From the Cinderella-like disappearance of the once obligatory midnight buffet and lack of lobster to chocolate-free pillows and increased gratuities, any seasoned cruiser is likely to say that life on the ocean isn’t the value it used to be.
While some complain cutbacks have gone too far, the other side of the coin is that more people are being introduced to the world of cruising, thanks to ever-increasing fleets and keenly priced fares to entice passengers onboard. Cruising is no longer, thankfully, the preserve of the wealthy or a once-in-a-lifetime holiday treat.
But do you still believe that a cruise gives you value for money? That is the question posed by Cruise Critic member chromered7: “Given that these message boards are full of reduced portions, less staff, poor quality, customer dissatisfaction, lowering of standards and the growing cost of cruising, does cruising still give you value for money? The methods used by cruise companies to get you on board appear very attractive but when you when you dig down to the small print, are they the real deal?”
It’s certainly struck a chord with some fellow members, who still seem to think a cruise delivers good value. (For more insights, see the ships that were awarded Best Cruise Ships for Value by our readers in 2015 and How to Find the Best Cruise Bargain in 2015).
For the past few months, we here at Cruise Critic have been asking ourselves and our readers: What would YOU do if you ran a cruise line? Apparently British billionaire Richard Branson has the same crowd-sourcing mindset.
At a news conference Tuesday in Miami, Branson and Virgin Cruises president Tom McAlpin said that they wanted potential passengers to leave ideas for the fledgling line on the company’s website. Branson has said that he wants his three ships — set to arrive in 2020, 2021 and 2022 — to have the stylish and design-centric “Virgin touch” seen on his other travel offerings, including airlines and space flights.
Our editors immediately came up with plenty of ideas. Our editor in the UK (where they’ve had some more experience with Sir Richard), Adam Coulter has a laundry list, some of which draws from the company’s airline arm. His wishes include “cool lounges in the terminals with sushi bars, free Champagne and perhaps a hairdresser; free chauffeur service for premium passengers; concerts given by musicians from the Virgin record label; themed decks for families and partiers; helicopter rides and paragliding from the ship; and port stops at Branson’s home base on Necker Island.”
What sounds better than a weeklong Caribbean cruise to a stressed-out, exhausted mom of two? A weeklong Caribbean cruise without the kids! I bet most parents would agree with me that while cruising with little ones can be really fun and creates all sorts of warm memories — my 6-month-old dressed up for Pirate Night, my 2.5-year-old playing on the beach in Hawaii — sometimes you just need a break. So I ditched the kids with dad, called up my friend who lives across the country and we rendezvoused in Miami for a seven-night girlfriend cruise on Carnival Glory.
If you’re tempted to go on a girlfriend cruise, or a romantic getaway with your partner, but are hesitant to take the plunge, let’s explore the difference between my adults-only cruise and my previous cruises with kids. In my experience, the occasional grownup vacation is worth the guilt of leaving family behind.
Here’s what I did with my week on Carnival Glory:
Sleep: When asked, most moms will say the main thing they want in life is sleep (followed by privacy in the bathroom). We went to bed around 1 a.m. most nights and slept in until 9 a.m. That’s eight blissful hours of uninterrupted Z’s. Heaven!
Lie around on a beach: The daytime version of sleep is relaxation, and we did plenty of that. Half Moon Cay was a perfect spot to alternate between camping out on a lounge chair and floating in the crystal-clear warm water. I could even find some Bahamian Zen — rather than worrying about water safety as I chase after two children who can’t swim.
Tip: When you cruise, extras like specialty restaurants, spa treatments and Internet are paid for with a cruise/key card — which you can fund with cash up front or link to your credit or debit card. But did you know you could get “free money” deposited into your onboard account?
It’s called onboard credit, and there are quite a few ways to get it. One is by booking through an individual travel agent or online agency. Most third-party sites offer an average of $100 OBC per cabin, but that varies. Keep in mind: If you work with the same travel agent for every cruise, your OBC is likely to build over time.
Full Article: Read more ways to get onboard credit, and learn how you can spend it.
Want More?: Check out our related links below for more info, tips and advice.
Stay tuned for more Cruise Tips of the Week — revealed every Wednesday!
Like most major cities, each cruise line has its own personality, based on its culture, activities and, of course, people. Below, we’ve made a cruise line comparison that pairs each mainstream line to a city with which it seems to have quite a bit in common. See which line is right for you, based on your favorite city.
Carnival – Miami
Like Miami, Carnival is known for its bright lights, late nights and clubby, lively atmosphere. Its passengers might not all be young, but they’re generally young at heart, making this a great line for anyone who likes to have a great time.
Celebrity – London
Over the centuries, London has managed to strike a balance between historical propriety and trendy vibrancy. Celebrity mimics that vibe well as it mixes an upscale, refined atmosphere with plenty of onboard fun.
Cruise Ship: Norwegian Star
Itinerary: Baltic Sea
Background: Norwegian Star’s Baltic Sea itinerary was the best part about Devilaw and his wife’s fifth cruise with the line. From a pre-cruise stay in Copenhagen to a tour of Tallinn’s Old Town, the two were glad they opted to explore each port on their own before heading back to their favorite hangout spots on the ship. Find out what they loved most, plus more on the ports, below.
Onboard Highlight: Sugarcane Mojito Bar, tucked away on deck 13. Devilaw recommends the mojito sampling flight.
Port Highlight: Tallinn, Estonia, where the two had a chance to wander around after their mini-bus tour through Old Town.
Don’t Miss: The Jimmy Buffet-inspired 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar.
Watch Out For: Overpriced sales pitches at the spa.
More: Read Devilaw’s full review for more details about the ship and Bermuda.
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!
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a psychological assessment that measures how people perceive the world. Read on to see which cruise line you should try, based on your type.
ENFP: Azamara Club Cruises
Free spirits by nature, ENFPs are independent travelers who crave adventure, emotional connections and endless possibilities. They are often the life of the party — not for the attention, but for the sheer enjoyment of getting to know everyone in the room. Azamara’s award-winning shore excursions and small yet lively ships are a perfect fit. Onboard, ENFPs would have plenty of opportunities to mingle with fellow passengers (potential new BFFs) while letting their imaginations run wild in port.
Find your perfect Azamara cruise.
Cruise lines spend countless hours making sure their passengers have the best cruise vacation out there. But sometimes cruisers know what cruisers want. In our series “If It Were Up to Me,” we ask ourselves — and the Cruise Critic community — what we would do differently if we were in charge.
This week: You are the entertainment coordinator for your favorite cruise line. What kind of talent would you book? Steel drum bands on every corner, a comedy dream team, the latest stage production?
Music, unsurprisingly, is a popular theme among our staff and Facebook followers.
“After a busy day in port, my idea of fantastic evening entertainment is music that doesn’t compete too hard for my attention,” admits Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown. “I love classical music, especially more upbeat tunes, as a great accompaniment to an after-dinner drink; where you can listen to and/or chat around. I also love a simple, themed revue — like the Beatles, retro torch songs or composer based, like the songs of Stephen Sondheim — as long as the vocalists are talented.”
Beatles tribute bands and Broadway shows made up the bulk of entertainment requests posted to our Facebook page.
Our staff, however, desires a little more originality.« go back — keep looking »