Cruise

Villefranche – A Walk Along the Southern France Seaside Town

Villefranche – A Walk Along the Southern France Seaside Town

 Not long ago we stopped in at Villefranche, a little French town along the Mediterranean coast. We were aboard the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas for a western Mediterranean cruise, then an Atlantic crossing back to Florida.
 
Villefranche is situated about 25 miles east of Cannes, and about an hour and twenty minutes travel time by train. And of course, it’s literally next door to Nice.
 
Here are some still images we stitched together into a short video to show what we discovered just walking around this picturesque town.
 
 
Villefranche is a small seaside town along the French Rivera near the cities of Nice and Cannes. It has no docks big enough to accommodate cruise ships but it’s a popular stop nonetheless, with cruisers going ashore on tenders.
Posted by Donald Fink in blog, Cruising, Europe, Video, 0 comments
Cruising Aboard the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas

Cruising Aboard the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas

Not long ago, we boarded the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas in Barcelona. We made a seven night tour around the Mediterranean, stopping in several places along the way. Some of our stops included Marseille, France, Villefranche, France, Florence, the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii, in Italy, and back to Barcelona.

We stayed on the ship and used it as our transportation back to Florida, with stops at Cadiz, Spain, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Las Palmas, Grand Canary Island, and La Palma, Canary Island. We then made our way across to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We’ve made several Atlantic crossings, and it’s our favorite part of cruising, but it’s not necessarily for everyone. The good thing about an Atlantic crossing for us is that we spend several days at sea. The bad about an Atlantic crossing is that you spend several days at sea, and for some people, it might be a bit much.

Cruising aboard the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. Take a few minutes to see what this great ship has to offer. Photos and Video by Don and Bonnie Fink.

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Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Cruising, 0 comments
First Impressions of the Celebrity Silhouette

First Impressions of the Celebrity Silhouette

It’s always fun to cruise on a new ship, and in a lot of ways, even more fun to cruise on a new cruise line. This time we boarded the Celebrity Silhouette in Miami for a seven night trip around the eastern Caribbean. Silhouette is owned by Royal Caribbean, so were we Wowed? Was it better, the same, or a disappointment from our former experiences? Take a look at what we found:

The Boarding Process

One of the things that instantly impressed us was the fact that, since we have a certain status aboard Royal Caribbean, and since Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity, our status was transferred over to Celebrity. For us, we didn’t get much out of the deal, but then again, our status isn’t all that impressive to begin with. But it was fun to be able to board a little early. For some of our cruising friends out there, this could be important since the higher you go, the more you’re recognized. Unfortunately, our stay aboard the Celebrity ship did not increase our status with Royal Caribbean, but did count toward Celebrity. Confusing right?

What We Found

The Hideaway aboard the Celebrity Silhouette

The Hideaway is a quiet spot to relax. If you need a book, there’s a wide selection to choose from. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

We’re used to big ships. If you’ve read any of our other posts, you might remember that we go in for the Wow factor of the Royal Caribbean Oasis, Anthem, and Freedom class ships. We like the big interior promenade.

The Celebrity Silhouette is much smaller. Instead of up to 6,000 guests like some of the monster sized boats, Silhouette carries something closer to 2700. Not small by any reasonable standard, but still much smaller than the huge new ships from Royal Caribbean.

We found the Silhouette to be a classy, well maintained and modern ship with all the amenities we needed. Our room was as big and comfortable as most ships we’ve been on, and even better than some. There were adequate power plugs in the room and we were able to spread out and get things put away the way we like with ample stowage and storage. We were not able to score a kettle for heating water like we usually do on Royal Caribbean, but we were able to use the TV to watch our shows that we brought along on our hard drive.

The ship is reasonably new too. First cruise was in 2012 and she continues to be in good repair and modern in design. We especially liked the design of the buffet restaurant, the Oceanview Café, but more on that later.

Dining

The Grand Cuvee Dining Room

The two deck Grand Cuvee Dining Room. Photo by Donald Fink.

Celebrity uses a dining plan similar to most other cruise ships. You can elect to have an assigned dining table at a specific time each night, or you can reserve a time, even different each night if you want. You can also just walk in to the dining room and get the first available table. You set these options up when you lock in your cruise reservations.

In the classic dining plan, you are assigned a table, along with other cruisers. You may or may not know these folks, depending on your circumstance. 

Excursions

Castillo de San Felipe del Morro

As you enter the harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, you’ll see the famous fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro on your left. If you’re on a cruise and happen to stop in Puerto Rico, this is a must-see shore excursion. Photo by Donald Fink.

At the risk of sounding a bit jaded, we usually don’t go on shore excursions when we’re in the Caribbean. It’s not that we have anything against the Caribbean, it’s just that we’ve been travelling in the region for literally decades. There aren’t many things we haven’t seen.

The exception is that when there’s an excuse to scuba dive, we’re there. On this trip we made a shore excursion in St. Thomas to dive a local spot, and while the area has recently been through a major hurricane, we found it to be a good choice. The dive operators were professional and attentive and provided a good diving experience.

This cruise stopped in San Juan, Puerto Rico. One of the classic day tours for this stop is the fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro. This is an interesting stop, and it’s also a National Park under the US Park Service, so things are a bit familiar in terms of signage, rules, and so forth. It’s also rumored that this fort served as an inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney. 


In this video you can enjoy a few minutes of our impression of the Celebrity Silhouette. Video and Stills by Don and Bonnie Fink.

As we mentioned before, this was our first time cruising aboard a ship from the Celebrity fleet. We have seen the ships many times before as they docked in ports next to other cruises we were on, but we’d never been aboard one.

In a lot of ways, the experience was what we expected because, while cruise lines differ, they are really more alike than they are different. The room was the high quality we expect for a cruise line of this type, the food was better than most, and the amenities aboard the ship seems to be comparable to any modern ship of this size. If this one ship is any judge of the total Celebrity line, they are staying relevant in the 21st century of cruising.

The final question is, will we cruise on Celebrity again? The simple answer is, of course we will. When we find a cruise that goes where we want, when we want, and it happens to be a Celebrity line ship, we won’t hesitate.

 

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Cruising, 2 comments
Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas

We’re in the Caribbean aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas. This is the biggest ship we’ve sailed, and probably the largest cruise ship afloat. This week, we’re traveling from the Fort Lauderdale Port Everglades, to Haiti, jamaica, Cozumel, and back. We’ll have three “sea days”.

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been aboard a Royal Caribbean ship, and we’ve almost forgotten how different it is compared to some of the other cruise lines we’ve tried. The service is great and the ship is full of Wow factor.

Join us again in the next few days and we’ll have a complete description of this great ship with as many pictures as we think you can stand.

Posted by Donald Fink in blog, Cruising, 0 comments
Helsinki Finland

Helsinki Finland

Those of you who know us might know that we’re not city folk in general. We’ll go to a city and spend time occasionally, but we wouldn’t pick a city as vacation destination. Having said that, it isn’t a surprise that, while we were impressed with Helsinki, it wouldn’t necessarily be a destination for a vacation to Finland. Rather, we would probably fly in and spend an afternoon seeing the sights; maybe have coffee and a pastry in a coffee shop somewhere and then make our way north to Lapland to see some reindeer.

Continue reading →

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Travel, 0 comments
Tallinn, Estonia For Just a Day

Tallinn, Estonia For Just a Day

When cruising, there are places you visit that you’re glad you’re on a cruise and only have to spend one day seeing. It’s either because it simply doesn’t interest you or some other underlying reason. For us, we thought Estonia was going to be that kind of place. It was, in our view, something to do while we marked time waiting for the ship to get to a better port. As it turns out, Tallinn was one of the highlights of our cruise, so far. We thought Germany was the highlight, and to be truthful it was big on our list to come back and see more, but much to our surprise, Tallinn, Estonia was up there too. What we saw in our one day visiting the city left us craving more. Continue reading →

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Travel, 0 comments
Warnemuende and Schwerin Germany

Warnemuende and Schwerin Germany

Germany is probably going to be the high point of our trip, at least the high point of our cruise. We arrived in Warnemunde along the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, May 20th. The day was about as perfect as you could imagine for a warm spring day.

We traveled by bus for about 1 ½ hours from Warnemunde to a little town called Schwerin for the purpose of viewing the Schwerin Castle, which has been in existence in one form or another since at least 973 AD when it was controlled by The Polabian Slav Tribe. It was primarily a fort at that time rather than a “castle”. Around 1160, it was targeted by Germanic Nobelmen under the leadership of Henry the Lion. From then on, the Schwerin Castle has had a rich history, serving as a castle and home for many nobles, a military barracks, and even a nursing college during the time of the German Democratic Republic after WWII. Presently, Schwerin Castle serves as a museum and the seat of the local state parliament. Continue reading →

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Cruising, Europe, Travel
Copenhagen

Copenhagen

 

Today was a lazy day in Copenhagen, Denmark. We left the ship at around 9:00 AM and were guided by a tour guide to all the various sites of the city, including the palaces of the royals of Denmark, the Parliament building, the Old Stock Exchange, and even passed an amusement park. Continue reading →

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Cruising, Europe, Travel, 0 comments