Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Love That New Ship Smell

Remember when you bought your first brand-new car?  You opened the door and were greeted by that amazing new car smell.   How would you like to experience that same sense of smell on a brand-new cruise ship?

What's It Like Sailing on a Brand-New Ship

We can't share that new-ship smell with you here, but we can share some of the sights and sounds from onboard Carnival Cruise Line's newest ship, Carnival Vista.  Watch this video to experience this brand-new ship, which is currently in Europe, but soon will be sailing to the Caribbean out of the port of Miami.   We will be onboard in December for it's first Caribbean sailing during our National Conference.

When sailing on a brand-new ship, you are among the first to experience the latest innovations.  As you've seen in this video, Carnival takes things to new heights - literally in their latest fleet addition.  
If you've ever thought you'd be bored on a ship, guess again.  When we started cruising over 30 years ago, we would never had imagined the types of activities that are now commonplace on most cruise lines.   What do you like to do on vacation?  Odds are you can find it onboard a brand-new ship.
National Plan a Cruise Month Continues
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National Plan A Cruise Month Promotions 

Cruise lines are offering special promotions and pricing on popular cruises to encourage consumers to plan their next cruise vacation now.

We'll be featuring promotions on our website and social media.  Click here to see current offers

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wash Your Hands Tis the Season

October 15, Global Handwashing Day

The 2016 Global Handwashing Day theme is “Make Handwashing a Habit!”  

Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Source:  Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing
Cruise Ships & Norovirus ...Tis the Season
You've heard the stories in the news about cruise ships delayed due to the need to have a deep clean following an up tick in the gastrointestinal illness, known as Norovirus.  Perhaps news stories like that are preventing you from enjoying a cruise vacation.

Who is to Blame When Norovirus Hits?

The first inclination when you hear about an outbreak would be to blame the cruise line. Clearly, they have let you down - you expected a healthy cruise, and you got sick.   In fact there's a group of passengers that were on sister cruise line's Independence of the Seas that are suing Royal Caribbean International for £500,000 after contracting norovirus while onboard the ship.

The cruise line is responsible - right?

The cruise line IS responsible  for cleaning the ship and providing the facilities for passengers and crew to maintain proper hygiene onboard the ship.   They do that - you'll notice signs posted in all the rest rooms and crew members pointing out sanitation machines, such as the one in the picture above posted outside the restaurant entrance.  

But, ladies and gentleman - I suspect that YOU are to BLAME.   Did you stop to wash your hands after using the bathroom?   Did you sanitize your hands every time you entered a restaurant onboard the ship.   Did you do so all but one time?   That one time would be enough to kick off this sort of outbreak.

During recent cruises on Disney Dream and Carnival Sensation, we noticed the sanitizing materials and signs.  Sadly, we also noticed many passengers disregarding the signs and avoiding the sanitizing of their hands before entering the restaurant.

Working together, the cruise lines and passengers could Prevent Norovirus!


Facts About Noroviruses on Cruise Ships  -  gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses can be prevented

Wash hands often. Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.  Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer along with hand washing.

Norovirus outbreaks, when they occur on a cruise ship, always make the news.  The truth is these outbreaks can occur anywhere there are groups of people in a small area such as nursing homes, restaurants, catered events, hotels, and cruise ships.

Vessel Sanitation Program - prevention and control of spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships  

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National Plan A Cruise Month Promotions 

Cruise lines are offering special promotions and pricing on popular cruises to encourage consumers to plan their next cruise vacation now.

We'll be featuring promotions on our website and social media.  Click here to see current offers.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Should My First Cruise be 109 Days or Less

What's The Right Cruise Length for 
First Time Cruiser
Most people start with a short cruise

We can safely assume that your first cruise will be substantially shorter than 109 days, unless you have your heart set on seeing the entire World on your first cruise. Typically, a first time cruiser wants to see if they like cruising before booking a longer cruise.  That is a wise decision.

Let's explore some possibilities.

You Don't Need to Figure This Out Alone
The typical first cruise is 3 to 5 nights in length.  This is long enough to give you a taste of sea days as well as days in port. From the image above, you can see that there are still many choices in that range.

Itineraries include The Bahamas, Eastern and Western Caribbean from the east coast, with west coast destinations including Baja California and Pacific coastal cruises.

The length of cruise will impact the departure city and the destinations that can be reached from there. You'll find that most of the 3-night  East Coast cruises will depart from Florida and go to the Bahamas.   As you increase the number of days, you'll open up more possible destinations and also departure ports.

Don't feel that you are restricted to 3-5 days in length.  When we began cruising 30 years ago, our first big ship cruise was 7 nights in length.

FACT - Cruises have a higher percentage of satisfied customers than any other vacation experience. Ask your CLIA-affiliated travel agent about cruising. Chances are, he or she will recommend a cruise vacation from personal experience.   SUGGESTION - Take their advice!

We Love Helping First Timers - Ask Us

So far we have talked about several decisions that narrow the cruise sailing selection:  type of cabin, departure ports, destinations, and length of the cruise.  There are still more questions to be answered in order to determine the Best Cruise for You.

We cannot emphasize enough that planning the first cruise properly will determine if this is your first and only cruise, or if you'll fall in love with the best vacation around and continue to plan many more cruises in the years to come.

Click This Link to See a Sample of 3-5 Night Cruises

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

5 Ways to Enhance Your Cruise Ship Dining Experience

click on images to enlarge
Cruise Dining Tips

We've just returned from a fabulous 7 Night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Carnival Magic.   We employed these tips during our cruise and thought we'd share them with our readers.   Even though we'll use the Carnival Magic for examples, the principles can be applied to most contemporary cruise lines.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it's a good start to enhancing your cruise dining.

Navigating the Buffet

Entering the ship's buffet restaurant you may be thinking that you just died and went to heaven or perhaps you are just overwhelmed by the scene in front of you.  

Tip:   Don't just Dive In

One of the main entrances to the buffet is often from the Lido (pool) deck on your ship.  You will notice that shortly after entering, there's a serving station which has a long line.   Do not stop here, but continue further into the restaurant.   On most ships, there are several identical serving lines, many of which may have shorter lines.

Besides the identical lines, take notice of the unique stations.  For example at breakfast, there is usually an omelet station where you can get made to order eggs & omelets.   This line may be long, so be ready to wait.   Check out the signs overhead to help navigate through the maze of stations.
Walk around the buffet to decide on the options that interest you for this meal, and take note for later in the week, when you may want something different.

Instead of waiting in the long serving line one morning, we opted for the much shorter continental breakfast line and then added some bacon from the omelet station (there was a waiter serving bacon and ham - you didn't need to wait in the omelet line).

Poolside Dining

Getting some sun or shade on loungers is one of our favorite relaxing things to do during a cruise.  We typically have breakfast in the buffet and then search out a good spot to camp out for a few hours.    Since prime locations (such as those right by the pool or in a shady location) get taken first, another option is to divide your group and eat in shifts.  (Most lines frown on you just leaving something on the lounger to reserve the chair and they may remove the items if you aren't back within a stated period of time - so be aware of the rules on your ship).

Tip:  Dine by the Pool

Lunch is a great time to eat poolside.  On Carnival cruises you can dine at Guy's Burger Joint or Blue Iguana right by the pool.  While there may be a line, it usually moves quickly, and you can get back to relaxing by the pool in no time.   There is also a 24 hour pizza station by the aft pool.  Most cruise lines have similar options. 

Sea Day Only Options

The reason we selected Carnival Magic for our latest cruise was to try Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse which is only open for limited hours on sea days.  Many cruise lines have similar restaurant venues, so be sure to plan your dining schedule ahead of time.

Tip:  Try the Unique Dining Options

Due to the limited serving hours, you can expect dining venues like these to be busy.  Plan to arrive when they open, or even shortly before that.   In order to keep our poolside loungers,  one person went on a food run for the two of us.   Check out the menu ahead of time so that you know what you want to order.

Anytime Dining

We've been cruising for over 30 years and grew up on traditional dining where you were assigned a dining time and table in the main dining room.  Every night you went to dinner at the same time with the same people.   Nowadays there are many more dining options and we encourage you to select an option that has some flexibility.

Tip:  Select Flexible Dining

Some people prefer to eat early and others late.  That is why traditional dining over the years had two choices.   There are others, that for health reasons, must eat at a certain time each day.   The good news is that even with flexible dining plans of today's cruises, any of the above schedules can be accommodated.

One big advantage of flexible dining is that you can select your dining time based on evening activities that you want to do.   Some days, after touring, you might be tired and don't want to rush to dinner. The choice is completely up to you each evening during your cruise.

We still enjoy the traditional dining experience because the wait staff gets to know you, making for an enjoyable experience.   On our Carnival Magic cruise, we had the best of both worlds.   The first couple of evenings we arrived for dinner, signed in, and took whatever table they escorted us to.  Then we found the wait staff of Singsoong and Posy.   We really enjoyed them, their service, the hot food, etc., so every night after that, we asked for a table in their section.  They would greet us by name and take care of all our needs very efficiently.

Specialty Dining

One big draw for cruise vacations is the inclusive dining options.  When we think about dining on a cruise ship we compare it to dining at home.  Some days you opt for fast food while others you want a more relaxing dinner.   For special occasions, you may opt for your favorite steak or seafood restaurant which usually comes with a higher price tag as well.   On a cruise, you can enjoy any or all of the above choices throughout the voyage.   The choice is up to you.

Tip:  Specialty Dining for Lunch

Are you celebrating a special occasion during your cruise?   Why not make at least one night a little extra special by dining in one of the many specialty dining venues on your ship?

Sometimes you can dine at a specialty restaurant at lunch for a reduced price or even complimentary.   The menu might be simpler than in the evening, but you still get to experience that extra ambiance.  On Carnival cruise ships that have Cucina del Capitano, there is a pasta bar option for lunch which allows you to taste their Italian specialties for no cost.


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How Have You Enhanced Your Cruise Ship Dining? 

Hopefully this article gives you some ideas about options you have when on your cruise vacation.  We'd love to hear from you about your best experiences.   Feel free to contact us via social media or our contact information if you have questions.


Join us every Wednesday evening at 8pm EST for lively conversation about food travel brought to you by It's a tasty world & we're dishing it up!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Your Cruise is Departing From a Nearby Port

Shorter Flights - or None Needed - to the Cruise Terminal

Your dream vacation starts as soon as you walk out the door! No longer do you have to dread the hustle and bustle of the arduous airline experience when planning your next cruise vacation. Now more than ever can you visit some of the world’s most fascinating destinations at the lowest prices and without venturing too far to get there.

Cruises From Nearby Ports
Click Map for Options
 No Need to Fly to Your Next Cruise - Ask Us How
With major cruise lines departing from more and more popular port cities like Miami, FL; New York City, NY; Galveston, TX and even San Francisco, CA, you will undoubtedly find an incredible ship that’s the perfect fit.
There are 21 US Cruise Ports Nearby  [Tweet this]
Sail from a Port Near You

To Find a Cruise Nearby simply Click on the Map above or click here to get started.

Next, Select a Departure Port by Clicking on a City or scrolling down on the page to find the region of the country that you wish to depart from.

Finally, Select From Amongst the Fascinating Destinations to look at the various cruise itineraries that you can pick from.

EASY as 1 - 2 - 3

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

What Would Christopher Columbus Think

Columbus First Transatlantic

La Pinta (Spanish for The Painted One or The Spotted One) was the fastest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first transatlantic voyage in 1492

The Pinta was square rigged and smaller than the Santa María. the ship weighed approximately 60 tons with an estimated deck length of 17 meters (56 ft) and a width of 5.36 meters (17.6 ft). The crew size was 26 men under Captain Martín Alonso Pinzón.

On the evening of 3 August 1492, Columbus departed from Spain with three ships, including the Pinta.  He first sailed to the Canary Islands where he stopped for repairs and provisions, staying there until 6 September 1492.

First Person to Sight Land

In the wee hours of 12 October 1492, Columbus claims to have seen the light of land. Columbus called the island (in what is now The Bahamas) San Salvador.  He claimed the lifetime pension promised by Ferdinand and Isabella in connection with the sighting.

How Does Pinta  Compare to Today's Cruise Ships

Oasis of the Seas is 47 meters wide and 360 meters long, i.e. 40 m longer than the height of the Eiffel tower! Height over the water line is 65 m. Building the vessel has been compared to a huge 3-dimensional puzzle. The vessel consists of 180 grand blocks, the biggest with a size of length 22 m, width 30 m and weight 600 tons! The vessel´s weight is 12 times the weight of the Eiffel tower. 

 Pinta Definitely Out-Sized

Here you see just one of the 180 grand blocks that comprised the Oasis of the Seas.  Let's assume that it's the largest block.  That would mean that the Pinta was 5m shorter and 1/10th the weight of just that one building block.

Oasis of the Seas First Transatlantic

Just like the Pinta, the Captain of the Oasis of the Seas set sail from Europe destined for Bahamas and points beyond.   The Oasis made the journey from 31 October 2009 until 13 November 2009, arriving two days later than planned due to a tropical storm it encountered during the crossing.   Columbus too had encountered tropical weather during his crossing.

Columbus would probably be amazed if he sailed his ship alongside the Oasis of the Seas.   We'll take a look at more ships as we continue our special series for National Plan a CruiseMonth

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Impacts WDW & More

Hurricane Matthew     courtesy NOAA NHC



Hurricane Matthew
1200 PM EDT FRI OCT 07 2016



A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...
* Cocoa Beach to Surf City

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...
* North of Surf City to Cape Lookout

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...
* Sebastian Inlet to Cocoa Beach
* North of Surf City to Duck
* Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds

Interests elsewhere in the Florida Peninsula, the Florida Keys, and
in the Carolinas should monitor the progress of Matthew.
Storm Archive       Graphics Archive




We just returned from Disney's Walt Disney World which celebrated it's 45th Anniversary on October 1, 2016.   Since opening it's doors in 1971, the park has only been closed three times in anticipation of hurricanes:   Hurricane Floyd (September, 1999), Hurricane Frances (September, 2004) and Hurricane Jeanne (September, 2005).

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World said, "Based on the most recent forecasts for Hurricane Matthew, Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will all be closed today (Thursday October 6th) by 5 PM., and will remain closed through Friday, October 7."

Starting October 5th, WDW started warning its guests of possible disruptions due to the approaching hurricane. They also moved guests staying at Fort Wilderness campgrounds.

Here is the latest list of closures / cancellations in the Orlando area:

Thursday - Blizzard Beach, Fort Wilderness campground closed. SeaWorld closes at 2pm. Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando close at 5pm. Halloween Horror Nights, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Spirit of Aloha dinner show canceled.

Friday - Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Legoland, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon and Fort Wilderness closed. Halloween Horror Nights, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Spirit of Aloha dinner show canceled.

Useful Links


Hurricane Matthew Precautions | FAQ | Walt Disney World Resort

Hurricane Matthew to bring severe storm to Walt Disney World | The Disney Blog

Hurricane Matthew Prompts Cruise Itinerary Changes

NHC issuing advisories for the Atlantic on Hurricane MATTHEW and Hurricane NICOLE

Audio podcasts regarding Matthew now available

#HurricanePrep Mini-Series

#HurricanePrep Mini-Series
WIND:  Hurricane and tropical storm conditions are expected to
continue over the warning area in Florida today, and spread
northward within the warning area through Saturday.

Residents in high-rise buildings should be aware that the winds at
the top of a 30-story building will be, on average, about one
Saffir-Simpson category higher than the winds near the surface.

Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach the
tropical storm warning area in North Carolina on Saturday morning.

STORM SURGE:  The combination of a dangerous storm surge, the tide,
and large and destructive waves will cause normally dry areas near
the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the
shoreline.  The water could reach the following heights above ground
if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide...

Flagler Beach, Florida, to Edisto Beach, South Carolina, including
portions of the St. Johns River...6 to 9 ft
Cocoa Beach to Flagler Beach, Florida...4 to 6 ft
Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Cape Fear, North Carolina...
4 to 6 ft
Sebastian Inlet to Cocoa Beach, Florida...2 to 4 ft
Cape Fear to Salvo, North Carolina, including portions of the
Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds...2 to 4 ft

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast in areas of
onshore winds.  Surge-related flooding depends on the relative
timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over
short distances.  Large waves generated by Matthew will cause water
rises to occur well in advance of and well away from the track of
the center.  For information specific to your area, please see
products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast

There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36
hours along the Florida northeast coast, the Georgia coast, the
South Carolina coast, and the North Carolina coast from Sebastian
Inlet, Florida, to Cape Fear, North Carolina.  There is the
possibility of life-threatening inundation during the next 48 hours
from north of Cape Fear to Salvo, North Carolina. For a depiction of
areas at risk, please see the Prototype National Weather Service
Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic. For information specific to your
area, please see products issued by your local National Weather
Service forecast office.

The Prototype Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic is a depiction of
areas that would qualify for inclusion under a storm surge watch or
warning currently under development by the National Weather Service
and planned for operational use in 2017.  The Prototype Graphic is
available at hurricanes.gov.

RAINFALL: Matthew is expected to produce total rain accumulations of
8 to 12 inches over the Atlantic coast of the United States from
central Florida to eastern North Carolina...with possible isolated
maximum amounts of 15 inches. This rainfall may result in flooding
and flash flooding.

TORNADOES:  An isolated tornado or two is possible along the South
Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida coasts today.

SURF:  Swells generated by Matthew will continue to affect portions
of the Bahamas and the east coast of Florida during the next few
days, and will spread northward along the southeast U.S. coast
through the weekend.  These swells will likely cause
life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Please consult
products from your local weather office.