Skip to content

Seabourn Sojourn Pays First Visit to New York

October 11, 2011

WTT had to see what all the buzz was about and we were not the least bit disappointed.

Seabourn Cruise Lone Sojourn

Seabourn Cruise Lone Sojourn

This Seabourn Sojourn is one classy ship which could easily spoil you forever!

Seabourn Cruise Line started in 1987 with a couple of 100 passenger vessels. They currently have 3 of the yacht-like ships, the Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend. These all have three dining venues, four lounges, spa, gym, pool and water sports marina. Many of their cruises incorporate a day for playing with the toys off the lowered marina deck-great fun!

Water Sports Marina

Water Sports Marina

Now there’s a second generation of ships carrying twice as many passenger, the Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest. These new ships have four restaurants, six lounges/bars, indoor pool, outdoor pool, spa, casino and although three times as large as the original ship carry just twice as many passengers (450). However, these ships are still “small” and able to call at more out-of-the way ports than the big guys.

Your cruise fare includes not only your spacious accommodation with a complimentary in-suite stocked bar, walk-in closet, generously sized bath, no extra charge for dining venues, open bars throughout the ship and no tipping. The ship has a very cosmopolitan atmosphere and despite the increased size, still feels “yacht” like. Ninety percent of the suites have verandahs. A neutral hued color scheme combined with woods, granite and marble create an elegant aura. Recently she has earned perfect scores on both the Health & Sanitation inspection as well as the Coast Guard inspection, I believe this is the only cruise ship to achieve this.

Sojourn Stateroom

Sojourn Stateroom

My favorite areas include the huge open bow area on Deck 6, a wonderful place to watch the world pass by—and the cleverly designed Seabourn Square. The Square is a unique social lounge which contains concierge facilities, a coffee bar, library, computer center, 2 boutiques.

A very minor observation, often when sailing I have to wear a watch as there seems to be a dearth of timepieces but on this ship there are plenty of well placed clocks. Isn’t it the little things in life that can make a difference?!

Dining options include the Restaurant which is the main venue, Restaurant 2 which features tasting menus, Colonnade which is an open kitchen featuring buffets for breakfast, lunch and regionally themed bistro style dinners, and Patio Grill an outdoor poolside café.

The 11.400 sq foot two deck health Spa & Salon provides a full range of services featuring 6 treatment rooms, Kneipp wading pool, saunas, a fully equipped gym as well as a private Spa Villa for the ultimate experience.

For the 2012 season, Sojourn will be in South American till March when she returns to Europe for the summer, Montreal in Sept then back to South America in October for the winter.

Advertisements

Fall Foliage Cruises Bring Ships to New York

October 4, 2011

And that is really great for WTT because it enables us to personally inspect the ships and become more familiar with the upgrades which have been added as well as visit the new ships. It’s quite fascinating to observe that each ship has its own distinctive personality!

 Silversea  has a fleet of 6 ships.  The Cloud, Wind, Shadow, Spirit and Whisper range in capacity from 296 to 540 passengers.  The Explorer (132 guests) is a purpose built expedition ship with a strengthened ice cap rotation hull enabling it to navigate in the waters of Antarctica and other remote locations. Silversea describes their ships as ” like a boutique hotel at sea”.  Having sailed on the Shadow and just inspected the Whisper I can echo that statement with the addition of the phrase “with an Italian flavor”.

This upscale cruise line features butler service for all guests, open seating dining with multiple alternative dining options, Relais & Chateaux inspired menus, superb enrichment lecturers,  computer stations, nearly 1 crew member for every guest.  Their fares include all onboard gratuities, complimentary beverages including fine wines and spirits, complimentary transportation into town in most ports of call.

The Whisper was in New York last week and I couldn’t turn down the invitation for lunch!

This 388 passenger ship had been overhauled in 2010 and is still glistening.  New soft furnishings, renewed decking and upgraded outdoor furniture were evident.  Contemporary Italian décor still reigns and is exquisite.  Open space remains serene, the fitness center has been expanded.  There seems to be nothing that could be improved.  There’s a 24 hour reception desk, a small casino, a jogging track and free laundry service.

Her itineraries include the summer in North Europe, a swing into New York for the foliage, then down to Ft Lauderdale where she heads for South America eventually sailing from Rio to Capetown, the Indian Ocean, southeast Asia, the Mediterrean and back up to North Europe.

There are 9 categories of suites with the 700 sq ft Silver verandah suites being the most popular.

All suites come with stocked refrigerators (your preference) including champagne,  There is in-suite meal service.

Speaking of meals, we had lunch in the Restaurant.  The menu was a combination of classic and modern French cuisine with Italian overtones (pasta course).  The food was impeccable. La Terrazza is another dinner venue seating 60 which specializes in regional Italian with the menu changing nightly.

This is a great small ship that anyone could love-elegant without being ostentatious.

Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth Visits New York

September 27, 2011

And WTT has dinner with its Chef Patron Jean Marie Zimmerman in the stunning art-deco French restaurant, the Verandah.

But first, a brief history of the Queen Elizabeth-the first of the three ships was launched in 1938 and was lost in a fire in a Hong Kong shipyard where she was being converted to a floating university.  The second QE II sailed in 1967 and is currently docked in Dubai where she might be converted into a floating hotel. The third and current Queen Elizabeth, sister ship to the Queen Victoria, was launched 11 months ago.

The Queen Elizabeth has a passenger capacity of 2000 and although most of them are British, we “Yanks” are more than welcome. Their average voyage is 10 days to 3 weeks and in January they do a global voyage that exceeds 100 days. The ships décor is art-deco but with a contemporary twist including more open space and use of glass  The tasteful displays of art work and memorabilia showcase Cunards long maritime history.

My favorites of the public areas were the Queens Room which hosts afternoon tea and has a glorious floor for nightly ballroom dancing with live music and the Royal Court Theatre which without much imagination would make you believe you were in the West End.

Cunard has an unusual arrangement regarding dining.  The category of stateroom determines the restaurant in which you dine (simply stated-the more you pay, the better quality).  Britannia Restaurant is the largest, most guest dine here in either of 2 assigned seatings.  There is also an upper category of this venue which the Britianna Club guest have access to which has a more open pattern.  The Princess Grill and the Queens Grill are the 2 top spots.

Finally there is the alternative Venandah Grill which is generally a la carte.  This is where Chef Patron Zimmerman showcases his specialities (although he oversees the menus for the other restaurants).Our special menu included (translated):  Lobster shellfish salad with avocado and tomato jelly; Pork rillette with wine, spiced apple, Calvados cream; choice of Sea Bass crusted with wild mushrooms or organic beef fillet with morel mushrooms, black truffle, soufflé potatoes, maderia glaze. It was heavenly!

In a nutshell, I would call this ship the epitome of an almost lost ocean liner era—the chance to sail in a mellow, relaxing, traditional atmosphere of subdued elegance.

Cruising 101

September 20, 2011

It’s not surprising that cruising is becoming more popular with each passing day. Last year fifteen million cruised.  The appeal of not having to pack and unpack, worrying about where you were going to sleep, where and how much meals are going to cost has its merits.  All you have to do is pick the destinations you want to visit, when you want to go and then review the ships sailing to those ports. The current favorite destinations are the Caribbean (40%), Alaska  and Bahamas (25% each), followed by the Mediterranean, Hawaii and the Panama Canal.

It’s the reviewing of the ships that’s the tricky part. There are very small ships of around 100 passengers and these are mainly river or expedition type ships. Currently there are around 46 cruise ships in 3 basic categories, small which would be around 700 passengers, medium ships which carry around 1800, large ships which hold 3000 and three mega ships with a capacity of 5000 plus. There at this time 26 new ships being built of which 4 are mega ships which will be launched in 2015. Most ships are running at full capacity.

A consideration most might not think of is how many ships will be docked at the same port on any given day.  A popular Mediterranean port can have as many as 9 ships docked with as many as 30,000 passengers.  You can only imagine the challenge to the infrastructure of the surrounding area!

Now you’re getting the picture, this is an involved process.  Fortunately we’re here to help!  Because after you’ve decided on the ship, we need to decide where on the ship you want to be.  There are “inside” cabins (which are akin to living in a closet with no natural light), outside cabins which have a porthole or window, verandah cabins which have sliding glass doors opening to a balcony and there are suites.  Then you need to pick where you want this accommodation to be located and on which deck. How do you want your beds configured, twin or queen?  When do you want to dine?  And the list goes on!

We have been on most major ships of all the major cruise lines, in fact I’m having dinner next week with the Captain of the Queen Elizabeth which will be in New York , so will have a report in my next blog.

Leisure Travel Consumer Trends 2011

September 13, 2011

The following bits and pieces are intended to give you a sense of where the leisure travel industry is heading these days from different perspectives.

We’ll start with the airlines, since they are our least favorite component of our business.  At one point in our past, commissions from airline tickets comprised 85% of our revenue.  Today, the opposite exsists.  Airline charge travel agenciesfor the “privilege” of issuing their tickets.  We have to buy the equipment to process and report tickets, purchase the actual ticket stock and assume financial liability for the accuracy of the faring of the tickets.  However, it turns out we’re not the only entity with a dim view, they don’t seem to rate well with many of their passengers.  And it is with their most affluent customers who are least happy.

This degree of disenchantment obviously affects the publics interest in buying (or not buying) their ancillary products. Of the ancillary products in demand, comfort services such as extra leg room, followed by flexibility services such as change fees and convenience services such as priority boarding were the most popular.

Avenues for determining where to go are becoming increasingly digitalized and used in varying degrees be different age groups.  The growth in GenY (18-34) use has jumped from 48% to 60% for travel research and up to 72% for accessing content while traveling.  The ability to pick up apps while at the destination has also jumped 30%.   However, the role of guidebooks still represent a large part of this segment since destinations require a mix of content which they provide.  And not to be overlooked is the large role of family and friends which accounts for over half of the trusted source of information.

Consumers asked what types of trips they were planning for this year responded 77% land and 21% land and cruise.  Destinations cited were Europe, Caribbean, California, Hawaii, Las Vegas and Orlando.

Our next blogs will be exploring cruising options, hotel choices and specific destinations—plus any topic of interest to you!

Wilton Travel Tapas

September 8, 2011

This first entry into the new WILTON TRAVEL TAPAS blog site includes a brief description of who we are, the meaning of our title, and what we hope to accomplish.

Tapas, as you know, are a variety of small food items. They are often served to whet your appetite for what is to follow, but if several are served, they can actually become a small meal. Our blogs will contain information on current travel trends, the “hot” destinations, suggestions of interesting and different things to do there as well as travel tips to help make your journey more enjoyable. We’ll look at consumer travel trends, offer tipping guidelines, packing advice, cruises as well as land vacation alternatives, pros and cons of travel insurance, etiquette subtleties, currency exchange options, and actual Wilton Center Travel staff reports from their most recent trips. We hope that as you return from your favorite vacation spot, you’ll share your experiences with us. Some of our blogs will be a potpourri of information and some will be focused on specific issues.

We are Wilton Center Travel Ltd, established in 1978 as a full service leisure travel agency. Our professional staff has lived in over a dozen countries and traveled to over 150 on all 7 continents. Next to travel, we’re all “foodies”, so we might even share a recipe or two. Our onsite inspections of destinations and cruise ships plus long standing professional relationships with hoteliers worldwide provide the basis for most of our recommendations. Our ground floor location in the center of Wilton Center with easy parking makes us most accessible. We are open Monday thru Friday from 9am-5pm and will always schedule private appointments to coincide with your availability.

Our goal is to provide you with the best value for your travel dollar. We co ordinate all your travel arrangements for a seamless vacation experience and when necessary, act as your ombudsman.