Cruise Guide: Top ten reasons to book your cruise today

Cruising is all about choices without worry. You can choose to relax by the pool, partake in the poolside games, pull up a seat next to the buffet or just do nothing. It’s all up to you. Photo by Matt Roseboom
Cruising is all about choices without worry. You can choose to relax by the pool, partake in the poolside games, pull up a seat next to the buffet or just do nothing. It’s all up to you. Photo by Matt Roseboom

By Matt Roseboom

cruiseguideheadersmallAnytime is a great time to take a cruise, but with the economy the way it is, now’s an especially great time to start planning your next cruise. The deals are unheard of. You’ll find bargains ranging from free excursions to bringing kids for free, to just great prices.
If great deals aren’t enough to convince you, here are the top ten reasons to book a cruise. Continue reading “Cruise Guide: Top ten reasons to book your cruise today”

Cruise Guide: Blushing brides beam aboard Star Flyer

Star Flyer, one of three vessels in the Star Clipper’s fleet, features a host of Tahiti itineraries in 2009. Image courtesy Star Clippers
Star Flyer, one of three vessels in the Star Clipper’s fleet, features a host of Tahiti itineraries in 2009. Image courtesy Star Clippers

By Michael Coleman

cruiseguideheadersmallCost-conscious honeymooners take note: Your ship has come in.

Star Flyer, one of three ships in the Star Clipper’s fleet, not only will be offering the beauty and romance of Tahiti in 2009, but lucky brides will now receive 50 percent off the cruise fare. Continue reading “Cruise Guide: Blushing brides beam aboard Star Flyer”

Cruise Guide: Celebrity to offer wedding vow renewal packages

By Michael Coleman

With a host of romantic destinations serving as a backdrop, guests aboard Celebrity Cruises might want to consider renewing their wedding vows on an upcoming sailing. 

The line, in partnership with The Wedding Experience, offers two packages.

“Vow renewals are the perfect romantic gift for spouses to give each other, or the ultimate celebration for family and friends traveling with them to commemorate their anniversary,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity’s vice president of fleet operations.

The “True Love Knot Renewal” includes a ceremony officiated by the ship’s captain in an intimate location onboard the ship, commemorative vow renewal certificate signed by the captain, recorded ceremony music, floral bouquet for the bride, matching boutonniere for the groom, photography services, a bottle of champagne, two engraved champagne flutes, cake for two, and breakfast designed by Celebrity’s Master Chef Michel Roux, delivered to the couple’s stateroom.

Celebrity’s “Aisle to Isle Renewal Ceremony” includes a ceremony led by a shipboard official, recorded ceremony music, bottle of champagne, cake for two, commemorative vow renewal certificate, long-stemmed rose for the bride, matching boutonniere for the groom and photography service.

Each ceremony can be customized further, according to officials, with such a la carte options as receptions, live music, salon appointments and more.

The packages are offered through the line’s “Celebrity Weddings” program, and can either be arranged prior to sailing, or, for the incurable romantic, renewal vows can be arranged onboard by visiting the ship’s event coordinator.

Celebrity Cruises offers five-star dining and a sophisticated, upscale cruise experience aboard its nine-ship fleet.

Look to say “I do” when it comes to Celebrity voyages in Alaska, Bermuda, California, Caribbean, Europe, Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal or South America.

The line will begin sailing in Australia and New Zealand in 2007.

Cruise Guide: Princess helps couples tie-the-knot at sea

By Michael Coleman

Tying the knot at sea is as old as cruising itself. Gentle ocean breezes and picture-perfect sunsets put many a couple in the mood to say “I Do.”

Whether sailing off the coast of an idyllic Tahitian island, cruising the Amazon or exchanging vows in the sun-drenched Caribbean, what’s not to like about getting married at sea?

Crew members at Princess Cruises have just upped the ante, making it even easier for would-be brides and grooms to walk the aisle with an expanded “Tie the Knot At Sea” wedding program on all 15 of their ships.

 Offered originally on the line’s larger vessels – those with formal wedding chapels – the romantic option is now available aboard Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Sea Princess, Regal Princess, Pacific Princess and Tahitian Princess. The ships have all been reflagged to a Bermuda registry, the authority under which each marriage is legally certified. 

“Our wedding program not only gives couples the opportunity to be married by the captain, but they can also customize the wedding of their dreams,” said Jan Swartz, Princess’ senior vice president of customer service and sales. 

“We joined about 1,000 couples in matrimony last year with only part of our fleet involved in the program. Now, every ship in our fleet can offer weddings – including those that sail to some very exotic worldwide destinations.” 

The line’s wedding-at-sea program began in 1998 with the launch of Grand Princess and has grown each year, said Swartz.

Princess offers a variety of ceremony options, including, on larger vessels, an onboard wedding chapel decorated in flowers and candlelight for the special day. Other romantic shipboard locations are available, as well, and ceremonies include a number of special touches that bring together the talents of the ship’s chefs, musicians and photographers.
Each wedding includes live music, champagne, bridal bouquet and groom’s matching boutonniere, a photo package with canvas portrait, a wedding cake, a souvenir wedding certificate and the services of Princess’ onboard wedding coordinators to make sure the day runs smoothly.

The happy couple can also customize their event with a variety of food and beverage, floral, photography and video choices. They can also choose to add pre-ceremony spa treatments for the bride or take advantage of the ship’s tuxedo rental program for the groom, among a host of other options.

Of course, once the ceremony and reception are over, the honeymoon cruise is just beginning. Couples can enjoy the start of their married life lounging in a tropical paradise, visiting a cosmopolitan city or just spending time together on their own private balcony.

Not ready to get hitched just yet?

Princess is also offering a new “Engagement Under the Stars” package where couples can enjoy movie-star status when they agree to tie the knot. Men, or women, can pop the question with a personal video proposal shown on a giant, 300-square-foot outdoor LED movie screen on select vessels – Crown Princess, Caribbean Princess, Grand Princess, Sea Princess and Emerald Princess scheduled to debut in April 2007.

They’ll also enjoy a special romantic dinner, amenities, and keepsake items to remember the special, at-sea engagement.

Could the line’s wedding package and honeymoon cruise be far behind?

Cruise Guide: D.C. power couple to pontificate at sea

By Michael Coleman

Political junkies need not worry about missing the latest election news from home while sailing abroad this summer.

The husband and wife tandem of James Carville and Mary Matalin, Democratic and Republican political commentators respectively, will share their insights during Crystal Cruises’ 12-day voyage from Rome to London, beginning August 19.

As co-hosts and guests of television’s most popular political talk shows, Carville and Matalin have captivated audiences with their wit, passion and contrasting political viewpoints. The couple will also discuss new projects and experiences representing opposite sides of the political spectrum, both in front of and behind the camera. 

The cruise aboard the luxurious 940-guest, 50,000 ton Crystal Symphony departs from Rome’s port of Civitavecchia for Livorno/Florence, Monte Carlo, St. Tropez, Barcelona, Lisbon, Bordeaux (overnight), Guernsey, and London. 

 

Fall splendor via the Big Apple 

Crystal will also be offering a number of round-trip voyages from New York, September through October, aboard Crystal Symphony. As part of its 2006 New England and Canada season, look for five destination-rich itineraries including a new 11-day and two new seven-day round-trip departures from The Big Apple, as well as two 11-day itineraries between New York and Montreal. 

The season begins with two new week-long itineraries departing from New York on September 14 and 21. Included are visits to Newport, Rhode Island; Boston, Massachusetts (overnight); Bar Harbor, Maine; and, Halifax, Nova Scotia. The new 11-day cruise, also from New York, departs on October 20 and features a call at Quebec City and scenic cruising of the Saguenay River. 

At the heart of Crystal’s New England and Canada season are two 11-day cruises journeying into the heart of French Quebec, each showcasing a maiden port of call for the line. From New York on September 28, Crystal Symphony visits Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston and Newport, calling on the maiden port of La Baie des Ha Ha, Canada; spending a full day in Quebec City; and, ultimately arriving in for an overnight stay in Montreal. The October 9 departure from Montreal features the same itinerary with a maiden call at St. John, New Brunswick. 

 

By the numbers 

Who’s cruising nowadays? The statistics may surprise you. 

According to the latest figures released by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) – the marketing arm of many of the world’s leading cruise lines – cruisers average 49 years of age, with above average incomes ($104,000 household per year). They are typically married (83%), have college educations (57%) and are commonly employed full time (57%). On their last cruise they typically sailed with their spouse (79%) for about 6.2 days and spent approximately $1,690 per person for their cruise and onboard expenses (not including airfare). 

More than half (56%) took their first cruise in or after 1999. When choosing vacations, cruisers are influenced by multiple sources, especially word-of-mouth referrals (38%), spouses (35%), cruise websites (30%) and travel agents (12%). 

The Internet is an important information tool for cruisers, but is not yet considered an attractive booking tool. While 86 percent of cruisers indicate that they would consider using the Internet for planning purposes less than half (49%) would be very comfortable booking a cruise through the Internet. 

Most still book through travel agents, according to CLIA.

Cruise Column: Planning is the key to a successful cruise vacation

By Mike Coleman

It’s official.

You’ve booked that long-awaited cruise vacation but are now wondering what you should do prior to departure. What will life really be like on board, you ask, and will it be worth it? ¨¨For first time passengers guests in some circles – these nagging questions coupled with pre-trip jitters are understandable. Over the next few weeks, however, the Cruise Guide will ease your stress levels by exploring the best way to plan and make the most out of your first – or 10th – cruise vacation.

Packing

Before departing, pack wisely. Do you really need three sweaters on a Caribbean cruise? Assess itineraries, even check weather conditions in advance, and pack accordingly. It’s a good rule of thumb when a flight is involved to at least check some bags while also taking a carry-on bag with you. Pack essential toiletries – toothpaste, toothbrush, medications, deodorant, makeup – to get you through the day and night in the event your luggage is misplaced.

Also, if you’re traveling with a spouse or kids, or both, put some of your clothes in your spouse’s suitcase, and vice versa, in case some luggage is lost by the airlines or cruise lines. That way, you’ll at least have another outfit to wear besides the clothes on your back if your suitcase ends up in Lima while you are arriving in London.

Remember, most of the major cruise ships, particularly on week-long voyages, have one formal night so don’t forget to bring that great dress, tuxedo (or dark business suit) and dress clothes for the youngsters if they are joining you.

Pack comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for casual nights on board and shore excursions. Sandals really don’t work for long walking tours in specific ports. On the flip side, if your cruise features island hopping and beaches, leave the sneakers behind.
 
Patience is a virtue

If you’re flying to a cruise terminal, make sure that the cruise line either provides a transfer to the ship from the airport (it might be included in the cost of your cruise fare) or will help you make arrangements to take a taxi or shuttle from the airport to the cruise terminal.

If you’re driving to a cruise terminal, take a moment to make a mental note where exactly you’ve parked the car. In all the excitement of finally arriving at the terminal, and seeing the ship in living color, you’d be surprised how many passengers forget the name of the garage or level in which they’ve parked their vehicle.

The best way to make the most of your cruise experience, however, rests with how well you handle waiting in line, especially on embarkation (getting on the ship) and disembarkation (getting off the ship) days.

Let’s face it, travel can be stressful and no one likes to wait in line. The cruise lines do everything they can to speed up the check-in/check-out process, but with additional measures in place to ensure your safety and security and the fact perhaps a few thousand people are taking the same voyage on the same day at the same time, patience is a virtue.