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BEFORE YOU GO

11 Reasons to Download the Carnival Hub App

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As newer and better technology continues to revolutionize the cruising industry and the individual cruise experience, cruise lines are racing to develop new technologies that establish industry standards. Carnival’s HUB app has certainly done that, and it’s changing the way we plan our cruise vacations.

1. It’s free

It’s free to download and free to use onboard. It doesn’t require paid wifi either, so don’t worry about needing to purchase an Internet package to use it. You simply enter your folio number and date of birth once you board the ship, and it’s smooth sailing from there.

2. Fun Times itinerary

In essence, the Carnival HUB app is a digital Fun Times. Now, instead of packing a highlighter and carrying paper around to keep track of all the fun activities happening throughout the day, you can simply open the HUB app to see what’s going on around the ship.

3. Notifications for favorites

If you’re scrolling through the list of onboard activities and see something that interests you, you can “favorite” that activity with a star. Then, the app will send you a notification 15 minutes before the start of that activity to remind you – you know, just in case you dozed off while sunbathing on lido or got carried away at the casino.

4. Chat

Although the app itself is free, it also offers a chat feature that allows you to communicate with other friends and family who are onboard for a one-time fee of $5. (This is $5 per cruise, not to be confused with the “Social” Internet package that costs $5 per day.) This cost is per device.

5. Food and drink

Although there are plenty of Carnival cruisers who could eat a Guy’s burger for lunch every day and be happy, the HUB app ensures that you don’t miss out on all the onboard dining options by reminding you what your ship offers. Maybe you want switch things up and hit the Seaday Brunch or try the Mongolian Wok instead. The HUB app tells all; that way you don’t go home thinking “I wish I could’ve tried that.”

6. Open times

In addition to listing the opening and closing times for the numerous dining venues onboard, the HUB app also contains the operating hours for things like Guest Services, the Shore Excursions desk, the spa, shops, photo gallery, sports deck… you name it.

7. Check your bill

A favorite feature about this app among Carnival guests is the ability to check your Sign & Sail balance at any time. On most Carnival ships, the only other way to check your balance is by finding a Sign & Sail kiosk or by visiting Guest Services for a print-out. With the app, you can track your spending 24/7 without having to walk anywhere.

8. Ship maps

Here’s yet another piece of paper you don’t have to carry around: a ship map. Instead, the HUB app has full deck plans that highlight key areas, so you’ll always know where you need to go and how to get there.

9. Buy pictures (Carnival Vista)

Available only on the new Carnival Vista, the HUB app allows you to view your Pixels photos as well as order print or digital copies right from your phone. Hopefully this technology spreads to other ships as well. It will save paper and ink, save Carnival deck space reserved for displaying traditional printed photos, and most importantly – save cruisers the hassle of sorting through hundreds of photos.

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10. Correct ship’s time

While cruising the Caribbean, it’s not uncommon to find the clocks changing multiple times during your cruise, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with what’s correct if your smartphone automatically updates to the local time when you arrive in a new port. With the HUB app, you can always find the ship time, which is what really matters. You always want to go by ship time while you’re in a port unless you want to risk missing the ship!

11. Countdown

Although you can’t use the principal functionalities of the app on land, the app becomes a countdown clock that you can open to see how many days, hours, minutes, and even seconds are left until you’re joining the sailaway party.

What’s Not Included?

1. Although I admit this has escaped my notice because I don’t have kids, many cruisers are disappointed that the Carnival HUB app does not include Camp Carnival, Circle “C”, or other kids and teens activities on its schedule. It seems a bit odd that Carnival would leave out such a large activity group from this app, especially sine it’s a digital Fun Times of sorts. Hopefully they are making plans to include these activities soon.

2. You won’t find any info on the weather or the ports of call.

3. The app does not have a feature to notify you if, say, the crew decide to close an area due to bad weather or maintenance.

4. It’d be nice to see Carnival include a ship tracking map so that you can follow the ship as it sails, much like the classic stateroom TV channel where you can view the ship’s path, its speed, the wind speed, the ship’s latitude and longitude, etc.

5. Unfortunately, it’s still not available on every ship. The app has yet to be rolled out on Carnival Dream, Fascination, Legend, and Liberty.

 

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BEFORE YOU GO

Review: Day Use Hotel App Helps Cut Down Post-Cruise Airport Time

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Chances are that if you’re a regular cruiser, you also spend a fair amount of time in airports. And you probably dread doing so. Especially if you’ve just had the most amazing cruise and now your post-vacation buzz is immediately going to be killed by the fact that you have to sit at the airport for six hours waiting for your flight home.

That’s exactly the prospect I was facing recently after a great cruise out of Miami. I’d gotten a great deal on a flight home, but it wasn’t departing until 5 p.m. Since we had to be off the ship by 10 a.m., that left me with a whole lotta time to kill.

It’s worth noting that like a lot of people do, I was up pretty late the night before. So, the prospect of sitting in the airport all day was definitely not appealing. Instead of renting a car for the day or looking for an excursion, I turned to Google in the hope of finding a hotel that offers day rates.

And that’s when I discovered Day Use, a company the lists hotel properties that offer day passes. While you don’t have to download the app to use it, I prefer apps over smartphone browsers, so I opted to download the app… especially since it seemed like the kind of thing I’d get more use out of in the future.

Finding My Hotel 

While you can easily use the app to find a room the day you need it, you run the risk of nothing being available. Instead, it’s probably smarter to try and find something in advance. Once you’ve booked your flight and know when you’ll need a room, it’s a good idea to try and book your day pass at a nearby hotel if you want to make 100 percent sure that you have a place to relax.

The app is about as user-friendly as they get. Simply type in the city you want to find a room in and the date, and a variety of options are presented. They’ll typically give you the time range during which the room is available for use (for example, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is pretty common) and the price.

In this case, I wound up going with the Homewood Suites by Hilton. For $69, I was able to have access to the hotel room from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. which was a great deal, especially since this particular room was a suite with a kitchen, living room, and a large bedroom. My flight was at 5 p.m. and the hotel was only about 10 minutes from the airport, which meant I could check out at 3 p.m. and still get there with time to spare.

Notes on the Booking Process

  • Once you enter in the name of the city you want to find a room in, you’ll be presented with a list giving you the name of available hotels and prices. You can also click to see where they are on the map.
  • Search options allow you to look at the choices based on which is nearest, which are the site’s top picks, which are priced lowest to highest and which are priced highest to lowest. (Although really, who asks to see the highest priced first?)
  • To find out more about a specific hotel, click on it. You’ll find a lot of information, including what amenities are offered and which aren’t. For example, some will show that they have a shuttle to the airport, which is definitely a great perk.
  • If you’re picky or want to do something specific – like maybe get in a workout or sit by a pool – make sure to see if the hotel in question has the facilities you’re looking for!
  • When it comes time to book, you’ll be given the option to either create an account (which will make it easier to make future bookings with fewer steps) or do so as a guest.

It’s important to note that no credit card information is required to use the app. Once you find the hotel you want, you’ll be prompted to enter your first and last name, email, and phone number. You’ll then get a text and email confirmation.

Arriving at the Hotel 

If you poke around the site a bit, you’ll find that at most of the hotels, the earliest check-in time available is 10 a.m. If the hotel you selected has a hard-and-fast 10 a.m. check-in time, it’s probably worth staying on the ship and enjoying breakfast rather than rushing to be one of the first people to disembark. Some do offer the option of letting the hotel know what time you plan to arrive, so if you want to check in earlier, it’s worth seeing if that’s an option. But once, having gotten off the ship earlier than I should have, I tried checking into a room at 8:30 a.m. and none were yet ready.

Checking in is pretty much exactly the same as if you were staying for the night. You simply tell them you’ve rented a room for the day and they’ll look up your information.  It’s always a good idea to have the email or text confirmation available in case they don’t have the paperwork yet, especially if you did a booking on the same day as you are arriving.  They will take your credit card for incidentals. Like any hotel, they will place a temporary hold on your card and then release it a few business days later. The amount they hold varies based on the individual hotel’s policy. When I stayed at the  Homewood Suites in Miami, they placed a $75 hold on the card I presented them with.

What I Liked Most About Day Use 

There’s actually a lot to like about this app, even aside from the fact it means you don’t have to hang out at the airport all day! For one thing, the app does not require you to input any sensitive information when holding the room. In this day and age, when it seems as if we’re hearing about data breaches on a regular basis, that’s a real plus. The simplicity of them texting and emailing you the confirmation is great because it gives you what you need immediately.

If you decide to create an account on the app, the functionality improves even more. For example, it allows you to bookmark your favorite hotels, look at your past history and, as I mentioned before, it really streamlines the process the next time you want to use the app. All in all, the app (whose website can also be accessed on your laptop at dayuse.com) is one I’d definitely consider a must-have for all cruise travelers.

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BEFORE YOU GO

15 Overlooked Cruise Experiences

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The best cruising advice I often hear people give on the show is “don’t try to do everything, because you just won’t have enough time.” It’s true – there’s never enough time to enjoy every little pleasure on a big-ship cruise because there’s so much happening all at once. That being said, there are some experiences that many cruisers overlook or discount, and we’ve made a list so you don’t miss them on your next cruise.

1. Tastings

Who knew there were so many different types of margaritas?

As a sales incentive, the shops onboard the ship will often hold free liquor or wine tastings to incentivize guests to buy some products. There’s no obligation though, so why not go and get some free alcohol. You might just try something new that you like.

2. Onboard Classes

From cooking classes to yoga to salsa dancing and mixology lessons, there are endless classes available onboard for almost any interest. Most of these are free and also come with free giveaways like food or alcohol tastings, souvenirs, or other swag.

3. Chef’s Table

So many people pass on the Chef’s Table because of the extra surcharge to dine, but if you can afford the extra cost then it’s an absolute must-do. The Chef’s Table is more than just a 7-course dinner; it’s an experience that includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the galley, entertainment, private meet and greets with the top chefs, and carefully selected menus of mouth-watering food that you won’t find anywhere else on the ship.

4. Adults-Only Spots

Carnival Sunshine

Serenity deck on Carnival Sunshine

Not that kids aren’t great and all, but the peace and quiet of the adults-only deck on a cruise ship – plus the lack of crowds – are a refreshing change for many. Some ships also have VIP deck spaces that are both adults-only and are even more secluded thanks the surcharged required to access them, but the added privacy is worth the extra fee.

5. Staying on the Ship in Port

Although there’s always something to explore in any port of call, there’s also something to be said for staying on the ship on a port day. The ship becomes nearly empty, so you more or less have all of the venues to yourself. No lines on a cruise ship is a pretty appealing concept.

6. Star Gazing

Out at sea, away from the city lights, the stars burn brighter than ever. So don’t forget to take the opportunity to stargaze from the ship while sailing at sea. If it’s cold and windy outside, many ships have an indoor observation deck, where you’ll also find a late-night bar.

7. Main Dining Room for Breakfast or Lunch

Fun cereal french toast on Carnival Vista

The lido buffet can be one of the busiest places on a cruise ship, but even specialty dining venues can get crowded when they’re open. Many cruisers mistakenly think the main dining room is only open for dinner, but it’s usually open for all three meals, especially on sea days! Having a waiter serve your meal is much more relaxing than waiting in a long buffet line and then battling the crowds to find an open table.

8. Booking a Balcony Cabin

There’s nothing better than starting and ending your cruise days with your own private piece of the deck. In the morning, order room service breakfast and enjoy it in your PJs on your balcony. At night, grab a nightcap to go and wind down under the stars in your own room. Of course, a private balcony is nice in the middle of the day too when the lido deck gets busy.

9. All-Access Tour

Most cruisers skip the behind-the-scenes tour either because of the surcharge, or because they just haven’t heard of it. But if you have the chance to take the tour, don’t miss it. It takes you behind public areas to places like the ship’s bridge, engine control room, and main galley.

10. Buying a Spa Pass

Norwegian Escape spa – photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

For most, the main purpose of a vacation is to relax. So why not treat yourself to the ultimate form of rest and relaxation by booking a spa pass? On most ships, this means VIP access to thermal suites that include saunas and steam rooms, jetted pools, and more.

11. Using the Jogging Track

Believe it or not, every ship has an outdoor jogging track in addition to its indoor gym facilities. Why run inside on a treadmill when you could walk, jog, or run around an outdoor track that boasts open-ocean views and sea breezes?

12. Complimentary Lunch Dining in Specialty Venues

Specialty dining venues, which come with a surcharge, are becoming more and more popular on cruise ships. However, many that charge during dinner service are open during lunch hours for free. This is a perfect way to check out some different cuisine without the dinnertime fee.

13. Sunrises and Sunsets

Sunrise in Mohogany Bay

There’s simply nothing more captivating than watching the sun rise or set at sea. Even if you’re not a morning person, make an effort to get up early at least one day on your cruise to witness the beauty of a sunrise at sea. Unless it’s completely overcast, I promise you won’t regret it.

14. Meet and Greets

Almost every cruise line offers meet and greet opportunities with characters. Disney Cruise Line of course has Disney characters, Carnival has Cat in the Hat characters, and Royal Caribbean has DreamWorks characters. Disney even allows you to make reservations for a meet and greet, so be sure to bring a book for autographs for your little ones!

15. Professional Photos

Some people shy away from taking the professional portraits on cruises because of the cost to purchase the final prints. However, the cost of taking and purchasing a professionally shot and edited photograph on land is typically much more by comparison. These photos are priceless memories, and you can buy as few or as many as you’d like.

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BEFORE YOU GO

Menu: Carnival Horizon’s Bonsai Teppanyaki

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Among the new venues to be rolled out onboard Carnival Horizon will be Bonsai Teppanyaki, a first for Carnival Cruise Line. Clearly, the line expects the Teppanyaki experience to be popular, as it will also be featured on their next ship, the currently-under-construction (and open for bookings) Carnival Panorama. So what can you expect from the restaurant… and how much will the for-fee experience cost? Read on for all the details.

How Much Bonsai Teppanyaki Will Cost

Photo via Carnival.

Located inside the popular Bonsai Sushi on deck 5, the Teppanyaki restaurant is the perfect place for groups, as it is a combination of a great meal and entertaining show as the chefs juggle, joke, and cook for 16 guests at a time. Because there’s limited seating available, it’s definitely recommended that you make reservations. And obviously, the bigger your group, the more important it becomes to make a reservation. Also, note that this isn’t only available for groups. As with similar restaurants, parties will be seated together in a communal style (which also makes this a fun way to meet new people).

Meals at Bonsai Teppanyaki will consist of an appetizer, soup or salad, main course, and dessert, and cost between $25-$30 per person, depending on what protein you decide to go with for the entrée. (And yes, lobster tail is an option.)

What Is Dinner Like In A Teppanyaki Restaurant?

Photo via Carnival.

For those who’ve never eaten in a Teppanyaki restaurant before, the good news is that there aren’t really a whole lot of decisions to be made! This isn’t like going to a place where there’s a huge, expansive menu. Instead, there are really only a few choices you have to make, especially since the appetizer portion of the meal is the same for everyone. It includes:

  • White shrimp in soy butter and a salsa vinaigrette
  • Pork belly yakitori with sesame asparagus fries and seaweed salad
  • Sprice Tuna on the Rocks with an onion sesame sauce and den miso

All guests will also have a choice of either Miso soup or a Kabuki salad with ginger dressing. Then comes the part where you have to make the big decision, because you have to pick the protein for your entry (all of which are served with fried rice and stir-fried vegetables).

The options are:

  • Teriyaki salmon with savory and sweet teriyaki glaze
  • Lobster tail with yuzu cream and citrus kosho
  • Shrimp with young lettuce and gyukuro tea
  • Shichimi spiced grilled chicken in a teriyaki sauce
  • Grilled tofu with vegetables, yaki udon, and a teriyaki anticucho sauce
  • Black cod with a soy reduction
  • Filet Mignon with trufae salt and garlic chips

Guests can also choose to do sort of a mix-and-match, with the following combos available:

  • Filet Mignon and Shrimp
  • Shrimp and Spiced Grilled Chicken
  • Filet Mignon and Teriyaki Salmon
  • Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail

And should you still have room after the meal (trust us… it’s more food than it sounds like!), dessert is a Chocolate Bento Box with green tea ice cream

Making  Bonsai Teppanyaki Reservations

As we said before, reservations are highly recommended as the restaurant has both limited hours and seating. If you’ve never made reservations for one of Carnival Cruise Line’s specialty restaurants in the past, let us walk you through the process!

While logged in at Carnival.com, go to the Manage My Booking section and select your sailing. That will take you to My Cruise Manager, pictured above. Scroll down through the various options until, toward the bottom, you see Specialty Dining Reservations. See how in the example above, the names of the specialty restaurants are in a different font color? Click on whichever one you’re interested (in this case, Bonsai Teppanyaki) and it will take you directly to a reservations page that shows which times are available. In the example below, they have three dining times available: 5:30, 7:15, and 9 pm.

Now, it’s possible that no reservation times will be available on the night you want, or perhaps only one option. You’ll also have the opportunity to let the restaurant know if you have any specific food allergies, and if it happens to be a special occasion. Then simply hit “submit reservation,” and the system takes care of the rest.

Should you need to make a change to your reservation once onboard, you can either call or stop by the restaurant. If there aren’t reservations available when you attempt to book in advance, it’s also worth swinging by after you’ve boarded the ship to see if something has opened up (or if perhaps there has been a cancellation). As with all specialty dining reservations, the cost will appear on your final bill at the end of the trip.

Will you be giving Bonsai Teppanyaki a try? 

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Hi, this may be of interest to you: 11 Reasons to Download the Carnival Hub App. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/11-reasons-download-carnival-hub-app/