NCL Cruise

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Good morning from hot and muggy Southern California.  At this moment I am longing to be back in British Columbia and Oregon.  The weather was cool and crisp, fall was starting to settle in.  The trees were beginning to turn all the beautiful vibrant colors of fall.  I love traveling this time of year and am ready to go again. How about you?

Have you cruised with NCL, if so I would love to hear your thoughts.  Having never been on board with NCL, I was anxious to check it out and learn more about it.  They are definitely changing it up with their Freestyle cruising and understand for some this is the only way to go.

We started in Vancouver, BC and headed south into Los Angeles where the Jewel will make her home for 6 months to sail round trip to Mexico.

There were positives and a few negatives and I hope to share with you so when it comes time to decide for yourselves you will have a better understanding of the cruise line. So let’s get started….

Freestyle cruising is just that, you to be free, relaxed and casual.  There are no set dining times in the dining rooms, you dine when you want.  Dress is casual, there is no dressing up or dressing nice for dinner if you don’t want to.  We saw guests in slacks and blouses or slacks and golf shirts, women in dresses and we saw cut-off shorts and flip flops, it is all about the guest and what you are comfortable with.  The only restaurant reservations that need to be made are for the specialty restaurants on board. You aren’t on any time schedule.

NCL like the larger cruise lines, has different classes of ship, from the older smaller ships to the mega ships with over 4,000 guests on board.  The ship we were on was a Jewel Class, a bit older, but recently updated.   My post is going to apply to this class of ship, what is on board and offered.  The larger ships are different and have different activities and dining options.

I had the opportunity to see an Interior Cabin, and a Haven suite and stayed in a balcony cabin.

If you are on a tight budget and don’t mind the interior cabins which have no window, or porthole, they are not bad.  You have the choice of 2 twin beds or a queen, with a bathroom and ample closet space.

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Balcony Cabin

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The balcony cabins, while it is nice having the outdoor space and a door you can leave open to hear the ocean, they are a bit tight compared to other ships.  The bathroom was quite tight, with not much space around the sink to lay a cosmetic bag, or shaving gear.  There is a sliding glass door between the sink area and toliet, but the toliet room is tight and if you are tall, you will need to sit sideways to keep from having your knees push into the wall.  The shower is quite large, you won’t feel claustrophobic.  For a bit more room you may want to consider bumping up to a mini suite, or if your budget allows head up to the Haven.

NCL has added a private area to most of their ships called the Haven.  If staying in the Haven, you will have special key card access.  You will find a private pool deck and the cabins are secluded.  They offer some nice amenities.  The two bedroom unit has a bedroom with a king bed, the bathroom is large with a window looking out to the ocean and double vanities.  The living room has a little kitchen area with a coffee maker and table with 4 chairs for dining with room service.  There is a nice balcony off the living room with 4 deck chairs.  The sofa makes into a nice twin bed.  The second bedroom offers a double bed and a twin that drops down from the ceiling.  There is plenty of closet space and a nice sized second bathroom.  This is a great option for friends traveling together or a family with children.

On their newer larger ships, they are adding studio cabins for the solo traveler.  This is a great option for those traveling alone, they are interior cabins with a fake window, but you will have your own lounge where you can meet other singles traveling alone.

We are just getting started and all I have covered is the basics.  I will close for now and will meet you back here next week and we will chat about the food on board, isn’t that what most of us cruise for?

Travel Well,
Terri

 

Family River Cruising with Disney

Ama Disney Rive Cruise

Adventures by Disney has recently announced a partnership with the luxury river cruise line AmaWaterways.  Disney will be offering family river cruises on the Danube river starting in July 2016. The trips are now open for booking and I believe are going to fill quickly.

River cruising is hot right now and is mainly for adults, but now families are going to be able to join in on the fun.  AmaWaterways is having a ship built that is more family friendly with cabins that will accommodate a family of 3 and adjoining cabins  to accommodate families and multi-generational trips.

There are 4 itineraries being offered in July 2016 and 1 itinerary in December to experience the Christmas markets.  Traveler’s will visit 8 destinations in 4 countries, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary with options for pre-cruise and post-cruise stays in Prague.

The cruises will offer family excursions and activities just for the kids, strudel making in Austria, Goulash cooking on board, kids movie night and karaoke for teens.  Biking will be available in each village so families can bike along the river. While the adults can enjoy and savor the local beers and wines from the region.

Disney will be providing Disney staff on board, but no character’s on board.  The minimum age for children to travel is age 4, but the recommended and suggested age is 8 and above.

River cruising is very different from the large cruise ships most families are accustomed to.  River boats are smaller, more intimate and provide guests the opportunity to feel the heartbeat of these countries.  While getting out into the villages meeting the people and learning the culture.

I am excited for this new opportunity for families to now have the chance to experience river cruising and Adventures by Disney is a great way to travel as a family.

Hope to see you getting out there and traveling,
Terri

River Cruising in the United States

Viking River Cruise

I just read an article that I want to share with you.  Viking River Cruises has announced that they will be building several new ships in the United States.  These river boats will start cruising the Mississippi River in 2017.

The American Steamboat Co. is currently the only company with boats on the Mississippi River.

I am excited that Viking will be adding boats and new itineraries.  For those of you that don’t want to travel abroad or can’t, this will be a new option for you to cruise in the United States.

If you would like more information on Viking’s plans, I have provided the link below.

Terri

http://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/its-official-viking-to-start-mississippi-river-operation.html?u=0F94B570-1A50-42CA-B134-EE4BFC4987CD

 

 

 

Fun Cruise Getaway

Princess Cruise

Are you sitting at your desk or maybe in traffic on the freeway dreaming of getting away?  That is exactly where I was last month,  I just needed a change of scenery.  Getting away for even a day or two  clears the mind and rejuvenates the soul.  So, I grabbed the family and set sail aboard the Sapphire Princess on a short West Coast cruise out of Los Angeles.  

I didn’t care about the itinerary, it was just getting on the ship and feeling like I was far from home.

Princess is now doing the short 3 and 4 night cruises out of L.A. They aren’t doing them year ’round, but frequently throughout the year.  The cruises are affordable and offer a few days of pure relaxation.

The Sapphire Princess has recently been revitalized and is a fun ship.  They have The Sanctuary up top, added dining and “Movie Under the Stars.”  If you haven’t been onboard a Princess ship, The Sanctuary is an area that is an adults only with comfy lounges, private cabanas for massages and is a quiet and relaxing spot to dig into your favorite novel or magazine.  There is a charge to use this area, $20 for a half day and $40 for a full day.

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“Movies Under the Stars”, is so much fun.  The screen is out by the pool, grab a lounge chair and a drink while you enjoy a concert or first run movie.

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Our first port was Santa Barbara.  Love the town, there is plenty of shopping and little eateries and sidewalk cafes.  The ships tenders drop you off close to town so you can wander at leisure. Hire a pedi-cab for a 2 hour Urban Wine Tour and Tasting.  Shop til you drop or stroll along Stearn’s Wharf.

Our last part was Ensenada, Mexico.  I can hear some of you groaning, but honestly it was fine.  I was content to pull up a lounge chair with a book, listen to a Coldplay concert on the big screen, relax and grab a short nap.  While, some of the family headed into town for a cold Tecate beer and a little shopping,  the report back was that the tourist areas are fine, plenty of police patroling.

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The last day was a day at sea.  Find a corner in a lounge and play a game, hit the library, lay by the pool and just relax.

If you live in the L.A area or So. California, this is a great way to getaway for a few days without having to fly.  Came home rested, relaxed and ready to get back to normal life.

Bon Voyage and have fun.

 

Fun Cruise Travel Apps

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Good afternoon.  I recently read an article about a few cruise travel apps that are fun and keep you up to date when cruising.  In checking them out I discovered that they are only available on the iphone and ipad.  While I find that a bit irritating I still want to share them with you.

I don’t understand why developers stick strictly with the iphone and ipad platform.  There are many of us that aren’t apple junkies and prefer the android platformI guess if you are android you are left out which is disappointing.  If you are on the apple platform, these are for you and might be really fun to check out.

Deck Director App

The first app is The Deck Director.  The app is $4.99 and contains the deck plans from all ships in the Princess Cruises line, Holland America, Carnival and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

The app gives:

  • Deck plans
  • Locate any cabin on each deck
  • Shows all public areas with interactive entries of deck plans
  • You can get directions between 2 locations

Personalize your deck preferences.

  • Set the app to use only elevators
  • Use stairs if less than 1, 2, 3, or 4 decks
  • Use only the stairs

You can also set the app to give you return directions back to your cabin.

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Cruise Cam

Do you love to have a bird’s eye view of cruise ships and ports around the world?  For $1.99 this app will let you explore views from webcams on close to 100 ships, covering a variety of cruise lines.  It allows you to spy on more than 150 ports all from your mobile device from webcams placed on the ship or in port.

Again, this app is only available on the iphone or ipad platform.  Honestly, I try to get away from technology and completely unplug when I am on a cruise. However, I can see where these apps would be fun to play with and could be helpful, I’ll let you decide..

 

 

 

 

Skagway, Ketchikan or Points Further North

 

 

IMG_5854Skagway is an interesting little town.  As you pull into port you will see painting on the rocks,  messages from ships and captains that have sailed into port.  The train stops right at the port if you are looking to take the White Pass and Yukon Route, it is a beautiful old train.

The town is easy to walk too, unless you have bad knees or trouble walking, then you would need to take the shuttle that comes to the port.  Again, the town has jewelry stores, but there are some shops that exhibit local artisans, so it is worth a walk.  Stop into the Skagway Brewery for a cold drink, or a warm cup of cider and an appetizer or a meal, the food is quite good.

Again, I recommend getting off of the beaten path.  You can take a trip to the Eagle Preserve near Haines, the Eagles are majestic and it is awesome watching them fly in their natural habitat.  Head over to take a zodiac boat ride, gear up in a survival suit that will keep you quite warm and cruise along the shoreline to get up close and personal with waterfalls, eagles flying amidst the trees, seals and if you are lucky whales.

If you are on a 7 day roundtrip Vancouver or Seattle cruise, Ketchikan will be your last port of call after cruising either the Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay or the Tracy Arm.  The glaciers again will surprise you, they are awesome.  Stand on deck or your balcony and watch the ice calving off, floating out to sea when you hear what sounds like thunder as the ice falls into the water.

Ketchikan ~ what an interesting town with so much history, it deserves a walk around town.  There are a couple of options for getting out there.  Take a seaplane to Misty Fjords and land on a backcountry lake, step out onto a float and listen to absolutely nothing except pure silence.

If you love adventure, head out to zipline.  This is such a fun experience and what makes it extra special, as you fly over the trees, look down, you will see bears beneath you. It is so cool.

If you are cruising north or south after spending some time in Anchorage, Fairbanks and into Denali, I encourage you to look at the cruise extensions.  Many will take you into Denali National park, which is beautiful.  But there are many other options and some cruise lines are offering really unique experiences.  You can take a seaplane to a wilderness lodge for some incredible fishing and a hike along the Iditarod Trail. 

Cross the Arctic Circle and visit the Gates of the Arctic National Park and head to the Anaktuvuk Pass and visit a native Eskimo village and experience their culture.

If you find yourself with some time in Anchorage, check out Cafe 817.  A 25 year old treasure.  Well known for their muffins, but come with an appetite and try the best thing on the menu, reindeer sausage sandwiches.  Truly authentic Alaskan fare.

Embrace your curiosity and get off the beaten path.

Alaska ~ The Last Frontier

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Vancouver is a great city and a destination in itself.  In the summer months, the city is also the jumping off point for many Alaska cruises.

So today we are going to set sail for Alaska, leaving Canada behind for now.  Have you cruised before, or are you one that thinks cruising is not your type of vacation?  I love cruising, it is one of those vacations that you truly can relax and with the cost of internet service and cell service, it forces everyone to unplug and I love that.  But I am not one to follow the crowds off of the ship, I like to find activities in the ports that let me really see the destination and not from the window of a motorcoach with 50 other guests.

Alaska was an amazing destination.  The scenery really does take your breath away and then you begin to wonder if the ship really is going to squeeze through the Inside Passage.

The first port of call is Juneau, Alaska, the state’s Capital.  One interesting fact about Juneau is there are no roads leading in or out.  To get to this spot you either have to come in by boat or fly in by seaplane.  As you pull into port, you are in awe of the landscape. The town is surrounded by mountains that just tower over it, and you can see waterfalls finding their way through the trees.  It is fun to stroll through town, but it tends to be a bit of a tourist trap.  Jewelry store after jewelry store.  I always want to know what is around the next corner and am not a tourist trap kind of traveler, so I encourage you to be curious too. 

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Take a helicopter ride to a glacier.  you really get a chance to see the backcountry as you fly to a backcountry glacier.  Once you set down, you will be shocked as to how small you really are and how tiny the helicopter is in comparison.  Once safely down on the glacier, get out and wander, As you look into some of the cracks and holes, you will be amazed at how crystal clear the water is and such a deep color of turquoise.

Are you a foodie?  As you get off the ship, off to the side over near one of the restaurants right on the port look for a person holding a sign that says Alaska Food Tours.  They take you to several spots around town where the locals eat and you get to try authentic Alaskan dishes. 

Looking for a great place to eat, walk past the main town to The Flight Deck restaurant.  Located on Merchant’s Wharf you can watch the seaplane’s come and go as you eat.   This is where the locals eat and you can’t beat the Halibut, it is incredible. So order a Halibut sandwich, you won’t be sorry.  Looking for a cold beer, check out the Alaskan Brewery.

Pulling out of port ~ next stop Skagway, Ketchikan and points further north.

Cruise Month, How to stay safe

October celebrates National Cruise Week.  I love to take the entire month and celebrate cruising.  It is one industry that is constantly changing with all of the new itineraries and new ships that continue to launch.

Have you cruised before?  If not, why?

I love cruising, it truly is that one vacation that I can completely unplug and stay off of the technology wheel that bombards my life and I’m sure your life too.  Once onboard, you unpack and you are done for 7 to 14 days or longer depending on the length of your cruise.  There is no packing and unpacking.

I do hear people say they don’t like cruising or they don’t want to try cruising because they don’t like large crowds, or they can’t really experience a destination because of the short time they are in port, or they are afraid they will be bored on the ship.  All of which are simply not true and this month I hope I can teach and show you why it isn’t true.

Before we set sail and explore ships, itineraries and activities, I would like to start with cruise safety.

Cruise vacations are among the safest types of vacations. The cruise lines see more than 17 million passengers annually and serious incidents are very rare.

Muster Drills are mandatory, they always have been, but even more so as a result of the tragedy of the Costa Concordia.  They must be held prior to the ship leaving the dock.  For those of you that haven’t sailed before, a muster drill is the lifeboat and life jacket drill.  You will be assigned a location on the ship to report in case of an emergency onboard.  You are required to show up and check in with the ships personnel that will be monitoring your station.  For those of you that have done them before and don’t think you need to show up and decide to blow it off, DON’T!  Cruise lines are now required to check in every passenger assigned to that station, if you are a no show, you will most likely find yourself and your luggage walking the plank to the dock and you won’t be allowed to sail, nor will you receive a refund.  I can assure you the cruise lines are walking people off the ship.

Always be smart when you travel whether it is on a cruise or not.  Always be aware of your surroundings and protect your belongings and yourself as you would if you were home.

Make yourself aware of the evacuation plan which is posted on the back of your cabin door.

If you have medical issues, allergies or take medication on a regular basis, always bring your own supply, don’t depend on the ships infirmary to supply you.  I pack a small travel medication bag with the basics and have it stored in the cabin.  I also tuck in copies of passports, and some extra cash and keep my cabin card and cell phone close by just in case I need to grab it quickly and leave my cabin.

Most ships have a doctor and nurse onboard.  If you want to make sure those services are available to you on your ship, your travel consultant can always check on that for you.

To avoid shipboard illnesses, all ships that I have been on put the automatic hand sanitizer machines around the ship and I use them every time I pass by.  I also will pop into a bathroom and just wash them with hot water, it is very simple.  If you do become sick, please stay in your cabin, contact ship staff and stay put until they clear you to leave your cabin.  Don’t spread the illness to other passengers please.

Maybe you have special dietary needs and you are worried that you won’t be able to cruise, you can still cruise.  Most cruise lines are able to accommodate these needs with advance notice.  Let your travel consultant know, so they can notify the ship and cruise line.  Walkers and wheelchair arrangements can also be made, again your travel agent can make those arrangements for an additional fee.

Well, that covers the basics and now we are ready to set sail.  I hope you will join me throughout the month as I cover cruising.  Monday we will start with the most popular cruise vacation right now, river cruising.

If you are at all interested in what I pack in a basic travel medication bag, drop me an e-mail with your request and I would be happy to e-mail you the list.

Have a great week!