14-Day Celtic Explorer cruise on Holland America's PrinsendamAfter spending four nights at the Renaissance Amsterdam Hotel, we are off today to the Amsterdam Cruise Terminal to board Holland America’s ms Prinsendam. We are sailing around the British Isles to visit ports in Ireland, England, Wales and the Netherlands on the 14-Day Celtic Explorer cruise.

We are looking forward to being back on the ms Prinsendam, Holland America Line’s ‘Elegant Explorer’. We last sailed on the Prinsendam in 2011 on another British Isles cruise with a different route, the 14-Day Celtic Circle cruise.

10 years ago, we spent the summer exploring Europe, much of which was on the Prinsendam. We love the fact that the ship’s shallow draft and retractable rigging allows it to visit smaller, less-visited ports.

During this Celtic Explorer cruise, we are especially looking forward to visiting some new-to-us ports. (The links will take you to our quick research on each port.)

Plus, scenic cruising up the Scheldt River to Antwerp, Belgium, where the Prinsendam will stay over night. (We’ve found Antwerp to be a delightful city.)

Here is the day-by-day itinerary for the 14-Day Celtic Explorer cruise, sailing round-trip from Amsterdam on June 3, 2017:

0 03 Jun 2017 Amsterdam, The Netherlands 04:00 PM
1 04 Jun 2017 At Sea
2 05 Jun 2017 St Peter Port, Guernsey 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
3 06 Jun 2017 Milford Haven, Wales, United Kingdom 09:00 AM 06:00 PM
4 07 Jun 2017 Liverpool, England, United Kingdom 10:00 AM 10:00 PM
5 08 Jun 2017 Dublin, Ireland 08:00 AM 11:00 PM
6 09 Jun 2017 At Sea
7 10 Jun 2017 Killybegs, Donegal, Ireland 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
8 11 Jun 2017 Galway, Ireland 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
9 12 Jun 2017 Bantry, Ireland 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
10 13 Jun 2017 Waterford, Ireland 07:00 AM 08:00 PM
11 14 Jun 2017 At Sea
12 15 Jun 2017 Vlissingen (Flushing), Netherlands 07:00 AM 01:00 PM
12 15 Jun 2017 Scenic Cruising Scheldt River
12 15 Jun 2017 Brussels (Antwerp), Belgium 06:00 PM
13 16 Jun 2017 Brussels (Antwerp), Belgium 04:00 PM
14 17 Jun 2017 Amsterdam, The Netherlands

It should be a fantastic itinerary.

Have you visited any of these ports?

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The Travelin Jones on United flight #907 ORD - FRAWhen traveling between Kansas City, Missouri and Amsterdam earlier this week we got to experience the new United Airlines Polaris business class service on a flight between Chicago and Frankfurt.

entertainment screens, United Polaris business class Introduced last December, the Polaris service replaced United BusinessFirst service on the carrier’s international flights. Described as a “reinvention of the international premium cabin travel experience,” United Polaris service is designed to offer travelers “elevated comfort and service from lounge to landing for a restful night’s sleep in the air.”

We boarded the flight already impressed with our brief layover visit to the new United Polaris lounge in Chicago O’Hare.

Saks Fifth Avenue luxury bedding, United Polaris business class In our seats we found the new custom-made Saks Fifth Avenue luxury bedding. The pillow proved to be soft and comfortable, while the blanket was one that we’d like to have at home.

There are also other upgraded Polaris business class amenities available on request. Mr. Jones liked the cooling gel memory foam pillow while I appreciated the slippers.

amenity kit, United Polaris business class The Polaris amenity kit contained upgraded eye shades as well as spa-quality Cowshed products from Soho House & Co. One of the more unique items is the Cowshed “sleepy cow” relaxing pillow mist.

pre-flight beverage and chocolate, United Polaris Business ClassAs we settled in, we choose sparkling water as our pre-flight beverage. The water was served in a fun little cup holder with a chocolate on the side. What’s not to love?

wine flight - United Polaris business serviceAfter take-off, I was intrigued to try a wine flight. The flight offered six different wines – three whites and three reds. I choose the whites for my flight. Note my slippers at the top of the photo.

salad and appetizer, United Polaris business classThe wine flight made things a little crowded once the meal service started; regardless, I think the wine flights are a fun idea.

The food is part of the “reimagined” dining options that United Airlines created in partnership with chefs from The Trotter Project.

fish entree, United Polaris business classI chose this fish entree.

beef entree, United Polaris business classMr. Jones had the beef.

There is one more part of the United Polaris service that we’ve yet to experience: the new United Polaris seat. It is now only on United flights with utilizing the new Boeing 777-300ER – also known as the 77W.

The new United Polaris seat features forward-facing, direct-aisle-access seats that recline flat, providing sleeping spaces that are perfect for Mr. Jones in that they expand up to 6 feet 6 inches long. In locations where two seats are next to each other, there’s a powered privacy divider for privacy from other travelers.

United is phasing in planes with the new Polaris seats during the next few years. Currently, the best opportunity to experience the Polaris seats on new Boeing 777-300ER planes in when flying United to Asia out of San Francisco.

Have you experienced the United Polaris business service? 

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United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare AirportYesterday, we had a layover in Chicago O’Hare Airport on our way to Europe. Since we were flying Business Class on United Airlines, we got to experience the airline’s new Polaris Lounge that’s located near Gate C18.

In December, 2016, United Airlines replaced its BusinessFirst and Global First service with the new United Polaris business class and first class service on all international flights. New United Polaris lounges — exclusively for international travelers flying in business or first class — are part of the Polaris re-branding effort.

While the Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare is the first, United says it will open eight additional lounges during the next few years. Other airports slated for Polaris lounges include Houston Intercontinental, Los Angeles International, Newark, San Francisco, Washington-Dulles, Hong Kong, London-Heathrow and Tokyo -Narita.

check-in area - United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare AirportWhen we entered the United Polaris Lounge in Chicago we immediately noticed the spacious check-in area, and the lighting fixture with tiny blue pin-lights. The lighting is a nod to the Polaris (or, more commonly known as the North Star) – the point in the nighttime sky that travelers have long used as their guide.  
work cubicles - United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare Airport
The United Polaris lounge has numerous work cubicles for business travelers trying to catch up during international travel.

Our flight layover in Chicago was during peak time in the club — between 4:45 to 5:45 pm — as many are waiting for their evening flights to Europe.
bar - United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare Airport
While many of the seating areas were full, we finally found two seats at the bar.

beverage selection - United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare AirportThere is a wide selection of complimentary beverages in the United Polaris Lounge in Chicago. Rather than being self-serve like many international business class lounges, friendly bartenders and servers take your order in the Polaris lounge.  You can also offer food from a menu, or visit a buffet.

Due to our relatively short visit, we stuck to having a drink.

champagne - United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare AirportThe lovely champagne glasses continue the Polaris theme. We toasted the start of what we hope will be a great vacation.

bathroom hallway - United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare Airport

We took time to check out the bathrooms — which are unisex and located down a dark “star-lit” hallway. An attendant helps direct you to an open bathroom.

bathroom sink - United Polaris Lounge in Chicago O'Hare AirportEach bathroom is comfortably over-sized, with plenty of space for resting your carry-on luggage. There is a toilet, sink and a small bench, all helpful for changing clothes and/or refreshing yourself after a long flight.

bathroom mirror - United Polaris Lounge, Chicago O'Hare AirportEach bathroom has a full-length mirror in addition to the well-lit mirror over the sink.

There are also shower facilities, sleeping rooms and conference rooms in the United Polaris Lounge.

view of Chicago from United Airlines flightSo, if you are flying Polaris class on a United flight, there is a strong incentive to connect through Chicago. (In addition to the excellent city view from the window of United Airlines flight on approach into Chicago O’Hare Airport.)

Have you visited the Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport?

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Packing List for a British Isles Cruise from Amsterdam

May 25, 2017

We are sailing on Holland America Line’s 14-Day Celtic Explorer cruise on the ms Prinsendam in early June. In addition, we will be spending five days in Amsterdam before boarding the cruise ship. We’ve been working to finalize our packing list for this trip. What to pack for this British Isles cruise that visits Wales, England and Ireland, plus […]

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