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13 Ways Technology has Changed Cruising

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Cruising, at least in the way that we know it today, has been a popular vacation choice since the late 1970s. But there have been a lot of ways that the cruising experience has changed over the last 40+ years thanks to continued advances in technology, especially given the shift in the reliance on the internet since the 1990s. While this list could probably be endless, here are 13 of the biggest ways technology has changed cruising.

How Technology Has Changed Cruising

Robots slinging drinks at the Bionic Bar.

1. Easier booking

In the Dark Days before the internet, you had to call a travel agent if you wanted to book a cruise or get any information about sailing dates, itineraries, prices, etc. Now, the world is your oyster. Anyone can do a quick search to find practically all the information they need. Plus, with hundreds of cruise review sites just like CruiseRadio.net and online forums, there are plenty of places to find reviews from fellow cruisers. And while I still recommend using a travel agent to help you get the best bang for your buck, doing your research will help your agent too by giving him/her a better idea of what you want.

2. Faster check-in

If you thought embarkation day was rough already, consider what a nightmare it would be to check in everyone the day of. That includes verifying IDs, setting up onboard accounts, and more. Plus, you couldn’t go online and print your own boarding passes and bag tags yourself. These documents would all be mailed to your travel agent’s office in vinyl packets (or leather, if you were sailing on a luxury line). Then, your travel agent would have to deliver them to you before your cruise – you’d best not lose them. So, let’s all take a moment to be thankful for the internet and online check-in. Also, thanks to the introduction of facial recognition technology, the check-in for cruising is only getting faster as more ships update their process.

Read More: 7 Things to Know About Anthem of the Seas

3. Staying connected to home

Nowadays, the availability of wifi for purchase onboard cruise ships makes getting in touch with family back home incredibly easy, whether you do so through the ship’s computers or your own devices. Contacting home is much easier and more affordable than the past, when in-stateroom telephones charged several dollars per minute to call back to land. And while it’s still about $1/minute to use those phones, hardly anyone uses these anymore now that they access wifi and send a message online.

4. Instant photos

cruising

Okay, so most ships still use the tried-and-true method of printing your cruise photos for you to find on display at the photo shop onboard. But, almost all of the newest ships – as well as many that have undergone refurbs – have made the switch to a digital photo gallery. This not only allows a cruiser to instantly download his or her photos to a mobile device – it also saves on printing costs and takes up less space on a ship. Plus, thanks to facial recognition technology built into the digital galleries, it means no more wasting time thumbing through random pictures to find your own.

5. More diverse onboard activities

From bumper cars to robot bars, the onboard cruising experience has changed drastically over the years. While years ago it was a big deal when a Carnival ship got a water slide equivalent to what some people have in their own backyard pools, nowadays the stakes keep getting higher for what ships can offer onboard. The North Star glass observation capsule that extends out over some Royal Caribbean ships is certainly a technological marvel, as is the fact that Carnival Vista has an IMAX theater. The list goes on and on…

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6. Bigger ships

Photo via Richard MacGregory.

When the RMS Titanic debuted in 1912 as the largest moving object built by man, measuring in at just over 46,000 gross tons and 882 feet in length, it’s likely no one of that day and age would believe the size of the ships built today. When Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas debuts next spring, it will break the record for largest passenger ship ever built by measuring over 230,000 gross tons and 1,188 feet in length. Still, you don’t have to go back over a century to marvel at the differences. Even just two decades ago, Carnival Destiny (now Carnival Sunshine) debuted in 1996 as the first passenger ship built at over 100,000 gross tons.

7. Onboard apps

Chances are that in a few years the paper daily planners will become another item of the past. That’s because almost every cruise line has built its own app for onboard experiences. Once onboard, you can view your daily planner, check which bars and dining venues are open, make dining reservations, review your expenses, and more (depending on the app). \

8. Social media

Even just a few years ago, social media was not accessible while on a cruise because internet was something you could only get by logging into a ship’s computer and paying a hefty price. Now, internet is available and affordable on cruises, and people love to use it to post about their vacation. The cruise lines love it too, because it’s basically free advertising when you post fun vacation pictures and your friends comment to say “Wow! I want to take a cruise!”

9. Better dining experiences

Photo via Disney Cruise Line.

In the past, most cruise ships had only a main dining room and a buffet, and possibly a steakhouse if you were lucky. That would be almost impossible to believe in today’s cruising world, with technology allowing ships to feed more people and offer more numerous and more diverse dining options. Plus, the introduction of technology into the dining experience created experiences like Animator’s Palate on Disney ships, where your own artwork comes alive on the dining room walls. It almost makes you wonder what things will be like in another 20 years…

10. Effortless reservations

Back in the day, there was no such thing as going online to make dining or spa reservations ahead of your cruise. If you needed to make any type of reservation, you had to wait until your were onboard. This sometimes resulted in a mad dash to the guest services desk as soon as people stepped on the ship. Not so much, anymore. Now, most people take advantage of the opportunity to pre-book their onboard activities online to spare themselves the time and hassle on the ship.

11. More budget friendly

Photo via NCL.

One of the biggest ways technology has changed cruising is by making it more budget friendly. And in turn, that makes it more accessible to more people. In the past, you paid for only the cost of your cruise in advance. Extras like shore excursions or your bar bill were tacked onto your final statement at the end of your cruise. Now, you can prepay these and more like wifi access, spa passes, and specialty dining packages – concepts that weren’t even around in the cruising world “back in the day.”

12. More energy efficient ships

The better technology gets, the more energy efficient ships get. Today’s ships operate under stricter, greener policies than in the past. For example, cruise lines have rigid recycling rules for their crew, more energy efficient onboard equipment (like the laundry rooms), as well as computers in the ship’s galleys that help track food supplies and orders to decrease food waste. And, in a revolutionary shift, many new ships are being built to be fueled by LNG (liquefied natural gas), which both costs and pollutes less than diesel.

13. Stateroom accommodations

Have you heard of the “virtual balcony” staterooms on some Royal Caribbean ships? These are actually interior rooms that feature a floor-to-ceiling HD screen that displays the view outside the ship in real time. It even has its own “railing.” Better still, it will even play sounds from outside like the ocean rolling underneath the ship. Does it really get more techy than this?

Do you like technology in modern day cruising?

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Carnival Cruise Line

Inside The Party For Carnival Horizon [PHOTOS]

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Given that Queen Latifah is the Godmother of Carnival’s newest ship, you had to know a good time was going to be had by all at the Carnival Horizon’s official naming ceremony. Held in New York City on a picture-perfect afternoon, the event featured plenty of food, lots of drink, singing, dancing and even a pretty substantial charitable donation.

Welcome To Flavortown

Things got under way with a ribbon-cutting ceremony as celebrity chef Guy Fieri welcomed guests to the latest outpost of Flavortown, the Pig & Anchor Smokehouse/Brewhouse. With live music playing, servers dished out hearty helpings of the venue’s signature foods, including trashcan nachos, dragon chili cheese fries and a pecan pie that was, according to the genuine Southern belle at our table, “to die for.”

Guy Fieri and brewmeister Colin Presby, doing the honors.

After that, the traditional naming ceremony kicked off with Brand Ambassador John Heald offering up a tip of the hat to “the one man to blame” for the fact that “I now have X’s in the back of everything I’m wearing,” Fieri.

Next up was the traditional prayer of blessing, followed by Carnival president Christine Duffy welcoming everyone aboard before discussing the very special bond between the cruise line and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Speaking proudly of the $16 million dollars raised by Carnival since the partnership first began in 2010, Duffy then presented the hospital with a check for another $100,000 and directed everyone’s eyes to the 24-foot Dreamscape, which anchors the atrium and now features among it’s displays 33 pieces of art created by St. Jude patients.

Artwork done by St. Jude patients lit up the Dreamscape.

Next up was the ship’s Godmother, Queen Latifah, who also happens to be a major supporter of St. Jude. After thanking the crowd “for looking so good,” Latifah asked everyone to take another look at the artwork-adorned Dreamscape. “My mom was an art teacher,” she said of her recently-deceased parent, “so I appreciate what the kids do. I know what it does for a child’s heart to create like that.”

Of being Godmother to a cruise ship, Latifah admitted it was “one of the coolest things I’ve ever been asked to be a part of in my life!” She was then joined on stage by Captain Luigi De Angelis and, together, they poured an oversized bottle of champagne (“This is the only time the captain will hold a bottle of champagne like this,” quipped Heald) over the ship’s inaugural season bell.

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“Only at Carnival Cruise Line,” quipped Heald of the ceremony, “do we water the plants with Moet.”

With the official business of the day out of the way, it was time for the fun to start in the Liquid Lounge, where Latifah battled Philadelphia Eagles player Jake Elliot in an epic Lip Sync Battle hosted by popular Carnival cruise director Matt Mitcham. But before the main event could begin, the crowd was in for an unexpected treat when Duffy was joined on stage by Carnival Corp’s President and CEO, Arnold Donald, for a lip synched performance of The Black Eyed Peas’ party anthem “I Gotta Feeling.”

Duffy and Donald proved they definitely choose fun.

With Duffy cheering on Elliot, and Donald firmly in the Queen’s corner, the main event began. And while footballer Elliott took the pumped-up crowd back to the days of MTV’s Headbangers Ball by donning a massive wig to perform Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” this was Latifah’s battle to lose. And if you know anything about the singer/actor/businesswoman — who also happens to be a past Lip Sync Battle champion — it’s that she does not come to lose. The moment she and the Playlist Productions performers took to the stage to perform “It’s Raining Men,” it was all over but the cheering. Of the stripping background dancers, Mitcham joked that Latifah’s performance was “like Baywatch and Magic Mike went wild,” while Donald said that the dancers “inspired me to keep my shirt on!”  

Elliott put up a good fight, but he couldn’t dethrone the Queen.

Before being crowned the winner, Latifah admitted there was one thing about her new role which she’d found disappointing. “Shouldn’t Godmother’s have a wand?” she asked… only to promptly be presented one, with which she sprinkled “love dust over the crowd, even my sworn enemy Jake.”

The evening ended with a bang… or, more precisely, a whole lot of bangs.

With the scheduled events of the evening over, invited guests dispersed to enjoy the live entertainment taking place all around the ship, as well as movies in the Imax and Thriller Theaters, a party on the Lido deck, a midnight buffet and an impressive fireworks display that was, appropriately enough, set in part to the tune “New York, New York.” 

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Carnival Cruise Line

Everything Carnival Horizon, Part 7: Adult Stuff

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Since we figured out ways to keep the kids entertained in our last entry, it seems as if we’ve earned a little adults-only relaxation, right? So let’s wander around the Carnival Horizon and take in some of the various venues that offer grown-ups an opportunity to rest, relax, and have some fun of their own.

A Little Piece of Heaven

In our minds, there’s really only one place to start when it comes to adults-only areas, and that’s the Serenity Deck. Step away from the madness and chaos of the pool area and head up to this ship-topping oasis where no one under the age of 21 is allowed, and that rule is pretty well enforced.

There are an awful lot of comfy spaces to be found on the kid-free Serenity deck.

As a result, the Serenity area is exactly what you both want and expect it to be, complete with a bar, tons of comfy seating (including hammocks and daybeds perfect for cuddling) and, on sea days, a salad bar. There’s also, of course, a full bar of the non-salad variety which offers a variety of specialty cocktails, wines, and other adult libations.

What’s an adult’s-only zone without a menu offering specialty cocktails, like this one from the Serenity deck.

Another spot that pretty much screams “relaxation” is, of course, the Cloud 9 Spa. Be sure to swing by on the first day and take the tour, because it usually involves a raffle for some type of spa package. Yes, as on every cruise ship, you’ll probably wind up getting a hard-sell at some point, but we’ve found that if you’re up front with a polite but firm “Not interested,” they respectfully dial it back. Planning to spend a fair amount of time at the spa? Consider booking one of the Cloud 9 Spa staterooms, which give you access to the thermal suites, priority booking of treatments and a host of other perks.

What better way to bond with your significant other than by getting a couple’s massage? Photo courtesy of Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Line

You can also purchase a week-long pass to the thermal spa, which includes dry heat chambers, a variety of steam chambers (including one called an “aromatic grotto”), a large whirlpool and two “experience showers” which help sooth you by combining the soothing waters with special aromas. And remember to check Carnival’s website under My Cruise Manager before you sail to see if by booking treatments in advance, you can save a little money!

After Dark, the Real Fun Starts!

There are all kinds of fun activities scheduled throughout the day that are perfect for families… but it’s after dark, when the kiddies are tucked away and (hopefully) asleep, that the Carnival Horizon really comes alive. We spoke about some of our favorite bars and hot spots earlier, so you already know to grab pre- or post-dinner cocktails at the Alchemy Bar, and that you can dance the night away at the Havana club.

Let the bartenders at the Alchemy Bar whip you up a cocktail that will have you ready to tackle the evening!

But if you wanna just kick back and relax for a while before things rev into high gear, why not head to the Punchliner Comedy Club, which on most nights offers an 18-and-over show later in the evening. Don’t bring the kids, and leave your prudish Aunt Gertrude in the stateroom because things can get a little raunchy during these shows!

Speaking of activities Aunt Gertrude probably isn’t going to want to take part in (unless you think maybe it’ll help her loosen up), there’s the infamous Quest Game Show. Think of it as a very, very adult scavenger hunt… and more fun than should probably be legal. Heck, maybe that’s why it only takes place at sea… because international maritime laws are looser! Keep your eyes on the Fun Times, because this is one game you definitely do not want to miss!

Shop ‘Til You Drop

As you know, your Sign & Sail card basically acts like a credit card while you’re on the ship… and as fate would have it, there happen to be some pretty nice shops on board! (It’s as if someone at Carnival thought, “You know, we’ve got them here… and they’ve had a few drinks… “) Maybe after having some luck in the casino (which we’ll talk about soon!), you want to buy something a little special, making Front Street Jewelers a great place to stop. And maybe in order to get lucky in a completely different way, you want to pick up something from Victoria’s Secret! Of course, the Carnival Store sells… you guessed it, lots of Carnival branded items (including those awesome miniature ships which would look so good somewhere in your house, right?)

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Carnival Horizon has added new shops to the promenade, including the Wearable Tech store.

Of all the shops on board — and there’s some great, high-end stuff available — perhaps our favorite is the Wearable Tech store, specializing in a variety of fitness-tracking watches (and a staff who knows how to help you get started), perfect for those who need a little help making sure that they take enough steps each day to work off at least some of what they’re eating at the endless restaurants!

Smile For The Camera!

While people love posing with their families for the photographers found around the ship, why not book a special Dreams Studio photo shoot? Whether for you and your significant other or a group of friends traveling together, this is a fun way to commemorate the trip. And what the heck, after getting some pics snapped of just the adults, let the kids in for some shots. It is their vacation too, after all. At the end of the day, could there be a more perfect souvenir of your vacation than gorgeous photographs that will capture it forever?

Finally, how’s this for an amazing way to cap off your vacation: A vow-renewal ceremony with the captain himself presiding. Check the Fun Times newsletter for more on whether this is available on your sailing, and how to set it up, or contact Carnival in advance to make preparations for a day neither of you will ever forget!

Next up? If baby needs a new pair of shoes, we’re heading for the right place… the casino!

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BEFORE YOU GO

How Cruise Lines Boost The Price Of Your Vacation

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When it comes to budgeting for a vacation, we all try to get the most bang for our buck. But over the past few years, the cruise lines have gotten incredibly good at figuring out ways to get a little extra money out of passengers… and most people willingly fall into the trap!

Why We’re Willing To Pay Extra

When is a hidden fee not so hidden? When it’s promoted openly and accepted without question! Increasingly, cruise lines have found that people are more than happy to shell out a little extra money — above and beyond the initial cost of their cruise — months before even setting foot on a ship! And there’s more than a little bit of psychology at play when it comes to how and why the cruise lines market these extras!

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley shared how pre-cruise spending helps boost the bottom line. “What we found,” he explained, “is that, if you spend $100 before you sail, that’s spent and gone. You don’t even put it in your budget for when you’re on vacation. So every pre-cruise revenue dollar that we generate will often generate 50% more on-board revenue for that customer.”

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If you pay for your night at Royal Caribbean’s Chops Grille in advance, you’re more likely to spend more on other things.

As Norwegian Cruise Line’s President and CEO Frank Del Rio explained during a conference call last year, “When folks have money to spend on board, they spend it in restaurants and in shops and, primarily, shore excursions. We’ve seen this wide-spread move away from buying things to enjoying experiences.” And this, he said, had led to a pretty significant uptick in on-board spending in 2017.

Shore excursions — such as the Sentry Hill Zipline on St. Marteen — are a big source of revenue for cruise lines.

How To Avoid Breaking The Bank

If you’re looking to stay within a budget, it’s important to make sure that you’re keeping track of all the expenses associated with your cruise. While it’s all well and good to get a great price on your stateroom, make sure you know exactly what’s included… and just as important, what isn’t! What additional expenses will you incur along the way? Will you be staying on the ship during all or some of the port visits, or is doing shore excursions a major part of the experience for you? Is it worth purchasing a drink package, or would you be better off simply paying as you go? Will there be pre- and post-cruise expenses such as airline tickets and hotel stays involved? Are the daily gratuities included, or do you need to factor them in separately? While trip insurance isn’t required, it’s highly recommended and could ultimately wind up saving you a whole lot of money!

READ MORE: 17 Extra Costs To Factor Into Your Cruise Budget 

While cruise vacations are a fantastic bargain, they are also a bit of an investment and should be treated as such. Just as you wouldn’t simply blindly purchase a stock in which to invest (we hope!), it’s worth taking a little bit of time to make sure you know how much you’re spending and what you can expect in return!

Do you find that you spend more on the ship if you’ve already paid for your other expenses? What are some of your best money-saving tips? 

 

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