Author Archives: David Kriso

About David Kriso

David Kriso has been a travel writer since August 2011. He is a contributing writer for both of his hometown's newspapers, The Gazette, and The Observer. His articles focus on cruise and railroad travel. David is also published online at ProwsEdge.com, a cruise magazine based in Vancouver, Canada and at Amtrak's story site, Whistlestop.Amtrak.com. David also writes for the publication Examiner.com. On Examiner.com, he writes about cruise and rail travel. David is a long-time train traveler, avid cruiser, and a Disney traveler since age 4.

Lost treasures: The 3 well-missed cruise ship events

Every cruise vacation comes with forever cherished memories. Here, travel writer David Kriso enjoys his time on the flow rider on board the Oasis of The Seas.

No one can say that cruising is no fun. Everyone who comes home from their cruise vacation always have plenty to share. They brag about who stuffed themselves, who won the jackpot in bingo, who won big in the casino, and who spent the most in duty-free shopping. The list goes on and on. In the years past, things have changed. Cruise ships have evolved. New on board experiences have been added. Unfortunately, there are some on board experiences which have long disappeared. It’s these kinds of events which longtime cruisers remember to this very day. Many avid cruisers speak highly of them, and reminisce about the level of excitement drawn by them. Here’s the top three missed cruise ship events. They’re gone, but not forgotten.

Paired with the belly-flop competition, the Mr. Sexy Legs competition was a favorite poolside event for all ladies on board.

3. Mr. Sexy Legs Competition: Everyone’s heard the expression, “What happens on board, stays on board!”. There are so many fun poolside events held on board cruise ships. There’s bar games, swimming pool volleyball tournaments, and the belly-flop competition. The Mr. Sexy Legs competition is the one event which many young cruisers miss very much. The Mr. Sexy Legs competition was one of the most anticipated events on board ship. It was the second most favorite to the belly-flop competition. It was one competition which signaled to all ladies on board to get their cameras rolling. How did the competition go? Eight contestants danced before a panel of female judges (who are guests). They were allowed to make body contact, make crazy gestures, and so on. There was never any nudity. Third place was awarded to Mr. Chicken Legs. Second place was awarded to Mr. Hairy Legs. Then, there was first place-self-explanatory. To all men on board, anyone being crowned Mr. Sexy Legs was a happening. Not long ago, the event was done away with. Well, so we think! On most cruise lines, it’s been combined with “The World’s Sexiest Man” competition. If anyone’s ever participated in this competition, they should without-a-doubt savor the moment.

Without the cruise director and the staff, no cruise vacation would be possible. Here, the cruise staff performs the legendary show, “Fountains”.

2. Fountains: On every cruise, guests love a good show. Who doesn’t? There are headliner shows, special guest comedians, and Broadway musicals. There was one show which guests got a huge laugh out of. It was the show that starred the cruise director and his/her staff. It was called “Fountains”. How did “Fountains” go? “Fountains” would to start out very quiet, with the music starting. Depending which cruise line “Fountains” was featured on, the stage effects were always unpredictable, and gave the show that guessing feeling. Then, the performers processed on to the stage, wearing togas and laurel wreathes. Each performer carried a metal jug of water. Often times, the show was set to the music of Enya. How appropriate, no?

In “Fountains”, there was never enough anticipation. The guests laughed non-stop.

In “Fountains” the action would continue to build. The audience’s anticipation also began to build. Each of the performers would start drinking the water and filling up their mouths. Like fountains, they started squirting each other and the cruise director. Each and every time, the performers would get into different formations on stage. Just like those fancy fountains in a city park, they drank more water and squirted each other on cue. It was too funny. No one knew who was going to squirt who next, and how, and in what manner? “Fountains” was like a fountain in a European city impersonated by circus clowns. This iconic show sadly disappeared from the cruise ship stage. It wasn’t disliked by anyone. Unfortunately, it was discontinued for sanitary reasons. If anyone has seen this show before, let the memory live on forever.

Surrounded by so much mouth-watering food at all angles, the midnight buffet was the holiest of events on board.

1. The midnight buffet: Everyone has been on a cruise and heard the funny question, “What time is the midnight buffet”? That question still lives on to this day. The midnight buffet was once the most anticipated event on any cruise ship. Everyone looked forward to it. Dinner in the main dining room was never enough. The midnight buffet was looked to by guests as being the holiest of holidays on board. There were dazzling ice sculptures, handcrafted fruit platters, all-you-can-eat shrimp, all-you-can-eat crab legs, all-you-can-eat cold cuts, all-you-can-eat grilled meats, and best of all…all-you-can-eat dessert. One can imagine how much food anyone can consume in one night. One can imagine why they would hold a belly-flop competition on board. Unfortunately, the midnight buffet was done away with. Any food not consumed (meat, fruits, vegetables, etc), had to be disposed of. Nothing is saved on board a cruise ship. If a major buffet event is held, it would be some major event such as a wedding or a ship’s inaugural celebration. If anyone’s ever been to the midnight buffet before, he/she should savor the memory, and the mouth-watering aftertaste. Long live the taste buds!

Despite the popularity of the “Mr. Sexy Legs” competition, it was no match for the belly-flop competition.

Every cruise vacation has plenty to talk and brag about. Every cruise vacation features great shows, fun contests on the open decks, and exciting evening events. Everyone has something fun and amazing to talk about when they return home from their cruise. However, there are a handful of great on board events which avid cruisers will truly miss. They were events which they often looked forward to, and events they were always anticipating the moment they stepped on board. Guests would even ask the cruise staff when those events will be taking place. “Mr. Sexy Legs”, “Fountains”, and the midnight buffet will be sorely missed. They were the events that got the crowd going. As we all know, times do change. Things happen for a reason. “Mr. Sexy Legs”, “Fountains”, and the midnight buffet are gone, but will never be forgotten. If any cruisers out there have footage of these events on their cruise DVD, they should play them on repeat. It’s too easy to believe when they say “Great moments last forever”.

NY Penn Station: At its heart, Amtrak keeps on chugging

All of Amtrak’s Acela trains will continue to run on a normal schedule. The Acela can travel at speeds up to 150 mph. (Photo taken in Kingston, RI)

Passenger train travel is a vital part of intercity daily life in the northeastern United States. Amtrak operates up to one hundred trains per day up and down its bustling Northeast Corridor. In addition, it offers daily service from New York City to the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Niagara Falls. Amtrak’s Empire route also handles trains headed to Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, and Rutland, VT. New York City’s Penn Station is the origin and termination point for all of these routes. July 10th, 2017, Amtrak will be temporarily cancelling a handful of trains to allow track improvements to be made at Penn Station. Passengers should not be discouraged by these cancellations. Amtrak strongly values the safety of its passengers and employees. What trains will be cancelled? Will they positively or negatively affect passengers’ views of the carrier? It’s best to understand that Amtrak wants to keep daily business on ‘track’.

Three daily Northeast Regional trains will be temporarily cancelled. Here, Northeast Regional train #185, arrives at Newark Penn Station.

Between July 10th and September 1st, 2017, Amtrak will be temporarily cancelling certain trains to alleviate congestion at Penn Station, while track improvements are in progress. Amtrak will be temporarily cancelling three daily New York City-Washington, DC Northeast Regional trains. Amtrak’s Keystone route from New York City to Harrisburg will be slightly affected.  Three weekday round-trips will start and end in Philadelphia. One weekday round-trip will start and end in Newark, NJ. Service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg will operate as scheduled. No announcement has been made regarding Amtrak’s Empire route. A decision will be announced soon.

Amtrak’s Crescent, a daily long-distance run between New York City and New Orleans, will also be operating on a modified schedule. The Crescent will run daily between Washington, DC and New Orleans. Passengers traveling to and from destinations north of Washington, DC will be able to connect to other services.

Spanning the Hackensack River between Secaucus and Kearny, NJ, Portal Bridge handles up to two hundred trains per day, Amtrak and NJ Transit combined.

Schedules are up to date. Anyone with a trip already booked on affected routes has been contacted. Additional work will last through approximately June 2018, with most of it occurring on weekends to minimize the impact on service. Amtrak continues to make progress on the construction of the new Moynihan Station, across from the current Penn Station. Amtrak also plans to replace the 107 year-old Portal Bridge between Secaucus and Kearny, NJ. The current bridge has a two-track right-of-way. The new bridge will have a four-track right-of-way.

Amtrak Northeast Regional train #178 prepares to depart Newark Penn Station for New York Penn Station.

Despite temporary cancellations, Amtrak will continue make ‘tracks’. Travelers, both business and pleasure, rely on Amtrak more than ever before. New York City is the mecca of northeast railroad travel. With a handful of scheduled trains to be briefly affected, life on the rails will keep rolling. The Northeast Corridor is the busiest passenger railroad in the United States. In the coming year, passenger volume is projected to rise even further. In recent years, Amtrak has broken ridership records and will continue to do so. Amtrak’s temporary cancellations are necessary for the company to improve its infrastructure. Furthermore, these improvements are key to Amtrak’s reliability. Without them, Amtrak cannot move forward. These cancellations, along with the needed improvements, are a tribute to the perseverance of Amtrak’s dedicated and talented employees. No journey on the rails would be possible without them. Despite upcoming cancellations and mandatory track improvements at Penn Station, Amtrak keeps on chugging along.

Newport, RI: The top five must-see’s

The Claiborne Pell Bridge, f.k.a Newport Bridge, is the longest suspension bridge in New England.

Newport, RI is the among the most visited cities in the northeastern United States. It is among the most historic towns in the United States. Newport has a whole smorgasbord of sights and activities to keep any tourist busy. What should be visited first? What should be visited second? Here’s the inside scoop to a smooth sailing visit to Newport.

 

The Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant is among the most popular restaurants on Thames Street. It is well visited by Salve Regina students, Salve Regina alumni, and tourists.

5) Thames Street: Thames Street in Newport is not to be missed. Thames Street cuts through the heart of historic Newport. If anyone is looking for restaurants and novelty shops, Thames Street is the place. Among the popular restaurants are the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant and The Red Parrot. Brick Alley Pub is located near the corner of Thames and Washington Square. The menu is tremendous. The Red Parrot is located on the corner of Memorial Boulevard and Thames Street. If anyone is looking for seafood, The Red Parrot is the place to find it. If anyone is looking for some gourmet fudge, the Newport Fudgery is directly next door.

Fort Adams was built in 1790, named after John Quincy Adams. It is located at the mouth of Newport Harbor.

4) Fort Adams: Fort Adams is the oldest fort in the northeastern United States. Located at the mouth of Newport Harbor, it was built in 1790 to protect Newport against invasions. Fort Adams is protected by more than two hundred guns. Fort Adams was named after former president John Quincy Adams, who was instrumental in starting the War of 1812. Fort Adams was active in all major wars; War of 1812, Spanish-American War, Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Every summer, Fort Adams is the hosting venue of the Newport Jazz Festival.

The Newport Casino is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

3) International Tennis Hall of Fame: The International Tennis Hall of Fame was established in 1954. In the early twentieth century, the Newport Casino complex was constructed to provide a social club atmosphere for the wealthy and powerful. Unfortunately, the complex struggled from the very beginning. By the 1950s, it was nearly doomed to be demolished. In 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame saved the Newport Casino. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is where the game of tennis is celebrated through the great players who made the game as great as it is today. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is home to tennis greats including Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. It also pays a tribute to the game of tennis and the history behind the game. The class of 2017 inductees are Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Monique Kalkman-van-den Bosch, Steve Flink, and Vic Braden.

Salve Regina University was founded in 1947 by the Sisters of Mercy. Its main building is Ochre Court, built by Richard Morris Hunt circa 1895.

2) Salve Regina University: Salve Regina University was founded in 1947 by the Sisters of Mercy. It all started with one of the most gorgeous mansions in Newport; Ochre Court. Ochre Court was built circa 1895 by real estate investment tycoon Ogden Goelet. In 1947, family heir Robert Goelet donated Ochre Court to the Sisters of Mercy. Salve Regina College was founded. The first commencement was held in May 1951 with sixty-one graduates. All were women. Salve Regina College became a co-ed university in 1980. This Spring 2017, Salve Regina University was named the most beautiful university in Rhode Island and among top fifty in the nation by Travel + Leisure magazine.

The Breakers was built between 1893-95, and the summer cottage of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbuilt.

1) The Breakers: The Breakers is the one mansion which tourists cannot miss. The Breakers is located directly next door to Salve Regina University. Built between 1893-95 by Cornelius Vanderbuilt, it is the largest mansion in Newport. The Breakers is a Renaissance-style Palazzo, inspired by the 16th century palaces in Genoa (Genova), and Turin (Torino), Italy. The Breakers was built with seventy rooms, including thirty rooms on the top floor for servants. The Breakers was designed and built by Richard Morris Hunt. Richard Morris Hunt also designed and built Ochre Court, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. In 1972, the Breakers was purchased by the Newport Historical Society, and presently a National Historic Landmark.

The Opera House Theater was built in 1867. This December, it will be re-opened to the public, fully restored, for its 150th anniversary.

New England is a fun and inspiring area of the United States to visit. There’s Boston, Old Sturbridge Village, Bar Harbor, ME, and Mystic, CT. Of all the great historic cities in the northeastern United States, Newport stands alone as being the most awe-inspiring, educational, and entertaining. It is a breathtaking jewel that captures the human imagination. From bustling Thames Street, to the excitement of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, to the educational aspect of Salve Regina University, to iconic mansions, Newport is a model city for tourists from around the world. There is simply no city in the world like it. Newport is simply, a traveler’s jewel by the sea.

 

Amtrak Guest Rewards: Where passengers build a “track” record

Amtrak Guest Rewards points

For each and every journey on the rails, Amtrak Guest Rewards members earn points towards free trips in the near future.

Amtrak; it’s America’s railroad and one of the finest ways to travel in the United States. With all drama arising in the airline industry, it is time to return to basics. It is the right time to focus on the many great reasons why Amtrak is the right choice of travel. There’s better leg room and there’s no need to put electronic devices on airplane mode. Further, it’s frustrating enough to be subjected to a never-ending wait at airport security checkpoints. With Amtrak, traveling is far more relaxing and more rewarding than ever before. Amtrak Guest Rewards is one of the top passenger loyalty programs in the travel industry. The rewards are not just earned on board. They can be earned anywhere and anytime.

With the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard, members can earn maximum points with merchant partners (i.e. eBags, See’s Candies, and Intuit TurboTax). Above: Platinum Card

Amtrak Guest Rewards doesn’t just reward points for train travel and ticket purchases. Passengers accrue Amtrak Guest Rewards points for making everyday purchases with the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard from Bank of America. With the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard, passengers can earn points for purchases at well-known merchants. Presently, passengers can earn ten points per dollar when they purchase Intuit TurboTax. Passengers can earn ten points per dollar by shopping at eBags. Another popular merchant is See’s Candies. At See’s Candies, passengers can earn six points per dollar. The merchant with the largest rewards value is AnytimeCostumes.com. Passengers can earn thirteen points per dollar. Anytime Costumes has been in business since 1954 and online since 1997. The Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard makes preparing for the next trip on the rails all the more desirable.

Once passengers have made their Intuit TurboTax purchase, shopped at EBags, or bought someone a gift at See’s Candies, they are earning instant Amtrak Guest Rewards points. Using the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard is that simple. Amtrak Guest Rewards points for Amtrak travel or ticket purchases are posted to passengers’ accounts within three weeks. Points from all other purchases such as EBags and AnytimeCostumes.com will be posted within six weeks. The complete listing of Amtrak Guest Rewards merchant partners and point values can be found at www.AmtrakGuestRewards.com.

World Card

Members who use the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Card can earn great perks including a complimentary Companion Coupon and a single-day pass for Club Acela or Metropolitan Lounge access.

Bank of America offers two choices of Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard. There is the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Card and the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Card. With the Platinum Card, passengers can earn twelve thousand instant points when they spent one thousand dollars or more in the first ninety days of activation. When using the World Card, passengers can earn twenty thousand instant points after having spent one thousand dollars or more within ninety days of activation. Passengers can view card details at www.AmtrakGuestRewards.com.

Amtrak has without a doubt made traveling the most rewarding experience anyone could imagine. Earning points for traveling on Amtrak is the utmost fascinating. Earning Amtrak Guest Rewards points for such as tickets and cafe car purchases makes traveling even more exciting. Chiefly, earning Amtrak Guest Rewards points for shopping at popular online merchants makes riding the rails a well-deserved traveling experience. Amtrak Guest Rewards members are VIPs of Amtrak travel. Whichever card passengers use, the rewards and possibilities are endless. The Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard makes being a VIP and an avid shopper a combined traveling experience to savor for many journeys to come.

Sailing day: The passengers’ countdown checklist

David Kriso, in front of the Carnival Vista during her inaugural debut in New York City.

David Kriso, in front of the Carnival Vista during her inaugural debut in New York City.

There is simply no news more exciting than hearing that a someone had booked a cruise. Regardless of cruise line, the energy is at a high level. The on board activities, the entertainment, the shore excursions, and the memories all lay head. It’s all good. From beginning to end, cruises are full of good times to be treasured. Prior to sailing day, there is a cheat sheet, a checklist which cruise passengers must adhere to. There is homework to be done, of course. There are things to remember, things to pack, and reminders which the cruise line send out to all passengers in the weeks leading up to sailing day. To have a successful sailing day, cruise passengers should follow a sailing day checklist. It should go as follows.

Before the online check-in process can begin, cruise passengers must make sure that they have made their final payment to the cruise line.

Before the online check-in process can begin, cruise passengers must make sure that they have made their final payment to the cruise line.

5) Final payment: To begin the checklist, the final payment must be made. Before the excitement can build, cruise passengers MUST remember to make their final payment to the cruise line. Normally, the original payments are made out to the travel agency. The final payment is always made out to the cruise line. Cruise passengers have shown up at the check-in counter, and never realized they never submitted their final payment. They end up wondering why their reservation doesn’t exist. Making the final payment is paramount, in order to begin the online check-in process.

Prior to sailing day, cruise passengers must complete the online check-in process. Online check-in is the way of the world in the cruising industry.

Prior to sailing day, cruise passengers must complete the online check-in process. Online check-in is the way of the world in the cruising industry.

4) Online check-in: This is a key component of the sailing day checklist. Having submitted their final payment, the online check-in process can begin. Online check-in is the way of the world in the cruising industry. Only then if cruise passengers have made their final payment, they will receive their booking number. Having done so, they can begin the online check-in process. To ensure a timely embarkation experience, cruise passengers MUST complete this step. It saves a significant amount of time at the check-in counter. Cruise passengers MUST log in to their reservation with the booking code. The online check-in process is laid out like a “yellow brick road”. Cruise passengers need to enter their personal information, passport information, on-board charge information, and accept the terms of the ticket contract. Once completed, they can print out their cruise tickets. If sailing on board Royal Caribbean’s Anthem or Harmony of The Seas, passengers need to upload their security photos. The photo guidelines are provided at that stage of the online check-in process.

Before checking luggage in at the terminal, cruise passengers must attached their provided luggage tags. Shown here are the luggage tags for the Disney Wonder.

Before checking luggage in at the terminal, cruise passengers must attached their provided luggage tags. Shown here are the luggage tags for the Disney Wonder.

3) Luggage tags: Before leaving their home, cruise passengers must make sure that they scratch this part off their checklist. Most cruise lines mail luggage tags to their passengers. Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian, provide their luggage tags at the conclusion of the online check-in process. They must be printed out. Passengers then attach them according the the instructions given. The luggage tags will have the stateroom number, the passengers’ last names, and their guest loyalty level (if applicable). Cruise passengers MUST attach their luggage tags to their bags. Carry-on luggage MUST also have luggage tags attached in case they should go astray.

All cruise passengers are responsible for having the appropriate documentation, including passports.

All cruise passengers are responsible for having the appropriate documentation, including passports.

2) Documentation: This is the second most important part of the sailing day checklist. Documentation is the bread and butter of the embarkation process. All cruise passengers are responsible for having the appropriate documentation to sail. Documentation includes passports, passport cards, birth certificates with a photo ID (for passengers age sixteen and older), and valid visas (if applicable). Valid visas are required to complete the check-in process, depending on the country. Other forms of documentation include parental consent letters and medical letters. Cruise passengers traveling with minors MUST provide a parental consent letter. The purpose of letter isn’t just for granting permission to take the child out of the country. The letter also must include a clause granting permission to make medical decisions in case of an emergency. The parental consent letter must also be notarized. Another key form of documentation would be custody paperwork, in case a child is traveling with his/her legal guardian(s). Pregnant passengers MUST provide a letter from the doctor stating they’re in healthy condition to sail. Expectant passengers at six months pregnancy or less are allowed to sail.

To ensure a safe and sound boarding experience, cruise passengers must arrive at the terminal on time.

To ensure a safe and sound boarding experience, cruise passengers must arrive at the terminal on time.

1) BE ON TIME!: Going on vacation is always a ton of fun. It’s simply a no-brainer. The very last step, the ultimate step, is to be on time. Cruise passengers drive, take the bus, take the train, or fly to their cruise port city. Whichever way they do so, it is paramount that they arrive at the cruise terminal on time. The boarding process begins approximately at eleven o’clock. There are three reasons why cruise passengers must arrive on time: 1) They can relax and enjoy explore the ship, 2) They have ample time to sign up for shore excursions and youth activities, 3) They are well-situated in their staterooms and ready for the lifeboat muster drill. The lifeboat muster drill is mandatory and all passengers must attend. Being on time guarantees endless fun on sailing day. Being on time guarantees a successful start to any cruise. Checklist complete!

Having boarded the ship, cruise passengers can enjoy the never-ending array of food choices. Here, cruise passengers enjoy lunch in the Windjammer Marketplace aboard the Anthem of The Seas.

Having boarded the ship, cruise passengers can enjoy the never-ending array of food choices. Here, cruise passengers enjoy lunch in the Windjammer Marketplace aboard the Anthem of The Seas.

GRAND PRIZE…FOOD!: On any cruise, there can never be enough food. Once cruise passengers have been successfully checked in and received their stateroom key cards, they are ready to board the ship. The staterooms may not be ready for the passengers’ enjoyment until one o’clock at the latest. Until then, passengers are welcome to proceed to the buffet on the upper deck. Food is the name of the game. Food is everywhere. All of the passengers’ favorites are available. Hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta, sandwiches, the salad bar, and ice cream are all waiting for them. Cruise ship food is undeniably sinful. Cruise ship food is indeed so sinful, the culinary staff prepares more than twenty thousand meals per day. Every day, plenty of food keeps cruise passengers happy. In case passengers wish to purchase specialty drinks or beverage packages, all they need to have on hand is their stateroom key cards.

Not only is having a sailing day checklist a must-do, but a routine followed by every seasoned cruise passenger.

Not only is having a sailing day checklist a must-do, but a routine followed by every seasoned cruise passenger.

A cruise: the vacation of a lifetime. Whether it’s the first time on a certain cruise line, the first time out of a certain port city, or the first time period, cruise passengers indeed feel a bit overwhelmed. Seasoned cruisers are highly familiar with the sailing day procedure. They know what to do, where to go, what to do when, and how. For first timers under any circumstance, there is a simple checklist to be followed. Cruise passengers must be sure that they made their final payment to the cruise line. They must also complete the online check-in process. Afterward, it gets easier. Cruise passengers must obtain their cruise tickets and luggage tags. The final steps are taking along the proper documentation and arriving at the cruise terminal on time. Having crossed the finish line, they can enjoy all the food they’ve been longing for.

This checklist is to be repeated each and every time. Having developed this routine, cruising will be more than just a vacation. Cruise passengers, regardless of how often they travel, all share their theories to having a good time. When consistently following the routine, sailing day is no longer a method to the madness. Cruising is certainly without a doubt, a science enjoyed by all.

 

Theme cruises: Five floating, unmissable extravaganzas

David Kriso has been an avid cruiser since age sixteen. Aside from being an aspiring travel writer, he's a veteran cruise line shore agent in the New York area.

David Kriso has been cruising since age sixteen. Aside from being an aspiring travel writer, he’s a veteran cruise line shore agent in the New York area.

A cruise: a pleasure voyage on a ship, usually with stops at various ports. That’s one definition. The more appropriate definition is “a never-ending floating party on the move”. Cruises offer so much to do, so much to experience, and so many new things to try. Cruises enable people of all ages to break outside their comfort zones and discover a whole new meaning of the term “vacation”. Whether sailing on a seven or ten day adventure, cruises provide never-ending excitement. Group cruises feature occasions of all types. Theme cruises tell a whole other story. From special interests, to musical tastes, to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, guests get to explore the world in the most unique ways. Theme cruises are vacation experiences not to miss. If anyone wants to explore the world outside the box, here are five best theme cruise experiences worth raving about.

 

Acclaimed for his dry sense of humor, Star Trek icon George Takei will be joining the excitement on Star Trek The Cruise.

Acclaimed for his dry sense of humor, Star Trek icon George Takei will be joining the excitement on Star Trek The Cruise.

5) Star Trek-The Cruise: Long live the greatest sci-fi television and film series ever created! Star Trek first aired in 1966. Followed by millions of sci-fi fans from around the world, this is an adventure that takes guests “where no man has gone before”. Star Trek has been a part of our TV and movie culture for more than fifty years. Everyone remembers turning on their television sets and tuning in to this legendary show. Who can’t remember the iconic Star Trek musical score?! Movie goers still can’t get enough of the Star Trek fever. On January 5th and January 11th, 2018, the magnificent Norwegian Jade will be the hosting vessel. Well-known Star Trek stars including Geroge Takei will be on hand for autograph signings and a smorgasbord of special events. The Norwegian Jade will be sailing from Miami to the Caribbean and Norwegian’s Harvest Caye in Belize. Adventure begins at www.startrekthecruise.com. 

With its up close and personal on board service, the beautiful Celebrity Summit will be hosting the Flower Power Cruise and The 80s Cruise.

With its up close and personal on board service, the beautiful Celebrity Summit will be hosting the Flower Power Cruise and The 80s Cruise.

4) Flower Power Cruise: Any 60s music fans out there? This is of the best theme cruises not to pass up. February 24th, 2018, the magnificent Celebrity Summit will be hosting the grooviest trip at sea. The Flower Power Cruise takes guests back in time to when the most famous bands rocked the stage and the radio waves. Hosted by The Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz, the Flower Power Cruise will feature performers including The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, The Guess Who, and The Grass Roots. Among the on-board activities will be a special wedding vow renewal ceremony, trivia contests, dance contests, and pool parties. The Flower Power Cruise is a cruise experience like no other. The Flower Power Cruise is one of the most highly anticipated and love-filled travel experiences on the high seas. The Celebrity Summit will be the grooviest ship afloat. The grooviest cruise vacation in the world begins at www.flowerpowercruise.com.

Grammy Award winning jazz piano artist Chick Corea will be among the headline performers on the Blue Note At Sea cruise.

Grammy Award winning jazz piano artist Chick Corea will be among the headline performers on the Blue Note At Sea cruise.

3) Blue Note At Sea: A full week of jazz on a cruise ship? Why not?! Jazz fans should mark their calendars and pack their bags. Blue Note At Sea is stealing the show once again. Blue Note At Sea defines what is now and hip in the world of jazz while retaining and respecting those elements which make jazz a leading music genre throughout the world. The hosting ship will be the magnificent Celebrity Summit. The Celebrity Summit will be departing from Ft. Lauderdale to the ports of Labadee, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Coco Cay. Labadee and Coco Cay are Royal Caribbean’s private ports-of-call. The cruise will feature a lineup of performers which guests will not experience anywhere else. The Blue Note At Sea cruise will feature jazz performers including Leslie Odom, Jr., Chick Corea, Marcus Miller, Dee Dee Bridgewater, David Sandborn, and Charles Lloyd & The Marvels. The Blue Note At Sea cruise emcee will be Don Was. Blue Note At Sea is calling all jazz fans to step aboard the Celebrity Summit be a part of a seven-day extravaganza they’ll never forget. It will be the smoothest and coolest cruise of 2018. Jazz fans can book at www.bluenoteatsea.com.

The Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel Company has been hosting nude cruises since 1990. Here, two young ladies enjoy a dip in the ship's pool.

The Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel Company has been hosting nude cruises since 1990. Here, two young ladies happily enjoy a dip in the ship’s pool.

2) Bare-Necessities “The Big Nude Boat”: With its popularity rapidly increasing over the past ten years, nude cruising is an traveling adventure unlike anything in the world. Nude recreation has rapidly increased in popularity among young adults. There is simply no better way to soak up the ocean breeze, the sun’s rays, and a ship’s main pool than in the nude. No travel company does nude cruises like Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel. Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel is based in Austin, TX. Bare-Necessities Tour & Travel, has been known for its warm hospitality and fond cruising memories since 1990. On February 2nd, 2018, the beautiful Carnival Victory will sail on a memorable ten-day voyage to the ports of Half Moon Cay, Amber Cove, Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba. From lounging on the sun deck in the nude, to soaking up the sand and surf in the nude, and enjoying the friendly company of others in the nude, a Bare-Necessities nude cruise is the perfect cruise experience for ages eighteen and up. The Bare-Necessities nude cruise is set to “take off” on February 2nd, 2018. The fun starts at www.cruisebare.com.

Known for their mega-hit, "In The Living Years", Mike & The Mechanics will be among the star-studded lineup on The 80s Cruise.

Known for their mega-hit, “In The Living Years”, Mike & The Mechanics will be among the star-studded lineup on The 80s Cruise.

1) The 80s Cruise: The 80s were a decade that undeniably defined music. Those who grew up in the 80s were exposed to the most unique terminology. The 80s were a decade filled with words such as “bogart”, “ditz”, and “amped”, and expressions including “Gag me with a spoon!”, “Get real!”, and “What’s crackalackin?”. The 80s Cruise is the cruise which these terms will come flying back. The 80s Cruise will once again be sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean aboard the magnificent Celebrity Summit. The Celebrity Summit will be sailing round-trip to the ports of Nassau, St. Thomas, Tortola, and Coco Cay. The 80s Cruise will feature a lineup of the finest 80s performers. The linup will include Mike & The Mechanics (In The Living Years), Loverboy (Everybody’s Working For The Weekend), The Tubes (She’s A Beauty), Katrina (Walking On Sunshine), and Tommy Tutone (Jenny I’ve Got Your Number). The 80s Cruise will be feature Sirius XM’s “80s on 8” DJ’s Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, and Mark Goodman. The 80s Cruise can’t have a better emcee for 2018, other than 80s rock legend Rick Springfield. Does everyone “got the 411”? The 80s Cruise is the “bomb”. The party starts by booking at www.the80scruise.com.

It is without a doubt that cruising is the greatest way to explore the world in one week or more. The entertainment is simply non-stop. With theme cruises, the entertainment is guaranteed to be non-stop. Theme cruises give guests the opportunity to vacation with an exclamation point. Star Trek stars and fans will be taking over the Norwegian Jade. The Celebrity Summit will again be hosting the Flower Power Cruise, The 80s Cruise, and the Blue Note At Sea cruise. The Fun Ship, Carnival Victory, will be hosting more than twenty-eight hundred guests on an adventure which only mother nature can reward them with. There are a multitude of ways to enjoy cruising. Regardless of how avid cruisers take to the waves, the fun is non-stop. The top five theme cruises are as packed with excitement as promised. Theme cruises, no matter what the tone or dress code, legitimately define how cruising was meant to be.

On-board charge accounts: Paper vs. plastic

Besides taking in the warm weather, the guests' stateroom key cards are too warming up.

Besides taking in the warm weather, the guests’ stateroom key cards are too warming up.

Cruising can’t be a more rewarding away to explore the world. There is simply no better way to leave the real world behind. Guests enjoy refreshing alcoholic drinks by the pool, treat themselves to specialty dining, indulge in duty-free shopping, and go on exciting shore excursions. Without a doubt, guests are just glowing. Did someone say “glowing”? The things that are really glowing are the guests stateroom key cards.  By the end of day one, their stateroom key cards are significantly warm having made a mountain of purchases. This is typical cruise behavior. The question asked by millions of guests is “What is the most preferred method of payment?” From least popular to best, here are the three forms of payment used for on-board charge accounts.

On cruises, cash accounts have mixed reactions. Guests should monitor their balance at all times.

On cruises, cash accounts have mixed reactions. Guests should monitor their balance at all times.

3) Cash: All cruise lines allow guests to set up cash accounts on board. There are pros and cons to cash accounts. The first pro is that it’s beneficial for guests who aren’t prone to spending a whole lot of money. There’s nothing wrong with being frugal. The second pro is that guests can replenish their cash accounts at any time during the cruise. Guests, however, need to be aware of the cons.  The only con with cash accounts is a big one. Guests are often guilty of being overdrawn. This happens often at the end of the cruise. Guests must make sure that they pay all outstanding charges before disembarking. Guests who set up cash accounts should form a habit of logging into their on-board charge accounts via their stateroom TV set. There, they can view their account activity. Cash accounts are ok, but it is paramount for guests to be aware of their balance at all times.

Debit cards and credit cards are two better choices of payment. Most cruise lines place a hold on debit card accounts.

Debit cards and credit cards are two better choices of payment. Most cruise lines place a hold on debit card accounts.

2) Debit card: Using a debit card is a more preferred payment method versus a cash account. At the check-in counter, or during the online check-in process, guests can register a debit card for their on-board charge accounts. It works the same way as the credit card. The guests’ total balance is automatically routed to their debit card accounts upon the conclusion of the cruise. There is a con to using a debit card. When guests register a debit card on their on board charge accounts, the cruise line will place a hold of “x” amount of dollars on their accounts. Whatever amount isn’t spent will be refunded back to the guests at the end of the cruise. Cruise lines differ in how much of a hold they place on debit card accounts. For instance, Carnival places a hold of $200.00 on debit card accounts. Norwegian places a hold of $150.00 for cruises less than five days. For cruises five days or longer, Norwegian places a hold of $300.00. At the check-in counter, guests sign a form authorizing the hold.

Credit cards are the best choice for on board charge accounts. Having no hassles goes a long way.

Credit cards are the best choice for on board charge accounts. Having no hassles goes a long way.

1) Credit card: Of all three forms of payment, a credit card is the guests’ most popular method. During the online check-in process or at the check-in counter, guests regularly register a credit card to be used for their on- board charge accounts. Guests can use their stateroom key cards to charge anything to their accounts, including alcoholic drinks, duty-free souvenirs, shore excursions, and photo gallery packages. They are all charged to their on-board charge accounts. Upon disembarkation, the total balance is automatically routed to the guests’ credit card accounts. Cruise lines place no holds on credit card accounts.

Besides debit cards and credit cards, gift cards are also accepted. On Carnival cruises, only Carnival gift cards are accepted at the check-in counter.

Besides debit cards and credit cards, gift cards are also accepted. On Carnival cruises, only Carnival gift cards are accepted at the check-in counter.

What about gift cards? Gift cards, regardless of whenever or wherever used, are sophisticated. Pre-paid gift cards (ex. Visa gift cards) can be registered at the guest services desk on board ship. On board Disney ships, Disney gift cards can also be registered at the guest services desk. Carnival makes using gift cards easier. Carnival gift cards are accepted at the check-in counter.

 

On any cruise, guests are have the time of their lives. There is so much to do, so much to experience, and so many ways to be entertained. The possibilities are endless. The dilemma often faced is deciding which form of payment should be used for their on-board charge accounts. Their choices are a cash account, a debit card, or a credit card. There are pros and cons to using cash accounts and debit cards. Credit cards, on the contrary, pose little to no hassle. Little to no inconvenience goes a long way. They are the indeed the most preferred type of payment for on-board charge accounts. The next time the question “Paper or plastic?” is brought up, the answer is decidedly clear.

A group cruise: Uncovering the formula to a successful voyage

A group cruise is more than just a vacation, it's an experience shared by all.

A group cruise is more than just a vacation, it’s an experience shared by all.

Cruises are the best way to explore the world in one week or more. The entertainment is non-stop, the on board service is over-the-top masterful, and the memories last a lifetime. Week-in and week-out, cruise passengers have high expectations for the trip they have been looking forward to for many months. It is a much needed getaway from work and from the stresses of everyday life. A group cruise is an even more exciting experience. Sharing a traveling experience with a large group of people is truly rewarding. For a group cruise to be successful, there are a handful of important points to consider. The not only pertain to the group leader, but to the entire group as a whole.

A group cruise starting and ending on a high note solely depends on group effort. How so? There is much responsibility on both the group leader’s behalf. Likewise, there is hint of responsibility on the group’s behalf. The five key points to a successful group cruise vacation are as follows:

The list of group themes and occasions is endless. This is an example of a retirement cruise.

The list of group themes and occasions is endless. This is an example of a retirement cruise.

5) The theme team: Before a group cruise can be organized, the group leader(s) must come up with the theme or occasion for the cruise. The list of themes and occasions for a group cruise is endless. The cruise could be a family reunion, someone’s retirement, a birthday, a sweet sixteen, a graduation, or an occasion pertaining to an organization. In addition, the group leader occasionally prepares special apparel for the group to wear on sailing day (See photo.). This being said, the energy and excitement on a group cruise is undoubtedly tremendous.

Depending on the occasion, a group cruise is for not just for the elderly, but the younger crowd too.

Depending on the occasion, a group cruise is for not just for the elderly, but the young crowd too.

4) The rule of sixteen: A group cruise cannot be made possible without the magic number. In order to be considered a group, the group leader must have a minimum of sixteen (16) guests (including the group leader). For every fifteen guests booked, the sixteenth guest travels free. To ensure the a count of sixteen or more guests, the group leader must widely market the cruise to the age range and the demographic that would best fit the theme of the cruise. Sounds like a daunting task, doesn’t it?! It’s all true. Adequate marketing, proper use of social media, and continuous communication are vital to a group cruise becoming a reality. Further, they’re important keys to reaching the desired magic number.

When a group cruise reaches its preparation phase, communication must be crisp and all members of the group must be attentive.

When a group cruise reaches its preparation phase, communication must be crisp. All members of the group must be attentive.

3) Crisp communication: Once the theme has been decided on and the magic number of sixteen or more guests has been achieved, it’s crunch time for the group leader(s). From the time of booking, to the preparation phase, to sailing day, the group leader must maintain solid communication with everyone in the group. The communication must be CRISP. As time winds down towards sailing day, the group leader must relay all pertinent information to the group. Important announcements, revisions, etc. are to be immediately relayed to the group. No one in the group, for any rhyme or reason, should be left out in the cold.

In the main dining room, a group occasion jumps into high gear, with memories shared on a nightly basis.

In the main dining room, a group occasion jumps into high gear, with memories shared on a nightly basis.

2) At-ten-tive-ness: A successful group cruise doesn’t always rest solely on the shoulders of the group leader. The group MUST also be attentive. As the group leader carries out communication, everyone in the group MUST acknowledge the group leader. Whichever ways the group leader reaches out to the group, whether via telephone, email, or written letter, members of the group MUST respond. It is paramount that everyone in the whole group including the group leader communicate consistently, so that they are on the exact same page. When on the same page, the cruise will be go successfully as planned.

The group coordinator is the "go-to" officer on board ship. He/She is responsible for handling all special group events and requests.

The group coordinator is the “go-to” officer on board ship. He/She is responsible for handling all special group events and requests.

1) Contacting the group coordinator: Upon boarding the ship, the group leader has one more task on his/her list to accomplish. In order for a group’s sailing needs to be well-addressed, the group leader MUST search out the ship’s group coordinator. The group coordinator is the most important officers on board. If the group leader booked any special group excursions or arranged special events on board, the group coordinator is the person to be addressed. Any special requests are relayed via the group coordinator. Constant communication with the group coordinator is key. The group coordinator is the liaison between the group leader and the ship’s staff. When it comes to groups, the group coordinator is the “go-to” officer.

A group cruise is a vacation experience to be remembered for as long as the good times themselves. The memories are endless. Unlike a regular cruise with a friend, significant other, or loved one, a group cruise is an experience filled with memories shared by all. From sailing day, to the on board activities, special on board events, to unforgettable dining experiences, group cruises have it all. For any group cruise to be successful, five key points MUST be adhered to. Not only the group occasion MUST have a fun theme, but the group MUST comprise of sixteen guests or more. The communication MUST be crisp. Simultaneously, all guests in the group MUST be attentive. Lastly, reaching out to the ship’s group coordinator helps assure a grand experience for everyone. Without a doubt, it pays to understand that every group cruise requires a group effort.

“Barbados: A modern pirate’s treasure” coming soon

Located in the Lesser Antilles, Barbados is the jewel of the southern Caribbean.

Located in the Lesser Antilles, Barbados is the jewel of the southern Caribbean.

The Caribbean is the one region in the world everyone enjoys visiting on a yearly basis. From Jamaica, to Puerto Rico, to the U.S. Virgin Islands, to St. Maarten/Martin, there’s so much to choose from. There are so many great experiences that await on each island. The one island that always makes a splash among travelers is Barbados. Barbados is the jewel of the southern Caribbean. From its rich history, to its crystal blue waters, to its warm-welcoming people, it is the grand daddy of them all. What will this brand new presentation cover? Here’s a sneak peek.

With its endless limestone caverns and stalagmite formations, Harrison's Cave is one of the islands most iconic natural wonders.

With its endless limestone caverns and stalagmite formations, Harrison’s Cave is one of the islands most iconic natural wonders.

1) Harrison’s Cave: Located in the central uplands of the island, this breathtakingly beautiful, crystallized limestone cavern is a testament to nature’s mastery. It is one of the most iconic natural wonders of the Caribbean. Flowing streams, deep pools of crystal clear water and towering columns characterize this living cave. Visitors gaze in wonder at the white flow stones. They stare in awe at the beauty of the stalagmite formations which adorn the cave. No trip to Barbados is complete without visiting Harrison’s Cave.

Known as the island's most famous fishing village, Bathsheba is located on the northeastern shore. It is situated in the parish of Saint Joseph.

Known as the island’s most famous fishing village, Bathsheba is located on the northeastern shore. It is situated in the parish of Saint Joseph.

2) Bathsheba: Bathsheba is the main fishing village in the parish of Saint Joseph with some five thousand inhabitants on the east coastline of Barbados. The town has a number of quaint churches; Saint Joseph Anglican Church was built on Horse Hill in the town as early as 1640 but was rebuilt in 1839 following a hurricane in 1831. Little Saint Joseph chapel was built nearby in 1837 but was restored and dedicated to Saint Aiden in 1904 following a landslide. It has a number of attractions including the Flower Forest and Cotton Tower which is renowned for its dramatic scenery and views of Scotland District.

 

With its bustling streets and friendly people, Bridgetown is the largest city and the island's capital.

With its bustling streets and friendly people, Bridgetown is the largest city and the island’s capital.

3) Bridgetown: Bridgetown is the capital and the largest city on the island of Barbados. Formerly known as the town of Saint Michael, the Greater Bridgetown area is located within the parish of Saint Michael. Bridgetown is sometimes locally referred to as “The City”, but the most common reference is simply “Town”. As of 2014, its metropolitan population stands at roughly 110,000.

“Barbados: A modern pirate’s treasure” is set to debut in mid-June 2017. Out of all of the islands throughout the Caribbean, Barbados shines the brightest. Barbados is more than just an island destination. Barbados is a modern Caribbean treasure. Barbados is an island adored by millions of travelers from all over the world. Whether they come from the United States, Europe, Australia, or Asia, they are welcomed with open arms by the islands greatest feature; its people. They enjoy the pristine ocean waters, the local flavors, and the well-known cuisine inspired by the native traditions and European roots. Barbados is not just an island visited by millions coming off a cruise ship or airplane. Barbados is an island that stands as a model to the world. Barbados shows to the world what good people can do for one another. Ultimately, Barbados demonstrates to the world how pride and unity, from the past to present day, can inspire millions around the world.

Two Brothers Travel: A travel agency with a golden touch

Meet the agents: David and Stephen Kriso. Photo taken aboard the Oasis of The Seas.

Meet the agents: David and Stephen Kriso. Photo taken aboard the Oasis of The Seas.

Since childhood, traveling has been a long-time passion of my brother’s and mine. In February 2009, I joined the New York area shore staff (Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services). Working in the cruising industry has been a true delight. Assisting families and couples with their cruising concerns couldn’t be more rewarding. In August 2011, I entered the world of travel writing. My very first piece was on Amtrak and its Student Advantage program. I have had the pleasure of writing for a handful of publications, including my college alma mater’s magazine, “Report From Newport”.

In January 2015, I decided to bring my travel writing out into the limelight. I became a travel lecturer. My topics have captured the imagination of library patrons all throughout northern New Jersey. My topics have included cruising, Amtrak travel, Disney World, the New Jersey Shore, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each and every one of them have been an overwhelming success.

All aboard! David and Stephen enjoy one of Amtrak's Amfleet II coaches at National Train Day in Washington, DC.

All aboard! David and Stephen enjoy one of Amtrak’s Amfleet II coaches at National Train Day in Washington, DC.

This February 2017, my brother Stephen and I are embarking on a new venture together. We are launching our very own home-based travel agency. The business will be named Two Brothers Travel. Two Brothers Travel is an affiliate of Montrose Travel, based in the Los Angeles area. Montrose Travel was our choice of company for three reasons. The first reason is that we won’t be under the pressure of generating the numbers which many other travel businesses demand. Secondly, Montrose Travel provides exemplary ideas and guidance for all travelers alike. Lastly, Montrose Travel provides travel resources for all occasions. Whether assisting families, couples, or groups, Montrose Travel provides the proper travel resources for occasions of that caliber.

What types of travel will we be specializing in? Our three specialties will be families (i.e. Disney), romantic getaways (i.e. couples and honeymoons), and a wide variety of group occasions. Having been well-versed in cruising, Amtrak, and Disney, we are looking forward to leading the way to enjoyable and pleasurable vacation experiences. Cruising will be our ultimate specialty. The cruising industry tends to families, couples, and groups at high volumes. We have worked with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, and Cunard. We also have had the privilege of working with the Disney Magic.

David Kriso in front of Rock 'N' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

David Kriso in front of Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Stephen and I have shared a long history with cruising and Disney. I have enjoyed traveling on Amtrak since age four. I was a Walt Disney World cast member in 1999-2000, during the Millennium Celebration. In 2014, I was recognized by Amtrak for an article I had written about Washington, DC’s Union Station. That same year, Stephen joined Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services. Stephen is well-versed in business and marketing. He is involved in both the Hasbrouck Heights and Mahwah chambers of commerce. He has helped many northern New Jerseyans with their business aspirations. One can easily imagine the great travel experiences they will have booking with us. After booking with us, families, couples, and groups will most definitely turn to Two Brothers Travel as their go-to travel professionals.

Many travel agencies assist their clients only a fraction of the way. At Two Brothers Travel, Stephen and I intend to be at the clients’ service every step of the way. From the time of booking to the day of travel, we will assist clients on any concerns and issues that may arise. We believe that no clients should ever be left out in the cold. Families, couples, and groups will be undoubtedly satisfied. We will assist them the whole way, every trip, every time.

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David and Stephen Kriso standing along side the Disney Dream in Nassau, Bahamas.

Two Brothers Travel is expected to be in full operation by February 18th, 2017. Two Brothers Travel will not be a run-of-the-mill travel agency. From start to finish, Two Brothers Travel will be a part of every family, couple, and group’s vacation experience. It takes great desire, dedication, and experience for a travel agency to be successful. Stephen and I bring plentiful experience and talent to the table to make this travel agency thrive. Families, couples, and groups will have bounteous travel experiences to cherish. We truly look forward to serving families, couples, and groups of all types. Our experience will be their testimonial. Their memories will be our legacy.

We invite prospective clients to visit our web site at www.twobrotherstravelnj.com.