Steal of the Week: Fly & Sail With Windstar

April 9, 2015 | By | No Comments

piggy bank sailing worldwide
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: Windstar Cruises is offering new Fly & Sail packages including cruise fare, roundtrip airfare, pre-cruise hotel stay, post-cruise day room and all transfers, from $4,299 per person and up. Sail onboard Wind Spirit June through December with included airfare when you book by May 11.
WHAT WE LOVE: A few grand for a vacation is nothing to bat an eyelash at, but if you’re traveling to Tahiti (especially sailing through the region onboard a yacht) Windstar’s new air-included fares are a great value. Flights to Papeete aren’t cheap, and a hotel stay before your sailing, along with a room to relax in afterwards, lessens the stress of traveling. Transportation to the ship, back to the hotel and then on to the airport also reduces the worries of getting around. Windstar includes overnights and experiences such as a feast and celebration festival in Bora Bora, local entertainment, drift snorkeling and kayaking off of the ship’s water sports platform and more.
WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: If you’re easily jet lagged, you may need more than just one week exploring the South Pacific. Obviously, those extra nights either on land or on a 10-night voyage, will cost you more. Dates do not include holiday sailings, and airfare-included itineraries end in December.
HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
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* 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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    Is Free Room Service on Its Way Out?

    April 8, 2015 | By | 32 Comments

    room service

    One of the long-standing perks of cruising has been the ability to have food magically appear at your cabin, at any hour of the day.

    I remember the delight my sister and I felt on our first cruise, a Western Caribbean voyage on Carnival Fantasy, when we realized that we could order a cheese plate delivered to our room — every day, for free. To a couple of college kids, it felt so decadent, a small luxury that existed only on the high seas.

    If we took that cruise today, our daily nosh would cost $6; cheese and crackers is part of a new room service menu that carries a fee. Carnival is testing the concept; there are still items on the menu, including the line’s famous chocolate cake, that passengers can order for free.

    Read on for more.

      Cruise Tip of the Week: Snagging a Cheap Last Minute Getaway

      April 8, 2015 | By | 8 Comments

      port day lounging

      Tip: Book within 60 to 90 days before departure. This is most cruise lines’ last call for passengers to cancel existing reservations without penalty. If a lot of spaces open up, you most likely will see major price drops as they try to sell out the ship.

      Full Article: Read eight more tips about getting a deal on a last minute cruise.

      Want More?: Check out our related links below for more info, tips and advice.

      - 11 Tips for Finding a Cruise Deal

      - How to Make the Most of Wave Season Deals

      - Shopping Around? Here are the latest last minute cruise deals.

      - Get notified when prices drop.

      Stay tuned for more Cruise Tips of the Week — revealed every Wednesday!

        10 Tips for Surviving a Family Spring Break Cruise

        April 7, 2015 | By | No Comments

        child on a ship

        Although I’ve taken well over a dozen cruises with my kids, we usually opt to avoid sailing during the family-free-for-all known as Spring Break. With ships booked to capacity and fares at top dollar, like most veteran cruisers, I avoid it like norovirus.

        But this year we decided to embrace the madness and booked April break on the Norwegian Breakaway, one of the largest, most popular megaships afloat. We sailed out of New York on a packed ship, and returned in one piece (albeit barely) to share some survival tips that will help you get the most out of your spring break cruise experience.

        1. Don’t rush to the terminal, gangway, or tenders.

        On departure day, everyone else is rushing to the terminal, especially those with little kids, eager to board. Unless you have special embarkation privileges (if you are a frequent cruiser or booked a suite) you can avoid the massive crowds in the terminal by arriving a little late. Consider getting there near the end of the boarding process rather than the beginning. We arrived at noon for a 3 p.m. departure and the wait time was nearly two hours. Ditto for the tenders and gangway during your cruise, and disembarkation.

        9 more cruise tips for your family’s spring break

          Member Review of the Week: Traditional vs. Freestyle Dining

          April 7, 2015 | By | 3 Comments

          Sugarcane Mojito Bar

          Cruise Ship: Norwegian Getaway

          Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

          Member: Alwaazl8

          Background: As a seasoned Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruiser, Alwaazl8 enjoyed the two cruise lines’ offerings — including the traditional cruise dining style of set dining times and tablemates. But Norwegian’s freestyle atmosphere sparked Alwaazl8’s curiosity, and they decided to test the waters on Norwegian Getaway. See their highlights below, and read the full review for a comparison of the lines.

          Onboard Highlight: Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining concept, which allows diners to eat when they wish and includes more restaurant choices — a perk if you’re willing to pay the surcharge that some of them bear.

          Port Highlight: Alwaazl8 didn’t chat about ports in their review, but noted the adequate supply of heated tile loungers in the spa. If you opt to stay onboard during any of your port days, consider a visit to the thermal suite when it’s less crowded.

          Don’t Miss: Lunch at Ocean Blue.

          Watch Out For: The pools. With only two on the ship — including one reserved for kids — the options are limited if you like to swim or take occasional dips.

          More: Read Alwaazl8’s full review for a comparison of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.

          For their efforts, Alwaazl8, loudini56, BLLRP12, micke920 and grandpaiscruising receive Cruise Critic logo items.

          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.

            Just Back From… Cuba Cruise, Hits and Misses

            April 6, 2015 | By | 4 Comments

            Havana, Cuba

            The Canadian company Cuba Cruise has made waves these past two years by being the only cruise line to offer seven-night Havana-to-Havana circumnavigations of the Caribbean’s largest island. It was also in the right place at the right time when President Obama loosened travel restrictions for Americans, partnering right away with people-to-people organizations to offer legal ways to visit Cuba.

            The line has just completed its second season chartering the vessel Louis Cristal, which will be renamed Celestyal Cristal this summer by its Greek owners. I was on the last cruise, along with a phalanx of Canadian and American travel agents, interested in selling the trip to their clients. Here are my thoughts on what worked and what didn’t. (For a second opinion, read what our U.K. editor Adam Coulter wrote about his 2014 Cuba Cruise trip):

            Cruise Critic Live! Cruising to Cuba

            April 16, 10:30 AM EDT

            Ready to cruise to Cuba? With travel opening up for Americans, the Caribbean’s largest island has emerged as a hot destination. With special guest, Cuba Cruise’s Dugald Wells.
            Add to calendar

            Read on for more

              7 Reasons You Should Try Princess’ New Alaska Cruise Program

              April 6, 2015 | By | 6 Comments

              Alaska Horizon from a Princess Cruise

              Midnight sun, otherworldly views and some of the best seafood you’ll ever eat… the list of reasons people seek out an Alaska cruise in the summer could go on. Princess Cruises has long received kudos for its standout voyages to the Last Frontier; it won the “Best Itineraries” award in our 2014 Editors’ Picks.

              When the season opens in a few weeks, the line will debut “North to Alaska!” — a new immersion program aimed to bring local culture onboard with three themes — Eat Like a Local, Learn From the Locals and Celebrate Like a Local.

              If you’re considering an Alaska cruise this summer, here are seven reasons Princess Cruises’ new program might be your perfect fit.

              7 reasons to take a Princess Cruise in Alaska

                Just Back from… Oceania Nautica: Hits & Misses

                April 3, 2015 | By | 1 Comment

                Oceania Nautica

                With only five ships and a lower profile than most cruise lines, Oceania may not have hit your radar. Fans of this line say it’s all about word of mouth—and here aboard Oceania Nautica, guests are quick to sing the ship’s praises. They can tell you exactly what’s changed since the last time they were aboard and, in a few rare instances, what they would improve.

                As an Oceania first-timer, I’m impressed. The “Hits” are a lot easier to spot than the “Misses.” Here’s my take on Nautica:

                HITS

                The Food

                Nautica Dining

                Nautica has some of the best cruise ship food I’ve ever tasted (editor’s note: Oceania won Best Dining in our 2014 Editors’ Picks). In some cases, it could hold its own against fine restaurants anywhere. No wonder repeat travelers cite the food as a major incentive to come aboard this line again. Menus in Nautica’s main restaurant are vast, and include signature choices from Red Ginger and Jack Pepin restaurants — which are on other ships in the fleet — as well as Canyon Ranch spa items. I’m happy to see that there are Asian-inspired offerings that reflect our itinerary, too. Some of my favorite dishes have been a “goat cheese tarte tatin” appetizer, which had a buttery caramelized apple atop goat cheese and crisp pastry; an osso bucco entrée so tender I could cut it with my fork; and an array of delicious house ice creams, including interesting flavors like crème brulee, pink grapefruit and mango.

                Read on for more

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