Category Archives: Spas

Azamara Quest Exquisite Itineraries

Azamara Quest

We’ve set sail on the Azamara Quest for a 12 night voyage to the Eastern Caribbean.  The fun started all in the title of our voyage – the Virgins and Frenchmen Voyage.  Azamara Cruise Lines is the elite part of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line that also owns the upscale line Celebrity.  There are two sister ships – the Quest and the Journey.  Both are small and a good entrance into luxury cruising.  Azamara is known for it’s destinations and longer stays.

Voyage Map Azamara Quest West Indies

The itinerary for this trip is exquisite.  We spend two glorious days at sea getting to know the 694 passenger ship, and first anchor in St. John, US Virgin Islands for the day. Most ships have to dock in St. Thomas – a short ferry ride away, so we avoid the masses and have plenty of time to explore the white sand beach wonders of this gorgeous island.  St. John is home to Trunk Bay – one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.  We then sail overnight and spend the afternoon and evening in Ilse Des Saints, Guadeloupe from 1 to 10 pm. 

Itinerary 2013

Then it’s off to Roseau, Dominica for the day – another new destination for us.  We then make our way back to Charlestown Nevis for an extra long day.  We had the opportunity to explore this island in the French West Indies on a privately chartered Cruise ship before, but ships rarely dock on this natural quiet beauty.  Some elite lines have been docking in St. Kitts – just across the way, recently which is a short ferry ride away.   We’re excited to really have a chance to relax on this island and take in the evening as well.  That’s part of the charm of this cruise line – extended stays and night touring, something that you do not have the opportunity to experience with regular cruise lines. 

Next up, our most anticipated 22 hours in St. Barts, I’ve never seen that before on an itinerary.  We were quite excited about this stop.  It will be our second time here to this luxurious island and we can’t wait to explore the gorgeous beaches and dine on the island without feeling we have to rush back to the ship.

Next stop – St. Maarten – for the day and evening.  Although we’ve been here several times before – so many we just rent a car and head on up to Orient Beach for the day, then we head over to Marigot on the French side for a champagne lunch overlooking the yachts in the harbor.  We are most excited about staying here until 10 pm.  Now we will have the opportunity to experience the island once all the masses have left by 4 or 5 pm.  This island has become such a huge destination, that up to 8 cruise ships will dock here, bringing with them close to 20,000 passengers.  So sailing on Azamara really has it’s advantages in destinations such as this one.

We’ll finish up our island touring at Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Isles.  This is another new destination for us, so be sure to look for posts on all our new places that we’ll be exploring.  Then, another luxury – two days at sea.  These are my personal favorite days – a chance to relax, unwind and continue enjoying all this great ship has to offer. 

Until next time – enjoy a few photos of the ship!



  St. John, US Virgin Islands



Your Travel Planner Michael hard at work still at sea for his travel clients

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all photos taken by Ingrid Blackburn


Setting Sail on the NCL Epic

Cruise 2010 155

We booked a cruise aboard the NCL Epic – one of the largest ships afloat that holds 4100 passengers and a crew of 1700.  I’ve been in port alongside this monstrous ship that I’ve affectionately dubbed the brick on water – mostly because of it’s rectangular size and 19 decks!  We arrive at the terminal in the warm Miami sunshine at 11:00 am and hand our bags off to the porters.  We were concerned about how they were going to get 4100 people onboard in an efficient manner, so we arrived early – something we recommend to all our clients.  To our pleasant surprise we quickly and easily boarded the ship with several hundred passengers.  Our staterooms wouldn’t be ready until 2:00 pm, so we checked in our one carry on bag in headliners on deck 6 (a nice touch) and set off to explore this great ship.

As the people poured onboard, we made our dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants for the week (something I encourage everyone to do immediately since they book up fast) – we could only get 9:00 dinner reservations online, so we wanted to change the times and book a few more.  Freestyle cruising on NCL offers a handful of main restaurants that are included in your cruise price – Taste, The Manhattan Room, The Garden Café, Great Outdoors, and O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill.  The Epic also boasts nine specialty restaurants for various minimal charges ($10 – $25/p) – Cagney’s Steakhouse, La Cucina Italian Restaurant, Le Bistro French Restaurant, Moderno Churrascaria (Brazilian), Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, Shanghai’s Chinese Restaurant, Wasabi Sushi Bar, Teppanyaki, and dinner in the Spiegel Tent while watching the Cirque Dreams show.  If you are staying in a suite or villa, you also have two exclusive restaurants to choose from – the Courtyard Grill and the Epic Club.

We then grabbed a bite to eat at the Garden Café, the buffet on deck 15 and sat outside in the sun near the main pool.  We relaxed a bit and enjoyed the afternoon poolside.  The kids were having a blast in NCL’s Aqua Park – definitely the biggest water park at sea with two pools, a kids pool, five hot tubs, three multi-level water slides and the 200 foot Epic Plunge, the only tube slide at sea.  The kids were so excited, you could see they had no idea which slide to go down first!  We made our way to Spice H2O in the rear of the ship and quickly ascertained that this would be where we would hang in the day while at sea.  Spice H2O is an adults only area that is an Ibiza inspired beach club with a pool, two hot tubs and plenty of lounge chairs on four decks overlooking the ocean.

NCL Epic 022NCL Epic 040

Next we decided to check out some of the great features the Epic has to offer.  We wandered to deck 14 to check out the Mandara Spa and Pulse Fitness Center.  The fitness center is by far the biggest we’ve seen yet at sea.  You can stay in shape with your favorite workout equipment including treadmills, ellipticals and free weights or even yoga, pilates and spinning (20 bikes!).  We continued on to some of the fun areas on decks 6 & 7 like Bliss Ultra Lounge, the Ice Bar, Fat Cats Blues and Jazz Club and the Epic Casino – bar none the biggest we’ve encountered onboard any cruise ship.

We checked out our room at 2:00 pm and continued to check out the ship before the mandatory life boat drill at 3:30 pm.  We quickly signed up for our internet package and then went back up to Decks 15 and 16 for one of my favorite times onboard any cruise – the sail away party!

NCL Epic 026

NCL Epic 041

We headed to the main pool area, grabbed a drink and danced to the tunes the Celebrity DJ spun as we took in the great Miami coastline while sailing out to sea.  It’s a little different since the Love Boat days – no streamers, but nothing but a fun party for all.  We were off onto the horizon – next up for us, two glorious days at sea, stops on the islands of St. Maarten, St. Thomas, another fun day at sea, and the island of Nassau before returning to Miami.  In between, great food, taking in the Cirque Dreams dinner show, The Blue Man Group, and so much more.  Look for a blog later this week on all the fun things to do at sea onboard the NCL Epic!

5 Reasons to Cruise Aboard … Allure of the Seas

Aerial Allure of the Seas

I love sailing on a cruise ship.  There’s just something peaceful and inspiring about being out on the open water.  Cruising today is not what it once was.  With mega ships like Royal Caribbean’s Allure and Oasis of the Seas, NCL’s Epic, and so many more – cruising today offers everything you would want and more than you can possibly take in while afloat.

The Allure of the Seas weighs in at 225,000 tons, has 2,706 staterooms and 2,176 staff members cater to the needs of up to 6,318 guests weekly.  Allure’s 16 decks and 24 elevators whisk guests all over the ship.  You would think you could easily get lost, but not so thanks to the interactive touch screen maps found on the walls.  Although the Allure is a sister ship to the previous Oasis of the Seas, several improvements in entertainment and dining do set them apart.

Royal Caribbean has truly mastered the art of mega cruising.  That being said, here are 5 things that I absolutely love about the Allure of the Seas.



The Allure of the Seas has it all.  There is no shortage of activity aboard this ship.  What I love the most is that I can find plenty of nooks to sit with a glass of wine and read a book or if I want to go zip-lining (yes, you read that correctly), I can!  We all know that you can rock climb aboard all RCCL ships, but what about surfing?  Other activities include ice skating, miniature golf, basketball, and ping pong.

This is definitely the ship for teens and active families.  But what I love about it is that it caters truly to every personality.


Aqua Theater and FlowRiders


When mega ships began putting in promenades, malls and parks – I thought, really?  But having been on several different ships that feature these great spaces, I have definitely become a fan.  Probably one of the best things to come from spaces like these are interior balconies.  This ship has 70% balconies, largely in part to the newest type of interior staterooms.  If you are a people watcher – than this is for you.

RCI_Allure_ParkCafe_Multigen_034 Allure of the Seas Central Park

Allure of the Seas features seven different neighborhoods, but by far my favorite is Central Park.  What makes this section so great on the Allure is that I often miss the green of land, and Royal Caribbean has done a great job at capturing that spirit.  Lined by five decks of balcony staterooms, Central Park is open to the sky, has numerous trees, vines and flowering plants arranged along winding paths.  It’s the perfect space to bring a book and sit among the flowers, go shopping at several stores, or grab a bite to eat.  You can dine ‘al fresco’ at Giovanni’s Table ($15 charge) or for an upscale dining option, try Central Park ($35 charge).


With 26 restaurants and 24 hour room service to choose from, there is definitely no shortage of dining options aboard the Allure.  Of course, there’s the 3,000 person dining room, but those experiences for the most part are always fun.  What really separates cruise lines and ships from each other are the smaller establishments, many of which are an additional $25 – $35 per person.  I love dining in the specialty restaurants.

RCI_Oasis_CENTPARK_Dinner_GroupAllure of the Seas has several options that are included as well as for an additional charge.  I always look forward to dining with my husband at one of these special restaurants.  Allure offers restaurants from the casual Johnny Rockets($4.95), Izumi ($4.95) and Rita’s Cantina ($7.95) to the Samba Grille($25), Giovanni’s ($15) and Chops Grille ($25).  The most upscale restaurant is 150 Central Park ($35), which offers six courses which is in vogue in Italy.  Needless to say, not a single meal at any of these establishments will disappoint.

Loft Suites

The Allure features some of the best accommodations afloat, especially the two floor lofts.  With so many staterooms, this ship has the ability to offer several different options for suites.  My favorite are the expansive modern lofts that do not feel like you are in cruise ship stateroom.


While the Allure has many various room types to choose from, no room can compete with the open feeling of the loft floor plan.  You can choose from three types of Loft Suites – Crown (504 sq ft), Sky (725+ sq1 ft) and Royal (1600 sq ft).  Each has a contemporary urban feel to it and has expansive 2 story windows in addition to a balcony.  You will get all the perks of being in a suite, with an unparalleled view.


Now I am not famous for going to all the shows onboard a cruise.  But the Allure has a level of entertainment un-matched in the cruise industry today that makes a fan even out of me.  Their Broadway like production of Chicago is spectacular.  The breathtaking high-diving feats in the Aqua Theater are mind boggling on land, let alone a cruise ship.  And of course, not to be outdone, you can attend beautifully choreographed shows on ice in Studio B as well.  This is in addition to 3D movies, breathtaking views from several bars and vistas, Jazz and Disco clubs and a comedy club.  What I love the most – entertainment to suit everyone!

Allure Chicago RCI_Oasis_Aquatheater_DivingShow OA_E_DAZZLES_C_007_RET DSC_9232 OA_E_JAZZ_BAR2_GROUP_068_RET

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