Cruise Confession: I Showed up for My Cruise… A Year Early

November 26, 2014 | By | No Comments

Too Soon! image courtesy of MRJPEG/Shutterstock

It happens to everyone. You book something when you’re not paying attention and you get the dates wrong.

Normally you catch the mistake in time, but worst-case scenario, you endure some mild embarrassment when you show up on the wrong day/week/month, right?

One of our members took that scenario to the extreme, and has likely set a record for “Earliest Arrivals for a Cruise Disembarkation.”

DavidandPamela, brought his wife (presumably Pamela) and his mother-in-law along for a lovely Mississippi River cruise on American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Queen — only to realize he’d shown up at the dock a FULL YEAR EARLY.

“His mother-in-law, too?! He’ll never live that one down!”

    Wanderlust Wednesday: Overlooking Pompeii

    November 26, 2014 | By | No Comments

    Pompeii - photo courtesy of CAcruzfunatic/Cruise Critic Forums

    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 handle. Maybe you’ll get a shoutout next #WanderlustWednesday!

    Pompeii is one of Italy’s most sought after attractions. The ancient Roman city and UNESCO World Heritage Site is easily accessible from Naples, so plan a visit if it’s on your itinerary. Although the mysterious aura of Pompeii can’t be captured in one shot, we love this one submitted by Cruise Critic member CAcruzfunatic from a cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.

    Find interesting places to visit based on region.
    Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
    Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.

      Just Back From…the “stretched” MSC Armonia: LEGOs and more

      November 25, 2014 | By | No Comments

      MSC Armonia - photo by Jamey Bergman

      Carving a cruise ship apart and putting it back together sounds like a complicated process – and it is. The “stretching” procedure that MSC Armonia underwent this fall, part of the company’s “Renaissance Program” added a new 80-foot section to the vessel’s midship, introducing a new LEGO playroom, refurbishing cabins and other changes.

      I took an overnight trip on Armonia in August before the changes on the 13-year-old ship, sailing from Split, Croatia to Venice, Italy. Last week, I boarded the ship for a three-night cruise to check out all the new features, post-stretch. Here’s what you’ll find on the redone ship:

      An Expansive Top Deck. From what I’ve seen, the ship extension appears remarkably seamless (pun intended). Where you can notice the change is on the top decks. (there’s an actual color change in the flooring, demarcating the old sections of ship from the new.) The area truly feels expansive — almost to the point of dwarfing the pools — and I can’t imagine it getting crowded.

      More on MSC Armonia’s expansion

        Member Review of the Week: Nice Try, Mother Nature

        November 25, 2014 | By | No Comments

        Tropical storm looming over a dock - Caye Caulker, Belize - photo Courtesy of Kuzmin/Shutterstock

        Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, and showcase one as the Member Review of the Week. In the spotlight this week is Cruise Critic member TheConsort’s recent cruise to the Western Caribbean on Norwegian Sun.

        Overall Impression: Cruising during hurricane season is a gamble. Rough seas and high winds can lead to missed ports or entirely new itineraries. TheConsort got lucky, only running into patches of rain and choppy waters on his recent cruise aboard Norwegian Sun. Even better, he never let it dampen the mood. His motto: "Cruises are what you make of them. If you look for problems, then you will find them."

        Onboard Highlights: Dinner at Cagney’s, Le Bistro and Moderno Churrascaria thanks to the trio package, which basically equaled paying for two and getting one free.

        Port Highlight: Belize, although TheConsort strongly suggests escaping the port itself to get a real taste of Belize’s beauty and culture.

        Don’t Miss: Taking advantage of the complimentary steam room and sauna.

        Watch Out For: Your flight home — don’t book it too early in the morning! TheConsort witnessed a fellow passenger who missed his flight

        More: Read TheConsort’s full review for more details about their cabin, the food and adventures in port, plus more useful planning tips.

        For their efforts, TheConsort, Traveler1986, cboyle, MeanMeosh and Gary908 receive Cruise Critic logo items.

        Read more reviews or write your own cruise review

          Cruise Gift Cards: Lines That Let You Give the Gift of Cruising

          November 24, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

          Carnival Gift Cards

          ‘Tis the season to start thinking about the cruisers on your holiday shopping list. In the last two weeks, both Princess Cruises and Tauck rolled out new gift card programs, and with Black Friday looming, it’s time for a quick roundup of similar products. Read on for a list of popular lines that feature gift cards, many of which allow buyers to choose from a selection of available designs and styles in addition to adding personalization.

          Carnival: Physical gift cards and e-gift cards are offered in amounts ranging from $25 to $2,000. Purchase a card here.

          Celebrity: You can order an actual gift card or an e-gift card for denominations between $25 and $500. Purchase a card here.

          Norwegian: Norwegian offers physical gift cards only, in amounts between $25 and $1,000. Purchase a card here.

          Disney: Physical gift cards are available in increments that range from $25 to $500. Recipients can also use them at Disney theme parks and resorts, as well as the Disney Store. Purchase a card here.

          Princess: Both physical and e-gift cards are offered, and they’re available in dollar amounts between $50 and $2,000. Purchase a card here.

          Royal Caribbean: Choose from physical or e-gift certificates in denominations from $50 to $2,000. Purchase a gift certificate here.

          Although they don’t offer gift cards or certificates, other lines — including MSC, Holland America, Oceania and Silversea — allow for the purchase of onboard credit or other amenities for those who already have cruises booked. Such gifts might include spa treatments, dinner in alternative restaurants or romance packages that offer things like flowers and Champagne.

            We Dare You! 8 Things to Do On Your Next Cruise

            November 24, 2014 | By | 3 Comments

            Cliffdivers - photo courtesy of EpicStockMedia/Shutterstock

            How many times have you been tempted to do something silly on a cruise, but held back because you felt a teeny bit embarrassed? How often have you kept your mouth shut when you overheard a fellow passenger being rude? Are you a slave to propriety, even in the middle of the Caribbean?

            When you’re on vacation, surrounded by people you’ll never see again, there’s no need to hold back. Yes, your FlowRider wipeout could go viral on Facebook, but everyone will be impressed that you were brave enough to try it. And sometimes doing the thing that will make you feel good is worth risking a snide comment from a stranger.

            So come on, let your hair down and try one (or all!) of these things on your next cruise. We dare you!

            Pig out. Everyone knows that you can order as many entrees or desserts as you want in the main dining room, but how many of you have gone ahead and done it? We’re not talking about ordering half portions, either. If the scallops and the burger are calling to you, go ahead and order both with your head held high. If you want to get down with the chocolate melting cake and the creme brulee, do it without muttering excuses or talking up the morning’s workout. Eat what makes you happy — the cruise only lasts a week.

            Seven more dares for your next cruise

              Destination Spotlight: 5 Reasons to Cruise in Cambodia and Vietnam

              November 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

              Indochine owned by CroisiVoyages

              The majority of my river and canal cruises have been in Europe – which makes sense, as it’s the world’s most popular river cruise destination. Recently, I floated much further afield, along the lesser-traveled waters of Cambodia and Vietnam aboard the 48-passenger, colonial-style Indochine owned by CroisiVoyages, part of French-owned CroisiEurope. The eight-night cruise took in part of the 2,710-mile Mekong (or Mother) River – Southeast Asia’s longest river – and Tonle Sap, the region’s largest freshwater lake.

              Here are five reasons to take a cruise from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh city (or in reverse).

              1. Spectacular Sights. Pack plenty of memory cards and don’t forget your charger as there are unique and amazing sights every step of the way. Cambodia’s Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire and the world’s largest religious complex. The jewel in the crown is the imposing Angkor Wat temple (it’s well worth getting up early to watch the sunrise). Nearby, almost hidden in the tropical jungle, is Ta Prohm (used in the movie “Tomb Raider”), where tree roots are entwined with the temple buildings.

              Away from the main tourist attractions, I took countless photos of everyday street (and river) life, from the fishermen who live with their families in floating houses to bustling villages and crowded cities where street traders sell everything from food to gas syphoned into soda bottles!

              Four more reasons to cruise in Cambodia and Vietnam

                Hot on the Forums: Comical Cruise Complaints

                November 21, 2014 | By | 10 Comments

                Complaints Department - image courtesy of Shutterstock

                Side-splitting comedians may be on the bill, but look no further than the guest relations desk for a rich source of (unofficial) cruise ship entertainment. Blissfully unaware of their audience, passengers grumble long – and loud – about their perceived “complaints.” I once witnessed an irate couple, outraged that the two cases of wine they’d brought with their luggage had been confiscated, demand that the cruise line fork out the airfare to ship their banned booty back home (instead it was returned to them at the end of the voyage, as it would be for anyone else).

                It’s this kind of thing that comes up in a very amusing thread started by forum member johhnnyt who asks: “What is the funniest complaint you ever heard (or overheard) at guest relations?”

                On an excursion to Nice, he witnessed a woman throwing a fit because she didn’t expect to be on a bus for an hour. “The guide explained to her they couldn’t turn the bus around just for her,” johhnnyt wrote. “She then insisted she and her husband be left in the next town ‘and we’ll arrange our own transportation back to the ship’.”

                “The next day she was down at guest relations, demanding that the guide be fired for ignoring her and that she be reimbursed €400 for the money that it cost her to hire a boat to bring her back to the ship (although she had misplaced the receipt). The people at guest relations tried their best to calm her down, but explained to her that neither request was going to happen, since they didn’t do anything wrong. Fellow passengers who were in line at guest relations could not stop laughing, which no doubt infuriated her even more.”

                More comical complaints

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