Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advice for First Time Cruisers

I just overheard one of our cruise specialists here at Direct Line Cruises chatting with a first time cruiser.  Our agents love to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with these cruising newbies! If you’re a first time cruiser (or not) we hope you will find the following advice helpful in planning your cruise.

Make Copies of Your Identification Documentation: I make two copies of the first page of my passport, leaving one home that can be accessed by a family member if necessary, and the other I lock in the cabin safe if I’m carrying the original.  If the original is lost or stolen having a copy makes replacement easier. I think this is especially important when taking a European cruise.

Fly in the Day Before: If you’re flying to your embarkation port, arriving a day early makes the whole trip less stressful. Traffic, wind, snow, and over-sleeping have caused people to miss their flight.  Don’t let that happen to you!

Budget for Onboard Purchases: Although for some a cruise fare can be all-inclusive, for many others it won’t be.  Some additional charges you may incur are for gratuities, drinks, internet use, photos, specialty restaurants, and shore excursions.

Don’t Overpack: It took me a very long time to heed this advice myself!  Particularly on Caribbean cruises, the sea days can be spent in swimsuits (don’t forget a cover-up so you don’t have to change before heading to the lunch buffet).  As for the rest of your travel wardrobe, if you pack lots of neutrals (tan, black and white work well) you can mix and match your pieces and cut down on the shoes you need to bring.

Bring a Carry-On Bag Onboard: Pack it with anything you need access to before your luggage is delivered to your stateroom.  Medication, camera and a swimsuit immediately come to mind.

Take along a Small Tote or Backpack: On the ship it’s great for carrying around your daily planner, sunscreen, i-Pod, book, sunglasses and sea pass card.  Off the ship it can hold your camera, water bottle, map, etc.

Shut off that Cell Phone: Or if you can’t live without it at least check rates with your service provider before leaving home.  Roaming charges, Cellular at Sea and data charges add up quickly.

Pack a Night-Light or Flashlight: It makes navigating your way around your cabin in search of the bathroom in the middle of the night a lot safer. Those inside cabins, in particular, are very dark!

Don't Worry about Formal Nights: These evenings are not what they used to be. There’s no need to pack an evening gown and tux for formal night….unless you want to (and what’s better than seeing your man in a tux?). But anything from black-tie to Sunday best is fine, but if you’d rather stay in shorts or jeans, the buffet is always casual.

Use Sunscreen Liberally: Nothing ruins a vacation faster than a bad sunburn (believe me, I speak from experience).  Sometimes the breeze on deck makes it very comfortable to lounge by the pool all day, since it doesn't feel hot. Don’t be fooled, that sun is frying you. Protect yourself.

Happy Cruising!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Find Out What's Been Happening to your Favorite Royal Caribbean Ships

I thought I’d take a few minutes to share with you some miscellaneous updates regarding Royal Caribbean ships…

Oasis of the Seas now has a Starbucks onboard.  You may remember that sister-ship Allure of the Seas premiered the first Starbucks at Sea a year ago.  Both ships have the same menu as your hometown Starbucks, which is good news for those of us that go through withdrawal on mornings when we don’t have our special made to order coffee beverage!  Pricing is a la carte.

Splendour of the Seas is currently receiving the Royal Advantage treatment (renovation & revitalization) and one special area that will get a new look is the iconic Centrum. This area will re-emerge as stylish spot featuring enriching daytime activities as well as nightly entertainment including aerial performances! The Champagne Bar, which is located right there, will be transformed into the “R Bar”, a sophisticated 60’s lounge. Other amenities on Splendour of the Seas will be new dining venues: Chops Grille, Izumi, the Boardwalk Dog House, Chef's Table and the Park Café; the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, a Diamond lounge for Crown and Anchor loyalty guests, a Concierge Lounge for suite guests, an outdoor movie screen and upgraded technology throughout. I hope I have the opportunity to check her out next spring in the Mediterranean!

Independence of the Seas is returning to America for the winter 2012-13 season. She will then head back to the U.K. in April 2013 to offer Mediterranean and Europe cruises throughout the summer.  The Independence has been calling Southampton it’s year-round homeport, so this is a real treat for those that want to experience all the Freedom-class ships!

To check out these ships for yourself, call a cruise specialist at Direct Line Cruises at 1 (800) 352-8088."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cruising to Hawaii and the Island of Oahu

Many cruises to Hawaii start or end on Oahu, the third largest and most densely populated Hawaiian Island. The state capital of Honolulu is home to a diverse population, a fusion of east and west cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this underlying disparity between the ancient and the contemporary that makes exploring Oahu so enjoyable. Here is my list of recommendations for you to consider while in port.

Within the grounds of Pearl Harbor and the fairly new Visitor’s Center there are a number of exhibits, displays, memorials, and museums honoring not only the victims of the attacks at that site, but all of those who bravely served in World War II. Interpretive programs, including a 23-minute documentary film about the attack, and the boat trip to the USS Arizona Memorial, are a solemn and sobering experience. You are literally standing over a grave site where 1177 men lost their lives. Purchase tickets in advance, as the site sells out quickly every morning.

If you make it to the top of Diamond Head crater you will be well rewarded by the absolute best panoramas of Honolulu! The trail up isn’t bad at all, not what I would call a strenuous hike. There are handrails along the entire 1.4-mile round-trip journey and benches along the way. You start your ascent from the bottom of this 761-foot crater and the path is a bit steep better suited for shoes with a bit of traction as opposed to flip flops. After a considerable hike you will pass through a dark tunnel (flashlights are a good idea) then exactly 99 stairs. The stairs are real stairs as opposed to dirt or lava. You will then pass through a second tunnel. After a few more steps, you are at the lower level of the top of Diamond Head. There are no rest rooms or Visitor’s Center at the top.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Our Favorite Things About the Celebrity Silhouette

The Celebrity Silhouette was launched earlier this year on the other side of the Atlantic, but arrived at Cape Liberty, New Jersey last Wednesday morning for her stateside inaugural party. Travel agents from Direct Line Cruises were invited onboard for the celebration and the chance to give her a once over. Now we’d like to share with you our five favorite things….

The Design & Décor: Many of us believe this class of ship to be the most beautiful we’ve ever seen!  The Silhouette is the fourth of the Solstice class ships…a class defined by its modern design and sophisticated décor. Public areas have an upscale, contemporary feel infused with natural light. Expansive open gathering spots flow seamlessly into one another through the use of color and complimentary design. Shades of whites, creams, and grays are offset by the iciness of shiny chrome or the warmth of golden metal finishes. Discriminately used punches of color; tangerine, kiwi and turquoise keep the look fresh and not overly monochromatic. Stateroom design is much like a trendy boutique hotel room, incorporating both style and functionality. The restrained palette of earthy colors and warm “sunset” toned accents is lovely.

The Lawn Club: It was nice to see how this iconic Solstice-class feature has evolved from an underutilized “spot of grass” to the vibrant and purposeful “hot spot” of the ship. In addition to the lawn games such as bocce and croquet offered on previous cruse ships of the same class, the Silhouette features luxurious alcoves complete with wifi and waiter service.  Restaurants were also added to the area.The Lawn Club Grill is a small outdoor restaurant that is much like a backyard barbecue party, enabling amateur chefs to grill their own food using professional grade equipment accompanied by tips from master chefs. If you don't feel like cooking, one of the chefs will do if for you, but you’d be missing out on half the fun! The Porch is a quaint little spot open for breakfast and lunch. For those of you that have been on a Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ship, you’ll know what we mean when we say it was reminiscent of the Central Park Café. And there’s no better place to watch the sun sink into the horizon than the Sunset Bar at the aft of the deck!