TRAVEL THERE: SO MANY CRUISES, SO LITTLE TIME & MONEY
Last Saturday I went to a regional travel show which focused on cruising. I had to squeeze it in between a haircut and a funeral, so I didn’t get to sit in on many of the seminars, but even though the show was small in comparison to a show I’d attended several months before, I found plenty of travel ideas and various bits of travel knowledge.
My favorite tidbit? Sophia Loren is “godmother” to MSC Cruises. One of their ships even has a red suite she uses when she visits. I like “godmother” so much more than celebrity spokesperson. That Sophia’s got class. MSC Cruises didn’t look half bad either.
I’m sure somewhere along the way I’d heard Celebrity Cruises were a part of the same corporate entity as Royal Caribbean, but I didn’t know about Azamara and I immediately added it to my bucket list. Azamara only has two cruise ships and instead of telling you how busy you’re going to be, they focus on the opportunity of doing nothing at all. The destinations are marvelous and they’re proud of the fact that they stay in port more than just a day, so that you can enjoy nightlife ashore.
A phrase I heard several times at the show was “truly all-inclusive,” but I heard it first from the Azamara rep. One of the reasons we all love cruising is that it’s a great on the budget – at least theoretically. I’ve noticed over the years (my first cruise was in 1994), the big cruise lines have been nibbling away at the idea of all-inclusive. On the trip I have coming up, I’m buying a soda card, pre-purchasing my wines to get a 20% discount and we’ll be paying premiums to eat in the specialty restaurants. Folks, it didn’t used to be that way.
Before the Azamara rep would let go of the gorgeous 2013 Destination Guide, she wanted me to be aware that unlike other cruise lines, Azamara was “truly all-inclusive.” Page 96 of the guide lists a few of the things they include that other ships will charge you for: gratuities, bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas, house wines, self-service laundry, shuttle service and concierge services. OK, where do I sign up.
Another cruise line which got my attention was Uniworld, “The World’s Only Authentic Boutique Cruise Line.” Right off the bat I’d award them the Nicest Rep Award. It’s not that the other reps weren’t nice. They smiled and answered all my questions, but I got the sense that they were there under duress. I mean is there really anyone in the world that wants to spend their Saturday behind a folding table handing out brochures and answering the same questions over and over again? I gave them a pass for tasting like canned chicken noodle soup, instead of granny’s homemade chicken and dumplings.
The Uniworld lady, however, was more like my new BFF who was sharing the best cruising secret in the world with me. She went even further in her description of all-inclusive. She said EVERYTHING was included – wines, shore excursions – everything. She also wanted me to understand what “boutique” meant, so she showed me page two of their “2013 Boutique River Cruises Preview.” It’s a photo of the chandelier that once graced the iconic Tavern on the Green. I’m ready to go, just to see the chandelier!
I left the show with a stack of brochures almost six inches high and I’d only heard of about an inch of the cruise lines. I’m going to enjoy reading up on the rest. I also picked up several DVD’s and can’t wait to watch them. Who needs to go on a vacation when there’s so much great information to browse? (Well, me for instance. A month from now I’ll be in the Western Caribbean.)
Oh, but I told you last week that I went to the show to research freestyle cruising, didn’t I? Well, that and the seminar information will just have to wait. In the meantime, what’s been your favorite cruise?