Oasis-of-the-SeasStaterooms come in many shapes and sizes, and there are many types, but there are also several factors that should go into choosing a stateroom for your cruise. Whether working with a travel agent or a cruise line passenger specialist, do not be afraid to ask questions or to ask for what you are seeking in a stateroom. Remember, even a fancy suite could lend to a negative experience if it is near a busy venue, or beneath a night club! Here are a few things to consider:

  • Ship’s Features: If a passenger has mobility issues, a cabin near an elevator might be a good thing.  However, if you do not want to hear the noise of a high traffic area, being close to an elevator or a stairwell may not be a good thing!  I like being relatively close to the stairwell that leads up to the buffet area, as people traffic (noises) do not affect my ability to sleep and I enjoy stepping out, hopping a level or two up the stairs, and right to breakfast!
  • Physical Location of Stateroom:  As mentioned above, be careful about your room’s location.  Is it near a club, adjacent to the fitness center, just below a pool or near the Theatre?  In addition, rooms at the extreme forward and aft have the potential for more engine/thruster noises and vibrations
  • A room that is mid-ship, lower deck may offer more stability for those who may be prone to motion sickness
  • Higher rooms (and extreme forward) are more prone to ocean roll and sway
  • If you do not enjoy small, closed-in or tight spaces, a room with a window or balcony may be just what you need for a pleasant cruise experience
  • If your budget is an issue, it may be easier to tolerate some of the nuisances.  Just book the cheapest room you can find!
  • Another possibility which often offers a savings is to book a guarantee.  You do not immediately receive a stateroom number, but you are guaranteed a room within a particular booking category.  You have the potential to be bumped to a higher category, but you are not guaranteed  that your location will be one free of potential nuisances.
Inside the top level of a Tri-Rail, double decker train car!

Inside the top level of a Tri-Rail, double decker train car!

For many airlines, flying into Miami International Airport gives cruisers more options than flying into Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Often, additional options mean cheaper flights.

There is a very economical option for those of you flying into Miami, with a Fort Lauderdale cruise (or stay). It is South Florida’s Tri-Rail system, and you can get to it with a FREE Shuttle from Miami Airport. The bus terminal is located on level one (same as baggage claim), across the street from the terminal, in between the Dolphin and Flamingo Parking Garages.

Once there, you can purchase your ticket before boarding the shuttle, or you may purchase tickets once you arrive at the Tri-Rail Station. Prices are UNDER $5 per person. Take the train to the Fort Lauderdale Airport station, and then it is a very short cab ride into Port Everglades, or a local Fort Lauderdale hotel! For Tri-Rail’s website, click HERE.

 

A glass of ThirstyFrog Red, Carnival Cruise Line's new private-label draught beer brewed especially for the new Carnival Magic, is served in the ship's Red Frog Pub. Photo  by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines.

A glass of ThirstyFrog Red, Carnival Cruise Line’s new private-label draught beer brewed especially for the new Carnival Magic, is served in the ship’s Red Frog Pub. Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines.

We go on holiday to get away from it all, right?  Maybe not always, as some families will travel together to go visit other family they have elsewhere in the world. I think we can all agree that this is not always a “vacation!!”  But, stick with the notion of being on a cruise (and being away from home), regardless of who you are traveling with.  Do you like to have the “comforts of home” at your fingertips, or are you seeking to get away from the venues, ideas and concepts that remind you of being at home?

Lately, familiar partnerships are being formed left and right on cruise ships.  Many of the partnerships revolve around food, music, entertainment and shopping…many of them found directly on board certain ships.  I certainly cannot fault the cruise lines for doing this; it’s a proven model that works…just ask Las Vegas.  Some of the classiest hotels sport certain chain burger joints, sub-sandwich shops and traditional shopping mall retail stores.

In my mind, it’s not so much that these venues are present on cruise ships, or can be found at port destinations.  I understand people…many people…enjoy comfortable and familiar surroundings, and may not leave home if some of these items can’t be found at their holiday destinations.  But, some of these things are part of a daily routine, like coffee every morning at a certain chain coffee house, on the way to work!  I’m doing my best to not mention business names, so this is how I will do it:

“I absolutely LOVED the Allure of the Seas, and I would sail with her again.  However, a certain amenity featured in the heart of the ship reminded me of work, and I did not want to be reminded of work while sailing on the Allure!”

We took a Hawaiian cruise several years ago, and it was an awesome trip.  Four days at sea from Ensenada, Mexico followed by Hawaiian Island-hopping.  Couldn’t wait to get to Kauai, since I heard about how untouched it was compared to Maui and Honolulu.  When the Vision of the Seas docked, and I ran up to get photos of the mountains and the landscape, what was the first thing I saw?  It was a very well-known chain superstore.  I won’t say the name, but it rhymes with “Fall Smart.”  I realize people who live there may need, and love, a “Fall Smart,” a “Bold’s Jim” and a “Hoarder’s Books and Music,” but it certainly detracted from the excitement of seeing Kauai for the first time.

I am not a Carnival mark, but at the same time, I wouldn’t turn down a Carnival cruise; love it all.  I truly like what Carnival has done with their sports bar concept, and crafting their own beer.  This is original.  They could have easily partnered with “Ham Adums” and themed their bars Boston-style, but they did not.  On holiday, I like to experience different. I like to experience local. I realize it isn’t easy, and an impossibility in some cases (due to suppliers), but I’d love to see ships offer more cuisine and arts/crafts based on where she’s going.

Okay…off to “Tarmucks.”

CLG0038-606In the past, I’ve written about certain items to pack, gadgets to buy for your cruise, clothing and more.  Most of those were for conveniences and comforts.  This one will save you money!  Purchase and pack an inner tube (deflated, of course!).

If your cruise includes ports of call with a beach, and you plan to visit the beach, water sports rental supplies can run you big bucks…especially if you are traveling as a large family.  An inner tube or an inflatable raft can run between $10-$25…just for a few hours.  This adds up if you are traveling with several people and you do not want to share.  Before your cruise, stop at a local store and buy an adequate amount of inner tubes or rafts for the family.  They pack flat, they are inexpensive, and they are yours for the entire cruise…as well as for future trips!  We purchased four inner tubes before our May Bermuda cruise; the total cost…$16.  It beats beach rental fees and, they are cheap enough that if you decide not to return home with them, it isn’t the end of the world.

It wasn’t that long ago…you’d pack the mp3 player, the digital camera, your video camera, and maybe even a laptop.  Don’t forget all the extra batteries and the chargers.  And, on my most recent cruise, I did exactly that.  The only thing is, I packed one other item…my iPod touch (2012), and it’s about all I used during the entire cruise.  If you want to simplify the packing routine for your cruise, thing about investing in an iPod touch.  It does just about everything you will need during your trip.  Here are several of its uses:

Shot with the iPod Touch (5th gen) using its panorama mode: The NCL Breakaway and Celebrity Summit at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda.

Shot with the iPod Touch (5th gen) using its panorama mode: The NCL Breakaway and Celebrity Summit at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda.

  • Camera:  The iPod touch acts as a camera, and handles low light situations better than I expected.  The latest generation even has a panorama feature, which allows for some stunning images that, in the past, required a steady hand and lots of post production on the computer
  • Video Camera:  The video that the iPod captures rivals the quality of a $300-$500 digital camcorder.  Unless you are looking for broadcast quality, the iPod should be plenty sufficient if you are seeking to capture your holiday memories for watching on your hi-def televisions or for uploading onto a site like YouTube.  The video link on this page, which is an evening Fireworks Display from onboard the Norwegian Breakaway, was shot in its entirety with an iPhone 5 (the same tech as the latest iPod Touch)

  • Music and Video Player:  Load up a bunch of your favorite tunes and films onto the iPod and you have instant entertainment, whether on the plane, in your stateroom, in the fitness center or lounging by the pool.  You can even bring a small bluetooth speaker on your cruise, providing an instant sound system in your stateroom.  Just how many times can you listen to the same piped-in music coming from your cabin televisions!!  Just link the iPod with your speaker using the bluetooth feature in your iPod’s settings
  • Documents and Notes:  You can store all of your cruise documents, ship’s maps and more.  Simply save them as a pdf and then transfer onto your iPod
  • Web surfing, email and social media:  Many ships today have WiFi access available for a fee.  Leave the laptop at home and stop waiting for a computer to become available in the ship’s internet cafe…you can do it all with your iPod Touch
  • Games:  Entertain yourself with games, puzzles and other apps of your choice!
iPod Touch (5th gen) comes in different colors.

iPod Touch (5th gen) comes in different colors.

Most everything mentioned above can be accomplished with an iPad and an iPad mini.  I recommend the iPod for a couple of reasons.  The first is the small size; easy to pack and easier to carry.  Secondly, the iPod Touch handles darker situations better than the iPad, with regards to all still and video photography.  If books are important to you, however, you may want to opt for the iPad.

The newest iPod touches are available in 32 gb, 64 gb, and now, a less expensive 16 gb.  You can do all of your research on Apple’s website.  Which ever iPod you choose, it’s two to three extra bags you can now keep at home!