Sep 20

Website Review – Cruise Critic Message Boards

CruiseCriticLogoTwo or so years ago I took a Mediterranean Cruise with Norwegian, by myself in one of their new solo cabins.  While I was prepping for the trip I looked around on Cruise Critic for information. There is so much information on there, it’s insane!  I also met a bunch of people, which made the cruise an unforgettable experience.  For these two reasons my tip today to anyone going on a cruise is to go to the Cruise Critic and particularly the message boards.

Cruise Critica has Roll Call boards for pretty much every ship and sail date.  Some boards are very active while others are a bit quiet.  I know many people coordinated to take private tours with groups of 6 or 8 people, which might have consisted of 3 or 4 couples who never met before the cruise.  Most Roll Calls arrange a meet for everyone on the first or second day.  It’s an opportunity to meet some people, even if you don’t click and become friends, it’s nice to have a friendly face around the ship from time to time.  Heck, my group even had a meet up the night before the cruise in Barcelona.

The other thing on Cruise Critic is learning what to do in port, everything from reviews of excursions to how to get around a port are available.  I got step by step instructions on how to get from the port outside Rome to Rome, including photos.  It was invaluable and lowered my stress level trumendously.

If you’re taking a cruise, I highly recommend Cruise Critic!

Aug 23

Website Review: Cruise Fish

CruiseFish.Net is a site that tracks the price of your cruise.  You’ve already booked your cruise and don’t want to manually check the price of your cruise, but want any possible credit you can get.  Cruise Fish will do the work for you.

A few years ago a cruise I was taking a cruise and on a whim I checked the price of a the cruise, it had gone down.  When I contacted my travel agent she was able to upgrade us from an ocean view to a extended balcony room.  It’s definitely worth having the price of your cruise checked!

From the Cruise Fish website, here is what they can do for you:

  • You already booked a cruise? CruiseFish notifies you of any price drop so you can get a refund or on-board credit from the cruise line.
  • Your favorite stateroom category is not available yet? Let CruiseFish watch it and send you a note when it comes back online.
  • Want to book early on those hot new cruise dates? CruiseFish will let you know as soon as they appear on the cruise line’s web site.
  • Get lower prices in other currencies? Take advantage of cruise line price differences between currencies and save up to 30%, CruiseFish price tables will show you how.

What does it cost?  99 Cents

I haven’t had the chance to use the service (haven’t taken a cruise since I heard about it). But, I will definitly be using it for my next cruise.

Apr 19

Abandoned Ship – Book Review

I recently finished the book Abandoned Ship: An intimate account of the Costa Concordia shipwreck by Benji Smith.  The book is the author’s first hand account of the sinking of the Costa Concordia.

He starts out at the beginning, how he and his fiance, Emily, came to book this cruise as their honeymoon vacation.  He tells a little bit about his family and life before the cruise, it helps set the stage for the experience. His story ends with his writing of the book and includes everything in between.

Their experience was in some ways probably pretty typical, and in other ways unique.  No, they were not on one of the first lifeboats.  They were on the rope bridge down the hull of the ship waiting to be rescued.

The book is authentic, told from the first person and expressing as much of the emotion from the time of the incident as possible.  For some, it might seem overly critical, or as though their was an agenda in writing the book, beyond telling the story. However, when you survive a ship wreck I think you’re entitled to have an agenda against those who wrong you, if you so choose.  You’re also entitled to fixate on whatever details help get you through that time.

I enjoy how he gives credit to everyone, not matter their role.  So whether all they did was keep someone else from panicing or if they arranged the rope bridge and saved hundreds of lives, he gives them credit for the work they did. Everyone has a role, and no judgement on what role was more important.  But, if they didn’t contribute anything, he called them out.

The story Benji tells is a good one for travelers and for Emergency Managers.  It’s a cautionary tale about the difficulties you’ll face during a major emergency, even when there are people who should be helping you. It will remind you to have copies of your passport and credit cards.  It will remind you to be empathetic and compassionate to those in need.

Feb 20

Cruise Ship Changes Needed?

As I’m sure you heard, last week the Carnival Triumph had a little fire in the engine and some lack of electricity problems.  Ok, a fire and lose of engines, floating adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of what I know about the conditions on the ship I learned from 20/20 this past weekend.  No power on the ship, no bathrooms, no hot food, sleeping on the deck.  Onion sandwiches I could deal with, sleeping on the deck, that’s fine too.  But the bathroom, that’s where I draw the line. Using red hazardous waste bags as your bathroom while there are overflowing toilets, that’s a health issue.  It’s compounded by the fact that the Carnival Splendor had similar issues 2 years ago when they had an engine fire.
The other thing that was interested is that the ship was about 3 days closer to Cozumel then it was to Mobile, Alabama.  But, they decided to go to Mobile, allegedly because not all passengers had passports.  While that is a legitimate concern, and was probably a factor in the decision to go to Mobile, I’m sure there was a lot more going into that decision. 
I also found it interesting that 2 ships in the area met the Triumph and gave some sort of assistance.  But I wonder if there is anyway passengers could have been offloaded to those ships.  I’m sure there are a ton of issues with space on the other ships, where they are in their itineraries, how to choose who gets offloaded.  But when your choice is 4 days at sea in squalor, then sleeping on the floor of a lounge on another ship doesn’t seem like such a bad option.

I have one recommendation, which I have no idea of the feasibility of, but it certainly sounds reasonable. 
How about isolated back-up generation that can power emergency lighting and toilets.  Seriously, how many ships have to go adrift without the toilets working before we realize that this problem needs to be addressed?
I’m not going to swear off cruising because of this or the other recent events in the industry.  But, I’m starting to wonder about Carnival’s ability to handle emergencies. 

How about you, are you reconsidering cruising?

Nov 21

The Old Days of Cruise Ships

The other day I was listening to a Podcast where they were talking about how it used to be on cruise ships 20 and 30 years ago, and what has changed.  It got me thinking about my memories of cruise ships as a kid in the 80’s.

I took my first cruise in 1987, it was a 6 day cruise to Bermuda on the SS Amerikanis and I didn’t have to look that up, even though I was 11 I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was a budget line and there were 4 of us in an inside cabin and the TV was probably 5 inches and didn’t work.  What a different time, there were no room cards that you paid your bills with cash, no electronic bills to look at on your TV and no freestyle dining.  But I do remember the waitstaff being awesome and taking care of all my 11 year old needs.

But, I also remembered my parents had friends who cruised regularly and I remember going to see them off once, we were able to board the ship and visit in their stateroom and see a bit of the ship.  I remember it being small but luxurious.  Of course I was probably under the age of 10 and my frame of reference wasn’t of a high standard.  After we left the ship my family waited at the dock and waved as our friends set sail.  What happened to the days of having your friends board the ship with you and seeing your cruise ship?  I’ll admit I want that to come back just so I can see other ships.  But it also seems like it would be a great way to interest people in taking a cruise on that ship.  Visit your friend on their cruise and see how cool the ship is and then when the guests are walking off the ship you offer some “fabulous” discount if they book then.  It’s an awesome plan.  I have no doubt it’s because of security that this option no longer exists and never will again.  But it’s a fun idea.

What do you remember about your past cruise experiences?