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.
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    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 photos@cruisecritic.com 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.

        Just Back From … A Douro River Cruise: Hits & Misses

        August 5, 2014 | By | No Comments

        amavida cruise ship sails douro river valley in portugal
        The big surprise about Portugal’s Douro River – the most vibrant in this part of the Iberian peninsula, is why it’s not on the top of every cruise traveler’s bucket list. Gorgeous and relatively untouched by tourists, this laid-back waterway is surrounded by medieval history, sprawling and steeply terraced vineyards, and dramatic rocky gorges.
        Our trip took place onboard AmaWaterways’ AmaVida, sailing from Portugal’s Porto — a UNESCO World Heritage City that’s also famed for its port lodges — all the way to the tiny village of Spain’s Vega De Terron, population two.
        Along the way, we visited quintas (the Portuguese term for wineries), a 16th century medieval village, the golden city of Spain’s Salamanca, and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Remedies, best known for a dramatic (and knee wobbling) staircase that hovers over the city of Lamego. We tasted wine at the Graham’s, the venerable port house, dined at the Alpendurada Monastery, and picnicked at Sandeman’s Quinta Do Seixo, high on a mountaintop. We learned about muscatel from Quinta de Avessada, Portugal’s highest vineyard, and our tour of cork production at a Porto factory was illuminating.
        In what spare time we could carve out — it was hard to decide what to miss! — we stretched out on comfortable, padded chaise lounges around AmaVida’s pool and admired the rocky gorges, lush forests and groves of almond trees as the riverboat glided along.
        It was one of the most relaxing yet engaging river cruises we’ve ever taken. And AmaWaterways is not alone in attracting travelers to this unsung region; along the way, we spotted riverboats from Uniworld, Viking River and CroisiEurope.
        Still, there are hits and misses on every trip, and ours follow.

        Hits

        Porto. As the embarkation port for all Douro River cruises, ships overnight here — but even a day is not enough time to explore this enchanting city. Why so enchanting? It’s beautiful and mountainous, and has great shopping, terrific culture and lots of historic churches to explore. It’s located on the Atlantic seacoast, where towns like Matosinhos have wonderful restaurants serving fish just off the boat. The port lodges are lovely, offering winery tours and have tasting rooms. (Some, like Graham’s, have lavish restaurants and bars with hilltop views of the city below.) A lot of our fellow passengers took pre- and post-cruise trips to Lisbon and Madrid, but I’d stay put in Porto for a few extra days.
        Read on for more

          Member Review of the Week: Effortless Relaxation

          August 5, 2014 | By | Comments Off

          Panama Canal locks on sunny day
          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 cjhippo‘s recent cruise to the Panama Canal aboard Norwegian Sun.
          Overall Impression: Retired Florida couple cjhippo and her husband were looking for an easy getaway, which is easy when you live within driving distance to a few major home ports. They decided to experience the Panama Canal for its 100th anniversary, onboard Norwegian Sun. Although they endured a disorganized embarkation process, relaxation on the ship was effortless.
          Read on for highlights, tips and more.

            Cruise Critic Live! Don’t Book That Cabin

            August 4, 2014 | By | No Comments

            Carnival Pride Aft balcony
            Every week on Cruise Critic Live, we take a look at all the things to love about cruising, from favorite destinations to amazing dining experiences. We give you the inside scoop on the newest ships at sea and on the rivers. We also welcome outside experts to take questions, including cruise line execs and newsmakers.
            On Thursday, we’re chatting about cruise ship cabins — which ones you should book and which you should avoid. A good cabin will help make your cruise a dream come true. But the wrong cabin could have you losing sleep and seeing red. Our editors have seen a whole lot of cabins through the years and will take your questions, give our favorite tips for choosing and help you pick the the perfect cabin. Join us at 3 p.m. August 7.
            Last week, we hosted special guest Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara, who gave us some juicy news about upcoming refurbishments of his line’s ships. We also had a captain swing by to say hello. If you didn’t join us last week, you missed out on info like this.

            Review the whole chat here. You’ll be glad you did.

              Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

              August 4, 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: Norway (Bergen, Alesund, Trondheim, Arctic Circle, Lofoten Islands, Tromso, Honningsvag, Kirkenes, Oslo)
              Who: Ashley Kosciolek, Ports and Copy Editor
              Why There? As the popularity of European itineraries increases, Cruise Critic is always looking to beef up its coverage of 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. Additionally, the midnight sun will be out during the sailing, so expect some coverage on just how badly it does (or doesn’t) affect your internal clock.

                Live from … Celebrity Cruises Top Chef at Sea: Hits and Misses

                August 1, 2014 | By | 5 Comments

                top chef apron and hat with tuna and knife on top chef cruise
                Pack your knives and go… on a cruise? In Celebrity’s ongoing campaign to attract sophisticated foodies to the line, it has teamed with the Bravo TV for an ongoing Top Chef partnership. For the next year, all ships will hold activities inspired by the popular cooking show, such as QuickFire Challenges and demos, as well as a Top Chef night in the main dining room, where dishes from the show are served.
                In addition, four Top Chef themed cruises featuring “cheftestants” from the show onboard are taking place in 2014. The sailings are on a variety of itineraries, from Bermuda and Alaska cruises to Spain and the Mediterranean cruises.
                We’ve been spending this week on the line’s maiden Top Chef cruise, a seven-night sailing to Bermuda on Celebrity Summit. Here are the things that stood out to us and things that still need to be improved.
                Read on for more
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