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!)
Where: Western Caribbean
Who: Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor
Why There? This will be Cruise Critic’s first opportunity to check out Carnival Live!, the line’s onboard concert series. During our cruise, we’ll see country artist Martina McBride in the intimate Blue Sapphire Main Show Lounge, which seats about 1,300 people.
We Can’t Wait: Carnival has been making a lot of changes to its fleet and its programming, and Carnival Live! is just one of the innovations it’s bringing to the table (along with new options in dining, kids programming, entertainment and brand partnerships). I’m looking forward to getting a glimpse of what the new Carnival looks like. My first cruise ever was onboard Carnival Inspiration, a Fantasy Class fleetmate to Ecstasy, and I’m certain being onboard will feel familiar.
Who: Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
Why There? The ports in western Mexico have languished for the past few years, as violence from the country’s drug trafficking spilled over into tourist hotspots such as Acapulco. Increased police protection and a commitment to infrastructure mean that cruise lines such as Norwegian and Holland America have re-entered Mazatlan, much to the delight of West Coast cruisers who miss these Mexican resort stalwarts.
We Can’t Wait: Besides its regular cruise clientele, Cabo San Lucas attracts a substantial number of vacationing Californians from Los Angeles — which means the city has plenty of spas and active tour options for those who want to book excursions on their own. Mazatlan’s tourism scene has a revived energy with a cadre of “tourist aides,” who meet ships at the dock to help cruisers have the best experience possible. And finally, I’m interested in checking out the dining scene in Puerto Vallarta, which wins raves from foodies worldwide (luckily, many ships overnight there, allowing cruisers to sample what the city has to offer).
Where: France’s Bordeaux region
Who: Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
Why There? For most cruise travelers, Bordeaux is an all-new river itinerary, as only the French-owned CroisiEurope has previously offered sailings here. This year, Viking River and Uniworld have both introduced Bordeaux cruises; in 2015, Avalon and Scenic will join the pack. The region, featuring tributaries such as the Dordogne and Gironde Rivers and the Garonne Estuary, is located on France’s south Atlantic coast.
So far we’ve figured out that Bordeaux has a few things in common with river cruises along France’s Seine and Rhone — principally fantastic food and wine, and beautiful scenery — but what makes it special? Key sightseeing opportunities include visits to vineyards and chateaus, a chance to go truffle hunting, and exploring historic towns like St. Emilion and Cognac. We’re also intrigued by the city of Bordeaux itself. Considered a mini-Paris for its fine, historic architecture and vibrant restaurant scene, the vibrant city on the waterfront is in the midst of a renaissance.
We Can’t Wait: In addition to exploring the Bordeaux region, this will be my first time actually sailing on one of Viking Rivers’ popular Longships. I’m looking forward to a sun-splashed afternoon or two in its alfresco Aquavit Terrace, not to mention perhaps a quiet interlude on our private balcony.
Where: Transatlantic (Southampton to New York)
Who: Adam Coulter, Senior Editor, Cruise Critic UK
Why There? The QM2 is a purpose-built cruise liner and the only vessel which makes the journey from the Old to the New World on a regular basis.
We Can’t Wait: First up, I’ve never done a Transatlantic, and I’m intrigued about how I’m going to fill seven whole days at sea! Plus, the romance of history and the excitement of sailing on my first cruise liner (not ship), as well as meeting the architect of QM2, Stephen Payne, who’ll be onboard.