Almost everyone has a bucket list of travel destinations they want to visit and most include places like Paris, Rome, New York and other major cities around the world. Why not at some nature and include some of the beautiful National Parks. Here are six do not miss National Parks in the US and Canada.
In 2024, you if you intend to travel to Europe you will need to apply for a acquire a European Travel Information and Authorization System or ETIAS for short. This will be required of citizens of the United States and Canada to be granted entry.
The allure of European river cruises lies in the seamless blend of history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Sailing through iconic waterways such as the Danube, Rhine, Seine, and Douro, these voyages offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore the heart of Europe in an intimate and luxurious setting. As the gentle current carries you through charming villages, ancient castles, and vibrant cities, a European river cruise promises an unforgettable journey of discovery and relaxation.
Princess Cruise Line has a pricing structure different from most cruise lines. They allow you to choose your experience where you can purchase the perks ahead of time at a reduced rate.. In recent years they introduced, Princess Standard, Princess Plus and Princess Premier with varying perks with each pricing category.
This week they made some changes worth noting. Up until now the OceanNow Delivery was free but for Princess Standard will now be $14.99 per person for the entire cruise. In addition, restaurants like Alfredos and Gigis were included but now have a charge. You can move up to the Princess Plus to get these items included now. Below I have broken down the different packages.
Europe, like Alaska, is one of the most popular destinations for cruising. But also like Alaska, much different from the Caribbean. Lets take a look what you need to consider when planning your European Cruise Vacation
We are now in the beginning of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season and many people will cruise over the next few months. So what do you need to know about cruising during hurricane season?
There are three typical scenarios you might encounter if your cruise is planned during this time of year. But keep in mind, the cruise line will not place you, the crew or the ship in any danger and the odds of being impacted are rare.
During a recent cruise on Royal Caribbeans Mariner of the Seas one of my ports was Cozumel Mexico. Although I have visited Cozumel a number of times this time did I something different. I visited one of the most popular attractions at this port. The Tulum ancient ruins and cenote.
Often I hear people say they will get board on a cruise out in the middle of the ocean. Well, that cannot be further from the truth. Whether you want to stay active or just relax, you will find it on a sea day. One of my favorite parts of a cruise is the sea day so lets look at what you can do.
When you cruise, you have a plethora of choices but picking the right cruise line for you is important. One of the premium cruise lines is Celebrity Cruise . Celebrity cruises the world including adventures in the Galapagos Islands. They recently received the Forbes Four Star Award for Celebrity Apex, Flora and Millenium, an award usually reserved for luxury resorts. Let's take a brief look at Celebrity.
Port days are great, we often pick our itinerary based on the ports the ship is visiting. There are some things you can do to not only make your port visit safe but fun too.
Friday Cruise News is a quick review of news from the cruise industry. This week Beetlejuice comes to cruising, Carnival opens up Firenze for bookings and Royal Caribbean removes Sky Pad.
Beetlejuice on NCL
This week Norwegian Cruise Line announced thier line up for entertainment on the new Norwegian Viva sailing in August. Headlining will be Beetlejuice the Musical. The 90 minute show will be seen in the three story multi purpose Viva theatre featuring special effects, special lighting and more. A former cast member of the broadway production, Michelle D'Amico, will play as Lidya.
Viva will also have a game show experience with the classic show, Press Your Luck. Also on board will be Improv at Sea and Syd Normans Poor House. This would be fun because it will feature music from classic rock artist like the Rolling Stones.
Carnival Opens Bookings for Firenze
This week Carnival Cruise Line opened bookings for the inaugural season on Carnival firenze, one of their newest ships. Firenze was one of three acquisitions from Costa Cruise Line including Luminosa and Venezia. They will be part of the Carnival Fun Italian Style.
Carnival Vireze will sail from Long Beach CA to the pacific coast of Mexico beginning in May 2024 through April 2025. She will sail a variety of itineraries including 5, 6 and 7 day sailings visiting Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican Rivera.
Royal Caribbean Removes Sky Pad
Royal Caribbean has decided to remove the Sky Pad attacton on the ships that feature it and replace it with as they put it, a "new versatile venue for exciting onboard activities" The transition will take place in April but no word on what the new activities will be.
Sky Pad is a trampoline where you can wear VR goggles and jump while strapped to a harness. The attraction could be found on Marner, Independence, Spectrum and Odyssey of the Seas. As of now, it looks like the big orange and yellow dome will not be removed.
Happy St Patty's Day. In the news this week, Carnival welcomes 100 millionth guest, Cunard adds silent disco and Pickleball is coming to a cruise ship near you.
100 Million Guest Milestone
On Thursday Carnival Cruise Line welcomed their 100 millionth guest on board. Carnival President Christine Duffy welcomed Debi and David Crawford from Ohio along with their family on board the Carnival Sunrise. This makes Carnival the first cruise line to sail with 100 million guest and this is not surprising as they have been sailing since 1972 when the original Mardi Gras made her debut and the fun began.
A lot more guest to come as Carnival will debut two ships this year, the brand new Carnival Jubilee sister to the new Mardi Gras and Celebration along with Carnival Venezia. Venezia is one of two ships brought to the fleet from Costa Cruise Line and will sail from New York and be part of the Carnival Fun Italian Style.
Pickleball at Sea
This week Celebrity Cruise Lines announced they will add Pickleball to nine of the ships in the fleet. A growing sport, combination of tennis, badminton and table Tennis has created a demand for this on the ships.
Celebrity will supply all the equipment but guest are free to bring their own. Courts location will vary by ship but will be open to anyone to use plus they will offer planned events and tournaments.
The ships are Celebrity Beyond, Apex, Constellation, Eclipse, Equinox, Infinity, Millenium, Solstice and Summit. Court locations will vary and most will be on the sports court. On Celebrity Beyond and Apex, guest will be able to play at the Rooftop Garden.
Cunard Adding Silent Disco
Luxury Cruise Line Cunard will add the popular silent dsco to three of their ships. QE 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2. On QE 2 and Queen Victoria it will be held the Yacht Club and QM 2 in the G32 venue.
If you are not familiar with the silent disco, its a fun event where each person gets headphones to wear and can listen to the music they wish. So you have guest dancing to different music and an observer just sees the dancing and of course those singing along. The Silent Disco is already available on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. Cunard will be the first luxury line to feature the event.
In January I sailed on Carnival Horizon on a cruise that visited Cozumel, Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. While I love Cozumel, what I was looking forward to the most was the Turtle Center in Grand Caymen. I booked a shore excursion through Carnival that included transportation to the center along with entrance fee and my transportation back to the ship. I was actually fortunate I wa able to get on it because by the time I tried to book, it was sold out. But I was able to waitlist and it cleared the night before we arrived in Grand Cayman.
The Cayman Turtle Center
The center is located about 20 to 30 minutes from the port on the north side of the island. Cayman Turtle Center opened in 1968 and has been preserving and enhancing the population of green sea turtles since. Since the 1970s. they have released over 30,000 green sea turtles info the water of Cayman and eggs on the beaches.
Grand Cayman is a tender port or as Carnival likes to call them, water shuttles. Since I am platinum on Carnival I was able to get priority shuttle so it made it easy.. The boat ride over to Grand Cayman is pretty short, maybe 10 minutes and this day was pretty smooth. After you get on land you will come to a tented area where they have the shore excursions set up, look for the person with the sign displaying the name of your excursion.
The tour was very organized with several busses going, each bus had their own color so you got a wrist band with that color. This made it easy to get on the right bus when returning. As you walk in, the tour guide gives you a run down of what you will see and how much time you have, We had about three hours total including a short tour and run down of the facility. they also talk about the breeder tanks. show you the touch tanks, talk about the lagoon and all the available facilities.
When you walk in you first come to the Breeder pools where the big turtles are. These green sea turtles can get up to 500 to 600 lbs and these were around 400lbs. There are set times where you can purchase food from a stand and feed the turtles if you wish.
Also part of the experience are the touch tanks. There was a time where you could pick up the turtles but they now just allow you to touch the shells which is pretty cool. Did you know they have nerves on their shells so they can feel it? So be mindful of making it a soft touch. You will see they have them in boxes, this is so you can reach them as they would just swim to the middle. They are just in there temporarily while a tour is in, the rest of the time they swim free in the pool.
One of my favorites parts of this experience was the snorkeling lagoon located on the property. Here I was able to swim and see green sea turtles among colorful fish and other sea lif You simply get some free snorkel equipment and set off for a swim. Its a pretty large lagoon with some areas about 4 to 5 feet deep but then the deep area is about 10 feet. If you get tired, there are areas to rest and even a couple places with ladders to get out if you wish. Its a fantastic experience and included in your admission. And don't worry, they are very docile animals wne will not bite or harm you, just don't grab them as they do have sharp beaks.
I got to see several sea turtles just hanging out but unfortunately my pictures did not turn out great. I have to get a better waterproof case for my phone or an underwater camera for these things.
On the property, you will also find bathrooms with changing rooms so no need to wear that wet bathing suit back to the ship. There is also a pool with a slide, restaurant and a gift shop. For the restaurant, expect high prices but you are at a tourist spot. I did get some items in the gift shop as the prices were not bad. Always have to get that magnet.
You are able to just simply get a cab and purchase admission to the center without taking a shore excursion. To gain full access to include the snorkeling lagoon, tickets run around $40.50 but that is as of today. You can visit the website for more details. Cayman Turtle Center.
So whether you are visiting by plane or cruise ship, I highly recommend a stop at the Cayman Turtle Center.
Happy Friday, here are a couple headlines from the week in the cruise industry.
Carnival Breaks Fundraising Record
This week Carnival announced for 2022, they have raised over $3.5 million dollars for St. Jude Children's Hospital breaking their previous record of $2.5 million dollars in 2018. Since 2010 Carnival has raised $26.2 million dollars for St. Jude through onboard fundraisers like Groove for St. Jude, Build a Bear Workshop and Cookie Packages. So next time you are on Carnival ,be sure to dance away your sea day and get your Groove For St. Jude T-Shirt.
Crystal Cruises Returns with New Name
This year Crystal Cruises returns as Crystal after it was purchased by luxury tour operator, Abercrombie and Kent. The luxury cruise line will begin service again this summer with Crystal Serenity on a 12 Day voyage from Marseille, France to Lisbon, Portugal on July, 31, 2023 and on Sept 1, 2023, Crystal Symphony will say 7 day voyages from Athens, Greece to Istanbul, Turkey.
Bookings will open for select passengers and past guest on February 13 and to the General Public on February 22, 2023. Leading up to the relaunch, Crystal will renovate their ships reducing guest capacity and upgrading the fine touches.
Checking in online for your cruise has become just part of the booking process. Every cruise line will require you to complete your check in either on the website or the app. So what will you need?
If you are using a passport, you will need to enter the document number, place of issue, issue date and expiration date. If using a birth certificate and DL, you will just check that off.
Emergency Contact Information
The cruise line will want you to provide a name and phone number of someone they can contact in the case of an emergency. Just be sure to make that person aware you have used their name and phone number
Credit Card for Onboard Expenses
You will set up your onboard expenses by adding a credit card to your account. Each person can have their own account or one card for all in the stateroom. If you want, you can use cash but you will need to visit Guest Services once you board to do so. I recommend you set up with a card and change it out to cash sometime during the cruise. Guest Services can be quite busy on the first day.
This could just be asking how you will arrive but may ask for flight times if you are flying in the same day.
Choose an Arrival Time
Over the past few years, the cruise lines have found a way to manage the number of passengers arriving at the port. You will get to choose your check in time, usually in 30 minute blocks. The earlier you complete your check in the better time you get. Of course, cruise line status can provide earlier times. Be mindful of this time because you will not be allowed into the terminal prior to that time.
Photo of You
Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will have you upload a photo to allow for quicker check in at the port. For this, I would recommend you complete your check in on the app so its easier to take a photo.
Sign the Passenger Contract
Whether you realize it or not, you do acknowledge a passenger contract at the end of the check in process. Most people brush by it but take a look, you might learn something.
Print Boarding Passes and Luggage Tags
Once your check in is complete, you can print your luggage tags and either print or download to your phone your boarding pass. Keep in mind, if anything changes like your cabin number or passenger information, you will need to re print these.
I have a passion for travel and believe travel is about experiences. Experiences create memories and are the stories we tell to friends and family - even with a little fudging on the facts.