Busting Cruise Line Myths – Or How to Get the Most Bang for Your Vacation Bucks!

It's no secret that cruise vacations are one of the fastest growing sectors of the travel industry. With more and more people looking for ways to get the best bang for their travel bucks, a cruise is often the best way to do just that. With the rising popularity of cruises leaving from New York…

It's no secret that cruise vacations are one of the fastest growing sectors of the travel industry. With more and more people looking for ways to get the best bang for their travel bucks, a cruise is often the best way to do just that. With the rising popularity of cruises leaving from New York Schenectady however, there are things that you should be aware of before you book your cruise. There are some “myths” to be busted.

Myth # 1 – You can get a cheaper rate if you wait to book: not exactly true! There was a time when booking at the last minute could save you money because the cruise line needed to fill up spaces that were empty before the sail date on cruises leaving from Schenectady, New York Now however, consumers are more aware of how money saving a cruise can be and the demand for spots on cruise ships are at a record high, so last minute bookings may actually cost more. Some popular destinations are even booked a year in advance. Bottom line- if you're looking to book one of the cruises leaving from Schenectady, New York you may want to book as early as possible!

Myth # 2 – The lowest priced tickets get you the best value: definitely not true! With cruise lines, the lowest priced package may often mean the least desirable destinations or accommodations. This can make for a very uncomfortable stay and not many happy vacation memories. There are a good many travel agencies or cruise lines that post lower priced staterooms on cruises leaving from Schenectady, New York to attract customers, but this does not mean they are of good value.

Myth # 3 – A four day cruise is less expensive than a three day one: This one happens to be fairly true as a matter of fact. The reason that most four day cruises leaving from New York Schenectady operate during weekdays and there before there are fewer guests and better pricing. Most people wanting a short cruise will travel on three day weekend itineraries because they do not have a lot of time but still want to enjoy a cruise. So therefore, demand for tickets on four day or longer cruises leaving from New York Schenectady tend to lower, so lower prices.

Myth # 4 – Booking your own cruise will save you money: not true! Doing your own booking for cruises leaving from New York Schenectady can almost guarantee that you will pay too much! You may luck up on a good deal but most of the time if you do not have the expertise to do some comparison shopping you are not able to find the best cruise package at the best deal. While pricing packages for cruises leaving from Schenectady, New York may seem easy to compare, if you do not know what each package includes, since not all advertised prices are as “all inclusive” as they may seem, you will do better to let an experienced travel agent do the booking for you.

Cruise Ships: 5 Reasons the SeaDream Yacht Is One of the Best

ForbesLife travel magazine recently designated the SeaDream Yacht as the best luxury level small cabin ship cruise line of 2015. The year has hardly begun, and this little cruise company has already stolen the prize. It's smaller size is a comfort to many travelers, and the company does not sell you short on your experience.With…

ForbesLife travel magazine recently designated the SeaDream Yacht as the best luxury level small cabin ship cruise line of 2015.

The year has hardly begun, and this little cruise company has already stolen the prize. It's smaller size is a comfort to many travelers, and the company does not sell you short on your experience.With upgrades and an exceptionally-professional crew, she looks to take and keep the prize for years to come.

We suppose that there were many contenders and that there are many other top-quality small cruise lines operating out there, but here are five good reasons why the SeaDream Yacht is one of the very best.

1. SeaDream Takes You Places Bigger Cruise Ships Can not Go.

A Sleek Cabin Ship Cruise

For SeaDream's Caribbean trips, you fly into the much-used airport on St. Louis. Thomas and take off from there. You visit popular spots like Anguilla and Virgin Gorda, but you also get a taste of some smaller ports that are only accessible to smaller vessels.This makes the experience more unique, and you will be surprised at how much less-trafficked ports have to offer.

You will anchor in quaint little coves that none of the larger cruise ships would be able to safely approach.You will visit small bays and tiny isles that few ever lay their eyes on. It almost has the feel of a private tour.

No wonder SeaDream's motto is: “It's not cruising, it's yachting.” On the SeaDream, you will dream good dreams at night – and live them out the following day.

2. The On-Board Cuisine Ranks as Truly Gourmet.

Some cruise ships make you wait in long buffet lines only to watch as the shrimp supply, which was not that special to begin with, was finished off by the person just ahead of you in line.

No need to fret, however; there are plenty more delectable dishes from which to choose. Truly, the SeaDream Yacht gives you a totally different experience. Each morning begins with the friendly wait staff bringing you your coffee and greeting you by name.You'll get to know them well during the trip – or not, if you prefer to keep yourself.

The menu is like that of a gourmet restaurant, and the presentation is done with flair. Lobster, steak, and a long list of delicacies is offered every day. One aspect of SeaDream's eating experience is “top-end” in another sense as well.Topside Restaurant – the actual name – is located on the ship's roof. From there, you can get a wonderful view of your surroundings, or even dine under the starlight sky.

3. The On-Board Bar Is Second to None

A full-service bar, including fine wines and cocktails, is part of the ship's infrastructure. The barroom is as exquisitely designed as it is well-stocked, and no one will be disappointed. The ship also has a number of other amenities, like a mini casino, health spa, library, etc.

4. SeaDream's Staff Literally Waits on You Hand and Foot.

With 95 crew members waiting on only 56 couples, a near one-on-one ratio, you get a lot more attention from the staff than on most cruise ships. They are always ready to assist you. They even will take you on shore for sightseeing , dining, shopping, or other excursions.

They also organize the traditional beach party on White Bay at Jost Van Dyke. There you will be able to swim in the warm Caribbean waters, barbecue, feast, play water sports, kayak, and more. On the other hand, you just opt ​​to relax in your hammock under a shady palm tree.

5. The SeaDream Is Smaller and More Intimate Than Most Cruise Ships

Most cruise ships are often packed with passengers, incredibly noisy, and far too “public.” With SeaDream, everything is smaller-scale, making it easier to learn the names of fellow passengers and actually make some friends.

While the cruise ship cabins are not extremely large, they are cozy and quite adequate.You may not want to stay all day in these small rooms, but that gives all the more reason to get out and enjoy the ship and its surroundings. And that is, after all, why you came on this cruise to begin with.

Transatlantic Cruise Deals

A transatlantic cruise is the most amazing and fun way to travel from the Americas to Europe and from Europe to America. The memory of the Atlantic crossing aboard the cruises will be forever edged in your mind. The peak seasons for the transatlantic cruise deals are in autumn and summer. These are the times…

A transatlantic cruise is the most amazing and fun way to travel from the Americas to Europe and from Europe to America. The memory of the Atlantic crossing aboard the cruises will be forever edged in your mind. The peak seasons for the transatlantic cruise deals are in autumn and summer. These are the times that the ship lines reposition their cruises.

The transatlantic voyage is served by many lines such as Celebrity Transatlantic Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Transatlantic Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Transatlantic Cruise and Royal Caribbean. You will get favorable transatlantic cruise deals aboard ships under these cruise lines.

For centuries, people have taken voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Now, the routes are served by modern ships fitted with state of the art facilities. To attract customers amid the stiff competition, the ship lines are offering deals which target various segments of the market. For example, there are transatlantic cruise deals that target families.

Aboard the cruise voyage, people get the chance to experience different new activities. For instance, you will be able to gaze at the stars at night. The constellations are a sight to behold. Additionally, you will have the chance to explore different historic European cities along the way in addition to seeing beautiful landscapes such as the Reykjavik landscapes in Iceland.

Along the lines that offer exciting deals is the Royal Caribbean line. The line offers cruise deals with a departure from Tampa or Boston to places such as cork Ireland, Cherbourg France, and Brussels, Belgium. The ships dock in many ports along the way giving the tourists a lifetime of opportunity to sample the different delicacies and fun the cities offer. From Europe to America, the Royal Caribbean line commences in Europe with stops in Barcelona, ​​Oslo, Hamburg, Rotterdam and other many cities.

Also, the Norwegian cruise line offers affordable transatlantic cruise deals. It covers Miami, Southampton, Copenhagen, and Barcelona. The cruise deals offered by the line tend to target the general market segment. Here, there are deals designed for couples on a romantic gateway, families looking to take time out to bond and interact, or people taking some time out of their busy and stressful lifestyles. This implies that there are cruise deals that will suit everyone willing to take a journey of a lifetime across the Atlantic Ocean.

Since deals change frequently, it is best advised to head over to the above lines' websites and carry out a comparison among the many cruise deals on offer.

Disney Baltic Cruise

I would like to explain what my family and I did each day as we enjoyed our family vacation aboard the Disney Magic; Day 1; We arrived at the port in Copenhagen, Denmark around 1:00 pm, though you can board as early as 11am. Weave ourselves 3 hours to board (the ship sets sail at…

I would like to explain what my family and I did each day as we enjoyed our family vacation aboard the Disney Magic;

Day 1; We arrived at the port in Copenhagen, Denmark around 1:00 pm, though you can board as early as 11am. Weave ourselves 3 hours to board (the ship sets sail at 4pm) so that we could explore Copenhagen before we left on our vacation. This day included us exploring the boat and signing up for kids clubs. One of the amazing things about Disney, is their kids clubs. They have rooms for different aged kids to go hang out in, participate in activities and make new friends. This gives parents a chance to have some time alone and know their children are safe and having fun. After exploring the boat, everyone came together at Deck 9 to set sail and have fun during “Mickey's Sailing Away Party.” During this, everyone waves to the passengers staying in Copenhagen & dances along with Mickey & his friends on stage. Once this is over, we headed to the 6:30 pm theater show. Depending on the dinner time you request (6:00 pm or 8:30 pm) you will either watch the theater show at 6:30 pm or 8:30 pm, the opposite time that your eating dinner. I absolutely love the shows. Disney does an amazing job coming up with themes and special acts to entertain their audience.

Day 2 was a “Day at Sea”, so that means we did not stop anywhere. We enjoyed our day watching Disney movies at Buena Vista Theater, participating in games at Vibe (a teen club), eating lunch at Cabanas (the buffet at deck 9), enjoying yet another theater show, & eating dinner at one of the three rotational dining restaurants (Lumiere's, Animators Palate, or Cariocas.) Depending on your room card, you will rotate between these three different yummy restaurants. This night included Formal Dinner. This means we were encouraged to dress fancy (like dresses & skirts or suits for men.) Day's at sea are, in my opinion, one of the best days on the boat. Disney provides their guests with the option of either Cabanas (the buffet on deck 9), Lumiere's (one of the 3 rotational dining restaurants), or one of the quick service restaurants on deck 9. The quick service restaurants include Daisy's Delights (a sandwich , salad, fruit, and cookie stand), Pete's Boiler Bites (a hamburger, hotdog, taco, etc … American fare type of stand), and Pinocchio's Pizza (a pizza stand.) Disney Magic does a fantastic job creating grade A food all day and making sure to cook the food in a fast manner, but keeping the flavor incredible. Now, the food is not the only reason I absolutely love day's at sea. Although food is a key factor, Disney also provides their guests with a news article every night, allowing them to see what activities are brewing for them the next day (you also have the option of using their Disney Cruise Line app to see the activities and menus for each day.) This activities sheet is always filled with karaoke, newly released movies, workout games, and more during the days at sea. Disney makes sure their guests always have something fun and new to do on the boat, knowing some might get bored not having anywhere to dock.

Day 3 we stopped in Tallinn, Estonia. We arrived and walked Tallinn Old Town, which gave us a real idea of ​​their culture. We also explored the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, The Estonian Maritime Museum (an old prison), and Fat Margarets Tower (a large building next to the ship.) Like most of you know, northern Europe has very sketchy weather. Knowing this, I packed a range of different clothes and layers. Tallinn stayed in the 60 degree F area during most of our visit, which was amazing. I wore leggings (lululemon), a tank top (lululemon), a long sweater (Madewell), and tennis shoes (New Balance.) My dad and brother were able to wear just shorts and at shirt, so it really depends on your tolerance for cool weather. I am a small girl, so the wind was a little chilly for me, explaining the long sweater.

Day 4 we stopped in St. George Petersburg, Russia. On this day, we decided to get a bus driver and a tour guide (Alla Tours.) Petersburg had multiple churches (Church of the Spilled Blood for example) and palaces (Catherine's Palace), so we needed someone to help us find our way around. I recommend finding yourself a tour guide you trust (like Alla Tours), because during our visit to Catherine's Palace (and a few other city monuments), the line wrapped around the building to get in, but our tour guide found a way to skip the line and sneak us in, in only 15 minutes. Like Tallinn, St. Petersburg's weather was very strange. The morning was chilly and forced me to wear a scarf (Madewell) and a thick jacket (Madewell), but later in the day the temperature got warmer (maybe 67 degrees F) which allowed me to wear just a light rain jacket (Spice) , because Petersburg did tend to sprinkle every so often. On this night, there was no theater show due to all aboard being at 11:30 pm. This means, you had the option of staying out in Russia till 11:30 pm or coming early and having dinner but no show.

Day 5 we stopped in Helsinki, Finland. This day was a bit shorter because all aboard was around 5pm. We decided to ride a carousel to see the town & take a boat ride to explore a small island with history about Finland (Suomenlinna.) We did not realize how large and historic Suomenlinna was, so we were unable to see all of its rich history . I recommend spending multiple hours here, if you decide to visit this location in Finland. This night included the Semi Formal Dinner. This means we had to dress up a little nicer than usual for our dinner, to take pictures. Disney does not require you to dress up any of the nights on cruise, but during these special nights, it is highly encouraged. I wore a mini skirt (Abercrombie & Fitch), a tank top (American Eagle), and sandals (Tory Burch.)

Day 6 we stopped in Stockholm, Sweden. This day was even shorter because all aboard was 3:30 pm. We decided to visit the Armory & the Royal Palace next to it. If you are traveling with any boys or men, I recommend visiting the Armory. It was very cool for my brother and dad to see all of the military armor, weaponry, and royal carriages. We also purchased tickets for the Hop on Hop off bus, but it was very busy and packed (due to all the ships docked in Stockholm that day), I would not recommend buying a ticket for this bus in this town. This night Disney included “Anna & Elsa's Frozen Deck Party”, which meant we all went up on Deck 9 before dinner to watch the frozen characters dance and sing on stage. Disney also changed up their theater show on this night. Unlike their normal broadway style show, they provided us with a comedian show.

Day 7 was our final day, which means it was another “Day at Sea.” This day was a lot like Day 2, except that the cruise included activities like scrap booking all your memories & jack jack's diaper dash (a race between babies who can crawl.) Usually my family and I prefer to eat lunch at Cabanas (the unlimited buffet is always nice), but on this day, my dad and I decided to try out Lumieres for lunch. I had the cuban sandwich and parmesan veal with pasta (two entrees were a must on this day) and my dad had the shrimp and pad thai noodles. Both meals were fantastic! Disney once again found a way to blow us away. Once the day was near to an end, we enjoyed the final show (Disney Dreams) & a dinner at Animators Palate (one of the three rotational restaurants.) After all was finished, the cruise wrapped up the day by having a “See you real soon “party in the Lobby Atrium on Deck 3. This show included a wave good bye to all the characters on board and a pin trading session (all the guests on board came together to trade their Disney pins.)

Day 8 was our final morning on the boat, which meant you went to breakfast at the place you had dinner at the night before or eat at Cabanas (the buffet on Deck 9.) For my family and I, we ate at Animators Palate once more. After eating the final meal on the ship, everyone disembarked and headed to the airport to fly home. Disney allows all of their guests to eat and explore the ship before leaving, which was nice because we did not feel rushed to get off the boat and let the new guests begin their vacation.

Android Ahoy!

I was a sixteen year old rookie sailor when joining my first ship, RMS Britannic, the last of the White Star Liners. Not much had changed for passengers since the RMS Titanic of the same company met its tragic end. Progress was unhurried back then. The Britannic ended its Atlantic crossings with several weeks cruising…

I was a sixteen year old rookie sailor when joining my first ship, RMS Britannic, the last of the White Star Liners. Not much had changed for passengers since the RMS Titanic of the same company met its tragic end. Progress was unhurried back then. The Britannic ended its Atlantic crossings with several weeks cruising Mediterranean ports. Many of our popular Costa townships would have been fishing villages then.
Progress in cruising since has been nothing short of astonishing. To be honest, I prefer the old ways but I can not stop progress. When passengers embarked on those ocean greyhounds there was a long drawn out bearing process of registration and embarkation to complete long before one was shown one's cabin.

Let us then book a cruise on Royal Caribbean International latest cruise liner, the Quantum of the Seas. What comparisons can be drawn between the two periods? The RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Britannic was a little over 700 feet in length and weighed a little over 27,000 tons. RCCL Quantum Class liners are twice the length and at 168,000 tonnes an incredible seven times The weight of the White Star liner.

Best not think of the many hours it took to finally recover baggage and reach one's cabin on the super liners of yesterday. Today, RCCL promise their 4,000 boarding passengers that their luggage will be stowed and they will be in their cabins within 10-minutes of arrival. Airports take note. There'll be no piping you on board. You check in online. No queues to join and nor will you wait in a long line to have your ID checked, fill out paperwork and collect your stateroom keys. You take a selfie, load it on to the online check-in website, fill out your passport details and print out your boarding pass. Show this to security and proceed to your stateroom.

Yours is a hotel type card key but you also receive a WOWband wristband. It covers all your needs including purchases on-board. It is waterproof so wear it when splashing about in any of the liner's many pools and hot tubs. No escape from the office or Facebook. The liner uses a new type of near earth satellite. Internet access is assured where you are on the ship; there are no dead spots.

Ship's staff are equipped with tablets, not the kind you get from the chemist for aches and pains but hand-held computers that take care of every need. A Royal iQ app and Android device allows you to plan, change schedules such as spa appointments, dinner reservations, shore excursions etc. Cabins have USB charging ports.

There are 45 iQ stations that interact with your WOWband. These access everything and everyone, including your on-board friends. The liners also have two robotic bartenders. Use your tablet to order cocktails, these are mixed and delivered by robots. All of a sudden a voyage on the RMS Titanic looks quite appealing.

Thinking of Cruising? Go Carnival!

Stepping out of your car at the departure port is only the beginning. If you've never cruised before, get ready for a vacation of a lifetime. The excitement that builds up before you step onto the cruise ship is not as big as the excitation you get once you actually start your adventure at sea.…

Stepping out of your car at the departure port is only the beginning. If you've never cruised before, get ready for a vacation of a lifetime. The excitement that builds up before you step onto the cruise ship is not as big as the excitation you get once you actually start your adventure at sea.

Carnival Cruise Line definitely does a good job with keeping their guests happy and satisfied throughout the trip. The second you board the ship and place your beloveds into your cabins, you're constantly greeted with warm and friendly smiles from every employee on board. If you're in need of something at any point in time, whether day or night, an employee will always be there to help you. Before the ship departs, everyone on board meets up in the theater and goes over a safety briefing. This lets everyone know that they will not have to worry about their safety or anyone else's safety while embarking on the journey at sea.

One of the best things about cruising with Carnival Cruise Line is there is always something to do. Whether it be early in the morning, middle of the day, or late at night. You may just be looking forward to getting to the ports of call, but its not just the destinations you're traveling to that are worth getting excited for, the days at sea are spectacular also. There are activities for all ages day and night, and tons of entertainment which you really get to experience during those days at sea. I mean, some crazy hilarious entertainment such as dance offs and harry chest competitions. The activities that happen on board bring families and friends together and even help you make friends as well, that you could potentially keep in touch with for a lifetime. When your stuck on a boat for a few days with people, it's nice to make new friends that you can hang around the casino with, maybe take dance lessons with and more. And Carnival definitely makes it easy to do so.

While on board, the employees try and bring people together with all of their shows, entertainment on the deck through the day, and so on. It's nice seeing everyone gathered around in one big area laughing and dancing together. It makes the trip that much more exciting and fun.

Aside from all of the entertainment, the food on the ships are out of this world also! You are guaranteed to never be hungry during your vacation, with the pizza bar, ice cream stand, and food buffet they regularly have on the deck. It's extremely tasty food too! Also, every night there Is a scheduled dinner for your family and friends to enjoy and most of the time, you get your own table, depending on how many people you have and all. But the food there is amazing also. It's a three course meal that will be hard to forget! And trust me, you'll definitely leave full. Aside from the food, these dinners are a great time to share exciting events that occurred throughout your day on board, or to talk about the excursions your family and friends took part in that day. During this time once again, the employees will always make sure you're having a good time! Some nights they dance, sing, and get you're friends and family involved too. Every second is full of fun and laughter.

When it comes to ports of call, the employees on board are there to make sure you have a great time their as well.

Carnival Cruise Line has left me and many others happy with full of unforgettable memories, and has had me wanting to go back on another cruise since the day I stepped off the ship, it also has me now wanting to work for the Cruise Line Industry at some point in the future.

If you're thinking about booking a cruise at some point in the future, try out Carnival Cruise Line, so that you can leave your vacation happy and full of unforgettable memories also.

Accessible Cruise Trips for All – What Do You Need to Know?

Its peak summer time and that calls for long vacations, travel excursions, days off from work and a time full of absolute bliss surrounded by family and loved ones. While most people may plan their vacations without too much planning, persons with special needs need to think of a lot of things before they can…

Its peak summer time and that calls for long vacations, travel excursions, days off from work and a time full of absolute bliss surrounded by family and loved ones.

While most people may plan their vacations without too much planning, persons with special needs need to think of a lot of things before they can finalize their vacation. While it may involve extra planning and organizing, it certainly is possible for people with special needs to travel and enjoy just like everyone else.

One of the best vacations for persons with physical limitations is a cruise vacation. Many major cruise lines offer accessible travel for persons with limited mobility. From the port to the staterooms and everything in between, each element of the ship is accessible for persons with special needs.

Accessible Travel with Senior Persons

If you are traveling with seniors who may have special needs, then here are some points that you need to consider to plan a smooth and fun filled accessible cruise trip:

1. Call ahead – check on the special needs provider for equipment rental, way before your trip, that you may require for you or your senior family member. This gives them a margin to prepare and arrange for the equipment on time – wheelchairs, electric scooters, oxygen equipment, beds, walking aides, etc.

2. Be Clear – clearly mention and specify your needs to the service provider to ensure you get the right kind of equipment and the preferred size (eg electric mobility scooters are available in different sizes).

3. Stock up on Meds – take extra medicines on board, you do not want to miss a dose in case there is a diversion and the trip takes longer than the arrival time to reach the destination port.

4. Special Rooms – when booking your cruise, make sure you ask for rooms that are easily accessible for persons with special needs. Also, they should be large enough so you can easily maneuver using your electric scooter or wheelchair.

Accessible Travel with Children

1. Accessible travel agent – find travel agents who can arrange travel trips for people with disability. Since they have experience with making arrangements for disabled persons of all age groups, they can suggest the best one for you and your child with special needs.

2. Look for bigger ships – when choosing accessible cruises, make sure you choose new ones and bigger ones since they have more facilities; spacious doorways, roll in showers, open theaters, easy pool entrances, etc.

3. Service dogs – if you have a service dog for you or your loved one, make sure you check with the cruise line if they accept them on board. All major cruise lines do accept, but it's always good to check. You may have to get the service dog monitored and keep the documents at hand before booking your trip.

Knowing the details and requirements before planning accessible travel can make traveling enjoyable for both the disabled person and their loved ones. Special Needs at Sea understand the needs of people with physical limitations or disabilities and thus provides on board special needs equipment to help such people become independent, confident and relaxed.

Persons with special needs can avail wheel chairs, oxygen equipment, electric scooter rentals and other special equipment on board from Special Needs at Sea and enjoy their cruise like capable persons.

Review: Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas From Galveston

I had planned this cruise for seven months. A friend and I who had previously cruised with Carnival and Celebrity were eager to try Royal Caribbean after hearing so many positive things about the beauty of the ship, quality of food and service, etc. For the second time, I surprised my retired parents by taking…

I had planned this cruise for seven months. A friend and I who had previously cruised with Carnival and Celebrity were eager to try Royal Caribbean after hearing so many positive things about the beauty of the ship, quality of food and service, etc. For the second time, I surprised my retired parents by taking them with us (the previous year I had surprised them with an Alaskan cruise which I will review later), and they were absolutely giddy with excitation when they found out that they would once again being traveling aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, which they claimed was their favorite ship of 13 other cruises they had taken. With the ship fresh out of dry dock for upgrades, were set to go to some brand-new destinations none of us had ever visited: Roatan Island, Honduras and Belize City. Expectations were high.

Then cruise time came. While I am not prepared to say that we had a BAD time on this cruise, that I think it is fair to say that our expectations were a bit deflated, pretty much from the minute we arrived at the Port of Galveston. Allow me to take you through the high and low lights of life on the high seas aboard Navigator of the Seas.

The Highs

Our dining experience – Most certainly the best service we received on the ship was in the main Sapphire Dining Room, which is without a doubt the most gorgeous dining room I have seen on a cruise ship. Walking into the dining room is like entering a regal opera house complete with grand stair case and three levels of dining with windows on each side. Our two servers were extremely attentive, noting my step-mother's preference of making her own ice tea with two glasses of ice, 2 tea bags and some hot water, which was waiting for her every night after night one. I could fault her for being a “tea snob,” but then I had to look at myself in the mirror with my Starbucks in hand turning my nose up at Folgers. All of us enjoyed the variety of meal choices and thought the food was of very high quality, with service running like clock work. It was really a pleasure to dine each evening.

Here we are at dinner. I am the goof-ball in blue.

The Cabin– Inside cabin 7667 (Aft Port) was home sweet home for our week at sea. My parents were right next door in 7669. For an inside cabin, there was plenty of room to stow all of our stuff and have a completely clear space to move in. I would say the bed was a bit hard, but it's all about your preference as my friend and traveling partner Jay (the guy in purple) said his was just right. Ample closet and drawer space allowed us to each have sufficient space to unpack. Our steward service was also top-notch, re-stocking and tidying up twice daily.

The ship– Navigator is definitely a beautiful ship. Of note is the Royal Promenade, a series of shops, restaurants and bars running a forward to giving cruisers the feeling of strolling down a cobblestone street while at sea. I recommend the Two Poets Pub for some nice ambiance and people-watching. The main atrium is gorgeous, and the various lounges and bars are designed with a very classy yet comfortable feel. The pool deck is also impressive, featuring two main pools flanked by several hot tubs, some of which are shaded. For the most part there are plenty of chairs both in and out of the shade, but if your cruise is full you had better get there early to snag one. We also thought the nightclub overlooking the pool deck with its floor-to-ceiling windows added a nice touch to the ship's offerings. The ship's casino is also pretty decent, but since smoking is allowed in there, you may come out smelling like an ash tray.

Overlooking the Royal Promenade

The Grand Atrium

Beverage Package – Three of us on this cruise had the premium package for $ 55 per day, but since my dad only drinks beer, we got him the basic package. At first glance, this package might seem a bit pricey (Royal Caribbean's beverage packages are some of the most expensive at sea), but overall we got our money's worth. What I especially liked was that basically nothing on the drink menu was off limits short of the super premium stuff. You could even opt for Gray Goose vodka at no extra charge. The flip side here is the bar service (see below).

Theater Entertainment – If you ever find yourself on Navigator of the Seas, do not miss the ice-skating show. It is fantastic and was much better than I thought it was going to be. We also enjoyed the Elton John impersonator, the bar flair show and the adult game show.

The Lows

Embarkation / Debarkation – The words fiasco, nightmare, eternity and disorganization come to mind for both. This was hands-down the WEST embarkation / debarkation process I have ever experienced, and my parents who had been on 13 previous cruises agreed. We should have expected this when Royal Caribbean sent us out an e-mail prior to the cruise instructing us to arrive at certain times based on the deck on which our cabin was located. As it happened, we had flock into Houston, and our transfer dropped us off right at the time we were supposed to be there, which was 12:30 pm We did not step foot on the ship until almost 2 pm, as we were stuck two different lines, both of which were extremely slow-moving. This is definitely not the way you want to start your vacation, and very few smiles were to be found in the security and check-in lines. Mind you, I totally expect a bit of a wait checking in, but this was just ridiculous. I think the longest wait I have ever experienced prior to this was 30 minutes tops. I definitely expressed my dissatisfaction to the check-in lady.

Debarkation was practically just as bad. Since we had a driver waiting for us, we opted for the self check-out and were given a specific time and place to meet. We have done this on other cruises with minimal waiting, with customs officers sailing the ship to collect forms. In the past, we have basically just walked off the ship. Not this time. When we arrived at the appointed spot we then waited another good 45 minutes just to be allowed to disembark. Once off the ship, guess what? Another line, another 45 minutes to pass through customs. I ended up being a charged an additional wait fee by my driver, thanks to Royal Caribbean and the Port of Galveston.

Bottom line – I will never cruise from Galveston, Texas again as they clearly do not have the ability to handle the volume of people that cruise ships have. Basically, Royal Caribbean left a negative first impression and a negative last impression.

Service – Aside from our servers at dinner, service in the bars and lounges on this ship was average at best and certainly not what I am accredited to on a cruise. While some bartenders were standouts, it generally took forever to get a drink and often you felt as if you were a bother to the bartender or server. The worst service was probably at the pool bar. Some say that I am too demanding, but when I spend my hard-earned money on vacation I want decent service. Period. I did not really get it on this cruise. My parents also commented that “things just were not the same on this cruise” as their previous experience on Navigator of the Seas.

Kids, kids, kids– OK, I am probably going to get some eye-rolls for this, and maybe for some it would not be a negative, but there were just too many kids taking over the main pool area on this ship . As with anyplace else, parents are partly to blame here, allowing their little monsters to run amuck and splash others in the main pool, but I fault Royal Caribbean for not enforcing pool rules. On past cruises, kids were not even allowed in hot tubs, but they were in this one. Granted, there is an adults-only pool and hot tub, but the problem is that there is not any entertainment there (not that the entertainment at the main pool was anything to write home about).

We did not participate in any excursions on this cruise, so I can not speak to their quality. We did hear various comments that the excursions were over-priced and not worth the money. One exploration was even over an hour late and had to be delivered to the ship by boat as it was departing Honduras.

The verdict – If I had to choose between Royal Caribbean and Carnival, I would probably go with Carnival based on past experiences. I am not totally closed to giving Royal Caribbean another chance, but they would have to complete WOW me to keep me coming back.

Tips and Recommendations to Cruise/Tour Alaska in a Wheelchair

I was extremely nervous prior to taking a 14-day land tour / cruise to Alaska because I am bound to a wheelchair. Although I can stand, I do not walk at all. When traveling in a wheelchair, there is always a glitch with something that is supposed to be ADA compliant and is not. Our…

I was extremely nervous prior to taking a 14-day land tour / cruise to Alaska because I am bound to a wheelchair. Although I can stand, I do not walk at all. When traveling in a wheelchair, there is always a glitch with something that is supposed to be ADA compliant and is not.

Our trip began in Anchorage, and then took us to Copper Center, Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Mt. McKinley and Talkeetna. After the land tour, we boarded the cruise ship in Whittier and travelled southbound through the Inland Passage to Vancouver, with port docking in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Overall, the trip was wonderful from an accessibility standpoint, though there were a few hiccups that we encountered along the way. I brought them to the cruise line's attention and will share them with you.

The following is a summary of tips and recommendations I am making from my own personal experience if you are considering a trip:

  • Never assume that when someone tells you a room, transport, transfer, etc. meets ADA standards that it is. There is a wide variance in interpretation and assumptions when one says it is “ADA compliant.” You must make a list of specific questions that require specific answers from a travel agent who really is knowledgeable about your specific, required accommodations.
  • When I started planning my trip, I worked with cruise line directly. I spoke with agents who actually cruised on the ship we were taking, who could give me info about wheelchair-friendliness on the ship and help me choose a room. I also spoke with their access department about accessibility accommodations regarding on-hotel hotel rooms, and things such as shuttle / motor coach / railroad lifts. These folks were extremely helpful. I did not want to work through an independent travel agency as I have learned from experience that specific things do not always get answered properly, or get “lost in translation” when dealing through a third-party.
  • I booked my trip almost a year in advance, so that I could get exactly what I wanted. For example, I wanted a room on a deck that contained a buffet, grill, and outside pools / seating / movies to eliminate elevator usage. It also saved us $ 1400 by getting an interior room – the outdoor open deck was just outside our door so we did not need a room balcony.
  • We booked in September because there were fewer crowds to navigate in the towns, and no young children. I find that when I am in my scooter, I have to always be looking out for others; so many people – especially kids-are not looking out for me. In addition, we did not have to deal with mosquitoes at that time of year, we saw the Northern Lights, gorgeous autumn color, and the days were cool – 50-60 degrees. The cooler temperatures were good for me since my MS is very sensitive to warm, humid days, which occurs often in the summer months in Alaska.
  • I sent a letter in writing to their Access Department stating that I was “confined to a wheelchair”, therefore requiring lifts for all transport and a roll-in shower for all hotel rooms if available. I recommend sending such a letter if you are totally confined, as this will cover you later if problems develop, which in my case it did.

For example, there were three motor coaches that arrived that did not have lifts. Fortunately, I am small (125 lbs.) And my husband is strong, so I was able to be carried up into the coach. Otherwise, I would have had to stay behind which would have disrupted my trip, and canceled one of my tours. In the future, this is what I would do and what I would recommend others to do: Check with the Tour desk at every hotel that you stay at to re-confirm that a transport with a lift will be available for you for the next several days. You can also re-confirm any other special needs that you had requested ahead of time, such as a roll-in shower. Twice I was given a room without a roll-in shower, and later found out that this room was given to someone who did not require one. If I had been traveling with my sister instead of my husband, I would not have been able to shower since she could not lift me into a tub that had a chair put in it.

If you are a part-time wheelchair user, please note that there are 5-7 steps going up into motor coaches and they are quite steep.

The bridges had lifts, as did the separate tour buses in Denali National Park.

Amazingly, the accessibility in the Alaskan towns – even the smallest inland places – was very good. When I use a restroom, I need assistance from my hubby. We were able to find a restroom that was large enough for both of us, even at the roadhouses we stopped to eat during our journey. Note: the railroad restrooms can not accommodate two persons, so if you are someone who requires a helper, you will need to prepare yourself in other ways for the 5-6 hour ride.

If you are thinking about taking a cruise or tour, I suggest to start planning your arrangements a year in advance because handicap accessible rooms are limited and fill up fast.

Finally, because of the unpredictability of my MS, I opted to buy travel insurance in case health problems occurred that would prevent me from going.

Carnival Paradise Grand Cayman/Cozumel Review

There were 4 days at sea along with two days at port; making stops in the Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. Before booking the trip, I checked out reviews on Cruise Critic. Of the 442 reviews this boat has, 75% were positive. Here are some highlights of my experience on the ship. Food: The food…

There were 4 days at sea along with two days at port; making stops in the Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. Before booking the trip, I checked out reviews on Cruise Critic. Of the 442 reviews this boat has, 75% were positive. Here are some highlights of my experience on the ship.

Food: The food was plentiful (as expected) and tasty. The buffet was very good and the evening dining hall had a good variety of food. We had a table for four all to ourselves the entire week, so that was a treat! “After hours” there is a 24 hour pizza bar and ice-cream station, and the room service was quick. I would not classify this ship as a culinary dream, but it certainly was ample.

Drinks: The wait staff were very attentive and it was never a long wait to get a drink. As expected, the drinks were expensive. But if you stick to lemonade, water, tea, juice, etc, you do not need to spend extra to stay hydrated. If you're planning on drinking a lot, you might want to get one of their drink packages. You can save on cocktails, wine, and soda by purchasing these. There are a lot of rules and fine print, so read up before you go.

Pools: I was not impressed by the swimming pools on the ship. There is one main pool with a water slide going into it, which eats up some of the space. There were also a few whirlpool-sized swimming pools (with cool water) but not of the size for actual swimming.

Deck Space: There were always plenty of lounge chairs available on deck. They did not seem to have the usual “reserved chair” issues that many ships have. As the week went by, I think more people were hanging out inside so there were even more chairs available.

Rooms: We had an ocean view room with two twin size beds converted to a king size. The noise from the ship was at reasonable levels and along some noisy neighbors a couple of nights, there were no noise issues. The bathroom was adequate and overall there were no issues with the room.

Entertainment: Admittedly this trip was more about relaxing than it was the nightlife. But we did take in a few song and dance shows. While the theater is smaller than a lot of other boats, the entertainers were very talented and the shows were great. We also took in a few comedy shows, which were awesome. Just make sure that you're leaving the kids at home if you're going to an adults-only show. They are not kidding when they say they're not family friendly!

Time at Port: The time at port in the Grand Cayman was short. We paid $ 5 per person to take a shuttle to the nearby public beach. The water was warm, clear, and refreshing. Drinks nearby cost a fortune, so be prepared.

We were in Cozumel, Mexico for about 8 hours. We arranged an excursion through Carnival to go to a nearby all-inclusive, Chankanaab Resort. There they had snorkeling, a Mayan tour, sea-lion show, lots of lounge chairs on the beach, and a swim up bar. Even though this was a self-guided day at the resort, they insured on giving you an hour-long tour of the place and organizing all sorts of group activities. The guide seemed more concerned with occupying you so you did not spend too much time at the bar. The resort itself was great, but I'd opt out of this next time.

Overall, I think the Carnival Paradise was a great value for the money. Coming up soon will be a post about the travel gadgets you must have on your next cruise!