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CaptainMartini

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About CaptainMartini

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    http://www.thecaptainslog.org.uk

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    England
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    Cruising of course!

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  1. Verdict on Viking Sea a post-cruise reflection Having disembarked and been ushered by one of Viking’s ever-attentive “red-coats” through Rome’s busy Fiumicino Airport, by-passing the chaotic crowds, direct to the British Airways check-in desk, I am now left in what I assume to be the real world. Here I suddenly feel disconnected from the Viking “hive mind”. Without my personal “Quiet Vox” or the hypnotic on-board voice of Heather, our immaculate and all-knowing Cruise Director to reassure me, I am no longer protected, shielded and guided by Viking Central Control and I feel adrift. I am still in a slightly drugged state (although maybe that’s just the alcohol wearing off), but I am numb and lost. Of course I don’t mean it literally; I say “drugged” because, in a strange way, the atmosphere aboard a Viking ship does make you feel a bit like that – maybe they put something in the water or the air-conditioning, so as to make everyone more compliant – which Viking passengers do seem to be; even down to only disembarking when they are told to and in an orderly manner – and never blocking the stairs or the gangways! I don’t know what I expected of Viking but it is certainly exclusive. The ship is wonderfully spacious and hardly ever feels crowded; there is always a quiet corner, a place to sit, with people if you want, or without them if you prefer to be left alone, although the bar-staff in the lounges could sometimes do with making themselves a little more visible, in my opinion. The décor throughout is a Scandinavian Rhapsody in Blue and Beige which flows through the ship and this combined with soothing background music in the public areas and on the “View from the Bridge” channel on your TV, creates a tranquillity that feels a little like the waiting-room of an expensive Swiss clinic or a private Nordic Health Spa – and indeed there is one on board, complete with hydro-therapy pool, heated beds, sauna and “Snow Room” – although why I should want one of those, I don’t know. Every ship these days must have its gimmick but it’s all complimentary, so I don’t mind. There’s an abundance of glass and marble; the carpets are inset in easy-to-replace sections but there is a distinct absence of bright colours and the only red you will find on board is in the ship’s logo on the funnel. Red, it seems, is reserved for the jackets of the ever-attentive staff ashore, the complimentary umbrellas and in the lanyards of your personal “Quiet Vox” headset, which you must take ashore with you at all times. Perhaps each has a built-in GPS tracker, so that they can see where everyone is at any one time! Yes, Viking is a little bit “Big Brother”ish; the first time you order a drink, you discover that the steward has your photo on his or her personal i-pod, used to log and order your drink over the ship’s wi-fi system, direct to Viking Central Control. The slightly clinical feel continues into the staterooms, 12% larger than the industry average and equipped with everything, including a Paulig Coffee maker and Rattan chairs on the balcony; well, everything except a trouser-press – which I’m old-fashioned enough to still consider would have been useful! Drawer-space is lacking however (as always on cruise ships) but wardrobe space is quite good (it also has movement activated lighting) and the bathroom has plenty of shelf-space for your “stuff”, as well as a large shower enclosure, a heated floor and mirrors that never mist-up. There’s also a low-level night-light in the cabin and bathroom, so as to avoid stumbling around in the dark in the early hours trying not to disturb your cabin companion. There are other thoughtful design touches around the ship, like the digital information screens (in blue of course) instead of lift lobby floor indicators. They tell you what day it is and show you a plan of the ship and of the route to the gangway, as well as the weather, even the news and what’s on in the Theatre tonight. Brilliant! But it was the cuisine that I was most curious about. Viking’s price is quite high, so it should be good and it is, sort of. There’s nothing special about the World Café, the self-service restaurant for breakfast and lunch. The tables are well-spaced and nicely laid with cutlery etc but the food is just the same as on any other ship. However, the fabulous Explorers Lounge, 2 decks high and surely one of the loveliest observation lounges at sea, has a neat Norwegian Deli called “Mamsens” (a nod to the founder’s family matriarch) where tasty Nordic snacks can be obtained at various times of the day and night. And Afternoon Tea, every day from 4-5 pm in the Winter Garden, is a delightfully traditional experience not to be missed and in no way the “bun-fight” that can sometimes take place on other ships! The main restaurant is modestly called “The Restaurant”; its menu choice is similar to other cruise lines and quite satisfying, although presentation occasionally lacks a certain flair. The flair is reserved for the complimentary speciality restaurants; Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant is justifiably popular with its busy, brasserie-style atmosphere and excellent food from a surprisingly wide menu; and Chef’s Table, where a set 5-course tasting menu dinner is served paired with a different wine at each course. If you are fussy about what you like to eat, the menu may be a little restricting but it changes once per 7-night cruise, twice on longer itineraries. Chef’s Table is not proving that popular and I predict it will not last in its present form, although my only criticisms were the uncomfortably cold air-conditioning one night and that the chosen house wines are served in tumblers rather than in proper wine glasses, which are reserved for those on the Silver Spirits Beverage package. Glass distinction at its worst! Finally, when it comes to upsets, Viking seem to have it sorted. We were delayed 7 hours by the weather leaving Livorno and didn’t arrive in Civitavecchia until 1pm the following day. Everyone’s tours had to be cancelled but Viking not only refunded everyone but also laid on 24 coaches so as to accommodate all passengers on a free sightseeing tour of Rome. Not everyone took up the offer but it was all arranged in those few hours and everything went brilliantly, of course. Viking is like a great ocean swan; while surely paddling away like mad below the surface of the waves, Viking glides serenely and gracefully across the sea.
  2. CaptainMartini

    Celebrity Concierge Confusion

    I have travelled in Concierge-class a number of times on different Celebrity ships and aside from upgraded bathroom toiletries, one thing I noticed was that the Cabin Service Breakfas Menu is more extensive than in the Standard Balcony Cabins. In fact, unless it has changed recently, it is the same as in a Sky Suite (which, on last travellin in June 2015 was the same in a Royal Suite too) whereas in Aqua-class for instance (which is more expensive than Concierge-class) the Breakfast Menu (the card version that is) is the same as in a Standrad Balcony Cabin. See below:-
  3. CaptainMartini

    Celebrity Cabin Breakfast Menus

    A selection of cabin-service breakfast menus from different classes.
  4. Although I have posted this in the "reviews and blogs" already, it's not that easy to find, so I am re-posting it here as well, in case any of you are interested. In July 2015, we were fortunate to experience Celebrity's new "suite-class" concept on a cruise to Iceland & the Fjords aboard Celebrity Eclipse, the most notable feature of which is the exclusive Luminae Restaurant, introduced in April 2015. I have uploaded an album of photos and various menus for those who are interested:- Album: Luminae Restaurant aboard Celebrity Eclipse33 images 0 comments The interior of the new restaurant is very tasteful. Seating about 92, there's plenty of room around tables, giving flexibility to create 2's, 4's or 6's. There are even a couple of booth tables, which are ideal for small groups. I'm no lover of "bankette" seating but a thoughtful touch are the small cushions, which I found perfect for my bad back! Service was impeccable. The Maitre d' was highly attentive and he, as well as his staff, seemed to quickly establish that ideal balance of effeciency and friendliness that suited us perfectly. The menus were something of a surprise. By comparision to the extensive choices offered in the main dining room, the Moonlight Sonata Restaurant next door, the menus appeared remarkably short and simple. If you are a fussy diner, and there are lots things you don't like, you may have trouble finding something you like here, although we found the staff extremely adaptable when it came to personal choices or preferences and we never really had any difficulty in finding something on the menu we fancied. The quality of the cuisine I would describe as elegant and occasionally surprising (in a pleasant way!). They also provide you with not one but two "amuse bouches" - one before your starter and another one before your dessert. These are always different and often very imaginative, adding an element of fun to the otherwise simple style of the menu-proper. Soups too are served in a unique style; any croutons or tasty morsels arrive in your otherwise empty bowl, with nothing else (that caught me out the first time) but the waiter then reveals the actual soup in a serving jug and pours it onto the contents of your bowl. Call it an unneccessary flamboyance perhaps, but it has the practical advantage that it keeps the soup hot and avoids any messy spillages en-route from the galley! While they generally serve Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Luminae, on sea days, they serve Brunch from 10am til 1pm instead. The menu for that is largely the same, although there are one or two feature dishes that change each time. The Maine Lobster Roll was particularly good! An already infamous feature of Dinner on Formal nights is the appearance of the "Candy Cart", which you have to see to believe! It comes in addition to the dessert menu! In summary, our experiences of the new Luminae Restaurant were wonderful, although I feel that the menus do not "sell themselves" and they could perhaps do with a few improvements - not least in offering a few more choices. That said, the new "suite-class" concept does entitle passengers in Celebrity Suites and above to dine in any of the other speciality restaurants on board without additional charge (although you still have to book). Passengers in Sky Suites, while able to dine in Luminae now, can also have 2 "free" speciality reservations in any 2 week cruise, as was the case previously. The only negative aspect of the new Luminae Restaurant is the effect it has had on the main Moonlight Sonata Restaurant next door, out of which Luminae was "carved" on deck 3 starboard. Visually, it has ruined the look of what was, in my view, a stunning room. But that's what goes with "retro-fitting" new ideas, after the ship's been built and has sailed!
  5. CaptainMartini

    Celebrity Drinks Packages?

    I have posted on this topic before and it continues to be a hot topic for disagreement! We recently had the rare opportunity of an upgrade in June, following the introduction of the new "suite-class" concept and Luminae Restaurant (a seperate review for which I have posted elsewhere with an album of photos). However, one of the main advantages of our upgrade was that it came with a Premium Drinks Package. As it was effectively "free", I must say that it was brilliant - it covers liqueur coffees, AquaSpa special items, Martinis in the Martini Bar and all soft and alcoholic drinks up to $15 per drink, plus you can get 20% discount on any bottle of wine, if you really feel the need to buy one, which we didn't because you can have as many glasses as you like from what is a pretty extensive list of wines by-the-glass. There was only one night when we chose a wine that was $16 and we had to pay $3 each - which was a lot cheaper than buying the bottle! However, I calculated that if we had paid the full price for the Premium Drinks Package on our 14-night cruise, it would have cost us near enough $750 each. If we had paid for every single drink ourselves, our "bill" would have been about $300-350. We drink heartily on holiday, I can assure you, but not in 53 cruises with Celebrity has our drinks bill ever been more than about $250-300 per person and even with a "free bar", it wouldn't have been much more! Also, in calculating this sort of thing, you have to remember that you are not even on board half of the time. You are often away on tours or exploring ashore and the amount of "drinking time" on board is more limited on port days than on sea days, when you are sitting around looking for things to do! The Classic Drinks package, unless its "free", isn't worth it either because there are too many things not included that we would end up paying full price for and the upper limit for each drink is lower too (I'm not sure what it is but it's a lot less than $15, so many of the usual wines and Martinis fall outside the price range). In summary - just ask yourself why they push the marketing of these drinks packages so hard at check-in, as well as on board. They are not in the business to do you any favours; they are in it to make money and drinks packages make money, lots of it!
  6. CaptainMartini

    Celebrity Suites

    Actually, yes. In June 2015, we did a cruise on Eclipse to Iceland & the Fjords and had the almost unheard of chance of an upgrade to a Royal Suite! It was fabulous and we were in the new Luminae Restaurant most nights (and other times!) for meals. If you can afford it, "suite-class" (especially if you in a Celebrity Suite or above) is very exclusive, as you have access to Michael's Club, where a lot of special things happen! I have written a seperate detailed review on Luminae Restaurant elsewhere on this site the other day, along with a large album of pictures - sorry but I don't know how to give you the link to it.
  7. CaptainMartini

    Luminae Restaurant aboard Celebrity Eclipse

    The new Luminae Restaurant was added in April 2015 as part of Celebrity's improved "suite-class" experience.
  8. In July 2015, we were fortunate to experience Celebrity's new "suite-class" concept on a cruise to Iceland & the Fjords aboard Celebrity Eclipse, the most notable feature of which is the exclusive Luminae Restaurant, introduced in April 2015. I have uploaded an album of photos and various menus for those who are interested:- The interior of the new restaurant is very tasteful. Seating about 92, there's plenty of room around tables, giving flexibility to create 2's, 4's or 6's. There are even a couple of booth tables, which are ideal for small groups. I'm no lover of "bankette" seating but a thoughtful touch are the small cushions, which I found perfect for my bad back! Service was impeccable. The Maitre d' was highly attentive and he, as well as his staff, seemed to quickly establish that ideal balance of effeciency and friendliness that suited us perfectly. The menus were something of a surprise. By comparision to the extensive choices offered in the main dining room, the Moonlight Sonata Restaurant next door, the menus appeared remarkably short and simple. If you are a fussy diner, and there are lots things you don't like, you may have trouble finding something you like here, although we found the staff extremely adaptable when it came to personal choices or preferences and we never really had any difficulty in finding something on the menu we fancied. The quality of the cuisine I would describe as elegant and occasionally surprising (in a pleasant way!). They also provide you with not one but two "amuse bouches" - one before your starter and another one before your dessert. These are always different and often very imaginative, adding an element of fun to the otherwise simple style of the menu-proper. Soups too are served in a unique style; any croutons or tasty morsels arrive in your otherwise empty bowl, with nothing else (that caught me out the first time) but the waiter then reveals the actual soup in a serving jug and pours it onto the contents of your bowl. Call it an unneccessary flamboyance perhaps, but it has the practical advantage that it keeps the soup hot and avoids any messy spillages en-route from the galley! While they generally serve Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Luminae, on sea days, they serve Brunch from 10am til 1pm instead. The menu for that is largely the same, although there are one or two feature dishes that change each time. The Maine Lobster Roll was particularly good! An already infamous feature of Dinner on Formal nights is the appearance of the "Candy Cart", which you have to see to believe! It comes in addition to the dessert menu! In summary, our experiences of the new Luminae Restaurant were wonderful, although I feel that the menus do not "sell themselves" and they could perhaps do with a few improvements - not least in offering a few more choices. That said, the new "suite-class" concept does entitle passengers in Celebrity Suites and above to dine in any of the other speciality restaurants on board without additional charge (although you still have to book). Passengers in Sky Suites, while able to dine in Luminae now, can also have 2 "free" speciality reservations in any 2 week cruise, as was the case previously. The only negative aspect of the new Luminae Restaurant is the effect it has had on the main Moonlight Sonata Restaurant next door, out of which Luminae was "carved" on deck 3 starboard. Visually, it has ruined the look of what was, in my view, a stunning room. But that's what goes with "retro-fitting" new ideas, after the ship's been built and has sailed!
  9. CaptainMartini

    Star Wars At Sea, Will The Force Be With Them!

    Goodness! I remember being on QE2's North Cape Cruise in 1984 when they had a Star Wars Day then too! However, back then (in the good old days!) there were only 3 films to watch - even that was exhausting, but we did get to meet Dave Prowse (Darth Vader) and speak to him!
  10. CaptainMartini

    20 Days Until Britannia Reaches Southampton

    Absolutely agree - very strange. It causes all sorts of (hopefully entirely misguided) speculation as to why they are being so coy. They never have been before. Or is it that the team responsible for publicity forgot that mature, sensible people don't necessarily spend their lives reading Facebook?
  11. Have just returned from this cruise, billed to visit New York and Bermuda (both with overnights in port) before finishing at Port Canaveral, then Miami. We were diverted because of bad weather on the Atlantic, calling first at Madeira instead, then New York (2 days late), missing out Bermuda altogether. It's my guess that the majority of passengers booked this cruise on the strength of it visiting Bermuda; most people from the UK have been to Madeira (probably a number of times) so an afternoon call there (because that is all we got) was no substitute for the loss of an overnight in Bermuda. The first mistake Celebrity made was that a few passengers were actually notified of this change in itinerary at check-in, although what good it did is anybody's guess because they didn't say we could cancel and get our money back! Most passengers didn't even know of the itinerary change until they learned it from others once on board. The 2 day delay in arrival in New York meant that we lost money on theatre tickets and Top-of-the-Rock tickets we had pre-booked. I make no suggestion that Celebrity should have compensated us for this loss but I found out later (when it was already too late) that a number of passengers who ranted at Guest Relations on the first day were allowed to use the telephone on board to re-arrange their theatre tickets etc. No-one told us we might do this. Mistake no.2. The third mistake Celebrity made was that, even though the weather is not their fault, it has been a tradition on cruise ships that, if passengers are disappointed by not making a port, something is done on board to make them feel a bit better about it - like a special party, free drinks, or (dare I even utter the words) a nominal refund! They did nothing extra, apart from announce proudly that our stay in New York would be extended by 2 hours until 8pm the second day - no use whatever to go to the theatre for instance. Midnight would have been worth something but no. We've travelled on Eclipse twice before and had a wonderfull time; Equinox too, twice. But this time, the food was just the same as before - the menus haven't been changed in at least two years (and then, not for the better) and the regional additions to the Favourites Menu included Irish Stew and Chicken Tikka Masala - hardly what you would associate with sophisticated dining, since you can order them in any pub in the UK! Even the lamb was lacklustre - even tough and grisly at times - but even an expression of discontent was not enough to get the Assistant Maitre d' to visit our table. In the past, the faintest whiff of unhappiness with the food would have them in fits to please you but not this time. Mistake No.4. We dined in Murano one night. In the past, we've thoroughly enjoyed the food and skilled service but on Eclipse, the service was inexperienced and as if learned from a script. A potato croquette was served in a upside-down plastic glass as an "amuse bouche" and we nearly laughed out loud. I have a whole bag of them at home in my freezer! Even the pastry around the Diver Scallop Wellington style was soggy. Sadly, not an experience I want to repeat. Mistakes Nos 5 & 6. Poached eggs cold in middle and improperly cooked in the Oceanview Cafe on three occasions. Again, a complaint brought no follow-up from Guest Relations, as it would have done in the past. Mistakes 7 & 8. One upon a time, I used to say that the thing that marked out Celebrity from other lines was that, if a passenger complained, provided there was some justification, they would not be content until that passenger was pleased again. It seems to me that the bean-counters have been at work, trimming things here and there, cutting corners and changing the protocols regarding how to be "nice" to a disgruntled passenger. Is it time to start looking elsewhere for the quality and standards that Celebrity claim to offer but repeatedly failed to do on this cruise?
  12. CaptainMartini

    People Arriving Late In The Theatre

    What really annoys me is that so many people seem to think that because "entertainment is all included in your ticket price" that it entitles them to disregard the good manners and rules about arriving late at the theatre. On land, when the performance starts, the doors are closed and you are not allowed to take your seat unless/until there is a convenient break in the programme or show. The only exception to this is generally one-person shows given by comedians - and serve you right if you arrive late for one of their performances. Isn't it about time that cruise lines started putting notices outside theatres warning passengers that the doors will be closed. Perhaps as a compromise, they could direct people to an upper level or side entrance, allowing them to stand at the back only even?
  13. CaptainMartini

    Celebrity Drinks Packages?

    Drinks Packages simply don't make sense! Now I am no tea-totaller by any means but on a number of occassions, I have looked into this idea and it never seems to make any sense to me because when I add up what I spend on wine, drinks and alcoholic beverages of various kinds, the packages always seem more expensive than what I paid. If like me, you are a member of a group travelling together, one or two members in the group having packages really complicates the question "who buys the drinks tonight?" because you can only have drinks for yourself on your package and you have to pay for theirs; likewise, if one of them buys you a drink, it's a waste of money because you could have had it "for free" (so to speak) on your package. Also, if you check the small print, even on the top level package, not everything is included (there are always certain "premium" exceptions) so you still end up with a bar bill! Lastly, just ask yourself this; "Why do you always get acosted at check-in, trying to sell you these packages?" Answer - "Because Celebrity make more money out of the packages than you think" They are not doing this to save you money, you know!
  14. CaptainMartini

    Celebrity's New 'suite Class'

    I am really worried and concerned about this idea of the Suites having their own exclusive restaurant. Am I unique? Having travelled on many Celebrity ships over the last 25 years, I generally travel with a group of between 6 to 10 passengers and we all love to dine together every night. The trouble is that some of us go in suites, some in "ordinary" cabins, and this new idea will bring Celebrity closer to Cunard in style and "class-conscious" cruising. I know that Celebrity have had "Aqua-class" since they introduced the new Solstice ships, with their own restaurant "Blu", but because the cabins are nothing special and it's more about "spa-things", it hasn't really mattered that much. This new idea will have different, wide-ranging repurcussions. I have no doubt that Celebrity will say, in answer to this worry, "Oh well, the passengers in the suites can always still dine in the main restaurant." but I am cynical enough to know that the reason for this change is so that Celebrity can justify higher prices for their suites! As is the case with Cunard, what's the point paying for a Princess Grill suite when you are not going to dine in the Princess Grill. Likewise, Celebrity Suite guests will not be happy to have to pay for the privilege of having their own restaurant when they don't intend using it. Besides, what else are we going to lose, to make the space for this new restaurant? The other thing about all this that I'm not pleased to hear is that Michael's Club will become the "exclusive" purvue of those in suites. I have always loved the unique atmosphere of Michael's Club and the intimate style of some of the cabaret entertainment you used to get there. This will now be lost to "ordinary" passengers. One of the main reasons why my friends and I have travelled so much on Celebrity is because Celebrity was a "one-class" experience and any speciality restaurants are available to everyone, regardless of the cabin or suite they are travelling in. No, I don't like the sound of this idea and Celebrity may end up losing a number of groups of travellers as a result. Surely there are people out there who agree with me - or am I just a lone voice in the wilderness?
  15. CaptainMartini

    travelling to harwich

    Harwich is dead easy, as already suggested. But there's also the Boat-Train from Liverpool Street. The platform is right by the Terminal and it couldn't be simpler - just like first class in "the old days" at Southampton, (before the flood!)
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