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!

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Cruise Hacks!

By Tasha Clites - Military Cruise Deals

Avoid Hefty ATM Fees on the Ship - I never bring quite enough cash -- mainly because I find it easier to spend and also lose! While there are ATM machines on the ship, they often charge fees ranging from $5 to $7 to withdraw cash! PLUS -- some banks or credit cards will charge you a fee of their own for not using one of their machines.

I found a clever way around this on my third cruise or so. Take your seapass card and head to the casino. Sit down at a slot machine and insert your card. Let’s say you want $200 cash. The machine will ask how much you want to “play” with. Enter in the amount you’d like to withdraw then hit “cash out” after it has given you those credits!
Go over to the cashier and collect your funds.

Everything you spend onboard the ship including casino play is charged to the credit or debit card you provided at the pier. Fees avoided ;)

Roll your clothes - Instead of folding, try rolling your clothes up. This not only prevents wrinkles but it also gives you much more space in your suitcase. You aren’t allowed to pack your own iron.  Additionally, some ships do not have an area where you can iron your clothing yourself. You may actually have to pay to get them steamed or ironed.  I totally stand by clothes-rolling and a good wrinkle release spray!

Surge Protector with USB Outlets - Cabins often have very few outlets so it can be difficult to charge all of your electronics at once.  Take your own multi-plug USB outlet so that you can charge your phone, camera, ipad, etc. all at once without have to swap them out periodically.

Ziploc Bags - These little guys are lifesavers! Taking a few empty baggies with you will prove to be so useful. You can use them when going on shore excursions to keep water and sand away from your electronics.  I also recommend taking larger grocery bags to store your wet clothes in in case there is not enough time to hang-dry them before your disembarkation.

Portable USB Charger - I tend to use my phone for photos these days as the camera quality is rather great. However, this means that my battery dies at a rapid rate. I don’t leave my cabin without my portable USB charger. I snagged one at Five Below, but you can get them almost anywhere these days. For a measly $5, it can’t hurt to have this as your safety net!

Travel Alarm Clock - Cruise ship cabins do not have alarm clocks. Some of us are okay using our cell phones - but insanely heavy sleepers like myself require a louder standard alarm clock.

In-room Bible - Bibles are typically left in the bedside tables.  Passengers have been known to leave leftover drink coupons in these. It can’t hurt to check. For two of my past cruises, I’ve scored a free drink this way!

Plastic Wrap your Toiletries - Though we keep our toiletries in their own bag inside of another bag, they somehow always spill out! Try placing plastic wrap under the caps of your shampoo/conditioner bottles to keep them from leaking out. Works like a charm.

Dryer Sheets in Luggage - We’ve noticed that on rather long flights, our clothes have a certain unwanted smell to them once our luggage arrives to our cabin.  We’ve purchased overpriced scent balls to put in our bags before to keep our clothing smelling fresh but we’ve found that tossing in a dryer sheet works even better and it is likely something you already have at home.

Free Wifi in Port - Wifi packages onboard the ship can be a little pricey and maybe you just want to check in on Facebook every now and then. When the ship pulls into port, check for free wifi. After you exit the ship, it is likely that you will see signs indicating “free Wifi” or you will see the masses of people hanging out there in one area. You can also ask the ship’s crew members. They know exactly where the free WiFi is!

Use the Ship’s WiFi while docked - If you did purchase an internet package for your cruise, using it in the port will give you an increased speed compared to when the ship is sailing the open waters where the connection is much slower.
Over-the-door Shoe Organizer - For families traveling together in one stateroom, the bathroom space is never quite adequate.  Take an over-the-door shoe organizer to store of all your toiletries, curling irons, etc. so it isn’t cluttering what limited counter space you have.

Drink for FREE - Beverage packages can be super expensive! If you’re one that just wants a drink or two per day at little to no cost, try this out! The daily itineraries always list something along the lines of “Captain’s Toast” where servers run around with trays full of complimentary mixed drinks, wine, or champagne. I’ve experienced this on Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess recently. This fun little mixer is also a great way to meet other cruisers!

Additionally, for cruisers that have sailed with a particular line before, there is typically a coupon booklet left in your cabin that will have a drink coupon in it.  It pays to be loyal!

Lastly, the atrium shops have frequent “liquor tastings” where you can sample the brands they sell in their duty free shops.

You can often get your favorite brand for a better price than you can at home.  The only catch here is that they do not give you the goods until the last day of your cruise -- but it is typically a great deal!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Internet at Sea

Staying connected while at sea is now easier than ever as cruise ships are fully wired with internet cafes, Wifi, and cell phone reception.

However, not all cruise lines are equally wired and connection can vary from ship to ship within the same cruise line.

This article outlines the different packages and pricing that each cruise line and ship has to offer you during your cruise vacation.  

Pricing and availability are subject to change.

Azamara -

Internet and Wi-Fi: Both Azamara ships have onboard computer centers with 24-hour access. Wireless access on smartphones and laptops is available in designated areas on the ship.

Carnival -

Carnival offers three different types of plans that can be purchased for either a 24 hour period, or for the entirety of the cruise at a discounted rate. The pricing for each plan is as follows:

  • Social ($5 USD per day) – Access the most popular websites and applications. Includes: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Does not include access to other websites or apps.
  • Value ($16 USD per day) – Surf all your favorite sites, including e-mail, news, sports, weather, banking and finance. Note: Does not support Skype calling or music streaming (such as Spotify).
  • Premium ($25 USD per day) – From e-mail to Skype, our Premium plan promises the fastest possible connection, at speeds up to 3 times faster than our Value Plan. Supports Skype video calling, where coverage allows.

Users may easily upgrade from one plan to another. Users may use one device at a time on each plan, including either their personal devices or one of our on-board computers. All plans exclude video streaming (such as Netflix or Hulu). Cellular-network-dependent WiFi Calling and Facetime services are also not supported at this time. Printing is offered at no charge.

Celebrity -

Internet and Wi-Fi: Most ships in the fleet offer Wi-Fi connectivity throughout, with the exception of Celebrity Century and Celebrity Xpedition, which offer Wi-Fi in public areas. All ships have 24-hour Internet cafes. Eclipse, Millennium, Solstice, Silhouette, Summit, and Infinity also have iLounges with workstations and classes featuring the latest Apple products.

Fees: There is a flat Internet rate of 75 cents per minute or package rates of 38 minutes for $24.95; 90 minutes for $49.95; 208 minutes for $99.95 and 555 minutes for $199.95. The truly wired may want to book the "Involved" plan: 1,666 minutes for $399.95. The same rates apply to wireless hotspots on all ships, as well as to in-cabin Internet access.

Costa -

Internet and Wi-Fi: All ships have Internet cafes. Wi-Fi onboard works on all devices and is available throughout the ship.
To browse per minute, the price is 0,50€ while the 1 hour package is 20€, and 40€ for the 3 hour package.

Cunard -

For $45 satellite internet credit, you will receive 120 minutes of satellite internet time. (Depending on the packages available on board, there may also be a one-time activation fee of $3.75)

The internet stations are open 24 hours a day should you need to use one of their devices.

Disney -

Both Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have Internet Cafes (located in the Promenade Lounges), each with computer stations that provide email service and Web connectivity. On Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, passengers can rent a laptop at the Cove Cafe for an additional charge.

On all ships, computers are available in the teen club, Vibe. Wireless high-speed Internet is available for passengers bringing their own wireless-ready laptops or other electronic devices, with many hotspots set up in a variety of public areas.

Holland -

The "Standard" plan offers 1,000 minutes for $250 (25 cents per minute), 500 minutes for $175 (35 cents per minute), 250 minutes for $100 (40 cents per minute), 100 minutes for $55 (55 cents per minute), a "pay as you go" option for 75 cents per minute and two "last day" plans: 30 minutes for $12 (40 cents per minute) and 15 minutes for $8.25 (55 cents per minute). The plan is available on Noordam, Oosterdam, Eurodam, Prinsendam and HAL's R-Class and S-Class ships.

On Nieuw Amsterdam and Zuiderdam, the "Hybrid" plan allows passengers to purchase either minutes or an unlimited Internet that spans the entire cruise. The plan offers 600 minutes for $199 (33 cents per minute), 400 minutes for $159 (40 cents per minute), 200 minutes for $99 (50 cents per minute), 30 minutes for $19 (63 cents per minute) and the "Unlimited Premium Voyage" package for $249.

Westerdam is the only ship to have the new social media package. Here's how those packages break down, priced for seven-day cruises.

  • "Social" ($5 for 24 hours or $25 for the week): Limits access to only eight social media sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • "Enhanced" ($16 for 24 hours or $60 for the week): Excludes videoconferencing and music streaming.
  • "Premiere" ($25 for 24 hours or $99 for the week): Excludes video streaming.


Internet service is available at computers in Internet cafes on all MSC ships. Wi-Fi is available in all cabins and common areas.

You can save over 50% by pre-booking your internet package prior to your cruise.

They offer three different packages:

  • Social - Access for 1 device to social networks and chat apps —Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Snapchat, WeChat, Pinterest, VK, Odnoklassniki, Sinaweibo, Qzone and Line. You can post photos, but audio and video are not available. $4.50 per day / $16.50 per cruise (for a 7 day cruise only)
  • Surfer - Access for up to 2 devices to social networks, chat apps, email and web browsing with standard bandwidth priority. Limit of 170 MB per day / 800 MB per cruise**. You can post photos, but audio and video are not available. $11.00 per day / $33.00 per cruise (for a 7 day cruise only)
  • Streamer - Full internet access for up to 4 devices, including audio and video streaming, with maximum bandwidth priority. Limit of 340 MB per day / 1.5 GB per 7 day cruise - $22.00 per day / $66.00 per 7 day cruise

Norwegian -

Norwegian’s internet packages vary from ship to ship.

See the table below to view the pricing and plans for the different vessels:

Princess -

Wifi is available on all Princess ships.  Pre-purchasing a package is the best value.
100 Minutes - $72.95 (Get an extra 20 minutes if you pre-purchase!)
200 Minutes - $102.95 (Get an extra 40 minutes if you pre-purchase!)
400 Minutes - $162.95 (Get an extra 60 minutes if you pre-purchase!)
600 Minutes - $202.95 (Get an extra 80 minutes if you pre-purchase!)
1000 Minutes - $252.95 (Get an extra 100 minutes if you pre-purchase!)

Royal Caribbean -

Royal Caribbean offers Wifi on all of its cruise ships.

Their new, faster internet program is known as “Voom” and is available on Oasis and Quantum Class ships.

The packages come in one of three options:
1 device at a time
  • Voom - $15 per day
  • Non-Voom - $20 per day

2 devices at a time
  • Voom - $22.50 per day
  • Non-Voom - $30 per day

4 devices at a time

  • Voom - $40 per day
  • Non-Voom - N/A

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Vegetarian Options for Cruisers! ALL Cruise Lines!

Vegetarian Options When Cruising: The Complete Guide
By: Rebecca Forte
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Cruising vegetarians, do not fear! There is  more for you to eat than just bread and salad. The world’s cuisine is available to you! Cruise lines are becoming increasingly accommodating and inviting to vegetarian passengers.

In fact, Vegetarianism has become so ubiquitous that Royal Caribbean, and Costa Cruises do not even denote it as a special dietary need. They guarantee that every meal will have at least one specially designed vegetarian option designated on the menu. To see why, just look to this press release from Costa, where they note the importance of vegetarian options in our current gastronomical climate:

No matter whether they are chosen as a real lifestyle, to try new tastes, or just to feel lighter, vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more and more popular. That’s why Costa’s Corporate Chefs have created menus specifically for those who prefer a diet based mainly on foods derived from plants, and that for Vegans also excludes dairy products and eggs. (1)

Some Cruise lines have even gone above and beyond in their service of vegetarians. Disney has a separate vegetarian section in the buffet area. SeaDream has incorporated a “Raw Foods” selection into their cuisine. Holland and Celebrity both have entirely vegetarian menus for varied tastes. Holland sees this full vegetarian menu as a pivotal amenity for optimal comfort. One must simply look at the fantastic dishes on their menu to see this sentiment:

The savory collection of dishes on the new vegetarian-only menu include Portobello Mushroom and Chipotle Quesadillas, Vietnamese Vegetable Spring Rolls, Curried Vegetable Empanadas, Spicy Lentil and Garbanzo Salad, Sweet and Sour Vegetable Tempura, Vegetable Jambalaya, Grilled Vegetable and Tofu Kebobs, and Baked Cheese Polenta with Mushrooms and Artichoke Hearts.(2)

Whether you will be cruising on a mainstream line, luxury cruise, or river cruise, I want you to feel comfortable in knowing that you will be will fed. With this goal in mind I created a guide to vegetarianism on each cruise line. In the guide you will find out whether you need to notify the cruise line ahead of time, and how to contact the line if so. I also collected sample menus from many of the lines, giving you a complete picture of the amazing cuisine that will be available to you. Bon appetit!

Contact Information: or 1-800-929-6400

“Carnival Cruise Line can provide our guests with the following special dietary needs: Vegetarian, Low-Cholesterol, Low-Fat, Low-Carbohydrates, Low-Sugar, Gluten Free, Indian Vegetarian, and Kosher. For Indian Vegetarian and Kosher meals, two weeks advance notice prior to your cruise is required. Any special dietary and food requests can be accommodated in our main dining rooms only.” (3)
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Try “The Taste Bar” on Carnival’s ships for fresh and creative options.
Contact Information: or 1-866-592-7225
“Celebrity Cruises is happy to accommodate many different kinds of dietary needs in our Main Restaurant to enhance your cruise vacation. Once you have booked your cruise, send your special dietary request to or call 1-866-592-7225.
We offer a separate 7-day Vegetarian Menu, in addition to vegetarian dishes on the standard Main Restaurant menu which are designated by a leaf icon.” (4)
Contact Information: 1-800-462-6782

“No matter whether they are chosen as a real lifestyle, to try new tastes or just to feel lighter, vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more and more popular. That’s why Costa’s Corporate Chefs have created menus specifically for those who prefer a diet based mainly on foods derived from plants, and that for Vegans also excludes dairy products and eggs.” (5)
Contact Information: 0843-374 -0000

“All ships can cater for the following diets: Vegetarian, Pescetarian fish, Low /no fat, Low salt /no salt, Lactose intolerant /dairy free, Gluten /wheat free /celiac, Low cholesterol, Diabetic, Kosher, Vegan, Indian Vegetarian. Should you require any of the above diets please call our Customer Contact Centre on 0843 374 0000 (Calls cost 3p per minute plus your telephone company’s network access charge) prior to sailing.” (6)
Contact Information: Email or call (407) 939-3463

“Disney Cruise Line offers gluten-free, vegetarian, no sugar added, dairy-free and lighter offerings on all of our table-service restaurant menus.” (7)

Paleo at disney buffet.jpg
Disney also has special designated tables at the buffet. This is the Paleo table- the OPPOSITE of vegetarian. There is a vegetarian table as well though!
Contact Information: N/A

“By offering a complete vegetarian-only menu and the largest vegetarian selection at sea, we are ensuring that all guests can take part in an exceptional dining experience while cruising with Holland America Line,” said Richard meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president of marketing, sales and guest programs. (8)
Contact Information: N/A

“We believe everyone’s special on an MSC cruise ship, which is why we provide tailored menus and solutions to meet everyone’s dining requirements.Vegetarian Menus of delicious specialities, are freshly prepared to the gourmet standards for which MSC is renowned.”  (9)
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One of the best vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes on MSC is the Pizza! Every bite is worth it!
Contact Information:

“On board our ships, we offer breakfast, lunch and dinner menus that feature low-calorie, haute cuisine dishes. Our top-rated chefs also prepare vegetarian entrees (nutrition information provided) and sugar-free and fat-free desserts. Gluten-free, lactose-free, sodium-free, and dairy-free diets can also be catered for and must be requested at least 30 days before your cruise (Kosher 2 months).” (10)
Contact Information: 1-800-774-6237

“Princess is happy to meet your request for low-sodium, low-fat, low-sugar and vegetarian diets. Visit Cruise Personalizer® to indicate your dietary preferences.

You or your travel consultant must advise Princess in writing of any special diet, allergies or medical needs. Requests must be received no later than 35 days prior to departure for cruises to Alaska, Canada/New England, Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama Canal and Coastal Getaways.  For all other cruises, requests must be received no later than 65 days prior to departure.  Once onboard, please check with the Maitre D' to confirm your request.” (11)
Princess cooks all of their food fresh with fresh baked breaks, sauces made from scratch, and homemade ice cream.
Royal Caribbean
Contact Information: N/A

“Vegetarian Meals (including Indian-style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe every day. Guests do not need to make a special request for these meals. ” (12)

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Royal Caribbean’s Coastal Kitchen is great spot for Mediterranean inspired vegetarian options.

Regent Seven Seas
Contact Information:

Regent consistently has vegetarian options in the Compass Rose restaurant. “As the flagship restaurant aboard each of Regent’s ships, the wonderfully expansive Compass Rose serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and features an exceptional variety of European-inspired Continental cuisine, as well as flavorful vegetarian and nutritious Canyon Ranch SpaClub® specialties.”  (13)
Here is a chocolate dessert from Compass Rose because vegetarians like desserts too!
Contact Information: N/A
“For guests who prefer a meatless diet, the new menus now offer a separate section featuring vegetarian starters and entrée options. Several examples of these dishes include Vegetable and Potato Gnocchi Risotto, Spring Vegetable Paella, and Warm Baked Thyme Onion & Gruyere Tart.”  (14)

Contact Information: specialservices@silversea

“Please email in advance of you cruise.
Whether your goal is better health or weight control, delicious CruiseLite dining menu options are offered as part of Silversea’s Wellness Programme to complement the roster of fitness activities and seminars that are the hallmark of prestige travel. A wide assortment of vitamin-booster juice blends, low-fat yoghurt smoothies and energiser drinks are available during breakfast. Vegetarian, vegan and low-carb selections are offered at every meal. And in the evening, alternate entrée options include mouthwatering dishes that are lower in fat, calories, sodium and cholesterol. Most dietary restrictions and other special requests can be accommodated with advance notice.”  (15)

SeaDream Yacht Club
Contact Information: Email the  SeaDream special needs form to

SeaDream will accommodate vegetarians. Fill out the attached special needs form to submit before your cruise.

In addition, “SeaDream Yacht Club introduces the first of its kind at sea, a “Raw Food” menu option. A once-radical form of vegetarianism called the “raw foods” or “living foods” movement is creeping into mainstream. Aboard the luxurious twin mega-yachts, SeaDream I and SeaDream II, gourmet raw food is now offered in addition to the regular menu.”  (16)

Crystal Cruises
Contact Information: N/A

“Lighter Fare options including low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-carb selections and vegetarian dishes are also included on every menu.”  (17)

Viking Cruises
Contact Information: 877-668-4546 or email

“Every meal has vegetarian options on the menu, and our chefs are able to prepare low-salt or gluten-free cuisine. Guests requiring special diets such as diabetic or low-cholesterol meals must alert Viking Cruises one month prior to departure and inform the Maitre d’ when on board. The chefs will make reasonable efforts to accommodate these requests.”  (18)

Click on the “recipes” link to get the recipe for this gorgeous Autumn Panzanella Salad!
Azamara Cruises
Contact Information: Form to email to

“Guests must notify us of any dietary requirements at time of booking. If you have any special dietary needs, Azamara Club Cruises can accommodate the following special dietary needs onboard: food allergies, gluten free, vegetarian, diabetic, low-fat, low-sodium, and low-cholesterol. Other special diets such as Kosher and lactose-free meals may be available upon advanced request.”  (19)
Oceania Cruises
Contact Information: 305-514-2300

Oceania provides, “Vegetarian, Kosher and special diets upon request.” (20)

Paul Gauguin
Contact Information: 800-848-6172

“Well being and vegetarian selections are available on both ships.” (21)
Hapag Lloyd
Contact Information:

“If you suffer from allergies or have special dietary requirements, please let us know in advance so that we can pass this information onto the relevant people.”  (22)

Contact Information: N/A

“Special meals are available including low-cholesterol, vegetarian, low/no sodium and fat-free meals, as well as sugar-free and fat-free desserts. Kosher meals are not available.”

Star Clippers
Contact Information: or 305-442-0550

“Breakfast and lunch are buffet style with plenty of vegetarian choices at each course. Dinner also has a vegetarian option.

In the personal details form provided at the time of booking note if you are vegan or gluten free. Once onboard the ship the chef will sit down and discuss options.”  (24)

Be sure to enjoy some of the tasty fresh produce available on the Star Clipper!
Uniworld River Cruises
Contact Information: or 800-257-2407

“Kindly inform us in advance if you have specific dietary requests (e.g., low-fat, low-calorie, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegetarian, etc.). We have a “Traveling Lite” menu for guests seeking more health-conscious options, as well as light lunches, vegetarian options, and generous buffets that offer something for everyone. We will do our very best to accommodate your needs given the resources available to us.” (25)
Avalon River Cruises
Contact Information:  N/A
Avalon provides “daily choices of regional recipes, Western dishes, and vegetarian options.” (26)
Contact Information:  N/A

“All meals are skillfully prepared by European chefs and consist of Continental cuisine
made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Breakfast is buffet-style with selections available from the menu as well. Lunch is also buffet-style with salads, soups and a selection of hot buffet items, hot entrees and desserts. Dinner is a multi-course meal with a choice of delicious entrees, including a vegetarian option.” (27)