We Try It: Sailing on a Shakedown

May 1, 2015 | By | 5 Comments

main pool

Your favorite cruise line has announced the dates for the maiden voyage of a new ship. Excited to be one of the first onboard, you race to book it. New ship, new hardware: What could go wrong?

Plenty. Here at Cruise Critic, we’re experts when it comes to "shakedown" cruises. The term is generally used to describe a ship that’s either making its debut or returning from a major refurbishment.

"Shakedown" refers to the challenges faced, mostly by crewmembers but also by shipbuilders and cruise staff, when it comes to adapting to new systems, layouts, technology, procedures, facilities (such as restaurants, nightclubs and shops), and even navigation.

In the past few years alone, I’ve been a passenger on "shakedowns" on Oceania Regatta and Windstar’s Wind Surf, both after major refurbishments, as well as debuts for Viking Star and Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.

In the old days, shakedowns took place before ships took on paying passengers. But that hasn’t been the case in the 18 years I’ve been writing about cruise travel. That’s because tight schedules for new-builds, particularly those that are first-in-class vessels with lots of new features, often mean that shakedowns aren’t even factored into the calendar.

Instead, we have "maiden voyages," taking place very soon after vessels are delivered by their shipyards. And so that first passenger sailing (and maybe the second and third) essentially act as defacto shakedowns.

So be forewarned: In return for all the wonderful privileges of being among the first passengers onboard, you also should be prepared for glitches.

Here are some of the pros and cons of being on a shakedown cruise (and if all this sounds too stressful, wait until the ship has sailed for a few weeks to give it time to settle down).

Pro: There’s something magical about being one of the first passengers to cross the gangway. The ship is scuff-free, the library is stocked with new releases, and you get the chance to show all your friends back home something new and different.

Read on for more

    Hot on the Forums: Ship Pin Mania

    May 1, 2015 | By | No Comments

    Carnival Ship Pins

    What’s the point of ship pins? Whether it’s a souvenir bought in the gift shop or received as a perk for your VIP status, the pins are certainly cute. But what do you do when you’re back on dry land?

    Many Cruise Critic members love ship pins and they’ve come up with plenty of imaginative alternatives to shoving them in a drawer. So if you’re looking for inspiration, read on.

    Avid pin collector DaisyGirl55 started a thread on the forums to see if other members had bright ideas on what to do with them.

    Read on for more.

      May 2015 Desktop Calendar: Kicking Back on the High Seas

      April 30, 2015 | By | No Comments

      Cruise ship deck chairs Shutterstock

      Get your May 2015 Desktop Calendar Wallpaper! At this point in the year, everyone could use a little relaxation. Let this photo of cruise ship deck chairs inspire you to think about the next time you’ll be kicking back on the high seas. 

      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 | 1200 x 800 | Tablet | Mobile

      Check back on June 1 for the June 2015 calendar.

        Steal of the Week: Kids Sail the South Pacific from $329

        April 30, 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: Paul Gauguin Cruises is offering all-inclusive cruise fare that includes their special, sought-after children’s program, Ambassadors of the Ocean (AOTE), starting from $329 per child.
        WHAT WE LOVE: It’s rare that a luxury line has youth programs onboard, and even more rare that the program has a hands-on educational experiences including special excursions like night snorkeling, rain forest hikes and more. If you’ve ever dreamed of cruising the exotic South Pacific waters, why not bring the entire family for the experience? Sailings with the program span summer and holiday itineraries — but go quickly. Special guest Jean-Michel Cousteau is onboard select sailings. Bring kids ages 9 to 17 from just $47 per child, per night (price varies by itinerary).
        WHAT GIVES US PAUSE: If you can land one of the exclusive AOTE sailings, adult cruise fare remains consistent with luxury cruise line pricing. Travel in peak holiday and summer sailings may accrue quite a bit in airfare to the departure port overseas. (Compare flight prices with our sister site TripAdvisor’s meta-search tool.) Family members are invited to participate in most AOTE activities and excursions, but for an additional cost.
        HOW TO BOOK IT: For all the nitty-gritty on these deals (including that pesky fine print), click here.
        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.

          Just Back from Viking Oceans: 7 Cool Discoveries On Viking Star

          April 29, 2015 | By | 11 Comments

          Viking Star

          We’re back from our first sailing with Viking Ocean Cruises, a new, ocean-going cruise line spawned from Viking River Cruises (and the first cruise line to debut with all-new, purpose-designed and built cruise ships since Disney launched Disney Magic in 1998). The itinerary on the line’s first ship, 930-passenger Viking Star, took us from Istanbul to Venice.

          If you think it’s exciting to check out a new class of cruise ship from your favorite line, well that’s nothing compared to the opportunity to sail with a brand-new company — and on its own unique new ship.  While detailed deck plans and artistically styled renderings give you an idea of what a new ship will look like, there’s nothing like seeing the prototype once it becomes reality.

          Here are our seven favorite discoveries about Viking Star.

          1. Décor

          The ship’s sleek and modern design, with the use of nautical and nature inspired shades of blues, yellows, and beiges, is elegantly Nordic. Furnishings are beautiful, carefully selected from design studios. There’s lots of art, mostly sticking with the its Nordic theme, and we adored the large, live mural, which incorporates beautiful nature photography and changes shots throughout the day, that overlooks the three-deck Living Room.  We also appreciated the ship’s decorative touches, such as sculptures, statues, and colorful, hand-blown glass pieces. Lamps were works of art and so, too, were chairs (we’d occasionally spot passenger actually turning various chairs over to see their designer labels). Overall, the general ambience brought to mind a boutique hotel that emphasizes design but not at the expense of comfort.

          Read on for more.

            Cruise Tip of the Week: Wash, Wash and Wash Some More!

            April 29, 2015 | By | 1 Comment

            wash your hands

            Tip: We can’t stress it enough: Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to avoid getting sick on a cruise. Hand sanitizer alone doesn’t cut it! (The CDC says it shouldn’t be used as an alternative to washing your hands.) Take time — probably more than you would at home — to wash your hands thoroughly before and after you eat, after you use the restroom, when returning from port and after using elevator buttons, stair railing or other oft-touched areas of the ship.

            Full Article: Read 9 more tips on how not to get sick on a cruise.

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

            Norovirus: What You Need to Know

            9 Ways to Get Sick on a Cruise Ship

            A Closer Look: What It’s Like to Be Under Quarantine

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

              Just Back From…Loire Princesse

              April 28, 2015 | By | No Comments

              Loire Princesse

              Within the space of a couple of hours, I watched a 40-foot elephant lumbering along the shore, stepped over a giant tape measure, spotted one house perched on top of a chimney and another partially submerged in the Loire River. My eyes weren’t deceiving me, as I hadn’t even had my first sip of the area’s famous Muscadet wine!

              I’m recently returned from the maiden cruise aboard CroisiEurope’s Loire Princesse, a pioneering new river vessel that is the first overnight boat to sail on what has been dubbed the last ‘wild river’ in France, mainly due to its unpredictable currents and shallow water. It seems fitting that this innovative ship — which uses modern paddlewheel technology — should be pioneering trips on a river that showcases unique and some downright eccentric sights.

              Even seasoned river cruise passengers will enjoy a totally new experience on this section of the 625-mile Loire — the longest river in France — which has previously only been accessible on short pleasure cruises. The 96-passenger Loire Princesse is operating six- and eight-day roundtrip cruises from Nantes, with shore excursions that include a trip to its shipyard birthplace in Saint-Nazaire.

              Read on for more.

                Member Review of the Week: A First Cruise Celebration

                April 28, 2015 | By | No Comments

                Roatan, Honduras

                Cruise Ship: Norwegian Jewel

                Itinerary: Western Caribbean

                Member: anshad

                Background: Streamers and a large cake greeted anshad and his wife in their Norwegian Jewel cabin. The two had booked their first cruise to celebrate her cancer remission. Between the onboard entertainment and shore excursions, they had quite a few favorite memories.

                Onboard Highlight: The port shopping consultant onboard, who went above and beyond to help them find the best deals off the ship.

                Port Highlight: Roatan, where their zip-line tour was one for the books.

                Don’t Miss: "Washy Washy," who puts on a fun show outside the Garden Cafe buffet, reminding passengers to wash their hands.

                Watch Out For: The shops. Make sure you’re familiar with duty free and that you’re actually getting a deal for what you want to purchase. (Not sure? We break it down for you here.)

                More: Read anshad’s full review for more hits and misses.

                For their efforts, anshad, MSgt Thor, MrsAllie, CAROLJANE53 and tickleus 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.

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