Say Hello to All-Inclusive Cruising

All-Inclusive Resorts are a huge draw to the Caribbean region. The concept of paying one price for all of your meals, drinks and activities is attractive to travelers who don’t want to worry about such charges once on vacation. This concept has been available on upscale, luxury cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas and Crystal for years, however purchasing one of those cruise vacations can be out of reach for some.

Today, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that, for a limited time, they will bring the All-Inclusive Experience to the mass market. This is a first for any major cruise line in its category, and I certainly expect the other lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney) to follow suit!

The details of the new All-Inclusive Package are as follows:

“The All-Inclusive package is available for 2015 sailings from three to 14 days in length, is priced by the number of days, and is available for all stateroom categories, including The Haven by Norwegian.

When adding the All-Inclusive to a selected cruise, guests receive 10 percent off the cruise fare. For a seven-day cruise, the $899 package includes

  • the Ultimate Dining package
  • the Ultimate Beverage package
  • Shore excursion credit of $200 per person
  • Pre-paid daily service charges/gratuities
  • 250-minute Internet package per person
  • 20 photos of any size
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries
  • A bottle of wine
  • One bingo session
  • Six bottles of water

For cruises from three to five days, the shore excursion credit is $100 per person; and for sailings from 9-14 days, the package includes 12 bottles of water.

As part of the All-Inclusive offer, Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining package provides complimentary access to one of the line’s specialty restaurants every night of the cruise, including Cagney’s, the popular steakhouse; French bistro, Italian restaurant, Moderno Churrascaria, Asian-Fusion restaurant and more.

The Ultimate Beverage package includes a variety of spirits, cocktails, draft beer, bottled beer and glasses of wine up to $10 and unlimited fountain soda and juices at all bars, lounges, restaurants and on Norwegian’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay.

*Includes all scheduled 2015 sailings from three to 14 days (excludes back to back sailings)
**Does not include Pride of America; not applicable to bookings made in Continental Europe or United Kingdom.”

Book your 2015 cruise between August 4-24 and your sailing will be eligible for this package!
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Norwegian Updates Smoking Policy

Hot off the presses…

Norwegian Cruise Line has just released the following update to their shipboard smoking policy:

As the health and well–being of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance, Norwegian Cruise Line will institute changes to its smoking policy for all sailings on or after November 1, 2014. The specific changes prohibit smoking on stateroom balconies and limit smoking in the casino to players. On Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, smoking on The Waterfront will be permitted on the starboard side, except by the outdoor dining areas. 

They are following in the footsteps of other cruiselines, such as Carnival, who have a very similar smoking policy aboard its fleet of ships.

Does this policy change have an impact on your choice of cruise line?

Relaxing with Princess Cruise Line

As part of my training as a travel consultant, I completed Princess Cruise’s Commodore training last year. For my Commodore Graduation, in addition to celebrating my April birthday, Mr. B and I completed a 5 day Eastern Caribbean Getaway cruise aboard Ruby Princess. It was by FAR the most serene, relaxing cruise I’ve taken to date. Here is my full review:
Since we reside in Tampa, we only had to drive 3.5 hours to Fort Lauderdale, where Port Everglades is located. We had pre-purchased parking at the nearby Park ‘n’ Go lot, which offered a free shuttle to the port. (BVB Tip: If driving, buy your parking online in advance. You will save some serious money by pre-paying). We arrived to the ship around 1:00 PM. After going through the motions of security, we walked straight to the Reservation Agent to complete check-in. Since we’d done most of it online in advance, there was very little to complete at the desk. The agent gave us our Cruise Cards; since I had graduated from Princess’s Academy, I was granted a black Elite card (which is their highest loyalty tier; you’re ship royalty at that level). We headed up to take our pre-cruise photo and strolled onto the ship.

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Norwegian Getaway Inaugural Experience

On February 6, 2014, Norwegian Getaway arrived to her new permanent home port of Miami, Florida. On February 7, my mother and I drove down to Miami to participate in the ship’s inaugural event, a 1 night sailing dubbed “Norwegian Lights Up Miami”. We had the privilege of joining fellow travel partners, journalists and other VIPs for the event, which offered a chance for us to tour this magnificent ship, dine in the amazing restaurants, enjoy on-board entertainment and party the night away. The cruise was a bit of a tease – being only 1 night – but we had a wonderful time and am looking forward to sailing aboard the ship again!

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Driving up to the terminal, we were immediately impressed with the size of Norwegian Getaway – it was the largest ship in port! Standing tall with 19 decks, she is a sight to behold. The hull art, designed by local Miami artist David “LEBO” Le Batard, gives the ship a flavor all its own. You can sense the Miami culture throughout Norwegian Getaway, from the interior design to the music to the mojito bar. There is no question that this ship belongs in South Florida.

Due to our late invitation to the event, we were lodged in an interior cabin on deck 13. Since the cruise was just one night, this was not a big deal (normally, I’m a balcony girl). We were impressed with the fact that the interior cabins were housed in their own separate hallways, away from the main corridor. Although they are the least expensive cabins on the ship, they offered a feel of exclusivity. Our cabin itself was cozy; interior cabins are small, but well-organized. The bathroom was much larger than we expected. Truth be told, we had no plans in remaining in the cabin for any period of time, so we didn’t need anything larger for that one night. A longer cruise, however, and I would’ve at least wanted an Oceanview. 🙂

After putting down our overnight bags, our next goal was to tour the open cabins. We headed straight for Deck 16, where The Haven is located. I had yet to physically lay eyes on this uber-exclusive area on any Norwegian ship, and this was my chance. For those who do not know: The Haven is where the suites are housed on Norwegian’s newer ships. Guests staying in a Haven suite have a private shared courtyard, restaurant, bar, pool and hot tubs. The Haven can only be accessed via keycard, which explains my lack of prior access to the area. (not “baller” enough, not yet anyway). We were able to tour the Penthouse Suite, the jaw-dropping Deluxe Owner’s Suite with its wraparound balcony and incredible closet (I might’ve literally left some drool on the floor of this cabin), and Owner’s Suite. Amazing, beautiful cabins. I can’t say enough. Anyone who books a cruise in one of them will NOT be sorry.

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Our tour then took us down a few decks to the 2-bedroom Family Villa, which is designed specifically for parents and their children. It even comes with a child-sized shower. J

At this point it was time to eat. We chose to visit Sabor, one of the complimentary dining venues aboard the ship. I had some incredibly yummy calamari, roasted chicken and peanut butter cup cheesecake. This food was DELICIOUS. The drinks were amazing.. (did I mention that there was no charge for alcohol? This was a VERY special cruise, lol)

Our self-guided tour continued to the other entertainment decks on the ship and eventually outside to the AquaPark and pool deck. The AquaPark has an impressive 5 waterslides, including 2 “drop” slides that are too scary for me to try. The main pool is flanked by hot tubs, two pool bars and faces the main entertainment stage. Spice H2O, the adults’ only entertainment venue in the aft of the ship, also features a stage, hot tubs, and grotto-type pool with waterfalls and built-in seating. (This is where the VIP-Only Inaugural Festivities were held, complete with a concert by “Mr. 305” himself, Pitbull).

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One pretty cool feature aboard Norwegian Getaway are the touch-screens throughout the hallways. Although other cruise lines feature these, they add a touch of convenience as you roam about the ship. You have the ability to view a map, see what’s currently happening onboard, reserve show tickets or make your dinner reservations at a specialty restaurant. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize that the specialty restaurants were free of charge until they were completely booked for the night. We wanted to check out Ocean Blue or the Imaginarium, but were unable to do either. Next time. Since there are 28 dining venues aboard the ship, we knew we wouldn’t go hungry. We chose to have dinner at The Tropicana Club, another complimentary venue that is designed after a 1920’s Miami supper club. The food was incredible and the ambiance cannot be put into words. There was a live band playing American and Latin-American standards, and several guests got up to dance throughout dinner. My mother said that she’ll dine there every night when she returns to Getaway. 🙂

After eating, it was time to party! The Sail Away party was held in Spice H2O, where everyone was handed glow sticks. The DJ played a mix of house and Top 40 music while we danced and sailed past South Beach. We looked out on the shore and saw a group of about 100 people with their own glowsticks waving at us. And once we were away from shore, we were treated to our own fireworks show. What an incredible and surreal experience; I was so honored to be part of it!

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From there, we headed to Bliss Ultra Lounge for more partying, although at this point we just sat in the curtained “VIP” section and watched everyone else party. It had been a long day, we had walked about 4 miles, and were exhausted. However, since the cruise was just one night, we wanted to take in as much as possible.

Of course, there was plenty we missed – from the aforementioned Imaginarium show, to Legally Blonde, to The Grammy Experience…so much more to see, not enough time. We are planning to re-experience this ship in 2015, so we’ll have time to catch up. I also have cabins available on the 7/26/14 sailing – why not book your space and experience Norwegian Getaway for yourself? Check out this link for more information!

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6 Awesome Benefits of Group Travel

When I founded Bon Voyage by Barbour in 2012, my goal was to specialize in cruises. I knew enough people who liked to cruise that I figured I could book one or two, here and there, and make it something fun to do on the side. I also figured I’d dabble in some all-inclusive resorts; my experience at the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe was so incredible that I wanted others to experience the “AI” life too!

Almost immediately I received a request for a group cruise. Then another. And then yet another. Now, I’m finding myself working on 3 group cruises (so far) for 2014, a group AI getaway and two destination weddings. WOW!

I’m not sharing this information in a boastful way whatsoever. I never intended to work with groups, but I’m finding that they are SO much fun to work with, as everyone is SO excited about their vacation. Furthermore, group trips can often offer additional incentives to make this type of travel even MORE beneficial than they already are.

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So here are my reasons why group trips are awesome, in no particular order:

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National Cruise Vacation Week

This week is like the 7 Days of Christmas for fans of leisure cruising: the Cruise Line International Association’s (CLIA) annual National Cruise Vacation Week! NCVW began this past Sunday, October 20 and runs until this upcoming Sunday, October 27. During this week, every major cruise line – from budget to moderate to luxury – are running major sales in an effort to encourage both cruising veterans and newbies to book their next cruise vacation! Check out who is participating:

Pretty much everyone!

NCVW promotions include: significant savings off of new bookings, onboard spending credits, free shore excursions, and reduced deposits. Why not take advantage while the deals are hot?? I’m shopping for my next cruise as we speak! 🙂

 

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Royal Caribbean’s 3 Day WOW sale

 

From now until Wednesday, Royal Caribbean is running their always-wonderful WOW sale. This is the only opportunity to book a cruise on one of their fabulous ships (Quantum of the Seas, anyone?) for half of the initial cost. I’m trying to resist the temptation to book a cabin myself, so let me book one for YOU so I can live vicariously through your travels! (hehehe). If you want more information, click the pic below to shoot me a message!

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Weekly Deals: May 4-13, 2013

Thanks to my travels last week, I didn’t have an opportunity to write my weekly deals post. And that is unfortunate, because there were some GOOD ones. On the bright side, I’ll have a brief review of Key West, Florida coming up soon!

Kids Sail Free on NCL – Last Day!!

Last Day!!

Last Day!!

This is one of those rare promotions that made me call my friends with children! Norwegian is waiving all cruise fares for kids ages 0-17 on certain fall Caribbean, Alaska, Europe and Hawai’i sailings. Unfortunately, today is the final day of this sale, so call me ASAP to get this booked!

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Weekly Deals: April 21-28, 2013

Still looking for that perfect getaway? Here are a few of the travel deals available for the upcoming week:

Cruise Norwegian to Alaska

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Book an Alaskan Cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines and you could be eligible for the following offers:

*Up to $500 in Air Credits

* 50% off of kids’ fares

* Reduced prices for solo travelers

** Add a pre- or post-cruise tour for an all-encompassing Alaskan adventure!

Explore New York and Bermuda with Celebrity

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Celebrity Cruise Lines just introduced their “Book and Go” packages to Bermuda, which offers travelers a two-night pre-cruise stay in New York City before sailing 7 days roundtrip to Bermuda. Prices start at $1549 per person (if booked with Celebrity’s ChoiceAir Program).

Free Upgrades with Funjet Vacations

Hard Rock Punta Cana

Hard Rock Punta Cana

For a limited time, you will receive a free room upgrade when booking a resort stay at one of the following properties (based on room reserved) via Funjet Vacations:

* Hard Rock Hotels: Dominican Republic and Mexico

* El Dorado Spa Resorts and Azul Hotels, by Karisma: Mexico

* Palladium Hotels and Resorts: Dominican Republic and Mexico

Specialty Dining Promo on Royal Caribbean

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Book a balcony or above category stateroom by May 19th, 2013 on select sailings, and receive a specialty dinner for two! Book by April 30th, 2013 and receive an onboard credit of up to $100 in addition to the specialty dinner for two!

Save up to 65% Off at Sandals/Beaches Resorts

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For a limited time, receive up to 65% off at select Sandals and Beaches resorts in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grenada or Antigua, along with $555 in Air Credits and free nights! This deal is too good to pass up!