‘Tis the season to start thinking about the cruisers on your holiday shopping list. In the last two weeks, both Princess Cruises and Tauck rolled out new gift card programs, and with Black Friday looming, it’s time for a quick roundup of similar products. Read on for a list of popular lines that feature gift cards, many of which allow buyers to choose from a selection of available designs and styles in addition to adding personalization.
Although they don’t offer gift cards or certificates, other lines — including MSC, Holland America, Oceania and Silversea — allow for the purchase of onboard credit or other amenities for those who already have cruises booked. Such gifts might include spa treatments, dinner in alternative restaurants or romance packages that offer things like flowers and Champagne.
How many times have you been tempted to do something silly on a cruise, but held back because you felt a teeny bit embarrassed? How often have you kept your mouth shut when you overheard a fellow passenger being rude? Are you a slave to propriety, even in the middle of the Caribbean?
When you’re on vacation, surrounded by people you’ll never see again, there’s no need to hold back. Yes, your FlowRider wipeout could go viral on Facebook, but everyone will be impressed that you were brave enough to try it. And sometimes doing the thing that will make you feel good is worth risking a snide comment from a stranger.
So come on, let your hair down and try one (or all!) of these things on your next cruise. We dare you!
Pig out. Everyone knows that you can order as many entrees or desserts as you want in the main dining room, but how many of you have gone ahead and done it? We’re not talking about ordering half portions, either. If the scallops and the burger are calling to you, go ahead and order both with your head held high. If you want to get down with the chocolate melting cake and the creme brulee, do it without muttering excuses or talking up the morning’s workout. Eat what makes you happy — the cruise only lasts a week.
The majority of my river and canal cruises have been in Europe – which makes sense, as it’s the world’s most popular river cruise destination. Recently, I floated much further afield, along the lesser-traveled waters of Cambodia and Vietnam aboard the 48-passenger, colonial-style Indochine owned by CroisiVoyages, part of French-owned CroisiEurope. The eight-night cruise took in part of the 2,710-mile Mekong (or Mother) River – Southeast Asia’s longest river – and Tonle Sap, the region’s largest freshwater lake.
Here are five reasons to take a cruise from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh city (or in reverse).
1. Spectacular Sights. Pack plenty of memory cards and don’t forget your charger as there are unique and amazing sights every step of the way. Cambodia’s Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire and the world’s largest religious complex. The jewel in the crown is the imposing Angkor Wat temple (it’s well worth getting up early to watch the sunrise). Nearby, almost hidden in the tropical jungle, is Ta Prohm (used in the movie “Tomb Raider”), where tree roots are entwined with the temple buildings.
Away from the main tourist attractions, I took countless photos of everyday street (and river) life, from the fishermen who live with their families in floating houses to bustling villages and crowded cities where street traders sell everything from food to gas syphoned into soda bottles!
Side-splitting comedians may be on the bill, but look no further than the guest relations desk for a rich source of (unofficial) cruise ship entertainment. Blissfully unaware of their audience, passengers grumble long – and loud – about their perceived “complaints.” I once witnessed an irate couple, outraged that the two cases of wine they’d brought with their luggage had been confiscated, demand that the cruise line fork out the airfare to ship their banned booty back home (instead it was returned to them at the end of the voyage, as it would be for anyone else).
It’s this kind of thing that comes up in a very amusing thread started by forum member johhnnyt who asks: “What is the funniest complaint you ever heard (or overheard) at guest relations?”
On an excursion to Nice, he witnessed a woman throwing a fit because she didn’t expect to be on a bus for an hour. “The guide explained to her they couldn’t turn the bus around just for her,” johhnnyt wrote. “She then insisted she and her husband be left in the next town ‘and we’ll arrange our own transportation back to the ship’.”
“The next day she was down at guest relations, demanding that the guide be fired for ignoring her and that she be reimbursed €400 for the money that it cost her to hire a boat to bring her back to the ship (although she had misplaced the receipt). The people at guest relations tried their best to calm her down, but explained to her that neither request was going to happen, since they didn’t do anything wrong. Fellow passengers who were in line at guest relations could not stop laughing, which no doubt infuriated her even more.”
Cruises can be frustrating at time, mostly because of little things. Like having to stumble to the desk to check the time on my phone when I wake up at night.
Why do I have to stumble to the desk, when there’s a bedside stand close by? As frequent cruisers know, there’s never a convenient outlet there. And speaking of outlets, there’s never enough of them. Between my traveling companion and myself, we have two cell phones, one laptop, possibly two cameras and, sometimes, a tablet, all of which need to be charged.
So it was, with much excitement, that I discovered a bedside outlet in my cabin on Quantum of Seas. The cabin also has two USB charging outlets along with the usual electrical outlets by the desk.
Those two elements weren’t the only small touches I discovered in the cabin during my four days on the ship — small touches that allowed me to “live” in my cabin more similarly to how I live at home. Here, in no particular order, are six cabin details on Quantum of the Seas that make a huge difference.
USB Charging Outlets: No more needing to use one of the only two electrical outlets for charging my phone. Instead, I was able to plug in directly to one of the two USB outlets located by the desk. I think I heard angels singing as my phone and camera battery charged, while at the same time I typed away on my also-plugged-in laptop.
But the real tech wows of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship are, in my opinion, “Vistarama” and the “roboscreens” in Two70. This space at the back of the ship is where cutting-edge technology is being pioneered.
The double-height space has an enormous window, which takes up the whole of the back wall. Press a button and a screen slides down, transforming into Vistarama – an ultra-HD screen more than 100 feet wide and 20 feet tall. Vistarama’s 12k resolution is nearly twice that of any IMAX cinema and can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
On my sailing, I sat in on a tech talk with Nick Weir, the Brit-born vice president of entertainment at Royal Caribbean, who has overseen the 14-month project. He was understandably keen to show off some of the techno wizardry on offer, and during the afternoon demo we saw a Zeppelin balloon animation, a giant musical fish tank and a large red curtain, pulled apart to reveal a stage.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or post it in our member photo gallery. Feel free to send us your Twitter handle. Maybe you’ll get a shoutout next #WanderlustWednesday!
Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences is one of a number of stops along Oceania Cruises’ Majestic Masterpieces itineraries. A mecca of art, culture and entertainment, it’s a must-see if sailing to the Spanish city. We love this shot taken by Cruise Critic member Delray2002 on a recent cruise aboard Oceania Nautica.