Hot on the Forums: Lobster – Love It Or Happy To Lose It?

October 2, 2015 | By | No Comments

Lobster dinner

Chatting about crustaceans (or loss of them) is a popular recurring theme on the Cruise Critic forums. It’s now resurfaced, so to speak, following Carnival’s decision to stop serving ‘free’ lobster on cruises of five nights or less.

The announcement has also triggered a new wave of comments in a thread started back in 2011 by scgamecock asking members to reveal the record number of lobster tails consumed in one sitting. The original poster (who admits to having eaten four) witnessed a pair of fellow diners having a chow down contest and eating seven each, adding: “They ordered all seven at once and the waiter didn’t even flinch. Started out with one, then they put three per plate on the next two plates.”

Now running to ten pages, recent comments come from members including WAHMto5 who got the answer straight from the horse’s mouth: “We asked our main server on the last cruise the most he has ever served to anyone and he said 14!! I stick to my two each cruise.”

For those who find tales of excessive lobster tail consumption hard to stomach, ObstructedView2 ventures that size at sea matters and writes: “On land a typical lobster tail is between 8 to 14 ounces. The average size of (complimentary) lobster aboard cruise ships are 3 to 3.5 ounces. I typically eat three to four of them.”

So what of the latest lobster news?

Read on for more

    Is Carnival Conquest Just a Party Ship?

    September 4, 2015 | By | 9 Comments

    Carnival Conquest Slide

    Carnival Cruise Line brands itself as the "fun ship" cruise line, but among many cruisers, it has more of a reputation for operating "party" ships. The distinction between the two is a bit blurry. Carnival touts its we-don’t-take-ourselves-seriously atmosphere by placing a high value on laughter, evidenced by its comedy clubs and silly poolside games like the hairy chest contest. Still, judgmental cruisers point to the excessive consumption of alcohol and late, late-night activities as proof that Carnival cruise ships – at least in the Caribbean – are just for those who like to party hard.

    So, who’s right?

    After a sailing on Carnival Conquest, a typical weeklong Caribbean Carnival cruise (shorter cruises might be a different story), I’m pretty sure I have an answer. Here’s what I found:

    Lots of Alcohol, Few Drunks

    With eight bars and lounges spread across the ship, plus waiters pushing the drink of the day by the pool and evening aperitifs in the main dining room, there is a lot of alcohol on Carnival Conquest. And people are imbibing, especially in the vicinity of the pool deck or in the late-night hot spots like the comedy club and nightclub.

    But what I haven’t seen is people stumbling around blind drunk. Nor have I seen anyone throwing up after a day of too much drinking or getting into a drunken brawl. Even when I stayed up late(r) one night to check things out, the scene seemed a bit more raucous but I still didn’t see bad behavior. If you’re like me and hitting the sack before midnight, chances are you’re not going to see any alcohol-fueled bad behavior either.

    Alchemy Bar

    Relaxing Mornings

    Carnival Conquest is a ship that sleeps in, although we wouldn’t go as far to say sleeping it off. Most activities don’t begin until after 11 a.m., as few passengers are early risers (except on port days), preferring to tackle the new day at their leisure. Breakfast in the main dining room; even in the buffet, the pace is unhurried and the wait is not long. Lounges and the Deck 5 Promenade are quiet places to sit and read. Of course, that also means mornings can be a bit boring.

    Laughter, No Matter What

    Carnival places a high value on laughter. It’s hard not to be relaxed and have fun when you’re laughing. That means there’s lots of comedy on offer most evenings and lots of silly games during the day (both poolside and in the lobby). Whether you’re rooting on a hardly-hairy man as he grinds up against a judge during the Hairy, Hairy Chest contest or giggling at yourself because you believed RAF pilots get their kicks making penguins fall over by flying over them during the Urban Myth trivia game, there’s a lot to laugh about on Carnival Conquest. Of course, the more you’ve had to drink, the funnier it all seems but you don’t need to drink to have fun and laugh.

    Late-Night Entertainment

    While there is evening music in a couple of spots on the ship, the DJ’d dancing doesn’t begin until after 10 at night. But even then, the party doesn’t really get started until closer to midnight (or later) when the adult-only comedy show is done or other activities, such as the Quest (a somewhat raunchy adults-only scavenger hunt that must be experienced to be understood) is over. And while there is no shortage of dance floor flirting, people really are at the nightclub to get their groove on and enjoy themselves, not stumble around drunk.

    Abundant Family Fun

    On Conquest (as well as many Carnival ships), there’s a whole lot of family activity going on, mostly in the daytime or early evenings. From the Seuss-a-palooza parade and Story Time to Hasbro Game Night, which gets kids (adult kids too!) involved in interactive classic family board games, there’s lot of wholesome fun for families to have together that don’t involve alcohol.

    Ice sculpture

    So yes, we’d say Carnival Conquest is a party ship – but only if you define a party as a place where you can have lots of fun. Sure, a lot of those activities may be even more fun when you’ve had a drink or two (and the line certainly does push the drinks). But you probably won’t see  any of the crazy alcohol-fueled behavior one might expect on a classic "party ship," at least no more than you’ll find on any other warm-weather cruise.

    What’s your take? Share your impressions of the Carnival vibe in the comments. Or search for your next Carnival Conquest cruise vacation.

      Hot on the Forums: When Do You Splurge — and When Do You Scrimp?

      September 4, 2015 | By | 13 Comments

      Money boat

      Everyone has different priorities when they cruise. Some people never set foot in the ship’s casino or in an onboard shop, but race to the front of the line to sign up for specialty dining or a hot stone massage.

      If you’re curious to know how others splash the cash at sea, you’ll be as interested as I am in the fun thread started on the forums by Cruise Critic member KatieBug28. And plenty of members clearly are, as it’s already running to 10 pages.

      KatieBug28 was chatting with her mother-in-law about a forthcoming family cruise and how they would spend their vacation dollars.

      “My MIL, for example, will not cruise without a balcony cabin. I feel like that’s just not worth it and we always book an inside,” she writes. “On the other hand, she would be content if she never did a shore excursion and just camped out on a beach in every port, while [my husband] and I often spend more on excursions than we did on the cruise fare! So, with that in mind, what things do you think are worth scrimping on, and where do you like to splurge? “

      Besides excursions, her spending spree list also includes eating out in port; she shuns restaurants that cost extra onboard.

      It didn’t take long for the responses come in.

      Read on for more

        Deal of the Week: 10-Night Western Med from $150/Night

        September 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

        traveling piggy bank
        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: is offering a 10-night Western Mediterranean cruise onboard Celebrity Equinox, sailing round trip from Barcelona on April 29, 2016. Prices start from $1,499 per person for an inside cabin and bonuses include onboard credit, discounts on beverage packages and Celebrity’s choose-your-own-perk promotion, the GoBetter Europe package.
        WHAT WE LIKE: Price is important, but value makes a difference in your onboard experience. Starting from $150 per person, per night, see Spain, Malta, Italy and France with a real grass lawn for lounging, boutique dining, a gelateria and a Persian Garden relaxation area. To add to the value, Celebrity is hosting a promotion that offers your choice of two bonus amenities on cruises to Europe — Choose from $300 in onboard credit per cabin, an unlimited drinks package, prepaid gratuities or an unlimited Internet package. Imagine cruising the Mediterranean in spring with a glass of wine in hand and onboard credit to grab a massage or dinner at one of the onboard specialty restaurants.
        Browse thousands of photos of Celebrity Solstice Class ships Eclipse and Reflection.
        WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: With an online travel agency, prices are subject to change frequently, and with nearly eight months to go until departure, the current rates could change (in your favor or not). Be aware of promotional periods and peak booking times to steer clear of missing out on the best deal possible. Barcelona starts to busy in April, with rising temperatures and tourism. Don’t forget that in addition to your cruise fare, you have to consider the best rates on airfare.
        Look for air deals using TripAdvisor’s search tool.
        HOW TO BOOK IT For all the nitty-gritty on this deal (including that pesky fine print), click here.
        Looking for cruises 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.

          Six Things to Know about River Cruising in Russia Right Now

          September 2, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

          Viking Truvor

          We’d already tossed back several varieties of Russian vodka, each accompanied by pastrami, pickles and expert commentary from Yulia, our  maitre’d on Viking Truvor. But the best, a smooth blend of chili pepper and honey, had been saved for last.

          “This is our only foreign vodka. From Ukraine,” said Yulia, her chilled glass raised high in a toast.

          “Well,” she added with a sly grin, “maybe not foreign anymore.”

          It was hard to escape the irony. Amid rising political tensions, economic sanctions and talk of a new Cold War, passengers on Viking River Cruises’ 13-day Waterways of the Tsars journey were creating our own version of detente – one shot at a time.

          Bookings of Russian river cruises have slowed considerably since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014, with several companies scuttling their programs entirely. But as I discovered on a mid-August trip, a water-based meander between the Baltic port of St. Petersburg and the capital, Moscow, provides a fascinating – and safe – glimpse of a country that remains an enigma to many Western tourists.

          Here are six things you should know about river cruising in Russia right now (and for more, read Russia River Cruise Tips)

          Fewer Choices.

          River cruises in Russia have been greatly reduced in 2015, and Ukraine has been canceled entirely. Because of the ongoing fighting between Russia and Ukraine, Viking has canceled Dnieper River sailings since 2014 (though a new “Kiev to the Black Sea” route will launch in 2016), and operated only three of its five Waterways of the Tsars ships this summer. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection scaled down to four Russia departures this year, versus a dozen in 2014. Scenic Tours, whose 112-passenger Scenic Tsar is the newest river ship in Russia, also cut back on its 2015 departures and will offer four sailings in 2016.

          Look for deals.

          Softer demand, coupled with a Russian currency that has lost more than half of its value over the past year, mean good deals: Several of my fellow passengers on Viking Truvor said they were lured to Russia by two-for-one deals that included free airfare. Scenic’s 2016 cruise fares, starting at $6,730 per person, are about 15% lower than 2015.

          But don’t count on bargains on shore.

          Passenger arrivals to Russia from Western countries are down sharply this year, and the wait to see Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow’s Red Square was less than 10 minutes on a recent weekday. But visitor-laden tour boats still skitter across St. Petersburg’s scenic canals, and on our included Viking excursion to St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, the crowds were shoulder to shoulder by mid-morning.

          As for prices, the 600 rubles (about $9) that one St. Petersburg tour company touted for a 24-hour hop on, hop off bus seemed like a great deal – until the ticket salesman told me they charged 300 rubles last summer and had raised rates to adjust for currency devaluation.

          Mausoleum of Lenin

          Getting a Russia visa is still a hassle.

          Americans and Canadians are not required to provide fingerprints and apply in person for a Russian visa under a pilot program announced late last year (British citizens, however, are included under the new Russian rules). But even without fingerprints, landing a visa can be challenging.

          If you’re sailing on a ship that calls in St. Petersburg and you plan to take a ship-based tour, you won’t need to pony up for a separate visa. Passengers on river-based cruises, though, must apply for one well in advance (typically four to six weeks before travel) and be prepared to fill out an intricate online application form. Most passengers opt to go through a visa service; Viking-recommended Generations Visa Service charges a minimum of $259 per person plus any expediting fees.

          Menus won’t be limited to borscht and potatoes.

          Russia has officially banned imported meat, cheese, vegetables, fish, and other foodstuffs from Western countries since last year, in retaliation for sanctions imposed after Russia’s Crimea annexation and the country’s support of pro-separatists in eastern Ukraine. Even so, items favored by Western passengers – from Norwegian salmon to Austrian marmalade – have continued to appear both on shipboard menus and at land-based restaurants. And the Kremlin’s import ban doesn’t include European wines, which are served gratis at lunch and dinner on Viking’s ships.

          Ditch the Cold War stereotypes.

          According to a recent Moscow-based opinion poll, more than 80% of Russians have an unfavorable view of the United States (about the same percentage that give President Vladimir Putin high marks for his performance). But while smiles from random passers-by may be rare, so are the scowls that were synonymous with the old Soviet Union.

          Our last day in Moscow, when I asked a young man for directions from Red Square to Gorky Park, he gallantly insisted on taking me to the nearest Metro stop (now equipped with English signs and wifi), paying for my fare and accompanying me to the park. Once a derelict magnet for drunks, the place made famous by a Cold War novel of the same name welcomes locals and tourists with oversized lawn loungers, synchronized fountains and fancy restaurants: yet another surprise in a destination that’s full of them.

          Russian River Cruise Itineraries

            Cruise Tip of the Week: Check Your Onboard Account Regularly

            September 2, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

            reception desk

            Tip: One of the biggest mistakes a cruiser can make is never checking his or her onboard account — where every purchase you make by swiping your key card adds up. It’s easy to spend money on extras such as alcoholic drinks, spa treatments and souvenir photos when you don’t have to carry around cash or a real credit card. But if you don’t keep track of your spending, you may be surprised with a big bill at the end of your cruise. We recommend checking your statement a few times during your cruise.

            Full Article: Read 11 more surefire ways to have a miserable cruise.

            Want More? Check out our related links below for more info, tips and advice.

            15 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Embarkation Day

            What to Expect on a Cruise: First Day Onboard

            – Check out our latest cruise deals

            – Sign up for Cruise Critic’s Price Drop. We’ll let you know when fares are dramatically reduced so you can get the best price for your sailing.

            Stay tuned for more Cruise Tips of the Week — revealed every Wednesday!

              Member Review of the Week: Celebrity Xpedition

              September 1, 2015 | By | No Comments

              Volcanic landscape galapagos

              Cruise Ship: Celebrity Xpedition

              Itinerary: Galapagos Islands

              Member: alldog49

              Background: A welcome bottle of Champagne and two complimentary massages were the perfect start to alldog49 and his wife’s Galapagos adventure. The couple — 66 and 70 years old and both Elite-status members — planned to test their limits in port and recharge on the ship. And they did, with “difficult” excursions and loyalty perks such as the Captain’s cocktail party. Read to find out what they loved most.

              Onboard Highlight: Xpedition’s small size, which makes it easy to meet and mingle with new people.

              Port Highlight: Walking on the lava fields.

              Don’t Miss: Zodiac rides. You’re likely to get wet, but alldog49 says that’s all part of the fun.

              Watch Out For: The pillows. Alldog49 thought they were a bit thin and requested more.

              More: Read alldog49’s full review, and browse future cruises on Celebrity Xpedition.

              For their efforts alldog49, heatherdw, CableKC, richfei and MarcJ50 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.

              Check out more cruise reviews or write your own. Who knows; yours may be featured next!

                September 2015 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper: Cruising the Danube River Gorge

                August 31, 2015 | By | 5 Comments

                September Cruise Calendar

                Get your September 2015 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper! So many places in the world can be accessed through cruising, including some countries that you might not consider as a typical vacation. Case in point? The Danube River, between Serbia and Romania. River ships here float by some stunning scenery, including the Danube River Gorge pictured here (For more, read Cruising Eastern Europe on the Danube River).

                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 | 1200 x 800 | Tablet | Mobile

                Check back on September 30 for the October 2015 calendar.

                  keep looking »
                • Please follow & like us


                • About the Lido Deck

                  The Lido Deck is written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, reporting from ships and ports around the world. The daily blog covers cruise news, reviews, advice, and hot topics from the Cruise Critic message boards. Please note: When commenting, Cruise Critic's community guidelines apply.

                • Facebook

                • Recent Posts

                • Categories