Anthem of the Seas Royal Loft Suite – Would You?
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Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas has over 2000 cabins spread across a range of grades. This gives you the chance to book your accommodation to suit your preferences and of course budget.

But what if budget wasn’t an issue. Step forward the Royal Loft Suite. This monster of a cabin is 1640 square feet over two decks with amazing panoramic views and has one bedroom, two bathrooms and even it’s own whirlpool.

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Are All Balcony Cabins Equal?
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Cruise Ship Balcony

As strange as it may seem, balcony cabins were not as commonplace as they are on cruise ships today. The few available were exclusive for the well-to-do. Today, balconies can be found on even the smallest type of ship.

The first major cruise line to offer balcony cabins was Royal Caribbean with their Monarch of the Seas in 1991. Although only five percent of the ship had balconies, it was a trend that would soon catch on. In the 2000′s, cruise lines began adding more balcony cabins with roughly between 25 to 45 percent of the ship being balconies. Today, that number has increased to more than 65 percent.

Many novice cruisers seem to think that all cruise cabins of a specific type are the same. For example, if you’ve been in one balcony cabin, you’ve been in them all. This is most definitely not the case. There are many different ways to find out if your cabin is suitable for your travel needs.

SIMPLE TIPS

Traditionally, the higher the cabin is on a ship, the more expensive. Even with a balcony cabin, a blocked view can occur, especially if on the deck where the ships’ tenders are situated. Depending on the ship, the view may be blocked by the tenders even several decks above.

A balcony at a bargain price may include a giant orange lifeboat blocking the view!

Balcony cabin with blocked view

Although a balcony in the centre of the ship may save steps to lifts and stairwells, those opened to the ship atriums should be avoided if you require tranquility. Some ships have made their atrium the heart of the ship’s gathering point and include entertainment or live music, large movie screens and the place thousands of your fellow passengers tend to linger.

There are several special features and reasons for getting a balcony cabin, some of the best being:

  • If you want the best spots to see some scenery, a balcony cabin offers panoramic views along with a space to sit outside and take in the beauty.
  • Even the smallest of balconies offer more than enough space for you to be able to sit outside and relax; it can also be a good place if you want privacy.
  • If you are claustrophobic, the balcony can serve as a safe space where you can get away from what bothers you and look at the calm scenery around you.

Make sure the balcony faces out rather than in. A number of newer ships like the Quantum of the Seas offer balcony cabins that open to inside public areas. They offer little privacy and once the novelty of looking down at the passerby’s and the activity wears off, you may never use the balcony for the duration of the trip.

DIFFERENCE IN SIZE

Some ships such as Carnival remain standard with their balcony cabins of about 170 to 190 square feet. Carnival’s balconies on the main deck are called The Coves. The Coves are 25 feet from the waterline, offering you a beautiful view of the entire ocean, perfect for photo opportunities and a truly romantic sight during sunset.

Disney Cruise Lines, P&O and Cunard have what are considered some of the largest balconies in the industry. Including the balcony, Disney averages at 226 square feet, whilst Cunard ranges from 248 to 269 square feet and P&O measuring in at 246 to 254 square feet depending on the ship.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines average between 120 and 160 square feet

Cabin space may be average on Holland America but their new ship Koningsdam, boasts 228 to 420 square feet (including balcony) and contains some of the largest outdoor cabin space at sea.

Luxury operator Paul Gauguin has 70% of its accommodation as balconies. The cabins range from 200 to 588 square feet (including the balconies) and most have actual queen-size mattresses (vs. two single beds).

A large amount of cruise ships today have “wave” running port and starboard sections, which causes a wide variation in balcony sizes. This variation means that you can take advantage of this by getting a cabin of a certain category but situated in an area of the ship that offers larger balcony space.

The truth of the matter is that, as everyone’s experience is different and every cruise line wants to offer a different experience, one person’s worst cabin can be another person’s favourite.

LOOK ONLINE FOR FEEDBACK OR ASK A CRUISE SPECIALIST

Consider expert and consumer reviews, as well as your own travel habits and the amenities that mean the most to you. If you plan to spend much time inside your cabin, then it’s likely worth extra money to select one of the most luxurious (and higher priced) options.

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A Look at MSC’s Divina
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MSC Divina in Miami

Built in 2012, the MSC Divina carries 3500 passengers and like all of the MSC Cruises fleet is a family oriented ship. Take a look at what makes the Divina so ‘divine’.

ACCOMMODATION

There are over 1,700 cabins available onboard the Divina with 95 percent of them having balconies. There are also inside and ocean view cabins and something that will work for those traveling with children, the ‘Super Family Cabins’. These are two balcony cabins combined into one and offering double the space.

Super Family Cabins

There are several classes of suites including the Aurea Suites which offer panoramic views. The Yacht Club cabins and suites are located on the 15th and 16th floors and promise a level of exclusivity to passengers with its “ship-within-a-ship” concept. Those in the Yacht Club Suites have a private lounge with a buffet service, a swimming pool and a sundeck. All cabins have interactive flat-screen TV and Internet connectivity.

Yacht Club Suite

Those booked in suites obtain added benefits such as the concierge service, a Nintendo Wii with a library of games, an enormous marble bathroom with luxury toiletries and a complimentary mini-bar.

DINING

The MSC Divina contains several speciality restaurants including the Tex Mex restaurant. The main dining areas on the ship are The Black Crab and Villa Rossa. Both restaurants contain exactly the same menus and consist of five courses for dinner.

Two extensive buffets, the Manitou and Calumet contain everything from international dishes to hamburgers and hot dogs. In the mornings they serve a continental breakfast.

Divina Calumet Buffet

Other dining areas include the Eataly Steakhouse, well known for their prime cuts of meat, Ristorante Italia which has a large amount of dishes from Tuscany and for those that want something different than pasta, La Cantina di Bacco, is a casual restaurant that offers tapas and a good range of pizza options. If you wish to eat in, there is also room service and a pizza delivery.

The Eataly Steakhouse

THINGS TO DO

Those that are used to traditional shows will be surprised at the extravagance on Divina with its thrilling acrobatic and contortionism in its pirate themed shows and operas. Located in the neon and crystal decorated Pantheon Theatre, these shows are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Those that want to try to sing like a star should try out the karaoke at the Golden Jazz Bar. The Sports Bar located next door offers the latest up to date news on all major sports and has a lot of snack food to enjoy while you are there.

Divina Sports Bar

MSC Divina offers many opportunities for the sports minded. There is a basketball court, football and volleyball facilities and exercise equipment in the fitness centre. There is also yoga and zumba classes offered that are sure to give the body a good workout.

Of course, don’t forget the various pools, all of which are a great place to cool down and relax. The main pool is the Garden Pool which is adults only and contains a more casual atmosphere. The bar nearby provides perfect refreshments.

Divina garden pool

Unique family fun can be found with the Formula 1 Simulator and the 4D Cinema, both of which offer a way to escape from reality and immerse in a private world.

For pure relaxation, head to the Spa which covers an area of over 20,000 square feet. The large number of treatments on their menu range from simple massages to Shiatsu.

ITINERARIES

The MSC Divina is gearing up for her ‘Grand Voyage’ and is returning back to Europe. She will be departing from Miami on the 26th of April for a 20 night sailing. Ports of call include King’s Wharf in Bermuda, a 2-day stop in New York, Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Lisbon, Cadiz (Seville), Barcelona, Naples before finishing up on the 16th of May in Civitavecchia (Rome).

A shorter segment of 17 nights is also available. The Divina will then be doing seven night itineraries throughout the Mediterranean until Oct 24, 2015, when she heads west towards the Caribbean on another Grand Voyage of 18 nights.

Images courtesy of MSC Cruises

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They don’t get much better than these!
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Take a look at some of the best suites at sea that are consistently on the ‘best of’ lists. These fantastic examples will rival many hotels and even some apartments back at home. The prices for cruising in a suite can soar when compared to the traditional verandah cabin. However, all cruise lines do have sales periodically and you may be able to get one of these beauties at a reduced price.

These five below are a sample of the most luxurious cruise ship suites at sea. With all the amenities, space and with an ever changing view, isn’t it time to book into a suite on your next adventure?

Crystal Serenity: Penthouse Suite with Verandah

Totalling 538 square feet, the luxurious Penthouse with Verandah is an elegant suite including a living area and a separate sleeping alcove. Within it is a queen sized bed with a vanity and picture window. The decor is set in an attractive and soft cream shade. Entertainment consists of a Blu-Ray player and a flat-screen TV.

A large private veranda offers those precious times to unwind and be totally seduced by the glistening waters below. Complimentary wine plus a choice of liquor from the set menu upon embarkation is included in the price. A butler is also on call for you during your stay.

Crystal Serenity Penthouse Suite

Paul Gauguin: Grand Suite

No one would ever be unimpressed by the 332 square feet of space in the Grand Suite. The ship and its staterooms are designed to impress. The suites are designed in an attractive contemporary style. Like its artist namesake, the decor attuned to his palettes used in his paintings of South Pacific amongst wood furnishings.

An enormous wraparound verandah totalling 197 square feet adds to that open concept space. Butler service is complimentary with the suite. The Grand Suite can accommodate four passengers with extra fold out beds available, as well as a bathroom complete with a shower, toilet and bathrobes, slippers and other amenities.

Paul Gauguin: Grand Suite

Regent Navigator: Master Suite

What sets the Regent Seven Seas Navigator’s Master Suite apart is the huge amount of space. With 1,067 square feet combined with the teak-wood, 106 square feet verandah makes it easy to call this suite your country home. The splendid interior is contemporary in design and makes good use of teak.

The colours are soft and comforting beiges and rich browns. There is a separate dining area for that special meal and the refrigerator is stocked with some alcoholic beverages and soft drinks The bedroom with two twin beds will convert to a king size if required. There’s a marble equipped bathroom with a bath, separate shower and many high end amenities. The Navigator’s Master Suite includes butler service for added convenience.

Regent Navigator Master Suite

Silver Cloud: Owners Suite

Be treated like royalty whilst enjoying your stay in the Owners Suite on the Silver Cloud. Following a major renovation two years ago, this classic suite has been refitted with 21st century features such as a mounted large, flat-panel television, ILLY espresso machine and a Bang & Olufsen audio system.

The Owner’s Suite measures an impressive 587 square feet and as you would expect it is elegantly designed. Its expansive verandah is 189 square feet and is accessible from both the main sitting area and bedroom. The suites bedroom has a soft headboard with plush bedding and duvet covers.

The sofa also converts to a comfortable bed for an extra guest. The elegant marble bath is fitted with a rainforest shower that is separate from the bath. Your entire voyage in the Silver Cloud’s Owners Suite includes butler service.

Silver Cloud Owners Suite

Azamara Journey: Club World Owners Suite

After a long day on one of the many shore excursions available, this 560 square foot suite will make you feel like royalty.

The Club World Owners’ Suite includes a 233 sq.foot verandah and is a perfect retreat to reflect on your day. For sleeping, the suite has a master bedroom with two queen sized beds. There is also a fold out bed for another roommate.

Some of the perks include complementary pressing of your clothing items, daily canapés and other foodstuffs being served from 16:00 to 18:00 in the room and a butler service. You will also receive complementary seating in any of the onboard restaurants.

The Club World Owners suite also comes with Egyptian cotton bed linen and duvets, plush terry bathrobes and slippers, freshly cut flowers and binoculars to use on and off the ship.

Azamara Journey Club World Owners Suite

For the ultimate cruising experience, make it a once in lifetime experience. Instead of looking for the cheapest prices, check out the suites instead. Think of it as holidaying at a 5 plus star resort. The one distinction over any hotel room suite is that when you wake up, a different view is offered each day.

Images courtesy of Crystal Cruises, Paul Gauguin, Regent, Silversea & Azamara.

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Should you Book an Inside Cabin?
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RCI Grandeur of the Seas Inside stateroom

The most affordable accommodation type available on most cruise lines is usually the inside cabin. However, it may be not the right choice for everyone and times are certainly changing.

The interior room is a wise choice for a number of reasons.

The most obvious benefit of an inside cabin is that it will save you money that can be spent elsewhere on your holiday.

If there are a lot of activities on the ship or those that are port intensive, then the cabin use would be great for getting changed, showered and heading for a good night’s sleep.

But the inside cabins on the newer ships certainly aren’t like they used to be, many have a considerable amount of space and their own cosy charm. In addition, the standard indoor staterooms share exactly the same amenities as the standard outside cabins. The indoor rooms are also a good choice for passengers who suffer from seasickness as they won’t be able to see the sea!

All the major cruise lines have inside cabins of course, but bear in mind that they do differ from ship to ship. However, they are no longer the bottom-of-the-barrel of cabin choice as they once were.

Here is a sample of interior cabins on four major cruise lines.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney has gone above and beyond with their interior cabins and even more so onboard their Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream ships. Always geared towards families (though plenty of couples have discovered this line) space is pinnacle, along with their bath-and-a-half. Their ‘Deluxe Inside Cabins’ have many superb features such as a convertible sofa.

Disney Dream Inside Stateroom

There is a pull-down upper berth to accommodate extra guests with a curtain that divides the room in half. There’s also an iPod docking station and a virtual porthole, so you would never feel as though you are in the cheapest inside cabin. The virtual faux porthole provides a live scene of the exterior of the ship and will change to Disney characters in animation to entertain the inhabitants of the room.  

Norwegian Cruise Line

The first in the industry, studio cabins onboard the Norwegian Epic and the new Breakaway are made for the single traveller, hence the nickname “solo” cabins. Don’t be fooled that it is made for one as there is plenty of storage space and a king sized bed for true comfort.

Norwegian Epic Studio

All studio cabin passengers have access to the Living Room which is a custom area with a TV, food and drink and comfortable couches to meet and greet fellow singles. Family inside cabins can accommodate up to four passengers in two connecting rooms.

Royal Caribbean International

The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas ship’s interior cabins, which are very large, are unique for the fact that they have an interior facing window that allows passengers to have a stunning view of the Royal Promenade. There are also smaller versions of these cabins on their other ships.

Oasis of the Seas Promenade Cabin

The family cabins on the Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas are great for a large group. The spacious staterooms can hold up to six people and the Oasis class cabins have an entire bunk room for the children.

The latest innovation from Royal Caribbean is the new Quantum of the Seas inside cabin. The Smart Ship plans to have virtual balconies which are created via 80 inch LED screens attached to a wall.

Quantum of the Seas Inside Cabin

Holland America

Undeniably the standout of inside cabins at sea, Holland America offers standard and larger interior staterooms which offer more than ample space. Depending on the ship, you will never notice that there’s no window.

Holland America Inside Cabin

All rooms are decorated tastefully too with an attractive blue and yellow colour combination that is pleasing to the senses. The larger insides cabins can sleep up to four and the stateroom amenities include the Elemis spa products, as well bathrobes and a shoe shine service.

The next generation of inside cabins certainly proves that saving money on a cruise holiday will no longer mean scrimping on the quality of the cabin.

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