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Where to Go with Your Tax Refund: The Eastern Caribbean

March 5, 2013 at 9:27 PM | by | Comment (1)

Tax day is coming, and you're probably excited...but not because you look forward to sifting through receipts and credit card statements. You're excited because you're getting a fat refund. Probably. The economy may be on its way back up, but you should try to stretch that tax refund as far as you can...like with a little "you did a great job last year" trip—a Tax Refund Vacation.

Newsflash. This is actually the best time to take a Caribbean cruise. It's not the holidays (with their premium prices), nor is it hurricane season. A ship is not a Florida beach full of spring breakers, and the temperatures are just right for tanning and swimming without sweating your face off.

Our mind immediately jumps to the newest ship plying the waves, the Celebrity Reflection. We've been on it ourselves and we recently spotted it pulling into St. Maarten, another destination that's definitely tops for a Tax Refund Vacation.

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The Evolution of Cruise Ships, from 1975 to 2013: The Ship Itself

February 8, 2013 at 12:03 PM | by | Comments (0)

Imagine a cruise. Now picture yourself on that cruise. Are you playing shuffleboard and gobbling rum cakes? God, let's hope not. Over the next several days, we're going to dig back into the era responsible for creating these cruise stereotypes—the fun-in-the-sun 1970s, when ocean liners turned into cruise ships and voyages into vacations. In sharp contrast, we'll look at cruising 2013-style onboard the newest ship on the seas, the Celebrity Reflection.

The Cruising 1975 vs. 2013 Series:

1. Activities
2. Technology
3. Dining and drinking
4. Cabins and suites
5. The ships themselves

The average ship of 1975 had eight guest decks, none of them named with any creativity (ex: "Main Deck," "B Deck") while the Celebrity Reflection and similar megaships regularly boast of 13 or 14 guest decks with names ("Solstice Deck") that sound more natural than naval.

Sure, 13 decks to explore sounds like quite a bit, but then consider that the number of cabins has also risen from 500 in 1975 to 1,500 in 2013, so all that fresh space means more room for more new friends. Oh, and the chance of scoring a cabin with a verandah? Nearly 0% in 1975, depending on your ship. Heck, having a large window was living in luxury, and a dinner plate-sized porthole was far more common. In 2013, the percentage of cabins with private verandahs has skyrocketed to an impressive 85% on the Reflection, and even portholes on the lowest decks have expanded to dimensions approaching picture windows.

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The Evolution of Cruise Ships, from 1975 to 2013: Cabins and Suites

February 6, 2013 at 9:33 AM | by | Comment (1)

Imagine a cruise. Now picture yourself on that cruise. Are you playing shuffleboard and gobbling rum cakes? God, let's hope not. Over the next several days, we're going to dig back into the era responsible for creating these cruise stereotypes—the fun-in-the-sun 1970s, when ocean liners turned into cruise ships and voyages into vacations. In sharp contrast, we'll look at cruising 2013-style onboard the newest ship on the seas, the Celebrity Reflection.

The Cruising 1975 vs. 2013 Series:

1. Activities
2. Technology
3. Dining and drinking
4. Cabins and suites
5. The ships themselves

There was once a time when going on a cruise meant days of fun in the sun balanced out by the small miseries of showering in a teeny-tiny restroom, sleeping in a dreary room without a balcony (or even a window larger than a dinner plate), and forgoing the usual comforts of home. Happily those days are in the past and instead cruisers can bunk down in two-bedroom suites with wet bars, baby grand pianos, massive bathrooms larger than studio apartments, and balconies galore. Even the average cabin of 2013 makes suites of 1975 looks like steerage class. Ah, evolution.

Naturally prices have risen as well—like from $550 double occupancy for a 7-day Caribbean cruise in 1975 to $890 for the same in 2013—but though the price is nearly double, the amenities and space ratios are easily quadrupled.

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The Evolution of Cruise Ships, from 1975 to 2013: Drinking and Dining

February 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM | by | Comment (1)

Imagine a cruise. Now picture yourself on that cruise. Are you playing shuffleboard and gobbling rum cakes? God, let's hope not. Over the next several days, we're going to dig back into the era responsible for creating these cruise stereotypes—the fun-in-the-sun 1970s, when ocean liners turned into cruise ships and voyages into vacations. In sharp contrast, we'll look at cruising 2013-style onboard the newest ship on the seas, the Celebrity Reflection.

The Cruising 1975 vs. 2013 Series:

1. Activities
2. Technology
3. Dining and drinking
4. Cabins and suites
5. The ships themselves

Beef Wellington. Poached lobster. A tower of chocolate eclairs. Daisy-shaped pats of butter to accompany as many glistening dinner rolls as you care to eat. These are the usual suspects on a cruise ship's menu, and it's as true today as it was in 1975. The big difference is that, now, there are actually other options. The ships of 2013 offer healthy and light cuisine, cater to vegetarians and food allergies, and even employ sushi chefs to handcraft rolls to order.

Boiling it down, the decades have brought a needed shift to put quality over quantity.

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The Evolution of Cruise Ships, from 1975 to 2013: Technology

February 1, 2013 at 11:17 AM | by | Comment (1)

Imagine a cruise. Now picture yourself on that cruise. Are you playing shuffleboard and gobbling rum cakes? God, let's hope not. Over the next several days, we're going to dig back into the era responsible for creating these cruise stereotypes—the fun-in-the-sun 1970s, when ocean liners turned into cruise ships and voyages into vacations. In sharp contrast, we'll look at cruising 2013-style onboard the newest ship on the seas, the Celebrity Reflection.

The Cruising 1975 vs. 2013 Series:

1. Activities
2. Technology
3. Dining and drinking
4. Cabins and suites
5. The ships themselves

There were no cell phones in 1975, or personal computers. Of course this is huge "duh" fact, but let that sink in for a moment when you think of the hundreds of passengers onboard a cruise ship and their near complete break with communication when they stepped onboard. Sure, there were in-room radios and ship-to-shore calling, if you wanted to pay the per-minute price, but nothing like the connectivity they now offer.

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The Evolution of Cruise Ships, from 1975 to 2013: Onboard Activities

January 30, 2013 at 5:46 PM | by | Comments (0)

Imagine a cruise. Now picture yourself on that cruise. Are you playing shuffleboard and gobbling rum cakes? God, let's hope not. Over the next several days, we're going to dig back into the era responsible for creating these cruise stereotypes—the fun-in-the-sun 1970s, when ocean liners turned into cruise ships and voyages into vacations. In sharp contrast, we'll look at cruising 2013-style onboard the newest ship on the seas, the Celebrity Reflection.

The Cruising 1975 vs. 2013 Series:

1. Activities
2. Technology
3. Dining and drinking
4. Cabins and suites
5. The ships themselves

"We're getting weirder."

It's a phrase that's been popping up in print more and more often, in attempts to describe how modern interests are evolving faster than ever before. Sure, we have the internet and its constant stream of new information and influences to mostly thank for that. Instead of coffee, we're drinking macchiatos or requesting cups brewed through a Chemex. Instead of going out for a steak dinner, we're hungry for hamachi or sous-vide venison. We're getting weirder and, oh boy, do the cruise lines know it.

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Four 2013 Cruise Itineraries That Don't Suck

January 8, 2013 at 2:21 PM | by | Comments (0)

No matter what your opinion of cruising, there are some places much better suited to entering by ocean or waterway. Every year cruise lines kick each other in the shins in the race to have the coolest city combinations for their newest ships...all to attract you, dear traveler. For 2013, we have our eyes on four itineraries in particular that make midnight buffets off the coast of Bermuda and dancing to jazz in middle of the Med look like child's play.

· 12 days on Ukraine's Dnieper River with Viking River Cruises
Who thinks, "hey, let me go cruise my way through Ukraine?" No one, that's who. Or, rather, no one with the exception of people booking the Dnieper River trip on Viking River Cruises, since that's exactly what they'll be doing. We love river cruise ships for their ability to cruise by at eye level and gain a unique perspective of smaller cities where travelers usually arrive by train or car. Viking also has a Burma/Myanmar cruise coming up for 2014 we're already eyeing.
Ports: Odessa, Sevastopol, Yalta, Kherson, Zaporozhye, Kiev
From: $2,438 double occupancy (includes 10 tours)

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Wish You Were Here: Somewhere Off the Coast of Florida

December 3, 2012 at 2:09 PM | by | Comments (0)

Ahoy! If you're hanging out in Florida and are anywhere near the coast from Miami on up to West Palm Beach, break out a pair of binoculars to spot us. Just look for a white sliver on the horizon, that'll actually be the ginormous white Celebrity Cruises ship Celebrity Reflection. We promise to wave back.

There's no ultimate destination other than a return to Miami for the start of the Art Basel festival of contemporary art. You see, this is a preview cruise—the ship's maiden US voyage. It's a bit like an airport practice run, when terminals invite people to come simulate operations so, on opening day, the kinks have been well worked out. We would say we're "kicking the tires" of the Reflection but, well, it's a boat with a massive hull...and a multi-million modern art collection with 6,059 original pieces from the likes of Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, Christo, Marina Abramovic, Richard Prince and Robert Rauschenberg.

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Four Cyber Monday Travel Deals to Salivate Over Now

November 21, 2012 at 11:26 AM | by | Comments (0)

We know you've planned your itinerary for overindulgence this week, but there’s still time to tweak things a little bit in advance of the shopping bonanzas known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Sure you can head out into the dark of the early morning hours in search of a discounted television, computer, or toaster, or you can just fire up the laptop, tablet, or phone and look for some travel deals. We’re not exactly sure who will be offering what—that’s the surprise of Black Friday—but here’s some hints.

· Cathay Pacific is doing something, but we’re not sure exactly what. They have a landing page set up and ready to go promising a “Black Friday Exclusive,” and requesting us to check back with them at midnight on November 23. A little research reveals that it may be a 15% off airfare deal. Expect the discount to apply for travel through February 2013, and it sounds like those booking tickets will even be entered into a special contest.

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Coachella Jumps the Shark, Lands on a Cruise Ship

July 18, 2012 at 10:20 AM | by | Comments (0)

Whoa. Okay it's official. The live music festival Coachella has jumped the shark so hard it's landed in the deep end of the ocean.

Just yesterday, Coachella promoters Goldenvoice announced that they'd be packing up the popular desert-held music event and adding some water—by theming two cruises after it. The S.S. Coachella will set sail for two consecutive weekends during the notoriously slow weeks of the year for cruising—those right before the Christmas holiday. Brilliant timing if you're a cruise line looking to make a buck, horrible timing for attendees, who will likely have to chose between taking work time off for S.S. Coachella or heading home for the holidays.

And it won't be cheap; no camping or crashing on a stranger's couch possible on this ship. The 2,886-guest Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Silhouette is all staterooms and suites, with packages starting from $500 per person and maxing out around $2,000 per person (of their published prices, "email to inquire" for pricier suites). Remember those amounts do not include booze, soda, taxes & gratuities, shore excursions or travel to and from Fort Lauderdale.

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All Aboard The Booze Cruise! Celebrity Cruises Starts All-You-Can-Drink Plans

December 1, 2009 at 12:32 PM | by | Comments (0)

One pina colada with a little umbrella, please. Celebrity Cruises has just introduced a whole new item to their shipboard menu: all-you-can-drink plans. That's right—binge drinking ahoy!

There are six different drink plans available for purchase along with your cruise, and they are all detailed on the line's website. The healthiest option is the unlimited bottled water package, priced at $13.50 per cruise night. From there, the offerings climb past fountain drinks ($5.75 per night) all the way up to beer ($34.50 per night), liquor ($51.50 and up), frozen drinks ($22 and up) and primo wines ($114 and up). Celebrity might make some extra dough off of these deals, but are they encouraging unhealthy and rowdy onboard behavior?

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Behind-the-Scenes Cruise Ship Tours Are The New Hot Excursion

July 29, 2009 at 8:59 AM | by | Comments (0)

Cruise ships today are much more than just hotels on water. They’ve got on-board waterparks, golf courses, gyms, spas, and well ... just about everything you can find on land in addition to beds for thousands.

But just how do they manage running all that stuff while the boat’s at sea? It's something we've always wondered, and fortunately cruise lines are starting to realize that we’re curious.

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