Just like Oldsmobile’s shiny new cars in the ’80s, some things are just meant for the next generation. Today’s cruise ships are not your father’s cruise — and most especially not your grandfather’s cruise ships.  They are no longer the rigidly formal vessels of the Titanic era or the campy party palaces from Kathie Lee’s days; nor are they a place you’ll feel trapped and bored because there’s nothing to do.

If anything, cruising is way cooler than it ever used to be.

Here are just a few ways vacations at sea have transformed into the hottest way to spend a week or more away.

1. From a single pool to an aquatic oasis

cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation planning, cruise vactationGone are the days when your only option for cooling off on a hot day was the single pool on the Lido Deck. Today’s big cruise ships have multiple pools, one or more water slides and kid’s wading and splash areas. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, for instance, has three outdoor pools, three water slides collectively dubbed the “Perfect Storm” and a kiddy water area called Splashaway Bay; the line’s smaller Liberty of the Seas also has the Perfect Storm trio of water slides, Splashaway Bay and two pools. You’ll find similar offerings on big cruise ships from Carnival Cruise Line.

2. From pure relaxation to total exhilaration

When cruising first took off in the ’70s and ’80s, travelers cruised in order to get away from it all, hang around by the pool, sip cocktails and read a book. There’s still plenty of relaxation to be had, but many of today’s cruisers are also looking for fun — and cruise ships have it in spades. Ziplines, simulated surfing, vertical tunnel skydiving, ropes courses and rock walls all offer enough adrenaline pumping action to keep most thrill seekers entertained.

3. From Las Vegas to Broadway

cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation planning, cruise vactationNo more the days of sitting through a badly sung and danced Las Vegas-style revue with cheesy outfits and no special effects. Today’s cruise shows run the gamut from high-tech extravaganzas and stage partnerships with entities like B.B. King, Lincoln Center to full-length Broadway or Broadway-inspired shows. Norwegian Cruise Line, for instance, has ships with productions of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “Rock of Ages,” “Million Dollar Quartet” and “After Midnight,” while select Royal Caribbean ships feature “CATS,” “Mamma Mia!”, “We Will Rock You” and “Grease.”

4. From one massive dining room with set seating to multiple dining venues and flexible scheduling

In the early days of cruising, all passengers ate in one large dining room at assigned tables during either an early time slot or a later one.  As cruising progressed, the lines added buffets and specialty restaurants to give cruisers a more casual option outside of the main dining room. Today, main dining rooms are only a small part of the dining equation on any cruise ship. Most ships have multiple dining venues –some included in the cruise price and some for an extra fee, with flexible schedules that allow passengers to pick what time they want to eat, rather than have to show up at a set time. (Traditional set seating is still available on most cruise lines, as well, for those who prefer the traditional set up.)

5. From a trunk full of ball gowns and tuxedos to carry-ons packed with sundresses and collared shirts

Not only was the dining system formalized on cruises back in the day, but so was the dress code.  Cruisers were required to change for dinner every night and formal night wasn’t just a suggestion. Today, cruise passengers can choose to dress up if they like or remain casual (even on formal night!), with some lines even OK with shorts and T-shirts in most onboard eateries. Whatever you feel most comfortable in is pretty much OK with most mainstream cruise lines nowadays.

6. From American and continental cuisine to a smorgasbord of tastes

With just one restaurant (two if a ship had a buffet), cruise ship chefs tended to keep meals simple and straightforward with tried-and-true American, Italian, British and French dishes on the menu. But as the lines expanded their culinary offerings to include more dining venues, the options to provide a variety of cuisines increased as well. Today’s ships might offer Brazilian, Indian, Mexican, pan-Asian or sushi restaurants, to name just a few.

7. From balconies only in top suites to all-balcony ships

Once upon a time, cruise balconies were only for the elite, with most cruise ships having just a handful of suites offering the alfresco amenity. Today’s cruise ships (at least those that are over 10 years old) offer way more rooms with balconies than without. Some ships, particularly in the luxury segment don’t even have ships without balconies.

8. From Isaac on the Love Boat serving margaritas to robots and trained mixologists

cruise vacation tips, cruise vacationing, cruise vacation planning, cruise vactationSure you can still get a frozen margarita or Long Island Ice Tea (though good luck finding a Pink Lady or Harvey Wallbanger), but today’s menu of libations is vastly expanded from what bartenders back in the day were handing out. From trained mixologists whipping up unique cocktails to match your mood to bars that specialize in just one beverage (whisky, beer, rum, tequila) there’s something to suit the tastes of every cruise drinker. Oh, and one bar — the Bionic Bar on select Royal Caribbean ships — doesn’t even have a bartender; instead drinks are served by robotic arms backlit by neon lights, which stop to dance along to the beat-heavy music every now and then.

9. From cut off from the world to as connected as you want to be

Like airplanes, getting on a cruise ship used to mean going without contact with your friends and family back home for the length of your trip. That’s no longer even remotely the case, with just about every big ship having front-to-back Wi-Fi and packages that are reasonably priced. As examples, Royal Caribbean’s super fast Voom Wi-Fi starts at $12.99 per day, per device, for everything but streaming, while on Carnival Cruise Line, cruisers can purchase social packages for $5 a day that provide access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social sites. More robust packages cost $16 or $25 per day, with the latter including the ability to stream.  So instead of having to send a postcard from Belize, today you just ‘Gram your selfie from wherever you are — even on the ship.

 

Courtesy of cruisecritic.com

cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vacation planning,cruise vactation,cruise cabin selection,cruise packing,cruise vacationOften it doesn’t hit you until you’re struggling with a stuffed suitcase at the airport: You overpacked for your cruise. Again. And while other travelers breezily zip through the airport, you’re the one lassoing your bulging bags at baggage claim and handing out hefty porter tips.

Wish your packing life could be easier?

We is here to tell you our tried-and-true secrets to avoiding overpacking. Read on for a few quick tips that can make your cruise packing process simpler, saner and less stressful.

1. Pick a Palette

It makes sense; if you have limited suitcase space, you can stretch your outfit choices by mixing and matching clothes that are similar shades. Restricting yourself to a handful of similar colors also means you can cut down on shoes.

cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vacation planning,cruise vactation,cruise cabin selection,cruise packing,cruise vacation2. Go Two if by Sea

The rule of “twos” can help you plan the perfect wardrobe. Pick two outfits – one for day, one for night – for each day you travel, as well as workout clothes, bathing suits, and PJs for every two days. Then cut the total amount in half — remember, no one is going to notice when you wear the same shirt twice.  Also, restrict shoes to two pairs if at all possible.

3. Get a Shoe Clue

Shoes take up the most space in your suitcase, so be smart with how many pairs you bring. Limit yourself to two, in neutral colors, and chose ones that can do double duty. Boots, for example, can pair with a nice dress AND jeans. Ditto ballet flats or Mary Janes. Above all, choose comfort over fashion; nothing is worse than limping around a port in poor footwear.

4. Stay Fresh

Bring travel-sized Febreeze spray to freshen up items to re-wear. A small sachet can make clothes in a drawer smell better. Clothes and underwear can be washed in the sink and hung on the clothesline to drip dry. (Or just spring for laundry.)

5. Accessorize

The same nice dress can look different with a new scarf or eye-catching jewelry so this is one area to bring multiples. Pashmina scarves can be particularly versatile, brightening up neutrals or serving as a shawl on chilly planes and in dining rooms.

6. Be Clever With Carry-Ons

Rather than pack a separate beach bag, look for a waterproof tote that’s big enough to serve as your airplane carry-on. Tablets are your best entertainment investment, as they can be used for e-books, downloaded movies and news sources.

cruise vacation tips,cruise vacationing,cruise vacation planning,cruise vactation,cruise cabin selection,cruise packing,cruise vacation7. Roll Up

Roll clothes when packing them. You can fit more in your luggage that way, and it also helps to minimize wrinkles. Rolling socks and stuffing them into shoes is another space saver.

8. Divide and Conquer

If you and your companion have both vowed to stick to carry-ons, don’t be afraid to co-mingle bags. The taller person might have larger things, so splitting the stuff is more efficient.

9. Tame Toiletries

If you can live without your brands, go with the toiletries provided onboard. If you need a larger size, stop at a drugstore near the port, and buy it there. If you don’t need the full 3 ounces, rebottle potions and lotions in a contact lens case. If you travel frequently, save time by keeping a bag of already measured liquids ready to go.

10. Single Out

It’s not cheap, but buying single use products can save space. Many products such as antibacterial lotion, nail polish remover, insect repellant and sunscreen come as wipes and cloths, not bottles. Simply toss when done.

11. Take Inventory

When you get home, look hard at your suitcase and take note of what you did and didn’t use. These can provide clues for the next cruise’s packing adventures. And then write yourself a reminder not to overpack next time!

 

Courtesy of cruisecritic.com