A Military Family Sets Sail on Carnival

March 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

The Johnson's onboard Carnival Freedom

Quality family time takes on an entirely different meaning when one part of the family is an active member of the Army, twice deployed to the Middle East.

For Staff Sergeant Kevin Johnson, his wife Ashley, and their daughters, 4-year-old Natalee and 1-year-old Michaela, getting away from the San Antonio army base and enjoying the day and night on a Carnival Cruise Line cruise ship was a much-appreciated escape from everyday life.

“It’s so nice to be able to spend time together,” Ashley told me on Valentine’s Day onboard Carnival Freedom. She and her family were just one of more than 1,000 military members and their families invited onboard by Carnival to celebrate the ship’s arrival in Galveston.

Carnival, in partnership with Operation Homefront — a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to the families of service members as well as wounded veterans — hosted the families overnight, opening up the ship’s facilities to them and putting on an outdoor Martina McBride concert. The company also donated $100,000 to Operation Homefront.

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March 4, 2015, 1:00 PM ET
Join us as we chat with Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald, who has been head of the company for just over a year but already has made a big mark. Add to calendar

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    Member Review of the Week: The Rest is History

    March 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

    Coral Princess - photo courtesy of Princess Cruises

    Cruise Ship: Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess

    Itinerary: Panama Canal and Central America

    Member: crcaldwell

    Background: Crcaldwell thought he’d found a cruise line for the long haul, until a recent sailing aboard Coral Princess changed everything. The ship’s timeless decor, attentive staff and simple surprises like champagne service on the balcony were a perfect match for his style. Upon disembarkation, he canceled a previously booked cruise, and the rest is history.

    Onboard Highlight: The ship’s relaxed, traditional ambiance and myriad of classy touches, from doilies on serving plates to a cool towel and glass of ice water awaiting cruisers returning from shore excursions.

    Port Highlight: Cartagena, Columbia, and the Panama Canal were tied for favorite.

    Don’t Miss: Dinner in the buffet, which offered pleasantly surprising options.

    Watch Out For: Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale; it’s a huge terminal, so make sure you give yourself extra time on embarkation day.

    More: Read crcaldwell’s full review to get a better feel for Coral Princess.

    For their efforts, crcaldwell, OceanDevotion55, Still Dreaming attilamom1217 and nalakitty receive Cruise Critic logo items.

    Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, and showcase one as the Member Review of the Week.

    Read more reviews or write your own cruise review.

      Winter Slushy Waves

      March 2, 2015 | By | No Comments

      Slushy Waves - photo by Jonathan Nimerfroh

      Llamas, #TheDress, House of Cards – the Internet has been full of so many memes, it’s hard to keep track (Team WhiteGold for-eva). But the viral photos that have kept me mesmerized are the “slushy waves” released by Nantucket photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh.

      Appearing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and published in Stay Wild magazine, Jonathan’s photos show half-frozen waves curling into the surf, stand-still maritime moments. According to the New York Times, the phenomenon defied explanation, even from glaciologists.

      Within the cruise world, there are winter sailing aficionados who solely seek out chilly climes. On the Cruise Critic forums, Cunarders – fans of the veddy British Cunard Line – speak fondly of the Winter Crossing Club, composed of people who booked transatlantic voyages on the now mothballed liner QE2 (their spirit lives on, member Ab_Ovo proclaims, with anyone who enjoys Cunard’s December and January crossings).

      I understand their love of a raging sea. There’s something about crashing waves in winter that speaks to a wilder place inside your soul, an unpredictability that elevates an ordinary cruise into an adventure. It’s the beauty of the unknown, the draw of the unknowable. And for those of us frozen in the midst of this winter’s polar vortex, it’s a reminder that this season of snow days and inconvenient ice has something special to offer as well.

      Would you ever sail the Atlantic in the middle of winter? Tell us in the comments!

        March 2015 Desktop Wallpaper: Sunset Sailaway

        February 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

        Sunset Sailaway

        Get your March 2015 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper! We love the sight of a brightly lit cruise ship slipping through the dusk (especially after a particularly impressive ocean sunset). Here’s hoping that this desktop calendar inspires you to think back on your last cruise – and dream about the next one.

        Here’s how to put this photo on your computer, tablet or cell phone:

        1. Click on the following links to get the size that you want. Each link will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper, in the appropriate format for your screen size.

        2. For the desktop versions, right-click on the image, and choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something similar. The wording depends on your browser. Mac users should ctrl-click and save the photo on their computer in the “Pictures” folder.

        3. If the image does not fit your desktop background neatly, you may have to go to your preference panel (on a Mac: System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop; on Windows: Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose”Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.

        4. For phone and tablet, open the link and center the photo on your phone so it fills the screen. Take a photo and save it on your device. Then go to your Settings and find your Wallpaper (on an iPhone, this is under “Wallpapers & Brightness.” Set the saved calendar photo as your wallpaper.

        2560 x 1440 | 1280 x 800 | Tablet | Mobile

        Check back on March 31 for the April 2015 calendar.

          Hot on the Forums: Will the Queen of England Add Godmother to Her Titles?

          February 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

          HM Queen Elizabeth II - Shaun Jeffers/Shutterstock

          The newest ship to hit the UK might have its most famous resident as a Godmother – HM Queen Elizabeth II.

          At least that’s the speculation on the Cruise Critic message boards, where fans of P&O Cruises are awaiting the March launch of the Carnival Corp. line’s largest and newest ship, Britannia.

          On this thread, eagle-eyed A FLOATING VOTER posted a link to the Royal Diary, noting: “HM, accompanied by Prince Phillip, are to visit Hampshire on March 10th, this is shown on the Royal Diary dates. Britannia’s maiden voyage leaves Southampton on 14th March, — I’m on it!!! The dates may simply be coincidental but a naming ceremony just 4 days before the maiden voyage could be spot on.”

          THIS JUST IN, from Cruise Critic UK. The Queen is, indeed, serving as Godmother for Britannia! Are our members clairvoyant or what?

          Read our follow up on this lead

            5 Fun Spots for a Cruise Ship Selfie

            February 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

            It’s in the dictionary now – so chances are, you or someone you love has taken a “selfie” in the past year or so. And what better place to turn your camera phone on yourself than sea? Whether you love Instagram, Twitter or old-fashioned Facebook, document these cruisey moments on your next sailing to impress your friends and make your coworkers jealous.

            1. A cool ship bar, with a foofy drink

            From molecular mixology and ice bars to robot bartenders, there are plenty of innovative spots to imbibe at sea. Know any Parrot Heads? Imagine their reaction as you pose with a signature margarita at Jimmy Buffet’s The 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar on Norwegian Escape. An umbrella drink almost anywhere onboard brightens up an otherwise dull Facebook feed. Make sure your drink-sipping selfie also includes blue sky and water to match.

            2. Chef’s Table

            Not only is the Chef’s Table a gastronomical feat, it’s also an exclusive event. Each sailing is limited to just a small group of people on any ship that offers the tasting, and the multicourse spread is more than just a meal — it’s an experience. If you snag a reservation, document your private time with the onboard executive chef by snapping a shot of yourself trying one of the more exotic gourmet delicacies — cow tongue, anyone?

            3. Working out

            With top-of-the-line fitness facilities including classes such as Zumba, FlyWheel and Boot Camp, many onboard gyms and recreational areas are appealing even if you don’t routinely work out. Want to impress someone back home who doesn’t believe you would ever touch a treadmill? Capture yourself cycling away with a panoramic ocean background (many fitness centers offer great views) and caption it with something like, "Working off my six-course Chef’s Table meal from last night."

            4. Cheesy cruise events

            Maybe it’s a crewmember dressed as a tropical bird, maybe it’s a belly flop contest going on in the background, or maybe it’s the towel animal holding your turn-down chocolate — there are plenty of things about cruise that still can ready corny, but are in fact, charming. (Ok, maybe not a belly flop, but you get the idea). Cruising is a unique vacation, and sometimes it’s the traditional touches like sea day trivia contests that make for the best carefree holiday memories (and selfies).

            5. With Cruise Critic!

            If you’re headed through the Port of Miami or the Fort Lauderdale airport anytime soon, chances are you might see our new ads. Take a selfie with your favorite cruise site in the background and you could win a prize in our selfie contest. Prize packs include Cruise Critic logo items, so upload your best shot for a chance to score some swag!

            Hungry for more selfie savvy? Check out our 16 Best Places for a Cruise Ship Selfie for more.

              Steal of the Week: 20-Night Transpacific Cruise Package from $2,499

              February 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

              piggy bank sailing worldwide
              Everyone is looking for the deal of the century. So how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Check the Lido Deck each week to get the scoop on our favorite deals — then grab the phone and pack your bags.
              THE DEAL: iCruise.com is offering an 18-night transpacific cruise from Sydney to Honolulu onboard Celebrity Solstice, departing on April 9, 2016 from $2,499 per person. This price includes two nights pre-cruise hotel at the Four Seasons in Sydney, two sightseeing tours, transfers and $100 in onboard credit.
              WHAT WE LOVE: The value of this transpacific cruise is spectacular and begging for honeymooners or families with the ability to take an extended vacation. From $139 per person per night, sail Solstice — a gorgeous ship — through the waters of Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia and finally, Hawaii, in the spring. Escape the winter and summer crowds in port during the lovely low season. This package also includes onboard credit and a luxurious hotel stay in Sydney prior to your cruise, with sightseeing tours of famous sites such as the Sydney Opera House and local Bondi Beach. Upgrade to a balcony from $700 more per person.
              WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: Airfare is not included although it is discounted through the online travel agency. Unless you are retired or have ample vacation time saved, it may be difficult to get away for the full three-week stint. Although the package is a great value, it is still thousands per person when you factor in airfare, excursions and spending money.
              HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
              Compare flight prices with our sister site TripAdvisor’s meta-search tool.
              * Looking for cruises for under $75 or even $50 a day? We’ve got ‘em listed on our Cheap Cruises page.
              * Get great cruise deals — and exclusive member offers — delivered weekly to your inbox.

                Wanderlust Wednesday: A Winter Respite

                February 25, 2015 | By | No Comments

                Waikiki Beach - photo courtesy of Marinebiker/Cruise Critic Forums

                Destination: Waikiki Beach

                Why Go?: One of the most sunset-worthy beaches in Hawaii, Waikiki is a must-see — and thankfully, not easy to miss — when your cruise ship is docked in Honolulu. Its beauty speaks for itself. The beachside village is full of activities such as surfing to shopping. Work up an appetite? If you’re willing to splurge, consider La Mer, a five-diamond restaurant serving up French cuisine and stunning views of Waikiki.

                Member: Marinebiker

                Every Wednesday, we’ll be taking you on a journey around the world to some of the most interesting places our members have trekked, swum or merely witnessed from afar while cruising.

                Whether these photos inspire you to plan a relaxing escape or walk on the wild side, we hope they ignite your senses and give you ideas for your next cruising adventure. If you have a photo you’d love to share, send it to us at photos@cruisecritic.com or post it in our member photo gallery. Feel free to send us your Twitter or Instagram handle. Maybe you’ll get a shout-out next #WanderlustWednesday!

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