21 Signs You’re a Cruise Addict

January 20, 2015 | By | 66 Comments

cruise ship

Anyone can say they’re addicted to cruising. It’s easy to get hooked after one week of basking in the sun and fresh salty air, hopping around exotic lands without a worry in the world. But it takes a special set of credentials to actually bear the label.

Cruise addicts are fully aware — and accepting — of their condition. We’re not talking about the guy with the Royal Caribbean tattoo or the family with a Carnival funnel on their minivan (you’re welcome for that idea). Most cruise addicts like to keep a low profile.

To determine how much of a cruise addict you really are, we’ve made a list of 21 obvious warning signs. How many apply to you?

1. You basically work to fund your next cruise

2. Your smartphone and/or computer wallpaper is a cruise ship or destination

Read on for the full list of symptoms

    Member Review of the Week: The Cruise That Keeps on Giving

    January 20, 2015 | By | No Comments

    photo courtesy of photomatz/Shutterstock

    Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, and showcase one as the Member Review of the Week. In the spotlight this week is Cruise Critic member coba57’s recent Mexican Riviera cruise aboard Norwegian Star.

    Overall Impression: Mazatlan was back on the itinerary. So coba57 and his wife couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to the Mexican Riviera as suite passengers on Norwegian Star. Minus a few hiccups, their fourth cruise on the ship reminded them why it was worth doing it again.

    Onboard Highlight: All the perks of being a suite passenger — not to mention the familiar faces of some of their favorite crewmembers.

    Port Highlight: Mazatlan, especially since they missed calling there last time.

    Don’t Miss: Moderno Churrascaria, Norwegian’s Brazilian steakhouse.

    Watch Out For: The food in the buffet — which was the only exception to their dining experience.

    More: Read coba57’s full review for more details about their onboard experience.

    For their efforts, coba57, ElleZ, Kondur and tbmrt receive Cruise Critic logo items.

    Read more reviews or write your own cruise review

      Hot on the Forums: Do You Go Nuts for Bar Snacks

      January 16, 2015 | By | 3 Comments

      image of beer nuts

      Any bartender worth their salt knows free sodium-filled snacks make customers thirsty and want to drink more – or simply draw them in, in the first place. Many of our forum members think drinks and salty nibbles go hand in hand, and are perturbed when they can’t find them.

      One of them is jdcml, who asked: “Am I the only one annoyed by a lack of bar snacks?”

      He writes: “On our recent Conquest trip, we spent a number of evenings in the lobby with a drink from the bar listening to music. I finally broke down and bought some way overpriced peanut mix from the gift shop because I needed just a little something while I had a beer (or two).  I seemed to remember having something like that at some point and finally asked the bartender. He said they used to have it many years ago before they went through some cuts. 

      “Is it just me, or would people be more inclined to buy another round or two if they had something like that? Not a community bowl that everyone digs in to, but something small that maybe they can provide on request if you order a drink.”

      It triggered quite a debate over whether the disappearance of peanuts, pretzels, potato chips and other moreish snacks is down to penny pinching or hygiene fears. Without going into it, most of us have probably heard yukky tales of – be they truth or urban myth – about the result of contamination tests on communal bowls of peanuts left on a bar.

      kelkel2 says: “I think the real reason they got rid of bar snacks was for the hygiene reason. I mean I think people are quick to blame the budget cuts, but I think this one was for the better. It doesn’t take much for Noro to spread on a ship and it could spread oh so quickly with just one person not washing their hands and putting their hands into the pretzels and someone else eating them.”

      Typically, members have plenty of suggestions for the cruise lines in question, such as dispensing snacks with tongs, providing glass ‘carafes’ of snacks that you have to pour out onto your hand or bowls for two that can be shared between consenting chip consumers. Some suggested taking your own snacks on board while andy.capitan came up with the bright idea of ordering pretzels from room service and taking them to the bar.

      Other members, such as poison7fl, asked why people even had an appetite for snacks.  

      “We are on a ship with so much food we don’t know what to do with ourselves, 24 hour room service, 24 hour pizza, 24 ice cream, taste bars, gift shops, candy shops, dessert stand, and we are talking about snacks at the bar?”

      So is the absence of bar snacks sensible or stingy? Let us know what you think in the comments.

        5 Cruise Booking Mistakes to Avoid

        January 15, 2015 | By | 7 Comments

        photo courtesy of Lurin/Shutterstock

        Thinking about booking a cruise this year? Don’t screw it up.

        Joking aside, booking a cruise is one of the more complicated vacation purchase transactions you can make. Picking a hotel or choosing a rental car is a much simpler process, simply because there are fewer criteria to consider. With a cruise, you have a whole host of factors to think about — ship, cabin category, package options – and the list goes on. Since no one wants to get their holiday wrong, we want to remind you to pay attention to a few key things. Here are five Don’ts.

        1. Wait Too Long to Book

        Wave season deals can hang around for months, but cruise lines are constantly promoting one-day to one-week sales with shorter booking windows. More importantly, as ships start to sell out, the best prices and the best cabins disappear. If you see a good price on the cabin you want, it’s often better to book now. (Remember, most deposits are refundable before final payment.) If you delay, the low price you saw might go up, and that coveted suite might sell to someone else.

        Shop for Cruise Deals

        2. Pick the Wrong Cabin

        It’s easy to think “any cabin will do” when you’re booking a cruise, but you will be thinking the opposite when your claustrophobia kicks in the first night in an inside cabin or you’re woken at O-Dark-Thirty by the anchor dropping outside your room. Pay careful attention to which type of cabin you’re choosing and where it’s located on the ship. This is one vacation component where paying a little bit more for a higher category or better location can make a huge difference in your cruise enjoyment.

        The Ultimate Guide to Cruise Ship Cabins

        3. Choose the Wrong Year

        Cruise lines plan itineraries a few years out — you can book 2016 sailings now. It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, someone accidentally books a cruise for the wrong year (see our previous post about a family who showed up a year early for their cruise) While their story miraculously turned out well, you most likely will be turned away if you mean to book a cruise for 2015 and inadvertently book one for 2016. Check, and re-check, your dates of travel before you hit submit on that payment.

        4. Ignore the Fine Print

        Who doesn’t skim (or completely ignore) the fine print when presented with pages of small-type legalese? Yet, it’s important to know the booking rules about the cruise deal you’re about to get. Does the lower fare require you to pay in full at time of booking? Can you combine the offer with your past-passenger perks or other discounts/value-adds? Will the cruise line be choosing your cabin location? Will additional fees be tacked on later? You’ll want to know all of that up front.

        Secrets the Cruise Lines Don’t Tell You

        5. Forget to Shop Around

        The cruise line sends you an email with enticing starting rates and pretty pictures of tropical beaches, and the next thing you know you’re dialing the phone number and saying yes to a cruise line sales rep. If you don’t shop around, you’ll never know that the travel agent down the street can offer you the same rate plus onboard credit, prepaid gratuities and an upgrade. Before you book, take a few minutes to compare prices and find the best deal available. Otherwise, you’re leaving money — and maybe some wine, a spa treatment and a shore excursion — on the table.

          Steal of the Week: Royal VIP Packages

          January 15, 2015 | By | 1 Comment

          piggy bank on family vacation
          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: Royal Caribbean is offering VIP — “very inclusive packages” — for Mediterranean cruises sailing from Barcelona onboard Allure of the Seas. Choose from three tiers and enjoy added inclusions such as tours, transfers, a two-night hotel stay and more when you book your package by January 31.
          WHAT WE LOVE: A trend continuing into 2015, cruise packages — like this one from Royal Caribbean — offer value for money by bundling cruise fare with added amenities like a pre-cruise hotel stay, shore tours, meals, prepaid gratuities and onboard extras like specialty dinners or beverage packages. By offering three tiers of packaging — Basic, Premium and Premium Plus — cruisers can find a package within their price range, based on the inclusions that matter most to them. Packages start from just $799 per person ($114 per night) and include your cruise fare for a weeklong Mediterranean sailing on the largest ship at sea, air credits, two nights’ hotel accommodations in Barcelona, along with breakfast and all transfers, a hop on hop off tour in Barcelona, and priority check-in at boarding.
          WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: The packages do not include flights, but rather ChoiceAir credits — from $400 to $500 — that may come with stipulations attached from the cruise line. Make sure you can use that money towards your airfare or the value of the package certainly decreases. As is the case for most deals, taxes and fees are additional so work those into the budget beforehand. If you drink, the Premium package may be a better value for just $100 more per person, but even if you don’t, additional sightseeing is included. Weigh your benefits before choosing your package.
          HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (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.

            Why Luxury Lovers Should Be Excited About Regent Seven Seas Explorer

            January 14, 2015 | By | No Comments

            What would you splurge on?

            When Regent Seven Seas unveiled its first look at 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer — an all-new ship that will debut in summer 2016 – it’s understandable why the focus went to its luxurious Regent Suite and its price tag. With the first-ever private spa at sea — the suite is twice as large as the average American house – the cabin costs just over $100,000 for a 10-night Mediterranean cruise; that’s a breathtaking splurge for just about everyone (certainly everyone we know).

            The suite’s lovely, no doubt about it. The two-bedroom spread comes with a custom-made Steinway piano, unlimited spa treatments), a sunroom out on the forward deck boasting 270 degree view and a balcony stretching across three sides of the ship. With just one of these onboard, we’re sure that there will be enough takers to book it up.

            But what we find more more intriguing is how this ship reflects a new era for luxury cruising, one that aims to drop the barrier between travel experiences on upscale ships and what’s perceived to be their competition: Splashy top-notch land-based resorts. Think Aman, Mandarin Oriental or Banyon Tree.

            As a traveler who seeks out low-stress, high-quality vacation adventures – and who is willing to pay a bit more to find them — here’s why we’re excited about Seven Seas Explorer:

            Space ratio

            This is a stat that matters when it comes to judging luxury cruise ships. The figure, which is configured by dividing the number of passengers into a ship’s tonnage, tells you whether a ship will be densely populated — or absolutely spacious. Explorer’s ratio is the second highest in cruising (only Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 is higher and only then by just a smidge).

            That means you’ll sit in restaurants with plenty of space (and privacy) between tables. You shouldn’t find lines onboard, your cabin and its bathroom will be roomy, and there should always a seat for you in your favorite lounge.

            Perfect size

            With a capacity of 750 passengers, Seven Seas Explorer is definitely larger than many more traditional luxury ships, which carry between 300 to 600 onboard. But it’s still nowhere near the size of even the smallest big ship. As a result, passengers should have more options when it comes to restaurants, lounges, spa, and entertainment, while the vessel is still small enough to nip into more offbeat ports of call.

            Design

            The renderings of public rooms, ranging from the statuesque but still intimate lobby to the stalagmite-inspired (it’s absolutely more gorgeous than it sounds) Compass Rose main dining room, show an anything-but-stodgy design scheme. With vibrant colors and plush textiles, the vessel has dynamic spaces that wouldn’t feel out of place in a glamorously retro 1940s Hollywood hotel.

            In our video above, Siobhan Barry, a designer with ICRAVE whose responsible for the ship’s theater, articulated why design matters. "It’s that idea that you are yourself but just a little more glamorous, a little more idealized. It’s the space to be the best version of yourself, to live out a fantasy."

            Ok, we know that fares may seem stratospherically expensive on first glimpse, though it’s interesting to note that the Regent Suite fare quoted by the cruise line is actually the "rack rate". With a "2-for-1 plus free airfare" the cost is actually just $49,999 (for two) instead of the six-figure price tag. For those of us who are still pinching pennies to a point, a veranda suite, measuring a fairly small 219 square ft., starts at $9,499 for two with the same deal.

            As is true with all of Regent Seven Seas ships, it’s important to do the math: It’s one of cruising’s most inclusive lines; fares include air, shore excursions, drinks, service and more. There’s something to be said for paying for most your trip up front. To me, that’s luxury, and that’s worth a splurge.

            What’s luxury to you when booking a cruise?

              Wanderlust Wednesday: Another Side of Norway

              January 14, 2015 | By | No Comments

              Norwegian Hillside - photo courtesy of TLCOhio/Cruise Critic Forums

              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. Feel free to send us your Twitter or Instagram handle. Maybe you’ll get a shout-out next #WanderlustWednesday!

              Norway conjures up images of fjords, waterfalls and glaciers. But there’s so much more to see. Especially in the summer, lush forests blooming with flowers create a scenic backdrop to the colorful houses lining the coast and inland. We love this photo by Cruise Critic member TLCOhio that shows a picture-perfect home on the hillside.

              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: Drones on the Loose

                January 13, 2015 | By | 21 Comments

                photo courtesy of Warongdech/Shutterstock

                If you thought a selfie stick was this year’s must-have toy for cruisers, think again.

                There I was, meditating on top of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar, on a sunset excursion from my recent Irrawaddy river cruise. Hundreds of people had gathered and the atmosphere was peaceful and contemplative.

                Suddenly, the air filled with a horrible, high-pitched whine. I practically toppled off the ledge I was perched on as a camera drone zoomed in too close for comfort, screaming around the temple and buzzing the crowd. Instead of photographing the sunset and thinking Buddhist thoughts, everybody started doing Mexican waves at the device, which hovered in front of us like an enormous wasp. The peace was shattered.

                Drones are everywhere now; you can buy one online for $300 (excluding the camera). And they’re coming your way on cruise ships. Only last week, a reader posted rather aggressively on Carnival cruise director John Heald’s Facebook page: “Your (Carnival) FAQs say that drone cameras must be stored in staterooms and can only be used in port? Really? I wanted to get some footage of the Paradise when the ship is out at sea on my next cruise and was willing to share this professional footage with Carnival. Can you ask permission from the captain or whoever needs to grant it?”

                Just imagine if every enthusiast brought their drone on a cruise and flew it wherever it took their fancy on a sea day. There would be carnage. Sunbathers would have no privacy and the aircraft would end up crash landing on balconies, or falling in the sea. As a toy, they’re so new that a lot of countries (Myanmar presumably being one) haven’t regulated them.

                Some cruise lines aren’t taking any chances. Royal Caribbean already prohibits drones; and John Heald’s correspondent is correct in that Carnival allows them for port use only.

                Would you expect to be able to fly your drone on a cruise? Or would you rather see them banned from the start? Let us know.

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