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Don’t let the Carnival Cruise Line’s recent newsworthy items deter you from hitting the high seas. There are millions of cruises that sail each year without making the news. They have great customer service, activities for families, couples, and seniors, onboard entertainment, and unique ports around the world. Today we’ve rounded up the best of the best, from exotic international cruises to the always-popular beach destinations. Read more
Real talk: traveling costs money. (Shock of all shocks!) No matter how many deals you wrangle together, a great trip requires dropping serious coin. Discounts and smart shopping help lower the price tag, of course, but even the thriftiest of globetrotters will cut corners to save a buck. Cruises, with many amenities included in the ticket price, are a safe bet. But travelers who wish to end their day with a chilled glass of wine will need to shell out more for the luxury, as alcohol is a separate cost on most cruises. While some ships offer unlimited alcohol packages for cruisers looking to save, the obvious solution is to cut out alcohol entirely. A new initiative from Royal Caribbean is great news for frugal passengers who would still like to wet their whistle.
Royal Caribbean International will allow guests to bring their own libations onboard, pivoting away from their long-standing policy. Previously, passengers were not permitted to embark with their own alcoholic beverages; those who attempted to do so would have their bottles seized and not returned at the cruise’s conclusion.
It’s 4pm aboard the just-launched Carnival Breeze and while the bars are humming, this too-late-for-lunch-too-early-for-dinner hour tends to be a bad time for anyone looking for food, which would be me. But just when I’m thinking that my choices will be limited to ice cream (not enough) or a sandwich (boring), I turn a corner and find myself staring straight at a guy hand-making pizzas.
I’d read about Pizza Pirate in my cabin, but assumed, I suppose because of the name, that it would be more of a kid-centric Chuck E. Cheese-type place. Instead, I found a tiny pizzeria turning out plate-sized made-to-order pies. Eight minutes after placing my order for a margherita pizza, (four cheese, mushroom, and pepperoni are also on the menu), I found myself biting into a hot, blistered crust topped with fresh-tasting sauce and even buffalo mozzarella. And the best part? It was free.
Truth be told, my only experience with a repositioning cruise was as a precocious 6-year-old sailing Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 instead of flying when my family moved back to the U.S. from Paris. Our week at sea was spent watching the newly released Beauty and the Beast and splashing in salt water swimming pools. Even our poor cat, Fuzzy, came along for the ride, although I think she had significantly less fun than we did. (Apparently this trip made quite the impression on me, as the parent volunteers from my first grade class still to this day remember how I regaled them with tales of the QE2.)
Fond childhood memories aside, these types of cruises generally offer the best deals around, since cruise lines need to move their ships from one place to another and offer significant discounts on “one-way” passages. The itineraries can cost as little as $42/night – though note since you spend less time in port you’re more apt (so the cruise lines hope) to open your wallet for the ship’s onboard activities and specialty restaurants.
This week, tech-savvy travelers should also be giving thanks for the generous dollops of iPads being doled out across travel industry plates. We just reported on the first hotel on the European continent to offer iPads in each and every guestroom (the Hotel Heritage in Bruges, Belgium), and now we’re happy to follow up with the same trend at sea, with Royal Caribbean’s 1,804-passenger Splendour of the Seas acting as the first cruise ship to feature the coveted iPad tablets in each and every stateroom. Read more
Royal Caribbean has announced plans for an extensive fleet upgrade that will bring some big changes to some of the line’s older ships. Through 2014, the cruise line will dole out some $300 million to revitalize most of its Vision-, Voyager-, and Radiance-class ships. Passengers can expect revamped dining, entertainment, and accommodation options including restaurants that have proved popular aboard the line’s more modernized Oasis class of ships (like the Chops Grille steakhouse and Rita’s Cantina Mexican restaurant), newly designed cabins, shipwide Wi-Fi installation, pool-side LED video walls, and more. Each of the ships to undergo the refurbishments will enter dry dock for a lengthy period of approximately one month. The first ship that rolled out with the upgraded additions and to be considered part of the “Royal Advantage” revitalization program was in May with Radiance of the Seas; next up is Splendour of the Seas in November.
What do you think Cruise News readers? Will the revamped ships be a draw, or do you prefer sailing aboard the bona fide newbies?
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on cruises and more.
Royal Caribbean is in negotiations to begin featuring El Salvador on its upcoming 2012 cruise circuit. The Central American destination, which has been trying to position itself on the cruise tourism radar, citing its surfable beaches, ecotourism sites, Mayan ruins, and comparative affordability amongst its lures, is currently under-served by the industry (though a handful of cruise lines like Hapag-Lloyd and Fred Olsen have/are testing rare calls upon the nation). The arrangement seems to be a win-win for the country, cruise line, and passengers alike, with aims of providing an economic boost to the nation via its port of Acajutla on the Pacific Coast, as well as offering Royal Caribbean cruisers access to an off-the-path destination that can’t be experienced elsewhere.
What do you think, Cruise News readers? Would El Salvador be an intriguing port of call to you?
Avoid the dreaded double occupancy demands made by most cruise lines and seek out instead the small smattering of companies that actually cater to the single traveler. Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) sleek new Norwegian Epic made waves last year with their 128 “Epic Studios,” designed specifically for single occupancy – the line has announced that the cabins proved such a hit that they’ll be more to come on NCL’s next two ship debuts. Royal Caribbean recently joined ranks, with its revamped Radiance of the Seas rolling out in June with the line’s first single cabins, though far less impressive than NCL’s attempt, counting only three in number, and windowless at that.
Come January, Princess Cruises will enforce a fleet-wide ban on smoking in passenger staterooms and on private balconies. The announcement comes following company research results showing that smokers comprise just a small minority of the line’s passengers, and that the majority of cruisers value having a smoke-free environment onboard. These new regulations echo popular concerns and regulation changes in many public places and businesses on terra firma and follows suit for several other major cruise lines: Holland America and Royal Caribbean will put the same regulations into effect on the same date, while Disney has never allowed smoking in its staterooms. Carnival launched smoke-free rooms in January of this year, while Celebrity ended smoking in cabins back in late 2009. Norwegian Cruise Line is the only major holdout – while they have kept all public areas smoke-free, smokers can still indulge cigarettes in their designated staterooms or on their private verandahs.
What do you think Cruise News readers? Is this a welcomed change or an unwelcomed jab at vacation freedoms?
Twelve celebrity chefs walk onto a cruise ship – no punch line here. Each of these renowned kitchen pros headlines one seven-night, Royal Caribbean Epicurean Discovery voyage on the Freedom of the Seas. Available from September 2010 through February 2011, the program highlights a private dining experience with the chef, wine-tasting, appetizer and cocktail reception, and complimentary in-room amenities, among other savory perks.
One of the first mainstream cruise carriers to feature an extensive culinary experience, Royal Caribbean joins the ranks of luxury lines like Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas, rivaling their food festival, wine-tasting, and cooking workshop cruises, which can cost from $5,000 and up, per person. Comprising a star lineup of Top Chef contestants, James Beard Award winners, and acclaimed gourmet masters, Epicurean Discovery (only applicable to suite bookings) runs from just $1,249 to $1,849 per person, based on double occupancy – not a penny more than regular suite rates!
With the first sail date fast approaching on September 19, The Freedom of the Seas prepares for 12 round-trip voyages from Port Canaveral. The cruises will follow thoroughfare routes to the Eastern or Western Caribbean, calling on ports like Cozumel, St. Maarten, Ocho Rios, and CoCo Cay. Visit www.royalcaribbean.com to book yours.
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