Archive for Cruise Lines

Polar vortex, Winter Storm Leon, deep freezes, snowstorms, blizzards – it seems as though the winter of 2014 is having some fun with us. But, how about you have some fun? You know where there isn’t a polar vortex, Winter Storm Leon, snowstorms or blizzards? The Caribbean.

A year-round warm climate; an astounding array of ports of call; thousands of beaches; great shopping; and incredibly clear seas teeming with marine life make the Caribbean one of the most popular cruise destinations. This is also a comfortable time to visit; the weather is much more accommodating without the intense heat, rain and humidity of the summer.

So let’s bust out of this cold weather and take a last minute Caribbean cruise (plus, hopefully we can use our newly allotted vacation days!).

And, has just the deal to help you trade the snow boots for flip flops.

We actually have two time-sensitive and last minute offers from Norwegian Cruise Line that are pretty unbelievable.  They are both on Norwegian’s latest and greatest ships, the groundbreaking Norwegian Epic and the brand-new Norwegian Getaway that will set sail on her inaugural voyage Feb. 8, 2014.

And pssst… it gets even better. The special deals are on balcony cabins (there is nothing like having your own private balcony!). Oh, did we mention there is a $100 onboard credit, too?

Norwegian Epic – 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise Feb. 9, 2014

$549 Balcony Cabin + $100 Onboard Credit!

More Departure Dates Available + $70-$150

Norwegian Getaway – 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise Mar. 1, 2014

$799 Balcony Cabin + $100 Onboard Credit!

More Departure Dates Available

Exclusively for Florida Residents: FREE Cruise Connection Bus Transfer to Miami Pier from Select Florida Cities: Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Tampa, Sun City Center, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Naples, Ocala, Lady Lake, Leesburg, Orlando, Fort Pierce, Daytona, Melbourne, Vero Beach, Stuart and West Palm Beach.

Please, give a call today at 800-i- CRUISE [800-427-8473] as these last minute cruise prices are available for a very limited time only and capacity-controlled – i.e. they will sell out quickly!

Prices and special offers valid as of 1/28/2014. Fares are subject to change without notice.

About the Norwegian Epic:

Norwegian’s most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship, Norwegian Epic, debuted in June 2010. Norwegian Cruise Line is the official cruise line of Blue Man Group, debuting for the first time at sea on Norwegian Epic, as well as the official cruise line of Legends in Concert, Second City® Comedy Troupe, Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos, Gibson Guitar, and Nickelodeon, the number-one entertainment brand for kids. Cirque Dreams & Dinner is also featured on board Norwegian Epic as the first show of its kind at sea under a big top. The ship also boasts unique nightlife options with the first Ice Bar at sea and Spice H20 with non-stop entertainment day and night; an expansive Aqua Park with the only tube slide and largest bowl slide at sea – The Epic Plunge. Norwegian Epic features the next generation of Freestyle Dining with 20 dining choices and 20 bars and lounges.

About the Norwegian Getaway:

Norwegian Cruise Line recently took delivery of its most innovative ship to date, the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway on January 10, 2014. The largest ship to homeport year-round in Miami, Norwegian Getaway boasts 28 dining venues, including seafood restaurant Ocean Blue by famed New York Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and a branch of Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of the TLC series “Cake Boss.” The entertainment lineup includes Broadway shows Legally Blonde and Burn the Floor and the unique dining and magic venue, the Illusionarium. Norwegian Getaway’s sister ship, Norwegian Breakaway, was named “Best New Ship of 2013” by the editors of Cruise Critic and “Best Rookie Cruise Ship” by the readers of Travel Weekly. Known as New York’s ship, Norwegian Breakaway is the largest vessel to homeport year-round in the city.

For more information on our last minute Norwegian Cruise Line sale visit us at, or call us with any questions (none too small!) at 1-800-i-CRUISE [800-427-8473].


Expanding on their original “Signature Trio Bundle,” Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced their brand-new concept, “Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package.” This program allows you to pay one set price, based on the length of the cruise, and have the opportunity to experience the array of specialty restaurants onboard with a taste of something deliciously new every night.

Currently available on all Norwegian ships fleet-wide, the package provides access to Norwegian’s most popular specialty restaurants including Cagney’s, the line’s signature steakhouse; French bistro, Italian restaurant, Moderno Churrascaria, Asian-Fusion Restaurant and more.

Cost of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Ultimate Dining Package

Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package allows you to dine anywhere* throughout your cruise at a set price, available in tiers based on cruise length:

  • 3- to 6-day Cruises: $59 per person
  • 7-day Cruises: $119 per person
  • 8- to 10-day Cruises: $149 per person
  • 10- to 15-day Cruises: $199 per person
  • 16- to 25-day Cruises: $259 per person
  • 26- to 35-day Cruises: $299 per person
  • 36- to 45-day Cruises: $349 per person

*Do note, however, the Ultimate Dining Package does NOT apply to:

  • Ocean Blue by Geoffery Zakarian
    • You WILL receive a discount of 20% off the bill
  • A la carte restaurants such as the Sushi Bar, Noodle Bar and Ocean Blue on the Waterfront
    • You WILL receive a discount of 20% off the bill in these venues
  • Entertainment-based dining such as Cirque Shows, Second City lunches, Nickelodeon Pajama Jam, Wine Lovers Lunch, Illusionarium and Chef’s Table
  • Mini-bar and room service (there is a delivery charge from midnight-5am)

Is Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package Worth It?

You can dine in any specialty restaurant every night of your cruise, so this dining package can offer tangible savings if you look at the regular cover charge of each individual restaurant:

  • Cagney’s Steakhouse: $30 per person
  • French Bistro: $20 per person
  • Brazilian Moderno Churrascaria: $20 per person
  • Italian: $15 per person
  • Asian Fusion: $15 person
  • Teppanyaki: $25 person

If you decided you’d really like to go to Cagney’s and feast on double cut lamb chops, grilled sea bass or premium cuts of certified Angus beef every night of your 7 night cruise, you would fork over $210. With the Ultimate Dining Package, your 7-day cruise cost is $119 which saves you $91, or 40%.

If you went to Cagney’s twice, the French Bistro, Moderno, Teppanyaki, and the Italian Restaurant twice, that is $155. Again, your 7-day cruise cost is $119, saving you $36. There are many variations to consider, but the price is pretty reasonable overall.

As with anything else you purchase, the decision to buy or not to buy Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package will come down to personal preference and how often you like to dine in the Main Dining Room vs. Specialty Dining Venues.

Specialty restaurants are six-star dining experiences and offer impeccable service, but they are also more formal and the food is richer. Some nights it is nice to just head over to the Main Dining Room for a good meal, or up to the Buffet for something more casual after a long day of exploring.

To take advantage of the Ultimate Dining Package with a current cruise reservation you can either pre-purchase the package by logging into your “myncl” online account on, by contacting your Cruise Specialist, or by purchasing the package onboard during the first or second day of your cruise.

Also Note:

  • You can only purchase the package on the first or second day of your cruise. On 3-day sailings, the package is ONLY for sale on day one.
  • The package does not include beverages.
  • Reservations are not required however table availability will be guaranteed for Ultimate Dining Package guests with 24-hour advance reservation.
  • No refunds are available if fewer restaurants are visited.
  • The Ultimate Dining Package may be purchased individually, you do not have to purchase for each passenger in the cabin.
  • Child pricing remains as is for specialty dining. Children 3 & under are free, Children 4-12 can choose from a complimentary kids menu or the restaurant’s specialty kids menu for half off.
  • If you wish to recognize the crew for their service, you may do so at time of service using the gratuity line on the check.

What do you think? Would you purchase Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package?

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Hawaii is like no place on earth: home to active volcanoes, the birthplace of surfing, some of the world’s best snorkeling, rushing waterfalls, active marine life, and undeniable romance, plus a blend of natural and cultural beauty completely unique to its six major islands.

Hawaii is the embodiment of paradise, but is also traditionally one of the most expensive vacation destinations. But, traveling to the Aloha State doesn’t always have to break the bank.

Value-packed cruise vacations are making Hawaii more accessible and more affordable than ever before by offering the opportunity to experience all Hawaii has to offer without spending a fortune.

One price buys your accommodations, nighttime entertainment, fine dining, and more. And unlike an all-inclusive resort stay, the upfront price is less expensive because you don’t pay for things you don’t do. A Hawaii cruise is without question the best value for your Hawaiian vacation dollar.

Plus, you can fall asleep in one destination and wake up in a different one, and you only have to unpack once! Your cruise ship does the Hawaiian island hopping for you so you don’t have to bother with inter-island flights – this gives you plenty of time to relax or be as active as you like.

And for a limited time, your vacation dollars will be stretched even further with our exclusive ‘Loving the Luau’ sale. This is the biggest Hawaii Cruise Sale of the year, with many cruise lines offering valuable onboard credits, discounted cruise fares, free drinks, reduced deposits and much more. Click here or see below for participating cruise lines and offers.’s Loving the Luau Hawaii Cruise Sale:


Best of Hawaii 10 Day Cruise & Hotel Package

  • 7 Night Hawaiian Islands Cruise
  • 2 Night Honolulu Hotel Stay
  • Honolulu Sightseeing Tour
  • Lei Greeting, Hotel Breakfast & Transfers
  • BONUS: $200 Onboard Credit + Hotel Upgrades!

Royal Caribbean Hawaii & South Pacific Cruises

  • Up to $400 Onboard Credit on Cruises of 6+ nights
  • Book a Balcony or Higher & Enjoy Specialty Dining for Two


Celebrity Cruises – 123 Go! Sale

  • Choose One of Three Amazing Offers:
    • Free Beverage Package for Two, Including Spirits
    • Up to $300 Onboard Credit
    • Free Pre-Paid Gratuities for Two
    • Sail on the Award-Winning Celebrity Solstice

Holland America Line

  • Up to $400 Onboard Credit + Shore Excursion Savings
  • Reduced Deposits + Onboard Value Booklet Worth $370

Princess Cruises

  • Up to 40% Off + $100 Onboard Credit

Oceania Cruises

  • $100 Onboard Credit on All South Pacific Cruises


Un-Cruise Adventures

  • Save $200 on Luxury Small Ship Adventure Cruises to Hawaii
  • Plus, a Free Hotel Stop-Over Package

Yachts of Seabourn

  • Veranda Suite Upgrade
  • $1000 in Onboard Credit for Suites and Penthouses

For more information on our ‘Loving the Luau’ sale visit us at, or call us with any questions (none too small!) at 1-800-i-CRUISE [ 800-427-8473 ]. Cruise Specialist, Susie Denman, recently return from a Caribbean cruise aboard the MSC Divina, and shares her review below:

MSC Divina – Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises

All aboard! Welcome to the MSC Divina.

“What is the MSC Divina?” For those of you wondering, MSC stands for Mediterranean Shipping Company. MSC is one of the largest shipping and containers companies in the world.  They have over 500 container ships, ferries, and thousands of containers worldwide.  MSC Cruises is a cruise division of MSC, and the fourth-largest cruise operator in the world with 12 state-of-the-art ships.

While the “MSC” in MSC Divina is short for “Mediterranean Shipping Company,” the cruise line is proud of its Mediterranean heritage and prefers to associate “MSC” to “Mediterranean Style Cruising.” And, I agree!

Sunset over the MSC Divina

About the Ship

Built in 2012, the MSC Divina is one of MSC Cruises’ newest ships and a true star of the fleet. She is also their largest at over 139,000-tons, accommodating approximately 3,500 guests. In November 2013, the MSC Divina became the first MSC Cruises ship to sail year-round in North America, cruising from PortMiami to tropical destinations in the Caribbean.

I was lucky enough to be invited onboard the MSC Divina in a balcony cabin (the only way to go!), and I had the pleasure of experiencing the ship’s wonderful food, service, entertainment and  casual, laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere.

The ship is elegantly decorated and full of style. As you enter the main atrium you cannot miss the sweeping Swarovski crystal staircases and lovely glass elevators.  The grand staircases are so beautiful and intricate that you can be easily mesmerized, so a word of caution: remember to watch your step and not just the crystals!

The international staff was very accommodating and friendly minus a few language barriers that came up from time to time. A little patience is all it takes sometimes! I enjoyed the many conversations that I had with the crew. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as well, and made a point to remember your name. Getting to know them was as much fun as meeting our new-found friends at dinner!


MSC Divina’s staterooms are modern with dark woods and warm color tones. The cabins were spacious, but I found there were empty spaces that could have been utilized for more shelves, drawers or somewhere to hang your clothes besides the bathroom door. Energy efficiency seemed to be a focus onboard, including light switches that require your key card to work so the power is not on when not in use. Like most other cruise lines, MSC Cruises provides a mini bar and bottled water for a charge. They keep track of your usage with a form left out on your bed you must sign. They will not refill your mini bar until have done so. I thought this was pretty clever.

MSC Yacht Club – A Ship Within a Ship

I requested a tour of the MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive area of Fantasia-class ships reserved for the few who can, and will, pay a premium to stay in the ultimate, luxurious all-inclusive suites. MSC Yacht Club guests enjoy countless complimentary “extras” such as wines and spirits, and signature Butler service.

MSC Yacht Club Service – Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Arrangements were made for a MSC Yacht Club butler to give me a personal, guided tour. Yacht Club guests have exclusive use of two forward decks on the MSC Divina, and access is only available by their MSC Yacht Club Suite key card.

Yacht Club Reception – Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises

This ‘ship within a ship’ offers concierge service, a library and private access to the MSC Aurea Spa. MSC Divina’s Yacht Club also features its own lounge with complimentary breakfast, snacks and beverages, plus a private restaurant in the back of the ship with great views of the infinity pool aft on Deck 15. The Yacht Club upper deck boasts its own pool, hot tub, solarium and sundeck with additional snacks and beverages available while sunning.

Both of the floors dedicated to the MSC Yacht Club encompass the full front of the ship, from port to starboard.  Although all 69 suites were occupied, it was noticeably uncrowded. I personally feel they only needed to dedicate half the space for the MSC Yacht Club, as it seemed like a tremendous amount of precious space that was only lightly used. I believe the area could have been better enjoyed by other guests hoping for a view off the front of the ship.


MSC Cruises is a family owned and operated company, so they take pride in being very kid-friendly. As a matter of fact, kids under 11 always sail free if cruising as the 3rd or 4th passenger in a stateroom. I cruised over the Thanksgiving holiday and there were many families having a great time together.  They offer comprehensive Kids Club programs for every age group filled with entertainment, fun, and games. I can attest to the fact that these kids were having the time of their lives (so were their parents)!

The MSC Divina may cater to families, but there were a few areas onboard that I would consider “adults only.” After inquiring at about adults-only areas at guest services, I was told the only dedicated “adults-only” venue was on Deck 18 in the Solarium. Used exclusively for sunning the solarium features dedicated spa service, bar menu and complimentary fruit skewers. The area is not very large, but it does include a hot tub. There is a daily surcharge upon entry. The fee is $5 a day per lounge chair, so it isn’t outrageous.

If you don’t want to pay for the adults-only Solarium, but still want a quiet space head over to Deck 16 aft. You will find two hot tubs and additional space for sunning. Or, the kids can enjoy the main aqua park pool and you can head to the infinity pool on Deck 15 aft. We happened to love this area the best. More quiet than most, not as busy and at dusk they have live music at the Garden Bar. We also found this to be an ideal spot to eat, the Manitou Buffet restaurant is just one deck below.


The buffet is very busy like most cruise ships and should be avoided on sea days if possible (or at least try and go at off times).  The Calumet & Manitou Buffet is open 20-hours a day, so if possible, going to lunch at an off time like 2:00pm is more desirable than fighting the crowds. Or visit to the main dining room which is an excellent choice for busy sea days. If you do opt for the buffet make sure you don’t stop at the first service line you come to upon entering the restaurant, you can head further and enter another, possibly shorter, line as the buffet stretches from mid-ship to the back of the ship.

There are 4 alternative dining venues on board the MSC Divina.  My favorite was the Galaxy club restaurant. This dining room sits at the top of Deck 16 with excellent views creating a very romantic atmosphere coupled with attentive service. Although they call this the ‘disco’ dining room, do not let the name fool you, it is in fact not a loud disco with a dining room.

On sea days they offer an extensive brunch that includes everything under the sun for a nominal fee. The cost is $24 per adult (includes a Mimosa), $10 for children 6 and up and children under the age of 6 are free.  For dinner they offer reasonably priced a la carte menu of traditional items or full menu of Mediterranean fusion cuisine. To me I thought the Galaxy restaurant was a hidden treasure!  Did I happen to mention that we were serenaded by a solo sax player?!

Entertainment & Activities

The 1,603-seat Pantheon Theater is very large but well laid out, providing a good view from every seat which is essential because the shows and entertainment were out of this world.  Do not miss Wonderland and the Michael Jackson tribute, “Starwalker”!  The MSC Divina offered some of the best cruise ship entertainment that I have ever experienced.

Don’t miss: Blend Craft Wines’ Winemaker Experience!  Look for this on sea days in your daily program.

MSC Cruises has partnered with a boutique winery, Blend Craft Wines, to offer guests a wine making experience onboard.  I have to say this was the highlight of our cruise in terms of onboard entertainment!  It was so different than your average wine tasting that most cruise lines offer.

The wine making experience is truly that, an experience!  If you like wine this is something not to miss.  Greg our winemaker, and his adorable assistant Jenny, set us up with 4 wine glasses containing 4 different generously-poured unblended wines. We tasted each and made our notes, along with all the other wine enthusiasts who signed up.

We then moved on to blending our own wines by percentage with our individual beakers (remember science class?) and droppers of milligrams.  We made 3 different blends, carefully tasting and taking notes. Glasses were always replenished if needed. Once we tasted our favorite blend, we had officially made our own custom wine at sea!  We chose the name of our winery and gave Greg our notes so he could blend our personal and unique blend to be bottled right there on the ship.  Greg made sure our wine would be ready and labeled if we wanted to consume it at dinner or take it back to our stateroom for a night cap. He was always available at a designated location to answer questions or make more wine. Greg and Jenny made this such a fun event I could have done it everyday!

Another program featured on the MSC Divina that I thought was very interesting is offered by an onboard astronomer that held a number of lectures during sea days and led stargazing at night on Deck 18.  I always thought the cruise lines should offer this because there are so many stars to see when you are out in the middle of the ocean!

If lots of laughs and singing along to your favorite tunes is your thing, you will totally enjoy the dueling pianos.  This was a big hit with everyone onboard and they performed frequently throughout the cruise.  If you like piano music, but on a more subdued level, next door in the La Luna lounge you will find a wonderful couple performing the classics nightly.  This is a great place to have an after dinner drink.

If you prefer to dance your feet off, head to the Black and White lounge in which themed dancing events take place each night. For the diehard late-night partiers, the Disco is lively into the wee hours of the night.

The sports bar is a great place to watch sports games or try your luck at bowling! Yes, they have two lanes for bowling. No sports on T.V.? No problem, they turn it into a karaoke lounge.

Speaking of sports, kids young and old can make their way up to Deck 16 for Virtual Formula 1 Auto Racing or the 4D Cinema.  The interactive 4D Cinema lasts 10 minutes and you get to choose between a few different virtual roller coaster experiences.

Both are fun and unique but require a small surcharge. If the weather is nice, head outside for a game of basketball, tennis or any court game you like. The sports arena with stadium seating is perfect for family and friends to cheer you on.

Other entertainment and fun activities you can find throughout the ship include bingo, casino fun, onboard shopping, and much more.

Tip: If you plan a cruise on MSC Cruises I highly recommend purchasing an all-inclusive Beverage Package.  There are a variety of wine, beer and soda packages available that offer a great bargain versus purchasing individual drinks.

We had a great time on the MSC Divina! Okay, now it is time to book your next cruise. What are you waiting for? The fun is waiting for you!

2014-2015 MSC Divina Cruise Itineraries

Susie Denman has over 25 years experience in the travel industry, and is a MCC (Master Cruise Counselor).  Susie specializes in luxury travel, but has sailed on almost every cruise line including Disney Cruise Line , Regent Seven Seas Cruises,  Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruises,  Royal Caribbean, Crystal, Holland America, MSC Cruises and Star Clipper.

She has traveled to Alaska 5 times cruising the inside passage, north bound,  south bound, and cruise tours as well as independent tours. Susie was a host for Signature Travel Network sailing in South East Asia, Greek Isles and the Mediterranean.  Besides cruising all over the Caribbean she has enjoyed South America, Hawaii , and the Panama Canal.

Originally from Kansas City but residing in Florida over 40 years, Susie loves to travel. When she isn’t traveling she enjoys spending time with family, flying with my husband, boating, scuba diving, reading and going to the gym.

If you have any questions for Susie about her trip to the Caribbean aboard the MSC Divina, you may email her at:

The Disney Magic, Disney Cruise Line’s first ship, recently debuted after a major refurbishment. I had the chance to experience the ‘new’ Disney Magic on a recent 2-night cruise.

This past April when I first learned of the extensive dry dock renovation, or “re-imagineering”, the Disney Magic was scheduled to undergo, I immediately began following the transformation process.

As the news of each innovative new feature of the Disney Magic was announced – from the AquaDunk, to the re-imagined Oceaneer’s Club to the fresh, new restaurant, Carioca’s – I knew I had to get onboard. Luckily for me, I was able to set sail on the exciting 2-night inaugural of the newly re-imagineered Disney Magic! Unfortunately, it was a short 2-night voyage, but it was nonetheless packed full with all of the extra doses of magic and excitement Disney is known for.

First Re-Imagined Impressions

First impression? The Disney Magic looked just as beautiful – maybe even more so – than Disney’s newest ships, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. I recently sailed on the innovative Disney Fantasy this past December (you can read my Disney Fantasy review here). So, with that Disney cruise fresh in my mind I was able to immediately recognize the similarities in design to the newest ships in Disney’s fleet, as well as the distinguishing characteristics that make the Disney Magic unique.

Grand Atrium Lobby

The extent of the ship’s massive renovation was evident immediately – as soon as I stepped onboard. The spectacular three-story Grand Atrium Lobby was completely transformed with new chandeliers, carpet and color schemes. The lobby’s centerpiece and famed statue, “Helmsman Mickey,” which has stood in the atrium since the ship was launched, received a special makeover bringing new luster to its golden hue.

Helmsman Mickey – Disney Magic

It was also clear that all of the ship’s textiles, carpeting and furniture had been replaced – it was spotless. On the second day, I even noticed some fuzz making its way to the top of the carpet (new carpeting is prone to shedding fuzzy puffs of material). So much had been updated and replaced, the crew even remarked how it felt as though they were working on a brand-new ship. The ship even had a brand-new-car smell, seriously! Features that were not replaced included hardy fixtures. One in particular I noticed were the sinks, they showed some age but in a way that added character to the ship.

Let me reiterate, the Disney Magic’s design and architecture is absolutely beautiful.

Top Pooltacular Decks

Next, it was time to explore the ship’s decks. I have sailed on the Disney Magic many times before, so I thought I knew my way around. However, that was not entirely the case! Some staircases were moved, and with other upgrades and replacements, it was almost like exploring a brand new ship! The crew was still in the process of putting finishing touches on the deck like banners and signs, but the deck itself looked wonderful.

Goofy’s Sport Deck

Up on the pool deck, lots of splashtacular fun was added. The classic Mickey Pool, that was shaped like Mickey Mouse, has been totally replaced by the 1,800-square foot AquaLab (ages 3 and up) and new Nephews’ Splash Zone (up to age 3) that stars Donald Duck’s mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. This was a little bittersweet for me, as I was fortunate enough to grow up swimming in the Mickey Pool on family cruise vacations, but the AquaLab and Splash Zone is actually a really nice change. The deck feels much less crowded, more open, and the actual swimming and splash zone is larger.

Twist n’ Spout Waterslide at Night

The Mickey slide was replaced with the Twist n’ Spout water slide featuring 250 feet of sliding fun, loops and turns. Located adjacent to the Aqualab, it is a kid-friendly waterslide, a little less daunting than the monstrously exhilarating AquaDunk (I will get to that added fun in a second). The Twist n’ Spout is loads of fun for everyone, and the ride down is actually pretty long!

Frozone Ice Cream – Raspberry Swirl

Before I forget, I want to make a quick notable mention to a very welcome addition on the Disney Magic – Eye Scream and Frozone Treats, 2 new quick-service venues. Originally debuting on the Disney Dream, Eye Scream offers up soft-serve ice cream (complimentary) and Frozone Treats mixes up refreshing, frozen fruit smoothies (nominal charge).  But, seriously. All-you-can-eat ice cream? Now that is vacation (especially when raspberry flavor is around)!

Okay, back to the AquaDunk. Imagineered by the crafty Huey, Duey and Louie, the AquaDunk is a crazy, wet-and-wild thrill slide, and a tribute to the wildly popular AquaDuck aboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. Without enough room to build a full AquaDuck water coaster, Donald’s nephews still managed to create an exciting, brand-new three-story body slide. Guests are propelled from a near-vertical launch (the floor drops from beneath like a trap door!) on a fast ride in a translucent tube that extends 20 feet over the side of the ship. As evident from the long waiting line for the slide, they did an excellent job designing the AquaDuck’s worthy successor.

Let me tell you…it was worthy alright. This was one of the new features I was most excited to try, so I anxiously awaited my turn in line. My nerves really didn’t get the best of me until I reached the top of the line, which is in the iconic, non-functional smokestack of the ship.

When I saw the person in front of me enter the slide’s chamber, the nervous butterflies came. You are actually enclosed, and stand on a transparent floor. Then Huey, Duey, and Louie count down from three. Next the floor drops out from under you as you practically free fall until the slide catches you and jettisons you on a 212-foot-long  thrill ride, including  20 feet over the side of the ship, before a splashy finale.

Once I got to the end of the slide, I knew I needed to go again. The incredible rush of adrenaline and adventure makes it a must-do experience for any and all passengers. Don’t let your nerves take over, I highly recommend you stick it out – a great experience and feat of engineering!

New Magical Dining

We had lunch in the casual buffet; previously Topsider Buffet this dining venue is now re-imagined as Cabanas, similar to the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The Australian setting of the Disney-Pixar animated classic “Finding Nemo” inspires the décor with hints of the film’s fishy and feathered friends throughout the restaurant.

The options of food and beverage stations were plentiful and decadent. Lamb chops, chilled mussels and crab, swordfish, ribeye, salmon, and so much more. It was almost too much to choose from.  Key word: ALMOST. I, of course, had to try everything and was not disappointed. The lamb chops were a standout and hit among the members of my family and fellow cruisers. We are still talking about them!

That evening, we had dinner in the main dining room, Lumiere’s. The restaurant is elegantly themed after the hit Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. Our overall experience was just as amazing as ever.  All tables, tablecloths and chairs were replaced, and the wait staff was still dedicated and friendly, having already committed our names and any dietary restrictions or allergies to memory.

The delicious French-inspired fare means a lot of options on the menu; so, of course, I had to try it all (or close enough to it). I particularly enjoyed the “Mrs. Potts” French Onion Soup and the Fried Brie, along with the Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Slowly Braised Lamb Shank. And yes, I know what you’re thinking. Lamb chops twice in one day? Yes, I cannot be yet lamb-chopped-out! Dessert was a Grand Marnier Soufflé with Vanilla Sauce, which was just as superb as it sounds.

Slowly Braised Lamb Shank – Lumiere’s

The other main dining room has been changed to Carioca’s, named after Donald Duck’s parrot friend in “The Three Caballeros,” Jose Carioca. During the day in this Rio de Janeiro-inspired restaurant, there is a festival theme but at night the atmosphere transforms into an after-hours scene of Rio de Janiero. Carioca’s replaces Parrot Cay that was previously on the Disney Magic.

The second evening of our cruise, we dined in the updated Animator’s Palate which received new animation-adorned walls and a larger screen to provide the best views of the animation magic that takes place all around. The restaurant’s black and white “blank canvas” explodes into full color as favorite Disney and Disney-Pixar characters, such as Rapunzel from “Tangled” and Remy from “Ratatouille,” come to life right before guests’ eyes as the meal progresses.

Scenes from a variety of movies are displayed as you are taken on an emotional journey through all of the iconic Disney movies. I may, or may not, have almost cried when they showed the obligatory “heartbreak scene” of each movie all at once!  As dessert begins to loom, color is continually added to the moving characters until the lights dim and they come to life! For the grand finale, Mickey comes out to the musical score of Fantasmic! accompanied by your wait staff, now adorned with colorful ties.

New Entertainment Roundup

Each evening at 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. there is a high-caliber show featured in the Walt Disney Theatre. The first night, we were treated to Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story, which is somewhat of a sequel to Cinderella starring Lady Tremaine (the Wicked Stepmother) and the Two Ugly Stepsisters. The show was an imaginative, enjoyable spin on the story, much better than the actual sequel to Cinderella. The actors and singers were spot-on, engaging and talented.

Twice Charmed – Disney Magic

The second night of our cruise, we went to a performance of Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic, Disney Cruise Line’s award winning show celebrating the value of dreams and starring Peter Pan along with many of your favorite Disney characters. I was almost surprised by how much I still enjoyed this show. I have seen Disney Dreams before, but I realized it is a show you can see time and time again. The cast, laser and pyrotechnic effects are unsurprisingly professional and entertaining.

The first night, we were also treated to the Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Party! I must say, I enjoyed the this Deck Party more on my Disney Fantasy cruise, but the show was still done well on the Disney Magic. This on-deck party is full of music and dancing, featuring pirate-themed festivities and starring Mickey and Pals along with Captain Hook and his motley crew. The highlight is when Mickey swings down from funnel to funnel to save the day, and then shoots off spectacular fireworks! The show was not set to the music of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, or any other Disney movie in fact, so that was a bit strange but in true Disney fashion, it was still very impressive and very much enjoyable.

Exciting New Characters and Children’s Programs

The Disney Characters onboard the Disney Magic were super. Princess Aurora even remembered me from my cruise on the Disney Fantasy; she called out me, “Oh, Prince Nico!” I was able to take pictures with Belle, Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella, all of whom I did not have to wait long to see.

Something your little superheroes will be very happy about – with Marvel now a part of the Walt Disney Company family, the super hero icons were introduced on the Disney Magic! The newest, and one of the most highly anticipated, character aboard Disney Cruise Line is Captain America straight from The Avengers! We did have to wait to see him, but it was worth it. We were able to take a number of pictures, and he even remembered my name, acknowledging me in passing later that day!

Disney’s Oceaneer Club, open to 3- to 12-year-old children featured fun new character experiences. Young crime-fighters are transported to a high-tech command post used by The Avengers for special missions and operations training. The Avengers Academy is a multi-day, immersive entertainment experience in which children interact with the Marvel characters and unleash their inner super heroes. It comes complete with inspiration from Iron Man’s armor, Captain America’s Shield, and Thor’s Hammer!

In addition to the new Marvel experience, other new magical realms include Toy Story characters in Andy’s Room, Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow, and Mickey in the Mickey Mouse Club. Disney’s Oceaneer Lab was also added, a pirate-themed area allowing children the chance to discover and explore new adventures. This area is similar in design and activities to the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, including an area where you can ‘drive the ship’. And, okay, I may have spent more time in the Lab than I care to admit. Other games are available, such as Fix-it Felix Jr. from Wreck-it Ralph!

Oceaneer Club – Disney Magic

Another major addition to the children’s program on the re-imagined Disney Magic is the It’s a Small World Nursery. Available at an additional charge, the youngest cruisers, ages 3 months to 3 years, have a place to play safely with professionally trained Disney counselors.

Though our Disney Magic cruise was only two short nights, it was not short in fun or family memories. The re-imagined Disney Magic is just as magical as I was hoping it to be.  I wonder how they will re-invent the Disney Wonder, next!

SEE ALSO: Cruise Through Imagination, Disney Fantasy Ship Review

Wanna go? Call me at 1-800-439-1909 ext 7856 and get the best Disney Cruise Advice around! (and a great price!)


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Nico was born in South Florida and took his first cruise when he was 5 years old. Since then, he’s been on over 20 cruises to the Bahamas, Caribbean and Mediterranean. He is a graduate of the Disney College of Knowledge and spent a semester as a Cast Member in the Disney College Internship program at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, where he became known as Boardwalk Nico. He’ll still tell you a bad joke or two if you ask. Nico specializes in family vacations and fun, having cruised extensively with both Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines. Outside the office, he enjoys running and Martial arts. He completed the Disney Marathon five times and is a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. If you don’t find him at his desk, he’s probably out having some adventures. Nico looks forward to helping you plan a magical vacation regardless of the cruise line.

You’re an experienced ocean cruiser, and although you love sailing the open seas, you’re ready for something different. You’re craving a new perspective. And, maybe you even read our article, “Why You Should Consider a River Cruise in 2013.”

You’re intrigued. You’re ready to try a river cruise. Ready to experience old destinations in a new way along some of the world’s most important rivers. Ready for an intimate travel experience that combines history and culture with striking landscapes. You’re ready to go.

Now, you just need to know what to expect.

River Cruising and Ocean Cruises are similar in a few wonderful ways; on both you can visit a variety of exciting destinations yet only unpack once, plus enjoy complimentary gourmet dining, attentive service and entertainment of some sort.

However, there are a few key differences between River Cruising and Ocean Cruising that experienced ocean cruisers, especially those that frequently travel on larger ocean cruise ships of 3,000+ passengers, should be aware of.

1. Location & Itinerary. River cruises are perfect for passengers that prefer the leisurely pace of traveling by water over the frenetic pace of hotel changes, rail changes, and motor coach travel.

So many early civilizations and cultures thrived alongside major rivers that became a lifeline for food, drinking water, trade and social interaction. Large cruise ships are unable to navigate these inland cities — Vienna, Budapest, Paris, and Brussels to name a few – and their shallow waterways.

The cosmopolitan, classic cities of Europe, Russia and Asia are major highlights of a river cruise itinerary, but so are the small, picturesque villages, old world cathedrals and imperial marvels you’ll have a chance to visit along the way. River cruise ships dock in the heart of the city, rather than in a large industrial port complex and with only 30- to 200-passengers there are no lines to get off the ship.

The views along your route will be something to get used to, as well. Rather than expansive, never-ending sea views you will have shoreline views of the passing landscapes. And because the rivers offer smooth sailing, there is no motion sickness.

2. Onboard Experience.  Overall, you can expect everything onboard to be slower, and smaller.

Size: In order to sail the shallow inland waterways and under the low-lying bridges of Europe, Russia, Asia, and South America, river cruise ships must be smaller in size than ocean cruise ships. River cruise ships rarely exceed 200-passengers, and their staterooms rarely exceed 200-square feet.

Don’t worry, bigger isn’t always better – river cruise ships, closer to a luxury cruise than a mainstream cruise, are designed with comforts of a fine hotel in mind.

Fellow Passengers: On a smaller ship, the atmosphere onboard is more social. There are set meal times and no room service, so you can’t retreat into your stateroom for a meal. This can be either good or bad, depending on your personality. But on a positive side, you have the chance to get to know the entire crew and learn about their passion for the region. Fewer passengers onboard with fewer distractions create opportunities for discussion and camaraderie. Sharing adventures ashore further enriches the unique experience.

  • You will find an international mix of guests onboard but most crew members, tour guides, lectures and announcements are spoken in English.
  • Electricity onboard most ships is 220v, with 2-pin power outlets. You will need an adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you.
  • There are no youth programs or facilities onboard, so you will travel with fewer children. As more destinations and ships are added to each fleet, lines are adding unique themed cruises and amenities for a new generation of river cruisers, including families.

Cabins: Accommodations are limited in size, but they are not as much of a focal point as on oceangoing ships. On larger cruise ships, your stateroom –especially a cabin with private balcony– is your retreat from the masses, your secret oasis.

However, small river vessels sail with fewer passengers so you are actually able to find and settle into a nice lounge chair with a stunning view of the passing scenery as you listen to expert commentary. Plus, the ship is docked for longer periods so you will spend even more time ashore and less time in your room.

Most ‘balconies’ on a river cruise ship are French balconies, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open to a railing. If there is a deck it is very narrow, but most times there is just a railing and no platform to step out onto. Some newer ships feature larger suites with private walk out balconies; even though it is a nice spot for morning coffee, it may not be worth the difference in price.

Dining: On a river cruise, dining tends to be more restrictive in terms of availability. Three mealtimes are designated each day, dependent upon the individual itinerary. However, during mealtimes the dining room is open seating and the dress code is relaxed. With fewer guests onboard, you will enjoy genuine service and fresh cuisine delicately prepared by the ship’s chefs.

Entertainment: River cruise vessels are limited in the public space they can dedicate to entertainment. There will always be some form of entertainment offered such as regional music or an exciting game of shuffleboard, but it will not be the large production song-and-dance revues or late night discotheques you may be accustomed to on larger ships.

Entertainment may not be as involved, but there are plenty of opportunities to engage your mind and connect with other passengers onboard; attend a performance by a local musician, learn about the culture and history of the region at a lecture, or sample regional wines at a wine tasting.

Each ship may not have a surf simulator or movie theater, but most will offer gourmet dining, bars or lounges, attentive service, airy public spaces, pools or whirlpools, spa or fitness facilities and a library. These additional amenities will only grow in size and number as river cruise lines expand their fleets with modern, innovative vessels.

Bottom Line: River cruise ships themselves are not the focus of a river cruise. They showcase the historic sites and natural wonders along some of the world’s grandest rivers. The focus is not onboard the ship, but what is happening off the ship.

3. Price. River cruises are a different product than ocean cruises, with their own individual pricing structures; you may pay more up front, but more is included.

This enables you to budget and pay in advance versus feeling nickel-and-dimed once onboard. Inclusive amenities you will find on most River Cruise Lines:

  • All onboard meals, along with unlimited fine wine, beer and sodas with lunch and dinner
  • Enriching shore excursions with expert guides in every port and bicycles for exploring on your own or on a guided bike tour
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

If looking for a river cruise deal, waiting until the last minute is not recommended. River Cruising has increased exponentially in its popularity, and with fewer available staterooms on each vessel compared to an oceangoing ship, staterooms fill quickly. Some destinations are more remote and in turn more expensive than others, and prices are typically higher during the warmer summer months.

The river cruise season commences in March and carries on through December, the peak season are summer months June through September. Itineraries range from seven to thirty days in length. Travelers may consider cruising March through May or September through December when the crowds are thinner and airfares may be more reasonably priced. Holiday cruises are some of the more affordable itineraries available, traveling to the bustling Christmas markets during November and December.

Getting in touch with an River Cruise Specialist is the most hassle-free way to ensure you have chosen the itinerary that fits your needs with the price that fits your budget.

Bottom line: Deposit as early as you can. When pricing a river cruise, you must discuss with your cruise specialist the overall value vs. price as there are a variety of factors to consider including destination, ship amenities and shore excursion inclusions.

Lesser known, but also rising in popularity, are U.S. River Cruises along significant, historic rivers and bays such as the Mississippi, Hudson, Columbia and Snake rivers, and the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

Note: The key differences above are between river cruise ships and large ocean cruise ships of 1,500 or more passengers. Small oceangoing ships of 100- to 700-passengers offer a similar experience to a river cruise in terms of pricing, size of ship, overall onboard experience, level of service and destination-focused enrichment opportunities.

SEE ALSO: 6 Reasons to Consider a Small Ship Cruise Experience

Top River Cruise Lines: AMA Waterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld River Cruises, Viking River Cruises.

One of the most popular ways to explore the beauty of Alaska is by cruise ship. Oh, and don’t miss the best Alaska cruise deal – ever – below!

Taking an Alaska Cruise: Why, When and Where?

Alaska. The land of adventure. The land of rugged beauty. The combination of majestic glaciers, wilderness, mountains and wildlife make it a once-in-a-lifetime vacation of discovery for many.

Although visitors travel to Alaska year-round, the Alaska cruise season is condensed down to May-September, creating limited availability. The earlier you deposit on a cruise or cruise tour, the better.

With three distinct time frames to consider, the best time to cruise to Alaska within the cruise season must be determined by the individual and their own particular circumstances. There is no ‘bad time’ to visit Alaska; no matter when you travel you will be greeted by one of the world’s most beautiful and striking landscapes.

SEE MORE: How to Choose the Best Time to Cruise to Alaska

There are two main routes that Alaska Cruises follow: Round-trip Inside Passage itineraries and One-Way (Northbound or Southbound) Gulf of Alaska Glacier itineraries.

  • The Inside Passage is the area that makes up the Southeast Region of Alaska, with cruises typically sailing round-trip from Vancouver or Seattle.
    • Advantage: More affordable, convenient transportation
    • Disadvantage: More time at sea, less time in port
  • One-Way Gulf of Alaska Cruisestravel further up the coast and allow you to spend more days in Alaska ports or the National Glacier Parks at Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay; there are fewer days at sea compared to a round-trip cruise.
    • Advantage: Less days at sea, see more of Alaska’s coast and scenery
    • Disadvantage: Departure and arrival ports will be different so transportation costs may be higher

Many of Alaska’s greatest wonders are inaccessible by sea, so extending your Alaskan vacation with a Cruisetour offers the best of both worlds.

Economically explore both coastal and inland Alaska by combining an Alaska Cruise vacation with a multi-night Alaska Land Tour to Alaska’s Interior, Denali National Park, The Yukon, Kenai, the Arctic and more. Travel into the heart of Alaska by deluxe motor coach or train and enjoy accommodations at top Alaska hotels and lodges.

TIP: Scientists are also expecting an increase in aurora activity from now through the summer of 2014. Aurora borealis, or the northern lights, are breathtaking with their smoky blues, greens and red hues moving across the night sky. Late summer brings the greatest chance to see them and Fairbanks is said to be the best seat in the house.


Hands Down, Best Alaska Cruise Deal of the Year

A grand statement, to be sure, but a true one!

$499 7-Night cruise on the Celebrity Millennium departing from Vancouver or Seward, plus your choice of either a $200 onboard credit or a complimentary hotel and transfer package. This limited time offer expires October 15th, 2013.

Details: Travel a Northbound or Southbound One-Way Alaska itinerary on a variety of sailing dates from May through September 2014 with Celebrity Cruises, named Travel + Leisure’s “Top Cruise Line in 2013.” Prices start at $499 for interior staterooms, and just $599 for ocean view staterooms that allow you to keep an eye on the passing landscapes.

Included in the unbelievably low price of this $499 Celebrity Millennium cruise is your choice of a $200 onboard credit or hotel and transfer package.

  1. The $200 Onboard Credit is applied to ANY stateroom category, and you can use this spending money for purchases on the ship like spa treatments, shore excursions, duty-free shop purchases, and more.
  2. The Anchorage Hotel and Transfer is a pretty amazing option, available before or after your cruise depending on your itinerary. This package is valued at $400 and includes:
  • Transfer between the cruise ship pier in Seward to hotel in Anchorage (approx.  125 miles, 3 hour travel time – great value)
  • Complimentary one night hotel stay at the warm, inviting Millennium Hotel in Anchorage including a shuttle service to/from Anchorage Airport.
  • Full American Hotel Breakfast

One-way itineraries feature fewer days at sea and more time cruising Alaska’s spectacular coastal scenery including gleaming glaciers, abundant wildlife and towering mountains. On this 7 Night Cruise, you will cruise past Hubbard Glacier its thunderous displays of calving glaciers. You will also have the opportunity to explore Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

Click here for a full list of dates for this limited time offer
7-Night Celebrity Millennium Cruise with Extras!

For more information, or to speak with one of our designated Alaska Cruise experts, please call 800-i-CRUISE [ 800-427-8473 ]

AIR TRAVEL: Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport is the closet major airport to the cruise arrival/departure port of Seward. If traveling northbound from Vancouver, you will need to purchase airfare into Vancouver and departing from Anchorage. If traveling on a southbound itinerary you will need to fly into Anchorage and depart from Vancouver.   Celebrity Cruises offers a phenomenal ChoiceAir program that gives you the freedom to choose the flight schedule and competitive pricing options best suited to your needs.

ROUND-TRIP: Does cruising round-trip from Seattle sound more appealing? Never fear, we have an exclusive offer just for you on the Celebrity Solstice, distinguished as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 10 Large Cruise Ships 2013.”

So, no more delaying and hemming or hawing, or “Let me think about it” and “Maybe one day” hesitations; if considering a vacation in 2014, this deal is too good to have any objections.

Book your once-in-a-lifetime Alaska cruise today!

Wait, there’s more…

Alaska Gold Rush Sale

The amazing offer above is part of our larger Alaska Gold Rush Sale available through the end of October 2013. Our Alaska Gold Rush features exclusive offers for the 2014 Alaska cruise season on an exciting array of cruise lines and Alaska cruise experiences.

Within the past few years, the Alaska cruise industry has grown to include a variety of cruise lines and cruising styles; so any explorer, at any age, can choose from small expedition ships to large resort-style cruise ships. Families, luxury travelers and adventure seekers alike now have access to the Last Frontier.

The biggest Alaska cruise sale is on!  Our Alaska Gold Rush Sale features an exciting array of exclusive offers for the 2014 Alaska cruise season.

Valid through October 31, 2013 the Alaska Gold Rush includes free drink packages, hundreds in shipboard and shore excursion credits, pre-paid gratuities, and free cabin upgrades that accompany discounted fares on Alaska cruises and cruise tours.

Alaska cruise and land packages, or Alaska cruisetours, allow you to explore both coastal and inland Alaska by combining a cruise vacation along the coast of Alaska with a multi-night land and rail tour to Alaska’s interior, Denali National Park and more.

  • If looking for a luxury, small-ship Alaska cruise experience, you will appreciate up to a $200 shipboard credit or pre-paid gratuities with Oceania Cruises; up to $500 per suite shipboard credit with Silversea Cruises; and up to $700 per suite shipboard credit on Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
  • If you are hoping for more of an adventurous trek through Alaska, take advantage of free round-trip airfare between Seattle and Alaska, plus a 1-year magazine subscription to National Geographic Magazine from Lindblad Expeditions; $800 off per stateroom, complimentary pre-cruise hotel stay in Juneau and complimentary shore excursions with American Cruise Lines; or $100 shipboard credit per stateroom on Active Adventure and Heritage Adventure cruises from Un-Cruise Adventures.
  • Extend your time in Alaska with a Value Collection Cruisetour – unique Alaska Cruise and Land vacations packaged exclusively by These high quality Alaska Vacations offer the best value in Alaska with competitive pricing lower than similar tours available directly through the cruise line.
  • Book an 11-to -12-day Alaska Explorer Cruisetour on the Norwegian Sun or Denali Discovery Cruisetour on the Radiance of the Seas with and receive up to $200 in Shore Excursion credit or up to $200 Shipboard Credit. Both cruise and land packages feature a 7-night Alaska glacier cruise, two nights in Denali National Park, a deluxe domed scenic rail car journey, sightseeing opportunities and much more.

With exclusive pricing and perks on a variety of popular cruise lines,’s Alaska Gold Rush Sale allows you to choose the Alaska cruise experience that is right for you – individual, unique you – whether that is a family, luxury, small ship adventure or extended cruise vacation.

Cruising to Alaska is life-changing, amazing, and just plain wonderful. But, what cruise line would you enjoy best? What time of year should you go? How much will it cost? No need to Google all of your questions, simply call one of our Alaska Cruise Specialists and they can quickly fill you in on everything you need to know; saving you time and money.

For more information on our ‘Alaska Gold Rush’ sale visit us at, or call us with any questions you can think of at 1-800-i-CRUISE [ 800-427-8473 ].

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Unless you’re fortunate enough to live within a few hours of a cruise departure port, or have the time, and patience, to drive – most of us cruisers must consider booking a flight in order to set sail on our cruise getaways even if it means including this cost into our overall vacation budget. (Frankly, with the rising cost of fuel these days it can be easier on the wallet and less wear on the ol’ automobile to fly.)

You can research and book your air independently, but booking and finding the perfect flights can be complex and infuriating. Most cruise lines offer an air/sea program that allows you to purchase your cruise plus airfare in one neat little package, but are you able to pick your flights and are they more expensive?

With all of that in mind a good question to ask is, “Should I book airfare on my own or through the cruise line?”

Travel is personal. So your decision on whether to purchase your air directly with the airline or through the cruise line is up to personal preference. Your best bet is to discuss with your travel agent and research the pricing on both so you can see which option fits with your own unique schedule and budget!

Standard Air/Sea Programs:

Advantage: You don’t pay for your airfare until final payment, assistance with day of travel flight delays or cancellations.

Disadvantages: No control over air schedule and times without a deviation fee, cannot guarantee direct flights, and fares can be higher than booking directly with the airline.

Cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Silversea offer an air add-on package you may purchase in addition to your cruise. They make your travel arrangements and can help you arrange ground transportation. This seamless process is convenient and provides peace of mind that the cruise line has selected the appropriate flights to ensure you arrive at the ship on time.

If you choose to take the air/sea package through the cruise line, you do not pay for your airfare until you make the final payment on your cruise, making it easier to put down a small deposit and budget for the final balance.

Flights will be confirmed 60-75 days prior to sailing, tickets are issued at the lowest-available coach fare, and all restrictions apply. Changes to the air schedule, or special requests, are subject to a service or ‘air deviation’ fee. The air/sea package does not include ground transportation from the airport to the cruise terminal, transfers may be purchased separately. The cruise line cannot guarantee direct flights, most routes are non-direct and include connections.

Upon having a confirmed air schedule, you are able to confirm seat assignments and add frequent flyer numbers directly with the airline.

In the event your flight is delayed and you do not arrive in time for the ship’s departure, there is a 24-hour hotline offer by the cruise line you may call for flight assistance.

Enhanced Air Programs for Flexibility & Control

Advantage: Control and flexibility, peace of mind, competitive airfares (especially international), access to air credits and promotions from the cruise line

Disadvantage: Possibility of higher fares for domestic flights and if reserving Flexible Airfare you must weigh the pros and cons

While the standard air/sea packages used to be the industry norm, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean International and Princess Cruises have enhanced, revamped and revitalized cruise line air programs.

  • Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises – ChoiceAir®
  • Princess Cruises – eZAir ®
  • Holland America Line – Flight Ease  TM
  • Cunard Line – CompleteAir

Designed for the modern traveler, these flight programs provide cruisers access to real time airfares with your choice of airlines and flights any time from 330 days up to 4 days prior to sailing. Search results are pre-filtered for only those flights that complement your cruise in order to ensure your timely arrive on embarkation day. Want to arrive a day early? No problem. Want to leave by 8:00am? No worries. You have the flexibility to search for the flights right for you.

Enjoy day of travel support if there are any flight interruptions, delays, schedule changes or cancellations. If you miss your cruise embarkation, the cruise line will work with the airline in order to get you to the next appropriate port of call.

You also have the freedom to choose the pricing option best suited to your needs. You can decide between Lowest/Restricted Fares or Flexible Fares. The least expensive, yet most restrictive, fares require instant purchase. Flexible fares are more, well, flexible. They are typically higher than restricted fares, but you can easily cancel or change your flight arrangements up until a designed time, plus the air payment isn’t due until the date of the final cruise payment.

Many times, special promotions and valuable air credits are offered if you purchase air through the cruise line’s air program. And even some, like ChoiceAir, guarantee the lowest airfare, even providing a credit of 110% of the difference to spend onboard your cruise if you find a lower base fare within 24-hours of booking.

Booking Air Independently from the Cruise Line

Advantage: Control and flexibility over schedules and payment.

Disadvantage: More room for error, restrictive fares.

If you decide to research and book airfare for your cruise on your own, it may take more time and frustration, but you have the ultimate control over your desired air schedule and can purchase whenever you feel comfortable.

A few things to keep in mind when booking air independently:

  • We recommend you consider arriving a day prior to the cruise to ease any concerns of arriving to the port on time. This is especially recommended for travel during the winter months when weather delays are common.
  • If arriving a day early isn’t an option, you should plan to arrive no later than 1:00pm on the day of departure for cruises departing the continental United States. This should provide ample time to collect your bags and transfer to the ship, even if the port is an hour from the airport. By arriving early, you are planning ahead for unforeseen flight delays and increasing your chances of meeting the ship on time.
  • Return flights should not be booked any earlier than noon on the day your cruise returns.

There are airports that are located more than an hour away from the cruise port, and ships depart from international ports at varying times, so in order to minimize your chances of choosing a risky flight schedule, please contact your travel agent or Cruise Specialist to confirm times before you purchase.

For more information on cruise line air/sea packages and their respective Terms & Conditions, please give us a call at 800-i-CRUISE or email us by clicking here.

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Oceania Cruises, an award-winning upper premium cruise line, will embark on its first-ever cruise around the world on Jan. 10, 2015 and include stops in 89 ports in 44 countries – returning 180-days later on July 8, 2015. This impressive once-in-a-lifetime journey (approx. six months) sails round-trip from Miami, Florida aboard the 684-passenger Insignia.

Fulfill your traveler’s bucket list and explore all of the world’s greatest treasures in one spectacular voyage! Back onboard, enjoy Oceania’s casually elegant atmosphere, world-class cuisine and dedicated staff.

“As the leading specialist in destination cruising, we wanted to create a unique port- intensive voyage that reflects the dreams of the true explorer, rather than speed across the seas racing to the next convenient port as is the norm in a typical 100- to 110-day world cruise,” said Kunal S. Kamlani, the line’s president. “By eliminating the 100-day time constraint, we freed ourselves to conceive a remarkable dream voyage designed to visit the world’s most fascinating destinations.”

The world cruise will begin its marathon expedition with visits to boutique ports in the Caribbean followed by South America, the crossing of the Atlantic to Africa, India, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Hawaii before returning to Miami via the Panama Canal. Please see below for the full itinerary.

In addition to crossing the equator four times and sailing through all 24 time zones, guests will traverse three oceans and 10 seas, call on 45 islands and have the chance to visit 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Of the 89 ports visited on this extraordinary cruise, 13 are new to Oceania Cruises, including Corinto, Nicaragua; El Guamache (Isla Margarita), Venezuela; Langkawi, Malaysia; Santa Marta, Colombia; and Xiamen, China.

The around-the-world cruise will include 11 overnight calls including Bangkok, Thailand; Beijing, China; Bali (Benoa) Indonesia; Cairns, Australia; Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia; and more. There will also be four two-night calls in Cape Town, South Africa; Yangon, Myanmar (Burma); Singapore, Singapore; and Shanghai, China.

Through September 17th, 2013, guests can take advantage of early booking discounts that feature two-for-one cruise fares and free pre-paid gratuities. Additionally, guests will receive a free visa package including entry visas for 16 countries, unlimited Internet and laundry service, luggage delivery, round-trip transfers and free onboard medical service, a first for the industry. Also included in the cruise fare are free exclusive shoreside events in Walvis Bay, Namibia; Myanmar; Bangkok; Beijing and Honolulu.

Around the World guests will cruise aboard the Insignia, an elegant mid-size ship. Insignia is spacious enough to offer every modern comfort and amenity of larger ships, yet small enough to call on secluded bays and chic, seaside hamlets not accessible to most vessels. Gourmet cuisine crafted by acclaimed master chef Jacques Pépin is served in four open-seating restaurants, all at no additional charge. The ship features spacious, modern accommodations and a state-of-the-art fitness center, casino, boutique, large pool and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub®.

For more information on Oceania’s Around the World in 180 Days cruise, please call 800-i-CRUISE [800-427-8473] to speak with one of our knowledgeable, friendly cruise specialists.

Oceania Insignia World Cruise 2015 Itinerary: