As you lie on a massage table, legs tucked into a soft sheet, hot stones soothing the tired muscles of your back and arms, you will most certainly not be thinking about cruise ship spa ratings. And while you relax on a heated tile lounger or in a steamy sauna, eyes drooping, thoughts of work and bills scurrying far away, you're probably not wondering about your cruise line's philosophy on its spa product. But when you sit down at your computer to research your next cruise vacation, you might very well want to know where to find the best spas at sea -- and we'll be there to help.
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Crystal Cruises strives for the sweet spot between the smallest luxury ships and the midsized mainstream ships. Its two oceangoing ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, are small enough to offer an intimate feel and excellent service, but big enough to offer variety in dining and
Cruise ships offer an exceptionally restful night's sleep, and it's not just the waves rocking you back and forth that does it. Many cruise lines have chosen to make a significant investment in the mattresses and bedding found in their cruise ship cabins. From pillow menus and branded partnerships to exclusive mattress materials, cruise lines take sleep seriously. If you want an incredible night's sleep on your vacation -- and the inside scoop on how to bring cruise-style slumber into your own home -- read on to discover which cruise ship beds are the best at sea.
Sponsored by Crystal Cruises When you're shopping for a cruise, do you find yourself booking premium staterooms on big ships? Onboard, do you dine at boutique restaurants, splurge on pricy private pool sanctuaries and long for a bartender who remembers your favorite tipple? If you enjoy these kinds of splurges, why not make the jump to an ultra-luxury cruise line?
Sponsored by Crystal Cruises Years ago, my extended family was in the midst of planning an exotic trip: a journey to Turkey, with a visit to Istanbul and a sail down the coast with stops at Izmir, Bodrum and Antalya. It's always good to get away, but this trip proved to be a transformation. Walking through the markets of Istanbul and bargaining over prices, touring rug factories, eating breakfasts that were so far removed from what I was accustomed to, getting into deep discussions with our tour guide and visiting ancient places I had only heard about, left me with a new sense of wonder and curiosity about the world, religion, politics and culture. It turned out that traveling to another world helped me open my eyes to new ways of living. I gained a fresh perspective of what I wanted out of my life.
Sponsored by Crystal Cruises For Carolyn Cox, the moment came when her cruise ship approached Tokyo. "Mount Fuji was out, and we were sailing straight toward it for hours. I must have taken 1,000 pictures." For Marc Sola, it might have been the day that he and a few companions left their ship and took a private tour through an art collective in Mozambique in East Africa. "It was one of the most enlightening places I've ever visited. It's extremely poor, but the creativity they used to get by in life was clearly amazing." And for Keith Steiner, it was probably the afternoon his ship cruised by the coast of Antarctica, passing by dozens of whales. "It was surreal. I felt like we were sailing on another planet." Although each of them had years of travel under their belts, taking a world cruise forever changed the way they saw the planet, providing unforgettable and indelible memories.
Sponsored by Crystal Cruises As our 106-passenger river ship departed Amsterdam and cruised placidly along the Rhine, on the way to Cologne, I realized I'd lost my husband. He wasn't nestled into one of the very cozy couches on the sun deck, or in the Bistro snacking on pimento cheese or even, since it was lunchtime, tucking into a multicourse meal in the restaurant. He wasn't in the pool, having a massage or -- and I knew better than to even bother to check -- in the self-serve laundromat. Ultimately, he turned up in the sprawling lounge, the ship's living room. It wasn't the only time on our cruise that I'd lose Teijo while onboard Crystal Mahler. There were just so many alluring spots onboard that begged to be explored. That's when it occurred to me: Space aboard any European river vessel is always dictated by the limitations of the river's locks and low-slung bridges. And yet, this ship, from stateroom to sun deck, felt extraordinarily spacious. It's not just the fact that the ship carries only 106 passengers on a vessel that is sized comparably to other lines that carry nearly 200 travelers. It's also that the design maximizes space, so much so that you forget that you're not on a luxury oceangoing vessel.
Even with accommodations, meals and entertainment wrapped up in its fares, cruising can still be pricy if you're taking the entire family on an oceangoing getaway. Just when you thought that bringing the brood would break the bank, we've come up with a list of lines that let kids sail free. If the idea of free cruises for kids gets your heart racing with excitement, be aware of a few caveats: With most lines, free kids fares are only available as limited-time promotions, require applicable taxes and fees to be paid for each passenger and necessitate sharing a cabin with the junior travelers as the third and/or fourth passengers in the room. (Contact a travel agent or your cruise line for specific information before booking any cruise.)
Most cruise ships limit their Japanese food offerings to premade rolls languishing on the buffet. If you want fresh sushi, sashimi and miso soup prepared on the spot, you'll need to seek out a ship with a dedicated sushi venue. When you do find them, cruise ship sushi restaurants range from casual spaces with simple "quick fix" menus to upscale venues that go beyond the limits of sushi and sashimi with lobster, steak and other fancy dishes. The majority of them are priced a la carte -- and one even offers free lunch. We've narrowed down the six best places to indulge on raw fish at sea. When the craving strikes, these sushi restaurants are bound to satisfy.
How does a couple choose a luxury cruise? All high-end ships flaunt plush accommodations, attentive personalized service and dazzling food and wine. With so much personal space, romantic moments are guaranteed. That's the good news and the bad. Such a wealth of amenities makes it difficult to discern differentials that can -- and should -- influence your choice. We've done the work for you, defining the subtleties that make it easier to find the luxury cruise that calls to you.
Cruise ship bathrooms get a bad rap. They're too cramped, the shower curtains cling and there's hardly enough space for all your toiletries. Yet move beyond the cookie-cutter loos in standard staterooms, you can find incredible bathrooms onboard that give their five-star hotel counterparts a run for their money.