Member Review: Northern Lights Cruise

Seeing the Northern Lights can be hit and miss, but Cruise Critic member sekrapdjp was in luck on her 15-day cruise on Cruise & Maritime VoyagesMarco Polo in March.

She not only saw it, but saw it several times, as she describes in her review.

Read on to find out more.


Where in the world is Cruise Critic?

Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.
(Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)
Ship: Tauck‘s MS Inspire
Where: From Amsterdam to Brussels
Who: Dori Saltzman, News Editor
Why There? MS Inspire is Tauck’s first river boat in the Inspiration class, which is notable for having only 130 passengers on a longship set-up. Considered part of the luxury end of river cruising, Tauck’s Inspire also has 22 300-square-foot suites, with upscale features such as 400-thread-count sheets and Molton Brown bath products. For 2014, Inspire will sail a variety of Rhine and Moselle river itineraries.
We Can’t Wait: This will be the first sailing of Tauck’s newest boat, which features a handful of unique lower deck “loft” cabins with larger windows — that actually open! (besides fresh air, these windows will allow lower deck passengers much more natural light than you’d normally get in this cabin class).
Ports: The U.S. Virgin Islands, all three of them (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas).
Who: Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
Why There? The Virgin Islands receive an astounding number of cruise passengers per year. In 2013, 626 ships stopped in the islands, with nearly 2 million visitors coming from the vessels. We will be updating all of our port profiles and writing features to help our members get the most out of their stops here.
We Can’t Wait: St. Thomas is more than just a duty-free shopping Mecca; the hub of the Virgin Islands has beautiful beaches and natural attractions for those who hate the idea of spending time in a store. I’ve also never been to St. Croix, and am interested in exploring the Danish history of its towns, the snorkeling in its clear waters and the foodie culture that has emerged.


Introduce a friend to Holland America Line and spend the day onboard ms Ryndam.

Enjoy a tour of Holland America Line’s ms Ryndam

Share your love of cruising…

Whatever it is you enjoy most about cruising, being able to share the experience with friends is when the magic truly comes alive.

We’re offering readers the opportunity to introduce a friend to cruising on Saturday May 10, 2014 on an exclusive Holland America Line ship visit!

You’ll have the chance to get onboard Holland America’s 1,260-guest ms Ryndam, where you can experience what this premium line has to offer first-hand on their mid-sized ships — and share this with up to three guests of your choice who are new to cruising.

Here are some highlights of your visit:

  • Arrive at the Cruise Terminal in the morning and then have the run of the ship on a self-guided tour, including spacious staterooms and elegant public areas.
  • Enjoy an early three-course lunch in the main dining room where you’ll learn more about Holland America Line and be able to ask questions.

How do I enter? It’s simple!

You:  If you want to learn more about Holland America Line, and would like to bring a friend with you who is new to cruising, just send us an email with your name, and the number of tickets you require.

Your guest(s): Remember, this is all about sharing the cruise experience, so we ask that your guests are new to cruising.

The itinerary for the day includes:

9.30 am – Arrive at Cruise Terminal 1, Port of Dover in preparation to board – don’t forget that you’ll need to be able to get yourself to the Port – and bring your passport or photo driving licence with you, so please bear this in mind when applying!

10:00 am – Self-guided tour of ship

11.15 am – Be seated for 3-course lunch

1:00 pm – Presentation

2:00pm – Disembark

For your chance to attend the ship visit simply email us at: contests@cruisecritic.co.uk stating “Holland America Ship Visit” in the subject line. Please include the names of up to three friends or family members to accompany you.

For more information on Holland America Line visit: www.hollandamerica.co.uk

Terms & Conditions

The contest is open to legal residents of the United Kingdom who are 18 or older at the time of entry and have a full and valid passport or photo driving licence. The deadline for entries is 5:00 pm on Tuesday April 22, 2014. Only one entry per person will be accepted. For the full Terms & Conditions, please read here.

Review Cruise Critic’s privacy policy here.


Live from Emerald Sky: Hits & misses

Emerald Waterways
In all the hoopla of this year’s river season — here at Cruise Critic, our team has gone from one christening ceremony to another — this week’s latest launch has the biggest potential of all. That’s because the shining new ship, 190-passenger Emerald Sky, belongs to Emerald Waterways, the first new cruise line to be created in more than five years.
Emerald Waterways, which will debut two custom-built vessels this year, is part of Australia’s venerable Scenic Tours. That company offers everything from land tours to five star-style luxury riverboat cruises. In fact, its Scenic Tours river line aims to be one of the most luxe and inclusive in the field.
In contrast, Emerald is the first cruise line afloat to raise the bar on cheap and cheerful river cruising. Typically the three-star lines that target price-conscious cruisers use older ships with few amenities and ever fewer balconies. But Emerald is entering the category with state-of-the-art ships that include boutique-style designs, young-at-heart innovations like a swimming pool that’s transformed into a cinema at night, and cabins with upmarket touches, like balconies that transform into conservatories with a touch of the button.


Get going to the tulips, by river or by sea …

The Holland America Line windmill at the Keukenhof Gardens in The Netherlands.

There is, perhaps, no more stereotypically Dutch landscape than what you’ll see on the way to the Keukenhof Gardens, The Netherlands’ most famous fields of tulips. Windmills, both modern and vintage, dot the roadside, and the water they help to manage is everywhere. Over half of The Netherlands, or “Low Countries” famously, lies at or below sea level, and the Dutch have been masters of draining their land with elaborate dykes, canals and pumping stations for over 400 years.

The payoff on this trip, though, is the flowers, and in spite of the fact that it’s early in the season (we visited Keukenhof in mid-March), a mild winter means that rolling fields of velveted, technicolour tulips, daffodils and hyacinth welcome us to Keukenhof.

Mid-April is even better; it’s prime flower time at the moment. Cruisers coming by ship or by riverboat will flock to Keukenhof by the thousands for the two-month season that runs from March 20-May 18.

To see photos from Keukenhof, click here.


Just back from … AmaPrima: Impressions from a River Cruise Newbie

As a veteran ocean cruiser, I am quite familiar with the ins and outs of some of the biggest ships on the seas. But while I’m not quite a river cruise “virgin” — I had previously taken an overnight on Viking River Cruises a few years ago — my recent overnight on AMA Waterways’ new ship, AmaPrima, opened my eyes to some of the quirks that come with river cruising.

At the risk of seeming naive, here are some of my observations:

Read on to find out more.


Member Review of the Week: Costa Serena

Some member reviews are so comprehensive and helpful, that we really feel we have to shout about it!

One such is from jollyhollys, who describes in great detail her recent cruise onboard Costa Serena.

She divides it into three sections: Positive, Negative and Even better if, and very clearly outlines (right down to the hairdryer!), what she likes and doesn’t like.

See what’s so helpful about jollyhollys’ review.


Can’t play, won’t play bingo – which onboard facilities do you ignore?

Image courtesy of Anan KaewkhammulCruise ships are awash with a multitude of onboard activities. From the traditional deck games, bridge, bingo and trivia quizzes that bring out varying degrees of competitiveness, to all-singing all-dancing shows and movies under the stars.

And that’s before you even tackle the rock-climbing walls and watersports on all-action cruises or strike a pose in your best bib and tucker for the ship’s photographer.

In fact, the exhaustive list of things to can be, well, exhausting. It really is a case of so much to do, so little time.

Read on to find out more.


Would you cruise a paddlewheel ship on a big US river? Here are 5 reasons why you should.

American Queen Steamboat Company’s newest ship, American Empress, made a soft debut this week, sailing an itinerary from Spokane, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, ahead of the ship’s christening Saturday.
AQSC, which launched fleetmate American Queen in 2012 on the Mississippi River, bought Empress of the North in spring 2013 and has meticulously refurbished the paddlewheel vessel. Both boats are designed to evoke a feeling of old-time cruising; it’s impossible not to think of Mark Twain while sitting in a lounge watching the scenery lazily pass by.
Officially open to all passengers starting next week, American Empress sails itineraries on the Snake and Columbia rivers in the Pacific Northwest. The boat is ideal for travelers who love history or simply want to experience America in a completely different way.



From the forums: Photos of a far off place

We always love to look at the photos our members post on their cruise journeys around the world. And from time to time, we like to post one that highlights interesting places our members have trekked, swum or merely witnessed from afar while cruising.
Whether these photos inspire you to plan a relaxing escape or walk on the wild side, we hope they ignite your senses and give you ideas for your next cruising adventure. If you have a photo you’d love to share, send it to us at photos@cruisecritic.com or post it in our member photo gallery.
We love this awe-inspiring photo of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains peeking through the mist, taken by member GrumpyOldKev from P&O Oceana.