Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

April 20, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

Sunshine Bar in Solarium (photo: Royal Caribbean International)

Ship: Anthem of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest Quantum-class ship

Where: Southampton (and possibly Cornwall), U.K.

Who: Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor and Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor

Why There? Anthem is the second of Royal’s ground-breaking, hi-tech, all-singing, all-dancing mega-ship and unlike Quantum, it will stay in the U.K. for the whole summer before repositioning to its permanent homeport of Bayonne, New Jersey.

We Can’t Wait: We’ve been onboard Quantum (of which Anthem is a carbon copy), but we were only on for 24 hours and didn’t get to try hardly any of the things we wanted to. We’re talking: simulated skydiving, bumper cars, taking a ride in the North Star, having a drink made for us by a bionic barkeep, dinner in Wonderland etc. etc. (though to be fair, even 48 hours won’t be enough, we reckon). We’re also looking forward to checking out what’s new, such as a new show in the stunning hi-tech theater Two70 and also watching We Will Rock You – one of our favorite West End/Broadway shows!

Follow along with Adam and Colleen on Cruise Critic Live, where they’ll be sending updates throughout the cruise.

Where is Cruise Critic

Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations.

(Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)

    You Might Like Scenic If…

    April 17, 2015 | By | No Comments

    Scenic Tour's Emerald in Avignon, France

    We’re wrapping up “River Week” here on the Lido Deck. All this week, we took a look at some of the most popular river cruise lines, so you can decide which one is best for your next vacation. Today: Scenic.

    With Australian roots as a coach tour company, Scenic Tours launched into the river cruise market in 2008. Rebranded in April 2015 as Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours, it operates a fleet of 12 near-identical ‘space ships’ — the name comes from the larger-than-usual amount of onboard space — on European rivers including the Rhine, Danube, Seine and Douro. Scenic has one ship in Russia and is poised to enter the Asian market in 2016. Billed as the company’s five-star product, Scenic also owns the less expensive brand Emerald Waterways.

    Scenic will float your boat if you like…

    Really all-inclusive: There’s all-inclusive and there’s all-inclusive that in reality still leads to a bill for extras such as premium brand drinks, restaurants outside the main dining room and more unusual excursions. On Scenic, absolutely everything is covered, including butler service in every cabin, alternative dining venues, unlimited drinks from the bar and restocked in-cabin minibar, the long list of excursion options and last but not least — and an absolute boon for the Brits where it’s often a bone of contention — all tips. The only thing you pay for are spa treatments, items from the shop and laundry (and the latter is free if you opt for an Upper Deck cabin).

    Read more about Scenic’s

      Hot on the Forums: Service Animals or Stowaway Pets?

      April 17, 2015 | By | 1 Comment

      bulldog in stroller

      I’m the first to admit that pets are part of the family, and it can be tough putting them into kennels or asking neighbors to administer TLC while you’re away. But if you really can’t bear to be parted from your four-legged friend, there are plenty of pet-friendly holidays and hotels out there.

      It seems that cruising canines are not such a rare species after all. The subject of service dogs – or, to be more precise, imposter service dogs – at sea has become a topic of concern on the Cruise Critic forums.

      Last year, there was much debate about a passenger with a dog that caused mayhem on a Holland America Line vessel. While its owner claimed it was a service dog, fellow cruisers had their doubts, as the animal barked during shows, lunged at passengers and answered the call of nature in public rooms.

      Now the subject has reared its head on the Celebrity forums. The majority don’t have issues with genuine – and by the nature of the beast, well trained – service dogs. As well they shouldn’t; the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) clearly states that businesses that are open to the public must allow working service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility.

      Yet there’s a growing suspicion that unscrupulous passengers are claiming their normal house pets are not service dogs at all, but “emotional support” animals, allowed to be brought onboard without need or proper training.

      Read on for more

        You Might Like AmaWaterways If…

        April 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

        AmaWaterways' AmaVida

        It’s “River Week” here on the Lido Deck. We’re taking a look at some of the most popular river cruise lines, so you can decide which one is best for your next vacation. Today: AmaWaterways.

        In terms of personality, AmaWaterways is a bit like those kids in school you secretly admired because they did everything well, and effortlessly. The line manages to offer both a personalized feel as well as the consistency that is a hallmark of larger companies.

        Onboard, you’ll find high-end touches like regional cuisine and personalized shore excursions. The ship design has remained the same since 2010, meaning the majority of its fleet of 16 ships sailing Europe’s Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Saone, Seine, Douro, Moselle and Main rivers offer a consistent onboard experience. (Why mess with a good thing?) AmaWaterways also owns ships in Southeast Asia, sailing the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers in Vietnam/Cambodia and Burma (also known as Myanmar), respectively, and it charters the very luxurious Zambezi Queen riverboat in Africa.

        AmaWaterways will float your boat if you like…

        Disney: I know, it seems confusing: The image of a staid river cruise contrasted with animated characters, whirling rides and screaming children. But it’s not Disney Parks who’ve partnered up with AmaWaterways, it’s Disney’s travel agency arm, Adventures by Disney, a company that offers immersive adventures for families in 30 destinations on six continents. The companies have teamed to offer five family-focused weeklong Danube River cruises starting in summer 2016.

        More reasons to consider Amawaterways.

          Steal of the Week: Sail New River Ship, Excursions Included

          April 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

          piggy bank sailing worldwide
          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: CroisiEurope is offering a seven-night France river cruise onboard Camargue, sailing roundtrip from Lyon on October 13, 2015. Prices start from $1,813 per person and include shore excursions on this sailing.
          WHAT WE LOVE: Croisi is a well-established French river line looking to reach a North American audience. Like other river lines, Croisi offers inclusions such as beverages and Wi-Fi, but keeps costs minimal by Europe river cruising standards. Experience one of the line’s newest vessels, Camargue, a real treat for any Francophile. On this specific sailing, shore excursions are complimentary — enjoy guided tours of the Saone and Rhone River regions.
          Is Croisi right for you? Find out.
          WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: Reasons the French line might not be right for you is suite availability — there are none. In you like to indulge in open spaces and an endless array of meal options, you might want to look elsewhere. Croisi may offer fine French cuisine, but there is only one choice at lunch and dinner — unless a special request is made because of a dietary restriction.
          HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
          Compare flight prices with our sister site TripAdvisor’s meta-search tool.
          Looking for cruises for 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.

            You Might Like CroisiEurope If…

            April 15, 2015 | By | No Comments

            CroisiEurope's M.S. Beethoven

            It’s “River Week” here on the Lido Deck. We’re taking a look at some of the most popular river cruise lines, so you can decide which one is best for your next vacation. Today: CroisiEurope.

            Never heard of CroisiEurope? That’s okay. Not all that many Americans are familiar with the pioneering French river cruise line, even though it has 43 vessels in Europe, Russia and the Mekong. But with its new outreach to North American travelers, that could be about to change.

            Croisi (pronounced kwa-zee) will float your boat if you like…

            An international experience: With many lines, life onboard is a bit like staying at a U.S. hotel. Not so with Croisi. For starters, passengers are an international mix — primarily French and then German — instead of the customary made-in-the-U.S.A. crowd that you’ll find on, say, Viking or Grand Circle (Americans represent a mere 5 percent of Croisi’s passengers worldwide). French is the official language onboard although crew — French, Hungarian and Portuguese, for the most part — speak English as well. Due to that diversity, you have the opportunity to take a deeper dive into a foreign culture.

            Good deals: Pricing on Croisi is economical — $375 to $400 per person per day for the company’s newest ships. Cruises on older models start at $275 to $306 per day; that includes the cruise fare, meals with beverages and an open bar. Starting in 2016, shore excursions will be included in the cost of the fare as well (gratuities are not factored in). Croisi keeps its prices down thanks to smartly designed deck plans that forgo suites in favor of double cabins. In a notable departure from tradition, Croisi only offers a single menu choice for its three-course meals at lunch and dinner, which also cuts down on costs (with advance notice, substitutions can be made).

            Christmas Market Shore Excursion

            Options: Unlike many of its competitors, Croisi offers cruises every month of the year, including themed cruises tagged to Impressionist art, the Christmas markets, hiking, World War I and, of course, food and wine. The line also has a robust mix of itineraries, ranging from two to 12 nights. Since its start in 1976, the family that owns Croisi has continued to pioneer new destinations and ship designs. In 2015, Croisi’s Loire Princesse became the first river ship to offer overnight cruises on the Loire, France’s longest river. The vessel was specially designed with paddlewheel technology that allows it to navigate the Loire’s tricky waterway.

            French style: There’s something very smart and stylish about Croisi’s newest ships. (Four more will come online in 2016, bringing the fleet’s total to 47.) Take Loire Princesse, for example, where unique touches include poems written into a few walls in public corridors that refer to the Loire Valley and, in the dining room, a bright orange architectural profile inspired by the Loire’s famed chateaux.

            Croisi probably isn’t the line for you if you like…

            A workout room: There is no gym or swimming pool on most ships, although there are bikes on Croisi’s four 24-passenger boutique barges, which operate exclusively in France. Pretty much the only exercise you will get is self propelled — walking or running on shore, not a terrible thing.

            Menu choices: At the moment, Croisi only offers a simple breakfast buffet and, at lunch and dinner, a three-course meal. The cuisine is great; it’s styled, after all, by classically trained chefs. But there is one choice, that’s it. Croisi executives realize this probably won’t fly with a North American audience and they are considering adding new options.

            Large cabins: Croisi, with rare exceptions, has no suites. Enough said.

            Catch up on River Week.

            Want more info on Croisi and other river cruise lines? Jump into our River Cruise forum and ask away!

              Cruise Tip of the Week: Savor the Flavor with Any Diet

              April 15, 2015 | By | No Comments

              Cruise dining

              Tip: Gluten free, vegetarian, lactose intolerant… whatever your dietary restriction, it doesn’t have to hinder enjoying meals onboard. Alert your cruise line as early as possible, and be specific with your preferences – if you need almond milk over soy milk, for example. To play it even safer, bring a printout of your needs for the head chef, and pack some nonperishable snack foods.

              Full Article: Read more tips on how to combat dietary restrictions before and during your cruise.

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

              - What to Expect on a Cruise: Cruise Food

              - Best Local Foods to Eat in Port

              - Food, Wine and Beer Theme Cruises

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

                You Might Like Uniworld If…

                April 14, 2015 | By | No Comments

                Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette

                It’s “River Week” here on the Lido Deck. We’re taking a look at some of the most popular river cruise lines, so you can decide which one is best for your next vacation. Today: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.

                If you’re looking for luxe in a river cruise, Uniworld should be on your research list. Part of the same company that owns the upmarket Red Carnation Hotels, Uniworld has 19 vessels in the fleet — including the new-build ‘super ship’ siblings Antoinette, Catherine and Maria Theresa. Uniworld cruises on all the popular European rivers, such as the Danube, Main, Rhine, Moselle, Rhone, Seine, Po, and Douro, and further afield including Russia, Egypt and Asia.

                Uniworld will float your boat if you like…

                Individuality: Unlike other river lines with ‘you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’ vessels, Uniworld bucks the trend with totally individual decor on both its new and refurbished ships. That means the ships have a unique personality of their own, often tied to the destination.

                Read on for more

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