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5 Cruise Incentives for Solo Travelers

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The folks at the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) have decided to celebrate the season of love by taking a bit of a different approach.  They are putting a spotlight on the relationship between singles and cruise travel, and have highlighted tips and benefits for travelers interested in going solo to cruise.

1. Cruise Matchmakers

When it comes to finding the best cruise for solo sailers, travel agents can be the perfect matchmakers to help them find the best cruise line.  Travel agents specializing in travel for singles can be found at cruising.org or by using the cruise agent finder.

2. Incentives

In an effort to attract solo guests, there are lines that are waiving the usual single supplement fee or are offering studio staterooms.  Avalon Waterways is offering a number of rooms without a single supplement on every departure in Europe in 2017.  Tauck has waived the fee on all Category 1 cabins on their European riverboats for every departure this year.  AIDA Cruises offers a stateroom for sole occupancy; a select number of which are offered on every cruise.  AmaWaterways is offering nine river cruise itineraries where the single fee is waived if booked by March 31, 2017.  And last but not least, Uniworld is waiving or reducing their single supplement fee on 30 of its most popular itineraries in 2017.

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3. Studio Staterooms

Some cruise lines offer studio rooms designed specifically for solo travelers.  Norwegian Cruise Line was the first to build staterooms and common areas for the single cruiser, and they are available on select cruise ships.  Royal Caribbean is offering studio rooms as well on some newer or revitalized ships, including those with balconies or virtual balconies.  Cunard has long had a tradition of offering single staterooms, and over the years each ship has received them: Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and most recently Queen Mary 2 during her significant remastering last summer.

4. Making Connections

Before setting sail, join discussions in cruise forums specifically for solo cruisers for a chance to meet others who will be on your sailing.  Cruise Critic or Cruiseline.com are great places to find such forums.

5. Singles Exclusive Experiences

Many cruise lines offer activities and excursions created with solo travelers in mind.  American Cruise Lines, for example, offers singles itineraries with shore excursions and onboard programs conducted in intimate groups to cultivate a bonding experience among guests.  They also offer cocktail hours each evening, which is a perfect setting for singles to mingle.

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Travel Tips

5 Cruise Disembarkation Tips

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cruise disembarkation tips The very last morning of your cruise is typically the dreaded one – it’s back to reality. While I don’t have any tips for extending your vacation (unless you are doing a back-to-back cruise), I can tell you how to get off the ship a little bit faster.

If you haven’t been on a cruise before, when it comes to disembarkation the cruise line will give you a luggage tag with a color or zone number on it, this tells you when you can get off the cruise ship and when your bags will be ready to pick up pier-side. 

Here are 5 cruise disembarkation tips:

1. Self-Assist

If you’re wanting to get off the ship early, do self-assist, this allows you to do walk off the ship with your own luggage. It usually starts around 7 am and 20-30 minutes later you’re on the pier. Keep in mind that you are responsible for all your belongings and the cruise line will not assist you.

2. Early Flights

If you have an early flight out, just register when the paperwork comes to your room and you’ll be allowed to get off the ship earlier. Once on a cruise that ended in Venice they were starting airport transfers at 4 am.

3. Talk to guest relations.

If you don’t have a flight and don’t want to do self-assist and lug your bags around, contact guest relations (usually in person) and tell them that you’d love to disembark the ship a little earlier. Guest relations will usually give you the luggage tag you need to get off the cruise ship earlier.

4. Luggage Valet Program

A couple days before you disembark you’ll have the option to do luggage valet from the cruise ship to the airport, where for a nominal fee (plus checked baggage cost) you’ll be able to forward the bags to the airport and check them to your destination. This generally works in US ports of call and Vancouver, Canada. The cost of this varies per cruise line but I’ve seen it for around $20 per person.

5. Have customs documentation.

You know when you’re in the airport and waiting for someone to get their stuff together to go through security? Well, it’s the same thing when you’re approaching the customs line. Have your documentation in hand and ready to go. It will make the line go a lot quicker for you and everyone behind you.

With these tips you should be able to slide off the ship a little bit earlier the next time you take a cruise vacation. Keep in mind that the early bird gets the worm, so as much as it may stink, plan your disembarkation before you get to the pier.

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BEFORE YOU GO

7 Quiet Places on a Cruise Ship

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Cruises are full of fun and adventure, including epic excursions like ziplining through a Jamaican jungle or parasailing over the open ocean. But sometimes vacation calls for some simple rest and relaxation, too. There are plenty of places on a ship to find peace and quiet.

1. Spa

On any ship, the spa is the pinnacle of calm and quiet. While almost every ship comes equipped with a sauna and steam room free of charge, you can also unwind even further by booking a spa appointment like a massage, acupuncture session, or facial.

norwegian escape spa cruise

Norwegian Escape spa

2. Library

Often overlooked, the ship’s library is a great room for escaping the hustle and bustle. Full of books and board games, it’s the perfect place for a quiet retreat. And if you’re lucky enough that your ship’s library has windows, you can enjoy the ocean views during your downtime.

Photo credit: Carnival

3. Inside on a port day

If you’ve ever stayed on the ship on a port day, you know that it can look like a ghost town. With everyone off and exploring the port of call, there’s no better time to take advantage of a quiet and nearly empty ship. Plus, you’ll get incredibly fast service at the bar!

4. Your room

While many say to get out and enjoy the ship, that argument could depend on what type of room you’ve booked. Balcony rooms, especially unique ones like aft balconies or cove balconies, offer the perfect excuse to stay in, bask in the sun on your own private piece of deck, and enjoy the serenity.

5. Adults-only deck

Carefree and quiet, the adults-only deck on a ship usually comes with extra comfy lounge chairs, a private bar, and a hot tub or two. If you’re looking to skip the sounds of the live steel drum band or the crowds from the hairy chest contest, this is easily one of the best places to enjoy the sun on the ship.

6. Secret decks

Believe it or not, you can always find a “secret” deck on any cruise ship. These are decks that are tucked away or rather difficult to get to, meaning almost no one uses them. For example, on many of Carnival’s ships, cruisers rarely take advantage of the solitude and open air on deck 3, which is directly under the lifeboats. Though you may not get the sun, you can enjoy plenty of peace and quiet – accompanied of course by the calming sounds of the ocean passing beneath. Many ships also have “secret” decks toward the front of the ship which many people don’t think you can access, so study your deck plans before you go to find out how to get to these.

7. Private lounges

Some ships have private lounges for certain stateroom categories, such as the Havana Lounge on Carnival Vista or The Haven on some Norwegian ships, to elevate your private, customized cruise experience. Also, some cruise lines reserve private lounges and even private restaurants on their ships for their most loyal cruisers, but you’ll have to have rewards with them already to get those benefits.

Where is your quiet place on a cruise ship?

quiet places cruise ship travel

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Travel Tips

My Cruise is Paid Off – Now What?

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Congrats, you’ve completed the most difficult (and least fun) part of a cruise: paying for it. But, there’s still time until your sail date. Here’s what you should be doing in the meantime.

1. Print Out Cruise Documents

Cruise Terminal 1 Embarkation Area – photo: Port Canaveral

As soon as your payment has been made in full, you can go online and print out your boarding passes and luggage tags. It’s never a bad idea to print extra copies, either. (Somehow there’s always an extra bag at the last minute that needs a tag too.) Keep these documents in a folder for safekeeping until departure day.

2. Find Your Sailing Online

cruise

Online cruise groups are really popular, with several different sites hosting platforms for specific sailings. The site Cruise Critic has had forums called “roll calls” for years where people can search by their cruise line to find their specific ship and sail date. The same concept has transferred over to the ShipMate app as well as to Facebook. In these forums or online groups, members can chat about their upcoming cruise and plan a group meetup, which often happens at a popular bar on the ship right after the muster drill. On some Carnival sailings, John Heald, brand ambassador and senior cruise director, has even been known to send small gifts and prizes to the groups.

3. Start Your Packing List

photo credit: flickr/Nicole Hanusek

From swimsuits and sun hats to slacks and button-downs, packing for a cruise can get overwhelming. Making a list will make it a lot simpler. It will also ensure you don’t forget miscellaneous items like a reusable water bottle for those hot days on the lido deck.

4. Set A Cruise Price Drop

cruise

Setting a cruise price drop means that if the price of your cruise decreases from what you originally paid, you can get the difference back – usually in onboard credit. One of the best alerts is through the app ShipMate or Cruiseline.com, which will send you an alert when the price of your cruise, set to your specific stateroom category, increases or decreases. However, there are several other price drop alerts besides ShipMate, and you can always check yourself or have your travel agent do so.

5. Book Your Excursions 

cruise

If you haven’t looked at excursions yet, now is the time to do so. It’s better to book them before you board the ship because often the best and most popular excursions will sell out beforehand. If you’re booking an excursion through a third-party company, booking ahead of time is typically a must.

Browse 1,000’s of shore excursions here.

6. Explore Dining

Manhattan Dining Room aboard Breakaway.

As part of your pre-cruise planning, research all the dining venues on your ship. Make a list of the ones you want to go to and whether or not they have a surcharge. If they do, plan that into your onboard budget for guilt-free grubbing once onboard.

7. Prepay Everything You Can

These days, you can prepay almost everything for your cruise: gratuities, excursions, drink packages, specialty dining packages, and even wifi packages. The more you prepay, the lower your bill will be at the end of the cruise. Plus, by prepaying you can pay in installments rather than paying in one large lump sum at the end of your cruise.

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Make Reservations

With ships carrying more and more people now, making advanced reservations is becoming more popular. That includes reservations for spa treatments, theater shows, dining venues, and more. If there’s something you have your heart set on, make a reservation. There’s no harm in canceling it once you’re onboard if you change your mind. (The Chef’s Table is an exception to this and usually comes with a fee if you don’t cancel within a certain time frame.)

8. Double Check Travel Insurance

Carnival Horizon

Seriously, don’t leave home without travel insurance. There are countless horror stories from cruisers of innocent accidents or a simple illness that resulted in bills worth thousands of dollars from the ship’s medical center. You never know what may happen. That small price for insurance could save you tens of thousands down the line.

Read More: Why You Should Book Travel Insurance

How do you prepare for your vacation?

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