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Your Chance to Cruise with Pitbull

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It definitely does not suck to be Pitbull. The rapper, also known as Mr. Worldwide, is ridiculously popular, has sold approximately 10 gazillion albums, has his own Sirius-XM radio station and — the thing most likely to inspire jealousy among cruisers — is the Godfather of the Norwegian Escape.. Now, he’s hosting the second annual Pitbull After Dark cruise… and a lucky winner is going to join the fun!

Party Central

This time around, Pitbull’s music-filled event will take place aboard the Norwegian Jade as it sails from Miami to the Bahamas from March 2-5th. According to organizers Sixthman, the even will feature not only the man after whom the whole thing is named after, but Flo Rida, DJ Laz, DJ Soulman and other artists to be announced at a later date.

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Look for the headliner himself to offer two poolside sets as well as what’s being billed as a “motivational conversation,” not to mention a Q&A session and a Dance Boot Camp taught by the Most Bad Ones.

How To Win A Free Cruise!

One lucky Pitbull fan — and a guest — will get the opportunity to Cruise To The Front Row. The grand prize winner in the contest — which you can enter here between now and August 6th — will sail away in a complimentary balcony stateroom aboard the ship. Plus, anyone who books during this pre-sale period will automatically be entered for a chance to win an incredible experience featuring a Teppanyaki dinner hosted by Pitbull, an invitation to a cocktail hour with the star and the chance to be the coolest person on the ship by introducing the main man to the audience at his motivational conversation!

For more information or to get the party started by booking your room, visit PitbullCruise.com or call Sixthman at 877-379-9187.

Photo: Pitbull Cruise

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Carnival Cruise Line

Everything Carnival Horizon, Part 8: The Casino

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If you thought we were going to explore the Carnival Horizon and not spend some time talking about the casino, you don’t know us very well! Even if we weren’t big fans of casinos in general, we’d still wind up spending time in this one because it’s really quite striking. That’s thanks in no small part to the Dreamscape funnel found at the central bar. It may not be as big as the one which serves as the central point of the atrium, but it’s just as beautiful.

The Dreamscape in the casino probably can’t make you feel better about losing, but it’ll give you something pretty to look at!

We’ve spoken quite a bit about these funnel-shaped screens ever since they first were introduced on the Horizon‘s sister ship, the Vista, and it’s with good reason. Their unique ability to change the entire feel of the space they occupy is stunning. You know how whenever something new is rolled out, there’s always a group of people who say, “Eh, it’s okay but, to quote Shania Twain, that don’t impress me much.” We have yet to meet anyone who has had a negative thing to say about these babies.

The Casino Basics

If you’ve been in a cruise ship casino, you know basically what to expect. There’s a wide variety of slot machines and table games, there’s a smoking section (much to the chagrin of some) and a non-smoking section (not enclosed, much to the chagrin of others). During peak times, the bartenders can seem a little overwhelmed, but that happens at any hot spot around the ship from time to time.

So instead of dwelling on the general, let’s drill down on some of the specifics about this casino in particular. First off, for those who’ve become addicted to the Lock It Links Diamond slot machine that seems to be all the rage of late, yes, they have some. And yes, they are crazy popular, so your best bet for slipping into the seat in front of one is to either hit the casino during slow times or keep an eagle eye on them. When a seat opens up, it’s filled pretty quickly.

 

How nice would it be to walk away with the Grand Jackpot of $13,000?

As far as these machines go, the ship has both the Diamonds version and the Night Life version (the biggest difference between them being the way the bonus round is triggered). There are also a wide variety of popular machines like the Quick Hits, 88 Fortunes and (shout it as if Vanna White’s life were depending on it… ) Wheel! Of! Fortune!

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Compared to some other lines, the table game minimums were on the low side, with most starting at $5. Even the high roller tables weren’t outrageous, running around $25 on busy nights, but coming down to $10 during slower times. And yes, there were several tables designated as non-smoking.

There are plenty of table games available at various denominations.

So let’s address the elephant in the room… or the cloud of smoke hanging in the air, as it were. One of the things that comes up time and again when people discuss cruise ship casinos is how bad the smoke is, and whether it permeates areas outside the casino itself. (This has been a particular problem on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway class ships, where the casino is located in the middle of the entertainment complex and smoke tends to be fairly pervasive. It’s one of the reasons that on their newest ship, the Norwegian Bliss, the smoking area is enclosed.) Whether it’s because this is a brand new ship or the air filtration system works great, the smoke didn’t seem terribly heavy within the casino. And at least during the inaugural cruise, the smell didn’t tend to carry too far behind the entrance and exit points of the casino.

Games People Play

The casino also has two types of games that are wildly popular on cruise ships, although some never quite understand the attraction. The first is the sweeper-type into which you drop coins in an attempt to line them up in such a way that a constantly-moving sweeper will push piles of them into your tray (as well as other prizes). And the other, pictured below, are the…

… adult versions of carnival games. One involves dropping a claw down for a chance to grab at some cash, while another challenges players to line up a key and a lock in order to claim a prize, including iPads and cash. Seems simple, right? So many a person has thought… usually wrongly!

Special Events & Competitions

One thing you want to do is keep an eye on the Fun Times, which will usually have a special “Casino” section listing various offers and events going on each night (and, during sea days, often during the day as well). Among some recent events were the Big Loot Draw (every 100 points earned in the casino got players an automatic entry into a raffle for Casino Cash), Hot Seat promotions (in which random people won prizes), and Hi-Low, in which selected contestants competed against a deck of cards for prizes ala the old game show Card Sharks. This was in addition to tournaments for slots, poker and Texas Hold ‘Em players.

There are only two entries left before our time together comes to a close. But there’s still so much more to talk about! Up next? Some of the many, many ways you can spend your sea days aboard the Carnival Horizon!

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Carnival Cruise Line

Everything Carnival Horizon, Part 7: Adult Stuff

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Since we figured out ways to keep the kids entertained in our last entry, it seems as if we’ve earned a little adult’s-only relaxation, right? So let’s wander around the Carnival Horizon and take in some of the various venues that offer grown-ups an opportunity to rest, relax and have some fun of their own.

A Little Piece Of Heaven

In our minds, there’s really only one place to start when it comes to adult’s-only areas, and that’s the Serenity Deck. Step away from the madness and chaos of the pool area and head up to this ship-topping oasis where no one under the age of 21 is allowed, and that rule is pretty well enforced.

There are an awful lot of comfy spaces to be found on the kid-free Serenity deck.

As a result, the Serenity area is exactly what you both want and expect it to be, completely with a bar, tons of comfy seating (including hammocks and daybeds perfect for cuddling) and, on sea days, a salad bar. There’s also, of course, a full bar of the non-salad variety which offers a variety of specialty cocktails, wines and other adult libations.

What’s an adult’s-only zone without a menu offering specialty cocktails, like this one from the Serenity deck.

Another spot that pretty much screams “relaxation” is, of course, the Cloud 9 Spa. Be sure to swing by on the first day and take the tour, because it usually involves a raffle for some type of spa package. Yes, as on every cruise ship, you’ll probably wind up getting a hard-sell at some point, but we’ve found that if you’re up front with a polite but firm “Not interested,” they respectfully dial it back. Planning to spend a fair amount of time at the spa? Consider booking one of the Cloud 9 Spa staterooms, which give you access to the thermal suites, priority booking of treatments and a host of other perks.

What better way to bond with your significant other than by getting a couple’s massage? Photo courtesy of Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Line

You can also purchase a week-long pass to the thermal spa, which includes dry heat chambers, a variety of steam chambers (including one called an “aromatic grotto”), a large whirlpool and two “experience showers” which help sooth you by combining the soothing waters with special aromas. And remember to check Carnival’s website under My Cruise Manager before you sail to see if by booking treatments in advance, you can save a little money!

After Dark, the Real fun Starts!

There are all kinds of fun activities scheduled throughout the day that are perfect for families… but it’s after dark, when the kiddies are tucked away and (hopefully) asleep, that the Carnival Horizon really comes alive. We spoke about some of our favorite bars and hot spots earlier, so you already know to grab pre- or post-dinner cocktails at the Alchemy Bar, and that you can dance the night away at the Havana club.

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Let the bartenders at the Alchemy Bar whip you up a cocktail that will have you ready to tackle the evening!

But if you wanna just kick back and relax for a while before things rev into high gear, why not head to the Punchliner’s Comedy Club, which on most nights offers an 18-and-over show later in the evening. Don’t bring the kids, and leave your prudish Aunt Gertrude in the stateroom because things can get a little raunchy during these shows!

Speaking of activities Aunt Gertrude probably isn’t going to want to take part in (unless you think maybe it’ll help her loosen up), there’s the infamous Quest Game Show. Think of it as a very, very adult scavenger hunt… and more fun than should probably be legal. Heck, maybe that’s why it only takes place at sea… because international maritime laws are looser! Keep your eyes on the Fun Times, because this is one game you definitely do not want to miss!

Shop ‘Til You Drop

As you know, your Sign & Sail card basically acts like a credit card while you’re on the ship… and as fate would have it, there happen to be some pretty nice shops on board! (It’s as if someone at Carnival thought, “You know, we’ve got them here… and they’ve had a few drinks… “) Maybe after having some luck in the casino (which we’ll talk about soon!), you want to buy something a little special, making Front Street Jewelers a great place to stop. And maybe in order to get lucky in a completely different way, you want to pick up something from Victoria’s Secret! Of course, the Carnival Store sells… you guessed it, lots of Carnival branded items (including those awesome miniature ships which would look so good somewhere in your house, right?)

Carnival Horizon has added new shops to the promenade, including the Wearable Tech store.

Of all the shops on board — and there’s some great, high-end stuff available — perhaps our favorite is the Wearable Tech store, specializing in a variety of fitness-tracking watches (and a staff who knows how to help you get started), perfect for those who need a little help making sure that they take enough steps each day to work off at least some of what they’re eating at the endless restaurants!

Smile For The Camera!

While people love posing with their families for the photographers found around the ship, why not book a special Dreams Studio photo shoot? Whether for you and your significant other or a group of friends traveling together, this is a fun way to commemorate the trip. And what the heck, after getting some pics snapped of just the adults, let the kids in for some shots. It is their vacation too, after all. At the end of the day, could there be a more perfect souvenir of your vacation than gorgeous photographs that will capture it forever?

Finally, how’s this for an amazing way to cap off your vacation: A vow-renewal ceremony with the captain himself presiding. Check the Fun Times newsletter for more on whether this is available on your sailing, and how to set it up, or contact Carnival in advance to make preparations for a day neither of you will ever forget!

Next up? If baby needs a new pair of shoes, we’re heading for the right place… the casino!

 

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BEFORE YOU GO

How Cruise Lines Boost The Price Of Your Vacation

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When it comes to budgeting for a vacation, we all try to get the most bang for our buck. But over the past few years, the cruise lines have gotten incredibly good at figuring out ways to get a little extra money out of passengers… and most people willingly fall into the trap!

Why We’re Willing To Pay Extra

When is a hidden fee not so hidden? When it’s promoted openly and accepted without question! Increasingly, cruise lines have found that people are more than happy to shell out a little extra money — above and beyond the initial cost of their cruise — months before even setting foot on a ship! And there’s more than a little bit of psychology at play when it comes to how and why the cruise lines market these extras!

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley shared how pre-cruise spending helps boost the bottom line. “What we found,” he explained, “is that, if you spend $100 before you sail, that’s spent and gone. You don’t even put it in your budget for when you’re on vacation. So every pre-cruise revenue dollar that we generate will often generate 50% more on-board revenue for that customer.”

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If you pay for your night at Royal Caribbean’s Chops Grille in advance, you’re more likely to spend more on other things.

As Norwegian Cruise Line’s President and CEO Frank Del Rio explained during a conference call last year, “When folks have money to spend on board, they spend it in restaurants and in shops and, primarily, shore excursions. We’ve seen this wide-spread move away from buying things to enjoying experiences.” And this, he said, had led to a pretty significant uptick in on-board spending in 2017.

Shore excursions — such as the Sentry Hill Zipline on St. Marteen — are a big source of revenue for cruise lines.

How To Avoid Breaking The Bank

If you’re looking to stay within a budget, it’s important to make sure that you’re keeping track of all the expenses associated with your cruise. While it’s all well and good to get a great price on your stateroom, make sure you know exactly what’s included… and just as important, what isn’t! What additional expenses will you incur along the way? Will you be staying on the ship during all or some of the port visits, or is doing shore excursions a major part of the experience for you? Is it worth purchasing a drink package, or would you be better off simply paying as you go? Will there be pre- and post-cruise expenses such as airline tickets and hotel stays involved? Are the daily gratuities included, or do you need to factor them in separately? While trip insurance isn’t required, it’s highly recommended and could ultimately wind up saving you a whole lot of money!

READ MORE: 17 Extra Costs To Factor Into Your Cruise Budget 

While cruise vacations are a fantastic bargain, they are also a bit of an investment and should be treated as such. Just as you wouldn’t simply blindly purchase a stock in which to invest (we hope!), it’s worth taking a little bit of time to make sure you know how much you’re spending and what you can expect in return!

Do you find that you spend more on the ship if you’ve already paid for your other expenses? What are some of your best money-saving tips? 

 

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