Monday, March 31, 2014

The Specialty Restaurants Aboard Quantum of the Seas

Today’s cruisers want more than a voyage that takes them from port to port, regardless of how inspiring the itinerary is. They want a vacation experience that will also take them on an epicurean journey…one that will provide opportunities to discover and experience new and diverse cuisines!  Royal Caribbean has met that challenge on the Quantum of the Seas by showcasing distinct 18 culinary concepts, representing cultures from around the country and around the globe. We’ve already talked about the concept of Dynamic Dining and the many complimentary choices it offers guests.  However, Quantum of the Seas also allows guests the opportunity to dine at seven additional restaurants, all presenting irresistible fare in intimate settings, well worth the surcharge.

If you’ve ever even half tuned into the Food Network or any of the morning show cooking segments, Jamie Oliver is a name that you are no doubt familiar with.  What you may not know is that this British chef and restaurateur is passionate about Italian cuisine!  In fact, there are over thirty Jamie’s Italian restaurants worldwide, with the newest opening on the Quantum of the Seas! The menu exemplifies a modern interpretation of home-style rustic dishes with bold and simple flavor. Handmade pastas and risottos are made fresh onsite every day. Jamie’s Italian is open for lunch ($15pp) and dinner ($25 pp).

James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz isn’t new to life on the high sea. In the past he has created menus for 150 Central Park onboard Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. His new gastropub, (yes, that’s a real word meaning a watering hole that serves high quality food…seems they’re all the rage in big cities across the country) on the Quantum of the Seas is aptly called Michael’s Genuine Pub. Stop in for munchies washed down with the homegrown craft beer on tap or in the bottle, such as Michael’s Genuine Home Brew. Pricing is a la carte.

I always felt the Solarium Bistro was a little-known gem of a place onboard Royal Caribbean ships, however it looks like it won’t remain much of a secret any longer! Now under the direction of celebrity chef Devin Alexander, Devinly Decadence at Solarium Bistro offers healthy breakfast (no charge), lunch ($10 pp) and dinner ($20 pp) options with an emphasis on freshness and lite cuisine. Devin’s philosophy on food is that you don’t have to deprive yourself of your favorite foods to be fit and healthy.  She demonstrates that way of thinking with a menu of scrumptious 100 calorie snacks and delicious meals under 500 calories. I like that!

Wonderland is just what it sounds like – a place of wonders, and of the strange and curious! The restaurant is surreal and whimsical…you might even say a bit “mad”!  Royal Caribbean calls the cuisine the “new post modern style of cooking”, but I call it cooking ingenuity! There are no courses to order.  Instead, the progressive menu is segmented into elements… wind, sea, ice, earth, fire, and dreams! This is indeed an unusual dining adventure ($45 pp) in which guests are presented with different textures, tastes, and arrangement s that delight all the senses at once.

If you are in the mood for great Japanese food Izumi has got you covered.  This restaurant features the finest Japanese dishes, both traditional and contemporary, including a wonderful selection of the freshest sushi, special rolls, the hot rock grill, and more. Hot Rock cooking is just as it sounds: a rock, heated for several hours in a hot oven. The waiter brings the hot rock grill and fish, meat and veggies of your choice to your table, so you can cook your own meal to your preferred level of doneness. Izumi is a fun way to dine on delectable Asian cuisine and is open for lunch and dinner with a la carte pricing.

I’m glad to see that Chops Grille will be included on Quantum-class ships. It will showcase a more contemporary décor and menu, with the pièce de résistance being the dry-aged steaks! Have you heard people talk about dry-aged beef and wonder what the buzz is all about? Dry-aging beef gives it a remarkable depth of flavor as well as tenderness.  Because of the high price and the space necessary to age meat, dry-aged beef is only served in the most trend-setting, expensive restaurants.  However, now it can be enjoyed at dinner ($35pp) on Quantum of the Seas. 

 Within Chops Grille is a private area reserved for the Chef’s Table ($89 pp).  This intimate dining experience is limited to sixteen guests. The five-course chef’s selection is the only option and the only one you'd want, as each expertly prepared course is more beautiful, flavorful and artistically presented than the next. The meal includes wines which are expertly paired by the sommelier.   To celebrate a special occasion, or create one, a reservation at the Chef’s Table is a must!

I’d be quite surprised if your mouth wasn't watering as you read through the options for specialty dining that will be available on Quantum of the Seas. Add to that the five complimentary full-service restaurants and the many casual dining options and you are certainly on your way to an epicurean journey aboard Royal Caribbean’s newest ship!"

Friday, March 28, 2014

Dynamic Dining Aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas

If you have never cruised before you might equate dining aboard a cruise ship to be one enormous buffet restaurant serving sub par cuisine to the masses that line up throughout the day.  Passengers fill multiple dishes with a little bit of everything, then head off to search endlessly for an empty table, tray in hand. The experience culminates each evening when the extravaganza of the midnight buffet is presented, including intricate ice sculptures and decadent chocolate desserts!

However, if you’ve cruised in the past few years, you know nothing can be further from the truth!  Cruise line dining has come a long way, baby! Today’s cruise passenger is looking for an upscale resort style vacation that must include sophisticated dining options.  Freshly prepared meals made from the finest ingredients, breads and pastas made daily, meats cooked to order, innovative menus, a certain level of service, as well as intimate dining venues with ambiance and style. Does such an experience really exist? It certainly does! Let me tell you about Dynamic Dining aboard the soon to sail Quantum of the Seas!

Choices, choices, choices…that about sums it up!  The Quantum of the Seas offers guests a total of 18 different dining options, from the grab-and-go to a leisurely, formal fine dining affair. Choose to dine where you want, when you want, with whom you want!  The main dining room has been replaced with five smaller restaurants, all complimentary, with none seating more than 435 guests. Here’s a summary:

If you were to drive from N.Y. to California and stopped to sample the cuisine that certain U.S. cities are known for, you would have a good idea of what to expect from the American Icon Grill.  Maine lobsters, Southern fried chicken, and New Orleans’ gumbo are just some of the selections available.

The contemporary cuisine of Chic approaches ingredients with the utmost respectEclectic blends of flavor redefine both meat and fish dishes. Here you’ll find the first dry-aged steaks at sea, mint crusted lamb chops and Mediterranean sea bass with turnips and wild fennel dressing.

The pan-Asian cuisine of Silk spans much of southern Asia. It’s basically ""Fusion"" cooking, bringing together ingredients & flavors from each ethnic group it encompasses… Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese and Japanese.

For those that love the “dressing up” opportunity that cruising has always offered, an evening at The Grande is something you won’t want to miss.  This is the most elegant restaurant aboard the Quantum of the Seas and every night here is formal night. The menu features timeless classics such as chateaubriand, sole almondine, and rack of lamb.

The last of the complimentary dining rooms, the Coastal Kitchen, is reserved for suite guests. The menu fuses the flavors and cooking styles of the Mediterranean with contemporary California cuisine.  Lots of fresh healthy options here including a selection of flatbreads.

There are six complimentary casual restaurants onboard Quantum of the Sea, many of which will be familiar to the Royal Caribbean cruiser.  The Windjammer Marketplace, a Royal Caribbean mainstay, is back with some modifications.  The set-up will feature food islands of international fare as well as more stations cooking to order.  One station will remain open 24 hours a day for those of you that get a case of the munchies after the midnight hour! Sorrento’s, featuring the yummiest pizza at sea, and the Café Promenade, everyone’s favorite spot for a warm, soft chocolate chip cookie, returns by popular demand. Johnny Rockets moves poolside, a convenient spot to grab a quick lunch without having to give up a minute of sunshine. The Seaplex Dog House, the only food truck at sea, will serve hot dogs and such.  It’s situated close to the action of the Seaplex area and that’s a good thing, because you’re sure to work up an appetite roller-skating, shooting hoops or bumper car racing!  Lastly, Café @ Two70, a gourmet marketplace, lets you grab a quick bite and packs it up for you picnic style! Soups, salads, sandwiches and more are served.  Dine there or anywhere!

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?  Are you WOWED yet?  But wait, I still haven’t told you about the seven specialty restaurants that you’ll find on the Quantum of the Seas!  For that you’ll need to stay tuned for our next installment!"

Monday, March 24, 2014

Celebrity Constellation’s “Journey to Three Continents”

Cruising aficionados know that there is no better way to explore the world than on a lavish vessel sailing the seven seas.  However, sometimes the very nature of cruising puts restraints on where a ship can logistically take you, unless of course a land tour accompanies the cruise. That being said, one of the most exciting land - sea adventure I have ever seen offered is Celebrity Cruise Line’s “Journey to Three Continents – African Safari, Turkey, and the Black Sea!”

Yes, you read that correctly…an African Safari!  This once in a lifetime expedition will be offered in conjunction with sailings onboard the Celebrity Constellation.  Journeys are scheduled to depart on September 13, September 28 and October 7, 2014. Land accommodations in Africa are at four or five star hotels and game reserve lodges, and include most meals.

The five-night Africa pre-cruise journey includes two nights in Nairobi with a visit to the Karen Blixen Museum and Giraffe Center.  If you are wondering why that name sounds familiar, Karen Blixen was the author of “Out of Africa”, and lived in this house, now museum, on the outskirts of Nairobi from 1914 to 1931 where she ran a coffee plantation on the site.  The conservation and educational work carried out at the Giraffe Center is exceptional, particularly their efforts regarding poaching and conservation. The giraffe center gives a completely up close and personal interaction with the endangered Rothschild Giraffe, where guests have the opportunity to view the majestic animals as well as feed them.

Then it’s off to Lake Nakuru National Park, located in the Rift Valley of Central Kenya.  The park is legendary for the diversity of the bird life that inhabits the region, with the brightly feathered flamingos taking center stage. The black rhinoceros and white rhinoceros are a major attraction of the area but lions, zebras, buffalo, gazelles, warthogs, baboons, and monkeys also dwell in the area.

Say “African Safari” to anyone and the first thing to come to mind is Africa’s “big five”… elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions and buffalo. That’s why the “Journey to Three Continents” itinerary spends two nights at the Masai Mara National Reserve.  There have been some 95 species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles and over 400 birds species recorded on this reserve. Nowhere in Africa is wildlife more abundant, and a visitor certainly has a good chance of coming home with photographs of the “big five”! Other game includes hippopotami, cheetah, gazelle, impala, topi, giraffe, antelope, wildebeest and the nocturnal bat-eared fox.

After the completion of the African Safari portion of the trip, guests are flown to Istanbul, the only city in the world that actually straddles two continents, Europe and Asia.  Here guests will board the beautiful Celebrity Constellation for a cruise through the Black Sea.

Cruising with Celebrity Cruise Line allows travelers to experience exciting itineraries taking in exotic ports of call, with the advantage of returning each day to luxurious accommodations, award winning cuisine, top-notch entertainment and impeccable service.  Take an exceptional Celebrity cruise and add something as unique as a pre-cruise African Safari, and you have a once in a lifetime adventure!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Exclusive Dining Room For Celebrity Suite Guests

We’re beginning to see it more and more; exclusive perks and amenities for cruise line passengers that are booked in the most elite accommodations onboard, the suites.  Priority check-ins, VIP lounges, concierge services, upgraded linens… amenities vary depending on the cruise line.  And why not?  For the amount of money these guests are paying, shouldn’t they be entitled to more than just increased square footage?

Celebrity Cruise Line has recently announced several upgrades to the suite experience aboard their fleet of ships. The latest addition is a dedicated private dining area reserved exclusively for these guests.  This new dining venue, available on every Celebrity ship, will be located within the main dining room but will have a separate entrance. The new suite “dining room” will have a dedicated chef and a menu featuring dishes not available anywhere else on board. It should be noted that suite guests would also have dining privileges at all specialty restaurants on the ship.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Toss the Bouquet and Sail Away…on a Honeymoon Cruise!

A honeymoon, without a doubt, is the most important trip you will ever plan.  It goes without saying that it must be magically romantic; a place where every wish is granted! It should give you the opportunity to spend quality time absorbed only in each other, offering as much, or as little to do as you desire. A honeymoon should take you someplace beautiful, maybe even exotic! And on the sensible side, it should be affordable, (yes, I realize it can be hard think in terms of practicality when pondering your honeymoon).  For all this and more, a cruise is the perfect honeymoon vacation!

Romance and the sea have always gone together. Imagine beginning the day sipping mimosas with breakfast on your private balcony. Lazy sea days can be spent lounging by the pool doing nothing more than soaking in the sun and breathing the fresh salt air. Maybe you’ll try a couple’s massage with perfumed oils, followed by a leisurely soak in a bathtub large enough for two. Pre-dinner drinks on the deck at sunset hold the promises of the evening ahead.  Gourmet dinners at a quiet little table in the corner and dancing under the stars…you begin to understand why it’s called a “love boat”.

If your dream honeymoon is full of palm tree dotted islands with soft white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters, then a Caribbean cruise is for you! Barbados, Martinique, Jamaica, Tortola…the names alone conjure up feelings of relaxation and images of paradise!   Frolic in the sea or take a long walk on the beach planning your future together. Be sure to leave some time for the bargains found while shopping in the duty free shops!

Or maybe your perfect honeymoon immerses you in the romance of the Old World. On a Mediterranean cruise you can take a gondola ride through the canals of Venice, share secrets over a bottle of wine at a café on the cliffs of Positano, or stroll hand in hand through the winding, narrow cobblestone streets of Eze.  Art, culture, history…it can all be found in the cruise ports of Europe and the Mediterranean!

Are you seeking an adventure filled honeymoon? Cruise to Hawaii, the quintessential honeymoon destination, for days filled with snorkeling, diving, fishing, and kayaking. Take in the beauty of the islands while hiking through lush green forests with rushing waterfalls thundering downward into sparkling freshwater pools. From the spiritual beauty of the hula to the primeval power of an active volcano, Hawaii is a cultural experience like no other.

Planning a wedding means paying the caterer, the florist, the musicians, the photographer, the limos, the dress, the tuxes…thank goodness cruising is so affordable!  There is a cruise line and cruise itinerary to fit every budget. In addition, the all-inclusive nature of a cruise means you know going into it what you’re spending. Accommodations, meals, and entertainment are all included in the price of your cruise. You can’t beat that kind of value for your money!

Are you looking for a honeymoon filled with romance, luxury, adventure, or a picture perfect destination?  Maybe it’s all of the above! Every couple will imagine something different when planning their perfect honeymoon.  Whatever that is, you will find it in a honeymoon cruise!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Direct Line Cruises Launches Its Loyalty Club

It’s been in the works for a while, but now it’s finally here! The DLC Loyalty Club has launched and we want you as an inaugural member! Its another way for us to say “Thank You” for your loyalty and for the trust you place in us when you allow us to assist in the planning of your cruise vacation.
 We are thrilled to announce that for a limited time, Celebrity Cruises is the exclusive sponsor of the DLC Loyalty Club! Only Celebrity lets you cruise in Modern Luxury! Experience beautiful ships that pair warm spaces with cool designs, distinctive dining experiences, and of course, amazing service that will exceed your expectations!

The DLC Loyalty Club rewards cruisers with points based on the total stateroom cruise fare excluding taxes, fees and other charges. New clients immediately begin accruing points with the first cruise they reserve with Direct Line Cruises!

But wait, because there’s more to tell you!  Book a Celebrity cruise with Direct Line Cruises now through April 15, 2014 and Celebrity will DOUBLE the loyalty points you would normally receive!  For example, if you book a $2,500 cruise you would normally receive 300 loyalty points.  However, during this limited time promotion, you would instead receive 600 loyalty points!  Even better, 50% of those points can be used immediately for that upcoming Celebrity cruise!

For those of you that have cruised with us before, bookings made between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2012 will be grandfathered into our Loyalty Club and receive 100 free points for every valid cruise! Wow, that’s quite a bankroll of points for many of you!

In addition, everyone can begin earning bonus points by referring their friends and family members to Direct Line Cruises. One hundred points are awarded for every new client that has not previously booked with Direct Line Cruises, with no limit to the amount of referral points that can be earned. That can certainly add up quickly!

You have total control over how and when to redeem the points you’ve earned in the DLC Loyalty Club. Exchange your points for the rewards that are most valuable to you! Points can be redeemed for onboard credits (up to $500 worth!), specialty dining, wine, gift shop items, discounts off shore excursions, plus much, much more. A mere one hundred reward points is all that is needed to begin enhancing your cruise experience. Best of all, rewards do not have blackout dates, restrictions, nor do they expire!

As a member, you can view your personal account at any time by logging into the Direct Line Cruises website. There, you may check your cruise history, current available points, browse loyalty gift selections or redeem points. DLC Loyalty Club members will receive a periodic newsletter of insider’s cruise news and special offers. In addition, you will have access to special cruise deals not available to the general public!

We hope that you’re as excited about the new DLC Loyalty Club as we are! Membership is free, so be sure to enroll today at