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February 02, 2011

Highlights of a Disney Dream Family Cruise Vacation

By Guest Blogger

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Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay (Kara Williams)

As one of the lucky media types invited to preview the brand-new Disney Dream a couple weeks ago for its Inaugural Christening Cruise, I was frankly bowled over by this 4,000-passenger ship. Forty percent bigger—and two decks taller—than its sister ships the Wonder and the Magic, the Disney Dream is chock full of amenities and services that delight families, from the live musical productions in the 1,340-seat Walt Disney Theatre to incredibly tricked-out kids' clubs to its crowning glory: the AquaDuck water coaster, a first in the cruise industry.

That said, a Disney Dream Bahamian cruise may not be ideal for all families. With a call at Disney's private island Castaway Cay, guests step off the ship to enjoy a ton of gorgeous white-sand beach, but not one iota of authentic Bahamian culture. What you give up in genuine Caribbean experiences, however, you gain tenfold of all things Disney—from the show tunes piped into the public spaces to the "Hidden Mickeys" (subtle Mickey head-and-ears symbols) woven into the shower curtains to the Donald Duck, Pluto, and princess characters you'll see all over the ship, all day long, meeting and greeting their fans.

Continue reading "Highlights of a Disney Dream Family Cruise Vacation" »

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Related Topics: Cruises · Disney Vacation · Family Vacation

October 07, 2009

USA Today and Royal Caribbean Offer the Chance to Become a Cruise Reporter

The new Oasis of the Seas on its sea trial in September 2009 (courtesy, Royal Caribbean International)

This Friday is the last day to enter the "Reporter at Sea" contest, held by USA Today and Royal Caribbean. The grand-prize winner will get three nights for two on the inaugural cruise of Oasis of the Seas (including round-trip airfare to the port of departure) and the esteemed role of Special Field Correspondent, where you'll receive behind-the-scenes access to file reports for USA Today's Cruise Log.

Aspiring reporters can enter by submitting a 45-second video touting their reporting skills and making the case for why they're the ideal reporter. A panel of judges will then choose the top ten finalists, whose videos will be posted online, where users will vote for the winner.

The journalist search is also taking place in Canada, Germany, Mexico, and the UK—with one winner from each country.

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Related Topics: Cruises · Free Stuff

July 09, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Cruises

By Karen Chen

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A cruise ship in Ketchikan, Alaska (Brian Adams/courtesy, Alaska Travel Industry Association)

My family recently went on a cruise to Alaska, and if you're a traveler who likes to experience the most you can out of where you're traveling, you'll understand why "cruising Alaska" might sound like a sellout. Alaska is about wilderness, nature, and unfathomable expanses of mountains and ice fields and forests—man versus wild. I would think it's best experienced from on the ground, rather than by sailing past its shores. So it felt ironic to be confined to a boat—or more accurately, a resort-turned-water-vessel—when I probably should have been trekking a lung-busting trail or avoiding bears in the mountains somewhere.  Instead, I ate myself silly, watched movies, and bowled on a boat (cue joke souvenir T-shirt reading, "I went to Alaska and all I got was five extra pounds"). 

But I don't want to make cruises sound horrible.  Even though I don't think I'll be signing up for another cruise for a while, there are many great things about cruising.  Millions of people do it every year, and many are repeat customers.  Whether or not it's a good method of travel for you depends on where you're going, who you're going with, what type of traveler you are, and what you want to get out of your vacation.  Below are some things to consider about cruising before you book your first trip.

Continue reading "The Pros and Cons of Cruises" »

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Related Topics: All Inclusive Vacation · Cruises · Dispatches from the Road · Travel Tips

January 29, 2008

SpongeBob Grabs Headlines Again: New Nick-Themed Cruise Announced

By awayblog

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Having stamped its slime-infused, orange Day-Glo madness on Orlando's hugely popular (and well-reviewed) Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn, the network behind such popular cartoons as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer has set its sights on the high seas. Yesterday, Nickelodeon and Royal Caribbean International announced a Nick-themed family cruise aboard the Freedom of the Seas this summer. The seven-day cruise will leave Miami on August 10 and include ports of call in Cozumel, Mexico, George Town, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. In addition to the usual family-focused fun aboard the massive, 4,000-passenger Freedom of the Seas (think climbing walls, ice-skating rink, water park, FlowRider surf simulator), those Nick-loving wee 'uns can expect visits from Dora and SpongeBob, game shows with the requisite buckets of slime, and on-deck cartoons and movies. Tickets are on sale now, with prices starting at $3,999 for a family of four; visit for more. Our recommendation to parents for a pre-trip investment? Noise-cancelling headphones.

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Related Topics: Cruises · Family Vacation

January 11, 2008

Skip the Flight on Your Next Caribbean Cruise

Known for its "Freestyle Cruising" option, which allows guests (and especially children) the flexibility of having no fixed dining times or formal dress codes, Norwegian Cruise Line now has its sights set on New York. Four of their fleet will leave from New York this winter, offering families a chance to go on a Caribbean cruise without having to spend money and time flying down to Fort Lauderdale or Miami. Ships embarking from New York include the fleet's newest offering, the 2,400-passenger Norwegian Gem. From mid-February to mid-April, the Gem will sail on weeklong excursions from New York to Florida and the Bahamas before spending the summer in Europe. Ports of call for the ship's 11-day Caribbean voyage include St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbados, and Tortola. Back on the boat after your day in the tropics, you'll be happy to know that the Gem has ten dining options, large suites, a four-lane bowling alley, a rock-climbing wall, and Nintendo Wii in the lounges.

Read's "Family Cruising" for the scoop on the top five cruise lines for families.

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Related Topics: Cruises · Family Vacation

December 06, 2007

Consider Alaska For Your First Family Cruise

I know it's hard to think of Alaska with the chill of winter in the air, but this is the best time to reserve a berth for next summer's voyages. Last August, my family and I took our first cruise together as an extended family into Alaska's storied Inside Passage. We skipped the Disney cruises when the children were younger, not having the patience to deal with hundreds of toddlers in a confined space. I wanted a real cruise, one that would appeal to my nine-year-old daughter and to my 77-year-old father. Alaska and the weeklong jaunt aboard Holland America's Oosterdam fit the bill handsomely.

We enjoyed two days at sea, traveling close to 900 nautical miles from Seattle to Juneau. Binoculars in hand, we would stroll the outside promenade in the early morning hours to spot porpoises and some of the humpback whales that make their way to the Inside Passage each summer from Hawaii. Yet, to my landlubber wife, arguably the best part of the trip is that you're sheltered on both sides of the Inside Passage by islands, so there were no powerful swells or any signs of seasickness.

Unlike a Mediterranean cruise, where you have the futile task of trying to see Barcelona or Rome in a day, six hours is the perfect amount of time to see Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, the main Alaskan ports on the journey. New shore excursions await Alaska passengers, as cruise lines add more culture, adventure, and history to their tour programs in 2008. The exciting options include ziplining through old growth forest and heli-hiking, where you exit the chopper and walk through terrain that's only been seen by bears. There's also the perennial Alaskan favorite, glacier flightseeing tours to the Mendenhall Glacier or Misty Fjords National Monument.

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Related Topics: Cruises · Family Vacation

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