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.
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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.
Fridge magnets, key rings, ornaments and the obligatory T-shirts (bragging rights optional) are some of the most popular cruise souvenirs to bring home, according to a thread on the forums — and that’s not forgetting the things you really don’t want to bring back, such as extra pounds and credit card bills.
A discussion of favorite cruise souvenirs started when suzi asked: “What collectables, items or memorabilia, if any, do you bring back from a cruise? For us it’s just minor things like refrigerator magnets or spoons to remember where we have been. We also bring back things unique to the port/place for our friends and family.”
Christmas tree ornaments are also well-liked cruise souvenirs, so much so that Cruise Critic member Krazy Kruizers has an entire tree decorated with keepsake ornaments bought in various ports and cities visited while cruising.
We’re onboard Azamara Club Cruises’ ship Azamara Journey, sailing the Greek Isles and Turkish coast between Istanbul and Athens. The premium line, part of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s stable of companies, prides itself on its destination-immersion programs as well as its friendly and efficient service.
We’re pleased to report that so far Azamara has lived up to its billing — and then some. Some of the experiences, such as an “AzAmazing Evening,” a complimentary event open to all passengers on the 686-passenger ship, were truly outstanding; ours was a classical music concert at the Odeon in Ephesus that we’ll remember for years. We also found that the smaller ship’s staff delivered the personalized service that you’d expect from a line at this price point, along with some genuine surprises.
Here are some of the hits and misses from our Azamara Journey cruise:
Longer Time in Port. In an interview earlier this year about the line’s massive refurbishment, scheduled for 2016, Azamara Club Cruises President Larry Pimentel emphatically noted that while other cruise lines have added overnights and extended their hours in port, no one does it like Azamara. And he’s right: We stayed over eight hours in the majority of our ports of call.
How does this affect the average cruise passenger? It means that you can schedule a daylong excursion on a Turkish gulet (a traditional sailing ship) without rushing back to the cruise ship. It means that you can have dinner in Mykonos at a favorite restaurant. And it means that you can enjoy sunset in Santorini, watching the colors of the caldera change as the other cruise ships leave port. If you’re a person who loves the destination aspect of cruising, this alone could convince you to give Azamara a try.« go back — keep looking »