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Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

Your Questions About Cruises – A Bit Of This And That

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Chris asks…

How long does it take for a cruise ship to pick up speed once it leaves port?

I will be sailing on the Ruby Princess but it doesn’t have to be specific for this ship.  Overall reviews would be lovely.  Also, how many kids generally sail on the Ruby Princess or Princess Cruises and will a staff member tell a parent to control their child if they are misbehaving/being obnoxious/rude/enjoying.  I have nothing against kids, I am 15, I just want to relax.

John answers:

It doesn’t take long for a cruise ship to get up to speed.   Normal cruising speed isn’t fast compared to cars, about 25 miles per hour, more or less.

No, a staff member will not tell a parent to control their child if they are misbehaving, rude, or obnoxious. The kind of people who won’t discipline their children are the kind who will either bite the staff member’s head off verbally on the spot, or go file a report about them.

As for the number of kids on board, the average number is not really meaningful.  The number can vary significantly depending on a number of factors.  The most important, perhaps, is the school calendar.  You can expect more kids during holidays and the summer, and fewer when schools are in session.

Ruth asks…

Norwegian Jewel cruise ship review, please?

-please give me a list of things to do for free
-please let me know if the Nickelodeon is a big part of the ship, and if its bad
-please tell me a short review if you want
-is it age appropriate for,, 13 16 19 21 and parents
-rate a couple things you have in mind

John answers:

Hi Ruth.  For reviews, I’d suggest you go to Cruise Critic.  They have hundreds of reviews of NCL cruises., and Norwegian Jewel in particular.

Unless you go on one of the infrequent “all access” sailings, where the emphasis on Nickelodeon is quite pronounced, you can avoid most encounters of the third kind with the characters.

The Jewel is certainly appropriate for you and your family.  Finally, most of the on board activities are included in the cruise fare and, therefore, free to the extent that you pay nothing additional to enjoy them – dining in many of the restaurants, nightly entertainment in the theater, additional entertainment in the lounges, the disco, the pool, movies, trivia games and activities around the pool, and on and on.

Joseph asks…

Advice/information about working on a cruise ship?

I’m 20 years old and looking for a job where I can travel and save money at the same time. I’ve heard mixed reviews about working on a cruise ships. What are the hours, pay and accommodations like?  Do you have time off the boat while docked?  What are the requirements for an entry level position in the kitchen or housekeeping department?  Which cruise lines offer the best pay for entry level positions?  Any help or advice on the subject would be great.

John answers:

The questions you have are best answered by the cruise lines.  But I have been on many cruises and also talked with the staff about their jobs.  I know that you must sign a contract that lasts about 6 to 9 months.  During that time you work every day and in many cases a split shift where you go on duty in the early morning and then have some time off during the day before returning  to work in the afternoon or evening.  After you complete your initial 6 to 9 month contract you get 2 or 3 months or so off.  If your work has been satisfactory, you’ll be invited to sign a new contract.

The ship’s crew does have the opportunity to get off ship in some ports some of the time.  But you can’t automatically get off at any port you choose.  It depends in part on your work schedule.  You may have to wait for a couple visits to a port before you have the free time to go ashore.

The pay on ships is very low, well below US minimum wage, but you get free room and board and share a cabin with two or three others, depending upon the ship.

You need to contact the cruise lines directly.  On their web sites you will find a link to jobs, employment, human resources or some such link that will give you information about their positions.  Some sites even have current vacancies they are recruiting for.  Please be aware that the majority of the staff does not have deck privileges, meaning that you cannot relax in the passenger areas during your down time.  To compensate, most of the cruise lines have dedicated crew areas, including dining room, bar, and in some cases a disco and a pool.

Don’t go to the web sites that advertise “cruise line jobs” because they charge a fee.  The cruise lines give you all you need without charging a fee.

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Technorati Tags: children on cruise ships, Cruise lines, cruise ship crew, cruise ship employment, cruise ships, NCL, Nickelodeon, Norwegian Jewel, Ship speed

Your Questions About Cruise Weddings And Shore Excursions

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Charles asks…

Bolongo Beach Hotel in St. Thomas USVI?

Are you familiar with this hotel (not sure if I would call it a resort)??  I’m doing my wedding through Royal Caribbean cruise lines and chose St. Thomas for the wedding location, and this is where they do it.  I have read some horrible reviews about this place, but Royal Romance assures me that this is “a beautiful property”.  PLEASE give me an honest review.

John answers:

Bolongo does a lot of weddings so they have it down pat; the beach is great, there’s surf rolling in……

Be prepared, however, because there is almost always a brisk breeze blowing. 10-15 mph is not uncommon, so you should expect veils blowing and hair flying.  The ceremony is generally held on the soft sand, so you’ll probably be barefoot.

Bolongo is not at all glitzy.  It’s an older property, a bit worn around the edges, more authentic in its way than the high profile resorts.  If that meets you expectations, then you’ll be fine.  If, however, you’re looking for something more elegant and upscale, you should look into the Ritz Carlton or Frenchman’s Reef.

Chris asks…

What are the best shore excursions on a South Caribbean Cruise?

I’m going on a South Caribbean Cruise in 2 weeks, and have noticed that numerous places where we are stopping do the activities that we would like to do. We are stopping at:

St Thomas
Dominica
Barbados
St Kitts
St Lucia
St Maarten

We would like to go zip lining and snorkeling. We are already signed up to go canyoning in Dominica, and are going to the Malibu factory and on a cave tour in Barbados. Where are the best places for zip lining and snorkeling? I’ve seen mixed reviews on the snorkeling conditions and stuff you see zip lining on the other stops.

John answers:

I did the canopy tour/zip lines in Dominica and had a great time.  I booked it independently through WackyRollers.

St. Lucia is the place to do an island tour.  There are several very reputable companies you can book with.  The tour is long and is over winding, narrow roads, however, but it is quite beautiful.

In Barbados, I did the cave tour as well, and enjoyed it very much.  We hired a taxi and negotiated an island tour with a stop at the caves included.  Another popular excursion is snorkeling with the turtles.   If your cruise doesn’t offer this as an excursion, there are private companies that will.  This can be crowded.

If you’re in St. Thomas long enough, you can go over to St. John on your own, although this is a bit involved to do.  It’s time consuming, since you have to take a ferry to and fro.  Quite beautiful, however.  The Linde Point Trail leads to two beautiful beaches, Salamon Bay Beach and Honeymoon Bay Beach, both of which are relatively uncrowded. There aren’t any facilities, however.  If you go to St. John’s, watch the time carefully, and pay attention to the ferry schedule.

In St. Maarten, we decided to break away from the pack headed to Orient Bay, and took a taxi to a small beach near tye butterfly farm.  We did try snorkeling there, but it wasn’t exceptional.

Hope that helps.

Sandy asks…

The special upcharge restaurants- please answer if you’ve eaten in one?

My sister’s wedding cruise is coming up soon.

We’re going on the Eurodam.  It has several specialty restaurants that people mentioned on cruise critic.  Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Canaletto (which had crappy reviews).  She was interested in eating at one of those first 2 on the night of her wedding.

I have never eaten at a specialty restaurant b/c I’ve liked the food in the dining room and my interesting tablemates–plus having already paid for the meals, I don’t see the reason to pay extra for a meal.

So my questions are:
1- have you eaten at a specialty restaurant?
2- which ship were you on?
3- would you recommend it?
4- why?

John answers:

Yes, I’ve eaten at the specialty restaurants on Princess, Celebrity, NCL, Royal Caribbean and Azamara.

As you can probably guess, I’m a fan.  There is a an additional fee involved, of course, but I find the overall experience worth it.  The dining room is much smaller than the main dining room and the staff is chosen from the most seasoned and skilled of the crew.  Both of these factors contribute to a much better service level than one finds in the rather frenzied atmosphere of the 1000 seat main room.  The food is also better, with the kitchen offering selections that are not available in the main room.

Now, I don’t go to a specialty restaurant every evening.  I usually limit it to once per restaurant during a cruise.  I like treating myself and I think of it as experiencing as much of the ship as I can.

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Technorati Tags: Azamara, Barbados, Bolongo Bay, Celebrity, Cruise lines, cruise ships, Cruise weddings, Dominica, Frenchman's Reef, NCL, Princess, Royal Caribbean, shore excursions, specialty restaurants, St. Thomas

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

NCL Still Likes Singles

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Studio Cabin on Norwegian Epic

Yeeesss!

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will have undoubtedly noticed that I have a particular interest in options for single cruisers.  This is, however, not a wholly altruistic penchant.  I have, on occasion, failed to take advantage of an opportunity to cruise because no one I know is in a position to travel with me.  Single supplements and the lack of camaraderie have deterred me.

I have been particularly excited by the effort Norwegian Cruise Line has made to appeal to single cruisers.  The whole “ship within a ship” environment they have created on the Epic with the studio cabins and the lounge dedicated to occupants of those cabins is very impressive.  There are few passenger ships in service with any single cabins at all, and none that come anywhere near the number that Epic has.

I’ve wondered how this would unfold.  When NCL stopped being coy last week and confirmed their order for two new ships, only slightly smaller than Epic, I anxiously watched for news about single cabins.  Information is still relatively scarce, but CEO Kevin Sheehan, in an interview in Travel Weekly, did re-affirm NCL’s commitment to single cruisers.  He is quoted as saying: “That’s a strategy that makes sense. [Singles are] an under-served group of people, and our brand meets that need. We care about that group of travellers.”

That’s good to hear.  Far too early to know how that sentiment will translate into the new ships’ designs, but encouraging nevertheless.

As an aside, one much-discussed Epic feature unlikely to be replicated on the new vessels is the peculiar scattered bathroom layout.  Excellent decision.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, cruise ship, NCL, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Epic, single cabins, single cruisers, single travelers

The Rumors Are True

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Artist Rendering of New Ship

Well, the rumors that I wrote about last month have now been confirmed.  Norwegian Cruise Line has reached an agreement with Meyer Werft to build two new ships for delivery in Spring 2013 and Spring 2014.  Coming in at 143,500 tons, the ships will be the largest built in Germany.

The contract price for the two ships is 1.2 billion euros.  NCL has estimated the passenger capacity for the ships will be 4000 double occupancy, but some industry insiders are suggesting it will be closer to 4050 passengers.  The Norwegian Epic is 9% larger than these newbuilds, but carries only 50 more passengers.  The ships’ design is said to be a bit sleeker and more traditional than the boxy Epic, but there will be less space per passenger than found on Epic.

The contract represents a major expansion for NCL, increasing passenger capacity by 30%.  This is a bit of a departure from the line’s conservative approach of recent years, and is the first new order under CEO Kevin Sheehan, who took over in 2008.

“We have always been focused on a disciplined approach to capacity growth. Our decision to add two new ships reflects the significant progress we have made in improving our operating performance and repositioning the Company over the last several years, as well as the strong market demand we are seeing for Norwegian Epic and our other ships,” said Sheehan. “Building on the incredible success and popularity of Norwegian Epic, we are taking the best of what our newest ship has to offer, as well as drawing on our legacy of innovation in the cruise industry, in creating a new class of Freestyle Cruising vessel that is sure to provide our guests with the unparalleled freedom and flexibility they have come to expect on a Norwegian cruise.”

With the Epic, Norwegian Cruise line positioned itself at the forefront of innovation in the cruise industry.  It will be interesting to watch as these two ships develop.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, cruise ship, Kevin Sheehan, Meyer Werft, NCL, newbuilds, Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Epic

Mexican Riviera Cruises In Decline

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Royal Caribbean recently announced that the 3835 passenger Mariner of the Seas will leave the Port of Los Angeles in January for its new home port of Galveston, thus ending its weekly cruises to the Mexican Riviera.  Norwegian Cruise Line had already announced last year that it will no longer offer Mexican Riviera cruises after May 2011, when the Norwegian Star is relocated to Tampa. A bit further south, Carnival moved the Elation, the only major cruise ship based in San Diego, to Mobile.

Bookings on Mexican Riviera cruises have declined 21% in the past two years.  Industry observers believe this is the result of the ongoing war between the Mexican government and the drug cartels.  Widespread coverage of the terrible violence throughout the country has made the potential passengers cautious.  Not only having bookings declined, but those who do sail have become less inclined to go on shore excursions, further reducing the ships’ revenues.

It becomes a question of economics.  Moving the ships from a port with declining revenue to one with greater potential is an obvious decision.  The cruise companies can hardly be faulted for taking these steps.

It is, however, very sad.  There are perhaps thousands of Mexican citizens in the major ports of call who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihood.  They live and work in cities which have barely been touched by the violence so prevalent in other areas.  They will, nevertheless, become indirect victims of the rampant crime.

The cruise industry won’t vanish completely from Mexican waters.  Princess Cruises has not announced a reduction in their schedule, and Disney Cruise Line is bringing a ship to California early next year.  The industry’s presence, however, will be significantly reduced.  With a reduction in ships and passengers comes a reduction in tourist dollars, and a blow to a precarious standard of living.

Technorati Tags: Carnival Cruise Line, Cruise lines, NCL, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line