Norwegian Dawn update – photos, menus, Hotel Director interview

Posted in Bermuda, Bermuda, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise Ships, cruises, cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Photography, Sea and Ocean, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2014 by beyondships

Norwegian Dawn cruise ship

Recently, I was aboard Norwegian Dawn. Although it seems like I am always running into Norwegian Dawn in various ports of call, I had not been aboard her for several years. Thus, I was anxious to see how the ship had changed.




During this period, Norwegian has been a cruise line on the move. Since Kevin Sheehan took over as CEO, there has been a marked improvement in the line. He seems to have been able to release the talent of both Norwegian’s head office and the crews on the ships. Therefore, I was interested in seeing not just any physical changes but also how the revolution had affected the Dawn,




As for physical changes, there have been several. The area that was the observation lounge has been turned into suites and a conference center. Keeping the name of the old observation lounge, a new Spinnaker Lounge has taken the place of the department store that was at the stern of the ship aft of the main lobby. The shops have been moved forward and can now be found in the area corresponding to the shops on Norwegian Gem. Another change is that the Moderno Churascarria South American steakhouse has replaced the Tex/Mex Salsa specialty restaurant.




More changes are to come. Moderno will be moving up to an area near Cagney’s steakhouse and the entire mezzanine overlooking the lobby will become an O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill.




Beyond these physical changes, the officers and crew seem to share the optimistic spirit that you find on other Norwegian ships these days. Once Norwegian’s New York-based ship, Dawn is quite content with her new home in Boston and is looking forward to wintering in New Orleans.


We have updated Beyondships’s Norwegian Dawn profile. The photo tour has been expanded and numerous new photos of the interior added. We have added a new menus page including examples of the new menus being used in the main dining room of which Norwegian is quite proud. There is also a new daily programs page with copies of Freestyle Dailies from past cruises. Copies of the current deck plans have been added. Hotel Director Alain Magnier talks about what the Dawn is all about these days.




In addition, we have a new photo feature showing Dawn in Bermuda and a video of Dawn heading out to sea.


Portland England cruise port; Dorset attractions; Celebrity Reflection

Posted in British cruising, Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise ports, Cruise Ships, Cruises, cruises, cruises, Destinations, destinations, England, England, Sea and Ocean, Ships, Travel, UK Cruising, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2014 by beyondships
Minterne House

Minterne House

Portland is a cruise port of call that has been gaining attention over the last few years. Once a Royal Navy base, there is plenty of room for large ships to maneuver and dock. It is also located in a desirable spot on the southwest coast of England in Dorset, not too far from attractions like Bath and Stonehenge. With Southampton so much in demand by ships seeking to originate and or terminate cruises, Portland is a good alternative for ships seeking to make an in-transit port call.


While the cruise lines place emphasis on the proximity of internationally famous sites such as Stonehenge, there are worthwhile things to see in Dorset itself. There is for example, the beautiful rural countryside that so inspired the novelist Thomas Hardy. The chalk cliffs of the Jurassic Coast have a natural splendor of a different sort. Then there is the mysterious carving of the giant of Cerne.


One excursion I particularly enjoyed was to Minterne House, a large Elizabethan-style manor house. The home of the Digby family, it is set on 1,300 acres of stunning parkland. The house itself is not usually open to the public but the family did open its doors for our shore excursion group. Lord Digby greeted us and told us the story of the house and his family. Then we were allowed to explore the grand rooms on the lower level of the house.


During the tour, it was mentioned that one of the creators of the popular television series Downton Abbey lives nearby and has been a guest at Minterne. Could he have been inspired by those visits. Certainly, the story of the Digbys has a dramatic appeal. Lord Digny’s sister was Pamela Hariman and she grew up at Minterne.


Accordingly, this week on Beyondships, we have a profile of the Portland cruise port ; a photo feature of some of the nearby attractions and a feature on visiting Minterne complete with a slideshow .


In addition, we have a feature showing Celebrity Reflection going to sea. It includes both still photos and a video .


SS United States Profile; Adventure of the Seas interviews

Posted in Cruise, Cruise Ships, cruises, cruises, Ocean Liners, Photography, Royal Caribbbean, Royal Caribbean, Sea and Ocean, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, US foreign relations, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2014 by beyondships

SS United States ocean liner

Last weekend, I had the great good fortune to go aboard the SS United States. It is a ship that I have read about for years as she is indisputably one of the great ships of history. Indeed, I have a painting of her over my desk along with the great French ocean liner Normandie. Inasmuch as the ship is rarely open to the public, it was a privilege to go aboard.

The SS United States is the fastest ocean liner ever built, a title she has held since 1952. No ocean liner or cruise ship before or since has come close to her top speed of nearly 40 knots. She is widely considered the height of American shipbuilding.

During her 17 years in service, the SS United States was a popular ship, carrying royalty, statesmen and celebrities across the Atlantic along with thousands of tourists. Bill Clinton, on his way to study at Oxford University, was one of them. She was a more down-to-earth and informal ship than the Cunard Queens or the French Line ships that were her main competitors.

The SS United States was a very American ship. As her confident, flowing lines and technological prowess suggest, she personified the spirit of America in the post war era.

She was built, not just for commercial reasons, but also for national defense. In fact, the United States government contributed the bulk of the $79 million needed to construct her in the early 1950s. The idea was that the ship could be quickly converted into a troopship capable of carrying 15,000 soldiers across the Atlantic in four days. The fact that the United States could quickly reinforce the NATO troops stationed in Western Europe with large numbers of soldiers acted as a deterrent to any notion that the Soviet Union may have had to invade Western Europe with conventional forces.

The SS United States was prematurely retired in late 1969. Commercial jet travel had arrived and demand for Atlantic crossings by ship was declining. At the same time, labor costs and fuel costs were increasing. Essentially, her owners, the United States Lines, took the ship down to Virginia and gave her to the government.

Once it was decided that the SS United States was no longer of military value, the government sold her to private interests. Then began came a succession of owners who had various grand schemes to put the ship back in service. Fortunes were spent on these dreams but none ever came to fruition.

During one of these episodes the ship was moved from Virginia to Turkey, then the Ukraine, and then back to the United States. She has been in Philadelphia since 1996.

Despite all the money that has been spent on her, the ship looks quite pathetic. She has not been painted in years, her deck machinery is rusting and there is even grass growing where some of the lifeboats once stood. Her interior is empty, stripped down to the metal. Her first owners sold off all of the moveable contents. Then when she was in the Ukraine, her interior walls were removed in order to remove the asbestos that was used to fireproof everything in the 1950s.

Her blemishes, however, are only cosmetic. Surveys have shown that the ship is still structurally sound. In addition, her vast expanse of interior space appears to be full of potential for development.

Finding someone that will realize that potential is the goal of the SS United States Conservancy. It has been talking with real estate developers and government agencies in an effort to preserve the ship. While there is hope for a new future, time is fleeting. It costs some $60,000 a month just to maintain the ship where she is and the Conservancy does not have unlimited resources. Once its money runs out, the SS United States will probably go to the scrapyard.

What a shame that would be! The SS United States is not only an important part of maritime history but is a symbol of the United States. Future generations will condemn us for our stupidity if we let her go. This is especially so considering her potential for future use. The Tate Modern in London, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and the High Line in New York City are examples of how new uses can be found for old historic structures once they are no longer needed for their original purpose.

I have added an SS United States section to Beyondships with information and photos about the ship. It includes a feature article outlining the story of the SS United States. There is also a photo feature showing the interior of the ship from my visit to the SS United States. Also, we have a video showing the fine proud lines of the exterior of the SS United States.

Also on Beyondships this week is Part Two of our update on Adventure of the Seas. It includes an interview in which the captain, the hotel director and the guest services manager discuss what the cruise experience on Adventure is like. In another interview, Hotel Director Gary Davies talks about the recent changes made to Adventure of the Seas and those planned for 2016. Finally, Captain Olle-Johan Gronhaug explains what is happening when you see a cruise ship’s lifeboats being launched while the ship is in port.


Adventure of the Seas review and photos

Posted in British cruising, Caribbean, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise Ships, Cruises, cruises, cruises, cruises, Europe, Photography, Royal Caribbbean, Royal Caribbean, Sea and Ocean, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2014 by beyondships


Adventure of the Seas cruise ship


This week the focus is on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. In April, Adventure underwent a refit, which added several new features to the ship. Thus, it is an appropriate time to take another look at Adventure. To this end, we recently did a transatlantic crossing on her followed by a short European cruise.


Adventure is a Voyager class cruise ship. In fact she was the third ship built in that class, entering service just after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Accordingly, she was named in New York by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and her god parents are six New York City firefighters and policemen.


Despite her New York City connection, Adventure is not Royal Caribbean’s New York ship. (Somewhat oddly, her sister ship Explorer of the Seas was given that role when RCI decided to base a ship in New York harbor year-round). Instead, she has spent most of her time in the Caribbean sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.


The last few years, however, Adventure has been spending her summers in Southampton, England, sailing to the Mediterranean, the Canaries, the British Isles, Northern Europe and Scandinavia. She is doing that this summer but plans for 2015 call for her to revert back to year-round San Juan sailings.


Adventure is a very big cruise ship. At 137,000 gross tons, she is no longer the biggest cruise ship but she is still bigger than the vast majority of ships. Her size allows her to have many features including some that are not at all traditional on passenger ships. These include a pedestrian mall, lined with shops, bars and a cafe, running a considerable length down the ship’s center line and a large ice skating arena. These are both used as entertainment venues as well so that there is more to an evening on Adventure than what is going on in the theater and the casino.


Normally, in the Caribbean, Adventure’s passenger list is dominated by young families. However, on the two week long transatlantic crossing, there were few children. This left the ship’s facilities almost entirely to her adult passengers. As a result, the adults had lots of choices and lots of space to indulge themselves in.


The crossing was not a straight run from Miami to Southampton. Rather, the ship took her time going across with Caribbean stops in Nassau, San Juan and St. Maarten to start the voyage and a stops mid-way across the Atlantic in the Azores. Thus, there were elements of a Caribbean cruise and a European cruise in this crossing. But most of it was long, lazy sea days, which makes these types of voyages so popular with experienced cruisers.


The weather going across was fine. Adventure took the southern route across, which tends to have better weather than the more northerly, traditional ocean liner route. The only grey skies were after the ship left the Azores and was skirting the Bay of Biscay.


For her European cruise, Adventure had a mix of sun and rain. Sun in Zeebrugge, Belgium and rain in Le Harve. Whereas on the crossing, there had been many British passengers, many of whom were going home after wintering in Florida, the vast majority of passengers on this cruise were British. There were more children than on the crossing but still not many as the schools were still open.


I used to find Royal Caribbean’s success with the British public somewhat surprising. Royal provides an excellent cruise experience with nice ships, friendly service and quality choices in entertainment and dining. However, it is very much an American-style product, bold, informal and sometimes flashy. I have since come to the conclusion that this experience is successful with the British precisely because it is not British. Just going on one of the RCI ships is like going abroad, a break from the everyday routine.


The cruise was a different experience than the crossing. In Europe, the ports play a much more significant role as there is such a variety of things to see and do in the ports.


The new additions to Adventure include a giant video screen overlooking the pool, flat screen televisions in the passenger cabins, a new lounge for Diamond-level members of Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program and interactive electronic signage in the public rooms telling you such things as what is happening aboard and how to get from where you are to where you want to be. The Portofino specialty restaurant has become Giovanni’s Table. These additions are only some of the features that will be added to the ship in the next few years under the line’s Royal Advantage program, which is bringing features from the Oasis class ships to the rest of the Royal Caribbean fleet.


I was pleased to see that the ship is being well-maintained. In fact, new carpeting was being installed unobtrusively as we sailed.


We have updated the Adventure of the Seas section on Beyondships. The photo tour of the ship has been updated to include the new features and expanded with more photos of the ship’s interior and open decks. There is a new menus page with menus from the main dining room and specialty restaurants. We’ve added a daily programs page with examples of the Cruise Compass from past cruises and of other informational materials distributed aboard Adventure. There is a new deck plans page. Finally, we have a new photo feature with exterior photos of Adventure in eight different ports.


Bermuda’s Horseshoe Bay, Royal Princess, Celebrity Constellation

Posted in Bermuda, Bermuda, Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise Ships, Cruises, cruises, Destinations, destinations, England, Photography, Princess Cruises, Princess Cruises, Sea and Ocean, Ships, shore excursions, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2014 by beyondships

I’ve just returned from Bermuda where I was again struck by the beauty of the island’s South Shore beaches. These lie in a line along the south west coast and have the island’s patented pale pink sand. The waters that lap upon the beaches are turquoise in color. To add some drama, there are periodic rock outcroppings that rise up vertically from the water and/or sand.

The most popular and best known of the South Shore beaches is Horseshoe Bay. It is quite large and has the most facilities of this group of beaches including a place to snack and a place to rent umbrellas and beach chairs.

Horseshoe Bay is not far from the Royal Naval Dockyard where essentially all the cruise ships dock these days. The cruise lines offer transfers to Horseshoe Bay. However, there are a number of other alternatives. Therefore, I’ve put together an article with some information about how to get to Horseshoe Bay. It is posted at

While Horseshoe Bay is the most popular of the beaches, some of the neighboring beaches are even prettier. Chaplin’s Bay, Stonehole Bay, Jobson’s Cove and Warwick Long Bay have the pink sand, the dramatic rock formations and the added advantage of being more secluded. They are linked together by a sand trail that I’ve walked many times. I’ve put together a video showing some of the vistas along the way.

Last Friday was the first anniversary of the naming of Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess by the Duchess of Cambridge. Accordingly, in honor of Royal Princess’ first birthday, we present a photo feature showing the ship in St. Maarten and in Southampton during her recent eastbound transatlantic crossing.

We also have a photo feature and video showing Celebrity Constellation leaving Fort Lauderdale and sailing out at sea. The photo feature is at and the video is at

Bermuda's South Shore beaches

Bermuda’s South Shore beaches

Norwegian Cruise Line Private Island Great Stirrup Cay; Costa Luminosa

Posted in Bahamas, Caribbean, Costa Cruises, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, Cruise ports, Cruise Ships, cruises, Destinations, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Photography, Sea and Ocean, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2014 by beyondships
Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise line's private island

Great Stirrup Cay


Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island Great Stirrup Cay has been undergoing a dramatic transformation. Located in the Bahamas, GSC was the first island to be purchased by a cruise line.


Over the years, Norwegian did not do very much to develop the property. As a result, a call at GSC was something of a castaway experience. Guests landed on the island’s only beach on landing craft military-style. There were a few wooden huts that housed a bar and a dining pavilion. There wasn’t much there but it was usually a fun day.


Since 2010, Norwegian has invested more than $30 million in GSC. There is now a harbor where the tenders land. The original beach has been significantly improved and there are now three more new beaches with fluffy white sand. New concrete buildings contain bars, a snorkel shop, and a Bahamian market. Another building houses the dining facility and several neighboring pavilions are equipped with picnic tables for having lunch. There is also a pavilion where guests can wait out of the sun before boarding tenders back to the ship. The developed area has been landscaped with palm trees and lawn.


The transformation continues. Construction work is taking place on the other side of the island and at the edge of the developed area. Indeed, it is difficult to keep up with all of the improvements, the island changes so fast.


Our updated and expanded photo tour of Great Stirrup Cay begins at


Also, this week, we have added a new mini-profile of Costa Cruises’ Costa Luminosa. This goes along with a photo essay showing Costa Luminosa in various ports.


Norwegian Getaway – Captain, Hotel Director, Cake Boss, Artist and Restaurant Review

Posted in Caribbean, Cruise, Cruise Holidays, cruise ship dining, Cruises, cruises, cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Ships, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by beyondships
Norwegian Getaway in New York

Norwegian Getaway in New York


This week we present a series of inside views of Norwegian Getaway by people connected to the ship. While a cruise ship’s facilities are certainly an important part of the cruise experience, the people who work aboard give the ship its soul. So one of the ways Beyondships seeks to give a feel for the various cruise ships it covers is by presenting interviews with the people who run the ships.


Captain Tommy Stensrud is an experienced mariner who is in overall command of Norwegian Getaway. So we turned to him for an assessment of the nautical qualities of Getaway as well as the big picture view of what the ship is all about.


Hotel Director Sean Wurmhoeringer is in charge of everything that directly impacts the cruise experience including the food, the beverages, the entertainment and the accommodations. He is a veteran hotelier who has brought many cruise ships into service. We spoke with him about the process of breathing life into the ship as she entered service.


Artist David LEBO Le Batard painted the lively hull art that adorns Getaway. He speaks about the concepts that underlie his painting.


Viewers of the popular television show “Cake Boss” are familiar with master baker Buddy Valastro. Mr. Valastro talks about his relationship with Norwegian Cruise Line and about opening a branch of Carlo’s Bakery at sea.


Another interview that we did on Getaway was with Norwegian’s CEO Kevin Sheehan. While not specific to Getaway, Mr. Sheehan’s remarks about Norwegian Cruise Line place its latest ship in perspective.


Finally, we have a review of Le Bistro specialty restaurant on Getaway.


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