Cruise Ships: What’s Not to Like About Them?

There’s not much to hate about cruise ships. Even budget ships offer old-fashioned cruises at affordable prices, while contemporary ships provide a better, more modern service all-in-all that will allow you to have a taste of a rich man’s life. Also, for only ten percent more than you’d pay for a contemporary cruise, you’ll get to enjoy premium cruises that offer better food, better facilities, better services, and so forth without having to deal with huge crowds and whatnot. You practically have the whole ship to yourself and a few other choice guests that have money to burn. If you’re on budget cruise, you won’t be seeing many child-friendly facilities, plus the spas and gyms are pretty basic. Nevertheless, for its price, budget cruises do everything they can to give you the full cruise treatment without you having to sacrifice an arm and a leg to enjoy it. The coziness and warmth of a budget ship is also an experience that you should savor to the utmost, because for some people, the bigger cabins of contemporary or premium megaships can be quite alienating. Sometimes, homelier and humbler travel accommodations are the best. Yes, cruise ships can also double as hotels on water, such that if you want to travel to your intended island destination while enjoying yourself all the way, cruise ships are the way to go.

Island Cruises, Louise Cruise Lines, and Classic Cruises are the must-have cruises that give you a taste of what cruises were like in the good old days. The destinations of these ships, like with contemporary ships, are Mediterranean and Caribbean in nature. Meanwhile, premium ships are ships created for people who believe that money is no object, so it’s only natural for them to offer month-long voyages spanning the entire globe. Some cruise ships can even be considered resorts on water; such that instead of going to a particular beach destination, the ship itself will serve as the destination. When it comes to picking the best cruises for you, it all boils down to taste. The most expensive choice isn’t necessarily the best choice, particularly for those vacationers who love to enjoy traditional cruise ships with an intended destination instead of serving as a vacation spot by itself. Whether you’re a family, a couple, or a single looking for a good time, there’s sure to be a great hub for sporty cruises for you in many a port out there. If all else fails, avail of a luxury ship.

Review: Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas From Galveston

I had planned this cruise for seven months. A friend and I who had previously cruised with Carnival and Celebrity were eager to try Royal Caribbean after hearing so many positive things about the beauty of the ship, quality of food and service, etc. For the second time, I surprised my retired parents by taking them with us (the previous year I had surprised them with an Alaskan cruise which I will review later), and they were absolutely giddy with excitement when they found out that they would once again be traveling aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, which they claimed was their favorite ship of 13 other cruises they had taken. With the ship fresh out of dry dock for upgrades, were set to go to some brand-new destinations none of us had ever visited: Roatan Island, Honduras and Belize City. Expectations were high.

Then cruise time came. While I am not prepared to say that we had a BAD time on this cruise, I think it is fair to say that our expectations were a bit deflated, pretty much from the minute we arrived at the Port of Galveston. Allow me to take you through the high and low lights of life on the high seas aboard Navigator of the Seas.

The Highs

Our dining experience– Most definitely the best service we received on the ship was in the main Sapphire Dining Room, which is without a doubt the most gorgeous dining room I have seen on a cruise ship. Walking into the dining room is like entering a regal opera house complete with grand stair case and three levels of dining with windows on each side. Our two servers were extremely attentive, noting my step-mother’s preference of making her own ice tea with two glasses of ice, 2 tea bags and some hot water, which was waiting for her every night after night one. I could fault her for being a “tea snob,” but then I’d have to look at myself in the mirror with my Starbucks in hand turning my nose up at Folgers. All of us enjoyed the variety of meal choices and thought the food was of very high quality, with service running like clock work. It was truly a pleasure to dine each evening.

Here we are at dinner. I am the goof-ball in blue.

The Cabin– Inside cabin 7667 (Aft Port) was home sweet home for our week at sea. My parents were right next door in 7669. For an inside cabin, there was plenty of room to stow all of our stuff and have a completely clear space to move in. I would say the bed was a bit hard, but it’s all about your preference as my friend and traveling partner Jay (the guy in purple) said his was just right. Ample closet and drawer space allowed us to each have sufficient space to unpack. Our steward service was also top-notch, re-stocking and tidying up twice daily.

The ship– Navigator is definitely a beautiful ship. Of note is the Royal Promenade, a series of shops, restaurants and bars running aft to forward giving cruisers the feel of strolling down a cobblestone street while at sea. I recommend the Two Poets Pub for some nice ambiance and people-watching. The main atrium is gorgeous, and the various lounges and bars are designed with a very classy yet comfortable feel. The pool deck is also impressive, featuring two main pools flanked by several hot tubs, some of which are shaded. For the most part there are plenty of chairs both in and out of the shade, but if your cruise is full you had better get there early to snag one. We also thought the nightclub overlooking the pool deck with its floor-to-ceiling windows added a nice touch to the ship’s offerings. The ship’s casino is also pretty decent, but since smoking is allowed in there, you may come out smelling like an ash tray.

Overlooking the Royal Promenade

The Grand Atrium

Beverage Package–Three of us on this cruise had the premium package for $55 per day, but since my dad only drinks beer, we got him the basic package. At first glance, this package might seem a bit pricey (Royal Caribbean’s beverage packages are some of the most expensive at sea), but overall we got our money’s worth. What I especially liked was that basically nothing on the drink menu was off limits short of the super premium stuff. You could even opt for Grey Goose vodka at no extra charge. The flip side here is the bar service (see below).

Theatre Entertainment–If you ever find yourself on Navigator of the Seas, don’t miss the ice-skating show. It is fantastic and was much better than I thought it was going to be. We also enjoyed the Elton John impersonator, the bar flair show and the adult game show.

The Lows

Embarkation/Debarkation–The words fiasco, nightmare, eternity and disorganization come to mind for both. This was hands-down the WORST embarkation/debarkation process I have ever experienced, and my parents who had been on 13 previous cruises agreed. We should have expected this when Royal Caribbean sent us out an e-mail prior to the cruise instructing us to arrive at certain times based on the deck on which our cabin was located. As it happened, we had flown into Houston, and our transfer dropped us off right at the time we were supposed to be there, which was 12:30 p.m. We did not step foot on the ship until almost 2 p.m, as we were stuck two different lines, both of which were extremely slow-moving. This is definitely not the way you want to start your vacation, and very few smiles were to be found in the security and check-in lines. Mind you, I totally expect a bit of a wait checking in, but this was just ridiculous. I think the longest wait I have ever experienced prior to this was 30 minutes tops. I definitely expressed my dissatisfaction to the check-in lady.

Debarkation was practically just as bad. Since we had a driver waiting for us, we opted for the self check-out and were given a specific time and place to meet. We have done this on other cruises with minimal waiting, with customs officers boarding the ship to collect forms. In the past, we have basically just walked off the ship. Not this time. When we arrived at the appointed spot we then waited another good 45 minutes just to be allowed to disembark. Once off the ship, guess what? Another line, another 45 minutes to pass through customs. I ended up being a charged an additional wait fee by my driver, thanks to Royal Caribbean and the Port of Galveston.

Bottom line–I will never cruise from Galveston, Texas again as they clearly do not have the ability to handle the volume of people that cruise ships have. Basically, Royal Caribbean left a negative first impression and a negative last impression.

Service–Aside from our servers at dinner, service in the bars and lounges on this ship was average at best and certainly not what I am accustomed to on a cruise. While some bartenders were standouts, it generally took forever to get a drink and often you felt as if you were a bother to the bartender or server. The worst service was probably at the pool bar. Some might say that I am too demanding, but when I spend my hard-earned money on vacation I want decent service. Period. I didn’t really get it on this cruise. My parents also commented that “things just weren’t the same on this cruise” as their previous experience on Navigator of the Seas.

Kids, kids, kids– OK, I am probably going to get some eye-rolls for this, and maybe for some it wouldn’t be a negative, but there were just too many kids taking over the main pool area on this ship. As with anyplace else, parents are partially to blame here, allowing their little monsters to run amuck and splash others in the main pool, but I fault Royal Caribbean for not enforcing pool rules. On past cruises, kids weren’t even allowed in hot tubs, but they were in this one. Granted, there is an adults-only pool and hot tub, but the problem is that there isn’t any entertainment there (not that the entertainment at the main pool was anything to write home about).

We did not participate in any excursions on this cruise, so I can’t speak to their quality. We did hear various comments that the excursions were over-priced and not worth the money. One excursion was even over an hour late and had to be delivered to the ship by boat as it was departing Honduras.

The verdict–If I had to choose between Royal Caribbean and Carnival, I would probably go with Carnival based on past experiences. I am not totally closed to giving Royal Caribbean another chance, but they would have to completely WOW me to keep me coming back.

A Review of Princess Cruises

The Princess Cruises is a cruise line based out of California in the United States of America. The company was founded way back in the year 1965 and has been offering its passengers with some of the most memorable journeys and vacations ever since. The main rise to popularity for the Princess Cruises came with the launch of The Love Boat TV series which featured two of its cruise liners, the Pacific Princess and the Island Princess.

Embarking on a cruise with the Princess Cruises can be extremely exciting and scintillating. Moreover, the company offers its travellers with award-winning service and features which ensure that each of its guests have a great time while on board. One of the main charms of the Princess Cruises is its excellent cruise itineraries which cover some of the most exotic locales of the world. With over 1000 cruise itineraries and 300 ports to choose from, tourists are also spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a journey aboard the Princess. Moreover, each of the ships sailing under the Princess flag boasts of world-class service, sumptuous food and Maharaja style luxury. Voted as the Best Cruise Line Itineraries for 7 straight years, the Princess Cruises are second to none when it comes to sailing and luxury cruise liners.

The popular Cruise ships

The Princess Cruises also boast of a huge fleet which sail all over the world on various itineraries. Some of its most popular cruise ships are the Caribbean Princess (Sailing in the Caribbean Islands), the Coral Princess (Specifically built to sail in the Panama Canal), the Crown Princess (Sailing in the Caribbean Islands), the Golden Princess (Sailing in Alaska and Hawaii) and the Diamond Princess (Sailing in Alaska and the Mexican Riviera).

Great On-Board Experience

Another reason for the immense popularity of the Princess Cruises is its magnificent on-board experience. The ship is packed with activities and things to do for tourists of all ages to keep them content and occupied from sun rise up till sunset and beyond. One of the most popular sights aboard the Princess is its piazza styled atrium which becomes the stunning centrepiece on each of the ships. These atriums are spread over several decks and feature panoramic views of the ship, the signature Vines Bar and International Café and a breathtaking spiral staircase.

Other popular activities aboard the Princess Cruise Ships are poolside activities, cooking demonstrations, digital photography workshops, a variety of sports such as golf and ping-pong, vast libraries, mesmerizing nightlife, grand casinos, designer boutiques, art auctions, youth centres and teen lounges and pampering spas. A few of the most popular innovations aboard the Princess are anytime dining options and Movie Under the Stars. The latter is extremely popular amongst couples and lovers since they offer an extremely romantic opportunity to watch a movie with loved ones in a 300 square foot, 69000 watt poolside movie theatre. This experience is made even better with personalized touches such as cosy blankets, chaise lounges, complimentary popcorn and cookies and milk.

One can also experience a behind the scenes ship tour which allows passengers to get a glimpse of how the ship runs and functions. The tour is offered once or twice each day and allows passengers to catch a glimpse of the control room, print shop, medical centre, photo lab, bridge, laundry room and other areas which are typically visited only by the ship’s crew.

Heavenly living accommodations

The living accommodations which are offered by the Princess Cruises are also amongst the best. Passengers can choose from a range of accommodation options which include basic interior cabins, Ocean view cabins, cabins with balconies, mini suites with balconies, suites with balconies and grand suites. Irrespective of the choice of accommodation taken, passengers can expect to be treated to a range of excellent amenities and in room luxuries. The large and extremely comfortable beds, beautifully made bathrooms, pleasant décor and in-room entertainment options ensure that guests have a great time not only on board but in the rooms and cabins as well.

Lastly, the Princess Cruises is also one of the few cruise liners which still follow the century old traditions of Bon Voyage where family members and friends can board the ship to say goodbye to their loved ones before the ship embarks on its journey.

Booking a Cruise for the First Time? Follow These Tips!

If you have never booked a cruise before, it can be a confusing process! This article will give you a few tips and tricks to make the booking process easier, and help you to save money when you book your first cruise.

The important thing to remember as you are booking your cruise is this: there are lots of options to choose from! Take a little bit of time to explore the different itineraries that are available, and also look at the features that different cruise ships have to offer. Narrow your choices down to 2 or 3 different cruises that you are interested in, and then start comparing prices for those trips.

You can find many different quotes online, and often a little bit of searching can save you a lot of money. Try doing a Google search to find websites that have the cruise itinerary that you are looking for, and compare the prices between the sites and the itineraries. You can often save several hundred dollars by shopping around and being flexible with your travel dates.

Another great tip to help you book your room is to look at the price difference between the various room types. For example, booking a room on the lower level of thee ship is often cheaper than the higher rooms. And inside rooms are always cheaper than the rooms with a window or a balcony. Decide which type of room is important to you, and decide how much money you are willing to spend on the room. Remember, that you will probably only be sleeping in the room, because there are always a lot of fun activities to attend during the day.

Remember that you don't need to rush into any decisions as you are booking your first cruise. There are always good deals to be found, so take some time to explore your options so that you can make the best decision.

Cruise Ship Review – Review of the Celebrity Mercury

The Celebrity Mercury is one of the older ships in the Celebrity fleet. This line of cruise ships have been admired by experienced and first time cruisers alike. Built in 1997 this is an impressive ship, not just in the amenities that it offers but also in the visual appeal and the classic look.

The rooms have more than adequate space for clothing and other luggage and the service is world-renown. The first thing that you will notice when you enter the ship is the grand foyer on the promenade deck. From there you can make your way up to the entertainment deck, another of the eleven decks on this relatively small ship. If you are into small and intimate settings on your cruise then this one is definitely for you.

For your shipboard entertainment, the Celebrity Mercury features the Celebrity Theater in the front of the ship and the Pavilion Night Club in the rear. The Celebrity Mercury has all the attractions of a large size ship such as a casino, a large shopping terrace, the library and even a Martini Bar. The main dining room is supplemented nicely by the ample lido deck buffet and the additional dining rooms.

As a general rule, you cannot go wrong with Celebrity cruise lines. This is a five-star fleet with a jazzy upscale feel. I personally really like smaller ships. I think that the service is better and the passenger per gross tonnage of the ship is often better than the larger ships.

The Celebrity Mercury has all that and more. A first-class cruise and an outstanding experience overall.