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Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge spotlight on Beth LittleJohn

14 Jul 2010

Earlier this week we profiled Maureen Brandt, one of the contestants in the Culinary Challenge to be the next Chef de Cuisine of 150 Central Park, the signature restaurant onboard Allure of the Seas.  Today we have another profile from one of the contestants, Beth LittleJohn of Durham, North Carolina.   Each chef has a signature dish they are working on and LittleJohn's is preparing an arugula frisée topped with a tempora-fried poached egg.

LittleJohn has been sous chef at Coquette Brasserie, a French restaurant in Raleigh, for a little more than a month. She also has worked at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill. She graduated from The Culinary Institute of American in 2006.

Voting ends on Sunday, July 18 at 11:59 p.m. ET and you can vote once per day.

On TV in UK: Oasis of the Seas

14 Jul 2010

For our readers in the United Kingdom, check out the National Geographic Channel tonight at 9pm, err... 21:00, for a show about Oasis of the Seas called "World Record Cruise Ship". 


Like an entire water-going city, the Oasis of the Seas is the largest cruise ship ever built. But this colossal vessel started on a humble drawing board, when a group of international architects were given a simple brief: to design something completely new. 
Premiering on Wednesday 14 July at 9pm, World Record Cruise Ship follows the project from the early planning stages right through to the vessel's completion as the team creates the goliath of all cruise ships with the biggest measurements in the world.
At 360 metres in length and 16 passenger decks high, it can accommodate 8,500 passengers and crew members at the same time.  And to ensure that guests are afforded the most luxurious stay possible, the team had to conduct rigorous tests to ensure that every part of the ship passed the catalogue of strict environmental and safety tests needed before the maiden voyage.
Dwarfing all other cruise ships, prepare to join the crew and set sail as this self-proclaimed 'architectural marvel' takes to the water.

Royal Caribbean expecting big things from UK and Ireland

13 Jul 2010

Azamara Cruises, a Royal Caribbean subsidiary and specialty cruise line has released its 2011-2012 brochure which features 57 new ports of call. There are lots of new itineraries and options to choose from, but Royal Caribbean seems to have high hopes from its cruise business in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Royal Caribbean Associate Vice President and General Manager for the UK & Ireland, Jo Rzymowska said: “The UK and Irish Market is demonstrating great affinity to the revamped boutique cruise experience and we’re looking to grow the volume of guests from this market sailing with Azamara Club Cruises throughout 2011.”

Royal Caribbean has already been sending lots of its ships to Europe and given the potential in growth that Rzymowska cited, more could be on the way.

Best cruise ships ranked for getting away from it all

13 Jul 2010

Cruise vacations can be great opportunities to see the world and do a lot of interesting and new things, but for some people, they may just simply want a break from the "daily grind" and look to get away from it all.  

Smarter Travel has ranked the best ships for getting away from it all and Royal Caribbean can be found in the list.  Chief among them, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is ranked as the "Best Ship to Get Lost In".

Why: The biggest ships are roomy enough to disappear into, with entertainment, sightseeing, sports, and activities to suit every sort of personality. Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Princess, Carnival, and Costa all boast ships measuring more than 100,000 tons that carry thousands of passengers. But, of course, none beats the world's largest passenger vessel, with its capacity for 6,296 passengers and 2,394 crew, seven neighborhoods, 16 passenger decks, nearly two dozen restaurants and bars, plus shops, theatres, and a myriad of other public spaces. The ambience on Oasis of the Seas is cordially anonymous: As one Cruise Critic reviewer put it, it's "simply too vast to inspire connections." You can be introduced to someone early on and never cross paths again—and that really is a plus for the loner. Sister ship Allure of the Seas, whose maiden sailing is December 1, 2010, promises more of the same.
Quiet Escapes: Leafy Central Park is the standout among the Oasis-class ships' many restful nooks. Pop in for tapas in the afternoon at Vintages, a mood-lit wine bar with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall looking out onto the park. Oasis' Promenade Deck is where you'll exercise away the tapas; it's actually a .46-mile jogging track with an ocean view and is practically deserted come early evening. What could be more serene?
Best Rest: Spacious suites, preferably with balconies, give the feel of a retreat and, thus, are a better choice for solitary cruising than windowless, cheerless inside cabins that force you out into the ship's hustle and bustle. Choose a sea-facing balcony cabin for fresh air without fighting over deck chairs, or a balcony suite facing the AquaTheater, where you have a V.I.P. view of the show without ever taking an audience seat. If you'd like to splurge, book one of the enormous Loft Suites—with two floors, private living and dining areas, and gigantic balconies, you may never need to leave.
Dining a Deux: The loner's nemesis is traditional assigned dining, which forces interaction with strangers who might, if you are so unlucky, chit-chat nonstop for an entire cruise. But, Royal Caribbean is one of scores of cruise lines forsaking tradition: Its "My Time Dining" offers a choice of open or assigned seating in the main dining room; dine at off-peak hours to enjoy a table for two. Or, take advantage of the many bistro-style alternative eateries, where tables for two are easier to come by. You can pre-book reservations over the Internet, or just show up hoping for a table. Best for intimate meals are Chops Grille and 150 Central Park. Conversely, don't expect peace at Johnny Rockets and the Seafood Shack, both situated on the noisy, well-lit Boardwalk.
Beware! Due to their size, Oasis-class ships are sticking to the most popular (read: congested) mega-ports in the Caribbean, such as Nassau, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. For tips on avoiding the crowds in port, read our sister site Cruise Critic's article, It's Tuesday in St. Thomas: Gridlock Alert?

Shooting in St. Thomas leaves future of tours undecided

13 Jul 2010

Yesterday there was an unfortunate death in St. Thomas, as a 14 year old cruise passenger from a Carnival Cruise Line ship was on a beach excursion to Coki Beach when she was shot to death after being caught in a crossfire by rival gangs. This has prompted other cruise lines to make decisions about the immediate future of excursions on St. Thomas. 

According to CruiseCritic, Royal Caribbean hasn't made their decision yet, "A spokeswoman tells us that the lines do not have any ships in port today, but do tomorrow (Celebrity Solstice). However, a decision has not yet been made regarding tomorrow's tours; we'll keep you posted."

Carnival has cancelled their tours in the area while other cruise lines have not made any decisions yet.

Oasis of the Seas: One of 15 man-made wonders

13 Jul 2010

The Spanish website El Nuevo Dia compiled a list of the top 15 man-made wonders of the world, which include engineering feats such as The Channel Tunnel between England and France, the Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric plant in China and the Hoover Dam.  Among the list, coming in at number 14 is Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas made its debut in 2009 as the largest cruise ship in the world. It is almost five times the gross tonnage of the Titanic and 1 1 / 2 times the U.S. Capitol building, has 16 decks and up to 6,296 guests. The cruise ship offers a week in the east and west of the Caribbean. Cruises depart from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Looks as though Oasis is in good company with some of the other amazing technical achievements man has accomplished.  No word on if they included those who wore shorts to the main dining room on Oasis while voting occurred (just joking).

Wine-ing Aboard Explorer of the Seas

13 Jul 2010

David from returned from a 9 night cruise aboard Explorer of the Seas and from the website he covers, you may have guessed, he sampled quite a bit of wine.  I love reading niche articles like this because it gives a different take on the cruise ship and gives us all an unique perspective, especially considering not many of us are expert sommeliers (wine experts).

Before the cruise started, David was concerned about the wine list after looking it over.  He described it as, "laden with mediocre and uninspired choices, including a bunch of sweetish Chardonnays (over which I’d prefer a certain warm, recycled and amber-colored liquid drunk directly from a dirty boot)".

However, all was not lost for David as he found the a la carte options much more to his liking. Over the course of his cruise vacation, he sampled "a lovely dry Rose, two hearty reds and six refreshing and, according to the list, “Adventurous” whites".  Better yet, he found the prices to be "reasonably priced", which was a surprise for David.

The wines David tasted weren't top of the line and amazing wines, but he did find the wine selection to be "delicious, satisfying, great values and in perfect condition".