Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Europe Wrap Up

Friday was a day at sea, and Saturday we made the trek back home.

Final thoughts:

  • Britain has sorted out automatic toilets. The toilets at Heathrow & in Hyde Park have a motion sensor - simply wave your hand over it to flush. Yes, I took a picture.
  •   This trip was to five countries, with 5 different currencies. I hadn't realized that there were that many countries in Europe that hadn't adopted the Euro. (Belgium was the only one where the Euro was the official currency.)
  • My manager suggested we bring rain ponchos. That was, without a doubt, the best thing we brought with us.
  • I read a lot more books than I usually do on vacation - I think because I had them on the Kobo and thus I didn't have to limit myself.
  •  I did a much better job than usual at limiting the amount of stuff I brought with me. I did not have to buy anything I forgot.
  • Favourite stop: Bruges, Belgium, followed by Copenhagen. I would have preferred to do the cruise in the opposite order so that we ended in Bruges.

Thoughts on the boat:
This is the third cruise I've done. The first one was with Costa, the second was Royal Caribbean, and this one was Princess. They all have pros and cons. These comments are specific to three ships - the Costa Magica, the Legend of the Seas, and the Grand Princess. 

  • This was the most "foreign" cruise line - prices were in Euros, and every announcement was in 4 or 5 languages. (Also - topless sunbathing, which didn't really happen on the other two ships.)
  • The food was excellent (and Italian-style - a pasta course instead of a salad course, for example). 
  • The organization (especially with respect to embarking and disembarking) was lacking.
  • Using the Euro as the currency on board made it more expensive that the others to buy a drink, etc.
  • Swimming pools were opened limited hours, and I think there were only a couple of them.
  • If you wanted ice cream, you had a couple of hours in the afternoon when you could get ice cream, otherwise you were out of luck.  
  • The ship was quite nice, and public areas were clustered around the center of the ship.
  • Lots of lounges.
  • More smoking on board than other cruise lines.
  • People joined the cruise at almost every port, so it wasn't the same kind of everyone gets on at once / everyone gets off at once atmosphere. 
  • There was a specific English-speaking ambassador who was there to answer questions from the Canadian/America/British passengers.
  • Frequent "shows" or special events in the dining room.
  • Frequent, hard to get out of picture taking.
Royal Caribbean:
  • Prices were in US Dollars. Far more American-feeling.
  • The ship was quite nice, and public areas were clustered around the center of the ship.
  • There was a rock-climbing wall, ping pong and min-golf.
  • Embarking and disembarking was well-organized.
  • The food in the dining room was good, and the lunch buffet was quite good. There was also an area where you could get pizza late at night.
  • Trivia happened daily, with prizes like highlighters and other Royal Caribbean-branded stuff.
  •  Prices were in US Dollars. Far more American-feeling.
  • The ship was not even close to my favourite. Some areas (like the excursions desk) were hidden away down back hallways, and the main area of the ship was only 2 floors high. The promenade deck - where you could walk around the ship - had areas that required you to walk up and down steps. Also, there were no stairs in the middle of the ship. Of course, there were emergency stairs, but we were on the 12th deck, and many of the food options were on 14. Our options were to either walk down to the end of the ship or wait for the very, very slow elevators.
  • Embarking and disembarking was well-organized.
  • I didn't enjoy the lunch buffet - not enough salad bar options (I can make a salad with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber at home), and the dining room food was my least favourite. Some days were quite good, but there were also days where I couldn't really see anything I wanted to order. 
  • There were multiple food options on board - the International Cafe (paninis, salads, desserts), a couple of pizza places, a grill for hamburgers/hot dogs/sausages.
  • Also, the ice cream bar had popcorn at night.
  • Lots of pools - I think there were far more than the other ships.
  • "Movies under the stars" - a giant movie screen on deck 14, where they played recent movies, sporting events, etc. We didn't go - it was too cold, and there was nothing we wanted to see badly enough - but it was a nice idea. 
  • Far and away the best shows in the evenings. 
  • Trivia happened multiple times a day, and the prize was a bottle of champagne.

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