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Your Questions About Cruises to Mexico

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Betty asks…

Do cruise ships in the Gulf of Mexico get cell phone reception?   If not do they have pay phones on the ship?

My best friend is going on a cruise ship from Texas to Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico.  We talk every day for at least two hours she has bipolar disorder and she talks with me to cope.  Do you have any information?  Please help me, I will greatly appreciate it.
Thanks soooo much.

John answers:

Well, Nancy, be prepared for high costs.  Your friend will have to check with her cruise line, but most offer in cabin direct dial phones, and cell phone service via satellite.  The costs, however, will be quite high, in the neighborhood of $4 to $5 per minute for cell service and $8 per minute or higher for the phone in her cabin.

Internet service, when purchased as a package, can be as low as 40 cents per minute.  The service is usually slower than you’re used to, but perhaps emailing you will be an acceptable alternative.

Chris asks…

Do large cruise ships that go in Gulf of Mexico sway a lot and do a lot of people get motion sickness?

My mom and I want to go on a cruise but we both get sea sick kinda easily. Will we get sick on a big cruise line in the Gulf of Mexico?

John answers:

Cruise ships these days are basically floating cities, but this does not mean you cannot tell you are on the water.  People who say you can never tell you’re on water are those few that cruised during absolutely perfect weather, which does not happen often.

There are areas of the ship where the motion is stronger than others, particularly the front of the ship. Since you and your mother get seasick easily, I recommend purchasing a cabin in the middle of the ship and without a balcony.  A lower deck is preferable to a higher deck.

Also, as an extra precaution, you may want to take anti-seasick pills or wear anti-seasick patches, which are worn behind your ears and not very noticeable.

Donald asks…

Best cruise line or ship to Mexico for young adults?

I’m 23 years old and looking for a fun cruise that would be great for young adults. Ideally, I’d like to be on a cruise with mostly people my age, fun nightlife, active lifestyle amenities.

Are there any cruise ships that go to Mexico and have these features?

Thanks!

John answers:

Donald, I don’t think you’ll find a cruise where your fellow passengers are mostly in their mid-twenties.  That being said, there are some cruise lines which draw a demographic that skews younger than others.  You don’t say where in Mexico you’re sailing.  I’d suggest taking a look at what Carnival Cruise Lines has to offer for the time frame and destination you’re seeking.

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Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Lines, cell phones on cruises, Cruise lines, cruise ships, cruises to Mexico, cruises to the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Mexico

Introducing Royal Princess

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Artist's Rendering of the Royal Princess

Royal Princess is a name which resonates with the many fans of Princess Cruise Lines.   Two vessels have already borne the name and, now, in a highly anticipated announcement, Princess reveals that the first of two new builds, set to debut in Spring 2013, will also bring the name back to the fleet.

The press release follows:

“As the first steel plate was cut today marking the official start of construction of Princess Cruises’ next ship, the line unveiled the vessel’s profile, released preliminary details about some of its features, and revealed its name — Royal Princess.

This will be the third time the name Royal Princess has been given to a Princess ship.

Debuting in spring of 2013, the new 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Royal Princessis the first of two new-generation ships for Princess which are being built by Fincantieri at their Monfalcone, Italy shipyard. The prototype design is an evolution of the line’s classic style of ships, while including some new features and expanded signature spaces.

A new design element revealed today is an over-water SeaWalkSM, a top-deck glass-bottomed enclosed walkway on the ship’s starboard side extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel. From here passengers can enjoy dramatic views, including to the sea 128 feet below. On the ship’s port side, passengers will find a similarly-unique cantilevered SeaView bar, featuring cocktails with unbeatable vistas.

Also on her top decks, Royal Princess will feature a new adults-only pool surrounded by seven plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water. Two additional pools will flank a tropical island that will offer pool seating by day, and by night will become an outdoor dance club, complete with a dazzling water and light show. Princess’ signature adults-only haven, The Sanctuary, will be expanded both in size and amenities. The popular poolside theater, Movies Under the Stars, will play a starring role mid-ship with an expanded size and high-definition viewing.

“Princess passengers will easily recognize our next ship as a natural progression in our fleet,” said Princess President and CEO Alan Buckelew. “We’re taking the best features of our newest vessels that have been such customer pleasers, and taking them to the next level. Just as the original Royal Princess ushered in a new era for our company with its innovative design, we expect our new Royal Princess to do the same.”

Inside the ship, one of the line’s hallmark venues, the Piazza atrium, will be significantly expanded. This area will be the multi-faceted social hub of the vessel, combining always-changing quick bites and light meals, beverages, entertainment, shopping and guest services.

All outside staterooms on Royal Princess will have balconies, which means that 80 percent of the ship’s staterooms will include this desirable feature.

Royal Princess will include 260,000 square feet of inside public space with multiple dining and entertainment venues, as well as other special features and amenities which will be revealed over the coming months.

A video preview of Royal Princess is available at Princess Cruise Lines’ website.  Artist renderings of the ship are available on Princess’ Flickr page.

A sister ship to Royal Princess will be launched in spring 2014.”

For those who are fans of Princess, as am I, this announcement seems quite fitting and welcome.  Hard to explain, I think, but I like the sense of tradition, a tip of the hat – if you will – to a much loved ship that hosted her guests well.  I look forward to strolling on SeaWalk, fighting my fear of heights every step of the way.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, cruise ship, newbuild, Princess Cruise Lines, Royal Princess, SeaWalk, Spring 2013

Your Questions About Cruises Locally And Transatlantic

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Maria asks…

Whats a good website or vacation packages I could get to go in a cruise?

Me and my cousin are thinking about going on a cruise. but we just don’t know where to start looking for a great price.  What are some websites you would recommend me to visit, or where have you gone that you really liked.

I live in Alabama so I would like a cruise that will leave from Alabama and not from some other place I would have to drive.

John answers:

Maria, you’re timing is good, if you and your cousin are prepared to act relatively quickly.  There is only one large-scale cruise ship home ported in Mobile, Carnival Elation.  Unfortunately, Carnival has recently announced that the Elation will depart Mobile for good on October 22nd.

If you plan to take your cruise after that date, or if you would like more options, then you should look at cruises from New Orleans or the major Florida ports.

Some websites to explore:  Carnival’s own website, Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.  And you won’t escape my customary advice that you use these websites for research, and then use the services of an experienced travel agent to actually book the cruise.

Finally, where have I been that I really liked?  Too many places to list.  Travel is one of life’s great experiences.  Go with an open mind, be prepared to learn and be inspired.  You’ll grow and be richer for the experience.

Mandy asks…

What is the best website for finding cheap vacation packages/cruises?

My boyfriend and I are in college and needless to say, on a very tight budget. But we’d love to get away for a few days or a week inexpensively. Do you  know of any good sites for this?   Have you gone somewhere that was really inexpensive??  I’ve checked out most of the mainstream websites but we are still trying to find a good deal.   Any info would be great!  Thanks!

John answers:

Google cruise discounts for college students.  You’ll get a number of options.  One I thought was interesting was American Airlines’ site at aa.com/college.  You’ll find discounts on flights and flight/hotel packages.

There are other vendors offering group discounts on cruises.  Just proceed with caution, as some of these might not be completely trustworthy.

You should also ask around campus as much as possible.  There are probably plenty of your fellow students who have explored this question as well.  You may get some good pointers.

Steven asks…

I need help finding a cruise vacation package to the Caribbean leaving from Rome, Italy.

I currently live in Germany and am trying to plan a cruise to the Caribbean at the end of November or early December. I need a cruise that is leaving preferably from Rome, Italy because I’d like to go there too but really anywhere close to Germany would be great. I’ve been trying to find one on my own and am getting very frustrated so if anyone has any tips that would be wonderful.

John answers:

Steven, you are looking for a repositioning cruise.  These are offered by the cruise lines when the cruising season ends in one region and ships are moved to another region for a new season.  These are one-way, of course, so you’ll have to fly home.

Rome to Ft. Lauderdale is a definite possibility.  Rome to the Caribbean is not.  Pacific Princess will depart Rome for Ft. Lauderdale on November 27th.  You could sail from Malaga to San Juan on Royal Caribbean in November, however, if that appeals to you.  Visit cruisetransatlantic.com for a handy listing of all the transatlantic cruise options.

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Technorati Tags: Carnival Elation, cruises from Mobile, Expedia, Ft. Lauderdale, Malaga, Mobile, New Orleans, Orbitz, Pacific Princess, repositioning cruises, Rome, Royal Caribbean, San Juan, transatlantic cruises, travel agent, Travelocity

Your Questions About Cruises Out Of New Orleans

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Sandra asks…

where to go on our cruise?

my husband and i are planning a cruise for next year…a few questions…when is the best and/or cheapest time to go, what cruise line do you suggest, and where should we go?  we’re leaving out of either mobile al or new orleans la they’re both an hour away from us.  one to the east and one to the west lol thanks in advance!

John answers:

Sandra, as of October 22nd of this year, no major cruise line will be sailing from Mobile.  City officials are working very hard to attract another line to fill the void left by the departure of Carnival Elation, but nothing has come of their efforts to date.  Watch this closely, however.  If another line does opt to home port one of their ships in Mobile, they may offer some nice discounts to generate interest.

Realistically, however, you should proceed on the assumption that you will sail from New Orleans.  Given that, it’s obvious where you’ll go – the Gulf and the Caribbean.  The cheapest time to go is the off season.  You probably know better than most that off season is the period from mid-August through October.

The best time is probably the winter, when heat and humidity are most tolerable.

Sit down with an experienced travel agent and discuss your options.  You’ll need to look at several itineraries to see which most appeals to you and discuss the relative cost differences between lines and between cabin types.  Are you looking for something a bit more upscale, or is casual the only way to go?  Are you perfectly fine in an inside cabin, or is a balcony an absolute must?

These sorts of questions can be addressed by your agent, helping you narrow down the choices and ultimately find the cruise that is perfect for you.  Whichever one you choose, you’ll have a great time.

Charles asks…

Whats the best cruise line for some 24 year old?

Me and three buddies want to go on a cruise during the first week of March 2012.  I was just wondering what you thought were the best cruise lines for guys in their early 20’s.  We obviously want to party and hang out with others that are around our age.

Specifically, what do you think about NCL?  We like the one that goes out of New Orleans, because we can party there for a night or two before the cruise.

I took a cruise with RoyalCar in college and had a great time.

Any feedback would be great.
Everyone keeps saying that Carnival has cheaper cruises, but every cruise I have looked at by them has been $650 for an interior room. And a comparable cruise on NCL was 450. Royal was 650 as well. Maybe they are trying to get away from the college kid crowed.

Thanks for the help.

Other feedback is welcome…

John answers:

Carnival Conquest, Norwegian Spirit, and Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas will all sail from New Orleans next March.

It’s true that Carnival does have a reputation for drawing a younger crowd, and on their sailings to the Caribbean, that is by and large still the case.

You should check the rates again.  The least expensive inside cabin on Norwegian Spirit is $499 per person.  Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are offering at least one or two departure dates with inner cabins at rates very close to those of Norwegian.  So price shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

You’ve already experienced a cruise on Royal Caribbean and had fun.  So you need to decide if you want to repeat a known quantity, or take a chance on Carnival’s reputation.  NCL welcomes young adults as well.

You’ll find 20 somethings on any one of these cruises, so I don’t think you’ll go wrong whichever one you choose.

Richard asks…

cruise information?

My wife and I have decided to book a cruise for next year.  We were told that it’s better to book a cruise a year or so in advance, which enables the possibility of move up to a better package as the cruise date gets closer, and still paying for a lower rated package.  I’m looking for recommendations now as to what cruise line is preferred by yahoo folks.  We’re in South Louisiana, and would probably prefer leaving out of New Orleans or Houston. We’re in our mid 40’s.  Thanks for your help.

John answers:

I suggest you book a cruise as early as you can, but not in hopes of some price reduction or upgrade as time goes on.  That may happen, but it might not.  The advantage to booking early is the opportunity to get exactly what you want.  If you want a balcony cabin, top deck, midship, port side (or whatever), you’re more likely to get it a year out than a month out.

See my answer to Charles above for the ships that will be sailing from New Orleans next Spring.  All of these choices are within the same category and will provide a very enjoyable cruise.  There will be many couples your age and possibly a good many children, depending on your dates.

Carnival Magic will be sailing from Galveston next year.  This is Carnival’s newest ship, coming on line next month.  This ship has already created quite a buzz, and might be the one to put at the top of your list.  Sit down with an experienced travel agent and discuss you options.

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Technorati Tags: Carnival Conquest, Carnival Cruise Lines, Carnival Elation, Carnival Magic, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Galveston, Mobile, NCL, New Orleans, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Norwegian Spirit, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Voyager of the Seas

Your Questions About Cruises From Miami

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William asks…

Are there any cruises from miami to bahamas and stay on the island for one night and cruise back?

We want to go to the Bahamas for just one day.  We want to cruise there and get a hotel on the island.  We want to then cruise back another day.  Is there anything like that being offered?

John answers:

There are a couple options, but not out of Miami.  Discovery Cruise Lines offers a two day sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Bahama Island, with a choice of hotel options.  Price will vary with the hotel chosen.

Celebration Cruise Lines offers a two-night sailing from Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island.  The ship sails overnight to the island, stays the day, and then sails overnight back to Florida.  You don’t overnight at a hotel.

Two caveats:  these ships do not sail to Nassau, and they are not in the same category as Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, etc.

Lizzie asks…

What cruises from Miami (Fort Lauderdale), the most interesting (Caribbean,Bahamas,Bermudas)?

(mexican island)

John answers:

All of these are sun, surf and sand destinations.  If this is what you are looking for, I’m not sure you can say that any one destination is more interesting than the other.  Each of these destinations will have their champions, but you won’t miss out by choosing one over the other.

Now, if you’re looking for something a bit different, Mexico has some very important archaeological sites that you might find very interesting.  If this is something that resonates with you, then Mexico should be your focus.

Steven asks…

What are the best cruise lines from Miami?

My grandparents ( 63 and 67) and my cousin (12) and I (13) want to go on a 7-10 day cruise from Miami around the Caribbean ( anywhere really). What cruise lines are the best and funnest.  We also don’t care about price, but just want to have a good time.  We are going during the February school break next year.

John answers:

I don’t think you can say that any one cruise line is the best.  Each has its own personality and focus.  In general, some lines may appeal more to older people and some more to younger people, but this is not universally so.

Royal Caribbean might be a good middle ground.  Their ships have features your grandpaerents would enjoy, while also having an excellent teen program and great activities.  Princess and Celebrity would also be worth checking out.

My suggestion is that you all sit down with a travel agent and discuss what you hope to get out of the cruise.  The agent will be able to tell you what is available for your dates and help you make a choice that is acceptable to everyone.

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Technorati Tags: Bahamas, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebration Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Discovery Cruise Lines, Grand Bahama Island, Miami, Princess Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

A Step Beyond

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Antarctica

Just about a year ago, I had the immense good fortune to cruise on the Star Princess to Antarctica.  Sailing along the Antarctic Peninsula was an experience that touched me deeply, and forever changed the way I view the world.

I wrote extensively about my trip at the time.  If interested, you can read my blog entries here:

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Post 4

Cruising as we did through Antarctic waters on a large ship precluded the opportunity to set foot on the continent.  Vessels of more than 500 passengers are not permitted to arrange landings.  I regretted not being able to walk on the continent and mingle with the penguins, but the significant additional cost argued forcefully against it.

I made a mental addition to my bucket list, however, vowing that the next time (oh yes, there will definitely be a next time!) I would be prepared for the higher cost.  Now comes word that Quark Expeditions has upped the ante.  On select 12 day voyages out of Ushuaia, Quark is offering an overnight camping trip in Antarctica.  Participants, accompanied by a tour leader, are brought ashore by Zodiac to a suitable site, where they pitch two person tents and spend the night.  If the weather cooperates, they will be dazzled by a night sky that can only be experienced in the pristine air of the poles.

Incredibly, this adventure costs just $195 per person.  For this remarkably reasonable price, one gets to do what so few have ever done before – sleep on the White Continnet under the vast austral sky.

Technorati Tags: Antarctic camping, Antarctica, austral sky, Cruise line, cruise ship, Quark Expeditions, Ushuaia

Grand Old Lady of the Seas Rescued

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SS United States (background) and SS America (foreground)

The SS United States Conservancy took formal possession of the SS United States yesterday.  You can read about the original announcement here.  After years of rusting away in Philadelphia, changing hands several times, and coming close to her end on more than one occasion, the ship is finally in the hands of an organization dedicated to her survival.

Perhaps the greatest passenger vessel ever built in the United States, the SS United States still holds the record set on her maiden voyage on July 4, 1952.  Faster than any passenger vessel before or since, she crossed the Atlantic in 3 days, 10 hours, and 40 minutes.  That record held until 1990, but only non-passenger ships have accomplished the feat of besting her time.  The SS United States still holds the Blue Riband.

Built with a considerable infusion of funds from the United States Government, about $50 million of the $78 million total construction cost, she was designed to allow a quick conversion to a troop carrier in times of need.  Never called upon to serve in that capacity, she played host to thousands of passengers, among them a young Rhodes Scholar named Bill Clinton, until 1969.

The Conservancy plans to establish a public/private partnership to restore and convert the ship into a floating attraction with museum, retail, and restaurant space.

Not too long ago, I heard a famed ship historian and lecturer suggest that the time had come to let the SS United States go.  He felt that her day was over.  I come down on the other side.  I wish the Conservancy well and hope they are successful in their mission.

Technorati Tags: Bill Clinton, Blue Riband, cruise ship, floating museum, SS United States, SS United States Conservancy, transatlantic speed record

A New Beginning

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Working From Home

Today is the beginning of a new adventure for me.  I am now officially self-employed with all the opportunities and pitfalls that implies.   It is both exciting and daunting at the same time.

This is a long-held dream brought to fruition, with lots of planning and hard work along the way.  I’ve prepared for this move as best I could, but there is still an element of risk involved.

I gave up a lucrative position at one of the country’s leading travel agencies to fulfill this dream of being an independent cruise specialist.  No longer will my paycheck come with unquestioned regularity.  In addition, I’m working from home and will have to discipline myself to stay focused and work diligently.

Frightening?  A bit.

Exciting?  A lot.

Risky?  To be sure.

As I expand my business and meet new clients, the potential is there to exceed what I traded away.  Perhaps it will prove to be the best decision I ever made.  Perhaps it will end up unsuccessful.  It will, nevertheless, not be a failure.  I’ve taken the chance and grasped for the brass ring.

If, at the end of the year I’ve given myself, I conclude that I haven’t achieved the level I had hoped for, what is the worst that can happen?  I go back to work for someone else, my head held high because I was willing to take the risk.

Technorati Tags: Cruise lines, cruise ships, independent cruise specialist, travel agent, work at home

Your Questions About Cruises

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William asks…

Will a February cruise leaving from Baltimore, Maryland be cold?

I want to go on the Carnival Pride which leaves from Baltimore, Maryland on Sunday February 14th at 5:30 pm. Then the cruise keeps sailing on Monday February 15th and Tuesday February 16th. The cruise doesn’t get down to Florida until Wednesday February 17th. Will it be cold before we get to Florida?

John answers:

It will be cold. Generally, the weather in the Baltimore area is 30`s & 40`s during February. You will have a nice brisk breeze out on the water also. You will start feeling warmth as you get closer to Florida.

Hope I helped!

Robert asks…

How cold is a cruise from Baltimore in Feb? Carnival Pride?

How cold is it on the first and last day at sea? Is the pool/hot tub open?

John answers:

Very cool to cold.!!! Once out into the Gulf Stream, it gets quite comfortable. The pool may be closed on the first and last days.

Daniel asks…

How much tax would be added to the cost of a $549 cruise departing from Baltimore to Bermuda?

I am planning a cruise this summer, and would like to get the best deal. I have found Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a cruise for $549 for a 7 day cruise to Bermuda. I know there are extra costs aside from the actual cruise, such as gratuities and taxes. Does anyone know how I can calculate the cost of taxes into my budget? I would like to make sure I spend 1,200 to 1,500 on 2 tickets. Best rate possible.

John answers:

If you haven’t cruised before, you should be dealing with a travel agent who is experienced in cruise bookings. And you should already have some idea of which of the myriad of options are most important [cabin, ship, itinerary, etc].

You can research the costs by going to one of the travel websites, e.g. Travelocity or Expedia, etc. The fare you see in the list will usually be the base fare for the lowest category cabin. If you continue in your “booking”, you will get a screen that gives the total amount, including taxes, fees and port charges. Just cancel the transaction before you get to the stage of actually booking, of course.

It’s going to be difficult to stay within the budget you cite. The cheaper cabins may be already sold out, you will have the expense of getting to the port city, transfers to/from the port itself or parking fees, and then on the ship you will have the “extras”: tips of about $10 per passenger per day [do not skimp on this – those people work very hard for their meager earnings!], alcohol/soda, “alternative” restaurants, spa treatments, casino, shopping, bingo, shore excursions [whether on your own or through the ship], photos, etc. The “ball park figure” for Caribbean cruises is about $100 per person per day. Cruise insurance will also cost extra – don’t buy it through the cruise line. InsureMyTrip.com has comparisons on travel insurance.

The travel agencies will all have about the same prices for any given cruise, as the cruise lines really don’t allow discounting.  Different agents/agencies, however,  will throw in “perks” to get you to book with them, so it does pay to “shop around” a bit.

You can save money by not using the cruise line air [it’s almost always more expensive and less convenient and they usually don’t let you fly in the day before – always a good idea]. You also don’t need to use the cruise line’s transfers. Again, they are almost always more expensive and less convenient than just grabbing a cab, especially when you return. [If you fly in the day before, you can often find a hotel that has free transfers, though these also aren’t always the most convenient.]

Don’t plan your return flight for any earlier than Noon on the day of your return, or you run the risk of not making your flight. Some ports are better than others in this regard. But ships are sometimes delayed and you never know how long it’s going to take to get through security at the airport.

For lots of tips on cruising, you can go to CruiseCritic.com, click on “Boards” or “Reviews” [especially “Member Reviews”], etc. You’ll find lots of info on any topic related to cruising from experienced cruisers.

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Princess Marks Veterans Day

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Bald Eagle and the American Flag

I wrote a post last week about Carnival Cruise Lines’ sale in honor of Veterans Day.  Today Princess Cruise Lines is promoting their on board military credit program.  Available to active and retired members of the armed forces of the United States and Canada, the on board credit ranges from $50 to $250 per stateroom, dependent upon length of cruise.

“As I discovered when I recently wrote about my own military experience on our company blog, we have a large number of veterans among our passengers,” said Alan Buckelew, Princess Cruises president and CEO. “We want to honor all military personnel this Veterans Day and thank them for their service.”

Eligible passengers should apply for the on board credit no later than one week prior to the departure date of their cruise.  Proof of eligibility will be required.  The on board credit will be $50 for cruises 6 days or less, $100 for cruises from 7 to 13 days, and $250 for cruises of 14 days or longer.  The credit is offered on a per stateroom basis.

I think this is commendable.  It’s a small token of appreciation for those men and women who were willing to risk their lives to do their duty as they saw it as well as for those who currently shoulder that burden.

Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Lines, Cruise line, cruise ship, military personnel, on board credit, Princess Cruise Lines, Veteran's Day