Monday, July 30, 2012

Reflection of Royalty

Reflection of Royalty
Celebrity Reflection

Who doesn’t like to be treated like royalty? Especially on vacation.  My dream trip takes me away on a 7-Day Caribbean Cruise on Celebrity’s newest ship, Celebrity Reflection. It leaves out of the Port of Miami, on December 8, 2012.

Celebrity Cruise Lines loves to pamper, engage, and renew passengers.  With that in mind, I booked a Royal Suite (590 sq ft, veranda: 158 sq ft).  I thought about booking the Reflection Suite with the fancy, cantilevered, glass-walled shower.  (During the day, a person can shower and look out over the ocean.  Reflective material keeps others from looking in. There’s a switch that turns on a fogging function, which offers privacy at night.)  However, the Reflection Suite accommodates 6, and I only need accommodations for 2.  Maybe next time.

My trip begins on December 7, 2012, with a pre-night cruise stay at the Trump International Beach Resort, in Miami,, (Junior Suite Ocean View). I like to arrive in a city a day or two before I leave on my cruise so that I can wake up refreshed, relaxed, and ready for my cruise.

On December 8, I board Celebrity Reflection.  Since I booked the Royal Suite, I receive priority check in and am one of the first ones to board.  What a beautiful ship and what a thrill to be one of the first people to cruise this magnificent vessel.  

Day 1 Embarkation
Make Speciality Dining Reservation at Blu (subject to availability)
Massage (This is my favorite way to start a cruise.)
Whirlpool on my private veranda...Ooo-la-la!

Day 2 Sea Day
Painting class (maybe the Master Artist can offer tips for my stick figures)
Lounge by the pool
Dinner at Blu (speciality restaurant)
Shore Excursion: Bioluminescent Bay Kayak Adventure (SJ36)
Shore Excursion: 4x4 Beach Escape (SMB9)
Shore Excursion: Caribbean Cooks (KT60)

Day 6 Sea Day  
Lounge by the pool
Enjoy The Lawn Club Grill (First-hand grilling techniques)

Day 7 Disembarkation

Other Royal Suite perks include: 
Fresh flowers
Daily in-suite espresso and cappuccino
Daily fresh fruit platter
European trained butler service (Oh, if I could put him in my suitcase and take him home...)

It’s the last night of the cruise. I open the floor-to-ceiling glass doors that lead out into my private verandah. Once again, I feel the light, ocean breeze against my face.  I relax in the whirlpool one last time.  I look out across the vast ocean.  The waves lap against the ship. The moon and stars create their own light show.  This must truly be a Reflection of Royalty.

(Oh, no!  Whoever is in the Reflection Suite with the outside, all-glass shower...they forgot to flip the fog switch.)

Celebrity Cruise Lines’ newest ship, Celebrity Reflection’s 9-night inaugural European cruise sets sail on October 12, 2012.  Cruise Ports include: Depart from Amsterdam, Netherlands; Bruges,(Zeebrugge), Belgium; Paris (Le Havre), France; Gijon, Spain; Vigo, Spain; Malaga, Spain; Barcelona, Spain.

To request additional information or to secure your voyage on Celebrity Reflection, please click here.
What's your destination?

Create memories and not regrets.
Janelle Woodyard

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Final Post on The American Queen-Ohio River

Diary of a Traveler on the American Queen: Last Entry
By Janelle Woodyard

The 2012 inaugural voyage on the American Queen, up the Ohio River, from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh  has come to an end. My luggage is unpacked and the laundry is done. I've caught up on my emails, phone calls, and errands.  I also just finished posting my pictures to Pinterest

- 471 miles
- 12 locks
- 5 states (Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania)

I guess I turned into a steamboat history fanatic because I'm fascinated by the stories of The Mississippi Queen, The Delta Queen, The American Queen, and even the Sultana.

I can't wait until my next destination.  I wonder where I will go next!  As my husband says, "Make memories, not regrets."

To book your group voyage on the American Queen or any other cruise, click here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Diary of a Traveler on the American Queen--Day 5

Diary of a Traveler on the American Queen---Day 5

American Queen Steamboat Company
By Janelle Woodyard

Beautiful people! That's who I saw and meet during my voyage on the American Queen. Beautiful smiles! Beautiful personalities! Beautiful attitudes! To only name the few people that I came in contact with would be like only mentioning the pitcher of a championship baseball team. It takes a great team to achieve greatness! Everyone from the Purser's Desk, to the boutique personnel, to the dinning room staff, to the bar tenders, to the entertainers, to the people behind the scenes...everyone pitched in to do their part to make sure passengers had a memorable experience.

Wheeling, West Virginia was our port today. The City of Wheeling arranged shuttle service to the Wheeling Island Casino. There were also hop on-hop off stops at several local establishments and museums. After several days of touring the cities on the bus, I finally figured the best way to utilize the tours. Every city had a tour guide that would come onto the American Queen buses. My first time on the bus, instead of getting off at the first stop, I stayed on until the bus made the loop around the city. This allowed me to hear the tour guide's complete story. The second time around on the bus, I hopped on and off at the various stops.

One of the most beautiful sights to me in Wheeling was the suspension bridge, built in 1847. The bridge spans over 1,000 feet and is the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the United States. 

One of the experiences I enjoyed on the boat was the classic sound of the calliope. A calliope is a musical instrument that produces sounds by sending steam through whistles.

As the American Queen departed, Jason Bell, (graduate of the University of Memphis in Piano Performance and pianist with the steamboat Synchopators) played the calliope. As Jason played, the sounds of the calliope reached the shore and filled the hearts of the town folk with pride. How do I know this? Because people literally stopped what they were doing in order to catch of glimpse of this beauty.

I had two food highlights today. The first was a steak cooked to order by Chef Unza, on a grill, at the River Grill (an open-air type venue). I'm keeping an eye on Chef Unza. I believe one day he's going to be on the Food Network Channel. This steak was cooked to perfection and then, I had the enjoyment of eating it, while I cruised up the Ohio River. And yes, the scene was accompanied by a gentle breeze and the sound of the water rushing through the paddle wheeler. 

My other food highlight was the creme brulee. Oh my! This was truly the best creme brulee I've ever eaten. The texture was creamy. The glazed sugar on the top was perfect. Not too crisp. Not too crunchy, but just right. It was also adorned with a slice of strawberry. I savored every bite of this baby, and I ate it exceptionally slow because I wanted it to last. When I took my last bite, the most amazing thing happened. Another creme brulee appeared in front of me and...well...I had to eat that one, too. 

For me, my voyage on the American Queen was more than a cruise. It was truly an all- American adventure (Literally!). I had the opportunity to cruise on a steamboat paddle wheeler with amazing people. In speaking about the river, Jerry Hay says, it is, "a place of rest, a place of power, a place of kindred spirits, a place of adventure." Tomorrow, I disembark the American Queen, but this experience will always be with me.

For additional information on cruising the American Queen, contact Janelle at

Monday, July 16, 2012

Diary of a Traveler on the American Queen---Day 4

Dairy of a Traveler on the American Queen---Day 4

American Queen Steamboat Company
By Janelle Woodyard

As I sit in my cabin, looking out my bay window tonight, I see flashes of light along the shoreline. It is the flash of cameras from people on the riverbanks taking pictures of the American Queen. People who live along the Ohio River are just as excited to see the riverboat as I am to be on it. Even looking out the windows during dinner tonight, I saw cars pulling off the road and people getting out of their vehicles in order to catch a glimpse of the steamboat. She really is a beauty!

Our port today was Marietta, Ohio. I love this little town. It had several unique stores. One was the Turquoise Spirit ( Eighty to eighty-five percent of the items in this store are Native American Made. They are the regions largest selection of Native American made silver and gold jewelry. Navajo dolls, high spirits flutes, hopi kachinas, hopi pottery and hand painted drums are only some of the beautiful items in this store. I definitely need to visit this store again.

Water rose and covered Marietta in the 1913 and 1937 floods. Two markers on the side of a building show the flood line. It is amazing to imagine how much the Ohio River rose and what a terrible time it was for the people during that time.

The food aboard the American Queen continues to impress me. Tonight for dinner I had smoked trout canape, asparagus-beet and romaine salad, and pan-seared duck. Oh yes, and the desserts...out of this world.
Winston Churchill said, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." That is definitely true aboard the American Queen. The employees continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to please and cater to the passengers. The American Queen hired people because of their attitude and it shows!

Things I like: I like the complimentary bikes that are available for passengers to use while they explore the destinations. I like the cold bottled water (neatly wrapped in a napkin) that we receive when we board the boat from a shore trip. I like the golf carts that are used to help escort passengers who have a difficult time walking steep inclines from the boat to the buses. I like that I brought a light jacket. The air conditioning works great aboard the boat. I like how passengers can have friends come aboard for an afternoon while in port and even have lunch without a charge. Too bad I don't have any friends in Wheeling, West Virginia.

For additional information on cruising the American Queen, contact Janelle at

Diary of a Traveler on the American Queen--Day 3

Dairy of a Traveler on the American Queen---Day 3

American Queen Steamboat Company
By Janelle Woodyard

Today, I had breakfast at the Front Porch. I couldn't find an empty table so I asked Lyla (whom I met earlier in the week) if I could join her. She was delighted to have company because at home, she may go a week without seeing anyone. Lyla told me how she worked up an appetite after exercising in the Athletic Club for an hour before breakfast. She used the weights and the treadmill. Lyla, a small framed woman, at the height of approximately 5'2", is on this cruise celebrating her 82nd birthday. Her wit, charm, and light-hearted attitude had me from the first day. As we continued to talk, she mentioned how the staff was so friendly and helpful, and how the staff's attitude must have worn off on the passengers because all the passengers were just as cordial. What perception! I think Lyla was quite right. 

I've watched the staff these last few days and have appreciated their attention to the needs of the passengers. There is a Chinese family on board who does not speak much English. From what I can tell, they seem to be having a good time. In an effort to share some hospitality, one of the kitchen staff carved a dragon out of a watermelon and it was on display at the lunch buffet. 

Another time I witnessed a couple in their 80's having lunch. They finished the main dish and were ready for dessert. The maitre d' went over to the self-serve dessert table, picked up the tray of mini cupcakes, brought it back to the table, and presented the selection to the couple. Once they made their choice, he returned the tray to the table. It's refreshing to see that a little bit of hospitality goes a long way. 

Our port today was Point Pleasant, West Virginia, otherwise known as the first battle of the Revolutionary War. Beautiful, floodwall murals depict scenes of local history. What a way to enhance the scenery as well to preserve the past. 

Executive Chef Regina Charboneau, presented a class today on Entertaining Southern Style. When entertaining, remember to enjoy your guests. Don't be so wrapped up working in the kitchen that there isn't time to visit. Leave the dishes for later. Consider having a self serve buffet so guests have a choice in what they want. Remember that it's okay to purchase pre-made foods to lighten the load of entertaining. 

Thanks, Regina, for helping us to remember to keep it simple. To learn more about Chef Regina Charboneau, visit her webiste

Other highlights today included the jazz band brunch, featuring traditional New Orleans Sounds and a tour of the Pilot House. It's been another fun-filled day aboard the American Queen. 

For additional information on cruising the American Queen, contact Janelle at

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Diary of a Traveler on the American Queen--Day 2

Dairy of a Traveler on the American Queen---Day 2

American Queen Steamboat Company
By Janelle Woodyard

Food. Who doesn't love food? The cuisine aboard the American Queen has surpassed my expectations! Chef Regina Charboneau is doing an incredible job! There is always food someplace on this vessel. Hors d' oeuvres, desserts and tea can be found at the Captain's Bar. The Front Porch, opened 24 hours a day, offers fresh popped popcorn, soft serve ice cream, mouth-watering cookies (I loved the peanut butter cookies.), a hot beverage machine (with a choice of espresso, latte, cappuccino, americano, mocha, and hot chocolate), a cold drink machine (with a choice of orange juice cranberry juice, lemonade and fruit punch), and a soda fountain machine featuring Coca-Cola products. All of this is available at no additional charge.

Today's features at the River Grill included a salad with chopped hearts of romaine, concassee of tomato, sweet red pepper, and cucumber with a choice of lemon vinaigrette or green goddess dressing. I also tried the orzo and wild rice salad which had red peppers, and dried cranberries with a sherry vinaigrette dressing...very tasty. Chef Unza outdid himself with the Louisiana style smoked sausage, smoked pork ribs, and smoked strip loin.
 Tonight's menu in the J.M. White dining room, started with melon and parma ham and crawfish beignet. The next course was the sweet potato ginger soup, topped with orange scented creme fraiche. It was DELICIOUS! My salad was an oven roasted tomato with fresh mozzarella laced with reduced balsamic drizzle. YUM! The entrees were lamb chops with tomato mint marmalade, grilled chicken with sun dried tomato cream sauce, vegetable curry with chick peas and pan-seared salmon in pepper-brown sugar glaze (which is what I had). It also came with out-of-this world scalloped potatoes (which, I can promise you, is not your momma's recipe) and steamed asparagus. What an incredible dinner. I never thought that a steamboat would have such a variety of food.

Today, we docked in the quaint town of Maysville, Kentucky, birthplace of Rosemary Clooney.
Our hop on-hop off bus tour stopped at the Floodwall River Murals, The Opera House, The Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, and the Russell Theatre.

On display at Kentucky Gateway Museum Center is Kathleen Savage Browning's miniature collection. Never in my life have I seen such detail and craftsmanship on such a small scale.

Next time I'm in Maysville, I need to take the Underground Railroad Tour, which features the Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom's Cabin) Slavery to Freedom Museum and National Underground Railroad Museum.

On this rainy afternoon, I visited with Riverlorian Jerry Hay in the Chart Room. I was so impressed with his knowledge of the river and his stories that I purchased his hardcopy book, Beyond the Bridges. I can't wait to read this as we cruise up the Ohio River.

The Lovin Spoonful was our featured guest tonight. What an amazing tribute to true musicianship that after 40 years, this band is still making music. On top of all that, we had the opportunity to tour staterooms from a single, to suites, to adjoining rooms. I'll have to write about that another time.

What a packed day!

Diary of a Traveler on the American Queen-Day 1

Dairy of a Traveler on the American Queen---Day 1
By Janelle Woodyard

Do you remember a time when you felt excitement in the air? For children, it might be a birthday party, Christmas or Chanukah. As we get older, it might be the thrill of a new house or a new car. Or what about the excitement of going on vacation to a place you've always wanted to go. For me, I got that feeling today when I looked over the Ohio River and saw the American Queen docked in Cincinnati.

There have been many highlights today so I'll start from the beginning. We flew from Orlando, to Charlotte, to Cincinnati and took a taxi to the Public Landing where we boarded the beautiful American Queen. (Our taxi drive is a story all by itself. Long story short, I gave the driver the address. He didn't know where the Cincinnati Public Landing was located and then he asked me if I had a GPS. Then he pulled over and asked a taxi driver from another company for directions. It was definitely a scene from a movie or a Jerry Seinfeld episode.)

We finally arrived at the Cincinnati Public Landing and before we stepped foot onto the gangway, we were greeted with southern hospitality and smiles. Shore excursions are included in the cruise fare so we took a tour of Cincinnati via the hop on-hop off motor coach.
Stops included: 
1) Cincinnati Red Hall of Fame and Museum 
2) National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
3) Fountain Square (where we heard a choir participating in the World Choir)
4) Krohn Conservatory
5) Eden Park Observation Point
6) Cincinnati Art Museum
7) Newport on the Levee and the Newport Aquarium 
What a fantastic way to see the city. The buses circulate every 20 minutes so it was convenient to hop off, visit a stop, hop back on and head to the next stop. 

Once I stepped onboard the American Queen, I felt like I was traveling back in time. The victorian decor is absolutely beautiful from the staterooms, to the Captain's Bar, to the Grand Saloon, to the J. W. Dining room, just to name a few. Fabulous Food: From treats at tea time, to hors d' oeuvres at the Cocktail Party, and through all the courses at dinner, everything tasted delicious. 

Excellent Entertainment: American Queen Steamboat Company did not hold back on the quality of any of their entertainment. Phil tickled the ivories and Bob plucked the banjo, which added to the ambience of the paddle wheeler. But I have to say The Memphis Suns far exceeded my expectations. They not only hit a home run, it was a grand slam! Great vocals, incredible musicianship, and very entertaining. 

Day one is done. The sun has set, the moon is glistening on the water, and I think everyone aboard is asleep except for the captain. I can't wait for day two.