Editor’s note: If you find a spelling error or a typo, sorry! This is transcribed from the audio of episode 97.
Intro: Broadcasting from the Cruise Radio studio’s in Jacksonville, Florida, this is Cruise Radio.
Host: Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and sign up for our newsletter at CruiseRadio.net. It's all about the Mediterranean this episode. Nancy Schretter with the Family Travel Network will join us, she has some great advice, obviously for families, and Chris Owen, writer for Gadling.com will be with us covering an article on cruising the Mediterranean. But first, Stewart Chiron the Cruise Guy joins us. Hello Stewart.
Host: Let's get right to it. The ship makers have tossed the keys of the Celebrity Silhouette to the company.
Stewart: Yup, it's hard to believe. This is the fourth of five of the award-winning amazing Solstice class ships but this one is a little different than the previous three, instead of being a hundred and twenty two thousand tons holding twenty eight hundred and fifty passengers this will be one hundred twenty two thousand four hundred tons and hold twenty eight hundred and eighty six passengers. So they have added thirty six cabins and we'll find out where they squeeze this in. The big distinctive change to this ship verse the previous three was in the top area by the lawn club, they have a glassblowing area, they actually removed that and actually put in the lawn club grill and then on the half-acre of grass they actually added some nice cabanas that people could use for the day when they charge you anywhere from ninety nine dollars in port the of day versus at sea where they will charge a hundred and fifty dollars a day and you will give you some neat amenities. If you never been on one, it's really time to experience these sensational ships.
Host: So Norwegian Cruise Lines is teaming up with USA Today letting the readers name the next two ships, right?
Stewart: Yeah, it's the same thing Royal Caribbean done so NCL figured, hey we want a turn and get the nice exposure from it and i think I'll will save them the time, money, and effort, they'll probably wind up calling them the Norwegian Sheehan one and two (after the CEO).
Host: NCL is trying to go public with an IPO? Can you break this down for us?
Stewart: This is the same thing that they came out with a October actually they been trying to do this for over twenty five years and some reason it was just the wrong place at the wrong time, they filed their S1, their intent to go public, with two hundred fifty million dollars what were the shares to repay some of their higher debt. That was nine months ago and not much has transpired so lets fast forward ten months, change the name of the holding company from NCL holding to Norwegian cruise line holding company and we are going to refile our S1 and get the process going again but with important to know is that the same thing that happened nine months ago. No date for the actual launch to know when the shares will actually be offered.
Host: Okay lastly, Oceania's newest ship Riviera was floated out today, is this more-a-less going to be a sister ship to Marina?
Stewart: It is identical and what you meant by float out is that it left the building and actually got into the water for the first time and actually another milestone, American Cruise Lines had their stern wheeler 'Queen of the Mississippi' float out too, both these ships will make their debut in about a year.
Host: You give us so much and more.
Stewart: Well we do our best, that's why people want to listen to Cruise Radio.
Commercial break (CruiseOne)
Host: Every week we like to give you Porthole Cruise Magazine's pick of the week.
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The 3-hour tour features a canal cruise toward the Amstel River as well as plenty of sites
to see along the way, like the Skinny Bridge, the Royal Theatre Carre, and City Hall. This
summer, you have the chance to experience the Floating Dutchman during the special
Summer Trials, which start on July 20.
Bookings can be made at floatingdutchman.nl or at Great Amsterdam Excursions points of
sale at Schiphol Airport.
Host: Oh we love her, Nancy Schretter with the Family Travel Network is here with us, welcome back to Cruise Radio, Nancy.
Guest: Thanks! It's so great to be here.
Host: Traveling in the Meditterian can be kind of scary for some people so what should you consider when planning a cruise to the Med. when it comes to families?
Nancy: Well the first thing is really know your kids. That sounds obvious but it's really not. Know what their interest are and whats right for them, what they can handle in terms of long days, time zone changes, getting up early, and things like that. Based on those things and your families interest you can deciede to take a family Med. cruise or not, and plan you cruise around your families interests, goals and family travel profile.
It's important for parents to realize that taking a Med. cruise isn't exactly like taking a family cruise in the Caribbean or Mexico. We just came off as a great Mediterranean cruise on the Celebrity Equinox and it was fantastic, we had the best time there and there was a six hour time zone difference. Many of the ports of call on most major cities are attraction you'll be visiting so sometimes you have to go to an hour or more to the particular city each way and to make for some pretty long days especially for kids.
What's really important to think about what your goals and expectations are for this cruise, why are you going? Is this is something that your kids really want to do? Are they specifically interested in a certain thing? Is this a learning cruise? Is this a relax and learning cruise? And is it important for everyone to do everything together or can you do your own thing separately. So if families can think about the answers to those questions that'll really help to guide their experience.
Host: When considering vacationing in Europe, Nancy, are their people that a Med cruise are particularly good for?
Guest: I think a Med cruise is the best way for families to see Europe, it's so easy, you pay in dollars you unpack once and then important destinations all come to you. With that being said I think the Med cruises are particularly good for families who want to sample a lot of destination. It's sort of like a buffet, you to get sample many new places, you find your favorites, and then you come back for more later. I also think it's great for families who wanted to save money especially right now with the dollar to euro exchange rate you can't beat the value in the Med. It's great for multi-generational families because there's something for every age group on board and people can do things separately and then come back together for meals and selected activities. It also really great for families with food allergies and this is a really big one. My daughter has a gluten allergy and you know in the land of pizza and pasta finding gluten-free food can be really tough and Celebrity was absolutely incredible on this. I told them about my daughter allergy five months in advance and every night our waiter or maître d' came over to our table with the next nights dinner menu and she could pick out anything she wanted and they would make it for her from scratch, every day without the gluten. So you know, she was in heaven, we were in heaven ,it was all so easy and they'll do that for anyone with a food allergy as long as they know far enough in advance.
It's also really great for families with kids who get bored easily are people who have divergent interests, if you know that you kids want to experience some of the sites of Europe but you know they're going to get bored going on tours and excursions every day, this is a great opportunity for you to do both. Your kids can be entertained and have fun with new friends on board the ship while you go out for that long in-depth tour of Ephesus that you always been dreaming about, and your kids can have a great time on the ship and then after you get back you can have fun together at the pool or playing together doing games on the top deck or whatever. It's really great for people who have kids but maybe don't want to do a long tour every day in just one experience a little bit of Europe.
Host: What's the best way to plan a family cruise to the Mediterranean?
Guest: Without a doubt plan it together and this is something that a lot of times parents don't do. Make sure the kids are involved and get everyone's input early on, it really helps create buy-in and it also eliminates a lot of potential problems when you get on the ship and not having people going "oh, I don't want to do this," and you paid one hundred and ninety five dollars per person for the shore excursion or whatever. If you have teens and tweens this one is really important, talk about the potential pace of the cruise, doing organized tours, what's important to them about the ship and what they really want out of the cruise, and every other thing you can think of to get the lay of the land and see what your tween or teen can handle and then when you talked about it, match that against your expectations for the cruise and make sure that your all in sync and that everybody can have a good time it's not to be a situation where your teen stays on board and has a great time while you're miserable because they're not coming and that's not what you expected.
Then when you get all that together I would take it to a really good cruise travel agent. I'm a huge fan of great travel agents to discuss all the options. Or do a lot of your own research online to come up with the best cruise lines, cruise ships, and itinerary within your family needs and interests.
Host: Nancy, whens the best time to cruise in the Mediterranean?
Nancy: Most families tend to do these cruises during the summer months like late May, June, July, and August, when the kids are out of school. The fall is definitely cheaper and less crowded but that involves taking the kids out of school at the beginning of the year and that's something that most parents don't want to do. If you're cruising the Med, be aware that August is the big vacation month in Europe and if you cruise in August, the places are going to be at there most crowded and in addition it could be scorching hot. We cruised in mid to late June and it was really hot at some of the places then. Some of the tour guides and Celebrity Cruises staff we talked to said that it was a huge problem for people, particularly children and the elderly. Looking at that for the second half of July and August that has to be consideration, so with all that in mind I would probably opt for late may or June if possible.
Host: Is it better to cruise in the eastern and western? Or does it really matter?
Nancy: The choice between the eastern Med and the western Med is tough, again, it really should be driven by your families interest. We've done both.The western Med. with Florence, Barcelona, sometime Venice is so rich with history, art, culture and so much more. Eastern Med like Rome, Naples, Athens, Istanbul they all have history and culture but they got incredible Greek Isles for beaches as well.
Host: I want to talk about ports real quick. What are some of your favorites? What are the best ports to visit for culture and exciting things to do?
Naples, Pompeii was fascinating. I loved Ephesus and my kids absolutely loved shopping. I've got two girls and there was some great bargains there. I love Rome, I'm really partial to it. My family still remember getting gelato a desert that is made there was definitely on of the high point of their experience.
On the western Mediterranean cruise we loved Naples, Rome, Florence, and gorgeous Venice. I could probably the day getting lost there.
Host: How would you advice those families on choosing the right size ship?
Guest: I think that finding the right ship for a Med cruise is kind of like buying a pair of jeans, you have to find the right fit. It's important for you to take your time, do your research, and find the right fit for you and your family. What you want to do is look for the right features, amenities, and strong points that are really important for your family.
Host: Do they have excursions tailored for families?
Guest: Yes they do on and it really varies by cruise line and port of call. For instance, in Athens, Celebrity Cruises had an Athens sightseeing and zoo excursion for families letting parents and kids see the highlights of Athens plus go to the zoo... in Kusadasi, Celebrity offers a great aqua excursion to one of the largest best-known water park in the Mediterranean and there they could also do a swim with the dolphins encounter. In Mykonos and this one's really important, they offered transfer for families to Kalafati beach which is one with family-friendly beaches in Mykonos. If you don't pick your family friendly beach carefully and they can your kids could end up being exposed to literally things you don't want them to be exposed to, so that really helps. Disney does a great job of offering shore excursions that are specially tailored for families and I think Royal Caribbean offers those as well.
Host: Do you have any excursion recommendations?
Guest: If you can afford it, I think that private tours by car are absolutely fantastic. We did that in Rome, Florence, and in Athens. They are really exceptional because they let you see and do so much more than you can do on ships tour and you get to do exactly what you and your family want to do on they can be pricey but in my opinion they're really well worth it we used Roman Limo in Italy and used Tours of Athens in Greece and both of them were outstanding.
Host: A lot of people are afraid to get on the plane and go over to Europe right now because of security concerns and stuff. Is security really that big of a deal right now over in the Med.?
Guest: I understand the concerns. Greece has already had demonstrations and strikes but we didn't have any problem in Athens when we were there were protesters out but they were very peaceful and in fact you know our kids actually enjoyed looking and seeing what was going on our private guide told us you were to watch out for pickpockets and advise us what to do with each stop, we were able to get all the sites we didn't have any issues. The ships staff really stays on top of the situation in each port of call but you know if you're really concerned about all these issues in that case you might want to choose an itinerary that doesn't begin and end in Barcelona or avoid Athens this year and go at another time. Every family has its own risk profile but we went this year and thought it was fantastic.
Host: Let's talk about some resources (for family travel in the Med.)
Guest: Of course families should tune into Cruise Radio and check out the Family Travel Network for cruise planning ideas and travel tips. The shows you guys do are fantastic and you have so many great ideas and tips for families. The Family Travel Network has a lot of information of family travel stories and planning vacations with kids. I found some additional resources to be very helpful for me the board Cruise Critic and trip advisor were really helpful for helping me to locate great private tour operators and it's all good really nice to talk with people who just come off of a cruise, been there, done that and they have really good insights and advice on what to see where to go but also have some great money saving tips as well so i got great ideas on the best places to eat and the best places to shop from those particular boards.
I would also highly recommend purchasing or downloading a good guide book and reading it before you go. I have not done that on one cruise and I did that on second. I really do think that you get some great ideas about little-known places and for those people who are do-it-yourselfers many of the guidebooks have really good walking tour maps. I'm a big fan of Rick Steve's guidebook for Europe I think they're superb!
Host: Any final words, Nancy?
Guest: Yes, I remember telling someone a while ago that I was planning to get Europe and said you know where the best place to take my kids and he said to grandma's from the way the airport ... you know, I don't agree having done this twice. I think the Med. is a fantastic place for a family cruise vacation but it's really important to go with the right mindset. For family learning vacations we found on our family travel network reader survey over forty percent of our readers are looking for a learning component for their family vacation and what a better place to go, the Med. is just perfect for that.
The Med can be a really intense place to visit on a cruise but it doesn't have to be but it doesn't have to be intense to be enjoyed or to have a good time. Relax, pack the positive attitude, don't over cram, pace yourself and plan accordingly and it's also important that the state flexible and keep your expectations in check. I think it's important to the parents in particular not to expect everything to go perfectly and for goodness sake don't expect junior to getting A+ in European history just because he went on a Med cruise this summer but you might find that your kids and your family will have a whole new appreciation for the world, different cultures that are out there, their home country and if you do it right to have a new appreciation for your family and what a family vacation can be and frankly that's the best European vacation souvenir of all.
Host: From the Family Travel Network, the most informative Nancy Schretter. Thanks again for talking to us. Our interview with Nancy was actually a 35 minute piece. We just couldn't fit it all into the show. To hear the whole interview be sure to check out Cruise Radio premium content.
(Follow us on Twitter recording).
Host: Travel writer for Gadling.com, Chris Owen. Hi Chris! We came across your article 'A first timers guide to Mediterranean cruises." The first tip is go with a line you know.
Guest: Well it's a good idea because if you try to get on another ship, they won't let you on (insert laugh here). We like to go with a line you know because, well I think you know this because you guys were on this sailing, once you get back on the ship it's like being anywhere else. If you go to Italy on a line you know, once you get back on the ship, it's just like being home again.
Host: The number two point you have is that they don't take the dollar everywhere.
Guest: In Mexico or some place in the Caribbean you might go, they'll take the dollar anywhere. In the Med they take the Euro in most post. Remember that the conversion rate is about 1.5 to 1 and you'll be okay.
Host: Number three here you say to know a little bit of the language.
Guest: Just a little. Like where's the bathroom, I need some food, stuff like that is good. Or get an (smart phone) app. You can punch in whatever you want it to say and it will spit it out in whatever language you want it to say it in.
Host: The next one you have is go a day early.
Guest: Well you kinda have to. If you're traveling from North America to Europe, it's a long flight. If I had to do it over again I would go a day early. Venice to me, which was our first stop was kind of a blur. All I remember was walking around the streets looking for a power converter that I could never find.
Host: Number five you say know the customs of the land.
Guest: Tipping is a big one. You would think that is universal, or at least I did. Wrong. I found out the first night at the bar when I got a beverage at the bar, went to give a tip, and the guy looked like he was mad at me. I've been told that they get satisfaction out of doing a good job.
Host: Although, some beautiful waitress' at some of the restaurants told me they wanted just the tip.
Guest: I heard that one too but we won't go into that.
Host: The last one you have Chris, credit cards are a good idea, sometimes.
Guest: Again a friend told me to use a credit card because I ll get a better exchange rate. Using a credit is a good idea in exchange for getting rolled on the street and they take all your money (laugh).
Host: Hey Chris! I have something to add to your list. Call your cell phone provider and consider adding the international plan. Also going back to your credit card point. You may want to check with your credit card company and make sure that you don't have an international block on your card.
Guest: That is a good idea when you're traveling out of the area anytime or booking in another state.
Host: Oh we love him so much. Chris, thanks for being on Cruise Radio. Thanks for pleasuring us.
Guest: Always a pleasure to pleasure.
Next week travel writer Sherry Laskin will join us and Paul Motter with Cruise Mates will weigh in on solo travel.