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March 19, 2012

The Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Review

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Review by Ben Lyons

By Ben Lyons

As the cruise industry has exploded over the last twenty years, so, too, has the size of an average cruise ship. What was considered a megaship a little more than a decade ago has now become a medium sized ship, with 70,000 ton floating hotels now the norm rather than exception. This dramatic growth has brought about numerous changes to the cruise experience, and for many, the newer, supposedly better ships seem to be nothing more than flashy floating resorts.
Happily, there are a few companies that have bucked the trend of the bigger is better rule. At 30,000 tons and carrying only 694 passengers, the Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey of Azamara Club Cruises blend the amenities and positives of a big ship experience, including multiple dining venues, numerous balcony cabins and a spa, with some of the spirit and personalized service found on smaller ships. There aren’t long, bustling lines at the buffet or the gangway, and forget an incessant string of announcements exhorting you to the belly flop contest by the pool. Instead, Azamara focuses on destination rich itineraries to many ports larger ships haven’t yet found or can’t reach. Straddling the line between luxury and mainstream companies, they also offer one of the best deals in the cruise industry. [Read full story]


July 19, 2011

Best Cruise Lines for 10 Types of Cruisers

Best Cruise Lines for 10 Types of Cruisers

By Jason Cochran, dealnews contributor

Just like cars, houses and universities, the cruise deal you choose for your vacation is as much a reflection of your lifestyle and expectations as it is of your budget. Thirty years ago, cruising was more or less a one-size-fits-all proposition, but now, it's a $30 billion-a-year industry within the travel deal industry, with various lines jockeying to command its particular niche.

Experienced cruisers know that the line you choose can define the quality of your holiday. So which one should you pick? Here are 10 considerations a vacationer might have, paired with the line that answers them best.

"I want to feel like I'm in Titanic."
Sinking aside, the grand liner experience is one worth cherishing, and it lives on in just one brand: Cunard Line, which has been sailing since the 1830s. In the summer, it makes regular five-day runs between New York City and England aboard the Queen Mary 2, which was designed and constructed just for the task. Its other two ships usually sail farther afield than the North Atlantic, going as far as Australia, but all three strive to offer elevated, dignified diversions including lectures by university professors, the largest libraries at sea, and always a smattering of black-tie-only evenings. All of that means it tends to attract an older, educated, more experienced crowd that can appreciate the trappings that Cunard's long lineage provides.

"I want to see Europe."
Most of the major lines (including Princess, and Disney) and Royal Caribbean with deals like this 10-night 2-for-1) make summer forays into Europe, but my advice is to stick with ships that are on the smaller side. Why? Europe's medieval back streets were not meant to handle the simultaneous disgorgement of thousands of American tourists, so smaller ships will yield more copacetic day trips. Smaller ships can also venture to smaller ports, which Europe has plenty of. While seeing the great coastal cities of Europe in six-hour shifts aboard a traveling hotel will never be ideal, Costa Cruises has generally modest-sized ships and it has been a player in the region for decades. It's also mainstream enough to please Americans who are used to a few bells and whistles on their vessels, but not so rarefied that it's daunting. For a similar, sensibly-sized experience in Asia, there's Star Cruises.

"I wanna party!"
Belly up to the casino bar on a Carnival ship, my friend. Most of the vessels in the Carnival fleet, while jammed with opportunities to drink and eat yourself into a stupor, are fairly indistinguishable from each other thanks to being dominated by long-time designer Joe Farcus. Count on twinkly signage, neon tubing, lots of brass and faux pink marble, piles of crowd pleasing grub in restaurants with unchallenging names such as Grand Buffet, Chic, and Taste of Nations. Each ship comes equipped with a signature water slide (its ships being family-targeted, kids are well served with arcades and activities), and the cabins are a notch more spacious than those of most of its competitors, but it's still not a line that bears snobs comfortably. Because of its mass-market predictability, Carnival is the Burger King of the seas, but there's no judgment in that: Sometimes you just want a Whopper. [Full story]

May 22, 2009

Cut the Cost of Your Next Cruise

Cut-costs-on-cruise Cruise-related expenses have the potential to bust your budget, from the flight to your embarkation point to drinks on the cruise to shore excursions. Add-on expenses can equal or exceed the cost of your cruise if you're not careful.

To keep your spending under control, follow these tips:

1. Book your own flight
Most cruises offer a complete package including airfare. While packages offers the convenience of not worry about how to get from the airport to the cruise ship, it comes at a cost. Cruise lines buy airfare in bulk from the airlines a year in advance, so the airfare price never fluctuates. You’re a most likely able to find better deals.

2. Look at nearby ports
The days when cruise ships only sailed from Florida and California are long over. Other embarkation points include Galveston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. Flights to those and other less well-known ports may be cheaper than other more well-known ports such as Fort Lauderdale, San Diego and Vancouver.

3. Check up on shore excursions
But by doing some homework before you leave, you can figure out exactly what you want to do when you're in port and book your own shore excursions for considerably less by cutting out the middleman — the cruise line.

More Tips to Cut Cruise Costs.

May 08, 2009

Insider Tips for Booking Your Next Cruise

Carnival_Triumph_Cruise_Ship From big ships to little, pricey to over-the-top posh, here is the ultimate, inside ship seeker advice to help you choose the best stateroom to fit your needs.

  1. Each cruise line has its own theme, charm and character. Find one that most closely matches your personality.
  2. When choosing a cruise line, be sure to consider the on-board ambiance of the vessel. What type of guest does the cruise line cater to? Primarily families? The mature traveler? An eclectic international clientele? There’s something for everyone. Some cruise lines’ on-board activities are simpler because their guests require less entertainment, or they focus on destinations. Others add roller rinks, rock-climbing walls, and wave pools to appeal to a broader clientele or to entertain guests during several days at sea.
  3. The size of the vessel often determines the itinerary. If you want to visit unique, hard-to-visit ports of call, look for one of the small-ship cruise lines. Larger ships won’t be able to dock – let alone get to – those out-of-the-way places.
  4. The longer the cruise, the fewer children there are on board and the more exotic the itinerary (typically.) The cruising trend is toward the longer “grand voyage” of two, three, even four months.
  5. There is a cruise for every budget. Many say that it’s worth the extra money to book an ocean-view cabin at minimum. Highly recommended, however, is a private veranda or suite for additional space and amenities, which translates to increased comfort.

Click here for more cruise tips from RTM.

March 31, 2009

Preventing Motion Sickness on a Cruise

Motion Sickness Do you ever feel queasy when riding in a car, plane or boat? If you do and if you experience the initial symptoms of motion sickness including drowsiness, fatigue and stomach queasiness, try these suggestions:

Move to a stable location. If you're on a ship or plane, move to the center where it tends to be more stable.

Eat lightly and avoid alcohol. Pay attention to what you eat — you may find some foods soothing and others may bring on nausea.

Ask your doctor for medication. There are many medications that can effectively prevent or treat nausea and vomiting.

If all else fails, grab a motion sickness bag and hope for the best!

Click here for more advice on RTM to make sure your next cruise is nothing but smooth sailing.