Hot on the Forums: First Thing’s First – What Do You Do After Embarkation?

September 26, 2014 | By | 15 Comments

Waiting to Leave

When I board a cruise ship, I’m not the best at filling the ‘empty time’ between embarkation and getting the green light to go to my cabin. I tend to sit around twiddling my thumbs, and it’s only after I’ve unpacked and got my stateroom shipshape that I really start to relax and enjoy my surroundings.

I should have guessed that savvy Cruise Critic members have come up with much more productive ways to while away the time.

The suggestions started coming in after Shaycatt11 went on the forums to ask: “Do you have any tips on making the most of them ‘first few hours’ before you get given your room key? I usually head to the spa and get myself a raffle ticket, then go find my dining table for the cruise, finally I find a quiet corner and study the cruise compass with a cold drink.”

In the responses, it seems that two activities are most popular with our members: either head to the bar for a restorative cocktail or two, or check out their MDR assignment and find out where their table is located.”

Continue reading highlights from the discussion.

    Wining & Dining: What’s Your Perfect Cruise Meal?

    September 25, 2014 | By | 5 Comments

    Delicious Salmon Dish

    They say age or glasses of wine should never be counted. I’m adding ‘favorite cruise foods’ to that list.

    Between the main dining room, buffet, complimentary eateries and for-fee specialty restaurants, the meal options on cruise ships are endless (not to mention, all the local fare in port).

    Even if you’re not a foodie, everyone has at least one vacation dish that lingers in their culinary memory. Narrowing down your favorite can be difficult (not that we’re complaining!)

    If I had to name my dream meal, I’m torn between entrees I’ve eaten on Carnival, Oceania and Un-Cruise Adventures and desserts sampled on Royal Caribbean and Disney. It’s impossible to choose just one.

    Here at Cruise Critic, our editors decided to try to figure out our own perfect three-course cruise meals. We were allowed to choose one appetizer, one entrée and one dessert, from any cruise line of our choosing. Here are the results:

    Read on to see our editors’ dream meals.

      Steal of the Week: 7-Night Holiday Caribbean Cruise + Bonuses

      September 25, 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: Priceline is offering a seven-night holiday cruise to the Eastern Caribbean onboard Celebrity Reflection, sailing roundtrip from Miami on December 20, 2014. Prices start from $849 per person for an inside cabin, but book an outside or higher and receive a range of bonuses from hundreds in onboard credit to prepaid gratuities or a beverage package.
      WHAT WE LOVE: Prices jump for popular holiday sailings — especially ones that cruise during the holiday — so to not only find reasonable pricing but to have some bonuses thrown in, is a holiday miracle. Priceline is advertising a weeklong Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard Celebrity Reflection from $121 per person per night, taking place over the Christmas holiday and during Hanukkah. If you choose to book an outside cabin or higher category, the bonuses kick in starting with a $300 holiday onboard credit, and continuing with your choice of prepaid gratuities, a drinks package for two or more onboard credit with the line’s Pick Your Perk program. (Just book by October 5.) Ports include San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, with equal and relaxing time at sea. Snow may be festive, but island sun and onboard credit to burn are a convincing excuse to sail away this season.
      WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: Sure the starting cruise fare is fine, but if you want to earn any of the bonuses for this sailing, you’ll need to upgrade, and outside cabins begin at more than a grand per person — balconies are $1,199. If you consider the value for the time of year and added amenities, don’t consider it for too long — although the offer ends October 5, these holiday sailings book quickly and may start to fill by month’s end. Flights are domestic if you’re in the U.S., but considering the holiday season, prices and fees may be more.
      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.

        Destination Spotlight: 6 Things to Know About Cruising To Iceland

        September 24, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

        Farm in the Icelandic countryside
        Known for its rugged landscape, hardy horses and smoke-belching volcanoes, Iceland doesn’t immediately come to mind as a prime cruising destination. Yet the North Atlantic island has seen an increase in visits, with two ports – Akureyri and Reykjavik – attracting four to six ships a week in the summer (including Princess Cruises’ largest vessel, Royal Princess).
        At the Society of American Travel Writers conference in Reykjavik last week, Iceland tourism experts noted that the island will receive 1 million visitors in 2014, many of them by cruise ship. Tourism has become the island’s largest industry, surpassing fishing.
        So what’s the appeal? Beyond the increasing popularity of Arctic cruising overall (thanks to movies such as “Frozen”), Iceland has enjoyed its own spot in the pop culture landscape. The hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” filmed the “north of the Wall” scenes near Lake Myvatn, spawning show-themed tours, and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” gave the waterfalls, glaciers and hills of the south top billing. And the travel-disrupting eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 actually spurred tourism; you can currently take flightseeing trips over the active lava fields of Bardarbunga.
        View of Hverfjall crater near Lake Myvatn, Iceland
        While the 2014 cruising season has mostly closed down for Iceland, as ships finish transatlantic repositionings, it’s never too early to plan for next year (as cruises to Iceland are extremely popular in the high season). Here are some good things to know before you go:
        Outdoorsy? This is your island. While tourism officials like to talk about museums and cultural offerings, Iceland’s dominant draw is still its wild, jaw-dropping landscape. The countryside is dotted with rocky lava fields, hissing geysers, boiling hot pots, raging waterfalls and jagged mountains – and there are dozens of excursion options to help you see as much as possible. River rafting, horseback riding, bird watching, glacier walking, whale watching, bike riding, hiking and caving – even snorkeling and scuba diving – are all possible, and in most cases, excursion providers will pick you up right at the dock.
        Read on for more

          Wanderlust Wednesday: A View to Fall For

          September 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

          Tropical rain forest with waterfalls, river, mountains and trees
          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 photos@cruisecritic.com or post it in our member photo gallery.
          It’s hard not to fall (see what we did there?) in love with this photo, submitted by Cruise Critic member ratukruise. Iguazu Falls, situated at the border of Argentina and Brazil, is composed of 275 individual drops originating from the Iguazu River. The falls attract travelers from all over the world (including those by cruise ship) and have served as the backdrop for a number of movies, including “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
          Find interesting places to visit based on region.
          Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
          Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.

            Observed Onboard: Are You Antisocial When You Cruise?

            September 23, 2014 | By | No Comments

            Woman left out at bar by other people
            As Cruise Critic’s resident expert on all things British, I’ve spent some time exploring the differences between UK cruising and US cruising.
            One of the things I noted from a recent P & O cruise is how we Brits do our utmost NOT to meet people on a cruise, whereas certain other nationalities (Americans – I’m talking about you!) do their best TO meet people onboard.
            As I wrote in a March blog post, “We Brits are still a reserved lot (unless we have several pints of beer down us). We do not immediately ask “Where are y’all from” when we get into a lift (elevator); nor swap addresses/emails/phone numbers minutes after meeting. We also try not to say hello/smile too much or greet each other in ships’ corridors.”
            So I was pleased to see that my observations have been (partially) confirmed by Cruise Critic members on the P&O forum. What made me laugh in this thread was not only how honest Brits are about our own shortcomings on sociability and the lengths we go to not talk to people., but how polite we are in the process.
            Read on for more

              Member Review of the Week: Left Wanting More

              September 23, 2014 | By | No Comments

              Cruise ships docked in Alaska port with mountains in background
              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 misty57‘s recent cruise to Alaska aboard Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas.
              Overall Impression: A cruise to Alaska is all about the scenery, being  close to the wildlife and tapping into your adventurous side, even if it’s just through a pair of binoculars. While Misty57 enjoyed all of the above, it wasn’t until afterward that she realized a cruise tour would have helped her achieve more of what she was hoping to.
              Read on for highlights, tips and more.

                We Try It: Late Flight after Debarkation? Get A Room!

                September 22, 2014 | By | 7 Comments

                Family enjoying time at a hotel
                On my last cruise, the ship forced us to get off by 9:15 a.m. but our flight wasn’t until 5:30 p.m. What are a travel editor, her baby, her parents, multiple bags and a stroller supposed to do for a day at Orlando Airport?
                Easy. We booked a day room.
                Some hotels, particularly those at the airport or central to downtown, will sell you room and amenity access from late morning to early evening, at a special day rate. It’s a win-win: You avoid lugging your bags around with you all day or camping out at the airport food court. The hotel makes money on an otherwise empty room.
                In our case, the hotel — the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport — was located at the airport terminal, so we could hit the restaurants and shops while our luggage sat safe in the room. Hotel staff brought up a crib for the baby, and she took two solid naps so she wasn’t a demon child on our late-for-her plane flight. My parents spent an hour at the gym, and caught part of the football game on TV. I took advantage of free Internet to check my work emails, and sprawled out on the comfy bed to do some writing (we could have taken advantage of the pool too). Prior to the flight, I showered and changed — taking advantage of hotel toiletries so I didn’t have to pack my own in my carry-on.
                So was it worth it? In our situation, yes. The only downside was that the day rate — $129 plus tax — wasn’t much of a discount off the regular overnight rate of $149..But that’s the price we paid for having a sane relaxing day.
                A day room isn’t for everyone. If you’re traveling light, bumming around the airport is certainly a cheaper way to go; spa amenities and shopping make it easier than ever to waste hours of time. If you’re elite, you might get free access to an exclusive lounge (you can often buy day passes for these, too). Renting a car or stowing your luggage and sightseeing will make better use of your time in town if there are attractions you’d like to see. (We did this in Oahu — Pearl Harbor has luggage storage and a taxi stand for getting back to the airport.)
                But if you just want to relax with no hassles — especially good for families — we say, get a room! Just like any hotel, you can either call ahead and make a day rate reservation or do it when you arrive. Some hotels advertise the service on their website too; that’s how I found the Hyatt. (Websites such as Between9and5.com and Dayuse-hotels.com claim to find good dayrates too, although we can’t vouch for them).
                How do you like to kill time post-cruise and pre-flight? Let us know in the comments below.
                *Feeling blue after your cruise? Read 10 ways to beat post-cruise depression.
                *Read how to solve common cruise problems.
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