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9 strategies for cruising nirvana

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 10 - 2014

Why are some cruise travelers smarter than others? Simply put, they’ve been there, done that, and through trial and error have concocted strategies that avoid travel mishaps. Here are some tips that guarantee smooth sailing from cruisers in the know.

1. Loyalty=perks
Los Angeles area resident Janice Williams loves to reap the sweet rewards of being a repeat cruiser. On her last repeat cruise, she saved more than $1,000 from a single coupon. That coupon was from Princess Cruises’ “Captain’s Circle,” the line’s program for past guests. Williams is loyal to Princess because she feels the line offers the best past passenger perks in the business.

Most cruise lines confer membership in a loyalty program as soon as passengers complete their first cruise. Members then receive mailings urging them to book another cruise at a special discount. On board, members also receive special treatment; perks can include gifts, upgrades, credits, cocktail parties, in-room bar set up, complimentary laundry service, free Internet, dinner with the captain and free shore excursions.

2. Plot for the perfect stateroom
One thing smart cruisers know is that picking the right stateroom is essential to truly enjoying the cruise. Laney Adams of Ocala, Fla., always studies the ship’s deck plan before booking a stateroom. “It’s the only way to prevent problems with noise along with finding a stateroom with easy accessibility around the ship,” says Adams.

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.

3. Keep watching your fare
The cruise line will never call you if they have lowered the price of your cruise. Therefore, it can really pay off to keep tabs on the price of your cruise after you book. Just ask Scott Larsen of Fairfax, Va.

Last year, Larsen booked a September cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. He went for the least expensive option: an inside cabin. In July, Larsen was thinking about upgrading his cabin, so he checked the Internet for the current cabin rates. He discovered that the prices had dropped quite a bit. In fact, an outside cabin was now going for $1 less than the price he booked for his inside cabin.

Larsen called Royal Caribbean to see if he could upgrade to the outside cabin. The cruise line told him the upgrade was possible, but he would need to make arrangements through the travel agency that handled his booking: Travelocity. Larsen then contacted Travelocity and the changes were made. Larsen notes that had he chosen to keep the inside cabin, Royal Caribbean would have refunded him $200. He says, “I really prefer the upgrade and I am really happy with the outcome.”

4. Book shore excursions, spa services before you sail
Shore excursions often fill up quickly, and services like spa appointments can be overbooked in the blink of an eye. Savvy cruisers surf the Web long before they sail. When cruising to Alaska last summer Gerry Altmire booked his family’s shore excursions on Holland America’s Web site prior to sailing. “We avoided a lot of disappointment by booking early because the popular flightseeing tours sell out quickly,” said Altmire.

Advance bookings are convenient, and they make for a personalized vacation. Best of all, they save you from rushing around the ship trying to nail down reservations in the first hours of your cruise. Instead, you can actually sit back and enjoy your cruise from the minute you step on board.

5. Notify your credit card company
As credit card fraud has become more global and more sophisticated, so have efforts to ferret out illegitimate charges. Sometimes large purchases will raise a red flag, as I found out when I purchased an emerald in Cartagena, Colombia. The bank called my home to make sure I was the one using the card. Fortunately, a family member was there to let the bank know that I was indeed in Colombia, thus preventing my card from being put on hold.

A stamp of approval in advance of departure will make charging much easier overseas. If you are planning to travel to far-flung destinations, call your credit card company or the bank that issues your card and let them know your travel itinerary — both dates and destinations. Make a note of your card number and the overseas customer service number, and keep them in a safe place separate from the card. That way, if the card is stolen, you will have the necessary information to make a report.

Even with advance notification, you may not be able to spend as you please while you are abroad. Certain charge patterns will still arouse suspicion, and your card may be subject to spending limits, so you should always carry a second credit card.

6. Get to the port a day early
If you live far from the embarkation port, get there a day early. I’ve heard too many stories of people traveling on embarkation day, arriving late and literally standing at the pier, watching their ship sail off without them. That was literally the case for Dini and Tony Saponara of Toronto whose flight from Canada was delayed due to bad weather. Sadly the Carnival Sensation sailed off without them and they were unable to catch up to the ship. Padding your travel time may cost a bit more, but it pays off in the assurance of a stress-free start to your vacation.

7. Carry-on savvy
Upon boarding, you’re separated from your luggage for an indeterminate amount of time. Until then, you’re stuck wearing what you’re wearing. “I always bring a change of clothes and a swimsuit in my carry-on bag so I can change and start enjoying the ship,” says veteran cruiser Nina Lewis of Miami. A lot of first-time cruisers don’t realize it sometimes takes hours for luggage to be delivered to your stateroom. So, take Nina’s advice — bring a change of clothes so you won’t miss any ship time stuck in your traveling clothes.

8. Don’t skip travel insurance
Robert Smith and his wife were on the trip of a lifetime. The couple flew from Arizona to their destination in Europe to embark on a cruise tour of the Baltics. During the cruise Robert injured his leg and thought things would be fine – unfortunately his condition gradually worsened. Eventually Robert needed immediate medical attention. The ship had to disembark the Smiths in St.Petersburg, Russia where Robert was quickly admitted to the hospital.

His wife immediately called their travel insurance company, Travel Guard, to inquire about their coverage for the missed portions of their trip and other expenses they incurred. Upon their safe arrival home, Travel Guard reimbursed them for missed portions of their cruise, medical bills, a hotel stay for his wife while Robert in hospital, and upgraded plane tickets for the medical evacuation home so his wife could sit by him. The Smith’s were fortunate they had excellent travel insurance coverage.

Most cruise lines offer travel insurance, as do several independent third-party insurers like Travel Guard. It’s important to understand that ordinary medical insurance coverage doesn’t travel the same way aboard ship as it does within the United States. Sometimes coverage doesn’t extend to foreign travel at all. Medicare beneficiaries should always purchase travel insurance when they cruise, because they do not have Medicare coverage outside the country.

9. Affordably staying in touch
“I can send text messages from the middle of Caribbean!” marveled teen Amy Green, who was thrilled to have full coverage for the majority of her Disney Cruise Line voyage. Her cell phone looked normal and didn’t indicate it was roaming. Her, provider, it turns out, charges $2.49 a minute while roaming. When Green’s bill arrived a month later, her parents were horrified to see that she owed $225! Using the phone in your stateroom can be even worse as the service can cost between $2-$10 a minute. Internet access onboard is the lowest cost option to stay in touch from the ship; however, to reap the best savings you need to purchase in blocks of time – 60 minutes can cost $25 on up. The most economical way to stay in touch is when you get into port – phone rates are much cheaper on land.

Don’t be vexed when planning your cruise. 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.

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

Bon Voyage! Live updates from Norwegian Breakaway

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On August - 18 - 2013

Follow ExpertCruiser on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as we sail on August 18 to Bermuda aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway. Get the scoop on what it’s like to ‘Cruise like a Norwegian’ on the ship that’s all about New York City. We’ll check out and review all the ‘Freestyle Cruising’ dining and entertainment options during our seven day voyage. Additionally, we’ll be telling you what’s hot in Bermuda. Stay tuned!!!

Filled Under Blog, gallery, Tripblog, Twitter

Royal Caribbean International today unveiled first details of the next generation of cruise vacations – Quantum cruising. The Quantum class of ships will take a dramatic leap forward, introducing more game-changing “firsts at sea” such as a skydiving experience, a thrilling adventure that transports guests more than 300 feet in the air on a breathtaking journey; cutting-edge transformative venues including the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating and more; and the cruise line’s largest and most advanced staterooms ever. These new, larger staterooms enable innovation in design, storage and comfort including the industry’s first virtual balconies. Every stateroom on Quantum of the Seas will have a view. The much anticipated details were unveiled by stage, television and film star, Kristin Chenoweth – Godmother of Quantum of the Seas – at an exclusive event for media and special guests in New York City this morning.

“This new generation of ships gave us an opportunity to make another leap in vessel design. Innovation has always been part of our DNA and we have taken advantage of all that creativity to design Quantum cruising,” stated Richard D. Fain, chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. “The unique features on Quantum will boggle our guests’ minds, but the real strength of the design is how our people have integrated all these diverse components to create a comfortable and exciting experience.”

Unprecedented “Firsts At Sea”

Having led the industry by introducing incredible signature offerings such as the Rock Climbing Wall, ice-skating rink, FlowRider surf simulator, Central Park and AquaTheater, Royal Caribbean will advance the onboard experience even further by delivering a groundbreaking lineup of “firsts at sea” on Quantum-class ships. New features exclusive to Royal Caribbean include:

RipCord by iFly, the first skydiving experience at sea which allows everyone from first-time flyers to seasoned skydivers to enjoy the sheer thrill and exhilaration of skydiving in a safe, controlled, and simulated environment. North Star, an engineering marvel, takes guests to new heights – literally – with a jewel-shaped, glass capsule, transporting them on a spectacular journey more than 300 feet above the ocean and over the sides of the ship to deliver awe-inspiring 360-degree views. “We are excited to be introducing major advancements in ship design and offerings on Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas,” said Adam Goldstein, president & CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “The innovative spirit of our brand is alive and well, and with Quantum class, we will deliver more unexpected activities in the most extraordinary spaces. Our guests should prepare to be wowed.”

New Transformational Signature Venues

With Quantum class, Royal Caribbean marries new innovations with significant architectural design elements to introduce spectacular spaces. On Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas guests will find endless possibilities with three new signature venues.

A revolutionary concept, Two70° is a multi-level great room that is sure to become one of the most iconic venues onboard Quantum class. The space is aptly named for its magnificent 270-degree panoramic sea views through vast, floor-to-ceiling glass walls spanning almost three decks at the stern of the ship. Two70° seamlessly fuses entertainment and technology to create a transformative journey from day to night. The perfect setting to connect with the sea during the day, Two70° provides a modern and comfortable living room space for guests to sit back and relax. As the sun sets and the lights go down, the dazzling space gradually reveals its evening persona, delighting guests with spectacular, mysterious and unexpected entertainment at night. Unparalleled technology means every show at Two70° is multidimensional and immerses the audience through a combination of live performers, including aerialists, as well as breathtaking video and digital scenery.

The largest indoor active space at sea, SeaPlex is a distinctive and flexible sporting and entertainment venue with thrilling new features that will inspire guests of all ages to let loose and connect with their playful sides. Delivering more first at sea experiences, guests can experience a circus school with flying trapeze, or play basketball on a full-size regulation basketball court. By night, the first-ever bumper car and roller skating offerings deliver fun and excitement. Or, guests can dance to music orchestrated from a floating DJ booth which hovers above the activity below. A performance hall and the hottest live music venue on Quantum class, Music Hall is the place for guests to enjoy intimate and exclusive access to live performances, DJs, theme night parties, billiards and more. Rebellious and edgy, Music Hall’s two-story design is inspired by the spirit of rock and roll.

The Next Generation of Stateroom Accommodations

With guest comfort and convenience in mind, Royal Caribbean debuts the most spacious and luxurious accommodations ever, introducing rooms that on average are nine percent larger than those of Oasis class ships. Sophisticated, upscale design, layouts and finishes create a home away from home. Boasting Royal Caribbean’s new smart design concept, each stateroom features contemporary designs with easy-to-use customizable layouts and intuitive larger storage solutions.

Now every room on Quantum of the Seas has a view, with the exciting introduction of Virtual Balcony staterooms. This design concept brings virtual balconies to interior staterooms offering expansive real-time views of the ocean and exciting destinations. For multi-generational families, Family-Connected staterooms deliver more flexibility, using three different stateroom categories which connect to form a special layout that provides separate bedrooms and bathrooms for all. These accommodations allow families and groups of friends traveling together to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to together and alone time. With Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean introduces the largest variety of stateroom categories,including new Studio staterooms, some with balconies for single travelers, three Junior Suite categories and larger Loft Suites.

Signature Features Return and More New Surprises To Come

The adults-only Solarium, along with an outdoor pool, a new indoor pool with operable roof and a H2O Zone kids’ aqua park, will be featured on the top deck. Signature Royal Caribbean venues and experiences popular with families such as the Rock Climbing Wall; FlowRider surf simulator; the award-winning Adventure Ocean children’s program; the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery; and the DreamWorks entertainment and events featuring the characters from animated movies: Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar; will all be back on Quantum class. Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas also will make a quantum leap forward in its culinary offerings providing the most flexible dining options and more specialty restaurants than ever before. Additional details about dining, entertainment and other unexpected features and amenities on Quantum of the Seas will be unveiled in the coming months.

Quantum class will debut in fall 2014 with Quantum of the Seas, followed by her sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in spring 2015. Quantum ships span 18 decks, encompass 167,800 gross registered tons, carry 4,180 guests at double occupancy and feature 2,090 staterooms. Quantum of the Seas will sail out of the New York Harbor from her homeport of Cape Liberty on 7- to 12-night itineraries during the winter 2014/15 season. Bookings will be available to Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program members starting May 27, 2013 before opening to the general public on June 4. More information on Quantum of the Seas is available at www.RoyalCaribbean.com/Quantum.

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

Royal Caribbean expands popular culinary offerings to more ships

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On September - 17 - 2012

Royal Caribbean International continues to provide its guests with the ultimate vacation experience by enhancing its onboard dining options with the addition of Oasis-class amenities to even more ships. Next in line is Serenade of the Seas, which is scheduled for an extensive revitalization this fall.

Serenade of the Seas will wow guests in December when she re-emerges from her dry dock with a new lineup of specialty restaurants, which will include Giovanni’s Table Italian restaurant, Izumi Asian cuisine and the intimate Chef’s Table dining experience, as well as dining packages for guests to enjoy all of them at incredible value. Guests will have the option of choosing the Royal Choice Dining Package, which includes dinner at Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and Izumi for $55 per guest, or the Chef’s Table Dining Package for $130 per guest, which includes all of the specialty restaurants as well as the Chef’s Table.

Serenade of the Seas also will offer additional dining deals at Giovanni’s Table. Groups of four or more can take advantage of the Celebration Dining Deal, which is valid for the first two nights of each sailing and allows groups of four or more to enjoy a delicious meal plus a $30 beverage credit at a cost of $20 per person. Groups of eight or more can opt for the Set Sail Dining Deal which includes dinner on the first night of their cruise for $14 per guest.

Further enhancing its onboard culinary offerings Royal Caribbean is expanding its partnership with renowned wine producer Domaines Barons de Rothschild by offering the exclusive Lafite Wine Tasting Experience onboard. Available for $23 to $25 per person, depending upon ship and itinerary, the experience, which was first introduced onboard Allure of the Seas, offers guests a unique tasting showcasing the renowned vintages from France’s Bordeaux region.

Developed in conjunction with Château Lafite Rothschild, the premier estate under the Rothschild name, and Master Sommelier John Blazon, the Lafite Wine Experience aims to expand guests’ understanding of growing regions within Bordeaux. A Royal Caribbean cellar master leads the tasting, sharing details about the wines and the winemakers and the history and suggestions for food pairings. A souvenir packet allows guests to take a piece of the experience home with winemakers’ notes, recipes and more.
The Lafite Wine Tasting Experience is now available for pre-booking on select ships, including Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas.
Guests can book the Serenade of the Seas dining packages or the Lafite Wine Tasting Experience online at www.RoyalCaribbean.com.

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

Coffee talk with John Heald

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 25 - 2012

This morning on Carnival Breeze I sat down with John Heald, Carnival’s Senior Cruise Director, Brand Ambassador, and Blogger extraordinaire to discuss a variety of topics. Find out what John likes best about the Carnival Breeze, what the new Carnival Cruise Lines is all about, new cruise line safety measures, his future as a cruise director with the company, and what he really thinks of the French and Cruise Critic. His answers will make you laugh and just might surprise you. There are also some new exciting news items in this interview that you won’t read about anywhere else.

www.expertcruiser.com: What do you think about all the Fun Ship 2.0 improvements?

John Heald: I love it.  I think Guy’s Burger is the best thing to hit the Lido Deck since we had the Playboy charter in 1998. It’s a yabba-dabba-doo moment. You want to slide down your own pet dinosaur and grab that lump of meat like they do.  I honestly absolutely love it. I’ve never understood those burger snobs and steak snobs and I never thought I’d be one of those.  I am now because I compare every burger to Guy’s. It’s a very, very good burger.  I think having the two new themed bars on Lido Deck are great and the crew that work there take great pride and ownership in those new areas. Thrill Theater is fantastic. Bonsai Sushi has been a huge success.  I didn’t think it would be as popular as it is. While I know a good burger when I eat it sushi is a big mystery to me. I don’t understand the whole raw fish thing, but it’s been a big hit onboard. The greatest bargain onboard is La Cucina del Capitano for $12 all that food you get, it’s fantastic.

So yeah, I think 2.0 is a great addition. But what I really love about it it’s not just about the new ships but is going on the older ships.  It’s going on the Ecstasy next month, then the Conquest and then the Glory.  The reinvestment in the fleet is very important. There are some cruise lines that market their newer ships only. We’ve always done well in not saying it’s all about one ship or two ships.

www.expertcruiser.com: What do you think about the new décor on Breeze?

John Heald: Even with all the big Fun Ship 2.0 changes the heartbeat of Carnival is still there even though the walls are different color and calmer. The décor for me makes the ship feel 30,000 tons lighter. It’s the same size as the Magic and the Dream, but it feels lighter and crisper. It’s resort.  My favorite parts of the ship are the guest corridors and the colors of the cabins. I just love them there’s just something inviting coming back to the cabin.

This reminds me a lot of AIDA ships as the architects that have done Breeze have been doing those ships for years. Amazing ships. Best cruise ships most people will never sail on.

www.expertcruiser.com: The beards are branding everything on the ship. Are they going to brand John Heald?

John Heald: They’re going to work in partnership with JC Penney or Big Bubbas clothing store.  I am not sure which one (laughs).  No, they aren’t going to brand John Heald.  The branding thing has really changed us. It’s very simple. Guy Fieri is mass market.

You look at some of the other type of things that we are doing with RedFrog Pub. It’s worked fantastic. We have this beer you’ve seen called ‘Thirsty Frog Red’. I’ll give you a little exclusive ‘thingy’ that I haven’t told anyone else. We are giving serious consideration as of this week to bottling and selling ‘Thirsty Frog Red’. We are working with our friends with AIDA because they have a microbrewery onboard.

That’s our own brand. The other known ships have Starbucks and Johnny Rockets and some of them are very good.  I hear on NCL for example they have Blue Man Group and I hear they are fantastic. But we are doing our own thing. We’ve come a long way. As Gerry said we’ve only just begun. Breeze is the first ship with the beards signature all over it. Even Magic by the time Gerry, Mark, Reuben, and the other people came in those ships were already designed, done and dusted when they came in. This is the first ship which is 100 percent the new generation of Carnival.

www.expertcruiser.com: It’s been a tough year for the cruise industry after the Concordia disaster.  What’s changed?

John Heald: It’s been a bad year. The market is picking up again now. Concordia is still on everyone’s mind.  Sadly I’ve had a lot of people ask me are we going to see the Concordia. There is that morbid tourism.  It (Concordia accident) suddenly gave us all a kick in the pants.

The crew on this ship gets off in a completely different way than the passengers. They use a MES (Marine Escape System) system. There are six of them in the back of the ship on Deck 4 they are chutes rather than those round life rafts that you won’t see onboard here anymore. We launch these long sock-like chutes much like those on an airplane that the crew slides down into an inflatable life raft at the bottom. The crew gets off much quicker and in a much more organized way. So its bang, bang, bang you’re off. The ferry’s and freighters have them. Three hundred of the crew are in the life boats with the passengers and the majority of the crew use the MES system.  I wonder if the days of lifeboats are numbered and whether the guests will use the MES system.

I learned something in the Splendor fire you have to kill the guests with information. Even with that ALPHA TEAM incident from the other day you have to give them information.

www.expertcruiser.com: Your blog is a huge success what’s the future of the blog?

John Heald: As I’ve made pretty clear in the blog I wrote the other day and after a long conversation with Gerry this will be my last new ship launch.  I am not going to do anymore new ships.  I can’t do a new ship and do this brand ambassador stuff at the same time anymore. It’s too much. One of it suffers and that’s not fair on either.  I don’t want the guests to suffer and I don’t want the blog to suffer either. So, at some point in the months ahead they are going to have to decide which one they want me to do. Also, I’ve been at sea for 26-years so there’s a time now where I don’t want to do the long contracts anymore. I want to do shorter ones maybe a month at sea and work from home for a little bit.

www.expertcruiser.com: There’s Batman and Robin; Laurel and Hardy; Abbott and Costello. What’s with you and Calvin are you guys the new dynamic duo?

John Heald: What’s with me and Calvin. Well, I’ve never shared a Morning Show with anybody. Calvin is probably one of the most naturally funny men I’ve ever met.  It’s hard for you to put this in words without them (readers) seeing it. There is a chemistry and I get to be the straight man (pardon the pun). He’s become a bit of an icon.  He’s a great joy to work with and the Morning Shows have taken on a bit of a life of their own. We’re going to continue our duo and he’ll travel with me next year if I do time on the ships next year.

www.expertcruiser.com: Okay John, we’re going to do some word association.  Answer with just one word.

www.expertcruiser.com: Gerry Cahill

John Heald: RedFrog Pub


John Heald: Divorce

www.expertcruiser.com: The French

John Heald: Bastards

www.expertcruiser.com: Rumpy Pumpy

John Heald: In the past

www.expertcruiser.com: Cruise Critic

John Heald: I refer you to my answer I gave for The French (“Bastards”)

Thank you John Heald!

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

Have questions please post a note below on www.expertcruiser.com or on Twitter.

Carnival Breeze smoke incident

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 20 - 2012

At approximately 2:30 PM (8:30 AM EST) I made a Twitter post about a “Code ALPHA” alert onboard the Carnival Breeze. Code ALPHA is the ship crew term for fire onboard. At that time a fire team was dispatched to deal with a small smoke issue in the crew area. Carnival just released a statement to clarify the incident. I can assure you that at no time were there indications of any major problems and the crew did a great job dealing with the smoke issue and keeping passengers informed. Here is Carnival’s statement on the incident:

” A fan belt inside an AC unit in a crew area overheated and started generating smoke. There was not an actual fire and no smoke entered guest areas. The ship’s crew responded immediately and all is well.”

So, there you have it. The crew did exactly as they train to do.

Have questions please post a note below on www.expertcruiser.com or on Twitter.

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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