Cruise Encyclopedias

Two of the best sources for understanding the current state of the cruise industry are Cruise Critic and  Berlitz Guide: Cruising and Cruise Ships.  Cruise Critic is a website that is a combination of cruiser reviews and editorial content.  In contrast, the Berlitz Guide is a book,  over 700 pages, compiled by a guy that travels all year on cruises.

Each has its uses.

Validate Complaints

When you cruise a lot you hear complaints from other cruisers. It is hard to decipher if those complaints are felt by one or many.  Cruise Critic is an amplifier. However, it is hard to compile the complaints by year based on how it is organized. But usually, the reviews are validated in the Berlitz guide. Last year, the complaints were about the diminished quality of Celebrity cruises. Berlitz validated that complaint in this year’s guide by stating that Celebrity is a more refined Royal Caribbean, the quality is not what it was in previous years.   Basically, a downgrade.

The newest complaint on Cruise Critic is that the level of service on Crystal has diminished since the company was sold to Genting Hong Kong in 2015.  You will not find this in the 2017 Berlitz guide.   If it is a valid complaint it should be in the 2018 version of the Berlitz Guide.

Rating of Best Ship for the year

Both Cruise Critic and Berlitz rate the best cruise ships. However, their standard is very different. The Cruise Critic rating is based on reviews from fellow cruisers. It really depends on who is using the site the most. Luxury cruisers are a minority and the ratings from Cruise Critic reflect that. The Berlitz rating is based on the rankings given to each ship and then each cruise line compiled yearly by one author.

Top Resort Ship

Berlitz – Queen Mary 2

Cruise Critic – Disney Dream

Top Mid-Size Ship – Viking Sea

Berlitz – Viking Sea

Cruise Critic  – Viking Sea and Disney Magic

Top Small Ship

Berlitz – Europa 2

Cruise Critic – Celebrity Xpedition

Take the time to check out both sources. They will be valuable to planning your next cruise regardless of whether you are a first-time or an experienced cruiser.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Azamara, Oceania and Crystal Cruises: Indian Ocean 2018

In Spring 2018, three cruise lines, Azamara, Crystal and Oceania, each have 18-day cruises and the itineraries include stops in Yangon, Phuket, Mumbai, Colombo, and Cochin.

The question is which line has the best trip.

Azamara

Azamara is the newest of the cruise lines that will be reviewed and has the most inconsistent reviews.  Loyalist to the brand, swear by the AzAmazing Evenings, the smaller ship size, the service and the white party. Others have been less than impressed with the size of the rooms, the age of the ships and the branding of luxury.

Azamara Cruises is part of the Royal Caribbean brand. This line is more inclusive. Included with the price of the cruise is:

  • Select standard spirits, international beers and wines
  • Gratuities
  • Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas
  • Self-service laundry
  • Shuttle service to and from port communities, where available
  • Concierge services for personal guidance and reservations

The Azamara Journey cruise sails on April 8, 2018, to the Indian Ocean.

VOYAGE ITINERARY

 
DATE PORT/CITY ACTIVITY ARRIVAL DEPART
SUN 8-APR Singapore, Singapore Embark 5:00 pm
MON 9-APR Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia Docked 8:00 am 6:30 pm
TUE 10-APR Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia Docked 8:00 am 6:00 pm
WED 11-APR Phuket, Thailand Tendered 8:00 am 2:00 pm
THU 12-APR At Sea Cruising
FRI 13-APR Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma) Docked 9:00 am
SAT 14-APR Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma) Docked
SUN 15-APR Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma) Docked 6:00 pm
MON 16-APR At Sea Cruising
TUE 17-APR At Sea Cruising
WED 18-APR At Sea Cruising
THU 19-APR Colombo, Sri Lanka Docked 7:00 am 4:30 pm
FRI 20-APR Kochi, India Docked 1:00 pm 6:00 pm
SAT 21-APR At Sea Cruising
SUN 22-APR Mumbai (Bombay), India Docked 8:00 am 6:00 pm
MON 23-APR At Sea Cruising
TUE 24-APR At Sea Cruising
WED 25-APR Dubai, United Arab Emirates Docked 5:00 pm
THU 26-APR Dubai, United Arab Emirates Debark

Pricing starts at $4009 for an inside cabin.  One potential drawback of this cruise is the amount of time at sea, 7 days. Another potential drawback is the time in ports like Mumbai and Colombo.

Crystal

This all-inclusive cruise line has won every award for luxury. Crystal Cruises is known for consistently delivering an exceptional onboard experience with the best entertainment in its class.

Crystal’s all-inclusive cruise features:

  • Fine dining in eight elegant and distinct venues
  • Six-star service and all gratuities included
  • Innovative modern cuisine and globally inspired specialty menus
  • 24-hour room service
  • Exclusive 360° teak Promenade Deck with sweeping views
  • Fitness Center with state-of-the-art equipment
  • Golf instruction with PGAinstructors
  • Kimonos, Frette bathrobes, and 100% Egyptian cotton linens
  • Unlimited fine wines, champagne, and premium spirits
  • Crystal Visions® Enrichment Series and interactive Ocean Views™
  • Magic Castle® at Sea offering special performances and classes.

On March 28, 2018, Crystal Serenity sails to the Indian Ocean.

VOYAGE ITINERARY

DATE PORTS ARRIVAL DEPART
Mar 28, Wednesday Singapore聽(overnight) Embark pm
Mar 29, Thursday Singapore 5 pm
Mar 30, Friday Kuala Lumpur/Port Kelang, Malaysia 7 am 6 pm
Mar 31 – Apr 01 Phuket, Thailand聽(overnight) 4 pm 5 pm
Apr 02, Monday Cruising the Andaman Sea
Apr 03 – Apr 05 Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)聽(overnight) 4 pm* 4 pm*
Apr 06 – Apr 07 Cruising the Indian Ocean聽(Overnight)
Apr 08 – Apr 09 Colombo, Sri Lanka聽(overnight) 12 n 4 pm
Apr 10 – Apr 11 Cochin, India聽(overnight) 12 n 6 pm
Apr 12, Thursday Mangalore, India 8 am 6 pm
Apr 13, Friday Cruising the Coast of India
Apr 14, Saturday Mumbai (Bombay), India聽(overnight) 7 am
Apr 15, Sunday Mumbai (Bombay), India Disembark am

Pricing starts at $8000 for an outside view cabin.  This is the most expensive cruise reviewed. The potential drawback is that with only four sea days will you get to experience all of the onboard amenities.

Oceania

This cruise line is known as the retiree line although their clientele is no older than Azamara or Crystal. Oceania is also known as the foodie line.  Jacques Pepin is the chef and it consistently delivers intriguing menus. But Oceania is also known for having poor onboard entertainment. Unlike the other two cruise lines, gratuities and alcohol are not inclusive.

On April 11, 2018, Oceania Nautica sails to the Indian Ocean.

VOYAGE ITINERARY

DAY PORT ARRIVE DEPART
Apr 11 Wed Bangkok, Thailand Embark 1 PM 5 PM
Apr 12 Thu Ko Samui, Thailand 10 AM 6 PM
Apr 13 Fri Cruising the Gulf of Thailand
Apr 14 Sat Singapore, Singapore 8 AM 8 PM
Apr 15 Sun Cruising the Strait of Malacca
Apr 16 Mon Phuket, Thailand 8 AM 6 PM
Apr 17 Tue Cruising the Andaman Sea
Apr 18 Wed Rangoon, Myanmar 8 AM
Apr 19 Thu Rangoon, Myanmar
Apr 20 Fri Rangoon, Myanmar 1 PM
Apr 21 Sat Cruising Bay of Bengal
Apr 22 Sun Cruising Bay of Bengal
Apr 23 Mon Colombo, Sri Lanka 2 PM
Apr 24 Tue Colombo, Sri Lanka 3 PM
Apr 25 Wed Cochin (Kochi), India 10 AM 6 PM
Apr 26 Thu Mangalore, India 9 AM 6 PM
Apr 27 Fri Goa (Mormugao), India 8 AM 5 PM
Apr 28 Sat Mumbai, India 9 AM
Apr 29 Sun Mumbai, India Disembark 8 AM

Pricing is different for this cruise. The cruise-only fares for an inside cabin are $4199.  The cruise fare with OLife Choice for an inside cabin is $5699.  The Olife Choice fare includes Bonus Savings, Airfare & Unlimited Internet plus either FREE – 8 Shore Excursions, FREE – Beverage Package or FREE -$800 Shipboard Credit.

The potential drawback of this cruise is paying for gratuities. However, I have seen some cruise specialist offer it as an added amenity for booking through them.

Which is the Best?

Oceania is the winner. Crystal and Oceania have a very similar itinerary. The separator is the Crystal experience. However, based on the port intensity of the cruise, I am not convinced that a cruiser would recognize the value of a Crystal cruise. Also, even with an upgrade to a deluxe ocean view cabin, Oceania is almost $3000 cheaper than Crystal.  Finally, with only 5 non-consecutive days at sea, cruisers avoid boredom with Oceania’s lackluster onboard activities.

 

 

Holland America vs. Seabourn: 21-night cruise cost questions

I am feeling sorry for myself because this holiday season will close and I will not have traveled anywhere.  To really stick it to myself, I checked out the vacationstogo.com site.

It seems that a 21 night trip to South America on Holland America is more expensive than on Seabourn.

Holland America

holland-america

Seabourn

pricing

Comparison

I would say the pricing is based on the itinerary but Seabourn is ultra-luxury.  Holland America is going from Buenos Aires to Santiago, basically going to the end of the world.  Seabourn is going from Buenos Aires to Manaus, Brazil.

If you take the Seabourn cruise, you are in Brazil during Carnival.  Just saying! Also, gratuities and drinks including alcohol are included on a highly rated ship.

The Holland America cruise seems long. Most cruise lines do that itinerary in 14 – 15 days.

 

 

Cruising China

I really want to go to China but I don’t want to stay too long in any one city.  I think it would be better for me to take a cruise that has stops in China than to take a China land tour.

I started looking into this a while ago and thought I had found the right trip through Crystal cruises.  All of the excursions in Bejing were included in the price of the cruise. Unfortunately, that cruise was sold out.

I have been looking for something similar and I think I found it with Regent cruises. I challenge you to tell me the dates of this cruise.

***Update****

This is a Regent Voyager 24-night cruise that leaves on December 17, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Baltics: The Cost of Cruising

Last week, I narrowed the list of potential Baltic cruises to  three.

Cruise Contenders

  1. Royal Caribbean  – Serenade of the Seas – June 14, 2017, to June 25, 2017 (11N)
  2. Celebrity Cruises  – Celebrity Eclipse – July 02, 2017 to July 16, 2017 (14N)
  3. Royal Caribbean  – Serenade of the Seas – July 30, 2017, to August 12, 2017 (13N)

Cost

  1. 11N cruise is $1875
  2. 14N cruise is $3021
  3. 13N cruise is $2461

The first thing to understand is the difference between the Royal and Celebrity product.  Technically, it is the same company but the offering is completely different. The Celebrity ship clientele will be older and there will be fewer children; the entertainment will match.

I have been on both Celebrity and Royal.  Overall, I find Royal to be more fun, the shore excursions to be more active and the entertainment staff more entertaining.  Celebrity has better rooms, food and I prefer the layout of those ships.

In terms of price points for these particular cruises, Celebrity offers the choice of free Gratuities, Classics drink package or the Internet.

Therefore, I need to add $57 a day, which is the comparable Royal premium drinks package, to the cost of the Royal cruises so I am not comparing apples and oranges.

  1. 11N cruise is $1875+$627 =$2502
  2. 14N cruise is $3021
  3. 13N cruise is $2463 +$741 =$3204

Now, we see that the cost of the mid-July Royal Caribean  Baltic cruise is more expensive than the cruise on Celebrity. The question is why? The answer is the 13N cruise is more port intensive with the addition of Fredrica, Riga, Klaipeda, and Helsinki.

The question is why? The answer is the 13N cruise is more port intensive with the addition of Fredrica, Riga, Klaipeda, and Helsinki.

The answer is the 13N cruise is more port intensive with the addition of Fredrica, Riga, Klaipeda, and Helsinki.

Now I need to review those ports to make sure I care enough for an additional $204 dollars.

Stay tuned…

Trips of Interest 2016 -2017

For the past 5 months, I’ve been wavering on where I would go next.   I really wanted to go to Turkey but multiple people gave me feedback that it was not the best choice for this summer.  Then, I wanted to go on a cruise to the Baltics. Unfortunately, you have to plan that 1 year in advance unless you live in Europe, I live in the US.  Then, I wanted to go to India or Southeast Asia.

It is now May 7, 2016, and decisions need to be made. So this is what I am looking at:

 

India Kaleidoscope of India via Gate 1 Travel 12DIndiasMag07 Thanksgiving  or Christmas
Thailand Classic Thailand via Gate 1 travel 12DAffThai10-l Thanksgiving or Christmas
Southeast Asia On My own  map-vietnam-360x270-cb1446697664 January 2017
Baltic Cruise Royal Caribbean Partner ( RCL, Celebrity or Azamara) baltic_map Summer 2017