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BEFORE YOU GO

Review: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Vibe Beach Club

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This is a review of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Vibe Beach Club.

Whether you’re traveling with or without kids, there inevitably comes a time when you want a little adults-only time. It was that idea that drove Norwegian Cruise Line to introduce the Vibe Beach Club, a for-fee area aboard the Breakaway, Getaway, and Escape which provides a limited number of guests who are over the age of 18 an exclusive space in which to bask in the sun away from the more crowded public areas. The line has a similar area aboard Epic, although it is known on that ship as the Posh Beach Club. What is the area and is it worth the extra price? That’s what we’re here to help you decide!

How much does a Vibe Beach Club pass cost?

Located high atop the ship and behind doors only accessible to those who’ve obtained special keycards, the Vibe and Posh Beach Clubs feature everything one could need to enjoy a day in the sun (making them particularly popular on sea days). While day passes are sometimes available for purchase, most guests typically purchase the week-long pass, which runs around $99 per person. There are also private cabanas (which we’ll discuss later) available at prices which seem to vary by ship and, occasionally, even sailing, but run around $239 and includes Vibe Beach Club access for two guests.

Upon purchasing your Vibe pass, you’ll be given both a wristband which must be worn whenever accessing the area (although, truth be told, by day two or three, the staff generally knows who belongs and who doesn’t) as well as a separate key card which must be used at the entrance. You’re also given an envelope explaining the hours and exactly where to find the space, which while a tad silly can sort of make it feel even more “special.”

Important Things To Know

  • Passes are sold per person, not per cabin. If you want two, you must purchase two.
  • Vibe access is non-transferrable. Only the person who purchases the pass may use it.
  • The cost of beverages ordered at the Vibe Beach Club bar is not included, but your Ultimate Beverage Package is, of course, accepted.
  • No need to bring beach towels, as there are plenty available.

What’s beyond the door?

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice upon walking into the area is what’s missing: Namely, the crowds. You’ll also notice what there’s plenty of: lounge chairs, with nary a chair hog in sight. And unlike the lounge chairs found elsewhere on the ships, those in the Beach Club areas feature thick, comfy padding and come in a variety of styles. You’ll find loungers for yourself, daybeds that can be shared, and a variety of other seating options, including chairs arranged around a table which are perfect for game play.

There’s a private bar catering to the needs of Beach Club guests, as well as waiters who’ll bring cocktails directly to your lounger. They’ll also periodically come around with fresh fruit skewers and even bottles of cold water with which to spritz sun worshippers so that they don’t become overheated. Some people say you haven’t lived until you’ve been spritzed by an attendant, others find it weirdly awkward to have another human being misting them like a hothouse flower.

While the Posh Beach Club aboard Epic does not offer any sort of water features, the Vibe Beach Club sections on the three other ships have hot tubs which are, as one might expect, a heck of a lot less crowded than those found around the public pool.

On both Breakaway and Getaway, private cabanas are available for rent within Vibe Beach Club, each designed to hold two passengers. While the cabanas do offer privacy, they aren’t designed in such a way as to offer an escape from the sun should it be shining directly on you, whereas those on the regular loungers can either open a nearby umbrella or move to a more shaded location when the sun gets to be too much.

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It’s worth noting that the atmosphere within the Vibe Beach Club is much, much different than what you’ll find around the main pool. While great tunes are piped into Vibe, the volume is much lower than the often raucous beats blaring around the other one.

Vibe Is Not Your Only Option

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that the Beach Clubs are not the only areas aboard the ships designated as 18-and-over sections. Spice H20 is also an adults-only venue featuring similar amenities, and it is available free of charge to all guests. There are many guests who actually prefer the Spice H20 area for various reasons. For example, on Escape, the Spice H20 area features a gorgeous rock grotto waterfall area that many passengers adore. Breakaway’s version of Spice H20 features a similar grotto, minus the faux rock walls which elevate her sister ship’s water feature to another level. On both ships, the Spice H20 area (where many of the nighttime parties are held) is located on the back of the ship, so it offers stunning views… at least from the sides. Unfortunately, the back of H20 is taken up by a massive screen which definitely takes away from the panorama!

Why People Love Vibe Beach Club

So what makes access to the Beach Club such a hot ticket? Exclusivity.

Ask folks familiar with Vibe, and they’ll tell you that the only way to gain access is by making sure that you’re among the first to board and, just as importantly, that the first thing you do upon stepping foot on the ship is head directly to guest services (or, in the case of Escape, the Headliners comedy club) to purchase a pass. This is because on each sailing, a very limited number of passes – which varies by ship – are sold. As a result, the Beach Club areas are perhaps the least crowded place on even a sold-out voyage. Even on a beautiful sea day, you’ll have no problem finding a spot at the bar, plenty of loungers, or room in the hot tub.

It’s important to note one very, very big difference between Vibe and Posh. Passes to the adults-only area on the Epic, unlike those on ships featuring Vibe, is given free to guests who are staying in The Haven, Norwegian’s high-end ship-within-a-ship area. Therefore, fewer passes to Posh are often available for sale.

Final Thoughts

Although loved by many, Vibe Beach Club is definitely not for everyone. Those who love all the big, splashy events which take place around the main pools will probably find Vibe’s mellow ambiance a little too low-key for their liking. But over the course of a week, a sense of community often develops within Vibe, as you tend to see the same people each day. It’s not uncommon that members will wind up making plans to see shows or do dinner together. At the end of the day, those who are looking for a private retreat – and are willing to pay for it – will find the Vibe (and Posh) Beach Club a perfect place to hang out.

See Vibe Beach Club video review: 


 

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BEFORE YOU GO

13 Things to Do at Galveston Cruise Port

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Galveston Island is the perfect getaway for a pre or post-cruise stay. The island offers a ton of food, culture, attractions, shopping, and more, making it more than just a place to drive through on the way to your cruise vacation. Next time you sail from Galveston, consider spending time there to take advantage of these 13 things to do.

1. Shop on The Strand

Located right across from the cruise terminal, “The Strand” is a historical district full of shops and restaurants. In addition to the various clothing and gift shops that line Strand Street, there is also a giant chess set for playing in the adjacent Saengerfest Park as well as a running trolley for transportation.

Photo via Galveston CVB

2. Drink beer at Galveston Island Brewing Co.

If you’re into craft beer, or if you like beer at all, a visit to Galveston Island Brewing Co. is a must. It’s a quaint brewery with a quiet spot on the island, and their facilities include an indoor bar and seating, souvenirs, tables with board games, as well as outdoor seating and decking, a small stage for live music, picnic tables, and cornhole. It’s kid-friendly and dog-friendly, and they serve up some of the best beer you’ll ever taste.

3. Enjoy a drink at Murdoch’s

Murdoch’s is a Galveston treasure. Now a gift shop with a bar, it has been rebuilt several times over the years after being devastated by hurricanes – the most recent being Hurricane Ike in 2008. You’d never know it though, because its unwavering spirit survives every time. The bar serves frozen daiquiris and piña coladas as well beer, including local craft brews from the island. Because the shop extends out over the water as a pier, you can enjoy your drink on its back porch while sitting over the water.

4. Walk the Seawall

On the south side of the island, you’ll find the seawall. The 10 miles of beach along the seawall are all public, so feel free to park along the wall and enjoy a day under the sun, walking along the wall or enjoying the beachfront. Parking costs only $1 per hour or $8 for the day and can be paid via the Pay By Phone app on a smartphone.

5. Ride the rides at Pleasure Pier

Galveston’s Historic Pleasure Pier is hard to miss, extending out from the island and over the water like a beacon. The pier boasts a roller coaster and rides in addition to food, shops, and carnival games. All-day ride passes vary for kids based on whether they’re shorter or taller than 48 inches, but four all-day passes for a family, all taller than 48 inches, costs $100. There are discounted tickets available for seniors, active military and veterans, and through local hotels for guests.

Photo via Galveston CVB.

6. Adventure Through Moody Gardens

Made up of three large pyramids, Moody Gardens is easy to spot from the bridge while driving onto the island. Moody Gardens is a museum and adventure park in which each pyramid hosts a different attraction: an aquarium, a rainforest, and an MG 3D theater. It also functions as a resort, complete with on-site dining, spa amenities, a golf course, as well as a splash pad, river, wave pool, and man-made beach.

7. Visit Schlitterbahn

Schlitterbahn is a year-round water park located on the island that features everything from water slides to a lazy river to a swim-up bar. Tickets in the summertime run $51 per person for a day pass or $39 for children and seniors; however, prices are nearly half that in the spring (March to mid-April).

Photo via Galveston CVB.

8. Grab Some Grub

If you’re looking for a good place to grab grub in Galveston, the choices are endless. Gaido’s Seafood Restaurant on the seawall has been an island hallmark since it opened in 1911 and serves up some of the freshest seafood around. The Spot, also on the seawall, serves locally famous burgers as well as fresh seafood and has four individual, unique bars inside: a tiki bar, tequila bar, rum bar, and general backyard bar. Of course, if you’re looking to stay closer to the cruise terminal, Fisherman’s Wharf and Willie G’s are both popular spots for fresh seafood and other bites.

9. Sunbathe on Pocket Beaches

If you’re willing to travel a bit further south, Galveston Island has several pocket beaches that are open to public access but are not nearly as busy as the public beach at the seawall. If you’re looking at sites like Airbnb for a pre or post-cruise stay and want more quiet beach time, look for properties closer towards the Jamaica Beach area to avoid the crowds.

10. Visit Historic Homes

Another fun thing to do in Galveston is to tour the historic homes on the island. One of these is Bishop’s Palace, which was built in the late 1800s and is an example of Victorian architecture. Inside, the “palace” features unique details like marble columns, stained glass windows, and a mahogany staircase. Another home to visit is Moody Mansion. Also built in the late 1800s, the mansion has 31 rooms, including a ballroom, and was built in the Romanesque style.

Photo via Galveston CVB.

11. Visit Museums

Galveston Island is bursting with museums. Two of the most popular among tourists include the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum and Galveston Railroad Museum. The Ocean Star Museum is a retired jack-up rig that you can board to learn about the process of extracting oil offshore. The Galveston Railroad Museum operates rail rides, and many of the rail cars can even be boarded and viewed on the lot.

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12. Tour the Tall Ship Elissa

Docked at Pier 21 next to the cruise terminal, the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa floats proudly as a Galveston attraction and is still a functioning vessel. To learn more about the history of the ship’s commerce and history, you can visit the adjacent Texas Seaport Museum and even board the ship to wander its decks.

13. Watch the Ships Leave

Photo via Heather Baxter.

If you arrive the day before your cruise (or stay the day after) and there’s a ship in port that day, it’s always fun to watch the ships leave from Pier 21. There’s plenty of open deck area to simply hang around and watch the ships. But if you feel like snacking while you wait, the restaurant Fisherman’s Wharf offers outdoor seating with prime views of the ships sailing off. Just ask the hostess for a seat outside; they are always happy to accommodate.

Photos via Galveston CVB


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BEFORE YOU GO

5 Ways to Protect Your Passport

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Protecting your passport is one of the most important things to do on your vacation. Your passport is truly your passport to the world and back again. Without it though, you may run into some unplanned problems.

5 Ways to Protect Your Passport

passport

1. Copy It

Don’t leave home without a copy of your passport. Before you leave the country, make a copy of the main page of your passport. Take one copy with you and leave one with a trusted friend or family member. You can also scan a copy and email it to yourself so you’ll have a digital copy accessible. Keep your copy away from your passport while you’re traveling. In the event your passport is lost or misplaced, you’ll be asked to provide: Issue Date, Issuing Agency, Passport Number and Expiration Date. With a copy of this info, it’s much easier to replace your lost/stolen passport.

2. Know It

Know who to call or contact in the event of a missing passport. In the United States, call the National Passport Information Center (NPIC) at 1-877-487-2778. If you’re overseas, contact the nearest embassy or consulate. Check out the location list at www.usembassy.gov and keep it with you when traveling overseas.

3. Hold It

Don’t just hand your passport over to anyone who asks for it. Be very sure you’re giving it to a trustworthy person. Thieves and con artists have gotten clever and dress up as officials to try and get your info and identity. If you’re unsure at all of who’s asking for your passport, use a different form of ID first. Remember, you don’t need your driver’s license to get back into the US; you do need your passport.

4. Insure It

You know we’re firm believers in travel insurance, but here’s another great reason why you should always have it. If your passport is lost or stolen and has to be replaced, travel insurance can help cover the cost of replacement. They’ll help direct you to the nearest embassy or location to get a new photo taken. Travel insurance can also help with the cost of any itinerary changes due to the lost passport.

5. Wrap It

Starting in 2006, the United States has started issuing passports with an RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) chip. These chips consist of data and a small antenna. The problem is that your personal data can get read from your passport from thieves without ever opening, touching, or even coming close to your passport. It just takes you walking by someone with a scanner.

Consider buying a wallet with an RFID shield or a good home remedy is to wrap it in aluminum foil. Amazon sells an affordable Smooth Trip Passport Holders with an RFID blocker for under $10.

Hopefully these tips help you avoid a travel horror story! Have you ever lost your passport overseas? What are some ways that you protect your passport? We’d love to hear from you with any tips on keeping your passport safe and sound!

Photo via Flickr

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BEFORE YOU GO

How to Break Down Your Cruise Fare

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This post was inspired by someone very close to me, my sister. She was trying to tell me that she found a cruise for $229 and not a penny more.

The Email

My Bahamas cruise initially said $229 per person but when I went to book it, it was $646.54!!! Why did the advertised price say one thing and when I booked it was another? What gives??

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 2.59.55 PM

Attractive Pricing

Buying a cruise can be compared to buying a car: The pricing looks very attractive until you start adding on the tax, tag and title.

Based on Double Occupancy

A cruise ship is a big floating resort with the exception that the cruise fare you see is based on double occupancy. If you see a price for $229, double that for two people, triple for three and so on. Some cruise lines give pricing breaks for more than two people per stateroom.

Words to Know:

Carnival_Sunshine_NewOrl-1

To the untrained eye, it’s almost rocket science breaking down a cruise fare. But before we do that, let’s get familiar with some cruise ticket terminology.

  • Base Fare: the cost of the stateroom before any other fees are added. This is the price you will typically see advertised. This rate is associated with the accommodations you choose.
  • Gratuities: if you choose to prepay, this will be added in the total price of your cruise. Gratuities generally run between $11-$14 per person per day.
  • Vacation Protection: better known as travel insurance offered by the cruise line. You can also buy travel insurance from a third party provider. Cruise line policies are typically blanket policies while third party policies are done on an individual basis.
  • Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses: the cruise line has no control over these charges. Port Fees and Government taxes are charged and controlled by the country the cruise ship is visiting and are passed straight to the guest.
  • Service Fees: if you are booking on an online booking engine like Priceline you will find a $24.99 convenience fee added to your cruise booking.
  • Total: the sum of all the above fees added together. This could either be just the base fare and port taxes or all listed, depending on how you book your cruise.

The Structure 

The three-night Bahamas cruise had a price point of $229 but had a final price tag of $646.54. So why the prices difference?

Let’s look at the screenshot.

Cruise Fare BreakdownScreen Shot 2015-04-16 at 3.03.32 PM

Cruise Fare – $458.00 (remember double occupancy)

Port Taxes and Fees – $188.54

Total – $646.54

Consider the Extras

  • Pier Parking
  • Transfers
  • Vacation Protection
  • Pre-cruise Hotel Packages
  • Shore Excursions
  • Specialty Dining
  • Drink Packages
  • Spa Treatments
  • Internet Package

Final Thoughts

Compared to a land vacation, the value of a cruise vacation is amazing. Where else can you unpack once and experience a sampling of destinations? You really can’t.

An inexperienced cruiser will take the sticker price as the final price. Gather all information before booking your cruise.

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Hi, this may be of interest to you: Review: Norwegian Cruise Line's Vibe Beach Club. This is the link: https://cruiseradio.net/vibe-beach-club-norwegian-cruise-line/