Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Alaska Last Minute

Often people talk about last minute cruising but it really isn't possible.  For most people you need to travel to the departure port and for that you require a bit of advance notice.  Also most ships are sold out well before a cruise nowadays.  Not to mention that the manifest of the passengers is require way in advance and ships usually cut off sales about four days prior. 

In May I knew I had two great friends who were on the Diamond, Peter John as Captain Circle Host and Ciska Smit who I really wanted to see.  The Diamond was going to be doing a round trip Alaskan cruise out of Vancouver (the only one of the season).  Now those that know me know I like Alaska but it isn't on my preferred spots to cruise as I would rather visit warmer, more foreign ports.  Plus I live in British Columbia, I see eagles, bears, mountains, ice often.

So when the price was too good to pass up I had to find a friend to go with.  Bernie was going to be out of town in Cape Breton visiting his family so I message numerous friends trying to find someone.  Was just about to give up when an acquaintance of mine that I use to work with -- Tracey -- said she would go.  Perfect!

We booked an obstructed ocean view cabin on Emerald deck for a great price.  The trip was booked 17 days prior to sailing.  Which was just in time to put in my stock benefit request, which requires two weeks notice.

The cruise itself was wonderful, and to spend time with my friends on board and to meet new friends, like Theresea and Dana made the trip GREAT.

For the ports I had planned nothing.  Since this was an extra trip I didn't want to spend too much money on fancy tours. 

In Juneau Peter, Ciska and myself went to the Red Dog Saloon and had our duck fart and then we went to a few stores and bars and had a fun time, but boy I am not as young as I use to be.

In Skagway I was really tired this day, I didn't sleep well the night prior and was up at 4 am.  Originally I had planned to head out with friends but when I knew I needed a nap or else I would be too grumpy I told them to head out without me.  Later in the day I walked into town and visiting the National Park office to watch a great video and then participated in the free walking tour of the town.  Learned quite a bit and enjoyed the fact that I was participating in a walking tour with a local.  After the tour I wandered and took lots of pictures and then stopped and had a nice sandwich and cupcake at a recommended stop.

For Ketchican Ciska and I had planned to go for a meal of crab with some of the other crew members.  The food was okay and the place was packed and boy you can sure get your fill of crab here.  After lunch I wandered the town looking for the infamous pottery store that I visited a few years back.  I found the exact  location but today it is a book store!  I asked the owner if she knew where the pottery store went, she pointed me in the direction but there was no pottery store anywhere nearby.   Later I wandered thru some of the stores near the pier but they were all so crowded that I just couldn't wait to get out of there. 

I will also comment that I qualified for the Most Travelled Passenger Luncheon, the first time ever.  I have 247 days and I was the 8th most travelled passenger on the ship.  Tracey came with me and we had a lovely meal, but again I felt bad that Bernie couldn't be a part of it too.

In all the trip was a nice break away and was so nice to spend time with friends I hadn't seen in awhile.  But one thing I learned I never want to sail without my Bernie again.  We both love cruising and we both enjoy each other's company so much.  Every night even though I had lots of people to hang out with and was rarely alone I missed my life partner.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Royal Caribbean Here I Come

Can you believe it!  Here I am a huge Princess Fan, have sailed with them for over ten years now, have done 30 cruises with them!  I had sailed four times with Carnival but found it wasn’t a good fit for us and really like what Princess offered.

Then of course Princess’ Loyalty Program kept us going back.  At first it was to get to Platinum, then Elite was our next goal.  And now that we are at that stage we really appreciate all that comes with that status:  free laundry, mini bar, priority tendering, afternoon tea in our cabin, wine tasting, wifi package, priority embarkation etc.  And now we are getting loyalty on board credits.  A few years ago we purchased 100 shares of Carnival in order to get a shareholder benefit of an on board credit every time we sail on a Carnival owned line. 

So why try another line you may ask?

I really never thought about sailing another line until Oasis came out, then Allure with Royal Caribbean.  I know I know the ships are huge – 225,000 tons big, but there was something that was drawing me to them.  Being a cruise addict I wanted to see what they were like, how can a ship handle that many passengers. 

The  first drawback is it only does 7 day cruises out of Fort Lauderdale one ship sails Eastern Caribbean, the other Western Caribbean.  We don’t normally do 7 day cruises, our usual cruise is two ten days, usually on the Emerald. 

The second drawback is my honey (Bernie) isn’t interested in sailing on another line at all, especially RCL, feeling it would be more of a party cruise he feels.  Too flashy he says, too crowded he says, too expensive is his last comment.  Which is true Oasis and Allure are more expensive per day than most other Caribbean cruises. 

So for a long time we just didn’t look at either ship as an option.  Until now.

Next year in January we are sailing again in the Caribbean on the Emerald.  Originally we thought about tacking on the 7 day cruise to our Emerald voyage in January but the dates just didn’t line up unless we spent a few days in Fort Lauderdale and the price was high too.  But we have a week’s vacation in December of this year and after checking the prices for that week I brought up the option again to Bernie.  What about going to Fort Lauderdale and sailing on the Oasis in December?  Price is starting at $749 for an inside, and yes I am okay with an inside as this is an “extra” trip and balcony cabins are just way to pricy to justify this trip. 

He said yes!  So I booked, and I am still in shock that I am going on Oasis to the Western Caribbean.  Our ports will be Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico.  I have been to Jamaica and Cozumel before but never Labadee.

Now I am asking advice from friends who have sailed RCL for advice and what the difference between Princess and RCL.

One thing I have realized right away is RCL is much more high tech, their website is much easier to go thru, my reservation is easy to access, and the ability to book restaurants, and dining times, and even purchase gifts (Princess makes you print out an order form and fax it in) ahead of time a bonus.  Closer to sail date we will be able to reserve our entertainment and excursions.  I like this option and find it will be okay for our short seven day voyage but also find it will also mean our holiday is much more structured and filled.  As usually our cruises are much more relaxed and carefree with decisions made that day for what we want to do, including dine time, shows and events.  Normally the only thing we have scheduled is a specialty restaurant made a few days ahead of time; however we have made reservations the day of too.

So I hope to sail with an open mind to not compare the two lines until the end and to enjoy the change and the extra voyage we will get in before the end of the year.