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The Caribbean is a veritable paradise for ship lovers, and my two recent Caribbean cruises were no exception. First up was the Eastern Caribbean aboard MSC Divina, followed by Carnival Freedom in the Western Caribbean from Galveston.
Here’s a look at some of the unique cruise ships that made the journey along with us!
From the Deck Chair will return Monday.
Freedom Comes to Galveston
Repositioning a ship to a new homeport is big news. It creates jobs, diversifies itineraries, and adds more options for cruisers looking to try something new and possibly different. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom just relocated to Galveston, Texas, and by all accounts, her first six-day voyage to the Western Caribbean was a rousing success for the nearly 3,000 guests who sailed aboard her.
Our full Live Voyage Report from Carnival Freedom’s first Galveston sailing:
The real diamond-in-the-rough of this sailing was, ironically enough, the city of Galveston. Once too poor to even tear down their derelict and abandoned buildings, Galveston is experiencing a modern-day resurgence. Their turn-of-the-century streets and buildings are shockingly well-preserved, and the city boasts nearly 30 antiques shops, three luxury hotels (plus numerous others), and even a Starbucks situated directly across from the cruise terminal.
Boutique shops, restaurants and bars line the streets, and there are more attractions here than you could ever hope to take in. My advice? Galveston is one cruise port you want to spend a few days in before embarkation. Personally, it’s one of my unexpected favorites in the United States.
Carnival As Underdog
I have to admit I have a soft spot for Carnival: the line is frequently maligned and often underappreciated. Like the boy who cried wolf, Carnival has a tough time being taken seriously for the things they do right each and every day. My first sailing last year onboard the Carnival Breeze did much to dispel my own misconceptions, and this second Carnival sailing aboard Carnival Freedom only reinforced in my mind just how strong their onboard product is – and how much you’re getting for the price.
You might not think of Carnival as ‘the underdog’, but in many ways, they are. And that’s a good thing.
Take, for example, the culinary offerings onboard Carnival Freedom. You’ve got Guy’s Burger Joint, which serves up delicious hamburgers – for free. Then, there’s the BlueIguana Cantina which serves up freshly-made burritos and tacos – for free. Fish and chips? Free. Ice cream? Free. Juices all day? Free.
Meals served in the Chic and Posh Restaurants are unusually good. The fish, in particular, was so good that I ordered it every single night and never left disappointed. Plating was better than you might expect, and service was friendly and personable, if not highly polished.
Evenings on Carnival Freedom were a real treat. There’s the RedFrog Pub, serving up Carnival’s own delicious RedFrog Ale for a very reasonable $5-something per pint. Come for the Live Music, stay for the Adult Pub Trivia in the evenings – tremendous!
The Alchemy Bar became a fast favorite of mine. Located aft on Deck 5, this popular people-watching spot mixes up craft cocktails and martinis to-order, all of which are selected from a very cool backlit menu that lights up when you open it. You’ll spend $11 on a cocktail after gratuity, but these libations are well worth the cost of admission. Alchemy takes the place of the former Nouveau Wine Bar that never really found the same kind of following that Alchemy has. One of Carnival’s best FunShip 2.0 additions, hands down.
It’s also worth mentioning Carnival’s retooled Kids and Teens programs, nearly all of which boast new facilities on Carnival Freedom. There’s also an uncommonly smart educational tie-in with Dr. Seuss, the latter of which subtly encourages kids to read. Books are available to read in Bookville in the completely-redesigned Camp Ocean facilities on Deck 12 forward. Camp Ocean replaces the old Camp Carnival, and the new facilities and entertainment programs are so good you’ll wish you were a kid again.
As for the itinerary, it’s exactly what you might expect: a good mix of Western Caribbean ports of call that offer sun, sandy beaches, and the odd historical tour – which I highly recommend. My voyage went to Costa Maya, Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico, but Carnival Freedom also offers sailings that visit Montego Bay, Jamaica; Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Belize; Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan; Key West, Florida; Freeport, Bahamas; and Nassau, Bahamas.
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom has sadly come to a close. Be sure to follow along with our future adventures on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
From Oman to Greece Aboard the Elegant Silver Wind
So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?
- Hunter S. Thompson
I’ve long maintained that cruises are a bit like bicycles: you have to do a couple of loops around the block with the training wheels on before you can fully set out on your own. The same is true, I think, of travel in general: there are trips you can take without really thinking about them, but the most rewarding are those that truly seek to show you something out of the ordinary.
Beginning on April 5, 2015, I’ll set out on a trip that is far from ordinary. In fact, it’s one of the most interesting itineraries I’ve seen in a long time – but it comes as no surprise to me that Silversea would be the line to offer it. I’ve been sailing with Silversea for over five years now, and the line has never left me disappointed in their willingness to go where others either can’t or don’t.
So, at the start of April, I’ll fly all the way from Canada to Muscat, Oman to board the beautiful Silver Wind – one of my favorite Silversea ships, and one that has already shown me the splendors of South Africa and the warmth of the Mediterranean. With just 296 guests onboard, it’s exactly what you’d expect of a luxury vessel: intimate but welcoming, nimble but still large enough to offer amenities like a two-story show lounge, multiple dining venues, and plenty of outdoor deck space.
Our final destination? The Greek port of Piraeus, gateway to Athens. Voyage 2509 will take us there on a spectacular journey through the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal. Over the course of 15 days, we’ll trace a route through some of the most historic and important countries in the world, each with their own unique cultures, traditions and people.
Our itinerary is a beautiful one. After an overnight stay in Muscat at the gorgeous Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, we’ll set off across the Indian Ocean aboard Silver Wind, bound for Salalah, Oman.
In Salalah, the contrast between the lush city and the barren red desert that surrounds it is apparent. One of the most interesting excursions Silversea offers here is a journey along the “Frankincense Trail” – an ancient trade route that led inland from the Indian Ocean that was named after the precious commodity that many residents of Dhofar still use to this day to add fragrance to their homes.
After Salalah, we’ll get to spend four days sailing the Indian Ocean before arriving in Safaga, Egypt. Here, we can explore the Bedouin life with an off-road journey into the desert; go snorkelling in the Red Sea; or even visit the magnificent city of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Google Safaga if you know nothing of it; it wouldn’t look out of place in the Greek Islands with its vibrant blue sea and resort-style community.
Aqaba, Jordan is next. Known as “The Bride of the Red Sea”, Aqaba has been inhabited since 4000 BC and today serves as a major tourist destination and the only seaport of Jordan. There’s plenty to do here, but the one real “prestige” tour is the excursion to ancient Petra. The city was established as early as 312 BC and is famous for its buildings that were literally cut into the rock face behind them, as well as for its modern aqueduct system. UNESCO called it “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage” and named it a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
We then stop in the seaside resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for an eight-hour, early-morning call before setting out to transit the famous Suez Canal that links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean. A brief technical stop is also made in Port Said, Egypt.
Once in the Mediterranean, Silver Wind will head for Israel, calling on both Ashdod and Haifa. The only problem here is deciding which excursions to take! Do you spend the day touring the fabled city of Jerusalem, set out for Tel Aviv, or tour Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee? Silversea even offers a golfing excursion in Haifa, though I don’t think I’ll be participating in that. Who can golf when there’s so much amazing history to see?
Our final port of call is the only one aside from Athens on the entire journey that I have been to: Kusadasi, Turkey – gateway to the ancient and mythical city of Ephesus. I’d love to do something different here, but we all know I won’t. Once you’ve been to Ephesus once, it gets in your blood and you simply have to go back to see its treasures again.
So follow along with us as we once again discover the beauty of sailing with Silversea as we travel through some of the world’s most fascinating – and misunderstood – countries. You can even come in person, too – there’s still a handful of Vista and Veranda Suites left on this sailing. The more, the merrier!
Our Live Voyage Report runs from April 5 to April 20, 2015!
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind will begin on April 5, 2015 from Muscat, Oman! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
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