What Type of Cabin to Buy on Your First River Cruise

River cruising in Europe has become one of the most demanded vacations options for “boomers and pre-boomers” alike. This demand is fueled by both past ocean cruise customers and those who have never enjoyed an ocean cruise before. The reasons for this demand are; the all-inclusive nature of the river cruise experience, the immersive destination experience and overall affordability that every river cruise customer enjoys on their vacation.

While the European river cruise experience is very rewarding and river trips enjoy an extremely high satisfaction level, we know that some elements of planning your first river trip can be a bit daunting. That’s because all cruise lines and all river cruise ships are not created equal and that most certainly applies to the type of cabin you buy.

In talking with thousands of first time buyers, a significant number of those first time buyers commented that choosing the right cabin on their first river trip was one of the most frustrating and challenging things that they faced as new customers.

If you have never enjoyed the wonders of a very affordable European river cruise, you may not understand how to select the best cabin for your trip. Selecting that perfect cabin can be made more confusing by two factors that may impact your decision; the different generations of river ships and the various types of cabins (also called staterooms) on each ship.

In addition to these distinctions, a number of other factors must be considered before selecting your stateroom. But you can take solace in knowing that cabin selection is a pretty logical process and that other than your stateroom selection, almost every other element of a guest’s shipboard and shore side experience is exactly the same, no matter what type of cabin you buy. Why? Because every passenger on a river ship enjoys the same in-depth shore excursions, delightful cuisine and excellent personal service.

At first glance, one might not understand why cabin selection is so important and maybe you will reach the same conclusion. The reason it is very relevant is because of the price difference between a window and balcony stateroom. In general, for a one week cruise, the difference can be between $599 and $1500 per person for the balcony, so if price is important, go window. If your prefer a balcony, but your budget mandates a window, by all means go for the window stateroom versus not going as all other elements of the trip will be exactly the same as if you had bought the balcony.

Traveling with like-minded, like-aged travelers is one of the other very rewarding elements of a river trip. They are geared to those who are 55+ years of age and while there are many active shore excursions, these types of cruises are not suitable for children.

While not suited for children, these river trips are well suited for single or solo travelers looking for a vacation that attracts other such travelers.

Luxury Cruising From San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruise Lines

In a recent article entitled “Three Reasons to Book Your Next Cruise our of San Francisco,” we wrote about the fun of spending part of a vacation in the famous City by the Bay, and part of it cruising to exciting destinations like Hawaii, Alaska, and the South Pacific. This story is about the cruise we selected to follow our own tour of San Francisco.

Selecting a cruise

As Mark Twain often noted, it can be a bit chilly in San Francisco regardless of the time of year, so we thought a cruise to some place warm would be the perfect other-bookend for a vacation.

We did an internet search and explored all the cruise line itineraries sailing out of San Francisco on our travel dates, and Princess Cruise Lines had exactly what we wanted – a roundtrip sailing from San Francisco to the Hawaiian Islands. We made the right choice, and here’s what you can expect if you decide to take the same plunge.

The day before the cruise

We arrived in San Francisco the day before our cruise departure to Hawaii. We toured our favorite sites in the city, had a nice dinner at Scoma’s on Pier 47, and checked into our favorite and always fashionable San Francisco Hyatt Regency. The hotel is directly across from the iconic Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, and a very short distance from the cruise terminal at Pier 35.

Sailing out of the Golden Gate

We settled into our port side stateroom, popped open a bottle of bubbly, and when the ship pulled away from the dock, we proceeded to our patio to watch the San Francisco skyline on slow parade. There was Ghirardelli Square lit up in its entire splendor, and the famous Transamerica Pyramid Building – outstanding among its traditional “square” neighbors.

We could see the Golden Gate Bridge coming up above the bow, and we bid a fond farewell to old Fort Point as we made our way out of San Francisco Bay and into the vast blue Pacific. All we could think at the time was, “What a spectacular way to start a cruise!”

Next stop – Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii. A future article will describe the Hawaiian ports of call in Hilo, Nawiliwili, Lahaina, Honolulu, and our final stop in Ensenada, Mexico, before returning to San Francisco. Why are cruise ships sailing to Hawaii from US ports required to stop in a foreign port like Ensenada? We will explain in the upcoming article.

This story features the many vacation pleasures aboard the Star Princess. Note: The Grand Princess has now replaced the Star Princess on the Hawaiian route out of San Francisco. They are sister ships, so the differences are minimal.

Sweet suites

The Star Princess has several luxury suites positioned throughout the ship. The Grand Suite is 1,314 square feet of pure indulgence, with a walk in closet, large bathrooms, and an oversized balcony. These elegant digs are for the truly fortunate among us.

Besides luxury accommodations, the suites come with supplementary amenities such as an exclusive Suite Breakfast at the Sabatini’s specialty restaurant – where you can start your day with a complimentary “Good Morning Mimosa,” and select other goodies from an extraordinary breakfast menu. We expected the service to be impeccable, and it was.

Did you know that the now famous champagne and orange juice “Mimosa” drink was first created and named at the Paris Ritz in 1925? Its namesake is the mimosa plant, which has bright and frothy yellow flowers.

There are also afternoon and pre-dinner cocktail and private nosh parties where suite passengers get to mingle and mix with the ship’s officers that drop by.

Care for a quiet dinner for two? Having a lavish room service meal served in a ship’s suite is the height of seagoing indulgence and sublime privacy.

Suite passengers are also provided with priority boarding, and disembarkation via the Elite/Suite Disembarkation Lounge. While visiting ports that require taking a launch to shore, suite occupants are furnished Priority Tender Disembarkation Tickets – a nice time-saving touch.

Time for dinner

It was soon time for our initial dinner on board the Star Princess. The first night aboard a cruise ship is a casual affair, so after cleaning up a bit, we made our way down to the Portofino Dining Room on Deck 6.

The Maître d’hôtel was busy orchestrating the process of showing the first diners to their assigned tables. Remember when everyone ate at either an “early” or, “late” sitting? These days you can dine in traditional fashion or decide to eat at any time you choose during dining hours. There are advantages to both practices – it is clearly a matter of personal taste.

That’s entertainment

After a sumptuous dinner, it was time for our opening night of entertainment in the Princess Theatre on Deck 6 and 7. The first show included the entire cast in an extravaganza review. The large two-story theatre was packed, but comfortable, and everyone enjoyed the lavish musical production.

We took a stroll around the Lido deck before returning to our stateroom after the show. Not quite ready for bed, we turned on the TV, and watched our first movie from the library of closed circuit films. It was an oldie,- An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr – a quintessential tearjerker with the plot starting on a cruise ship. What could be more apropos for the setting?

Days at sea

It took four days to reach our first port of call in Hilo. We travelled 2,003 nautical miles (2,303 highway miles) from San Francisco. The time passed quickly.

Days at sea can be quiet or exciting – it’s your choice. You can shop endlessly in the myriad Ship’s Boutiques. You can visit the Internet Café to catch up on emails, listen to live Chamber Music, and attend lively Art Auctions. How about a workout in the extensive Gym, a Seminar at Sea, eating pizza, a hot dog, or hamburger, or trying your luck in the Casino?

Having your teeth whitened is another option, as is enjoying sundry Spa indulgences, snoozing by one of the Pools, and chatting it up while enjoying the entertainment at your choice of the many Bars and Lounges. There is also the opportunity to watch Movies outdoors or indoors, peruse the Library, read, and of course – eat.

The ship’s master

On one of our days at sea, we had an opportunity to interview the ship’s captain. At the time of our sailing, the master of the Star Princess was Edward Perrin who hails from Dorset, England. As is usually the case, Captain Perrin was most congenial and very willing to share stories about his ship and experiences at sea.

We always ask sea captains what they like best about their jobs. Captain Perrin revealed that he most enjoyed the ability to have a positive impact on people’s lives – both crew, and passengers. He gave an example of an elderly couple who saved all their lives to take a cruise. They approached him with the problem that they had no more money to spend while on the cruise. Captain Perrin summarily wrote a list of “free” things the couple could do on their cruise vacation. They were elated, and the good Captain was equally gratified – it made his day, and he has never forgotten the feeling of being able to help.

Where passenger services are concerned, an important member of the crew is the Hotel General Manager. On the Star Princess, that was Terri Lynn Cybuliak, and she greatly contributed to our fun discussion.

As we have mentioned in previous cruise articles, ship’s captains are contracted to be masters for months, not years, and therefore transfer from ship to ship quite frequently. Keep an eye out – you may very well find Captain Perrin at the helm of your next Princess cruise.

Attention on the bridge

After our meeting, Captain Perrin invited us to join him on the bridge. The ship’s bridge is always manned 24-hours a day by two officers working four-hour shifts in a three-watch system. It is interesting to witness the vast array of sophisticated systems that run these mega ships in a controlled and quiet atmosphere. We continue to be fascinated by the fact that the traditional ship’s steering wheel has been replaced by a tiny joystick on a desk panel.

Dining in the specialty restaurants

All the food aboard the Star Princess, and most other cruise ships for that matter, is quite delicious. It is amazing that seagoing chefs can prepare thousands of assorted meals daily, and do it with such finesse.

People always ask, “If all the sit down meals are included in the price of the cruise, why would anyone pay extra to eat in a specialty dining room?” The answer is quite simple – intimacy – and a little something extra special for an important occasion.

Each specialty restaurant has its own kitchen, so there is just a touch more attention to detail in the food preparation and presentation. The waiters have fewer tables to attend, and the overall experience is that of eating in a truly fine restaurant. The extra charge is never extravagant, and the experience is worthwhile.

Avoid disappointment, reserve your specialty restaurants early.

Our recommendations

Throughout the years, we have enjoyed many cruises, and Princess Cruises is one of our favorite lines. It provides first time cruisers with an enjoyable introduction to cruise vacationing, and it offers seasoned cruisers a nice selection of accommodations and amenities. Whatever your wallet dictates, a Princess Cruise will provide good value for your vacation dollars.

If you go

San Francisco International Airport is about 20 miles and a $65 taxi ride to the Cruise Terminal or Hyatt Regency. Your travel agent or Princess Cruises can also arrange transfers to and from the airport, but if there are two passengers involved, we recommend taking a cab, it’s a lot less hassle.

A final note

The San Francisco Cruise Terminal is presently located at Pier 35. That will change when the America’s Cup Headquarters pulls up stakes from Pier 27 sometime around September 2013 – after the US (hopefully) wins the Cup.

After a quick facelift and the addition of a new park at the site, the vastly improved cruise terminal at Pier 27 will be capable of handling larger ships, and will come with expansive views of the City including Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, the Ferry Building, and the Bay Bridge.

Happy travels!

The Perfect Holiday Cruise – Luxury Gulet Cruises

One of the truly intercontinental tourist destinations is the beautiful country of Turkey near the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey reflects the influences of both Europe and Asia and its coastlines are considered to be the most beautiful in the Mediterranean stretch. Tranquil and lonely coastlines, stunning beaches and amazing resorts dot the enchanting coasts of Turkey and each of them are virtually a great temptation to tourists and travellers but the best thing to try are the luxury gulet holidays in Turkey.

First let’s get down to the basics- a gulet is a traditional Mediterranean ship that was used mostly by traders and sometimes by fishermen. These traditional boats were made of wood and their length was their main characteristic. The modern day gulets are in no way different in shape but what has changed is that now they are designed more like luxury cruises and are used as such. No longer are gulets the choice of fishermen and traders, but they are mostly used for luxury cruises by holiday makers for a holiday out in the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean.

But other than the Mediterranean only, Turkey also offers the uniquely European coasts of the Adriatic Sea. This side of the Turkish coasts goes by the name of Croatian Blue and the highlights of this region are the medieval European cities and coasts like Dalmatia, Dubrovnik, Korcula and Krka Waterfalls, etc.

The historic legacy of Turkey can’t be visited in a single day and for that travellers need to charter gulet cruises Turkey. These cruises come in two varieties, one in which you book one along with some other travellers which will keep you in a group. The other one is in which you charter a single cruise where you can spend some real quality time with your near and dear ones. The latter is among the most popular ones as it guarantees immense peace and quiet along with great service and facilities. Be it snorkelling in the clear waters of Turquoise Bay, hiking on some secluded Mediterranean Islands or visiting some historic town on the coasts, Luxury gulet cruises in turkey have all the ingredients for a successful and memorable holiday.

You can find a whole host of gulet holidays Turkey and tour operators on the internet who have a variety of great deals on sale. Check customer reviews and testimonials in the site to better understand the reputation of the site. Before booking any Gulet Cruises Holidays turkey prepare an itinerary for the trip and map out the places that you want to visit. Then accordingly search for the tour provider that gives the best deal on your itinerary and then book it. Have a great holiday!!

A Review of Princess Cruises

The Princess Cruises is a cruise line based out of California in the United States of America. The company was founded way back in the year 1965 and has been offering its passengers with some of the most memorable journeys and vacations ever since. The main rise to popularity for the Princess Cruises came with the launch of The Love Boat TV series which featured two of its cruise liners, the Pacific Princess and the Island Princess.

Embarking on a cruise with the Princess Cruises can be extremely exciting and scintillating. Moreover, the company offers its travellers with award-winning service and features which ensure that each of its guests have a great time while on board. One of the main charms of the Princess Cruises is its excellent cruise itineraries which cover some of the most exotic locales of the world. With over 1000 cruise itineraries and 300 ports to choose from, tourists are also spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a journey aboard the Princess. Moreover, each of the ships sailing under the Princess flag boasts of world-class service, sumptuous food and Maharaja style luxury. Voted as the Best Cruise Line Itineraries for 7 straight years, the Princess Cruises are second to none when it comes to sailing and luxury cruise liners.

The popular Cruise ships

The Princess Cruises also boast of a huge fleet which sail all over the world on various itineraries. Some of its most popular cruise ships are the Caribbean Princess (Sailing in the Caribbean Islands), the Coral Princess (Specifically built to sail in the Panama Canal), the Crown Princess (Sailing in the Caribbean Islands), the Golden Princess (Sailing in Alaska and Hawaii) and the Diamond Princess (Sailing in Alaska and the Mexican Riviera).

Great On-Board Experience

Another reason for the immense popularity of the Princess Cruises is its magnificent on-board experience. The ship is packed with activities and things to do for tourists of all ages to keep them content and occupied from sun rise up till sunset and beyond. One of the most popular sights aboard the Princess is its piazza styled atrium which becomes the stunning centrepiece on each of the ships. These atriums are spread over several decks and feature panoramic views of the ship, the signature Vines Bar and International Café and a breathtaking spiral staircase.

Other popular activities aboard the Princess Cruise Ships are poolside activities, cooking demonstrations, digital photography workshops, a variety of sports such as golf and ping-pong, vast libraries, mesmerizing nightlife, grand casinos, designer boutiques, art auctions, youth centres and teen lounges and pampering spas. A few of the most popular innovations aboard the Princess are anytime dining options and Movie Under the Stars. The latter is extremely popular amongst couples and lovers since they offer an extremely romantic opportunity to watch a movie with loved ones in a 300 square foot, 69000 watt poolside movie theatre. This experience is made even better with personalized touches such as cosy blankets, chaise lounges, complimentary popcorn and cookies and milk.

One can also experience a behind the scenes ship tour which allows passengers to get a glimpse of how the ship runs and functions. The tour is offered once or twice each day and allows passengers to catch a glimpse of the control room, print shop, medical centre, photo lab, bridge, laundry room and other areas which are typically visited only by the ship’s crew.

Heavenly living accommodations

The living accommodations which are offered by the Princess Cruises are also amongst the best. Passengers can choose from a range of accommodation options which include basic interior cabins, Ocean view cabins, cabins with balconies, mini suites with balconies, suites with balconies and grand suites. Irrespective of the choice of accommodation taken, passengers can expect to be treated to a range of excellent amenities and in room luxuries. The large and extremely comfortable beds, beautifully made bathrooms, pleasant décor and in-room entertainment options ensure that guests have a great time not only on board but in the rooms and cabins as well.

Lastly, the Princess Cruises is also one of the few cruise liners which still follow the century old traditions of Bon Voyage where family members and friends can board the ship to say goodbye to their loved ones before the ship embarks on its journey.

The Advantages & Disadvantages of Small Luxury Cruise Lines

There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages, ups and downs in everything in life. In cruising with small luxury lines, there are also two sides to it. Small cruise lines are those cruise lines that are often not too heard of. These smaller luxury lines however, are also competitively able to lure in the customers they need.

Choosing to cruise with smaller more intimate line might come short on your standard of quality service if you are used to cruising with the top of the line cruise ships. If you are one of those people who enjoy the crowd, small luxury cruise ships might not give you the number of heads you would consider a crowd. The amenities and different on-board classes and activities available might also be limited, considering the cruise line and crowd is smaller. But it is not all bad however.

Cruising on smaller ships can also do you wonders in terms of the privacy you might want to have during the trip. Another thing that you will not have to worry about is lining up for amenities, using the facilities, and even in getting served in a timely manner when it comes to food. There is also a higher chance of befriending the crew since there are only a number of them, but enough to give that personalized service to each and every person on board.

If you choose to sail on a smaller more private ship or a big luxury line, whichever you choose, you will surely enjoy. Weigh your options and priority and see whether it is the big or small ships that can best cater to your needs. Cruising is definitely one experience you will undoubtedly remember!