Thursday, April 28, 2011

Allure of the Seas Ship Review

It’s stupendous! It’s colossal! It’s Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.
Aerial view of Allure of the Seas
The Allure of the Seas made her debut in November 2010 as the largest ship afloat (a fraction of an inch larger than her sister Oasis of the Seas).  She accommodates about 6,000 passengers in 2,700 staterooms. None of those passengers are complaining about being bored.
The first carousel at sea
Kids of all ages will jump at the chance to cruise on this leviathan. Little kids will love the Merry-Go-Round, the Dreamworks characters parade, and the H20 Zone kids pool area with sprawling octopus sprinkler. Older kids will like the 3-D movies (featuring Kung Fu Panda 2 this summer), ice skating rink, and 9-hole miniature golf course. Even teens will be impressed by ship features like the 9-deck high Zip line, FlowRider surf simulator, and Rock climbing walls.
FlowRider surf simulator
Grown ups will appreciate the vast dining and entertainment options. Live entertainment includes Chicago The Musical, signature ice shows, Aqua Theater performances and a comedy club. Restaurants include Samba Grill (a Brazillian Churrascaria), Izumi Asian Cuisine (serving sushi, dumplings and Ishiyaki plates), and Rita’s Cantina for Mexican cuisine. 
Vintages Wine Bar in Central Park
For the Existentialists who think Hell is other people and this ship sounds like Purgatorio-at-Sea, there are some attractive places for you too. The adults-only Solarium is secluded and quiet, Vintages Wine Bar is a cozy hideout in Central Park and Jazz on 4 is a haven for hipsters.
Jazz on 4
The design aesthetic is straight from the shopping mall, but Central Park was pretty and the Boardwalk neighborhood did evoke Coney Island. My personal favorite innovation was the Touchscreen Navigation system at each elevator bank. Like a mounted iPad that not only tells you where you are and maps a route from here to there, it also tells you what’s going on and who’s serving food now (and where there are tables available!). 

Click here to see my Photos. Click here for more information on ship features.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cruise Conference, Part 2

Moonlight Sonata Dining Room on Celebrity Eclipse

Day 3.
Toured Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Eclipse - such a sexy ship! I loved the decor, especially in all the restaurants. Click here for my photos.Visited the trade show in the afternoon before my classes. The Conference Banquet was just OK but the entertainment was pretty good (especially Mosaic).

Day 4.
Went for a nice walk before the tour of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. I wasn't sure I'd like this behemoth- currently the largest ship at afloat. It has a zip-line,  a surf machine, a merry-go-round, an ice rink, a rock-climbing wall, etc. It also has a comedy club, a jazz lounge and the Central Park area was really pretty. Click here for my photos.
Central Park on Allure of the Seas

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cruise Conference, part 1

The view of the intercoastal waterway from my balcony at the Hyatt Pier 66

Day 1. 
My flight was delayed (they couldn't get it started) so I caught a later connection and missed a couple classes. I did enjoy the Silversea, Seabourn, and Azamara presentations. Then I met the lovely Noelle for a tour of the RitzCarlton Fort Lauderdale. Gorgeous! Check out my photos here. We enjoyed a drink watching the beach. Then back to my hotel to dine outside at Pelican Landing on the dock of Pier 66. Bed early at Hyatt Pier 66.

Day 2
Woke up early (well, early for me) and did a little work before my tour of Regent Cruises' Seven Seas Navigator. Much smaller than the Mariner and her sister the Voyager, I wanted to see how she compared. The verandah suites are just as nice. After the tour, I went back to the Hyatt to check in and download photos. Then back to class, learning all about the Baltic Sea ports. Had sushi for dinner at China Grill. Jumped in the jacuzzi and swam in the pool before hitting the shower and soon the bed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April Travels

It looks like Spring has finally sprung, so I hope you are enjoying the season. I spent the entire first quarter of 2011 busy at my desk, and I’m ready to get out of town.

This weekend I will be attending a Cruise Conference in Fort Lauderdale, which will take me out of the office from Thursday, April 14, until Tuesday, April 19. I am looking forward to touring Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator, Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Eclipse and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (check back here for photos). Next week, I’ll be out of the office from Wednesday, April 20, until Monday, April 25.

I will be checking voicemails and emails frequently and working a couple hours each day. The FROSCH Hotline is there to assist you with any travel emergencies while I am away. Thanks for your patience during the next few weeks!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ritz Carlton Toronto

The Ritz Carlton Toronto lobby
The Ritz Carlton Toronto welcomed my mother and me this past weekend. We made heroic efforts to experience all the facilities in two nights, and here is our review. Click here for my photos.

DÉCOR: We both loved the décor (warm and contemporary) and the attention to detail (every single light fixture was attractive). Canadian touches were featured throughout the hotel, from the bronze maple leaves embedded in the lobby’s marble floor, to a stunning Inuit marble carving displayed by our elevators on the 16th floor.

THE SERVICE: Every staff member that we encountered was friendly (which I expected) but also seemed sincerely desirous to assist us in anything. Everyone offered concierge-like services in an effort to make sure we had a lovely time in Toronto (including the in-room dining staff!). Many staff members acknowledged us by name, which was impressive during such a short stay. Even the doormen were memorably charming. 

The cheese cave at TOCA Restaurant

TOCA by Tom Brodi: This restaurant serves Contemporary Canadian cuisine with a farm-to-table approach in an attractive setting (B/L/D M-F, Brunch and dinner on weekends). There is a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled cheese cave where you are invited to try Canadian cheeses after lunch and dinner. The wine cellar is extensive, and they offer 50 wines by the glass. There is a private dining room with seating for 12, and a gorgeous Chef’s Table in the middle of the kitchen. The dinner menu would impress even the most sophisticated New Yorker (how often do you see beer-battered lobster appetizer or loin of venison?). 


TOCA Bar: This sexy watering hole is already popular with the financial district workers. Menu includes sustainable Canadian caviar and a raw bar. I saw strips of bacon standing up in a beer glass offered as a bar nibble.

DEQ Terrace Lounge
DEQ: The Terrace Lounge has cozy indoor seating (sofas and fireplace) and a large outdoor patio with fire pit and pizza oven. All-day dining options include tableside charcuterie, fondue-of-the-day (from the cave), flat breads, etc.  

The view from our room
ROOMS: Our Deluxe room was a spacious 450 feet with floor-to-ceiling windows and a great view of Lake Ontario and CN Tower. Tech features include a 42’ flat-screen HDTV with DVD player and a BOSE iPod/radio/CD sound system. All of the lighting was adjustable on dimmers for complete control of our environment. Ritz Carlton hotels are known for their wonderful marble bathrooms, and this one had all the ‘standards’ I expected: deep soaking tub, double vanity, shower stall with rain shower head and adjustable hand held. The heated floor was a nice touch, but the TV mirror was an amazing surprise. 

Our bathroom, complete with a television in the mirror
SPA: This is what lured us back to Toronto: the 23,000 square foot Spa! Best. Massage. Ever. This urban spa has stylish décor, but no photos were permitted, sadly. There were three Relaxation Lounges for guests to await treatments: Women’s, Men’s and the Sun Room (with floor-to-ceiling windows) all in butter and cream with dark tropical woods that remind you of Bali without being ‘Balinese’. There was a very nice tea selection available (the Vanilla Rooibos is delish) and little nibbles (pumpkin seeds, walnuts and dried apricots).  There is a lunch menu available if you can’t tear yourself away, and it’s not just the typical spa fare: bison carpaccio was offered. 

The 16 treatment rooms are candlelit with chocolate tilework and another gorgeous light fixture. I tried their Signature ‘Cloud 9 Massage’ and Margaret my masseuse had wonderful hands. Mom received the ‘Breath of Fresh Air Facial’ which included foot massage and paraffin hand treatment; she emerged relaxed and radiant. Spa features include Steam Room, Sauna and Vitality Pools (the Invigorating Pool was shallow with a curved floor and a dozen jets). There are also two showers with eight heads strategically located for a hydro-massage.
The Salon has private pedicure cabins. Fellow spa addicts should note that this isn’t a “holistic” spa experience: nothing feng shui about the décor, they played low-key contemporary music in the Relaxation Room, the staff didn’t use the phony spa voice, etc. 

The lap pool

The lap pool is surrounded by inviting lounge chairs, windows overlooking the city, and a Jacuzzi discreetly placed in the co,rner. According to the hotel website, there is a Yoga Studio by Yogagurl offering group and private classes and there’s a state-of-the-art Fitness Centre with Techno-Gym strength training, Kinesis and Precor Cardio Equipment (but I didn’t seek out those particular amenities). 

PROMOS: There is an introductory Third Night Free promotion valid until September 5, 2011. FROSCH guests will receive complimentary continental breakfast daily and $100 Food & Beverage credit. My clients will also receive an upgrade and Late Check-out if it is available. 

Toronto Life has more photos, including the Spa.