First time cruiser diary|what to expect

First time cruiser diary|what to expect

I sailed in May with my daughter, who was a first time cruiser and saw the world through her eyes.  Just arriving at the port in anticipation of boarding is exciting for a first time cruiser.  We weren’t even out of the van when our bags were taken care of; the tags we printed out last week indicated which ship and stateroom the bags would be delivered to.  After a quick ID check, we went through security, just like the one in the airport but with fewer restrictions.  Our next stop was the twenty station check in desk where we each received a key card, a map of the ship and instructions on the meeting time for the emergency drill.  If we hadn’t completed the online pre-cruise check in, this would have been a much longer and more complicated process.  Online check in is a must!

Ship preparing for departure
Ship preparing for departure

What a great place to do some people watching.  The experienced cruisers are easy to spot; they have their bottles of wine with them.  Some are carrying a case of Mountain Dew or other favorite soda.  A few people have huge beautiful bouquets of flowers, knowing the crew will supply the vase in their stateroom.  They also arrive early for check in to make the most of their vacation time and also to avoid the rush during the last hour of boarding

We see the many baby carriages and loads of assistive devices to help the seniors navigate on board.  I happen to be certified in Special Needs Travel and help arrange those rentals for people.  It makes cruising possible for people right into their 90s.  We met a solo traveler who was 95 and she was having a great time for herself.

The dress runs the gamut, as do the ages of guests as well as nationalities and personalities.  Some people are in their finest clothes, while others are ready for the pool.  Lots of groups, large and small, seem to be gathering around the boarding area.  Again and again we learn that just two were planning to travel, then a sister decided to come along, her daughter and friend added a few weeks later and before they knew it, the cruise became a family reunion.

Since we boarded at 1 PM, we had a few hours to explore the ship.  We went to the upper decks to enjoy the fabulous

Upper deck pool and hot tub
Upper deck pool and hot tub

Seattle weather for a few hours before setting sail.  We knew Alaska would be cooler and wetter.  Since the ship was still actively boarding, we had the chance to watch other guests as they arrived.  Even from our balcony, on the starboard side of the ship, we had a view of the port.  In the days when there was just a single ship in the harbor, the port side would be the one facing the port, but now, with sometimes six ships in port at any given time, the rules have all changed.

Food is always available onboard.  Formal dining rooms, although they have set hours, are open for most of the day and night.  Read More

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Packing List for Alaskan Cruise

Packing list for Alaskan Cruise

I don’t worry about many belongings when traveling, since there are stores available onboard and at ports with almost anything you could need or want.  The most common item that clients say they needed and didn’t have was an extra suitcase for all the stuff they purchased.  See a winter vacation packing list for Alaska to compare.

Electronically speaking, I would be really disappointed to forget my gadgets.  Be sure you have:

Camera, charger, memory cards

Cell phone and charger (most carriers include Alaska in their US plans, but check)

Headphones for your personal music as well as any bus tours you might take Read More

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Meet people on cruise ships-traveling solo

Whether traveling solo or with a group, you may want to meet new people while onboard  your cruise ship.   No matter what your interests, age group or heritage, there are endless opportunities to meet people on board a cruise ship.

Group canoe trip
Solos on a group canoe trip

If you feel shy, just take the first step and attend a seminar or training session. Almost everyone else in the room will have something in common with you, the session topic.  Chat with your neighbor about their interest or experience in that field.

For those with a little more nerve, go to one of the meet ups on board during the first few days.  Within the first twenty four hours on board, there were meetups for LGBT, swing dancers, bridge players, gamblers, young adults aged 18-25, singles and solo travelers and Friends of Bill.  Get to one of the meetups and just commit to stay for 20 minutes.  Again, you will have a common goal with other guests, if they joined it, it means they also want to meet people.

Choose a ship where all guests are assigned a table for dinner each night.  Solo travelers will have the most opportunity to meet people if they choose the larger table option, say 8 or 10 people.  Dinner conversations often lead to finding common interests and networking opportunities.  You already have one major dinner topic in common – travel.

Shore excursions are also a great way to meet people from your ship as well as from other ships.  Read More

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What restaurants are included on Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas cruises

Guests often ask me to help them navigate the dining experience onboard a cruise vacation.  Specifically, I was asked which restaurants

Vision of the Seas Ship
Vision of the Seas Ship

are included on the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas cruise.  While many guests want to avoid paying extra for meals, some guests are looking for upgraded or unique dining experiences about ships and the cruise lines are adding specialty restaurants to their fleet.  About 10% of guests take advantage of the specialty restaurants onboard cruise ships.  The cost for this experience ranges from $10-49 per person.

Vision of the Seas complimentary dining options include:

Windjammer Cafe
Solarium Bistro
Main Dining Room
Room Service (5am-midnight)

Those with a charge:

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

Café Latte-tudes

The Vision of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s 2000 passenger ship mainly sails the Caribbean and Northern Europe with seven to seventeen night sailings.  In addition to action packed adventure including an upper deck jogging track, rock climbing wall and video arcade, they offer several options for rest and relaxation including their Vitality Spa, fitness center, 2 pools and 6 whirlpools.  Entertainment and shopping highlights include broadway shows and a Vegas style casino.  There are also eight bars and lounges on board, most with entertainment included.

For assistance choosing which cruise is right for you, call or email today. 603-434-8100  or Wendy@SoloToGroupTravel.com

 

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Easy steps to avoid weight gain on a cruise ship

Easy steps to avoid weight gain on a cruise ship

It seems unfair that so many people who ask legitimate questions on websites about avoiding weight gain on cruises are told to “just enjoy the vacation” and “only count sugar”.  I surfed to more than a dozen sites looking for sound advice on this subject before deciding to just be sensible during my cruise.  Now that it’s over, I can give some advice of my own.

DSCN6928For those of us who sit at a desk most of the week, it’s easy to burn calories on board by just using the stairs.  This could also be a fun reason to splurge for a higher deck cabin.

Exercise options are endless while at sea.  If you work out at home, it’s very easy to keep your routine in place while cruising.  While there are plenty of people using the treadmills and other equipment, I didn’t see anyone who needed to wait for their machine.  Big groups of people walk on deck in the morning and after dinner, some do the three laps that equal a mile and others make it a stroll.  Holland America even has a structured walk each day right after the morning stretch.

Try to keep you meal routine in place.  If you generally eat breakfast at home, enjoy it onboard.  If you normally have coffee only, try that for a few days and see what you think.  Remember, you can always get food, so don’t worry about missing out.

While there are a frightening number of calories in the dinners and desserts, there are also huge amounts in beverages of all kinds.  Try to alternate a glass of water with each beer, wine or cocktail drink.  Drinking plenty of water will also help keep you healthy and germ free on the cruise.

At mealtime, specifically ask for Read More

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Glacier Bay Alaska on your cruise ship itinerary

Cruising Glacier Bay Alaska

Glacier Bay is one of the greatest of the United States National Parks.  Unlike most parks, nearly all of the 500 thousand visitors each year arrive onboard cruise ships.  While that sounds like a huge number of people, there is actually very limited access and only a small percentage of Alaska cruisers have the opportunity to actually enter and cruise inside Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay whales
Glacier Bay Whales
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska
Whales in Glacier Bay Alaska

 

Orca in Glacier Bay
Orca in Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay Whales
Glacier Bay Whales

The National Park Service permits only two cruise ships per day entry into the park and the cruise ship company pays a large sum for their permit as well as approximately $50 per person entry fee.  Prior to entering the park, one or more park rangers are delivered to the ship by skiff to escort and narrate to the guests.

Visitors may also enter Glacier Bay on foot or by kayak Read More

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Avoiding Motion Sickness on a Cruise Ship

Avoiding Motion Sickness on a Cruise Ship

Rough seas on ship
Moderate seas about cruise ship

As much as I love to travel, I had to find a way to beat motion sickness.  For people like me that can feel sick at the thought of riding an elevator, certain preparations can make a big difference in allowing us to enjoy the wonders of the world.

While we are all different and the types of motion that effect us are different, there are commonalities in prevention.

The most important factor for your body will be hydration.  So, first and foremost, drink a lot of water.  This needs to begin 3 days prior to sailing and continue through your return home.  Really!  While you don’t want to feel bloated, you do want to be using the restroom often.

As I board a ship, whether it’s the 28 person river boat from my Amazon Cruise Adventure, or the cruise ship sailing to Alaska, I take a ½ Dramamine (yes, as I board the ship).  This gives me time to adjust to the slight rocking that won’t even be noticeable after a few days at sea. Read More

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What to pack for a winter Alaskan vacation

I visited Alaska in February and needed to know what to pack for my winter vacation.   I kept a list of the things I brought and actually used, as well as the items that I wished I brought along.  The weather will undoubtedly be cold and there will probably be precipitation during any winter visit to Alaska.  Obviously, a lot of time will be spent outdoors to make the trip worthwhile.

My list is below:

Bathing Suit (there’s nothing more relaxing than a Jacuzzi soak after spending a cold day outdoors.

Warm winter boots and woolen socks. (I can’t say enough about the qualities of woolen socks, especially if you plan to stand on ice or snow for an extended period.)  My boots happen to be Bogs brand and they are great for water as well as for cold to -40 degrees.

Warm outerwear including a hat, scarf, winter coat, snow pants or skirt. (Most of the ladies in Alaska have snow skirts.  They look just like snow pants, but are shaped like a skirt instead.  They come in all different lengths, but if you are going to wear a sleeping bag around your body to stay warm, why not get it long enough to cover your legs completely.) Read More

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How the President is chosen in China

Have you ever wondered how the president is chosen in China, when there is no election process to put him into office?  In China, the government procedures are very different than they are in the free world and the people of the Republic of China have very few opportunities to make their wishes known.

DSCN6011About five years in advance of a presidential appointment, the identity of the future president is published to notify the people of China. The people won’t vote or hold elections but the government will decide who will rule and notifies the country.

The president will stay in office for one to two terms; a single term is 5 years long. He will normally be the Secretary of a large province prior to his appointment to president, but not always.

The top official in the country is technically the general secretary-the leader of the communist party.  Unlike the USA, the top official is not the president. It is traditional, though, that one person holds both the general secretary and the president’s position in China.  This is similar to the President of the USA also holding the position of Commander in Chief. Aside from that, there is no similarity between the governing bodies in these two countries.

China is a country full of history and culture.  Allow me to help plan your trip to this exotic land.  Call today 603-434-8100.

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Giant Pandas at the Beijing Zoo

The Giant Pandas are the focal point of the Beijing Zoo and rightly so. They can be seen in few places around the world and even fewer zoos have such a variety of viewing locations and panda houses.

20140320-021622.jpg
Giant panda walking a branch at the Beijing Zoo.

We were lucky on this beautiful spring day to see three different pandas, all active, each in its own habitat.

Our late afternoon visit was correctly predicted to be the best time of day to catch these unique animals awake and active.  While some were pacing and cautiously watching us watching them, one was fully enjoying her play area and performing for the crowds.  All were magnificent to watch, as they waddled their cuddly bodies around their yards.

There are less than 50 giant pandas in zoos around the world and most of them were born in China and moved or loaned to other zoos at a later time.

A visit to Beijing would not be complete without a stop at the zoo.  It is clean and well kept, with a nice flow for visiting the many animals.  Our group also enjoyed the monkey antics as well as the bird displays.

There was another unique thing at this zoo, the cotton candy isn’t pink or blue, it’s white.  It didn’t look nearly as tempting, especially from a visual standpoint but the locals seemed pretty happy with it.

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