Our community blogs

  1. Travelers with knee, hip or other joint replacements have another reason to hate flying: airport security. 

    When being discharged from the hospital after a total knee replacement last December, one important piece of advice was missing from the pile of recovery plan papers I received from the staff - how to get through airport security without setting off the alarm and the resulting embarrassing pat-down, both of which has happened to me several times in the months since my surgery. A member of airport security in Boston finally offered me some helpful advice which I hope will assist other "bionic" travelers at the airport.

    There used to be a time when the doctor would give you a note to show at airport security informing them of your joint hardware. This is no longer the case, and in fact most physicians rarely bother to offer a note for security clearance, as the FAA no longer accepts this type of proof. Whether you have a note or even display your surgical scar to the security agent makes no difference. When you pass through the metal detector, the alarm will sound, and you will require a full and thorough pat-down. To avoid this, try the following tricks:

    If there is the option for a full body scanner, choose it, as it will be much easier. There is no need to announce your artificial joint to security personnel. While metal will still be detected, the scanner will clearly show that the metal is in the bone. If a full body scanner is not present, be sure to tell a security agent that you have joint hardware BEFORE going through the metal detector. You will still most likely have to undergo further screening, but less intrusively, with either wand or a quick frisk.


  2. Do you ever wonder how some cruisers seem to get loads of shipboard credit to use for onboard purchases? For the benefit of you folks new to cruising, any added value in the form of cash for you to use on board your cruise - for things like beverages, shopping, drinks, shore excursions, the spa, and other for-fee extras - is known as on-board or shipboard credit. Some people get a lot of it, while others seem to get none. If you're looking to score maximum onboard credits for your next cruise, you just need to know where to look. Here are a half dozen tricks for finding free money for your cruise:


    A Travel Agent. Don't expect an agent to fork over their whole commission to you in the form of credit so you can have a good time, but do expect them to know which cruise lines are offering some in the form of a promotion. The best way an agent can give you onboard credit is through a value-added offer (gifting you something rather than discounting your cruise), and many times this is done through group blocks the agent holds for the purpose of booking their clients. Either way, if you are dedicated and loyal to your travel agent, no doubt they will reward you. 


    Cruise Line Promotions. Cruise lines run deal after deal, and many of them come with a specific dollar amount of onboard credit, usually tied in with the number of days sailing or the category of cabin booked. The more money you are willing to pay for your cruise, the more credit you will receive.


    Book Your Next Cruise While On Board Another. Most cruise lines have an on-board booking program, either a Future Cruise Desk or an entire office staffed by crew members whose job it is  to entice you into booking your next cruise with them. After all, this is what builds their loyal customer base. To do this, you would place a small deposit ($100 per person, in many cases) in a future cruise, and the cruise line will reward you with onboard credit, again, tied in with the number of days or category of cabin you intend on booking for your next cruise. In fact, you don't even have to decide right then and there. Instead, the cruise line will give you a year or two to think about it.


    Refer a Friend. Many lines will reward you for bringing them business in the form of your friends and relatives who may be new to cruising - or a particular cruise line - and want to see what they've been missing. 


    Price Drops. This is hit or miss, but worth asking. If you find your cruise price dropped after final payment, the cruise line may issue you the difference in the form of onboard credit - or perhaps an upgrade. 


    Register a Complaint. Did you have a bad experience on your last cruise? If you had a serious issue with service or anything else related to your cruise, write a letter to the cruise line, explain what happened, and you may receive a letter of apology in return with a certificate for a discount on your next cruise or for shipboard credit. The amount would most likely depend on the severity of the complaint. Some assistance from a travel agent will help to assure your letter of complaint gets to the right people.


    Not all onboard credit is combinable, meaning you may not be able to combine onboard credits received from a promotion with those received as a loyalty reward. But it never hurts to explore all the options.


    Photo credit: Pixabay Free Web Photos


  3. RogerAllnutt
    Latest Entry

    My recent Royal Caribbean Cruise started at Quebec City and ended at magical New York. Quebec City is superb, quintessentially French and worth two or three days to explore if you can manage the extra time.

    I was cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas and the ship was berthed on the St Lawrence River just below the promontory on which the iconic Chateau Frontenac is located, one of the classic hotels of North America. The old town (since 1985 a UNESCO World Heritage site) is divided into the Upper and Lower Towns connected by stairs or a funicular; both are best explored on foot. Narrow streets are lined with boutiques, small hotels, theatres, cafes and restaurants, churches and cemeteries. The Houses of Parliament and the walled Citadelle are imposing structures, there are many picturesque gardens and great views over the St Lawrence River

    Many sights date back to the 17th and especially the 18th century where in 1759 General Wolfe defeated General Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham leading to the Treaty of Paris which gave Canada to Britain. The French might have lost the battle but Quebec City and the whole region of Quebec is truly French in character and in language.

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    This is the Carnival Sunshine through my eyes.

    As usual, once you get on the ship all your troubles melt away. We got this far and came to a screeching halt... lol I was on my tip toes, reaching over people's heads (I know they thought I was nuts) just trying to snap a glimpse of what lay ahead.


    After a brief pause we were moving again and officially... Walking On Sunshine! I could not believe we were finally there! The atrium was beautiful. It was like I was in a dream and being woke up by Mark as he was tugging my arm and trying to get me out of the way. I was now the one impeding traffic while I was staring up in awe. The Carnival Sunshine was beautiful.

    We had no trouble finding our rooms and I was pleasantly surprised to see the decor in the hallway. I love the wooden looking doors. They are still metal doors for those of you who freak out about those things :) ... and what do you think was sitting in front of our door when we rounded the corner? Our luggage!! The porter outside with the little dollie had managed somehow and it was all there. It was the fastest our luggage has ever arrived (could have something to do with the delayed check in process that took forever earlier... but it was still fast!) I was able to get our room decorated right away.


    We had 2 balcony rooms. Deck 8 technically forward, but it was really on the line at mid ship. The room itself seemed about the same size as all the others. The only differnece was we had built in shelves in the wall around the desk area, which was really nice... the coffee table was rectangle, not oval... there were not shelves in the 2 main closets. The shelves were located in the first closet that contains your safe and there is extra bedding on all those shelves... I did not have a full length mirror and missed it often.

    The MAIN difference I noticed was the bathroom. Perhaps they are the same square footage (I don't really know). The sink vanity is half the size we are used to and the shower is twice as long. It is functional, however it is possible to sit on the toilet with your feet in the shower and wash your hands all at the same time.... Not that I tried... please delete that mental picture. Thanks.


    Now here is a truly awesome part... On our cruise last May aboard the Magic we had a room stewardess named Rosie. We LOVED her. She was so funny, upbeat and engaging. She was at the end of her contract then. Who do you think was standing in the hallway when I walked out of our room?? Rosie!! I was so excited to see her and she remembered us :) A great room steward is the icing on the cake for a great cruise and Rosie is one of the best!


    So now we were off to explore the ship! :) Trenton is usually the first one down the slide, however, New Orleans was chilly this day. We walked around the Lido deck, checked out the serenity area, pool and water park and he never once asked about putting on his swimsuit. By this point Mark was over the exploring :)


    Since Mark was not in the exploring mood I suggested we go find the food. In the back of the boat is the Havana Bar. To the left is JiJi's Asian and to the right is Cucina de Capitano. Both are excellent choices. They both offer dinner at a price. It is free if you eat there at lunch, which is what we did ... often :) My child who won't eat anything related to pasta at home could eat the lasagna from Cucina everyday! The lasagna is not traditional lasagna by the way... just a warning to keep an open mind. We loved it!

    JiJi's is mongolian wok style. You pick up a bowl and place your preferred noodles and veggies in it. You will hand it over to the cook. He will ask you what type of meat. I saw chicken, pork, shrimp and calamari options. Then he will ask you what type of sauce which boils down to mild, medium or spicy. I chose the medium everytime. I am a spicy girl and trust me, medium is spicy. It was tasty, but will clear your sinuses :) If I had chosen the hot I don't think I could have eaten it.


    In regards to overcrowding and lines cause that is a HOT topic. I can see it here and I can't. Any boat, I have waited in line at Lido or any specialty lunch place. I did not wait in line anymore (actually probably less) on the Sunshine than I have on any previous cruise. What I did notice.... especially breakfast the first sea day is confusion. It seemed people were aimlessly walking around in there trying to find what they wanted (us included). They were also walking around trying to find seating. During the mornings we almost always went back into the Havana bar to find a place to sit. Cucina and JiJi's are the omelet stations in the mornings. I am not sure that the omelet option or the extra seating options are very well known.

    Instead of 2 long buffet lines on lido, the main buffet food is located in 2 center islands. Each side has the same food, so in essence you have 4 lines going at once. The salad bars are located against the walls as is the dessert bar. My problem in the mornings is I am a hot cereal girl. I initially couldn't find it. The hot cereal is located on the ends of the center islands. Once I figured this out I thought I was good to go... however, the particular cereal is not always located in the same spot. I would get in one line only to find out it had oatmeal at the end and what I wanted was grits, so I was left to go try to squeeze in the other line.... Me and several other people. Was this a HUGE problem... Nope. We all managed :)

    For breakfast, I also noted there was NO BACON POLICE. I am not really a big bacon eater and never noticed this issue before. If I am so inclined, one or two pieces will usually do me. I have been keeping my eyes out for this lately. There was a large plate of (really cooked) bacon and people were putting it on their plates in heaps... literally small mountains. Do you eat that much bacon at home? The little red blood cells in their blood have probably adapted to have snow shoes and walking sticks to trudge through their veins. Anyhow... the folks I saw were piling it up.


    The automatic hand washing things are everywhere and kinda cool. Easy way to get the kids to wash their hands. It's fun! I did read a complaint that there were never any paper towels to dry your hands off with and we never encountered this problem.

    There were also 2 Pour Your Own Beer stations here. One by the deli and one conveniently located by the 24 hour pizza. I only saw it used once or twice ... perhaps because I wasn't awake at 2 am getting pizza this cruise.

    If you head back towards midship and the pool you will find your Guy's burgers and Blue Iguana taco's located by the main pool. Both options were as good as always. Going forward on this deck will land you in the Serenity area. It really is beautiful, however, we did not partake in it. From what I heard the front part of it really isn't "serene" as it faces the Lido deck and the back part (all the way forward) on the boat gets filled up pretty early. Mark walked through one day and said "Man, there are some older people up there that have that whole space locked down!" LOL... So I guess you better claim your seat early. :)

    Ooh... saw these pictures and almost forgot. Trenton attended Camp Carnival only 1 day I think. He had a good time, but has more fun with us. I did notice the counselors for his age group on this ship were HANDS down more friendly and engaging than the past. They were always that way when he was younger, but the older age group ones haven't seemed to be. I found this little secluded spot they have for the little ones to play. When Trenton was younger he would have been all over this!


    One deck up is the Sports Square. This place is so much fun! This cruise I think they say there were 400 guests on board under the age of 18, which really isn't many. I can say the sports square was busy, but never seemed Over-Crowded. A cruise during the summer or spring break, might be different. There was ping pong, pool, twister, checkers, chess, bean bag toss, whatever that game is that's like shuffleboard, but it's on the floor, not a table and you use a stick ?? That was there :) Basketball, mini golf... I am probably missing some more. The hot dog stand was also up there.


    One deck above that is THE ROPES COURSE! Trenton did this multiple, multiple, multiple times. The rules are posted. You must be in dry clothes, closed toe shoes and no articles on you that can fall off. You also must be 48 inches tall. They do have lockers there if you need to lock up your belongings. They will let you go around twice before they ask you to get back in line. Trenton seemed to like this course better than the one on the Magic.


    Now that we have covered the outside… Here’s a glimpse of the inside. Moving a little further down the boat we will head to Deck 5. This is one of the very few ships I know of that have cabins located on this deck. We learned during the Ships Life Q&A that Jamie, the cruise director and all of the Bridge officers sleep on Deck 5. She says you will know you are close to their cabins by the massive amounts of cologne you smell :)


    The Alchemy Bar is in its usual location. Bartenders here were fabulous as always and my favorite drink is still the Pineapple Chipotle Martini. The stage is located a little different on this deck and I like it. It is in a good spot… NOT shoved in the corner of the casino and has lots of good seating around it. The seating leads into the Red Frog Rum Bar. We didn’t spend much time there this cruise, but I snapped a few pics for you guys.


    There is not window seating along the promenade here like on many other ships and I have heard some complaints on this. I will say the picture people seemed to be better placed. It didn’t seem to be such a crowded hassle on elegant nights.

    The casino is the casino! Mom sat down on the 2nd night and won $1000 on one of the machines... so my friends it can be done :) That is always exciting. There was practically ZERO poker playing on this cruise. They did have 1 table, but I never saw a game going. I thought that was strange. We tried several times to win the cash cube game and were rather unsuccessful :(


    The arcade on this ship is located just outside the casino and right next to the candy shop. I liked this!! Usually the arcade is stashed away somewhere… away from everything. Took us 3 days to find it on the Magic! This one was convenient and a good size.


    Deck 4 is a strange bird. I am just going to throw that out there. I never had the opportunity to cruise on the Destiny, so I am not sure what state that floor was prior to renovations… but it appears whoever designed it spent a little too much time at the alchemy bar and was a little tipsy when the floor plan was laid. ~ Strickly a personal opinion

    Starting mid ship you will find the Library Bar. This is very nicely done. Has a decent book and game selection. It also has a wine vending machine… which while I didn’t try it, looked rather cool.


    Outside the Library bar there is a little winding road that takes you to the Piano Bar, Bonsai Sushi and the Steakhouse. Walking through you will end up in the Limelight Lounge which is where you will go for the comedy shows. They have the doors shut and the line starts about 30 minutes prior to each show.


    The kicker here is the dining room is on the other side of the Limelight lounge. You are never able to walk THROUGH it and have to go up to the 5th floor… over to the aft elevators and then back down to get to the dining room. More than once I found myself stuck… and noticed that we passed the same people multiple times until we all realized we were trying to get to the same place and finally all banded together. On the same note… If you came out of the dining room and wanted to go to the comedy show you cannot enter through the doors that are there. They are exit only. You must go up to 5… down the hallway and back down the next set of elevators, then walk down the hallway back to the Limelight lounge. It really isn’t a good flow and probably my only real complaint. If there is ever any mention of a design flaw... It's here!

    The other way on deck 4 takes you through the photo gallery and then to the Liquid Lounge. The Liquid Lounge is located on decks 3 and 4. One large complaint here is the size of the lounge.


    It is smaller and it is harder to find a seat… but we were always able to sit. Perhaps it isn’t where we would NORMALLY sit… but we had a seat. More people were forced to sit in the upper levels. On the bottom level there are movable chairs and no tables. I only missed the little tables during the past guest party :) Really, there were no other issues.

    So that’s the boat in a nutshell… Now for the Yay or Nay.

    Would I sail this ship again?

    YES, it a heartbeat. All four of us LOVED the Sunshine. We had a great room steward. There was a mistake on Day 1 and we had been assigned to Late Seating which we did not request. I spoke up and it was changed immediately. We had Your Time Dining and service went well. Food was always timely and hot. We never waited to be seated. We did not encounter any staff that wasn't friendly. I found NO smells and you guys know I am a sniffer. Our cabins were in good working order. The ship was truly beautiful. The ceilings weren't leaking and I found NO buckets. Mom's one complaint is you are unable to view the menu and your S&S account on the TV like we have been able to do on other ships... and I am not really sure why.

    I am not saying no one has ever smelled a bad smell or perhaps saw a bucket... but it isn't a rampant problem and I found none on the 7 days I lived on this ship and I was looking for them.

    I did take a poll from our facebook group and here was their response.


    And... I didn't vote :) So 2/3 of the families I cruised with loved it and would go again. 1/3 liked it, but would prefer another boat. NO ONE thought the cruise sucked and that the boat needed to be retired and scrapped for metal :)

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    And the time has come. Wow. I can't believe it's almost here! So I will be leaving for nearly a month of just fun, fun, fun! Next week I leave Baltimore to hang in Los Angeles and Long Beach for a few days before heading up to San Francisco to catch Grand Princess! I still can't believe I'm getting ready to sail on this 16 escape to Hawaii and the Mexican Riviera... AHHH! Sorry y'all, I can't contain my excitement! It's just come full circle for me. This has been a trip a whole year in the making and now... IT'S FINALLY HERE! After the amazing cruise with Princess, I'm planning to rendezvous in Las Vegas for my birthday on January 5th and stay a few nights before returning back to Charm City! Whew! Are you going to follow along and come with me? I would hope so! I'll be posting pictures on my Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr accounts as well as tweeting every moment to ya LIVE from my Twitter Account (@CruiseMan3000). If you're on Twitter, I'll be using the hashtag #CM3KOnGrand for the whole trip with all my pics, so look for the hash to tag along! :) Also, look for some video updates coming to ya from my Youtube Channel! Be sure to like, comment and subscribe! :biggrin:


    And yes, I'll be staying aboard the original Queen Mary in Long Beach before I sail on Grand Princess. How cool is that - a pre-cruise stay on a cruise ship before the actual cruise?! Stay tuned for all of the madness I'll be getting into while out west - I've got many surprises to reveal along the way so be sure to follow along! Well, until we talk ship again, keep cruising and grooving!

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    Cruise ships are floating flaming death traps of incendiary Hell, according to the media lately. Since nobody has actually died during all these cruise ship fires, they’ve switched to reminding us that after all these cruise ship fires good people are left stranded in cabins full of feces. We cruisers know how absurd all that crap is (pardon the pun). But fire is indeed the greatest threat to safety on ships, now as it has always been. Allow me to share the extent of fire team training on ships: I was asked by the captain of Wind Surf to simulate a dead passenger in a shockingly real scenario....

    Via the crew stairs the second officer escorted me deep into the forward bowels of Wind Surf. We passed all manner of hallways and storage areas I had not known existed. After a several twists and turns, Barney stepped into what was obviously once a crew bar. Now it hosted a raucous pile of tables, chairs, and rolling desks. “Lay down and play dead. Easy. Don’t freak when the lights go out. Things will get nasty, but you won’t be hurt.”

    Seeing me raise my eyebrows, he explained further. “It’s a surprise fire drill made as realistic as possible. The fire team won’t know if anyone is below decks or not and will systematically search every room for unconscious victims. Don’t hide in the cupboard or anything because that’s not realistic, but staying in the back is better for the drill. What makes this drill more accurate is that you’re our first American.”

    “Why does that matter?”

    “The fire team only has experience hauling out other crew members, and they’re all Asian. In a real fire, a guest passed out from smoke inhalation won’t weigh ninety pounds. You weigh about two hundred pounds, so you’re helping us create a much more accurate scenario. When they come for you, don’t make it too easy for them. Be dead weight.”

    I carefully picked my way through the detritus of the dead crew bar to become a dead crew member. Propping my back against a cupboard, I splayed my legs out. With a satisfied nod, he snapped off the lights.

    Darkness swooped in, solid, tangible. This was not the absence of light, but the presence of a thing. Just a few minutes of such absolute black made even an egomaniac feel small. Not scared, but small, insignificant. This was not a place for living men, here, deep below the surface of the sea. I strained my hearing to pick up a sound, any sound, but there was none. Not even the slap of waves descended down here, in the pit where I lay. I fancied I was in a sensory deprivation tank, but for the sharp tang of back-bar alcohol and solvents stabbing my nose.

    After an interminable time, my ears tickled with the muted call of the ship’s intercom announcing to passengers the impending fire drill. Don’t panic at the alarms, the muffled voice said. Don’t panic at the smoke. Smoke?

    A minute later, another sense tickled. The air became chemically dense. The smell was not of smoke, but something equally unpleasant. I mulled over what it could be when I was scared out of my wits by the sudden alarm. Hearing the ship’s horn blasting the fire alarm was nothing new—I’d heard it every cruise for years—but hearing the alarm in my current situation was something else entirely. It was downright unnerving. Red emergency lighting snapped on, pushing back the black from below rather than above. Though dim, the illumination was sufficient to see the hallway outside. The red opening pulsated in a rapidly thickening haze.

    Smoke curled into the chamber, first slow, soon robust. Tendrils of white crawled across the ragged carpet, claiming more and more of the room. Behind the vanguard was a supporting wall of swirling grey, gradually thickening until I could no longer clearly see out into the hallway. The red remained, somehow undefinable.

    Very slowly did time tick, tick away. The simulated smoke became hard to breathe. Not only did the unceasing klaxon urge me to rush into the red, so did instinct. The sensation was so powerful my legs twitched, itching for action, escape. I had to consciously fight the urge, for I had been charged with death. After twenty minutes came a flicker of a different color. A beam of yellow wandered across the reddishness of escape, then left. Eventually it returned with a companion. Then both vanished. Disappointment flashed through me. They had had overlooked my room.

    Yet a minute later the glow materialized two phantoms of black. Backlit by blazing red, each cut a dramatic figure in full-on fire gear, complete with oxygen tanks and full face masks. Thickened by heavy layers of fire retardant gear, they seemed to move in slow motion. Beams from handheld searchlights roamed the smoke-dense room, lighting across old, clustered junk. Revealed in streaks were fallen stacks of chairs and tables upended upon each other, cobwebs flashing. I felt exactly like I was watching a movie: the heroes had just discovered the killer’s creepy lair.

    Then a beam of light fell across my legs. Another zeroed in. Two bulky forms pushed through the thickness directly towards me. Heavily gloved hands grabbed me by the shoulders to haul me bodily from the floor. I drooped and flopped as awkwardly as possible, feet dragging uselessly on the floor. Undeterred, they slung my arms over their shoulders and hauled me out from behind the bar. Between the deafening klaxons their respirators labored. Though much taller than my saviors, both men worked as a single unit to compensate. No words were exchanged. None were needed; both knew what the other was supposed to do.

    Don’t think for a minute that cruise ships leave fire safety to waiters playing with fire hoses. The ordeal fire teams maintain as routine is most impressive. But then, to be honest, I always wanted to be a fireman. They’re totally badass.

    Brian David Bruns

    Author of national bestselling Cruise Confidential

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    I think the entire cruising universe is aware by now that I can’t stay ashore for too long, once the ship’s start calling I have to answer! With that said I thought now would be a good time to let you know about my next adventure!

    At the end of August I will be boarding MSC Opera for a 10-night European itinerary. Our ports of call are Ijmuiden, St Peter Port, Vigo, Lisbon, Bilbao and Le Havre. Quite an interesting selection if I do say so myself.

    I am quite excited about this cruise. Firstly I am planning on spending the day in Ijmuiden with the family that I met during my cruise on MSC Magnifica. Catching up with them again will be very nice indeed and I can explore Ijmuiden this time instead of Amsterdam and with friends. Secondly, I have never been to Le Havre or Bilbao before so that’s something new and although I have visited Guernsey many times I was a child at the time so I can’t remember a great deal. In all it should be a great cruise!

    I shall also once again be cruising solo. I figured I had too really, it’s about time I took a longer cruise on my own and on a multi-national ship so that I could give you a real hearty blog on what it’s like. My last MSC cruise was solo but it was only 3 nights and my 2 week cruise on Ventura last year doesn’t fully count because I had friends on board for the cruise. This time though I am going in blind so to speak. 10-nights just me, myself and I. I see people talking on forums and groups all the time about how they would like to do a solo cruise but sometimes the mix of nationalities on some of the cruise lines makes the decision for them harder. You have the worry of ‘am I going to be the only English person on board’ or ‘what will I do if I can’t find anyone to socialise with’. Although MSC Opera is sailing from Southampton I am still expecting a mix of nationalities.

    This time I am travelling down to Southampton via rail and have planned to stay with a friend for a few days on the Isle of Wight pre cruise. It’s also a good excuse for me to do some ship spotting before I go! I do however need to invest in a smaller suitcase as God himself couldn’t make me take my usual one cross country via rail. That means there’s shopping to be done! I am forcing myself to downsize but can I do it? - Watch this space!

    So Ladies and Gents that’s the 411 on the next voyage……Are you on the same cruise? then let me know! August 25th MSC Opera

    By Danielle aka CruiseMiss

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    Sail with us as we take our first cruise with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines aboard the "Jewel of the Seas". If you have never sailed before, or never sailed with RCCL this may be an interesting cruise. I will be posting as often as possible (as connections allow) and you may even find me in the Live Chatroom for streaming Q&A's!! If you are online on the CruiseCrazies site anytime between May 2nd and May 6th, pop into the "LIVE CHAT ROOM" and you may see me there!!! All you have to do is highlight the "Connect" tab above then click on the "Cruise Chat Live" button. I will begin posting the morning of May 2nd (Pre-Cruise) and will continue through our cruise which features a stop in Cozumel. Don't miss this.........

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    Welcome back!! First off, allow me to extend my sympathies to the passengers of the failed Carnival Triumph cruise. I sincerely hope that with time, you will take advantage of the discount you have received from Carnival and venture to the open seas once again. There has been enough coverage from the media and aboard the Cruisecrazies site so that's all I'm going to mention about the Triumph incident.

    Now that we have covered the most important aspect of your cruise planning, Finances, let’s discuss the variations in the different vessels and some of the most popular cruise destinations you may choose from.

    When choosing a cruise ship for your vacation, there are many variables that come into play including, YES, finances again. It seems that in most cases, the smaller vessels operated by lines such as Silversea, Seabourn and Costa just to name a few, seems to be a bit more expensive yet provide a quieter atmosphere and more of a personalized touch. The larger vessels, also known as “Mega-Liners” operated by lines such as Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are more family friendly priced and offer more of a family type atmosphere where there is something for just about every age group. If you’re a couple planning an intimate and relaxed type atmosphere with very little hustle and bustle, a smaller vessel may be to your liking. Vessels that host in the range of 2000 passengers would most likely fit your needs. If you’re a couple or family that enjoys the party type atmosphere with activities around every corner then a cruise aboard a vessel in the 4000 to 6000 passenger range will keep you very busy. Just keep in mind that the larger vessels have much to offer. If you are planning a cruise on, let’s say, the Oasis of the Seas for 7 days of bliss, you may find that there is just not enough time within one week to discover all the ships amenities have to offer.

    Where to go! Hmm, this is more personal preference than anything. If you prefer the warmer climate type destinations, then cruising the Eastern (St. Marteen, St. Thomas, Nassau and Freeport), Western (Cozumel, Roatan and the Caymen Islands) or Southern Caribbean (Aruba, Curacao, and Granada) may be a direction to go. If you’re more interested in a colder climate, then an Alaska cruise may be in your future. All destinations offer their own enticing amenities such as snorkeling and scuba diving in the warmer climates in the Caribbean sailings and visits to small Alaskan towns and Glacier views in the colder regions. Your cruise agent can provide more insight on the regions you will be visiting on your cruise vacation.

    Here’s a commonly asked question, “Do I need a passport to go on a cruise”? The answer, Yes and No! The U.S. Department of Homeland Security states that if you are on a “Closed-Loop” cruise (a cruise that originates and returns to the same U.S. port) and are visiting what are considered U.S. possessions such as Puerto Rico, you do NOT need a passport. A certified (not a copy) of a U.S. State issued Certificate of Birth and a State issued type of photo I.D. is fine. The only catch here is even if you are cruising from and returning to the same port in the U.S. yet are visiting a foreign country such as Mexico or Bermuda, those countries DO require you have a Passport. My personal advice, GET A PASSPORT!! They are good for 10 years. Just be aware that it can take a couple to a few months to receive your Passport if it is your first time applying for one so plan well in advance of your cruise. Now, until my next BLOG entry, you may wish to go back and review my previous cruise planning steps easily just by clicking here... Till next time, may you have calm seas and beautiful sunsets.

  10. This is not a blog about the port of St Thomas, the beautiful US Virgin Island, but more of some amazing advice from an individual living there.

    I was with a friend at a restaurant in St Thomas, the waiter came to us and you could tell he was from the States and not the Caribbean, so I just had to ask. "Where are you from?" He replied, "Philedelphia." Then he went on telling us how he used to be a school teacher but since all of the budget cuts in the school system he has not worked as a teacher for 3 years but waited tables in Philly to make ends meet.

    He then said something that will stick with me forever. "If I am going to wait tables, I might as well do it somewhere beautiful and in a place I will love to be all year long." He just blew my mind with that advice and I told myself that this world is far too beautiful to not enjoy it or love where I live.

    So I encourage everyone reading this… if you are not happy where you are, make a change! Life is not life unless you are happy!

  11. blog-0709339001345076648.jpgWe stood on deck and watched as Ketchikan slowly got smaller and smaller as we pulled farther and farther away. My only complaint about today was that I wished we had more time to spend in what was my current favorite port city of the cruise.

    We spent the rest of the beautiful sunny day out on deck, snapping photos and watching for whales. It was so bittersweet knowing that tomorrow was our last stop before returning home to Seattle. We had a full day at sea ahead of us tomorrow as we weren’t due to dock in Victoria, BC until 7:00 PM the next evening. To make the most of our evening in Victoria, we were scheduled on a “Haunted History” tour of the city.

    Waking up the next morning we were greeted by another breathtaking day at sea. We decided to take full advantage of our beautiful ship, so we spent our last full day aboard wandering every inch of the Diamond Princess. How is it possible that there are still areas you didn’t notice after being on board a whole week? I roll my eyes at myself remembering my initial fear of feeling “trapped” and “claustrophobic”. What a newbie…

    While I was so excited to see Victoria in person for the first time, it was sad knowing that the closer we got to Victoria, the closer we got to “home”. The cruise that I had dreaded beginning was now coming to an end all too soon. I’ve seen more and learned more than I ever expected, not only about my surroundings and about the cities we visited, but about myself. I always firmly considered myself a “land lubber”, but all I can now think about is, “When can we go again?”

    Victoria soon presented herself to us in all her majesty and glamour. Victoria was, and still is, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. From the stunning Parliament building, to the English gardens in front of the beautiful neighborhood homes, to the glittering lights reflecting off the water that winds its way through the downtown shops and restaurants, the city itself proved to be simply magical.

    We had great fun on our “Haunted History” tour that took us all throughout the city and it’s important monuments. The tour left us about an hour to stroll the city at our leisure, and we popped in and out of shops along the waterfront. This was a city I knew I would return to, and Scott and I wholeheartedly agreed that we could very easily spend at least a week in this amazing place.

    After returning to the ship and watching Victoria fade into the darkness, we made our way back to our room for our very last sleep aboard our floating home.

    Next stop…Home.

  12. Just back from Borneo. Was it a good trip - absolutely! I saw lots of pygmy elephants, orangutans and proboscis monkeys while travelling upstream or on jungle hikes. My daughter and I stayed at many different places, though the Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley was a knockout. The food was just sensational, the accommodation in stand along chalets accessed from a boardwalk just lovely and the guides were all expert in their knowledge of the flora and fauna to be found there. Sadly the coral reef off the east coast is looking very sad - at least the part I visited and much of the prime growth rainforest was logged years ago, replaced by palm oil plantations. At least deep within the jungle, you can still find a lot of wildlife. I would recommend going there, to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah is the easiest city to access and from there head eastwards. More next week once I have recovered! Thanks for reading my blog!

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