cruisetipstv

cruisetipstv

Cruise Director
CA
Joined 05/2014

17

Cruises

5

Reviews

213

Helpful Votes

Vlogging about our family cruise adventures! High quality ship video tours, cruise tips, cruise tech & cruise fashion. See you on the high seas!

Past cruises

Royal Princess

November 2019 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Royal Princess

Harmony of the Seas

September 2019 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Port Canaveral Roundtrip) Cruise on Harmony of the Seas

MSC Meraviglia

March 2019 - 7 Night Western Mediterranean (Rome Roundtrip) Cruise on MSC Meraviglia

Diamond Princess

December 2018 - 12 Night Southeast Asia & Japan (Tokyo To Singapore) Cruise on Diamond Princess

MSC Seaside

July 2018 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Miami Roundtrip) Cruise on MSC Seaside

Family Fun & Mediterranean Hospitality

Our family of three (husband, myself, and 9 year old son) just returned from a July Western Caribbean sailing to Ocho Rios, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Nassau. This was our first experience onboard MSC, and while we had read many reviews, the cruise was somewhat last minute, so we approached the cruise with an open mind and excitement to try an entirely new cruise line. We’ve been on 30 cruises with all the major mass market lines, mostly in Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada/New England. Our Cabin: We enjoyed balcony cabin 10245, a Deck 10 balcony, somewhat Aft. We learned mid way through the cruise that the aft elevator bank was uncrowded and optimal for moving around the ship, plus the views are incredible facing the wake and rising up to the Bridge of Sighs. The cabin was well appointed with ample charging ports, however closet and stateroom storage was limited. The bathroom shower was small and my 6ft husband felt cramped, however we did appreciate the glass shower door, and shampoo/shower gel dispensers. As someone who doesn’t love bar soap for hand washing, I also appreciated the liquid hand-soap dispenser near the sink. Bathroom storage was adequate, but a bit more space in the bathroom would be beneficial. The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were perfect for us, a rarity for a cruise. One of our favorite features of this room was the sofa that converted two a bed. The sofa portion rises up, creating a “bunk” for your third guest to watch TV or hang out on top, while the bottom was made into a bed. I imagine the top bunk can accommodate a 4th person as an alternative setup. This was a favorite spot for our son to watch Cartoon Network after a long day in port, and he loved climbing the little bunk-ladder to access the top area. The balcony was fully covered and generously sized, overlooking the Deck 8 seating area for the buffet. You could often hear guests in this area while they were eating, as well as some music/noise from the pool, but it was never loud or distracting. The Ship: The ship is gorgeous and the outdoor-focused design concept is something we appreciated on the ship. We prefer ships with a “connected to the sea” appear, versus a shopping mall/Las Vegas design. The Bridge of Sighs, Champagne Bar, Thermal Suite, Deck 8 wrap around and Aft pool were some of our favorite spots. We didn’t spend any time in the pools, except for the Forest Aquaventure Park, which our son loved. Wristbands are needed for the zip line and large waterslides, and you’ll want to get that out of the way early in the cruise. Food/Dining Rooms: We tried as many dining spots as we could, but in 7 days, we missed some of the Specialty options. Here’s what we experienced: • 3 nights in MDR- both formal- the main dining area on this ship is bustling, and tables are quite close together. For a more quiet experience, try Butcher’s Cut or Ocean Cay. Food in the MDR is pretty standard for a mass market line. The pasta/Italian options seemed better than some of the others. As with any other cruise, if you don’t like something, send it back. • Teppanyaki is excellent and you’ll be smiling through the entire 2 hour experience. Excellent for families. • Ocean Cay is excellent with a crab appetizer that could be a meal. The 3 course experience is expensive, but can be used as one of your dining package options, should you purchase one. We returned a second night as we enjoyed the food and service so much. • Butcher’s Cut serves brunch on sea days for very reasonable a la carte prices. Not many people seem to know about this, so it’s an uncrowded treat on the first sea day. • Lunches: We tried Room service, buffet, brunch in Steakhouse, and lots of lunches ashore. The buffet pizza is excellent if you like the more Italian style pizza (thinner crust, less cheese) and seemed to be always available. The Deck 8 buffet did get crowded at times, but the outdoor seating is a nice escape during good weather. • Food/Favorites: Gelato, Coffee, Pizza, Venchi – and we LOVED soda’s served in cans, versus “bar coke”. We hit the main Venchi location at least 4 times and fell in love with the coffee, hot cocoa and cocktails. Don’t miss it! Experiences onboard: The Thermal Suite is the best I’ve ever experienced at sea. With a snow room, and several sensory steam rooms, I could have visited every day. If you can, invest in the pass, or better yet, book the Aurea experience which includes the pass. On our sailing, pricing in USD was as follows: • $70 day pass/$105 couples • Cruise/week Pass: $200 pp $300 couple Entertainment: We attended 2 Shows, Peter Punk and “Fly”. Both were excellent and just the right length (under 45 min). The crowd LOVED them, and we appreciated that most nights they offered 2-3 seatings. It’s best to reserve through the MSC for me app or a kiosk. The open deck White Party was AMAZING and absolutely one of the highlights of this cruise. It was well attended and the staff taught a number of dances- including some international ones which you could tell the guests loved. Kid’s Center: We had an excellent experience with the kids center onboard, and our son loved the massive supply of legos in his age group. Internet packages: I had a 6gb package for up to 4 devices, but there are other choices, including an unlimited one for one device for $90 per cruise. I would recommend an unlimited package, if one is available to you. I got about 7 hours of use out of my 6gb and still had some remaining at the end of the cruise. Waterslides are fun and awesome for kids and adults alike on this ship. The only annoyance is you need a wristband to use them, and the lines can be long. Get the wristband/waiver out of the way on day 1 or 2 so it’s not a buzzkill. TIPS: • If you have loyalty with another line, be sure to research Status Match with MSC • Download the MSC for me app • Try the Aurea experience • Thermal pass is worth the $ • Look at the pricing and at least consider the yacht club- pricing is similar to premium experiences on other lines • Get wristbands early for zip line and waterslides • Keep an open mind re: dining and passengers: both are European, but we saw it as an adventure, something new, exciting and different • Book a room with a large bath/shower stall if shower space is an issue • Use the aft evelator Things we missed; • Laundry and irons • More storage in room • Bigger shower What we could live without: • Closures at buffet. Pizza and hamburgers only during some still busy times. • Tables are too cozy in the MDR. • Wristbands for waterslides is a buzzkill. Waiver should be signed at check in or allowed online. • Variety of drink packages for passengers in different “experiences” on the ship can be confusing. • Several pools have no shallow end, forcing swimmers to hang on the side or tread water. Things we liked: • Thermal Suite • Bridge of Sighs • Kids Center • Entertainment • White party • Aft pool • Coffee, Gelato and Pizza don’t disappoint. Visit Venchi! Best Features for Families: • Waterslides & Forest Aquaventure Park • Kids menus in specialty restaurants • Yacht Club is family Friendly

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Carnival Splendor

April 2018 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Splendor

Caribbean Princess

November 2017 - 10 Night Panama Canal With Costa Rica & Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Caribbean Princess

We cruised on the 10 night panama canal voyage round-trip Fort Lauderdale. The ports visited we’re princess cays (amazing), Grand Cayman, Limon Costa Rica & Cartagena Colombia. The canal was the highlight - spectacular! No cruise is perfect but the staff worked so hard to make every effort to keep the guests happy and roll with the punches. There were many medical emergencies and at least two medical evacuations on our cruise which created delays - all shore ex were cancelled on debark day (Everglades, etc). Stateroom steward was in point, good was usually a 7 out of 10 and stateroom was immaculate. We bought the photo package/ quality was lacking a little and we had to work to get our money’s worth but we ended up with over 50 photos.

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Grand Princess

August 2017 - 10 Night Alaska Inside Passage With Tracy Arm Fjord (San Francisco Roundtrip) Cruise on Grand Princess

Hey everyone - we’re late with this review considering this cruise was months ago, but I finally got around to scanning patters (eek!) so here goes. The 10 night itinerary is a big improvement over the seven night Alaska experience. I really enjoy the extra time even if it’s mostly spent at sea. The Dining And room stewards were exceptional on this sailing. We would see our room steward exercising during the daylight hours which I found surprising- I have no idea how he had energy left after cleaning all the rooms in our section. LOL. We had sunny beautiful weather in Ketchikan and went to the Alaska rain forest sanctuary and on the bear walk. I recommend a bug spray if you’re going to go on this excursion. In Juneau we did a tour which combined the salmon bake, whale watching tour, and mendenhall glacier. It was beautiful but a bit rushed. At the end of that tour we still had extra time so we ventured up the Mount Roberts tram and went for a hike. It was beautiful and dramatic. A little bit too pricey, but the views were worth it. In Skagway we took the train. It was the highlight of our journey. I would do it again and again - even on a rainy cloudy day. In Victoria we didn’t have much time so we opted for high tea at the Pendray teahouse at the Gatsby mansion. More affordable than tea at the empress and a lovely experience. The food was above average. My favorite menu item was on the second to last night- Crab legs. A giant heaping bowl of them, halved and ready to peel the meat from. Incredibly high quality- aah! So wonderful. You know how some people order multiple lobster tails? I would’ve been the girl asking for another bowl of crab, if I wasn’t stuffed! Overall it was a delightful cruise. We booked an inside cabin and well we missed having a balcony we saved a few thousand dollars and enjoyed the back terrace attack near the adults only pool when we needed to escape for some fresh air. Here are the patters and a few photos can be found on my profile :-) see you on the high seas! Sheri http://www.cruisetipstv.com/download-grand-princess-patters-10-night-alaska-cruise/

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Carnival Miracle

May 2017 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Miracle

Star Princess

November 2016 - 10 Night Mexican Riviera & Sea Of Cortez (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Star Princess

Take me back! Videos, menus and vlogs, oh my!

Overview:

We had an amazing sailing on Star Princess’ 10 night Mexican Riviera and Sea of Cortes itinerary. We will share our daily vlogs, stateroom tour, and loads more videos toward the end of this review (plus some fun tips from officers, how we organize our stateroom).  

 

Living in California, we chose this cruise because it allowed us to unwind beyond the standard 7 night trip to the MR, and experience the ports of Loreto and LaPaz, all without flying.While we’d been to La Paz before, we were hungry to explore more of the Sea of Cortes, and the brand new experience of Loreto. The ports we visited were San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, La Paz, and Loreto. This ship normally sails Hawaii 15 night itineraries, as well as Alaska, so this was a “one off”.  My husband and I sail with our 8 year old son, and he loves to cruise.

Cabin: 

We chose cabin A333, a balcony cabin on Aloha Deck and LOVED the convenience of being just one floor down the pool and Horizon Court buffet. Noise was never an issue, though you could hear the dragging of chairs on occasion during daytime hours. The balcony was fully covered, which was nice.

 

We departed on a Thursday from the port of San Pedro, and our first port stop (San Deigo) was the very next day. Embarkation was pretty smooth, though slow to board due to a special group ahead of us. I was sad to see that Princess no longer offers a lounge for Platinum guests, as this was our first platinum sailing. They do have a reserved seating area, but it quickly became crowded, and there was no water to drink, unless you bought it out of a vending machine. Kind of a bummer. We didn’t take a lot of still photos, but you can see our full embarkation experience in the first vlog. After boarding the ship, my husband set off to film the quiet areas of the ship that he could before the crowds hit. My son and I acquainted with our room, and headed to the Maitre’D station in the dining room to have our 5:30pm dining time moved. This was NO problem, since people were eagerly awaiting that early spot. The maitre D was lovely and moved us to a standing 7:15 table in the anytime dining room, which worked out wonderfully. Day 1 flew by and before we knew it, we were in San Diego!

San Diego:

Our stop in San Diego happened to be on Veteran’s Day, and we planned to visit the USS Midway museum. The sunrise approach into San Diego was quiet and beautiful. You can catch the time lapse in our vlog, later in this post.

We toured the midway for a few hours, enjoyed the Veteran’s Day celebration on the flight deck, had a greasy lunch onboard, then walked back to the ship to cool off in the pools (it was SO hot!). We caught a glimpse of the Veteran’s Day parade as we walked back to the ship, and it was wonderful to see Veterans out with their families enjoying the San Diego waterfront.

 

Once back onboard, we went to a moving Veteran's Day ceremony on the pool deck. The officers did SUCH an incredible job of honoring the occasion, and the onboard veterans.

 

Cabo: 

After a sea day, awesome wine tasting, and some much needed rest, it was time for Cabo!

I remember thinking Cabo would feel like our first "real" port because in my mind San Diego was just another stop (and it is my hometown), but I was wrong! we loved our port stop in San Diego and visiting the USS Midway and *loved* the rest and relaxation the following sea day brought. But, we were really excited to be in Mexico and planned to do our usual routine in Cabo, which was to catch a water taxi to Medano beach and relax and swim in the waves until we were tired, then take the water taxi back and return to the ship by tender. 

We had priority tendering to getoff the ship, so the process was pretty smooth. 
It was a little bit of a rocky tendering process that day, which you can see in vlog. We went to our normal haunt on medano beach called Billygans, a beachfront casual restaurant and bar sandwiched between some of the more popular restaurants and bars like the office and mango deck. 

La Paz: 

Our next port following Cabo San Lucas was La Paz, a few hundred miles up the sea of Cortez (or maybe a little less). We were very excited to return to as we have been there many years before when our ship was diverted due to bad weather and a storm in the lower Mexican Riviera area. We had limited time to explore the area on our first cruise so we had vowed to make the most of it on this journey. 
In researching our port activities we came across a company called red travel Mexico. They give us a really good deal on a private tour and we planned to go to Isla espiritu Santo, A UNESCO world heritage site however when we arrived in the morning and met the captain and hostess they told us that it was too windy and that we needed to change our plans. They suggested that we go swim with whale sharks, what!!! This was something my husband and I had discussed before I decided not to do because we were terrified but we went along with it and ended up having the time of our lives which you'll see more of in the vlog. The captain made a beautiful ceviche lunch and spoiled us on a pristine white beach with no other humans in sight. The bay is large and there are several beaches, some of which can be accessed by car or bus.

The whale shark experience was a little bit terrifying for me but I'm so glad that we did it. Our eight-year-old son did not get out of the boat because the water was way too Rocky and it would've been considerably dangerous for him. I also got stung by a few small jellyfish and I think I would've been traumatizing had it happened to him. The first image is a rather cloudy view of the whale shark which is pretty common in that area. There aren't many clear-water days, according to our guides in La Paz so-those are pretty normal conditions. The second photo shows the view of the aft of the ship as we returned on our boat that we chartered that day with red travel Mexico. The view was really dramatic and beautiful. Our boat was so cozy and well shaded and made the rocky conditions more bearable.

 

Loreto: 

We had arranged a day trip to Isla Coronado with Loreto sea and land tours, who we found on TripAdvisor months before. After tendering ashore, the tour provider had set up shop right at the exit, super convenient. We upgraded for a very small fee to a private tour after getting a sideways look from some other travelers who didn't seem too thrilled to see our kid joining their boat. It was a snap decision, but a good one which we rarely would spend the extra $ to do. Our guide took a while to arrive, but once onboard, we sped across the calm bay to our next adventure. Our guide offered to stop at a private beach instead busy Coronado, and it was a little slice of paradise. He unwrapped machaca burritos and shared his hot sauce with me as we tried to communicate with my limited Spanish and his limited English. What came next was so unexpected and can be better enjoyed through the video/vlog. The captain spotted a pod of dolphins which we were able to follow and film! After, we made a quick stop at Isla Coronado, where many other boats had spent the afternoon, but our trip was cut short when a member of another panga with the same tour provider cut his foot - we needed to get him back to port and his boat had some sort of malfunction. Once He and his group joined ours, we quickly realized they dined right next to us in the mdr each night. They were a friendly, wonderful multi generation group with great senses of humor and a perfect example of the perfect dining room neighbors! 
There were lots of hugs of gratitude after that experience and we loved seeing them each night and checking on the poor guys healing progress. Our son called all the ladies by name and on our last night, we knew we'd miss them! 
Our Loreto day was likely my favorite of the cruise, and I'd love to visit by land one day.

 

Sea Day and Bridge Tour: 
Following our wonderful day in Loreto, we had a sea day before we went to Puerto Vallarta, where we had a planned excursion. 

Plans were mellow and loose as we needed some R&R after two sun filled port days. We were invited to a bridge tour for the first time in over 25 cruises and could not contain our excitement. Our son was well behaved and even got to wear the captains hat for photos. 

Captain Stefano Rivera spent a lot of time explaining bridge operations to us, shipboard security, and just some generally interesting facts about the vessel and the reporting structure on board.

Puerto Vallarta: 

 

Finally, making our way down the coast, we visited Puerto Vallarta, which was beautiful and balmy as always. The zip line tour with Los Veranos was the day of family dreams, and while we almost MISSED the tour entirely, we would do it again in a heartbeat. The video says it all (tequila tasting, sliding into a river, and just acting like kids!). They even have a petting zoo, and a tasty restaurant.

 

I'll leave the rest to our videos, since I'm sure this is becoming quite a long review. I highly recommend this ship and itin and would say it's excellent for couples, families and older travelers who just want to relax. This is in NO way a party ship, and there was very little nightlife. 

 

Here is a link to the menus: http://www.cruisetipstv.com/star-princess-menus-download/

 

The vlogs, cabin organization tips and officer interview: 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCLybRxC0VFKmH3J3jp4UNNr3S9F0Ahqm

 

Here are our food and ship videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCLybRxC0VFKfs-3X-WfWqNnjNig5JxBp

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Carnival Imagination

September 2016 - 4 Night Catalina & Baja Mexico (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Imagination

Post refurb experience, photos, vlog and full ship video tour

This cruise was the second sailing post-Funship 2.0 overhaul. Guy's Burgers, Blue Iguana Cantina and Tequila Bar, the Red Frog Rum Bar, Alchemy Bar and MUCH more were added. We chose the 4 night (Sunday through Thursday) itinerary as we love Catalina and wanted a little more time to relax. The three-night seemed too rushed. We filmed the ship upgrades, and will link to the full ship tour, as well as our daily vlogs at the end of this review.

 

We purchased Faster to the Fun (FTTF) for this cruise, and were excited to get on the ship as early as possible to film some of the quickly-crowded areas, like the pool and gym.

We were onboard by 12:05pm, and headed to our room to drop off our carry on, and head to the newly added Guy’s Burger joint to meet a friend. Our usual strategy is to hit the pools first-thing, but the burger pull was strong, and we were glad we rallied early, before the big crowds hit. The line at Guy’s was short, and the service great. You could tell the staff was still finding their way, but it was impressive how quickly they were able to produce the food and keep that line in check. As a group, we tried several of the burgers, but my favorite is the straight up. The toppings bar at Guy's is impressive, offering loads of toppings, including mounds of bacon, sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions and traditional veggies like tomato and lettuce. The hot peppers are to die for, and I snuck by Guy’s to add them to my salads later in the cruise- yum! Something was off with the sauce dispenser (this lasted the whole trip), as people patiently lifted their tiny sauce side cups only to have the ketchup and chipotle may drip out ONE drip at a time. I’m sure they’ll fix this, but it was somewhat comical to see how patient people were.

We had been looking forward to our day in Catalina, and got the idea to rent a boat for the day, instead of our usual golf cart rental and strolling around town plan. Thing is, the boat rental is “first come first served”, so I was eager to get off the ship and down to the Pier before things got crowded. How crowded Catalina gets on a Monday in early fall is probably something I should have thought about (hee-hee…it was nice and quiet). We had a little trouble finding out where the priority tender line was for FTTF, but later learned that instructions were left in our room the night before. We inadvertently set aside the paper that told us exactly what to do to get our priority tender, but all in all, tendering didn’t take that long anyway. The ship uses giant leisure boats to transport people to shore, which you can see in the vlog later. The fresh air and second story seating are a welcome change from the tiny exhaust filled lifeboats, so our tender experience was much nicer than usual. The only downside is it takes a very long time to load the tenders, so don’t try to rush to shore. There are hundreds of people packed on the double decker boats and there seems to be no hurry to get the boat movin’ to shore. You’ll get a feel for the tender in the vlog. Tendering was fast and efficient, and once off, we headed straight for the Green Pier, where Joe’s Boat rental was located. The walk was less than 10 minutes, and when we arrived at Joes, there was an open counter. It was looking good to score a boat, as I could see them lined up around the docks in the harbor below the pier. We had an amazing day and for the $90 we spent, we felt like we had a life experience we'll never forget!

Having visited Ensenada a few times, and not wanting to spend a lot of money on a shore day, we opted to stay on the ship in Ensenada. We had considered the Carnival excursion to a hotel for the day, to enjoy the pools and hot tubs, but when it came down to it, we opted to enjoy the pools and slides once again, because the weather was SO warm, and the lack of crowds, hopefully, would be nice. We enjoyed the mellow day onboard, and the lack of crowds.

Day 4 was our only sea day on this cruise, and there was so much to do! I love Carnival’s towel animal zoo, and was so excited to see these little guys hanging out, enjoying poolside sunrise. You would think they were real animals on a safari, from how many people were photographing them! I roamed the ship, while my family slept and enjoyed the peace, quiet, and morning light.

It was a wonderful cruise, and the ship is incredibly well maintained. The staff and crew are friendly, attentive and have SUCH high energy for a ship that turns over every 3-4 days. While a 4 day jaunt isn’t the most relaxing vacation, we totally recommend it, and would do it again.

Here is a playlist of all the videos from our voyage- enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCLybRxC0VFKGmi8kVQ2SxH1NIgVd8QKm

 

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Norwegian Jewel

November 2015 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Jewel

Carnival Miracle

August 2015 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Miracle

Golden Princess

May 2015 - 10 Night Alaska Inside Passage With Tracy Arm Fjord (San Francisco Roundtrip) Cruise on Golden Princess

Liberty of the Seas

February 2015 - 5 Night Western Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Liberty of the Seas

Norwegian Star

December 2014 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Star

Carnival Imagination

September 2014 - 4 Night Baja Mexico With Carnival Live (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Imagination

MSC Seaside

MSC Seaside

Sail date: July 28, 2018

Family Fun & Mediterranean Hospitality

Our family of three (husband, myself, and 9 year old son) just returned from a July Western Caribbean sailing to Ocho Rios, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Nassau. This was our first experience onboard MSC, and while we had read many reviews, the cruise was somewhat last minute, so we approached the cruise with an open mind and excitement to try an entirely new cruise line. We’ve been on 30 cruises with all the major mass market lines, mostly in Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada/New England. Our Cabin: We enjoyed balcony cabin 10245, a Deck 10 balcony, somewhat Aft. We learned mid way through the cruise that the aft elevator bank was uncrowded and optimal for moving around the ship, plus the views are incredible facing the wake and rising up to the Bridge of Sighs. The cabin was well appointed with ample charging ports, however closet and stateroom storage was limited. The bathroom shower was small and my 6ft husband felt cramped, however we did appreciate the glass shower door, and shampoo/shower gel dispensers. As someone who doesn’t love bar soap for hand washing, I also appreciated the liquid hand-soap dispenser near the sink. Bathroom storage was adequate, but a bit more space in the bathroom would be beneficial. The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were perfect for us, a rarity for a cruise. One of our favorite features of this room was the sofa that converted two a bed. The sofa portion rises up, creating a “bunk” for your third guest to watch TV or hang out on top, while the bottom was made into a bed. I imagine the top bunk can accommodate a 4th person as an alternative setup. This was a favorite spot for our son to watch Cartoon Network after a long day in port, and he loved climbing the little bunk-ladder to access the top area. The balcony was fully covered and generously sized, overlooking the Deck 8 seating area for the buffet. You could often hear guests in this area while they were eating, as well as some music/noise from the pool, but it was never loud or distracting. The Ship: The ship is gorgeous and the outdoor-focused design concept is something we appreciated on the ship. We prefer ships with a “connected to the sea” appear, versus a shopping mall/Las Vegas design. The Bridge of Sighs, Champagne Bar, Thermal Suite, Deck 8 wrap around and Aft pool were some of our favorite spots. We didn’t spend any time in the pools, except for the Forest Aquaventure Park, which our son loved. Wristbands are needed for the zip line and large waterslides, and you’ll want to get that out of the way early in the cruise. Food/Dining Rooms: We tried as many dining spots as we could, but in 7 days, we missed some of the Specialty options. Here’s what we experienced: • 3 nights in MDR- both formal- the main dining area on this ship is bustling, and tables are quite close together. For a more quiet experience, try Butcher’s Cut or Ocean Cay. Food in the MDR is pretty standard for a mass market line. The pasta/Italian options seemed better than some of the others. As with any other cruise, if you don’t like something, send it back. • Teppanyaki is excellent and you’ll be smiling through the entire 2 hour experience. Excellent for families. • Ocean Cay is excellent with a crab appetizer that could be a meal. The 3 course experience is expensive, but can be used as one of your dining package options, should you purchase one. We returned a second night as we enjoyed the food and service so much. • Butcher’s Cut serves brunch on sea days for very reasonable a la carte prices. Not many people seem to know about this, so it’s an uncrowded treat on the first sea day. • Lunches: We tried Room service, buffet, brunch in Steakhouse, and lots of lunches ashore. The buffet pizza is excellent if you like the more Italian style pizza (thinner crust, less cheese) and seemed to be always available. The Deck 8 buffet did get crowded at times, but the outdoor seating is a nice escape during good weather. • Food/Favorites: Gelato, Coffee, Pizza, Venchi – and we LOVED soda’s served in cans, versus “bar coke”. We hit the main Venchi location at least 4 times and fell in love with the coffee, hot cocoa and cocktails. Don’t miss it! Experiences onboard: The Thermal Suite is the best I’ve ever experienced at sea. With a snow room, and several sensory steam rooms, I could have visited every day. If you can, invest in the pass, or better yet, book the Aurea experience which includes the pass. On our sailing, pricing in USD was as follows: • $70 day pass/$105 couples • Cruise/week Pass: $200 pp $300 couple Entertainment: We attended 2 Shows, Peter Punk and “Fly”. Both were excellent and just the right length (under 45 min). The crowd LOVED them, and we appreciated that most nights they offered 2-3 seatings. It’s best to reserve through the MSC for me app or a kiosk. The open deck White Party was AMAZING and absolutely one of the highlights of this cruise. It was well attended and the staff taught a number of dances- including some international ones which you could tell the guests loved. Kid’s Center: We had an excellent experience with the kids center onboard, and our son loved the massive supply of legos in his age group. Internet packages: I had a 6gb package for up to 4 devices, but there are other choices, including an unlimited one for one device for $90 per cruise. I would recommend an unlimited package, if one is available to you. I got about 7 hours of use out of my 6gb and still had some remaining at the end of the cruise. Waterslides are fun and awesome for kids and adults alike on this ship. The only annoyance is you need a wristband to use them, and the lines can be long. Get the wristband/waiver out of the way on day 1 or 2 so it’s not a buzzkill. TIPS: • If you have loyalty with another line, be sure to research Status Match with MSC • Download the MSC for me app • Try the Aurea experience • Thermal pass is worth the $ • Look at the pricing and at least consider the yacht club- pricing is similar to premium experiences on other lines • Get wristbands early for zip line and waterslides • Keep an open mind re: dining and passengers: both are European, but we saw it as an adventure, something new, exciting and different • Book a room with a large bath/shower stall if shower space is an issue • Use the aft evelator Things we missed; • Laundry and irons • More storage in room • Bigger shower What we could live without: • Closures at buffet. Pizza and hamburgers only during some still busy times. • Tables are too cozy in the MDR. • Wristbands for waterslides is a buzzkill. Waiver should be signed at check in or allowed online. • Variety of drink packages for passengers in different “experiences” on the ship can be confusing. • Several pools have no shallow end, forcing swimmers to hang on the side or tread water. Things we liked: • Thermal Suite • Bridge of Sighs • Kids Center • Entertainment • White party • Aft pool • Coffee, Gelato and Pizza don’t disappoint. Visit Venchi! Best Features for Families: • Waterslides & Forest Aquaventure Park • Kids menus in specialty restaurants • Yacht Club is family Friendly

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Carnival Imagination

Carnival Imagination

Sail date: September 25, 2016

Post refurb experience, photos, vlog and full ship video tour

This cruise was the second sailing post-Funship 2.0 overhaul. Guy's Burgers, Blue Iguana Cantina and Tequila Bar, the Red Frog Rum Bar, Alchemy Bar and MUCH more were added. We chose the 4 night (Sunday through Thursday) itinerary as we love Catalina and wanted a little more time to relax. The three-night seemed too rushed. We filmed the ship upgrades, and will link to the full ship tour, as well as our daily vlogs at the end of this review.

 

We purchased Faster to the Fun (FTTF) for this cruise, and were excited to get on the ship as early as possible to film some of the quickly-crowded areas, like the pool and gym.

We were onboard by 12:05pm, and headed to our room to drop off our carry on, and head to the newly added Guy’s Burger joint to meet a friend. Our usual strategy is to hit the pools first-thing, but the burger pull was strong, and we were glad we rallied early, before the big crowds hit. The line at Guy’s was short, and the service great. You could tell the staff was still finding their way, but it was impressive how quickly they were able to produce the food and keep that line in check. As a group, we tried several of the burgers, but my favorite is the straight up. The toppings bar at Guy's is impressive, offering loads of toppings, including mounds of bacon, sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions and traditional veggies like tomato and lettuce. The hot peppers are to die for, and I snuck by Guy’s to add them to my salads later in the cruise- yum! Something was off with the sauce dispenser (this lasted the whole trip), as people patiently lifted their tiny sauce side cups only to have the ketchup and chipotle may drip out ONE drip at a time. I’m sure they’ll fix this, but it was somewhat comical to see how patient people were.

We had been looking forward to our day in Catalina, and got the idea to rent a boat for the day, instead of our usual golf cart rental and strolling around town plan. Thing is, the boat rental is “first come first served”, so I was eager to get off the ship and down to the Pier before things got crowded. How crowded Catalina gets on a Monday in early fall is probably something I should have thought about (hee-hee…it was nice and quiet). We had a little trouble finding out where the priority tender line was for FTTF, but later learned that instructions were left in our room the night before. We inadvertently set aside the paper that told us exactly what to do to get our priority tender, but all in all, tendering didn’t take that long anyway. The ship uses giant leisure boats to transport people to shore, which you can see in the vlog later. The fresh air and second story seating are a welcome change from the tiny exhaust filled lifeboats, so our tender experience was much nicer than usual. The only downside is it takes a very long time to load the tenders, so don’t try to rush to shore. There are hundreds of people packed on the double decker boats and there seems to be no hurry to get the boat movin’ to shore. You’ll get a feel for the tender in the vlog. Tendering was fast and efficient, and once off, we headed straight for the Green Pier, where Joe’s Boat rental was located. The walk was less than 10 minutes, and when we arrived at Joes, there was an open counter. It was looking good to score a boat, as I could see them lined up around the docks in the harbor below the pier. We had an amazing day and for the $90 we spent, we felt like we had a life experience we'll never forget!

Having visited Ensenada a few times, and not wanting to spend a lot of money on a shore day, we opted to stay on the ship in Ensenada. We had considered the Carnival excursion to a hotel for the day, to enjoy the pools and hot tubs, but when it came down to it, we opted to enjoy the pools and slides once again, because the weather was SO warm, and the lack of crowds, hopefully, would be nice. We enjoyed the mellow day onboard, and the lack of crowds.

Day 4 was our only sea day on this cruise, and there was so much to do! I love Carnival’s towel animal zoo, and was so excited to see these little guys hanging out, enjoying poolside sunrise. You would think they were real animals on a safari, from how many people were photographing them! I roamed the ship, while my family slept and enjoyed the peace, quiet, and morning light.

It was a wonderful cruise, and the ship is incredibly well maintained. The staff and crew are friendly, attentive and have SUCH high energy for a ship that turns over every 3-4 days. While a 4 day jaunt isn’t the most relaxing vacation, we totally recommend it, and would do it again.

Here is a playlist of all the videos from our voyage- enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCLybRxC0VFKGmi8kVQ2SxH1NIgVd8QKm

 

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Star Princess

Star Princess

Sail date: November 10, 2016

Take me back! Videos, menus and vlogs, oh my!

Overview:

We had an amazing sailing on Star Princess’ 10 night Mexican Riviera and Sea of Cortes itinerary. We will share our daily vlogs, stateroom tour, and loads more videos toward the end of this review (plus some fun tips from officers, how we organize our stateroom).  

 

Living in California, we chose this cruise because it allowed us to unwind beyond the standard 7 night trip to the MR, and experience the ports of Loreto and LaPaz, all without flying.While we’d been to La Paz before, we were hungry to explore more of the Sea of Cortes, and the brand new experience of Loreto. The ports we visited were San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, La Paz, and Loreto. This ship normally sails Hawaii 15 night itineraries, as well as Alaska, so this was a “one off”.  My husband and I sail with our 8 year old son, and he loves to cruise.

Cabin: 

We chose cabin A333, a balcony cabin on Aloha Deck and LOVED the convenience of being just one floor down the pool and Horizon Court buffet. Noise was never an issue, though you could hear the dragging of chairs on occasion during daytime hours. The balcony was fully covered, which was nice.

 

We departed on a Thursday from the port of San Pedro, and our first port stop (San Deigo) was the very next day. Embarkation was pretty smooth, though slow to board due to a special group ahead of us. I was sad to see that Princess no longer offers a lounge for Platinum guests, as this was our first platinum sailing. They do have a reserved seating area, but it quickly became crowded, and there was no water to drink, unless you bought it out of a vending machine. Kind of a bummer. We didn’t take a lot of still photos, but you can see our full embarkation experience in the first vlog. After boarding the ship, my husband set off to film the quiet areas of the ship that he could before the crowds hit. My son and I acquainted with our room, and headed to the Maitre’D station in the dining room to have our 5:30pm dining time moved. This was NO problem, since people were eagerly awaiting that early spot. The maitre D was lovely and moved us to a standing 7:15 table in the anytime dining room, which worked out wonderfully. Day 1 flew by and before we knew it, we were in San Diego!

San Diego:

Our stop in San Diego happened to be on Veteran’s Day, and we planned to visit the USS Midway museum. The sunrise approach into San Diego was quiet and beautiful. You can catch the time lapse in our vlog, later in this post.

We toured the midway for a few hours, enjoyed the Veteran’s Day celebration on the flight deck, had a greasy lunch onboard, then walked back to the ship to cool off in the pools (it was SO hot!). We caught a glimpse of the Veteran’s Day parade as we walked back to the ship, and it was wonderful to see Veterans out with their families enjoying the San Diego waterfront.

 

Once back onboard, we went to a moving Veteran's Day ceremony on the pool deck. The officers did SUCH an incredible job of honoring the occasion, and the onboard veterans.

 

Cabo: 

After a sea day, awesome wine tasting, and some much needed rest, it was time for Cabo!

I remember thinking Cabo would feel like our first "real" port because in my mind San Diego was just another stop (and it is my hometown), but I was wrong! we loved our port stop in San Diego and visiting the USS Midway and *loved* the rest and relaxation the following sea day brought. But, we were really excited to be in Mexico and planned to do our usual routine in Cabo, which was to catch a water taxi to Medano beach and relax and swim in the waves until we were tired, then take the water taxi back and return to the ship by tender. 

We had priority tendering to getoff the ship, so the process was pretty smooth. 
It was a little bit of a rocky tendering process that day, which you can see in vlog. We went to our normal haunt on medano beach called Billygans, a beachfront casual restaurant and bar sandwiched between some of the more popular restaurants and bars like the office and mango deck. 

La Paz: 

Our next port following Cabo San Lucas was La Paz, a few hundred miles up the sea of Cortez (or maybe a little less). We were very excited to return to as we have been there many years before when our ship was diverted due to bad weather and a storm in the lower Mexican Riviera area. We had limited time to explore the area on our first cruise so we had vowed to make the most of it on this journey. 
In researching our port activities we came across a company called red travel Mexico. They give us a really good deal on a private tour and we planned to go to Isla espiritu Santo, A UNESCO world heritage site however when we arrived in the morning and met the captain and hostess they told us that it was too windy and that we needed to change our plans. They suggested that we go swim with whale sharks, what!!! This was something my husband and I had discussed before I decided not to do because we were terrified but we went along with it and ended up having the time of our lives which you'll see more of in the vlog. The captain made a beautiful ceviche lunch and spoiled us on a pristine white beach with no other humans in sight. The bay is large and there are several beaches, some of which can be accessed by car or bus.

The whale shark experience was a little bit terrifying for me but I'm so glad that we did it. Our eight-year-old son did not get out of the boat because the water was way too Rocky and it would've been considerably dangerous for him. I also got stung by a few small jellyfish and I think I would've been traumatizing had it happened to him. The first image is a rather cloudy view of the whale shark which is pretty common in that area. There aren't many clear-water days, according to our guides in La Paz so-those are pretty normal conditions. The second photo shows the view of the aft of the ship as we returned on our boat that we chartered that day with red travel Mexico. The view was really dramatic and beautiful. Our boat was so cozy and well shaded and made the rocky conditions more bearable.

 

Loreto: 

We had arranged a day trip to Isla Coronado with Loreto sea and land tours, who we found on TripAdvisor months before. After tendering ashore, the tour provider had set up shop right at the exit, super convenient. We upgraded for a very small fee to a private tour after getting a sideways look from some other travelers who didn't seem too thrilled to see our kid joining their boat. It was a snap decision, but a good one which we rarely would spend the extra $ to do. Our guide took a while to arrive, but once onboard, we sped across the calm bay to our next adventure. Our guide offered to stop at a private beach instead busy Coronado, and it was a little slice of paradise. He unwrapped machaca burritos and shared his hot sauce with me as we tried to communicate with my limited Spanish and his limited English. What came next was so unexpected and can be better enjoyed through the video/vlog. The captain spotted a pod of dolphins which we were able to follow and film! After, we made a quick stop at Isla Coronado, where many other boats had spent the afternoon, but our trip was cut short when a member of another panga with the same tour provider cut his foot - we needed to get him back to port and his boat had some sort of malfunction. Once He and his group joined ours, we quickly realized they dined right next to us in the mdr each night. They were a friendly, wonderful multi generation group with great senses of humor and a perfect example of the perfect dining room neighbors! 
There were lots of hugs of gratitude after that experience and we loved seeing them each night and checking on the poor guys healing progress. Our son called all the ladies by name and on our last night, we knew we'd miss them! 
Our Loreto day was likely my favorite of the cruise, and I'd love to visit by land one day.

 

Sea Day and Bridge Tour: 
Following our wonderful day in Loreto, we had a sea day before we went to Puerto Vallarta, where we had a planned excursion. 

Plans were mellow and loose as we needed some R&R after two sun filled port days. We were invited to a bridge tour for the first time in over 25 cruises and could not contain our excitement. Our son was well behaved and even got to wear the captains hat for photos. 

Captain Stefano Rivera spent a lot of time explaining bridge operations to us, shipboard security, and just some generally interesting facts about the vessel and the reporting structure on board.

Puerto Vallarta: 

 

Finally, making our way down the coast, we visited Puerto Vallarta, which was beautiful and balmy as always. The zip line tour with Los Veranos was the day of family dreams, and while we almost MISSED the tour entirely, we would do it again in a heartbeat. The video says it all (tequila tasting, sliding into a river, and just acting like kids!). They even have a petting zoo, and a tasty restaurant.

 

I'll leave the rest to our videos, since I'm sure this is becoming quite a long review. I highly recommend this ship and itin and would say it's excellent for couples, families and older travelers who just want to relax. This is in NO way a party ship, and there was very little nightlife. 

 

Here is a link to the menus: http://www.cruisetipstv.com/star-princess-menus-download/

 

The vlogs, cabin organization tips and officer interview: 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCLybRxC0VFKmH3J3jp4UNNr3S9F0Ahqm

 

Here are our food and ship videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCLybRxC0VFKfs-3X-WfWqNnjNig5JxBp

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Grand Princess

Grand Princess

Sail date: August 26, 2017

Hey everyone - we’re late with this review considering this cruise was months ago, but I finally got around to scanning patters (eek!) so here goes. The 10 night itinerary is a big improvement over the seven night Alaska experience. I really enjoy the extra time even if it’s mostly spent at sea. The Dining And room stewards were exceptional on this sailing. We would see our room steward exercising during the daylight hours which I found surprising- I have no idea how he had energy left after cleaning all the rooms in our section. LOL. We had sunny beautiful weather in Ketchikan and went to the Alaska rain forest sanctuary and on the bear walk. I recommend a bug spray if you’re going to go on this excursion. In Juneau we did a tour which combined the salmon bake, whale watching tour, and mendenhall glacier. It was beautiful but a bit rushed. At the end of that tour we still had extra time so we ventured up the Mount Roberts tram and went for a hike. It was beautiful and dramatic. A little bit too pricey, but the views were worth it. In Skagway we took the train. It was the highlight of our journey. I would do it again and again - even on a rainy cloudy day. In Victoria we didn’t have much time so we opted for high tea at the Pendray teahouse at the Gatsby mansion. More affordable than tea at the empress and a lovely experience. The food was above average. My favorite menu item was on the second to last night- Crab legs. A giant heaping bowl of them, halved and ready to peel the meat from. Incredibly high quality- aah! So wonderful. You know how some people order multiple lobster tails? I would’ve been the girl asking for another bowl of crab, if I wasn’t stuffed! Overall it was a delightful cruise. We booked an inside cabin and well we missed having a balcony we saved a few thousand dollars and enjoyed the back terrace attack near the adults only pool when we needed to escape for some fresh air. Here are the patters and a few photos can be found on my profile :-) see you on the high seas! Sheri http://www.cruisetipstv.com/download-grand-princess-patters-10-night-alaska-cruise/

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Caribbean Princess

Caribbean Princess

Sail date: November 20, 2017

We cruised on the 10 night panama canal voyage round-trip Fort Lauderdale. The ports visited we’re princess cays (amazing), Grand Cayman, Limon Costa Rica & Cartagena Colombia. The canal was the highlight - spectacular! No cruise is perfect but the staff worked so hard to make every effort to keep the guests happy and roll with the punches. There were many medical emergencies and at least two medical evacuations on our cruise which created delays - all shore ex were cancelled on debark day (Everglades, etc). Stateroom steward was in point, good was usually a 7 out of 10 and stateroom was immaculate. We bought the photo package/ quality was lacking a little and we had to work to get our money’s worth but we ended up with over 50 photos.

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Cruise tips

MSC Seaside

MSC Seaside

thermal Suite is worth the cost

Loreto, Mexico

Loreto is the hidden gem of Baja. We cannot wait to return! Be sure to book a tour to Isla Coronado or surrounding areas when you're in the area. Stunning!

Star Princess

Star Princess

Get to know the head waiter and maitre'D, as this is a long cruise and they can really make your experience special.

Carnival Imagination

Carnival Imagination

Don't miss Guy's Burgers! Alchemy Bar offers great specials- check your fun times.

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