Love reading the Cruise Critic boards? So do we! Every other Friday, we end the week on the Lido Deck by selecting a few forum threads that have made us laugh, cry or argue the finer points of cruising.
Supporting the Philippines. We were touched this week by the multiple outpourings of support, thoughts and prayers that our members posted throughout our forums for families of Filipino crew members affected by Typhoon Haiyan. As we reported earlier, several cruise lines have stepped up with donations toward relief organizations and also allowed their crew to take time to call or visit friends and family who were the hardest hit. While sometimes our forums seem to concentrate on the small stuff, our members band together with empathy during the toughest times – and that shows the true spirit of community.
Preparing for my latest voyage, the packing checklist looks a lot like the usual, at least on the surface. New shoes? Absolutely. A few new items of clothing? Why not. Camera, raincoat, Kindle, are also among the staples I lug around from cruise to cruise.
But this is no “normal” voyage. On this trip – my first-ever soft adventure cruise — I’m traveling on International Expeditions’ 31-passenger La Estrella Amazonica down the Peruvian Amazon, the mighty river’s more exotic and more remote section And while pictures show the line’s new Amazonica as quite comfortable (nice touch – balconies with every cabin!) the places we’ll be visiting in the jungle might not be so forgiving.
For someone whose cruise experience has focused on mainstream, luxury and European river lines, the otherworldly adventure of this trip began with the IE-recommended packing list.
When my father traveled with me last month on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, I expected to hear a few tales of déjà vu. After all, he had sailed with my mother on Adventurer, one of the line’s smaller ships, back in 1974.
(The vessel, along with its twin Cunard Ambassador, represented a departure from the transatlantic company and was one of its first ventures into leisure cruising. Interestingly enough, after years with Norwegian Cruise Lines, the ship still lives on with Louis Cruises, first as Coral and now as Rhea.).
Back then, cruising had yet to become a mainstream vacation (this was well before The Love Boat sailed into America’s hearts), and the pictures my parents took it proved it. “There wasn’t much choice in those days,” my father noted. Traveling out of San Juan, the ship made stops in Aruba, Grenada and Caracas, Venezuela, a port that you don’t see on too many itineraries anymore.
On this #ThrowbackThursday, here are a few more changes that my father noticed since his last Cunard outing (he’s also traveled on Crystal, Carnival, Princess, and Viking river):
The cabins are more luxe. Our suite in Princess Grills bore little resemblance to the ship my dad described. “Cabin was NOT great. We had bunk beds!” he told me. Also, the ship had no balconies, although there was a porthole for light.
The officers eat separately. Because of my job at Cruise Critic, we were graciously invited to dine with the captain on QM2, a lovely experience on formal night. But back in the day, officers were assigned to every large table and ate with passengers every night, Dad said. “We were with the ship’s doctor. He had us for cocktails in his cabin.” (Personally, I love those mid-century Mod chairs).
Changes in the dining room, food. “I think the food quality went down as the variety of eating places went up,” said Dad, although he’s quick to note that his palate has changed drastically over the years (“We were 30 years old, we didn’t know much.”).
Changes in the dining room, service. Back in the ’70s, “waiters were more friendly and every table had a busboy assigned to it,” he said. While we were assigned to Princess Grill (and only ate dinner twice there over five days), Dad also quibbled with the more casual approach toward drinks served with the meal. “Our wine steward was rarely seen, even in PG. It used to be more of a big deal.”
Now it’s your turn – we’re dying to see your #ThrowbackThursday cruise photos! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with Throwback in the subject line.
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: Azamara Club Cruises is offering free shore excursions for each port of call on your 2014 Mediterranean cruise, when you book from select itineraries by December 15. Added bonuses include prepaid gratuities, drinks and shuttles.
Now I understand why “loyal Royals” who gravitate toward the line’s intimate Vision Class don’t consider it a typical smaller ship.
Aside from the fact that my one-night cruise aboard Vision of the Seas — which recently received its Oasis Class makeover — felt more like a three-nighter (so much to do, so little time!), the 2,514-passenger vessel that’s always set itself apart with big-ship touches has just taken it even further. For now, it has the bragging rights among its five siblings.
While there are reasons to talk about everything new added to Vision of the Seas, I’ve narrowed them down to the five coolest.
Panoramic Oceanview Cabin
It looks like a balcony, feels like a balcony, sounds like a balcony…. you catch my drift. This outside-category cabin with floor-to-ceiling window is ideal for those who want to save a few bucks without sacrificing the view. At 193 square feet, it’s slightly smaller than most Panoramic Oceanview cabins within the Vision Class, but the amenities, such as floor-to-ceiling window and two twin beds that convert into a king, that have made it so popular on other ships make up for it.
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 email@example.com or post it in our member photo gallery.
Thanks to member USATWORCREW for submitting this photo of a shopping market on the Aruba pier!
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We were lucky enough to be invited onboard Hebridean Princess Monday. The almost-50-year-old ship (it celebrates its birthday in March) is most famous for being chartered by HM The Queen — twice. But the ship is unique for many other reasons, including its original fittings and a throwback to a simpler time. Here are some of the quirkier aspects of this historic vessel.
There are few other cruise ships we know of where you can relax after dinner in front of a fireplace. Above is the view of the huge fireplace in the Tiree Lounge onboard Hebridean Princess. (It’s worth noting that it’s not a real fire.)
It had been too long since member JennSTX sailed aboard Carnival Triumph. So when she finally booked some bonding time with her seven-year-old son, it not only marked her third cruise on the ship, but also her first time since it had been revitalized with the “Fun Ship 2.0″ upgrades.« go back — keep looking »