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The Sweet Suite Life
 
You'll never want to travel any other way...

The “Sweet” Suite Life
By Elaine Johnston

The first one said, “Special upgrade fares! Upgrade to SA (Deluxe Verandah Suite in Holland America Cruise Line language) for an additional $299.00 per person. Please contact your travel clients immediately to see if they are interested. First Come, First Served!” I was that client. It was my booking number referenced in the fax for our annual Caribbean cruise in February. As much as I have always wanted to sail in a full-sized suite, an additional $600 did not agree with my pocketbook.

Six days later, the second fax arrived. “New lower rates! Upgrade to SA - additional $199 per person.” These cruise lines really know how to get a girl excited. Having never sailed with Holland America, I immediately placed a call to Jessica, my sales rep in Seattle, to see if the upgrade was worth the money. “You bet it is!” she said. “You’re going to love the Neptune Lounge!” Needless to say, my arm was easily twisted. Which credit card should I use?

My husband, Ed, had no clue whatsoever, which made the whole experience even more special. Embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was a breeze. Instead of standing in long lines waiting to be processed, we were escorted to a section of the terminal designated for suite check-ins. Ed thought the speedy check-in was due to the fact that I am a travel agent and had a sizeable group onboard. Surprise! Surprise!

He was the first to enter the cabin. “WOW!”, he said. This is unreal. I’ve now been to the top, and the Good Lord can take this old country boy whenever He’s ready.”

Ed with binochulars looking out to sea
Ed uses binoculars
 found in every suite...

I was just as excited as Ed, maybe even more so. I ran around like a kid, opening all the drawers and closets - there were tons of them - stepping out onto the huge private verandah, back into the cabin to check out the fully stocked mini-bar, and then into the elegant Italian marble bathroom with Elemis amenities, dual sinks, a full-size whirlpool bath, and separate shower. Oh, and a toilet.

Fresh flowers, chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne chilling in a silver bucket greeted us from the cocktail table in front of a massive soft leather sofa. Matching chairs stood on either side of the table. Ed took dibs on the sofa, especially while viewing first-run movies on the flat-panel TV. (He didn’t seem to snore as much on that sofa.) Wine and on-the-rocks glasses, Bvlgari china, fine Irish linen napkins, a cork screw, and silverware were in one of the many cabinets I opened. And our own personalized stationery: Mr. & Mrs. Estel Johnston, Deluxe Verandah Suite 7077, Eastern Caribbean Cruise, msWesterdam… Now that blew my mind.

The beds - Plush Premium Euro-Top mattresses with 250-thread-count bed linens, snowy duvets and down pillows made us want to go to bed early and wake up late. Why not, we were on vacation!

Suite Beds
Deluxe Verandan Suite 7077

Living rooms side of suite
Ed's couch...

The “suite life” provided a few other amenities: corsages and boutonnieres for the first formal night; a special Suite Lunch hosted by Captain Peter Harris in the Crow’s Nest; elegant bathrobes for use while onboard, and slippers to take home; complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning; and use of the exclusive Neptune Lounge, including personal concierge service. We did it all, especially the Neptune Lounge.

Hal Suite Lunch with Captain Peter Harris
Suite Lunch hosted by Captain Peter Harris

The Neptune Lounge is like your own private retreat where you can relax, read, watch a wide-screen TV, and socialize with fellow suite guests. Continental breakfast, midday snacks, afternoon tea and cold hors d’oeuvres are available throughout the day. Having the lounge just a few steps away from our cabin was an added plus - much like my kitchen at home. Unlike my kitchen at home, the lounge came equipped with Rencel & Marjorie, Neptune Lounge Concierges, who served us coffee, made dinner reservations at the ship’s specialty restaurant, Pinnacle Grill, ordered DVDs to be delivered to our cabin, and made last-minute shore excursion bookings.

Rencel & Marjorie Neptune Lounge
Rencel & Marjorie
Neptune Lounge Concierges
Wanted to take them home with me!

Food display in Neptune Lounge
Afternoon sweets in Neptune Lounge

Another nice feature of the lounge was its homey atmosphere allowing us the pleasure of getting to know our neighbors. During my first visit to the lounge, I met Mauro Golmarvi and his wife Karen. Mauro is the owner and chef of Assaggio Ristorante, in Seattle, Washington, voted the “Best Italian Restaurant” by AOL CityGuide Seattle in 2006. He was onboard as the expert chef for Holland America’s new Culinary Arts Center, a recent addition to all of their ships. Chef Mauro was an absolute delight with a robust personality that matched his robust size. I attended one of his presentations, tasted his delicious food, and wanted to take him home with me - just to cook.

Ed and I have never enjoyed a cruise more. Better yet, we truly enjoyed each other. Lots of laughs and much needed long conversations. There were times when we never knew or cared what the other passengers onboard were doing. We dined with our group of friends every evening in the Vista Dinning Room, attended a few of the shows, checked out the casino, and then turned into “couch potatoes” in our suite - Ed stretched out on the sofa engrossed in yet another flick, me curled up in a comfy chair on the verandah, book in hand, breathing in all that fresh sea air. Now, that’s what I call living the “sweet” suite life.

Travel First Class and be pampered beyond your wildest dreams - it could happen to you!

Elaine Johnston
October 18, 2008

For more information, visit www.gladeexplorers.com

 

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"Thank you for helping us plan the perfect vacation. I can't begin to tell you how much we enjoyed it. We're talking about next year now!
Thank you too for the wine. It was such a surprise and complimented our dinner. Of course, we toasted our new friends with gratitude."
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