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
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.
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.
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.
Deciding what to pack or — possibly more crucial — what to leave behind, is part and parcel of cruising. The usual pattern is that most of us take far too much on our first cruise and fine tune things down the line. However, for many passengers the packing ritual goes way beyond what to wear for dinner.
Last year I wrote about the strange things people bring — or have been spotted carrying — onboard. The topic just keeps on going, thanks to Cruise Critic member Victoria ’82. She writes: “Just packing for our next adventure and it made me wonder if we were the only ones to take our own pillows onto the ship. We like ours quite firm and the ones onboard don’t do it for us. We have done this for many years and the cabin steward changes the slips as normal throughout the cruise. So folks, what odd items do you take to supplement your enjoyment, apart from booze?”
(The smuggling police better ignore that last sentence!).
On a less contentious note, Victoria ’82 says she used to take a kite to fly off the stern of the ship, and did it on a number of cruises until the captain put a stop to her high-flying pastime.
Mr Blue Sky brings maps for the cruise route to decorate the cabin wall — and he isn’t the only one.
Member tartanexile81 says: “We’re map-a-holics too and always take/buy a map to put up on our cabin wall. Do you know you can use magnets to hold them up? We love to sit on our balcony with the binoculars spotting what we can see. Some people probably think we’re daft but we really find it interesting.”
My bags were packed. I had my passport, cruise docs and euros ready to go. It was the day before I was supposed to hop a plane to Amsterdam, and suddenly I got the news no cruiser wants to hear: my river cruise was canceled.
Right now, I am supposed to be aboard Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s new Maria Theresa river ship, floating through Germany, sipping a nice Gewurztraminer while magical castles and fairytale towns drift by. But Mother Nature had other ideas. It’s been blistering hot with little rain in Europe this summer, causing river levels to drop. The Danube, in particular, got dangerously low.
Uniworld felt the best decision was to cancel the cruise rather than trying to piece together a few river segments and a lot of interminable bus rides. Judging from comments on the Cruise Critic boards, they made the right decision. Some European river cruise passengers report spending eight to 10 hours a day on buses to reach shore excursion destinations while their ship remains docked in a single port for the duration of the “cruise.” Luckier travelers are able to swap to a sister ship when the rivers get impassable — though that’s still a hassle. In addition to Uniworld, Viking, Tauck, Scenic and Avalon ships have also been affected, to varying degrees.
I wanted to find out all the juicy details of my cruise’s cancellation, so I checked in with Uniworld to learn how it unfolded.
Tip: Tipping is always a hot topic when it comes to cruising. Do you know how to tip, when to tip, how much to tip and whom to tip? Both new and experienced cruisers can show their appreciation for crewmembers without making it awkward. While each cruise line has its own tipping policy, we also recommend tipping your cabin steward before and after your cruise. Especially if you have special requests, a tip on the first day can help ensure you’ll be well taken care of throughout your cruise.
Full Article: Read more tips from our Insider’s Guide to Cruise Tipping.
Want More? Check out our related links below for more info, tips and advice.
– 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!
Cruise Ship: Crystal Symphony
Member: May B
Background: After a taste of the luxe life with Azamara and Oceania, May B’s expectations were high for her first Crystal cruise. She and Mr. B’s nine-night transatlantic cruise included six days at sea. And despite concerns about how to stay busy, they quickly fell in love with the ship’s food and enrichment programs — which became the theme for their vacation. Read on for the specifics that exceeded her expectations.
Onboard Highlight: All the enrichment courses — May B would even watch any she missed on her cabin TV.
Port Highlight: Reykjavik, the inspiration for booking this itinerary, where she and Mr. B spent three days exploring the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle and downtown area.
Don’t Miss: Meal sides, such as the blueberries for breakfast and anchovies for Caesar salad. They’re easy to miss.
Watch Out For: St. John’s, Newfoundland, if it’s on your itinerary. The port city is prone to rough seas, so your captain may skip it as a safety precaution.
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!
Get your August 2015 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper! Summer vacation may come to an end this month, but that doesn’t mean your cruising dreams do. Enjoy this photo of a cruise ship in the sunset as you plan the rest of your 2015 cruises.
Here’s how to put this photo on your computer, tablet or cell phone:
1. Click on the following links to get the size that you want. Each link will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper, in the appropriate format for your screen size.
2. For the desktop versions, right-click on the image, and choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something similar. The wording depends on your browser. Mac users should ctrl-click and save the photo on their computer in the “Pictures” folder.
3. If the image does not fit your desktop background neatly, you may have to go to your preference panel (on a Mac: System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop; on Windows: Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose”Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.
4. For phone and tablet, open the link and center the photo on your phone so it fills the screen. Take a photo and save it on your device. Then go to your Settings and find your Wallpaper (on an iPhone, this is under “Wallpapers & Brightness.” Set the saved calendar photo as your wallpaper.
Check back on August 31 for the September 2015 calendar.« go back — keep looking »