Thursday, October 19, 2017

More to See at Sea Than Ports

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Look Beyond the Destination
Seeing Cruising in a New Light

Exploring the world by cruise ship is a passion that we've had for more than 30 years.  On our first cruises, each destination was a new adventure.  We had not been to the ports of call before, so everything was brand new.

After all those years, we still do have some new ports to explore, but more often than not, we find ourselves visiting some of the same destinations.

Keeping Cruising Exciting

How does one keep cruise vacations exciting? Several ways come to mind, such as cruising to new destinations, booking brand new ships, or trying different shore excursions.

Learning to See at Sea

The image above is the view that the captain has on Caribbean Princess.  What a marvelous view it is, especially on a beautiful day.  In this image, there are some beautiful clouds above the horizon just off the bow of the ship.   There isn't any island in sight - you can look for miles, but all that you'll see is ocean and clouds.   You can become one with nature in these peaceful surroundings.

We often give ourselves a photo shoot assignment during our cruise.  In this series of photos, which we used for a past #FriFotos Twitter chat, the theme was #Sky.

(For those that don't know:  #FriFotos is a weekly Twitter photo forum by @Frifotos_ https://twitter.com/frifotos_We even had the chance to co-host in the past.)

There are many Twitter travel chats, so get a stock of photos and join in with some or your personal favorites.
Stormy Skies

Sea days are a favorite time during a cruise for us.  It gives us time to really relax and unwind.  When in ports, we tend to be "on" since we have easy access to the internet and our always-connected life style (checking on our guests needs for example).

It is a little more difficult when at sea, we have to go to our cabin and get connected.   Even on stormy days, one can enjoy the view - especially if the storm is in the distance.

Painting the Sky With Color

Our favorite time of day is dusk when Mother Nature puts on a light show for all to see.   This image, captured off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, has the sky on fire.

We highly recommend being on your balcony or up on the open decks when the evening is approaching so that you can experience this magical light and, if you want to, capture your own memorable images.


So Much More Than Ports


Hopefully this shows you that even if your ship is sailing to familiar ports, there is so much more to See at Sea.   Make some time during your cruise to lay out on deck and watch the clouds go by.

Do you remember trying to figure out what shapes could be seen in the clouds when you were young?  Why not do that again now, or even share that experience with other family members or friends?

If you like Travel & Photography join us each Friday!  If you like Travel & Food join us for #FoodTravelChat each Wednesday!






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.

A Cruise Can Take You There (click for mini-series)

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Where have you explored? 

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

5 Ways to Enhance Your Cruise Ship Dining Experience

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Cruise Dining Tips

Reflecting on one of our recent trips, a fabulous 7 Night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Carnival Magic, we'll focus on 5 tips that will enhance your dining experience.   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.





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.

A Cruise Can Take You There (click for mini-series)

Follow Us On

Sign-up for Exclusive Email Offers


Where have you explored? 

Gather your travel and food pics and join us every Wednesday night for the latest installment of #FoodTravelChat 

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.

#FoodTravelChat

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!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Now Trending: River Cruising

Click here for River Cruising Guide
Discover the Beauty of River Cruising

See more than you could ever imagine on a river cruise. Get up-close and personal to destinations larger ships only dream to go and become one with history, culture and refined grace. River cruising is becoming really popular and several cruise lines are ramping up to meet the demand.


Viking River Cruises Adds 2 Longships

This past March, Viking River Cruises launched the 190-passenger Viking Herja and Viking Hild "longships". The longships feature some of the largest suites on river ships in Europe, as well as cabins with balconies, made possible by offsetting the main corridors. In just six years, 48 Viking longships have been built — an unprecedented number in the history of river cruising.

Adventures by Disney & AMAWaterways 
Continues Family River Cruising

Up until AMAWaterway's announcement in 2016, river cruising was predominantly a couples-only cruise vacation option. The narrow, long, 3 deck ships have cabins that were designed for double occupancy. There were a few exceptions, such as some single occupancy cabins on some AMAWaterways vessels, made possible when additional stairways had to be added for safety.



Adventures by Disney® will offer sailings in 2018 along the Rhine River aboard the all-new 156-passenger AmaKristina introduced in 2017 or AmaStella introduced in 2016. These river cruise ships were custom built by AmaWaterways with families in mind. New family-friendly design elements include specific room configurations, including sets of connecting staterooms, as well as some rooms and suites that accommodate three- and four-person families, and other unique details that lend themselves to luxury family vacations.

Sister ships AmaViola introduced in 2016, and AmaLea launching in 2018, will take families to 8 unforgettable destinations in 4 countries on an all-inclusive adventure along the Danube River through the heart of Europe.

Enjoy exclusive sailings with AmaWaterways, a leader in luxury river cruising, as well as exciting activities for every member of your family. Plus, for Adventurers setting sail on a 2018 Rhine River Cruise, you’ll find special experiences inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.


 
 
Viking River Cruises has advanced public awareness about river cruising with their unprecedented expansion.  Now, with the partnership of AMAWaterways & Adventures by Disney, river cruising has been taken to yet another level as families can be introduced to this great way to explore Europe.

TIP:  As with all cruises, you'll want to speak with a professional to determine which cruise is right for your particular vacation situation.   While all the river cruise ships look alike, they all have something different to offer.




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.

A Cruise Can Take You There (click for mini-series)


Follow Us On

Sign-up for Exclusive Email Offers


Where have you explored? 

Gather your travel and food pics and join us every Wednesday night for the latest installment of #FoodTravelChat 

Spike in River Cruising Popularity

River cruising continues to rise in popularity across both the United States and abroad, especially among travelers seeking more intimate experiences to more exotic locales. Despite the myth that river cruising is only for the retired set (and it is a myth), river cruising is emerging as a popular vacation for younger travelers who want to immerse themselves in the culture of a region while enjoying the creature comforts of home.

With a variety of innovations - from excursions to onboard amenities river cruising is a segment of the travel and tourism industry that can now offer something for everyone.  Here are our three reasons why a river cruise should be a must on every traveler's bucket list:

1. Exotic Destinations. Getting up close and personal with the wildlife of the Galapagos or taking in the charm of the Mississippi are all possible on todays' river cruises. AmaWaterways has added more interesting locations with cruises in Namibia, Russia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is also even offering travelers a unique journey through Italy's Po River. These destinations open up access to places unreachable by large ships and create an intimate connection with the cities they visit.  The best part about river cruising is the views - most ships are 100% balcony staterooms, including those aboard Uniworld's Douro Spirit or Avalon's Victoria Jenna.

2. Experiential Cruises. River guests can enjoy trips tailored to their tastes with programs just for them. Food and wine aficionados should consider the `Culinary Delights' itinerary from AmaWaterways. Once aboard, guests can work with a local chef to plan menus for their entire voyage, shop in local markets for ingredients and prepare their own meals! Guests seeking more adventure can sign-up for bike tours that let you travel alongside the ship from port to port, taking in the scenery as you go. Tech-savvy travelers who need to stay connected will now have access to onboard Wi-Fi and those looking to stay fit will love the fact that most river vessels now have onboard gyms.


3. More Choices. As river cruising demand continues to boom, more ships and destinations are being added for cruisers to experience. Avalon and Viking, for example, are both expecting significant capacity increases in their fleets for the 2013 season. Viking will add six new longships in 2013 and Avalon will introduce two additional ships. Cruisers are also finding more choices while aboard from customized dining experiences on and off the ship, to specialized excursions.

River cruising continues to highlight the destinations it serves by immersing cruisers in the culture. Whether it is because of the out-of-the-box destinations, local flair or intimate venues, more travelers are opting for river cruises to truly escape. As innovation shapes the industry and more people see the value in river cruising, finding the right ship - and itinerary - can be tricky. A professional travel agent can step in and help navigate the options, offering the right choice for your personality, interests and budget.

For more information, click on the following image / link.






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.

A Cruise Can Take You There (click for mini-series)


Follow Us On

Sign-up for Exclusive Email Offers


Where have you explored? 

Gather your travel and food pics and join us every Wednesday night for the latest installment of #FoodTravelChat