Pre-cruise hotels and how to find them

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Finding a hotel for your pre-cruise stay can be confusing depending on the port you’ll be sailing out of. More popular ports will naturally have more options, whereas smaller, less popular cruise ports may have a very limited number of hotels offering cruise packages, and even much higher prices for them.

What you may not know is that it is possible to find the perfect hotel for your night before, even if they don’t necessarily offer a special package. All you have to do is know what you want, and do a little research!

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When I’m shopping for a hotel before my cruise I always go to that hotel’s official website and put my dates in to see the rates. I click on “packages” if there are any. Many times I find that the “Park and Stay” package is more affordable than the “Cruise Package”. Why you may ask? The park and stay package usually offers parking for seven nights with no additional charge, whereas the cruise pkg usually offers parking for seven nights along with a shuttle for one, maybe two, to the cruise port the next morning. I personally use Uber or Lyft to get to the port the morning of the cruise because I want to arrive early, and from my many past experiences I have found that shuttles usually don’t start until 10am, maybe later.

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If you opt for a cruise package that includes a shuttle to the port make sure to check the details! Many packages only give you one “free” ride, meaning if there are four people in your room then you’ll have to pay the surcharge for each additional person, which is usually anywhere from $10-20. Some cruise pkgs even charge each person for the ride, which doesn’t seem right as the hotel is selling it as a pre-cruise package, yet all you are really getting is the ability to leave your car at the hotel while you’re cruising.

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Because many people fly in for their cruise vacation they are just looking for a hotel what includes a transfer to and from the airport to the hotel, and to the port in the morning. It is quite common to find these types of cruise packages, and this is where you’ll have to be extra careful if you’re not needing that type of situation. Like I mentioned above, if you’re traveling with a family of four, driving your own car, and plan to take an Uber to the port, then you don’t want to pay extra for a cruise package that may not even include parking while you’re gone, a shuttle for everyone in your party, and a shuttle to and from the airport. You want the right package for you, and for the best deal!

Do it on your own! Sometimes you’ll be able to arrange a hotel stay, parking for your car at the hotel, and a ride to the port and back for much, much less than a package! Last year I found a hotel I liked near the airport in Miami. Their website did not advertise any pre-cruise packages, so I planned on driving myself to the port and paying for parking there. The hotel stay was $180.00. Parking at the cruise port would have been $154.00 ($22 per day x 7 days). That comes to a total of $334.00. When I checked in I asked if I could leave my car there while I was on the cruise and was told that I could, and parking was $5 a day. Five dollars a day!! Needless to say I left my car there, took a Lyft to the port for my week long cruise, then took a lyft back to the hotel to pick up my car after the cruise was over, all for $255.00. I saved $80 and you know what that means…more money to spend on my cruise!

The bottom line is this: Do your research and find the package that best suits your needs. Compare prices on doing it on your own. How much is parking at the hotel if you don’t get the pre-cruise package? How much is the shuttle to the port offered by the hotel? How much would an Uber or Lyft be to and from the port? If the package includes breakfast, but that makes it higher in cost than doing it on your own, do you need breakfast or can you wait and eat when you get on the ship?

There are many factors that go into planning and booking a pre-cruise stay, it’s not just cut and dry. If you want to save money and have the most relaxing vacation possible, do your research, plan ahead, and make sure to call the hotel directly to inquire about parking your car while you’re gone, they may offer you a super price that could save you from having to get a special package. Remember, make sure to look at the park and stay options too, and have fun!

Sea Cruisers

Amy

 

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2019 Cruise Wish List

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Cruise wish list … we should all have one right? I have so many cruises and destinations that I hope to one day experience, and I’m going to list them below! I’m not sure if any of them will happen in 2019, but I sure hope so!

  • Costa Cruise Line: I’ve been on one Costa ship in my life and it was absolutely amazing! I really, really want to cruise with Costa again, and my dream cruise would be on the Costa Deloziosa out of Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Florida. Each year a Costa cruise ship makes a Florida port it’s home for the Winter for  night cruises visiting ports like Montego Bay, Roatan, and Grand Turk. Costa is a European cruise operator with great food, entertainment, and beautifully designed ships!
  • Disney Cruise Line: DCL is great, and I’ve sailed on the Disney Magic before and loved it! My Disney dream cruise? Halloween on the High Seas!! Each year Disney transforms it’s ships to celebrate one of my favorite times of the year, Halloween! Ships sail from Port Canaveral, San Diego, and New York for some sun and fun!
  • Alaska: I grew up in Alaska and I want to visit again on a cruise ship! For an Alaskan itinerary I would prefer to travel out of Seattle on a small to mid-size ship, preferably on Holland America or Princess.
  • Holland America: Did you know the first cruise I ever took was HAL? My first three cruises actually! I sailed on the Zuiderdam and the Zaandam in 2003, then the Maasdam in 2005 for a 10 night exotic Caribbean cruise with my mom. I haven’t cruised with them since so I am really looking forward to trying them out again!
  • Transatlantic: Yes I want to do a transatlantic cruise, on any cruise line, preferably with a balcony cabin so I have views for the long journey across the sea. Once I’m overseas I’d love to continue on with my journey by land and other ships!
  • Panama Canal: This is a cruise I have been wanting to do since 2003! I want to enjoy a 10+ night cruise that crosses the Panama Canal and visits new and exciting ports! Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, and Disney would all be good options.
  • Asia: Oh the dream! I would love to cruise out of Tokyo to ports in Japan and South Korea! Any cruise line would do, and any cabin, I just want to go!
  • Norway: Disney? I wish! I want to cruise the Norwegian Fjords and I’ll do it on any ship! Maybe leave from Southhampton England for a 12 night cruise to Andalsnes, Tromso, Alta, and Stavanger Norway, then return to London for a land stay? Sold!
  • Viking River Cruises: Imagine cruising the Rhine or Danube, or the waters of Egypt or Russia on a luxury river cruise vessel!! Dream come true!

These are just my major dreams, and a girl can dream can’t she? I hope to one day be able to share these amazing cruises with you through my cruise and travel vlogs on YouTube. I have many ships and cruise lines I’d love to try out, and I’m open to any destination out there. We’ll see where time leads us, and in the meantime you should make a cruise with list too!

Happy New Year everyone, I wish you lots of amazing adventures in 2019!

Remember, I am a travel agent and I’d love to help you book that special cruise or land vacation for no charge!

~ Amy

readytocruise@yahoo.com

Royal Caribbean Christmas Cruise

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I had always wanted to know what a Christmas cruise was like so I booked a holiday cruise on the Independence of the Seas!

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What caught my attention with this cruise line was their advertising. “Deck the Holidays” was their Christmas celebration that runs during the entire month of December, where they decorate their ships for Christmas, have a tree lighting ceremony, offer Christmas entertainment (including holiday trivia, scavenger hunts, and caroling), and even have Santa available for photos from the ship’s photographers!

Keep in mind a lot of cruise lines do a lot of things for the holidays, and some do more than others. I would say the most festive line to cruise with would be Disney Cruise Line, although I haven’t cruised with DCL for a holiday yet, their Halloween cruise is on my wish list.

Our cruise left Port Everglades / Fort Lauderdale Florida on December 20th and returned on Christmas Eve. We were very excited to see all the holiday decorations and events that Royal Caribbean had planned, as this was out first Christmas cruise. We have sailed with Norwegian during the month of December, which was decorated with trees and garland, but that was about it as far as holiday festivities go.

During our cruise on the Independence of the Seas we saw many festive things to do, and lots and lots of holiday spirit!! In the Windjammer, which is the buffet on deck 11 aft, there were gingerbread houses set up on tables to welcome you into the buffet with the smells of sugar and spices. Pretty much everywhere I looked I’d see a crew member with a Santa hat on, which really helped it feel like Christmas on the ship.

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Another thing I noticed was that the guests were decked out in their holiday best too! There was one group that wore themed blanket sleepers to The Quest game show one night. So fun!!

If you’re going on a holiday cruise make sure to bring your ugly sweaters, hats, and festive shirts because a lot of people wore them every day and it was fun to see! I personally didn’t bring any holiday themed clothing but wish I had! I had no idea that the guests and the crew would be so festive, Christmas spirit was definitely high!

There wasn’t any special holiday food or buffets on the Independence, but some ships do offer a holiday feast during the Bottomless Galley Brunch, and even at select upcharge restaurants.

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I really loved that fact that I could enjoy a holiday cruise, yet be home for Christmas. Arriving back in Florida on Christmas Eve was perfect. You know what they say, there’s no place like home for the holidays (well, at least for me). If you’re considering a holiday cruise I say go for it!! If you’re not sure about being on the cruise on Christmas Day, do what I did and give it a try sometime during December. On Royal Caribbean the festivities last all month long!!

~ Amy

 

Cayman Turtle Center – Grand Cayman Excursion

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We recently booked a last minute cruise on the Carnival Paradise cruise ship with a stop in Grand Cayman and decided to do something that I knew was quite popular, and highly recommended: Cayman Turtle Center.

Usually I research and plan before I go, but this time I was short on time as well as options as I’ve been to the Cayman Islands many times and have done lots of things like swimming with the sting rays at Stingray City, shopping, and swimming at the beach.

All I knew of the turtle farm was just that you could see and touch green sea turtles, and that I could get there by local public bus on my own, which worked for me. It was an affordable and fun shore excursion choice!

I purchased my tickets on the Cayman Turtle Center’s website and received a 20% discount for purchasing in advance (making the cost of admission for the turtle farm only $18pp). Now you have two options when visiting the center, viewing and holding sea turtles and/or swimming in their pool, playing in their water park, and seeing even more animals. We went with the turtle package only since we were short on time and our main interest was seeing the turtles.

The turtle farm is about a fifteen minute public bus ride from the cruise dock which you tender to shore in from your cruise ship. The cost of the local bus is $2.50pp each way and it’s fairly easy to catch a bus coming or going any time during the day, although it can be time consuming depending on how many stops the driver makes to drop off and pick up passengers.

Once we arrived at the center we purchased a large bag of turtle food for $5.00 from a vendor inside the park. She informed us it was specially formulated, nutritious food for the turtles.

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We had the chance to feed the giant sea turtles which was wonderful. They are gorgeous animals and watching them swim and eat and make noises was a pleasure I will never forget!

After that we headed to the touch tanks to actually hold turtles!! They were so cute and it was just a wonderful experience holding them and taking our photos with them. They take a photo for you and charge $25 if you’d like to purchase it, but directly after they take the photo you are allowed to take photos on your own for no charge.

You can hold as many turtles as many times as you like, along with the chance to actually get into a small pool with baby turtles if you’re prepared (swimsuit or clothes you don’t mind getting wet)!

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After we spent time with the turtles our mood changed from excited to contemplative.

Were these animals being treated humanely? Was it okay for them to be held every day by all the people visiting? Did they like it, were they scared? Did they breed these turtles to eat as it’s a local traditional dish? Were they really rescuing them and breeding them to put back into the wild or were they eating them? Were we supporting something that we wouldn’t want to support? Questions to think about, and in the meantime feel guilty about because we were there and we didn’t know. If it’s an attraction that involves live animals I’m sure you’ll find yourself  wondering if they are being treated right.

We continued on our tour to the conservation center and learned about turtles, and how many they had released into the wild since their opening. We loved seeing the turtles and learning about them, but we left with a growing sense of doubt about the center itself, and the turtles in captivity.

Once we returned to the ship we used our internet to research the center. Yes I know we should have done that before we visited, but like I mentioned earlier we booked our cruise and bought our tickets very last minute and all we knew was that the turtle center was there, we hadn’t done it yet, and it was a popular and highly recommended attraction on the island.

Upon researching the Cayman Turtle Center we found many articles, including this one from National Geographic which confirmed our fears.

I have to say knowing this beforehand we would not have visited, which honestly did make us feel like crap for a while. I had to think of it as a positive experience since we had done it. We got to see and hold green sea turtles, which is a rare opportunity and is something on many people’s bucket lists. Should you go? Well, that’s up to the individual. Would we have gone if we had known then what we know now? No. I try to live life with no regrets therefore I will not regret going and I will take that day and remember the beauty of the majestic sea turtles forever. If I feel badly upon thinking of that day I will remember the turtles and be happy I got to see them and then remember this: do your research when traveling and visiting places you’ve never been, especially if animals are involved. I learn from my mistakes and although I travel a lot I am still learning and still growing.

If you’d like to visit all I ask is that you research before you go so you don’t feel badly about your choice once you visit. Vacations and memories are supposed to be good ones and everyone should be happy! If you decide to go it’s okay! It’s your choice and the center is a very popular attraction, just be educated before making that decision.

~ Amy

 

 

5 Must Do Things in New Orleans

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After our visit to New Orleans I just can’t help to share some travel tips with you! It was our first visit in over twenty years, and boy it was an experience!

We only had a few days to see as much as we could so I decided on the following things to truly get a “feel” for the city and it’s history.

I know a lot of people immediately think of how smelly the city is (the most common comment I get when I mention NOLA is “it smells like pee”), and it does, but it’s okay, it’s part of the experience! (The cup is half full, not half empty right?)

I also hear how crazy it is … and after three days in the city I agree! We definitely had our share of crazy experiences while in town, but it’s “the vibe” you know what I mean? That’s one of the things I liked about it! It was always new, always hopping, and always full of surprises!

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1. Go to Cafe du Monde! I know, you probably already have it on your to-do list, but try to go more than once if you can! You will definitely find yourself thinking about those hot fresh beignets and milky chickory coffee for quite some time after you get home, so enjoy it while you can!

TIPS: Bring cash, Cafe du Monde does not except credit cards, (there is an ATM nearby). Also check out their souvenirs, they’re very affordable and fun to use back home. This awesome mug was only a few dollars more than a cup of coffee served in one of their mugs!

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2. Go to a VooDoo museum and/or do a ghost tour in the French Quarter! I know, I know, most major cities offer ghost tours, but this is New Orleans! It’s a great way to learn the truth about the Voodoo religion. Most of us have seen it portrayed as something evil on TV, but it’s actually not! What is Voodoo you ask? This article gives you a good idea, and visiting a museum in the Big Easy will really give you an insight into the culture of the religion, and the people of New Orleans.

We went to the New Orleans Historic VooDoo Museum (there are a lot of choices, so check them all out before deciding on one). It didn’t take much time or money to visit, and was very interesting and really gave us the feel of the history of NOLA.

TIP: Bring a little offering for an altar in the museum, I wish I had!!

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3. National World War II History Museum! Whether you’re a history buff or not, this place is a must see attraction. You need to allow a full day to see it in it’s entirety, it’s huge!

It is America’s National World War Two museum, is rated TripAdvisor’s #1 top rated attraction in New Orleans, and #2 museum in the world! Pretty cool huh?

Tip: Buy a second day pass for only $7.00, that’s a huge savings as the one day tickets are $28. Military and students get a discount too, so check it out and order your tickets online in advance.

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4. Walk around the French Quarter at night! That’s right, it’s an experience you just can’t miss, a visit to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without it!

Did you know it always feels like Mardi Gras in the French Quarter? You can buy beads (even catch beads sometimes), and party in the streets late into the night. Not into partying in the streets? It’s  okay, just being there and hearing the music, seeing the people, and standing on Bourbon street is an experience in itself!

TIP: Uber to the French Quarter. Parking is outrageous and hard to find!

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5. Get a Hurricane from Pat O’Briens! The Hurricane cocktail originated at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans in 1940. Due to a shortage of Bourbon and Scotch during that time suppliers pretty much made bar owners buy multiple cases of Rum in order to purchase one case of Scotch or Bourbon.

I know that Rum is popular today, but in 1940 the most popular drinks were made using Whiskey. As you can imagine, storerooms started to get full really fast with all the rum they had to order to get their one case of Whiskey. This led to bar owners having to get more creative, and inventing drinks like the Hurricane (which is delicious!).

TIP: Buy a souvenir glass! You can’t carry it in the streets but don’t worry, if you want your drink to go (like I did), then they’ll box a glass up for you (and even bag it) to take home and send you on your way with a plastic cup.

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I’d love to hear your comments on this article. Feel free to share your tips, experiences, and even questions here in the comments section!

Thanks for joining me today, talk to you soon!

~Amy

 

7 Tips on How To Take More Cruises

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With over 30 cruises under my belt since 2014 I really want to share 7 of my personal tips on how to take more cruises – so you can take more cruise vacations too if you follow these guidelines!

  1. Book in Advance! Many times the farther out you book the cheaper the fare! This is especially true for newly announced cruise ships, including cruise ships that haven’t even been built yet! Once a ship is announced and the booking officially opens, book! You’ll find the best deals on fare and even special free perks!
  2. Watch for Reduced Deposits! I just love it when cruise lines have sales don’t you? You may not think of a reduced deposit as a sale but to me it’s one of the best types of sales! If you are a family of four for example, you’d have to put down about $1000.00 just to book your cabin … that’s a big chunk of money that will be tied up for quite some time. If you take advantage of reduced cruise deposits then you’ll have  more money free to book more cruises (with reduced deposits!). NOTE: Make sure to note whether the deposit is refundable or not!
  3. Make Regular Payments! You have to make setting aside and paying on your cruise a priority. I like to take the amount owed and divide it by the months I have to pay then make monthly, or even weekly payments. Consider it a layaway … and when the layaway is paid off you will have a relaxing vacation waiting for you!
  4. Watch for Cruise Deals and Freebies! Many cruise lines will offer free amenities like all you can drink, free specialty dining, free wi-fi, on board credit, no gratuities, paid port fees and taxes, free or reduced cost third and fourth guests, etc. Watch for those deals and take advantage when you see them!!
  5. Cruise With Friends! Often you’ll find the more people you have in your cabin, the cheaper it gets! Many cruise lines offer free or reduced fares for the third and fourth guests in the cabin – no matter their age!
  6. Compare! There are many cruise ships and cruise lines sailing from ports around the world visiting similar places. Sometimes the ship next door can be hundreds of dollars cheaper. Also compare prices in different ports. The ship sailing closest to home may not be the best deal! Sometimes you can find fares in popular ports like Miami Florida for less than you’d find it in your home port, even with airfare added in!
  7. Cut Down on your Spending at Home! Make a list of what you spend when you spend it. Look how much you’re spending on coffee every day, or eating out, or going out … it adds up! If you cut down on how much money you spend at home you can save that money and maybe even pay for a cruise with it! Many people not only cut back on the amount they spend on extra things but they try and save money by couponing, or shopping during sales at the grocery store, then putting the money they’ve saved into their cruise trip fund!

Bonus Tip: Watch for last minute cruise deals and even consider setting up a savings just for last minute cruise deals!

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I’m a travel agent and I’d love to help you with your perfect cruise vacation! I’m great at finding deals and knowledgeable about all the major cruise lines and the best time to travel. Email me at seacruisersvlogs@yahoo.com and watch my tips on how to take more cruises.

~ Amy

What to Bring on Cruise Port Days

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What to bring on cruise port days … that’s the big question! Well I’m going to give you my cruise tips on what you should pack on “dry” port days and “wet” port days.

You may have your day in port all planned out, or you may not. If you know you’ll be going to the beach, or to a cenote, or somewhere that involves water make sure to bring the items below!

• Tote bag or backpack (waterproof bags work well too!)

• Waterproof Sunblock that you know works well! Keep in mind if you’re doing an excursion on a boat you’ll need lotion not spray as they don’t usually allow the spray type sunblock on the boat.

• Dry clothing

• Towels (your own towels or towels from the ship, but if you use ship towels don’t lose them or they’ll charge you for them!)

• Hairbrush

• Sunglasses

• Hat (floppy and/or visor)

• Snorkeling equipment

• Cash

• Credit Card(s)

• Shipboard card

• ID or Driver’s License

• Waterproof housing for your phone and/or camera

• Battery pack or power bank for your phone

• Extra camera batteries/ SD card

• Medication you may need for the day (prescription, anti-diarrheal, tums, tylenol, advil)

• SPF Lipbalm

• Bug spray

• Snacks (prepackaged and sealed items like energy bars)

• Water (at least one bottle to do you until you get to your destination)

• Water shoes or sandals

• Extra contacts and eye drops for dry eyes

Of course you can bring more but remember, you have to carry this bag all day long and the walk to and from the cruise ship can be a long one.

Check out my video going over what to bring on port days and make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more cruising tips, cruise vlogs, and videos weekly!