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).
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?”
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.
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Cruise Ship: Regent Seven Seas Mariner
Itinerary: Western Mediterranean
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.)
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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.
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.