When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Help Out

December 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

Lifesaver - photo courtesy of Christoph Erne/Shutterstock

We all know the importance of keeping a cool head when things go wrong during travel. What’s even more impressive: A person who goes above and beyond to help others through a stressful situation.

On our forums, Cruise Critic members often single out crewmembers or fellow passengers who made their voyage remarkable for various reasons. And no one fits the description of everyday hero better than Dr. S., a retired Army medical doctor who rose to the occasion during last week’s fire on Oceania Insignia.

During the emergency, which killed three crewmembers, ship passengers were mustered and debarked to the dock and terminal in St. Lucia. There, many people waited for hours as crewmembers collected belongings from cabin safes and Oceania made plans to get them back to Miami.

Writes globevest, one of several Cruise Critic members who were onboard:

“The evening before, my wife and I were playing trivia and sitting next to me was a lady I will call Dr. S. She is a recently retired Army medical doctor and returned from Afghanistan about a year ago.

“On the morning of the disaster, I spotted Dr. S., stethoscope round her neck, medical bag in hand, administering to an elderly disabled person. In the hot sun, I watched Dr. S. go up and down the hundreds of passengers dealing with people with medical issues. I know of one person who had an asthma attack that Dr. S. took care of…

“Dr. S. was on the go for two to three hours on the dockside in the hot sun before they bused us to a covered building. By this time, her dark hair was matted down with perspiration and her clothes were looking a little worse for wear.

Read on for the full story

    Hope for the Holidays: The Gift of Cruise

    December 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

    River Splendor

    Giving seems to become instinctual this time of year. Our hearts are warmed by stories of people donating to the less fortunate, or the smile on a child’s face when he or she gets one gift and starts to believe in Santa. This holiday season, a cruise line is shedding hope in its own way.

    Last week, families of firefighters from September 11 and Arizona’s Yarnell Hill fire embarked on a free Danube River Holiday cruise with Vantage Deluxe World Travel. The cruise on River Splendor is part of “Vantage Cares,” a program dedicated to giving back to the community’s unsung heroes. It’s also based on the belief that travel can be transformative and restorative.

    This isn’t the first time the company has hosted such an event. There have been five free cruises since 2012, when Vantage worked alongside the Wounded Warrior Project to launch the Vantage for Veterans cruise, which paid tribute to war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. The concept ultimately led to Vantage Heroes, when the company felt inspired to organize a cruise for victims and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.

    While the honorary aspect may be akin to charity theme cruises like Princess’ Cruising for a Cause and Susan G. Koman’s Cruise for a Cure, Vantage Heroes cruises aren’t about collecting proceeds. Patricia Lewis, vice president of special events at Vantage Deluxe World Travel, says the motive is purely instinctual.

    “It’s personal because you see people whose perseverance is amazing and how much they’ve overcome, and you want to say ‘thanks.'”

      An American and a Bunch of Europeans Walk onto a Cruise Ship

      December 12, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

      Not happy at all - photo courtesy of PathDoc/Shutterstock

      A funny and heartening conversation took place on our forums recently.

      Somebody felt they’d been mistreated on a cruise, got grumpy and came on the forums to vent about the injustice of it all. Sounds pretty standard, right?

      However, in doing so, the original poster generalized that all of Europe is full of rude people lacking in manners and that the staff onboard MSC Poesia were “dimwits.” And the debate that ensued was fascinating — if not least for the fact that it was, on the whole, full of thoughtful and considered (and usually considerate) remarks.

      The initial volley came from forum member misterscrubs: “Been on the MSC Poesia last week Feb 11-18 2012, and what an experience that was.”

      Read on for more

        Hot on the Forums: Too Close for Comfort?

        December 12, 2014 | By | 3 Comments

        crowded table - image courtesy of Corepics VOF/Shutterstock

        How many times have you been shown to an onboard table for two and discovered the romantic dining spot you had in mind looked more like a sawed-off section with barely enough room to squeeze in?

        When you’re virtually sharing salt shakers with the people next door, it can be hard not to eavesdrop into their conversation (especially if it’s more interesting than yours!). And if they decide to talk to you, when you just want to converse with your dining partner, things can get awkward.

        Following an uncomfortable meal on Ruby Princess, hasbro raised the subject on the Cruise Critic forums.

        “The first night we were seated in one of the long rows of tables for two where each table is only a few inches from the next one. The lady really wouldn’t leave us alone, asking us everything from what type of bread was in our bread basket to what type of stateroom we were staying in. We did our best to give only very short answers and tried very hard not to make any eye contact with her.

        “On subsequent nights we were seated in the same area, but not next to her. She and her husband were always at the same table. We watched as she annoyed every diner who had the bad luck of being seated next to her. We noticed that several of the diners ate quickly and left.”

        Read on for more

          Steal of the Week: Wave Season Starts Now

          December 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

          piggy bank cruising
          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: With wave season deals already released by Princess Cruises and Holland America, we’re expecting an earlier — and longer — wave season for 2015. Deals include onboard credit, drink packages, significant savings and more.
          WHAT WE LOVE: Wave season — a promotional period typically beginning in January — has begun in early December, and with it comes three to four months of savings, credit and bonuses at booking. While other major cruise lines may wait to roll out their deals to kick off 2015, Holland America and Princess are already offering wave season promotions that include hundreds in onboard credit, savings on shore excursions, free specialty dinners, drinks packages, you name it. Read more about why wave season is changing and why its a good thing for cruisers.
          WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: As CLIA states in our recent blog, wave season isn’t the only time to book a deal, so make sure the ships and itineraries you’re looking to sail are covered by the line’s promotion.
          HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here for Princess or click here for Holland America.
          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.

            Has Wave Season Come Early This Year?

            December 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

            money boat - image courtesy of ConstantinosZ/Shutterstock

            Whether it’s the end of wave season as we know it, or simply a longer booking frame, talks of a different wave season for 2015 have been brewing all year. Typically, the period of cruise line sales and promotions known as wave season begins in January and extends through March. This year, we saw our first wave season deal launch on December 3.

            “For cruise travel, January to March have traditionally been months when cruise lines put together their best packages to entice travelers to book early. For a long time, it really was the only time to get a really good price,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of Cruise Critic. “But these days, cruise lines offer sales as capacity warrants, so wave is no longer the only time to get a deal.”

             “Wave season was intended to stimulate cruise sales at the beginning of the year and also to serve as an indication of success for the year,” according to a statement by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). “In recent years, and while wave season is still supported by cruise lines, it isn’t as important in terms of stimulating sales or creating more awareness for the benefits of a cruise vacation — since cruising is year-round and more global than ever before. Consumers are booking their cruises based on when and where they want to cruise, the ships they want to sail on and new ships that have captured their interest — including river cruising, which is in demand and requires significant advance booking to get the most desirable itineraries.”

            What does this mean for the consumer?

            Is this the end of Wave Season as we know it?

              Wanderlust Wednesday: All By Myself

              December 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

              Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas anchored off the coast of Santorini - photo courtesy of Cheese2525/Cruise Critic Forums

              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 photos@cruisecritic.com or post it in our member photo gallery. Feel free to send us your Twitter handle. Maybe you’ll get a shoutout next #WanderlustWednesday!

              Cue Celine Dion’s power ballad. We love this photo of Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas anchored off the coast of Santorini, as seen by Cruise Critic member Cheese2525. Despite the look of it, this port is far from desolate. Arguably the most scenic Greek island, Santorini is bustling with charming restaurants, shops and luxury hotels and is known more for its natural beauty, whitewashed buildings and views than its beaches.

              Find interesting places to visit based on region.


              Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.


              Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.

                Destination Spotlight: 8 Quintessential Things to Do in Dubai

                December 9, 2014 | By | No Comments

                Aerial view of Dubai's skyline - photo by Chris Gray Faust

                Not exactly known for its subtlety, Dubai comes at you with a host of superlatives. All developments in this construction-happy city seem to have an -st on the end (biggest, largest, most expensive, etc.). Designer labels and high-end brand names dominate; even the police officers drive Ferraris.

                Yet the Las Vegas of the Middle East has a soulful side, evidenced by its religious conservatism. Emirati women are rarely seen in public without head-covering abayas (albeit tinged with luxurious lace and beadings), alcohol is only served in hotels and a handful of restaurants and even the malls have dress codes. If you look hard enough, you can find some authenticity among the manmade islands and designer handbags (although it’s not a trip to Dubai if you don’t indulge a little bit).

                After four days spent wandering the sprawling city, from Deira to Jumeirah, we’ve come up with a list of eight quintessentially Dubai experiences that capture the essence of this cultural crossroads. The good news is that many cruises stay more than one night, giving you plenty of time to explore.

                8 reasons to visit Dubai
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