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Expedia CruiseShipCenter kstephenson@cruiseshipcenters.com

Want a unique way to celebrate a milestone birthday? A wedding anniversary? Or how about a family reunion? I have a couple taking their friends and family on their honeymoon or why not get married at sea? Cruising with a group is one of the best travel events to do with a group. Why? Because there is something for everyone, young and old and in between.

There are perks too. Cruiselines give you a number of onboard "gifts" you can give your group members. The best perk of all is that all cruiselines offer free "berths" for a certain number of cabins sold. A berth is one bed in a cabin. Most of the time it is 16 people or 8 cabins based on double occupancy. If you are the one working with a travel consultant organizing the event - it usually goes to you!

There are some wonderful big ships sailing these days with so much to do on them that the ships actually become the destinations IE: Royal Caribbean's - Oasis of the Seas or Norwegian's Epic making her deput this July.

I did a family and friends group on the Carnival Legend to test out the group cruise idea and I must say I liked it! The ships are so big that if you want you only have to have dinner with your group! You can be as involved or as uninvoled as you like! Another reason why a group cruise is so appealing. I liked having my sister and her hubby on board with me and we did plenty together but also had time to ourselves!

So go find 16 friends and family and plan your adventure at sea!!!!

Posted by CruiseChic 12:09 Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Catch the "Wave" Season

Karen Stephenson Expedia CruiseShipCenter - kstephenson@cruiseshipcenters.com

Wave Season occurs in January and February. Supposedly the best time to book a cruise as there are plenty of special offers such as "On board credits". This is money that is on your shipboard account when you arrive on the ship that you can use for just about anything you want.

Also, reduced deposits. People are booking cruises into 2011. Deposits that hold your cabin and your price are refundable and it is a nice bonus to do that with less money! The wonderful thing about booking cruises is that if the price of the cruise goes down and you have a good agent working for you that pays attention to this - the price of your cruise will be reduced! If the price goes up - which happens too - you keep your low price. Other things too - coupon books I notice seem to be popular with not just cruises - geeze if you join Weight Watchers for a 20 week At Work series - you get a coupon book! (you might need them after the cruise - ha ha)

Most cruises are booked in January and February - apparently. I haven't really noticed that. People book cruises at all times of the year but that is what I am told and that is what is promoted.

Now is a good time to book a cruise because the price of cruising is better than ever. The economy has helped bringing the price of cruising to some all time lows. Even the Luxury cruiselines like Regent, Silverseas, Seabourne are presenting us with some amazing pricing! Luxury cruiselines are all inclusive! Regent even offers shore excursions with the price of their cruises.

What kind of cruise is going to work for you? Mass Market ships? Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas has 5,000 passenger capacity. That just scares me. I personally seem to enjoy 1800ish passengers. The ships are smaller and it doesn't take me a week to find my room! Maybe you would like one of the smaller ships with only a few hundred people aboard? Our river cruise we only had 134 passengers - I loved it! No line ups!

Probably a good idea to work with a travel agent when planning your cruise. So many little details. Yes you can book with the cruiselines directly but trust me you will get better service from a travel consultant. A good agent will ask you questions about what you like to do on your vacations. What have you done in the past? How much do you want to spend? What type of cabin do you want.

An agent can also answer all your questions and help you with other aspects of your trip - the flight, the hotel the night before, transfers to the airport and to the cruise port. They will tell you what to expect.

Booking a cruise is much much different than booking an all inclusive there is much more involved. So book your all inclusive online - I would use Itravel 2000 since they are apparently giving you a refund if your trip drops in price before you leave. I always feel so guilty when that happens because I can't do anything about that.

So thinking of going on a cruise sometime in the next year or two or even three - soon we will be booking for 2012 - then catch the wave and get yourself a deal!

Posted by CruiseChic 18:07 Tagged cruises Comments (0)

Air Travel Security?

Expedia CruiseShipCenters kstephenson@cruiseshipcenters.com

It has been a while I know but this time I am going to commit to a weekly entry which I will do on Sunday.

Let's talk about air travel security.

The December 25th "incident" has not helped with the ease of travelling. Although security has subsided somewhat and we are now allowed to bring a carry on once again. If we are going to travel especially by air we are going to have to learn to be patient because airport security is going no where.

Think of it as part of the adventure of travel. The proper attitude here helps our pateince go a long way. There is no sense in getting all cranky and irritable. It is for our own good and for our security.

Here is a list of what I tell my clients to help them prepare for airline security. First off the rules really do matter. The liquid restriction has been around now for a few years - deal with it. If you are going to carry on liquids they must be under 3 oz and they must fit in a medium sized ziplock back. You must have it out as you go through security. I can not tell you the amount of people who say to me "I don't understand". It doesn't matter why - it just is and it is a rule and they will confiscate any thing that is not under 3 oz and they don't care if the water bottle is sealed.

You will be asked to take your coat or jacket off and sometimes even your shoes. You will be asked to take your computer out of your carry on and God forbid don't put anything on top of it - it needs to go in it's own little bin. I am speaking from experience here. Geesh.

My best advise is to cooperate the best you can and keep a smile on your face. We may not like it but we have to comply or we will not fly. It is as simple as that!

Posted by CruiseChic 19:40 Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Premium Cruise Lines

Expedia Cruise Ship Centers - kstephenson@cruiseshipcenters.com

This is the second level of "mass" market cruise lines - the big ships. Still affordable to the average traveller. As with contemporary cruise lines there are different levels with in the premium lines as well.

Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, Costa cruise lines are in this category. One might argue that there is a fine line between some contemporary and premium cruise lines. I have clients who prefer contemporary lines over a premium line. Itinerary quite often plays a part in what cruise line you might want to choose. I do have die hard fans of certain lines who only concentrate and choose from the itineraries of that line but I also have clients who look at where they want to go and then choose the cruise line with the best itinerary. Princess has some amazing itineraries in Europe for example that other cruise lines don't seem to have.

These two categories really do have reputations that follow them and for the most part they are true. However, I have also discovered that sometimes the different ships in a particular cruise line will be different than another ship in the same line. When I cruised with Carnival, I was on the Legend doing a Western Caribbean. The entertainment we experienced on that ship was embarrassing, just terrible, but others were surprised as they had seen some terrific shows on their Carnival cruise!

On the Norweigan Star on the Mexican Riviera we had just wonderful entertainment - so good it made me cry! Yet others say the entertainment on NCL sucked. Do your research. www.cruisecritic.com is a great site to see what other people think. Norweigan's new ships are much nicer than their older ships. This is true for most of the cruise lines. Many cruise lines are refurbishing their older ships and that is helping tremendously.

Holland America has the reputation of being for the "older" generation and yet when I was on Holland America I didn't feel that way. I liked Holland America so much that I am hosting a group February 27, 2010 on the MS Eurodam with an Eastern Caribbean Itinerary. (You are all welcome by the way - if you need more information you can visit my website at www.cruiseshipcenters.ca/karenstephenson) I felt Holland America had less of a "young" party atmosphere as say on Carnival but there was still fun times had by all! If you want "hairy chest" contests and the silly pool games - Carnival is your best choice. Hmmm.....this makes it sound like I don't like Carnival - not true at all - different strokes for different folks. Holland America had so much more to do that was of interest to me, IE: Martini making seminars!

I see all different ages on all of the different cruise lines both young and old and older! I was surprised on my Norweigan cruise at how many senior seniors there were sailing.

Last year die hard Carnival cruisers of mine cruised on Princess (because her sister loved it so much) although she liked it - she said she liked Carnival better and is already booked for February 2010 with Carnival. Her sister is sticking with Princess! You won't know until you try!

Thank goodness we have so many choices!

Posted by CruiseChic 11:27 Tagged cruises Comments (0)

Holland America

Canada/New England 7 day Cruise on the ms Maasdam

Here I am late again with my blogging entry. Glad I didn't commit to a daily entry!

Loved, loved, loved Holland America. They are a premium cruise line which means they are a cut above contemporary cruise lines. Premium category includes Princess, Celebrity and Costa cruise lines too.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this cruise so much was that it is the smallest ship I have been on a mere 1900 people. That would be considered to be a mid sized ship. I didn't get lost nearly as much as on the Caribbean Princess which held 3,100 people. It only took me a couple of days to figure out the ship.

There was so much to do too! In all fairness I was on what is called a familiarization trip or a fam in the travel agent world. We were there to experience the cruise line and the intinerary. Tough job but someone has to do it.
However, I still think that it would be just as good if I had been a regular person.

The food and service were excellent. The ship itself is a little tired and is soon to be drydocked for a complete overall!!!!

Posted by CruiseChic 16:32 Tagged cruises Comments (0)