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Archive for June, 2008

Friends don’t let friends take an expensive cruise tour

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 30 - 2008

Last June, I booked Carnival Freedom’s 12-day Mediterranean itinerary leaving from Civitavecchia, Italy. With the low dollar-to-euro exchange rate, Europe is a very expensive destination for Americans. Fortunately there are some creative ways to save money on a cruise and one big way is to make friends before you board the ship.

Cruise Critic camaraderie

If you are booked on a cruise and want to find folks to tour with, Cruise Critic’s Roll Call forums are the place to connect. There are individual forums for each cruise ship, where each sailing date is listed. Fellow passengers will then post that they are sailing and many often note that they are looking for other guests to share the costs of a private tour guide.

After perusing the “Roll Call” for my sailing, I discovered a post from a guest looking to share the cost of a tour in Rome along with transportation to the ship. It seemed ideal so I posted a note saying I was interested. After weeks of e-mailing back and forth our group tour was set. The Aquinos from Los Angeles, the Trandels from Chicago, and the Potters from Pittsburgh would meet at the Vatican for a day long tour and ride to the ship.

The Aquinos had taken charge from the beginning with organizing the bus, guide, and tour. They figured out the number of passengers needed along with the costs. Like the Trandels, my family and I found it a great way to meet fellow passengers while at the same time saving money.

The price for a similar tour and transfer through the cruise line was several hundred dollars per person; however, our private tour split amongst ten people ended up being around $150 per person. Best of all we were a small group not en masse with a hundred fellow cruisers.

I have to say upon meeting my fellow “Roll Call” friends I felt like I had known them for a long time and the comfort level was immediate. It was terrific to have our own private guide in a sea of wall-to-wall tourists.

Our guide Daniela Piermattei Taennler had a master’s degree in symbology – in other words she’s the female version of Robert Langdon from the “Da Vinci Code.”

She pointed out lots of little things along the tour of the Vatican that we would not have known otherwise. It was a very cerebral tour of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, something I cannot fathom a large cruise tour group being able to experience.

After our group parted ways with Daniela the driver was on time to pick us up for the ninety minute drive to the ship docked in Civitavecchia. It was a long, hot afternoon and we were thrilled to have a cool mini bus with plenty of room to stretch out. It could not have turned out better.

Making “Roll Call” connections

The popularity and usefulness of the “Roll Call” forums is no surprise to Laura Sterling, Cruise Critic’s community manager. “Our Roll Call forums have become the place on the Web for cruisers to meet one another before they sail and we have forums for just about every cruise line sailing today,” says Sterling. She goes on to say that over the years she’s heard stories about members who have met on the “Roll Call” forums and have continued to sail together ever since.

So, how can you save on your next cruise? Simply register to be a member of Cruise Critic’s forums.

But before doing so keep in mind some important advice. Invent a screen name that does not give out your real name. For example, providing your full name and the city you live in would make it very easy for someone to locate you. Keep in mind that all public information you share on a forum can be viewed by anyone with access to the Internet. This includes information that you might post, your board profile or signature. So if you’re sharing personal information that you wouldn’t want everyone to see, you might want to think twice before posting.

Cruise Critic’s “Roll Call” forums are very friendly. Lurk for awhile on a post until you feel comfortable. If you find someone on your cruise looking for tour buddies respond with a post stating that you are interested. Then when details need to be hashed out take the conversation off the boards and discuss via e-mail or phone.

There are many wonderful benefits to participating in an online community with like-minded cruisers. As I discovered, not only was it a great way to save some money, but my family and I found some terrific people to share a great tour with – we will always remember them fondly.

Filled Under Advice, What's New?

Take a ‘dam ship tour via iPod

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 30 - 2008

Holland America Line’s Eurodam showcases a range of art, from the traditional Dutch art and artifacts integral to the brand to contemporary works. The line worked with VFD Architects of the Netherlands and Yran & Storbraaten of Norway to choose the collection, which includes glass creations, oil paintings, digital collages and chandelier sculptures.

Holland America took a new approach with its Lido pool sculpture, which is made of lightweight stone and functions as a sculpture and an eight-foot-high waterfall that passengers can walk through as they enter or leave the pool. The word ‘water’ is subtly engraved in the stone in 100 languages.

The Dutch Golden Age is highlighted in several public areas, including a staircase painting, ‘The Nightwatch, Two Minutes Later,’ by Dutch artists Aldert Mantje and Jan Maris, part of The New Nightwatch project in 2006 to honor Rembrandt.

Passengers can learn more about the pieces with a self-guided, narrated tour with iPods available for use free of charge on the ship. Information and interviews with the artists are also downloadable at Holland America’s Website and on iTunes.

Have a question about the Eurodam?  ExpertCruiser’s Anita Dunham-Potter is onboard for the inaugural celebrations so post questions below.

Filled Under Blog

Funniest ‘dam thing you’ll see

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 29 - 2008

John Heald has done it again. Check out his video tour of a bathroom on the Carnival Splendor. You won’t believe your eyes.

Filled Under Cruise Videos

Off to see the Eurodam

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 29 - 2008

I am on my way to Rotterdam to see Holland America Line’s brand new 2,104-passenger Eurodam. This is the line’s largest and first “Signature-class” vessel.

The Eurodam will be christened on July 1 by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Its maiden voyage, a 10-night cruise from Copenhagen, Denmark, is set for July 5.

In addition to its bigger size, the Eurodam has some exciting new amenities:

  • Spa cabins — Costa Cruises started the trend two years ago with the introduction of the Costa Concordia.
  • Private deck-top cabanas that passengers can book for a $50 to $75 charge
  • Pan-Asian restaurant called Tamarind
  • Canaletto — a casual Italian eatery
  • Pizza outlet called Pizzeria Slice
  • A new Explorer’s Lounge Bar
  • A new atrium bar area
  • Upgraded show lounge with theater-style seating.

The Eurodam will spend the summer sailing in the Baltic region of Europe before crossing the Atlantic this fall to sail in Canada and New England. It’ll spend the winter in the Caribbean.

Have a question about the Eurodam? Post below, I’ll do my best to answer once I get onboard.


Filled Under Blog

Sen. Kerry: Cruises are SCARY!!

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 27 - 2008

As if I needed more proof that I completely wasted my vote four years ago, the Los Angeles Times is reporting about Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s legislation to require more cruise ship safety. According to the paper, Kerry’s legislation would require peepholes in all cabin doors (uh, they are already there on most ships), increase guardrail heights (give me a break) and maintain crime report logbooks (big lines do this already). The bill is designed to hold the $35 billion plus cruise industry more accountable and is similar to legislation introduced in the House by California Rep. Doris Matsui.

“Murky legal jurisdictions in international waters are no longer an excuse for failing to report serious crimes so that they may be effectively prosecuted,” Kerry said. “If U.S. passengers are at risk, then U.S. law should hold the industry accountable for their safety.”

Cruise ships are not required under U.S. law to report crimes that occur outside U.S. territorial waters, Kerry said, though it remains a matter of debate what crimes are required to be reported, to which agency and who has jurisdiction.

I understand the need for more transparency when issues occur. However, cruising is very safe if it wasn’t people wouldn’t cruise.

Let’s use our heads — legislation is not the answer. Common sense is.

Filled Under Blog

Carnival’s new “Dream” boat

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 24 - 2008

Yesterday Carnival Cruise Lines released details on it’s largest ever “Fun Ship,” the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream. The ship will offer a new entertainment concept called “The Piazza”, plus cantilevered whirlpools, new types of staterooms and elaborate children’s facilities. “It’s a new era of Fun Ship cruising,” says Carnival.

The Carnival Dream will debut in Europe on September 21, 2009 before before moving to year-round service from Port Canaveral in December 2009.

New types of accommodations on Carnival Dream include ‘cove’ balcony staterooms located closer to the waterline that offer views and value. New deluxe ocean-view staterooms sport two bathrooms and extra room, with families in mind. Other family-friendly accommodations will sleep five people.

The Piazza is designed as a relaxing oasis during the day that converts into a bustling entertainment complex at night. This indoor/outdoor café and live music venue will sport a bandstand and circular dance floor, with a curving glass wall dividing the indoor and outdoor areas. The Piazza will offer full bar service and an espresso bar offering gelato and baked goods, along with high-speed Internet access.

The traditional promenade will go to new heights with a half-mile, open-air promenade encircling the ship on Deck 5. In addition to deck chairs and space for strolling, the promenade will offer four whirlpools cantilevered over the sea.

Five levels above, the Lido will offer the largest open deck area of any Carnival ship and a tropical, resort-style main pool, large LED screen, a Serenity adults-only retreat and other features.

A new dance club concept with indoor/outdoor access will be reached via an 11-deck-high atrium with a cantilevered bandstand atop a massive ground-level dance floor.

There will be children’s programs for three age groups and an expansive Carnival WaterWorks aqua park, as well as a two-level miniature golf course.

Other features include a 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, with 65 adjacent spa staterooms and suites.

Filled Under Blog