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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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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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Carnival Makes Old Cruise Ships New Again



Talk to people who’ve been cruising for 20 years or more, and they’ll tell you stories about how the industry has changed over the years. Some of those changes, they’ll no doubt say, are for the better, others not so much. As with most things, it’s a matter of perspective. But you can also get a glimpse into how cruising has changed by taking a look at the history of some of your favorite ships. For example, the Fantasy class of ships which were first introduced by Carnival Cruise Line in 1990… and are currently the oldest vessels in the fleet. And yet, thanks to a few facelifts over the years, they remain as popular as ever.

The Fantasy Era Begins

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Carnival Fantasy. Photo via Carnival.

When the first Fantasy-class ship was introduced to the Carnival fleet in 1990, she went by one name only: Fantasy. In fact, all of the Carnival ships originally went by one name (Fantasy, Ecstasy, Sensation, etc). It was only in 2007 that someone (who hopefully got paid a lot of money for their marketing genius) realized the value in branding the ships with the word “Carnival.” That branding has stuck with the company ever since, as evidenced by the newest ship — announced earlier this year and debuting in 2019 — the Carnival Panorama.

The eight ships which comprised the Fantasy class were 70,000 gross registered tons and designed to carry around 2,000-guests. (By comparison, the Carnival Vista carries around double that number of passengers.)  The Fantasy was originally based out of Miami and did 3- and 4-night sailings to the Bahamas. When the Fantasy was moved to Port Canaveral in 1993, she was considered to be the first “megaship” to make that her homeport.

The First Transformation

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Carnival Fascination docked in Nassau.

By 2006, the original Fantasy class ships were starting to show their age. They were also missing some of the features which had been introduced on ships that were introduced into the fleet over the years. To give the Fantasy ships a spit-shine, Carnival rolled out a $250 million program known as the “Evolution of Fun.” As part of the program, the older ships received such upgrades as water parks, miniature golf courses, the adults-only Serenity area and various cosmetic changes to the staterooms and dining venues. In some cases, they even went so far as to add additional balcony staterooms (which makes sense, given that over time, the demand for these rooms with a view definitely increased).

Interestingly, despite being the oldest ship in the fleet, the Fantasy was not the first ship to receive the upgrades. Instead, the Inspiration and Imagination were first in line for their makeovers.

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If Fun Is Good, More Fun Is Better

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The final Evolution of Fun makeovers had only just been completed when, two years later, Carnival rolled out the Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements which saw, even more, changes being made to the fleet, including its older ships. This time around, the changes weren’t just cosmetic, but also involved major additions (including, thanks to a partnership with celebrity chef Guy Fieri, the wildly popular Guy’s Burger Joint). When the Carnival Fantasy came out of drydock in early 2016, she’d been outfitted with the burger joint, a Blue Iguana Cantina, RedFrog Rum Bar and more. Suddenly, as the old saying goes, everything old was new again.

Why Spend The Money?

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WaterWorks added to Carnival Elation in Fall 2017.

With new ships being introduced into the fleet every year, one might wonder why they bother continuing to upgrade the older ships. And the answer is simple: These ships are moneymakers. They’re also better suited to the short runs which are becoming extremely popular among cruisers who want to take a vacation but don’t necessarily have the ability to take an entire week off work.

Read More: Carnival’s Fantasy Class Ships Remain Popular

And then there’s the fact that the ships have fans. Lots and lots of fans. “I have nothing against the big ships,” admitted one longtime Carnival cruiser I met aboard a recent sailing on the Carnival Fascination. “But the smaller ships are more my speed. I’m not as interested in all the bells-and-whistles as I am relaxing.”

Of course, nothing lasts forever, and it seems inevitable that eventually, some of the older ships will be phased out. In fact, during the company’s most recent earnings report, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said that the company had “signed agreements to sell two ships expected to leave the fleet [in spring of 2018], keeping us on pace with our historical average of removing one-to-two ships per year.” (That’s not to say that they will necessarily be Fantasy-class ships or even Carnival branded, as the company’s corporate umbrella also includes Holland America, Princess, Seabourn, Cunard, Aida, Costa and P&O.)

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Carnival Elation docked in Nassau in 2017.

But in looking at the history of the Fantasy class ships, we can see not only the evolution of Carnival’s branding and marketing, but also the wants and needs of the cruising public. Because like any successful brand, Carnival has learned the importance of keeping up with the latest trends while never forgetting what’s made them successful in the past.

Have you sailed on one of the Fantasy class ships? Which is your favorite… and why? 

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