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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 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

Bitchin’ and Moanin’

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Oasis Of The Seas

I saw a news item yesterday that left me scratching my head.

In May, in the midst of a Nassau – St. Thomas – St. Martin sailing, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Of The Seas was forced to return to Nassau to search for a missing crew member.  The focus soon shifted to the fear that the crew member had attempted suicide by jumping off the ship. The Oasis and her crew then spent an additional 12 hours with the Coast Guard searching for the missing crewman.

By the time the search had been called off, too much time had been lost for the Oasis to make its call in St. Thomas.  In compensation, Royal Caribbean offered the passengers a future cruise credit, $200 for adults and $100 for children.

Apparently, some of the passengers professed to be so traumatized by the tragedy that they couldn’t bear the thought of going on another cruise.  Instead, they countered with the suggestion that they be offered a lower on board credit as compensation.  Royal Caribbean correctly responded by reminding these passengers that the situation was not one under their control, and they had both a moral and legal obligation to adhere to the Coast Guard’s instructions.  In fairness to all passengers, the gesture of good will had to be the same for everyone.

Now here’s where I’m a bit perplexed.  A member of that crew looked into an abyss, saw no hope, and decided that taking his own life was preferable to living another day.  This is a level of despair that I can’t emotionally understand.  It is a great human tragedy.  Witnessing the search must have been heart-rending.  I can understand that some might feel, in the moment, that the association of this tragedy with cruises would preclude all thought of a future cruise.

Not so traumatized, however.  Some of the passengers still managed to manage their grief long enough to attempt to negotiate a compensation package more to their liking.  And apparently they’re still fussing and fuming about it.

Seriously?

Technorati Tags: cruise ship, Nassau, Oasis of th Seas, Royal Caribbean, ship board compensation

What’s Your rush? Stay a While Longer

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Brilliance of the Seas

After a successful test run on board Splendour of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas in the summer of 2009, Royal Caribbean has decided to extend their late departure program to all their ships sailing in Europe.  For a fee of $35 for adults and $17.50 for children 3 to 17 (free for children under 3) departing guests may stay on board their ship until 90 minutes before the next sailing.

Guests will still have to place their luggage outside their stateroom the night before, and will have to leave their stateroom by 9AM.  Not all restaurants and services will be open, but guests will be abe to use the pool, spa and fitness center, eat in the Windjammer Cafe, and relax in any of the public lounges.  Complimentary lemonade, iced tea, water or coffee (specialty coffee excluded), as well as sodas for guests who purchased a Beverage Package for their cruise will be avaialble.  On select ships, drinks may be purchased at the bars with a credit card.

Passengers will be able to purchase the option under shore excursions on Royal Caribbean’s website.  In addition to the two test vessels, the program will be available on Independence of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Vision of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.

I think this is a great option.  I’ve spent many hours at airports after having been hustled off the ship at 8AM for a 1PM flight.  Often there simply isn’t enough time to do a shore excursion before a flight, but more than enough time to sit in an uncomfortable seat at the airport.  How much nicer it would be to relax on the ship for just a little longer.

Technorati Tags: europe cruises, late departure, Royal Caribbean