alaska04You’ve heard the suggestions for cruising Alaska before; dress in layers, mosquito repellant, rain gear, smaller crowds in May and September…all of those and others you’ve read about are great suggestions. But there is one suggestion that is almost never mentioned….at least I’ve never seen it…

GO WHILE YOU STILL CAN, BEFORE IT’S DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO MOVE AROUND!

Snow hiking, walking on ice and glaciers, helicopter rides, standing in between train cars (outside!) while it’s climbing snow-filled mountains, dog sledding and much more.

DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOUR GOLDEN YEARS to experience Alaska.  To maximize your Alaskan Cruise Experience it is best to do it now if you can.  I have a multitude of experience with the senior citizen demographic, and I hear it all the time from Alaskan Cruise first-timers…”We should have done it when we were younger.”

We did and are glad we did.  It’s hard enough to maintain your energy levels at any age, especially after traveling to get to the ship in the first place!  In addition, weather such as what is in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.) and Alaska can make you feel tired too, especially if you reside in a warm weather climate year-round.

Oh, and one other suggestion…check out this link.  We did, and these are not available on ships, nor are they advertised there.  If you take a tour in each Alaskan port city during a seven-day trip, and you travel as a couple, you can save boatloads of money.  We saved a shade over $600 versus doing the advertised excursions!

Happy Cruising!

euro2Hello everybody, and Happy Holidays to all!  We’re back again today to address a little bit about one’s attitude, and how we handle difficult, or unpopular situations.

The key to this is doing the best you can to remember that any event that does not go as you envision does not make you upset, angry…or disturbed.  This, we do to ourselves.  It is how we CHOOSE to react to a difficult person, or the food coming out cold, or finding that first scratch on your car (the car…the scratch is my most difficult one!).

The same applies to how we answer the question…did you enjoy your cruise?  We are human, and we tend to remember the few items that did not go our way.  We are programmed this way.  Take the news on television.  Would ratings do well if the majority of news reported was good news, with lots of human interest stories?  Do we get some kind of pleasure from watching bad things happen to other people, and sitting there, thinking that we are glad it wasn’t us?  There is no right or wrong answer here, just something to think about.

About four years ago, we were booked on the NCL Pearl. A couple of months after booking, with full payment already in, we received the call.  The call was to tell us that the ship would be taken out of service for the week of our cruise!  Talk about scrambling.  I got on the phone right away, trying to find a cruise that leaves the same week, for the same duration of time.  And, I had to do this for eight other people, which included two couples flying in from other states.  it was disappointing, as we are NCL fans, and, I wanted to bowl at sea!  But, we push on.

The Eurodam!

The Eurodam!

Later that day, we chose to sail with Holland America.  Cathy and I were cautiously excited.  I heard many wonderful things about HAL, but remember, I work in an active-adult retirement community.  And, this was the crowd that raved about HAL!  I was kind of concerned we would be cruising “where I work!”  But back to HAL, just heard many good things about their service.  So, we were ready to experience a line we would normally NOT book…at least not without our grandparents coming with us!

We all boarded, and the first impression was a good one.  We rented a private cabana for the week, and enjoyed having this anytime we wanted. I liked the food, the entertainment was fine and the ship never seemed overly crowded.  But, this is what puzzled us.  No overcrowded feeling, yet we were not receiving the type of HAL service everybody raved about.

Relaxing in the private cabana.

Relaxing in the private cabana.

Were the chocolate covered strawberries and bottled Evian in our cabanas everyday as was advertised…no.  Was the private attendant accessible all of the time…no.  In the buffet, was it slow and did they run out of milk, forcing us to wait and slow the lines?  Yes.  Dinner service was abnormally slow, when compared to our several (31) past experiences.

Although our expectations of an HAL Cruise were high, and we were surprised at the lack of attention to detail at times, we still had a heck of a time.  The positives outweighed the negatives, and this is how you have to think if you go into anything with any sort of expectations.  The HAL cruise wasn’t a perfect Cruise Customer Experience, but it was still an excellent experience, and a nice trip.  About three days in we learned that the ship was sent out some 90 crew members short.  Should the crew member have told us that…I don’t know.  But if this was true, all the more reason to feel that under the circumstances, the crew and staff did an admirable job.

Remember, only we have the power to control how we react to things.  Events do not make us angry or happy…we do!  If you can grasp this, you can always enhance your Cruise Experience!

Cathy here, and I am a professional flight attendant.  I realize how stressful travel plans can be, especially when you have deadlines, and on-time arrivals and departures at the airport are crucial for arriving before the ship’s ‘three horn blows!’

Today’s online options to help find the cheapest flights are fantastic, efficient, and most are easy to use (thanks William Shatner!). But, there is one thing that I urge you to be careful of, especially if you don’t want the ship to depart with your stateroom empty.

Some of the cheapest rates for flights can be found by choosing itineraries that combine DIFFERENT AIRLINES. While it may cause less stress in your pocketbooks, it can add stresses in the form of ruining your vacations.  If flight #1 on airline “x” is late, and you miss your connecting flight on airline “y”, airline “x” is NOT obligated to help you with finding another flight. If you are flying on the day of your cruise, well, I do not need to tell you what could possibly happen next.

It may cost you a little more, but, whenever possible, stick with the same airline for multiple legs to get you to your destination.  Another tip, if it’s possible, leave a day earlier than originally intended.  This gives you even more time in the event of flight cancellations and delays.  If you arrive on time ( a day or so early), it’s a great opportunity to take in a new city!

Happy Cruising (and flying) everybody!  Here’s to positive Cruise Experiences!

The Promenade on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas.

The Promenade on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.

Water slides, Internet Cafes, Freestyle Options, Condo Living at Sea, Water Parks, Bowling, Cruise Line Craft Beer.  I know I’ve missed a BUNCH.

It seems like cruise ship innovations evolve as quickly as the latest consumer electronics.  By the way, what is a compact disc?

Anyway, what do you think the next great cruise ship innovation will be?  What do you WANT it to be?

Not using the elevators is a good thing, but I mean, do you pay good money to vacation on one of these behemoths AND workout while you are cruise vacationing?  If you answered yes, maybe I’ll see you in the gym!

jeffgym

Going to the gym…then, the buffet. Took the stairs, of course!

Fitness Centers on cruise ships have come a long way.  In 1992, I remember my first trek into the gym on a ship; it was the Sovereign of the Seas (RCCI).  The room they called the gym was pretty small.  Dumbells were limited.  I expected to find stack machines (machine with weight plate, with intensity changed by moving a pin, but instead found machines that used air as resistance.  Furthermore, the selection of the machines didn’t cover all of the basic movements.  But, I’m a positive thinker, so I improvised and had a nice workout.

Today, the gyms are very large, fully equipped (still not many free weights, but understandable on a moving ship) and usually situated very close to a full service spa.  They now have everything you need to get a full body workout.  My favorite thus far, the gym on the NCL Epic.  It was epic…and larger than the retail gym I frequent.  Can’t wait to see, and use, the gym on the Breakaway.  If you go to a gym, please put equipment in its place and stack the weights and plates, when you are finished!!

Does It Influence You With Regards to The Ship You Book?

Enjoying a cupcake on the Allure.  Loved it...doesn't mean everyone will!!

Enjoying a cupcake on the Allure. Loved it…doesn’t mean everyone will!!

As a Senior Ops Exec for a large-scale community, I’ve learned that 10,000 people = 10,000 opinions. With this logic, some will love the local, chain, buffet restaurant…some will dislike it immensely. I, for one, will not even attempt to be a food critic. Nor will I allow a reviewer to influence my food choices…UNLESS that reviewer knows me (well) and my picky eating habits. Everyone has different tastes, taste buds…etc. I’m not speaking of the Cruise Experience…you can have a nice experience and not be nuts about the food.

What do you all think?

How Victoria looked when we arrived during our 2009 Alaskan Cruise.

How Victoria looked when we arrived during our 2009 Alaskan Cruise.

My wife Cathy and her girlfriend are in Seattle as I write this, a girl get-a-way!  Today, they took a ferry to Victoria, British Columbia.  We went to Victoria, together, during our Alaskan Cruise (also out of Seattle) in 2009.

I was psyched; I heard how beautiful Victoria was, and everybody told me…make sure you check out Butchart Gardens.  I’m a control freak, and normally as organized as anybody.  I’m not sure what happened in 2009, but I did not do my homework.  I did not realize how late we would be arriving into Victoria, and that it was the “token foreign port stop” during the cruise (Alaska, of course, was all U.S.A.).  Well, we arrived even later than advertised, it was dark, we only had four hours, and, the Gardens were closed!

Today, Cathy and her friend took the Victoria Clipper Ferry from Seattle to Victoria, and are also headed to the Gardens.  The high-speed ferry takes about 2:40 hours from port to port, and averages $145 per person, round trip.  I wish we had the time after the cruise in 2009.  Hope you enjoyed the trip babe!

Hi.  I’m Jeffrey Solomon, and I am a geek.

Welcome to the first installment of Cruise Ship Tech, a feature that will appear regularly on this blog, highlighting technologies on ships that help enhance your Cruise Experience.  In this edition, it’s HUGE TABLETS ON WALLS…IN A SHIP!  This is how I envision heaven…computers and cruise ships!

rcclwayfinderRCCI’s Wayfinders are interactive signage device systems that have won multiple awards for technology excellence.  Passengers, at the touch of their fingertips, can be routed to onboard activities (in real time), are given customized ship directions and can even see which restaurants are open and serving!  Gone are the days of remembering that darn, little, foldable ship’s map.  I’m still trying to close one from four years ago!

Wayfinders are strategically located near main entryways and elevator bays.  Fear not, the ships still contain the dissection maps  we’ve all grown to know and love.  But, once you’ve experienced the Wayfinders system, you’ll wonder why every ship on every line doesn’t rush to install something similar.  I want one in the house, so I’ll know when dinner is ready, where the dogs are hiding in the backyard and when the mail is in the box.

Check out which ships in the RCCI fleet have gone through their revitalizations, which include the digital signage system. CLICK HERE!

Grenada_1

Our impressions at ports of call, particularly first impressions, can have a tremendous affect on our overall cruise experience.  So, when the locals go out of their way to make cruisers feel welcome, it deserves to be mentioned.

During our honeymoon cruise on the Norwegian Spirit in November of 2004, one of our scheduled visits was to the island of Grenada.  The Spirit did call upon Grenada, but the stop was in question leading all the way up to our cruise departure.  Earlier in 2004, Grenada was struck by Hurricane Ivan, while a Category 3 storm.  Needless to say, the island and its inhabitants were devastated, homes and lives destroyed and changed forever.  As it turned out, the Spirit, during our cruise, would be the first ship to call on St. Georges, Grenada after Hurricane Ivan.

After tendering, and as we walked closer the (small) terminal, the sound of local (live) music was growing louder and louder.  It was also apparent that there was some sort of activity, involving lots of movement, taking place towards the entrance into the modest terminal.  We were delighted to see a welcoming committee of students and teachers, singing, dancing, smiling…and hugging anyone who would let them.  They weren’t begging, they weren’t asking for money…they were delighted to see us and appreciative that we were coming to visit their home.

The locals did not take it for granted that cruisers would come back after the repairs, simply because the government had contractual obligations with various cruise lines. They organized several ceremonies such as this early on (after Ivan), in an effort to make everyone feel welcome, and that their people shall overcome the major inconveniences caused by the storm.  Cathy and I truly felt like we were being told that “it was okay to visit, even though the struggles were far from over,” and that we were not imposing.  We have flown to the island a few times since then, and felt welcomed during each visit.

Today, in Le Havre, France, the Le Havre Cruise Club has launched its new Cruise Welcome Program, an effort that is sure to enhance our experience during calls to its port.  Read more about this HERE.