a laundry room that has complimentary (including detergent) washers & dryers and also an ironing board, however in the concierge level room that I have, it also includes 3 bags of laundry at no charge!
After unpacking a bit, I decide to explore the ship a bit more. Its not a huge ship, so should be easy enough to see, but you would be surprised at all of the small details, including their great artwork spread around the ship.
I am traveling with a group, so we had a cocktail party in Horizons Lounge at 6:30pm so I proceeded up to the lounge. The lounge is at the forward part of the ship with floor to ceiling windows to enjoy the gorgeous view. The staff is very attentive, and there is a staff to passenger ratio of about 1 to 6. The crew seems to genuinely care and they enjoy engaging in conversation, which you don't always see on the larger ships.
After the cocktail reception I proceeded to the Grand Dining Room for dinner. My phone died so I was not able to get photos of my dinner (sorry), but the food was great. I enjoyed the Beef Tartare starter, mixed green salad and the Sirloin steak. Everything was cooked to perfection.
After skipping dessert, I proceeded directly to the Insignia Lounge to watch "Broadway in Concert" which was a dazzling array of classic and contemporary broadway songs. The show was great and included songs from many of my broadway favorites. If you enjoy the large productions of the large ships, you may be disappointed, the shows here are a lot smaller and intimate but full of amazing talent.
I went back up to the lounge for a little while to enjoy a little social time, but found myself to be so exhausted from a long day, that I retired to my stateroom and rested. The on demand TV has lots to offer, including MANY movies on demand, movies playing as well as TV shows, news, sports and more!
Day #1 has been a success and I am excited to see what day #2 brings!
Travel Agents are interesting people. We come from all walks of life and personalities. Each year I attend a few different conventions or trainings and I am always amazed at the great people that I meet.
This past week I attended the Las Vegas Travel Agent Forum at the Paris Resort and Casino. During this convention (which I attend every couple of years) we get to meet with vendors and suppliers and make new connections.
There is so much more to being a travel agent then sitting at the computer and booking travel. You need to know how to read people, sell to people, and get people interested. You need to know your audience and know what to offer each of your clients based on how you read them.
I love sitting down with fellow agents and hearing stories and getting tips and ideas. In so many businesses you have competition, my business is no different, but I consider my competition to be Expedia, Costco, etc... not a fellow travel agent. To me, my fellow agents are my mentors, they are how I make my business better.
This year in Las Vegas was no different than other years. I sat and learned great ideas from fellow agents and made friends that I will have for the rest of my life.
I am quite the Disney nerd. When I heard they were re-doing the pier and getting rid of California Screaming I was not pleased. How could they make it better, how could they remove Neil Patrick-Harris from saying 3-2-1! I am always good when Disney adds new rides but when they change current ones or remove current ones I get a little "on edge." I put off going on the new "Guardians of the Galaxy" ride until December because I was such a huge fan of the "Tower of Terror."
I have to say, I was so impressed with the new roller coaster design and all of the elements that Disney incorporated. The Incredicoaster is even better then California Screamin'.... now lets be honest, they can't do much to change the actual ride, but its all the elements and enhancements they made to an already great coaster. The tunnels with characters and lights and Dash doing the countdown at the beginning.
I really encourage you to give it a chance as I finally did, and I bet you will be pleasantly surprised!
To many Disney enthusiasts, we were very sad to hear about the departure of Disney's Tower of Terror at the California Adventure Park at Disneyland. People said that Disney lost the rights to the name, etc. There were so many rumors, nobody knew what to believe. As it turns out, they simply closed it because they wanted to. They re-did the entire ride and renamed it the Guardians of the Galaxy. The work they did was amazing and they have improved the ride itself. The drops are better than before. All finished, I liked the ride 3x better than then the original one.
For those who can't let go, you can still ride the Tower of Terror in Orlando as well as in some of the other countries!