Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Live Out Your Years on a Cruise Ship

There was an article today in Fox News Online and a number of other newspapers that an elderly woman is spending $164, 000 a year to live on the Crystal Cruises Serenity ship.  I think it's a brilliant way to retire in your later years.  Her husband had died, according to the article, and she sold her 5 bedroom Ft. Lauderdale home (which included 10 acres) and continued her cruising life.  Lee Wachtstetter and her husband had cruised many times over there 50 year marriage.  89 cruises to be exact before he passed away.  He told her to continue to cruise and so she now resides on cruise ships.  

With the high cost of assisted living, wouldn't it make sense to wake up to the sea and the breezes?  To go into port or not, but to be waited on constantly, dine like a queen and be in permanent residence on a ship? Think of the entertainment at your disposal!  And the food! 

I'd like to know what you think?  I, for one, would do it in a heartbeat IF I could afford it.  Think about it though, no property tax, no need to pay for garbage removal or satellite telly.  No grocery bill or phone bill.  However, you would have a high cost of living, many port charges, etc. I'm assuming she phones her family while in port but otherwise that would be extremely expensive. 

Still, I wouldn't blink.  I hope someday that will be my life.  I know it's not for many people but I could totally live my life on a cruise ship.

What do you think?  See the article here. 

Happy Cruising,
Mary

Monday, January 5, 2015

While it's snowing and cold, why not take a cruise?


One of the best months to take a cruise in January.  The prices are down and it's not overly hot if you're going to the Caribbean or Bermuda.  It's also a great month to try and get an upgrade or an upsell.

What's an upsell?  It's an opportunity to trade up to a better room for a fee.  Make sure you let your TA (Travel Agent) know you would like the opportunity. 

When Mike and I cruised NCL Jewel to the western Carib., we asked our TA to check on that for us.  We had booked an aft mini-suite for a 5 night pre-wedding honeymoon cruise.  (We couldn't cruise after our wedding as son Jake had to start school and we were married in late August.)

So while home sick one December day, my TA called and said she was going to make me VERY happy.  For $300 total we were offered an upsell from the mini-suite to a forward facing PENTHOUSE Suite!  This penthouse suite was complete with butler, concierge, cappuccino machine, the biggest balcony I've ever seen on a ship and many, many amenities.  We were treated like royalty. 

There are many ways to skin a cat so to speak.  If you're not sure or if this is your first cruise, talk to others who have cruised frequently.  On www.cruisecritic.com, you can find just that.

Happy Cruising,

Mary

Thursday, December 18, 2014

One person's great cruise is another person's worst...go figure!

I'm constantly amazed at the cruise reviews that are negatively slanted. No matter the cruise line - but for this blogs sake I'll pick on Royal Caribbean. 

I know there are experiences that are less than stellar but in all truth, I've never had a bad cruise. 

I hear complaints about embarkation, food quality, shows, ports and excursions not to mention cabins.  I think if you have to wait more than an hour to embark, it's a nuisance.  However, I can wait knowing that I'm going to be on the ship in a little time. 

Food quality is so subjective that it's hard to know where to start. Yes, the Windjammer (or Jammer as it's known) may not have the quality of the main dining room or specialty dining.  It has one thing in it's favor, however, and that is the ability to pop in and grab a snack pretty much any time of the day or night...which is pretty great.   I love their bran muffins, the only time I eat them is on the ship.  They are superb.  I am pretty laid back about food.  If I'm not cooking it and I'm not cleaning up after it, it's good to me. 

I've always had decent meals in the MDR (main dining room) although there are one or two meals I haven't liked.  Guess what?  Your waiter will bring you another...no need for complaint.  I find the MDR to be a great place for any meal.  Specialty dining is just that.  It is a special experience with great food.  You will have to pay a fee, but it's usually so good it's more than worth the price.

I pick the cruise for the ship and not the port of calls.  However, that being said, we are booked on a southern Caribbean cruise with friends and I am looking forward to a couple stops.  I may go to port or I may not.  The ship is the ultimate destination to me.  There are some ports that I haven't enjoyed, but that doesn't mean someone else won't.  You may love that port - it's all subjective.  

Where am I the pickiest?  Ah...that would be my cabin.  I want the best cabin for my dollar.  I want the best location and the biggest balcony I can afford.  I wasn't always able to cruise in a balcony and have had my share of inside and outside staterooms.  If there's a problem with your cabin please tell your steward.  They should be able to fix it.  Speak up and be kind yet firm.  The staff work their hinds end off each and every week.  They deserve your respect and they are willing to help.

A cruise is what you make it.  I'm a glass half full...make that 3/4 full kind of girl.  I know I'm going to enjoy myself and do as much as I can fit in that 7 days.  If something isn't perfect, I can roll with it. I am just amazed at the finicky people complaining and giving the cruise 1 star.  1 star?  Come on.  You're on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean...AND...you're not working!  

A good day cruising beats a great day working any day of the week. 

Happy cruising, 
Mary

 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

$400 OBC...but not for ME!

Royal Caribbean is running a special - well not that special - it's their BOGOHO sale.  Buy one get one half off sale.  

We took advantage of that when it first started early in 2014. We were able to book a grand suite on Adventure of the Seas for less than a balcony on a new ship. 

So what's the problem? The difference is now they are advertising up to $400 on board credit or OBC.  We are in a suite so I figured we would receive that amount, however, because the price when we book was cheaper than it is now, that is not so.  I think that is insulting.  Not only should the credit be applied but my Platinum status discount shouldn't be taken away if we received it.  (which we are not...boo!)

I love cruising always.  I love Royal Caribbean.  I don't love the offer as it stands.  If you're booked you should receive the offer.  Just my two cents.

I'll get off my soapbox now.  

Happy cruising, Mary

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Great Deals Everywhere!

I've been getting a thousand emails lately about the amazing deals for cruises in a week or a month.  Deals that are unnaturally good.  IF you have the ability to do this, if you're retired or if you live near a cruise port, you can save a lot of money. 

Living in northern Michigan doesn't make it easy.  While the prices for the cruise are outstanding, the price for airfare is not. I even looked at prices from Detroit to Miami (mind you, Detroit is a 5 hr drive from my house and we have to deal with snowy roads) but the prices weren't much better than flying from nearby.

Having to fly into Miami or any other port adds over $1000 for my hubby and I.  Even in the case of a cheap flight, at least $600-$700 dollars for the two of us.

So am I just complaining or jealous.  A little of both.  When I retire, my desire is to within an hour of a major airport or 2 hours of a cruise port.  It makes all those last minute deals SO enticing.

I pray you take them up on the deals between now and mid-December.  Then go to www.cruisecritic.com and write a review so I can live vicariously through you.

Happy cruising,
Mary in snowy Michigan

Friday, October 24, 2014

Quantum of the Seas sails soon!



I am somewhat obsessed with Quantum of the Seas.  I love the new innovative designs and her clean lines are stunning.  I was perusing the boards at Cruise Critic and found an awesome thread of live reporters who are going to sail on her maiden transatlantic  Southampton (that's the UK to you and me) to Bayonne, NJ which is Quantum's home port.

How exciting to hear all that these (very lucky!) reporters are going to say about this fantastic ship, not to mention all the fun they are going to experience.  SO jealous!!  




This ship has so many firsts, although I've already mentioned that on an earlier blog.  I love her because she's a lean, mean, fighting machine.  She's sleek and a bit smaller than the Oasis class.

Want to follow this thread?  If you're sailing on her or not, it's a great read.

Click here!

Happy sailing,
Mary

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dynamic Dining...say What?

If you're cruising the Quantum of the Seas (I wish....) you would be aware of Royal Caribbean's unveiling of Dynamic Dining.  So what is it?

It's a new way of dining.  Instead of a main dining room and the standard fixed times of 6pm and 8pm, you will be given the option of five complementary dining rooms.  That's free to you and me.  However, there are 18 amazing food venues across the ship. They come with whimsical names like Wonderland, Silk, Chic, Chef's Table and more.  Even those cruising in suites have their own restaurant, Coastal Kitchen.  RCCL's website describes it as " Coastal Kitchen fuses Mediterranean influences with the unmatched riches of California’s bountiful farmlands. This is a destination that exudes pure freshness."   


 Not all venues are free, many have a charge to eat at a specialty restaurant like Chops Grille which has been a favorite among cruisers for ten years.

With the changes of Dynamic Dining, there is a much more casual approach to dressing.  You're welcome.  There is one exception and it's called The Grande.  The Grande is formal wear all the time.  It's a nod to bygone times of cruising when one dressed for dinner.  Somehow I'm typing in an Enlish accent.  That's what it reminds me of.  

What would be amazing dining without celebrity chefs?  Jamie Oliver, Michael Schwartz, Devin Alexander, and Cornelius Gallagher.  I know!

Quantum of the Seas will be the debut ship to offer this but the Oasis class, Allure of the Seas, will be next.  Will it be fleet-wide?  There's a good chance.

Reservations are a must - and you can reserve restaurants through the Royal Caribbean website at www.rccl.com. 

Check it out and see what you think.   

Happy Sailing, Mary

 


 

 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cruising Alone? No Problem!

If you're wanting to cruise but do not want to pay exorbitant "single supplement" rates, try Norwegian. Since the NCL Epic came on the scene, singletons (including those widowed, travel widow (spouse doesn't like to travel or unmarried) have a wonderful option.  They are called Studio cabins and they not only are perfect in size for one but they also include the Studio lounge for meet and greets, drinks and snacks.  

What I love about the rooms are the ambient lighting, compact (but adequate) size and the option to do a solo cruise.  Don't get me wrong, I adore my husband and love cruising with him.  There is an idea brewing,however, and  that would be a lovely little getaway all my myself. There is a window to the hallway that can be opened or closed depending on your need. 

Norwegian Epic, Breakaway and now Getaway all feature these rooms and I think they are BRILLIANT!   I love the cozy size and color scheme. 

 As nice as the cabin is, it comes alive at night. How fun is that?
Not only do you have complete privacy but you have the option to mingle with the other studio cruisers whenever you choose.  

The Studio Lounge is a great option when you want to meet other singletons or if you just want to find someone to talk to or dine with.  It's a great space to have a drink, get to know your neighbors, read a book or play games all rolled into one.


Thank you NCL for having this option.  Otherwise, if you want to cruise by yourself, you have to pay 150% of your cabin, which can be frustrating especially if you can't help that you're alone. 

NCL has gone above and beyond to remedy the situation.  If you're in the market for a single cruise, I hope you will look into this option.  

Happy sailing,
Mary

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thank you Cruise Puppy!

I found an app that I love.  It's called Cruise Puppy and it gives you price drops.  I put in my cruise and it lets me know when the price drops and also prices for the next couple of months for inside, ocean view, balcony and suites.

There are some wonderful deals right now if you can cruise within a week to a two month period.  I happened to share this on Facebook and my girlfriends are jumping on it.  Let's do a girls cruise!  

Looking at an inside room, for a 7 day Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise lines - the Carnival Glory, 7 night eastern itinerary leaving November 29th would be $209 (plus port fees of course) for a whole week.  A WEEK! Sign me up!  Screenshot: 
Cruise Puppy App


I'm serious about this.  If I can get my friends on-board, we could have a blast.  Hoping and dreaming this comes true!

You can find Cruise Puppy in your app store today.  See it for yourself!

Happy Sailing,
Mary

PS: I am not affiliated with Cruise Puppy, just a fan. 
 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ways To SAVE On A Cruise

I really want to book a trip before our cruise to the southern Caribbean in Feb. 2016.  I'm looking at Alaska, Caribbean and Bahamas.  My wonderful hubby has always wanted to go to Alaska.  However, it's pretty pricy not to mention flying into either Seattle, Vancouver or Alaska.  I've also looked at the Bahamas, pretty inexpensive and the Caribbean.

I'm trying to watch the prices and see where we can cut down IF we can book another cruise.  First, what's the best deals.  Celebrity has the 4 perks you can choose from  - a big perk when one includes free select drinks!  

I'm a balcony snob.  Can't help it, I love the breeze and ocean view.  That being said, could I book an inside room so I could afford going on another cruise?  ABSOLUTELY!! It would be different and I don't like the boxy feeling of it, but we have a grand suite booked for the southern Caribbean and we could certainly make it work.  

Another way to save - cheap flight.  Perhaps Spirit instead of Delta or American.  I don't like their customer service...heck...what customer service?  But I could do it to save money and be able to get to my destination.

Forego the pictures, souveniers,etc.  UGH!  I don't know if I could do that.  I love the pictures, but if it means cruising vs. not cruising. OK!  I can do that! 

Specialty dining - It's not that expensive but it does add up over time.  Eating only in the dining room and free venues wouldn't be tough at all.  Easy peasy.

Drinks - c'mon now.  Let's not get THAT drastic.  Cutting down on the number of drinks would save money.  We could do that right?  We can do that. Yeah.

So there are ways to afford a cruise even if it's not what you normally prefer.  Stepping on the ship makes all of the above so worth it, so why not economize and still enjoy an awesome cruise?

Happy sailing,
Mary


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stop Teasing ME Celebrity Cruise Lines!

My husband, Mike, serves in Prison Ministry as do I.

He came home on Sunday and said that good friends of ours want us to come with them on an Alaskan cruise.  Well, that's all I had to hear...let's GO!!!

But, I thought I'd take a different tack.  Instead of being the crazed cruise addicted person I am I said, "Well, if you think we can afford it honey."  Hahahah...well played.

I looked up prices and am especially loving a deal on the Celebrity Solstice for a lower end balcony for $1399 per person.  The cruise would hit the major ports in Alaska and would sail from Seattle, which is a place I've always wanted to visit.

Right now Celebrity has a deal where you can choose from 4 free items.  Free drinks, (Yes please!) free gratuity, onboard credit of $300 or money off your cruise depending on the length.  A 7 day cruise would net you $400 off your trip, pretty significant.

It's a pretty enticing offer certainly. Can I talk hubby into it?  I will try my best, it's where he has wanted to cruise for ages.  

Hoping to hit Alaska next August!

Happy sailing,
Mary
 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

To Pay or Not To Pay?

I remember when I first cruised and pretty much everything was included.  (Not alcohol I don't believe.)  Cruising these days brings a myriad of options.  In the past you chose the itinerary and the ship.  You chose what type of cabin you wanted.  Now, the options on the cruise itself is stupefying.

Do you want to save money and eat in the included restaurants like the buffet or the main dining room or do you want to pay a stipend for a more intimate dining experience with attentive service?  (Although, I love the servers in the main dining room, they have been more than attentive to me in the past.) You can choose from Teppanyaki on NCL where they chop and serve you at your table from the built-in grill.  Or Chops on RCCL cruise line where you get melt in your mouth steaks.  There is the Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse on Princess that gives you true "N'orleans" cuisine. See what I mean?

Perhaps you want to buy a drink package prior to your cruise?  There are many offered, so what would you choose?

Photo packages are now offered as well as WiFi packages. Many options available.

The spa...oh the spa.  Would you like to whiten your teeth, or a touch of botox or a massage or facial?  

Do you want to order the Barbie package for a young lady in your party or champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries for your significant other. 

What about the dolphin adventure or Dunn's River Falls?  Shore excursions can cost a few dollars but are so often worth it.  If you think otherwise, enjoy a stroll through the town or take a low fee walking tour.  

No matter what, you have so many choices it can make your head swim.  My advice?  Start small.  Do you want to save money to spend elsewhere?  Dine in the included restaurants on the ship.  Want to splurge? Choose a dining package where you can try all the (for a fee) restaurants on the ship.

Are you someone who has a mimosa or bloody mary at breakfast, a beer or two at lunch, three or four drinks by the pool, one at dinner and then more at night?  Buy the drink package for goodness sake! You will save in the long run.

Remember, if it is something you would enjoy and you can afford, then book that spa visit, eat at a specialty restaurant, book a shore excursion and enjoy every minute.  I know I do!

Happy sailing,
Mary