Thursday, January 19, 2017

Disney isn't the only one with a private island!



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As the daily temperature drops, I catch myself daydreaming about sunny islands. I’m sipping on a Mai Tai, while dipping my toes in the bathwater-warm water so clear that I can see the sea stars below. Palm trees sway in the periphery as the sun reflects off the water. It is time to make this dream a reality!

Here are the private islands and beach resorts owned by the various cruise lines. Most of them are located in the Bahamas, but there are also locations in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Belize, and the United Arab Emirates! Check them out!
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Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

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This Carnival Run port is known for having the clearest amber in the world, a wall originally built to ward off pirates, and an Ocean center where you can swim with dolphins! The beach towns of Sosua and Cabarete are only a half hour away. Plus there is Puerto Plata which was founded by Christopher Columbus.

This island is included in many Carnival and Costa itineraries!



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Enjoy the beautiful palm trees on this private island owned by Disney Cruises. They have a water play area, game pavilion with ping pong, bicycle rentals, character greetings, and snorkeling. The Disney beach is just a short tram ride from the cruise terminal.


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This Royal Caribbean private island makes for a PERFECT beach day! You can walk right off of the ship and find a chair to lounge in for the day while enjoying a delicious frozen beverage!

However, in case you are up for adventure, there is plenty to do! You can dive around a sunken replica of Blackbeard’s pirate ship, kayak, or barbecue! We recommend the guided tour via jet ski excursion to ‘Starfish Alley’ where you will hop off your ski and stand in knee deep waters only to find that the entire sea floor is covered in starfish and sand dollars! This is a little pricey, but guaranteed fun if you are willing to splurge!

This island is included in many Royal Caribbean and Celebrity itineraries!
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Find your endless summer on this 250 acre Norwegian private island which includes a waverunner adventure on jetskis, parasailing, paddleboarding, cabanas, and an eco-boat wildlife encounter. All you have to do is take a 10 tender ride from your boat and then it’s an easy walk to the beach.

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This Holland America (Carnival) island has won “Best Private Island’ 11 years in a row! With white sand beaches. waterfront bars, biking, kayaks, and snorkeling gear there is plenty to do in this paradise. Double decked tenders will take you the 10 minute ride to shore and welcome center. Head northwest, and just beyond the welcome center is the beach.

This island is included in many Holland America and Carnival itineraries!

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Harvest Cay, Belize

Norwegian will be debuting a new island in the Western Caribbean! “This new 75-acre island will have a swim-up bar, a lagoon with water sports, ziplining, and snorkeling in the world’s second largest barrier reef!” There will also be Belizean crafts, excursions to a local Mayan temple, Rainforest tubing excursions and parasailing!

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Princess Cay
Enjoy the white sand shoreline of this private island owned by Princess Cruises.They have paddle wheelers, kayaks, and bungalows on hand for your enjoyment. Plus there are complimentary beach barbecues! To protect the coral reefs surrounding the cay you will be tethered to the island. At Princess Cay, the pristine beach is all around for you to enjoy!

This island is included in many Princess and Carnival itineraries!

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Labadee, Haiti

This resort on the north side of Haiti is run by Royal Caribbean. They’ve set up lots to do there including the Dragon’s Breath Flight line, the local water park, and rentable cabanas on the beach. The 5 beaches are all very accessible from the centrally located pier where your ship will dock.

This island is included in many Royal Caribbean and Celebrity itineraries!

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MSC will be building this private island to function not only as a special tourist destination but as a Marine Reserve intent on preserving local ecosystems! With 95 acres this will be the biggest island development by any cruise line in the area. The island will feature a zip line, wedding pavilion, tranquil inland lagoon, and a family beach with play areas.




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* Honorable Mention* Sir-Bani-Yas-Island in the UAE

SirBaniYasCheetahs.jpgMSC even has a private island in the Persian Gulf off the coast of the UAE!Home to an enormous nature reserve, you can see protected cheetahs, giraffes, and flamingos! There is an inflatable water park and kid’s play area, as well as six bars for adults. Whether you relax near the barbecue or view the wildlife via safari- this island will be a great stop on your trip.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Early Bookers Pay Less: My Cuba Story

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I couldn’t believe my eyes. Royal Caribbean had just sent out a news update promoting their brand new Cuban itineraries. A country that I had once only dreamed of visiting had newly opened its port! Havana here I come!

Since this was a splurge impulse buy, I immediately started pricing the least expensive inside cabin for two on the 5-day itinerary. I already knew that I didn't have the funds for a balcony or longer itinerary. However, would I even be able to afford this?

Victory! The total price on the screen showed an even $1000!!! What a steal! Let the excited cabbage patch dance begin.

Plus, the deposit to lock it in was only a refundable $200. If something came up and I needed to cancel, I could. There was no reason not to book right then and there.

Then disaster struck. It came swiftly in the night and robbed me of my great rate. You see, I hadn’t followed the advice that I have given to so many clients. I hadn’t checked with my bank to make sure that my deposit transaction had gone through, and it hadn't.

Days passed. The sun rose and set multiple times. In the meantime,  Royal Caribbean had raised their rates. By the time I had realized that my booking wasn’t confirmed with a deposit, the price for two had gone up to $1500.

There was nothing I could do! I had to resend the deposit and book my cruise at the higher rate. I’ve crossed my fingers and hoped that the price would go down since then, but I have only seen it rise.

However, I have not given up hope. If Royal Caribbean lowers the price for my inside cabin type before the final payment date, I can refare. It could happen.

I don’t think that it will, though. You see, early bookers pay less. Cruise lines generally raise their rates as you get closer to the sail date.

Is it possible for them to lower the rate in an exciting flash sale? Yes, it is possible. I have the computer software monitoring for it. Am I optimistic that it will likely happen? No, I don’t think so. At least I’m still going to Cuba though!

Want to meet Shrek, Peppa Pig, the Cat in the Hat or Mickey Mouse? Come Cruise!

Which cruise is a family cruise? All cruises are family cruises! I highlight many reasons why I feel this on the Kids page. However, in this article I wanted to highlight one particular aspect of family cruising: character meet and greets.


Many of the major cruise lines have incorporated character meet and greets into their family program with many familiar characters.



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Royal Caribbean has partnered with Dreamworks pictures which is why they can bring you Shrek and the characters from Madagascar.


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Carnival has partnered with Dr. Suess and has a Green Eggs and Ham breakfast with the Cat in the Hat.

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Costa has arranged for kids to meet the famous Peppa Pig!


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MSC has created the Do Re Mi family who sing the MSC song in SIX languages!

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Here is the famous Mickey Mouse, ready to greet you on a Disney cruise.


While Princess and Norwegian didn’t have specific character meet and greets listed on their websites, I need to give them an honorable mention for their awesome kids programs.


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On Norwegian they have Circus school, improv classes, and obstacle courses!


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Princess is creating a whole new kids program based on their partnership with the Discovery Channel, Camp Discovery! These activities feature experiments based on Mythbusters, a Shark Week inspired scavenger hunt, and more!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Kids Program Features!

Some of the cruise lines have greatly revamped their kid's programs. Check out these new features on Costa, Princess, and MSC!





Many kids will recognize Peppa Pig. The meet and greet with her is exactly what people love about Disney! They will be thrilled that Costa has this because she is a very well known figure as well. 

There will be a Peppa pig day, “Captain in training,” and “Princess for a day.” 

Don’t worry- for the older kids there is an X-box, dance and music classes, pool parties, and sports tournaments. 

The new site describes how many ships have a special baby pool*, and how the Fascinosa and Favolosa have two deck water parks! (THREE DECKS on the Diadema) The water parks sound awesome with water games, a pirate ship, and a castle. 

Be sure to click on the link to read more! 

*Ships with baby pools: Deliziosa, Diadema, Fascinosa, Favolosa, Luminosa, Magica, Mediterranea, and NeoRiviera.
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The kid's clubs are being made over into “Camp Discovery” in order to align more to the their partnership with the Discovery Channel. New programs will roll out together fleetwide while new center designs launch individually through 2018. 

Now it will be the Treehouse (3-7), the Lodge (8-12), and the Beach House (13-17)

It will feature Mythbusters activities, Survive Alaska, a scavenger hunt with Shark Attack, and a squid anatomy lesson with Just Squiddin’ Around. There will also be Jr. Rangers and and a chance to be an engineer for a day with programs from the California Science Center. 
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NEW! MSC Babycare Service is a babysitting service for babies and toddlers on MSC. This service is FREE during the listed hours. Having free babysitting for kids this young is an unprecedented move by a cruise line! 

Babycare is subject to prior booking, limited availability, for children between 1 and 3 years old(not inclusive). 

Available at the following times*, exclusively when the ship is AT SEA
between 1:00 and 2:00 pm and between 6:00 and 7:00pm. Completion of a registration form is required. Ask the Mini Club staff once you’re on board. Diaper changing and feeding must be provided by parents. 

*Times may vary by ship or itinerary


Friday, January 6, 2017

Use these onboard apps for your cruise!


While aboard the Star Princess, I couldn’t help but marvel at how useful the Princess@Sea onboard app for my phone was!

The app allowed me to message other guests to make plans. I could look up what activities were happening right then, and plan activities for the next day. It listed my onboard spending so that I could track it and curb it before anything got out of hand. I even found it useful for finding the nearest bathroom to my current location!

I hope this app guide encourages you to download the free apps connected to your cruise line before you next sail. I think that you will appreciate having them handy!
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Carnival Hub App (Carnival)
Use the Carnival app to  track your spending and check the up-to-date schedule feature.

  • The Carnival Hub App is available on select ships for iphones and Android phones.
  • Like the best apps, the Hub App has a customizable schedule.
  • The food and drink section of the app provides schedules for the various food options and bars.
  • The ship map has interactive deck plans, and account information for you to keep track of your purchases while onboard.
  • There is a chat feature but it is not free.





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These app relates to the Cunard website rather than functioning as an onboard app. Only the Celebrity’s Fortunes free casino gaming app are intended for primary use onboard.
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My Costa Mobile (Costa)
My Costa Mobile is the most straightforward app of them all. It allows you to chat, learn about your itinerary and check the weather.

  • MyCosta Mobile App is available for iPhone, Android, and iPad.
  • This app has FREE chat feature that lets you Call or Chat with other passengers onboard!
  • The cruise navigator is great for learning about the ports of call. It also provides weather updates which is a super helpful feature!






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Cunard App (Cunard)
This app relates to the Cunard website rather than functioning as an onboard app.
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Holland
This author has not found an onboard Holland app at this time. However, Holland does have a cool Glacier Bay podcast series for their Alaska voyages.
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One neat feature of this app is the ability to chat for FREE one on one or in a group chat.

  • Disney Navigator App is available for iPhone, Android, and iPad.
  • The chat feature on this app is FREE and has a group chat feature.
  • It provides the ship deck plan which is very helpful for finding bathrooms!
  • The daily program is updated and customizable so you can save the events that you want to go to.
  • You also can get up-to-date details on character experiences, parties, dining, movies and live shows, the spa, youth clubs, pool times, and ports of call.



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MSC Traveller is available for use on the MSC Divina, MSC Preziosa, and MSC Magnifica. This is one of the most unique apps with a location feature and 24/7 news updates.

  • This app is completely free and is available in 6 languages!
  • It provides up-to-date information about the ship, route, conditions at sea, and onboard promotions.
  • The Daily program is customizable to your favorite activities, and there is a location feature that lets others know where you are!
  • It provides FREE instant messaging and 24/7 world news updates!
  • You can reserve shore excursions and dinner reservations from the app.
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ICongierge is available for use on almost all of the ships except for the Norwegian Sky.

  • It is available for download on iPhones, Android, Windows phone, and iPad.
  • You can use it to preview and book shore excursions, create restaurant reservations, or reserve entertainment.
  • It provides updated information about your cruise rewards and has a folio review.
  • There is a schedule with daily activities, plus general information about onboard services, spa services, shopping, entertainment information, and restaurant information and menus.
  • This app does have a messaging and calling feature, but it is not free.

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Princess@Sea (Princess)
This is the app that inspired this article!

  • This app has an events calendar that you can customize to show just the events that most interest you.
  • It has a FREE messaging app that is very handy when you’re spread all about a large ship.  
  • It has account details so that you can monitor your onboard spending.
  • It has destination guides that tell you about each of your ports on a clickable version of your itinerary.
  • It has ship venue details with hours, menus, and deck plans. I personally found the deck plans especially helpful for finding the nearest bathroom to your current location!
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ROYAL IQ (Royal Caribbean)
This app is not available on all of the ships, only the newest four: Quantum, Anthem, Ovation, and Harmony.

  • Available for Ipads, Iphones and Android phones
  • This app has an events calendar that you can customize to show just the events that most interest you.
  • You can use it to book shore excursions, reserve dining or entertainment, and modify existing reservations







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Friday, December 9, 2016

Want to sail to Alaska for less? Go in September!

Want to Sail to Alaska for less? Go in September!
September is the very last month that you can cruise to Alaska. It is the tail end of the season, and all of the cruise lines stop sailing up there after that time. Sailings stop during the winter not due to the cold, but instead due to crushingly strong winds that sweep through the region during those cooler months.

I cruised to Alaska this past September, and I found that there are many upsides to sailing at the tail end of the season. I highly recommend making your booking for this time frame.

Benefit #1: Save Money

You will pay less! This is the time for greatly reduced rates. Since kids are starting school the ships do not fill up as easily. More supply and less demand allows the cruise lines to reduce their rates in order to lure you to Alaska. Let them lure you! Now is the time to sail for less!

Benefit #2: Less Crowded

The second benefit that I noticed is that there are fewer people on the ship. Many people will not go on vacations in September. This allows not only for lower prices, but a less crowded experience over all!

Benefit #3: Unique Opportunities

During the month of September there are opportunities for exciting deviations from the chartered course. On my sailing this meant that we sailed right up to Johns Hopkins glacier! This is a glacier that no cruise ships had been allowed to visit during the summer months due to seals being on the ice. However, during the slower season- we were allowed to go!

This is the beautiful Johns Hopkins glacier. The dots of ice in the water are covered with harbor seals that prevented us from getting closer. I won’t complain though, the harbor seals prevented other ships from visiting at all during the summer months!

Take the kids for some learning in the field. Introduce them to a field ranger, and glacial science. Examine the ecosystems that are fed by salmon migrations. September is frequently the least expensive time to cruise this fantastic itinerary. Bring the whole family, it’s worth it!

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Kids panning for gold on one of Princess’s Alaska excursions.