What’s Your Cruise Sail away Style? 

Couple dancing on deck - photo courtesy of Blend Images/ShutterstockAh, sailaway! Even if you’ve been onboard for hours, sailaway is the official start to a cruise vacation. The lines are pulled in, the ship’s horn blasts, and you can feel your excitement grow as the vessel glides away from the pier and starts to pick up steam. It might be one of the best moments of the entire trip.

Yet so many people don’t give a thought to how they embrace this sailaway moment. You’re distracted by the muster drill, perhaps your luggage just arrived, and your thoughts have already turned to where you’ll get dinner and what to do on your first evening onboard. Get too bogged down in fighting over closet space and — bam! — you’re half way to the Bahamas.

What’s your sailaway style? Do you live it up to the fullest, mark it with a token gesture or skip it completely? If you don’t want to miss the magic moment on your next cruise, try one of these rituals to enhance your first few minutes at sea.

The Classic

Pool side enjoying a drink - photo courtesy of wavebreakmedia/ShutterstockRitual: Head to the ship’s top decks to join the crowds dancing by the pool or lining the balcony as you sail out of port. This is your chance to enjoy the party music while it’s fresh, before the oft-repeated opening strains of “Hot, Hot, Hot” make you want to cry. Just be sure you don’t drop your drink as you get your groove on.

Drink: the Drink of the Day (preferably a fruity, frozen cocktail) in a souvenir glass

Song: Pink’s “Get This Party Started”

 

The Romantic

Couple on deck - photo courtesy of Maridav/ShutterstockRitual: Skip the crowds, and cuddle up to your sweetie on your own private verandah. You get the same sailaway views of land slipping away without having to elbow your way to the railing. Just remember: other people can see you on your balcony, so don’t get too caught up in the moment.

Drink: Champagne or a glass of wine

Song: Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”

The Shutterbug

Friends taking a picture - photo courtesy of Nikkolia/ShutterstockRitual: Sailaway is a perfect time for memorable vacation photos. Some people pose for the same shot on every cruise.

Facebook fan Tania Mongar‘s husband “has to take his traditional ‘drinking a beer in front of the funnel’ pic on the first day of every cruise.” Other cruise travellers do the obligatory “drink in everyone’s hand” shot, or they wear matching T-shirts or outfits for that first group photo.

Drink: a bottle of beer — easy to hold while managing a camera

Song: Outkast’s “Hey Ya” (especially if you can “shake it like a Polaroid picture”)

The Bliss

Lounging on deck - photo courtesy of Denys Prykhodov/ShutterstockRitual: Why wait to fully embrace the relaxation that comes with a cruise vacation? Cruise Critic editor Brittany Chrusciel waxes poetic about enjoying sailaway from the thermal suite in a ship’s spa. Whether you’re soaking in a hot tub or getting Zen on a heated lounger, you can enjoy fabulous views while letting your stresses melt away.

Upside: You can be first in line when they announce the spa raffle winners. Downside: You might fall asleep and miss the sendoff.

Drink: herbal tea or fruit-infused water

Song: Enya’s “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)”

The Oblivious

Unpacking for the trip - photo courtesy of Hasloo Group Production Studio/ShutterstockRitual: Some folks are too busy unpacking or exploring the ship from stem to stern to even notice that the ship has already left. You might pass them on the stairs and overhear a confused “wait, is the ship moving?” If you plan to miss sail away, at least do it with intention: Throw open your window curtains as you unpack, or take a detour via the promenade deck as you make your way around the ship.

Drink: Red Bull — these travellers are on the go!

Song: Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop”

The Interior

Relaxing indoors - photo courtesy of Ondine C/ShutterstockRitual: Maybe it’s cold outside, or maybe you like a bit of peace and quiet, but if you’re like Cruise Critic editor Ashley Kosciolek, you enjoy sail away from the ship’s library or a quiet lounge — any place with large windows, small crowds and comfy seating.

Drink: something to sip like a latte or a gin & tonic

Song: Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea”

The Selfie

Couple's selfie - photo courtesy of Halfpoint/ShutterstockRitual: You just have to stick it to all your non-cruising friends: You’re on vacation while they’re hard at work. So do as Cruise Critic editor Gina Kramer does, and take a selfie to quickly post to your favorite social media site before your land-based mobile service cuts out. Eat your heart out, Facebook.

Drink: anything with bright fruity colours and an umbrella on top for full effect

Song: “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charit

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99 Days of Quantum: BEAUTIFUL evening Quantum of the Seas photos

 

We’re counting down to the 99 days until Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, launches with a brand new blog post every day. Be sure to check back for something new everyday here.

Beautiful evening Quantum of the Seas photos

We posted last week the first batch of beautiful photos we could find that were quite lovely but we ran across a batch of photos that Jens Hagens posted and it was so darn beautiful we had to share these too. Can you really have too many beautiful Quantum of the Seas photos?

Special thanks JENS HAGENS PHOTOGRAPHY to for providing the photos.

 

Norwegian’s new amenities package draws agent interest

By Tom Stieghorst

Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line’s executive vice president of global sales, said some 3,000 agents joined a webinar about its new all-in-one amenities package, about a third more than the typical audience for a Norwegian webinar.

Called the All-Inclusive, the new product is a package of packages, bundling Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining and Ultimate Beverage packages with Internet minutes, plus a bevy of other items not included in the cruise fare.

“We got a ton of positive feedback,” Stuart said.

The All-Inclusive package is offered on cruises of three to 14 days in 2015. For a seven-day cruise, it is priced at $899 per person, with higher or lower prices for shorter or longer cruise lengths.

Norwegian will pay commission on the package at the same rate as the cruise fare, with the exception of the gratuities that are included in the package.

“There’s absolutely no way to make a big promotion and offer a package that for a seven-night cruise is $899 and ask the travel agents to support it without paying commission,” said Stuart.

Norwegian ran numerous examples to test the idea that selling the package could double an agent’s commission and feels that is a valid claim, he added.

Vicky Garcia, COO of Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, Fla., called the package an “extraordinary” value and said it would help agents get customers focused on 2015.

“Also, this all-inclusive offer is combinable with other sales or promotions that are currently in the market,” Garcia said.

Norwegian said the package represents more than $2,400 of value per stateroom. Although the exact value will vary according to an individual’s choices, Travel Weekly found a seven-night guest paying a la carte could spend about $1,350 for what’s in the package (see breakdown, above left).

Inclusive packages are also valued because they create certainty about costs.

“A lot of people like to be done with it before the cruise starts,” Stuart said. “They like to have that element done, and they get on their vacation, and they’re not thinking about … should I do this or should I not do that because there’s a cost attached to it.”

Beyond the dining, beverage and Internet packages, the All-Inclusive package includes a $200-per-person credit toward shore excursions, prepaid gratuities, 20 photos of any size, three bingo cards, a bottle of wine, chocolate-covered strawberries and six large bottles of water.
Teppanyaki
For cruises from three to five days, the shore excursion credit is $100 per person; and for sailings from nine to 14 days, the package includes 12 bottles of water.

“We felt very comfortable presenting this as an all-inclusive package,” Stuart said, adding that it will help Norwegian compete with all-inclusive resorts as well as with other cruise lines.

On select cruises, buying the All-Inclusive package also qualifies a guest for a 10% discount on the cruise fare.

At least initially, All-Inclusive will be available only from Aug. 4 through 29 on all 2015 cruises except those on the Pride of America. Stuart said there will be discussion later of how long to continue the package.

“It’s the first time the industry has ever done this, so we want to get a sense of whether it resonates with travel agents,” he said.

Stuart said Norwegian has seen a growing interest in inclusivity among its guests, and did research about what elements to include in the package. It found the most valued benefit was prepaid service charges, followed by the Ultimate Dining package and then the Ultimate Beverage package.

One unexpected result of the research was that first-time cruisers expressed as much or more interest as past cruisers in buying the package.

“That took us by surprise, I must say,” Stuart said. “But it encouraged us, because it really showed there was a broad audience for this promotion.”