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Galveston Cruise Parking: Stateroom Secrets Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know

Your stateroom is your home away from home during your cruise vacation. It is best to take advantage of every available amenity that your stateroom has to offer. Here are a few secrets that most people do not know about your cruise line stateroom.

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Stateroom Secrets Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know

Metal Inside and Out: Most of your stateroom is made of metal, therefore magnets can be very helpful. Using magnets throughout your stateroom can be an efficient way to keep itineraries, daily newsletters, schedules, and to do lists organized.

Let The “Sunshine” In: Since most staterooms do not have any available natural light, they get very dark when the overhead lights are turned off. Using your television tuned to the cruise ship camera station can act as a great nightlight. It will also be a great weather gauge for the upcoming day’s events.

Where’s The Plug: In today’s connected world, your stateroom has limited outlets. Most cruise ships do not have USB outlets for charging your small electronics, so we suggest you bring a surge protector or two to expand the number of outlets available. (check to make sure that they are allowed on your particular cruise line)

Bedding and Storage: Most of us are very picky about our bedding, sheets, and pillows. If you fall into that category, check with your steward to see what bedding options are available. Non-allergenic pillows, memory foam mattress toppers, and extra blankets can be available upon request. Your stateroom is space efficient to say the least. Cruise ship designers make good use of space and offer as much storage space as possible. Be sure to explore your cabin thoroughly to discover all of those hidden spaces to store you belongings.

Secrets The Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know Series

Food Secrets Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know

cruise parking galveston, galveston cruise parking, cruise terminal parking galveston, galveston cruise terminal parkingYou deserve to get the most out of your cruise vacation experience. Many times the cruise line does not spell out all of the services available. There are certain secrets that are not disclosed that can save you money, provide more options, and allow you to enjoy your cruise vacation even more.

The dining experience on a cruise ship is an amenity that many people do not take full advantage of. Many dining tips are not know until you take several cruises on the same cruise line. But we have put together a series of “Top Secret The Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know” list to keep you in the know!

Food Secrets Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know

Main Dining Offers Unlimited Options: Did you know that you are not limited to one selection from each course of the main dining room menu? You can choose a few appetizers, two main courses, and multiple desserts for your meal. This is a great way to sample foods that you have never tried before, or refuel after a long day of excursion fun.

Room Service for Free or Discounted Rates: Royal Caribbean offer room service for a discounted rate of $7.95 and from a specific menu Carnival offers room service for free. This option is a well kept secret that most cruisers do not know. Relax on your day at sea and enjoy in cabin dining for a relaxing change of pace.

Breakfast Buffet is Not The Only Option: Depending on your cruise line, there may be other options for breakfast than the breakfast buffet. Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean restaurant’s offer limited to full breakfast menus. Your cruise newsletter will announce which restaurants are open for breakfast offering you an alternative to the breakfast buffet.

Specialty Restaurants are Not Busy The First Day at Sea: Most people tend to eat in the main dining room or the buffet the first night on the cruise ship making the specialty restaurants relatively empty and easy to book your reservation. Many specialty restaurants offer special deals the first night at sea, so definitely look in to the special offers available.

Free Desserts: Many of the onboard coffee shops offer free pastries, confections of various types, and small desserts. Check with them to see which offer free options. Ice cream is available as well from soft serve machines and some cruise lines offer hard-serve stations at the buffet. Do some research to find the locations and times to soothe your sweet tooth.

Hassle Free Embarkation Day Dining: The chaos on embarkation day ensues as soon as you board the ship. Many people explore the ship, their stateroom, and of course the food options available. Many of your fellow cruisers will hit the buffet while waiting for their cabin to become available, so choose an option that will be less crowded and busy.

Drink Smart: Since there is not a “open container” law on board the cruise ship, you can take your drinks anywhere on board. For you beer drinkers, ordering a bucket of beer can save some money. If you are traveling with friends, this is a great way to share the expense of a refreshing, ice cold beer.

In addition, many times buying the entire bottle of wine is less expensive than buying a few glasses. If you don’t finish it, not to worry, your server can save your bottle to enjoy your next evening. Most cruise lines will allow you to bring a bottle of wine or champagne per adult. (most charge a cork fee) **Do some research before you bring your own wine. Many times the cork fee plus the purchase of the bottle of wine can be more expensive than buying the bottle of wine on board. Watch your cruise newsletter to find the drink of the day or special drink offers.

Secrets The Cruise Lines Don’t Want You To Know Series

 

9 Reasons Getting Married on a Cruise is a Great Idea

So you are getting hitched and you are stressed about all of the pomp and circumstances revolving around the wedding day. We have a stress free solution! Consider taking the plunge on a cruise ship or at an exotic port of call. This wedding venue provides endless options that will make for a beautiful wedding album. Here are some reasons that a cruise wedding is a fantastic idea:

  1. It is Very Affordable

    Depending on the cruise line or the destination, your wedding can start at just $795. This is a super efficient and cost effective ceremony alternative that is practically worry free. No need to worry about guest hotel rooms, transportation or food!

  2. The Best Buy One Get One Free Option Available

    Getting married while on a cruise vacation  rolls your ceremony and honeymoon into one great little package. If you are on a tight budget, this is a great way to combine the best of both worlds into one affordable option.

  3. Remove the Headaches of Wedding Planning

    Planning a destination wedding can be quite stressful. You have to worry about hotels, transportation once guests arrive, and what about catering! Your cruise line can coordinate all of these issues, leaving you free to focus on enjoying your special day.

  4. Leave It All Up To The Professionals

    The cake, photographer, food, and location….a lot to coordinate. Leave it all up to the experts! Most cruise lines have dedicated wedding planners to make your perfect day that much more special. Additionally some cruise lines have gift registries, a free wedding website and a your very own wedding coordinator.

  5. Customizable Wedding Packages Are Available

    Create your very own custom wedding package to include all of your own individual personal touches. Include things like ice sculptures, beautiful flower arrangements, custom menus and much more.

  6. Get Married on Board

    Getting married on the ship can be very  romantic. You can bring your own officiant or on some cruise lines the captain can perform the ceremony. With technology and social media advancements, you can even broadcast your your ceremony for those who cannot be there in person.

  7. Destination Wedding?

    What a way to say “I do” that doing it on a tropical paradise. A destination wedding can provide some beautiful wedding photos that you will be sure to cherish for a lifetime.

  8. Your Guest List Can Be As Big or As Small As You Want

    No better way to create the perfect guest list than getting married on board a cruise ship. Whether it is just you and your soon to be wed, your immediate family, or a few hundred of your closest friends, getting married on board can  accommodate you.

  9. Your Guest Are in a Win-Win Situation

    Not only will your guest enjoy your special day, they get a vacation as well. What more can they ask for.

 

Galveston Cruise Parking: First-Timers’ Guide to Onboard Activities

If you’re worried that you’ll be bored on a cruise ship, banish that idea right away. Cruise ships schedule so many activities that a day at sea can be almost as much fun (and as exhausting) as a full day of sightseeing. From ropes courses to rock climbing, trivia contests to cooking classes, wine-tasting to water slides, there’s truly something for everyone.

Want to lie in the sun or take a dip in the pool? No problem. Want to spend time shopping for souvenirs, indulging in a massage or gambling in the casino? You can do it. Want to boogie board, drive a race car (at least a simulated version of one) or ice skate? Aha — even these exotic activities can be done onboard select ships.

Regardless of your activity levels and preferences, you can’t help but find a way to keep yourself entertained on a cruise ship. Here’s our breakdown of the types of programs and amenities you’re likely to find to keep you busy and happy during your time onboard.

The Daily Bulletin

How do you find out what’s going on each day? A daily newsletter is delivered to your cabin each evening. One will also be waiting for you when you arrive. In it, you’ll find the schedule for the next day’s activities and entertainment offerings, as well as opening hours for the spa, restaurants, onboard shops and bars. You might also find listings for onboard or in-cabin movies, information on scheduled ports of call, debarkation and embarkation information, and sunrise and sunset times. Children registered with the onboard kids’ club will receive their own daily schedules of age-appropriate activities, as well.

Daytime Offerings

Ships try to appeal to all types of passengers, and dozens of organized programs will offer a wide range of activities, covering an array of interests — especially on sea days. If you want to get active, you might participate in pool games, compete in basketball and volleyball tournaments, improve your golf swing or take dance classes. Indoors, you might prefer a history lecture, playing cards (bridge is especially popular) or bingo (for an extra fee), learning napkin-folding or flower-arranging, bidding on items at an art auction, playing trivia, watching a cooking demonstration or sipping wine at a wine-tasting (usually for an extra fee).

Entertainment during the day can range from musical performances by the pool to afternoon shows such as comedy, small acts like singers and dancers or a high-diving and acrobatic show in the pool and movies (in an indoor cinema — perhaps even a 3D one — or poolside).

You are, of course, free to skip all organized activities and lounge at the pool with an icy cocktail. Also open throughout the day are the ships’ boutiques, casinos (at sea only) and libraries — not to mention the many venues for eating and drinking round-the-clock. Outdoors, you’ll find Ping-Pong, shuffleboard, basketball courts and — on several ships — mini-golf, rock climbing walls, rope courses and even onboard surfing. And, you can always retreat to your cabin to enjoy the view from the balcony or indulge in a mid-day nap.

The Gym and Spa

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a modern cruise ship without a fitness center and spa complex onboard. While some offer just the basics, the newest models are often multi-deck, spacious areas with floor-to-ceiling ocean views and state-of-the-art equipment.

Onboard fitness centers provide a range of cardio and strength-training equipment, and many have separate rooms for exercise classes. Classes tend to be offered in the morning and again in the early evening. You will find listings in daily bulletins, but if you stop by the gym, you can pick up a separate sheet that details times for all classes, as well. Be aware that, while some classes are free, ships tend to charge $10 to $15 for specialty offerings like yoga, Pilates and spinning, which you’ll usually have to sign up for in advance. Some ships offer other unique fitness options, such as boxing rings and TRX suspension training.

The spa is the place to indulge in massages, facials and other pampering treatments; most ships also have salons, where you can have your hair cut and styled and get manicures and pedicures — all for additional fees. You might also find steam and sauna rooms or a thalassotherapy pool — a combination whirlpool and mineral bath. Some cruise lines have expanded the spa’s appeal with special treatments for men (like old-fashioned shaves) and teens (including mother-daughter packages). More nontraditional spa offerings include acupuncture, teeth-whitening and Ionithermie detox. Check the daily bulletin or the spa for special offers and spa packages — you can often save money by booking your spa treatments on port days rather than sea days.

Kids’ Programming

For the under-18 crowd, many mass-market cruise ships have separate kids’ areas. While you won’t find expansive facilities on luxury lines or ships that cater to older passengers, more family-oriented ships have huge facilities that often include multiple play areas for the youngest cruisers, teen hangouts and discos, kiddie pools, water slides, arcades and kid-focused deck space.

Parents can sign children up for these onboard “camps,” and trained youth counselors will lead them in various organized games, contests, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts projects, pajama and dance parties or simply supervised play. Some lines have partnered with outside sources to offer unique programs, such as acting and juggling classes, hands-on science experiments and DJ training. Children can spend as much or as little time as they want in the kids’ clubs, either participating in activities or just hanging out. (The amount of freedom allowed varies by age group.)

Youth lounges often close during meal times so families can dine together; some cruise lines offer the opportunity for kids to dine together, so parents can enjoy a leisurely, adult-oriented meal. Free programming for the younger kids tends to end around 10 p.m.; after this time, parents can choose to pay an hourly fee for group babysitting (often referred to as late-night parties) in the kids club until midnight or 1 a.m.

Babies and toddlers younger than age 3 (and who aren’t potty trained) are generally not allowed in the drop-off camps. However, families with very small children might be allowed to use youth facilities for parent-child playtime at designated times. Certain lines — like Disney and Royal Caribbean — have nurseries where parents can put their little ones in the care of nannies for a few hours, usually for an hourly fee.

Evening Entertainment

After dark, most ships take on a Vegas aura. Casinos might be open during the day, too, but at night, they’re packed with people playing the slot machines or trying their luck at poker or blackjack. Lounges feature live bands and cabaret singers for your dancing or listening pleasure, while piano bars, complete with sing-alongs, are popular hot spots on many ships. And, especially late at night, the disco will be hopping.

On several nights during your cruise, the ship’s theater will feature big production shows with high-tech effects like lasers and videos, as well as elaborately costumed singers and dancers performing popular rock hits and tunes from Broadway shows. On other nights, look for featured singers, comedians, magicians and sometimes even performers you’ve heard of or seen on TV. For those passengers with performance skills, many ships feature karaoke, and a few even have a passenger talent show. Even small ships will have some sort of entertainment — a local visiting dance troupe, a duo with a keyboard or a crew member with a guitar.

Outdoor movies on the pool deck are another favorite evening activity on many cruise lines. Passengers can cuddle up on lounge chairs with blankets and popcorn and watch new releases on giant LED screens. It’s like being at a drive-in movie — just on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean.

7 Bathroom Hacks to Make Your Cruise Ship Cabin More Livable

Cruise ship bathrooms, for the most part, are quite tiny — but they are generally small, lacking in storage space and aren’t the best at circulating odorous air. We’ve learned a few tricks that can improve your in-cabin experience.

Here are seven cruise ship cabin bathroom hacks you must know before your next sailing.

1. Bring a shoe organizer for extra storage.

In many on board bathrooms, there’s just not enough space for all your toiletries, cosmetics, jewelry and other personal items you like to keep by the sink and shower. An old favorite trick of many cruisers is to hang up an over-the-door shoe organizer and fill the pockets not with footwear but with hairbrushes, detangling spray and other beauty needs. The cloth organizers are easily foldable to fit in your luggage.

2. Bring magnetic or suction hooks to hang on doors and walls.

cruise packing and planning, cruise travel tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation packingFrom what we’ve seen of cruise ship showers, cabin designers must think all we use to wash is one bar of soap because the teeny soap dishes can’t accommodate multiple bottles of shampoo and conditioner, razors or poufs. If you’re fed up, pick up some suction hooks or small shower baskets to affix to the walls for extra toiletry storage. (Some people hook elastic hair ties through the suction hooks and slide toiletry bottles through the bands.) Or, for more (or better) hooks for towels and accessories in the bathroom, bring magnetic hooks to use on the door and walls.

3. Banish bad smells with air freshener.

Let’s be honest, your daily ablutions don’t always leave your bathroom smelling like roses, which can make life difficult for your cabin mates. Older ships can often have interesting ensuite smells, as well. An air freshener can work wonders here. Bring a lightly scented room spray or aromatherapy oils, or hang car air fresheners from the shower. Buy the right kind and your bathroom really will smell like roses.

4. Bathe little cruisers in an inflatable tub.

cruise packing and planning, cruise travel tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation packingIf you’re saving money on your family cruise, you’ll likely be in a cabin with no tub, just a shower. Many kids don’t like the force of a shower nozzle, especially when used to baths, but after days on the beach or playing in sea air, you’ll need to hose them down. We recommend bringing an inflatable baby tub or small kiddie pool that will fit in your shower or in the open space in your bathroom. You can fill it up from the shower, but you’ll want to empty it out with a cup or pail. (We can tell you from experience if you pick the tub up, it will fold and water will go everywhere!)

5. Have a hand wash party with balloons.

Most cruise ship showers include a handy retractable clothes line for drying swimsuits or your hand-washed unmentionables. If you expect to max it out and need more drying space, make sure you pack some balloons. Blow them up, drape your undies over them and — voila — individual drying stations.

6. Solve shaving woes with a suction-cup footrest.

This one’s for the ladies. Most bare-bones cruise ship showers don’t have a place to prop your leg up for shaving purposes. Some Cruise Critic readers stick their legs out of the shower and prop them on the toilet, but this trick only works if your bathroom is arranged with the toilet close to the shower. If you’re concerned about looking your best for a beachy sailing, purchase a suction-cup footrest to affix to your shower.

7. Avoid shower cling with binder clips or clothes pins.

We’ve never experienced the infamous clingy shower, but plenty of people have. If you’re concerned, pack a few of those giant binder clips or clothes pins and attach them to the bottom of the shower curtain. The extra weight will keep the curtain from billowing about and attaching to your legs or backside.

Source: CruiseCritic.com

Top 10 Things to Do on Sea Days

Top-10-Things-to-Do-on-Sea-Days-1When it comes to sea days, you either love ’em or hate ’em. What else can you do, apart from throwing your vacation dollars into a slot machine or onto a card table?

It is great news that cruise lines are increasing the number of sea day activities available to guests. Want to start prepping for your sea day fun in advance? Here are our picks for the top 10 things to do on sea days.

1. Hang out by the pools

What’s the quintessential activity onboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean? Sunbathing, of course!

While every major cruise ship has the requisite pool, hot tub and rows of lounge chairs, some take pool time to new heights. Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-, Oasis- and Quantum-class ships sport surf pools, interactive water parks for kids and zero-entry pools for wading. Disney Dream’s pool deck — with special pools for adults and little kids — is circled by a water coaster ride. Carnival and Norwegian compete on the water slide front, while Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships go a more Zen route with beautiful adults-only solariums that offer lap pools and retractable roofs.

2. Work out

When the closest you come to getting exercise during the workweek is speed-walking from your desk to the printer or running for the bus, time to work out in a state-of-the-art gym can be one of the many perks of vacation. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class and Freedom-class ships have huge fitness centers with boxing rings and Pilates reformer machines, while Seabourn’s Odyssey-class ships have Kinesis walls to improve flexibility and muscle tone. While most onboard fitness centers are located top-of-ship with sea views through floor-to-ceiling windows, Carnival takes workouts alfresco in its SportSquare. Beyond the gym, Crystal offers special Walking on Water (WOW) vests and LEKI walking poles for power strolls, Princess features swim-against-the-current pools and Royal Caribbean and Norwegian boast rock climbing walls.

3. Find your bliss

On the other hand, maybe you planned to indulge in a little pampering during your time off. The majority of cruise line spas are operated by Steiner Leisure, so the offerings are the same across the board. But beyond the massages, facials and mani-pedis, passengers can book Botox injections and teeth-whitening treatments, fancy shaves for men, special teen treatments, couple’s mud baths and a variety of gooey wraps that claim to do wonders for your skin, circulation and general well-being. Some of the best spas go beyond the treatment rooms. Many, like the spas on Norwegian and Celebrity ships, have thermal suites with saunas, steam rooms and heated relaxation chairs. Oceania, Carnival, Costa and Cunard offer thalassotherapy pools for therapeutic dips. For the ultimate splurge, book a spa villa on Seabourn’s and Disney’s ships for your own personal spa retreat with ocean views.

4. Eat, drink and be merry

Courtesy of NCL.com
Courtesy of NCL.com

Eating and drinking make up a large fraction of time spent onboard. Perhaps you’re fond of the smorgasbord approach, picking this and that from the Mongolian Wok, Tandoor Indian food, New York-style deli or the pizza, pasta, and burrito bars on Carnival. Or maybe you like a leisurely sea day lunch at upscale Holland America’s Pinnacle Grill or a Champagne brunch at Disney’s adults-only Palo. Those predisposed to a liquid diet can kick back with buckets of beer and fruity cocktails from poolside bars, glasses of wine with lunch or even milkshakes on Oceania and fruit smoothies on Royal Caribbean.

5. Learn something

Toss the trashy novel, and make your brain do a bit of work on your cruise. And we’re not talking about the fierce team trivia competitions for bragging rights to a logo cap or bag. Learn a new language on Crystal or Celebrity, learn to cook in the show kitchens of Holland America and Oceania, make scrapbooks on Celebrity or participate in a Discovery at Sea scavenger hunt on Princess. Several lines offer computer and digital photography classes, so you can come home with the most sophisticated vacation photo presentations ever.

6. Get silly

It’s perfectly acceptable to drop your workweek formality and get a little silly on a cruise. Some might say that you’re missing out on the true cruise experience if you don’t get off your high horse and get into the onboard fun and games. Carnival has perfected the art of pool games with events like the Hairy Chest Competition, Rubber Chicken Olympics and Battle of the Sexes. Royal Caribbean is known for impromptu dance parties on the Royal Promenade, while Disney enlists its famous characters to round everyone up for fun. Join in the life-size renditions of popular board games on Carnival’s Hasbro, The Game Show. It’s OK to show off your rusty dance moves or cheer loudly for your favorite — you will very likely never see any of your shipmates again.

7. Be entertained

Matinee performance, anyone?

Courtesy of NCL.com
Courtesy of NCL.com

While mainstream ships always have some sort of evening performance scheduled, some entertainment-focused lines keep their theaters full on sea day afternoons. Royal Caribbean tops the leaderboard on this one with matinees of its ice skating and Aquatheater shows, as well as midday showings of its Broadway shows, like “Hairspray.” It’s also known for afternoon parades through its ships’ Promenades, complete with Dreamworks characters and colorful costumes. Norwegian Getaway and Escape get loose with “Wine Lovers The Musical,” a daytime wine-tasting comedy show experience.

8. Go to camp

If you’re a kid, that is. Knowing that the under-18 set doesn’t want to play bingo with mom and dad all day, cruise lines have built elaborate kids’ recreation areas that will have adults

Courtesy of NCL.com
Courtesy of NCL.com

wishing they could turn back time and join in the fun. Think mocktail bars for sodas and smoothies, Internet and video game consoles, piles of board games and toys and some hands-on crafts projects — plus shipwide scavenger hunts, pizza parties and karaoke contests. Disney leads the pack with playrooms straight out of its hit movies, like Toy Story and Monsters Inc., and cutting-edge, computer-generated, interactive game floors inspired by brands like Marvel and Star Wars. Royal Caribbean reaches out to the youngest cruisers with a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, providing age-appropriate activities for interactive play sessions, as well as care for kids as young as six months to three years. Trained counselors wrangle the little tykes and keep an eye on teens, so kids and adults can pursue their favorite activities in harmony.

9. Seek out thrills

Courtesy of Carnival.com
Courtesy of Carnival.com

Move over, chair hogs. A new breed of cruiser has abandoned poolside vegging for high-octane pursuits onboard. They’re skydiving on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships and ziplining several decks above sea level on its Oasis Class. They’re dangling from great heights on Norwegian Escape’s largest ropes course at sea. And, to cool off after all that exertion, they speed down any number of onboard water slides … again and again and again.

10. Retreat from the world

You’re on vacation, and a little peace and quiet would be nice. Unfortunately, your 3,000-plus shipmates might have other ideas, making a ruckus on the lido deck while poolside movie screens blare rock concerts. You could retreat to your cabin… or seek solace on a serenity

Courtesy of Carnival.com
Courtesy of Carnival.com

deck. Princess pioneered the concept with its adults-only Sanctuary sun decks, where you can buy a day pass to plush lounge chairs, alfresco massages, Evian misters and even MP3 players loaded with New Age selections. Lines from Holland America and Oceania to Carnival and Norwegian rent out private cabanas, where you can draw the curtains on the world as you savor fruit skewers and chilled towels. If nothing else, look for adults-only sun decks to avoid the little splashers who often take over the main pools.

Inside Look at the Largest Ship in the World

Live From Harmony of the Seas: First Impressions

A third- in-class ship rarely, if ever, creates a huge stir, unless the line has drastically restructured the ship or added a significant number of new features.

Harmony-of-the-Seas-5

Harmony of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s third Oasis-class ship, and — in case you haven’t been watching the news — it’s also taken the title of The Largest Cruise Ship in the World (albeit by just a few inches) from sister Allure of the Seas.

Harmony-of-the-Seas-1Yes, there are a number of new features — including a 10-story “dry slide” called the Ultimate Abyss, three water slides and an overhauled adults-only Solarium.  But fundamentally, Harmony shares the exact same DNA as Allure and older sister Oasis of the Seas. It has all the bells and whistles that revolutionized the cruise industry: the first inside cabins with views, the water theater at sea; and the first interior areas that open to the sky, one of which — Central Park — contains 52 trees and more than 10,000 plants.

So how come Harmony is creating such a fuss? We were onboard the pre-inaugural sailing from Southampton this weekend to find out. Here are our first impressions of Harmony of the Seas.

Great Flow

With 18 decks, seemingly endless entertainment options and bewildering number of dining and drinking venues, Harmony could be overwhelming for the first timer. The ship has retained most of what made its sisters so popular, the key thing being the seven distinct neighborhoods that carve the ship up into bite-size chunks and keep passenger flow steady.

Ultimate Abyss (Deck 17)

Harmony-of-the-Seas-2Step inside inside the fang-toothed fish and get prepared with a safety briefing. At the top, you’ll find a glass floor that looks straight down, 10 stories. Add in the constant screams of people ahead of you as they slide down, and you’re terrified before you start. The ride itself, on mats specialized designed for the slide, takes just 12 seconds. But it’s one that twists round and round, with lights and sound bombarding you as you go. If fancy a thrill ride, then this one’s for you.

Tip: Go early to avoid a long wait. Lines of up to an hour formed during our time onboard.

Go Grease Lightning! (Deck 4)

Royal fought long and hard to bag this classic, securing both the original rights to the play and to the movie. And the performance you’ll see onboard is part Newton-John/Travolta movie, part original play, blending the best of both — and then adding the Royal touch.

The set Royal has constructed is a combination of digital and real; both were used in precisely the right scenes.  The whole performance from start to finish was a genuine treat (and bear in mind, we saw the first ever performance).  The two leads playing Sandy and Danny are outstanding, easily holding their own both in terms of voice and performance, but what stuck us was the quality of the supporting cast, a number of whom — Vince Fontaine, Rizzo, Rump and Mrs. Murdock — absolutely owned their scenes. A triumph.

Izumi (Deck 4)

Izumi made its debut on Oasis two years ago and proved so popular, it was retro-fitted on Allure. Harmony-of-the-Seas-3Situated by the main dining room on Deck 4, the restaurant has two parts: a sushi bar and restaurant and a Hibachi room.

In the sushi part,  rolls are made fresh and you can also order pork dumplings, tempura and sashimi, followed by noodles and a selection of sushi (the spicy shrimp rolls and Surf ‘n’ Turf are both outstanding).The Hibachi room is, by contrast, more of a theater where you sit round a cooking station and are entertained (and fed), by a chef who juggles eggs, slices up great mounds of rice and delights dinners throughout the evening. The food is sublime.

Tip: If you want to just eat sushi and sashimi, no reservation is necessary. You’ll want to reserve a spot for the hibachi.

Awesome Art

Harmony of the Seas has an extensive art collection worth several millions of dollars, which has been created by the ship’s own Art Committee (each Royal Caribbean ship has its own).

Harmony-of-the-Seas-4The art reflects the ship’s personality: quirky, bright and bold pieces creating talking points. The theme of the collection is: The Wonder of Our World, The World We Live In, and more than 3,000 pieces make up the collection. You’ll find art all over the ship, with the majority on staircases and landings, and in the main dining rooms.

The stand out piece forms the centerpiece of the Royal Promenade: “Head” by Czech artist David Cerny, a huge revolving chrome head which is sliced into horizontal blocks and changes shape throughout the day.

Still wondering if this is the ship for you?

Perhaps the best way to describe Harmony of the Seas is Las Vegas at sea: Big, bold and brash, you have to take it for what it is and embrace the madness, rather than fight against it. If you embrace the ship’s fun personality, you’ll love every second of what Harmony has to offer.

Look out for our expert full Harmony of the Seas Review coming soon. In the meantime see how Carnival Vista compares to Harmony of the Seas in the battle for the best 2016 mega-ship.

— By Kerry Spencer, Editor, U.K. and Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor

11 Summer Cruises That You Can Take With Your Dog

It’s not enough that our dogs can accompany us on airplanes, in stores, and to restaurants, we’ve figured out a way to bring them with us on boats, too!

Although most major cruise lines only welcome service animals to board their ships, there are plenty of other options for fun across the seas. So be sure to check out these ports of call on your epic summer road trip!

1. Queen Mary II–New York & Englandp

pet-cruise-1
Source: globalcoachtours

British cruise line Cunard’s Queen Mary II is “the most magnificent ocean liner ever built,” probably because it’s the only one of their ships that is dog friendly!

QM2 has a phenomenal kennel program on all trips between New York and Southhampton (south coast of England). The pups are closely monitored around the clock by a kennel master who walks and feeds them. Visiting hours throughout the day let you check up on your pup and spend plenty of play time together!

2. The Goodtime II–Seattle, Washington

For 65 years now, Seattle’s Argosy Cruises has stuck to their Christmas Ship Festival tradition, the largest holiday floating parade in the world. Last year, they added a very special ship to their caravan.

The Goodtime II joined the fun as the first dog-friendly addition to the holiday tradition (rhyme totally intended). Pups and their humans enjoyed champagne toasts, doggie hors d’oeuvres provided by The Dining Dog Café, and pictures with Santa Paws!

3. Dog Day on Elliott Bay–Seattle, Washington

Citydog Magazine hosts an annual Summer Muttmixer with Argosy Cruises, like a booze cruise for pups (without the booze). The scenic cruise takes passengers to Blake Island, a Seattle state park with 400 acres of uninhabited dog-friendly beaches and trails.

Dog Day on Elliott Bay then treats its furry passengers to a healthy box lunch of turkey, veggies, and treats provided by The Dining Dog Café. Humans are not to worry, they’re just as pampered, too; the lunch menu includes grilled pork ribs, Kobe burgers, a famous potato salad, and more.

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Source: globalcoachtours

4. Potomac Riverboat Canine Cruise–Alexandria, Virginia

The Potomac Riverboat Company in Alexandria, Virginia has an hour-long sightseeing tour of Alexandria’s Seaport.

Last Halloween they made things a little more interesting with a “Bark or Treat” Halloween canine cruise, where humans got a laugh out of a bunch of pups in hilarious costumes.

5. Bow Wow Brunch Cruise–San Diego, California

San Diego’s Hornblower Cruises are a local favorite, and it’s not just because of their stuff-your-face-friendly dining cruises. The special edition Bow Wow Brunch Cruise includes all the amenities of the human Brunch Cruise plus an additional doggie buffet!

With a 2 hour ride along the San Diego Bay, bottomless drinks and coffee (for hoomans), and an all-you-can-eat gourmet brunch buffet (for hoomans & pups), the Bow Wow Cruise is the most longed-for Sunday Funday of the year!

6. Pet Day on the Bay–San Diego, California

Hornblower Cruises & Events hosted its 14th annual Pet Day on the Bay this year. The fun-filled cruise benefits the Helen Hoodward Animal Center, a local nonprofit that cares for injured and orphaned animals.

The hour-long trip, sponsored by Petco, featured expert dog trainers sharing helpful handling tips, a doggie treat bar filled with tempting and mouthwatering treats, and lots of socialization!

Source: bringfido
Source: bringfido

7. Mercury’s Canine Cruise— Chicago, Illinois

Are you and your pup book worms? Do you love learning about stuff? Then the Mercury Skyline Canine Cruise is the cruise for you.

On the Skyline Queen, you and your pup can enjoy a ride alongside the beautiful Chicago skyline as a cruise narrator highlights the city’s dog-friendly places and elaborates on the history of Chicago (you can translate to doggie-speak as you go).

8. Scenic Cruise St. Augustine–St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida is a sight to see, so they’ve got scenic cruises to help you get around without the hassle of asking for directions. While we’re on the topic, all the scenic cruises are dog friendly!

This ship has been cruising since the early 1900’s, you can be sure they’ll show you the most picturesque parts of town. The best part is that you don’t have to leave your pup behind! Well-behaved dogs are welcome to board on a leash.

Source: Hornblower Cruises & Events
Source: Hornblower Cruises & Events

9. Cruises on the Bay–Annapolis & Baltimore, Maryland

Cruises on the Bay in Maryland consist of two sightseeing boat tours in Annapolis and Baltimore. Both cruises are dog-friendly and dogs ride free!

Both city’s cruises are educational, providing a narrative to accompany the beautiful sights, and they’ve even got a full bar! (for humans). Let your pup choose if he’d rather cruise for 45 or 90 minutes, and make sure to take plenty of snacks for the road, or in this case, water.

10. Dog Gone Sailing Charters–Provincetown, Massachusetts

Captain Rory is as much a dog lover as any of us, that’s why her ship the Moondance II welcomes furry friends aboard. The intimate excursions allow up to six hooman passengers and their sea-loving pups.

They offer sunrise/sunset trips, shrimp sails, half days, full days, and even whale watching! The sunset cruises are their most romantic. You can cuddle up with your pup and enjoy the beautiful bay and calming waters.

11. Hy-line Cruises–Cape Cod, Massachusetts

All of Hy-line’s island-bound ferries welcome pets for free! These cruises are perfect for those who want to share spectacular view of Massachussetts’ Cape Cod and its several islands.

If traveling Cap Cod with your pup isn’t cool enough, the ships are equipped with a full bar with mixed drinks and snacks! The islands all offer unique experiences; including shopping havens, quaint and quiet places, and plenty of green grass for strolling. Leashed pups are welcome at no cost (cheaper than kids!)

 

Cruise Tips & Expectations: What To Expect on Your Cruise

From new innovations to new destinations, cruises offer a multitude of choices for travelers seeking to get away for a week or a weekend, and for those worried about getting lost at sea, Fort Rucker Travel Leisure officers say the only thing to worry about is finding the strength to cruise-vacation-tips-1get back onboard to return home.

For Families or couples looking for a unique vacation that offers a large amount of things to do besides the usual camping, beach or amusement park trip, cruising offers many options for people looking to get far away, said Michelle Harris, travel leisure program manager.

“Cruising is a great option for Families or even singles,” she said. “There are hundreds of things to do and see and people to meet. Cruises have something for everybody.”

Travelers new to cruising usually have many questions concerning safety, price and weather, but Harris said that although people may have worries, there is usually nothing serious to worry about.

“One of the things that our customers are worried about is being nickeled and dimed once they are on the ship. And the ways around that is for people to know what is and is not included in the price of the trip,” she said.

Meals, some drinks, port fees and entertainment are included in cruises. Alcoholic beverages are not included, as well as soda drinks and juice, unless passengers buy those packages, and shore excursions and activities.

“A lot of people wonder if they are going to have motion sickness, but generally the boat is a big island. You will feel some of the tremors of the waves and things like that, but it’s not at all like being in a fishing vessel in the middle of the ocean,” said Harris.

“But it is a moving ship, and if you are prone to motion sickness then maybe you should start with a shorter four-day cruise and bring motion sickness medicine with you, just in case,” she continued. “That way you are not stuck for seven days on the boat if you do get sick. It’s also a good idea for first time cruisers anyway because they can see if they are going to enjoy a cruise vacation without committing to a huge stay.”

People can book a vacation with six various cruise lines through leisure travel.

cruise-vacation-tips-2“People tend to think cruises are not affordable, and they really are, especially if you are in the military because a few lines offer great discounts all year long,” said Heather Linnell, travel clerk. “People are also worried about the weather and if their leave gets denied. But cruise lines will typically work around those things. If the weather is bad or dangerous in one port, they will usually change the route and stop at that port when the weather clears up.”

Cruise ships are always trying to improve their services and their safety measures, and though some cruise lines have experienced major mechanical problems recently, Linnell and Harris agreed that maintenance is a precautionary action, not a reaction when it comes to these cruise lines.

“They maintain these ships — they are on it when it comes to making sure they are on top of things,” said Harris. “Cruise safety is the same as with airlines. Accidents happen, but it is so much safer than traveling in your own car.”

If passengers prepare themselves as if they are going on a plane rather than a cruise, Linnell said that they will be adequately prepared for customs, security and baggage check.

“You do go through security just as if you were flying. You will check documents and going through metal detectors, so don’t think you can bring a pocket knife or any other prohibited items on board,” she said.

If leaving and returning from the same U.S. port, vacationers do not have to have a passport, but it is advised to have one in case someone misses the boat while in port. Passengers will need an original birth certificate with the seal in place of a passport, and everyone needs two pieces of photo identification.

“My advice is that people should always have their documents before booking a cruise, because you never know what might happen when trying to get the appropriate documents in the mail. I have found its best to have them at the ready before you pay for anything,” said Linnell.

One thing people don’t expect to be allowed to bring on most cruise lines is a bottle of wine per person or a case of water or soda, she continued. “But every cruise line is different in the amount they can bring, and most do not allow patrons to bring hard liquor on board.”

There are dress codes for dinner on most boats. Swimsuits and flip flops are not allowed in most dining areas, but there are other dining options, Linnell said, where people can wear whatever they want.

“There are many ways to eat on the boat. One option for casual diners is the buffets that are usually open all day and night,” she said. cruise-vacation-tips-3“And there is one formal night in the dining rooms where passengers are encouraged to dress up.”

Looking for something different than a typical amusement park vacation, Linnell said that cruises offer everything from Vegas style shows and pools for adults only to with two-story water slides for children.

“Onboard entertainment rivals that of major shows, and there are full-service spas, child activity centers and programs, fitness centers and sometimes casinos on most boats,” she said. “And for the long days at sea, there are activities such as karaoke, bingo, trivia, movies, dances and more.”

Choosing a cruise vacation is something that is appealing to more and more people because different cruise lines offer different experiences, is a semi-inclusive vacation, passengers can visit several destinations in one trip, and people participate in on-board and off-board activities that range from animal towel folding to parasailing in the tropics, and Fort Rucker Leisure Travel is ready to help passengers set sail on their maiden voyage.

Article Courtesy of Army.mil

Cruise Tips: Onboard Cruising Tips

Every day, more and more people are discovering the all-inclusive pleasures of a cruise vacation. More singles, families, couples, honeymooners, second honeymooners and groups of friends are sailing away on the vacation of their lives. Last year alone approximately seven million people enjoyed a cruise vacation.  To ensure you have a smooth trip, consider these cruise tips, including what to pack on a cruise, what to bring on a cruise and more.  And as always, remember to consult with a travel agent for your next cruise to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Cruise-Tips-Onboard-Cruising-Tips

  • Many cruise lines offer in-cabin babysitting. Take advantage of this service.
  • Plan to spend about $10-15 a day for tips.
  • Tip waiters, headwaiters, shore guides, spa and salon experts, cabin stewards and any other persons who give extra-special service.
  • On many cruises, a 15% gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine and deck service tabs.
  • Do not leave valuables out in the open in your cabin.
  • You do not have to soak up all of the sun on the first day.
  • Drink in moderation. Most onboard mishaps are alcohol related.
  • Don’t panic if your luggage isn’t in your cabin when you arrive. It may take a few hours for luggage to be distributed.
  • Learn the exit route from your cabin to the open decks, in case of emergency.
  • Sign up for salon appointments, health spa services, sports and all other activities early.
  • If you booked an air/sea package and your luggage does not arrive, the airline is responsible for delivering it to the next port. Give the airline an itinerary and a list of port agents.
  • Inspect your cabin and report any complaints immediately.
  • Few ships offer tables for two dining. If yours does, ask the maitre d’ to provide accommodations for you and your partner.
  • Attend the lifeboat drill and pay attention to the information given.
  • Note the phone number for the ship’s hospital or doctor in case of emergency.
  • Grab your deck plan and take a walk to familiarize yourself with the layout of the ship, and learn how to reach your cabin from the main stairways.
  • Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks not consumed at dinner, laundry, phone calls, casino gambling and other various activities are not included in the cruise fare.