Category: Cruises

Free cruise – Caribbean Cruise Line scam suspicious behavior

Today I received a call from Caribbean Cruise Line, offering me a free cruise because they wanted to fill unsold cabins and generate positive word of mouth advertising.

My first thought was that they were reaching out to travel bloggers, the way Royal Caribbean reached out to me a few years ago. Then I realized that they were cold-calling me – they had no idea I was a world-famous travel blogger. Yes, I am kidding about the famous part.

So what is this free deal? They have no idea how special I am so this is a free cruise for anyone? Sort of. They say the will give you 18 months to book your cruise as long as you pay $118.00 (government port fees) right now. That’s when I told them I wasn’t interested. I prefer to pay my fees after I make a reservation.

I searched the net for other people who have given this a try and CruiseCritic had some information to share. Seems Caribbean Cruise Line is a wholesaler for Celebration Cruise Line. Caribbean Cruise Line probably loses money when they sell the taxes only cruise (we need your $118 right now), but they probably make their money off of people who never get to take the cruise and simply give up on getting their $118 back. There are also reports that you don’t get your taxes only cruise until you sit through a timeshare sales pitch.

Naturally, they don’t tell you about the timeshare sales pitch on the phone. They will take your money first and then disclose the hoops you need to jump through to take that taxes only cruise. Is it a scam? I think so. It might be a legal scam but it’s still someone trying to gain your confidence in order to trick you. Surprise! Now that we have your money you have to jump through hoops to get your tickets. You have to listen to someone selling timeshares. You have to pay $10/person/day for tips. Who knows what else you have to do?

What would be the focus of your Chinese holiday?

I was taking a look at a couple of cruise itineraries and I thought it was pretty interesting that one revolves around the cruise while the other itinerary involves a lot of flying and driving in addition to the cruising. So when planning a China holiday with a Yangtze River cruise, would you want the cruise to be the main focus of the holiday?

For an example itinerary, I’ve summarized one called “Grand Yangtze” – this is one that involves a little more cruising than some of the other tour itineraries.

Day 1: Shanghai

Visit Yu Gardens and the Old Town. Then head to the Shanghai Museum. Walk along the Bund and admire the colonial architecture. Check out the 1920’s style Shikumen buildings in the Xintiandi area. In the evening there is a cruise, this one on the Huangpu River.

Days 2-10: Yangtze River Cruise

The cruise and shore excursions include the ancient capital of Nanjing to visit the Dr Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum and the memorial to Nanjing’s Second World War victims. Also, Mt Jiuhua, a sacred Buddhist mountain with great natural scenery. Then there’s Wuhan for the Hubei Provincial Museum. Next comes the largest dam in the world, Three Gorges Dam. Then cruise through Wu Gorge & Qutang Gorge to reach the temples and statues of Fengdu Ghost City.

Days 11-12: Giant Pandas

Drive to Chengdu. Visit the famous Panda Conservation Centre. The pandas are active at 9:00 am (gotta have a healthy breakfast) so try to arrive early. Then fly to Xian, China’s former ancient capital.

Day 13: Terracotta Warriors

Visit one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – the Terracotta Warriors. Brush up on your history of the Qin Dynasty before going in order to really appreciate these guys.

Day 15 : Explore Xian

Stroll through Xian’s Muslim Quarter to explore the Islamic food market. Here you’ll find countless shops and food stalls. Plan on a slow walk through the area as shop owners work to persuade you that you want what they have. Later, fly to Beijing.

Day 16 : Beijing

Stroll through Tienanmen Square, past Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum to the treasure-filled Forbidden City. Beijing (also Peking) boasts three millennia worth of history and has been the political center of China for about eight centuries. Beijing has lots of culture (it’s the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China) and people (over 21 million) so you won’t run out of things to do or people to see.

Day 17 : Great Wall of China

Walk on the Great Wall and tour the Summer Palace. The Great Wall is probably best-loved by hikers – it’s a very scenic hike and you won’t get lost.

If you check out the itinerary for “Magnificent China” – I won’t summarize that one here – you’ll see a few of the same stops including the Terracotta Warriors, Panda Conservation Centre, Beijing, and Shanghai. But you’ll also see some differences because you spend less time cruising the Yantze. This allows you to see some different but also very cool attractions like the world’s largest stone-carved Buddhist statue, the Grand Buddha of Leshan. So which itinerary do you like?

A few of the top places on my travel wishlist

Vienna and Bratislava have been at or near the top of my travel wishlist for a really long time. So when I noticed a cruise that hit both of those cities, I started thinking about a possible vacation. I’d see two cities at the top of my list and see a few more that are probably amazing even if I had not yet heard of them. The nice thing about cruises is that you get to see a few places (and you don’t have to worry about trains, luggage, and hotels).

The itinerary according to picturesque Danube river cruises does in fact include a few places that I had not heard of, but that are now going on my list:

Regensburg: An awesome German medieval city, featuring one of the oldest bridges crossing the Danube, an old merchants’ quarter, the 14th centur Old Town Hall, and more. I’m pretty happy at Florida State, but check out Regensburg University (Universitat Regensburg) and tell me you wouldn’t want to go to school there. It’s a thumbnail so click for a better view.

Universitat Regensburg

Weltenburg Abbey: Instead of Regensburg, you could book a boat cruise along the Danube Gorge and a tour of Weltenburg Abbey. This is the oldest monastery in Bavaria and boasts a courtyard surrounded by Baroque buildings. Click out the thumbnail below for a larger picture. I wouldn’t say no.

weltenburg-abbey

So the challenge on that cruise would be choosing one or the other. I think I’d have to choose Regensburg. Chances are I’d love and add it to my list of places to return to. Then when I did return, I’d stay a while and make the day trip to Weltenburg Abbey.

Then the cruise goes to Passau, the Three Rivers City where the Danube, Inn, and Ilz meet up. The fort and the cathedral are highlights here. You can skip Passau and go to Salzburg instead. I enjoyed my day in Salzburg but I never did put it on my list of places tor return to. Now that I think about it (and the oldest restaurant in Europe if I remember correctly), that could change.

Then the cruise goes to Vienna and Bratislava, the cities I was thinking about at the beginning. And finally Budapest, another place that I have never seen.

Should Carnival pay for the money the US Coast Guard spent rescuing the Triumph cruise ship?

Carnival Corp. says it won’t help the US Coast Guard, even though American taxpayers spent about $780,000 rescuing the Triumph. Carnival’s excuse is that all maritime interests must assist without question those in trouble at sea.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee takes the easy political stance – the big evil corporation should pay or else, “These costs must ultimately be borne by federal taxpayers.” He adds that Carnival appears to pay little or no federal income taxes.

Carnival says its policy is to “honor maritime tradition that holds that the duty to render assistance at sea to those in need is a universal obligation of the entire maritime community.” Carnival claims it frequently aids in rescues at the Coast Guard’s request, including 11 times in the past year in Florida and Caribbean waters.

I suppose Carnival thinks it’s fair. The US Coast Guard doesn’t pay Carnival when the cruise line helps out, so why should the cruise line pay the Coast Guard for any help? On the other hand, Carnival’s ships are not US flagged – CNN said that the Carnival Triumph sails under a Bahamian flag. Is the US required to provide assistance? Sure. Is the US required to provide free assistance to non-US vessels? Maybe not.

The other point worth making is that public opinion is the only leverage the US can really hope for in this case. Clearly the Coast Guard had no choice but to come to the rescue of so many American citizens. Though perhaps next time, they should rescue the people and leave the ship to drift around the ocean. If my car breaks down, I don’t expect a free tow. Why should a huge money-making corporation expect a free tow when their ships break down?

By the way, does anyone know if carnival did anything nice for their employees from the Triumph?

What will Carnival do for their crew members from the Triumph?

As I was reading this article about how bad the passengers had it on the cruise, I kept thinking to myself it had to be much worse for the crew. We get a few lines down a ways in the article:

David Glocker, of Jacksonville, Fla., praised the crew’s efforts to help passengers and recognized the conditions for them were worse than for most passengers because their quarters were on the lowest part of the ship.

“The conditions down there were horrible. They all had to wear masks,” he said. “They worked their butts off trying to get us food.”

I’m sure many will begin debating what Carnival can do make things right. They have offered refunds, another Carnival trip, transportation costs home, and $500 compensation.

But those gestures may not be enough. Less than 24 hours after the boat docked, the first lawsuit was filed against Carnival Corp. by passenger Cassie Terry, who said she feared for her life and worried about falling seriously ill from the raw sewage and spoiled food. Her complaint seeks unspecified damages.

I get that it was bad and as an American, our first insitnct is to sue. And maybe carnival deserves to get sued if they did things wrong or whatever. But I wonder if any crew members want to sue. I wonder what Carnival will do for their crew, the workers who had it much worse than the passengers. They couldn’t sleep on deck, where the smell wasn’t as bad – they were way down there where the smell was probably worst. And they had to work. Who knows how well they ate but if passengers didn’t have much to eat it’s hard to believe the crew had it any better.

And right now, the crew have no work to do – the Triumph is out of action for a while. Will Carnival give them paid vacation so the crew can go home and visit family during the downtime? Maybe pay for their trips home like the passengers get? Maybe a bonus like the 500 bucks the passengers get? Or do the crew get nothing and lose income since they aren’t working at the moment?

What do you think Carnival will do? What do you think they should do?

Sailing the Seven Seas: What Cruise Options Are There?

One of the things which set cruises apart from other types of holiday is the fantastic variety of destinations to choose from. After all, not everyone is searching for the same thing on their break.

Whether it’s the sunshine, sand and relaxed vibe of the Caribbean or the fascinating history and culture of the Scandinavian Black Sea, cruise ships will take you there. Travelling to every corner of the globe, here is a sample of five of the best breathtaking destinations cruise passengers could book today.

Mediterranean

Few destinations in the world can incorporate fascinating culture with such wondrous natural scenery as the Mediterranean. A typical cruise itinerary covers destinations like Valencia, Rome, Cannes, Barcelona and Gibraltar. These locations offer a snapshot of the very best that Europe has to offer, including delicious cuisine, awe-inspiring ancient history and fascinating local customs and traditions.

Whether you would prefer to be enjoying the freshest lemon Gelato from the Amalfi coast, retracing the footsteps of the gladiators in Rome or reclining on the shoreline with celebrity A-listers in Cannes, a Med cruise has an adventure to suit everybody.

Caribbean

Fancy some sun, sand and one of the most chilled out atmospheres in the world? You needn’t look any further than the Caribbean. Stopping at locations like Barbados, St Lucia, St Maarten and San Juan, Caribbean cruises venture to some of the most scenic and friendly locations the network of islands has to offer.

The Caribbean is ideal for anyone who loves water-sports and snorkelling in turquoise waters, touring historic sites and enjoying the best in food, style and hospitality that a location has to offer.

Transatlantic

Making the journey across the Atlantic is one of the most romantic voyages in history. Starting with the bright lights of the Big Apple, Transatlantic journeys with Cumbria Cruises give passengers sufficient time to sample the delights of New York before journeying to the scenic Caribbean islands of St Kitts, Dominica and St Lucia.

From here the luxury ships make their way across the deep waters of the Atlantic to dock at Southampton, the ideal finish point for any memorable cruise. Transatlantic cruises allow travellers to tick off some of the most iconic destinations in the world off their bucket list without any of the hassle of checking in luggage or waiting at airports.

Polar

Think all cruises are about sun, sand and resort towns? Polar cruise expeditions has to be one of the most exciting and alternative options for those looking for something a little different to the traditional golden sands and blue waters.

With ships venturing to South Georgia, South Orkney Islands and then on to the fascinating continent of Antarctica, you will be blown away by the enormity of the ice shelves and mountain ranges whilst immersing yourself in stunning natural wildlife.

Down under

Cruises can venture anywhere from our closest neighbouring countries to the furthest reaches in the world. The Australian coastline is an excellent cruise destination for anyone embarking on an extended getaway with outstanding locations like Sydney, Perth and Melbourne popular attractions.

Reader needs advice on European cruise

Reader question: Looking at doing a European cruise next year with my wife, brother and sister in law – preferably the eastern Mediterranean to include Italy, Greece, Greek isles, Dubrovnik, and Turkey. None of us have been to Europe and this seems like a great way to see a ton of different places plus my brother and sister in law love their cruises. Has anyone traveled on one of these cruises? 7, 10, or 12 nights are being considered.

Answers from friends (please put your own tips in the comments below):

Answer 1: Just did West Mediterranean, 7 days on Norwegian Epic out of Rome. Highlights were Florence, Cannes (Monaco), Marseilles (Avignon, Ax en Provence) and Naples (Pompeii). I would strongly advise spending 3 days touring Rome before the cruise, that city was fantastic. We stayed at a nice hotel in Rome, the Artemide, which was well located.

Answer 2: In 2010 my fiance and I took a 12 night cruise. Celebrity cruise line, beautiful ship. I would definitely recommend the 12 night trip. It takes a little while to get out there and there is so much sight seeing that the time really flies. We flew into Venice). Then Florence, Rome, Dubrovnik (which was gorgeous), Greece (you can miss Athens but Santorini was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen), Nice, France and Barcelona.

You really want as much time as you can get. I got engaged in Venice, and we stayed an extra night there. We were able to sit and drink wine in Saint Marks plaza while listening to a live band. We also stayed an extra two nights in Barcelona at the end of the trip. That city is a great time. The most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen and tons to do.

You’re going to really tired at night from all the walking and sight seeing. It was the best trip I’ve been on. Hope this helps a little.

Answer 3: We did a seven day cruise out of Venice to those destinations on Royal Caribbean. It was fun. The airport in Venice was a bit of a scene. It was my first time in Europe for an extended period of time and we loved it. We did the excursions and a local tour of Venice and a local city, Padua. Off the top of my head, we stopped at Dubrovnik, Crete, Corfu, Santorini and Ephesus in Turkey.

I would recommend it for those that want a little taste of the culture but don’t want to be stuck in one place too long.

Answer 4: Two years ago did a 12-day cruise on Celebrity to ports in Turkey and Greece. The cruise was preceded by a 4 day bus “cruise” into the countryside in Turkey, which was simply spectacular.

The mechanics: a flight to Istanbul and then changing planes for Ankara. Flew on Turkish Air, which was amazingly good. Flew economy, but the economy seating was configured with rows of 2 seats, 6 seats and 2 seats and my wife and I were able to get seats in one of the 2 seat portions of the row. Non-stop food and excellent entertainment on the plane. If you do fly into Turkey, you’ll need a visa, but you can buy it at the Istanbul airport for a fraction of the cost of buying it in the US.

Answer 5: 12-day Royal Caribbean. Started in Barcelona, Spain; Cannes (Monte Carlo), France; Livorno (Florence), Italy; Civitavecchia (Rome), some place in Greece (least favorite port); Dubrovnik Croatia (beautiful place); Venice, Italy; Italy; Naples (Salerno); Barcelona, Spain. It was the best vacation I have ever taken. The cruise was also great. I have been on more and less expensive cruises but this one was great from the moment that we stepped on the gang plank. These types of cruises do not really cater to the people that are simply looking to get smashed for the duration of the cruise. That being said there is plenty of night life and other things to do on the ship while out to sea you will not be bored. Enjoy and make sure you do not skip a day on shore.

Answer 6: Ship is important too. GF just came back from Norwegian Spirit from Barcelona to Venice. Great itinerary, terrible ship. I want to do this with the parents next year on a different ship but the main thing is the ports you want to see. Do a search. Later in the season, the prices may be lower and the weather may be better, but some attractions have earlier closing hours.

Answer 7: Expanding on answer #2, Kurt had this to say: I can’t say enough good about Santorini. It was a highlight of my many years of travel. The ONLY problem may be that your cruise ship won’t allow you more than a few hours there. There is an ongoing excavation of Akrotiri village which was buried by a volcanic eruption around 2000 B.C. I stayed 4 days in an apartment at the top of the caldera with a gorgeous view looking almost straight down 1000 feet into the Aegean Sea. The caldera was formed about 3600 years ago by the erupting volcano.

A cruise with no itinerary – let the captain explore?

I thought this was an interesting article about a cruise in Maine on a windjammer with no itinerary. Even NCL’s freestyle cruising revolves around the schedule – you have choices but there’s still a schedule. And there’s an itinerary – stop here on day 2, stop there on day 3, etc.

In this case too, there’s a schedule. You don’t decide when to eat dinner or breakfast it seems. But there’s no itinerary, and the captain decides (on a whim I guess?) where to sail:

“The beauty of it to me is every week we can go somewhere we haven’t been before,” said Captain Barry King. “There are always new places to explore.”

The question for me is would I want my captain to know that he was going somewhere cool? Or would I be OK with him exploring and kind of hoping he finds something cool? I mean I see how it’s good for the captain to go somewhere new every week – must be fun for him. But what do I care if he gets to explore? I just want to go somewhere nice and it doesn’t bother me if the captain has been there before.

Then again, the author of the article I’m linking to here enjoyed the trip. Of course writers might get free trips and free is always good. I don’t remember reading anything about price or value in the article.

$14,000 for being on a cruise ship that crashed – would you take it?

If the captain hadn’t abandoned ship and refused to oversee the evacuation when asked by the Italian coast guard, $14,000 might seem more reasonable. It’s actually a bit more since travel expenses and stuff get reimbursed as well, but the way things happened, I’d bet that passengers willing to wait could see a lot more.

Roberto Corbella, who represented Costa in the negotiations, said the deal offered Friday provides passengers with quick, “generous,” and certain restitution that consumer groups estimate could amount to some euro14,000 per passenger including the reimbursements.

The legal question seems iffy, but clearly the captain has few friends now. And whether he goes to jail or not, it’s hard to argue he did nothing wrong.

Seems his bosses won’t try to defend him in court either. I suppose they might try to argue that the company shouldn’t be held responsible for its captain but I don’t see how they could get away with that.

So what do you think about the $14,000 + travel expenses being offered? Is it fair? Would you take it?

Some different cruise itineraries

We often think of cruises as cookie cutter type vacations, especially if cruising means a mass market cruise to the Caribbean or something. I found this article on cruise itineraries to be really fun. Some sound nice but unaffordable:

Venture to the farthest reaches of the wilds of Russia, courtesy of this first-time offering from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Cruisers can set sail to circumnavigate the Sea of Okhotsk (on the far eastern fringes of Russia) in style, aboard the world’s only 5-star expedition ship, the 184-passenger MS Hanseatic. Excursion highlights include zodiac runs to the tiny unpopulated (unless you count the fur seals and sea lions) islands of Iony and Tyuleny, and the wildlife-rich Shantar and Malminskie Islands; hiking across the grassland tundra of Talan Island, of Taran Point on the Koni Peninsula, or of the Yamskiye Islands; and brown bear viewing on a zodiac ride from Cape Utholoskiy.

More Info: The 16-night expedition embarks on June 13 from Otaru, near Sapporo, Japan; from $10,810 per person; www.hl-cruises.com.

But I guess you’d expect a 16 night cruise along the eastern most coast of Russia, a place where basically no cruise ships go, to be expensive. Then again, it’s not really that much less expensive to cruise the Mississippi. Check out this itinerary, about $4,000/person for a normal outside room and the cruise is 7 nights, not 16:

Day 1: Pittsburgh

Embark in Pittsburgh and get acquainted with your elegant ship. Tonight, join in the Welcome Aboard festivities.

Wheeling

Day 2: Wheeling

Overland routes, river traffic and railroads all converged in Wheeling during the 19th century creating a stunning sampling of Victorian architecture. A tour of the Oglebay Institute Glass Museum reveals another local gem.

Marietta

Day 3: Marietta

Artistry and history combine on a tour to the Campus Martius Museum, the Ohio River Museum and the Fenton Art Glass Factory and Gift Shop.

Point Pleasant

Day 4: Point Pleasant

Love a mystery? Ponder the story of “Mothman,” first recounted in the late 1960s and commemorated by a sevenfoot stainless steel statue standing in the center of downtown Point Pleasant.

Maysville

Day 5: Maysville

Fans of Uncle Tom’s Cabin will want to learn more about the author on a visit to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum. For more local flavor, join a walk featuring Maysville’s French, Irish and German influences.

Cincinnati

Day 6: Cincinnati

Learn about Cincinnati’s pioneer life on a visit to a settler’s cabin. Step aboard a side-wheel steamboat or visit the famous Rockwood Pottery Factory for a souvenir of the region.

Madison

Day 7: Madison

Tour family owned and operated businesses from Schroeder Saddletree Factory and the Madison Vineyard to Betty Mundt’s Candies. A stroll through town takes in the highlights of this beautiful city in southern Indiana.

Louisville

Day 8: Louisville

Tie up in Louisville and bid your ship adieu. But give in to the temptation to hang around and explore.