Where in the World is Cruise Critic?

September 1, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

Dori Saltzman on map
Cruise Critic staffers set sail every week, traveling the globe to bring you the latest cruise ship trends, port sneak peeks and onboard observations. Here’s where we are this week.
(Got questions about any of the ships we’re boarding or ports we are visiting? Ask us in the comments!)
Ship: Norwegian Jewel
Where: Departing from Seattle, we’re heading to Alaska for a weeklong cruise to Ketchikan, Juneau, Sawyer Glacier, Skagway and Victoria, Canada.
Who: Dori Saltzman, News Editor
Why There? Back in May, Norwegian Jewel became the first cruise ship in the Norwegian fleet to receive a series of upgrades as part of the line’s Norwegian NEXT program, which brings older ships up to date with the line’s newest ship features. During the retrofit, Jewel received O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill and the Sugarcane Mojito Bar. Additionally, treats from Carlo’s Bake Shop, which has a dedicated outlet on both Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway, were added to the offerings at Java Cafe. The Horizon and Spinnaker lounges, pool deck, casino and photo gallery were all updated as well.

We Can’t Wait: Having sailed on Norwegian Jewel over New Year’s Eve 2013, I am eager to see the improvements to a ship that did look a bit dated. I am especially excited for breakfasts and the ice cream sundae menu at O’Sheehan’s. I’m also quite curious to see if the new additions in any way encroach on the spaciousness that has always been a highlight of Norwegian’s Jewel-class ships, especially in contrast with the more crowded feel of the Breakaway ships. I am equally as enthusiastic about the itinerary, as this will be my first Alaska cruise. I’m also pleased to host a Live From edition of Cruise Critic Live! onboard Norwegian Jewel on Friday, September 5 at 4 p.m. (Eastern). I’ll be available to take your questions about Norwegian Jewel and the Norwegian NEXT upgrades.

    September 2014 Calendar Desktop Wallpaper: Cruising into Kotor

    August 29, 2014 | By | No Comments

    September 2014 Desktop Calendar of Cruise Ship in Kotor, Montenegro
    Get your September 2014 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper! We hope that this photo of a cruise ship sailing through Kotor, Montenegro will get you thinking about planning a fall getaway.
    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.
    2560 x 1440 | 1280 x 800 | Tablet | Mobile
    Check back on September 30 for the October 2014 calendar. 

      Hot on the Forums: Can I Have your Autograph?

      August 29, 2014 | By | No Comments

      disney magic goofy on deck
      Selfies might have taken over from autographs, but there are times when only a good old fashioned signature will do.
      Naturally, I don’t want to spoil the magic, but I reckon it must be quite hard to write if you happen to be a mouse, duck or dog – particularly if you have to sign your name over and over again. However, for the young and young at heart it seems that a signed memento sprinkles an extra bit of fairy dust onboard Disney Cruise Line.
      It began, once upon a time, with Disney characters signing pillowcases for cruisers to take home. Now passengers are embarking with a pack of Sharpie marker pens and a host of items to be autographed. Cruise Critic member monkll took to the forums to ask for more suitable suggestions for signatures.

      Read on to find out more.

        Steal of the Week: 18-Night Morocco/Caribbean Cruise from $1,099

        August 28, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

        piggy bank cruising
        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: Costa Cruises is offering an 18-night Morocco and Caribbean cruise onboard Costa Luminosa, sailing from Savona to Miami on December 2, 2014. Prices start from $1,099 per person for an inside cabin.
        WHAT WE LOVE: The itinerary is unique for this sailing, hitting Morocco, the Canary Islands, then the Caribbean, with nearly a week at sea in between. You’re sailing during the coolest months for Morocco, avoiding the heat and also the rainfall in the Caribbean. Post-Thanksgiving and pre-holiday, your sailing begins in Italy if you’re looking for a pre-cruise excuse to get away for a few more days, and ends back in the U.S. Take note that Hanukkah begins December 16 this year (during the cruise). From just $62 per person, per night, sail an inside or upgrade to another cabin category for only slightly more ($72 per night for an outside, $89 for a balcony). If you’re looking for a European vibe — especially in nightlife and entertainment — and enjoy pizza and pasta, then this might be a great fit.
        WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: Although the ports are intriguing, be ready for a stretch of quite a few days at sea. Luminosa is a smaller ship, and a cup of coffee and a good book might be something you will rely upon. The line caters to American passengers, but at its heart is Italian; prepare yourself for some subtle differences. A balcony may be worth the splurge, but it could get cooler at night during this time of year, so bring a sweatshirt.
        HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on this deal (including that pesky fine print), click here.
        Compare flight prices with our sister site TripAdvisor’s meta-search tool.
        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.

          Wanderlust Wednesday: Lounging Around

          August 27, 2014 | By | No Comments

          Black and white picture of city with waterway
          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.
          If you cruise with Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises or Azamara Cruises, chances are you’ve come across Labadee at some point. Parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s private island offers passengers aboard its ships an exclusive area to kick back with a drink in hand or let loose on the outskirts. This shot of Barefoot Beach with Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas peeking in the background epitomizes beach-bumming on the island. Thanks to Cruise Critic member CRUISEFAN0001 for the photo.
          Find interesting places to visit based on region.
          Everything you need to know about planning a cruise.
          Explore Trip Reports of unique itineraries.

            Member Review of the Week: An Intimate Escape

            August 26, 2014 | By | No Comments

            Pool and hot tub on cruise deck with sunset in background
            Each week, we choose five cruise reviews written by our members, one of which is showcased as the Member Review of the Week. In the spotlight this week is Cruise Critic member lesley4391‘s recent cruise to the Greek Isles aboard Seabourn Odyssey.
            Overall Impression: For lesley4391 and her husband, planning a cruise for their 20th anniversary was driven by the desire for a pampering cruise experience more than the itinerary. But they lucked out with both on their recent cruise though the Greek Isles aboard Seabourn Odyssey.
            Read on for highlights, tips and more.

              Hurricane Season: We’re At the Peak

              August 26, 2014 | By | 4 Comments

              norwegian breakaway's captain showing the status of a hurricane



              On its New York to Bermuda run this week I was among 4,800 passengers sailing aboard Norwegian Breakaway who got some bad news. Hurricane Cristobal, a late-developing storm that gave a lashing to the Dominican Republic and Haiti and bounced tropical showers off the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, is headed straight for, you guessed it, our three port days in Bermuda.

              As a result, our voyage will feature stops at Florida’s Port Canaveral and the Bahamas’ Nassau. Nice, but not quite, dare we say…the ports we’d all planned for.

              Welcome to peak season hurricane cruising. While storms can occur anytime between the months of June to November (and even occasionally earlier or later), mid-August to mid-October is prime time. This affects itineraries primarily, but not exclusively, in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Atlantic Canada, the Mexican Riviera and Hawaii. (In Asia, at the same time, typhoon season can plague itineraries there.)

              The good thing about cruise travel vs. resort stays in potentially affected regions?

              “A cruise ship is the safest place to be in a hurricane,” said our captain, Evans Hoyt. “Because we can choose to be where the hurricane is not.”

              Celebrity Summit, which had also planned a three day Bermuda port stop, was also affected, as was Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, which left Bermuda a day early to avoid the storm.

              In a PowerPoint presentation in Breakaway’s atrium Monday, Captain Hoyt calmly discussed the unusual move of changing a ship’s entire itinerary — midcruise. He showed graphics of the track of the storm with the National Hurricane Center as his source. He explained the factors behind the decision (the sudden transformation of our sunny morning to an ominous dark cloud situation in the afternoon provided helpful visual support). When he was done, the several-thousand-strong group of passengers ringing the atrium applauded. That’s right. Their vacations were completely uprooted and yet, passengers still clapped.

              Overheard, afterward, a passenger — completely calm — said, “I’m on a ship so I’m already in my happy place.” In contrast, another passenger who had (according to the rumor mill at the forward elevator bank) planned a wedding on one of the Bermuda port days, was livid and loudly demanding compensation.

              In Cruise Critic’s Hurricane Zone, we offer lots of advice about cruising during the almost half-a-year period in which storms could possibly disrupt your trip. And while you can find it there, some of it bears repeating.

              *Weather — at a resort or on a cruise ship — is not guaranteed. Tread carefully when it comes to planning major life events on shore at this time of year. Investigate insurance possibilities.

              *If you have booked your port tour through your cruise line, it will of course refund the money should the ship not make it to port. But independent tour operators are a grey area; before you commit, make sure you understand what their cancellation policies are should your ship not make it to port. In this case, Viator, an independent operator we’d booked a tour with, told us it would refund Breakaway passengers who’d purchased its Bermuda tours.

              *Flipping an entire itinerary is highly unusual (more typically storms may re-order port schedules or drop a stop to avoid bad weather), but cruise lines have no liability for such changes.

              *Once kids go back to school (mid-August to mid-September), hurricane season cruises are just about the best deals you can get. But remember the catch.

              In our case, Captain Hoyt’s decision to abruptly change our route meant that the sea turned calm and the once-threatening sky turned happy again; cheers and shrieks resumed from families having fun at the pools, ropes course and waterslides; and the Maltings Bar on the ship’s Waterfront was packed with passengers sipping whiskey and playing Mah Jongg.

              All that’s left is to hope, fervently, that Bermudians stay safe and the island is spared.

                Cruise Critic Live! Norwegian Next Dining

                August 25, 2014 | By | No Comments

                hibachi chef with diners at teppanyaki on norwegian cruise ship ncl cruise ship
                Each week on Cruise Critic Live!, we’ll take a look at all the things to love about cruising, from favorite destinations to amazing dining experiences, and we’ll give you the inside scoop on the newest ships at sea and on the rivers. We’ll also welcome outside experts to this space, including cruise line CEOs and newsmakers. And of course, we want to hear from you: What would you like to discuss?
                This week, we’re chatting about dining onboard Norwegian cruise ships. Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown is onboard Norwegian Breakaway, and we’re joined by Frank Weber, vice president of product development for Norwegian Cruise Line. We’ll talk about the line’s initiative, Norwegian Next, and, of course, the food. Norwegian passengers told the line they wanted improvement, and the line is happy to accommodate — Carolyn’s onboard to give a first-person account of the new commitment. Plus, we’ve got Norwegian menus — lots of menus — for those who must know what will be served when they cruise. Join us at 3 p.m. (EDT) August 28.
                Have you missed out on a chat? Have no fear: We archive them all here. Read them to find out which cruise line CEO announced refurbishment details for his company’s ships, what features were really great on Regal Princess and where to find some quiet time on Norwegian Getaway.
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