Monday, September 26, 2011

In Favor of Traditional Cruise Dining

When Norwegian Cruise Line implemented “Freestyle Dining” it was a pretty radical concept. Dining when you want, where you want, and with whom you want was so not the norm! For years the other cruise lines sat back and watched.  Would this open seating dining concept be a boom or a bust? Clearly it’s a boon, because every other cruise line now offers a version of it. So is this the beginning of the end for the traditional assigned dining times? I hope not since some of my best cruising memories revolve around it!

My husband and I took our first cruise together on a Carnival ship. We had “late” seating and found ourselves dining each night with another couple close to our age. To say we “hit it off” with them would be a gross understatement. By the second evening we felt like we were best friends forever. Our sea days were spent hanging out with them at the pool, after dinner we’d go dancing late into the night and we even booked all our shore excursions together! Fast-forward twenty something years and we’re still exchanging Christmas cards. It will always remain one of my most favorite vacations ever.

Cruising has been my family’s vacation of choice over the years and since my son is an only child we’ve often requested “early seating” and a large table for dinner. Time and time again we have been seated with another family with kids close in age to my son.  It’s amazing how some patient dining coordinator is looking over a long manifest of passengers playing “matchmaker”! While my son hasn’t made any friendships that stood the test of time and distance, for that one week he had a buddy to chat with at dinner and head off to the “kids club” with. As for my husband and me, we have enjoyed lively dinner conversation with wonderful people from all parts of the country.

Every cruise photo album I have has a page or two dedicated to our dinner time waiter and assistant waiter!  Is that crazy? Chit-chatting with the same wait staff each night is something I’ve always looked forward to on a cruise (I can only think of one cruise in which I didn’t like the servers assigned to our table).  They are almost always warm, affable, and interesting to talk to! Once on a European cruise, our Croatian waitress offered to show us around Dubrovnik since she was off the afternoon we were in port! While we didn’t take her up on the offer, her language lessons at dinner each night taught us words like “please” “thank you” and “good day”.

Now to be fair, we have also tried and thoroughly enjoyed Royal Caribbean’s “My Time” dining on several trips. Often in our busy lives, our cruise vacations are much needed family bonding time and we want to dine at a table for three at a time that is convenient for us. It’s nice having that option and it seems that many other people feel the same way.  So what does that mean for the future of traditional cruise dining? I’m not sure, but if it was ever to be discontinued, I for one would mourn its demise."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Direct Line Cruises Introduces HawaiiCruises.Travel

If you asked me to recommend a cruise itinerary that was synonymous with romance I know just the one.  A Hawaii cruise! Spend a morning in Maui, the two of you wrapped in a blanket, as you watch the sunrise 9,740 feet above sea level at the top of Haleakala. Or spend an afternoon strolling along the beaches of white, pink, green or black sand, holding hands and making plans for the future. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be sitting on your private balcony, sipping champagne with your beloved? Be witness to the sky turning red, pink, and violet as the sun begins to sink into the ocean. Hawaii is certainly the perfect place to get married, honeymoon, and celebrate a wedding anniversary.

If you asked me to suggest a cruise itinerary that would incite your sense of adventure I would know just where to send you. A Hawaii cruise!  It’s an itinerary that allows daredevils to bike from the summit of a volcano, carefully maneuvering a 3,000' drop and 29 switchbacks! Maybe you’d choose to zip line high above the wild jungle terrain taking in the sweeping picture postcard panoramic views. Or you might be interested in a helicopter ride that could take you to sights inaccessible any other way.

If you asked me to suggest the ultimate in a relaxing tropical cruise vacation do you know what I would suggest?  A Hawaii cruise! Spend your day napping on one of the many lovely beaches or work on that island tan. Sip a mai tai while taking in an authentic Hawaiian luau or spend an afternoon frolicking in a remote pool under a magical waterfall.  Kayak tranquil, glassy turquoise waters to a secluded beach for a picnic lunch under the palms. It’s a perfect cruise to get away from it all!

If you asked me where you could research, get rates and book a romantic, adventurous and relaxing Hawaii cruise online I’ve got you covered there, too! Direct Line Cruises is proud to announce the launch of their brand new website dedicated solely to Hawaii cruises at HawaiiCruises.Travel. The site allows immediate access to current pricing with the ability to book a Hawaii cruise online, 24 hours a day. An inspiring cruise guide shares information regarding Hawaii cruise itineraries and the characteristics of each island. Detailed ship descriptions make it easy to discern differences between ships and cruise lines.  So when you’re ready to book a Hawaii cruise be sure to check out the competitive pricing which always includes travel insurance for cruises 5 nights or longer at www.HawaiiCruises.Travel. For a limited time we are offering up to $500 in free onboard credit when you book your Hawaii cruise at www.HawaiiCruises.Travel. Hurry because this is an opportunity you won’t want to miss!"

Monday, September 12, 2011

NCL Project Breakaway Update

Norwegian Cruise Line revealed a bit more about the cabins that will be available on the two Project Breakaway ships that are scheduled for delivery in 2013 and 2014.  Although nothing revolutionary was disclosed, guests will benefit from the variety of accommodations they may choose from, both in cabin size and price point.

The Studios, staterooms priced and designed for solo travelers, will be included in the cabin categories available. You may remember that the concept and layout of these cabins met with accolades by all when they debuted on the Norwegian Epic. There will be 59 studios on each of the two ships. Another nice feature of these cabins is that it requires private keycard access to enter the Studio complex which includes an exclusive two-story lounge and bar.

The ship will have plenty of inside cabins. An inside cabin is always in demand for those passengers that feel they are only in their cabin to sleep and who would rather allocate their travel funds on other items.

Oceanview staterooms will return on these new builds, relieving guests of the additional expense of a balcony cabin when a window will suffice. Nearly a quarter of these cabins will be Family Oceanview cabins, with space to accommodate five! The price of a cruise for a couple with three children could be prohibitive if they are forced to book two adjoining staterooms and have to pay full fare for four family members instead of two! Having affordable accommodations for these families may make the difference of a cruise vacation or not!

Many cruise lines including Norwegian are seeing a demand for cabins near, and with direct access to the ships spa.  The Project Breakaway ships will have 28 Spa Balcony and 20 Spa Mini Suite staterooms.  These rooms have a more relaxing Zen-like feel often with additional in-room amenities.  Guests will also receive complimentary access to the Thermal Spa Suite.

Good work NCL.  It looks like there will be a cabin to meet everyone's needs!"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Cruising to New England and Canada

Think about cruising in September and October and the quintessential voyage up the East Coast and into Canada comes to mind. Bear witness as Mother Nature waves her wand and trees alight in brilliant oranges, glowing yellows, fiery reds and rich browns. Autumn’s crisp chill has travelers donning a sweatshirt to stand on deck and snap pictures of the rocky, craggily coastlines and the historic striped lighthouses whose beacons continue to safely light the way for mariners.

In port, there is much to look forward to. The cities along the Northeast coast are rich in colonial history and many of the places where our “Founding Fathers” lived, worked and built the foundation of our nation are preserved and open to the public Cooler temperatures are perfect for strolling the quaint fishing villages where the seafaring tradition is alive and well. Afterwards, warm up with a bowl of hearty seafood chowder. North Atlantic whales feed off the New England coast through October making whale watching excursions a great way to spend an afternoon. If perhaps shopping is your lure, craft boutiques, antique shops and outlet malls abound.

Cruises to New England and Canada range from short 4-night getaways to 14-night journeys.  They depart from several Northeast ports including Baltimore, Boston, Cape Liberty, and New York."