The art of cruising

Great  expectations for newbie cruisers

First cruise?  Here’s what’s in store:

An exhilarating experience. Fresh sea air, wind in your hair, leaving woes behind in the wake, completely relaxing.

Better way to see new ports without having to catch planes and re-pack often.

Cuisine you may have never tasted before. (Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven  Seas, Oceania).

Diving off the back of a ship into the water (Windstar, Seabourn, SeaDream).

Eating as much and whenever you want (Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven  Seas, SeaDream).

Fitness options such as gyms, jogging tracks, paddle all, golf, swimming, exercise classes—on every ship worth its salt.

Great days at sea with never ending activities fro Bingo to disco.

Heavenly spa treatments, for an extra fee on Cunard Queen Mary 2 Canyon Ranch Spa, Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess.

Islands in the sun (cruises to the Caribbean, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Fiji).

Love it’s not call  the Love Boat (re: popular Princess Cruises TV series) for nothing. It’s all around you on a cruise. You just need to sidle up to the bar, put your lips together and blow.

WiFi to keep you connected, although it doesn’t often move too fast or at all depending on the ship’s position at sea. Sometimes you’ll just have

Pick, plan, put it together on Cruiseable.com

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Picking a cruise that suits your personality

Passenger Profiling

Ever wonder what your fellow shipmates will be like and if you’ll  gel? I’ve got you covered

By Patti Pietschmann

us at captain's partyWhether you’re a virgin cruiser or veteran seafarer trying a new cruise line you might wonder what your shipmates will be like.  This is especially true if you’re on a ship with assigned dining and  might be sitting at a table with strangersm(we always ask for a table for two).  So I’ve curated a  passenger profiling list based  400 cruises (yup, been covering the industry since I graduated from college) and reflects  the personal observations of my first mate Richard and I:

Carnival paradise and freedom in Grand CaymanCarnival: The Fun Ships no longer attract only younger passengers onboard mostly to party and go on active shore excursions. You’ll still find lots of energetic revelry around the swimming pools and in the bars, but families and the middle-aged are now in the mix. These ships are where you will find Middle America; what you won’t find are dedicated foodies.

Celebrity : This fleet of upscale ships attracts a mixed bag of millennials, the middle-aged and seniors who tend to be great fans of the fun and food  Celebrity provides. Passengers are likely to be better-traveled and more global than most mass-market lines aimed primarily at North Americans.

Costa:  This line credits itself as being “Italian’ but much of the crew hail from other parts of the world. Still the product rings true of Italy via cuisine, Italian captains and ambiance. A large segment of the passengers are from abroad.  Most of them are 55 and older, veteran cruisers who generally join in the activities with gusto. A regular Toga Party garners lots of attendance with passengers doing Roman-style garb.

cunardCunard:  Cunard’s famous Queens appeal to older, wiser, more sedate passengers, although the summer Atlantic crossings between New York City and Southampton also attract younger Sloane Rangers and other sophisticates who are anything but stuffy. You likely will encounter a high percentage of passengers from the British Commonwealth, who will carry on the tradition of dressing for dinner. You will also encounter one of the last bastions of the British class system at sea, with portions of the ship off limits to the hoi polloi.

IMG_0054Crystal:  Most of your shipmates on the two medium-size ships of this globe-trotting line will be 45 years-old and above, well-traveled and well off, and appreciative of the line’s reputation for outstanding food and service. You will find many repeat passengers who know the ropes and wouldn’t think of switching allegiances to another cruise line. This loyal clientele eagerly attends the lectures, seminars, computer classes and shows that the line works hard to provide. Although passengers tend to be upscale, there isn’t a whiff of pretension.

Disney:  what can we say? The passengers (mostly couples with young children) who flock to sail with Mickey and Minnie are staunch fans of everything Disney. They buy out the gift shop during the first days at sea, don logo tee-shirts, Mouse ears and go gung ho on the theme. For the most part Disney fans are not sophisticated travelers. Most are from Middle America but there is a sprinkling of foreigners.

Holland America:  Most of the passengers on the HAL cruises I have been on (though none in a while) were older, reserved, dedicated to the line and relatively undemanding regarding food and drink. They know what they want and they know that they like the consistent product that Holland America gives them.

MSC Cruises:  untested waters for me, research indicates that this Swiss-based line attracts  many Europeans along with Americans. Demographics include couples, families (children under 18 sharing a cabin with two adults cruise for free) and single passengers. Average age is 50 and older.

Norwegian:  it’s been eons since sailing on one of these budget ships and the line’ s come along way since then.  It continues, however, to attract a lot of firs-time, young cruisers, couples and friends sharing staterooms.  You won’t find foodies flocking to the fleet, but you will find plenty of party animals and very active seafarers.

marina photoOceania: Passengers on Oceania’s ships love the food and the far-flung itineraries the line offers. Many have cruised dozens of times with Oceania and wouldn’t sail on any other line, which prides itself on affordable luxury. Your fellow passenger will be middle-aged or above and confident in his or her choice.

Paul Gauguin:  this spiffy little ship that has the market cornered on French Polynesia, attracts water babies and arty adventurous passengers who appreciate nature and the beauty  of this part of the world.  They are usually sophisticated younger than average, well-dressed and love fine food, beach activities and culture. While most passengers are from the US (many lot from California) you will find some French, German and Italians on board.  Many who sail on PG spend a few days before or after the cruise in a port such as Bora Bora or Papeete.

Princess Cruises:  You’ll find every type of passenger on this line—wide-eyed first cruisers to those who already know the maître d’ and have sailed with the company dozens of times. The line’s big ships offer endless activities and options and a popular shore excursion program.  Expect more fellow guests  over 50 than under 30, lots of Californians (the line is headquartered outside Los Angeles), and a tolerant attitude toward dress and decorum.

Regent Seven Seas:  As with its sister company, Oceania, foodies and gourmets flock to the many restaurants on each of the line’s upmarket cruise ships. RSS’s similarly loyal, nicely put-together clientele comes from all over the world; if there’s a type, it is well to do. They enjoy the line’s luxury and worldwide itineraries and all-inclusive pricing, and if you don’t mind paying for it, you will too.

Royal Caribbean:  this mainstream cruise line attracts  aa similar segment of seafarers as Princess and Holland America.  During the summer there will be lots of families. The rest of year you’ll find a mixed bag of mostly middle class folks.  Passengers are fairly well cruised who  sail on these ships more for the ports and entertainment then say the food (which is often good but not usually exceptional).

DSCN0972Seabourn:  Passengers on the smaller, stylish ships of Seabourn tend to the chic, the sophisticated, and the international. Country club is the prevailing style of the moneyed leisure class that dotes on Seabourn’s easy luxury, excellent food, relaxed ambience and inclusive pricing and find it exactly what they want.  They tend to be repeaters who have been there, done that and have the funds to do more of it. Meet them in the bar and you’ll find most as friendly as they are accomplished.

36c16-ships2bin2bst-2bkittsSilversea:  Shipboard mates will be similar to those you will find sailing on the other premium small-ship lines that offer inclusive pricing—well-dressed, discerning and, because the line is Italian-owned, more of them may be European. They gravitate to Silversea for the food, varied itineraries, and the Italian-owned line’s refined cachet. The Bar, the convivial center of the ships, is where passengers meet before dinner.

056Windstar (photo by Glenn Bozarth): This fleet of mastered sailing ships attract young to middle-age, upscale adventurers who go for the wide variety (and convenient) selection of watersports from diving to snorkeling. Although they prefer being in the water, they love the lure of the wind-propelled sail and the fine food served on board.

 Tips for making friends:

Passengers tend to mingle more on upscale ships where drinks at the bar are free.  This isn’t because of the comps, but rather it reduces that awkward pause when you’re with people you just met and the check comes.

Also like-minded passengers tend to gravitate toward each other.  Say you take a snorkel or biking tour. You’ll notice back on board that the people who were along with be more friendly to you. The same goes for cultural tours etc.

Don’t barge in on passengers when they are sitting down to dinner, especially couples, unless invited. That’s okay at the bars but not the dining venues.

 

 

 

 

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What makes cruises so appealing — everything fro A to Z

Great expectations

By Patti Pietschmann

 

First cruise?  Here’s what’s in store:

An exhilarating experience. Fresh sea air, wind in your hair, leaving woes behind in the wake,d0e60-decksofasitting in a lounge chair on Crystal Serenity or Symphony.

Better way to see new ports without having to catch planes and re-pack often.b3b88-img_0951

Cuisine you may have never tasted before. (Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven  Seas, Oceania).d0a36-vitello2btonnato2bla2bterraza

Diving off the back of a ship into the water (Windstar, Seabourn, SeaDream).

Eating as much and whenever you want (Crystal

 

CruisesSeabournSilverseaRegent Seven  Seas, SeaDream).

Fitness options such as gyms, jogging tracks, paddle all, golf, swimming, exercise classes—on every ship worth its salt.

 

Great days at sea with never ending activities fro Bingo to disco. Heavenly spa treatments, for an extra fee on Cunard Queen Mary 2 Canyon Ranch Spa, Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess.

Islands in the sun (cruises to the Caribbean, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Fiji).manava hotel

 e0a08-ship2bshot2bserenity
Dining in penthouse suite on Crystal Serenity

Love it’s not call  the Love Boat (re: popular Princess Cruises TV series) for nothing. It’s all around you on a cruise. You just need to sidle up to the bar, put your lips together and blow.

Money matters cash isn’t tendered on ships. A credit card account is set up for you on embarkation day for which you can charge drinks, spas, boutique buys, shore excursions and the like.  If you’re watching your budget, charge carefully, the tab can skyrocket.

Outfits the cruise line web site will advise you of any wardrobe preferences. All ships are casual by day, especially on deck,  evening options vary from sea to port days, but some like Cunard‘s Queens are always dressy at night. Always look presentable.

 

Snorkel excursion
 

Formal wear
 73d94-ruby2bprincess2bin2bgrand2bturk
  The Ruby Princess

WiFi to keep you connected, although it doesn’t often move too fast or at all depending on the ship’s position at sea. Sometimes you’ll just have go ashore and use a cybercafe.  Check with your cruise line to see if Internet is included and if not what packages are available to purchase. By all means pop for  a package, the rates per minute are pretty pricey.

Indulge in the wild wonders of Carnival in Rio on Silversea’s new mystical Muse

museOne of my most memorable experiences was a cruise to Rio de Janeiro that began with a fast flight from Miami on the since defunct Concord,  and included three booze-soaked, fun filled days attending Carnival. The cruise line, which is long gone, had secured tickets to the balls for passengers to attend. It was surreal with people partying day and night, scantily-clad carioca women dancing on tables, and many next morning hangovers.

Although a flight on the SST is no longer on the table, you can indulge in the wild wonders of Carnival in Rio on Silversea’s new, super sonic Muse which is heading south from Fort Lauderdale on a 69-day Grand Voyage on Jan, 3, 2018. The spiffy vessel will completely circumnavigate South America, visiting 34 ports in 14 countries, while experiencing the mystery and pulsating rhythm of this vast continent on an intimate, ultra-luxury voyage that is Simply Divine™.

The  Grand Voyage 2018 combines the luxury of sailing aboard an intimate, elegant ship with the excitement of discovering fascinating destinations. Highlights include a crossing of the Panama Canal, cruising Chile’s majestic fjords, a three-day stopover in Rio de Janeiro in time for Carnival, plus overnight calls in Valparaiso, Punta Arenas, Buenos Aires, and Manaus, nestled in the heart of the Amazon.

“Grand Voyage 2018 is perfectly tailored to travelers who have the time and passion to indulge in travel on a grand scale. It combines adventure and immersive cultural experiences with leisurely days wrapped in the exquisite luxury and impeccable service of our beautiful new Silver Muse,” said Mark Conroy, Silversea’s managing director for the Americas.  As usual passengers will enjoy free drinks from Champagnes and cognacs an beyond, have tips covered, get transportation in ports,  and savor culinary experiences. Through Silversea’s association with Slow Food Italy, a selection of Ark of Taste products, such as Ecuador’s Nacional cacao, Peru’s native potatoes, Chile’s Merkén chili peppers, and sugarcane products from Santa Rita, Brazil, will be sourced locally by Silversea chefs to introduce guests to the remarkable flavors of these cultural treasures, which are being catalogued by the Ark of Taste to help ensure their preservation.

Exclusive Added-Value Benefits

In addition to a gala Bon Voyage dinner and overnight stay at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Fort Lauderdale on January 2; a unique “Panama Hat Party” event at the Montecristi Golf Club in Manta, Ecuador on January 12, showcasing the talents of local artisans; and a box-seat view of the Carnival Winners’ Parade at the Sambadrome in Rio on February 17, full-voyage guests will enjoy a generous array of benefits, including:

–$2,000 Onboard Spending Credit (per suite)

–Free unlimited Wi-Fi

–Baggage valet service

–Visa service (U.S., Canada and select markets)

–Commemorative gifts

Fares for Grand Voyage 2018 start at $36,955 per guest, based on double occupancy. For further information and the complete itinerary, please visit Silversea.com/destinations/grand-voyages-cruise/grand-voyage-2018-south-america.

 

Jacques-Michel Costeau to join three Crystal Cruise voyages

Serenity in Grand Turk photo by Richard Pietschmann

Explore  the mysteries of the deep with Jacques-Michel Cousteau, the first son of the great master of the sea  Jacques-Yves Cousteau on  one of a pair of   cruises on Crystal Serenity this spring and fall, or an expedition sailing on the boutique yacht, Crystal Esprit.  Cousteau will be on board those voyages to share his  expertise of the sea gained from decades as a leading explorer and conservationist, working in defense of the planet’s oceans. Learn more about Jean-Michel Cousteau by viewing the video we found on YouTube.

The   geographically diverse voyages take place:

  • May 24 on Crystal Serenity’s “Hawaiian Havens” sailing the warmer regions of the Pacific Ocean. 
  • October 27 on an  “Amazon Escape” that explores the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Old Bahama Channel.
  •  November 19 on Crystal Esprit’s West Indies voyage sailing round-trip from Marigot Bay through the deep Caribbean. 

As a company, we call the waterways of this planet our home, and as such, are honored to welcome Mr. Cousteau for the first time aboard our ships to offer a glimpse into his fascinating work,” says Crystal Chairman, CEO and president Edie Rodriguez. “The sea is truly his heritage and he has dedicated his life to protecting it. It is an extraordinary opportunity for our inquisitive guests to learn from Mr. Cousteau as they travel the seas together.

  In addition to lectures tailored to the region of each sailing, Cousteau will offer interactive and engaging presentations discussing his father’s legend and his own legacy, as well as insights into ocean life that most captivates him, including the delicate balance of the roles of orcas and sharks. He will explain the connection between the oceans and everything else on the planet,present his newest film, which features images captured by Cousteau for the first time in his 60+ years of diving. Cousteau, who is the founder of the Ocean Futures Society, will also enlighten travelers about his extensive environmental and conservation efforts.

 If you are interested better book soon, knowing the Crystal clienetele, these will sell out fast. Contact a travel professional, call 888-799-2437, or visit Crystal’s website, www.crystalcruises.com . Follow the Crystal Cruises’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/crystalcruises and @crystalcruises on Twitter and Instagram. Engage in the conversation with #crystalcruises.

Unfamiliar with Crystal Cruises? Let me tell you, its ships are  amazing with gorgeous appointments, butlers tending to Penthouse deck passengers, free flowing wines and spirits, paid gratuities and even fee WiFi packages. Not to mention superior cuisine, a fantastic free Computer University at Sea for brushing for learning PC and mobile device skills, and seamless service.

Free wines and spirits

Fine food 

Setting sail on a magical Alaska cruise

Regent Seven Seas stylish Mariner surpassed expectations

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I knew we were in for a fabulous time on our Alaska cruise, especially since we were familiar with Regent Seven Seas attention to detail and passenger comfort. The 700-passenger actually exceeded expectations, and I mean it even as a guest of the cruise line.

The Alaska cruise began in Anchorage where we boarded a ship’s shuttle bus to ward, Alaska–a 2 1/2 scenic drive that we hadn’t actually looked forward to  doing since we had to get up at 3 a.m. to catch a 6:15 a.m. Delta flight that would stop in Seattle first.  It was worth it. The seven day cruise ended in Vancouver, British Colombia with mesmerizing scenery of icebergs, glaciers and rain forests combined with all the heavenly comforts of luxurious 700-passenger Regent Seven Seas Mariner. While the Mariner sports an inviting swimming pool few have dared to dive in as baby it’s cold outside. But there are two well-used Jacuzzi’s and a spa with steam and saunas to keep us warm. There is also delicious food to comfort the body and soul and much more, read the first entry here. The many splendors on board the feisty Mariner– from exceptional dining to luxurious appointments–aside Alaska takes the spot light. So follow along on the first three days with stops at the Hubbard Glacier and Sitka by the slideshow photos that are worth a million words especially from America’s Last Frontier.

Embarkation in Seward on the spiffy 700-passenger, 48,075-ton Mariner, that was stylishly refurbished in 2014 , was seamless with glasses of Champagne  proffered as we boarded. Stewards escorted us to our  suite  (the ships is the first all suite, all balcony vessel built in 2001). Our deluxe Veranda suite  805 measures 301 square-feet including balcony. It’s furnished with desk, vanity, king bed, flat screen TV, walk-in closet, lots of drawers, mini-fridge stocked with free beverages, robes, slippers, hair dryer, sofa, and table.

The Hubbard Glacier, pictured below, was one of the highlights of this trip.

hubbard deck shotRegent Seven Seas fares are the most all-inclusive offered which translates into all tips covered, most shore excursions, select wines and Champagnes, top shelf spirits, and all meals even in alternative dining venues such as Signatures and Prime7.

The RSSC Mariner runs smoothly and fairly seamlessly with an accommodating suite crew. Sailing on her in Alaska sitting on your balcony you might catch a bald eagle majestically gliding in the sky or a whale or two. Today in Sitka we are heading off on a bicycle/walking tour so come back for a report on that plus more about cruising Alaska on the gorgeous not so ancient Mariner.

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The RSSC Mariner is manned by the company’s first female captain Serena Melani (pictured above) from Livorno, Italy who is did a fine job slowly gliding the ship up close and personal to the 400 to 700 year-old Hubbard Glacier (feature to come next on this amazing Ice Age formation) and into Sitka, yesterday and Juneau today, June 25. The vessel debuted in 2001 and was spiffed up stylishly in 2014. She sports all suites each with balconies, spa by Canyon Ranch, fitness center, large pool, Jacuzzi, four dinner venues, 24-hour room-service, very attractive bars ad lounges, and deck sports as well as indoor fun, shows and lectures. I wrote  this while on the ship with my laptop on top of a desk, where it was all week so I could post stories on websites and social networks.  Richard, my  first mate, and I shared  deluxe veranda 805 which is appointed with a desk, vanity, king bed, big bathroom with sink and shower, flat screen TV, free movies on TV and DVD, one free unlimited WiFi hookup per cabin meaning just one passenger gets to go on line without a fee and only one device at a time–much to the chagrin of a few passengers who nearly incited a cyber mutiny when they learned the service wasn’t free for everyone in their suite.

Cruise lines canceling Turkish itineraries due to spate of terrorist attacks

In the wake of a series of terrorist attacks in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey, cruise  lines are eliminating stops  in the country and substituting them with Greek islands. Ataturk Airport.  Crystal Cruises,              serenity     Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and other companies announced earlier this year that their ships wouldn’t be visiting Turkish ports in 2016. Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises recently said that they had canceled stops in Turkey for 2017. Last week Windstar Cruises announced  it would be eliminating Istanbul on 16 cruise itineraries and replace it with Athens (Piraeus), Greece. The cruise line will also substitute Kalmnos and Nafplio Greece for Kusadasi and Bodrum, Turkey. Learn more about these changes on the Windstar Cruises official website. Ships may not be stopping in Turkey for a longtime which is a shame because the country has so much to offer.
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Celebrity Cruises also posted on its official website that the cruise line would be canceling all of the upcoming stops in Istanbul, and replacing them with stops in Athens, Greece. In total, seven sailings over the next five months will be impacted. If you are scheduled to sail from Istanbul or on a cruise that is scheduled to stop at Turkish ports be sure to contact the cruise line. Most likely you will get a notification if there have been port changes.