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Ship Tour: Queen Elizabeth



Cunard’s 2,092-passenger ship Queen Elizabeth debuted in 2010.  She’s the second largest ship in the line’s fleet, exceeded by Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2.  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II named the ship in a ceremony in Southampton on October 11, 2010.


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Creating The Ultimate Cruise Ship



Cruisers tend to fall into two different categories. There are those who are loyal to one line, whether because of its rewards program or the fact that it “fits” their particular style. Others jump from line to line, often deciding which ship to sail on based on the amenities — from restaurants to ropes courses — it happens to offer. And it is those in the latter category for whom we’ve decided to create the ultimate cruise ship.

Imagine if you could take the best features from each ship and meld them into something of a Frankenship. What would you take from the various ships you’ve sailed over the years? We compiled some of our favorite elements to create our dream ship. Read on to see what we’d steal from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Princess ships… then hit the comments to add your own elements!

The Ultimate Cruise Ship

Ship Design, Interior
We’re not naming names or pointing fingers, but too many ships have public spaces that are basically indistinguishable squares and rectangles. By thinking outside the literal box, Royal Caribbean’s public spaces offer unconventional shapes and eclectic designs that make exploring a delight. (It doesn’t hurt that many of those spaces are filled with unique, occasionally downright odd, artworks.)

You never know what you’ll find on the Royal Esplanade.

Ship Design, Exterior
Norwegian changed the game with their Waterfront area, putting passengers on their megaships closer to the ocean they love thanks to venues which offer indoor or outdoor seating. And it’s not just the restaurants. Want to sip a drink at an outdoor table while listening to the jazz band playing in fat cats? Thanks to the fact they pipe the music outside, you can. So popular is this format that it’s definitely become a trend, with ships like Carnival Vista and MSC Seaside among the latest to offer their spin on it.

Dining venues along The Waterfront offer beautiful sea views.

Cocktail Bar
Every ship offers specialty drinks at their watering holes, but Carnival elevated the game with the introduction of the Alchemy Bar. Don’t come here looking for a glass of wine or a beer. This hot spot is all about hand-crafted cocktails that are, as the menu says, “mood enhancers developed by our mixologists.” Don’t see something on the menu — which is almost as much fun to read as the drinks are to consume — that’s to your liking? The bartenders will make something specifically for you, with or without alcohol. (But if you don’t find the Cucumber Sunrise to be the most refreshing thing you’ve ever consumed on a cruise ship, there might be something wrong with you!)

The Alchemy Bar has the cure for what ails you.

Wine Bar
Over the past few years, many cruise lines have introduced wine bars. But Holland America put a unique spin on the concept by introducing Blend on the ms Koningsdam. Passengers are offered the opportunity to bring out their inner Angela Channing (and bonus points if you get the TV reference) by creating their own vintage. After learning a little bit about wine and creating their signature label, guests can then take their bottle of vino to dinner!

Entertainment Venue
Every ship has a theater, but Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas is the only ship currently sailing out of the United States in which you’ll find the jawdropping Two70 complex. During the day, the two-story aft-facing space offers to-die-for views and a great place to snag lunch (thanks to the attached Cafe Two70). But at night, the space transforms into a theater space combining live performers and technology for a one-of-a-kind experience that redefines the concept of cruise ship entertainment. (We suspect Eden, the dining and entertainment complex which will be unveiled when Celebrity Edge debuts in 2018, will give Two70 some competition in this category!)

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Entertainment offered in Two70 is as jawdropping as the venue itself.

Asian Restaurant
There are a fair number of so-so Asian restaurants on cruise ships. And then there is Carnival Cruise Line’s take on the standard, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen. From the simple-yet-elegant design to the limited-but-perfectly-curated menu, this place gets everything right. The pork belly melts in your mouth, the Kung Pao chicken has just the right kick and the house cocktail — a green tea martini — goes down almost too easily. It’s impossible to imagine our Ultimate Cruise Ship not finding room for this gem.

Carnival Sunshine

Nanjing Style Duck. photo credit: CCL

Unique Dining Experience
In some of the categories we’ve listed, there’s room for debate. But this one is, as far as we’re concerned, a slam dunk for Royal Caribbean’s Wonderland. From the magical menu to the unusual presentation of each course, this is a foodie’s paradise. But be warned: dishes like Tomato Water and Liquid Lobster won’t be for everyone. This is not a place for picky eaters or children, despite the Alice in Wonderland theme. But if you’re adventurous and ready for a meal you’ll never forget, this is definitely the spot for you.

Believe it or not, this is what passes for a “salad” in Wonderland!

Beverage Package
There’s no clear winner here, so instead, we want to pick-and-choose elements from the drink packages offered by a few lines. While we’re not big fans of Carnival’s 15-drinks-a-day rule, we love that it includes things like coffees, milkshakes and smoothies. (The fact that those cut into your 15 drinks a day are where the problem comes in.) And while Norwegian’s drink package is ridiculously priced at over $100 a day (and does not include nearly the selection that Carnival’s Cheers! package does), the vast majority of cruisers are able to get the package as a “free” perk when booking.

That’s right, we’ve thought of everything… including the place where you’re going to rest up for the next day’s activities. And honestly, there was no choice but to go with Princess Cruise Line’s Luxury Bed. They consulted a sleep-expert when developing it, for heaven’s sake! So loved is this bed that people actually come home from cruises and order one for their own home.

What features, venues or other attributes would you insist that your “ultimate cruise ship” come equipped with?

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5 Favorite Carnival Cruise Line Desserts



It’s no secret that Carnival Cruise Line knows how to do dessert well, and is known for a few ultimate favorites.  I took a look around the internet, and asked guests in a few social media groups what their onboard favorites were.  These seem to be the top five, so enjoy our Carnival dessert countdown!

5. Tiramisu

Found in the Italian restaurant Cucina del Capitano, Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert.  Lots of cruisers mentioned that this was one of their favorite desserts aboard the ships, and it’s not hard to understand why.  There’s just something about soaked lady fingers, marscapone, and a chocolate finish that begs to be devoured.

4. Grand Marnier Soufflé

Thankfully, this is a dessert that is found right in the ship’s main dining room.  This sweet, mouth-watering dessert received several comments – and some guests even dared to say that it is better than the warm melting cake.  Plus, it’s served with an orange vanilla sauce, so how could you go wrong?

3. Banana Split

When I think of fancy cruise desserts, I don’t normally think of a banana split.  Apparently though, Carnival knows how to do them right.  This is actually found on the kid’s menu, but there was a great number of adults that said they can’t resist ordering it, anyway.  But who am I to judge… are there really many that can really resist smooth ice cream, bananas, and delicious sauces?

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2. Creme Brûlée

Found on the American Feast menu during formal night, the Vanilla Creme Brûlée received many high remarks among frequent Carnival guests.  It’s such a special dessert, and really does convey that this evening is more special than the others.  A warm, creamy interior with a hard, sweet top layer is just what any sweet tooth needs to end an elegant meal.

1. Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

Carnival’s signature Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

There is no way this wasn’t going to come in as the very top dessert aboard Carnival’s ships.  Long-time guests and newbies alike rave about this warm chocolate dish, and scour the internet to find the real recipe straight from the onboard chefs. (It’s right here!)  Served with vanilla ice cream, it’s the perfect balance of hot, cold, and gooey for the ultimate after-dinner dessert.

Honorable Mentions

These desserts got a few comments from cruisers too, so I figured I should include them: the chocolate chip cookies in the Lido Marketplace, the chocolate sampler in the steakhouse, Bitter & Blanc bread pudding, the chocolate cake from the café, and the S’more’s Parfait.

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7 New Cruise Ships of 2017



1. Viking Sky

photo: Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Debuting: February
  • Capacity: 930 guests
  • Itinerary: Mediterranean and Northern Europe
  • Features: All-veranda rooms, holistic LivNordo spa with snow grotto, afternoon tea service in The Wintergarden, wine tastings, included shore excursions, and the market-to-table The Kitchen Table restaurant.

2. Majestic Princess

photo: Princess Cruises

  • Debuting: April
  • Capacity: 3,560 guests
  • Itinerary: inaugural season in the Mediterranean and then to permanent home of China
  • Features: classic Italian restaurant Alfredo’s, SeaWalk glass walkway, Chinese cuisine restaurant Harmony, a water and light show called Water Color Fantasy, and the SeaView bar with “flair” bartending.

3. Norwegian Joy

Rendering: Norwegian Cruise Line

  • Debuting: June
  • Capacity: 3,850 guests
  • Itinerary: China/Eastern Asia
  • Features: a two-level racetrack, Food Republic restaurant with dishes and flavors from around the world, two multi-story waterslides, bumper cars, interior rooms with virtual balconies, a noodle bar, and a new category of staterooms called Concierge.

4. MSC Meraviglia

Rendering: MSC Cruises

  • Debuting: June
  • Capacity: 4,500 guests
  • Itinerary: Western Mediterranean
  • Features: The Carousel Lounge for Cirque du Soleil shows, an indoor promenade with an LED “sky”, a tech lab for kids, three pools, ten types of staterooms, four water slides, and twelve dining venues.

5. National Geographic Quest

Rendering: Lindblad Expeditions

  • Debuting: June
  • Capacity: 100 guests
  • Itinerary: Alaska and Central America
  • Features: fresh and local cuisine, adjoining cabin options for families, guest speakers, photography talks, a bar, LEXspa, kayaks, boats for getting closer to the nature, and gear for snorkeling.

6. Viking Sun

photo: Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Debuting: November
  • Capacity: 930
  • Itinerary: Cuba/Caribbean/World Cruise
  • Features: included shore excursions, all-veranda rooms, holistic LivNordo spa with snow grotto, the market-to-table The Kitchen Table restaurant, and free wifi.

7. MSC Seaside

MSC Seaside rendering: MSC Cruises

  • Debuting: December
  • Capacity: 5,179
  • Itinerary: Caribbean
  • Features: three glass outdoor catwalks, open-air promenade, bowling alley, 5D cinema, a zip line, an interactive water park, 20 bars, and an Asian restaurant in partnership with Chef Roy Yamaguchi.

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We are so excited for all of these new ships coming this year – and especially are interested in seeing how MSC Seaside bound for Miami, and Norwegian Joy for the Chinese market will turn out.  Which new ship are you looking forward to the most?

Featured photo: MSC Cruises

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