Second Mate

Hometown: Sun City West
Joined: 08/04/2011
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About CruisewithMike

Professional Accredited Cruise Counselor, also maintain a daily cruise blog @, and a Travel Club offering discounts on travel, insurance and more join at : Former Flight Attendant and Independant Travel Agent


CruisewithMike's Past Cruises

Oasis of the Seas

May 2016 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Oasis of the Seas

Carnival Paradise

March 2011 - 4 Night Baja Mexico (Los Angeles roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Paradise

Spring Break Cruise in...

Spring Break Cruise in Review And our Pre Hotel Stay aboard the Queen Mary Hotel!!! How it all came together!! Sunday, March 13th Aboard The Queen Mary Hey cruise fans; I had the distinct pleasure of staying, touring, sleeping, and writing to you from the fabulous Queen Mary Hotel, in Long Beach California, while escorting a group of school district employees on a Carnival Spring Break Cruise vacation. Even though I anticipated that this might be a really cool thing to do (pre night hotel) at this particular property (actually its like already having starting the cruise). Most everyone on the QM waived Bon Voyage to another cruise ship as she departed from the adjacent pier, which by the way is the mere distance we will need to travel in the morning to catch our own cruise ship. The Cruise ship terminal building is just about as close as our cars in the parking lot are. How cool is that? As for the staff, I must say that absolutely everyone we had contact with Michael and the Front Desk crew, to Brian, our bartender (a most important person) in the Oyster Bar, and the absolute rb service afforded us by Angel who waited our table in the enchantingly splendid (both food and views) Chelsea Chowder House and Bar. Has made for a truly extraordinary stay and visit! Yet we are only just getting started. There is so much to see and do here at this marvelous floating hotel, so whether you are staying a night or two as a pre or post cruise visit, or merely coming to stay with this marvelous lady for the experience, the journey is certainly well worth what you will find when you get here. While here I took a delightful self paced tour of the ship, which has been so painstakingly and meticulously preserved and restored to her glory days of the thirty's, forty's, and fifty's. Not being born myself, until the mid 1950's I would have never had an opportunity to view such a vintage vessel, if not for the efforts put forth by the City of Long Beach. Did you know that the Queen Mary had been pressed into military service during World War II, (as so many ships were) carrying over 800,000 troops, for an almost equal sum of miles, which affectionately won this graceful lady the nickname The Grey Ghost. Her maiden passenger voyage was in 1936, with her final retirement from passenger service occurring in 1967. I must say in all sincerity, for me being such an avid cruiser, seeing and walking the hallways, promenades, and actually dining and sleeping on this wonderful ship, (just as she was in her glory days) has felt like a true step back in time. To be able to experience certainly what was considered one of the Grandest Ocean Liners ever built, has just been an indescribable experience. While staying at this delightful destination and maritime marvel, I experienced the food at several places. First no self respecting tour taker could even embark on such an undertaking without a stop in Ice Cream Parlor for an indulgent authentic shake. (You know to get you through the tour). I had dinner in the Chelsea Chowder House, which was totally delicious. I had the crab cakes while enjoying an absolutely stupendous view of the Long Beach Marina area, as the sun began to fade into the ocean. After dinner I made my way (trying to walk it off) to the Red Bus Station Stop, for a free shuttle ride into downtown Long Beach. It also should be noted that this shuttle stops at the local links for the transit system as well. And the best part it was completely free. How Cool! The next morning I made my way to the Promenade Deck (Starboard Side) and saw the delightful Starboard Bakery Shop that had all sorts of baked fare, and coffee and juices, with quaint seating area which overlooked the Marina. I decided to actually go to the Promenade Cafe where I met Mary the Hostess, and enjoyed a wonderful powdered confectionery (French toast) delight. It was most filling, and quite tasty. After breakfast I had a little time to walk around and met some of the employees. Like Timothy at the Main Desk, who filled me in on some of the missing facts I had not thus far ascertained. Another, who I had the pleasure to meet and chat with, was Bill who was just a wealth of information and details on this fabulous vessel. I can't say enough just how nice everyone is here. There is just so many wonderful things to see and do, aboard this 'golden era of sailing' and true time machine called the Queen Mary Hotel. A Definite Must See and Do, for anyone cruising out of Long Beach, or even to come and experience her just for the experience alone is well worth the trip for sure!! Monday - March 14th Cruise Day One After enjoying a hearty breakfast, walkabout, and checking out of the Queen Mary Hotel. We all (as a group) make our way over to the departure terminal and drop off our checked bags with the porters (all but our hand carried items) which will stay with us until we get access to our staterooms. Then we proceed back over to the Queen Mary (aft wharf area) and go inside to perform early check-in. Once completed with that process we all return over to the terminal pier to begin our ship's boarding process. Our Boarding went smoothly, and everyone was excited to get-underway on our "Spring Break Cruise". All of these school district employees have been bottled up, without a break since Christmas time, so they are ready for a week long "recess" period for sure. Lunch in the Casual Dining area was delightful and certainly filled the bill (and our bellies), while we awaited access to our various staterooms. We have just finished up with the Mandatory Life Boat Drill - which for many of my group a definite eye opening experience for them. But I must admit that in many ways I am having just as much fun observing them, as they are experiencing life aboard ship! Once underway (my personal favorite part of any cruise) we will be making our way slowly towards Santa Catalina Island which will be our destination by tomorrow morning. AHhhhhh! The very best part of any cruise, is getting underway. We cast off right on time, and made our way to the open waters of the Pacific. Sunset was absolutely gorgeous. We witnessed Purples and Oranges the likes of which were never seen before picture opportunities. Was that the ship I felt listing to port from everyone headed to that side of the ship to get those picture perfect scenes? (Only kidding folks) - There were plenty of picture takers, but there was no listing. Well it was off to Dinner. What a treat. Our Group was Seated, and everything was already in place for us, our group wine packages, and I forgot to mention the lovely Champagne and Chocolate covered Strawberries and petit fours, that greeted us in our rooms (which were to die for).Turns out our Wait Staff is an absolute joy. Our Head Waiter German (from Peru) is a wonderful mannered but truly delightful gentleman who saw to our every need. Great Service! His able bodied and (very talented) assistant Newman, who was also very attentive, and quite the talented entertainer as we got to witness first hand when the dinner dance (that's right) the dinner dance began. (check out the video). I must say that not only were our first time cruisers in our group taken aback at the evening's entertainment, but the impressiveness of both the food and the service was totally top notch!! I can't imagine how it could have possibly been any better. Great Job to Stan the Man (from Mississippi) our Head Maitre lsquo;D for putting together such a finale to our first days' events. Now with contented stomachs and attitudes we creep off to the lounges, casino, and for some of the peaceful tranquil solitude of our staterooms for a much needed blog or two. We get back to our staterooms, open the doors and OMG!......Whalrus!.........Seals!.........and Stingrays!....Oh My! Our stateroom steward Arnold (see picture right) displayed his awesome talents. It has taken me this long just to get over our being greeted by so many sea creatures in our staterooms last night! Here's the best part. When on a Carnival Cruise, they will even sell you the "How-To" book on making towel animals to take home with you in order to be able to start your very own towel creature aquarium, or maybe just to impress your family members and guests who stay with you back home. Pretty Neat Huh! Just can't begin to say enough just how impressive the crew of the Carnival Paradise has been so far. We are all truly looking forward to our coming days of cruising. It's been a real treat for me to be able to see the expressions on many of their faces, as most of them have never sailed on a cruise ship before. I must say that it is a joy to really see folks experience not only fun, but a new world of experiences never before seen by them. What a Great Day! March 15h - Day Two - Catalina Island Well here we are on Day Two and we have pulled into Santa Catalina. Everyone is off the big ship onto the "Tenders" (smaller vessels) and partaking in all of the various sites to see, and fun filled activities to experience. Let's see our Dysart Group partook in many things like Shopping, Sightseeing (in groups) and some on their own, Para Sailing, Zip Line(check out the video), Diving, Horseback Riding, Kayaking, Fishing, Glass Bottom Boat, Golfing, Whale Watching, Segways, Snorkeling, Wildlife Tours, just to name a few... Check out our pictures at for all of our Catalina pictures. Dinner time was something we had already been looking forward to since yesterday with much anticipation as it will be our only Formal Night during our Five Day Cruise Itinerary. We had Lobster and Prime Rib (Yummmmmmmmmm), with a host of scrumptious deserts to choose from. I myself had the Chocolate Melting Cake. The Ship's Captain, and his senior officers mustered in an area adjoining the dining rooms just for us before dinner , BUT the highlight of the evening (besides the delectable food) was being entertained by our very own head waiter German (which is his name, and not where he's from). We were all treated to some very special Peruvian serenading, and our better parts enjoyed an extra special treat when he danced with the ladies. It was certainly one of the most memorable formal nights I can recall. As you can see, the pictures tell the whole story. (also see the video) Well were now making our way for our next port of call which will be Ensenada, Mexico. Ol'e! March 16h - Day Three Ensenada Mexico You may not know this... but Ensenada remained in Spanish control until 1822 (a full year after Mexico had won her independence). In 1887 (some 65 years later), the Mexican peninsula was divided into two separate federal districts. The first capital of the newly formed "Northern" Baja District was Ensenada, and remained as such until 1931, and subsequently later the district became a sovereign state of Mexico in 1952. So here we are in sunny Mexico. There is so much to do, that everyone in our group haven't yet made up their minds what they will take in. (I guess it's a good thing we are a late departure today huh?) There are as I said, a plethora of things to do, see, and experience here. For the adventurous at heart there is the Jeep Tour, or the Horseback ride Tour which meander through much of the Mexican backcountry. For those who wish to opt for a less rigorous experience, you might wish to visit La Bufodora (a natural Blow Hole) that shoots water spray 60 to 100 feet into the air. There is also a Scenic Coastal Tour, a Winery Tour, and there is a tour which offers a Taste of Ensenada, (which involves a good deal of eating, and sampling the many varied tastes of the region) No that's more like it! Or you can take a shuttled ride downtown to the suggested (cruise ship certified) shopping sites to take in some serious "shop till you drop" bargains. Oh yeah, I almost forgot...for our golfers, they too get to have it their way on a host of well manicured Mexican courses. So don't worry about them, as they have truly found their nirvana! With a much longer port stay today, there is ample time to be able to "do your thing" and still be able to soak up the Mexican lifestyles, as well as drink in the social scene offered in this wonderful port city, as we do not depart until 10 o'clock tonight. So with today calling for so much to see and do, along with a lot more time in which to "get ur done", I shall "SEA" you tomorrow, once we are again underway and riding the waves. March 17h - Our Final Sea Day For the Kids Camp C (ages 2-11) in addition to their normal daily activities will feature a bear cuddly event where participants will actually make their very own bear creation to take home with them. While Circle C (ages 12-14), will feature their very own farewell party. Like Club 0 2 (ages 15-17) will also have their very own farewell extravaganza as well. For the older kids (ages 18 and above) there are planned a host of things to busy ourselves. Certainly the daily Bingo session with guaranteed prize pots increased. There will be a Think, Draw, Guess competition (where your teammate has to quickly guess the person place thing or phrase the other is drawing) and the first one wins a prize. Naturally what self- respecting cruise would be without the obligatory "Hairiest Legs Contest" where the women get to be the judges for the winners here! There will also be Ice Carving, and Towel Folding demonstrations, as well as the infamous champagne live art auction. Then for later it's get your groove thing on with Piano, Jazz, Calypso, Sing Along, and Dance Parties which will go into the wee hours of tomorrow morning. Some of us got to enjoy a "Behind The Scenes" Tour of the inner workings of the ship, complete with a tour of the bridge conducted by the Captain himself. I sure hope everyone got a good night's sleep last night to be able to just make it through all the way! All of the on-board shopping venues are featuring extra special discounts and sales today, even if its getting your cappuccino on (for less) today, so for the bargain hunters, you will want to be sure that you check it all out today in the shopping arcade, as well as the various specialty shops throughout the ship. Well here we find ourselves at our final dinner on-board this Carnival Fun Ship, and we are beginning to feel the effects of sadness, at the impending thoughts of our five days coming to an end, and having to return to our very own lives of making our own beds, and meals once again. Certainly the Ship's staffs are well aware of our woes, as they have planned the ultimate desert of the high seas. "Baked Alaska". Most every cruise lines serves up this delicious dessert on the final night's meal, complete with the appropriate amounts of fanfare and fudge toppings! Be sure to check out not only our photos, but (see the video of the Baked Alaska Pomp and Circumstance), which we enjoyed on board this cruise adventure. As dinner winds down, we bid farewell to our wonderful dining room staff and make sure to appropriately thank them for their hospitality and wonderful service they have rendered during our voyage. This brings us to a close of what has been a wonderful and memorable "Spring Break" Cruise aboard the Carnival Paradise!! Thank you for coming along this fun filled journey with us - CruisewithMike

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Norwegian Epic

July 2010 - 14 Night Eastern & Western Caribbean (Miami roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Epic

NCL's Newest Ship offers "EPIC" proportions...

NCL's Newest Ship offers "EPIC" proportions of everything!! Last June I was fortunate to be invited by NCL to a "familiarization event" followed by a wonderful seven day Caribbean adventure, which allowed me to not only take a tour of the ship, but to have the opportunity to have a special luncheon aboard the ship which featured cuisine from many of the various fantastic restaurant venues aboard this wonderful vessel. After which, I embarked on an EPIC cruise! First Impressions I had the ability to meet an absolutely engaging and energizing personalities during the agent fam portion of the day. My EPIC experience began upon my arrival at Terminal C at the port of Miami pier, which was nice as it was located at the far end of the Cruise Ship Pier, so you are already situated away from the hub-bub of all of the other cruise ships boarding at same time. From everything I observed, it appeared to be a well run boarding process, as our wait was basically very limited. The very first thing we did once on board was to visit the many different types of staterooms and suites aboard the ship. The Ships Accommodations First we visited the suites, and the villas - These where absolutely the most modern up-to-date accommodations I have seen lately. The Room layouts in their five different levels of suites and villas flowed in wonderful sweeping walls and floor to ceiling window designs, glass staircases, and Jacuzzi tubs on private verandah settings. Something else that was very nice. That NCL has well planned for their guests' complete comfort and enjoyment, as these wonderful accommodations come with their very own special perks. Like a private members only pool and relaxation area, called the "Villas Courtyard", complete with pool, whirlpool spas, shaded cabanas, sun bathing chairs and loungers that are key card accessed for only those who are staying in a villa or suite room. They even have their own special evening nightlife area called the "Posh Beach Club", with lighted cube tables and their own private views of the Midnight Ocean and moon-filled sky making for a great place to mingle and have fun. There is also a private restaurant area with adjacent posh lounge area as well called "The Epic Club". Wow! What a neat idea, and the accommodations are what I would call comfortable cushy and the atmosphere quite sophisticatedly refined! It gives those who are sailing in the suites and villas the opportunity not to have to move very far at all, to be able to have it all at their beckon desire! Also the Concierge Desk is conveniently situated right off of the Epic Club Lounge area. Great Concept NCL! Then we viewed the Staterooms-There are just a myriad (7 categories to be precise) of room styles and offerings to suit every need or taste on board this magnificent vessel. I should mention one of those categories being the SPA Deluxe Staterooms, that come with their very own keycard to give you access to their glamorous spa called the "Mandara Spa and Fitness Center". These rooms can accommodate up to three people, and would certainly be a wonderful experience for any fitness minded cruise passenger. For me, touring through all of the wonderful staterooms displayed for us; I saw some great forward thinking ideas evidenced in the marvelous accommodation offerings that would just about suite anyone who had certain or "particular tastes" quite well indeed. And Then we saw the Fantastic Studios-Wow what a truly great idea NCL has brought to fruition with these fantastic single-minded passenger staterooms. Cool, Hip, and Modern, right down to their lighting from the hallway corridor, and the one way glass porthole type windows to let the passenger see who is outside, but not allow those outside to see in! Each of these staterooms comes equipped with all of the essentials one (and I mean one) would need while at sea. Flat Screen TV, Bed (on the floor), and its own private bath room with shower. These rooms are great for the upwardly mobile professional, right down to the solo mature passenger, who no longer has a travel mate. They also come very affordable in price, so it's like traveling alone without those pesky single supplement fees one person if faced with. This vessel has 128 of these studio staterooms. Also, if all of that weren't enough, Studio Guests have a private key carded access to their own exclusive Lounge area called "The Living Room", which boasts a bar, two large screen tv's, and a comfy seating area to allow hanging out, reading a book, or just enjoying a drink before or after dinner. Accolades for sure are due to NCL for this idea. Terrific!!! Be sure to Come Hungry: Then we made our way to Deck 6, to "The Manhattan Room" where we enjoyed a scrumptious variety of lunch and dinner offerings from several of their Fantastic dining venues. The Manhattan Room - offering drama, romance, and amazing cuisine is to be enjoyed in this marvelous New York Styled Supper Club atmosphere. Or how about Dinner al dente in the Tuscan Courtyard setting called "La Cucina" Maybe you had a taste for a succulent steak in Cagney's Steakhouse and Churrascaria Then there was Dim Sum and then some. For those with a taste for Asian, you have come to cruise ship heaven with a variety of offerings like "Wasabi" for the freshest in sushi and sashimi with the adjacent "Sake Bar". Or maybe you are in the mood for more sophistication so you might try "Teppanyaki" where they prepare right in front of you, by slicing, dicing, and grilling your order to perfection. All while you are cruising the high seas. Or maybe you might just like to do like when at home, and grab a bite with some Chinese takeout from "Shanghai's". It's hard to believe that one ship has all of this Asian cuisine. Certainly a great idea! Oh and speaking of gust having a quick bite, you can always just stop in to the many casual dining venues, if you don't wish to make things so formalized. With 15 (that's right) fifteen, different dining venues to choose from, there is certainly something for every taste. And of course there is always 24hour room service available. The Common Areas: We also took a tour of the various public or common areas aboard the ship. Now let me tell you just a smidge of what kind of activities await you onboard the Epic. Starting Off outside with all of the Fun Stuff to Do. First for the kids is "Aqua Park", with its twisting water slides called the "Epic Plunge", Two Main Pool Areas, A Special Kids Pool, there's a nearby two story sports and gaming complex, a fitness center (complete with squash court, and boxercise ring). With all kinds of outdoor activities to be enjoyed like the Full Sized Basketball Court, Dodge ball, Hockey, and Soccer on the multi use sports deck, there's a climbing wall, repelling wall, and even a full sized batting cage. There is Spice H2o for pool dipping, outdoor movie viewing, and just plain sunning yourself. So when it comes down to outdoors and shaded fun, The Epic certainly offers just about anything for pretty much anybody. Moving Indoors offers also a host of things to keep you occupied. There's Bowling, "The Spider Web" (climbing bars)Wii, Age specific Kid Only areas, Catch a Show in the Main Theatre, or a Cirque type performance in the "Spiegel Tent", See a Comedy Review , or enjoy a Jazz performance at "Fat Cats", Try your hand with Lady Luck in the "Epic Casino", and other World Class Performances to take in. All of this made you thirsty? Why not check out the first of its kind at sea, "ICE Bar" that takes the phrase "on the rocks" to a whole new meaning. One of only 14 true ice bars in the world, with a temperature always at 17 degrees F, (or less) you will definitely want to don one of their cozy fur hats, coats, and gloves to enjoy your cocktail. There is certainly no "cooler" way to get in out of the heat on this ship for sure! What's that you say, doesn't really sound like your cup of tea? Then check out any of the 17 other bar and lounge venues on board! There is certainly an ideal place awaiting you to "get your drink on" here aboard the Epic! In summary: All and all, it was a very interesting and informative event, and I must say that while I have had the pleasure to have cruised on numerous ships, and visited even more at so many of these familiarization type functions, this ship is truly a wonder in its own right, and definitely one ship that I am ready to sail again and again!

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March 2008 - 18 Night Viking Passage (Copenhagen To New York) Cruise on Zuiderdam


January 2008 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (San Diego roundtrip) Cruise on Oosterdam

CruisewithMike's Tips

Carnival Paradise Carnival Paradise - Highly recommend the Hotel Queen Mary for a Pre or Post Stay. A step back into Cruise History for sure!!!
Allure of the Seas Allure of the Seas - My very best favorate had to be the fresh donuts each morning outside the ice cream shop. Warm and delicious!!

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received a helpful vote on their MSC Poesia cruise review - MSC Poesia

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Paradise cruise review - Spring Break Cruise in...

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Paradise cruise review - Spring Break Cruise in...

received a helpful vote on their MSC Poesia cruise review - MSC Poesia

received a helpful vote on their Allure of the Seas cruise review - Bigger Really Is Better...

received a helpful vote on their MSC Poesia cruise review - MSC Poesia

received a helpful vote on their MSC Poesia cruise review - MSC Poesia

received a helpful vote on their MSC Poesia cruise review - MSC Poesia

received a helpful vote on their MSC Poesia cruise review - MSC Poesia

received a helpful vote on their MSC Poesia cruise review - MSC Poesia