Sherry Kennedy

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Viking Star Review – Inside Peek at My Stateroom

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Viking Star review

Looking back at the Viking Star, anchored in the Mediterranean, as we headed to port.

How about a heated bathroom floor? Yes, please.

The difference between upper premium and luxury cruise lines isn’t always easy to distinguish. Viking Ocean’s first ocean cruise ship, the 928 passenger Viking Star, is a case in point. After 12 days of cruising the Mediterranean aboard Viking Star I felt as though I was aboard a stunning new luxury cruise ship.

When Viking Cruises launched the all-veranda Viking Star in mid-2015, the ship was quickly categorized as upper premium by most cruise reviewers.  And I might slightly agree with everyone except for one major, hard-to-overlook feature:  the attention to detail throughout the ship and especially in your stateroom.  You’re in Luxury Land.

Viking Star Review

Eleven reasons why Viking Star has entered the luxury category.

In no particular order, here’s why I think this well-planned attention to detail aboard the Viking Star pushes it from an upper premium cruise ship into luxury territory.

Lighted Mirror and Make-Up Vanity/Desk

Loved this! Viking Star lighted makeup mirror and desk. Another great idea.

Loved this! Viking Star lighted makeup mirror and desk. What a great idea. (Note the included bottled water, too).

Viking Star vanity/desk area with the makeup mirror closed.

Viking Star vanity/desk area with the makeup mirror closed.

Heated Bathroom Floor

My bathroom, there is a matching storage shelf on the opposite side. And that's the amazing heated floor.

My bathroom, there is a matching storage shelf on the opposite side. And there’s the amazing heated floor.

It looks like an ordinary faux wood floor. But turn on the light for the bathroom, wait a few minutes and presto – cozy warmed floor. Especially welcome on cool weather itineraries.

Bathroom storage for all.

It’s rare to find ample bathroom storage for two people, especially if two women are traveling together. Usually you end up cramming all of your stuff on one or two small shelves with no unobstructed under-cabinet option. On this ship there is the equivalent of twin bathroom storage so no fighting about who gets to put their stuff where and on which shelves.

Discreet Night Light

Tired of leaving the bathroom light on all night or packing your own nightlight? The Viking Star has a dim, low-level night light in your room’s foyer that subtly illuminates the path to the bathroom. You’ll find the control switch at both sides of the bed. If you want pitch darkness for sleeping, simply flick the switch as needed for any middle of the night bathroom breaks.

Nightstand Electric Outlets

Charge your phone and still have it by your bedside. Brilliant!

Charge your phone and still have it by your bedside. Brilliant!

Wouldn’t it be nice to keep your phone at your bedside (think alarm clock) and have it charge at the same time? Most cruise ships have two or three 110/120 outlets near the desk area but none next to your bed. Located at box spring level at both sides of the bed is an electric outlet. Nice, simple touch.

Extra USB Chargers

Simple solution to a decade’s old problem: How to charge multiple computer devices at the same time. If you’ve even been on a river cruise, you might be familiar with the audio device that you wear around your neck on shore excursions to hear your tour guide. The new Quiet Vox charging stands have two USB ports right on them.

There’s a chair in my shower.

It’s not quite a chair, but it’s a handy ledge, perfect for sitting, shaving legs and placing all of your bath products. No more having to crowd your own shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, face wash and shaving cream on the metal wire basket next to the shower bar.

Every stateroom has a doorbell, don’t it…

Breakfast room service is one of the joys of cruising. But to hear the delivery person knock on your neighbor’s stateroom door at 7am and announce at the top of their lungs, “Room Service” can be annoying not to mention startling, especially when it’s at your door..

Usually found only on upper level suites across the cruise spectrum, every stateroom door on the Viking Star has a pleasant-sounding doorbell.

Room service on disembarkation day.

Viking Star breakfast room service, even on departure day.

Viking Star breakfast room service, even on departure day.

Not only can you stay in your room until 9AM on the morning of departure, you can also order a full breakfast with room service.

Come out of the closet.

Yes, real hangers. Not those awkward to use kind that prevent guests from stealing hangers.

Yes, real hangers. Not those awkward-to-use hangers fixed on the rod to prevent guests from stealing them.

Real hangers. Viking Star has a closet full of wooden hangers that you can actually remove from the closet rod. Not just the wooden part with a protruding spoke, but the whole deal, wooden hanger, hook and all.

For me, luxury extends beyond fine dining, exceptional service and an extensive pillow menu (which Viking Star also offers.) It’s also the consideration to details that gives me reason to to believe that Viking Star is has raised the bar on upper-premium cruising.

For more info:  Viking Star cruise ship

Disclosure:  I was a guest of Viking, though in no way was I under any obligation to write a favorable Viking Star review or commentary.  This article would have been just as positive if I had bought my own ticket.  All opinions are my own.

MSC Cruises World Cruise for 2020

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MSC Cruises World Cruise for 2020

The MSC Cruises world cruise for 2020 was just announced, setting sail in 2020 on board MSC Magnifica. Reservations begin November 23.   It’s a 116-night sailing, calling at unique destinations including Peru, Papua New Guinea, Bali and India.

The 2020 MSC World Cruise features an itinerary that includes more exotic, bucket-list destinations.  There will be 43 ports of call encompassing 23 countries and four different embarkation ports.

Guests can board the ship in  Civitavecchia/Rome, Genoa, Marseille and Barcelona on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th of January 2020.  The Magnifica’s three-month voyage will visit some of the world’s most interesting and popular destinations. Eight destinations will include an overnight stay in port, allowing up to two days to experience the local attractions, cuisine and unique atmosphere.

The 43 ports of call for the 2020 MSC World Cruise include many first-time visits plus exotic destinations.  Some of the more intriguing ports include:

  • Ushuaia, Argentina – As the most southern city in the world, this Argentinian fishing village offers stunning water scenery with often snow-topped mountains.
  • Rapa Nui / Easter Island – This island is famed globally for its unique collection of carved-stone figurines dating back to the 13th century.
  • Darwin, Australia – Located at the northern tip of the country, the region allows guest to experience the true Australia – beaches, lagoons, sports and local wildlife, all within close proximity.
  • Valparaiso, Chile – This city is famed for its small colored houses on its coastal hills, and guests can get a spectacular view out into the Pacific or explore the city, searching for its photo-worthy murals.
  • Mumbai/Bombay, India – The bustling city of Mumbai (previously called Bombay) offers smells, tastes and sights around every corner.
  • Salalah, Oman – With multiple waterfalls, exotic lush flora and unusual animals, this stop will be hard to forget.

Sample shore excursions

In Isle of Pines, New Caledonia, guests can visit ‘Turtle Bay’ where participants can swim up-close and personal with two different breeds of turtles.

In Aqaba, Petra, visitors can explore the ancient city of Petra in the middle of the Jordanian desert and traverse the narrow cut-through ravine revealing the famous rose-red rock carved temple.

In Port Kelang, Kuala Lumpur, travelers can reach the peak of one of the world’s most famous (and tallest) skyscrapers at the top of the Kuala Lumpur Tower.

Read about MSC Cruises new onboard safety technology

Guests on the World Cruise will also receive:

  • Complimentary Mealtime Restaurant Drinks Package, which includes unlimited wine, mineral water, draft beer, sodas and fruit juices during lunch and dinner in the main dining room and buffet.
  • A 30% discount on all laundry services
  • More than 90 shows performed in the ship’s Royal Theatre, including 30 Broadway-style shows and a wide range of live music, including acts inspired by the itinerary
  • A comprehensive activity schedule with theme evenings, language classes, cultural guest speakers and much more

To reserve your cruise

A special one-month booking window is set up for MSC Voyagers Club members to choose their stateroom. MSC Cruises will also credit triple membership points at the time of booking. MSC Voyagers Club members will also receive 15 complimentary shore excursions.

Guests who are not already an MSC Voyagers Club member, but do have a loyalty card or status from another leading travel reward program, can join the MSC Voyagers Club at a similar or higher level thanks to MSC Status Match.

Cunard Alaska Cruises Aboard Queen Elizabeth in 2019

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Just announced, Cunard Alaska cruises will take place in mid-spring in 2019.  Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth will set out on a series of Alaska cruises, that begins when Queen Elizabeth sails from Japan to Alaska and then remains in the region through June.

After the Alaska cruises, the ship will cruise down the West Coast of the United States, through the Panama Canal and onto New York, Iceland and the British Isles.

The itineraries

On May 5, 2019, Queen Elizabeth will sail from Tokyo to Vancouver on a 27-night voyage, crossing the International Date Line to the Alaskan port of Kodiak, home to the Alutiiq people for more than 7,000 years. From Kodiak, the cruise heads to Alaska’s capital city of Juneau, passing the pristine Tracy Arm Fjord or Endicott Arm. Next is the quaint town of Skagway and Icy Strait Point followed by Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria and Vancouver. Early fares begin at $4,409 per person.

Cunard Alaska cruises aboard Queen Elizabeth will offer four 10-night roundtrip Vancouver sailings that depart on May 21, 31, June 10 and 20, 2019. Itineraries will cruise through the Inside Passage as well as full days in ports which include Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and the Russian charm of Sitka.  Also included are either Tracy Arm Fjord or Endicott Arm, then Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier and Victoria. Launch fares begin at $1,699 per person.

After the four Alaska cruises, from Vancouver, Queen Elizabeth heads southbound to San Francisco and then Los Angeles that includes an overnight in L.A. for the 4th of July. Fares start at $779 per person for these three- or five-night cruises.

Read More:  How to Get from San Pedro Cruise Port to Amtrak Los Angeles Union Station

You can also book what Cunard calls a full Grand Voyage.  After Vancouver and California, Queen Elizabeth continues through the Panama Canal to Ft. Lauderdale, then New York before crossing the Atlantic to Reykjavik, Dublin, Glasgow and finally, London. Grand Voyages can be booked in segment from 21- to 49-nights with launch fares from $3,479 per person.

One addition you might want to consider pre- or post-cruise is from Vancouver on a Rocky Mountain Rail Land Tour with three or five nights’ accommodation and two full days aboard the train. If you’ve never experienced a Rocky Mountain rail trip, the scenery is spectacular as you pass glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Highlights include the Continental Divide, Kicking Horse Canyon, Spiral Tunnels and the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon.

World Club members can book their cruise beginning October 30, 2017.  Reservations open to the public the next day.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Move to Italy and Get a Little Cash in Your Pocket, Too

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Photo: Francesco del Vecchio / Commune Candela

The small Italian town of Candela, on Italy’s eastern side (think Adriatic Sea) wants to lure new residents to its dwindling population.  Nicola Gatta, mayor of the medieval town in Puglia, is determined to increase its current resident count of 2,700 to its former days of 8,000 and more.

Editor’s Note – Nov 3, 2017:  There is no link to apply to move here.  If you read through this article, you will see my note that no matter how much I tried to find a link, there is NO link anywhere.

The bait?

Mayor Gatta is offering to pay people to relocate to Candela.  While not a huge sum, it’s a way to offset the cost of moving and settling in to a new home.

“I work each day with passion and commitment to bring Candela back to its ancient splendor,” says Gatta. “Up until the 1960s, travelers called it ‘Nap’licchie’ (Little Naples), for it streets full of wayfarers, tourists, merchants and screaming vendors.”

According to Stefano Bascianelli, the mayor’s right-hand man, “This is how it works:  €800 for singles, €1,200 for couples, €1,500 to €1,800 for three-member families, and over €2,000 for families of four to five people”.  An additional incentive may also include tax credits on city waste disposal, bills and nurseries.

Translated to current USD, that’s about $940 for singles, $1,450 for couples, $1,770 to $2,120 for a family of three and over $2,350 for a family of four  to five members.

Freeloaders aren’t welcome.  Rules for new residents to receive the case include: they must take up official residency in Candela, rent a house and have a job which pay at least €7,500 per year.  In US dollars, that’s less than $9,000 per year income.

“We don’t want people flocking here thinking they get to live off the town hall’s revenues, all new residents must work and have an income”, continues Bascianelli.

Candela was once filled with street vendors, tourists, families and merchants.  Today, the population is mostly elderly.  Young people in search of jobs and big city life move elsewhere.

Who’s moved there?

So far, six families from northern Italy have already settled into their new homes and five more families have applied to move.

Try as I might, I cannot find any links to apply. For now, I think that Mayor Gatta’s incentive to move applies mostly to Italians and more easily to Europeans rather than others.

Photos:  Francesco del Vecchio and Annalisa Fred / Commune Candela

New Symphony of the Seas Explained in Another Cute Infographic

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The buzz about Royal Caribbean’s new Symphony of the Seas is turning into a roar.  As the newest Oasis Class ship under construction, when details about the Symphony were released, Royal Caribbean fans were really excited.

Symphony of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship in the world when she is launched in April 2018, for an inaugural season in Europe.

Read about Royal Caribbean’s 2018 Europe cruises

In the entertainment department and back by popular demand, Royal Caribbean’s first Broadway musical at sea – “Hairspray” – will return. “Flight,” a historic satire on the evolution of air travel, will end with homage to the Wright Brothers.

The AquaTheater will feature a new high-diving and acrobatics aqua show, “HiRo”.  A new Studio B ice show is also planned.

Futuristic mobile check-in will eliminate checking in at the traditional counter and its dreaded queues.  The new process will leverage facial-recognition, bar codes, and beacons to make boarding quick and easy.  Guests check in on Royal’s new mobile app and upload their security photo to create their onboard account at home. Upon arriving, guests go through security and head to their cabin, where their key will be waiting.

Rather than bore you to tears with innovation after innovation, (as if!) here’s a fun Symphony of the Seas Infographic that gives you some idea of what to expect when the ship debuts in Spring 2018.

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Symphony of the Seas Infographic

Cruise to St. Maarten and St. Martin – One Island, Two Countries

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on the beach in Philipsburg St MaartenThe very popular port of call on an eastern Caribbean cruise itinerary is the culturally unique island of St. Maarten/Saint Martin.  Half Dutch and half French, this small island of only 37 square miles is dominated by over 300 restaurants, 36 sugar-sand beaches, luxury hotels and resorts and a blending of four languages: Dutch, French, English and Papiamento.

St. Maarten has a history dating back to 550 BC.  Tool and pottery artifacts belonging to the Amerindians have been unearthed at an archaeological dig on the Dutch side.  Even though Columbus landed in St. Maarten in 1493 and claimed the island for Spain, due to the fierce and cannibalistic Caribs, the Spanish never developed the island.  In the early 1600s, the Dutch raised their flag, followed by the French.  Legend has it that a Frenchman and a Dutchman finally settled an argument over territorial rights by pacing off their shares.  The French got the bigger slice, but the Dutch ended up with the more valuable real estate; the Salt Pond and the Harbor.

Downtown Phillipsburg, Dutch St. Maarten

Downtown Phillipsburg, Dutch St. Maarten

If you like to shop, Phillipsburg in Dutch St. Maarten is fabulous for duty-free shopping.  In fact, the prices in St. Maarten are as good if not better than in St. Thomas, long rumored to be the best place to shop for jewelry, cameras and electronics the Caribbean.

Upon disembarking in St. Maarten, you will be pleasantly surprised when you see the new vibrantly colored buildings at the port.  It’s a mini-shopping destination.  The prices at these shops are just as good as in Phillipsburg, the largest city in St. Maarten.

The bustling town of Phillipsburg is worth seeing and the water taxi to get there is right at the pier.  Last time I visited St. Maarten, the water taxi charged $6 per person each way for the quick ride across the harbor.  As it runs every 30 minutes, you can easily gauge your time in town to get you back to your ship before the gangway is raised.

Once in Phillipsburg, there are plenty of dining options all along Front Street; from standard fare to excellent curry and island cuisine.  Of course, Heineken is the Dutch beer of choice and it is locally brewed.

The Water Taxi from the Port of St. Maarten to Phillipsburg

The Water Taxi from the Port of St. Maarten to Phillipsburg

To distinguish their half of the island, the French renamed their side St. Martin.  Marigot is the capital and is the largest town on the island.  Marigot is very charming and very French.  Bistros and cafes line the walkway along the harbor.  Trendy French boutiques with designer clothes are a bit pricier than the island style of dress in St. Maarten.  Less hectic than Phillipsburg, Marigot is a lovely little town to walk around, stop in the art galleries to browse and have a cappuccino along the pier.

St. Martin is known for its beautiful beaches and warm, calm waters.  As many of the beaches are more secluded, they attract visitors in search of quiet relaxation.  The most popular beach is Orient Beach.  Be warned…there are areas of Orient Beach that are clothing optional.  However, no one really seems to care.

Orient Beach, French St. Martin

Orient Beach, French St. Martin

From the port, it’s a 15 minute cab ride to Orient Beach. I have the driver drop me off at the Bikini Beach area at Orient Beach.  It is more family-friendly and there are water toys to rent.  My favorite place is the French open-air, on-the-beach restaurant, Kakao.  You can easily find Kakao as it is located in the area of blue beach umbrellas.  My favorite dish is the steamed mussels in garlic and wine accompanied by a glass of cold, crisp Chardonnay.

Mussels in Garlic Butter at Kakao, Orient Beach

Mussels in Garlic Butter at Kakao, Orient Beach

This place is very popular with Europeans and French is commonly spoken. The seating is on rustic wood benches and the furnishings include artifacts from demolished or sunken yachts. If mussels aren’t your thing, there are other French dishes plus steaks, burgers and pizza.  Kakao is very family-friendly and not as boisterous as Kon Tiki next door.  After lunch, you can cut across the beach to a very small shopping area.  Actually, the shops there are for the benefit of guests who are staying in one of the hundreds of vacation rentals.  The little French grocery store has gorgeous French pastries and a variety of breads and croissants.  A must-do for a really decadent walk-away dessert.

If you’re up for touring, take a taxi to Grand Case on the northwest corner of the island. Known as the Gastronomic Capital, Grand Case is a small fishing village with small wooden pastel-colored houses and over 30 sidewalk cafes, brasseries and bistros lining the main road.  If you’ve brought your beach gear, after lunch you can stretch out and relax on Grand Case Beach.

Heading back to the ship means saying good-bye to a unique and special island. If you are taking a taxi back to the ship, be sure to allow extra time for traffic jams along the way.  And don’t forget to buy a wheel of Gouda cheese.  Yes, you can buy the same cheese at Winn-Dixie and Publix, but the fun is trying to cram a ten-pound wheel of cheese into the mini-fridge in your stateroom!

You’ll be amazed at how different the cultures are within only a 30-minute taxi ride.  As you cross into the French side, you’ll see “Bienvenue en Partie Française” and coming back the border sign greets you with “Welcome to Dutch Sint Maarten, N.A.”  So, the next time you choose a cruise with an eastern Caribbean itinerary, find one that includes St. Maarten.  It’s an island worth visiting again and again.

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Philipsburg St Maarten

American Queen Steamboat Builds Third Boutique Paddle Wheeler

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American Queen Steamboat in New OrleansConstruction for new American Duchess begins soon.

Memphis-based American Queen Steamboat Company announced they’ll begin work for their new American Duchess paddle wheeler.  Scheduled for a June 2017 launch, the new American Duchess will accommodate 166 passengers and be the first purpose-built boutique paddle wheeler sporting the largest suites on the Mississippi river.

The new river ship will be built over the body of an existing casino river boat, the Isle of Capri, that was docked on the Mississippi in Bettendorf, Iowa. The hull and power plant will remain and three new decks will be built, with the iconic “wedding cake” paddle wheeler design.

There will be two dining venues, the Grand Dining Room and the Grill Room, both with open seating.  Dining will feature regionally inspired cuisine similar to that of their signature ship, American Queen.drawing-of-new-aqsc-american-duchess

Ted Sykes, company president and COO, describes their new ship as a boutique, all-suite experience.  The American Duchess will feature a generous space ratio with three 550 sq. ft. Owner’s Suites, four 550 sq. ft. Loft Suites, spacious Veranda Suites and Interior Suites.

America Duchess will sail along the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Paul, Minnesota and include the Mississippi tributaries as well.  An exciting innovation will be the overnight stays in ports like Nashville plus round-trip itineraries from Nashville and New Orleans.

Chicago departures!

Chicago will also be included as a departure point, with guests from the Windy City boarding the American Duchess in Ottawa, Illinois.  Also, those living near Nashville will also have a close boarding opportunity.

When the new American Duchess begins cruising, the ship will join American Queen and American Empress meandering along America’s rivers. American Queen Steamboat Company will then be able to offer two distinct paddle wheelers on the Mississippi River and tributaries.  The American Empress plies the Columbia and Snake Rivers along the Oregon and Washington borders in the Pacific Northwest.

American Duchess and American Queen

MSC Cruises Celebrates Dual Milestones at French Shipyard

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Meravgilia Float outMSC Cruises announces the name of their next ship and floats out another. 

On Friday at the shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, MSC Cruises revealed  the name of its second Meraviglia-class ultramodern mega cruise ship.  The ship was named MSC Bellissima and will begin cruising in Spring 2019.

Also on the same day was the ceremonious float-out for the new MSC Meraviglia, marking the first time the ship actually touches the sea.  Scheduled to launch in June 2017, the MSC Meraviglia marks the beginning of a new class of ship design and build for the cruise line.


In the Yacht Club private lounge.

Among the innovations onboard the MSC Meraviglia will be a speciallt designed Carousel Lounge for Cirque du Soleil performances.  The artistic acrobats will perform shows created exclusively for MSC Cruises guests.

The ship will feature a 315 foot long Mediterranean-style promenade with a 262 foot LED sky that runs through the center of the ship.  Because of the success of MSC Cruises Yacht Club class of staterooms, the MSC Meraviglia will have an enhanced MSC Yacht Club, with its own private facilities spanning three decks.

Avalon Waterways Review

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Avalon Waterways review and river ship on Seine photo Avalon Waterways review and insider tips

Since in 2004, Colorado-based Avalon Waterways cruises some of the world’s most beautiful rivers. Avalon’s 22 river ships cruise the rivers of Europe, Asia, Egypt and Peru. Avalon Waterways also offers cruise tours in the Galapagos Islands.

Geared mostly towards the 55-years and up passenger, Avalon excels on their organized shore excursion tours.  Their ships carry between 36 (in Myanmar) and 140 guests (in Europe) with one of the youngest fleets in the river cruise industry.

The Fleet

Avalon Creativity (2009), Avalon Affinity (2009), Avalon Luminary (2010), Avalon Felicity (2010), Avalon Panorama (2011), Avalon Vista (2012), Avalon Visionary (2012), Avalon Artistry (2013), Avalon Expression (2013), Avalon Impression (2014), Avalon Illumination (2014), Avalon Poetry ll (2014), Avalon Tapestry ll (2015), Avalon Tranquility ll (2015), Avalon Passion (2016), Avalon Imagery (2016).

Avalon Siem Reap (2015) and Avalon Myanmar (2015) in Viet Nam and Cambodia. Century Paragon and Century Legend cruise the Yangtze in China.

Peru-Discovery; Nile-Sonesta; Galapagos Islands-Isabela ll.

Europe Rivers

The cruise line operates a total of 16 ships in Europe cruising the Danube, Main, Rhine and Mosel as well as the Seine, Saône and Rhône rivers in France.

Read more about the rivers in Europe


Avalon Waterways officially joined the Globus Family of Brands in 2008.  The line really began to make a name for itself in 2011 with the launch of the new Avalon Panorama river ship.  This was their first “Suite Ship” built specially for their European river cruises.

What’s a Suite Ship?

It’s Avalon’s innovative river ship design that features cabins with wall-to-wall sliding glass doors. Along with being totally open to fresh air there’s also an unobstructed view of passing scenery. Available as Panorama category cabins, they are located on two of the ship’s three accommodations decks. The sliding glass doors completely open to become what Avalon calls an Open-Air Balcony.

Beds in Panorama suite categories are angled to face the expansive Open-Air Balcony.  Guests may laze in bed and watch the changing scenery. Bathrooms, located on the opposite side of the bed’s wall, take advantage of the angled space to be larger than other river cruise lines’ comparable category bathrooms.


Avalon Waterways is one of the few river cruise lines in Europe to offer room service.  Actually, it’s limited to continental breakfast and there’s a small fee. But the opportunity to awaken with a view of steep sloped vineyards, a steamy cup of morning coffee and a buttery-rich croissant seems irresistible.

There’s also a light breakfast buffet for early and late risers along with the traditional dining room breakfast, both a la carte and buffet.

Lunch is a two-option event. Guests can choose from a full lunch buffet with pasta and carving stations or head to the Sky Bistro on the sun deck for lighter fare.

Dinner in the main dining room is a four-course à la carte experience, featuring regional and local specialties. Alternatively, there’s the Panorama Bistro, located in a sequestered area of the lounge, that serves smaller portions, tapas-style. Complimentary beer and wine flow at lunch and dinner.

As on almost every river cruise in Europe, it’s open seating in the dining room for lunch and dinner. In 2017, Avalon will introduce Avalon Fresh, a new concept to feature new menu items whipped up by award-winning Austrian chef brothers, Karl and Leo Wrenkh.


Public spaces include a reception area, main lounge, library and fitness center. Free wifi is available throughout the ship. There’s also a massage room and beauty salon. On deck 4, there’s a ship-length sun deck equipped with lounge chairs – many of which are shaded, a whirlpool and a walking track.

Theme Cruises

Throughout the year, Avalon offers several themed cruises in Europe. Called “special interest cruises” these unique departures may include Active Discovery, Beer Cruises, Culinary, War History, Jewish Heritage, Opera, Music and Wine.  Participation in theme activities is complimentary.

Insider tips

The Avalon Siem Reap is only ship in the industry to cruise the full length of the Mekong River between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap.

While there is always a choice of complimentary shore excursions in every destination, guests may also choose a fee-based optional shore excursion.

Avalon does not carry its own bicycles onboard. However, they have arranged for complimentary use of bicycles in various ports in Europe. Biking tour shore excursions are also offered in one or two ports on many itineraries.


Guide to New Holland America Specialty Dining Fees Increase

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Baked Alaska in Pinnacle Grill

Waiter prepares and performs a table-side Baked Alaska dessert in Pinnacle Grill.

Prices for Holland America specialty dining are on the rise.

While I’m a big fan of specialty dining restaurants aboard ships, there are specific venues that stand out in my mind. Usually it’s one or two restaurants per ship that I revisit each voyage. With Holland America specialty dining venues, I have always had a hard time picking my favorite.

That’s why when I heard that fees for Holland America specialty dining have increased, I had to investigate. Here’s what I found for the restaurant changes.

Prices are per person. Gratuities additional.

Pinnacle Grill: Dinner was $29 now $35. Lunch stays the same at $10.

Canaletto: Open only at dinner. Was $10 now $15. I remember when it was free.

Holland America Specialty Dining at Tamarind Dim Sum

Lunchtime dim sum at Tamarind aboard Eurodam.

Tamarind: Dinner was $20 now $25 – Located only on Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam and Eurodam. For $9.75 guests can order a dinner-size Bento Box delivered to their stateroom. Lunch is available and still complimentary.

Evening at Le Cirque: One night per cruise, the Pinnacle Grill is transformed into an “at sea” version of New York City famous Le Cirque restaurant, For a fee of now $49 guests can savor an authentic Le Cirque dining experience.

Taste of Librije: Aboard the Rotterdam and Eurodam, on one night per cruise the Pinnacle Grill becomes a Dutch dining experience featuring deconstructed molecular cuisine of Jonnie Boer, a 3-star Dutch chef. Fee is $69.

Related:  What’s new aboard the Eurodam after multi-million dollar refurbishment.

Dining package changes

Four dining packages are available and offer a savings of individually purchasing each restaurant.

Evening in Pinnacle Grill: Dinner for two was $52, now at $62.

Signature Dining Package: Includes one dinner in Pinnacle Grill and one dinner in Canaletto, was $35 now $44.

Distinctive Dining Package: Includes all three – Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto and Tamarind, was $50 now $55.

Ultimate Dining Package:   Includes one dinner at Pinnacle Grill, Culinary Arts Center, Sel de Mer, Tamarind and Canaletto, was $104 now $119, available only on the new Koningsdam.

Nothing stays the same forever.  If you haven’t experienced any of these Holland America specialty dining restaurants, even at these new prices, the culinary experience is worth the price of admission.