Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line

The Haven by Norwegian Cruise Line offers guests a private world of luxury at sea. Every suite and villa provides guests with the finest amenities, and the expert services of our concierge and 24-hour butlers. Step outside your residence and you’ll enter a secluded Courtyard where you can spend your sea days relaxing, dining and enjoying exquisite privacy. We call it The Haven by Norwegian. You’ll call it pure paradise.

Available on Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Pearl.

A Day in Cuba

Our Arrival

I recently took a mother and daughter trip with my high school best friend. We were on a 5-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas and one of our stops was Cuba! Our arrival in the Havana port was early in the morning. We were up on the deck on the bow of the ship by 6:30 am.

It was a surreal experience watching Cuba come into view as we pulled closer to the island. The first thing you see when you come into the Havana harbor is a fort. The next thing you know the ship is at the pier facing a busy road and all you can see are the old cars! You know there are going to be old cars on the island but you’re still not prepared when you actually see them. The others … not so much. They are fascinating to watch.

On Land

After we cleared customs I exchanged some US Dollars for Cuban Dollars. We then headed off on our shore excursion – Old Havana City Sightseeing. We were on a brand new motorcoach with air conditioning.

Our first stop was the Cementerio de Cristobal Colon (Colon Cemetery) named after Christopher Columbus. We walked around and saw some amazing marble statutes, mausoleums, chapels and family vaults. After that we did a 10 minute pit stop to see some of the old cars up close. We got our picture taken in them.

We took the Havana Tunnel under the harbor channel to see Havana’s statue of Christ the El Cristo de La Habana.  Then we stopped at a cigar shop and the majority of us on the tour bus bought cigars and rum. Then it was more shopping at the Almacenes San Jose Artisan’s Market.  After we wondered around the market for an hour we got back on the motorcoach and headed back to the ship.

Back to the Ship

Once back at the port I had some Cuban money left over and luckily there was a shop right there so I could do some last minute shopping before getting back on board. I hope to spend more than just a day in Cuba soon!


   

Upgrade to Business Class for your Mediterranean Cruise

Sure, you know you like cruising, and you know you want to go, but did you know with Silversea you can also include your airfare to Europe for special Mediterranean cruises for FREE? And now you can also upgrade to business class for only $499 each way! Think of the savings! Think of the luxury!

If you are planning a honeymoon, this would be a great way to see and do more!

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Melissa Recommends: Seasickness Cruise Advice

I like to think that I have a pretty strong stomach.  Not too much will upset me, not food, travel, stress, etc.  But boats/ships/ferries, they all throw a monkey wrench into my plans.  I feel like I’m at one of those ‘meetings’, so, my name is Melissa and I get seasick (sometimes).

OK, so not really seasick, so much.  More like……..hmmm…..I would say more like just a little queasy if the boat is a-rockin’.  I especially don’t like when I’m sitting at the evening show in the theatre, and just before the show begins, they have the curtains pulled, and I’m innocently sitting there, watching the curtains slowly lean to the right, and then middle then slowly to the left……makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

Motion sickness is a battle of your senses, or so described by WebMD. “You get motion sickness when one part of your balance-sensing system (your inner ear, eyes and sensory nerves) senses that your body is moving, but the other parts don’t. For example, if you are in the cabin of a moving ship, your inner ear may sense the motion of waves, but your eyes don’t see any movement. This conflict between the senses causes motion sickness.”

I think if people say that you won’t feel the motion, the ships are so large, the equalizers, the sheer size, these are the same people that probably don’t ever get any sort of motion sickness.
So I’m here to tell you that it’s not so much that you WON’T feel the motion, it’s just determining how quick your body will adjust to the motion?  Mine might be a little slower than yours.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s worth it.

There are so many different methods out there to assist with motion sickness, it’s worth looking at all your options.

Dramamine works for me, there is a less drowsy option too.  I have always had really good luck with this option.
The patch works for many, this one is a small patch you can place behind your ear to help stabelize you.
Wristbands are a nice alternative to drugs.  People that I have recommended this option to, love it, and swear by it.

Final advice:  Cruising is worth it.  Just a little preparation goes a long ways!!!  Have fun!

Client Review – Disney Fantasy Cruise

Melissa,

First let me say thank you for all your assistance on planning our family vacation cruise. It was awesome and we all had a marvelous time.

Arrival at Art of Animation – People were great from arrival to departure. The only issue we had was with the bands we wore to open doors and pay for things. It seemed there was a problem with my band in the programming and with the door lock at our room. No big deal but it took 3 calls to get someone to the room to fix the lock which meant that I ended up walking back to reception 3 times to talk to the front desk to find out when someone would get there so we could get in. Total time about 2 hours. This took me away from spending that time with family. Check out was easy and quick.

Happy Limo from Hotel to dock – Jessica was our driver and was on time and friendly. All went well. Baggage staff at the ship were quick, friendly and I felt bad for them as some people were not understanding that they should be tipping these workers as they are not with Disney.

When it came time to board, it went very fast and oh so glad we didn’t have to worry about our luggage. All lines moved quickly and we got our family photo and moved to the lunch area which totally Wow’d us. Could not believe the spread they put on.

Right after lunch our rooms were ready and while others were unpacking, I took the opportunity to visit the Guest Services and sign up for a couple days of wine tasting (awesome) and to check out the ship to locate the primary areas. Let me add this about Guest Services. I stopped by there a number of times with questions and needs and each time the wait was short and the staff were friendly and professional. It was so much fun with all of the staff from around the world which allowed me to practice my Spanish and French. I think they appreciated my effort to speak to them in their own languages.

Back to the rooms. Again…Awesome! Thanks for getting us together with the veranda’s. It really made family time special being able to hang out with a view of the ocean. The beds were so comfortable and having the split bathrooms really did make a difference. We met our wonderful Stateroom Attendant right away and had a long chat with her (Ria). Over the week, she became like family. When we left, we all gave her a loving hug.

The restaurants – I think the Royal Court was the favorite, followed by the Garden and then the Animation. All were great but because we were not sitting where we could have the character interaction, we rated the Animation a little lower. However, the night we had to draw a character and then got to see them come to life was really exciting. At the Garden we were seated over the engine and so there were steady vibrations. We just went with the idea that we were sitting in a massage chair. The food in all was exceptional. One night they served a beef rib bbq which was the best I’ve had. I asked if I could get the recipe and the next night, they had it for me.

Our dining staff (Oppie, Kevin and Witt) were the best. We had so much fun with them all each night. They really work hard but find time to interact with every person at each of their tables. We actually met Kevin when we arrived and had lunch. He was one of the table waiters in the buffet room. He told Oppie that he met this family and hoped that he gets to wait on us. With all of the international staff, it was fun being able to utilize our limited skills in French and Spanish with them during the week. Even the boys were practicing both languages with Kevin who spoke French, Spanish, Dutch, German and English. And each night one of these 3 would do some table magic for the boys. At the table next to ours there was a little girl (9), her mom and grandma. They were from French Quebec, Canada. Each night our family would toast with our wine glasses and on the first night I raised my glass to the little girl and she got embarrassed and laughed as did her mom. On the second night, her mom encouraged her to toast her soda glass with me and by the 3rd night, she was looking over and waiting for our toast. It was so much fun.

The bars – we visited a number of the bars on ship and settled in with two. One was the Pub and the bartender was a guy by the name of Ashley. We had a number of chats and he was very curious about my Stress Management business (I gave him a card the first night). He had lots of questions and so I gave him a copy of my book. I also gave one to Ria along with her gratuity. My oldest son Jamison and his girlfriend Kelly settled in on the upper bar by the adults only area. It became their special place for the cruise.

Rain Forest – everyone liked this place but there was so much activity that we didn’t get to spend all that much time in there. Not sure if I would sign up for this again as there is an adult hot tub on 11 that we used and was usually available. But I did like the sauna’s in the Rain Forest.

The tours – The St. Maarten Tour was probably the best as we actually got to learn something about the island from the driver who was plugged into a loud speaker so we could all hear him. The St. Thomas tour wasn’t really a tour. The driver was great but had no speaker and so we learned nothing about the island. Basically he was a taxi driver who drove us to Coki beach and Ocean World. Ocean world was somewhat disappointing as two of the major attractions were closed that day. The most interesting thing there were the Iguana’s that were running around freely. Everyone liked the beach as there were lots of fish and things to see while snorkeling. We even had a mother chicken and her chics running along the beach. One interesting fact is that Kelly knew someone in our drivers home country that was a relative to the driver. Small world.

Castaway Cay was great. A party event and lots of room at the beach area. The staff did a great job serving everyone.

There was something going on all the time on ship and there is just no way you can participate in all of them. But I think everyone did as much as they wanted to do and the most important is that the boys got photos with the characters they wanted to be with.

The final night after the show and after we were packed and had our luggage out for them to take (another great idea), we had time together on the veranda to just be family. The weather cooperated all week with only the first night having rough water. Now reality sets in as I review our charges. It is great that the charges are broken down by individual card even thought everything was being billed to my room. Weather or not our family would go back, probably not, but would highly recommend it to others. Doing your prep work, being organized, getting signed up early, deciding what is important to do and getting it done early in the trip are just a few suggestions I would have for others. But using you to set things up would be my first recommendation. So thank you from all of us. We truly appreciate what you did for us.

The Happy Limo ride back to the airport worked well. We actually got Jessica again. The whole process of checking out, customs, etc was great. Again, the baggage handlers where right there waiting for you when we got off and did a great job.

Client Review of Italy and Greece

We had a fantastic trip all the way through.  We both really enjoyed the Insight Vacations motorcoach tour probably more than the cruise because we saw so much more.  However, it was definitely done in the right order because the cruise was much less hectic and it was nice to rest up after the bus tour.  We did most of the Insight extra excursions because they were interesting and you never know if you’ll be back again.  Our Insight tour guide, Karen, was very good as were all the local experts.  Everything was well coordinated and we met a very nice group of people.  We of course enjoyed the extra leg room on the bus.  We were reminded of how much we liked it when we were packed into the shuttle from the Rome airport to the cruise ship.

As far as Royal Caribbean cruise line, it was a good experience.  We were fortunate to have good weather almost all the way; we were unable to stop at Olympia, Greece because of bad storms but we did get to stop instead at Naples on the way back.  Italy was our favorite, especially Venice – it was just so different.  Vatican City was super interesting and would be great to see again at a slower pace. Greece was beautiful and Ephesus, Turkey was definitely the highlight of the cruise although Athens was also fabulous due to the Acropolis.

Acropolis Athens

Acropolis Athens

As you can probably tell, we had a great first trip to Europe and look forward to traveling to a different area in the future. One question, is it always as crowded as we found it to be?  Perhaps that’s just Europe?

Many thanks for making all the arrangements for this great trip, Nora!

Dean & Jane, Blaine, MN.

Missy Skoog’s Avalon River cruise on the Danube

I had the opportunity to travel on an Avalon Waterways cruise from Budapest to Vienna on the Danube.  Wow, what an experience!  We stops at different ports along the river and did small guided tours.  Some of the amazing cities we visited were Budapest, Bratislava, Durnstein Austria, Melk and Vienna.

The Avalon Artistry II delivers an intimate setting, along with two full decks of suites featuring Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Windows that transform the living space into a unique Open-Air Balcony®. With 200 square feet, Panorama Suites are more than 30% larger than the industry standard, giving you the rare opportunity to wake each morning to the enchanting scenery and fresh breezes. Onboard amenities include a complimentary Internet Corner and Wi-Fi access, an expanded Fitness Center, and a spacious Sky Deck with premium lounge chairs, shade system, whirlpool, and the delightful Sky Bistro.

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Dürnstein, situated in the heart of the Wachau wine region

Avalon cruise Nov 2014 BUD-VIE 133

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia

The streets of Bratislava, Slovakia

The streets of Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia follow the coronation of the king from the church thru the town with the crown emblems in the street

Bratislava, Slovakia follow the coronation of the king from the church thru the town with the crown emblems in the street

Bratislava, Slovakia. ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries

Bratislava, Slovakia.
ST. MARTIN’S CATHEDRAL, coronation church for the Kingdom of Hungary from the 16th to 19th centuries

Budapest- 11th-century Matthias Church, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs...Welcome to my home!

Budapest- 11th-century Matthias Church, the coronation spot of several Hungarian monarchs…Welcome to my home!

city of Bratislava

city of Bratislava

The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava

The massive rectangular building with four corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava

Avalon River cruise, Avalon Vista

Avalon River cruise, Avalon Vista

Avalon cruise Nov 2014 BUD-VIE 082

Dice in our cabin, nice breeze with the water next to us! I wouldn't cruise any other way!

Dice in our cabin, nice breeze with the water next to us! I wouldn’t cruise any other way!

Muster Drill

Muster Drill

Avalon cruise Nov 2014 BUD-VIE 073

Spa heaven on the Avalon Vista!

Spa heaven on the Avalon Vista!

Large bathroom for the balcony cabin on the Avalon Vista

Large bathroom for the balcony cabin on the Avalon Vista

Avalon cruise Nov 2014 BUD-VIE 068

Love to River cruise!

Love to River cruise!

Deluxe Stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom bathroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe Stateroom bathroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe stateroom on Avalon Vista

Deluxe stateroom on Avalon Vista

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue (Hungarian: Szabadság Szobor, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɒbɒt͡ʃaːɡ ˈsobor]) is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue (Hungarian: Szabadság Szobor, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɒbɒt͡ʃaːɡ ˈsobor]) is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary

What a magnificent ship the Avalon Vista is!

What a magnificent ship the Avalon Vista is!

Princess bridge in Budapest

Princess bridge in Budapest

Client Review of Seabourn Odyssey 7 Day Greek Isles and Ephesus

Seabourn Greek Isles

Seabourn Greek Isles

Seabourn was outstanding – luxury all the way.  Staff so darn friendly and helpful – completely aware of our needs at all times.  They get printouts of all guests and then study the faces and the names and start calling you by name when you pass them in hallways!!!!  One night we were off for a tour to Ephesus (amazing ruins), then back to ship for lunch and rest, then bussed back to Ephesus for an evening concert under the stars and when we returned about 10 pm, the entire crew and entertainment and staff were waiting for us, cheering and yelling and one of them shouted out welcome and our names to every single guest.  Wow.  They treated us like royalty.  Great food, wine stewards at our every beck and call.

 The room was terrific – plenty of space and a walk-in closet!  Bathroom easily accommodated two people with two sinks, a tub and a shower.  Our “stewardess” – that’s what they called the maid, folded cute little animals out of our towels and put them on the beds each night.  Really a nice young woman.

 

Italy/Western Mediterranean Cruise

My friends and I spent two nights in Venice before going on a Western Caribbean Cruise on the Splendour of the Seas with Royal Caribbean.  We had a Royal Family Suite which gave us access to the concierge lounge.  The suite had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, one with a tub.  The concierge lounge offered us the concierge service to make dinner reservations,  had a special presentation for shore excursions, and it was a quiet spot to have a continental breakfast, bring your breakfast or lunch from the buffet, and at dinner time, they had d’oeuvres, coffee and drinks.  A very nice perk with a suite.

 

Venice, Italy

We stayed at a great hotel, Best Western Hotel Olimpia.  The water taxis were on strike, so we took a mini-van to the Piazza Roma.  The Hotel Olimpia was directly across the canal from the Piazza.  The hotel had been completely remodeled and it was beautiful.  The breakfast room overlooks the canal and they offered a nice selection of items daily for breakfast.  If you stay at other hotels in an area that cannot be reached by a water taxi, you will have to drag your suitcases.

We visited the Ca Rezzonico Mansion.   This magnificent palace is now a Museum of 18th century Venice on the Grand Canal.  The building was fully completed in 1758 and is owned by the Venice Town Council since 1935.  It was fascinating to see how people used to live.  We continued on to visit St. Mark’s Cathedral, Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, Rialto Bridge and Scala del Bovolo.  The Scala del Bovolo is a small palace in Venice, Italy, best known for the external spiral staircase, with a plethora of arches, known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (of the snail).  The palace is located in a less-traveled side-street near the Campo Manin, near the Rialto.

 

Split, Croatia

We took a walking tour in Split with our guide Leo who was an Art Historian.  We walked from the ship into the old walled city where Emperor Diocletian retired.  It was a walled city so the people who lived here were well protected.  The Diocletian Palace had two wells of fresh water which was brought by Roman aqueducts 4 km from the mountains.  People still live in the walled city and the houses are passed down from one generation to the next.  If it is to change hands out of the family, the city must approve it.  Leo was fantastic and very knowledgeable.

 

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii was a one hour drive from the ship.  It was great to walk around and see the different areas and things that they had – amphitheaters, homes, shops and the red light district. I love these historical sites.  The shops in Pompeii had metal tracks for the doors to be rolled open on and they had shops which had round holes with wood burning under them and they would set the pots of food on top, making it one of the first fast food shops.  Pompeii had fresh water brought in by aqueducts and delivered by lead pipes.  They said that the Romans actually died of lead poisoning.   You could actually see the ruts in the stones which were made by the chariots.

 

Sorrento, Italy

After Pompeii, we drove to Sorrento which is beautiful.  With an hour and a half of free time, we had a wood fired pizza for lunch at Ristorante La Lanterna, which was excellent, we then did some shopping before heading back to the bus.

We were supposed to leave Naples port, but were delayed.  It turned out that they had found a bomb from WWII in the port while they were working that day and we had to wait for the authorities to come and disarm it.

We drove to a local farm in the hills where 2-3 women started a cooperative, bought four acres and have now added two more acres on the hillside.  They use every inch of land and grow fruits, nuts, olives, and make mozzarella cheese.  It was very interesting.  They gave us samples of the mozzarella with tomatoes and prosciutto with herbs, wine and lemon cake.  I bought a bottle of lemon crème from them.

 

Rome, Italy

It takes 1.5 hours to go each direction from the ship into Rome.  We took a tour of the Coliseum, Glories of the Gladiators.  It was unbelievable!   It was hard to imagine that the Coliseum was only used 4-6 times a year for special events.  When they discontinued using the facility, people began  taking the building materials to build homes and some actually lived within the walls of the Coliseum.  From there we walked to the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.  Rome is very walkable, but the signage is not easy to follow.

 

Toulon, France

This was a beautiful port.  We took a boat into the city from the ship which took about 15-20 minutes.  We visited the Maritime Museum which offered phones where you choose your language.  You would then enter the number of the display and it explained what you were looking at.  This was an excellent museum.  From there we walked around and visited the St. Louis Church, walked past the Cathedral and ended at the Provencal Market.

The Market was about 3-4 of our city blocks and had everything for sale.  The sights and scents were wonderful and very fascinating.

This was a fabulous trip.  My favorite places were Split and Pompeii/Sorrento.

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