08/09/2014

Where in the world is Cruise Critic?

Erica Silverstein, Colleen McDaniel, Adam Coulter and Chris Gray Faust on map
Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, travelling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.
(Have questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)
Where: We depart Port Canaveral for a three-night cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay.
Who: Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
Why There? It’s Halloween! On Disney, the holiday season starts in September with two months of Halloween cruises. We’re going to watch spooky movies poolside and join costumed characters at a “Mouse-querade Party.” I’m also going to put Disney’s baby amenities to the test by travelling with my six-month-old on her very first cruise.
We Can’t Wait: I toured Disney Dream when it was half-baked at the shipyard, so I’m excited to finally ride the AquaDuck, check out the effects at Animator’s Palate and try out adults-only venues like Palo. It’s actually my first Disney cruise ever, so I will be participating wholeheartedly in Pirate Night and attending all the production shows (that is, unless I get Mickey’d out. I prefer Pixar to princesses, so we’ll see whether I catch the Disney spirit or spend the cruise hiding from oversized rodents). On the destination side, I’ve heard great things about Disney’s private island of Castaway Cay. I just hope that departing the day after Hurricane Day (September 10 — the busiest storm day each year) doesn’t keep me away from this much-anticipated port stop.

We’re also headed to Switzerland, Italy and even Iceland! Read on for more.

05/09/2014

9 things you wish you’d known on your first cruise

You set sail on your first cruise with all the gadgets and gizmos of our digital age – phone, camera, tablet and so forth – and then find there’s nowhere to plug in all the chargers.

It’s just one of the many things that you only find out when you’re onboard – and of course by then it’s too late.

So who can you turn to for “in the know tips”? Look no further than the seafaring stalwarts among Cruise Critic members.

Read on to find out the Top 5 tips!

04/09/2014

Just Back From… A Holland America Alaska Cruisetour: Hits & Misses

View of Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage, Alaska
Many first-time cruisers to Alaska don’t realise a typical Inside Passage voyage visits only a fraction of this vast state. For those who want to dig deeper into Alaskan history, culture and wilderness, a cruisetour – a land tour that’s added on to your cruise – is definitely your best bet.
We spent 12 days on an Alaska cruisetour operated by Holland America (the line calls them Land + Sea Journeys). The trip began in Anchorage and spent two nights in Denali National Park before heading north to Fairbanks. The tour then brought us to Canada’s Yukon Territory where we spent several days in Dawson City and Whitehorse before heading back to Alaska. We finished with a four-day cruise from Skagway to Vancouver on Zuiderdam.
Sound tiring? At times, it was. But we’ve come home with a new appreciation for how varying America’s last frontier can be – and we can’t wait to return. Here are some of the hits, misses and “not too sures” from the tour.
Hits
Convenience. A two-week trip to Alaska requires a lot of layers, and I bought a new 24-inch suitcase to handle the packing requirements. The weight didn’t bother me, however, because I don’t think I touched the bag the entire trip. From the airport in Anchorage to embarkation in Skagway, the suitcase showed up exactly where and when it was supposed to, every time. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you realize that Holland America runs numerous Land + Sea itineraries, all through the summer, off each of its eight ships in the region. It’s a potential logistical nightmare that, thankfully, went off like clockwork.
Expertise. Talk about reach: On our odyssey through Alaska and Yukon, we rumbled along Holland America-owned trains, hit the highway in Holland America motor coaches and stayed in Holland America-owned hotels. We even took a Holland America charter plane between Fairbanks and Dawson City, a new addition to the itinerary that shaved at least another day of driving time.

Read on to find out more.

02/09/2014

Cruising with baby? Keep calm and cruise on!

Thank you for entering. This competition is now closed. 

Cruising with kids is fun, but it comes with its own set of challenges, and as all parents know, getting a good night’s sleep is key. After all, a restful sleep means that you, (and every family member in your cabin!), will have a much more enjoyable cruise overall.

With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with our friends over at BabyBjörn and By Carla to offer some great prizes – and some tips – to help make cruising with your little one as pleasurable and relaxed as possible!

Read on for our tips and a chance to win!

01/09/2014

Where in the world is Cruise Critic?

Dori Saltzman on map
Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, travelling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.
(Have questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)
Where: Departing from Seattle, we’re heading to Alaska for a week-long cruise to Ketchikan, Juneau, Sawyer Glacier, Skagway and Victoria, Canada.
Who: Dori Saltzman, News Editor
Why There? Back in May, Norwegian Jewel became the first cruise ship in the Norwegian fleet to receive a series of upgrades as part of the line’s Norwegian NEXT program, which brings older ships up to date with the line’s newest ship features. During the retrofit, Jewel received O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill and the Sugarcane Mojito Bar. Additionally, treats from Carlo’s Bake Shop, which has a dedicated outlet on both Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, were added to the offerings at Java Cafe. The Horizon and Spinnaker lounges, pool deck, casino and photo gallery were all updated as well.

We Can’t Wait: Having sailed on Norwegian Jewel over New Year’s Eve 2013, I am eager to see the improvements to a ship that did look a bit dated. I am especially excited for breakfasts and the ice cream sundae menu at O’Sheehan’s. I’m also quite curious to see if the new additions in any way encroach on the spaciousness that has always been a highlight of Norwegian’s Jewel-class ships, especially in contrast with the more crowded feel of the Breakaway ships. I am equally as enthusiastic about the itinerary, as this will be my first Alaska cruise. I’m also pleased to host a Live From edition of Cruise Critic Live! onboard Norwegian Jewel on Friday, September 5 at 4 p.m. (Eastern). I’ll be available to take your questions about Norwegian Jewel and the Norwegian NEXT upgrades.

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29/08/2014

September 2014 Calendar Desktop Wallpaper: Cruising into Kotor

September 2014 Desktop Calendar of Cruise Ship in Kotor, Montenegro
Get your September 2014 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper! We hope that this photo of a cruise ship sailing through Kotor, Montenegro will get you thinking about planning an autumn getaway.
Here’s how to put this photo on your computer, tablet or mobile phone:
1.  Click on the following links to get the size that you want. Each link will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper, in the appropriate format for your screen size.
2.  For the desktop versions, right-click on the image, and choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something similar. The wording depends on your browser. Mac users should ctrl-click and save the photo on their computer in the “Pictures” folder.
3. If the image does not fit your desktop background neatly, you may have to go to your preference panel (on a Mac: System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop; on Windows: Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose“Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.
4. For phone and tablet, open the link and centre the photo on your phone so it fills the screen. Take a photo and save it on your device. Then go to your Settings and find your Wallpaper (on an iPhone, this is under “Wallpapers & Brightness.” Set the saved calendar photo as your wallpaper.
Check back on September 30 for the October 2014 calendar. 

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28/08/2014

Cruise line loyalty: The ultimate commitment

 

Royal Caribbean Tattoo

Most tattoos have some kind of meaning to the wearer and seafarers are no exception. Back in the day, a sailor would have a tattoo of a pig on one foot and a chicken on the other, which was supposed to ward off drowning; pigs and chickens were carried on ships in wooden crates which would theoretically float with the currents in the event of a shipwreck. On the other hand, a sailor sporting a tattoo of a swallow or a sparrow has sailed 5,000 miles (not such a big deal in these days of world voyages and transatlantic crossings). A Neptune or turtle tat means the wearer has crossed the equator or international dateline on a ship.

But how do you interpret a Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor tattooed onto an ankle? As the ultimate sign of customer loyalty, of course. Cruise Critic member Wolfcathorse and her husband started the trend with matching ankle art as a sign of lifelong devotion to their favourite cruise line.

They’re not alone; member Cruising_addict also sports a Royal Caribbean logo, saying “I love Royal so much I had to show it. It is not huge and is at the bottom of my leg above my ankle. I have had people ask on the ship if I work there.” JaxieWaxie proudly sports one on her foot, saying, “Funny thing is, when cruising, everyone on the ship assumes it’s a fake!”

Royal Caribbean Tattoo

Member Cupcrazy also confesses to a discreet bit of ankle adornment, while RcclMiami was given the Christmas gift of a tattoo on the calf by his wife. “It took almost a year for me to get up the nerve to get it,” he confesses. Member BC604 adds: “Me and the wife have C&A [Crown & Anchor] tattoos on the tops of our feet. We like to show them off poolside.

It’s not just Royal Caribbean fans. Carnival diehard Billy Ray Crane had a Carnival smokestack emblazoned on his arm in celebration of his 10th cruise with the line, according to cruise director John Heald’s blog. On the QE2 Story forum, a site for fans of the old Cunarder, member Marty 552 shows off an arm festooned with Cunard ship names (adding one every time the line builds a new ship), while a Star Clippers fan posting on the line’s blog has a tall ship, logo and all, in full sail on his arm.

What next, a P&O tattoo, or maybe a little Fred. Olsen on the shoulder, tantalisingly revealed in a strappy number on formal night? What would your cruise-themed tattoo be? Let us know.

– Sue Bryant

  Loyal to your cruise line? Read about past-passenger rewards

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27/08/2014

Member Review: Onboard Ventura for a Mediterranean Cruise

ventura review

 

For her review of P&O‘sVentura, Cruise Critic member Kate Bonney writes a short but very complimentary account of her time onboard.

Find out what features brought Kate to write, “I actually can’t find anything negative to say about this cruise,” on her summer Mediterranean cruise from Venice this July.

Read on to find out more.

26/08/2014

Live report: Cruising during peak hurricane season

norwegian breakaway's captain showing the status of a hurricane

On its New York to Bermuda run this week, my 4,800 fellow passengers and I, sailing aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway (along with those on Celebrity Summit, which offers an identical itinerary), got some bad news. Hurricane Cristobal, a late-developing storm that gave a lashing to the Dominican Republic and Haiti and bounced tropical showers off the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, is headed straight for, you guessed it, our three port days in Bermuda.

As a result, our voyage will feature stops at Florida’s Port Canaveral and the Bahamas’ Nassau. Nice, but not quite, dare we say … the ports we’d all planned for.

Welcome to peak season hurricane cruising. While storms can occur anytime between the months of June to November (and even occasionally earlier or later), mid-August to mid-October is prime time. This affects itineraries primarily, but not exclusively, in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Atlantic Canada, the Mexican Riviera and Hawaii. (In Asia, at the same time, typhoon season can plague itineraries there.)

The good thing about cruise travel vs. resort stays in potentially affected regions?

There’s a good thing about travelling during a hurricane? Yep. Read on.

22/08/2014

Averting flirting: How to avoid onboard romance

Avoiding romance on a cruise

There’s nothing worse than having to politely decline someone’s unwanted affection — especially if you’re on holiday. While on land, the experience may be flattering (if still unwanted), it has the potential to prove positively frustrating onboard. “Why did they have to ask me now? I’m trying to read my book!”

And while you may have at least mentioned that you’re “not really looking for anything at the moment, thanks.” If an amorous protagonist just doesn’t get the hint, just how do you shake them — or avoid awkward moments — on a vessel that’s under a mile long and surrounded by water?

Fear not — we have some first-hand experience and advice from a fellow friend and cruiser, Georgia, who offers some helpful alternatives to spending all your time onboard locked away in the cabin. Georgia was approached during one of her cruise holidays a few years ago on a trip around Europe, and took a proactive approach to avoiding her potential suitor. Here are her suggestions:

Click here to learn Georgia’s techniques.