Packing for an expedition cruise is different from packing for a regular cruise. While I usually try to pack light it can be harder on an expedition. The one nice thing about an expedition cruise is you are definitely not expected to dress up at any point. Clothes onboard are casual and it is actually OK to rewear most of the clothes you bring which I will admit was something hard for me to do at first.
On my recent Galapagos cruise many of the other guests commented that I was a super smart packer for the choices I brought with me so today I wanted to talk a little bit about what I packed for my Galapagos trip and how to decide what to bring for almost any expedition. The 3 key things are Weather, Terrain, and Activities.
Planning what to pack for any vacation first starts with your own comfort level. I know that I am always cold so I like to make sure I pack things to keep me warm. I research what the weather is generally like where I will be traveling and that is where I start with what I will need to pack. Next I will look at what activities I will be doing on this vacation and then I decide what I will need to make those activities the most comfortable. I also learn from each vacation and try to pay attention to what my guides are wearing for certain types of things and I plan to get those things for my next trip.
For the Galapagos I did my research on the weather and the terrain. That told me that I would need to plan for layers which really does work best for almost any travel. It is always better to be able to take off a layer if you get hot. I also read that we would be visiting Galapagos in the wet season so I packed a light rain jacket. We didn't end up really needing the rain gear but that was OK. Galapagos is on the equator so I knew the sun would be strong no matter what time of year it was. I prefer to wear lightweight clothes that have an SPF vs lathering on the sunscreen. My go to for clothes like that is Columbia. I like to have pants and a button down shirt so I can have another shirt layered underneath but if it will be hot I go for one of their cooling shirts. Also do not forget a good hat to shade your face and neck. These clothes work for either hiking, kayaking, or riding around on the zodiacs since they are light and will shield you from the sun and also dry fast when they get wet.
Shoes are one of those things that take up a lot of suitcase space and can be heavy so trying to take the least amount of shoes but still be comfortable is key. I read about what kind of hikes we would be doing and as is typical on most expedition type cruises we would be taking zodiacs over to land and many times it would be a wet landing. I tend to be a flip flop person so if it was just going to be a beach walk that would be fine however most of the land in Galapagos is rocky so hiking type shoes work best. Having been on a couple expedition cruises I had seen the guides wearing hiking sandals and those seem to work nicely since they can get wet on the landing but still protect your feet for rougher terrain. I will be honest I have never been a fan of the way tevas look so I researched some other options and I found Chacos. I liked the way they looked and they got great reviews so I ordered a pair. They worked perfectly for me on this trip so I was very happy. Very important - if you buy new shoes for any vacation be sure to break them in before leaving home. Some others on our trip brought hiking sneakers and would either go barefoot off the zodiac or would wear other shoes that could get wet and then dry off their feet and put on the hiking shoes. To me that seemed like too much extra.
Galapagos is one of those places where the snorkeling is amazing and you don't want to miss the chance to do it. The water isn't as warm as you might expect though so if floating in 75 degree water for an hour doesn't sound appealing then you will want to be like me and bring a wetsuit. Many expedition boats might also carry some wetsuits you can borrow however you might be surprised to find the wetsuits are shorties like on our boat. I was very happy to have my full length wetsuit since it allowed me to spend way more time in the water than the guests that were wearing the shorties. Our previous expedition in Sea of Cotes did loan us full wetsuits so that is also how I knew I really preferred a full length but I also wasn't super crazy about wearing a loaner for something that is so close to so much skin. Another snorkeling item that you might not feel too comfortable using a loaner is the mask and snorkel. With all the covid stuff I wasn't totally sure the ship would be offering the snorkels to use so I figured best to buy my own anyway. When I did my research I found many people were raving about this new type of snorkel mask that gives you a much better view and you didn't have to hold the snorkel part in your mouth. I am so glad I found that mask for this trip as it really was as great as the reviews said! Also being someone that gets cold very easily I also had a few other accessories like diving gloves and socks to keep me warm.
A few other accessories that come in handy on expeditions are a good camera/underwater camera for snorkeling, a small backpack/dry bag, binoculars, and a refillable water bottle (our ship gave each guest a nice bottle and had filling stations onboard).
I have learned the hard way that on an expedition it really doesn't hurt to pack those things that you normally might not want to waste precious suitcase space on since most expeditions are probably once in a lifetime trips so you don't want to miss out because you don't have the right gear.
I know Galapagos is one of those places on many people's bucket list. It was definitely on mine so when I got the opportunity to take advantage of a special offer I couldn't pass it up. It was going to be Hurtigruten's First time offering a cruise in the Galapagos and they were inviting some agents to join them. I had just 2 weeks to get prepared for this trip of a lifetime. Sometimes it can be better that way but I usually prefer a little more time to enjoy the anticipation. Anyway what I quickly learned is that getting to Ecuador really isn't as bad as I thought. I guess in my head I always thought of the Galapagos as been this exotic far flung place to visit. In reality it was just a 3 and half hour flight from Miami! OK sure I had to drive about 3 hours to get to Miami but to me that was worth it to get a non-stop flight (especially in winter). Two other unexpected things I realized were Ecuador is in the same time zone as FL and they use US Dollars as their currency. To me that was a double bonus - no jet lag and no having to exchange money.
Day 1 Arrive in Ecuador and explore around Quito
Everyone going to Galapagos does have to stop in Ecuador first. Our cruise package started with a visit to Quito. It was nice to have a pre-cruise tour around Ecuador included in the package. The first morning we had to be up early to meet the group and take a bus up to Cotopaxi National Park which was a chance for us to get to see some of the Volcanos that make up this area of the world. Cotopaxi means "neck of the moon" which I think is a pretty cool name for it's half moon shaped peak. After our visit to the national park we went to San Agustin De Callo for lunch. It a little known colonial Hacienda that was built on the site of an Inca palace, which is one of the 2 most important archeological sites in Ecuador. They had set up with a tent and tables in the courtyard for our wonderful lunch. After lunch we were surprised by a group of lamas that came to visit for a snack. It was a lovely afternoon and we then headed back to the hotel.
Day 2 - Fly to the Galapagos - Baltra Island and Mosquera Islet
This morning we were up early to head back to the Quito airport to catch our flight over to the Galapagos. It was about a 3 hour flight over to the islands from Quito (mainly because we had to make a stop in Guayaquil). We stayed on the plane but many other guests got off. Even thought it was only about a 35 minute flight from Quito for people to drive between the 2 cities it would be many hours due to the mountains. As we were making our decent into Galapagos I was very surprised by how brown and dry the islands looked. I know they were formed by volcanos but I figured Hawaii was as well so I guess I was kind of expecting more lush and green. It was just the beginning of wet season and I guess they hadn't had any rain yet. I am quickly realizing what makes the Galapagos so unique other than the animals. The weather here is influenced by the ocean currents vs the air flow so that really makes it hard to predict what it will be like. Being on the equator does mean temperatures are generally close to the same all year. Another big surprise that I had learned in my research before leaving home is that the water temperature here is always around 74 degrees (which if you ask me is too cold for normal swimming). Having learned from our Sea of Cortes trip we bought wetsuits this time so we were ready for the cold water.
The Galapagos are very strict about what things can and cannot come onto the islands so luggage is inspected and locked with a zip before your flight over to the island. Once your bags are taken off the plane they first have to be inspected by a K9 team and if he sniffs out anything that might not be good your bag is pulled from the belt. It is good to pay attention so that when you are allowed to go collect your bags you will understand why yours might be missing. After the dog is done someone else goes along and cuts off all the zip ties and you can go get your bags. We were met representatives with Hurtigruten signs at the airport and they directed us to the bus that would take us over to the dock. They did tell us the day before that the boat will be anchored out and we would all be taken over via zodiacs. That was good to know so that you can make sure to not only pack but dress appropriately for the journey. Our checked bags were taken over for us but we would need to take our carry on bag onto the zodiac. There was another ship that was taken it's guests over to their boat ahead of us and I saw a lady wearing heels and I thought she must not have used a travel agent that would have told her that was not the type of shoes for this trip.
Once on the boat we were able to stop by our room and then head to lunch. After lunch we had a talk that went over what to expect during the cruise. When going on safari in Africa there are the Big 5 that are the must see animals when you are there - Galapagos has the Big 15! They let us know first up would be a beach walk in about an hour which was a great way to kick off the cruise. We were split into groups and along with a guide hopped into a zodiac and over to the beach. One very important rule of the Galapagos is that you are never allowed on land without a National Park Guide. Right away we were greeted by a bunch of sea lions so we could cross off the first in our search for the Big 15 already. It was great getting to pretty much share the beach with them and take some photos. Animals are not afraid of humans in the Galapagos so the seal lions could have cared less that we were walking around and taking photos. The rule is that people need to stay 6 feet from the wildlife but there is no rule for how close the wildlife can get to humans if they choose to. We also saw some of the marine iguanas sun bathing so we are up to 2 of the 15. They are the only iguanas that have adapted to be able to swim and dive for food. They can stay under water for up to 30 minutes. After exploring the beach a bit we headed back to the boat where our next thing was the safety drill. Just like any cruise you need to know where you muster station is and how to don your life vest. We did all that and then we were told what to expect the next day.
Day 3 - San Cristobal Island / Punta Pitt
Another early morning and we had the option to hike or ride the zodiacs both options were basically so you could see some of the birds on the Big 15. Our expedition guide said the hike would be what he calls difficult and since it started at 6:15 am I opted for the easier zodiac ride. We got to see lots of birds and were able to cross of 4 more things of the Big 15 - all 3 types of Boobies - Blue Foot, Red Foot, and Nazca. We were told today's island was the best for spotting the Red Foot Booby since they are a bit more particular about where they nest and this area provided what they like most. The Red Foot Booby are also the smallest of the 3. We also saw a Frigatebird to round out the 4 birds from the list. The Frgatebirds are big and look sort of prehistoric. We got to see an owl having it's breakfast which our guide said is very rate to see in this area. He did also explain that owls here have a lot of competition from the Galapagos Hawk so they have switched from being nocturnal to diurnal and that was why we were seeing an owl hunting during the day. We got to see some Galapagos fur seals so up to 8 out of 15 animals and it is only day 2!
After our early morning activity we grabbed breakfast (yes this morning had an activity before breakfast so it was a 6:00 am off the ship kind of day- can you see why I didn't choose a hike?). After breakfast it was out again for another activity. This time we opted for snorkeling over kayaking since the weather was so nice and you just never know what the other days will be like. I didn't want to waste an opportunity since snorkeling was at the top of my to do list on this adventure. We were so glad we had brought our own wetsuits since the boat only offered shorties (short sleeves and shorts) which would not keep me warm enough. We also bought a newer version of the snorkel mask which gives you much better vision and easier to breathe ( I will do a what to pack for the Galapagos blog next). I was so glad I had read about these masks when researching what to bring to Galapagos since they were amazing. We ended up snorkeling for over an hour and half and were the last 2 people in the water - I know that our wetsuits and masks are what made the difference. We got to see so many cool fish and of course the playful sea lions came out have fun with us too. After that believe it or not it wasn't even lunch time yet so we had a jam packed morning. While eating lunch the ship was moving to the other side of San Cristobal Island so we could go to the breeding center for the highly endangered giant tortoises. That meant we were up to 9 of the 15 after seeing the tortoises. This was not the only day we would see the giant tortoises but these were in captivity so you were pretty guaranteed to see them here. It also helped that it was feeding day so there were out close to the trails.
Day 4 - Santa Fe Island and South Plaza Island
After breakfast we all hopped into zodiacs to head over to a white sandy beach with lots of sea lions. The most interesting sighting of the day was a sea lion that had just finishing giving birth - it was really amazing! Watching the baby make it's way down to the water just after being born was just a WOW moment. Bonus was there was a Galapagos Hawk waiting to snack on the afterbirth so that means we are up to 10 of 15. We walked around the island and got to see many other things including the endemic Santa Fe Land Iguana which is another of the big 15 so we were up to 11 of 15. We saw one that was in the middle of eating his breakfast which was a piece of the prickly pear cactus. It was hard to believe they could eat it spines and all! They basically just hang out under the cactus waiting for food to fall. We went back to the boat to make a change into snorkel gear and went back to the same area where we just walked. The Galapagos National Park has a lot of rules and one is that the number of guests walking on certain islands is limited to a certain amount of people at the same time. We had our turn to be on that beach earlier so this snorkel was done from the zodiac and we floated around the lagoon and then climbed back onto the zodiac to get back to the boat for lunch. There are also rules about how many boats can be in an area too and we could see the next boat coming in to take our spot as we were headed back. After lunch and a siesta it was back in the zodiacs to explore another small island. This one was covered in a scarlet succulent which made for some colorful photos. We also saw more sea lions and this area was a sort of day care for the sea lion pups while the moms would go out to hunt. On the other side of the island there was a large cliffside where many different species of birds were nesting. We also spotted another version of Land Iguana which is also part of the big 15 so we are up to 12 of 15 now.
Day 5 - Puerto Ayora
Today was pretty much an all day off the boat day. We took zodiacs into port where we boarded buses to go to the Charles Darwin research center. There were different species of Giant Tortoises from all different islands in Galapagos together at the research center. We learned about all the efforts going into protecting these guys. After that we hopped back on the bus to head to our next tortoise destination. Along the way there was an option to take a brisk bike ride or stay on the bus to make a pit stop at a local farmer that showed us how they use some of the island's resources like coffee, chocolate, and sugar cane. Coffee is the #2 economic source for the islands - Tourism being #1. After that we made our way to our lunch stop which was at a ranch where the tortoises also like to flock to that area to mate during this time of year. After lunch we were able to roam around the land of the ranch and walk amongst the Giant Tortoises. This was very different from when we had seen them in captivity. They gave us boots to put on since we would be walking through a bit of mud and tortoise poop. All of these tortoises made their way to this ranch on their own because it just happens to be the perfect spot to find a mate. After they successfully mate the females will make their way back down to the beach to lay the eggs. We did see and hear a few couples taking care of business. It doesn't look like an easy task and the males might have had a little stage fright after seeing a few people come to watch. Of course these guys on land seem to have it a bit easier than the sea turtles we saw mating the other day.
Day 6 - Espanola Island
Today was going to be another jammed packed day. The morning started with what our guide called a long walk but one that was definitely worth it. We were in Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. The path had lots of boulders so it wasn't an easy walk so having the right footwear was important (I will include more on that in my what to pack for Galapagos blog). First we saw a whole lot of Marine Iguanas - like piles of them. These guys are nicknamed the Christmas Iguanas because they can be all kinds of shades of red and green due to the type of algae they are eating. As we walked on we passed another sea lion day care area which I never get tired of seeing those little guys. Then the trek took us over to the birding area. Our first encounter was with a pair of courting Nazca Boobies. We got to see the male present the female with some nesting materials to try and win her over. It was very cute. As we walked on we saw some Nazca Boobies that had already nested and were either sitting on eggs (one or two only) and some that already had chicks. We learned that if the female lays 2 eggs only one chick will survive even if that means the parent choosing which one they want to keep and which they do not. They will not keep 2 chicks because it is just too taxing on them. If they all kept 2 chicks the species would die out. Our next mission was to see if any of the Waved Albatross were still hanging around. They come to this island to nest generally between April - December but our guide said there might still be some stragglers. We were in luck and found a few adults and some juveniles. Our guide said if you visit in March the whole island is pretty much covered with Waved Albatross. He explained after the chicks are ready to fly they will leave Galapagos and head south where they will just float around for 5 years before they are ready to return to the Galapagos to nest.
After our walk it was back to the boat for lunch while we were eating lunch the boat had moved over to Gardner Bay on the other side of Espanola. You could see the amazing beach right in front of the boat! We opted for a quick kayak before heading over for the beach time. It was a bit windy but still fun to get to kayak a bit. It was interesting transferring from the zodiac over to a kayak out in the water but it was easier than I had expected. On the beach you could either hang out and do some walking and swimming from the beach or you could do deep water snorkeling. Since we brought all our snorkel stuff on this trip we were not going to pass up any chance to snorkel. We hopped back on a zodiac from the beach and they took us about a 1/4 mile off the beach to snorkel around a big rock formation. We saw lots of fish, rays, and a skate. After hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling I was wiped out I couldn't wait to eat dinner and get to bed! That is very typical for an expedition cruise.
Day 7 - Santa Cruz Island - Eden Islet and North Seymour Island
This was our last full day in Galapagos and it was another jammed packed day. We had seen so much already but there is always more to see here. After breakfast we hopped on zodiacs to explore Eden Islet. We got to see our #13 (and our zodiac was the only one that saw it) since it was a Flamingo that just happened to fly over us while we were looking for other things. No one really expected our cruise to see 13 of the 15 so we were very lucky. The 2 we knew we wouldn't see were the Galapagos Penguins (yes there are wild penguins living on the equator) and the Flightless Cormorant. We knew we wouldn't see those because they live on islands that our itinerary didn't include. There are 13 major islands and a handful of smaller islands that make up Galapagos so it would be hard to do them all in one cruise. I guess we will just have to go back again. There was actually a volcanic eruption on one of the Western islands while we were there. We were not close enough to see it but it was a good reminder that all of these islands were formed by volcanoes.
Today actually offered 2 snorkeling opportunities and our guide had told us the last one is the best. There is also a glass bottom boat that guests can opt to do if they want to see what snorkelers see without getting wet. We chose to snorkel both times today since it really has been so amazing each time. So we snorkeled in one spot went back to the ship had lunch and that it was back out to snorkel again. Our guide was right the last snorkel was the best! At first I was a little worried when the ship's photographer said this was the spot for sharks but I figured if he thought it was safe it must be. We got to see so much in this area and yes even a few small sharks. At first I had a freak out moment but then I just watched them go by and realized they really didn't care about us. That wasn't the end of our day though we got back on the boat and quickly changed into dry clothes for one last hike. It was another one that went over a lot of large rocks but we got to see so many nesting birds it was great! They nest right on the path and do not care at all that you are walking by just a few feet from them and taking photos. We got to see the Blue Footed Booby dance a few times and it really does seem like something out of a cartoon. It was fun to watch these blue footed males try to win over a lady. Apparently the bluer the foot the more attractive he is to the ladies. Sadly that was our last exploration for this expedition and it was back to the boat. We did top off the night with a slide show of photos from the ship's photographer. We will get an email link to those in a couple weeks so I will share some of those.
Our last morning it was back in the zodiacs to get back to the airport. There was some nice shopping at the airport which was good since we really didn't see much of civilization all week. The flight would make the same pit-stop along the way back to Quito but this time if any guest wanted to they could fly home from Guayaquil. We chose to go back to Quito to fly home. The cruise line does include admission to the VIP airport lounge which is a nice way to spend a little time if you have awhile before your flight home. This trip of course required a covid test to get back into the US and it was nice that company escorted us all over to the testing site at the airport and made sure we were all set. Thankfully we were good to head home. Hurtigruten did such an amazing job with this expedition and part of that is thanks to their partnership with Metropolitan Touring who is celebrating 65 years in Ecuador! Starting in 2023 Hurtigurten will offer even more options in Galapagos including 4 night sailings which would be great for combining with other South American locations.
8 Fun Facts about the Galapagos Islands
#1 97% of the Galapagos is a national park.
An astonishing 97 percent of the Galápagos landmass is designated a national park. Established in 1959, Galápagos National Park protects more than 3,000 square miles of islands and islets, while the Galápagos Marine Reserve protects an additional 50,000 square miles of ocean around the islands.
#2 Wild animals have little fear of humans
In the Galapagos, there is a lack of natural predators. Thus, the creatures found in the islands have very little natural fear of people. The Galapagos National Park has established key rules to help protect the animals and their habitats. Visitors must always remain at a minimum safe distance of 6.5 ft (2 m) from wildlife.
#3 The only place in the Northern Hemisphere where you can see penguins in their natural habitat.
The Galapagos hugs the equator, which is why one might consider this place tropical. However, the islands’ climate is unique thanks to the intersection of various marine and air currents. The Galapagos penguin is the second smallest species of its kind and is typically observed on the western islands of Isabela and Fernandina. Some colonies can be found within the central islands and as far south as Floreana.
#4 Marine iguanas are excellent swimmers.
Nearly 20% of the marine life in the islands is endemic to the area; this includes marine iguanas. These are the only lizards in the world who enjoy water so much that they’ve learned how to swim in it! They feed almost entirely on seaweed (algae).
#5 Brilliant boobies
The three species of boobies that inhabit the Galápagos can be distinguished by their color. Red-footed boobies are the smallest of the trio; blue-footed boobies flaunt their strikingly-hued feet to attract mates; and the Nazca booby, the largest of the three, can be identified by its brilliant white plumage and black-tipped feathers.
#6 Gentle giants
The islands’ giant tortoises—after which the archipelago is named—can survive up to one year without food or water. Tragically, this unique adaptation was a leading factor in their demise over the centuries, as thousands of tortoises were captured and stored onboard ships to provide fresh meat for sailors. More than 100,000 tortoises are estimated to have been lost, leading to the extinction of several species and pushing others to the brink.
#7 Stars in your eyes
Unobscured by light pollution, the night skies over the Galápagos are some of the most dazzling on the planet. With its unique position straddling the Equator, the archipelago also offers a rare opportunity to view the constellations of the both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time.
#8 Any time is a great time to visit.
Located near the equator, the islands experience a year-round temperate climate. There are, however, two markedly different seasons: a hot season, which sees warmer, humid weather from December through May, and a dry season, which is slightly cooler and extends from June through November. Depending on the season, the islands are either lush, green, and tropical or slightly barren, colorful, and arid. The islands see more rainfall in the hot season, which also features calmer seas and slightly warmer ocean temperatures around 79°F (26°C). Meanwhile, the dry season experiences southeast trade winds, which provide a wonderful breeze and signal an increase in marine activity. While you would expect the temperatures on the islands to soar, given their proximity to the equator, they actually remain quite comfortable. Throughout the year, average land temperatures range between 79° and 86°F (26.1° to 30°C), while ocean temperatures along the island coasts hover between 71° and 78°F (21.7° to 25.6°C).
Another cool feature of the Galapagos Islands is that the days and nights are of equal duration, so you’ll have plenty of chances to see the diurnal and nocturnal animals. Because of its tropical location, there is no need for daylight savings. Throughout the year, the Galapagos Islands see an average of 12 hours of sunlight each day
I will have a full report on my visit to the Galapagos when I return but I hope these fun facts have inspired you to want to visit and see them for yourself!
Compared to the other major cruise lines Disney's fleet is considered small with just 4 ships. I personally think Disney was pretty smart with the way they built their fleet. They started out with 2 ships back in the late 90s and waited to see how that went before building more. The next 2 ships came a little more than 10 years later. Now here were about another 10 years after those 2 ships and Disney will be adding a couple more starting with the Wish in 2022.
The First 2 Ships
Disney's first ship was the Disney Magic which set sail on her Maiden voyage on July 30, 1998. Having just been onboard the Magic this month I can say for sure she doesn't look her age at all! Disney does an impeccable job of keeping their ships fresh and new looking all the time. Honestly at times I didn't remember which ship I was on since they all look just as new. The Disney Wonder followed the next year with her Maiden voyage on August 15, 1999. The Disney Magic and wonder were almost identical when they debuted. Both have 875 staterooms and 11 decks and are 984 feet long (that is longer than Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom!). Both ships were built at Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy (Palo was inspired by the Italian roots of the ships). Over the years they have each gotten some modifications that make them a little more unique. For example the Disney Wonder started doing Alaska so in one of her refurbishments Disney added some more indoor viewing areas.
Did you know that Disney had to get special permission from the Coast Guard to have the yellow lifeboats? Before Disney all lifeboats were bright orange and Disney really wanted to keep the Mickey color scheme so they had to prove to the Coast Guard that yellow was just as easy to spot as orange.
Did you know that Disney was also the first to offer a rotational dining system where guests moved between 3 different themed dining rooms during their cruise and their dining team moved with them too? This meant guests kept the same servers but got to experience a different dining room.
Did you know Disney was the first cruise line to be able to dock their ships right at their private island? All of the other cruise lines were using tenders to get into their private islands and some still do.
Did you know that Disney was the first cruise line to offer a split bathroom in most staterooms? Having a separate room for the toilet and shower is really convenient for families..
2 More Ships
The Disney Dream set sail on her Maiden voyage January 26, 2011. The Disney Fantasy followed the next year with her Maiden voyage on March 31, 2012. Just like the Magic and Wonder the Fantasy and Dream were built as sister ships almost identical to each other. They both have 1,250 staterooms over 14 decks and are 1,115 feet long. These ships were built at Meyer Werft in Germany. Dream and Fantasy debuted the first water coaster at sea.
Even though the Magic and Wonder were over 10 years old when the new ships came out all 4 ships still looked very similar. Disney kept the same look for all 4 ships and even though they are bigger, not a whole lot else inside was different from the classic ships. You still get 3 main dining rooms which guests rotate through but since Dream and Fantasy are bigger and hold more guests you will notice that the dining rooms also are much bigger. All 4 ships have the Cabanas buffet which is always in after of the upper deck. Dream and Fantasy also added another adult only dining option with the addition of Remy. along with Palo.
If you are a spa person you will have noticed that Disney greatly improved the spa on the new ships. They realized on the classic ships that putting the spa under the basketball court not a good idea. One of my favorite places on any ship is the Rainforest Room and Disney did so much better with that space on the new ships. I love that the Rainforest room has 2 hot tubs on an open air verandah included. I am very excited to see what Disney does with the spa on Wish!
Did you know that the Magic and Dream are both done in art deco style inside and the Wonder and Fantasy are done in art nouveau style? That is one subtle way Disney connected the Classic ships with the New ships.
Did you know that all 4 ships each have a different character statue in their atrium? The Magic has Mickey, Wonder has Ariel, Donald is decked out in his Admiral attire on the Dream, and Minnie is dressed in her vintage best along with her luggage on the Fantasy. The Wish will have Cinderella waiting to greet guests in the atrium.
Disney you know all 4 ships have different characters that look like that are busy painting the ship's name on the very aft of the ship? Magic has Goofy, Wonder had Donald and his nephews, Dream has Fantasia Mickey with the brooms doing the work, and Fantasy has Dumbo. Wish will have Rapunzel using her hair to keep here hanging on the back of the ship.
While I love all 4 ships I am partial to the Classic ships mostly because I like smaller ships but also because the Wonder was the first Disney Cruise I took and was also what inspired me to become a travel agent 20 years ago!
Which is your favorite ship?
I was in need of a little Holiday spirit after finding out my Christmas Market cruise was canceled last minute so a Disney cruise seemed like the next best thing. Since I had already been on the Dream and Fantasy this year I loved the idea of getting onboard the Magic. It had been so long since I sailed on the Magic so I was so excited to get to see her again! The Magic is currently sailing out of Miami - which for me is about the same amount of driving as Port Canaveral so that didn't play a part in deciding. However I always forget how much I hate driving around Miami.
Port of Miami
There are other drawbacks to cruising on Disney out of Miami. Since Disney doesn't have their own terminal in Miami that means you are using a shared one (I am so happy Disney announced plans for their own terminal in Fort Lauderdale). I wondered how the pre cruise testing would be different. In Port Canaveral as I reported we were able to do the test in our car after entering the garage and then just hang out until the test results came back. In Miami the first issue came when finding out the parking garage closest to the ship was closed so we had to go park in one that was at least a mile away. Disney of course had shuttle buses ready to take us back to the terminal.
Having already experienced check in at Port Canaveral I knew that you should only arrive at the time you were given for your port arrival - however in Miami no one even asked or checked our reserved arrival time so it seemed we really could have arrived anytime. In Miami you will go into the terminal building through security and then you arrive at the testing location. After your test you will head upstairs to wait on your test results. This is the area with all the chairs where you would normally wait for your boarding time. Disney has a few large screens set up and they were posting the reservation numbers that were clear to check in as the test results came in. This was helpful since wi-fi in the terminal didn't seem to be working and even my cell service was very spotty. TIP - always print out any important papers since you just never know if your phone will work. After you get the good to go test result you can head into the next room where you will get to check in for the cruise. I was disappointed that they did not have a separate line for the different Castaway levels but it wasn't very crowded so the line wasn't too bad. We got checked in and like the Dream and Fantasy we were told our room keys would be waiting on the door when we get to our room.
Onboard the Magic
We were welcomed onboard in usual Disney fashion except this time the atrium was also decked out in holiday decorations too since this was a MerryTime Cruise. It was just the holiday pick me up I needed with the large tree and gingerbread house greeting us in the atrium! Rooms were not ready yet even though it was after 2 pm. We were told we need to wait until 3 so we figured we would go grab a bite to eat in Cabanas. On our way up the crew was really encouraging everyone to do the safety drill check in so we figured might as well knock that out of the way now. Just like the other ships you use the app and find your meeting location and take a photo. We were done with that quickly and back on our way to food. We hung out in Cabanas until our room was ready so that we could drop off our carry on bags before exploring more.
Dining and Shows
When checking out our schedule on the app I saw that on this 5 night cruise we would be in Lumiere's the first 2 nights and then Animators the next 2 nights with just the last night in Rapunzel's. I had not been onboard Magic since Parrot Cay was changed over to Rapunzel's so I was a little bummed to only get 1 night in there. I was happy that I hadn't booked Palo for that night at least. I got lucky and had picked Palo night for the same night as Pirate night and was so glad since that is my least favorite night in any dining room. Sorry pirates but I am over you.
Lumiere's and Animators are very similar to their counterparts on the Dream and Fantasy. I was so happy that my husband got to experience the drawing part of Animator's this time since I had really hoped we would do it on Fantasy and they didn't. Rapunzel's was a new experience for me and I have to say right away walking in I just loved the whole design of the restaurant. It has very cozy feeling and I love the purple and the lanterns! This is a dinner and a show type dining room and the storyline is that it is Rapunzel's birthday so you have appearances by her and Flynn of course along with a couple of the Snuggly Duck regulars. It was fun but make sure you stay until the end so you don't miss the lanterns.
For the shows on this 5 night cruise Disney was offering 2 main shows that would each be performed 2 nights in a row. So the first 2 nights there was Tangled and then the 3rd night they showed a movie in the theater and the last 2 nights were Enchanted Dreams. I was excited to get to see Tangled the Musical for the first time! I have seen Dreams before but it has changed a bit since last time I saw it. I found myself trying to remember which song was taken out to make room for Frozen. I also noticed that Annemarie got new PJ's since last time I saw it. Even though Disney was doing them each 2 nights to make sure there was enough room for everyone to get to see them and be socially distanced there seemed to be a lot of people saying that they went both nights and saw each show twice. Our sailing wasn't very full which I was very happy about. It also appeared that there weren't many families with kids over age 12 and I am not sure if that was due to the vaccine requirement or just that school was still in and it isn't as easy to take the older kids out.
Since this cruise was in December it was a Merrytime themed cruise - which was one of the main reasons for picking it since I had just lost my holiday travel plans. Besides all of the beautiful decorations around the ship and also on Castaway, there were holiday activities offered each day. Storytime with Mrs Claus was very popular and there were also holiday crafts you could make. Santa was in the atrium posing and waving in front of the tree - you did have to take a distanced selfie or photo but that was OK with me. While we did see a good amount of characters at different times during the cruise but I was disappointed to never see them dressed in any holiday outfits. Maybe we just missed those times but on our Halloween cruise we were always seeing the characters in costumes. Character meets are still kept distanced and on the schedule they are listed as character appear and wave events. The ship photographers have come up with a way to add some characters to your photos too. I was happy to try it out and let the photographer direct me on what to do. He had me pose in funny ways like dancing and when I saw the photo Daisy had joined me dancing. There were others too and you might feel silly doing the poses but the photos are cute.
Stops - Cozumel and Castaway
Our cruise stopped in Cozumel and Castaway Cay. For me I have been to Cozumel many times and this cruise was about enjoying the ship so we opted to stay onboard instead of getting off in Cozumel. Many people did opt to get off and at the time of our cruise if you were vaccinated you could go off on your own but if you were not you did need to be on a Disney excursion. That did mean that any families with little kids would have to be on a ship excursion to get off. It might sound funny but I was very happy to see 3 other ships in port with us that day! Of course during normal times there probably would have been double that in Cozumel.
Our cruise ended up with an extra visit to Miami as the night before our Castaway day the captain came on to tell us that unfortunately a guest needed to be medically evacuated so we had to head into Miami to do that. He assured us we would still be getting to Castaway the next morning but maybe just a little later. I liked the idea of watching us pull into Miami since I am always asleep when the ships return to port at the end of the cruise. I enjoyed watching the city get closer from our balcony. It was also a bonus to have cell service again for about an hour.
Castaway is always my favorite stop and this visit we were greeted by a rainbow over the island as we pulled in! Of course a rainbow meant there was also rain close but we lucked out and besides being a bit windy the sun came out and it was a wonderful day! We headed right to the adult beach to grab a spot and enjoy the day. The water was so shallow that we could walk in only about knee deep water all the way out to the buoy that marks the furthest out guests can go. It was fun walking all the way out there and we even found one of the famous Castaway starfish. I have seen one every time we have been there and if I hadn't seen someone pick one up last time I would maybe think they were not real. The lunch at the adult beach always offers some better options than the family buffet but I do wish they would find a better way to do it. As of now you have to go all the way through the line to find out what the main course options are and then it can get kind of confusing and crowded in there. This time around they were grilling rib-eye steaks to order so that meant a long line of people waiting on their steaks. I feel like if they just posted the main menu outside so you could see it before walking in that would really help a lot. Then you could put your entrée order in and then make your way through the line so that it might be ready once you get down there. I like the way Blaze pizza does the ordering process in Disney Springs so I think the adult buffet on Castaway could work well like that.
It was a great cruise and I really enjoyed being back on a classic ship again! I love the smaller ships and have always felt the Magic and Wonder were designed very well. Next blog I am writing will be a comparison of the Classic and New Disney ships so I will talk more about that then.
It was great to get to soak up some holiday excitement while cruising! If you would like to add a little holiday magic to your next cruise you might want to think about going in November or December.
I have recently sailed on Disney Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages and both offer an amazing spa. Disney has the Rainforest room and Virgin has Redemption Spa's Thermal Suite. They are very different and are also dealing with covid differently. Here is my experience with each -
Disney Dream's Rainforest Room. On the Dream the Spa area and fitness are all together on Deck 11 all the way in the front of the ship. This is also where most of the adult only stuff is located so it is a nice quiet area. There are 2 hot tubs, 4 different types of showers, along with a steam room, sauna, and heated lounges. Disney has decided to change the rules for the Rainforest Room due to covid so that only one party is allowed at a time. You reserve a time slot for a flat fee of $175 and you and up to 10 people in your party are able to have the Rainforest room all to yourself! Yes it is a little pricey but after the year and half I had I knew it would be worth every penny for me! I couldn't wait to book my slot as I always enjoy a visit to the Rainforest Room and thought alone would be even better! I understand that eventually they will go back to normal operations but I would love it if maybe Disney would still offer a few times each day where guests could book a private experience.
The Rainforest Room includes a semi-enclosed outdoor section with the 2 hot tubs. Inside it has heated loungers, a steam room, sauna, and aromatherapy showers. The heated loungers are my favorite place to read a little and nap a lot I also really love that outdoor area with the hot tubs as there is just something relaxing about having a sea breeze and hearing the ocean. The showers and steam room and saunas are also nice. You do have the option to purchase some scrubs to use in the showers but I opted out of that for this time. The area is a bit small and used to get kind of crowded before covid so I do wish it was bigger. Either way it is a nice little sanctuary to just unwind and de-stress even if only for an hour and 45 minutes.
Virgin Voyages Redemption Spa Virgin's spa is down on deck 5 mid ship. The thermal suite is pretty big and offers a mudroom, salt room, sauna, steam room, along with hot and cold plunge pools There are also some heated marble hamman benches. It is $70 for a day. As with all things Virgin the covid policies seemed to be much more relaxed than Disney. While they are not doing private time bookings they did say they are limiting the number of guests due to covid. The funny thing is when you book your day you don't have to pick a time in advance and so I am not sure if they are just limiting the number of guests per day or if you book the day and arrive when too many people are already in there they would tell you to come back.
When I went there were a few people but there was plenty of space to spread out and usually have one of the rooms to yourself. When I checked in at the desk I was told hold on let me get your mud. I wasn't really sure what to expect since I hadn't tried a mudroom before so when she handed me this shot glass size cup of mud I had to laugh. I am not sure what I was picturing but this wasn't it.
I figured since I had my mud might as well go for the mudroom first. The little sign by the door said go in let your skin warm and then apply mud and relax and let it soak in and then wash off. Sounded easy enough. It was a little strange at first but I just thought of the mud like any other scrub I might use on my skin. It actually felt pretty good until it was time to rinse off and the water was a bit chilly. I figured ok now I will go warm up in the other rooms. I tired out all of the rooms along with the pools. I skipped the 2 coldest ones which looked like hot tubs but I knew from watching others get in that they were pretty cold. I was disappointed that the one that was most like a pool didn't have any jets and the water was a bit too cool for me. I was also disappointed by the heated benches as they were very uncomfortable. I tried a few different spots and as much as I love the warmth they just do not seem to be designed for relaxing. Another thing I would recommend do not pick a port day to visit. Being down on Deck 5 meant you were close to ground level and we were parked right next to another ship so the view wasn't that good and it was a bit noisy. Even though I could go as much as I wanted to during that day I didn't end up going back after my first visit.
I enjoyed my visit to both of these spas and highly recommend you check on out on your next cruise!
I didn't mention this but in case you haven't been to one of these things before they are co-ed and you do wear your bathing suit. You will also be provided with a robe and plenty of towels.
Every cruise out of Miami on Virgin Voyages will make a spot at Bimini in the Bahamas. One important thing to note is that Bimini is not a private island for Virgin Voyages but offers a private Beach Club that guests on the cruise can enjoy. For me the private island stops are always the highlight of any cruise in the Caribbean. I have been to pretty much all of them too. Disney and Holland America have my favorite private islands but I have also been to NCL's, Princess, and both of Royal Caribbean's. Technically Royal Caribbean's Labadee isn't a private island since it is actually part of Haiti so I was kind of expecting the Beach Club at Bimini to be sort of like that. The big difference is that for Labadee the ship pulls up right to the private beach area so you walk off the ship and you are there. The Beach Club at Bimini is not really walkable from the ship but they do offer a tram all day. It is at least a 15 minute ride and there really aren't sidewalks which is why I say not walkable from the ship. The tram also makes 2 stops along the way at an area where shore excursions will depart from and also a casino. I heard some guests say they were hoping for a small town to explore but all we really saw were resort type areas and some homes. Golf carts were clearly the way most people on the island get around and I heard you could rent one for the day so I guess if you wanted to go off on your own you could.
My main focus was to check out the Beach Club. When you pull up you can tell that most of this is very new - which made me wonder would this have all been ready back in March 2020 when Scarlet Lady was supposed to start. Either way it was a nice welcome area which reminded me of what you might find in an open air lobby of an all inclusive island resort. Right away you see the big pool area and there are plenty of places to sit and get comfy everywhere. The Beach Club kind of reminded me of the way the ship is also designed with lots of smaller areas to enjoy instead of just one huge area. There are lots of cozy sitting areas around the resort but too bad that doesn't apply to the beachfront. To either side of the pool area there are places to grab lunch (which is included) and drinks. Of course there is a swim up bar and there are also some self-serve soda stations as well.
The pool area seemed to have music and stuff going on most of the day and for me that is not what I am looking for on a private beach day so I headed right for the sand! This is where I was let down though. The beach area is not very big and felt very crowded with lounge chairs and umbrellas all on top of each other. Our ship was only about a 1/3 full so I cannot imagine what this beach will be like with a full ship. There was also a roped off area with nicer lounge chairs but that was for Rockstar guests only. There are of course cabanas that you can rent but honestly they didn't seem to offer much for the price.
I prefer a little more space on my beach day so I can really just relax but you won't really find that here (definitely no social distance). The other thing I love to do at the private island stops is to float in the gorgeous turquoise water. Yes the water was that lovely color here but there wasn't a lot of swimming space and the water was a bit rough. There also wasn't an option to rent a float which I am guessing is due to the small area and not really floatable water. Along with no floats there weren't really any water toys either. We usually like to rent a hobie or something like that to go out and play but this beach area really wasn't designed for that. I guess in my head I was thinking the Beach Club at Bimini would have some fun things in the water like maybe some of those large inflatables or something like that so maybe that is something they are still working on. Right now the focus seemed to be more on the pool area for activities.
The one thing Beach Club at Bimini does have that no other cruise ship private stop does is a late night stay which includes bonfires! I was very excited for that as I have always wished the ships would stay late and do a night party type thing on their islands. We spent a couple hours on the beach in the morning and then headed back to the ship to eat and shower and then went back over closer to sunset to enjoy the bonfires and the cooler temperatures. I found I loved the Beach Club much more at this time of day. Most people had left so you could grab a lounge on the beach and relax. They had 3 large metal balls that they used for the fires and they were very cool. They lit them one by one and each lighting came with some music from the Phantom Folktales which I really enjoyed. We hung out for a bit and then headed back to the ship to catch the show. The ship was staying in port until 11:59 pm so it was a really late departure even though I am not really sure how many people even stayed on the beach past 9:00.
I know they cannot change the location of the Beach Club so I don't think there is a lot they can do for the swimming on the beach but maybe other times of the year will offer calmer water. I will be back in January and see what I think then.
Scarlet Lady was supposed to make her US debut back in March 2020 and I was supposed to be on that first voyage so I am glad that finally about 18 months later I got set sail onboard! I think when Virgin Voyages first started advertising there were some mixed messages about who Virgin was really targeting. A lot of people thought they were going after the millennials but I can tell you as someone who is a parent of a millenial I think I enjoyed this ship way more than anyone half my age! There were so many 80s things that I really feel like the target market for this cruise is my generation, the Gen Xers!
There were so many things I loved about this ship! Here are my Top 6 -
#1 - I LOVE that it is ADULT ONLY! I have been on other adult only cruises and there are some I haven't tried yet but generally I tend to be the youngest person on those cruises. There used to be a saying that cruising was for the newlywed or the nearly dead but then came along Disney Cruise Line and some of the other cruise lines realized the family market was a huge untapped one. While it is great that there are now lots of ships filled with things to attract families with kids, there are many of us that really do not enjoy sharing a cruise ship with hundreds of other people's kids. I love that Virgin went adult only but yet added so many things that really let adults feel like a kid again.
Another bonus to adult only right now is that it means everyone onboard is vaccinated. This made for a much more relaxed vibe onboard and things really almost felt like pre-covid times. Where else could you go right now and know that every single person you will come in contact with is vaccinated?
#2 - I Love the way they do Dining! I really am not a fan of always having to eat in a huge dining room every night. Sure some limes have changed it up a bit and got rid of the traditional set dining times and others added some smaller dining locations but those usually come with a fee or can be very hard to get a reservation for. On Virgin there is no main dining room but instead they have a bunch of smaller places to choose from and not a single one will cost you more to go to. There might be a few upcharge items on the menu but those are very few. At first I got worried when I couldn't find many reservation times available but then I realized each day I could make one day of without any problem so I really liked that you can be a bit more spontaneous. They also don't technically have a buffet but let's be real it sort of is a buffet / food court type location. It is called The Galley so if you know boat terms you know that is the kitchen on a boat so it is a good name for this spot. It has a bunch of stations all offering something different to choose from. No reservations needed, just walk in, grab a table and a server will come take your order. We were told that the servers taking orders are a covid thing in place temporarily but my hope is they will get the app upgraded and offer the option to order your food on there. There was a bit of a learning curve when everyone goes to The Galley the first time as all us of seasoned cruisers are just used to walking up to a counter to order our food and take back to a table ourselves so once I realized that wasn't what you did I realized I liked it even more. I also loved that there is an ice cream shop onboard with lots of great flavors and waffle cones and it doesn't cost anything! There is a candy shop (again no extra cost) and you wouldn't believe the line it had everyday! I had to laugh watching all of these adults picking out the candy they wanted from the candy jars - for me that is my life everyday.
#3 I Love the Staterooms! We had a Terrace room which is Virgin's fancy way of saying balcony room. There are so many things I love about the rooms it is hard to pick a favorite but I I think I will have to go with the hammock on the terrace (every terrace room has one). It was my most favorite spot to sit anywhere on the whole ship! The room itself has a lot of very cool features such as when you leave the room goes into eco mode and it automatically turns everything off and shuts the curtains to keep it cool. As soon as you return the curtains will automatically open and the lights will go back to which setting you had them on when you left. Yes I said setting as in there are more than one option for the lights in your room. There is a tablet in each room that controls all kinds of things like the tv and the lights and there are a few preset settings for the lights to set a particular mood. There is one setting called "Get It On" which of course closes the curtains, puts on some pink lights and plays a quick little bit of music to set the mood. I thought it was cute and I liked the pink lighting. I also really enjoyed the 2 carafes of chilled water that were refilled in our room everyday. I try to drink more water but usually when on vacation I forget so this was perfect. I also really liked the shower it has a nice rainshower option and the water pressure was great. I got to tour the Rockstar suites on my agent preview day and you will definitely feel like a Rock Star if you stay on any one of those!
#4 I Love the Entertainment! I always like being in the very aft of the ship when we leave port so as we pulled out of Miami we were back there just taking it all in and then all of a sudden there was someone with a guitar and he started singing a sailor type of song and then a few other random people sitting around chimed in with him. At first I thought what the heck is going on. Are these just some guests wanting to sing a song but then they finished their song and moved to another deck and started again so we figured oh they must be part of this new type of entertainment Virgin has been talking about. We ended up catching a few more of their pop up performances throughout the cruise and the last night there were actually a couple scheduled times where you could be sure to catch them do a few songs. There was a lot of pop up stuff like them and other stuff that you just needed to be in the right place at the right time which was fun. There are also 2 theatre type venues onboard but they are much smaller more intimate than the huge big production show theaters you get on the other ships. I really prefer these smaller spots. We missed a few of the shows but we caught the best one in my opinion which is the headliner show for this cruise called Duel Reality. I had already seen it on my sneak peak day and loved it so was so happy to get to see it again. It is one of those type shows where you end up holding your breath so much during the show that even seeing it again a week later I was still holding my breath and not believing they could do the things they did. It is a can't miss show! There was also a VHS 80s workout that I had assumed was going to be more of a show type thing poking fun at the seating to the oldies but it turned out it was actually a workout! It was a lot of fun though and sadly I realized that sweatin to the oldies now means working out to 80s music. I had flashbacks to highschool PE where the girls usually opted for the Richard Simmons workout instead of playing a sport.
#5 I Love all the Included in your cost items. Virgin includes a lot of things in your basic cruise fare. Like I already mentioned they include all the dining locations onboard - even the ice cream and candy! They also include basic beverages in your cruise cost. If you have been on some of the other lines you know you will shell out $10 a day for a soda package per person! I really am not a big soda drinker but on vacation it is nice to get a cold soda a few times. I also like that they have the self service drink locations open all the time so you can get one whenever you want. Yes I was a little surprised that they were actually self service but I was happy. Adult beverages are not included and they do not offer a drink package which I also actually think is better. The adult beverages are reasonably priced though so for someone like me that might only have 1 or 2 I would prefer cheaper prices vs the cruise lines with the drink packages that jack up the cost of the drinks so those of us paying per drink end up making up for the people who maximize their package. It was so nice to have free wifi! I know not everyone wants to be connected whole on vacation but let's be real we are all so used to being connected all the time that it is just nice to have the option without paying for it and also without having to worry oh no did I log off or am I wasting all my paid minutes. Some people said it was slow but honestly I thought it was just fine for doing things like checking email and popping a few photos onto social media. All fitness classes are included which I thought cool I will try to do some but that didn't happen - unless you count my sweating to the 80s. The couple classes I wanted to try were already full before I could make a reservation. Next cruise I will know to try getting on the ship earlier so I can go right in the app and grab those. I am assuming covid rules might have really limited the number of guests they could allow this cruise so hopefully getting into those will get easier. I saved the best for last - Gratuities are included! It was nice to know you didn't have to worry about either pre-paying or having that charge on your account at the end of the cruise. I was a little worried that service might not be as good since all the crew knew they were already tipped no matter what but I didn't find that at all.
#6 - I Love the Design of the Ship. Even though the ship is what I would call a large ship with the capacity to hold about 2800 guests it never feels like a big ship. The whole design is set up with lots of smaller nooks and comfy spots to hang out that you never feel like you are in some large open area that could be full of a lot of people. Despite the fact that there isn't a lot of signage once you find your way around you realize it was all very easy to get to. One of my favorite places is the very back of the ship on Deck 7 (there are 17 decks total so this is towards the bottom). Deck 7 goes all the way to the back of the ship whereas all the decks above are back a bit so when you are on deck 7 you can see all the way up to the bottom of deck 16 and the big net. The area is called The Dock and it has some comfy spots to sit and just enjoy watching the wake of the ship as we cruise. There is also a real tree back there which I think is a really nice touch. I love when cruise ships have real plants and flowers onboard. You can of course get some snacks or drinks delivered to you while you are enjoying this comfy area. The pop up entertainment even made some stops there.
That is my top 6 and really I could have written more but it has been a busy week and I am already getting this sent out late today. Stay tuned next week I will give some more information on the cruise in general and a few of the things that I didn't love as much.
I know you might think I am crazy to say that an adult only cruise line and the most family friendly cruise line would have anything in common but they do. Here are 5 things I have found already -
#1 Both Disney and Virgin were already big in the Entertainment and Travel industries before going into the Cruise business and they both changed the way people thought about cruising.
#2 Both cruise lines really switched up the way dining is done onboard a cruise. Disney introduced their rotational dining where you get to enjoy the 3 main restaurants and your serving team goes with you to each one. Virgin has done away with main dining rooms and also a buffet (which technically was perfect timing since we have probably seen the end of the buffet as we knew it anyway). Instead Virgin offers over 20 different places you can eat onboard and it will not cost you anything extra.
#3 Both cruise lines brought their entertainment knowledge to their cruise ships. Disney was the first to really bring theatrical shows onboard and Virgin is also doing entertainment with their own Virgin twist. The show I got to see while onboard for the day was nothing like what I had seen on a cruise before and I cannot wait to see what else they are doing.
#4 Both cruise lines include basic beverages like soft drinks in your cruise fare. I know it might sound like a small thing but most cruise lines will charge you extra for a soda. Virgin is also including Wi-Fi and Gratuities in their cruise fare. It would be nice if Disney did the same, especially the wi-fi since that would mean crew could use it too. I found out by talking to a lot of crew lately that it really is the most important thing to be able to talk to family at home.
#5 Both cruise lines had the same President when they started. Tom McAlpin did so many things to make Disney Cruise Line what it is today and now he is doing the same for Virgin. PS - That is Tom in the photo with me above.
Maybe I will find even more similarities while I am cruising - stay tuned for a full report when I get back in a few days!
In the beginning of this pandemic cruising got a bad rap and then sort of became the scapegoat. Airlines and hotels had no problems getting back to business but yet cruise lines had to wait and wait and then had to jump through crazy hoops to get approved to restart. Personally I have always felt that cruise ships were 100 times cleaner and safer than airplanes or hotels and now I feel even more so.
I have been on 3 cruises since June and I felt safer than ever onboard each time. Heck I felt so safe in August that I turned around and booked another cruise for just 3 weeks later! In my opinion cruise ships have always been cleaner and better maintained than most airplanes or hotels. Let's not even talk about buses or trains that people use to get from one place to another!
I am not sure why it was made to hard for cruise ships to get back to business but now that they are let's talk about how much more they are doing to keep guests safe than any other vacation option. You might even decide a cruise ship is even safer than going out to your local restaurant!
#1 First off every crew member has to go through a quarantine and be vaccinated. They will also be tested regularly. You cannot say you know the same for every airline or hotel employee you might come into contact with that is for sure!
#2 As of right now all adults and kids 12 and older are required to be vaccinated get onboard just about every cruise. Ok so this is in part due to the Bahamas making it a requirement that every person 12 and old has to be vaccinated in order to visit any Bahamian island (even the private ones that no one lines on). I will say I find this very unfair that the Bahamas can require just cruise visitors be vaccinated when they will allow anyone vaccinated or not to fly into the Bahamas. Since the majority of major cruise lines are registered in the Bahamas and therefor required to make a Bahamian stop it seems very suspect that the Bahamas is also the only island making this vaccine rule for cruise visitors. Anyway that is rant for another time.
#3 Every single guest must be tested before boarding the ship. I applaud the cruise lines that are providing the testing at the port free of charge to those that are vaccinated (Disney and Virgin shout out to you both!).
#4 Cruise Line have been required to make a lot of changes onboard. Mostly to allow for social distance. This means lower capacity onboard and the removal of some tables and chairs to make space between. The cruise lines have also made great use of technology to make things as touchless as possible. Masks are also being required in any indoor areas and I know at least where I live no one is requiring masks inside so that already makes a cruise ship safer than my local store.
I know that I am not the only one that feels cruise ships are the safer since I saw The Points Guy wrote something similar recently.
So are you ready to say Bon Voyage to stress and get away on cruise now?
I am back from my 2nd Disney Cruise in less than a month! This time I sailed onboard the Fantasy and it was Fantastic! There have been a few changes to cruising since I went in August though.
The biggest change was the Bahamas announcing that all guests age 12 and older must be vaccinated to sail to any Bahamian port, even the cruise line private islands. This went into effect on September 3 but was only announced 8/20. I am sure this changed things for a lot of families especially since the Bahamas didn't allow enough time to get everyone vaccinated if they were already booked on a cruise.
Next up the CDC updated their requirements for cruising starting September 13.
This did mean that we had to take a test when arriving at the port when we didn't last time. The process was pretty simple though. We drove our own car over to the port so we entered the parking garage like before but this time we were directed to a parking space where someone gave us the test kits and explained how to do them. They were an easy test and you do not have to go as far up your nose as the other test. You put the swab in the vial and hand back the sealed baggie and then are directed to go park in the garage and hang out until your results come back which should be within 45 minutes. We parked went to the bathroom and then found a cooler spot to hang out in the parking garage while we waited. I can understand why Disney hasn't set up a seating area in the garage but having somewhere other than your car would have been nice. We got the message on our phone that we were clear to board so we headed over to the terminal to check in. This process was the same as before however what we hadn't factored in was that it would take pretty much an extra hour from our scheduled port arrival time to when we were actual able to get on the ship. By the time we did we were very hungry so next time we will plan our time better. Please note that while Disney is providing this test at the port not all cruise lines are offering that so if you are sailing with another line be sure to check if you will need to acquire your own test before boarding.
Besides these big changes we did see a few smaller ones. There was only one night for fireworks this time. We were up on the top deck for the fireworks and there seemed to be plenty of space for anyone wanting to watch up there so I am guessing that is why they went back to just 1 night.
Even though all adults had to be vaccinated the mask rule seemed to be more enforced than before. While on Castaway you are pretty much always outdoors except for the bathrooms and when getting lunch. Even though the food area is an open air area they were really strict about having your mask on and even had a box of disposable one handy as you entered for anyone that might not have brought a mask to lunch. We ate at the adult only lunch location so it really surprised me that they were so strict about it. I was glad to see hand wipes come back to all dining entrances instead of having to always use the sanitizer stations that squirt way too much for me.
This cruise was a Halloween on the High Seas so it was nice to see how Disney was handling that with new protocols. I had been on a Halloween sailing a few years ago and I honestly didn't notice that much of a change this time so the new policies did not take away from any of the festivities.
Even with the new rules in place I had an amazing time and would go back and do it all again without thinking twice!
I just returned from a wonderful cruise onboard Disney Dream. This was my first big ship cruise since December 2019! For me that is a really long time between cruises. I was first booked to cruise Disney in August of 2020 but we all know how that went - cancellation after cancellation but I was always hopeful that each time I moved my cruise date would be the last. Finally almost exactly 1 year from the date I was originally booked to cruise, I was able to get onboard the Dream!
Yes it is true that some things have changed due to the pandemic but it was still very magical! So much was still the same so here is a quick recap of things I found the same and some that were not.
Before you go to the ship
Hasn't Changed - Disney wants you to check in online and choose your port arrival time and you do still need to do the health questionnaire. You will get an email and an app notification to do it before arrival.
Has Changed - They are much more strict with the scheduled arrival time. We arrived just 10 minutes before our scheduled time thinking it would take 10 minutes to park and get into the terminal but the scheduled time applies to the parking lot as well. If you arrive early they will direct you over to a waiting parking lot until your time. I am not sure how they are handling if you arrive early in a shuttle but I assume it is similar and we did see a bunch of tents set up in the parking lot so maybe one of those is where guests not arriving in their own car will wait.
Things have changed since my cruise but for my cruise if you were not vaccinated you had to test before the cruise at home and again at the port. Now the Bahamas has ruled starting September 3 every cruise passenger coming to any Bahamas island - which includes the cruise line's private island - must be vaccinated. You will need your proof of vaccine and a mask with you when you head to the port. Masks are currently required anytime you are indoors, except when in your own stateroom.
At the Port and Boarding
Has Changed - You will now check in on the lower level of the terminal. Here you will show all of your documents and get checked in and then are allowed through to the metal detectors and then the escalator upstairs.
Hasn't Changed - There are still designated lines for Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Concierge guests for check in. You will be assigned a boarding group and you cannot board the ship until your group is called. Your group is determined by your pre-scheduled arrival time.
Has Changed - You will not get your room key at check in. Instead your room key will be waiting in a sealed envelope on the wall by your room door. Stateroom hosts seemed to be hanging out in the halls so that they could make sure everyone got to the correct room and got their keys.
Hasn't Changed - Your party will still be announced over the microphone as you enter the atrium and characters and crew are there to greet you.
Has Changed - Only a small group at time is allowed to be in the atrium for the greeting and there are designated spots to stand on to allow for distance.
Hasn't Changed - There is still plenty of food available to you when you board, including Cabanas.
Has Changed - Speaking of food when you board, yes Cabanas is still open but just slightly different in that you will not serve yourself but instead let a crew member know what you would like from their station and they will plate it for you. You also have the option to choose one of the main dining rooms that will be open for lunch as well. I am so used to only the buffet when I got onboard that it was nice to actually be able to go and sit down and be served after going through the whole arrival process.
Hasn't Changed - The Kids Clubs are still open but in a slightly different way.
Has Changed - You do need to make a reservation for the kids club. This can be done in the app once onboard. I was not cruising with any kids but when I looked in the app I was always able to find open slots for the kids club so at least on my cruise there wasn't an issue getting kids in.
Hasn't Changed - The spa is still offering most treatments with the exception of a few. The fitness center is also open with some social distance in place.
Has Changed - If you enjoy the Rainforest room like I do this is a change you might like. You can now have the Rainforest room all to yourself (and anyone in your party up to 10). You can book a 1 hour and 45 minutes time slot to enjoy all the relaxation with no strangers! I don't know about you but to me this was the most perfect thing ever and I couldn't wait to book my spot so I headed right to the spa as soon as we got onboard. I was able to grab a nice afternoon slot on our sea day and I can't think of a more perfect way to spoil myself after the stressful last 18 months!
Hasn't Changed - Disney still puts on the most amazing Broadway style shows at sea! They also play all the new and old Disney movies in their wonderful movie theater at sea and funnel vision on the pool deck.
Has Changed - Social distance is being applied in the theaters so the available seats are much fewer. You will also be directed to your seat by a crew member in order to make sure the distance is kept. Your entire party does need to arrive together to be seated. Since less people can enjoy the shows at one time Disney is repeating just 2 different shows throughout the cruise to allow enough times for everyone to be able to get in to see them.
Hasn't Changed - All pools, splash areas, and Aquaduck are open.
Has Changed - Social distance rules are in place for the pools and splash areas. That means there might be times when the pool or splash area are too full and you have to wait until someone leaves. We never saw any lines during our cruise but we were told if there is a line they will limit the time guests can swim or splash.
Hasn't Changed - There are still lots of characters making appearances throughout the ship and on Castaway Cay.
Has Changed - You cannot get autographs or get too close for photos. I found the distance selfies to be pretty fun but I can understand that kids might want to hug their favorite character.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still does fireworks at sea.
Has Changed - In order to keep crowds smaller they are doing fireworks on 2 nights. You will get a notification in the app on your night for viewing and your dining staff should also let you know. My guess is the nights were split by dining times so all guests in the Main dining got a notification for fireworks the first night they did them and those of us in second dining got it the next night.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still offers plenty of adult only entertainment too. Drink classes, Happy Hour, Trivia, and music are all offered still in the bars and lounges.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still does the rotational dining so you will move between the 3 main dining rooms during your cruise and your servers will go with you.
Has Changed - You will now only be seated with your travel party so no meeting new strangers at meals.
They are trying to not hand out menus so you can check the menus on the app or scan the QR code on the table to see the menu. If you are having issues like I did a few times with he QR codes they will bring you a paper menu that you can keep since they cannot give it to someone else.
Hasn't Changed - there is still daily housekeeping twice a day and yes there are still towel animals too!
Has Changed - All staterooms undergo deep cleaning after each cruise and you will see the magnet on your room door that shows the commitment to cleanliness so you know it is ready for you. Many of the touch items have been removed so don't worry when you don't see throw pillows or room service menus in your room.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still has the most amazing crew members that are so very happy to have guests back onboard!
Has Changed - If you need to speak with a Crew Member in Guest Services, Port Adventures, or Dining you will need to use the app to either chat on there or make an appointment if it is something that can not be done over chat. You can also take advantage of the onboard booking offer right in the app!
Has Changed - When getting off the ship in a port of call such as Castaway Cay you will need to use the app to get in a virtual queue to get off the ship. This is to keep guests from crowding on the gangway. You do not need to get in a queue to return to the ship though.
Hasn't Changed - For me it seemed like nothing has really changed with this process. You do still have to get up early, grab breakfast, and get off the ship. You can still leave your bags out in the hall the night before to have them transported to the terminal but Disney was recommending guests carry off their own bags since they won't be sanitized going off like they were coming on. On these short cruises, at least for me, it is easy to pack just a carry on size bag so I always have preferred to just carry off myself.
As I was packing for my cruise there were a couple new things I had to add to my packing list such as masks and proof of vaccine (or test results). Hopefully these new items are only temporarily on my packing list but did you know there is a long list of items you cannot pack for a Disney Cruise?
It has been awhile since we all cruised and you might have forgotten some of the things you cannot bring onboard or these might be things you never even knew you couldn't bring. I will admit there are a few things I didn't know about either. These are Disney Cruise Line's rules so this could vary on other cruise lines.
Surprising Prohibited Items
I knew that things like firearms, explosives, or any weapons (with the exception of Disney brand toys like Light sabers or Thor's hammer or plastic pirate swords) were not allowed. Also things like illegal drugs, candles, and pets just seem like common sense things that you know you cannot bring onboard. However there were a lot of things on the prohibited list that surprised me.
You CANNOT bring on:
- Flotation items such as: Inflatable Pool Floats, Pool Noodles, Surfboards, or Boogie boards
- Inflatable Mattress
- Musical Instruments
- Streaming Devices (such as Roku or Amazon Fire Stick)
- Sporting equipment is not allowed with the exception for golf clubs and some sports balls but they must be stored in your room and only used off the ship.
- Over the Door Hanging Organizers (apparently Disney can fine you $100 if you have one since they damage the door.) I have never used one myself but I know that tends to be one of the tips people say helps them stay organized in the small space of the room.
I knew most cruise line's do not allow you to bring extension cords/power strips or an iron, but there is a long list of other electrical appliances that I wouldn't have even thought people would want to bring onboard like -
You CANNOT bring on:
- Coffee Makers
- Electric Blankets
- Hot Plates
- Rice Cookers.
I cannot think why anyone would bring these things but if Disney had to list them I assume that means someone at sometime tried bringing it on.
You CAN bring on -
Other electrical appliances such as - curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers, shavers. Things like baby monitors, humidifiers, portable fans, and white noise/sleep machines will be inspected and if approved will be returned to your room.
Food and Beverage
You may or may not know that you are actually allowed to bring on an adult beverage when you first board the ship as long as you are 21 or older and you carry it on. The rule for Disney Cruise is a maximum of 2 bottles of wine or champagne, or 6 beers no larger than 12 oz. If you wish to drink the wine or champagne in the dining room you will be charged a $25 corking fee. You also cannot consume any of these beverages you brought onboard in any public areas.
You CANNOT bring onboard any
- Liquors or Spirits. Any of those bottles you might purchase while in ports of call or in the ship's store will be stored until the end of the cruise.
- Homemade or precooked foods, open container foods.
- Large coolers - Only coolers no larger than 12" x 12" x 12" area allowed to be brought onboard and they must be carried on and only for use to store medications, baby food or other dietary restrictions.
You CAN bring on non-perishable snacks in sealed packaging (just remember once you open it you need to finish it or throw it away before the end of the cruise as you cannot take opened food packages through customs.)
It can be fun to decorate your stateroom door and I usually suggest it to also help you find your room in a long hallway of doors. There are some rules though.
You CANNOT use -
- Over the door hangers
- Any Adhesive device (like command strips)
- Guests may not hang, attach or otherwise display any flag, banner or sign from any part of the ship, including stateroom verandahs.
- Seasonal and/or celebratory light bulb strings or other hanging items are not permitted.
You CAN only use magnets to attach things to your doors.
Some guests also like to hang little gift holders over the metal ornament on the wall next to your stateroom door (called fish extenders as the metal decoration is usually a fish). They plan ahead with other guests to leave little items in the pockets during the cruise. As of right now Disney is not allowing these due to covid rules.
Who Would Bring These Things
Here are a few other things I never even really thought about but I guess people have brought them so they end up on the prohibited list -
You CANNOT bring -
- Ham Radios
- Metal Detectors (that is actually on the list twice)
- Pool Cues
- Ski Poles
- Power Tools
- Hookah Pipes.
- Remote controlled recreation devices - that includes drones
You can always check out - https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/faq/prohibited-items/list/ for the complete list. If cruising on another cruise line you can usually find the list of prohibited things under the FAQ section.
Airfare is pretty much my least favorite part of traveling. First there is figuring out the best flights to book which can take forever if you are like me always comparing and wondering if prices will go down. Then once you finally find your perfect flights and find the perfect seats you book it and you feel relieved until you get that dreaded email that says flight change.
Flight changes have always happened but it seems like they are happening a lot more these days. Changes can happen for a variety of reasons but in general the further out you have booked your flights the more likely you will have changes. Flight changes can be a small amount of time or a large amount of time difference. Your plane could change, the route could change, or any other variables that might mess with your previously perfect flights. You might get notified really far ahead of time of changes or you might have last minute changes either way you need to be sure to look very closely at the changes and make sure you are OK with them and know what your options are. In most cases you don't just have to suck it up and keep what they give you.
There are 3 categories of flight change - Minor, Significant, or Cancellation. Your rights will depend on the type of change and of course the definition of the change can vary based on airline. You can check the terms and conditions on your airline's site for the details.
These are generally just a slight change in flight time or might be a different type of aircraft but for the most part these changes really shouldn't affect your overall plans. The airlines will notify you and show you the new flights and should also show you the old so you can see what the difference is. Be sure to look at these notifications carefully. Even with just a minor change in flight time your seat choice could have changed so be sure to look at everything. Generally in the case of minor changes you do not have options. If you really have an issue with a change you can talk to the airline and they might be able to offer you another option.
These are going to be a larger amount of time difference between what you had booked and what they are showing you now. It could also mean your non-stop flight now has a stop or maybe your connecting flight has a different stop. As long as your flight numbers are still the same this is considered a Significant Change and will come with more options than the minor change.
Most likely the airline will email you and say flight change and they will list the new and old version of your flights. If you are OK with it all you do not have to do anything, but if you do not like what they have given you and it is considered a significant change you can ask for other flights or a refund. The definition of Significant Change varies by airline but could be as little as 30 minutes different than your original.
Again be sure to look over all the details of the new flights the airline is giving you to be sure you want to accept or not. I once got a flight schedule change email and I thought the time only changed by a little but then I looked closer and I realized the flight had moved to a whole day later! I got another that went from non-stop to a connecting and there was no way I was accepting that either. The airlines will usually give a short amount of time to change after they notify you so be sure to stay on top of those emails and make your request to change quickly.
Flight cancellation isn't just when your flight is completely canceled but anytime the flight number you booked changes. If the airline moves you to another flight number most likely they will just email you a flight change notification and hope that you are OK with the new flights and you might not notice that totally new flight number. If you got new flight numbers you can ask for a refund or to be able to choose other flights. If the flight cancellation notice comes inside 14 days of your flight you might also be entitled to other compensation.
I just recently got an email of a flight change and at first I thought it was just a significant change but then I noticed that my flight number was different. I went to the airline's site and I could see they had definitely trimmed down the number of flights out that day compared to the many options that were showing when I booked. So I took a look at which flights were still being offered since I wasn't that crazy about the one they had automatically given me (which was more than 2 hours earlier and would have meant an earlier wake up than I prefer). I saw a later flight that didn't look too bad and I checked on seats to make sure I would be happy with the options. I then logged into my reservation and made the change quickly and at no cost. That was so much easier than having to call in and wait on hold so always check to see if you can make changes online before calling. If I had tried to make the change online and it said I needed to pay more I definitely would have been calling in since I knew this situation was a flight cancellation and gives me the most rights. Either way knowing your rights based on the flight change helps.
If you booked your flight further in advance then I also recommend popping onto the airline's site and checking on your booking periodically as the airlines won't always notify you as soon as they have made a change. The sooner you know about any changes the more options you will have to fix it.
Don't forget to look for 3 main things - flight times/dates, seats, and connections. Hopefully we can all get back to flying what used to be called the friendly skies without any issues!
I have been to Alaska 3 times in the past 5 years and each time has been a totally different type of trip. Alaska is one of those places that you could even do the same exact trip 3 times and each time will be totally different.
I used to think of cruising as something I only wanted to do somewhere with warm weather so I always balked at an Alaska cruise. I finally decided to cruise Alaska in 2016 and then I wished I hadn't put it off so long. Alaska is a gorgeous place with so much to see and do. It is always chaging too so even if you have been before there is still reasaon to go back again!
7 night Round Trip Seattle or Vancouver
This was what my first Alaska cruise was - technically mine started in Fort Lauderdale and went through the Panama Canal before heading up to Seattle and I added the 7 night Alaska cruise onto that.
This is is the typical cruise that most people will take and it is a great way to try Alaska and see if you like it. This cruise will take you to the main tourist areas in Southeast Alaska but it is sort of just a taste of Alaska. Alaska is so huge that just visiting that small area is just the tip of the iceberg literally. These cruises will generally visit Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. They will also include some sort of glacier. The best cruises will go to Glacier Bay but those permits are very limited so that isn't possible on every cruise. Other popular options are Hubbard Glacier or Tracy Arm. Either way it is just breathtaking to get to see a glacier up close.
1 Way Cruise - Northbound or Southbound
These can be a 7 night cruise but the best thing to do is a Cruisetour. They will either start in Seattle or Vancouver or end there. The other end is usually Anchorage. This way you get to see the same areas at the 7 night round trip cruises but then you also get further North in Alaska. Adding a Cruisetour onto the cruise gives you the opportunity to really explore Alaska on land. This is the option that will give you the scenic train rides and a chance to get into Denali National Park. My second visit to Alaska was a Cruisetour followed by a 7 night cruise southbound to Vancouver. We started up in Fairbanks and worked our way back down to Anchorage to get our cruise going South. Getting to see more of the land portion of Alaska really gives you a better perspective of how huge Alaska is and how much the weather can vary.
Small Ship Cruise in Alaska
This was my most recent way to see Alaska and this is way to go if you are looking for more of an adventure and less touristy stuff. Our cruise didn't stop at any other towns during our 7 nights. We were in Glacier Bay for 2 days whereas my previous cruise on the big ship only had a few hours to explore it. Small ships can get into smaller areas and closer to wildlife so it is a different experience. These cruises can either go round trip out of an Alaskan port or sometimes they also go one way. Ours was round trip out of Juneau but some will do one way like Juneau to Ketchikan. Those towns you begin or end in will be your option for shopping.
No matter which way you choose to see Alaska you won't be disappointed.
There are so many things to consider when you are booking flights, especially when you are looking at long haul flights. You need to compare prices, connections, type of aircraft, which airline, along with other things. Add to that that the way pricing can vary from day to day and sometimes it even changes within hours. It can be very overwhelming. For me personally, booking flights is my least favorite part about planning travel - yes I think the picking flights is even worse than the flight itself.
Arrival in Juneau
We got off the plane in Juneau and were met by an UnCruise representative who directed us to the van that would take us to the hospitality center. We grabbed our bags and they were tagged to go right to our room on the ship. We had a couple hours to explore Juneau before boarding. It was so different to be there without any big ships in port. It was also sad to see how many of the shops were either still closed or worse had signs that said out of business. Hopefully the ships starting back up in July will bring some businesses back to life.
Our ship could hold 76 but there were only 23 guests in total on our cruise. Everyone did have to be fully vaccinated to cruise so no masks were required on the ship which I was very happy about. After boarding we went through the safety talk and drill and were ready to set sail. We had dinner and after that I was pretty tired since we were now 4 hours behind East Coast time. Even though it was only 9 pm it felt like 1 am to me.
The first morning started with breakfast and then an overview of the activities to come during the week. Mud boots are very important when exploring Alaska with a boat like UnCruise since we would be going ashore on skiffs and have wet landings most of the time. Luckily the ship has a pretty good stash of boots onboard so if you didn't already have a pair of your own there were some to borrow. We also got our PFD (personal floatation device) that we would wear while kayaking. Each day at lunch our activities director would go over the planned activities for the next day and we could choose the ones we wanted to do.
Day 1 - Neka Bay
On the first morning I was still sort of on East Coast time so I was up early and had time to walk around the top deck before our 7:30 am breakfast. I skipped the morning stretch that I did on our Sea of Cortes cruise because for me it was just a little too chilly for that. The day started with the most amazing views so I took that as a sign that this was what was to come all week! Our first day's adventures started with a bushwack. We hopped on a skiff and headed over to an island where we explored the woods and checked out some of the foliage. It was fun climbing over and under logs and stomping in the mud but once was enough of that for me. After lunch our next activity was kayaking and this was much more fun. We got to see a bear hanging out on the shore only a few feet from where we were paddling. We were enjoying some perfect weather and all the crew kept commenting about how great this was. Even better was that since we were such a small group of guests some of the crew got to also get out and enjoy the excursions too. Our bartender joined us on today's kayak which also helped out since there was an odd number of guests signed up to kayak and the kayaks are all doubles. That night we were just at the edge of Glacier Bay and were able to stop at the Welcome Center to walk around. It turns out that this was the only time during our cruise that we would see other people.
Day 2 - Glacier Bay
Today we entered Glacier Bay - which covers 3.3 million acres and part of a 25 million acre World Heritage Site. It is one of the world's largest international protected areas. There are a lot of rules while in Glacier Bay which are all put in place to protect the wildlife. One rule is that we could only have one propeller in the water going at one time. That did mean the excursions off the boat had to be spread out a bit to accommodate that rule. We were anchored up by Lamplugh Glacier and todays excursion choices were a shorewalk, a ridge walk, skiff ride, and kayak. We opted for the skiff ride and kayak options as I really wanted to be out on the water since we had such beautiful sunny weather. Our skiff ride was after breakfast and we got to ride around Lamplugh Glacier a little and check out some of the floating ice. Then we headed the opposite direction and got to check out Johns Hopkins Glacier, which our guide told us she had only been able to see the whole thing once before but after today she could say she saw it twice since there wasn't a cloud or any fog in sight. The Harbor Seals use this area to give birth to thier pups so up until September no boat can go past a certain point. We had a curious male seal watching us and following us a little. The guide told us that the males like to hang out around there because once the females have weaned thier pups (which surprisingly takes only about 4 weeks) they come on back out start the whole process over again. It sounds like for the most part the females are just always pregnant. While we were out on the skiff our guide used a net to scoop up a chunk of the floating ice to bring back to the ship. That ice was out on the top deck the rest of the day and night and still didn't melt. After lunch it was time to kayak! This was so much fun today as we got up much closer to the Lamplugh glacier than we did on the skiff. In the morning a group had done a shorewalk and we were now kayaking over the area they had walked on in the morning because the tides here have up to 25 ft changes. We paddled through all kinds of ice and it was almost like bumper boats with ice. It was amazing to see how much the wind changed as you got closer to the glacier. There are katabatic winds that come off the glacier so we went from warm sunny flat water to paddling through currents and getting blown backwards pretty fast. We kept hoping for some calving of the glacier to happen while we were floating around the area. We heard a few cracks which sounded like thunder but no big chunks came off the front.
After everyone was back onboard from thier excursions there was a polar plunge. Anyone that wished to jump off the back of the boat for a quick dip in the 45 degree water was welcome to do it. I passed on that since the water needs to be at least double that temperature for me to even think about swimming. There were a bunch of brave guests that did it and then a bunch of crew did it as well. The hot tubs onboard were popular after the plunge. After dinner we were told dessert was being served on the top deck since it was still so lovely outside and we had a very special view. During dinner the ship had moved to be in front of Margerie Glacier. We had seen this glacier on our last visit to Alaska while we were cruising on Princess. She is a very impressive glacier but has changed a lot since we saw her in August 2019. It was amazing to see how much had calved off and how she had retreated. Many of the glaciers are retreating so much that some are no longer over water so are not tidewater glaciers anymore but have become land glaciers. We got to see a bunch of calving while we were floating around in front of Marjorie which was very cool.
After that one of the gudies, Kim, was giving a talk on Whales in the lounge. Since I love whales I was looking forward to it. It was almost like Kim talking about whales just attracted them to our boat! Within a few minutes we heard that some Dall's Porpoise were riding our bow wake. The lounge is in the front of the boat so it made to easy watching right out the window. We saw at least a dozen of them jumping in our waves and just playing around. It was so amazing! Once they got tired and swam off we got back to the talk. After the talk we headed back to our room and within a few minutes the Captain came on the speaker to say Humpbacks were spotted. I threw on my coat and headed out to the bow. Just then multiple humpbacks breached which just a site to see. Even our guide Kim, who loves whales, was overjoyed and said this was really something special. I think we spent a good hour just watching the whales spout, breach, and my favorite part when they dive and show thier fluke. Kim talked earlier about a website HappyWhale.com where you can upload photos of whale flukes and they can use something almost like facial recognition and tell you which whale you saw. A whale's fluke is like a fingerprint and unique to each whale. I did get one photo even though far away that I am going to upload and see if we can find out about at least one of the whales we saw that night.
Day 3 - Glacier Bay
Our cruise had 2 full days in Glacier Bay so day 3 started off with an early sighting of goats on an island we were passing by. Some people saw bears too. Today did not have any morning excursions since today was more about sailing around Glacier Bay. After breakfast we went by another island, this was one full of sea lions soaking up the sun along with a lot of tufted puffins all nesting in the rocky area of this island. We saw a couple mamma sea lions swim by with fuzzy babies sitting on their bellies as they went by. The puffins were also fun to watch since they are not the best fliers or landers.
Later that day we did anchor so that everyone could squeeze in an off the boat activity that day. We had signed up to kayak but the wind had kicked up some pretty good waves so we opted to skiff instead. That is just another great thing about UnCruise: the flexibility to do whatever works best that day. We got to check out some of the crazy kelp that grows in this area. We also came upon an otter who was just hanging out in the kelp. I didn't know that the otters do not eat the kelp but instead they eat the urchins that eat the kelp. So when the otters almost went extinct not that long ago the kelp also almost disappeared since the urchins didn't have anyone eating them. This otter just hung onto a piece of kelp and was floating on his back and let us get pretty close.
Day 4 - Pavlov Bay
We started today off with an open kayak - this was the first and only time without having to follow a guide around. We were shown the area we had to stay in and then we were free to explore on the kayak. It was so fun just going around on our own and we would stop and just listen to the quiet. We saw some eagles that let us get pretty close before they took off. A curious seal came pretty close to us and we were only in about a foot of water in the bay so we were surprised he would come in that shallow. Later we learned that a pod of Orcas had gone by the bay so that was most likely why that little guy was in so shallow. After lunch we went out on a skiff to see if we could find the Orcas since those that saw them earlier knew they went into a dead end bay so they would have to come back out the same way they went in. We found them pretty quick and just sort of followed along watching them swim. There was even a baby with them which was so cute!
Day 5 - Robert and Crow Island
Today was the one day where there was an option for an all day excursion. They didn't really say too much about what they would do all day so we opted to go with the 2 shorter excursions instead. The all day people were given a box lunch and left right after breakfast. We chose to take a skiff ride in the morning and it turned out to be a private skiff for just the 2 of us which was pretty cool. There were 3 seals that were just hanging around the boat that morning fooling around and splashing a bit. I nicknamed them Larry, Curly, and Moe. When I told our skiff driver that she had no clue what those 3 names were from - I felt pretty old then. There was also a humpback hanging around the area so we headed out to check him out. We pretty much just floated around out by him watching where he would go each time he took a deep dive. Then we would go towards his spout and watch some more. After our skiff it was time for lunch and found that there were just 9 of us that didn't choose the all day option so it was a nice small group for lunch onboard. After lunch we did a guided kayak. We paddled out to a small island that was off the front of the boat and we went around checking out the things living close to shore. I was so surprised by the jellyfish - for some reason I was thinking they only lived in warm water. We were also watching as 3 eagles seemed to be getting bombarded by a few crows. We could see the eagle's nest and the crows seemed to be dive bombing so we think maybe they were after some food. After dinner the crew told us they had a surprise set up for us. We found out while we were eating that they had set up a bonfire on the beach so we hopped on the skiffs to go hang out on the beach for a couple hours and enjoy drinks, stories around the fire, and exploring the beach while watching the sun start to set. The sky still looked very pretty at 10 pm which is around the sunset time but it never really seemed to get all the way dark up here. We had been so lucky with our weather all week to have mostly sun and temperatures in the 60s every day. The crew just couldn't stop saying how wonderful it had been to be able to do things they hadn't been able to do in a long time.
Day 6 - Tracy Arm
Our last day onboard was spent in Tracy Arm. After breakfast we all hopped on the skiffs and made our way closer to South Sawyer Glacier. Along the way we went through lots of floating ice. We learned that the smaller ones are growlers, the bigger chunks are Begy-bits, and then icebergs are the really big ones. The best thing about visiting right now and being on UnCruise is that we do things you would never get to do on a big ship - like move from the ship to skiffs without anchoring while in Tracy Arm. The skiffs allow us to get very close not only to the glacier but during this time of year the mamma seals swim up close to the glacier to give birth to thier pups on the large floating ice. Being this far up the arm keeps them safer from the Orcas that would eat them and thier babies. They were a little skittish around us too and sometimes if we got too close the mamma and baby would slide down off the ice into the water to hide. Sometimes they got separated and you could hear the baby seal crying out in what really sounded like it was saying MOM! Some of them didn't seem as bothered by us and didn't move. We saw some pretty cool calving of the glacier before making our way back to the boat. Some of the floating ice was just the most amazing shades of blue. It is so blue because the dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue so blue is what we see. The denser the ice the more vivid the blue looks.
After getting back onboard we enjoyed lunch and the scenic views as we sailed back out of Tracy Arm. The sad news was that this was our last night onboard so we had to talk about disembarkation and return our borrowed items like the boots and PFDs. We ended the night with a slide show of photos that the guides took all week. It was a lovely way to recap our amazing week and we would also get a link to all the photos via email.
The last morning came all too quickly and after breakfast we were off the boat. Disembarkation on a small ship is so easy. All of the crew lined up on the upper deck to waive goodbye to us and the Captain was on the dock to shake hands. A bonus was the CEO of UnCruise was also on the dock to say welcome back to all of us. UnCruise does include your transfers back to the airport which is also very nice. We had a later flight so our bags were stored and we were free to hang out in the hospitality room or enjoy Juneau. We did a little of both before it was time to head back to the airport. Unlike our journey to Alaska where I broke up our flight with a stop over in Seattle this time we were headed straight back to FL. This meant a red-eye flight which seemed like a good idea at the time. I always forget how tired I feel after a red eye so I might have to remember that for next time we have a long haul flight and opt for the break it up with a stop over somewhere on the way home.
We had an Unbelievably good time on our UnCruise and cannot wait to do another one! I think Hawaii is next up on my UnCruise bucket list! I will post lots more photos to my facebook page soon so if you want to see more check out - My Page
I am someone that always likes to read reviews before buying things or visiting places. When it comes to booking things for my clients I really prefer to be able to give my firsthand experience whenever possible but it is a big world with so many places to see it is hard to have been everywhere and tried everything. That is when I turn to reviews and also check with other agents I know to get thier trusted opions when possible. I came across @SubParParks recently and that is what inspired me to write this weeks article.
The big ships are tired of sitting around waiting on the CDC to give them the green light to sail out of the US again so they are taking matters in thier own hands and moving ships to new homeports.
Royal Caribbean announced they will have a ship to sail out of Nassau and one out of Bermuda this summer.
Adventure of the Seas® heads back to the tropics this summer,
unlocking seven-night getaways from Nassau. Double up on thrills
and even more time to chill with two days at the top-rated
Royal Caribbean® private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
You’ll also get a chance to venture into Maya history during a
visit to Cozumel. And unwind on Grand Bahama Island’s
beautiful white-sand beaches. Island time is now.
Vision of the Seas® is bringing back unforgettable island escapes from Bermuda this June. Soak up the sun on the island's famous pink-sand beaches and keep the vacation vibes going in Bermuda. Chase thrills or chill beachside at our top-rated private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Celebrity Cruise Line to sail out of St Maarten this summer
Celebrity is the premium brand in the Royal Caribbean family so it just made sense that they too would offer cruise options from a non-US port this summer too.
We’re kicking off our return to service with 7-night sailings aboard the revolutionized Celebrity Millennium® departing from St. Maarten and sailing to Aruba, Barbados, Curaçao, the British Virgin Islands, and beyond.
Crystal Cruise lines will offer Bahamas only sailings this summer
Crystal is a luxury cruise line that doesn't tend to use US homeports as much as the bigger guys but it is still wonderful that they found a way to offer the Cariibean to guests wanting to cruise this summer.
Crystal said it will resume sailing in the Americas on July 3 under an agreement that will base its Crystal Serenity in the Bahamas for a series of Bahamas-only sailings that will include stops previously accessible only by private yacht. Crystal's interim CEO, Jack Anderson, said a total of 16 Bahamas Escapes seven-day cruises are planned from July to October. Passengers can embark every Saturday in Nassau or every Sunday in Bimini for the roundtrip cruises that will then sail to Harbour Island, Great Exuma, San Salvador and Long Island, he said.
All of these cruises on any of the lines listed above will require adult guests to be vaccinated. Any children under the age of 18 who have a negative PCR test result within 120 hours of embarkation. Guests might also have to meet any other requirements posted to travel to the starting point of thier cruise.
Virgin Cruise Line announced that it still plans for a July restart out of Miami and they will require all guests and crew to be vaccindated.
I know you might be thinking do people really book a Cruise around the World? Yes they do! Cruise Lines are seeing a record demand for World Cruises right now. Oceania recently opened booking for it's 2023 World Cruise and it sold out in 24 hours! Getting to see so many amazing places in one trip sounds a little overwhelming but perfect at that same time. The price tag for these cruises can give you sticker shock but when you do the math they really are a good deal. Just think of the cost to fly to most of these places and then add in food and a place to stay and real quick a World Cruise looks like a bargain.
Some cruise lines will offer portions of the World Cruise for booking so you don't have to book the whole thing if you only want to do part of it. If a World Cruise still sounds a bit too long there are also some wonderful longer cruises to consider as a stepping stone to working up to that World Cruise. I did a 30 day cruise a few years ago and at first I was wondering if that would be too long but I quickly learned that the longer the better!
Cruise Lines are also getting more creative with itineraries to keep guests coming back year after year. More overnight stops are also becoming more popular. To give you an idea of what you can expect from some of the more unique itineraries check out these 4 World Cruises scheduled for 2023:
Cruise Line: Oceania Cruises
Date: January 15, 2023
Length: 179 nights
Cheapest Price: $41,599
Homeport: San Francisco
Oceania’s traditional 180-day world cruise is back in 2023. The trip, which sold out in just 24 hours, will visit 96 ports in 33 countries across four continents.
Overnight stays are planned in 20 destinations – including Cape Town and Yangon, where the Insignia is set to be docked for three entire days.
Cruise Line: Princess Cruises
Ship: Coral Princess
Date: June 4, 2023
Length: 107 nights
Cheapest Price: $20,604
The Coral Princess will be the only ship to sail a world cruise from Australia in 2023. The vessel, operated by Princess Cruises, will depart Sydney on June 4, returning to the same port 107 days and 44 ports of call later. The classic itinerary includes visits to 26 countries on six continents, including 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Cruise Line: Regent Seven Seas
Ship: Seven Seas Mariner
Date: January 7, 2023
Length: 143 nights
Cheapest Price: $81,119
Homeport: Miami to Barcelona
Luxury brand Regent Seven Seas is offering the most expensive world cruise in 2023. With 143 nights, the journey goes from Miami to Barcelona, visiting 72 ports in-between. The itinerary has a focus on Asia and Africa, with several unusual ports of call, such as Lome (Togo), Takoradi (Ghana) and Mayotte (Comoros)
Cruise Line: Viking Cruises
Ship: Viking Neptune
Date: December 22, 2022
Length: 137 nights
Cheapest Price: $49,995
Homeport: Fort Lauderdale to Greenwich
In 2023, Viking Cruises will offer a world cruise on its brand-new ship, the Viking Neptune. The vessel – currently under construction in Italy – is set to debut just a few weeks before the trip starts. During the 137-night cruise, guests will visit 58 ports around the globe, with a special focus on the Asia-Pacific region, where most of the calls take place.
Those are just a sample of the many options that are available. If you want to learn more just let me know.
So are you ready to join me in a cruise around the world?
Last week Canada announced no cruise ships in Canadian waters until February 2022. This really is a big blow to Alaska since this could mean the end to the summer cruise season this year in Alaska. You might be asking why would that matter if the ships just went from Seattle to Alaska but there is a law that prevents foreign flagged ships from going from one US port to another US port without stopping at a foreign port. All of the big cruise lines are foreign flagged so that only leaves just a couple small ships that US based that can still sail Alaska if things do not change.
The cruise lines and Alaska representatives are petitioning to have that one law, which is 135 years old, either revoked or maybe just waived for this year. Alaska relies heavily on tourism so going a second year without cruises is just crushing to them.
None of the cruise lines have cancelled the Alaska sailings for this summer just yet. They are hoping to find a way to somehow salvage the season and I hope they are able to as well. I love Alaska really hate to see all of those people who depend on the tourists hurt by this.
There are a few small cruise lines that will be sailing Alaska for sure so if you have your heart set on Alaska this summer or you really love the idea of maybe getting to see Alaska with not as many other people you might want to grab a room on one of these soon!
Here are the 4 Cruise Lines that are not affected by the Canada Ban -
Uncruise - This one is my favorite! I sailed with them in Sea of Cortes last year (had no idea at that time it would be my last cruise for a long time). "Our Alaska adventure cruises deliver action, exploration, and the unexpected—paddling and hiking, calving glaciers, Glacier Bay National Park, bears, whales, and polar plunges. Nobody does Alaska better."
American Cruise Line - This one offers more of a river cruise experience onboard the ship vs the expedition style of UnCruise. So if you are looking for a more relaxed cruise this might be the right choice. "Onboard the newest small cruise ships in the region, you will experience the breathtaking scenery and inspiring wildlife of Alaska like never before. Get up close and personal to the natural beauty of Alaska as we cruise to Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Bay and more. Choose from three unique and fascinating itineraries."
Linblad - This is another expedition style like Uncruise. They are partnered with National Geographic so you know you will get up close with nature. "You’ll hear the thunderous crack of calving glaciers. Sail alongside pods of orca; see breaching humpbacks and foraging brown bears on our small ship Alaska cruise. Hike verdant old-growth rain forests and kayak peaceful coastlines. In the 30+ years we’ve been exploring, we have provided the richest experience possible on our Alaska expedition cruises."
Alaska Dream Cruise - Like the name says they are truly Alaska focused. "Our all-inclusive, small expedition itineraries offer a mix of excursions in intriguing towns and Native villages and adventures in raw wilderness bays and glacial fjords. This approach to small vessel expeditions in Alaska offers travelers a comprehensive look at all the Inside Passage has to offer. Every experience is hand-picked for its value in immersing you in True Alaska."
If you want to be sure you don't miss out on the Alaska cruise season this summer or if you are want to plan for 2022 I would be happy to help you find the right ship and itinerary for you!
Did you know that Florida second highest number of islands of any state in the United States? There are 4,510 islands that have 10 acres or more. In case you were wondering Alaska has the most islands.
Now with new rules in place for anyone returning to the US from any international location it is easier to just stay in the US. If you are really in need of an island getaway don't worry there are lots of wonderful island options right here in Florida!
Here are my picks for top 7 luxury island getaways in FL -
#7 Amelia Island
Starting with the Northeast corner of Florida this island getaway is an easy drive for many East Coast states or just a short drive from Jacksonville airport. - My pick for luxury here is Ritz Carlton Amelia Island Unfolding along 13 miles of pristine beachfront, this luxury resort infuses the story of the land into nearly every guest experience. They even offer Field Trip packages Distance learning comes alive with instructor-led field trip packages designed to complement science curriculum and foster a passion for marine ecology and biology.
#6 - Destin
Moving West across North Florida on the panhandle is a barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico where you will find Destin. This location offers an easy drive from many Midwest states or a short drive from Pensacola airport. My pick for a luxury stay on this island is - Henderson Beach Resort With it's stunning location on some of the most breathtaking stretches of sand in the world, and the tranquil jeweled waters of the Gulf of Mexico right at the doorstep, there is literally an endless list of activities and attractions for everyone to experience.
#5 - St Pete Beach
Staying on the Gulf Coast but moving South we hit St Pete Beach. Just below Tampa and also an easy drive from Orlando. My pick for where to stay here is - Tradewinds Resort two beach resorts on 31 acres of the soft white sands of Florida’s St. Pete Beach, rated a top 10 USA beach for six years running by TripAdvisor. They are even pet friendly! I have taken my dog there before and he loved it!
#4 - Gasparilla Island
Heading further south down the Gulf Coast you will find little known Gasparilla Island. The closest airport would be Fort Myers. You will feel like you stepped back in time when you stay at the The Gasparilla Inn The barrier island is a small on at only about 1/4 mile wide. Tarpon and other prized fish call the blue waters off Gasparilla Island home which makes this a fisherman's paradise.
#3 - Sanibel and Captiva Island
Just south of Gasparilla you will find my favorite barrier island of Sanibel/Captiva. They are a shell lover's paradise with tons of shells washing up on the white sandy shores constantly. It is a great way to get back to nature since more than half of the island is made up of wildlife refuges, the largest being J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I recommend South Seas Resort Originally a key lime plantation 100 years ago, South Seas Island Resort is now truly a destination.
#2 - Florida Keys
I am guessing when you think of Florida islands you automatically think of the Keys but I hope the previous 5 islands I listed made you realize there are islands all around Florida. Since the Florida Keys are just about as close as you can get to a Caribbean vacation without leaving the United States my top 2 choices are in the Keys. The #2 resort I have listed is Hawks Cay On the the small, secluded island of Duck Key, aquamarine waters sparkle under the South Floridian sun, bottlenose dolphins readily greet guests, and visitors and locals alike discover the best seaside dining, coastal living and aquatic adventures. This one is great for families.
#1 - Florida Keys
The number one resort I have listed is also in the Florida Keys and it truly is a private island escape! Little Palm Island Located off the fabled Florida Keys coastline, on a lush, private island dotted with crushed seashell paths amid verdant tropical foliage and exotic wildlife, rests Little Palm Island Resort & Spa – a destination like no other. Whether arriving by seaplane or our private boat, begin your journey with refreshing cocktails at our on-shore reception and lounge, the Shore Station, before making the short, scenic journey to your new island oasis.
Adventures by Disney is an 8 night package that includes 1 night on land and 7 on the ship.
You need to purchase round trip flights into Quito separately. Your adventure begins with 1 night stay in Quito and the following morning you will fly over to the islands to get on the ship. This internal flight is included in your cost along with transportation. Your ship the Galapagos Legend is a good size holding around 100 guests. As expected with Disney they chose a ship that will offer some rooms that will accomodate families. You will have the Disney Adventures Guides along with Naturalists and other special guests. It is a 7 night cruise around the Galapagos with lots of adventures like hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and wildlife viewing, included each day. After the cruise is over you will be flown back to Quito to catch your flight home.
There are 5 dates to choose from in 2022 for this Adventure and most are starting at $6279 per adult (thanks to a nice $750 early booking savings offer). There is a minimum age of 8 to travel to Galapagos.
Let's compare this to something very similar offered by another of my favorite vacation suppliers - Avalon Waterways.
Avalon offers a 7 night package but it is just a 4 night cruise with 3 nights on land. You would also fly round trip into Quito with those flights not included. You would spend the first 2 nights in Quito with that second day including sightseeing in Quito. Then fly over to the ship on day 3 (those flights included). The ship is the Treasure of Galapagos which holds just 16 guests (yes that does mean it is a nice small group on each cruise). You will have a tour director and naturalists onboard which will also lead your excursions doing things like hiking, snorkeling, and wildlife watching (that are included). On day 7 you get off the ship and fly back to Quito to spend the night and fly out the following day.
There are 12 dates scheduled for this trip in 2022 but 2 are already sold out. Rates start at $5254 per adult for most dates. Avlaon also offers some add on options if you would like to extend your vacation into the Amazon or Peru.
Both options will include all meals on the cruise and some meals while on land. Both options include many excursions and both give you the VIP entrance into the must see stuff. Disney is one day longer and includes more time cruising but at about $1000 more per person. Disney is also on a much larger ship so there will be more people. I know that both companies will offer you a luxurious adventure that you will never forget but if I had to pick one I would go with Avalon mainly for the small ship experience.
I know the end of the world is on a lot of people's bucket list and I think it is great that Disney is offering an option now. I also love that they are doing it on Ponant which is a small ship cruise company that I think is the best choice for Antarctica!
This comparison will be a little different from the Galapagos because in this one I will compare booking the Adventures by Disney package vs just booking a regular cruise on Ponant.
Adventures by Disney will be using the Ponant ship and as far as I understand it Disney has chartered the ship for 2 dates so that means everyone onboard is part of Adventures by Disney. The ship has 132 staterooms so will have less than 300 guests onboard. It is a 12 day Adventure where you need to purchase round trip flights into Buenos Aires. Spend the first night in Buenos Aires and then the next day you will be flown to Ushuaia where you can ride the End of the World Train, experience the Tierra del Fuego National Park, and End of the World post office. Then you will board the ship for your 10 night cruise. At the end of the cruise you will be flown back to Buenos Aires where you can catch your flight home or maybe add the land package also offered by Adventures by Disney (3 night Buenos Aires Escape). During the cruise with Disney you will have your Adventure Guides and some special events that won't happen on the regular Ponant cruise but most of the rest will be the same.
Ponant runs these cruises November - March so you do have more dates to choose from if you are Ok without the Disney touches. They do offer the same itinerary as Adventures by Disney along with some other longer options as well. The pricing seems to come out very similar to what Disney is showing as starting rates so price shouldn't be a factor in choosing.
Here is how Ponant describes the 10 night cruise -
PONANT invites you on a polar expedition cruise to the heart of the icy realm that is the Antarctic Peninsula. Embark on an unforgettable 11-day voyage and succumb to the enchantment of the breathtaking landscapes inhabited by astonishing wildlife.
The start of your cruise will be marked by the crossing of the mythical Drake Passage, during which you will probably be escorted by several albatrosses and Cape petrels, the sentinels of these often-choppy waters.
Your ship will then reach the White Continent, realm of the unexpected. Weather and ice conditions permitting, this extreme environment where nature reigns supreme will reveal to you its most beautiful secrets through numerous discoveries.
On this uninhabited land, which wasn’t explored until the 19th century, your encounters with the wildlife will no doubt be one of the highlights of your experience. The Gentoo, Adelie and chinstrap penguins, humpback whales, seals and seabirds will provide you with cherished lifelong memories.
Each day, whether on land, aboard your ship or during a Zodiac® outing, you will be surrounded by a grandiose decor ranging from icebergs to ice floe and ancient glaciers.
We have only seen Disney's starting price as of now and I am sure there will be higher price points for upgraded rooms but until Disney opens these for booking next week this is what we have to go on. The starting price for Adventures by Disney's 2 dates is $12,459 per adult (that is for the January 30, 2002). The December 20, 2021 starts at $12,769 per adult. For many dates Ponant is already sold out of the lower priced rooms so the Adventures by Disney option might allow you to get one of those rooms that can be harder to get this close in. Of course if you might need more than a year to save up you can always look to book for 2023 or later too with Ponant. The earlier you book with Ponant the better your options for rooms will be as this one does sell out early. You could also hope that Disney will keep up the partnership and start saving now for when they open booking for the next year.
Either way on this one I think you will have the most amazing adventure! If you would prefer a cruise that will have less families than going with a Ponant booking might be better for you.
6 years ago Brad and I took our first cruise together and it was a Disney Cruise. As you can imagine there were a lot of kids onboard. While we loved the cruise and Disney does a great job of offering adult only areas we thought wouldn't it be great if there weren't any kids onboard LOL. Our next cruise was a river cruise so we did get to enjoy a kid free ship on that cruise and it was wonderful! Almost a year after that we took a 30 day cruise on Holland America and there was just 1 kid onboard. We realized that there were a lot of poeple that prefered a cruise without kids, not just without thier own kids but without anyone else's kids too.
I am working on www.cruisewithoutkids which also has a facebook page and instagram with the same name and I will be posting more information so please feel free to check them out and follow them if you also like the idea of a vacation without kids.
This week I want to talk about 2 cruise lines that are always adult only and they are Virgin Voyages and Viking.
This is the new kid on the block - or should I say new no kid on the block. Virgin Voyages was suppoed to start sailing March of 2020 but as we all know that didn't happen. As of now it looks like May 2021 will the first voyage of this brand new ship. Richard Branson wanted to create a new way to cruise and I think he might have done it. The ships are adult only they also inlcude a lot of things many other cruise lines do not. Ever thought about getting a tattoo on a cruise ship? Well now you can do it! They also have no buffets and include over 20 eateries in your cruise fare. They also include tips and wi-fi in your cruise cost. I am very excited to try this new experience and am looking forward to my cruise in May! I will be sure to tell you all about it!
You have probobly seen the commercials for Viking River Cruises but they also have Ocean Cruises too. They are also coming out with a river boat for the Mississippi and an Expedition ship too so there is a lot going on with Viking. They are always adult only on all of thier ships and like Virgin they include more in your cruise cost than the usual cruise line. The Viking Ocean ships are smaller than your typical ocean cruise ship holding under 1,000 guests which also allows you to get into smaller ports.
After the year the cruise lines have had it is nice to know that we will still get to see 12 new ships start sailing in 2021! Below I have listed them in order of when they should be starting to sail but that is subject to change. Feel free to sign along!
On the 1st ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - a Ship With No Kids!
1. Viking Venus - scheduled to sail January 2021 she will be the 7th Ocean Ship for Viking with 2 more on the way in 2022. All of the Viking ships are identical and offer only verandah rooms and are adult only. Viking has one of the youngest Ocean fleet with the 1st ship debuting in 2015. Venus will sail the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. All of the Viking Ocean ships do carry less than 1000 passengers putting them in the Small Ship category.
On the 2nd ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - a 2 Story Red Frog Tiki bar and a Roller Coaster!
2. Carnival Mardi Gras - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will bring us the first roller coaster at sea. Yes that is Santa taking a spin on it in the photo at the top. Mardi Gras will be doing Caribbean sailings out of Port Canaveral and she is a mega ship carrying over 5,000 guests.
On the 3rd ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - a 300 Hundred foot North Star, a 2 Story Lime and Coconut bar, and a Glow in the Dark Laser Tag!
3. Royal Caribbean Odyssey of the Seas - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will be the first in the Quantum Ultra Class to sail in the US and Europe. Odyssey of the Seas will sail out of Rome and Fort Lauderdale offering Mediterranean and Caribbean sailings. Holding up to 4,200 passengers she is another mega ship.
On the 4th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 16 Indoor bars, 5 Unique pools, 2 Cirque shows, and the Longest LED Dome at Sea!
4. MSC Virtuosa - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will be the second Meraviglia Plus class ship for MSC. This will stay in Europe offering cruises in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the Middle East. Another mega class ship that can carry 4,800 passengers.
On the 5th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - A LUXURY YACHT EXPERIENCE, 4 Dining rooms, Aft marina, Infinity pool, and All Rooms Are Suites.
5. Ritz Carlton Evrima - scheduled to sail April 2021 she will be the first the Ritz Carlton Yacht Collection.
She will offer sailings in Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Canada/New England, and the Caribbean. That does also mean there are opportunities to do Atlantic crossings on this amazing ship! Evrima is an all suite, all balcony, all inclusive ship. With only about 300 passengers onboard it is a luxurious small ship.
On the 6th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 6 fine dining restaurants, 100 Suites, 2 Story solarium, Fold out marina, 2 Helicopters, and a Submarine!
6. Crystal Endeavor - scheduled to sail May 2021 she will be the first Expedition ship for Crystal. Endeavor is a purpose built Polar Class yacht, all suite, with attentive butlers and an expedition team. She will sail all over the world but she was built for Antarctica. Just 200 guests onboard means it is a luxurious expedition on this small ship.
On the 7th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 8 Dining options, Rolling Stone Rock Room, Lincoln Stage Center, BB King's Blues Club, BBC Earth Concert, World Stage theater, and Club Orange!
7. Holland America's Rotterdam - scheduled to sail August 2021 she will be the 7th ship to bear the name Rotterdam. Holland America recently sold the previous Rotterdam as part of the downsizing many lines did during this shutdown. Rotterdam will be the new flagship of Holland America sailing the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mediterranean, and Northern Europe. Carrying just under 2,700 guests I consider her a Mid Size ship.
On the 8th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 20 bars and lounges, 5D Cinema, Largest interactive water park at sea, a LEGO themed kids club, Full size bowling alley, World's first digital cruise assistant, MSC Yacht Club, and F1 Simulators.
8. MSC Seashore - scheduled to sail August 2021 she is the largest ship to be built in Italy and the 1st of MSC's EVO class ship. This is one of the MSC ships that will sail in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. With over 4,500 guests Seashore is a mega ship.
On the 9th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 8 Dining options, S.A.L.T. Lab, Cigar Lounge and Bar, Arts Cafe, Live jazz and blues, Zagara beauty spa, Observation library, Fitness center, and a Casino.
9. Silver Dawn - scheduled to sail September 2021 she is the 10th ultra luxury ship to join the Silversea fleet. She will be sailing the Mediterranean and South America. Did you know that Silversea was part of the Royal Caribbean family? With just less than 600 guests onboard she is a small ship.
On the 10th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - The Largest balconies at sea, Only jazz theater at sea, Princess's largest ever thermal suite, The Voice of the Ocean singing competition, Salty Dog Gastropub, Ultimate Balcony Dining, The Princess Luxury Bed, the Sanctuary, Sleep by Princess, and Chocolate Journeys!
10. Discovery Princess - scheduled to sail November 2021 she is the 3rd vessel designed from the ground up with Princess Medallion Class and also the final Royal-class ship. Discovery Princess will sail the Caribbean, Mediterranean, California Coast, Mexican Riviera, and South America. Carrying over 3,600 guests she is a Mega ship.
On the 11th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - More than 20 Specialty eateries all included, At Sea Tattoo Parlor, Private karaoke rooms, Onboard record shop, Immersive entertainment experiences, All fitness classes included, Gentleman's Barber shop, Boxing Ring, Rockstar Suites, No Buffets and No Kids!
11. Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady - recently rescheduled to sail starting November 2021 she will be the second ship for Virgin Voyages, neither of which have had paying guests sail onboard yet. Valiant Lady will sail the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Even though she does have 17 decks only up to 2,770 passengers makes her more of a mid-size ship.
On the 12th ship of 2021 the cruise world brings to us - 24 Zodiacs, 2 Submarines, Double sea kayaks, Mountain bikes, E-bikes, Landing Zone, Expedition Lounge, Constellation Lounge, Near water level Bow Lounge, Guest Experts onboard, All Verandah Suites, and a Discovery Center!
12. Seabourn Venture - scheduled to sail December 2021 she will be the first Ultra-Luxury purpose built expedition ship for Seabourn. Did you know Seabourn is part of the Carnival Corporation? She will stick to mainly polar areas in South American and Northern Europe. With only 132 suites that means just a max of 264 guests onboard this ultra luxury small ship.
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