And now let us praise those unsung heroes of your cruise, the lowly barkeep.
In these times of cleanses and CrossFit, it might be unpopular to admit that you’re the one buying an unlimited drinks package. Here at Cruise Critic, we go out of our way to stress that today’s ships are much more than party boats full of spring breakers. And it’s true, if you’re a teetotaler, you can easily enjoy a sojourn at sea without feeling like you’re missing out.
That said, the perfect cruise ship bar can become your vacation hang, the place where everyone knows your name, at least for the next seven nights. Whether you day drink by the pool, sip martinis before dinner or boogie down late in the disco, cruise ship bars have you covered, with an air of hospitality that’s hard to replicate on land.
Chief to this experience are the men and women who man the cocktail counters, dispensing booze with a smile and, on many ships, with a sense of style. I did a stint as a barkeep in London, and let me tell you, it’s hard to keep the drinks flowing for a thirsty crowd while still maintaining your cool. A great cruise ship bartender not only acknowledges your drink order, but also makes you feel at home while you’re away, enhancing your vacation mentality and letting you know that now, finally, is your time to relax.
Every year, Bacardi Global Travel Retail, part of the famous rum company, honors the best of these barkeeps with the Bacardi Cruise Competition. In its 10th year, the contest encourages cruise line bartenders to come up with their own custom cocktails. The winner receives $5,000 and, as you’d expect, serious bragging rights. (Bacardi treats these finalists right, setting them up with several days out and about in Miami, as well as hands-on training sessions.)
Ship: Cuba Cruise’s Celestyal (Louis) Cristal
Where: Cuba (Havana, Santiago, Holguin, Cienfuegos & Trinidad) and a stop in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Who: Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
Why There? Canada-based Cuba Cruise is the first cruise line to allow Americans to visit Cuba through a partnership with several non-profit organizations, such as the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. I’ll be traveling on a People to People license, which stresses culturally oriented shore excursions and meet-ups with Cubans (although I’m sure there will be time for a mojito or two).
We Can’t Wait: Long off limits to regular American tourists, Cuba has a mystique that sets it apart from the rest of the Caribbean. Even though the rest of the world has been able to visit, I’m looking forward to seeing the classic 1950s cars of Havana, listening to Cuban music and exploring the countryside.
Walking into a gym for the first time can be an intimidating experience. All those complicated machines, the confusing array of Swiss balls, kettle bells and free weights, to say nothing of the lithe gym bunnies clad in figure-hugging Lycra and the ripped (and often grunting) weightlifters.
If that wasn’t enough to worry about, it seems gyms at sea pose even more issues. A number of keep-fit enthusiasts have been flexing their muscles on the Cruise Critic forums as they don’t like the idea of newbies being let loose in the gym or passengers coming in to gawk as they pump iron and go through their paces on the treadmills.
Member richleeds has been getting hot and bothered by the fact that some people treat the floating fitness area as a “tourist attraction”, prompting him to ask if ships’ gyms should be limited to regular gym-goers
Warming to his theme, he adds: “Some come up in completely inappropriate attire and footwear. Crocs on the treadmill — really? Some use potentially dangerous equipment without knowing what they are doing.”
When world events impact the cruise industry, Cruise Critic members turn to our forums to share stories, provide first-hand accounts and connect with others who are as passionate about cruising as they are.
Here’s what our members have been saying about the tragic situation in Tunisia:
From Miller3000 whose parents are onboard MSC Splendida: MSC has confirmed 12 passengers on a shore excursion in Tunis were killed, and Miller3000 spent several anxious hours worrying about his parents before they were able to call to say they were safe.
“They came back from their excursion at 1 p.m. local time. The ship should leave the harbor at 4 p.m., there they said that there was an announcement that not all busses were back and they had to postpone the departure. When my parents went back to their cabin, they saw that some busses came back to the ship accompanied by police cars and one ambulance. They still didn’t know what was going on. They realised what has happened not until they switched on the TV in their cabin. Then they saw that we tried to call them several times and called me back.
Two persons of the group they are travelling with made the excursion to the museum that was attacked yesterday. Seems that those two guys had a lot of luck and left the museum early enough before the attacks.”
When several members expressed their concern for Miller3000 and his family, he said, “Yes, they are all ok. Shocked but ok. … Meanwhile there was some kind of a press conference where they told the passengers about the victims. The atmosphere is pretty depressed.”
Expressions of worry and concern were widespread.. From Pan_Am_Girl on our Oceania forum, a line that has had Tunisia on its itineraries: “These attacks were targeted against the tourists. Keep them in your prayers if they are alive. Can you even imagine how frightening it would be? You set out in good faith to enjoy the day. Life is short, and difficult enough. Why can’t there just be peace?”
On our Costa Cruises forums, 5waldos and hawkeyetlse discussed a Spanish couple found hiding in the Bardo National Museum where the attacks took place. Official word has come that the passengers are safe and sound, as was their unborn child. The expectant couple were taken to the hospital immediately, and both the woman and her child are reported well.
Related links from our forums:
Why Go?: Eagle Beach is arguably the most sought after in Aruba and luckily, an easy trek from the cruise port. Famous for its white sand, crystal clear waters, Fofoti trees and nesting sea turtles, the preserved beach is made for relaxing. And this photo proves that even a simple sunset can be alluring.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or post it in our member photo gallery. Feel free to send us your Twitter or Instagram handle. Maybe you’ll get a shout-out next #WanderlustWednesday!
Cruise Ship: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Background: Norwegian’s Garden Villa had tempted golfingfool for too long — so with the kids grown up and nothing to lose, he splurged on the suite for their group of seven. While the cost initially was a concern, the memories proved to be priceless.
Onboard Highlight: The Garden Villa suite, especially the private Jacuzzi, steam room and sundeck.
Port Highlight: Swimming with sharks and stingrays in Belize, which coincided with the celebration of two birthdays in their group. To top it off, balloons and cake greeted them back at the room.
Don’t Miss: These two shows in the Stardust Theater: Band on the Run and Le Cirque Bijou.
Watch Out For: Dining in Le Bistro if you’re in a large group — it may take a little longer to get your food.
More: Read golfingfool’s full review to learn more about the Garden Villa suite and dining aboard Norwegian Jewel.
Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, and showcase one as the Member Review of the Week.
Read more reviews or write your own cruise review.
It’s no secret that the cruise industry is paying more and more attention to the Chinese market.
In just a few months, Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas will move from Cape Liberty to its new homeport, Shanghai. And now there’s some indication that the newest Quantum-class ship — Ovation of the Seas, which is still under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg – will also head to China when it debuts in 2016.
The tipoff comes from a marketing document released by the U.K. branch of an official Royal Caribbean travel agent. First reported by the Royal Caribbean blog, the document lists Royal Caribbean ships that will be in China in 2016, including Ovation of the Seas (other vessels include Legend of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas).
As Cruise Critic reported last year, China has become a tempting target for cruise lines wooing the country’s fast-growing middle class. These would-be cruisers are drawn to new ships – which is one argument for bringing Ovation to that market.
Royal Caribbean is not confirming the travel agent listing. “Regarding this page, it was an unfortunate mistake in posting this preliminary concept,” Royal Caribbean spokesman Harry Liu said in an email. “Our unannounced deployments are still being finalized and only then can we know the exact deployment of our fleet for the 2016-17 seasons.”
But already, Cruise Critic members have been speculating over the possibility on the Royal Caribbean message boards.
“Build 3 Quantum Class ships, commit 2 to China before the first one even begins sailing there?!” said Dave85. “That’s an awfully bold move by Royal Caribbean.”
What do you think about Ovation of the Seas possibly going to China? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.« go back — keep looking »