2017 EDITOR'S PICKS
2015 took us to a number of interesting places around the world on eleven different ships and eight different cruise lines. In addition to the standard itinerary, some of these sailings had an extra added element; some special onboard event layered on top of what they normally do. That did not happen by chance. Testing the full capability of each ship and her crew, that special onboard event would put their abilities to task. Could they do the same stellar job caring for passengers, creating lifetime-quality memories and have them coming back for more? The year was dotted with new ship inaugurals, charitable onboard events, revisiting cruise lines not sailed recently and more, all adding up to our best year of sailing yet.
We began the year with a trip to Galveston, Texas and a sailing of Carnival Freedom just after a massive $70 million makeover that dramatically transformed numerous areas of the ship.
New spaces added to Carnival Freedom include the first-ever Dr. Seuss Bookville facility – part of the line’s popular Seuss at Sea program – as well as a total revamp of the children’s play areas. The transformation also included venues like Guy’s Burger Joint developed in tandem with Food Network star Guy Fieri, EA SPORTS Bar, the BlueIguana Cantina Mexican eatery, the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar and the poolside RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.
To commemorate Carnival Freedom’s Texas debut, Carnival is teamed up with Operation Homefront to honor military families with a special pierside overnight event that included a special Carnival LIVE concert by country music’s Martina McBride, as well as cocktails, dinner and entertainment.
Viking River Cruises 2015 Inaugural Event
Taking culturally curious travelers directly to the scene of iconic destinations and UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world, Viking River Cruises launched 12 new river vessels in Amsterdam – 10 additional award-winning Viking Longships® and two unique vessels for the Elbe River.
2015 also marked the launch of two new itineraries highlighting the Rhine River. That was on the heels of Viking’s world record-setting christening in 2014 of 18 vessels across four countries in five days and will bring the company’s total fleet size to 64 river vessels in 2015.
2015 Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise
The 2014 Seabourn Food & Wine Cruise proved to be a stellar luxury cruise experience . That brought high hopes for the 2015 edition, titled a Taste of the Mediterranean. We got just that and far more in a stellar at sea event that included more, more and more about food and wine, piled high on top of an already wonderful base Seabourn experience.
Holland America Line
Sip – Savor – Sail to Alaska
We sailed again with Holland America Line to Alaska, round-trip Seattle on a 7 day itinerary that took us up close and personal with the land of the midnight sun. Already an Alaska powerhouse, Holland America Line’s Sip-Savor-Sail element adds an additional layer of Alaska engagement like no other.
Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Star Christening
We were on hand in Bergen Norway to witness the birth of a new cruise line and its first ship, Viking Star. The new 930-passenger ship shares the same comfortable ambiance of Viking River Cruises’ fleet of Viking Longships. The vessel design promotes a focus on the variables; the people, the cuisine and the destinations, perhaps as no other ship sailing. Appropriately, Viking Star was named “Best New Ocean Ship” in the 8th annual Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks Awards.
Azamara Club Cruises
Venice, Greece and The Isles of Croatia
Last sailing with Azamara Club Cruises in 2012, we returned to destination-focused cruise line for a 12-night sailing themed Venice, Greece and The Isles Of Croatia on Azamara Journey.
We explored scenic isles and small villages in four countries in addition to some relaxing days at sea which brought time to explore amenities aboard Azamara Journey as well as fully capture the essence of a longer sailing, this one a 12-day Isles of Croatia voyage.
Viking River Cruises
Elegant Elbe River Cruise
Traveling with Viking River Cruises on one of their new itineraries for 2015. The Elegant Elbe promised we would discover the natural beauty of former East Germany’s dramatic landscape, tour the opulent palaces of Saxon monarchs and stroll through beautifully landscaped gardens. We should have sailed between the dramatic sandstone cliffs of Germany’s Saxon Switzerland , marveled at the baroque splendor of Dresden and experienced how Meissenware porcelain is produced. We did all that and more, a rather interesting story considering that low water levels on the Elbe River prevented the ship from moving one inch.
Azamara Club Cruises
Summer Russia And The Baltics Sailing
On an interesting Summer Baltics sailing to Russia, Estonia, The Netherlands, Denmark and more, Chris and Sydney went on a social journey through Azamara Club Cruises aboard Azamara Quest. Starting in Stockholm and ending in Southampton, Azamara Club Cruises immersed us in eight unique destinations along the way. The second time sailing with Azamara in as many months, this series titled Engaging Azamara was equally as interesting if not more so than our Sailing Azamara series from earlier this summer, for a number of reasons.
German owned and operated cruise line Hapag-Lloyd Cruises 500-passenger Europa 2 was the scene for an interesting Fall preview sailing. Seven restaurants and six bars are dedicated to serving up culinary diversity and a large spa and fitness area accommodates travelers focused on wellness and exercise. TheHapag-Lloyd Cruises concept aims to be appealing to professionals and families in the luxury sector. All cruises are fully bilingual and cater to English speaking passengers.
Abercrombie & Kent
Egypt And The Nile River Cruise With Jordan Extension
Arguably one of our best ever travel experiences, the river cruise element was just one part of this amazing 16-day adventure. Sailing with leading luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, we noted a number of advantages along the way. This was not something we planned on doing in advance, but a recurring theme that just seemed to come up frequently as we described our experience.
Empires Of The Mediterranean
Ending 2015, Lisa and I sailed with Viking Ocean Cruises aboard new Viking Star to experience their Empires of the Mediterranean itinerary.
This year we traveled more miles and seen more places than any other to bring readers the information they need to choose the right cruise line, one that will be a good fit and bring a good quality experience. That has added up to a total of 41 different events including sailings, chats, magazine articles and more. What better way to bring 2015 to a close than with one of our favorite travel companies, Viking Cruises.
Coming up: We’ll count up the number of places visited during 2015 to bring Destination Focused Cruise Lines Bring Unique Places And Lifetime Quality Memories