Monday, August 30, 2010

10 Over-The-Top Cruise Ships

Whether it's stairs made of Swarovski crystals, a Cirque Du Soleil-like performance, water park, or planetarium, modern cruise ships are offering everything travelers would want to have a holiday in one place.

Cruise booking specialists (Cruise 1st, Australia) has navigated the high seas to find its top 10 unique offers: (This list is not endorsed by Reuters.)

1. Celebrity Century - Celebrity Cruises
This ship, refurbished in 2006, boasts rooms with private verandas and suites with personal butlers. The Martini Bar is also home to the first "ice bar" concept at sea.

2. Pacific Jewel - P&O Cruises Australia
Launched December 2009, Pacific Jewel offers a high-wire circus and trapeze arena on the top deck and P&O's first ever celebrity chef restaurant -- Salt Grill by Luke Mangan. The spa and fitness center is as big as an Olympic-sized swimming pool and the ship has four kids' clubs and a shopping precinct.

3. MS Panorama - Avalon Waterways
The MS Panorama, due to be launched in May 2011, will be the first to feature two full decks of suites with wall-to-wall panoramic windows and balconies to enjoy the view cruising along some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine and Danube.

4. Queen Mary 2 - Cunard
Arguably the most magnificent ocean liner ever built, the ship features the only planetarium at sea and 15 restaurants and numerous bars and lounges, including the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar. With book clubs and regular presentations on contemporary and historical issues, the Queen Mary 2 travels almost everywhere and is well known for a 108 day World Voyage.

5. MSC Fantasia - MSC Cruises
Known for opulence, the MSC Fantasia boasts the exclusive MSC yacht club featuring a staircase of Swarovski crystals as well as a private lounge with transparent ceilings. The aqua park has 150 illuminated musical fountains and the swimming area a waterslide.

6. Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbean International Line
The world's largest cruise ship ever, costing over $1 billion, is divided into seven different neighborhoods. Onboard activities include a zip-line, carousel, rock-climbing walls, a 750-seat AquaTheater amphitheater hosting water ballet and dinner shows with the option of 25 different restaurants.

7. Celebrity Solstice - Celebrity Cruises
On board Celebrity Solstice, real grass is used in the half-acre Lawn Club where passengers can enjoy a picnic or join a game of bocce or croquet. Watch glass blowers in action.

8. Ruby Princess - Princess Cruises
The newest member of the Princess Cruises fleet, the Ruby Princess features poolside theaters and the cruise line's signature outdoor cinema. The adults-only The Sanctuary features a spa-inspired setting while the kids can enjoy five swimming pools, including a swim-against-the-current lap pool. For those looking to renew their vows or lucky enough to meet their soul mate on board, the ship has the Hearts and Minds wedding chapel.

9. MV Orion - Orion Expedition Cruises
Designed for expedition cruising but exuding luxury, guests explore various destinations, and are transported ashore in one of the fleet of 10 Zodiacs or inflatable rubber boats. On board, enjoy a meal from award-winning Sydney chef Serge Dansereau of The Bathers' Pavilion fame.

10. MV True North - True North
Cruise through Australia's Top End on board one of the most luxurious Australian cruise ships, True North. Six expedition vessels carry passengers up close to waterfalls and the onboard helicopter can take passengers to emote billabongs to fish or snorkel.

(reprinted from; copyright 2010 Reuters)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Roatan, Honduras

Roatan forms part of a Caribbean archipelago off the northeastern coast of Honduras called the Bay Islands. Roatan is in the middle and is the largest of the three main islands. These islands are surrounded by a spectacular barrier reef that rivals Australia's Great Barrier Reef for beauty and diversity. This, and the warm clear waters here have lured divers from around the world for snorkeling and scuba diving.

There's so much to do on this beautiful island -- hiking, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, exploring, shopping, and/or swimming with dolphins.

Some "don't miss" opportunities:
Parrot Tree Hill mansion;
Dolphin encounter -- swim, pet & interact with these gentle, well-trained animals.
Tabyana Beach -- a tropical natural beach fringed by palm trees on the jungle side and soft white sand and warm blue water on the other. Guests here can kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, and/or relax and enjoy a delicious lunch.
Gumbalinda Park -- have a close encounter with the wildlife, hundreds of parrots and monkeys to interact with.
Sherman's Iguana Refuge and Fish Nursery -- mingle among hundreds of iguanas.
Turquoise Bay Beach -- relax and swim.
Cameo Factory -- see the steps in cameo carving, and purchase these exquisite beauties. Gorgeous!

I personally fell in love with the island the first time I visited. The Honduran people are warm, friendly and helpful.

I hope you'll choose a cruise with this island as one of the ports-of-call on the itinerary, or a land-based vacation package.

(information compiled through NCL University's course on Roatan, Honduras)