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The Cruise Review You Have To Read To Believe



Some people simply aren’t meant to cruise. Now, the fact that you’re here, reading this particular story on this particular web site means you are probably not one of those people. But, believe it or not, they are out there. And while we might find their way of thinking as inconceivable as world peace or calorie-free French fries, they do actually exist.

As proof, I offer up Softballchic88, whose review of her late-July cruise upon the Caribbean Princess enumerates 53 different problems she encountered during the voyage, but might best be viewed as a thesis titled “How Not To Cruise.” It also serves as a teachable moment, and we’re going to use it to help you avoid many of the rookie mistakes which helped to turn Softballchic88’s dream vacation into something of a nightmare.

What Did She Complain About?

The simple answer would be “everything,” but if we’re going to learn from her mistakes, we need to look at some of the specifics… as well as who the person behind the profile actually is. Softballchic88 describes herself as a single, 29-year-old nurse who has “never traveled anywhere or done anything,” adding that — contrary to what the 2,910 words which followed would seem to indicate — she is not one to complain about things and generally “goes with the flow.”

It’s important to note here that we are by no means mocking Softballchick88 or suggesting that she did not encounter problems during her cruise. Even on the most amazing trips we’ve ever taken, there are usually a few issues. What we are doing is looking at the nature of her complaints and helping others to avoid winding up in a similar situation, which she called “anything but amazing.”

While you can read her entire review at, and its accompanying list of complaints — and again, there are 53 of them — we opted to pull out some that offer telling glimpses into what really went wrong on this vacation.

The Cruise Review Complaints

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1. “I thought there would be very few kids, but I guess with the [July] 4th holiday, there are quite a few. In fact, I had a family with three kids on my 8-hour shore excursion that ruined it for me.”

She adds that the cruise line “really should warn people if kids are on that particular excursion.” Upon returning to the ship, she attempted to get a refund because “I didn’t get what I paid for/didn’t enjoy it.” As seasoned travelers can imagine, that request was not granted.

2.  “I pre-ordered the unlimited soda and more package because they said they have a variety of coke products. However, they only have Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite… none of which I drink.” She was also unhappy to learn that this meant fountain soda, not cans. Again, she requested a refund and again, said request was denied.

3.  “The bathroom is ridiculously small,” she complained, adding later that there were “quite a few cracked tiles on the floor of my bathroom (which I know does not interfere with function, but still).”

4. The dining room offered no respite for our beleaguered traveler.

“It took 1.5 hours to complete my meal in [the] Italian restaurant,” she notes, adding again that she was dining solo. “I also find it quite ridiculous that as much as I paid for the cruise (single people… have to pay more), I also had to pay a $25-30 cover charge for most [restaurants]” despite the fact that she “wouldn’t even eat that much worth of food.”

5. Things didn’t go much better with SBC88 attempted to make new friends.

“There was an ‘unhosted singles and solo traveler’ event on board which was also a joke,” she shares. “Next to no one there and no actual activity other than sitting at [the] bar with [a] handful of people drinking.” Despite this, she went to a second event later that week and reports being “the only person to show up” as if somehow, this is the cruise line’s fault.

6. “To be able to enjoy a relaxing adult-only area, I had to pay a fee.”

7.  “When ordering room service, they wouldn’t bring me soda of any kind,” she notes, “despite having [paid for the beverage] package.”

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8. “They do have a laundromat,” she conceded, “but [passengers] have to pay to use them and pay for detergent if [they] didn’t bring their own.”

How Things Could Have Been Better

We suspect that seasoned cruisers sensed a pattern long ago, so let’s just stop here and address the elephant in the room, which is that SoftBallChick88 went into this cruise woefully underprepared. The majority of complaints listed above could have been avoided had she done basic research into the ship and its offerings. It’s fairly simple to find out if any given ship has laundry facilities, for example.

And the soda package sold by Princess very clearly indicates that it covers “unlimited fountain soft drinks, plus mocktails, juices and complimentary hot chocolate.” In smaller print but still easily researchable? That room service beverages are not included in the cost of the package.

Likewise, a bit of research would have told SBC88 that The Sanctuary — this particular ship’s kid-free zone — can only be accessed by paying a fee. Heck, look hard enough, and one can find not only information about the size of the bathroom’s shower but YouTube videos showing exactly what it looks like.

And an ounce of common sense would have told our girl that the worst possible way to avoid children – which clearly was of paramount importance, as she mentions her disdain for them repeatedly throughout — is to take a cruise during any holiday period.

Read More: 14 Do’s and Don’ts of Cruising

To be sure, there are other complaints on SBC88’s list — and again, it was far too long to reprint in its entirety — which were valid and even, in some cases, concerning. For example, she reports having watched “a worker sneeze into his hands, not wash them and [continue] messing with food at [the] buffet.” (She does not, however, indicate that she reported this behavior to anyone.) She also claims to have waited in line 3 hours for a tender back to the ship, suffering dehydration and sunburn as a result.

What Really Went Wrong?

Photo: Flickr/

At the end of the day, a few things are clear. More research or a great travel agent may have gone a long way toward helping SBC88 avoid some of the problems she encountered. But it may also simply be a case of cruising not being the right fit for her particular personality. I happen to live with someone who would rather have multiple root canals performed than step foot on a cruise ship, and I suspect he would walk away having had a very similar experience to SBC88. (Part of me hopes to someday find out, part of me dreads the idea of spending a week dealing with his “misery!”)

One thing is very clear, and that is the moral of this story:

I happen to live with someone who would rather have multiple root canals performed than step foot on a cruise ship, and I suspect he would walk away having had a very similar experience to SBC88. (Part of me hopes to someday find out, part of me dreads the idea of spending a week dealing with his “misery!”) One thing is very clear, and that is the moral of this story:

Before taking a major vacation for which you have high hopes and are spending a good deal of money, do your research! When in doubt, check it out… or better yet, turn to a travel professional and let them make sure that your trip of a lifetime doesn’t turn into a nightmare for you and everyone you come into contact with.

Read the entire review at

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11 Reasons To Book Norwegian Bliss



There are so many new ships coming down the pike it’s tough to figure out which one we’re most excited about. But if you’re thinking about booking the Norwegian Bliss — which will make her maiden voyage from London to New York City on April 21 — you’ll want to do so sooner rather than later. Why? Aside from the fact that that Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines, recently declared the ship to be the “best-booked new build in [the company’s] history,” which could make availability scarce, here’s why we think you’re going to want to give this exciting ship a try!

1. The Observation Lounges

Although designed specifically to give breathtaking views of Alaska (whose waters the ship will begin sailing in June of 2018), the observation lounges (yes, plural) on this ship will prove popular no matter where Bliss sails. A throwback to another era, the lounges — one of which will be available to all guests, while the other will be available exclusively to those staying in The Haven — promise to make watching the world go by your new favorite pastime.

Located at the very front of deck 15, the Observation Lounge is the place to see (the sights) and be seen (enjoying a drink). Rendering by NCL 

2.The Smokehouse

Country music and barbecue go together like peanut butter and jelly (or chocolate, depending on your flavor palate), so it’s kind of surprising that it took this long for anyone to combine the two and stick them on a cruise ship. But with the introduction of Q, Norwegian will serve up a Texas-style BBQ joint featuring chicken, ribs and brisket, all perfectly smoked over hickory, oak and pecan wood. Stick around after dinner for the kind of foot-stomping, foot-tapping, drink-swilling good time rarely found outside a honky-tonk.

Welcome to Q Smokehouse. Come for the ribs, stay for the tunes. (Rendering courtesy of NCL)

3. The Broadway Show

Big Girls Don’t Cry… unless they miss Jersey Boys, the jukebox musical chronicling the true story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The original production won four Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical, and ran on the Great White Way from 2006 until 2017. This is the latest Broadway show to be mounted by NCL, which has also hosted Rock Of Ages (aboard the Norwegian Breakaway) After Midnight (aboard the Norwegian Escape) and more.

Trust us: You know a lot more of the songs these guys did than you think you do. (Artwork courtesy of NCL)

4.The Coolest Happy Hour At Sea

Being big fans of drink packages and specialty cocktails, we don’t tend to associate our time on a cruise ship with prohibition. But the Norwegian Bliss is set to change that with the interactive show Happy Hour, The Musical: Prohibition Edition. Set in a New Orleans speakeasy on the 1916 night before prohibition kicked in, the show serves up tunes from the era as well as a slew of specialty cocktails, promising a good time for all.

Happy Hour: The Musical takes passengers back in time to the even of prohibition. (Photo courtesy of NCL)

5. The Chocolate

In another first for the cruise line, Norwegian Bliss will feature Coco’s, a diet-busting spot sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Where else are you going to find a personal chocolate fountain in which to dip things like cake or pieces of fruit? With many of the gorgeously artful menu items specifically designed to be shared by up to four people (or not…), this will be a great after-dinner spot.

Wonder if Coco’s Cookies ‘n Cream Milkshake comes in a calorie-free version? (Photo courtesy of NCL)

6. The Beatles

Step into a recreation of Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club and catch a cover band doing all your favorite Beatles tunes. Which means that if you play your musical cards right, you can hear country at Q, classics at the Cavern Club and then head on over to Social (formerly known as Alibi), the the ship’s comedy/nightclub… which sounds like an evening that is as full as it is exhausting!

First introduced on the Norwegian Epic, the Cavern Club — and their lead act, The Beatles — are coming to Bliss. (Art courtesy of NCL)

7. The Perfect Pre-Dinner Drink Spots

Whether you’re looking to kick the evening off with a glass of wine or a cocktail, Norwegian Bliss will have you covered. For the vino lovers, there’s The Cellars — A Michael Mondavi Wine Bar. Conveniently, it happens to be located right next to La Cucina (the ship’s Italian eatery), and you can order up a few nibbly bits to go with your wine. The venue will also feature events such as wine tastings. More interested in cocktails? The A-List Bar (named after NCL’s president and CEO, Andy Stuart) is an uber chic setting in which to sip the hand-crafted cocktails whipped up by your mixologists. This one’s ideal for folks grabbing dinner at either Los Lobos or Cagney’s Steakhouse, as it’s located right between them.

There’s no such thing as a B celeb at the A-List Bar. (Rendering courtesy of NCL)

8. The Haven

Yes, many other Norwegian vessels feature this ship-within-a-ship area which allows its inhabitants to live it up, luxe life style. And like those versions, Bliss‘ Haven will offer a variety of cabin configurations, all of which include the services of a butler and concierge. But no other ship in the fleet offers what this version of The Haven does: exclusive access to a two-story, forward-facing observation lounge featuring killer views. It’s the perfect space in which to take it all in while also feeling like you’ve gotten away from it all.

The two story Haven observation lounge is definitely a room with a view. (Rendering courtesy of NCL)

9. The Faux Windows

Think all the bells-and-whistles aboard this ship are reserved for folks paying top dollar for high-end suites? Then you haven’t seen Norwegian Bliss‘ version of inside studio cabins. Designed for solo travelers who want to avoid paying the supplement that usually comes with rooms meant for two or more people, these rooms are smaller, but offer way more than meets the eye. Not only do guests have access to the solo lounge (a great way to meet fellow travelers), but in yet another Norwegian first, these inside cabins are actually rooms with a view. Sure, it’s a fake view, but the “virtual windows” instantly turn the studios into oceanviews!

For the first time on an NCL ship, the solo studio rooms will have a “virtual window.” (Rendering courtesy of NCL)

10. The Chance To Save The World

Take time from your busy schedule of bar-hopping, port-visiting and sun-worshipping to save humanity… or at least pretend to. First introduced on the Norwegian Joy, the top-deck laser tag arena sets up a story in which a rag-tag team of cruisers — including you — visits an apparently abandoned space colony to find out what went wrong and prevent an alien invasion. Space suits not required.

Who knew that when aliens invaded, the final battles would be waged aboard a cruise ship? (Photo courtesy of NCL)

11. The Go Karts

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Did you really think we’d put together this list and not even mention the largest race track at sea? It’s like you don’t even know what we’re most excited about! Yes, we have every intention of jumping in one of these electric-powered vehicles to prove that we have what it takes to beat the competition!

On your marks! Get set! Go… straight to the race track. (Picture courtesy of NCL)

Of course, perhaps the biggest reason to book your stateroom now is that you’ll want to knock the Norwegian Bliss off your bucket list before it’s time to start getting excited about the line’s next ship, the already-under-construction Norwegian Encore!

What has you most excited about Norwegian Bliss? 


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Why I Always Buy The Beverage Package When Cruising



“Should I buy the drink package? Is it worth it?” Those have to be among the questions most often asked when people are planning their cruise. Whether it’s Carnival’s Cheers! program, Norwegian’s Ultimate Beverage Package or Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage package — each of which comes with its own distinct pricing, restrictions and allowances — almost every cruiser wrestles with whether or not the packages offered is right for them.

Cost Vs. Convenience

Search message boards or Facebook pages, and you’ll find people who have spent a whole lot of time doing the necessary math to figure out exactly what the “break even” point is on each cruise line’s drink package. Using that information, people can ask themselves some basic questions (How many drinks per day do I think I’m going to have? Are the types of alcohol I prefer included in the price? Will I drink fewer drinks on the days we’re in port?) in order to make an informed decision.

For me, however, it comes down to something far simpler: peace of mind.

Nothing beats bellying up to the Carnival Sunshine with a drink package.

During the one and only cruise on which I didn’t purchase a beverage package, I found myself running a mental tab each time I ordered a cocktail. Drink Of The Day? $10.95. My usual bourbon and diet? $9.95. Wine with dinner? Well, you get the picture. Each night, I’d use the interactive television in my stateroom to obsessively check my onboard spending, the vast majority of which went toward drinks. One day, I found myself skipping my usual morning Bloody Mary (and, in case my folks are reading this, let’s just pretend that I only have one each morning, shall we?) in order to save a little money.

One Less Thing To Stress About

I don’t remember what the final bill was at the end of the week, let alone whether it proved to be more or less than it would have cost to purchase the beverage package. (It was something of a moot point to begin with, given that the package was not actually offered on this particular sailing.) I do remember hating the fact that on that final morning, my credit card was going to take a hit.

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I’m the type of cruiser who likes to pay everything in advance. I always have the gratuity charges added to the final payment, sign up for the internet before getting on the ship (especially if it means I get a little bit of a discount)… heck, I even give myself a daily “casino allowance.” So the ability to pay for my drinks in advance, thereby allowing me to turn off the “ka-ching” sound effect that echoed in my head each time I ordered a cocktail, is darn near priceless.

More than a few cruisers get their money’s worth out of drink packages downing nothing but mudslides!

Clearly, this approach isn’t for everyone. Drink packages can be pricey, with Carnival’s currently running $51.95 per person per day (plus an additional 15% gratuity) and Norwegian’s running a whopping $89 per person, per day (plus a 20% gratuity). Of course, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of Norwegian passengers get the Ultimate Beverage Package “free” as one of the perks offered nearly year-round by the cruise line, paying only the gratuity charge.

As I said earlier, you can easily search out drink menus, find out how much your beverage of choice will run, guestimate how many you think you’ll have over the course of your cruise and see if the package is worth it for you. It’s also worth noting that on most cruise lines, if one adult in a room wants the beverage package, all the adults in the room have to purchase it as well… something I, as a solo traveler, don’t have to factor in.

Personally, I avoid math whenever possible — especially where planning a vacation is concerned — and take the path of least resistance. Just thinking about doing all those calculations gives me a headache. (Is there such a thing as a math hangover?) All I know is that I’m always happy when, on that final day of the cruise, the only charges I see on my bill are for Bingo cards.

Do you usually buy a drink package when cruising? What do you base your decision to buy — or not purchase — the package on? 

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New Study Proves Cruising Is Good For You



We all have that friend who says, “I don’t get it… why do you like cruising so much?” Now, rather than list the litany of reasons you love setting sail, you can simply say, “It’s good for me.” And when they give you side-eye, you can hand them a printout of this article and say, “See! It’s not just me saying so… science agrees!” Because a study from the University Of China found a definitive link between cruising and well-being in both the short and long term.

What The Study Found

As part of the study, the scientists questioned 317 people as they were returning from a cruise, and another 295 who’d been on a similar voyage six months earlier. According to a report in the Daily Mail, “the questions were specifically designed to test the participant’s own perceptions of well being, such as life satisfaction and emotional state of mind.”

While the very experience of cruising and socially interacting while doing so contributed to the short-term well being of the participants, the longer-term effects seemed to come from experiences such as shore excursions in general, and particularly those which offered an opportunity to learn  something new or see things in a way never before seen. “The results indicated that cruise holidays offer more value than simply short-term [pleasurable] experiences,” the report read, “but can contribute to broader aspects of life satisfaction and positive functioning in a long-term fashion.”

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It went on to suggest that “travel… affirms self-worth and pride, facilitates self-growth and self-motivation, and searches for inspiration and creation.” While the study was conducted on cruisers within the Chinese market, it’s conclusions have much further-reaching implications, including to how cruise lines market their product. “Cruise marketing should recognize the fact that cruise vacations are not only for fun,” it reads, “but also beneficial for individuals’ happiness and well being.” And certainly cruise campaigns in the American market have played up that angle. One of the taglines used by Princess Cruise line is “Come Back New,” while Royal Caribbean’s “Come Seek” campaign has made a point of focusing not only on the fun that can be had on their ships, but the worlds ready to be explored upon arriving at your destination.

READ MORE: 11 Ways to Stay Healthy on Your Cruise

What It All Means

While the study involved much talk of concepts such as “thinking experience” and “utilitarian views of the objects,” it all boils down to, as we said at the beginning, cruising being good for the well being or, as we like to think of it, your soul. And while we’re big believers that you should never have to explain why you love cruising — hey, if people don’t understand the joy of a floating hotel/casino/restaurant/entertainment complex which takes you to a new place every day, that’s their loss! — should you ever feel compelled to prove it has mental health benefits at well, you’ll have the proof to back you up.

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