Best Cruise Buffet Tips

When it comes to cruising the 24 hour buffet is a great way to have a quick meal instead of having to dress up for the formal dining rooms. Buffet’s offer plenty of choice and is a great option for families or if you are tired after a long day of sightseeing.

When it comes to cruise buffets, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do them. Here are some of the best buffet tips.

buffet

Breakfast
One of the most important things to know about eating at a cruise buffet is what to stay away from. At breakfast, it’s the static, chafing-dish scrambled eggs. It may seem quick and easy to just scoop some up — after all, they’re already prepared, and really, how bad could they be on a fancy cruise, right? Wrong. They’re made hours before they are put out and are still almost raw even when they hit the buffet.
The eggs are scrambled lightly and then left to cook via the heat from the hot station. On the other hand, omelets are one of the things you’ll find made to order at the buffet, so ask the omelet cook to make you a quick scramble instead — he’s already got the eggs. That way you know you’re eating fresh, fully cooked eggs. (Incidentally, eggs Benedict is always done as you order and usually excellent.)
If you’re not an egg person, you can also get fresh pancakes and waffles — again, forget those nasty ones that are somehow simultaneously crusty and soggy from sitting in the serving dish. Butter won’t even melt on them. If you walk over to the cafeteria and nicely ask the cook to give you some pancakes off the griddle, you’ll be much happier with the result.

Lunch
Salads and stir-fry are big at the cruise buffet lunch. Though the stir-fries are made to order, the cooks tend to overuse soy sauce, so ask them to go easy. As for the salads, watch out for the raw onions — the self-serve lettuce always seem to be overloaded with them.
Another lunch option to be careful of is the smoked salmon. (It’s on all salad and breakfast buffets.) If the edges are beginning to curl or are slightly brown, stay away.

Dinner
Important fact: They have the same dinner entrees on the casual deck buffet as they do in the dress-up dining room. Same food, supereasy. If you’re not into the chafing-dish options, you can also have a steak cooked to order. But beware: The quality of the meat used at the buffet is not as good as the meat used for the main dining room.
Other important dinner tips? If you’re a fan of fish, stick to whatever fish they’re cooking to order.
And who doesn’t love an all-you-can-eat pasta dinner? You at the cruise buffet if you order correctly. Though the pasta dish is put together in front of you, the pasta itself is pre-cooked. When you order your noodles, the cook will put them in a strainer and submerge them in hot water to warm them while finishing the sauces. The problem is the straining of the noodles: The cook will lift them out, give them a shake, and throw them in the pan with the sauce — and you will end up with a watery mess.
If you’re willing to speak up and ask for a better strain or for the sauce to be thickened, then pasta is a good option. If you do choose pasta, do it the day after the sit-down dining room serves meat — they take the leftover high-quality meat and throw it into sauces. And ask the cook to add some marinated veggies from the pizza station rather than the raw ones they use, since they never seem to cook properly.

Dessert
Sweets are one of the best parts of the buffet (just make sure the plates holding the desserts are on ice). Puff pastries, petits fours, crème brûlée, and the like all hold up better than cake, which dries out quickly.
So pile on the goodies — don’t forget the whipped cream! — and you can even take your dessert to your cabin if you like.

The World’s largest cruise ships

Passenger ships have been increasing in size for many years. A hundred years ago, Hamburg – America Line’s SS Imperator was the world’s largest passenger ship at 51,500 tons. Today many cruise ships are two or three times that size.

1. Allure of the Seas and two other ships of Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis Class are by far the biggest cruise ships in the world. Weighing 225,282 tons and accommodating 5,400 passengers, these 360 metre long ships cruise the Caribbean.

Allure

2. The Norwegian Epic is the biggest ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines. It is 155,873 tons and 329 metres long. It carries 4,100 passengers.

3. Freedom of the Seas and it’s two sister ships of Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom class are the world’s third biggest cruise ships. They weigh in at 154,407 tons and accommodate 4,370 passengers

4. Cunard’s famous Queen Mary 2 is 148,528 tons and is 345 metres long. The QM2 is also a liner, regularly crossing the Atlantic between Southampton in England and New York, as well as undertaking an annual world cruise and shorter cruises. As a liner it is faster than other cruise ships and more capable of handling heavy seas. It carries 2,620 passengers and when it was built in 2003, it was the biggest passenger ship in the world.

Cunard QM2

5. The fifth biggest class of cruise ships are Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines. At 144,017 tons and 344 metres long, they each transport up to 4,500 passengers from New York to the Caribbean.

NCL Breakaway

6. The Royal Princess  and her sister ships are the sixth largest. Princess Cruises operate two of this class with a third on order. P&O are soon to take delivery of another, the Britannia. Cruising through the Mediterranean and Caribbean, they weigh 142,000 tons, are 330 metres and long and take 3,600 passengers.

7. Voyager of the Seas is the lead ship of a five strong class run by Royal Caribbean International. Built in Finland at the turn of the century, they are 311 metres long, weigh 138,000 tons and transport 3110 passengers.

8. MSC Divina is one of four similar ships by run by Swiss-Italian company MSC Cruises. At 333 metres long and weighing in at 138,000 tons, they mostly operate in the Mediterranean Sea but occasionally venture over to the West Indies.

9. Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are 130,000 tons, 340 metres long and run Disney themed trips from Florida.

Disney Dream

10. Carnival Dream and two sister ships sail under the Carnival Cruise Lines banner, while a four ship is operated by their Italian subsidiary Costa Crociere. The 130,000 ton, 306 metre ships operate in the major cruise markets of the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas.

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Two new ships for P&O Cruises

P&O has announced that they will welcome two more ships, making it the largest fleet of cruise ships home ported year round in Australia. The additional ships will transfer from Holland America Line in November 2015.

New_P&O_Ships

The announcement is an emphatic statement about the leadership of Carnival Australia, confidence in the Australian cruise market and reaffirmation of P&O Cruises’ status as Australia’s iconic ‘home brand’ cruise line.

“This is a very exciting development for the Carnival Group, P&O Cruises and for our teams who have worked so passionately and effectively to build the business and the cruise category. This move signals that the next generation of P&O Cruises is about to commence.” said Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, operator of P&O Cruises.

Both ships are of a similar mid-range size to the three existing P&O Cruises ships, Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl.

“The ships will be intimate but offer space, comfort and style giving passengers more destinations to choose from, more onboard experiences to indulge in and more reasons to cruise,” said Senior Vice President P&O Cruises Tammy Marshall.

Having a five-ship fleet will give P&O Cruises greater flexibility in its increased offering of short break cruises, traditional cruises to the South Pacific and exciting new destinations such as Papua New Guinea and Asia.

The additional ships, which will transfer from the Holland America Line, will deliver much needed capacity in the world’s fastest growing cruise market.

Last year, the majority of Australia’s 800,000 cruise passengers travelled with P&O Cruises. Increasing by 130% in the past 5 years, the industry is on track to carry 1 million passengers a year by 2016- four years earlier than forecast.

“This further fleet expansion is entirely appropriate for P&O Cruises, the shipping line that pioneered cruising from Australia more than 80 years ago and has set the pace for the industry ever since,” Ms Marshall said.

Visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au for the latest P&O specials and itineraries.

Golden Princess shines on Melbourne

Golden Princess, the biggest cruise ship ever to be based in Melbourne, is bound for the Victorian capital.

With Australia’s love affair with cruising holidays at an all-time high, Princess Cruises has announced it will base a record five ships in Australia next year.

The 108,000-tonne ship accommodates 2600 passengers. “More than half her staterooms have private balconies, while she also offers a beautiful spa, four swimming pools and 10 restaurants and cafes, so we think she’ll be very popular with Victorians.”

Golden Princess

Golden Princess will make her maiden visit to Australia in October 2015, arriving in Sydney before moving to Melbourne.

Her five-month season will include holidays to New Zealand, the South Pacific and Tasmania, with fares starting from $1849 per person for a 13-night New Zealand cruise.

As part of Princess Cruises’ record five-ship program, Golden Princess will join Diamond Princess in Australian waters for the 2015-16 summer, while Sun Princess will remain in Australia next winter, joining sister ships Dawn and Sea Princess in providing cruises year round.

Princess Cruises is launching its first summer season of cruises from Fremantle, doubling the cruise line’s Western Australian offering to give the state its first year-round cruise program, as well as Princess Cruises’ biggest ever presence in Brisbane, with Queenslanders set to enjoy nine months of sailings in 2015-16.

Mr Allison said the record fleet would increase the cruise line’s local capacity by 35 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014.

He said Australians now spend more nights on Princess Cruises’ ships than on any other line, with Australia its second biggest market after the US.

For the first time, all ships will offer onboard pricing using Australian dollars as they deliver a program of more than 80 cruises from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Fremantle and Auckland.

For more information phone 1800 616 434 or visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au

Explorer of the Seas coming to Australia

Royal Caribbean International has announced the addition of Explorer of the Seas to its Australian-based fleet. The Explorer of the Seas is the second of five in the Voyager-class series that started with Voyager of the Seas in 1999. The Explorer of the Seas will boast a wealth of facilities, activities and entertainment and put it “head and shoulders” above its Australian competitors.

Upon its arrival in Australasian waters in Nov 2015, the 3,800-passenger Explorer will join sister ship Voyager of the Seas as the largest cruise vessels sailing in the southern hemisphere. The new ship will replace the departing Rhapsody of the Seas, which leaves Australian waters after eight consecutive seasons. Explorer’s maiden season in Australia will consist of sailings to ports in Australia, NZ and the South Pacific, along with Singapore repositioning cruises. The ship will also feature a range of Royal Caribbean innovations including Australia’s first ‘FlowRider’ onboard surfing simulator, “virtual balcony cabins”, ice skating and of course the signature Royal Promenade.

Explorer and Voyager will make an historic rendezvous in Sydney Harbour on 28 Nov 2015.

Visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au for all of the latest specials.

When is the best time to book a cruise?

It’s a question that I often get asked, when is the best time to book a cruise? There are several factors to consider before you lock yourself in.

1) Do I care where my cabin is located? – The best cabins get booked first, so if you really want that cabin that is mid-ship and around deck 10 you will need to book early. I would say at least 8 months before departure.

2) Do I wait for a sale? – The simple answer is yes. Cruise lines have to fill ships which sail on a new voyage almost every week. The bigger the cruise line the more cabins they need to sell. Therefore cruise lines are willing to come out with a sale, either reduced prices or onboard credit, at least every month. I would subscribe to an e-newsletter and wait for a special to be released on the cruise I’m interested in.

3) Which cruises are usually reduced closer to the departure date? Generally the cruises outside school holidays which have multiple departures are reduced closer to the departure date. There are a lot of cruises to New Zealand, so over the past couple of years its always best to wait for prices to be reduced. Cruises that are unique or are re-positioning cruises often sell out fast and prices don’t fall.

4) What happens if the price goes down after I book? It can be frustrating if you book then the price goes down. Most cruise lines don’t refund the deposit, however if the discount is more than the deposit you might decide to cancel and re-book at the lower price.

5) Are cruises cheaper through the cruise line – I would not book your next cruise direct through a cruise line as you will always be able to get a better price through a travel agency or website.

The final words of advice are wait for a sale and make sure you are happy with the price before you go ahead. Its very hard to predict what will happen to prices in the future, however cruises are excellent value.

Holland America Oosterdam in Melbourne

The Holland America Oosterdam has arrived in Australia for its summer season. I was lucky enough to walk around the ship while it was in Melbourne. Each of the Holland America ships are themed, the Oosterdam honors Explorers of the 19th and 20th century. Upon boarding the ship we viewed a few cabins and the first impression was a sense of space. Most of the cabins have a shower over a bath in the bathroom and room for a couch in the main cabin.

Oosterdam

We were then shown around the ship and it was interesting to learn about a few of the activities that set them apart from other ships.

Culinary Arts Center features intriguing programs

Offers a groundbreaking experience that combines a love of food and wine with unique and engaging programs. There is a theater-style venue and state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen for the following experiences:

Hands-on cooking classes:
Unleash your inner chef and learn new culinary skills alongside award-winning chefs and culinary guests.

Appearances by special guest chefs:
Some of the world’s leading culinary experts will join you on board for live cooking shows, book signings and special menu offerings.

Winetasting and mixology:
Delight your palate with innovative food and wine pairings handcrafted by visiting vintners and Holland America Line cellarmasters. On selected cruises, take home Food & Wine recipe cards and wine tasting notes along with copies of the magazine.

Regionally inspired workshops:
Discover the secrets and unique traditions of regional cuisine, from the flavors of Alaska to pasta making in the Mediterranean. Local market tours are available in selected ports of call.

Another interesting extra is the “Dancing with the Stars at Sea” experience. You are able to participate in complimentary dance classes based on dance routines from the smash hit show “Dancing with the Stars.” This is your chance to learn the basics or new steps. You can also compete in the Dancing with the Stars: At Sea competition. Following an early elimination process, finalists will have the opportunity to take to the main stage with Holland America Line professional dancers. One Cruise Champion will emerge, based on the highest combined point total from our panel of three judges as well as audience participation.

We ended the tour with dinner at The Pinnacle Grill, a Holland America standard. With only 144 seats getting reservations early is a must. There is a $20 cover charge to dine in the Pinnacle. The food was excellent and I would recommend up to two nights dining in the restaurant.

The overall impressive I received of the Oosterdam is of refined elegance without the sometime stuffy tradition of a Cunard ship. The Oosterdam is in Australian waters until April.

Visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au for the latest deals.

Expedition Cruising – A Journey to the Kimberley

After having traveled on several of the bigger cruise ships, most recently on the Oasis of the Seas, a 225,282 tonne, 5,400-passenger floating island, it was a nice change of pace to be on the Orion – a smaller 100 passenger ship. I boarded the Orion in Broome for a 10 night luxury expedition cruise along the Kimberley coast to Darwin. After I was shown to my cabin, a spacious suite with quality furnishings (all cabins on-board are suites), the cruise started with an enjoyable sail away party as we left Broome and commenced our journey along the Kimberley coast. The first night’s dinner was also a pleasant surprise with the menu created by award-winning Sydney chef Serge Dansereau of ‘The Bathers’ Pavilion’ fame.

Each day we explored and discovered another part of the epic beauty of the Kimberley. We were able to get up close to wildlife, secluded beaches and river inlets on Zodiacs, led by an expedition leader who talked about the history and geology of the area. There were many highlights during the cruise, the wonderful staff and facilities on-board the ship, the spectacular waterfalls and the fascinating indigenous rock art. There were a number of optional activities including fishing and sightseeing flights. The fishing trips were a great success with most passengers catching a number of fish, which were brought back to the ship for dinner. The optional flight over the Mitchell falls in a helicopter was a fantastic experience. We landed on top of the falls and enjoyed spectacular views and a refreshing swim. There was also an complimentary flight over the famous Bungle Bungle ranges.

I have previously traveled through the Kimberley by land, so it was a great experience to cruise along the coast and see the world’s last unspoilt land in a different perspective. I would recommend the cruise to anyone looking for a more active and adventurous holiday but still travelling in luxury.

Visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au for the latest Orion cruise deals.

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A comedy cruise on the P&O Pacific Pearl

P&O Cruises offers a range of short cruises with different themes such as comedy and food & wine, which is perfect for the first time cruiser. I decided that comedy would be a good distraction for three nights while the ship sails up the Australian coast to nowhere. My first impression of the P&O Pacific Pearl was very good, cabins were spacious with nice wood furnishings, the public rooms also has a good open feel to them. As a first night treat I was booked into the Celebrity chef Luke Mangan restaurant ‘Salt Grill’. For a nominal fee you are treated to first class restaurant food in an excellent environment, definitely a  must do. Each night they had a range of comedians in the main theater, a highlight was Peter Rowsthorn from Kath and Kim fame. For those that wanted to kick on, the night club in the Dome was a highlight. Each day there were many activities to attend, from trivia sessions to driving a V8 car simulator. It really was up to you how little or much you did each day. The staff onboard was excellent, a nice touch was the towel animal that appeared on my bed at night. Overall I would recommend a short cruise with your family or a group of friends, a fun three days.

Visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au for the latest P&O cruise deals.

P&O towelP&O balconyP&O atrium P&O pool P&O dining room

Royal Caribbean’s ship Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean cruise line dazzled cruise aficionados with details of its forthcoming Quantum of the Seas ship, which will be the first at sea to offer attractions like bumper cars, simulated skydiving and an observation capsule called The North Star, with a bird’s eye view 300 feet (91 meters) above the water.

“Without a doubt, Quantum of the Seas is a game changer with technological innovations never imagined aboard a cruise ship,” said Stewart Chiron.

Quantum will launch in November 2014 and will homeport in Cape Liberty, in Bayonne, N.J., with winter sailings to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean executives said The North Star was inspired by the London Eye. The capsule can hold 14 people and is attached to a crane-like arm.

The skydiving attraction, called RipCord, uses a powerful wind flow to keep participants aloft while floating and spinning over an outdoor deck. “You’re not touching anything but the air,” said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International.

An indoor complex called SeaPlex will host basketball, table tennis, trapeze instruction and bumper cars. The space converts to a dance floor for roller-skaters, with a DJ hovering above in a see-through pod. Another space, Two70, has a 270-degree panoramic view and will host aerialists and other performances.

Quantum of the seas

Cabins have modular features like interior doors so that adjacent bedrooms can be connected for large families or multi-generational groups.

Not everything on Quantum is new to the industry. Norwegian’s Epic ship introduced rooms designed for solo travelers, which Quantum will also have. Disney’s Dream and Fantasy ships have “virtual portholes” for windowless staterooms offering live views of the sea, and all of Quantum’s interior cabins will also have “virtual balconies” consisting of LED screens with projected ocean views.

Tickets for Quantum’s first sailing will go on sale to the public June 4, with Royal Caribbean regular cruisers getting an early shot at tickets starting May 27. Prices were not announced but cruise lines typically charge more for new ships than for other cruises. Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said there would be no extra fees for many of the ship’s attractions, including The North Star and skydiving.

Royal Caribbean also owns the largest cruise ships in the world, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas, which carry more than 6,000 people apiece. Quantum will carry 4,180 passengers.

For all of the best cruise deals visit www.cruiseoffers.com.au.