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Archive for August, 2012

5 things you absolutely must consider before cruising

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On August - 31 - 2012

It’s a blissful thought: sailing off into the sunset on a cruise vacation. Cruising can be an exciting and affordable vacation option. Of course, it’s important to find the right cruise at the right price for your getaway. After all, there are more than 160 ships in the fleets of the 24 major cruise lines and thousands of itineraries worldwide.

Here’s what to consider when selecting your cruise.

Style of ship and cruise line

Cruise lines have their own distinct personalities and ships that reflect them. The size of a ship really does matter. Large ship cruise lines Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International provide a party atmosphere with glitz and high energy. Small ship operators like Silversea Cruises and Seabourn focus on quiet luxury and a more refined experience.

To make sure a line’s usual clientele and ship size is a good match for you, check over the line’s brochures and site. It also doesn’t hurt to visit the bustling online message boards at Cruise Critic and Cruisemates – member postings can offer valuable insight regarding a particular ship and cruise line.

Where to go

Cruise ships can take you almost anywhere on the planet, from the Caribbean or Europe to Asia or Antarctica, so explore a range of possibilities before settling on a preferred route. When you’ve found a trip you love, go over the schedule carefully. If traveling internationally make sure you have valid passports, visas, and any required immunizations.

If you need to fly to your cruise port make sure you allow enough time to get to the ship. Ideally you should try to get to the port at least a day in advance; this added buffer allows you to start off your hard-earned cruise vacation with less stress.

When to go

The holidays, spring break and summer are high season and that usually means higher prices. The shoulder seasons of mid-fall and early spring offer great cruise deals, and may be even more appealing than high season. An Alaska, European or Caribbean cruise in May or September, when the kids are in school, translates into fewer people in port.

Just before and after shoulder season, cruise lines move their ships from one home port to another in a strategic fleet movement that’s called “repositioning.” Of course, those ships don’t move around empty; instead, what you get is a “repositioning cruise” (or “repo cruise”) — a unique, one-way itinerary that is available only once a year. Repositioning cruises are often highly discounted meaning they are a great value.

Lastly, some of the cheapest cruises come during the Caribbean’s hurricane season, particularly in September and October. The price can come at a cost though — your itinerary may be changed and your cruise could be shortened or prolonged.

Pick a stateroom

Consider your itinerary when reserving a stateroom. If you can afford to splurge, a balcony stateroom provides you a private space to relax and get away from the crowded decks. Still, not all cruises are ideal for balconies. A trans-Atlantic crossing doesn’t make a lot of sense for a balcony since the ship is at sea for days and the weather is often cold or too windy to enjoy the space. On the other hand, the appeal of a balcony on an Alaska, Caribbean, European or South American cruise offers amazing scenery that should not be missed. Smaller inside staterooms are adequate for budget-minded cruisers who seem more likely to spend most of their time utilizing the ship’s public spaces.

A great cabin can make or break your cruise. If you’re on a romantic getaway don’t assume you’ll get a bed for two. Check with the cruise line to make sure you reserve a stateroom that offers a queen or king bed option, not fixed twins or pull-down pullman beds.

Lastly, study the ship’s deck plan. Passengers with disabilities might want to book near elevators. Watch out for staterooms with obstructed views – usually the lifeboat deck and those with close proximity to noisy areas like lounges, discos, theaters, pool areas, room service and steward service areas. Staterooms midship on lower decks are best for those prone to seasickness.

Getting the best price

Cruise lines offer travelers a host of discounts, so consider every source when looking for a deal. Check out your credit card as many offer discounts or points towards cruises. Look at all the clubs you belong to, from AAA, airline frequent flier programs and college alumni associations, to union memberships — see if they offer any deals or special rates for members. Also, if you’ve previously cruised with a cruise line you may be in for a repeat cruiser discount.

The majority of cruises are booked by travel agents. Big online agencies like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz along with large cruise-only agencies offer competitive prices on a number of cruises. Still, many cruisers prefer to use a local travel agent, but make sure you shop around. Visit Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) at Cruising.org and search by ZIP code. When you talk to an agent, ask about last minute specials and if they are holding any group space on various cruises. But keep in mind for popular itineraries the best prices are often booked months in advance.

Lastly, watch your spending once onboard. Cruise lines do not make the bulk of their profits from the actual cruise fare – they make it from onboard spending options like bar tabs, spa services, shore excursions, and boutique purchases.

Don’t be vexed when choosing a cruise vacation. If you do a little research on options and pricing you can board the ship without a care in the world. And that’s the only way to cruise.

Reported by © www.expertcruiser.com – Your online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

Bon voyage!

Princess Cruises Offers Labor Day Cruise Deals

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On August - 31 - 2012

Princess Cruises is celebrating Labor Day with a special cruise sale running through September 4. Passengers will find cruise deals on a variety of Europe destinations as well as sailings in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

The Labor Day Sale offers passengers savings equal to a free balcony upgrade, plus up to $100 free onboard spending money. More than 200 cruises sailing between winter 2012 and fall 2013 are included in the sale.

In addition to fare savings, passengers booking interior or oceanview staterooms can receive free onboard spending money of $25 (cruises up to 9 days) to $50 (cruises 10 days or longer), and in balcony staterooms or above can get credits of $50 (cruises up to 9 days) or $100 (for sailings 10 days or longer). All onboard spending money is offered per stateroom.

Examples of cruise deals include:

• Greek Isles cruise – 12 days: $2,649 balcony (was $2,949); $1,949 interior (was $2,049)

• British Isles cruise – 12 days: $2,649 balcony (was $2,949); $1,949 interior (was $2,049)

• Scandinavia cruise – 11 days: $2,549 balcony (was $2,849); $1,849 interior (was $1,949)

• Venetian Interlude Italy cruise – 7 days: $1,549 balcony (was $1,849); $1,149 interior (was $1,249)

• Hawaii cruise – 14 days: $1,799 balcony (was $2,595); $1,099 interior (was $1,695)

• Caribbean cruise – 7 days: $849 balcony (was $1,099); $549 interior (was $699)

All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy. The Labor Day Sale runs through 11:59 p.m. PDT on September 4, 2012 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Additional cruise sale information is available at www.princess.com/sale. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting the company’s website at www.princess.com.

Reported by © www.expertcruiser.com – Your online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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Carnival Expands Seat-Saving Initiative Fleetwide

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On August - 31 - 2012

Following a highly successful pilot program on Carnival Breeze, Carnival Cruise Lines has begun a fleetwide rollout of a new system designed to ensure that all guests are able to enjoy equal access to sun loungers by preventing seat saving in outdoor deck areas.

Under the new system, shipboard team members monitor sun lounge usage and if they observe a seat that contains a towel or personal belongings but appears to be unoccupied, a notification is placed on the chair indicating the current time. If the chair remains unoccupied for 40 minutes, the contents are removed and held for the guest’s safekeeping.

The expanded policy is scheduled to be introduced on a gradual basis over the next couple of weeks, with fleetwide implementation on all 24 Carnival ships expected by mid-September.

Guests will be advised of the new system via public address announcements by the cruise director, signage in outdoor deck areas, messages displayed on the Seaside Theater poolside LED screen, as well as notices in “Fun Times,” the daily shipboard newsletter.

Reported by © www.expertcruiser.com – Your online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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Princess Cruises has released recently discovered video footage of a rescue at sea of a small boat adrift for nearly a month in the Pacific Ocean that conclusively confirms the adrift boat, the Fifty Cent, was not the small boat spotted and photographed by three Princess passengers several weeks earlier.

The story, which broke last April, received extensive press coverage with Princess and the ship’s captain widely criticized for not coming to the rescue of the men onboard, two of whom subsequently died.

Princess Graphic click for larger viewPrincess has been sued six times by the survivor and relatives of fishermen on the adrift boat. The lawsuits claim the cruise ship Star Princess passed within several miles of the Fifty Cent, but failed to rescue them despite three cruise ship passengers spotting them and reporting they saw a boat that might be in distress. The ship’s bridge staff did not see signs of distress and therefore did not stop or notify the ship’s captain.

The Princess passengers, a group of bird watchers with sophisticated telescopic camera equipment, photographed the small boat they had spotted. Their photos depict a small white boat similar to Panga boats used by local fishermen in Central America. In contrast, the video footage of the Fifty Cent’s rescue shows a markedly different boat.

Princess had the newly discovered video and the original bird watchers’ photos analyzed by Michael Snyder, a retired photo analyst and photogrammetry expert from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Mr. Snyder concluded that “the small boat photographed by the passengers onboard Star Princess is clearly not the small boat called Fifty Cent that Adrian Vasquez was found adrift on.

Princess began searching for photographs or video of the Fifty Cent after hearing recorded statements by plaintiff Adrian Vasquez that were inconsistent with his allegation that Star Princess had passed him by, and which were also inconsistent with the bird watchers’ reported sighting. The captain of the fishing boat that rescued Vasquez has provided a sworn statement confirming that Vasquez gave a detailed account of his ordeal at the time he was rescued, but never mentioned any cruise ship passing him by.

Further supporting the fact that Star Princess did not cross paths with the Fifty Cent is a drift analysis which charted the movement of the two vessels taking into account ocean current, wind and wave data. Conducted by Weather Routing, Inc., a private meteorological consulting firm, the analysis concluded “that it is not likely the boat sighted by the guest passengers was the same boat rescued on March 23rd and identified as the Fifty Cent.

“While this remains a tragic story, we are gratified to have scientific confirmation that Star Princess was never in the vicinity of the adrift boat and that the boat photographed by our passengers was not the adrift Fifty Cent,” said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises. “Nevertheless, we have used this as a valuable learning opportunity and have strengthened our bridge reporting procedures to ensure that all messages of concern from passengers or crew are carefully evaluated by our senior bridge officers.”

According to Princess, the ship’s captain, Edward Perrin, had been devastated by allegations his ship might have ignored a vessel in distress. Ironically, Captain Perrin was praised last month by Canadian authorities after his ship diverted to act as a wind block assisting Canadian authorities in a dramatic helicopter rescue of two sailors from a boat that was floundering in stormy conditions off the coast of British Columbia. Princess ships have come to the aid of persons or ships in distress more than 30 times in the past decade and it is fairly common for Princess ships to divert to render aid when they receive distress calls.

Princess Cruises has demanded the lawsuits be immediately dismissed and has offered to waive its right to seek recovery of legal costs,citing sympathy for the victims of the Fifty Cent’s ordeal.

Reported by © www.expertcruiser.com – Your online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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Hairy chest contest contestant sues Carnival over… hot feet?

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On August - 30 - 2012

Call it a case of not so happy feet for a passenger on a Carnival Cruise Lines cruise. According to a story in the Miami New Times, Kurt Gies is suing the cruise line claiming that his feet

Hairy Chest Contest on Carnival Breeze June 2012

Hairy Chest Contest on Carnival Breeze June 2012

were “burned” from the ship’s deck while participating in the line’s infamous passenger participation spectacle — the ‘Hair Chest Contest’. Gies injuries were received during a September 2011 sailing onboard the Carnival Legend where he states he visited the ship’s medical center for treatment. However, a Carnival spokesperson states there is no record of Gies seeking treatment from the Legend’s medical center. Additionally, Carnival says a video review of the contest does not show Mr. Gies in distress of any kind. Gies is seeking damages for “serious and permanent scarring, disfigurement, and embarrassment,” in his lawsuit.

Reported by © www.expertcruiser.com – Your online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

MSC Cruises’ Special One-Week-Only ‘Deals to Sea’ Rates

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On August - 29 - 2012

For one-week only, MSC Cruises is offering special savings on select 2012 winter European and 2012-13 Caribbean sailings.

With rates from $54 per night on select European or Caribbean sailings, residents of the United States and Canada can save as much as 58 percent off early booking rates of these memorable MSC Cruises’ experiences.

All rates are per person, double occupancy; government fees and taxes are additional for all guests.

These “MSC Deals to Sea” rates are available on select European sailings of two of MSC Cruises’ Fantasia-class ships, MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida, and in the Caribbean on MSC Poesia. Each of these ships has been christened by Italian icon Sophia Loren.

On each ship, guests are surrounded by elegance and white-gloved service and MSC Cruises’ rich Mediterranean heritage. Guests can be pampered with a Balinese massage in the MSC Aurea Spa, dine in the many restaurants featuring international cuisine, sunbathe poolside, gamble in the casino or enjoy the highly acclaimed international entertainment in the lounges or the magnificent theater. Miniature golf, swimming, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and shuffleboard are also available onboard, and a wide variety of excursions are sure to satisfy the interests of all guests.

Among the itineraries available at limited-time-only “Deals to Sea” rates are:

• MSC Fantasia’s 7-night “Mediterranean Fantasy” itineraries in September and October and calling at Genoa, Barcelona, Naples, Palermo, La Goulette, and Marseille. Roundtrip departures are available from Genoa, Barcelona, Marseille or Naples.
• MSC Splendida’s 7-night “Splendid Mediterranean” cruises, sailing weekly Sept. 7-Nov. 18 and calling at Barcelona, Rome, at La Goulette, Valletta and Messina. Roundtrip departures are available from Genoa, Barcelona, Rome or Messina.
• MSC Poesia’s roundtrip 10-night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing Dec. 11, 2012 and select 2012-2013 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises departing Fort Lauderdale, including the Dec. 21 Christmas cruise and Dec. 28 New Year’s sailing.

“MSC Deals to Sea” rates will only be in effect through Wednesday, Sept. 5. Offer is not applicable to suites or MSC Yacht Club accommodations. Space is limited.

For more information about MSC Cruises, visit www.msccruisesusa.com, call 877-665-4655, or contact a local travel professional and ask for the “MSC Deals to Sea” offer for eligible dates and rates.

Reported by © www.expertcruiser.com – Your online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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