Dispatch from Greece: Recession in the Background

July 24, 2015 | By | No Comments

Greek flag flying over port stop

The caravan of cruise line coaches, chartered by Azamara Club Cruises and Silversea, snaked its way up the Greek mountains to the famed monasteries of Meteora. Here, certainly, tourism seemed as healthy as ever.

Penny Gripeou, a licensed guide who drove five hours from Athens to Volos to lead our tour with Azamara, nodded. “The cruise ships keep coming, so I keep working,” she said.

The hotel and services that deal mostly with local people are most affected within the Greek tourism industry, she said. August is Greece’s main vacation month, but most folks are staying home this year. “It is tough to plan a holiday when you don’t know what is going to happen.”

Volos is only the first Greek stop on my cruise with Azamara Journey; we’ll also be stopping at the islands of Skiathos, Mykonos, Santorini and Hydra before debarking in Athens. Scenes of the riots in Athens seem far away from these much smaller towns; tavernas are full of visitors and shopkeepers are busy ringing up purchases.

But the current financial crisis, part of a recession that has been ongoing in Greece for years, lies beneath the surface. Just a week ago, when Greeks were limited to a daily 60 euro bank withdrawal, shops along the road to Meteora were loathe to take credit cards, Penny said. Cash is king — and still preferred (although plenty of merchants were accepting plastic).

Read on for more

    Hot on the Forums: Do Costume Parties Make You Want to Jump Overboard?

    July 24, 2015 | By | No Comments

    Pirate costume party

    Mention the words costume party, and you’re guaranteed to get one of two reactions — each at one of the furthest ends of the barometer.

    Now, I’ve been known to dabble in a bit of light sartorial swashbuckling on pirate night, but for other cruisers, even formal night is perceived as going too far. The love/hate reaction people have to costume parties has been highlighted in two threads on the Cruise Critic forums.

    First up is young-at-heart granny WanderLit, who has booked her first Disney cruise for herself, her daughter and her granddaughter. She took to the forums to find out if it’s only the youngsters who get to unleash their inner princess or cartoon character.

    “While I’m sure there are little girls going around in princess attire all day long, what about the adults?” she asks. “We would like to all three wear Minnie Mouse dresses to board. Me, like a 1928 black and white polka dot skirt. My daughter in a 1965 red and white polka dot dress and my granddaughter in the pink and white polka dots of today’s Mickey’s Club House style Minnie.”

    It doesn’t stop there, as she continues: “For formal night, I’d like to wear my long flowing black dress and maleficent horns, my daughter, a flaming red-head, wants to wear her best Merida green gown. So how often, if at all, do adults play princess and villain dress up on a Disney cruise?”

    Read on for more

      Cruise Deal of the Week: 14-Night S. America from $1,299

      July 23, 2015 | By | No Comments

      traveling piggy bank
      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: CruiseCheap.com is offering a 14-night South America cruise onboard Celebrity Infinity, sailing from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso on January 3, 2016. Prices start from $1,299 per person for an inside cabin, but offers may include onboard credit, prepaid gratuities, a drinks package and more. Discounts are offered to seniors, past passengers and military personnel.
      WHAT WE LIKE: From less than $95 per person, per night, you are exploring the scenic ports and stunning waterways of South America, with meals, entertainment, and the ship’s signature Solarium (an adults-only thalassotherapy pool with roof in bad weather) included in your fare. Start the new year spotting wildlife in the Falkland Islands, cruising the spectacular Chilean fjords and stopping at Ushuaia, Argentina — known as “the end of the world.” Get up to $75 in onboard spending money through CruiseCheap.com, and check to see if you qualify for an additional perk, like free Internet, through Celebrity’s latest promotion, Choose Your Perk.
      WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: With at least three solid days of scenic cruising, it might be tough to trade in a private balcony — they start at $3,249 — for the general crowds on the outer decks you will have to join sailing in an inside or even outside cabin. You’ll find that Infinity offers a nice variety of dining options to fill your two weeks onboard, but many tack on an additional fee. Another budgeting factor to always consider is flights, and South America is notoriously not cheap to fly to. Look for deals using TripAdvisor’s search tool.
      Check out our professional photo galleries of Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Eclipse.
      HOW TO BOOK IT For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
      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.

        Cruise Tip of the Week: Visit the Spa on a Port Day

        July 22, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

        Spa essentials

        Tip: Cruise ship spas charge more than what you’d pay at a typical day spa. And while any massage you get on vacation is a splurge, there are ways to save. If your muscles are aching for hot stones and lavender oils, book a spa treatment on a port day. When it’s slow, spas often discount services and packages.

        Full Article: Read 9 more tips for stretching your cruise dollars onboard.

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

        – Check out our latest cruise deals

        – Sign up for Cruise Critic’s Price Drop. We’ll let you know when fares are dramatically reduced so you can get the best price for your sailing.

        6 Best Cruise Ship Spas

        Understanding Cruise Ship Spa Services

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

          Member Review of the Week: Regent Seven Seas Mariner

          July 21, 2015 | By | No Comments

          Saint Tropez old red tile roofs

          Cruise Ship: Regent Seven Seas Mariner

          Itinerary: Western Mediterranean

          Member: halobill

          Background: Between premium steaks and refreshing cocktails by the pool, halobill felt wined and dined on his second Regent sailing thanks to a solo traveler deal he couldn’t pass up. The ship — which made its way from Venice to Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, France and Monaco — had a friendly, attentive staff and relaxing vibe with lively nights. Read on for his highlights.

          Onboard Highlight: His balcony suite. Halobill also tipped his stewards on the first day and felt very well taken care of.

          Port Highlight: Wine tastings in Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice and Saint Tropez. (Keep in mind: Regent’s shore excursions are included in the cruise fare.)

          Don’t Miss: Poolside barbecue nights, one of which featured a band that led to singing and dancing throughout the night.

          Watch Out For: Certain ports are prone to rougher seas, so don’t be surprised if your captain skips a port for safety reasons. (Halobill missed out on Sicily.)

          More: Read halobill’s full review, and browse future cruises on Seven Seas Mariner.

          For their efforts, halobill, Norguy, CruisingMommyT, Bowman1 and ryndam receive Cruise Critic logo items.

          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!

            10 Dos and Don’ts for Throwing a Nautical Theme Party

            July 20, 2015 | By | No Comments

            nautical theme party

            Summertime. It’s enough of an excuse to host a nautical theme party for you and your fellow cruise-lovers, but throwing a great soiree requires work. Sure, you can Google a “how to” list that tells you the basics, like setting a date and knowing how much food to order, but it most likely won’t remind you to get ice so your punch doesn’t taste like bath water or to shower before your guests start showing up.

            Here at Cruise Critic HQ, we put our nautical theme party-throwing skills to the test.

            Determining the nautical theme for the party was a no-brainer. As for the time and location, one of our staffers gladly volunteered her home, which even came with a mascot (more on that later). Online shopping for decorations was the fun part. And while the party was a success, we hit some rough seas along the way.

            If you want to plan your own nautical theme party, read our 10 dos and don’ts to avoid losing your mind — and blowing your budget.

            Nautical Theme Decor

            Do: Reflect on past cruises for ideas. The anchor theme never fails for tableware and accessories, but mix it up. We found an easy-to-hang ocean wall print ($18) that was both a fun design and backdrop for pictures.

            Don’t: Overlook product details like size and quantity. We learned the hard way when the life ring we thought was full size looked like something out of an American Girl doll catalog.

            Read on for more

              Hot on the Forums: Can You Bear to Leave Your Pets at Home?

              July 17, 2015 | By | 9 Comments

              woman and her dog

              As an animal lover, I’ve been on many a cruise where the dinner table conversation has turned to four-legged friends and my dining companions have pulled out photographic evidence of cute cats, delightful dogs and more exotic creatures including parrots, reptiles and chinchillas.

              Although I have always been happy to set sail and leave members of my menagerie in the capable hands of friends, I was interested to read a thread on Cruise Critic members who can hardly bear to leave their creature chums ashore and, in some cases, even cruise solo so their other half can stay behind to look after them.

              The discussion was started by member rjrice1 who admits to having a tough time saying goodbye to her animals. She’s so concerned about their well-being that she gets a neighbor to check on them four times a day.

              From the length of the thread, she’s certainly not alone. And, in the case of parrotfeathers, she’s the one who ends up alone.

              “Animals are the reason my hubby and I do not vacation together,” she says.

              Read on for more

                Steal of the Week: Free NASCAR Theme Cruise

                July 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

                piggy bank on wheels
                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: If you’re a NASCAR fan, this free motorsports theme cruise onboard Carnival Ecstasy is the perfect match. Just pay $299 per person, which includes port fees, taxes and gratuities, and you’re on your way to a four-night Bahamas cruise with NASCAR drivers and loads of entertainment.
                WHAT WE LOVE: Carnival does short sailings well, and this four-night theme cruise is no exception. From $75 per night, be part of the first inaugural motorsports cruise; leave from Miami in early December — a prime time to take a winter vacation — and cruise to Nassau and Freeport with NASCAR drivers onboard. While you’re paying fees, taxes and tips, you’re not actually paying a cruise fare if you reserve an available cabin by July 31. Included in your cruise vacation is a Q&A with the drivers, a pit road fan experience (competitive games with drivers and other passengers), live music including Ricky Skaggs, and of course meals and other onboard entertainment.
                WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: As the first theme cruise of its kind, there’s always room for some kinks along the way. Unless you’re onboard to interact with other NASCAR fans and participate in the events, this might not be the sailing for you. Ecstasy is an older ship without many of Carnival’s more modern Fun Ship 2.0 additions — no specialty restaurants, no RedFrog pub or rum bar. If you’ve sailed before, you’ve more than likely seen Nassau, but it’s still a good excuse for some fun in the sun.
                Check out our professional photo gallery of Carnival Breeze.
                HOW TO BOOK IT For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
                Looking for cruises for under $75 or even $50 a day? We’ve got ’em listed on our Cheap Cruises page.
                Compare flight prices with our sister site TripAdvisor’s meta-search tool.
                Get great cruise deals — and exclusive member offers — delivered weekly to your inbox.
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                  The Lido Deck is written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, reporting from ships and ports around the world. The daily blog covers cruise news, reviews, advice, and hot topics from the Cruise Critic message boards. Please note: When commenting, Cruise Critic's community guidelines apply.

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