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Holland America Koningsdam makes splash with fitness amenities

January 22, 2018

From via

Sure, the newest Holland America ship, Koningsdam, charts a new course in entertainment and dining.  With its revolutionary Music Walk venues that keep passengers singing and dancing well into the night, and restaurants like the Culinary Arts Center, Sel de Mer and Tamarind that serve up foods to suit a wide variety of tastes, travelers will thoroughly enjoy this cruise ship. Your health and fitness regimen doesn't take a back seat on Koningsdam, either. I took a cruise on Koningsdam and found several ways the ship works for travelers who like to stay fit. - See more at:

Walter Christen's insight:

Holland America's Koningsdam makes it easy to keep up with your healthy regimen. Whether it is fitness classes, jogging track, healthy food options, or the spa, there are many options available.

One of the first thing I look for when cruising is the walking/jogging track.  I like to keep up with my walking habit. Usually the cruise ships I have been on have a sign that let me know how many times I have to circle the ship to make a mile.


Sailing this year? Here are 5 top cruise trends to look for in 2016

October 30, 2017

From via

The cruise industry is chugging ahead in this new year, with an estimated 24 million passengers setting sail.

That's a significant jump from the 15 million passengers a decade ago, according to Cruise Lines International Assn.

Twenty-seven new ocean, river and small ships will hit the water this year. And it's no surprise that while the Caribbean is by far the top destination for cruisers, Australia and Asia are heating up

1. US river cruises - River cruising has exploded in Europe over the last few years, and now American rivers get their turn.

2. Cuba by ship - With the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations and reopening of embassies, Americans have been flocking to the island nation

3. All inclusive please - Regent Seven Seas Cruises has led the way for years with all-inclusive sailings, and more lines are following suit.

4. Make room for families - Family cabins, such as Royal Caribbean's family junior suite, are always in high demand.

5. Better Wi-Fi - Cruise lines will be upgrading and perfecting their Wi-Fi, but it won't necessarily be free

Walter Christen's insight:

2016 looks to be a banner year for people to cruise. Here is my take.

1. I am very intrigued about a US river cruise. Really have to look into a Viking River Cruise on the Mississippi river for 2017.

2.  Although I would love to cruise to Cuba to experience the culture, I do not see it in my plans for a little while. Maybe next year.

3. I really like what Regent Seven Seas is doing with their all inclusive cruises. One of the reasons I love to cruise is not having to make many money spending decisions while on board. This would make for a even better experience.

4. In the past when we cruises with my children we booked adjoining rooms which worked out well.  On my last cruise, my wife an I were booked into a junior suite that had a king size bed, a pull out couch and a separate small room with bunk beds.  Room slept 6 even though it was just the 2 of us.  Great room and would be great for families with children. There was a lot of extra space and storage areas as well.

5. Great to see that the cruise lines have recognized the importance of high speed internet access.  In this day and age, it is hard to disconnect for more than a few days (although I do like being disconnected). Pricing also seems to be getting better.

The Copacabana Pool on MSC Musica, which repositions from Venice to Rio de Janeiro in November.

Tips for using repositioning cruises to find cheap cruises

June 12, 2017

From via

Are you familiar with repositioning cruises?

We certainly had not heard about them until last year when a fellow house sitter traveled from Panama to Portugal and taking a reposition cruise could be a new way of traveling for you!

After downsizing and selling up everything we owned we now travel the world house sitting and writing about our adventures on our baby boomer travel blog. Travel costs are our #1 expense item and we are always looking for travel hacks to maximize our travel dollar and finding discount cruises is one way we do it.

What are repositioning cruises?

Cruise companies reposition their cruise ships from continent to continent to commence the next season e.g. Europe to the Caribbean.

Walter Christen's insight:

I have not personally been on a repositioning cruise but have met some people and have friends who have and love them. Recently I was talking to a gentleman from England on our Norwegian Jade cruise who just completed the transatlantic crossing on this ship. He was staying on for an additional 2 weeks in the Caribbean before going flying back home. He told me that the sea days were quite enjoyable but suggested booking the best room you can and try to stay in the middle of the ship.

My wife and I are considering a transatlantic cruise ourselves in the near future. For me the selection of the proper cruise ship (large please) and stateroom (balcony please) will be very important. I also think I would like to fly to Europe and start the cruise from there and ending somewhere in Florida.



Royal Caribbean chefs will  prepare your meals to your specifications.

First time cruise tips: dining on a cruise

May 17, 2017

From via

One of our favorite things about taking a cruise vacation is not worrying about keeping our dining on budget, because it’s included in our cruise fare. Dining on a cruise can be a little confusing for first-time cruisers, so here are some answers to common questions about cruise dining..

Walter Christen's insight:

Dining on a cruise ship need not be confusing or stress inducing. 


Dinner Seating Times -Most mainstream cruise lines have 2 set dinner times.  Usually around 6PM and 8PM.  In addition, most have flexible dining (Anytime dining, Freestyle dining, etc.) where you can pick your dinner time. Remember that the reason for the set schedule is that the cruise lines gear the evening entertainment around when dinner is scheduled, so if you pick a odd time, you may miss a show or other activity. My family usually schedules dinner for the late seating.  We are already used to eating later at home.  We also check out table assignment soon after we board the ship and if needed request a change.

Dress Codes and Formal Nights - on many of the mainstream cruise lines, the dress code is much more relaxed than it used to be.  Early in my cruising history, I do remember wearing a suit or rental tuxedo on formal nights and other nights dress slacks and a sport coat.  Not so much anymore.  While there are still plenty of people cruising that dress up for dinner, there are also people like me that for the most part wear dress slacks and a dress shirt (although I have been know for wearing a Hawaiian on occasion) .  The choice is directly up to you.  Still, shorts, swimwear, tee-shirts, tank tops and such are not allowed.


Here are some additional pointers I think that were missed.

  • If you find more than one appetizer or entrée on the menu that you would like to try, order them. Also, some entree's are available as a appetizer, ask your server if it is possible.
  • If you have a picky eater, request a children's menu. Although my daughter is older, she still loves Royal Caribbean's chicken strips and fry's.
  • A cruise is a great place to try a new food that you do not know if you will like.
  • Talk to your waiter and staff.  I find it fascinating talking to them and finding out about where they are from and how they started working on a cruise ship.
  • My wife I usually try to have breakfast and lunch in the dining room as well, although depending on if we sleep in, breakfast is sometimes not doable.  Also sometimes lunch is not available when in a port of call.  It is a nice treat to be served your meal.


Remember this, you are on vacation, enjoy and relax.


Millennial travelers pose for a selfie in front of the Erechtheion in Athens.

Uniworld targets millennial river cruisers

April 11, 2017

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has put some clout behind its new brand, U by Uniworld. The new river cruise line devoted to sailings that target the desires of millennial travelers has just announced that bookings are open. 

“Uniworld has always strived to lead innovation in the river cruise industry and we saw a great opportunity with U by Uniworld to reach an entirely new audience,” said Ellen Bettridge, President & CEO of Uniworld. “River cruising is the best and most comfortable way to experience all that Europe has to offer, in an affordable way, and we’re incredibly proud to create a brand that will broaden the interest in this type of experiential travel.”

Nine adventures are now available for reservations by travelers ages 21 to 45 years old looking for a new experience in 2018. These include journeys on the Rhine, Danube and Seine rivers that feature overnight stays in major cities such as Paris, Vienna and Amsterdam

Holland America Line's Koningsdam carries 2,650 passengers on itineraries in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

These cruises you should book a year in advance

January 1, 2017

From via

Be aware, you might not be a fan of early booking, but there is no other way if you want to see certain destinations.

Travelers can be divided into few categories: those who plan ahead their vacation and those who prefer to book the last minute deals and always have their suitcases on the go. However when it comes to choosing a cruise, there are few tricks your should be aware of. Some of the destinations and times, like holiday seasons are not available for fast booking and the only way to catch such a cruise is by booking it in advance, like a year. No jokes here:


Holiday cruises

Cruises on new ships

Popular cruise ships

 Short season itineraries

Expedition cruises


Walter Christen's insight:

For the most part I agree with these suggestions that booking early for some cruises is a requirement.  A lot depends upon how flexible you are on dates and stateroom category.

 I have cruised a few times for New Years Eve and did not find it that difficult to find a suitable cruise 2-3 months out.  I have also sailed on many of the popular cruise ships including Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas ,booking them 3-4 months from the sailing. When we did our Alaska cruise we did book 8 months out and although we wanted a balcony room, none were available even then.  Many cruise ships to Alaska are smaller ships that do not have as many balcony rooms.  Next time we go to Alaska (yes it is worth doing more than once) I will book at least one year in advance.


The Greenhouse Spa & Salon on ms Koningsdam.

Holland America's Koningsdam makes splash with fitness amenities

December 26, 2016

From via

Sure, the newest Holland America ship, Koningsdam, charts a new course in entertainment and dining.  

With its revolutionary Music Walk venues that keep passengers singing and dancing well into the night, and restaurants like the Culinary Arts Center, Sel de Mer and Tamarind that serve up foods to suit a wide variety of tastes, travelers will thoroughly enjoy this cruise ship. Your health and fitness regimen doesn't take a back seat on Koningsdam, either. I took a cruise on Koningsdam and found several ways the ship works for travelers who like to stay fit.

Walter Christen's insight:

Holland America's Koningsdam makes it easy to keep up with your healthy regimen. Whether it is fitness classes, jogging track, healthy food options, or the spa, there are many options available.

One of the first thing I look for when cruising is the walking/jogging track.  I like to keep up with my walking habit. Usually the cruise ships I have been on have a sign that let me know how many times I have to circle the ship to make a mile.


Enjoy live music and classic dishes in Norwegian Escape's Manhattan Room.

6 things everyone gets wrong about cruise ships

December 23, 2016

From via

As a longtime avoider of mega cruise ships, I had a lot of assumptions going into my first large-ship cruise. It would be crowded, I thought. I would be incapacitated by seasickness. My only dining choices would be sub-par buffets. Realizing I was floating on a raft of preconceptions before even leaving port, I spoke with some fellow cruise-ship avoiders to develop a list of common reasons people don’t cruise. Once onboard, I set out to prove each of these cruise ship myths right or wrong. Here’s what I found.


Walter Christen's insight:

I get asked by friends and family about these myths all the time. While there are always exceptions, I firmly believe these are myths. Here is my take.

Rooms will feel tight - Yes the rooms are smaller and depending on which cabin category and cruise ship they can be pretty small.  My advice is to look at all of the information available on square footage and make your decision wisely.  Some people do not mind a small room as they are rarely in the room except to sleep. I prefer a slightly larger room with a balcony if possible.

It's crowded - While it may look crowded when embarking on a cruise, I have found that once onboard, there are plenty of places to spread out. My suggestion is to take a good walk around the ship after boarding and find the quite out of the way places you may want to try later.

It's only buffets - This is far from true.  One of my rules on a cruise ship is that I partake of the dining room if it is open for service, and I do not have a early tour, I like being served and it makes my meal extra special.  There are occasions that the dining room is closed and usually happens when the ship is in port. It should be noted that the buffets on may cruise ships have greatly improved and offer a very varied menu.

You'll get seasick - My whole family is lucky that we do not get seasick very easy.  I find that the larger cruise ship give the best chance of not getting seasick.  If you are prone to getting sick, take appropriate precautions and also be careful where you book your cabin.  Best place is lower on the ship in the middle. 

You'll have to talk to strangers - No one will make you talk to anyone you do not want to. When my wife and I cruise, we request a table for two for this reason.Actually we met some very good friends of ours on a cruise while waiting on line for a excursion.

You can only skim the surface of destinations - I have never felt this way.  I enjoy seeing a lot of different places while on a cruise.  Also since I do cruise often, I do sometimes go to the same ports.  Half the fun is finding something different to do on a return stop and to see how things change over the years.



Book a romantic cruise to the Caribbean on Oasis of the Seas.

Cruise line dedication - Sticking to one brand

December 21, 2016

From via

Are you cruise line dedicated? Do you find yourself taking cruises on only one brand because that’s the brand you started with and are happy with the brand? Does the thought of straying and trying another cruise line scare you? Maybe just a little bit? Don’t worry… you’re not alone. Many people start out with a cruise line and find themselves, shall we say, infatuated with the cruise line. If it was their introduction to cruising, they will probably always have a very strong tie to the cruise line and even to a particular ship. Why would they ever want to try out another cruise line when they are so happy right where they are. Is cruise line dedication and sticking to one brand a good or bad idea?

I’ve mentioned “Velveeta syndrome” before on my blog and I’ll mention it again. If left to his own devices, my husband would eat exactly how he ate in college. Give him a brick of Velveeta, macaroni, and a microwave, and he’d be set for lunch and dinner for at least a week (hopefully more!). Let’s just say that he wasn’t always as adventurous as he is now. I introduced sushi, Indian food, and vegetarianism to him among other things, including cruising. Now he is the one to suggest something different when I sometimes fall into a rut.

But if you are madly in love with your current cruise line, why would you want to try a new one? Perhaps it makes you realize that there are other options besides the first one you chose. You might decide your first cruise line was a great introduction to cruising, but your tastes have advanced to something new. Or the new cruise line might only reaffirm your love for your original cruise line and why you should never stray again. If you never try another cruise line, how will you ever really know that your first is your one and only?

Walter Christen's insight:

My very first cruise was on Royal Caribbean's Song of America. Much of my cruising has been on Royal Caribbean to the point that I am a diamond member in the Crown and Anchor Society.  I have also been on a few of the other mainstream cruise lines. One issue see with dedication to one cruise line is that the food and entertainment are basically the same across all of the cruise ships.

 This year I decided to try some of the other cruise lines and see how they stack up.  This past year I have taken a Norwegian Cruise Lines Western Caribbean cruise and had a wonderful time.  Yes the feel and amenities were different, but different does not mean bad. Early next year, I will be taking a cruise on the MSC Divina. I cannot wait to see what the differences are from the other cruise I have taken.

 There are many other cruise lines I have not experienced but I am ready and willing to try them all.


Book a cruise on Holland America's Westerdam to transit the Panama Canal, cruise the Caribbean or explore Alaska.

How Holland America is changing the Mexican Riviera – and itself

December 12, 2016

From via

Sometimes, a good cruise is like a visit from an old friend. That’s the case for me this week as I cruise aboard Holland America Line’s gracious 1,916-guest Westerdam to the splendid Mexican Riviera on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

I’ve been cruising to the Mexican Riviera for over a decade now. I’ve also been sailing with Holland America for the past eleven years, having amassed two-star Mariner status with the line long before I’d ever begun writing about cruising and cruise ships as a career. Both line and destination have changed in the intervening years. Fortunately, that change has been for the better.

A decade ago, the Mexican Riviera was overloaded with cruise ships. It wasn’t uncommon to have three – sometimes four – ships calling on Puerto Vallarta on a single day. Prices were low, the weather was hot, and for many cruisers on the West Coast, a voyage to the Mexican Riviera was one of the most cost-effective cruises they could take.

Walter Christen's insight:

My wife and I have just recently talked about taking a cruise to the Mexican Riviera.  She did this itinerary many years ago with friends before I had met her.  Nice to see that the cruise ships are coming back to this location.

We have also started looking at cruise lines we have not sailed on before. Holland America has changed and has partnerships with America’s Test Kitchen, BBC Earth, and B.B. King's All-Star Band that make it an attractive option.


St. John's, the port and main city of Antigua, taken from a cruise ship.

Why not take a cruise this winter

December 6, 2016

From via

When thinking about where you want to go to escape the winter blues, why not take a cruise? 

“Aside from the chance to escape to tropical destinations on a floating vacation, there are plenty of other enticements to cruise in December, January and February,” reports U.S. News and World Report’s Tanner Callais. 

One reason to consider a winter cruise is the price. 

Walter Christen's insight:

I enjoy taking cruises during the winter months. Yes, the prices can be better and there are fewer children and college aged passengers. One of the benefits I also have seen is that cruising in the Caribbean, the temperatures are lower allowing for some excursions that would be unbearably hot during the summer months. In November I did a Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Jade and while still warm, it was comfortable.  I will be on the MSC Divina in February to the Eastern Caribbean.  Although I will forgo any snorkel trips (my passion), I have planned some excursions to see more of the islands we will be going to.

Of course if your dream cruise is to go to Alaska, you will have to wait until May. I do not know of any cruise line that does Alaska during the winter.


What to Do If Your Cruise Encounters Bad Weather

November 30, 2016

From via

Keep your river cruise from turning into a bus tour. Get cancel-for-any-reason travel protection and research weather forecasts and water levels before you depart.

__Q: Last November, my wife and I and another couple took a Viking cruise, Portraits of Southern France, on the Saône and Rhone rivers. Of the seven nights of the cruise, we spent six tied to a dock because of high water caused by abnormally heavy rain the week before. We were bused to most of the places we were supposed to visit.

I looked online and discovered this was a frequent problem, and this ship often did not cruise for the seven promised days. I also spoke to a crew member, who admitted, quietly, that it happened at least 50 percent of the time.

When I contacted Viking after returning home, they offered us about $240 each toward another cruise. After paying almost $7,000, that is unacceptable. We booked a Viking cruise because we believed it would offer us an exceptional journey through southern France. Instead, we spent six days tied to a dock and had two-hour rides on a bus. Could you help us secure more substantial compensation? —Paul B., Vero Beach, Florida__

A: As I said to Paul in our initial reply, we don’t usually pursue river-cruise cases that are affected by high or low water levels. This is true even when they become, in many ways, bus tours. We know cruise lines are not obligated to offer compensation when they must change itineraries for reasons outside their control.

Walter Christen's insight:

Very interesting article on river cruise itinerary changes and travel insurance.  This year, there have been some river cruises in Europe cancelled due to unusually low water levels in some rivers used.

This article could have been related to any cruise. My wife and I usually take trip insurance, although I have never had to use it.  Also since we live in Florida, we do many cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean.  Only once, about 6-7 years ago, did we have a change of Itinerary on a cruise due to many hurricanes in the Caribbean.  We were handed a piece of paper while in the security line before boarding stating that there was a good possibility that we would not be going to the ports scheduled. Worked out well though and we went to ports of call we had not been to before. 

Last year on a cruise to the southern Caribbean the order of the ports of call was changed so the cruise ship could get out of the way of a storm.

If you decide to take out trip insurance, make sure you know what is covered and what is not.  For the most part, weather related issues are not covered.