Tip: Your bags are packed. Travel documents are in order. What else could you be missing? While the mental checklist might come naturally to some, it’s easy for others to neglect “the obvious” when gearing up for embarkation day. One way to avoid stressing before your cruise is by arriving at your port city a day early. Whether you’re driving or flying, adding wiggle room to your itinerary will help you prepare for the unexpected. Vacations are for relaxing, after all!
Full Article: Read 14 more ways to take the stress out of embarkation day.
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Cruise Ship: HAL’s Veendam
Background: It didn’t take long for mygoalie35 to feel relaxed on her Holland America cruise to Bermuda — even with kids in tow. The ship’s laidback vibe and overnights in port allowed her, her husband, 19 year-old son and four year-old grandson to sail at their own pace — bumming by the pool while taking advantage of the kids’ club and exploring the island without feeling rushed to get back on the ship. Read on for her favorites.
Onboard Highlight: The kids’ club. Mygoalie35’s grandson loved the activities and attention he received since it wasn’t as crowded.
Port Highlight: A glass-bottom boat and snorkeling tour.
Don’t Miss: The eggs benedict dish at the buffet.
Watch Out For: Daily activities seemed to consist mostly of computer classes and dancing — so be wary if you’re more into rock-climbing walls and swimming pool contests.
More: Read mygoalie35’s full review for more details about the ship and Bermuda.
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.
After spending the past few days on Carnival Triumph, we’re convinced short, four-day “taster” cruises are a great introduction to what life at sea is all about. (And now that the U.S. government is phasing out “cruises to nowhere,” these short voyages, which only stop in one or two ports, are likely to become more plentiful.)
Taking a short cruise has a few obvious benefits. You burn fewer vacation days, for one thing, and the initial price is usually wallet friendly (although even on a short cruise, extras such as drinks, spa treatments and excursions can add up). Your fellow passengers are usually younger — on Triumph, the bulk of passengers were 30 to 50 — and less jaded about cruising than perhaps more veteran cruisers; a full 70 percent of the people on our ship were taking a voyage for the first time. That means there’s an anticipatory energy on a short cruise that you don’t always see on a traditional seven-day sailing.
Here are four reasons why we’d take a short cruise again.
1. Meet Your Neighbors
Most people who take short cruises live within driving distance of the port. On our Galveston-based sailing, more than 57 percent of the passengers lived in Texas, with most of the rest hailing from Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. We saw friendships springing up in the lobby bar and romances blossoming at the piano bar. That’s not necessarily unusual. But knowing that your new BFFs are only a few towns away means you’re much more likely to stay in touch than if you lived halfway across the U.S.
In the My First Cruise series, Cruise Critic reaches out to first-time cruisers who recently returned from their very first cruise to find out why they chose a cruise, how they liked it and how it compared to what they expected and where they want to cruise to next.
Want to be featured? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Why did you decide to take a cruise?
A. I wanted to see several places in one vacation.
Q. Did you have any preconceptions of what to expect from a cruise?
Q. Why and how did you choose the cruise line and ship you chose?
A. I came across it during an Internet search. It was a great value for what was offered and went to locations I had not visited before.
Q. What was your favorite place on the ship? Why?
A. That’s a tough question. My favorite place was the specialty restaurants.
Q. What was your favorite thing about cruising?
A. The entertainment was top notch, as were the dining and excursion choices.
Q. What was the biggest surprise?
A. How comfortable the mini suite was; the bathroom was much bigger than I expected.
Q. Where do you want to cruise to next?
A. More Caribbean islands!
Q. What kind of person/traveler would enjoy the cruise you were on?
A. Someone who loves entertainment and adventures would like this cruise.
With its reputation for offering a classic cruise experience (and a clientele that skews slightly older — average age is 55), you’re unlikely to encounter beer pong games or hairy chest contests on Holland America sailings. But the line offers its own brand of signature features that its passengers love.
Here’s a look at some experiences that make HAL special:
1. Themed Afternoon Teas
Yes, they’re an excuse to squeeze yet another meal into the day, but Holland America’s themed afternoon teas are also a mini cultural experience.
Particularly popular is the weekly Indonesian Tea (cue the gamelan music), featuring traditional treats like fried banana, coconut crepes and rice-coconut balls. Many people don’t realize that modern Indonesia was once the Dutch East Indies, and Indonesian cuisine is extremely popular in the Netherlands, where HAL can trace its roots.
Expect Dutch sweets and savories like almond cookies and sausage rolls at the ship’s Dutch Royal Tea. The Cupcake Tea — very popular with those grandparents bringing their grandchildren — offers up a festive array of iced treats in all flavors, including mini red velvet bites. For non-tea drinkers, creamy milkshakes are served.
Call me a party pooper, but I dread having a birthday while I’m on a cruise. The dining room lights dim to cue the arrival of a cake with a sparkler or candles (depending which line you’re on) while waiters circle the table and erupt into a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Strangers at surrounding tables join in, only to mumble or go silent through the part where your name crops up.
It makes me cringe. And even if you’re not the recipient, you still have to suffer through it. On a large ship, there seems to be a birthday or honeymoon/anniversary rendition of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” — even worse as the tune goes on for longer — virtually every night.
So I was relieved to find I’m not the only killjoy. Cruise Critic member balf took to the forums to express his distaste for surprise serenades.« go back — keep looking »