Carnival Paradise Grand Cayman/Cozumel Review

There were 4 days at sea along with two days at port; making stops in the Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. Before booking the trip, I checked out reviews on Cruise Critic. Of the 442 reviews this boat has, 75% were positive. Here are some highlights of my experience on the ship.

Food: The food was plentiful (as expected) and tasty. The buffet was very good and the evening dining hall had a good variety of food. We had a table for four all to ourselves the entire week, so that was a treat! “After hours” there is a 24 hour pizza bar and ice-cream station, and the room service was quick. I wouldn’t classify this ship as a culinary dream, but it certainly was ample.

Drinks: The wait staff were very attentive and it was never a long wait to get a drink. As expected, the drinks were expensive. But if you stick to lemonade, water, tea, juice, etc, you don’t need to spend extra to stay hydrated. If you’re planning on drinking a lot, you might want to get one of their drink packages. You can save on cocktails, wine, and soda by purchasing these. There are a lot of rules and fine print, so read up before you go.

Pools: I was not impressed by the swimming pools on the ship. There is one main pool with a water slide going into it, which eats up some of the space. There were also a few whirlpool-sized swimming pools (with cool water) but not of the size for actual swimming.

Deck Space: There were always plenty of lounge chairs available on deck. They didn’t seem to have the usual “reserved chair” issues that many ships have. As the week went by, I think more people were hanging out inside so there were even more chairs available.

Rooms: We had an ocean view room with two twin size beds converted to a king size. The noise from the ship was at reasonable levels and besides some noisy neighbors a couple of nights, there were no noise issues. The bathroom was sufficient and overall there were no issues with the room.

Entertainment: Admittedly this trip was more about relaxing than it was the nightlife. But we did take in a few song and dance shows. While the theater is smaller than a lot of other boats, the entertainers were very talented and the shows were great. We also took in a few comedy shows, which were awesome. Just make sure that you’re leaving the kids at home if you’re going to an adults-only show. They aren’t kidding when they say they’re not family friendly!

Time at Port: The time at port in the Grand Cayman was short. We paid $5 per person to take a shuttle to the nearby public beach. The water was warm, clear, and refreshing. Drinks nearby cost a fortune, so be prepared.

We were in Cozumel, Mexico for about 8 hours. We arranged an excursion through Carnival to go to a nearby all-inclusive, Chankanaab Resort. There they had snorkeling, a Mayan tour, sea-lion show, lots of lounge chairs on the beach, and a swim up bar. Even though this was a self-guided day at the resort, they insisted on giving you an hour-long tour of the place and organizing all sorts of group activities. The guide seemed more concerned with occupying you so you didn’t spend too much time at the bar. The resort itself was great, but I’d opt out of this next time.

Overall, I think the Carnival Paradise was a great value for the money. Coming up soon will be a post about the travel gadgets you must have on your next cruise!

Princess Cruise Line Fleet: Sapphire Princess

The Sapphire Princess is one of the Princess Cruise Line Fleet that was manufactured in Japan, and fitted along with over 700 balconies wherein guests can experience the beautiful ocean view. Moreover, the hospitable crew members will ensure that you’ll have a quality time together with your family and friends.

Built in 2004, the Sapphire Princess is a freshly refurbished cruise ships and it travels in Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, Tahiti, and South Pacific. Passengers will definitely love the off-shore excursions as well as the onboard activities.

Among the cruise ships highlight includes the Grand Casino, exquisite dining areas, state-of-the-art Spa & Fitness center, exclusive youth center, and many more.

Rest and Relaxation

Be pampered with the amazing relaxation centers onboard. Moreover, guests can definitely try out these features:

· Fully revitalize your mind and body at the Lotus Spa & Pool. Specialized treatments are available onboard including La Therapie HydraLift Facial, Aroma Stone Therapy, and many more.

· Outdoor Spa at the Sanctuary – Adults Only that offers signature beverages, massages, attentive services and many more.

· Want to get fit? Just visit the Fitness Center! It has state-of-the-arts equipment, and offers various trainings and courses for every guest onboard.

· Library Room and Writing Room, as well as 24-hour Internet Service.

· Wedding at Sea! At the Wedding Chapel.

· Magnificent whirlpools and pools including the beautiful Calypso Reef And Pool, Neptune’s Reef And Pool, Terrace Pool, and Oasis Hot Tubs.

· Beautiful Staterooms for splendid ocean view as well as offers 24-hour Room Service.

Action and Adventure

Enjoy the action-packed facilities as well as the exciting sporting events onboard.

· Swim-against-the-current lap pool

· 9-hole golf putting course

· Shuffleboard

· Jogging Tracks

· Other Sporting Events at the Center Court

Dining Information

Various dining options are available on board. Whether you are looking for buffet meals, specialty cuisine, or perhaps sumptuous snacks, you can easily found them in the Sapphire Princess.

· Looking for Formal dining Area? Then just drop by the International Dining Room.

· For Flexible dining option, just visit the Pacific Moon Dining Room, Santa Fe Dining Room, Savoy Dining Room, and Vivaldi Dining Room.

· Specialty Restaurants includes Sabatini’s (Italian Restaurant), Sterling Steakhouse, and Ultimate Balcony Dining.

· For a casual dining option, just visit these amazing establishments, Horizon Court Buffet, Alfredo’s Full-Service Pizzeria, International Café, Vines Wine Bar, Patisserie, Sundaes Ice Cream Bar, Sundaes Ice Cream Bar, Trident Grill (Burgers & Hot Dogs), and Afternoon Tea.

· 24 hour Room Service

Kids and Families

Your kids will definitely love the exclusive centers in this cruise ship. There are also educational courses and fun-packed activities offered onboard.

· The Fun Zone is great for your kids and youngsters to experience activities like karaoke, pizza parties, and many more.

· Teen Center is a great place for teens to socialize, dance, and enjoy fun-filled activities.

· Have fun at the Splash Pool!

· Other education courses and fun-filled activities are available onboard.

Entertainment and Shopping

Your travel getaway experience will not be complete by having an exhilarating nightlife, viewing entertainment shows, as well as purchasing souvenirs and memorabilia.

· Entertainment live show that’ll give life to your evening includes World-class Performances at the Princess Theater and Movies under the Stars.

· Bars and Lounges including Explorers Lounge (Nightclub-Style Performances), Skywalkers Nightclub (Top Deck Nightclub), Club Fusion, Wake View Bar, Wheelhouse Bar, Churchill Lounge, and Crooner’s Lounge & Bar.

· At the Grand Casino you can play your favorite games such as Roulette, Poker, and many more.

· The Future Cruise Sales, Gallery and Auction, and duty-free shops wherein you can purchase your favorite memorabilia or souvenirs, watches, jewelry, cosmetics and many more.

What more can you ask for? The Princess Cruise Line Fleet Sapphire Princess has it all! From first-class dining to entertainment, this cruise ship will definitely give elegance in your travel.

Royal Caribbean International: Allure of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas is truly an amazing cruise ship that aims to captivate guests with first class services and establishments. This new cruise ship also features the first Starbucks at sea, the hit wonder Chicago Musical, and ever creative DreamWorks Experience in which your favorite animated characters are along board. If you are looking for a place to dine in, then it’s best to visit Rita’s Cantina and Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse. Also, if you want Quality time with your family, you can always visit the Boardwalk, Aqua Theater, and Central Park. Everything you need is right in this cruise ship.

Rest and Relaxation

There are plenty of stuffs to do while you are boarding The Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas. In case you want to unwind and relax, one can visit the Spa and Fitness center.

· Visit the renowned Vitality Spa wherein one could choose unique treatment programs such as medi-spa treatments and acupuncture.

· If you are health conscious then the Fitness Center will accommodate your needs.

· Central Park – features an open-air garden with BRITTO Gallery, Coach Store, and bistros.

· New Library to educate feed your thoughts and a Card room to socialize.

· Go on a splash! There are 4 pools including the Solarium and 10 whirlpools wherein 2 are distinct because it’s overlooking the sea.

· Clubs and Lounges for you to chill out.

Action and Adventure

This impressive cruise ship offers every family distinctive action and adventure activities. If you want to get thrilled then you must not miss these highlights:

· 2 well-known Flow Rider surf simulator and Rock-climbing walls.

· Zip line – measures 9 decks in the air and 82 feet diagonally.

· A full-sized basketball field and boxing ring

· Ice-skating Arena

· Compact Golf Course

· Distinctive Handcrafted Carousel

Dining Information

The cruise ship is packed with exquisite cuisine in which families can truly enjoy. The ship offer multi-course dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are also other dining options that families could choose from.

· Main Dining Room which serves daily meals for every families and guests.

· 13 other dining options including Windjammer Café, Park Café, Boardwalk Dog House and it features room service.

· First ever Starbucks at sea

· New restaurants including The Cupcake Cupboard – classic connoisseur bakery and serve 30 unique cupcakes.

· Casual dining at Johnny Rockets, Cupcake Cupboard, and many more.

· Specialty cafeterias like Chops Grille steakhouse, 150 Central Park, Giovanni’s Table Italian Restaurant, and Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse offer menus at a low price fee.

· Izumi Asian Cuisine for sushi bar selection and a la carte style. Vintages Wine Bar that serves exquisite wines.

· NEW Central Park Dining Package at $70 per guest.

· NEW Chef’s Dining Package at $130 per guest.

· NEW Choice Dining Package at $80 per guest.

Kids and Families

A family getaway is not complete without overall enjoyment. Allure of the Seas presents the spectacular DreamWorks Experience that features cartoon characters, parades, story time and parties.

Here are other highlights:

· Award-winning Adventure Ocean Youth Program. This program is indeed very essential for your youngsters for educational and fun purposes.

· Royal Babies and Royal Tots especially prepared for your toddlers and it features Fisher Price activities.

· Royal Babies & Tots Nursery

· Family-friendly Activities – This includes instructional classes and lectures, challenges and competitions, and many more.

· H20 Zone – kiddies water park

· 3D Movie Theater

· Adventure Beach kiddy pool with water slide.

· Lounge Areas and Disco – Exclusive for your Teens.

Entertainment and Shopping

If you are looking for entertain then the Broadway hit musical Chicago, Aqua Theater shows, ice shows and other live entertainments will definitely suit your preferences. Furthermore, here are other important highlights of the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas:

· Broadway Hit Musical Chicago – If you like musical then this group will truly entertain you.

· Aqua Theater shows and other live entertainment

· Casino Royale – has an area of 18,000 sq. foot and it accommodates 456 slots and 27 tables.

· Entertainment clubs and lounges -this includes karaoke and comedy bar, jazz club, as well as live performances.

· Surf’s Up Party – A restaurant that offers guests beverages and serves popular dishes.

· Central Park and Royal Promenade-the shopping center; store includes Duty Free, Coach, BRITTO Gallery, etc.

· NEW Rita’s Fiesta – reservation-only themed party and it features exquisite dishes and non-alcoholic beverages.

· NEW Prohibition Party – reservation-only 1920’s themed celebration. It features jazz age outfits.

Set sail and enjoy life to the fullest. The Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas first-class service will surely satisfy your needs.

Hooked On Sailing the High Seas

Once a non-cruiser now I’ve planned to cruise every year to relax, write, enjoy, see the world and connect with my husband and teens in a deeper way each year. It is like a reconnecting time where we unplug from everything and just enjoy the time together eating, being served by great servers from around the world, take short excursions to places we may never fly to and enjoy all the facilities that the floating resort offers.

Here are three reasons why we will be cruising with Norwegian Cruise and why Norwegian Breakaway is in our list:

One: Freestyle cruising

We like the flexibility and freedom of when, who, what, where we eat and schedule our activities. Norwegian Cruise Line Freestyle Cruising allows guests the freedom and flexibility to choose where to dine, when to dine and whom we dine with. Some days we dined without the teens and invited our new friends on board to dine with us.

If we feel like having sushi we could do it right away if there are seats available. Norwegian Cruise Line did not schedule our meals or shows everyday. We are in control and that’s how we like it when on vacation. We have been to another cruise where we had to sit near the same family and eat at the same time every night.

Imagine sitting in an airplane with the same passengers on the same row everyday for 5 or 7 days! That’s how it felt when we were in a cruise with assigned seats and time for dinner.

Most of the time you can dress up however you like for dinner. Most teens hate to dress up just for an hour’s meal. One way to stop argument and to avoid conflict with your teens is to find a cruise line that allows them to be who they are. Leave their suit and tie for weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals. You can travel light because there is no need to bring a whole array of shoes to match your outfits.

Two: Top notch itinerary and service at a “budget” price

I’ve done my research on itineraries and prices available in the cruising world. Norwegian stands out with their itineraries in the Caribbean. Two of my favorite itineraries are 7 days Western Caribbean and 11 days Southern Caribbean. If you were to purchase air tickets and book the accommodation as a package for a tour of the destinations listed, you will pay at least four times more per person.

The world has over 180 nations and there is really not enough time to visit them all. One of the best ways to quickly see the world on a budget and in comfort is through cruising. Not all cruise ships and services are created equal. From our own experience we love the Norwegian staff. They provide top-notch service.

Three: Boutique hotel at sea

Bermuda is in our list ‘must-see’ places and Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship debuting next year, 2013 would be the best way to sail over there.

The resort style boutique hotel at sea can accommodate 4,000 passengers cruising from our favorite city, New York City for a 7-day cruise to Bermuda starting May 12, 2013 through October 6, 2013. I love the itinerary where you depart on a Sunday and traffic is light in Manhattan. Sail three full days at sea and dock three full days in Bermuda, just enough time to enjoy all the facilities onboard and enough time to see Bermuda.

An average tour package including airfare and accommodation to Bermuda per person is about $1400. Remember this price do not include all meals, ocean view room or round trip transportation from airport to hotel. It does add up!

Norwegian Breakaway brings new innovation to the cruising world by combining the indoors with the outdoors. Guests have the options of indoor or outdoor shopping or dining at the oceanfront boardwalk.

Accessible Cruise Trips for All – What Do You Need to Know?

Its peak summer time and that calls for long vacations, travel excursions, days off from work and a time full of absolute bliss surrounded by family and loved ones.

While most people may plan their vacations without too much planning, persons with special needs need to think of a lot of things before they can finalize their vacation. While it may involve extra planning and organizing, it certainly is possible for people with special needs to travel and enjoy just like everyone else.

One of the best vacations for persons with physical restrictions is a cruise vacation. Many major cruise lines offer accessible travel for persons with limited mobility. From the port to the staterooms and everything in between, each element of the ship is accessible for persons with special needs.

Accessible Travel with Senior Persons

If you are travelling with seniors who may have special needs, then here are some pointers that you need to consider to plan a smooth and fun filled accessible cruise trip:

1. Call ahead – check on the special needs provider for equipment rental, way before your trip, that you may require for you or your senior family member. This gives them a margin to prepare and arrange for the equipment on time – wheelchairs, electric scooters, oxygen equipment, beds, walking aides, etc.

2. Be Clear – clearly mention and specify your needs to the service provider to ensure you get the right kind of equipment and the preferred size (e.g. electric mobility scooters are available in different sizes).

3. Stock up on Meds – take extra medicines on board, you don’t want to miss a dose in case there is a diversion and the trip takes longer than the arrival time to reach the destination port.

4. Special Rooms – when booking your cruise, make sure you ask for rooms that are accessible easily for persons with special needs. Also, they should be large enough so you can easily maneuver using your electric scooter or wheelchair.

Accessible Travel with Children

1. Accessible travel agent – find travel agents who can arrange travel trips for people with disability. Since they have experience with making arrangements for disabled persons of all age groups, they can suggest the best one for you and your child with special needs.

2. Look for bigger ships – when choosing accessible cruises, make sure you choose new ones and bigger ones since they have more facilities; spacious doorways, roll in showers, open theaters, easy pool entrances, etc.

3. Service dogs – if you have a service dog for you or your loved one, make sure you check with the cruise line if they accept them on board. All major cruise lines do accept, but it’s always good to check. You may have to get the service dog vaccinated and keep the documents at hand before booking your trip.

Knowing the details and requirements before planning accessible travel can make travelling enjoyable for both the disabled person and their loved ones. Special Needs at Sea understand the needs of people with physical restrictions or disabilities and thus provides on board special needs equipment to help such people become independent, confident and relaxed.

Persons with special needs can avail wheel chairs, oxygen equipment, electric scooter rentals and other special equipment on board from Special Needs at Sea and enjoy their cruise like capable persons.