Member Review of the Week: Four for the Fam

August 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

Mariachi band in front of white building
Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, one of which is showcased as the Member Review of the Week. In the spotlight this week is Cruise Critic member bassspanker‘s recent cruise to the Mexican Riviera aboard Carnival Imagination.
Overall Impression: Unlike most cruisers, bassspanker and his family found peace in some of the noisiest cabins on the ship (more on this later). While the ship itself seemed a bit gaudy and dated, that didn’t put a damper on their experience; despite being a short cruise, there were a few pleasant surprises.
Read on for highlights, tips and more.

    Cruise Critic Live! You Saved How Much?

    August 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

    Ship made out of hundred dollar bills
    Each week on Cruise Critic Live, we’ll take a look at all the things to love about cruising, from favorite destinations to amazing dining experiences, and we’ll give you the inside scoop on the newest ships at sea and on the rivers. We’ll also welcome outside experts to this space, including cruise line CEOs and newsmakers. And of course, we want to hear from you: What would you like to discuss?
    This week, we’re chatting about saving money. We really want to hear your stories of how you scored a bargain. And, of course, our editors will share our tips for saving big bucks on cruising. We’ll also welcome a guest travel agent to give advice on how you can maximize your cruise dollar. After all, nothing beats a great cruise, except for a great cruise that you got at a great price. Join us at 3 p.m. (EDT) August 14.
    Last week, we talked about avoiding mistakes when it comes to booking cabins, and our readers had plenty of advice on which cabins to avoid. If you didn’t join us last week, you missed out on advice like this.

    Fear not! You can still read the whole chat.

      Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

      August 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

      Ashley Kosciolek on map
      Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.
      (Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)
      Ship: Hurtigruten’s Finnmarken
      Where: We’re in our second week in Norway (Bergen, Alesund, Trondheim, Arctic Circle, Lofoten Islands, Tromso, Honningsvag, Kirkenes, Oslo)
      Who: Ashley Kosciolek, Ports and Copy Editor
      Why There? As Norwegian Fjords cruises continue to be popular, we’re always looking to get more staff expertise on less-traveled ports, including those on this itinerary. Plus, we’ll be updating our review of Finnmarken, an ice-strengthened ship that specializes in expedition cruising.
      We Can’t Wait: While the mainstream cruise experience is great, many passengers prefer more active and immersive sailings like those offered by Hurtigruten and other expedition lines. We can report that so far, the weather has been warm, with temperatures in the high 60s. The photo below is the view of the Lofoten Islands, about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
      View of Lofoten Islands from Finnmarken bow

        Just Back From….Celebrity Summit: The Line’s Test Ship?

        August 8, 2014 | By | 11 Comments

        Crowded pool deck on Celebrity Summit leaving Bayonne
        Launched in 2001 and “Solsticized” in 2012, Celebrity Summit is certainly not the newest ship in the line’s fleet. But what’s unusual about the Millennium-class vessel is that the line often uses it as a testing ground for pilot programs in dining, entertainment and services.
        On our recent seven-night cruise to Bermuda, we asked Hotel Director Raffaele Bernardini why this is the case. The Italian formerly served as hotel director on Celebrity’s larger vessels, Eclipse and Equinox, earning numerous “ship of the year” awards for his performance. (Certainly that’s likely a major reason why line executives trust him to implement new programs.)
        Another reason is the ship’s passenger base, particularly in the summer. Sailing out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, Summit draws passengers primarily from New York City, New Jersey and surrounding East Coast states. It’s a sophisticated audience, Bernardini told us, and one that is more open to change than others.
        Here are some of the line’s newer programs that we observed on Summit:
        Oceanview Cafe. Perhaps no change has caused as much chatter on the Cruise Critic message boards as the new style of service implemented in the Oceanview Cafe, the ship’s buffet. Instead of the usual “help yourself” format, diners now pick up individual metal dishes containing pre-plated portions of frittata, French fries, enchiladas, etc. (You still can eat as much as you want.)
        Why mess with something as engrained as a cruise ship buffet? The new format certainly isn’t easier for the staff, Bernardini said — in fact, in most cases, they end up working harder to make sure enough hot dishes are out for the diners. What it does do is cut food waste, significantly, and also minimizes the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses such as norovirus, he says. (These are the same reasons the line cut the popular sea day buffet — the main dining room set-up lacked sneeze guards and other protections against spreading disease, Bernardini said.)
        Read on to see a picture

          Hot on the Forums: Strange Items Lost and Found on Cruise Ships

          August 8, 2014 | By | 3 Comments

          Money held in outstretched hands
          I’ve always been intrigued by stories of priceless paintings, top secret documents, wooden legs and so forth being left on trains, buses, planes – and of course cruise ships.
          Accounts of lost glasses (very common), hearing aids, single shoes, underwear left behind in pre-cruise hotels and expensive jewelry left in the cabin safe after disembarkation are countered by recollections of lingerie, footwear, a bottle of Scotch behind the TV and some unmentionable things being discovered in cabins (not to mention Cruise Critic member neverbeenhere’s surprise of a newlywed bride in a state of collapse outside the stateroom door!).
          All these revelations followed member Chromered 7’s post: “What is the strangest thing you have lost or found on a cruise?”

          Read on to find out more revelations…

            Steal of the Week: 17-Night South America Cruise from $1,299

            August 7, 2014 | By | Comments Off

            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: Princess Cruises is offering a 17-night South America cruise onboard Golden Princess, sailing from Los Angeles to Santiago on December 3, 2014. Prices start from $1,299 per person, for an inside cabin.
            WHAT WE LOVE: From $76 per night, cruise with Princess to the Andes and South America, with port stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru and Chile. A perfect wintertime trip, arrive home in time for the holidays. Pre-cruise and post-cruise stays would be pleasant — if time and budget allows — exploring either L.A. or Santiago, the capital of Chile. Golden Princess features Sanctuary, an adults-only retreat, signature Movies Under the Stars, the Crown Grill and more onboard amenities.
            WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: Port taxes and fees are an additional $179.31, not included in the cruise fare. A balcony jumps quite a bit to $1,999 per person. Weather may be challenging, with travel towards the beginning of rainy and foggy seasons in the region. Pack layers and rain-resistant gear, and keep in mind it is considered summer in South America.
            HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on this deal (including that pesky fine print), click here.
            You can 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.

              Just Back From…..A French Barge Cruise: 5 Surprises

              August 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

              CroisiEurope barge Jeanine
              I cut my nautical teeth on ocean cruises, followed by numerous river cruises on vessels carrying around 200 passengers. But for my last trip, I took my first barge cruise aboard one of CroisiEurope‘s four boats operating in France (24-passenger Jeanine, practically sharing my name), a lesser-known and smaller – in every sense – sector of the booming river cruise market.
              I found some pleasant surprises as I floated through the canals and rivers of southern Burgundy past vineyards, green landscapes and small villages between Saint-Leger-sur-Dheune to Dijon on the vessel’s new ‘Emotional Journey’ itinerary. Here are some things to think about if you’re considering going small.
              1. It’s impossible to miss the boat
              We’ve all heard, or read, horror stories about passengers left stranded on dry land after they don’t make it back to port on time, their ship sailing off into the proverbial sunset. Nothing of the sort on Jeanine, which travels at a pedestrian 4 mph – an easy walking pace. It’s easy to hop off onto the bank, stretch your legs along the tow path and get back on, particularly on the stretch of the Canal du Centre between Chagny and Chalon-sur-Saone where there are 11 locks, some only ten minutes’ walk apart. Take one of Jeanine’s bikes and you can whizz ahead and cover as much mileage as you want, before waiting at a lock for the barge to catch up.
              Read on for more

                Wanderlust Wednesday: Moving Forward

                August 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

                Cruise ship entering fjords
                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.
                Do you recognize this landscape? We’ll give you a clue: It’s a popular destination in Norway, comprised of fjords, a tiny village and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This breathtaking photo (by Cruise Critic member, KroozHarry) of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 shows the ship entering Geiranger Fjords.
                Find interesting places to visit based on region.
                Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
                Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.
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