Tag Archives: cruise

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”.

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.

 

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.

Wheelchairs and cruising: Three hints, zero confusion

Aboard most cruise lines, wheelchair assistance is provided upon request. Guests must request wheelchair assistance via the online check-in process.

Aboard most cruise lines, wheelchair assistance is provided upon request. Guests must request wheelchair assistance via the online check-in process.

Cruising is the most relaxing way of seeing the world in a week. Wait, did somebody say “one week”? Some cruises last two weeks or longer. No matter how long a cruise vacation may last, the fun and excitement is non-stop.

When anyone prepares for a cruise vacation, there is a hint of homework which the guest must complete. When it comes to preparation, guest must decide whether or not he/she will require special assistance. When the two words “special assistance” comes up, the word “wheelchair” comes to mind. On cruises, wheelchairs can be numerous. It depends on the itinerary. There can be more than twenty guests in need of wheelchair assistance. Elderly and/or physically impaired guests need to keep in mind three major hints when seeking wheelchair assistance. If they follow these three hints, life on two wheels will be a walk in the park.

1) Online check-in process: Most online check-in processes in the cruise industry are mirror image of each other. Once the cruise is fully booked and the payments are made, the online check-in process begins. Online check-in is king in the cruising industry. It is the way of the world. Plus, it saves a significant amount of time at the check-in counter. What does online check-in have anything to do with asking for a wheelchair? There is a step which guests need to be on the lookout for. Part of the online check-in process includes the question whether/if the guest will need wheelchair assistance at the cruise terminal. Wheelchair assistance is available upon request.  If the guest answers “yes”, the he/she must specify as to whom in the party will need wheelchair assistance.  If wheelchair assistance was requested online, the guest should have a relatively short waiting time. It is easier done than said.

2) Wheelchairs on-board ship: There is always a ton of confusion regarding wheelchairs at the cruise terminal and wheelchairs on-board ship. They are two completely different matters. If the guest is in need of a wheelchair throughout the cruise, he/she must visit the guest services desk on-board ship. Wheelchairs on-board ship are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are a limited amount of wheelchairs on-board ship. Once having boarded the ship, the guest must visit the guest services desk. If a guest rented a scooter or wheelchair through the cruise line or via the travel agent, the guest should follow up with the guest services desk. This must be done immediately. On sailing day, the guest services staff are often busy handling hundreds of guests’ matters of a more pertinent nature. If in need of a wheelchair, the guest should not procrastinate.

To avoid all confusion on any cruise vacation, the guest's best move is bringing his/her own wheelchair.

When cruising, the guest should always bring along his/her own wheelchair. Regardless of cruise line, it is the right move.

3) Bring your own!: Waiting for a wheelchair at the pier and looking for a wheelchair on-board ship are enough to dampen a guest’s spirit. Without a doubt, It can be over-the-top stressful. To avoid the obstacle course of waiting for a wheelchair at the cruise terminal and looking for a wheelchair on-board, the guest should do the easiest thing of all; bringing his/her own wheelchair. By bringing his/her own wheelchair, the waiting game is completely eliminated. Upon arrival at the pier, the passenger can be taken care of right away. Disney Cruise Line greatly preaches to guests the convenience of bringing their own wheelchair. The guest bringing his/her own wheelchair allows for a smooth transition from pier to ship, and vice-versa.

A cruise vacation is the perfect way to escape the stresses of the real world. There is so much to look forward to. Guests look forward to the fine dining experience, the world-class entertainment, and definitely, the exciting shore adventures. When it comes to guests requiring wheelchair assistance, three hints of advice need to be kept in mind. The guest must request wheelchair assistance when completing the online check-in process. If the guest needs a wheelchair for the duration of the cruise, he/she must immediately visit the guest services desk on-board ship. To make life one hundred percent easier, the guest should bring his/her own wheelchair. The more prepared the guest, the smoother the transition between the pier and the ship. Musical Chairs is a fun game to play, but it should not have to get in the way of anyone’s cruise vacation.

Online check-in: The key ingredient to a successful embarkation

David Kriso is a veteran guest service/check-in agent at the New York area cruise terminals. He works with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Nortwegian, Carnival, and Princess. In 2012, he's done guest check-in for the Disney Cruise Line.

David Kriso is a veteran guest service/check-in agent at the New York area cruise terminals. He works with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Nortwegian, Carnival, and Princess. In 2012, he’s done guest check-in for the Disney Cruise Line.

A cruise is one of the most exciting vacation experiences which travelers treasure on a year-round basis. From family-oriented cruise lines such as Disney, to cruise lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean which feature something unique for everyone, cruising provides experiences and memories which travelers treasure for years to come. Regardless of how often any family cruises, there is one vital part of every cruise vacation which makes the embarkation day worthwhile. Without question, it is online check-in.

Online check-in is the most important part of any family’s cruise vacation. Even if it’s a married couple’s honeymoon, online check-in is the key ingredient to a successful embarkation. It all starts once the cruise is officially booked and the balance has been paid in full. The travel agent or the cruise line reservation agent issues the family the reservation code. The next step is logging into the reservation to set up the ticket profile. The online check-in process includes the following steps: entering personal information, passport information, on-board charge information, post-cruise information (if applicable), and electronically signing the cruise ticket and on-board charge contracts. Some cruise lines require an electronic signature, some don’t. Some cruise tickets still require the passenger(s) to apply their authentic signatures after printing them. Completing these simple steps make an embarkation day all the more efficient and stress-free.

As part of the online check-in process, Royal Caribbean allows passengers to upload their own security photo.

As part of the online check-in process, Royal Caribbean allows passengers to upload their own security photo.

Royal Caribbean has added a new step to their online check-in process. For the Quantum of The Seas, Anthem of The Seas, and the upcoming Ovation of The Seas, passengers can upload their very own security photo into their passenger profile. As long as the photo satisfies the guidelines shown in the online instructions, it will be accepted. The photo must be clear, not blurry, and not have a dark background. More importantly, the passenger photo must show the passenger’s face from the shoulders to the tip of the head. The passengers must also not make any comical expressions. The photo should be neutral, so that the ship’s security staff can confirm that the photo is of the passenger. Plus, the photo must contain only the passenger him/herself. If the photo should not satisfy the cruise line’s guidelines, the check-in agent will retake the photo using his/her tablet.

Another reason why online check-in is so vital has to do with the section regarding on-board charge information. When the passenger reaches the on-board charge information stage, he/she can right there and then decide whether or not to put any additional passengers on their account. This also includes whether or not to include children on the account. It sure beats trying to make the decision at the check-in counter. Once the credit card or debit card information has been entered and all other passengers (if applicable) have been added to the account, it’s all downhill from there.  The more efficient the passengers are, the better. Even more important, it’s all about being fully prepared.

Every cruise vacation should always start out on the right foot. No cruise should start out waiting at the check-in counter. Passengers should not have to subject themselves to a long wait in the cue line and filling out manual paperwork.  Completing the online check-in process eliminates all of the unnecessary wait time and the inefficiency of filling out manual paperwork. Once the online check-in process is completed, the tickets can be printed out. Upon arrival at the cruise terminal, passengers can be expeditiously checked in and be issued their stateroom key cards. With their key cards in hand, it’s on board the ship they go. Ultimately, the cruise is off to a flying start and it’s smooth sailing from there. What makes any embarkation so successful? It’s the online check-in process. It’s the key ingredient to each and every successful cruise vacation.

The Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition: A Royal Caribbean Must-Do

Yours truly, participating in the "Men's International Belly-Flop Competition" at the AquaTheater on board Royal Caribbean's Oasis of The Seas.

Yours truly, participating in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” at the AquaTheater on board Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of The Seas.

Royal Caribbean is one of the world’s best cruise lines.  There is something special for everyone to enjoy while on board.  There is ice skating, the rock climbing wall, enjoying some quiet time in the Solarium pool, and even attending the “Love & Marriage Game Show”.  The one event which is top of every man’s list is the one, the only, the “Men’s International Belly-Flop competition”.  Mark my words, everyone.  Coming out the champion in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” is  no easy feat.  It takes great preparation, sacrifice, and a substantial lacking of diet discipline.  Having participated in the Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” on four previous occasions, I wish to share with you gentlemen the most valuable advice you’ll ever receive from an experienced Royal Caribbean cruiser.  Do you have what it takes to make it to the medal stand?  Here are your keys to victory.

5) Pork Fat Endurance:

Each morning of your cruise, eat nowhere else but the Windjammer Marketplace.  At the Windjammer Marketplace, load up on all of the essentials.  Load your plate up with bacon, port sausage, and turkey sausage.  Along with the pork products, load up on fruit.  You can never have enough Vitamin C in your system.  Lastly, chase it all down with plenty of coffee.  When done cleaning off your plate, go back to the buffet for a reload.  After scarfing down the second load, go back for a third an fourth time.  Repeat this process every morning until the day of competition.  The Royal Caribbean restaurant staff will be cheering you on in no time.

4) Practice, Practice, Practice!

In between Royal Caribbean cruises, slacking off is unsatisfactory.  Striving to be on the medal stand in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” requires a substantial amount of practice.  Relentless practice is vital to making it onto the medal stand.  You have to be serious about participating in this prestigious competition.  Note: Do not practice while on board.  You don’t want to give away any secrets to any potential contestants.  Do you have an in-ground swimming pool at your house?  Use it!  Do at least half a dozen jumps per day.  If the life guards at your town pool or health club don’t mind, practice there.  Tell them it’s a top priority.

3) Take The Stairs!

While on your Royal Caribbean cruise, staying in shape is a must.  This is in no contradiction to #5.  While sailing, it behooves you to avoid use of the guest elevators.  Whether you’re going to breakfast at the Windjammer Marketplace, the pool deck, or the media center, you need to keep those calves well-toned.  In the belly flop competition, making a high jump is part of the process.  Your legs are your rocket boosters.  The higher you jump, the harder you land in the pool.  As they say, “No pain, no gain!”

2) It’s All About The Buffet!

Again, don’t get this confused with #5.  Every day, at lunch time, head to the Windjammer Marketplace.  At the Windjammer Marketplace, you must load up on anything that will put a few concrete pounds on the abdominal region.  Focus on the hot dogs, french fries, pasta, tortilla chips, peel-and-eat shrimp, and roasted ham.  When it comes to the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition”, maintaining a full stomach is key.  Remember, the medal stand is calling your name.  Load up on anything that will help you stick your landing.  After scarfing down the hot dogs, the french fries, and all the good stuff, chomp down on some cookies for dessert.  After the cookies, have some ice cream from the self-serve stations on pool deck.  Finally, wash it all down with a few specialty drinks.  I’d highly recommend the Fuzzy Navel and Long Island Iced Tea.  See the article, “Cruise Drinks: Straight Up, and Straight Down”.

Yours truly again, participating in the "Men's International Belly-Flop Competition" aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of The Seas.

Yours truly again, participating in the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of The Seas.

1) WHATEVER RICHARD SIMMONS SAYS, DO THE OPPOSITE!

My personal advice to all of you potential belly-floppers: Forget what that clown with the big hair and funny shorts tells you.  The “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” is your moment to shine.  Remember to avoid the ship’s gym at all costs, give into temptation when a chocolate cake is in sight, and load up on the carbohydrates like never before.  Visit the Windjammer Marketplace religiously. You also must remember that footage of the “Men’s International Belly-Flop Competition” will be featured in your Royal Caribbean “Cruise in Review” DVD.  Many men of all sizes and shapes have bravely stepped onto the “Hurt Box” and have shown the ladies what their abdominal regions are made of.  Do you have what it takes?  Do you believe that you belong amongst this band of dauntless legends?  Now, “Get Out There” and make your family proud!

Cruise Drinks: Straight Up, and Straight Down!

The Mai Tai

The Mai Tai

Cruisers, whether first-time or multi-time, you are probably looking back on your most recent trip or looking forward to your upcoming cruise.  Cruising is full of many great experiences regardless of what type of trip you’re going on.  Whether it’s clothing-optional, a Trans-Atlantic crossing, or a short five day trip to just get away from the stresses of home, you all share one thing in common.  It’s not how often you played bingo or how many art auctions you attended.

No matter how many cruises you have been on, or any cruises you’re looking forward to going on, you can never get enough of the specialty alcoholic drinks.  Regardless of what bar you go to on board ship, the bar tending staff always introduces you to something new and exciting.  It could be the drink of the day, or just something that catches your attention.  Having been a cruise traveler for many years, I wish to share with you some of my personal favorites.  Hopefully, they will be among yours, too.

I have sailed on a handful of cruise lines in the years past.  I have sailed on Royal Caribbean six times, Norwegian twice, Cunard twice, and once on Princess.  No matter which lines I have sailed on, the specialty drinks are absolutely fabulous.  I have tasted drinks that have taken my taste buds into La-La Land.  Some of them were just so good and so tempting, I just wanted to have one every other hour of the day.

There are three favorite drinks I enjoy while on any cruise.  My #3 favorite cruise drink is called the Mai Tai.  The Mai Tai is lightly sweet and absolutely tempting.  The ingredients include light rum, Orgeat syrup, a splash of Triple Sec, sweet and sour mix, and a cherry.  There is also a second version of the Mai Tai known as the Ultimate Mai Tai.  The Ultimate Mai Tai consists of lime juice, lemon juice, dark and light rum, orange liqueur, orange juice, and sugar.  Both the Mai Tai and Ultimate Mai Tai are served in a Collins glass with a cherry.  Original or Ultimate, it is one yummy specialty drink to wet your alcoholic appetite.

With or without the alcohol talking, my #2 favorite cruise drink has a name which will leave you chuckling.  I tried this drink on board Royal Caribbean and I wound up ordering it time and time again.  It is called the Fuzzy Navel.  Oh, did I enjoy this one! You would, too!  The original Fuzzy Navel is made of just two ingredients; peach schnapps and orange juice.  Sound like something tasty to wet your whistle?  There is also a second version of the Fuzzy Navel.  Aside from orange juice and peach schnapps, a splash of vodka is added.  Like the Mai Tai, the Fuzzy Navel is served in a Collins glass.  Now, that’s tempting!  Next time you are enjoying the company of your fellow guests in the Jacuzzi on the pool deck, be sure to order a Fuzzy Navel yourself and everybody else.  The Fuzzy Navel is truly a drink to write home about.

The Fuzzy Navel

The Fuzzy Navel

On any cruise vacation, there is always that one drink that everyone on board clamors about.  There is always that one drink which everyone says is the best.  The guests in the cabin next door to you say it’s the Screwdriver.  The group of young ladies you met on pool deck told you it’s Sex On The Beach.  Later, another guest you met in the fitness center said it’s the Mango Passion.  Lookout, here is the best alcoholic drink on board any cruise vacation.  Make way for the B-52.  The B-52 is not just a great drink, it’s an awesome drink.  You ought to know why.  Besides the original version, there are five other versions.  The original B-52 is made up of three simple ingredients; Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Grand Marnier.  The five other versions feature various substitutions.  In the second version, Amaretto is used instead of Grand Marnier.  Instead of Grand Marnier or Amaretto, the third version includes Cointreau.

The fourth version is a bit more enticing.  The ingredients are Bailey’s Irish Cream, Tia Maria, and Absinthe.  The fifth version is made of Bailey’s Irish Cream, Grand Marnier, and Tia Maria.  Try that one out while racking up your winnings in the casino!  The sixth and final version of the B-52 is made of Amaretto, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and any type of rum available at the bar.  All six versions are served in a cocktail glass, straight up or on the rocks.  The B-52 is a drink I tried for the very first time on board the Queen Mary 2.  Since then, I never looked back.  It’s a drink to chug down on any occasion on board with your fellow guests.  It is the drink with a kick, which goes down well with the good times rolling.

The B-52

The B-52

Cruising can’t be a more exciting way to see the world and get away from the stresses of the real world.  You get to be pampered day in and day out.  Further, cruising offers you the opportunity to experience new things, including alcoholic drinks.  From my cruising experience, I have shared my three personal favorite drinks; the Mai Tai, Fuzzy Navel, and B-52.  They’re not too sweet or too tart. They are tasty, tempting, and even wet your appetite to try other popular drinks featured on board.  Once you have adapted a taste for these three drinks, you will never go back to those same old run-of-the-mill drinks again.  A cruise is not just the vacation you paid good money for.  Cruising is an opportunity to let loose, blow off steam, visit new places, and best of all…the opportunity to shatter your alcoholic comfort zone.  Ultimately speaking, cruising gives you the golden opportunity to master the art of “mixology”.  Cruise responsibly everyone!

Setting Sail By Rail: Your Amtrak Train and Ship Await!

The beautiful Carnival Splendor awaits her departure from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on a bitter cold January afternoon.

The beautiful Carnival Splendor awaits her departure from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal on a bitter cold January afternoon.

Have you ever driven or flown to your cruise vacation before?  The highways and airports are a mess.  Driving and flying are sometimes not ideal ways of traveling to your cruise departure port.  Cruises are supposed to be fun! From the many activities on board ship, to all the exciting shore excursions, it’s the perfect reason to get away from the stresses of home.  Do yourself a favor.  Don’t wait for the air fares to go down or to be asked to take your shoes off the security checkpoint.  It’s  not fair waiting for that slow poke in your lane to move over.  It’s train time! Let’s set sail!

Having been a cruise line agent in the New York area for five and a half years, a cruiser for over ten years, and an avid train traveler for more than twenty-five years, I have ample traveling advice to share with you.  When going to any Amtrak station, be sure to arrive approximately half hour before your train’s departure time.  For long distance trains, arrive at the station approximately one hour before your train’s departure.  It’s important to allow yourself time to check in your luggage and locate your departure track.  When the train finally arrives, it’s time for your railroad and cruise adventure to begin.

The first port on the list is New York City.  New York City has two cruise terminals; the Manhattan terminal, and the Brooklyn Red Hook Terminal.  If you’re traveling into New York City by train, getting to either terminal is very easy.  New York Penn Station is not far from the Manhattan terminal.  When you arrive at New York Penn Station, take the C or E subway north to 50th Street.  At 50th Street, walk four blocks west to the Manhattan cruise terminal.  Passengers can take the A subway south to Jay Street-Borough Hall, and take a short taxi ride to the Brooklyn cruise terminal.  It is a very modern looking building with a spacious interior.  If your cruise is departing from New York, make sure you give yourself enough time in between your arrival and boarding your ship.  New York City’s traffic can be unpredictable.

Across the way from New York lies the beautiful port city of Bayonne.  Bayonne is home to the Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal.  Getting to the Cape Liberty terminal by train is simple.  The station closest to Bayonne is Newark Penn Station.  When you arrive at Newark, it’s a quick twenty minute cab ride to the port.  If you wish to use mass transit, take the PATH train east to Exchange Place, in the waterfront area of Jersey City.  New Jersey Transit Light Rail station is one hundred feet from the PATH station.  The light rail train will take you south to 34th Street in Bayonne.  It’s a three minute taxi ride to the cruise terminal.  The terminal is formerly a military ocean terminal.  Be sure to have your traveling documents in hand before entering the terminal building.

The next terminal on the list is Baltimore’s cruise terminal.  Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela Express serve Baltimore on a daily basis.  Baltimore’s Penn Station is a fifteen minute cab ride to the cruise terminal.  The terminal is very modern looking.  Make sure that whichever train you take gets you to Baltimore with plenty of time to spare.  The earlier you arrive at the terminal, the more relaxing the check-in process will be.

Further south is Port Canaveral.  Port Canaveral is home to Disney Cruise Line.  It is also home to the Kennedy Space Center.  Amtrak’s Silver Star and Silver Meteor both serve the city of Orlando.  Be sure that you have transportation arrangements made to take you to the cruise terminal.  If you choose to rent a car, be sure to locate a rental car facility in the Orlando area.  All cruise terminals have parking facilities for passengers.  On disembarkation day, it’s best that you try to leave the ship early, to give yourself enough time for your ride back to the Orlando station.

The two busiest cruise ports on the east coast are Fort Lauderdale and Miami.  These two ports handle millions of cruise passengers on a yearly basis.  Traveling to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami by train is extremely easy.  The Silver Star and Silver Meteor arrive late in the day.  Amtrak’s Fort Lauderdale station is a short ten minute ride from the Port Everglades cruise terminal area.  The Miami station is on the north side of town and fifteen minutes from the Port of Miami.  Whichever of the two cities you’re sailing from, you want to stay overnight at a hotel nearest to the cruise terminal area.  Further, its best to rest up from your long journey.  The next morning, you’re all set to check in for your ship relaxed and refreshed.

Amtrak's Silver Star, train #91, arrives at Newark Penn Station on her journey south to Miami, Florida.

Amtrak’s Silver Star, train #91, arrives at Newark Penn Station on her journey south to Miami, Florida.

The third Florida port served by Amtrak is Tampa.  Tampa is also served by the Silver Meteor and Silver Star.  The Tampa cruise terminal is approximately ten minutes from the Tampa Union Station.  Whether in Tampa, Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale, it’s recommended that you stay overnight near the cruise terminal.  On the morning of disembarkation, be sure to be registered for the express walk-off in order to meet up with your train on time.

 

Taking the train to your cruise is the way to enjoy any cruise vacation from the east coast.  Got your bags packed? Swimsuit, check! Sun tan lotion, check! Shades, check! Passports, don’t forget them! Engineer hat?? Yes, I’m serious!  Your cruise awaits you track-side!  Get off thet highway and off that airport security line.  It’s time to start enjoying cruising the way it was meant to be…railroad style.  All aboard and Bon Voyage!