Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Great Travel Apps for Your Mobile Device


TripIt links to your e-mail account and scans your inbox for items containing reservation numbers for flights, hotels, and dinner reservations. It will put them into an organized itinerary. Flight delays and changes sent to your e-mail are updated automagically. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or higher.


Photosynth Interactive Panorama Capture and Sharing combines your photos to create 360-degree panoramic images. Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (4th generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi, and iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G. Requires iOS 4.0 or higher.


Instagram is like your very own Photoshop. With effects such as 1977 and Nashville, Instagram gives your photos professional, antiquated, or unusual looks. The tilt-shift blur effect is pretty wild. Instagram makes sharing photos across social media networks very easy. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.2 or higher.


When you are on travel, do you send postcards to friends and family? Well, here’s the app for you. With Postagram, send your very own postcards to anyone, anywhere. Postagram takes your photo and prints it for you for less than a buck. You provide the mailing address from your mobile device, and Postagram sends your travel photography via snail mail. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or higher.


Urbanspoon uses GPS to pick popular restaurants in the neighborhood you’re in – in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia. When you “shake” your phone, restaurants in the area spin and stop on your screen like a Vegas slot machine. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or higher.


As an alternative to Urbanspoon, consider OpenTable, which is a domestic- and international-restaurant locator. It provides instant reservations, reviews, and lists of local restaurants with open tables for your desired reservation time and the size of your party.

-- Joe L., CruiseCounselor

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chef Jacques Pépin on the Riviera

Oceania Riviera concluded her christening cruise in May of 2012. Jacques, one of the specialty restaurants, was created by and named for legendary chef Jacques Pépin. There’s no charge for dining at Jacques or any of the other dining venues on Riviera, except for the seven-course wine-pairing dinners in La Reserve.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

River Cruising 2012: Bigger & Better Ships, New Destinations

"Part of the reason for the success of river cruising lies in its ability to transport guests to areas that would be inaccessible to ordinary deep-ocean cruise ships. And unlike land-based tours, which often involve multiple motorcoach rides and hotel changes, river cruising allows passengers to unpack once, yet enjoy a multitude of fascinating ports. Every night, you return to the same ship, mingle with the same friends, and sleep in the same bed. River cruising is like a land tour coupled with the convenience of a traditional cruise."

Read the rest of the article!

-- Joe L., CruiseCounselor

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Celebrity Solstice, A Formidable Competitor To The Luxury Lines? One Person’s Perspective: ‘Crystal Light’

Stateroom design underscores what you find throughout Celebrity Solstice: taste & class. The company has since launched two additional Solstice-class vessels, Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Eclipse. Some say they are formidable competitors to the luxury lines.

Back in November of 2008, the Celebrity Solstice left a good impression on me and many others. This week, I’m taking a second look at what a friend of mine calls “Crystal Light.” She’s referring not to the powdered sugar-free beverage but rather to Celebrity’s competitive response to luxury operator Crystal Cruises.

Celebrity is a formidable contender to Crystal in some areas, namely staterooms, cuisine, and other ship-board offerings. That’s quite a claim, especially considering that Celebrity’s price point is about half of Crystal’s. Are Celebrity’s Solstice-class vessels nipping at the heels of their luxury competitors? I don’t plan to do a blow-by-blow comparison, but I will take a look at some of the good — and not-as-good — attributes of Celebrity Solstice.

Bathrooms are well-designed with one small but well-publicized feature: a shower bar to assist women in shaving their legs. Such small touches characterize the well-thought-out design on Solstice-class vessels.

First impressions are the same as last time I was on board: Solstice is an exceptionally tasteful ship in both design and on-board offerings. Public areas are gorgeous, and restaurants are numerous and impressive. Staterooms are comfortable and well-designed.

But with a capacity of more than 2,800 guests, a single Solstice-class vessel has more capacity than the entire fleets of most luxury lines. On the smaller luxury lines, staff frequently address guests by their names. Not so on larger vessels, such as those in the Solstice class.

With the exception of Crystal, luxury lines are all-inclusive, meaning that a check will not be shoved under your nose to sign for soft drinks, specialty coffees and alcoholic beverages. On Celebrity, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice your penmanship.

-- Joe L., CruiseCounselor

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cruising: The Great Escape

Vacationing can be a double-edged sword. While the thought of getting away is exciting, the actual planning and act of vacationing can be quite stressful and even overwhelming at times. (Unless you use a travel consultant, of course!!)  That’s why cruising is such a great alternative to other vacation options. Where else are you waited on hand and foot and pampered 24/7? Once on board, your worries simply “float” away, because you’re not required to plan a single thing. From dinner to land stops, it’s all available at your disposal or built into your cruise itinerary.

Wanna book a cruise? Visit us on the web!

Have kids? Don’t underestimate the power a cruise can have on bringing your family closer together (or give you some much needed time apart). Have fun and create memories visiting some of the most wonderful destinations in the world! Or relax and bask in some well deserved “me-time.” Cruise lines have the ultimate child-care services. While you’re busy getting a spa treatment or enjoying a workout, the ship’s staff will keep the youngsters busy. You’ll be able to spend some time on your own as the kids participate in circus events, sing and dance at their own age-appropriate parties or take part in one of the other countless shipboard activities offered just for children.

There are a wide range of cruise amenities and services designed to help you unwind and let loose. Some of the newer amenities include jogging tracks, rock-climbing wall, thalassotherapy pools, wellness cuisines and Turkish baths. And the oldies but always the goodies: saunas, facials and stone therapy.

Feeling stressed? Need a vacation? Take a cruise. It’s a great way to relieve stress and make some memories along the way.

-- Joe L., CruiseCounselor

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obtaining on-board credits

Ever wonder how your fellow cruise mates scored their treasure-trove of on-board (shipboard) credits? While you’re busy pulling cash from your wallet, they’re enjoying drinks, souvenirs and tux rentals on the house. Although they remain somewhat of a mystery, finding on-board credits is actually quite easy. You just need to know where to look. Here are a few of their favorite hiding places:

Credit Card Statements: Credit card companies often participate in special promotions with cruise lines. So make sure to check your credit card statements for various on-board credits and other fun perks. It really does pay to check these carefully.

Airline Awards Programs: Believe it or not, airlines and cruise lines are often aligned! If you participate in a frequent flier program, investigate to see whether shipboard credits are also offered.

Find a cruise for you right now:

Passenger Perks: Do you cruise with one particular cruise line or lines? If so, you may be throwing away money. You see, repeat cruisers receive a lot of what looks like “junk mail” from cruise lines that they have previously traveled on. Buried inside are sometimes deals for on-board credits – which are part of many cruise lines loyalty programs.

Fringe Benefits for Groups: When cruising as a group, you are often awarded instant on-board credits. Consider these fringe benefits for vacationing en masse!

Now that you know where to find them, here are a few things to be aware of. Read the fine print carefully and don’t assume your credits can be used for anything and in every area of the ship. Chances are -- like any “free” giveaway or deal -- your on-board credits have some stipulations or limitations attached to them. With the bulk of cruise lines, on-board credits cannot be used in casinos, or for gambling in general, or for spa treatments or shore excursions. In fact, on-board credits are usually limited to shops and bars. You’ll also want to verify the actual, true amount of the credit. This is a gray area, because cruise lines like to use the terminology “for up to X dollars.”

One final note: Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for on-board credits! Cruise lines love to give you money to spend on their ships! It’s their polite way of enticing you to spend even more.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shore Excursions

One thing cruisers should think about when booking a cruise is shore excursions. Although you could wait until after you board and then inquire about what excursions the cruise line is offering, you might be disappointed to learn the ones that interest you are already sold out. It's a good idea, therefore, to talk to your cruise agent about booking tours before you sail.

One of the things you should consider is whether to book a tour run by the cruise line or one run by a third-party tour operator, of which there are many reputable outfits. The decision boils down to this: price versus risk. The cruise line's tours will be more expensive, often way more. But third-party tours have an element of risk. "What kind of risk are you talking about, Lombardi?" you ask. I'll tell you.

If you take, say, a bus tour with a third-party outfit, and there's a traffic jam or a mechanical problem that delays your arrival back in port and you miss the sailing, you're pretty much up a creek without a paddle. You'll have to find -- and pay -- your way to the next port of call. Not my idea of an adventure. Sounds more like an inconvenience if not a total nightmare.

There's more, although it's not nearly as severe.

If you have to tender into port -- that is, if the ship can't dock at the port of call and passengers must use tenders (small boats) to reach land -- then the cruise line's tours get preference. Usually that's not a problem, but occasionally it can be, if people don't debark the ship in time to make their third-party tours.

So, it's really up to you. How much risk are you willing to accept? Are you a gambling man -- or lady?

-- Joe L., CruiseCounselor