Cruise Deal of the Week: Book an Inside Cabin, Get a Balcony

August 20, 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: MSC Cruises is offering a promotion from now through August 31 (or until the inventory sells out) on balcony upgrades from interior cabin bookings. This deal also includes $100 in onboard credit, plus kids 11 and under sail free. Mention the “All In Balcony Blitz” at booking.
WHAT WE LIKE: The value of a balcony cabin is more than just the space to many — it’s the fresh air and the privacy of having your own verandah. That’s why balcony upgrades on cruises starting from $579 per person for a weeklong sailing, is worth checking out. Sail on Divina, one of the line’s newest ships, when it makes its way back to homeport in Miami. These select cruises sail a Caribbean itinerary, including Bahamas, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico, or Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico and the Bahamas. We love that the cruises featured sail during prime season: April through June 2016.
Your balcony cabin will be greatly enjoyed on such a warm-weather itinerary by you and your significant other, or the family if you choose to bring them (dates fall near Memorial Day and summer vacation) — kids sail free and children 12 all the way up to 17 years old receive a discount on their cruise fare. The $100 in onboard credit certainly sweetens the deal and can be used towards a dinner out at one of the ship’s alternative restaurants, like the Eataly Steakhouse, or towards a treatment at the Balinese-inspired Aurea Spa.
WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: According to MSC’s site at the time of publication, there are only 285 balcony upgrades left of the first 500 they promise to passengers during this promotion. Even though the deal extends through the end of August, it might sell out before that. Taxes and fees total more than $100 per person and are not factored into the cruise fare, so the onboard credit cancels out the value there. The new MSC Cruises cabin structure is based on experience and inclusions — because you are being upgraded to a balcony cabin from a Bella (lowest end) experience, you might not receive every perk that comes with a higher level. For breakfast in bed or enhanced children’s offerings like cooking and language classes, you might end up paying more.
HOW TO BOOK IT For all the nitty-gritty on this deal (including that pesky fine print), click here.
Comparing cabin categories? Find out the difference between an inside and balcony cabin.
Looking for cruises 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.
Look for air deals using TripAdvisor’s search tool.

    Cruise Tip of the Week: Size Matters

    August 19, 2015 | By | No Comments

    Cruise ships in port

    Tip: If you’re new to cruising, chances are you’re torn on which ship to book. The “big three” (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) prevail on the high seas. But if large, crowded pool decks and endless activities don’t sound like your cup of tea, you might need to seek a line of smaller ships. On ships that hold up to 949 passengers, entertainment will be sparse, but you most likely will enjoy perks such as complimentary wine and more exotic itineraries.

    Full Article: Read “What’s the Best Cruise Ship Size for You?” to find your perfect match.

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

    15 Best Small Ship Cruise Lines

    Big Ships vs. Small Ships: The Pros and Cons of Cruise Ship Size

    – 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.

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

      Member Review of the Week: Disney Fantasy

      August 18, 2015 | By | No Comments

      Buffet

      Cruise Ship: Disney Fantasy

      Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

      Member: cruisefamilyforever

      Background: Cruising always has been a family experience for cruisefamilyforever. And after accruing some sea days with popular family-friendly lines Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney, he decided to give Disney another go. Everything about Disney Fantasy blew him away — even the public restrooms. But how did it stack up against the other lines? Read more for his highlights, plus what to watch out for.

      Onboard Highlight: Cabanas Buffet, which cruisefamilyforever felt was the best buffet of all the ships he’s sailed.

      Port Highlight: Castaway Cay, where the family ran a 5k together.

      Don’t Miss: The adults-only Quiet Cove pool when you need a little escape.

      Watch Out For: The price. Although it’s high, cruisefamilyforever said it’s worth every penny. His next cruise will be on Carnival — voted “Best Value for Money” in our 2014 Editors’ Picks Awards.

      More: Read cruisefamilyforever’s full review, and browse future cruises on Disney Fantasy.

      For their efforts cruisefamilyforever, chirk, SDPenguin, HawaiiNoKaOi and sonomom3 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!

        We Try It: Roadtesting a Butler on a River Cruise

        August 17, 2015 | By | 1 Comment

        Uniworld Butler

        Unless you live in a stately home, the closest you’ve probably gotten to a butler is watching "Downton Abbey." Until recently, I could say the same.

        Two consecutive river vessel christenings brought back-to-back butlers into my life. Once the preserve of country estates and seagoing ships, butlers have become an increasing presence on river cruise lines, with Uniworld and Scenic among the lines that offer the service.

        As the christening dates drew nearer, I began to feel mildly apprehensive. The idea of having a butler gave me visions of awkward interactions. Having someone wait on me hand and foot conflicts with my fairly typical "British reserve," and the thought of a stranger putting away my underwear fills me with dread. (As we’ve noted before, many other Cruise Critic members feel the same way.)

        Read on for more

          Hot on the Forums: What Snacks Would You Like to See Onboard?

          August 14, 2015 | By | 12 Comments

          Junk food

          Let’s face it, you’re never starved at sea or end up feeling ravenous on rivers. But there are times on a cruise when you have cravings for that little extra something in between meals.

          After an eye-watering serving of wasabi nuts appeared alongside my cocktail on a recent cruise, I found myself hankering the milder version I’d had in the past, and mentioned it in passing to the barman. So imagine my delight when a bowl of the aforementioned nibbles were produced the next day.

          This whetted my appetite for a recent thread started on the Cruise Critic forums by uncleg. “What food would you like to see Carnival offer, like a bar food or snack food?” he asked. “Personally I would love hot wings or teriyaki wings.”

          It didn’t take long for this to open the (cupboard) doors on a list of things cruisers hunger for.

          For example, 092306 would also love to see chicken wings along with soft chocolate chip cookies, albeit served late night, while 450141 says her husband would “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE” chicken wings. Sounds like a clear winner to us.

          EmmeeB and finzup-kt feel a need for nachos; hot pretzels would tickle the taste buds of desert sand, Keywest1 and hockeyluver. Chips are included on plenty of lists, including JayjaFatBoy, GUT2407 and Raxter54, who would also like to see an English-themed pub with fish and chips — aka fries.

          Meanwhile, sweet-toothed Texasl&day, mzloolou and love my grandkids have a desire for doughnuts, with the latter also expressing a longing for New York cheesecake.

          Fellow doughnut fan PortSideCurzan has posted mouth-watering photographic evidence to show you sometimes get what you wish for.

          “During our previous 14-day voyage my wife and I got to know the chef rather well after our chef’s table dinner,” he writes. “He would send us special items in the main dining room and in the steakhouse when he knew we were there. During our chef’s table dinner I mentioned to him that I wish there were donuts on the ship. The very next morning he had this plate of donuts sent to our stateroom. Yum!”

          What snacks would you like to see served up on cruise ships? Tell us in the comments below.

            Just Back From: Windstar Cruises’ Wind Spirit in Tahiti

            August 14, 2015 | By | No Comments

            Wind Spirit

            Is this the best cruise in the South Pacific? Possibly. After a week onboard Wind Spirit — Windstar’s vessel which sails from Papeete every week — we found the cruise to be a hard-to-beat combination of dazzling destination, plus swoon-inducing ship.

            Escaping from the usual path of Pacific Island itineraries, Windstar Cruises presents a more luxurious option for adventurers seeking striking scenery and serenity in style. Throw in a few adrenaline-spiking activities, a dose of Tahitian culture, great food and a beverage package, and this is one fun week.

            Here are our hits and misses from our seven-night ‘Dreams of Tahiti’ cruise.

            Read on for more

              Cruise Deal of the Week: 7-Night Canada/New England from $499

              August 13, 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: Holland America Line is offering a seven-night Canada/New England cruise onboard Veendam, sailing from Boston to Quebec City on September 5, 2015. Prices start from $499 per person for an inside cabin.
              WHAT WE LIKE: Close to $71 per night, this last minute Canada/New England cruise hits five charming East Coast ports in seven days, sailing from Boston to Bar Harbor, Halifax and Sydney in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and an overnight in the North American metropolis with an Old World, European feel, Quebec City. Early in September the weather should be mild to warm and cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a welcome departure from plying the middle of the ocean with nothing in sight. Visit quaint villages and enjoy the cozy culture of New England and Canada, our neighbors to the north. Cruising over Labor Day (September 7), give up one less vacation day if you’re taking time from work. Right now, Holland America is running a fall promotion with reduced deposits and savings on your cabin when you book by September 10.
              WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: Just weeks away, the low price and availability of the September 5 sailing may not hold for long. Other sailings — and Canada/New England itineraries — are available through Holland America, but jump more than 60 percent with the October 3 sailing starting from $809. If you have your mind set on a “leaf-peeping” cruise to gaze at the vibrant fall foliage, you’ll probably have to wait until October to see it. A sailing this early in September (still technically summer) might not have that crisp autumnal feel many book the itinerary for. Taxes and fees totaling nearly $200 also bump the price of the base fare up, so keep this in mind when budgeting.
              HOW TO BOOK IT For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
              Everything you need to know about Canada/New England cruises, including shore excursions, port info and price drops.
              Browse thousands of photos of Holland America’s Eurodam and Noordam.
              Looking for cruises 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.
              Look for air deals using TripAdvisor’s search tool.

                Cruise Tip of the Week: Independent Shore Excursions

                August 12, 2015 | By | No Comments

                whale watching

                Tip: Off-roading in Aruba? Whale watching in Juneau? Cruise lines offer guided tours in each port of call — which, depending on the tour, average between $50 and $175. While it’s easy to book with the cruise line, you potentially can save a lot of money by going with an independent tour company. Research and shop around, and you can find a reputable tour operator offering the same excursion for a fraction of the cost. Cruise Critic’s port reviews are a great place to start.

                Full Article: Read 9 more "hidden" cruising costs and how to combat them.

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

                What to Expect on a Cruise: Shore Excursions

                – Learn more in our First Timers’ Guide to Shore Excursions

                Ship-Sponsored or Independent Shore Excursions: Which is Right for You?

                – 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.

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

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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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