California Coast RV Road Trip

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Going to Orlando and its Parks

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Helsinki City Guide

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Tag Archives: cruise travel

Best Cruises for Buck’s Parties

So, you’ve been enlisted with the job of best man, which ultimately means planning the buck’s party of a lifetime. You could go with all the cliché gimmicks, like hiring a limo or the penthouse for an evening – or, you could extend the buck’s party to an extended celebration on the high seas. With a range of on board nightclubs, casinos and endless nights of show and entertainment, there’s never been a better choice for sending your mate out in style! For some great ideas when planning a buck’s party, be sure to check out these cruises which specialise in a non-stop party atmosphere of dancing, gambling and 24 hour food outlets – the perfect cure for a night.

South Hampton to Buenos Aires

Boasting some of the most extravagant high seas casinos in the world, you and your friends will feel like James Bone as you sit down for a game or two of black jack, roulette or even the slots. If you’re looking for a real way to celebrate in style, try a fly and cruise deal with this adventure, as you depart from South Hampton and disembark Buenos Aires – ready for the party of a lifetime. On board for 18 nights on Arcadia, a leading cruise liner from P&O Cruises, you’ll be able to indulge all of your senses, tasting fine international beers and some of the best foods money can buy.

Sydney to Melbourne Cruise

Sun Princess cruise ship in Sydney Australia harbour -- Opera House, Harbour bridge

With seven lounges and bars, eight restaurants and cafes, a gym with the view of the ocean, three swimming pools and various sports courts on board, you won’t know where to begin when travelling on board the Dawn Princess. All main meals and on board entertainment is included in your price and so you’ll just need to worry about a little extra cash for drinks, gaming and souvenirs along the way. Brought to you by Princess Cruises Australia, your mates are sure to have a great time celebrating before the big day and, who knows, you could even extend the celebrations with a week in the vibrant city of Melbourne.

Los Angeles to Baja

Cruise ship leaving Los Angeles California

Discover some of the best cruise ports with a buck’s party in Mexico. While the on board entertainment and facilities offered by Carnival Cruise Lines is impeccable, it’s the destinations and the international flavours that will have you wanting to party the night away. This three night cruise gives you a chance to sample all of the fun on board entertainment, before disembarking in Mexico where the real fun begins! Whether you’ve decided to go all out and endeavour on a fly cruise holiday or think that a weekend away will be just the perfect amount of time to let loose, it is easy to see that cruise holidays really are the perfect choice for a buck’s party!

Written by Tara Blair

It is almost as good as dream comes true for Tara when she got an offer as a travel writer, infusing her love for travel and her passion to share wonderful moments with her fellow travellers. Tara also loves yoga and teaches part-time in a local studio.

Cruise ship suffers crack during rough crossing

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PO Cruises‘ Ventura ship will have repairs made to a crack in an aluminium deck while it is in port in Southampton in the U.K. on Friday, ahead of a two-day mini-cruise.

One of the welds directly below the Laguna Pool deck cracked open during a rough crossing across the Bay of Biscay, leaving a two-inch gap width-ways across the deck, according to passengers posting on board. The area was immediately taped off and, according to posts from passengers on board, people on Deck 14 were told not to use their balconies.

A spokesperson for PO said the crack had no “structural…or safety issues,” and that the mini-cruise would set sail as planned tonight.

The incident first came to light on the Cruise Critic message boards when user “davedex” wrote: “Just read that Ventura has suffered a crack width wise by Breakers Bar.”

User “drewlin” wrote: “Just noticed on the PO forum that a major problem has occurred on Ventura — “Currently on Ventura and after a rough passage into the bob one of the deck welds on deck 17 overlooking the Laguna pool has split open leaving about a 2 inch gap across the deck. The area is now taped off.”

User “Thejuggler” added: “I suspect this has been a problem joint since it was built, but it has only just manifested itself. Stress fractures on steel are not unknown and there’s no way every weld can be checked during construction. It’s due for a refit, looks like an extra job is required.”

The 116,000-ton, 3,080-passenger Ventura, which was launched in 2008, will go into dry dock on March 22 next year, for scheduled repairs for 15 days.

The incident is also being talked about extensively on the PO Facebook page where Peter Smith wrote: “Ventura is now 4cm longer than Azura. Seriously, there is a 4cm gap across the whole starboard side of deck 16 which has caused a window pane to lose support. There is no other damage and no risk. The fact that the gap didn’t close up after the ship stopped flexing shows that the welded joint must have been under considerable tension.”

PO made the following statement: “Repairs will be made to an aluminium deck on Ventura upon arrival in Southampton today. This has no structural strength or safety implications. Ventura will leave Southampton later today as planned for a two night cruise.”

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Passenger sues cruise line for ‘cougar’ jab

A female cruise passenger is suing PO Australia for $1 million Australian dollars on the grounds of sexual harassment by a judge in a talent show on board.

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, Kate Strahan, 50, took part in the cruise line’s “Popstars” contest last November on a Pacific Jewel cruise in the South Pacific.

She appeared in a strapless, mock leopard-skin dress as Tina Turner, singing “River Deep, Mountain High.” But one of the judges, British entertainer Rory Healey, made comments about her figure and claimed he could see her underwear through the dress.

This was all captured on video and appeared to be taken in good humor by Strahan, but she was allegedly interviewed backstage later, after which she accused Healey of making lewd gestures at an image of her on screen. Strahan, a nurse, and her husband, John O’Brian, are now suing the company, claiming she is so stressed by Healey’s behavior that she has been unable to work.

While we can’t see what went on backstage, Healey’s initial remarks can be clearly heard on an amateur video of the event and although inappropriate, do suggest that there might be two sides to any story. He says: “You may be dressed like a leopard but you’re more like a tiger.” Strahan replies: “A cougar, you mean.” Healey then says, “…You can ‘cougar’ me at any time.”

PO Australia is contesting the lawsuit. Spokesman Peter Taylor acknowledged in the newspaper report that the remarks were in poor taste and said the couple had been offered an apology and Healey had been reprimanded and his contract has not been renewed. “While there is disagreement surrounding the allegation, any incident of this nature is unfortunate and does not reflect the high standard of staff behavior and passenger service offered across our ships,” a statement said. Like any other organization facing private civil litigation, particularly where a claim is excessive as in this case, we will consider our legal options.”

There is also debate as to whether the claim is even valid, as the event took place outside the jurisdiction of the Australian courts (the talent show was held when the ship was in international waters). The fact that Pacific Jewel, the old Ocean Village 2, is flagged in Great Britain, further complicates matters. Nonetheless, the case returns to court on Sept. 21.

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4 most common cruise ship mishaps

Manu Fernandez / AP

Workers clean up broken windows on the Louis Majesty cruise ship at Barcelona’s port on March 4, 2010. Waves of up to 26 feet high smashed into the Mediterranean cruise ship, flooding people’s cabins and breaking windows in an ordeal that claimed two lives.


Rogue wave

 Rogue waves up to 100 feet tall are a spontaneous natural phenomenon that cannot easily be predicted. In 2005, the Grand Voyager of Iberojet Cruises was smacked by a wave that knocked out propulsion and communications systems and injured 20 passengers. In 2010, the Louis Majesty, operated by Louis Cruise Lines, was struck by 26-foot waves off the coast of France, smashing glass and killing two of the 1,400 passengers and injuring another 14.

Preventive measures: Ship windows are being strengthened, and scientists are studying the prevalence of rogue waves across the ocean so that ships can be warned to avoid high-risk areas.

Effectiveness: The unpredictable nature of these waves can make them difficult to forecast. Researchers are continuing to improve their methods, in the hope of one day developing a more accurate early-warning system.

Most common reason for failure: Lack of reliable data.


Cruise lines carefully monitor storms. If a ship gets caught in rough weather, the results can be deadly. In 1998, all 100 passengers on Windjammer Cruises’ Fantome disembarked safely in Belize, but the crew (on company orders) attempted to sail the ship out of the path of Hurricane Mitch. The storm changed course and obliterated the vessel, killing all 31 crew.

Preventive measures: Buoys and satellites keep crew informed of changing weather.

Effectiveness: Modern weather surveillance is highly effective at charting and predicting storm paths, allowing cruise ships to easily avoid dangerous weather.

Most common reason for failure: Human error.


There were 72 fires aboard cruise ships over the last 20 years. In 2011, an engine room fire on the M.S. Nordlys, operated by the Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten, killed two passengers and injured an additional 16 people. In April, the Azamara Quest’s engine room caught fire, with the blaze was quickly extinguished by the crew.

Preventive measures: Firefighting teams, miles of sprinkler piping, smoke detectors throughout the ship, and fire shutters to contain any blaze.

Effectiveness: Fires on ships are almost always contained and are rarely fatal.

Most common reason for failure: Mechanical problems.


Rocks, reefs and icebergs have sunk five ships in the past 20 years. Ships have also collided with piers and other vessels. One of the most serious incidents occurred in 1992, when a Greek cruise ship hit a fishing trawler, killing more than 30 passengers. More recently, in March, Silversea’s Silver Shadow, sailing through heavy fog in Vietnam, collided with a container ship — none of the cruise ship’s passengers or crew were injured.

Preventive measures: Radio communication and navigational aids that use GPS and maritime charts to plot location and warn crew of obstacles ahead.

Effectiveness: The technology is only as accurate as the charts that the crew upload into the system (outdated charts have caused collisions) and is effective only when used properly.

Most common reason for failure: Human error.

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10 common cruise myths — debunked

Lehtikuva / Reuters

Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas offers Cirque de Soleil-style shows and versions of Broadway musicals onboard. But it’ll cost you extra.

We challenged prevailing cruise wisdom and found that some basic beliefs — when to book, where to get the best deals, when to tip — don’t always hold up. Here are the most costly misconceptions.

Myth: It doesn’t matter when you book

Fact: There are a few ways to get the best price for your cruise. You could wait for last-minute sales, which the cruise lines issue when they fear that their ships won’t fill up (although these are often only offered through certain travel agents so word doesn’t get out to customers who paid much more). The drawback here is that you don’t know when or if a sale is going to take place, and finding low airfares or cheap pre-cruise hotel rooms at the last minute is often difficult. Or, better yet, mark the time period between January and March on your calendar as “wave season.” This is the time when cruise lines offer lower fares and better upgrades to customers who are planning for the year ahead.

Myth: Cruise excursions provide the best deal 

Fact: Although some people prefer the convenience of a cruise line excursion, it’s often much more cost effective to book on your own. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line charges $99 to take you from the dock in Civitavecchia into Rome for a driving tour and two hours of exploring time, a one-hour trip each way by motorcoach. A similar round-trip bus transfer from a private operator such as starts at around $16. 

Another advantage to going out on your own? You aren’t held hostage to a busload of other people. If you’d still like the benefit of a guide or driver, you can find similarly minded fellow passengers with whom you can share expenses on specialty cruising websites such as CruiseCritic.

Myth: The weather is bad in the shoulder season 

Fact: If you travel during the off-season, you’ll usually find lower airfares, pre- and post-cruise hotel rates and excursion prices. While the savings depend on the destination, you can usually cut costs between 20 to 50 percent. Off seasons vary by destination. November or the early part of December, for example, can be a cost-effective time to cruise the Caribbean, while fall is when you can find bargains in the southern Mediterranean and the Pacific Northwest. May is a smart time to visit Hawaii, as the spring break season is over and the summer rush hasn’t yet begun. 

If you are traveling at off-peak times, make sure to study the weather patterns in the destination. You might find Caribbean deals in late August through October, but that’s prime hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Making sure that you have travel insurance during these times — and reading the fine print to make sure it covers you if your flights are delayed or if the trip is interrupted by bad weather — is a must.

Myth: All restaurants on board are included 

Fact: More and more ships have added “premium” restaurants where you’ll pay extra for sushi, steak or specialty ethnic foods. On the newer Carnival cruise ships, for example, it costs $35 per person to eat at the on-board steakhouse. Whether or not this extra is worth it is up to you. If you’re a foodie, you might enjoy the chance to eat better quality cuisine and avoid the noise and crowds of the main dining room. And some lines, such as Norwegian, have “early bird” options where you can dine 2 for 1 if you eat at 5 p.m. But all signs show that specialty dining is a trend that’s not going away anytime soon.

Myth: Formal nights are required 

Fact: Worried that you don’t have the right look for formal night? You don’t need to buy an expensive dress or rent a tuxedo. On most ships, formal nights have become much more casual, and you’ll see everything from sportcoats to sun dresses that have been glammed up with jewelry or high-heeled sandals. 

For those who want to stay in their shorts, many ships usually have a buffet or alternative eating venue that’s open; check with your line before booking, as some ships do restrict shorts in their main dining room at night. Or make this the night to order room service in your cabin and take a stroll on the deck.

Myth: Ship spa treatments are out of my budget 

Fact: It’s hard to relax when you feel like you’re paying top dollar for a massage. Many people don’t know that the prices for treatments sometimes drop when the ship is in port (discounts vary by line, but expect to see deals, such as three “mini-treatments” for $99; a 50-minute on-board massage can cost around $120 to $200, depending on the line and type of treatment). Spa appointments can fill up early, so make sure you book as soon as you get on the ship. Check the ship’s newsletter for daily specials that might only be available during certain hours. 

Still feel like it costs too much? Steam and sauna facilities in the gym are often included in your fare. Or do your research and see if there’s a spa in port that has better deals.

Myth: Drink packages save money 

Fact: This one is tricky. A drinks package or pre-paid soda card can be a huge money saver for a family, or if you’re cruising in a hot climate where you go through countless bottles of water. But if you’re on your own with your honey, you’re better off bringing your own sports water bottle that you can fill up during the day. 

Another tip for the cost-conscious: Many lines do let you bring your own sodas or bottled water on board. Pack a small soft-sided cooler and pick up six-packs when you’re in port. All lines frown upon customers packing in their own beer, wine or alcohol, however; expect it to be confiscated. If you like to tipple, look for happy hour and drink specials, or buy a bottle of wine with dinner and save it for the next night.

Myth: Tipping is optional 

Fact: Just as tips make up a large portion of a waiter’s wages on land, they’re also important to cruise ship employees, and many lines now include a service charge on their final bill, usually $11–$12 per person per day (which can come as a shock to customers from non-tipping cultures, such as England or Australia). If you’re ordering a drink at the bar or pool, check your receipt so you don’t tip twice; often a 15 percent gratuity or service charge has already been added.

Myth: A balcony room is a necessity 

Fact: While the extra space of a balcony room can be nice, cruise lines have worked to make inside cabins more appealing. On the Disney Dream, for example, inside cabins come with “virtual portholes” that insert animated characters into real-time ocean views. Norwegian Cruise Line has designated some inside cabins for solo travelers, eliminating the need for a single supplement. And if you’re prone to seasickness, an inside cabin, particularly one on a lower deck in the middle of the ship, may keep you upright. 

That being said, there are some areas of the world where a balcony — or at least a room with a view — is well worth the splurge (Alaska’s Inside Passage, for one). And people who hate pool crowds might appreciate an outdoor space where there’s room to breathe (just realize that you might have smokers next door; if smoke really bothers you, choose a line, such as Princess or Celebrity, that bans smoking in staterooms, even on private stateroom balconies). But if you’re taking a cruise where you’ll be spending most of your time on shore or the weather will be too breezy, then that strip of land might not be worth the extra money. Cruiser, know thyself.

Myth: All on-board activities are free 

Fact: When you board the ship, you might be dazzled by the wide array of activities. But chances are, you’ll be paying extra for that Zumba or wine-tasting class, usually between $10–$15 per person (similar to what you’d pay at home). The ship’s daily bulletin usually lists the classes that are being offered, and whether or not there is a fee. Some lines allow you to make reservations, as well as sign waivers, before you board, so take a thorough look at your ship company’s website to do some advance planning. 

The good news is that cruise ship entertainment, which usually is included in the price, has stepped up its game in the past few years. Some of the mega-ships such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, have brought in Cirque de Soleil-style shows and versions of Broadway musicals, and lines such as Disney have made original shows a focal point. Movie theaters, some with 3D, 4D or 5D special effects, are also popular. Or use the time to relax and read. 

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