Regal Princess: A Spa Day Fit for a King

September 11, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

A hirsute Adam Coulter gets ready for his Royal Shave
A hirstute Adam Coulter gets ready for his Royal Shave

I’m not a big fan of massages. I also don’t really like going to the hairdresser’s.

There’s just so much other stuff I could be doing while I’m lying down being squeezed and kneaded and pushed and pummeled while tinkly tinkly music goes on in the background. So when Princess Cruises suggested I try out a spa day on Regal Princess – complete with haircut, shave and a massage – let’s just say I wasn’t overly keen. However, I am open to trying new things and having never been to the salon onboard a cruise ship, nor ever had someone give me a shave I thought “Why not?”.

Read on for the full spa experience

    Steal of the Week: 14-Night Repo Cruise from $899

    September 11, 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: Norwegian Cruise Line is offering an 14-night repositioning cruise onboard Norwegian Epic, sailing from Barcelona to Miami on October 26, 2014. Prices start from $899 per person for an inside cabin.
    WHAT WE LOVE: A two-week cruise vacation on Epic — newest Norwegian ship before the Breakaway class — isn’t bad at $899. Repositioning cruises usually add value to your money, with longer itineraries and two ports to choose from for a pre- or post-cruise extension. You’ll have plenty of time to explore all the amenities onboard, with many of the same dining and entertainment options as the line’s newest ships — from sushi and the ice bar to non-variety shows like Blue Man Group. If you’re a ‘ship person’, most of your days are spent at sea, allowing ample time to explore every inch of the vessel. The few port calls there are include Funchal early in the cruise, and two days in the Eastern Caribbean after nearly a weeklong stretch.
    WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: This sailing is selling out quickly and while the cheapest cabin category is still available, you’re only other options are balcony and Haven rooms — balconies are $370 more per person, but may be worth it just for some fresh air on such a long sailing. The main concern is being onboard for the long stretch — and be mindful of weather: you’re sailing into the Caribbean which is still under the hurricane season umbrella in late October. Booking flights to Spain now is a bit last-minute — check out flight prices with our sister site TripAdvisor’s meta-search tool.
    HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on this deal (including that pesky fine print), click here.
    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.

      Do We Overplan for Cruises?

      September 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

      Woman with an overpacked suitcase

      To plan or not to plan? That is the question.

      I once went on business trip with a man who told the rest of the group that not only did his wife do all his packing, but she labeled each item of clothing (down to his underwear) with the day it was to be worn (sub-divided into daytime and evening).

      Everything was fine until the day the itinerary altered. He was thrown into a sartorial quandary as his Tuesday (night) attire was no longer suitable for the less formal dinner, and the more appropriate Monday ensemble had already been worn and Friday’s wardrobe choice was yet to come. Dining out on the tale afterwards, friends found it hard to believe. I have now found there are plenty of his counterparts on cruise lines.

      Similar scenarios came to the fore when Cruise Critic member pv_girl started wondering if overplanning and overthinking can take away the magic of cruising.

      Read on for our members’ take on overplanning.

        Wanderlust Wednesday: Egypt is Calling

        September 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

        Green forest with hikers overlooking the ocean
        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.
        Grand Circle’s River Anuket was specially designed to cruise the Nile River. In this photo captured by Cruise Critic member hawkeye1947, the 138-passenger ship sails into the the horizon as sunset nears. Passengers can head to the Sun Deck pool (shown) to soak up views.
        Find interesting places to visit based on region.
        Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
        Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.

          Six Cruise Line Bartenders Mix It Up in Battle for the Best

          September 9, 2014 | By | No Comments

          Breath of Fresh Air, Served by Ioana Luncean

          For bartenders, shaking is part of the job.

          Usually, it’s the drinks they’re shaking.

          On Friday night, though, nerves had six cruise ship bartenders trembling. The talented mixologists were contending for the best bartender crown in the finals of the Bacardi Cruise Competition, an event that highlighted the top bartenders from a field of more than 1,000. Five contestants were chosen by a judging panel, which culled the group from 25 semifinalists. Cruise Critic members chose the sixth, Vera Restarovic, who tends bar on Carnival Conquest.

          I was lucky enough to serve as one of four judges, evaluating the bartenders on areas including drink taste and name, inspiration, storytelling, knowledge of the products and creativity. (Yes, I know, I’m fortunate in my job.)

          Cruise Critic's Colleen McDaniel Graces the Judges' Table of the Bacardi Cruise Competition
          Read on for highlights from the event.

            Member Review of the Week: Memories on the Danube

            September 9, 2014 | By | No Comments

            City with bride over river at sunset
            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 pwright‘s recent cruise on the Danube River aboard Viking Delling.
            Overall Impression: For some, not knowing what to expect on a trip makes the prelude more exciting. Leading up to their Romantic Danube Viking cruise, pwright and her husband questioned inviting another couple to join them, but the excitement and anticipation paved the way for what ended up being the “best vacation ever.”
            Read on for highlights, tips and more.

              Just Back From…Norwegian Jewel: Hits and Misses

              September 8, 2014 | By | 3 Comments

              Fyzz Cabaret Lounge & Bar
              Norwegian Jewel, the first of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Jewel-class ships and dating back to 2005, is an oldie but a goody in the fleet. During the ship’s last dry dock (in May 2014), Norwegian took the time to add some popular elements from its newest ships – Breakaway and Getaway – to Norwegian Jewel. The two main additions are O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill, which actually debuted on Epic, and the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, which until now was only available on Norwegian Getaway.
              The line also took time during the dry dock to move – and completely redo – the Brazilian steakhouse Moderno Churrascaria, bring its photo gallery into the 21st century and put in digital signage throughout the ship.
              But while the shiny new amenities leave the dated elements behind, the redo creates a bit of a split personality for Norwegian Jewel. Here’s what we think works — and what still needs to be fixed.
              *O’Sheehan’s. From the first time I experienced this eatery on Norwegian Epic and on subsequent visits on Breakaway and Jewel, O’Sheehan’s stands as one of the line’s best free food stops. The bar and grill is open 24-hours a day, making it the perfect place to grab a casual breakfast, lunch or dinner. And, other than on embarkation day, we never waited to be seated. The menu is the same every day, with three special entrees — spare ribs, fried chicken and prime rib – rotating each night. One thing we miss in this iteration of the restaurant are the games — the darts, billiards and air hockey — that can also make O’Sheehan’s a great place to hang out on Epic, Breakaway and Getaway.
              Read on for the full list of hits and misses.

                Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

                September 8, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

                Erica Silverstein, Colleen McDaniel, Adam Coulter and Chris Gray Faust 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: Disney Dream
                Where: We depart Port Canaveral for a three-night cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay.
                Who: Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
                Why There? It’s Halloween! On Disney, the holiday season starts in September with two months of Halloween cruises. We’re going to watch spooky movies poolside and join costumed characters at a “Mouse-querade Party.” I’m also going to put Disney’s baby amenities to the test by traveling with my six-month-old on her very first cruise.
                We Can’t Wait: I toured Disney Dream when it was half-baked at the shipyard, so I’m excited to finally ride the AquaDuck, check out the effects at Animator’s Palate and try out adults-only venues like Palo. It’s actually my first Disney cruise ever, so I will be participating wholeheartedly in Pirate Night and attending all the production shows (that is, unless I get Mickey’d out. I prefer Pixar to princesses, so we’ll see whether I catch the Disney spirit or spend the cruise hiding from oversized rodents). On the destination side, I’ve heard great things about Disney’s private island of Castaway Cay. I just hope that departing the day after Hurricane Day (September 10 — the busiest storm day each year) doesn’t keep me away from this much-anticipated port stop.
                Village in Switzerland with bridge over river
                Ship: Viking Mani
                Where: Departing from Basel, Switzerland, and sailing the Rhine River to Amsterdam
                Who: Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor
                Why There? Viking is building river ships at an astounding pace, and Mani is one of the line’s famous longships. I’ll be checking out the unique features that make the longships special, like the famous Aquavit Terrace for alfresco dining and beautiful sun deck.
                We Can’t Wait: While I’ve sailed other river cruises, this will be my first Viking experience. I’m really looking forward to sailing with the line that has so boldly taken on the European river market. In addition to its reputation for building stellar longships, Viking creates unique shore excursion experiences that are designed to take you a bit off the beaten path. While I’ve visited several of these ports in Germany, France and the Netherlands previously, I’m excited to see how the Viking shore excursions change my experience. It’s also a great opportunity to familiarize myself with a cruise line that appeals and markets heavily to the North American cruise market. I can’t wait to share photos with our Cruise Critic readers
                Cruise passengers watching a movie at night on top deck of ship
                Ship: Regal Princess
                Where: Livorno (Pisa), Italy
                Who: Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor
                Why There? Cruise Critic’s U.K. team haven’t sampled the sister to Royal Princess yet – but we’ve heard some excellent reports from our U.S. coworkers. Plus, the Princess team is very keen for us to try out the spa onboard from a male perspective. So I’ll be enjoying a hot stones spa treatment, a (much-needed) shave and a haircut — and reporting back with a before-and-after special.
                We Can’t Wait: Having spent the night on Royal Princess, seen the (probably best not mentioned again) TV show recently shown here in the U.K., and heard so much about Regal, I’ve wanted to sample its charms myself. Plus, there is the opportunity to get that all-important selfie at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
                Town in Iceland by the ocean with red and white church
                Where: Iceland (Reykjavik and Akureyri)
                Who: Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
                Why There? Its active volcanoes notwithstanding, Iceland has been appearing on more ship itineraries in recent years, particularly in Akureyri, the country’s second-largest city. Located in Iceland’s north, Akureyri draws summer stops from Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, and Holland America , as well as Azamara, MSC, Costa, Oceania, Silversea and Cunard. We’ll be checking out what sort of things you can do in this remotely rugged part of the world.

                We Can’t Wait: Ever heard of a little show called “Game of Thrones?” The scenes north of the Wall are filmed in northern Iceland, and show-related tours are now available in Akureyri. We hope to get in some whale watching, horseback riding – and a few dips in the area’s thermal springs.

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