Live from….Giglio, Italy: Costa Concordia Raising and Salvage

July 14, 2014 | By | No Comments

I’m back in Giglio, Italy almost 10 months after the parbuckling operation which righted Costa Concordia to an upright position.
The parbuckling took place over 24 hours and seemed painfully slow at the time. This refloat and eventual tow to the scrapyard in Genoa will take at least a week, but the pace today has somehow felt quicker.
It was also very quiet last September, with just locals and journalists (of course) watching from the portside; the atmosphere felt slightly surreal. This time, the second phase of the operation is being done against the backdrop of hundreds of tourists, who line the port, often taking up a spot to stare out at the ship all day.
The good news is it’s all going to plan – the ship has been raised between two and four metres (6.5 to 13 feet) and towed 30 metres from shore (98 feet) . So far so good.
Read on to find out more

    A Closer Look: 5 Things to Know about Carnival’s New Kids Program, Camp Ocean

    July 14, 2014 | By | No Comments

    Signature igloos in Camp Ocean, Carnival's new kids program
    Camp Ocean debuted on Carnival Freedom after it underwent dry dock this past spring. Replacing Camp Carnival as the line’s onboard children’s program, the space has kept the same camp-style oasis feel, with programming changes and new spaces. Camp Ocean will be rolled out across all Carnival ships over the next two years.
    On a recent cruise through the Southern Caribbean, we toured the updated facility, spoke with Youth Director Ana Klacinski, and got the general consensus from parents onboard our sailing: What’s Camp Ocean all about?
    How is Camp Ocean different from Camp Carnival?
    When Carnival set out to refresh the program, suggestions were collected over time from parents and family members, Klacinski said. All of these ideas were taken into account when developing Camp Ocean.
    The result remains a camp rather than a daycare, with more emphasis on age-specific rooms and play areas. Focusing on oceanography, Camp Ocean trades in the bold oranges and a carnival of other accent colors for underwater blues and grays. Camp Ocean thoughtfully blends education and entertainment through more than 200 activities, all of which adhere to the marine theme. Even the youngest group learns about how long a whale is in a 45-minute activity mentioned in their program.
    An arts and crafts room called Creative Cove divides the middle and invites families to participate in activities together. The Party Reef is an open space for just that: an impromptu party with a large flatscreen TV to provide accompanying music and videos. As far as programming goes, a badge challenge — similar to Girl and Boy Scout badges — has been introduced, encouraging young cruisers to accomplish outlined onboard experiences. There are more than 20 badges available for activities such as singing karaoke, trying a new food in the dining room, or creating a towel animal. Badges can be collected over multiple cruises, and at the end of each, there is a ceremony held with giveaways for each age group.
    Read on to find out more

      Hot on the Forums: Up in Smoke

      July 11, 2014 | By | 40 Comments

      Broken cigarette
      This week Carnival announced that as of October 9, it will ban smoking on its balconies, joining most other mainstream cruise lines. Just Norwegian and Holland America allow balcony smoking now, and in the UK, Saga and Fred. Olsen (which doesn’t have many balconies anyway).
      The first reaction for many cruisers is probably ‘Good!’ Even as a smoker-friendly non-smoker (some of my closest cruising friends smoke) I’m pleased; there’s nothing worse than going out for sea air first thing in the morning and having your neighbor light up a ciggie, causing you to cough and wheeze. Or getting ready for a formal dinner with the balcony door open and having fumes waft in from next door, leaving a nasty smell on your fancy frock.
      Smoking in a designated area on deck is fine, because as a non-smoker, you can choose to go elsewhere. But you pay extra for a balcony and you should have the right to enjoy it without this invasion of your fresh air.
      And yet… some people will smoke, for the foreseeable future. So some of our members wonder, why can’t cruise lines create nicer places for them to smoke onboard?
      Read on for more

        Video: Take a Virtual Tour of Quantum of the Seas!

        July 11, 2014 | By | 4 Comments

        Royal Caribbean has teamed up with self-confessed “tech geek”, TV presenter Jason Bradbury to take viewers on a virtual guided tour of its new ship, Quantum of the Seas.
        The video (above) showcases some of the standout features including the North Star, the bumper cars and 270 – the restaurant/theatre, which uses robotic screens and projections to transform the entire space: “Vistarama is the most sophisticated video projection system in the world,” Bradbury claims.
        It’s just three months and three weeks until we will be able to see it for ourselves. But until then: enjoy the video!
        What are you most looking forward to experiencing onboard Quantum? Let us know in the Comments below.

          Cruise Critic Live! Refloating Costa Concordia

          July 10, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

          Costa Concordia in Giglio, Italy, during parbuckling
          This Monday, July 14, operations will begin to refloat Costa Concordiathe most complex and expensive maritime recovery operation in history – and Cruise Critic will be there, reporting live.
          Cruise Critic’s U.K. Editor, Adam Coulter, will be on the island of Giglio throughout the refloat – posting news stories, tweeting live, taking pictures and answering your questions throughout the week.
          And all of this will be accessible in one place: Cruise Critic Live from today.
          Read on to find out more.

            Steal of the Week: 7-Night S. Caribbean from $499

            July 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

            piggy bank cruising caribbean
            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: Celebrity Cruises is offering a seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise onboard Celebrity Summit, sailing roundtrip from San Juan on November 1, 2014. Prices start from $499 per person, for an inside cabin.
            WHAT WE LOVE: Beautiful ship, beautiful itinerary, beautiful price. Summit has received a number of Solstice-class upgrades in recent years, offering Qsine, Aqua-class cabins and Apple products. Five gorgeous ports in seven days will keep you busy, touring Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. From $72 per person per night, the value (versus traveling to each port and putting up for hotels) is huge.
            WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: No passport required, but flights to Puerto Rico can still be pricey. If you’re looking for something other than an inside cabin for the week, the price jumps significantly to $849 for an ocean view. If you are splurging, the difference between a balcony, Concierge-class and Aqua-class cabin is more minimal — a $50 to $100 difference — so research the amenities you’re looking for ahead of time. Taxes, fees and port expenses are additional. If you’re a person who likes sea days to explore the ship, there’s only one; be prepared for a port-intensive itinerary.
            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.

              Say What? Silly Cruise Questions (That Never Should Have Been Asked)

              July 9, 2014 | By | 10 Comments

              Woman looking silly
              Cruise Critic member GHstudio made an acute observation on the message boards recently: “Somehow, when people get on a ship on a cruise vacation, the most logical people just turn off their brain.”
              And when the brain is left on the dock, out come the questions and comments.
              Not just the old classics like ‘Do the crew sleep on board?’ and ‘What time is the midnight buffet?’ but new, even more ridiculous offerings.
              Read on to find out more crazy questions!

                Wanderlust Wednesday: Gone Fishin’

                July 9, 2014 | By | No Comments

                Abandoned boats found during a cruise ship excursion in Costa Rica
                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.
                Have you ever discovered a hidden treasure while cruising? Cruise Critic member coappleby1 stumbled upon these two abandoned boats during an excursion in Costa Rica. (We wish we could take a peek inside.) If you’ve got a story, share it in the comments below!
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