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Norwegian Changes How You Pay For Cruises



It looks like Norwegian Cruise Line is going to be changing the way passengers pay for cruises, or at least the window in which they make final payment. During Travel Weekly‘s CruiseWorld event, held earlier this week, Frank Del Rio — CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings — revealed that NCL will be requiring guests to make final payment 120 days before setting sail. Previously, the final payment date had been at the 90 day point.

You’ll have to roll those coins a little earlier!

No details were available as to when the police would go into effect or whether it would be implemented across all sailings. Travel Weekly reported that Del Rio pointed out to travel agents in attendance that they would obviously benefit directly from the decision. “It’s great for both of us,” the exec said. “It locks in the customer early. You get your payment 30 days earlier, and it helps you with your cash flow. We think it’s wonderful for our agent community that you get to collect on your hard work 30 days earlier.”

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Will Other Cruise Lines Follow Suit?

While that may be true, passengers may not feel quite so chipper about having to pony up their final payment a month earlier. Not only does this mean that the cruise line gets to put the money in their interest-earning accounts a month earlier (and take it out of yours), but it also will presumably impact the consumer’s ability to make changes to their reservation. Typically, the final-payment date is also the point at which any change made by the passengers comes at an expense.

In January of 2016, Norwegian changed the final payment date for most week-long voyages from 75 days to 90 days. Carnival Cruise Line’s final payment date currently typically falls in the 60-90 day range, depending on the length of sailing. Royal Caribbean’s final payment date falls between 75-90 days, again depending on the length of the voyage.

Will Carnival follow in Norwegian’s footsteps?

Cruise lines often mimic one another’s policies regarding such matters — such as when one raises the daily gratuity charge — so it will be interesting to see if other lines follow Norwegian’s example and adjust how passengers pay for cruises in terms of the final payment’s due date.

How do you feel about Norwegian requiring final payment 120 days before the sailing date? 

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13 Ways Technology has Changed Cruising



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 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


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 Swaps Gulf Coast Ships



Carnival Cruise Line announced today that they will expand their short cruise options in New Orleans and Galveston with moving two cruise ships.

Carnival Cruise Line Moves Two Ships

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Dream will launch four- and five-day cruises to Mexico year-round from Galveston beginning in May 2019, becoming the newest and largest Carnival ship to operate a short cruise program from that port and providing Texans with an exciting and convenient new vacation option.

In turn, Carnival Valor, currently based in Galveston, will shift to New Orleans to begin year-round four- and five-day cruises from the Big Easy beginning May 2019.  It will be the largest ship to offer a year-round short cruise schedule from New Orleans.

Four- day long weekend cruises depart Thursdays and visit Cozumel, while five-day voyages depart Mondays and Saturdays calling at Cozumel and Progreso.  Some five-day itineraries from Galveston feature Cozumel and Costa Maya.

Carnival Dream from Galveston

The 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream will kick off its year-round four- and five-day schedule from Galveston beginning May 23, 2019, representing a 22 percent increase in capacity on this program.

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Carnival Dream recently underwent an extensive makeover that added a number of exciting food and beverage options, including Guy’s Pig and Anchor Bar-B-Que created by Food Network star Guy Fieri, the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, BlueIguana Cantina serving authentic Mexican fare and the full-service Bonsai Sushi restaurant.  These complement such attractions as a WaterWorks aqua park, luxurious Cloud 9 Spa and more.

Carnival Dream will join Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista, which repositions to Galveston in fall 2018, and together these three ships are expected to carry nearly 650,000 passengers annually from Galveston – more than any cruise line.

Carnival Valor from New Orleans

The 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor will kick off its new year-round schedule of four- and five-day cruises from New Orleans May 16, 2019, replacing Carnival Triumph and representing a nearly 10 percent increase in capacity on the line’s short cruise program from that port.  Carnival Triumph will be deployed to another homeport to be announced at a later date.   Also in May 2019, Carnival Glory will take over the New Orleans-based year-round seven-day schedule of Carnival Dream.  Together, Carnival Valor and Carnival Glory are expected to carry nearly 400,000 passengers from New Orleans.

Carnival Valor last year underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation that added such popular highlights as Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in tandem with celebrity chef Guy Fieri, the Caribbean-themed RedFrog Pub, SkyBox sports bar, Alchemy Bar and the poolside RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.   Other features on Carnival Valor include an adults-only Serenity retreat, a 214-foot-long water slide and Scarlett’s, a classic American steakhouse.

Source: Carnival Cruise Line

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Trip Report: Eurodam Heads Back to Grand Turk



When I woke up today, the Holland America Eurodam was pulling into Grand Turk.  I’ll admit, I had mixed feelings about the day. Grand Turk has long been one of my favorite Caribbean islands, but it was also pretty hard hit by the hurricanes which struck only a few short months ago. Would the island still be the one I first fell in love with, or would the storm’s ravages leave me feeling sad about the fate that had befallen it?

The Eurodam Arrives In Grand Turk

Weather wise, it didn’t look like we were going to have one of those perfect days that thoughts of the Caribbean usually conjure up. As we docked, the rain was coming down, and it would remain cloudy and rainy all afternoon. As it turns out, Grand Turk had been experiencing similar weather for a solid week. In fact, several ships had been forced to skip the port because of stormy weather, so we were fortunate in that we’d be able to dock!

A cloudy day wasn’t going to keep the Eurodam‘s passengers from Grand Turk!

Once again, we headed to the Main Dining Room for breakfast. You know I’m not going to pass up the chance to have someone bring me a delicious meal! This time, I went with the southwest omelette, ham and some fruit. Oh, and coffee. We’re talking four or five cups of the stuff. There’s something about cruising that really ups my coffee game. At home, I’m what you might call a social drinker, but put me on a ship and I down cups of coffee as if I’m an old man gulping from the fountain of youth. And I’m not someone who drinks it for the boost of energy, either… I just love the taste!

By 8 a.m., we were walking off the ship and down the pier, heading straight for Jack’s Shack. Shortly after Irma hit, I was able to talk to the owner of the popular bar about the damage sustained to not only the Shack, but Grand Turk as a whole. Now, I was looking forward to checking in on him and, of course, Topher, the world’s most photographed dog!

Although evidence of Irma’s wrath remains in places, Grand Turk is back in business.

On the short walk to Jack’s Shack, you could see that dozens of new palm trees had been planted along the beach. But you could also see that some of the huts were in disarray, with their roofs completely gone and walls knocked down. It was a little disheartening, but there was something almost inspiring in the way that the island is clearly coming together to rebuild in the wake of the natural disaster.

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Settling in at Jack’s Shack, we got to talk to some of the locals about life on the island, interview Jack and enjoy a great jerk chicken and conch lunch. At first, it seemed as if most of the other customers were off-duty crew members from our ship. But when the Carnival Sensation later pulled into port, the place filled up with locals and passengers alike. To be honest, Jack’s has more of a low-key Carnival vibe, which I’ve always loved… although someone did walk up and ask if the had any caviar and champagne! I assumed the customers were kidding, but it turned out, they weren’t!

It’s always happy hour at Jack’s Shack.

The drinks were as ice cold as the company was warm. Mixed drinks ran $10, and beers were $6 each. That meant prices were a little less than you’ll find at Margaritaville, but not much. Speaking of which, we swung by there on our way back to the pool to grab a pina colada. That’s the kind of thing I would never drink back home, but when in Rome… or, in this case, on the islands!

We had to be back on board the Eurodam by 3:30 p.m., at which point we got cleaned up for our 7 p.m. dinner reservation at Canaletto.  Before heading to the Italian restaurant, we swung by the shore excursion desk to book our tour for the next day’s stop, Punta Canta. Turns out the shore excursion desk was closed, but they had a couple of after-hour options. Weird as it was to see the words “after hours” when it was daylight, we were able to swipe our cards at a nearby kiosk and, via a simple to use system, find the excursions we were interested in and book them.

Dinner At The Eurodam‘s Canaletto

We’d intended to hit trivia before dinner, but wound up missing it. (Given how poorly we’ve done so far this trip, it might be for the best!) One place we didn’t lose was Canaletto, where for $15 each we had a fantastic meal. The venue itself always throws me off a little, because it’s actually sort of carved out of the lido deck. You basically go to the Lido Market — aka the buffet area — to check in before being seated.

An amazing dinner at the Eurodam‘s Canaletto.

When we sat down and looked at the menu, I’ll admit that nothing really appealed to me. And then, I saw the dishes being served to the diners at nearby tables and suddenly found myself wanting to try everything. I’ll have a full review coming once I’m home and can digest (pun intended) this entire trip, but I’ll say that the beef carpaccio, shrimp ravioli, veal and canoli were all amazing!

I’ve booked a sail-and-snorkel excursion for tomorrow’s visit to Punta Cana, and since it’s a tender port, that means meeting in the ship’s theater at 8:50 a.m. And just typing that makes me realize I haven’t even been to the theater yet. I’m hoping to see a show before the trip is over, but time is definitely winding down! In two days, I’ll be flying back to Jacksonville after spending the day in St. Thomas.

Until tomorrow… goodnight!


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