Play the Cruise Critic Embarkation Day Scavenger Hunt!

October 24, 2014 | By | 12 Comments

Girl with magnifying glass - photo courtesy of Claudia Paulussen/Shutterstock

Embarkation Day. A day that brings with it excitement, frustration, eagerness, anxiety and impatience. There’s so much to see: the guilty-looking guy claiming he didn’t know a bottle of rum wasn’t allowed in his backpack; the bartender with the fruity looking drink; a couple already in their bathing suits. It’s a people watchers’ dream, filled with sights, sounds and emotions, whether it’s your first cruise or your 100th.

To make the day even more entertaining, here’s the “official” Cruise Critic Pre-Departure Embarkation Day Scavenger Hunt, where we take all the rigmarole of getting onto your cruise ship and make it into a game. We advise playing with your cruise mates and raising the stakes by adding a prize into the mix … person with the lowest scores buys the first round of drinks, perhaps?

How many points can you get on your next embarkation day? Remember you can only earn points before the ship has left port. The maximum score is 53.

Read on for the full checklist

    Hot on the Forums: What’s the Craziest Thing You’ve Brought Onboard?

    October 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

    Me and Claude getting an ice water christening by King Neptune.

    Sheets, washing machines and a pop up beauty salon: Our members have seen all sorts of strange things carried onboard.

    I’ll come clean here at the outset and declare a vested interest in the forum thread started by Cruise Critic member barbevrn. It’s about the odd things we bring, or have seen brought onboard cruise ships, prompted by a sighting during Carnival Conquest’s “western night” of a couple of guys wearing elaborate costumes that made them look as though they were riding horses.

    Mine isn’t quite as odd. I’m up there with screwsmcernst, who carries a gnome to snap in front of sights, Jacs who photographs her Pluto pillow pet onboard and ashore, and mzlinda who always brings inflatable parrots. In my case, it’s teddy bears.

    In my defense, the first fuzzy friend belonged to a school teacher pal who based geography lessons around his travels. My current cruising ted is named Claude Debussy, belonging to another friend (this is beginning to sound like the euphemisms people use when they write to advice columnists). This bear has a Facebook page charting his globetrotting adventures and has led quite a life; with me, he was christened by ‘King Neptune’ when we crossed the Arctic Circle and given his own certificate and cabin card.

    This thread has made me realize there are plenty of stranger things on other people’s packing lists.

    Read on for more interesting packing lists

      11 Silly Signs Spotted While Sailing

      October 23, 2014 | By | 5 Comments

      I have a thing for signs, and I’ve seen my fair share of interesting, funny and just plain strange ones during my cruise travels. Below are a few examples, indicating what’s permissible to flush down the toilet, what not to do with a motorcycle and what will become of you if you’re caught smoking.

      Warning: Signs are just as ridiculous as they appear

        Steal of the Week: Free Cruise on MSC Divina

        October 23, 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: MSC Cruises is offering free cruise fare for a seven-night Caribbean balcony sailing this November on MSC Divina when you book one of the line’s new Mediterranean air/sea/land vacation packages by the end of October.
        WHAT WE LOVE: If you’re considering a cruise package to the Mediterranean (available May through September 2015), book through MSC by the end of this month and you will earn yourself a free Caribbean cruise on Divina. The 10-night packages start at $1,899 per person and include roundtrip airfare to Rome or Barcelona, a seven-night cruise, two-night post-cruise hotel stay and all transfers. In addition, sail Divina free of charge before its Caribbean itineraries are up — and soak up the sun from your balcony cabin. Be sure you like the ship — both offers are for Divina sailings, so get to know the layout this fall before your sailing next year. Our favorite thing? If you can’t sail during the available dates, your free cruise is completely transferable — a perfect gift for friends or family and just in time for the holiday season.
        WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: You have about a week to book and possible Caribbean sail dates are coming up quickly (with one over Thanksgiving): November 1, 22 or 29. If you book the package and obtain the free cruise, be advised that you will need to pay government taxes and fees for both sailings (not included in the base fares or covered in the free cruise offer), as well as airport taxes. You will also need to put down a $500 nonrefundable deposit.
        HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on this deal (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.

          Countdown to Quantum: What’s up with the Robotic Bartenders?

          October 22, 2014 | By | 3 Comments

          The Bionic Bar on Quantum of the Seas - photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

          I’ve got to admit, when I first heard that Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Quantum of the Seas would have robotic bartenders, a number of thoughts came to mind.

          First: It’s gonna be a bit of a one-sided conversation.

          Second: Will they look more like R2-D2 or C3PO?

          Third: Does that mean will they be losing bar staff?

          Fourth: Will anyone notice?

          Fifth: Gimmick!

          Well, in less than two weeks, when I get my first look at the ship in Southampton, I’ll get all the definitive answers to those questions.

          But till then, here’s what we can glean from the very limited information we have so far.

          Read more on the Bionic Bar

            Wanderlust Wednesday: From the Glaciers to the Forest

            October 22, 2014 | By | No Comments

            From the Glaciers to the Forest - photo courtesy of meinkebwhich/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 or post it in our member photo gallery. Feel free to send us your Twitter handle. Maybe you’ll get a shout out next #WanderlustWednesday!

            If you’re cruising in Alaska, chances are Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm Fjord is on the itinerary. Although both bucket list landmarks offer a chance to witness glaciers and everything else that makes Alaska special, each is different in its own way. Tracy Arm takes cruisers through narrow fjord walls to Sawyer Glacier, passing icebergs, lush forest and wildlife along the way. We love this photo taken by Cruise Critic member meinkebwhich captures the vastness of the fjord perfectly.


            Find interesting places to visit based on region.
            Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
            Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.

              Top 5 Reasons to Love a Halloween Cruise

              October 21, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

              The Halloween Tree - photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Lines

              Cruise lines love a good holiday. They rave about Thanksgiving (get someone else to cook and clean!), plan a mean party on New Year’s (balloon drops and Champagne toasts!) and go to town on Christmas (Gingerbread houses! Visits from Santa! Carolers in the atrium!). But Halloween doesn’t get as much press.

              Which is sad. I’ve sailed on two Halloween cruises — the first, a cruise during Halloween week on Carnival Spirit (apropos name, eh?), and the second, a cruise on Disney Dream during its two months of Halloween on the High Seas cruises. Both were incredibly fun — possibly more fun than Halloween on land. I’m surprised more cruise lines don’t play up Halloween, as it’s a compelling reason to cruise during an otherwise slow travel time. Whether you’re a kid looking to show off your superhero costume and score some candy, or an adult looking to dress up and party, here are our top reasons to cruise on Halloween.

              1. Costume night is way better than formal night.

              If you’re going to have to schlep your gowns and tuxedoes anyway, you might as well pack your princess dress or penguin costume instead. Costumes make people watching at the bar that much more fun, and group outfits are applauded rather than sneered at. Pick the right costume and it can be much more comfortable than high heels and slimming undergarments. Plus, you don’t have to plan your outfit around a bulky winter coat — it’s all warm Caribbean nights rather than frigid late fall temps.

              More Reasons to Love Halloween Cruises

                Member Review of the Week: Chasing Destinations

                October 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

                Tower of Hercules - photo Courtesy of apgestoso/Shutterstock

                Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, and showcase one as the Member Review of the Week. In the spotlight this week is Cruise Critic member Dave_P’s recent cruise to Spain on Holland America’s Rotterdam.

                Overall Impression: Driven by their wanderlust for European favorites Cadiz and Lisbon, Dave_P (a small ship lover) and his wife (a big ship lover) met in the middle with a cruise on HAL’s mid-sized Rotterdam. Overnights in these two cities made for a special treat, while friendly crewmembers, a cozy suite and surprisingly adequate vegetarian food options were pluses for their 14-night journey.

                Onboard Highlight: While their Vista Suite was a favorite, Dave_P and his wife were blown away by the entertainment onboard — especially the piano and violin group, Adagio, and jazz performances.

                Port Highlight: Coruna, Spain, where the two toured the Castle of San Anton and Tower of Hercules.

                Don’t Miss: Climbing to the observation level for a breathtaking view of the city and coastline.

                Watch Out For: If you’re unfamiliar with the Lanai cabins, keep in mind they don’t offer the privacy that balcony cabins and suites do.

                More: Read Dave_P’s full review for more details about their pre- and post-cruise stays, life onboard the ship and adventures in port.

                For their efforts, Dave_P, rb80, duff314, getawaynow33 and meinkeb receive Cruise Critic logo items.

                Read more reviews or write your own cruise review

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