Afternoon Tea on Britannia
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Afternoon tea on P&O Britannia

Afternoon tea is a real favourite with British cruisers and is served as part of the fare with P&O Cruises.

Britannia the latest edition to the fleet offers an upgraded afternoon tea service in the Epicurian restaurant which can be booked from 4 months before your cruise starts.The service also known as afternoon tea with Eric Lanlard comes with a cover charge of £15.

Apart from the fantastic range of Teas supplied by Twinnings there are many treats on offer such as savoury gruyère cheese éclairs with brie, Pistachio and Strawberry Tart and Financier Cake infused with Lemon and Cardamom. Click here for the full menu.

As you can see from the menu P&O really have raised the bar from the traditional tea service to something far more extravagant and there is not a cucumber sandwich in sight!

Pictured below is our latest facebook post featuring Eric Lanlard.

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My Experience on the Norwegian Epic
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Norwegian Epic

After 26 cruises, it is clear to say that my favourite holiday is onboard a ship. Every ship and passenger has their own personality and passengers who have had a great experience tend not to venture elsewhere.

For cruise number 27, I changed from my usual cruise holiday style of small and intimate or mid-size. After avoiding the now popular ultra megaships, I finally took the plunge to spend a holiday with 4000 others.

Wouldn’t it take hours to obtain breakfast with the hoards and masses? It is one thing going on a ships tour but to actually be with all these people whilst at sea was a concern.

The opportunity was available at the right price and a much needed break was in order. The choice was confirmed to give the Norwegian Epic a try on a 7 night Western Mediterranean itinerary. The ports of call I had been to before on three previous occasions but there is always something different and new to visit even in the same port of call.

My husband, son and I discussed what we thought would be the pros and cons. As for breakfast, I rationalised that we could always dine for breakfast in our cabin if it was a mad house at the buffet.

The Epic came into service in 2010 and carries over 4,000 passengers; so she has had a few years and experience under her belt. The ship has a good range of staterooms including family cabins, spa cabins and for solo cruisers, studio cabins, a first in the industry.

The ship was huge but easy enough to get around. We discovered that despite its massive size, this ultra modern vessel still supplied a cosy feel that was just right for our family.

Our cabin was a mini-suite no. 8175. All cabins have what is known as a ‘new wave’ design with curved walls rather than being boxy. It creates the illusion that the cabin is larger than it is. I would imagine that my steward would have quite a job to make up the room because of the narrowness from the bed to the wall.

Norwegian Epic Mini Suite

I peeked into the ‘regular’ balcony cabin and they appear to be no bigger other than in length. The sofa pulls out to become a third bed. However, the bed portion was rather small and my son’s feet overlapped over the end. I understand that this feature is in all standard balcony cabins too. Personally, I would call this cabin a deluxe balcony and not a mini suite.

On the plus side our cabin had the largest shower I have experienced at sea with a large rain shower head. The shower has a frosted glass door and stops the tendency of flooding the floor of the cabin, which is a common problem on most ships.

We took advantage of a the alternative restaurant pre-paid dining plan, which afforded us access to the specialty restaurants such as ‘Le Bistro’ (French), ‘Teppanyaki’ (Japanese) ‘La Cucina’ (Italian) ‘Cagney’s Steakhouse’ and ‘Churrascaria’ (Brazilian grilled meats and salad bar).  All of our meals surpassed my expectations. Experiencing blasé food or cuisine that just has too much salt added has been a complaint of mine in the past.

Freestyle dining (non-surcharge venues) included in the price of the cruise are the ‘Manhattan Room’ and ‘Taste’ (both traditional cruise main venues), the ‘Garden Café’ and the ‘Great Outdoors’ (lido buffet & grill), ‘Shanghai’s’ (Chinese and noodle fare) and ‘O’Sheehan’s’ serving British and Irish pub food.

Norwegian Epic Manhattan Room

We never tried any of the Freestyle dining options other than the Garden Café and we were able to dine for breakfast each and every day without being overwhelmed by the crowds; it was very impressive to see how the Epic exceeded in the world of buffets not only with quality of the food served but with the arrangement of the stations, décor and seating. Never did the room feel crowded.

The ‘Mandara Spa’ is notable. I indulged in three different treatments and my husband had one as did my son. They were all relaxing and uplifting. Spa staterooms and mini suites come with their very own key card to give you access to a private whirlpool, heated lounges, and sauna and steam rooms. One of our appointments was lost as the therapist went ashore. To make up for the rescheduling, the manager allotted all three of us with keys to experience the private spa room.

Norwegian Epic Mandara Spa

The centre of deck 15 contains the ‘Aqua Park’. There are several slides including the only bowl slide called Epic Plunge with inner tubes provided for those seeking an adrenal rush. There two main pools and four hot tubs.

Nearby is a children’s paddling pool and water fun centre that features, water sprays and a small slide and colourful decor with sculptured animals tailored for the youngsters. Within this area there are also two rock climbing walls.

Another area called H2O has a pool for adults only and is located in the aft of the ship. Although smaller in size, there are two hot tubs available. You can lounge in the area and be entertained by the outdoor giant TV screen with mood-enhancing visuals. In the evenings, movies are shown.

At night, the Epic really rocks!. Norwegian Cruise Line has always been known for great entertainment every since the Norway sailed transatlantic. We opted for the show ‘Legends’ based on the musical legends. Instead of the ones that appear everywhere (Michael Jackson, Madonna and Elvis), the Epic chose slightly more unusual singers to honour such as Gloria Estefan, Rod Stewart and Sting.

The show was in the main theatre and reservations (cost-free) were needed. Reserving a performance does alleviate the crowds and you are assured of a seat. However, the drawback was the same show played in this venue the entire week.

Other performances took place in smaller lounges and during our cruise consisted of Dreamgirls (homage to Motown), a ventriloquist and magician from Madrid, a Beatles tribute band, 70’s dancing music and nightly jazz. The “Cirque Dreams” (with or without dinner) is performed nightly at the ‘Spiegel Tent’ for an additional fee

Another appealing aspect of the Epic is its huge assortment of lounges. The ‘Bliss Ultra Lounge’ is dark, opulent and has a sparkling floor, velvet drapes and high leather seats and day beds.

If the weather has been too warm for your liking, cool off after a long day at the ‘Svedka Ice Bar’. It is a must one-time experience to enter into the 17 degrees Fahrenheit pub filled with ice furniture, ice artwork, and ice goblets. There is a cover charge that includes a drink and use of a parka with hood and gloves as you enter to chill out but stay warm.

Norwegian Epic Ice Bar

Other watering holes, clubs and hideaways just pop up as you meander on deck 5, 6 or 7.

The ship contains an expansive Las Vegas-style ‘Casino’ with more penny slots than I have ever seen before on a ship. However, you can lose just as much on a penny machine as playing blackjack or roulette. Just ask my husband!

If you’re an avid cruiser looking to test out any of these big-ship amenities just to see what they are like, the Norwegian Epic would be a good place to start. As a family who prefers a smaller ship, more pros than cons are apparent. Another mega-ship experience is on the horizon to compare it to the Epic in the near future.

Images courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

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The Port of Patmos
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Patmos Island Greece

The cruise port of Patmos tends to be included as a port of call on a limited number of cruiseline itineraries that sail through the Greek Islands. Mega ships normally do not stop at this island which is a shame as it contains something for the history buff and beach lovers too.

The larger ships that do visit anchor in the bay and passengers are tendered into the port located in the town of Skala.

Most of the main attractions of Patmos are located 3 miles away in Chora. The village of Skala is an easy walk from the port. To reach Chora, there are public buses available which stop in Grikos and also Kambos.

There is a taxi rank outside of the port and this is the best way to travel on your own. Cruise ships do offer extensive tours to each or all of the main sites.

Patmos is perhaps best known for its religious heritage as, according to legend, this is where St. John wrote the famous book the Apocalypse. To this day, the book is shrouded in mystery and its contents are debated. Several major religious sites on the island attract thousands of pilgrimages each year.

Cave of Apocalypse

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cave of Apocalypse is perhaps the most visited site in Patmos. Located roughly halfway between the Port and Patmos Town, this cave at one time served as the home of Saint John during his exile from the Roman emperor Domitia.

It was also where he wrote The Book of Apocalypse, otherwise known as Revelations. Today, the cave is protected by a sanctuary and travelling down its dark passageway is an enlightening experience.

The Cave of the Apocalypse

The Folklore Museum

The Folklore Museum is located at the Simantiri Family mansion and is very extensive. The mansion was constructed in in 1625 and still retains its elegance. It is still inhabited to this day and, although the museum is small, it has enough to keep you intrigued.

Some of the items on display include statues of Russian religious icons, oil paintings, early photographs and even family heirlooms hailing from Odessa. Most of the items date back from the 14th to the 19th century and shows how opulent the Dodecanese Islands were.

Ecclesiastical Museum

Located nearby the Monastery of Saint John visitors should include the Ecclesiastical Museum of Patmos as part of their Patmos experience. Witness treasures of wonders in this museum by sacred relics and the entirety of the monastery’s treasury.

Some of the treasures contained within include valuable manuscripts, authentic items used in Holy Mass, ancient and the 11th century icon of Saint Nicholas which has its hand outstretched as if to bless passers by. There is also an extensive archive section dedicated to Byzantine era documents.

Monastery of Saint John

The most notable feature on the island is the Monastery of Saint John, which is visible from virtually all sides and is located at the top of the hill above Chora. Dating back to 1088, this monastery is a beauty to behold, not only in its creative Byzantine designs but also the treasures that are inside.

The monastery boasts riches such as marble floors, elaborate wood carvings and rich decorations. Located next to the monastery is an ancient library with almost 10 thousand religious documents.

Monastery of St John Patmos

The Beaches

There are several beaches on the island, all fantastic for swimming. Kámpos is ideal for families because of its shallow water plus there are many special facilities for aquatic sports such as paddleboats and canoes to rent. Water skiing adventures can be arranged too.

Psili Ammos offers a quieter experience as it can only be reached by boat. The precious stones of Lámpi are worth collecting for a memento, whilst Maráthi boasts crystal clear waters and a lovely sandy beach.

Meloï offers decent snorkeling opportunities and the Greeks love their grilled fresh fish which you can sample some at any of the beach restaurants here.

The following cruise lines will visit Patmos during the summer/autumn seasons in 2015 and 2016.

Azamara, Celestyal, Holland America, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Star Clippers and The Yachts of Seabourn.

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Get Lucky on your Cruise Holiday!
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Gambling is a popular activity for a lot of holidaymakers. However, for those that can’t make it to Las Vegas, Macao or the other big casino towns, a good alternative is to take a cruise holiday. The ship’s casino is literally the only place in town and who knows, ‘lady luck’ may shine its eyes upon you.

Some cruise line’s offer more gambling facilities than others; however, most ships should generally have the basics of blackjack, poker, roulette, and slot machines. A notable exception to this is Silversea Cruises, which does not offer poker.

Many cruise companies have increased their gambling offerings in terms of size and gameplay to reflect the “high roller” Las Vegas style atmosphere.

A current development is the idea of Player Programs, offering perks and prizes for those that gamble with large stakes.

If a casino is an important part of your cruise experience then take a look at these five cruise line clubs for a well rounded gaming experience.

CELEBRITY CRUISES BLUE CHIP CLUB

Feel like a VIP when you step into a Celebrity Cruises’ casino. The Fortune Casinos are reminiscent of Caesar’s Palace with marble statues and Roman columns. If it wasn’t for the gentle waves, you’d swear you were in Vegas.

Celebrity ships offer some of the largest casinos at sea, with some containing six blackjack tables and over 270 different slot machines. All this variety will keep you busy for a while!  Regional games such as Caribbean Stud Poker or American Roulette give a unique twist to the casino.

Celebrity Eclipse Casino

 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CASINO ROYAL

Royal Caribbean’s megaships differ from the norm in many ways and are sure to appeal to even the most casual gambler. Before stepping foot in their casinos, the Hall of Odds and Museum of Gaming presents a timeline history of gambling and casinos.

The casinos in general are some of the largest available on a cruise ship and some of the fleet have an amazing 480 slot machines, an enormous table section, a bookie section and even a bar and grill where you can relax and enjoy a meal in between games. There are also free gaming lessons for those keen to learn.

Casino Royale

 

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE CASINOS AT SEA

NCL’s Casino At Sea has won many awards and has gained many fans around the world for their enormous array of games. Almost 3000 slot machines and 200 table games are available fleet wide and there are special arcade games too.

These games, known as Cash Crane and Penny Pushers, have carved the word ‘fun’ into their gaming. NCL was the first casino at sea to offer Texas Hold ‘Em, which continues to be popular to this day. The casino has proved to be so popular that it has its own newsletter called The Deal.

Norwegian Jewel Casino

 

HOLLAND AMERICA CLUB 21

Well known for their elegant and classy demeanour, Holland America’s casino’s reflects their style perfectly. With a wide variety of games, including penny slots, poker, blackjack or Texas Hold ‘Em and a high energy style that is sure to get you betting, this is a good place for novice gamblers too.

The company also plays the MegaCash jackpot game which can top one million dollars and the Holland America lottery offers a week long cruise as its main prize. For all of you expert gamblers, try the slots or poker tournaments.

Casino on HAL's Maasdam

 

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES OCEAN PLAYERS CLUB

Carnival Cruise Lines’ party atmosphere extends right into the décor of their casinos which are pure glitz. Don’t let the fantasyland atmosphere fool you; when it comes to the games, they’re all business and high-rollers are commonplace onboard their ships. They follow all the rules and regulations of a Vegas casino such as using a soft 17 at blackjack or playing craps with double odds. Carnival holds several different gambling tournaments throughout the year.

Casino on the Carnival Sensation

 

From avid poker players to those who place a few pence in a slot machine, today, cruise ship casinos offer something for everyone.

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Win Tickets to the Daily Mail Cruise Show
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Daily Mail Cruise Show 2015

Hosting the largest selection of cruise lines both large and small The Daily Mail CRUISE show is one of Europe’s leading cruise events.

At the event you will be able to get an insight into the different styles of cruising including luxury and river cruising, cruises for the family and if you are a solo traveller there will be options for you too.

ENTER OUR DAILY MAIL CRUISE SHOW 2015 CONTEST

We have 20 pairs of tickets to give away for the shows. Just enter your email address and your done! Your details are protected by our privacy policy.

SHOW INFORMATION

At the show you will be able to take advantage of exclusive money saving offers and extras for example onboard credit and all inclusive drinks packages. There will also be free talks by the experts where you will be able to gather important expert advice that you won’t be able to get elsewhere.

With new ships and destinations constantly coming to the market the cruise lines will be showcasing what’s new for 2015/2016.

So, if you have never been cruising before or if you are more experienced and want some inspiration for your next voyage, be sure to visit The Daily Mail CRUISE show at the following venues:

NEC, Birmingham – 12 & 13 September 2015
Manchester Central – 26 & 27 September 2015
SECC, Glasgow – 10 & 11 October 2015

For talk timetables and a list of the companies showcasing at the event please visit www.cruisingshow.com

READER’S TICKET OFFER: 
We are also offering reduced price advance tickets to the shows! Get your tickets for only £4 (that’s saving £6 off the door price!!) by quoting ‘2CRUISE’ when booking tickets online at www.cruisingshow.com or when calling 0871 620 4024. (Calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras).