Sunday, August 23, 2015

Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone Brings a Restaurant to Princess Cruises

It seems like every cruise line wants to be affiliated with a celebrity chef these days so it certainly wasn’t surprising to see Princess Cruises jumping on the bandwagon. The cruise line has launched an exclusive partnership with Australian celebrity chef, restaurateur, New York Times best-selling author and television personality Curtis Stone. Chef Stone is probably best known as the co-host of Bravo's Top Chef Masters and Around the World in 80 Plates.

The effects of the partnership will be noticed across several dining venues: “Crafted by Curtis” menu items in the main dining room; a new specialty restaurant concept and menu; and a Chef's Table by Curtis Stone.

“Crafted by Curtis” menu items offered in the main dining rooms will debut in October 2015. Guests sailing onboard any of Princess Cruises’ 18 ships will have the opportunity to savor fresh new cuisine designed by Chef Stone every day in the Main Dining Room. Personal reflections by Chef Stone will also accent each “Crafted” selection.

 A new restaurant, “Share,” will be available on select Princess  ships. Chef Stone's exquisite menu offers various courses including gourmet salads, handmade pastas, premium quality meat and seafood fresh off the grill, an array of decadent desserts and more! The new eatery will offer family-style dining and feature a communal table as well as decorative curios from Stone's personal collection including photographs and travel souvenirs. A surcharge will apply in the new restaurant, but the price hasn't been determined as of yet.

I’m a big fan of a Chef Table dining so I was glad to see Curtis Stone overseeing this type of experience. Chef's Table by Curtis Stone will be introduced on select Princess ships beginning in January of 2016. This unique and intimate experience designed by Chef Stone, will include an enriching galley tour featuring Champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Guests will then be lead through the dining room to a special multi-course meal prepared by the Executive Chef onboard.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Experience Authentic Culture With Azamara Club Cruises

Cruising the world is always an amazing experience. Exploring exotic cities and towns, visiting museums, cathedrals or other worthy sites, and snapping lots photos to share with friends and family! But what if you want more? What if you want to delve deeper?

Azamara Club Cruises has the answer. The first program worth mentioning is called “Insider Access”. These are land excursions that travel to private homes, farms, villas, and more giving guests the opportunity to meet new people, experience authentic culture, and learning about a place’s history, and traditions.These excursions are designed to take a group of 8 to 10 people and   give them a glimpse into the lives of the local people in that destination. For example, for those interested in seeing the inside of a private historical home in the Netherlands, Insider Access invites guests to share coffee and fresh baked apple pie with a local family in its 16th-century house. Imagine chatting with the owner about the homes distinctive decorative elements, such as a painted ceiling and rare delft-blue tiles! Afterwards stretch your legs with a guided walking tour of Edam, a charming small town famous for the cheese that bears its name.

Another wonderfully immersive experience is Azamara’s “Cruise Global, Eat Local” program. Guests have a chance to dine in some of the most authentic local restaurants while in ports of call across the globe. These are the places where the locals go to eat, so isn’t that the kind of place where you want to go? I know when I eat out in a foreign city I don’t want to be handed the tourist menu!

There are three ways to enjoy this dining experience. Guests can pair lunch with a half-day excursion and travel with a small group thereby enjoying the camaraderie of fellow passengers.   For guests that don’t want to dine with fellow cruisers but are concerned about transportation to the restaurant, Azamara will arrange private transportation to and from the restaurant. Or lastly, for the independent traveler, Azamara will help the guest choose an authentic local restaurant.

If this is the way you want to cruise, to experience what few travelers do, then Azamara Club Cruises may be the cruise line for you. Each and every itinerary offers distinct destination-immersive experiences for the discerning traveler.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Cruising And Overnight Port Stays

Cruise itineraries that stay overnight in port are not all that common. Generally that sort of itinerary is more commonly found on European itineraries and among luxury cruise lines.

A Bermuda cruise has always been an exception with most itineraries giving guests a minimum of one overnight, but more often two and sometimes three! For Caribbean ports of call, overnight stays on mainstream cruise lines are almost unheard of! However, last week Celebrity Cruises announced that many of their 2016 Caribbean cruises will include an overnight stay, more than any cruise line in the industry.

Personally, I love the idea of staying overnight in port. I enjoyed it in Bermuda and the multiple overnight stays were the reason I chose the Celebrity Silhouette’s Baltic itinerary, which I recently returned from. I like knowing that at least on one day, I don’t have to be mindful of boarding time. I can take all-day tours, wander museums or city streets at a relaxed pace, and meander into shop after shop. Cities and towns can have a very different feel after the sun goes down and the day-trippers disappear and I love being a part of that!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Cruising to Copenhagen and Christiania, Denmark

Copenhagen was a port of call on my recent Baltic cruise aboard the Celebrity Silhouette. Of course I had a list of things to do and places to see.  The Little Mermaid statue, Tivoli Gardens, Amalienborg Palace, a stroll through Nyhavn, some window shopping along the Strøget, and of course a castle or two were all a part of my 2-day itinerary. Then someone suggest we explore Christiania, and I said huh?

Christiania, as I discovered, is an autonomous “free town” within Copenhagen.  Sort of what I would describe as a hippie commune! In 1971 an abandoned military area in the Christianshavn district of the city was taken over by squatters. They claimed the area as a free city, free of taxes and run by their own laws. Christiania is actually governed by consensus democracy, which means that decisions are made based on the common agreement of all residents.  A wall covered in graffiti acts as a barrier between the rest of Denmark and Christiana. To enter it you pass under a sign that reads, “You Are Now Leaving the European Union.”  

Today, some 40 something years after its inception, Christiania is a lively, yet gritty community with about 1000 residents, some of them third generation.  “Pusher Street,” the main street of Christiania, is the biggest hash market in the world! Some 40 shops, most just tent-like structures, are open 24/7, selling 30 to 40 different brands of hashish (cocaine and heroin are banned in the town). And although cannabis is officially illegal in Denmark it has been tolerated and sold openly in Christiania.

I walked down Pusher Street (feeling a bit uncomfortable, but with no fear for my safety) and through the residential areas observing the odd looking dwellings made of recycled materials, bars, cafés, grocery shops, schools, art galleries, a recycling center and a lovely park. Bright, colorful murals were painted everywhere and on anything. Plenty of resident kids were doing what kids do everywhere…running, laughing, playing, and biking, oblivious to the commerce just blocks away.

Christiania is a strange, but very interesting place, and definitely worth a visit.  It was actually embarrassing for me to discover that it is the second most popular tourist site in Copenhagen, after Tivoli Gardens, yet I never even heard of it! Sometimes I feel I live in my own bubble…which is why I love to see, to experience and to learn.