Quantum of the Seas: Cruising’s First “SmartShip”

Yesterday morning, Royal Caribbean International announced that their newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, will be the first “Smartship” at sea, offering fast connectivity and new technological advancements never before found on a cruise ship. Check out the details:

Personally, I use a week at sea to escape from the outside world, only checking in on occasion to make sure everyone is alright and posting to my Instagram once or twice. (Guilty!).

What do you guys think about this? How do you feel about being connected throughout your entire vacation?

 

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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?

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!

3daywowsaleJune2013

Project Sunshine Materializes!

Earlier today, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line revealed the name of their two new ships: Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas…previously known under the moniker “Project Sunshine”. This is a new class of ship that is “Designed for WOW”.

I don’t know about you, but the name Quantum of the Seas is just SEXY! What do you think?

Preview the Top Deck of “Royal Princess”

Princess Cruise Line’s newest ship, Royal Princess, will have her maiden journey in summer 2013. They just released the following video to give curious cruisers a preview of the ship’s top deck and….WOW. The Seawalk and Light Show are SO cool. But I am not sure if my opinion is in the majority: do features like these inspire you to book a cruise?

A Guide to Cruising: Choosing Your Cruise

So it’s time to plan your next vacation and someone suggests the option of a cruise. If your cruising knowledge doesn’t go beyond the three hours you sat watching Titanic, don’t worry! There is a valid reason why this style of vacationing is so popular, and I plan to spend the next several minutes providing you with some basic information that will alleviate some of the concerns you may have as you plan your cruise vacation.

Choose Your Destination. For many first-time cruisers, the primary motivation behind planning a cruise is based on where the ship is going. Do you want to visit Jamaica? The Mediterranean? Alaska? Your itinerary will most likely guide your decision making process. Some first-time cruisers opt for shorter trips (3- or 4-day sailings) to make sure that cruising is right for them. These trips will typically take you to the Bahamas (from the East Coast of Florida) or Cozumel, Mexico (from the Gulf Coast). Or, if you are feeling confident, you can explore some of the longer itineraries that will take you to several different islands in one sailing. There are a wide variety of itineraries with different durations that might work for you!

Choose Your Cruise Line. Likely the secondary factor in choosing a cruise (especially for first-timers) is the cruise line. There are a number of companies out there, many of whom sail to many of the same destinations: how do you choose?

Each cruise line has its own personality, and its own price point. You want to ensure that you match your personality – and your budget – to the appropriate company. This will ensure that you not only enjoy yourself on the ship, but you have a vacation that you can afford (and possibly repeat, if you wish). Some examples:

First Tier/Commercial:

Second Tier/Upscale:

Third Tier/Luxury:

Pick a date. Now that you know where you’re going and which company you’ll be using, it may be time to figure out WHEN to go (if you haven’t done this already). Although most of the cruise lines travel year-round in the Caribbean, you should know that hurricane season runs from June 1 until November 1. Cruise prices may be lower at this time, but you may also run the risk of being diverted due to a nasty little storm. (Buy travel insurance). On another note, many Alaska cruises only operate during between May and November. These are factors you’ll certainly want to consider when planning your vacation!

Choose Your Cabin. So many decisions; so many cabins…how ever will you choose? The cruise line will help narrow this down for you. First things first; the price you see advertised (“7 DAY CARIBBEAN CRUISE FOR $499!”) is typically quoting you the price of an inside cabin. What’s that? Never thought you’d ask.

Inside Cabin: Located on the interior of the ship from the lowest deck to (sometimes) the highest deck. Price varies based on the location of the cabin. These cabins can sleep up to 4 people and are completely enclosed – no windows, porthole, or balcony.

Oceanview Cabin: Located throughout the ship, these cabins have a porthole or window to allow passengers a glimpse of what’s happening outside of the ship. Sleeps up to 4 people

Balcony Cabin: Each of these cabins comes with a private balcony, complete with deck chairs and a table. Allows passengers to enjoy the ocean from the privacy of their cabin. Can sleep up to 4 people.

The Suite Life

Suite: Typically located on the upper decks of the ship, these cabins are larger in size and have an included private balcony. Suites also include additional amenities to make passengers feel like VIPS, including express check-in, butler service, private breakfast, private courtyards and even a grand piano in the suite. Suites can sleep up to 8 people. (Amenities and occupancy vary, depending on the cruise line.)
You may also wish to consider the location of the cabin on the ship, when making your selection. Cabins located on the Forward of the ship tend to feel the “motion of the ocean” a little more and may not be advisable for those prone to seasickness. Passengers in Mid-ship and Aft cabins are less likely to feel the movement of the ship.

There! All of the pieces of the puzzle are together! Once you are ready to book, you will need to make an initial deposit to hold your cabin. For a standard cabin, this amount is usually $250 per person or 20% of the total cost of the cruise. If you’re booking a suite, the deposit will be more. You will typically have until 3 months before your departure date to make final payment.

My hope is that you will be working with a travel expert to assist you with this planning process. There are many pieces to consider and it can be overwhelming at times…but it doesn’t have to be. Planning  a vacation is supposed to be FUN and it can be, if you’re linked up to the right person!

Happy Travels!

C

A Few Cruising “Dos and Don’ts”

DO take a friend/loved one/significant other that is willing to be adventurous. There are a million things to do on-board and in the ports, and – take it from me – they may not be as fun when you are doing them alone.

DON’T forget your travel iron (if allowed). In-cabin irons are a fire hazard, so they are not provided. Pressing service is available, but for a fee. Some ships do have “ironing closets” that are communal, but you will likely need to wait in line to use it. Check with your cruise line to ensure that travel irons are permissible.

DON’T forget your passport! In a post 9/11 world, it’s highly advisable to have it with you. You can get by with your birth certificate, but (God forbid) something happens while in port and you have to fly back to the States — let’s just say you’ll be glad you took your passport.

DO take an extra memory card for your digital camera, or purchase a card with higher capacity. The cruise line photographers will be all over, snapping both candids and posed photos, but the pictures cost anywhere from $10-25. It’s up to you to invest in these photos or not. However, I guarantee you’ll want your own means to take memorable family photos.

DON’T eat yourself sick!! There is so much food available on these ships at any hour of the day, and it’s very probable that you will allow your inner glutton to come forth. I advise against it. Because, eventually, you will go home. And you will not eat at home like you eat on a cruise ship. Therefore, you will be starving if you don’t eat 5 meals a day, plus snacks.

DO meet some of your fellow cruisers. There are people from all walks of life on these ships, and many of them are REALLY nice. “What’s your name?”, “Where are you from?”, “Who are you cruising with?”, and “Is this your first cruise?” are the top conversation starters that can be heard throughout the week. Trust me, there is plenty to talk about.

DO meet some of the staff/crew. In the same vein, it’s very interesting to hear their stories and how they ended up working for the cruising industry. If you’ve never asked a crew member about the life of a cruise employee and how their contracts work, you will be fascinated.

DON’T go crazy with your on-board ship card, unless you can afford to do so! Since all of the cruise ships are cashless, you are issued a plastic card that serves as your currency, room key, and identification on the ship. Essentially, it is your life force. And it is very easy to forget that this little card is linked to your credit card. That is, until you get the bill…

DO try to unplug from your real life for a week, if you can. It can be VERY liberating. Most cell phones will cost a small fortunes to operate at sea (IF they work at all) and the internet can be very costly (i.e. I signed on for 5 minutes  during one cruise and it cost me $3!!). If you have the luxury to exit reality for a few days, I highly encourage you do so. Life will be waiting for you upon your return.

DON’T forget to have plenty of cash on hand for onshore shopping. I’ve noticed in the past that some of the merchants that accept credit cards on the islands require a minimum amount spent before they accept credit transactions. To make matters worse, some of the receipts had your full credit card number printed across them!! The safer option is to pay with cash. Plus, many of the open-air markets and vendors don’t accept plastic anyway.

 

Hopefully you will find some of these tips helpful! I will add more in the near future.

 

Happy Travels!

Carla