We Try It: Roadtesting a Butler on a River Cruise

August 17, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

Uniworld Butler

Unless you live in a stately home, the closest you’ve probably gotten to a butler is watching "Downton Abbey." Until recently, I could say the same.

Two consecutive river vessel christenings brought back-to-back butlers into my life. Once the preserve of country estates and seagoing ships, butlers have become an increasing presence on river cruise lines, with Uniworld and Scenic among the lines that offer the service.

As the christening dates drew nearer, I began to feel mildly apprehensive. The idea of having a butler gave me visions of awkward interactions. Having someone wait on me hand and foot conflicts with my fairly typical "British reserve," and the thought of a stranger putting away my underwear fills me with dread. (As we’ve noted before, many other Cruise Critic members feel the same way.)

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    Hot on the Forums: What Snacks Would You Like to See Onboard?

    August 14, 2015 | By | 13 Comments

    Junk food

    Let’s face it, you’re never starved at sea or end up feeling ravenous on rivers. But there are times on a cruise when you have cravings for that little extra something in between meals.

    After an eye-watering serving of wasabi nuts appeared alongside my cocktail on a recent cruise, I found myself hankering the milder version I’d had in the past, and mentioned it in passing to the barman. So imagine my delight when a bowl of the aforementioned nibbles were produced the next day.

    This whetted my appetite for a recent thread started on the Cruise Critic forums by uncleg. “What food would you like to see Carnival offer, like a bar food or snack food?” he asked. “Personally I would love hot wings or teriyaki wings.”

    It didn’t take long for this to open the (cupboard) doors on a list of things cruisers hunger for.

    For example, 092306 would also love to see chicken wings along with soft chocolate chip cookies, albeit served late night, while 450141 says her husband would “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE” chicken wings. Sounds like a clear winner to us.

    EmmeeB and finzup-kt feel a need for nachos; hot pretzels would tickle the taste buds of desert sand, Keywest1 and hockeyluver. Chips are included on plenty of lists, including JayjaFatBoy, GUT2407 and Raxter54, who would also like to see an English-themed pub with fish and chips — aka fries.

    Meanwhile, sweet-toothed Texasl&day, mzloolou and love my grandkids have a desire for doughnuts, with the latter also expressing a longing for New York cheesecake.

    Fellow doughnut fan PortSideCurzan has posted mouth-watering photographic evidence to show you sometimes get what you wish for.

    “During our previous 14-day voyage my wife and I got to know the chef rather well after our chef’s table dinner,” he writes. “He would send us special items in the main dining room and in the steakhouse when he knew we were there. During our chef’s table dinner I mentioned to him that I wish there were donuts on the ship. The very next morning he had this plate of donuts sent to our stateroom. Yum!”

    What snacks would you like to see served up on cruise ships? Tell us in the comments below.

      Just Back From: Windstar Cruises’ Wind Spirit in Tahiti

      August 14, 2015 | By | 4 Comments

      Wind Spirit

      Is this the best cruise in the South Pacific? Possibly. After a week onboard Wind Spirit — Windstar’s vessel which sails from Papeete every week — we found the cruise to be a hard-to-beat combination of dazzling destination, plus swoon-inducing ship.

      Escaping from the usual path of Pacific Island itineraries, Windstar Cruises presents a more luxurious option for adventurers seeking striking scenery and serenity in style. Throw in a few adrenaline-spiking activities, a dose of Tahitian culture, great food and a beverage package, and this is one fun week.

      Here are our hits and misses from our seven-night ‘Dreams of Tahiti’ cruise.

      Read on for more

        Cruise Deal of the Week: 7-Night Canada/New England from $499

        August 13, 2015 | By | No Comments

        traveling piggy bank
        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: Holland America Line is offering a seven-night Canada/New England cruise onboard Veendam, sailing from Boston to Quebec City on September 5, 2015. Prices start from $499 per person for an inside cabin.
        WHAT WE LIKE: Close to $71 per night, this last minute Canada/New England cruise hits five charming East Coast ports in seven days, sailing from Boston to Bar Harbor, Halifax and Sydney in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and an overnight in the North American metropolis with an Old World, European feel, Quebec City. Early in September the weather should be mild to warm and cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a welcome departure from plying the middle of the ocean with nothing in sight. Visit quaint villages and enjoy the cozy culture of New England and Canada, our neighbors to the north. Cruising over Labor Day (September 7), give up one less vacation day if you’re taking time from work. Right now, Holland America is running a fall promotion with reduced deposits and savings on your cabin when you book by September 10.
        WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: Just weeks away, the low price and availability of the September 5 sailing may not hold for long. Other sailings — and Canada/New England itineraries — are available through Holland America, but jump more than 60 percent with the October 3 sailing starting from $809. If you have your mind set on a “leaf-peeping” cruise to gaze at the vibrant fall foliage, you’ll probably have to wait until October to see it. A sailing this early in September (still technically summer) might not have that crisp autumnal feel many book the itinerary for. Taxes and fees totaling nearly $200 also bump the price of the base fare up, so keep this in mind when budgeting.
        HOW TO BOOK IT For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
        Everything you need to know about Canada/New England cruises, including shore excursions, port info and price drops.
        Browse thousands of photos of Holland America’s Eurodam and Noordam.
        Looking for cruises 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.
        Look for air deals using TripAdvisor’s search tool.

          Cruise Tip of the Week: Independent Shore Excursions

          August 12, 2015 | By | No Comments

          whale watching

          Tip: Off-roading in Aruba? Whale watching in Juneau? Cruise lines offer guided tours in each port of call — which, depending on the tour, average between $50 and $175. While it’s easy to book with the cruise line, you potentially can save a lot of money by going with an independent tour company. Research and shop around, and you can find a reputable tour operator offering the same excursion for a fraction of the cost. Cruise Critic’s port reviews are a great place to start.

          Full Article: Read 9 more "hidden" cruising costs and how to combat them.

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

          What to Expect on a Cruise: Shore Excursions

          – Learn more in our First Timers’ Guide to Shore Excursions

          Ship-Sponsored or Independent Shore Excursions: Which is Right for You?

          – Check out our latest cruise deals

          – Sign up for Cruise Critic’s Price Drop. We’ll let you know when fares are dramatically reduced so you can get the best price for your sailing.

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

            Member Review of the Week: Eurodam

            August 11, 2015 | By | No Comments

            Spas Na Krovi in Russia

            Cruise Ship: Holland America’s Eurodam

            Itinerary: Baltic Sea

            Member: Aerun

            Background: Despite Holland America’s relaxed vibe, Aerun and her hubby’s recent Eurodam cruise was positively exhausting. The two spent 12 days exploring ports along the Baltic Sea — from Tallinn, Estonia, to Stockholm, Sweden — and even wished they had more time in port. On the ship, Eurodam’s food, spa and cozy cabin made for the perfect recharge. Read more for their highlights from the cruise.

            Onboard Highlight: The Crow’s Nest bar, where Aerun enjoyed two drinks for the price of one at happy hour (4 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

            Port Highlight: St. Petersburg, Russia. Aerun and her husband are already planning a return visit. (Read their full review for shore excursion advice.)

            Don’t Miss: Room service. Aerun enjoyed hot breakfast on early port days and even enjoyed the coffee more than what was served in the buffet.

            Watch Out For: Cabin storage space, which Aerun felt was underwhelming, compared to other Holland America ships.

            More: Read Aerun’s full review, and browse future cruises on Eurodam.

            For their efforts Aeurun, mistcruiser, familyguyventura, Vacation Nut and amberjohn 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.

            Check out more cruise reviews or write your own. Who knows; yours may be featured next!

              5 Cool Things about Princess Cruises’ North to Alaska Program

              August 10, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

              Glacier Bay Viewing on Star Princess

              I’m recently back from an 11-night cruise tour of Alaska’s Inside Passage from Anchorage to Vancouver, on Star Princess. My sailing was part of Princess Cruises’ latest destination immersion program called North to Alaska. As a first-time cruiser to Alaska, I was excited to see how this program celebrated local culture on the ship (when we weren’t out exploring it in person); a little logo highlights the daily activities in the cruise newsletter, Princess Patter.

              The following are five cool things you can experience with Princess’ North to Alaska initiative.

              Meet Noteworthy Alaskans

              Nick Jans' Talk

              North to Alaska brings special lecturers onboard each cruise to give passengers even more information about topics affecting the state. While featured guests differ on each sailing, they can include the cast of Princess partner The Discovery Channel’s "Deadliest Catch"; Libby Riddles, the Iditarod’s first female champion; New York Times bestselling author Nick Jans (of "A Wolf Called Romeo" among other novels); and more. A naturalist named Shari also hosted frequent onboard lectures and discussions about topics such as Communication between Cetaceans, Living from the Land & Sea and Strange Things Done Under the Midnight Sun. I caught Jans’ presentation, which turned out to be captivating storytelling; it was too short! Signed copies of his book were great gifts for back home (plus reading for the plane) and proceeds from prints of his photos went to a charity supporting wolves.

              Read on for more

                Just Back from AmaWaterways’ AmaSerena: Hits & Misses

                August 7, 2015 | By | No Comments

                AmaSerena exterior

                We’re just off a Danube River cruise with AmaSerena, the latest ship from AmaWaterways.

                Like Viking River Cruises with its Longships or Scenic with its ‘Space Ships’, AMA has a series of modern, sleek ships that are all but identical, (though they have not followed the fashionable trend of giving the ship series a name).

                “We just call them ‘the best ships’,” says AMA founder and CEO Rudi Schreiner, who’s seen and been a part of the river passenger cruise industry since the early days. (For more on what AmaWaterways is all about, read You Might Like AmaWaterways If).

                Because the line has had plenty of chances to iron out the kinks with the previously launched sister ships, there’s a lot to love about AmaSerena and very little to complain about. Here are our hits and misses from our AmaSerena cruise.


                iMac entertainment system

                Cabins: AMA’s ships — including AmaSerena — are modern and have all the amenities expected by today’s high-end hotel traveler. There are iMac-integrated entertainment systems showing recently released movies and television stations like HBO. The bathrooms are marble tiled with rainfall showerheads. The balcony design is unique, with a walkout balcony taking up two-thirds of the balcony space — room enough for two chairs and a small table — and a more traditional French balcony (sliding glass door with a railing for protection) taking up the remaining third.

                Read on for more

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                  The Lido Deck is written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, reporting from ships and ports around the world. The daily blog covers cruise news, reviews, advice, and hot topics from the Cruise Critic message boards. Please note: When commenting, Cruise Critic's community guidelines apply.

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