Second Mate

Hometown: Minneapolis
Joined: 07/02/2011
Helpful Votes

About cruiseships

It all started when our family stayed on the Hotel Queen Mary in 1977, I developed a passion for the history of ocean liners, then cruise ships. I sold cruises from my dorm room in college in 1985. I worked on six different ships with four cruise lines for two years in the entertainment department. I currently host the most listened-to cruise-related talk show anywhere at


cruiseships's Past Cruises

Norwegian Jade

October 2012 - Norwegian Jade to Europe - Mediterranean

Brilliance of the Seas

January 2012 - Brilliance of the Seas to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)

"This was an amazing and fascinating cruise itinerary out of Dubai."

Cruising around the world is...

Cruising around the world is a fascinating way to travel, especially if you have been on one particular cruise line a number of times in other parts of the world. As an example, I have cruised the Caribbean with Royal Caribbean many times, so when I stepped aboard the Brilliance of the Seas in the exotic and far-away port of Dubai, it was like coming home to a familiar place, even though I'm in a strange culture. The highlight of this particular cruise aboard the Brilliance of the Seas was the fascinating itinerary cruising from Dubai to Fujairah, (UAE) Muscat, Oman, and finally Abu Dhabi, (UAE). We cruised through the Straight or Hormuz twice, which has been in the news because of the instability of Iran and their military and nuclear programs. This cruise was an adventure. The ship offered all the usual Royal Caribbean amenities; food and entertainment, which was very familiar, while the places we visited were mysterious and intriguing. I'm going to be very straight and honest about our experience with Royal Caribbean. I'm a fan of Royal Caribbean, I use to work at Royal Caribbean and when I was selling cruises I sent a lot of people on Royal Caribbean. I was impressed with the professionalism among the Guest Services staff and all the crew and staff I came across. The ship was very clean and well maintained. Two things stuck out with me, however; and that was the dining experience was not memorable, except for the one night we ate in Portofino, and the fact that so many ammenities and services were monetized or commericalized. Back to the dining, our waiter for example, was excellent, and from the explanations of the food and the presentation by the waiter, you would expect the taste to be extraordinary....but in my opinion the taste and sometimes even the look of the food fell flat. I think the waiters are trained to hype-up the dining and get you ready for an incredible tasty experience, then when the food is there in front of me and I took a few bites, I felt it was good but not extraordinary. I liked the new plates and bowls, the service was excellent, it was the actual taste and sometimes presentation of the food that fell flat with me. I also must take into consideration that most of the passengers onboard the Brilliance of the Seas were from the UK, so there may have been some cultural adjustments to the preparation, presentation and taste, based on the palate of people from the UK, and the European market too. One more example: I usually take photos of the food, but on this cruise, in the main dining room, I did not. I'm not saying the food was poor, or not tasty, it just didn't stand out as being extraordinary, as it was built-up to be by the waiters and my personal expectations. I am embarrased to say that only one time did I set foot in a stage show during this cruise, and only for a few minutes. What I did see was excellent. Royal Caribbean does such a great job with their shows, the talent brought onboard is top of the line. I have just seen so many shows in the many cruises I've been on, and the shows were later in the evening when I was tired and ready for bed. I think you can expect great entertainment onboard any of the Royal Caribbean ships, that is yet another part of the cruise that is very consistent. There were plenty of activities throughout the ship, and many familiar games and activities I use to host when I worked on the ships. The Brilliance of the Seas had one particular Cool factor activity, and that was the pool tables. Yes, you can play billiards on a ship, because these pool tables were rigged with gyros so they remained level no matter how rough the seas were outside. It was very fun to watch someone play pool as the ship is pitching and listing through the sea, and the pool table remained level. Another area where Royal Caribbean stepped-up to the plate and hit a home-run was the Arabian White Night on deck. This was the third night of the cruise, we had been docked in Muscat, Oman all day. Many passengers, including me, went out and purchased the Arabian head gear which was in nearly every shop in Muscat. The band was playing on deck, there were ice sculptures, a fantastic dessert buffet, you could rent a special bong device where you could smoke some harmless, tobacco / drug-free mint. I forgot what the flavor was, but everyone seemed to enjoy pretending to get high on the bong. There were tents set up with pillows on the deck so you could live the dream of being an Arabian Sultan. It was a very fun event and my hat goes off to Royal Caribbean for producing such a creative activity. The real treasure from this cruise, aside from the Brilliance of the Seas, was the unique ports, and the incredible sights to see in Muscat and Abu Dhabi. Muscat, Oman, did not seem like a place that was accustomed to tourists and cruise passengers scrambling around. We were docked in Muscat for two full days, giving passengers plenty of opportunity to explore the city. The one thing I was surprised to see were the Indian shop keepers and product from India. There were few if any women that actually worked in the stores or shops, in fact, I think it was against the law in this town for women to work in a public place. At every turn throughout the city of Muscat it was very clear that this was a very strict, religious community. Mosques and religious structures were everywhere, and there were large speakers throughout the city that broadcast prayers every morning. I was anticipating somewhat of an oppressive feeling in an environment like this, but that was not my experience. A pleasant surprise was the fabulous market-place or mall. There were no windows in this mall, it was a little on the dark side, but absolutely fascinating to walk through. We spent hours wandering through this mall. Again it surprised me that nearly every shopkeeper was from India. There were numerous shops that had identical nick-knacks, statues, clocks, nautical brass items, jewelry, linens, cashmere, silk, herbs, exotic was mesmerizing how much stuff these stores had in stock. Much of the product in these stores were useless junk, but one man's junk is another man's treasure. It truly was fascinating to walk through this mall, and I only wish I had brought money to spend, cause there were certainly some items I'd like to have, but then I tried to realize that most of this stuff was made in England or India, and the real challenge was to find items actually made in Muscat, Oman. I did find and purchased some silver earrings for my wife, that were made in Muscat. We also visited Abu Dhabi. I truly enjoyed Abu Dhabi and was impressed by how clean and modern the city was. We went on one shore excursion during the entire cruise, to a fabulous mosque, which was very impressive. Entirely made out of white marble, and larger than the Taj Mahal in India, this Mosque was recently completed in 2007 I think. All of the women in our group had to wear black robes to enter the mosque. I think this mosque had several Guiness world records, including the world's largest chandelier, which was spectacular. In fact, there were four of these giant chandeliers. Another world record was the massive custom rug manufactured specifically for this mosque. It was a massive structure and worth visiting. I was also impressed with the mall in Abu Dhabi. This mall in Abu Dhabi is far different than the seemingly ancient mall in Muscat. I enjoy walking through malls, and this one in Abu Dhabi was ultra modern and had all the brands you would expect in a first-class mall anywhere in the world. I'm a movie fan, and asked if I could peek into the theater. The movie playing was Mission Impossible and it was subtitled in Arabic, in the latest stadium seating theater with the latest sound system. Finally, we spent a whole day in Dubai before disembarking the Brilliance of the Seas the next morning. I had made special transportation arrangements with Dubai Exotic Limo, and visited several landmarks in Dubai, including Burj Al Arab, the giant hotel that looks like a huge sale, and the mall at the base of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. First of all, if you ever plan a trip to Dubai, contact Dubai Exotic Limo who offers a truly luxurious experience of transport in an actual stretched limo. There are few stretched limos in Dubai. If you ask for a limo service, most companies send you just a car or van, but not Dubai Exotic Limo, where you are shuttled around in an actual stretched limo....the best way to get around in Dubai in my humble opinion. We also visited the world's most luxurious hotel, Burj Al Arab. At this moment, all I can say is Wow! Burj Al Arab is over-the-top spectacular, and one of the only seven star hotels in the world. It's a very exclusive building that is only accessible by crossing the gated bridge. Only hotel guests and special visitors who are invited by a guests can enter this exclusive and luxurious hotel. I think the builders of Dubai have decided long ago to construct a city with the best of the best, the largest, tallest and most extravigant structures in the world. I thought our Mall of America in my hometown was impressive, but then visited the Dubai Mall and I was completely taken back by the size and range of stores and activities available. There's a complete ice-skating rink and the world's largest fish tank, all in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The dancing waters in the lake at the base of the Burj Khalifa, rivals that of the dancing waters in Las Vegas. As you walk around the mall area in Dubai, you can't help but think this place is over-the-top and the best of the best. It reminded me of a massively expanded Fashion Island in Newport Beach. I'm so thrilled that I can now check off my bucket list of places to visit, this amazing city of Dubai and the cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas was an adventurous and comfortable experience. Without question I would recommend a cruise with Royal Caribbean out of Dubai. For American's reading this, you might want to take note that on this itinerary out of Dubai, you will be a minority. Of the two thousand or so passengers onboard the Brilliance of the Seas, there were only one hundred fifty American passengers onboard. Most of the passengers were from the UK or Europe, so you can expect a culturally diverse experience on this itinerary among the passengers.

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Pride of America

August 2011 - Pride of America to Hawaii


Since my wife, Terri, was a little girl, one of her wildest dreams was to one-day experience a magical vacation to Hawaii. When I married Terri, the girl of my dreams, I told her that I would show her the world. Following through with my promise, I've taken her to China, Norway, the Caribbean, and Alaska, but the dream destination from her childhood still called out to her. Millions of people dream of going to Hawaii, a destination of romance often seen in movies and television. The time was now for my wife Terri, a small-town mid-western girl, to live out her dream of vacationing in Hawaii, however; because she's married to a Cruise Journalist, we embarked on the perfect Hawaiian cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Liner's Pride of America. Cruising the Hawaiian islands aboard the Pride of America is a gleaming, dreamy, unique experience within the cruise industry because of the ship, the itinerary and the American crew who work onboard. Hawaii is such a friendly place where the locals make you feel like family. The customary orchid lei and a warm "Aloha" greeting, set the tone for a relaxed feeling as you board the Pride of America. You'll soon get use to saying aloha, which means both hello and good-bye, and you'll also find yourself saying mahalo, the Hawaiian word for thank you. A cruise departure from Honolulu has risen to the top of my list as one of the most beautiful ports to cruise out of. Pride of America departs at 7:00pm just as the sun is setting, and the lights of Waikiki glisten with the Diamond Head landmark as a backdrop. Pride of America has a comfortable, welcoming interior design with rich colors and American-themed deacute;cor. The two main dining rooms are called the Liberty and Skyline Restaurants, both have a very elegant setting; Liberty with a very patriotic red, white and blue decor and Skyline with an art deco design. Norwegian Cruise Line invented Freestyle Dinning, so with twelve dining venues the chances of going hungry are slim. Our favorite restaurants were Jefferson Bistro, offering French cuisine, and Teppanyaki that has an entertaining and talented Japanese chef cooking on a grill surrounded by about eight hungry passengers. Seven of the twelve dining venues had an extra charge, ranging from $10 - $25 dollars per person. If you have a particular craving for pizza anytime and anywhere on the ship, just call it in and make your order, for five-bucks a piping hot pizza will arrive just like back home. I like to think of myself as a pizza connoisseur, and I must say that the pizza we ordered was perfect! Accommodations onboard are comfortable with a refrigerator and the usual amenities available in most fine hotels, and many categories have private verandahs. My wife has instructed me to find out how we can buy one of the Pride of America beds, because they were so comfortable. From sea to shining sea, America the beautiful is seen in the interior design and deacute;cor with samples from the South, the East, the Midwest and the West Coast. I was impressed with the Guest Services area on Deck Five with it's grand stairs, red carpet, white banisters, columns, and an atrium dome with frescos lining the ceiling area that reminded me of the artwork Irsquo;ve seen in Rome. A fantastic image of the Great Seal from the United States of America, covers the floor of the Guest Services area, and makes a patriotic first impression when boarding the ship. The Pride of America certainly makes a bold and proud impression as a physical resort at sea, and yet it's the fantastic Hawaiian itinerary that is perhaps the biggest attraction. Pride of America is the only cruise ship in the industry allowed to embark passengers in Honolulu, cruise the Hawaiian islands and disembark passengers again in Honolulu on a seven-day itinerary. Unique within the cruise industry, the Pride of America is a U.S. registered vessel that fully complies with the Jones Act of 1920, a United States Federal statute regulating maritime commerce between U.S. ports. The usual choices for internationally operated cruise ships to cruise the Hawaiian Islands requires embarkation for example, from the mainland, which is a four-night voyage at sea just to get to Hawaii, then these ships can cruise the islands, but must make the journey back to the mainland again, resulting in a cruise length of at least fourteen days. Pride of America, on the other hand, is exclusively allowed to offer a seven-night cruise beginning and ending in Hawaii, so her itinerary is unique. Embarkation is in Honolulu and the first port is Maui, where the ship is docked for two full days. Next, Pride of America cruises to the Big Island of Hawaii to Hilo, then to Kona. Finally, passengers have another full day and a half in the beautiful port Kuaui, before returning to Honolulu. Our favorite ports were Maui and Kuaui, mostly because these islands seemed more lush and tropical. After departing Kauai around 1:30pm, make sure yoursquo;re on-deck at 5:00pm because Pride of America cruises along the Na Pali Coast, offering an incredibly beautiful and scenic view of the rugged mountains. The highlights of this Hawaiian itinerary, and what most passengers want to see when they go to Hawaii are the volcanoes, the whales, the beaches and to experience a Hawaiian Luau. Whale-spotting is seasonal, only in the winter months from November through May, because this is when the Humback Whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaiian waters for mating. Perhaps the most popular excursions offered are to see the active volcanoes on the Big Island from Hilo. My wife and I rented a car in Maui and we explored the island a bit. The ship tenders into Kona, and the visit to this quaint town is worthwhile because most of the highlights are within walking distance. A visit to Hawaii wouldnrsquo;t be complete without experiencing an authentic luau. Norwegian Cruise Line has found an excellent luau production in Kuaui where the roasted pig and the show bring to life a traditional Hawaiian story with music and dancing by local performers. The food was delicious, and there was an open-bar included in the excursion. One particular feature that makes the Pride of America one of the most unique ships in the cruise industry is her mostly American crew. With a crew ratio of 75% Americans and 25% international, I was looking forward to experiencing such a high concentration of Americans working on a cruise ship. With this unique U.S. registration, the ship must be operated under American labor laws, so the crew are paid overtime and wages just like any other company in America. The operating costs of the Pride of America alone, are equal to that of four internationally registered Norwegian Cruise Line vessels, which is why great care and attention is given to make sure passengers have the Hawaiian vacation of a lifetime. I boarded the Pride of America, not knowing what to expect, and after our cruise, I was impressed with the attentiveness and quality of service offered by the crew. The most important objective for me on this cruise aboard the Pride of America was to make sure my wife Terri, was able to fully enjoy her Hawaiian dream vacation. I watched as my wife experienced the fulfillment of her lifelong dream of going to Hawaii, and this cruise on the Pride of America exceeded her expectations as well as mine. Hawaii is a beautiful place, and the Pride of America, in my opinion, is among the best ways to sample the islands and enjoy the perfect Hawaiian cruise vacation.

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Silver Spirit

May 2011 - Silver Spirit to Europe - Mediterranean

The Sweetness of Luxury aboard the Silver Spirit

Enter the world of Silversea and you are embraced by a refined, unobtrusive blend of modern design and a sophistication reserved for the affluent individuals who are accustomed to concierge and butler services, fine dining, exquisite wines and exotic destinations. Today the world often seems like it's shaking with political and economic fallout all around us, yet when you board the Silver Spirit those cares of the world fall away, and it's like entering an oasis of peace. I recently boarded the Silver Spirit for a seven night cruise through the Italian Riviera, however; I missed the first couple of days because of transportation and logistics. We boarded the Silver Spirit in Taormina, Italy on a beautiful day in May. The ship was anchored in the harbor perfectly contrasted with the ancient Italian culture, and beckoning us to open our imagination to the upscale experience awaiting us. As a Journalist, I usually travel with my wife, but this time my Father-in-law, Richard, assisted me with my video work. It's interesting, Richard is a retired minister and now works in an executive position with Kids Against Hunger, so this level of luxury was very foreign to him. Can you imagine how thrilled I was to watch Richard experience the fine dining and exotic excursions? The Silver Spirit is Silver's newest and largest vessel with luxury accommodations for 540 passengers. At 642 feet long and 36,000 tons, Silver Spirit is not a small vessel, however; compared to most of the newbuilds today, she is on the smaller more intimate size. With 376 European crew members serving the 540 passengers, the crew to guest ratio is higher than on most other cruise ships. It is this exclusivity that is so appealing to Silversea passengers, in a ship that offers amenities and services for a few hundred as opposed to a few thousand passengers. I didn't see crowds of passengers nor did I wait in any lines for dinner. The feeling onboard the Silver Spirit was close to being at a private club or yacht, but the most distinguishing element was a relaxed, carefree, precise environment to indulge in the good life, whatever that may mean to you. I enjoyed the dining experience, knowing that each meal was made-to-order, and a testament to the expertise of highly trained chefs, with the best possible ingredients. Every evening, complimentary fine wine is served and the wine glass is kept full throughout the meal. The attentive waiters made me feel like they enjoyed their job and were sincere when they often asked if I needed anything. The reason I mention this is because on the many cruises Irsquo;ve been on over the years it's not uncommon to notice that many wait staff personnel are on automatic pilot, and work as if they are on an assembly line just doing their job. This was certainly not what I experienced onboard the Silver Spirit, the waiters and waitresses were genuinely focused on providing exceptional service. I counted at least six different restaurants onboard the Silver Spirit from the main Restaurant on Deck Four to the Italian La Terrazza on Deck Seven and the Pool Grill serves a wonderful "Hot Rock" dining experience on Deck Ten overlooking the pool. The Hot Rock dining gives the guest an opportunity to cook their own meat on a hot slab of rock served at your table, so you can have fun preparing your fresh fish or steak cooked exactly how you prefer. Rudi Scholdis, Silversearsquo;s Corporate Executive Chef, was onboard our voyage preparing mussels using beer, at an exquisite poolside buffet. Setting the standards for Silversea's cuisine fleet-wide, Chef Rudi has demonstrated his culinary expertise for Royalty including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Heads of State like Bill Clinton, King Kayd of Saudi Arabia, Israeli Prime Minister Netenayu, and numerous Hollywood stars. Since Chef Rudi has prepared fine dining for all these famous world-personalities, why not for me? On a Silversea voyage you can ask the same indulgent question, "why not you?" Luxury does have a certain "feel," a certain "taste," and even a familiar "sound," relative to the distinguishing senses of those who can afford it. During my experience aboard the Silver Spirit, I savored the aroma of luxury, even as a mere Journalist. For me, there were numerous and specific moments that caused me to be more than content, for example; I enjoyed the spa onboard, particularly the steam room and sauna that each had a large window looking out to the sea. I'm no elite, and I may have been pretending to be someone I was not, but it did feel good to have the ability and freedom to ask for a glass of champagne while in the relaxing thermal bath on deck by the pool. During our visit to Rome, my Father-in-law and I embarked on a special shore excursion lead by Rosalba Iocca, who was no ordinary tour guide. Yet another example of Silversea's commitment to provide the very best for guests, Rosalba was an expert in Roman history, she studied archeology, but her greatest asset as an expert Roman guide was through her intimate contacts at Vatican City and the Coliseum. Rosalba lead our bus group ahead of the masses waiting for hours in lines to enter the museums and the coliseum, circumventing the system and quickly ushering our group immediately into the many museums, the coliseum and so much more as if we were VIPs or someone special. It's no coincidence, our tour guide to Rome was the best there is, and I'm certain the Shore Excursions people at Silversea go to great lengths to plan, coordinate, and capture the best guides, tour routes, buses, and VIP access for Silversea guests. Whatever your definition of luxury is, the perks of being a Silversea passenger are obvious, but sometimes the perks are subtle. The beautifully appointed suites, the butler service, wide cooridors, fine dining, classy interior decor and the refined-level of service among the crew stand out as an obvious statement of luxury, however; I noticed a few small details and perks that might get overlooked. Mini news-of-the-day printouts from the country of your residence are placed in the slot just outside your suite each day. If you are from the U.S.A. you'll receive news applicable to whatrsquo;s happening in America, if you come from Britain, you will receive a news-flyer focused on news in Britain. I noticed the shape of the silverware in the restaurants, particularly the handles, had a unique feel that better conformed to your hands. For those passengers who were residents on the world cruise, there was a special engraved plaque just outside your suite with your name and the country you are from. Many cruise ships have the internet available, but through MTN Satellite Communications, there were more Wifi hotspots throughout the whole ship, so you could access the internet on your laptop or internet device from the pool if you choose. Security is tight on all the cruise ships throughout the industry, however; I did appreciate the precise, yet unobtrusive manner in which security was conducted at the gangway. I was delighted to see a set of quality binoculars in our suite so we could explore the horizon or get a close-up view of the port we were visiting right from our private veranda. The fresh flowers, over-sized fluffy towels and the personalized stationary in our suite was a nice perk. The scented oil sticks in our bathroom were not only nice to look at, but created a rich, subtle fragrance. Obviously the Silver Spirit scored high points from my perspective, and when you look at the popularity of Silversea among the affluent, itrsquo;s clear to see the expectations of luxury, are continuously met by a wide range of people from around the world. I enjoyed the hardware of the Silver Spirit and appreciated the consistency of quality in the ship's design, the artwork onboard, and the fittings that provide the atmosphere and ambience of luxury. I've said this many times and it is also true aboard the Silver Spirit, you can have a fabulously luxurious ship, yet it's the crew and staff that make up the personality of a ship. A highly trained and fine-tuned crew, complete the element of luxury on any ship. The crowning jewel aboard the Silver Spirit is the crew and staff that contribute to the overall sweetness of luxury on this ship. I want to encourage you to indulge and savor the sweetness of luxury aboard the Silver Spirit or any of the ships in the Silversea fleet. Pick out an itinerary anywhere in the world and you should be able to find a Silversea ship that goes there.

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cruiseships's Tips

Silver Spirit Silver Spirit - Try the various restaurants onboard. Dine out on deck - outside of La Terrazza. Utilize the services of your butler. If there's anything you want, just ask.
Pride of America Pride of America - I would recommend using a company called Luggage Free to ship your luggage to your Hawaii cruise aboard the Pride of America. Enjoy the new onboard entertainment (shows) that are being created just for the Pride of America.

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received a helpful vote on their Silver Spirit cruise review - The Sweetness of Luxury aboard the Silver Spirit

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received a helpful vote on their Silver Spirit cruise review - The Sweetness of Luxury aboard the Silver Spirit

received a helpful vote on their Silver Spirit cruise review - The Sweetness of Luxury aboard the Silver Spirit

received a helpful vote on their Silver Spirit cruise review - The Sweetness of Luxury aboard the Silver Spirit

received a helpful vote on their Silver Spirit cruise review - The Sweetness of Luxury aboard the Silver Spirit