Sherry Laskin

Sherry Laskin

Sherry is the Editor in Chief and creator of CruiseMaven.com. With a focus on cruises and trains, she's an avid proponent of solo and slow travel. Her mission is to entertain, inspire and encourage readers to experience the joys of travel without flying.

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Two Holland America Ships Receive Perfect Sanitation Scores

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Holland America ships

Nieuw Amsterdam in San Juan.

Following surprise health inspections by the CDC, two Holland America ships, the Amsterdam and Noordam received a score of 100 on their recent health inspections.

Along with Amsterdam’s and Noordam’s perfect scores, sister-ship Zuiderdam also earned a perfect 100 earlier this year.  Plus, Eurodam set a record-breaking six-year run of perfect scores.

The surprise visit for the USPH (United States Public Health) aboard the Amsterdam took place on August 8, 2018 while the ship was docked in Sitka, Alaska, during a seven-day Alaska cruise.

The unannounced inspection aboard Noordam was held in Juneau, Alaska on Aug. 29, 2018 also while in the middle of a seven-day Alaska cruise. Over the past five years, several Holland America ships have achieved a perfect score of 100 nearly 30 times.

“There is nothing more important to us than the health and well-being of our guests and crew, and the most recent series of 100’s is an impressive accomplishment that reflects this commitment,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Congratulations to the teams aboard Amsterdam and Noordam, as well as everyone ashore who worked very hard to achieve these perfect scores.”

Every cruise ship must undergo a surprise health inspection by the CDC twice a year.  These inspections are part of the Vessel Sanitation Program, which was introduced in the early 1970s and is required for all passenger ships that call at a U.S. port.

The unannounced inspections are conducted by officials from the United States Public Health Service.

Read next: Holland America

Health scores range from one to 100 and includes dozens of areas on the ship.  The checklist covers everything from food sanitation and hygiene, galley cleanliness, drinking water, swimming pools, ship personnel and many more areas that come in contact with passengers.

In total, over the past five years, Holland America ships have garnered a record total of 29 perfect health inspection scores.

Amtrak Cancels Trains Due to Hurricane Florence

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Hurricane Florence impacts Amtrak train service

Any surface travel, including Amtrak train travel, is affected by weather calamities.  After last year’s Hurricane Irma, Amtrak train tracks from south Georgia through north Florida were scattered with downed tree limbs and debris.  Amtrak was forced to cancel five days of service on its Florida-bound trains.

The same scenario is about to happen.  Amtrak cancels train service well in advance of Hurricane Florence.  If you or someone you know has plans to travel by Amtrak anywhere between Washington, D.C. and Miami this week and next week, here is the update for canceled Amtrak service.

Amtrak Service South of Washington, D.C., Impacted

Due to predicted severe weather in the Southeast from Hurricane Florence, Amtrak cancels trains or is modifying service beginning Wednesday, Sept. 12, through Sunday, Sept. 16.

Trains canceled Friday, Sept. 14:

Northeast Regional trains 180, 184, 187, and 133

Trains canceled Wednesday, Sept. 12 – Sunday, Sept. 16:

Auto Train (Lorton, Va. – Sanford, Fla.) trains 52 –53

Silver Meteor (New York City – Miami) trains 97 – 98

Crescent (New York City – New Orleans) trains 19 – 20

Trains cancelled Thursday, Sept. 13 – Sunday, Sept. 16

Carolinian (New York City — Charlotte, N.C.) trains 79 – 80 are cancelled Thursday, Sept. 13 – Sunday, Sept. 16.

Piedmont (Raleigh, N.C. – Charlotte, N.C.) trains 73 – 78 are cancelled Thursday, Sept. 13 – Sunday, Sept. 16.

Silver Star (New York City – Miami) trains 91 – 92 will operate between Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami only Wednesday, Sept. 12 – Sunday, Sept. 16.

These trains will operate on a modified schedule:

Palmetto (New York City– Savannah, Ga.) trains 89 – 90 will operate between New York City and Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12 – Sunday, Sept. 16.

Cardinal (Chicago – New York City) trains 50 – 51 will operate between Indianapolis and Chicago between Thursday, Sept. 13 – Sunday, Sept. 16.

Northeast Regional service 86 and 174 will operate normally Thursday, Sept. 13, then will operate Washington D.C. and north Friday, Sept 14 – Sunday, Sept. 16.

Northeast Regional service will not operate south of Washington, D.C. The following trains will operate between Washington D.C. and north Thursday, Sept. 13 – Sunday, Sept. 16: trains 65, 66, 67, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88, 93, 94, 95, 99, 125, 145, 156, 157, 171, 176, 194 and 195.

Customers with reservations on trains that are being modified will typically be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or another day. Amtrak will gladly waive additional charges for customers looking to change their reservation during the modified schedule.  Call Amtrak reservation center at 800-USA-RAIL. Anyone planning to travel should check their train status on Amtrak.com or our smartphone apps.

Amtrak regrets any inconvenience. This information is correct as of the above time and date. Information is subject to change as conditions warrant.

Service Alerts, Passenger Notices and other announcements are posted at Amtrak.com/alerts.

Source: Amtrak

Welcome Aboard My 14-Day Holland America Koningsdam Transatlantic Crossing

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Holland America Koningsdam Transatlantic Crossing - Ponta Delgada

A transatlantic crossing is not your ordinary cruise.  Try to imagine a cork bobbing around in an triple-sized olympic swimming pool.  That’s kind of how I visualize what it’s like crossing the Atlantic.  But I don’t have a choice.  Most others do.

Read next:  5 Observations on Cruising Solo on Transatlantic Crossings

I take transatlantics back and forth to Europe because I don’t fly.  For me, it’s transportation, not a vacation.  For almost all of the passengers onboard this Holland America Koningsdam transatlantic crossing, they were onboard because (in descending order):

1.  they wanted to experience a transatlantic crossing,

2.  they liked the itinerary,

3.  the price was less expensive than flying both ways and

4.  they didn’t want to fly but were okay with flying home from Europe.  I was definitely in the minority.

This was my second time aboard a Koningsdam transatlantic from Ft. Lauderdale to Rome.  I did the same trip last year.  This year, there were three differences.  We stopped at two ports in the Azores instead of one; Alicante-Spain was dropped and Cartegena was added and finally, I didn’t have to travel wearing a 4-lb. black boot for a broken toe.

Instead of writing a way-too-long article with all 14 days included, I’ve broken the voyage down into separate stories.  You can pick and choose based on your interests.  Onboard and ashore, here’s the breakdown.

Aboard 14-day Koningsdam Transatlantic Crossing

Each article links to the previous and next one, so you won’t get lost.  Wondering if a Koningsdam transatlantic crossing is right for you? This may just convince you to go! There’s another Holland America Koningsdam transatlantic planned for 2019.

Carnival’s Newest and Largest Ship to Homeport at Port Canaveral

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Carnival to homeport new ship at port canaveral

Great news for Florida’s Space Coast (and my backyard)!  Carnival Cruise Line has reached an agreement with the Canaveral Port Authority to construct a brand new state-of-the-art cruise terminal.  The reason for this new cruise terminal?  To homeport Carnival’s yet-to-be-built new 180,000 cruise ship, set to launch in 2020.

The still-unnamed ship will accommodate 5,286 passengers (based on double-occupancy) and will feature an array of totally new features and attractions.  It will also be the first North America-based cruise ship to be powered by LNG – Liquified Natural Gas.

If you’re familiar with Port Canaveral, the new terminal (called Terminal 3) will be east of the Cove restaurant and shopping area.

Construction on the new mega-ship is scheduled to begin November 2018 with the official steel-cutting ceremony at the shipyard in Turku, Finland.

Itineraries from Port Canaveral and details on the new ship will be rolled out in 2019.

First Cruise? Here’s 10 Ways to Avoid First-Time Cruise Jitters

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First Cruise

Advice for your first cruise. Or even the fiftieth.

You’ve paid for your first cruise in full, bought a new swim suit and a set of luggage, arranged for a pet sitter/plant person and stopped the mail and newspaper delivery. Now what?

To make the transition from landlubber to seasoned sailor a cinch, here are my suggestions to help ensure a smooth sailing on your first cruise. Or fiftieth!

First time cruise advice

Test the waters

Not sure how you’ll do at sea?  Start with a shorter three- or four-night cruise.  Expect a party attitude on these weekend getaways but it’s really a good way to see if you even like being on the water.  Just don’t judge all cruises by this example.

Carnival Ecstasy luggage arrival

Pack light. Then pack again.

Even after a zillion cruises, I still return home with unworn clothes. If you have to fly to the port, even more reason to leave half of what you think you’ll need at home.  Color-coordinate so that you can easily mix and match and turn a daytime outfit into evening wear. Sounds simple, right?

I’ve developed a plan that I like to call my “Noah’s Ark cruise packing tips.”  I bring two of everything.  For a 7-night Caribbean cruise I pack:

  • Two black dress pants with two dressy tops
  • Two dresses; one cocktail-type and one casual dress
  • two pairs of shorts
  • two short-sleeve t-shirts
  • two sleeveless t-shirts
  • two bathing suits
  • two pairs of running socks
  • two casual pants
  • two skirts (that go with the t-shirts/tops) and so on.

Did I say I pack two of everything? Well, there is one exception: shoes.  It’s impossible to only bring two pairs of shoes. So, it’s one pair each of black high-ish heels, sneakers, sandals, some kind of dressy nice-looking flat shoes and maybe one extra casual shoe with a heel. Four or five pairs of shoes are sufficient. Black/neutral colors only.

Whether your one-week cruise has two formal nights or none, the above recipe really works well.  Throw in a couple of scarves, costume jewelry and you’re good to go.

What about for a man? Follow the above guidelines, perhaps omitting the high heels.

You can always wash a few pieces of clothing in the sink (shampoo works ok, but I bring travel packets of Tide) but never ever leave wet clothes on the balcony to dry. Many ships (from mass market to ultra-luxe) have self-service laundromats or you can send out your dirty clothes to be washed/folded (less expensive than dry cleaning.) Cruise lines now reward frequent passengers with complimentary clothes washing mid-way through the cruise. That is one of my favorite perks.

Read More:  Stateroom Locations to Absolutely Avoid

off site parking for cruise

Arrive early – or even the night before.

Nothing increases frustration and frazzles nerves more than imagining the ship sailing without you. Why put yourself through that aggravation when it is easy to avoid. (That said, there have been a handful of times many years ago, when I was the absolutely last to board and the gangway clanked closed behind me.)

Fast-forward to today. Homeland Security demands checking in at the ship no less than ninety minute prior to the published sailing time. That said, the cruise line may deny boarding to late arrivals and with no refund.   Why risk it?

Whenever possible, fly or drive in to your port the day prior to your cruise. You can sleep later, enjoy a nice breakfast at your hotel then grab your luggage and a shuttle or taxi and head to the port.  Many hotels now offer free or greatly reduced parking rates for up to three weeks if you simply spend only one night at their hotel.  Check out www.parksleepfly.com and click “cruiseport.”

Have the correct documents to travel outside of the USA.

I’ve seen people in a state of panic at the port when they suddenly realize they’ve forgotten their passport.  Or immigration papers. Put a big note on your front door, “GOT PASSPORTS?” As soon as you reserve your cruise, check your passport’s expiration date.  It needs to be valid for at least six months after the date you return from your cruise.

Ask the cruise line or your travel agent, but double-check on the Travel.State.gov website. Make sure that you and your traveling companions’ documents are correct and current.  This link contains information on passport requirements.  Finally, the Before You Go checklist on Travel.State.gov site is a good and informative read.

Hand-carry your documents, medicines and even a change of clothes.

If you accidentally pack your passport in your checked luggage, it can really ruin a good day or even contribute to missing the ship. There’s a good possibility that you won’t see your belongings in your stateroom until 5pm.  If you need medication at lunchtime and your luggage is lost or delayed, always carry your meds aboard with you.

Same goes for a change of clothes. If you flew to your ship in the morning and left winter’s wrath behind, hand-carry a lightweight change of clothes. Should you not see your luggage until 5pm, at least you will be able to change clothes and enjoy the first day of your cruise without looking like Nanook of the North meets the Love Boat.

Tip the shoreside porters.

Despite the fact that there are signs posted all around the baggage handling areas that say tipping isn’t necessary because the baggage handlers are on a salary, don’t follow that advice. These men really do work hard to unload your car and transport vehicles. They spend long hours, usually in the hot sun, lifting tons of overweight luggage, filling cargo bins and moving them to the ship.

A good rule of thumb is $2-3/per bag. Or if you are traveling solo and have only one bag, $5-$7 will help insure that your solo bag makes it to your room. On time. For that particular sailing. There are stories I could tell about passengers who don’t tip the baggage handlers…but I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Attend the muster drill

No hiding in the bathroom, in the closet or under the bed. Muster drill is essential, required and can truly save your life.  After the Costa Concordia disaster a few years ago, every cruise line has tightened their muster drill regulations. Attendance is taken at each muster station and if you are not there, you will be required to attend a private muster drill at a time determined by the Captain.

Cunard Queen Mary 2 Britannia Dining Room

Check out your dining room seating arrangements.

Why? To avoid one of the most uncomfortable situations on a cruise; when you and your cabin mate are seated in the dining room at a table for four.  So many variables can be put into play. Imagine being at dinner for seven nights in a row with two strangers with whom you have absolutely nothing in common. Sometimes they don’t talk, they’re grumpy, don’t speak your language and on and on. NEVER request a table for four unless you know them before the cruise.

You’re probably thinking that you could go to the maître‘d immediately after dinner and request a table change. And you certainly can. But imagine that you are waiting for an elevator, the doors open and who should be standing there? None other than the abandoned table couple.  On a ship with 4,000 passengers it may seem highly unlikely that you’d EVER run into them again. Trust me. You will.

Facilitate that event ever happening and simply wander into the dining room BEFORE the first night dinner and find your table. That way, if it’s a table for four, you can politely ask the maître‘d to change your table on that same night. You may have to wait a bit while some juggling is done, but it can and will be done.

Grab the fold-out deck plan map & get acquainted with your ship.

When muster is over, be sure to go on deck for the sailaway festivities. Unfold the deck plan booklet and make your way to the highest deck on the ship. After a peek at what there is to do up top, meander your way down deck by deck walking from bow to aft til you complete your tour. This should really only take maybe 30 minutes and it’s a great way to get a quick overview of where things are and what there is to do.  You probably won’t remember half of it, but at least it will look semi-familiar when you go back there later on the cruise.

deck plan

And most important:

Take a mental snapshot of your deck plan and exit route.

There’s 99.9% chance you’ll never need it use it, but just like you should always do at a hotel, note where the emergency exits are…in this case, the closest stairwell.  Also, I always travel with a mini-flashlight which sits on my nightstand along with quick-to-jump-into clothes folded nearby. I do this at hotels, too. Maybe it was my Girl Scout training to always be prepared.  Keep your phone fully charged, too.

A first cruise can be incredibly exciting and a bit overwhelming.  With these 10 first cruise tips, your first or even fiftieth cruise can be one of the best vacation experiences you’ll ever remember.

Bon Voyage!

Lonely Planet New Cruise Port Guides Offer a Wealth of Info

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Lonely Planet cruise port guides

Whether you’ve cruised a few dozen times or it’s your first cruise, figuring out what to do in cruise ports can be a lengthy process.  Travel guidebook guru, Lonely Planet, is releasing a series of cruise port guides to help you to chose your cruise and plan your day ashore.

Lonely Planet launched their first three of their series of cruise port guides this summer.  The newest guides include Alaska, Scandinavia & Northern Europe and the Caribbean.

All books feature color fold-out maps, port highlights and port reviews plus important tips to help cruisers save time and money.  Written by Lonely Planet’s cruise travel experts, these books are valuable resources, even for experienced cruisers (like me!).  I brought my Alaska guide book with me on this month’s Alaska cruise.

Read next:  From Florida to Alaska Without Flying

Whether traveling solo, as a couple or a family, each book features all you need to know to plan your trip.  From essential information and local life and cultural insights to month by month events,  you will find a bevy of great ideas that cover a wide range of interests. And of course, my favorite part; where to eat in the listed cruise ports.

In addition to dining, there’s advice for shopping and activities to do in each port.  Armed with Lonely Planet’s suggestions should also help the undecided choose the right cruise for there lifestyle.

“Rather than taking a tour, we’re encouraging travelers to feel comfortable striking out on their own,” said Darren O’Connor, the guidebook product director. “We want to give passengers the confidence, independence and know-how to discover each destination at their own pace.”

For example, my 292-page Alaska cruise port guide book lists the major cultural, physically active and nature activities first. Then there are sections for general sights, tours, shopping, eating, drinking and nightlife and general getting around in port.

Ports included in the Alaska Cruise Ports guide are: Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Whittier, Seward and Anchorage.

There’s also lengthy information about the two main embarkation ports, Seattle and Vancouver, BC. including where to stay, eat and what to do pre- or post-cruise.

O’Connor said the company decided to jump into the cruise market because of its continual growth, citing statistics that show cruisers have grown from 7 million to 23 million annually in the past decade.

In 2019, additional cruise port guides will be available for Japan, Northeast Asia, the Mediterranean and European rivers.

New Princess Beverage Menu to Feature Globally Inspired Cocktails

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Princess beverage menu

Princess Cruises announced their most significant beverage changes in the line’s history.  The new Princess beverage menu will feature globally inspired signature cocktails created by master mixologist Rob Floyd. Destination-specific ingredients have been carefully selected with flavors from around the world. In addition to the new cocktails, the line has added 20 new high-end and exotic spirits, 39 new wines by the glass, and 17 new international and craft beers to the new menu.

One of the highlights of the new Princess beverage menu is a set of signature cocktails created by Rob Floyd, using fresh ingredients and inspired by Princess Cruises’ destinations.  An entire portfolio of these original cocktails was designed for Princess’ new beverage offerings.

Bars and lounges throughout the ships will also feature new, themed menus, with different offerings at each of the bars.

“I was truly inspired by ingredients from all the amazing destinations that Princess Cruises sails” said Rob Floyd. “Guests will be able to enjoy a wide selection of fully realized drinks that combine what I refer to as the Three T’s: taste, technique, and tale.”

Floyd believes in creating drinks that adhere to his three “T’s”; “Taste,” “Technique,” and “Tale;” – the stories and inspiration behind each cocktail.

The globally designed cocktails by Rob Floyd include:

  • Mayan Heat: Patrón Silver tequila, Triple Sec, lime juice, agave syrup, muddled jalapeño
  • Italian Sunset: Aperol, Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, Angostura bitters
  • Ver-Jus: St. George “Terroir” gin, St-Germain, muddled green grapes, lemon juice, simple syrup
  • Mint Divine: Bombay Sapphire gin, ginger beer, cucumber, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint
  • Amaretto Manhattan: Bulleit Bourbon, Disaronno, sweet vermouth, Angostura orange bitters
  • Princess Punch: Absolut Elyx vodka, St. George raspberry liqueur, fresh lime, simple syrup, Gosling’s ginger beer
  • East Side Punch: Absolut Elyx vodka, fresh mint, cucumber, lime juice, simple syrup, club soda
  • A Trip to the Tropics: Absolut Elyx vodka, apricot liqueur, orange juice, pineapple juice, pomegranate juice
  • Ivory Coast: Grey Goose vodka, Amarula African liqueur, Kahlúa, chocolate shavings
  • The Egyptian Zombie: Bacardi Superior rum, Gosling’s Dark rum, blackberry brandy, sweet and sour, orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine

Rounding out the new drinks are two non-alcoholic drinks:

  • Zero Mojito: Fresh mint, lime, simple syrup, Sprite
  • Strawberries on Fire: Fresh strawberries, lime juice, agave syrup, jalapeño, soda

The new beverage menu offerings will be available aboard all ships by fall 2018.

Currently, Princess Cruises is offering their Sip and Sail promotion, offering complimentary beverages for balcony, mini-suite and suite bookings.  More information is here at Princess Cruises Sip and Sail.

Sip and Sail offer runs through 11:59 p.m. PDT on September 5, 2018 and is available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Bermuda who are 21 years of age or older.

Five Good Reasons to Take Your Cruise Line’s Shore Excursion

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I’m not one to always follow the crowd.

Many times in port, I forego the cruise line shore excursion and explore the downtown or city center on my own.  Sometimes it’s with the help of a local shuttle into town when we’re docked in an industrial area.

Other times, I’ll have done pre-cruise research and arrange for a shore excursion with a separate shore tour operator.  I’ve even met fellow passengers and we’ve teamed up to share the cost of a taxi tour for a few hours.

But there are definitely times when I feel like it’s almost necessary to purchase a cruise line shore excursion.

Here’s when you might want to take the cruise line shore excursion rather than wing it on your own.

Our Viking tour of a local market would not have the same results had I tried this alone.

You don’t speak the language

When you cruise to countries where you simply couldn’t communicate with the locals should you get lost or worse, a cruise line shore excursion is your best bet.  There will be an English-speaking tour guide to accompany you on the motor coach as well as escort everyone on the bus into the various attractions.  In some non-English speaking ports, there will even be a option to choose the same tours presented in your native language, depending upon passenger demographics.

I prefer not to fumble around with a translation guide book when I can have someone speak to me in my own language.  Then, if I want to challenge and usually embarrass myself, I will try to say a few words in the language of the tour guide.  Sometimes the tour guide, to pass the time on the bus ride, will teach everyone a few words in the local language.  It sounds silly but it’s actually fun.

If someone has difficulty with mobility

Whether you’re visiting Honolulu or Hamburg, getting around between ship and shore can be a challenge if mobility is difficult.  In the brochure for your cruise line shore excursions, there will usually be a symbol to depict a rating for physical exertion, from easy to difficult.  Your ship is prepared to strive to accommodate all of their passengers, no matter their mobility.  Large motor coaches sometimes have a wheelchair lift as well as the ability to stow a motorized scooter underneath the bus.

While private tours do all that they can to ensure the safety and satisfaction of everyone who’s booked a tour, sometimes they simply don’t have the equipment to do so.  Most independent shore tours have a lot less guests so they may use a van or mini-van that’s not equipped for someone in a wheelchair or scooter.

Certain cruise lines, like Holland America and Crystal Cruises for example, are known to go above and beyond expectations for their guests who require assistance.  When in doubt, ask someone at the Shore Excursions desk if a particular shore excursion would be possible.

A simple half-day overview tour is fine

Many times in a new port when we have an entire day there, I’ll choose the ship’s three- to four-hour motor coach tour.  There may even be a departure for “late risers”.

For example, I was recently in Cartagena, Colombia.  We were docked in an industrial area but I heard that at the end of the dock there was a really cool mini-zoo and a very large shopping hall.

I wanted to allow enough time after my tour to walk to the zoo and do a little shopping at my own pace.  At 9:300 am we departed the ship for a drive through town that included three stops along the way.  By 12:30pm, we were back on board, having seen quite a bit of Cartagena, sipped a tropical drink and had a walk through the Old Town.

Cruise Line Shore Excursion

These beautiful macaws, and there were close to a hundred of them, plus monkeys, sloths and more, were at the little open air zoo at the port.

Lunch onboard the ship was followed by a stroll to the mini-zoo and shopping.  I was able to get a brief but memorable overview of this colorful city and still have time to go and do things on my own.

Note:

If this is appealing, when you board the bus from your ship, take a good look at how the bus leaves the pickup area.  Is there a sidewalk that runs parallel to the road?  Are there people walking along it (crew, passengers or locals)? Make a mental note of how to get from the ship to a nearby feature or attraction so that you can do it on your own in the second half of your day in port.

Exploring one of three museums in Carthage on a cruise line shore excursion with MSC Cruises.

You’re unsure of the surroundings

Whether it’s a port in a country that’s on a US Government “Do Not Travel” list, or you just aren’t too sure of what to do, where to go, and you a little skeptical about safety, that’s a good time to book a cruise line shore excursion.

Example, our port call in Tunisia a few years ago.  I had no clue where to go, I didn’t speak the language and I was a little nervous as an American.  No problem.  No less than 20 tour buses were lined up to take us to some of the most incredible sights I’d ever seen.  Our tour guide’s English wasn’t too good and they didn’t use Quiet Vox or audio equipment.  But I didn’t care.  Our tour through the ruins in Carthage, a walk through the city of Sidi Bou Said and national museums was one of the best tours ever.

You’re traveling solo

I figured out two parts to this reason.  The first is that I’ve found, as a solo cruiser, it’s easier to make new friends on the cruise line shore excursion.  You’re likely to see familiar faces, and even if most of the others on the tour are in couples, people seem friendlier when you have the ship in common.

My second observation for choosing my ship’s tour over a private tour is that quite often the private tour is made up of friends and family.  As a solo and a stranger in the small group, you’re the odd one out.  It can be a very uncomfortable feeling.

But my favorite reason as a solo passenger for choosing a cruise line shore excursion is that I get the two seats to myself.  One for packages and other for gazing out the window.

Read next:  Seven Tips When Reserving Your Own Shore Excursions

I think it’s important to know and accept your limitations (physical, emotional and security) so you aren’t disappointed, end up overdoing it, get lost or worse, get left behind.

Whatever method you choose – the cruise line shore excursion or take a tour with a private company, get out and enjoy it!

Holland America Nieuw Statendam Deck Plan Details

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New Statendam deck planWhen Holland America Line welcomes Nieuw Statendam to the fleet in December 2018, the ship will mirror the design that was introduced with Koningsdam, the first Pinnacle Class ship. With a focus on the importance of thoughtful details and special touches, the Nieuw Statendam deck plan continues the musical theme and artful design that continues Holland America Line’s cruise ship tradition.

The new 2,666-guest Nieuw Statendam deck plan will feature an interior that balances a fresh, contemporary styling in perfect harmony with the Holland America’s classic elegance.

Focusing on fluid curves and graceful lines, light-filled spaces and the natural flow of public areas, the key to the Nieuw Statendam design is again utilizing visual interaction, where guests actively engage with the interiors rather than passively moving through them.

Nieuw Statendam Deck Plan Details

Nieuw Statendam deck plan reveals a dramatic three-deck-high atrium in the center of the ship.  An airy stainless-steel sculpture is the centerpiece and is intended to emulate the feeling of being inside and surrounded by a musical instrument. The experience changes as guests move around and through it, so no two perspectives are the same.

The atrium is capped by a ceiling skylight that serves as a backdrop for subtly changing high-definition projections. Guests will look up by day and see wispy cirrus clouds or images of light in water. By evening, the atrium takes on dramatic lighting hues or constellations of the night sky.

See next:  12 Things I Like about Holland America’s Koningsdam

Dining Room

Newly revealed Nieuw Statendam deck plans include the main dining room which will span two floors and as on the Koningsdam offer expansive views of the sea. A bright, modern interior is accompanied by curved architectural pillars to accentuate the soaring ceiling. Custom furnishings and modern glass lighting are being fabricated especially for the ship. The centerpiece of the main dining room is a curved copper sheath surrounding a two-story wine tower to showcase Holland America’s extensive wine selection.

Rudi’s Sel De Mer, Holland America Line’s intimate French brasserie, will be reimagined on Nieuw Statendam with expanded seating for 54 guests. The restaurant retains its original curving shape and polished walnut wood accordion-inspired column structure.  The back wall is adorned with a collection of porcelain plates decorated with Chef Rudi Sodamin’s Food Faces culinary pop art, produced by the famed French brand Bernardaud.

Pool Area

The Magrodome area is two levels and also has a sliding glass dome.  The main level will features the poolside and hot tubs, while the mezzanine level has more seating, a giant screen for poolside movies and New York Deli and Pizza.

Also revealed in the Nieuw Statendam deck plan is Tamarind, Holland America’s signature Pan-Asian restaurant.  Tamarind’s menu is themed to emphasize nature’s basic elements: water, wood, fire and earth. On Nieuw Statendam, the Tamarind experience will include new outdoor dining area with unobstructed views of the ocean.

Nieuw Statendam Caribbean cruises

For the ship’s first season, Nieuw Statendam Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale begin December 2018 and continue through April 2019. All Caribbean cruises include a day at Holland America Line’s private island, Half Moon Cay. Next spring, the ship will cross the Atlantic to Amsterdam and spend the summer and fall exploring northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Nieuw Statendam returns to the Caribbean in October 2019.

Carnival Triumph Becomes Carnival Sunrise After $200 Million Makeover

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Carnival Sunrise

Carnival Cruise Line just announced a $200 million dollar stem-to-stern Carnival Triumph refurbishment in 2019. Once complete, there’ll be a renaming ceremony when Carnival Triumph becomes Carnival Sunrise.  Following the makeover, Carnival Sunrise will feature nearly all of Carnival’s iconic food, beverage and entertainment venues.  Even the staterooms will be updated in new tropical colors.

See next:  Here’s the recipe for Guy’s Straight Up Burger with Pig Patty

The two-month-long refurbishment will take place in Cadiz, Spain starting on March 1 and wrapping up at then end of April 2019.

Carnival Sunrise staterooms

The redesign of two luxurious Captain’s Suites near the navigational bridge featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and extended balcony grand suites.  All of the ship’s staterooms will be updated to offer island-themed interiors with bright colors and soothing pastels inspired by the line’s Caribbean itineraries.

Other new features include:

FOOD

  • Cucina del Capitano: offering delicious Italian favorites and new Carnival classics served family-style in an engaging atmosphere reminiscent of a cozy Italian home.
  • JavaBlue Café: this expanded version of the line’s popular coffee bars will offer lattes, cappuccinos and other caffeinated favorites, as well as “spiked” coffees made with liqueurs, and decadent confections.
  • Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse: a classic American steakhouse offering mouth-watering steaks, gourmet appetizers, entrees and desserts, with impeccable service and understated ambiance.
  • Bonsai Express: the success of the full-service Bonsai Sushi restaurants has spawned this casual spot, featuring a mouth-watering array of sushi, sashimi, rolls and more.
  • The Chef’s Table: a new multi-course dining experience hosted in a special glass-enclosed venue in the forward dining room.
  • Cherry on Top: The “sweetest spot on board,” an expanded Cherry on Top features bulk candy, fanciful gifts, custom apparel and a Carnival Adventures shop.
  • Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse: a casual open-air eatery featuring “real deal” BBQ favorites created by Food Network star Guy Fieri.
  • Lido Marketplace: A casual poolside eatery boasting favorites like Seafood Shack offering lobster rolls and other New England-inspired fare; The Deli with sandwiches and paninis; Pizzeria del Capitano serving hand-tossed artisanal-style pies free of charge 24/7, and an expanded Swirls venue with complimentary ice cream and frozen yogurt.

BARS AND LOUNGES

  • RedFrog Pub: Featuring the Caribbean’s best rums and beers – including Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Red – enjoyed in a distinct British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West atmosphere.
  • Piano Bar 88: A new twist on Carnival’s popular piano bar concept that amps up the excitement with themed nights, engaging new décor and spontaneous sing-along fun.
  • Limelight Lounge: Home to the Punchliner Comedy Club featuring a hilarious line-up of comics which later transforms into a sizzling night club where guests can dance the night away.
  • New Multi-Purpose Liquid Lounge: an expansive theater that’s home to captivating daytime and nighttime entertainment, including the line’s high-tech Playlist Productions revues and audience participation favorite Hasbro, The Game Show.

OUTDOOR FUN

  • SportSquare: A suspended ropes course offering heart-racing views to the sea 150 feet below, basketball court, jogging track, ping pong, foosball, pool tables, and a nine-hole miniature golf course highlight this open-area recreation complex.
  • WaterWorks: Featuring a 203-foot-long AquaTunnel slide and Carnival’s signature 212-foot-long Twister slide along with a 75-gallon PowerDrencher tipping bucket and kiddie area.
  • Serenity Adult Only Retreat: An adult only oasis offering plush chaise lounges, whirlpools and oversized umbrellas, enhanced by dramatic sea views.

CLOUD 9 SPA, KIDS’ SPACES AND SHOPPING

Expanded Cloud 9 Spa and More

  • Cloud 9 Spa:  Designed as the ultimate refuge for rest and relaxation, the health and wellness center offers an elaborate thermal suite, private treatment rooms, and the latest cardio and weight-training equipment.
  • Modern, Spacious Facilities for Kids and Teens: including a new Camp Ocean, a colorful marine-inspired play area designed for kids ages 2-11, along with new spaces for Circle “C” aimed at 12- to 14-year olds and Club O2 geared to those 15-17.
  • The Warehouse:  promising fun for all ages with a variety of the latest video and arcade games.
  • Expanded Retail Spaces:  a mall-style shopping area lined with retail outlets offering fine jewelry, watches, fragrances, and more along with the line’s own branded spaces like Hip Fish and The Carnival Store.`

Carnival Sunrise cruises from Norfolk

Carnival Sunrise cruises from Norfolk begins with a seven-day cruise to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport departing April 29, 2019.  Two five-day voyages depart May 12 and 17, 2019 calling at Nassau and Freeport.  Three six-day cruises depart May 6, and Oct. 14 and 20, 2019, visiting Half Moon Cay, Nassau and Freeport.

Cruises from New York

Carnival Sunrise will then reposition to New York for four- to 14-day voyages beginning May 23, 2019. A series of Bermuda cruises, will be followed by fall foliage cruises to New England and the Canadian Maritimes.  Several longer voyages include a 10-day exotic eastern Caribbean itinerary and a 14-day Carnival Journeys Panama Canal cruise.

Cruises from Fort Lauderdale

By October, Carnival Sunrise heads south for the winter season with cruises from Fort Lauderdale.  Itineraries include four- and five-day cruises beginning Oct. 28, 2019.

Reservations for Carnival Sunrise are now available