Hot on the Forums: What Onboard Activities and Areas Do You Ignore?

April 16, 2014 | By | No Comments

Image courtesy of Anan Kaewkhammul
Cruise ships are awash with a multitude of onboard activities, from the traditional deck games, bridge, bingo and trivia quizzes that bring out varying degrees of competitiveness to all-singing all-dancing shows and movies under the stars.
And that’s before you even tackle the rock-climbing walls and watersports on all-action cruises or strike a pose for the ship’s photographer.
In fact, the exhaustive list of things to do can be, well, exhausting. It really is a case of so much to do, so little time.

Read on to find out more.

    Wanderlust Wednesday: Ancient Lands

    April 16, 2014 | By | No Comments

    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.
    We love this view of the ruins of Ephesus taken by member crispybee on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise.
    Find interesting places to visit based on region.
    Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
    Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.

      Helping on the High Seas: Kick Cancer Overboard

      April 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

      Cancer — and its treatments — can be incredibly stressful. That’s why the non-profit organization Kick Cancer Overboard raises money to send those affected by the disease on a weeklong cruise.
      The four-year-old charity was founded by DonnaLyn Giegerich, a cancer survivor, and her friend and business partner, travel agent Ted Friedli. Raising money through fundraisers and sponsorships, the organization has sent 80 cancer patients and their families on two Royal Caribbean cruises to Bermuda. The next is slated to leave New Jersey in March 2015 on Quantum of the Seas.
      Giegerich was 43 when, seven years ago, doctors told her she wouldn’t live to see 50. She had Leiomyosarcoma, rare cancer with a one-in-four million chance of survival.
      But Giegerich, now 50, rejected the diagnosis. She underwent surgery, pushed through radiation and chemotherapy, and emerged stronger than ever. She ran a half-marathon with mere stubs for hair, and competed in the Mrs. New Jersey pageant wearing a bikini that showcased the 18-inch vertical scar slicing her body. (She finished as first runner-up.)
      Now in the survivor category, Giegerich wanted to help others. But how? Friedli came up with the idea of sending folks on vacation. Playing off the idea that Giegerich was now a pageant queen, he reached out to Royal Caribbean International, a company with which he had long had a good rapport.
      “There are a lot of support services out there …but nobody was providing people going through the ravages of treatment a fun fest at sea,” Giegerich said. “Because they do have fun. Some people think, ‘Oh, cancer. Cruising. It must be such a sad group of people.’ I say, ‘These people have a clear idea of the fragility of life and they have the time of their lives.’”
      Cruises are given to those who would be unable to afford such a luxury on their own. Passengers, who travel in a group of 40, dine and have cocktails together every night and there is also an opening night kick-off party. Giegerich, a certified yoga instructor, also teaches classes to interested parties. On Sunday, there’s an all-denomination service to bless the cruisers.
      Typically, the charity will pay for the person affected by cancer and a friend or family member.
      The cruises can provide crucial lasting memories, not only for the patients, but for their entire families. During one trip, a family of five — mother, father and three children — squeezed into one cabin.  After the father’s death, his family let Kick Cancer Overboard know how much the trip had meant to them.
      According to Giegerich they said, “This is one of the nicest memories we had as a family before the end of my father’s life. We can’t thank you enough.”
      Kick Cancer Overboard has no paid staff and its only bill is for liability insurance. The bulk of its money comes from a sponsorship by the New Jersey Marathon. Volunteer runners collect pledges to raise money. The organization also holds small fund raisers throughout the year.
      Giegerich said she’d only taken a cruise once before starting Kick Cancer Overboard. Now she and her husband, who also beat a cancer that doctors said should have killed him years ago, enjoy their time at sea, meeting new people and forming tight bonds over shared experiences.
      “People say old friends are best friends and that may be true, but never lose an opportunity to meet somebody and make them a close friend for life,” Giegerich said. “There really is no time to waste.”

        A Cruise Full of Characters

        April 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

        disney wonder ship photo
        What better birthday gift for a 7-year-old girl than a Disney cruise? That was the thinking when CharlottesMama booked a Western Caribbean cruise on Disney Wonder — the first-ever cruise for the family.
        The long roadtrip from Minnesota to the port of Galveston went off without a hitch. A late seating with another family that had daughters the same age worked out perfectly (room service snacks tided everyone over until dinner). CharlottesMama’s daughter loved the line’s Oceaneer Club, leaving the couple some time to themselves.
        Read on for more of CharlottesMama’s impressions.

          Contest: Win a Prime Viewing Spot for Queen Mary 2 Anniversary Sail

          April 14, 2014 | By | 19 Comments

          There are few ships as iconic as Queen Mary 2. With its trademark red and black funnel, the Cunard flagship has drawn oohs and aahs at 182 ports around the world for a decade now, sailing more than 419 voyages since its christening by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in January 2004.
          More fun QM2 facts:
          *If stood on her stern, the 1,132-foot vessel would be taller than the Empire State Building and more than three times higher than St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
          *The ship took more than 1 million hours to design and eight million hours to build.
          *The number of passengers in the past decade have exceeded 1.3 million, as well as 2,000 dogs traveling in the vessel’s kennel.
          *The ship has served over 58 million meals and 21.9 million cups of tea – enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools.
          In honor of its anniversary – and next year’s 175th celebration of the Cunard line – the liner is gearing up for a special Southampton gathering in May with its fleetmates, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Queen Mary 2 will then set sail on its traditional transatlantic route to New York City for even more festivities.
          For those who can make it to New York, Cruise Critic is offering a special opportunity.  On Friday, May 16, Bateaux New York will carry special Cunard guests on a three-hour harbor cruise as the QM2 departs New York. This contest gives you and a guest the chance to join the festivities onboard Bateaux, with cocktails, canapés and stunning photo ops.
          To enter, tell us your favorite memory of Queen Mary 2 – or one that you’d like to have. A winner will be selected randomly on April 28 at 12 p.m. Note: This prize does not include transportation to New York or the pier.
          If you are selected, we will need your name, email and cell phone number. Winner and guest must be 21 or older, have valid IDs to board Bateaux and be available to board at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 16. Bateaux will return to Chelsea Pier at 8 p.m.

            Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

            April 14, 2014 | By | No Comments

            Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.
            (Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)
            cruise-inspire-tauck
            Ship: Tauck‘s MS Inspire
            Where: From Amsterdam to Brussels
            Who: Dori Saltzman, News Editor
            Why There? MS Inspire is Tauck’s first river boat in the Inspiration class, which is notable for having only 130 passengers on a longship set-up. Considered part of the luxury end of river cruising, Tauck’s Inspire also has 22 300-square-foot suites, with upscale features such as 400-thread-count sheets and Molton Brown bath products. For 2014, Inspire will sail a variety of Rhine and Moselle river itineraries.
            We Can’t Wait: This will be the first sailing of Tauck’s newest boat, which features a handful of unique lower deck “loft” cabins with larger windows — that actually open! (besides fresh air, these windows will allow lower deck passengers much more natural light than you’d normally get in this cabin class).
            Ports: The U.S. Virgin Islands, all three of them (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas).
            Who: Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
            Why There? The Virgin Islands receive an astounding number of cruise passengers per year. In 2013, 626 ships stopped in the islands, with nearly 2 million visitors coming from the vessels. We will be updating all of our port profiles and writing features to help our members get the most out of their stops here.
            We Can’t Wait: St. Thomas is more than just a duty-free shopping Mecca; the hub of the Virgin Islands has beautiful beaches and natural attractions for those who hate the idea of spending time in a store. I’ve also never been to St. Croix, and am interested in exploring the Danish history of its towns, the snorkeling in its clear waters and the foodie culture that has emerged.

              Cruise Critic Live! Chat with TV Personality Genevieve Gorder

              April 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

              Every Thursday at 3 p.m. (Eastern), Cruise Critic Live! takes a look at all the things to love about cruising, from favorite destinations to amazing dining experiences to the latest and greatest new ships on the oceans and rivers. We also welcome outside experts including cruise line CEOs and newsmakers.
              Next week, we’ll be joined by special guest TV personality Genevieve Gorder, who is consulting on the decor choices for Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s next new build. She’ll be joined by the veteran cabin crawlers on our staff to answer your questions, so make sure to bookmark the page.
              Can’t make the chat on Thursday, April 17 at 3 p.m.? Please feel free to submit questions ahead of time, and we’ll make sure to get your answers. The chat will be archived, and available, after it winds up.
              *Follow along on Twitter at #CruiseCriticLive.
              *Read the transcript from this past Thursday’s chat about saving money.

                Destination Spotlight: Tulips of the Netherlands

                April 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

                There is, perhaps, no more stereotypically Dutch landscape than what you’ll see on the way to the Keukenhof Gardens, The Netherlands’ most famous fields of tulips. Windmills, both modern and vintage, dot the roadside, and the water they help manage is everywhere. Over half of The Netherlands, or “Low Countries,” lies at or below sea level, and the Dutch have been masters of draining their land with elaborate dykes, canals and pumping stations for over 400 years.
                The payoff on this trip, though, is the flowers. A mild winter means that rolling fields of velveted, technicolor tulips, daffodils and hyacinth welcome us to Keukenhof.
                Mid-April is even better; it’s prime flower time at the moment (and our News Editor, Dori Salzman, is there right now). Cruisers coming by ship or by riverboat will flock to Keukenhof by the thousands for the two-month season that runs from March 20-May 18.
                To see photos from Keukenhof, click here.
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