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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Exploring the Viking Mimir: A Detailed Review of the Veranda Stateroom


We’re excited to share our incredible journey on the Viking Mimir, a beautiful longship that took us from Budapest, Hungary to Amsterdam on the Grand European Tour. In this blog post, we’ll provide an in-depth review of our experience, including a detailed look at our cabin, onboard amenities, and some tips for making the most of your Viking River Cruise. 

Boarding the Viking Mimir

We boarded the Viking Mimir in Budapest, Hungary, eager to begin our 14-night journey through some of Europe’s most scenic waterways: the Danube, Main, and Rhine Rivers. Built in 2015, the Viking Mimir accommodates 190 passengers in 95 cabins and is staffed by 53 crew members.

Cabin 335: A Detailed Tour

Location and Layout

Our home for the journey was cabin 335, a Category A Veranda Stateroom located on the upper deck, starboard side. The main difference between Category A and B Veranda Staterooms is their deck placement, with Category A on the upper deck and Category B on the middle deck. For this Grand European Cruise, the price difference was about $200 per person. Category A cabins, like ours, are situated higher, potentially offering better views.

Cabin Features

Square Footage and Comparisons

Our Category A Veranda Stateroom, including the veranda, is about 205 square feet. In comparison, standard staterooms are typically around 150 square feet, while French Balcony staterooms offer a similar layout but without the extra space and veranda, averaging around 135 square feet. Veranda Suites are larger, approximately 275 square feet, and Explorer Suites can be even more spacious, reaching up to 445 square feet. The price of our veranda stateroom was significantly lower than a suite, making it a more economical choice while still offering more space than the standard and French Balcony rooms.

Sleeping Area and Storage

As you enter the cabin, the bathroom is on the left and the wardrobe on the right. The sleeping area is on the left, with cabinetry opposite the bed and a veranda that offers unobstructed views. The beds, officially queen size, can be arranged in either a queen or twin configuration. Each side of the bed is equipped with EU and US outlets, lighting controls, and nightstands with small pullout shelves and additional storage. The nightstand nearest the window is longer, providing more storage space.

Additional Storage

A long built-in cabinet at the foot of the bed includes a vanity with a small stool and mirror, although the lighting here is somewhat dim. This cabinet also houses a small refrigerator, which can accommodate a bottle of wine. Unlike some higher-category cabins, this refrigerator is not pre-stocked. The cabin also features a large wardrobe with ample storage: shelves, a full-length hanging area, and a large safe that can easily fit two 13-inch laptops, tablets, passports, jewelry, wallets, and phones.

The Veranda

The veranda, accessed via a sliding glass door, features two chairs and an occasional table. It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the view, providing a nice retreat from the common areas. This space is what sets the veranda stateroom apart from the standard and French Balcony staterooms, which lack the outdoor seating area.

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Electrical Outlets and Lighting

The cabin is equipped with both EU and US outlets next to each side of the bed, providing convenience for charging devices. There are also lighting controls, large lights, small directional reading lights, and a night light located behind the headboard, which is not motion-activated.


The bathroom, though compact, is well-appointed with a vanity, shower with glass doors, and Viking’s own Freyja toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and body wash. The antifog mirror is well-lit, and the bathroom floors can be heated, with controls located to the right of the sink. There are shelves next to and below the sink for storage, as well as hooks beside the towel rack and on one of the shower doors. The shower features a shower head that can be handheld or fixed, with two shelves for toiletries.

Other Amenities

The cabin includes a television above the desk, offering a range of programming including live TV, guest information, and on-demand movies. Filtered water is provided and replenished daily, and bottled water is available at every port. QuietVox boxes for tours are also provided, with EU, US, and USB outlets available at the desk. See our full stateroom review video for how we use our Airily transmitter to connect our wireless headphones with the QuietVox boxes. 

Onboard Experience

Dining and Beverages

The Viking Mimir offers a variety of dining options with beer, wine, and sodas included with meals. The daily menus are diverse, catering to various tastes and dietary needs.

Excursions and Activities

Each port includes one optional tour, generally offering a basic overview of the city. The ship also provides enrichment lectures and entertainment to enhance the cruising experience.

Wi-Fi and Connectivity

While Wi-Fi is complimentary, we found it to be quite poor compared to other cruise lines like Seabourn, which uses Starlink. If you need reliable internet, we recommend using your cell phone whenever possible.


Our journey on the Viking Mimir was a luxurious and enriching experience. The Category A Veranda Stateroom provided ample space and comfort for the 14-night cruise, making it a great choice for those seeking a bit more room than a French Balcony room without the higher cost of a suite. At nearly half the price of a suite and significantly less than an Explorer Suite, the Veranda Stateroom offers a perfect balance of space and economy.

We hope you enjoyed our detailed review of the Viking Mimir and found it helpful for planning your own river cruise adventure. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more cabin reviews, excursion insights, and travel tips. Please like and subscribe to support our charitable efforts.

Always remember to make meaningful and healthy travel happen. We look forward to sharing more of our travel experiences with you. See you next time!

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Duravo Agile Laptop Backpack: A Comprehensive Review and Packing Guide

Welcome to our in-depth review and packing guide for the Duravo Agile Laptop Backpack. In this comprehensive analysis, we'll explore the features, compartments, dimensions, and weight of this versatile travel companion. Additionally, we'll provide insights into what items we packed in the backpack, showcasing its functionality and suitability for various travel needs. Spoiler Alert! It holds more than you think it will!

Detailed Overview of Features:

The Duravo Agile Laptop Backpack is meticulously designed with the modern traveler in mind. Crafted from durable FlexShell material, it offers both style and functionality. The adjustable shoulder straps ensure a comfortable fit, while the leather grab handle adds a touch of elegance. With dimensions of 17.5" x 12" x 6.5" and weighing just 3 lbs, it strikes the perfect balance between compactness and spaciousness.

Examination of Compartments:

Step inside the Agile Backpack, and you'll find a multitude of compartments designed for efficient organization. The exterior features two front pockets for quick access to essentials, including a detached key ring and stash pockets. Inside, the bottom pocket comfortably fits a passport and iPhone 15 Pro, while the upper pocket includes an air tag sleeve, pen sleeves, and stash sleeves for additional organization. The main compartment boasts a top zipper closure and divider, perfect for packing clothing and bulkier items. Additionally, there's an expandable side pocket ideal for a bifold wallet or smartphone, ensuring easy access on the go. The padded laptop compartment in the rear can accommodate laptops up to 17 inches, providing ample protection for electronic devices.

Interior Main Compartment

Lower Front Compartment

Leather Grab Handle

Zipper Side Pocket

Suitability for Different Travelers:

The Agile Backpack caters to a diverse range of travelers, from those with smaller frames to business professionals seeking a sleek and functional travel accessory. Its compact yet spacious design makes it an ideal choice for individuals looking to travel light without sacrificing storage capacity. Business travelers will appreciate its professional aesthetic and practical features, including dedicated compartments for laptops and documents.

from Duravo

Integration with Duravo International Expandable Carry-On:

Pairing the Agile Backpack with the Duravo International Expandable Carry-On enhances the overall travel experience. The backpack seamlessly attaches to the carry-on's handle, allowing for effortless navigation through airports and other travel hubs. This integration ensures a cohesive and efficient travel solution for discerning travelers. Due to the FlexShell construction, it will even stand up on its own making it less likely to get dirty and easier to access wherever you are!

It stands up on its own fully packed! 

Performance in Various Travel Scenarios:

Our extensive testing revealed that the Agile Backpack performs exceptionally well in diverse travel settings. It effortlessly fits into airport sizers and under seats, meeting personal item requirements with ease. Its lightweight construction and ergonomic design make it a comfortable and reliable companion for both short trips and extended journeys.

What We Packed:

In our Agile Backpack, we packed essentials for a week-long trip. We always use compression bags to fit more. We roll and compress and try to travel with wrinkle free fabrics. This included rolled clothing stored in compression bags: we packed 9 short-sleeved shirts, 4 pairs of shorts and 3 long pants in them. We added a pair of women's size 8 shoes, an iPad Pro, a 13-inch MacBook, a 24 oz Hydro Flask, and travel documents such as passports and chargers. The backpack accommodated everything with room to spare, demonstrating its versatility and capacity. See what we packed in this video:

Final Thoughts:

In conclusion, the Duravo Agile Laptop Backpack exceeded our expectations with its innovative design, durable construction, and thoughtful features. We felt it was comfortable to travel with and held more than we expected it would. It paired seamlessly with our Duravo luggage and was convenient to use at the airport and on the plane. Whether you're embarking on a business trip or a weekend getaway, this backpack offers unparalleled organization and convenience, making it a worthy investment for discerning travelers.

Check out all of Duravo's products at their website!

From Reserve Collection to Sanctuary Suite on Sun Princess: Everything You Need to Know from our Experience in a Mini Suite

Embarking on a cruise offers an exciting opportunity to explore new destinations while enjoying the comfort and luxury of a floating resort. In this blog post, we're thrilled to share some exciting news about the transformation of your Mini-Suite aboard the Sun Princess into the Sanctuary Suite. We were on board the Sun Princess cruise ship for its second sailing. We explored, asked questions and stayed in a Reserve Collection Mini-Suite. What will be different soon? Read this post to find out!

You probably saw our previous blog post detailing the experience of staying in the Reserve Collection Mini-Suite. Well, now, for sailings after October 14th, 2024, that same suite is undergoing a remarkable evolution—it's being rebranded as the Sanctuary Mini-Suite!

Princess Cruises quietly announced the introduction of the Sanctuary Collection, coinciding with the grand christening ceremony of the Sun Princess. This collection includes three tiers of staterooms: Signature Collection Suites, Mini-Suites, and Premium Deluxe Balconies. Interestingly, it appears that the former Reserve Collection Mini-Suites will now be categorized under the Mini-Suite tier within the Sanctuary Collection.

So, what does this transformation entail? Sanctuary Collection passengers will enjoy exclusive access to the ship's top deck retreat, now known as The Sanctuary Club. Along with this, they'll have access to a range of high-end amenities, including exclusive dining and relaxation areas, as well as the Princess Premier bundle.

But let's delve deeper into the changes. What about access to The Sanctuary for those not in the Sanctuary Collection? During our cruise, it was only guaranteed for Signature Collection staterooms. However, management mentioned the possibility of day passes, mainly on port days, priced at $79 per person for port days and $99 per person for sea days. Dining is another aspect shrouded in mystery. While the website mentions specific dining options for certain room categories, it's not entirely clear for others.

Now, let's talk numbers. While the initial cost of our Reserve Collection Mini-Suite was estimated to be 15-20% higher than a basic Mini-Suite, booking a Sanctuary Collection Mini-Suite or Premium Deluxe Balcony will set you back approximately $200 per person per day more. However, considering the inclusions like the Princess Premier package and Sanctuary access, this seems like a reasonable price for the added benefits.

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But what about the experience within the Sanctuary Suite itself? Let's rewind a bit to our initial blog post about the Reserve Collection Mini-Suite. Upon stepping into cabin 17408 on Deck 17, known as the Lido deck, guests were greeted with the elegance and sophistication of the Reserve Collection Mini-Suite. Situated conveniently near key amenities like the Lido pool and Love by Britto, this spacious cabin promised a delightful stay.

Delving deeper into the interior of the Mini-Suite, warm colors and tasteful décor created an inviting ambiance. From the well-appointed sleeping area with luxurious Princess Luxury Beds to the expansive living space adorned with modern amenities, every corner exuded comfort and style.

Thoughtful details enhanced the functionality of the Mini-Suite, including ample storage options, convenient workspaces, and upgraded furnishings. The upgraded bathroom experience bid farewell to traditional cruise ship bathrooms, introducing premium toiletries and a spacious shower designed for ultimate relaxation.

Stepping out onto the balcony, guests were greeted with panoramic views of the ocean, offering a serene retreat to unwind and reconnect with the sea.

Now, with the transformation into the Sanctuary Suite, these luxurious accommodations are elevated to new heights, offering an unparalleled cruise experience filled with relaxation, indulgence, and unparalleled service.

In our opinion, the Sanctuary Collection is appealing for those seeking guaranteed access to The Sanctuary and dedicated dining areas. However, some longtime Princess Cruisers may not appreciate these bundled offerings. Nonetheless, there's still the option to book your favorite room without the Sanctuary Collection perks.

So, what do you think about these changes? Join our group to discuss it!


Exploring The Sanctuary: A Retreat for Serenity

Now, let's take a closer look at The Sanctuary aboard the Sun Princess, a haven of tranquility and relaxation. Located on Deck 18 aft, The Sanctuary offers passengers a serene escape from the bustling activities onboard.

Accessible from the glass elevators spanning decks 10 to 18 or the mid-AF elevators, The Sanctuary welcomes guests with its dedicated crew and a serene atmosphere. An exclusive bar awaits as guests step inside, offering a selection of beverages to enjoy.

The pool area, a new addition to The Sanctuary on the Sun Princess, provides a refreshing retreat for guests to cool off and unwind. The space features various seating options, including padded chase loungers, double-padded beds, and plastic sculpted loungers, ensuring there's a spot for every guest to relax in comfort.

For those seeking additional indulgence, cabanas are available for rent, offering a private oasis complete with amenities like bathrobes and slippers. While the cabanas were not yet complete during our visit, they promise to be a luxurious addition to The Sanctuary experience.

Exclusive to Signature Collection Suite guests, the Signature Sun deck offers elevated views and additional amenities for a truly VIP experience. With its dedicated food and beverage service, comfortable seating, and panoramic vistas, the Signature Sun deck is the epitome of luxury within The Sanctuary. But it is unlikely that mini suite or deluxe balcony Sanctuary cabins will have access to this deck although Princess hasn't clarified this yet.

Despite its many highlights, The Sanctuary is not without its challenges. The proximity to Deck 19 activities may pose a concern for some guests seeking a quiet retreat. Additionally, the limited shade options within The Sanctuary may impact guests' comfort during sunnier days at sea.


Overall, The Sanctuary on board the Sun Princess offers a blend of relaxation, luxury, and exclusivity for discerning cruisers. Whether you're seeking a peaceful escape or a refreshing dip in the pool, The Sanctuary provides a serene haven for passengers to unwind and rejuvenate during their voyage.

So, next time you're aboard the Sun Princess, be sure to carve out some time to experience the serenity of The Sanctuary—a true oasis at sea.

As the Sun Princess sets sail into a new era of luxury and indulgence, the transformation of your Mini-Suite into the Sanctuary Mini-Suite promises an elevated cruise experience like no other. With exclusive access to The Sanctuary, a haven of tranquility and relaxation, guests can unwind in style amidst panoramic ocean views and attentive service. The combination of the premier package and access to the sanctuary makes the additional expense over a traditional mini-suite worth it in our opinion. While the introduction of the Sanctuary Collection brings forth exciting changes and additional perks, such as exclusive dining options and priority access to amenities, there are still some uncertainties lingering. One such concern is the ambiguity surrounding the location of the sanctuary dining room, leaving guests eager for more clarity on this aspect of their experience. The allure of the Sanctuary Suite in the Signature collection lies in its promise of serenity, luxury, and unparalleled service—a retreat within a floating paradise. Whether you're basking in the sun on the Signature Sun deck or indulging in a private cabana experience, the Sanctuary Suite invites guests to embark on a journey of relaxation and rejuvenation, creating memories to last a lifetime. But of course the Signature collection suites come at a cost over the deluxe balcony and mini suites, and have access to the signature collection dining room and lounge. Just like the Signature Sun Deck, we predict that mini suite guests and deluxe balcony guests in the Sanctuary collection won't have access to these locations. So, as you plan your next cruise aboard the Sun Princess, consider indulging in the Sanctuary Collection for a truly unforgettable voyage filled with moments of bliss and tranquility. Your sanctuary awaits, promising a cruise experience like no other. Bon voyage and may your journey be filled with unforgettable moments of serenity and luxury aboard the Sun Princess! Be sure to book your next cruise at Princess Cruises' website.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Review of Hearth Restaurant in the New Embers Hotel: Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Join us as we review our delightful culinary adventure at Hearth Restaurant, nestled amidst the scenic landscapes of Blowing Rock, North Carolina inside the brand new Embers Hotel. From savoring locally inspired libations to indulging in inventive appetizers, flavorful entrees, and decadent desserts, our experience was a satisfying blend of flavors and hospitality. Let us take you on a journey through each aspect of our visit, sharing insights and highlights along the way. A link to our full video experience is at the end of this post!

1. Embracing Warmth and Hospitality:

Step into The Hearth and immerse yourself in a cozy ambiance that exudes warmth and hospitality. From the welcoming smiles of the staff to the inviting decor, every detail is designed to make you feel right at home. Whether you're seeking a romantic dinner for two or a gathering with friends, The Hearth offers the perfect setting for any occasion.

2. Crafted Libations:

Quench your thirst with expertly crafted libations at The Hearth's bar. Sip on signature cocktails inspired by the flavors of North Carolina or choose from an impressive selection of local wines and craft beers. Indulge in creative concoctions like the "Smoky Old Fashioned," featuring bourbon, pecan-smoked maple syrup, Magnolia bitters, and a charred orange peel, or the refreshing "Spirited Lavender Lemonade," made with gin, lavender, lemon, blueberry, and basil.

Enchanted Flame on the Terrace

Left to right: Appalachian Burro, Bleu Smoke, Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon

Spirited Lavender Lemonade

3. Appetizers to Tempt the Palate:

Begin your culinary journey with a tantalizing selection of appetizers that showcase the best of local and seasonal ingredients. Savor the Mediterranean-inspired flavors of the "Warm Coquillos Olives," infused with rosemary, garlic, red chili flakes, sundried tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. For a taste of indulgence, indulge in the "Artisanal Cheese and Charcuterie Board," featuring a variety of artisanal cheeses, savory meats, marcona almonds, mustard, local honey, and grilled baguette. Our favorite was the Burrata with pistachio pesto, lemon and asparagus!


Wine List (Reds)

Cocktail Menu

Warm Coquillos Olives

Charcuterie Board


4. Entrees: A Culinary Symphony:

Indulge in an array of entrees that celebrate the rich culinary heritage of North Carolina. Sink your teeth into the "Coffee-Rubbed Fillet of Beef," tender and juicy, complemented perfectly with creamy Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and roasted heirloom carrots. For a taste of comfort, savor the "High Country Turkey Meatloaf," served with buttermilk mashed potatoes, smoky maple glaze, and crispy tobacco onions.

Coffee Rubbed Filet of Beef

Pappardelle with Braised Short Ribs

Turkey Meatloaf (our favorite!)

5. Sweet Endings:

Save room for dessert and treat yourself to a decadent finale that will satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth. Indulge in the "Chocolate-Dipped Sugared Waffle," a playful combination of warm, crispy waffle dipped in rich chocolate, paired with cool vanilla ice cream. For a refreshing twist, delight in the "Lemon Cheesecake," light and tangy with a delicate Chantilly cream and candied lemon garnish.

Sugared Waffle

6. Unique Spirited Treats:

Experience a culinary innovation like no other with The Hearth's spirited treats, offering a delightful twist on traditional desserts. Venture outside onto the terrace and indulge in a sweet indulgence infused with spirits, creating a truly unforgettable dining experience. These spirited treats are exclusive to The Hearth and offer a perfect blend of sweet indulgence and sophisticated flavors. Savor the "Sunset & Main," a sweet sensation inspired by the cross streets of Blowing Rock, featuring blood orange sorbet, pink port, candy ginger, lemon zest, lavender, and a touch of gold. Watch in awe as the port is added with a unique applicator, enhancing the dessert's visual appeal and flavor profile. For chocolate lovers, the "Ruby Delight" is a dream come true, boasting chocolate ice cream, a chocolate macaron, ruby port chocolate drizzle, hazelnut, and a hint of rose, all enhanced with a squeeze of ruby port. These spirited treats offer a one-of-a-kind dining experience that is sure to delight the senses and leave a lasting impression.

Sunset & Main

Ruby Delight

7. Our Experience at The Hearth:

Allow us to share our firsthand experience and insights from our unforgettable culinary journey at The Hearth Restaurant. As enthusiasts of fine cuisine, we found our visit to be thoroughly enjoyable, with several key highlights worth noting. See our entire visit here:

Atmosphere and Service: The ambiance at The Hearth was inviting, with cozy interiors and a beautiful terrace providing a pleasant dining environment. The service was attentive and friendly, contributing to a comfortable and enjoyable dining experience.

Libations and Appetizers: We were impressed by the variety and quality of libations offered at The Hearth's bar. The cocktails were expertly crafted, and the selection of locally inspired drinks added to the overall charm of the establishment. The appetizers were well-prepared and presented, offering a satisfying start to our meal.

Entrees and Desserts: The entrees we sampled were flavorful and well-executed, showcasing the culinary expertise of the kitchen staff. Each dish was thoughtfully prepared, and the quality of ingredients was evident in every bite. While our experience at The Hearth was enjoyable, we believe that expanding the entree menu to offer more variety would enhance the dining experience, as we know individuals with diverse preferences may struggle to find dishes that cater to their taste.  Desserts provided a sweet conclusion to our meal, with options that catered to a variety of preferences and we especially love the idea of getting a spirited treat on the terrace after dinner at Hearth or any time we are in Blowing Rock.

While we didn't have brunch, it is served daily at Hearth.


In conclusion, our experience at The Hearth was positive overall. While there were some standout moments, such as the quality of libations and the attentive service, we also found room for improvement in certain areas. Nonetheless, we would recommend The Hearth to those seeking a pleasant dining experience in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Let us know what you think in the comments below! Book your room at the Embers' website: or call at: (828) 372-8000. Reserve Hearth at

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