Until a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, I thought my respect for nature was enough to keep me from turning into one of those crazy “I was attacked!” stories on Animal Planet. Turns out, you can run into problems with a port’s local wildlife, even if you’re cautious.
I’ve long been an animal whisperer, and I try to embrace creatures of all sizes, from the tiniest bug on up. And yes, I have been guilty of approaching, feeding and showing affection toward strays in the past. But it was really bad luck that caused me to get bit by a monkey AND a dog within the first 48 hours of my trip (thinking back, I should have played the lottery with those chances).
The incidents forced me to fly home five days in, canceling the rest of my two-week trip. The good news: I’m rabies-free, after an intense round of shots. The incident has made me think a little differently about animals I don’t know, however. Here are some things to think about if you’re tempted to bond with the cute and cuddly locals:
Rule 1: Do your research.
Get accustomed with the country before you go, by researching things like culture, laws, disease, health clinics and crime — and how these might impact stray animals and wildlife in the area. Once you’ve got the facts, find out what others had to say about their experiences with four-legged inhabitants. Are the monkeys in Roatan aggressive? Do feral cats in Rome bite? Cruise Critic’s message boards and Tripadvisor are good places to start.
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: Carnival Cruise Lines is offering a five-night Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard Carnival Victory, sailing roundtrip from Miami on January 20, 2014. Prices start from $249 per person, for an inside cabin.
If you’re a river cruising veteran and are searching for something similar in South America, let me tell you this: A trip down the Amazon – the world’s longest river — is nothing like trawling the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, Seine, or any other European tributary. Pretty much the only thing it shares in common is that, indeed, you do see both sides of the shore from the water.
This wasn’t my first cruise on the Amazon. However, the other two voyages stuck to the Brazilian part of the waterway and were on mainstream ships. In that case, the region we traveled through was a backdrop to life onboard – a variety of restaurants, formal nights, and lavish entertainment. Shore excursions on these trips barely scratched the surface of local life and nature, and there was little Amazon influence in our food, beverages or entertainment.
This trip, a 7-day itinerary departing from Iquitos, Peru with International Expeditions, was completely different. For one, it was the most immersive cruise I’ve ever taken, with Peruvian music, food and wine onboard, and a wide range of in-depth experiences, both natural and cultural.
As a first-timer to the world of expedition, or soft adventure, cruising, I worried that I’d miss the little luxuries of big ship cruise travel. I need not have been bothered. The 31-passenger La Estrella Amazonica was delightful and as you can see from my wrap-up, the trip contained very, very few misses.
The Boat. Cruising the Amazon for nearly 20 years via chartered boats, International Expeditions cemented its commitment to the river this year by designing and building its first-ever custom ship. The result, La Estrella Amazonica, is lovely. All cabins have private balconies – a first for any Amazon river operator. Standard staterooms measure 220 square ft., which is quite generous in the river sector.
The best spot onboard, though, has to be the fabulous open-air sundeck and bar, with super-comfy wicker couches, barstools, and round tables that make it feel like an airy, spacious Peruvian living room. The use of Peruvian woods and furnishings throughout, and the chef’s preparation of (mostly) Peruvian comfort foods, means the destination immersion is just as intense onboard as it is in the jungle.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or post it in our member photo gallery.
Thanks to frequent gallery poster GTVCRUISER for submitting this photo of a sunrise at sea, taken during a cruise to Mexico.
Find interesting places to visit based on region.
Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.
What do Cruise Critic members like almost as much as sailing? Shopping – especially during the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
We asked our Facebook friends what items they picked up to use on their trips. Here are a few of their answers. And if you’re looking for more ideas, check out our 2013 Gift Guide.
(Did you bag a bargain? Tell us in the comments!)
Go Pro – Randy Jackson
New bathing suit! New dresses! – Sheri L. Holder
A new sofa & TV stand for my husband to enjoy while my sister & I cruise – Lynne Early Foster
New outfit for formal night – Carolyn Arkell Terlouw
Packing cubes – Delores Laster Crews
Yankee Candle hanging scent for the bathroom – Barbara Bonds Richards
Collapsible water bottles, new luggage – Donna Buechele
And our favorite:
Cruise Critic tote bag! – Denise Trimble King
“Change is a good thing,” as they say… but when it comes to picking a style of cruising, deviating from the norm can be tricky. Member favoritevacation and her husband did a lot of research before embarking on their first big ship: Norwegian Epic. Having sailed many on many “smaller” ships in the past, they were experienced cruisers, simply looking for a new experience.
But it wasn’t just the big ship that was new to them. Favoritevacation and her husband went with an inside cabin instead of their usual balcony, so they could splurge onboard.
Trading the lack of sunlight for a couples’ spa treatment and a few other extras, they enjoyed a cruise full of pampering, dining variety and entertainment. An epic salad bar and mouthwatering lamb chops made the extra $20 for dinner at Moderno worth it, while Posh Beach Club was less pleasing and in favoritevacation’s opinion, a waste of money.
With a big ship now under their cruising belts, the couple has added a variety of onboard experiences to their repertoire. Read favoritevacation’s full review for her hits and misses on entertainment.
For their efforts, favoritevacation and four other Reviewers of the Week — orlandoky, R**T, CruisinCadie and kruzkween — receive Cruise Critic logo items.
Longing to be treated like a Crown Princess? Lost in a Carnival Ecstasy? See all of this week’s chosen reviews.
Don’t just sit there: Share your perspective, and write your own review.
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Want to get cruise travelers riled up? Design a bad bathroom for a new cruise ship. Some memorable miscues over the past few years include:
*The controversial split sink/toilet combo on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic (the former actually situated inside the cabin, the latter behind its own four walls).
*The short showers on Oceania Cruises’ Marina, which were quickly revamped after passenger feedback.
*The toilet paper roll placement fit only for a contortionist on Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess.
At Cruise Critic, what we are hearing passengers say to cruise lines’ ship designers is this: Save the wow for bars, lounges, pool decks, atriums, restaurants, gift shops, casinos…and just about anywhere but the bathroom.
That’s why Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which is currently knee-deep in blueprints for its new 738-passenger, 54,000-ton Explorer, is taking some pretty radical steps to make sure the ship’s design suits.
“We think we know what our guests want,” president Kunal Kamlani told us, “but rather than be presumptuous, why not bring passengers and travel agents into as many aspects of design – and as early as possible.”
So on a sultry morning in Miami, Regent’s leadership team, which included its chairman Frank Del Rio, gathered a group of travel agents and veteran past passengers – as well as Cruise Critic. The purpose? To discover which bathroom and closet designs pass muster.
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? Ask us in the comments!)
Ship: Celebrity Summit
Where: Seven nights out of San Juan, including St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, Barbados and St. Thomas
Who: Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor
Cruise Critic Onboard: A Meet & Mingle took place Sunday, where Cruise Critic members and officers from Summit attended to swap stories and get to know each other. Capt. Leonardos Palaiokrassas (or just “Capt. Leo”) told our members: “We appreciate the positive comments … and sometimes the not-so-positive comments. But we are open-minded. We love to hear your feedback; that’s the only way to get better. You are very important to us.”keep looking »