Category Archives: Cruises

Take a Cruise Solo Traveler

Some people assume cruising is only for couples, families or large groups. But the fact is, single cruising is actually more fun that you think, because cruise ships are giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a loaded Kindle—you can easily do it on board a cruise ship, all while visiting several countries and cultures. So, take a cruise solo traveler. But, take our advice:

Contrary to popular belief, there’s a right and a wrong ship for just about everyone. Some people prefer the larger ships—where there’s more on board activities, and it’s easier to blend in with the crowd. Other solo journeyers may opt for something a little more intimate, like a boutique cruise ship or river cruise, to mingle with fellow guests and make new lifelong connections. Also, each ship and cruise line has a personality and it’s our job to find the one that works for you.

Make friends with the staff – This is a universal rule for any type of cruiser, but it becomes imperative when you’re sailing alone. The staff can become go-to confidants when it comes to choosing seat mates at dinner, signing up for excursions and choosing the most fun nightlife options. Plus, they often know the best places in each destination to go out, giving you a great option when exploring the local nightlife.  Ask them about special singles get-togethers on board, either arranged by staff or informal ones.

The best ways to throw yourself into a new friendship is by signing up for the ship’s excursions. These port side adventures break interested parties into manageable groups of 10 – 50 passengers who all share the common interest of the excursion, be it a nature hike or catamaran cruise. Small groups plus common interests creates easy and fun conversations.

Participate  – Show the world how fun you are by singing karaoke during talent night or taking part in a poolside contest. Being front and center can be a lifesaver if you’re trying to make friends. Plus, getting on stage will put you in the good graces of the staff and will make it much easier for other passengers to recognize you later to chat.

In the past, solo cruisers were required to pay a “single supplement” that can almost double the cost of the fare. Now there are ways for solo travelers to avoid the single supplement, including booking a stateroom designed for single occupancy or cruising on specific departures where the single supplement has been decreased or even waived altogether. Let us match your cruise interests with departures offering solo traveler savings.

Borrowed from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter

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Filed under Bucket List Ideas, Cruises, Traveler Tips

Cruise ship extras and how to keep money in your pockets

Avoiding cruise ship extra charges can be a bit tricky but can be done with due diligence. You’re not going to get out of tipping the maitre ‘d, your waiter and cabin steward. However, you can save some cash and even avoid some of these additional activities by planning and booking ahead of your arrival at the port. For cruise newbies, this is where a travel agent can really help you out. We help tell you about what’s coming and where you can save time and money.

One of the biggest ways the cruise lines help part you from your money is with drinks and especially, alcohol. At $5-7 per glass, a party on the Lido deck or some time to unwind and watch the sunset can rack up a pretty good bill at the end of a 7-day cruise for 2. You’re better off to buy a bottle of your favorite wine and enjoy it in your cabin. Or, bring along a 6-pack of your favorite soft drink. A word of caution – don’t advertise that you have it. If you must imbibe at the club while dancing or while enjoying some quiet time in the “adults only” area – keep your eyes peeled for “happy hour” or a special rate on the “drink-of-the-day”.

Another money drain can be the specialty restaurants. As delightful as the cuisine and atmosphere in these places are; stick to the main dining rooms or the self-service buffets unless you’re celebrating a very special occasion or just have money to throw away.

Shore excursions are probably the one area that you do want to spend some money on. Talk to your travel agent about what the ship offers and then plan and book ahead. If you wait until you’re at sea, most the of better ones are already sold out or the prices are higher than if you had made reservations online prior to sailing. Some people wait until they get off the ship and book excursions with a local company at the port of call. If you elect to do this, please make sure that there is plenty of time to get to/from your destination so you don’t miss the ship. The companies that the cruise lines work with are very aware of the arrival and departure times for each ship and make sure they get you there and back in time.

Check the ship’s daily program for offers, especially where spa treatments are concerned, as these are often reduced on port days. If you need to do laundry while on board, check into the self-service laundry mat instead of sending your stuff to the cleaners. You can save on staying in touch with folks at home via email by buying an internet package or wait until you get ashore and find an internet cafe.

Some cruise ship extra charges aren’t possible to get a way from but you can certainly reduce your losses by planning and booking ahead. Give us a call or book Royal Caribbean online at our website while keeping us as your local support.

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Cruises, Family Travel, Holidays, Honeymoons, Miscellaneous News, Travel Trivia, Traveler Tips

Cruisin’ with Kids

One of the first cruises I took (30+ years ago), there was nothing for kids to do aside from walking around on deck and maybe find someone who would play a game of checkers or shuffle board with you. But, cruise lines have finally figured out that kids influence their parents’ and/or grandparents’ decision on where to go and what to do on vacations. Imagine that!

Now, the cruise lines have created both structured and un-structured programs for different age groups giving them their own space and parents the opportunity to enjoy some adult time and be on vacation too. They even offer baby sitting services for a fee, of course. The Disney Cruise Line, for example, has the Flounder’s Reef Nursery for ages 3 months to 3 years, the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab is for ages 3 to 12, the Edge entertains tweens and teenagers from ages 11 to 13, the Vibe keeps 14 to 17 year-olds jumping and the Chill Spa is for teens only.  These cruise lines are also revolutionizing their cabin designs on new ships being built with configurations that are family friendly with staterooms that can accommodate 5 people comfortably like Carnival Cruise Lines’ Dream-class ships.

If you haven’t considered a cruise with your kids, you may want to take another look. Check out our website with the low down on what the cruise lines have to offer your crew.

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Filed under Activities, Cruises, Family Travel, Traveler Tips

Book online but keep your local support

There are so many options out there for booking that at times, it can feel overwhelming. That is why it’s great to use a travel agent. We can help narrow down what works for your destination, budget and travel needs. Plus, by booking your vacation package through us – you can put down a deposit and then your final payment isn’t due until 60-45 days prior to your departure instead of having to pay it all upfront. Of course, if you’re booking something within 60-45 days of travel, the total is due at the time of booking.

But, if you like doing your own research and booking things online; we have that too. Check out our BOOK IT NOW page on our website. It takes you directly to some of our favorite travel companies’ websites  – like Apple Vacations for example with flight/hotel packages to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico and more –  while keeping track of our agency information. This way, you can check out all the different aspects of your trip but still have our local support to help answer questions or take care of certain details. And, in the event of a problem with your trip, (the best laid plans and all), we’re there to help get things back on track.

If you have questions about any of these companies or their destinations, give us a call. Let us help you find the best deal for your dollar, needs and dreams. Or, book it online and have us as your backup should you need it. HAPPY LABOR DAY

 

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Filed under All-inclusives, Caribbean, Cruises, Family Travel, Florida, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico, Tour Packages, Traveler Tips, USA

Build-A-Bear comes to Carnival Cruising

Hosting 700,000 children a year as the family cruise leader, Carnival Cruise Lines just announced an exclusive partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop to further enhance the wide variety of family-friendly activities available on board their fleet. My kids are going to go nuts especially since we’re going on a Carnival Cruise next summer!!

Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea will provide children of all ages (that includes me too) sailing with Carnival an opportunity to make their own furry friend that can be customized with a variety of outfits and accessories. As with all the workshop’s cuddly critters, each one comes with its own “birth certificate” with the animal’s name and date they were created. They will also have their own “voice” with a built in sound chip containing a recording of a special message from the child that creates it! Also available will be a St. Jude Bear with proceeds benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Prices for the bears start at just $20 with outfits and accessories starting at $5.

Carnival Dream will be the first ship with a Build-A-Bear Workshop At Sea. They expect to have a complete roll out of this initiative fleet wide by summer 2017.

For more information about your next Carnival Cruise, contact us at 618-687-2100 or toll free at 800-437-8747 or send us an email at tbirdtvl@msn.com.

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Filed under Cruises, Travel News, Traveler Tips, Water Adventures

Why Balconies are a MUST on Cruises

relaxing on your balcony in your bathrobeCruises are an exciting way to see the world. In between ports, there’s no shortage of shows, dining and pool time, so it doesn’t really matter what your room is like right? Wrong. While you don’t think you’ll spend much time in your room, you will need time to rest, recover and reenergize for the next day. And while most modern staterooms are extremely comfortable, having a balcony in your room is essential. Here’s why:

Greet the sun each morning. It’s nice to have your morning coffee in your bathrobe. It’s nicer to have your morning coffee in your bathrobe on your own private balcony in the middle of an expansive body of water. With your own private outdoor space, you can leisurely enjoy your morning routine, or evening routine, or just some peace and quiet.

Enjoy the scenery. Drink, dine, dance and rekindle your romance in your own personal outdoor space while taking in spectacular views of the open ocean.

Fresh air. A warm sea breeze cures what ails you, and you’ll have access to plenty of it in your balcony room. It’ll freshen your room and give you the chance to air out clothing, which could be wet from exciting excursions.

Water sounds are relaxing. The sounds of the lapping ocean water lull you to sleep each night, or you can enjoy an afternoon timeout to clear your mind.

Alleviate illness. If you experience sea sickness or claustrophobia, having a view of the horizon or a little outdoor space can be a life saver.

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Filed under Cruises, Destinations, Family Travel, Holidays, Honeymoons

Greece – if by Sea

In Greece, the past is always with you. Where ever the traveler looks there is a reminder of not just centuries but thousands of years of history. IParthenon in Greecen some locations, shards of ancient artifacts still lay on the ground like so much rubble, and the ruins of temples and great buildings are so abundant you have the feeling of being in a vast, singular outdoor museum. From the seaside taverns and restaurants to the wonderful vistas and landscapes of the rugged coastline, Greece offers an astonishing variety of experiences and activities. But this is not a country to rush through in a mad dash to see all there is to see. One of the best ways to experience Greece at a leisurely pace is to visit by sea, taking cruises between the islands, hopping from one to the next and taking in the culture, sights and foods of Greece from the vantage point of its surrounding oceans. As destinations, the Greek islands each have their own persona. No two are alike and some are as different from the others as night is from day. Underneath all of them, however, is their ocean heritage, an agrarian and fishing legacy still visible today. Greece is a land carved by the sea – the nation has one of the longest coastlines in the world. There are over 2000 Greek islands. Of those, only 227 are inhabited, of which only 78 have more than 100 permanent inhabitants. Seventeen of the islands have more than 100 square miles of surface area. Giant Crete is the largest with more than 3,200 square miles of territory, while some of the most famous islands, like Santorini’s Thera has only 28 square miles. There is so much to learn, see and discover. What are you waiting for? Contact Thunderbird Travel IL and get started!

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Filed under Action/Adventure Travel, Activities, Cruises, Europe, Family Travel, Holidays, Honeymoons