Gone are the days of small cabins with bunk beds and portholes. On today’s cruise ships, most staterooms have a private balcony where you can step outside and enjoy the sea views or watch as your ship pulls into your next destination.
Some of the newest innovations in stateroom design include:
• On selected Royal Caribbean ships, some interior rooms now have a “virtual balcony”—a high-definition 80-inch screen connected to a live camera with audio outside the ship, so you can experience the same sights and sounds as someone with a balcony or ocean view room.
• Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, Celebrity Edge, features the Edge Stateroom with Infinite Veranda, which allows you to open your stateroom to the veranda for a luxurious open-air experience.
• Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Horizon has tropics-inspired Havana Cabanas that include a private patio cabana facing the expanded promenade, offering magnificent sea views.
• Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas has introduced the Ultimate Family Suite: a two-story suite with an in-suite slide, air hockey table and LEGO wall, plus a private game room and life-size Connect 4 game. The balcony has table tennis and a private whirlpool spa, and a stylish separate master suite gives parents a place to escape and relax.AAA / Inspector 511
In the past there was just one option for dinner on a cruise ship: eating in the main dining room at the same table all week with the same people. Today it’s all about choice. Most cruise lines now allow you to pick the time you want to eat and the size of your table. Have a quiet dinner for two one night and the next night sit at a larger table with new friends you’ve met on the ship. Still prefer the traditional experience? No worries; that’s still available. Cruise ships now offer several other dining options:
Specialty Restaurants. Specialty restaurants usually have a single cuisine such as Italian, French, barbecue, sushi or steakhouse. These places to eat are more intimate and offer more personalized service. Usually these restaurants are an additional cost, but often there are promotions that include a specialty meal.
Chef’s Table. An intimate dinner for a select number of people where the ship’s chef will select each course and pair it with a wine that best complements the dish.
Dinner on your Balcony. Unique to Princess Cruises, savor an intimate, romantic dining experience with breathtaking views and a special meal served by your own dedicated waitstaff on your stateroom balcony. Ultimate Balcony Dining includes a hosted cocktail party, fresh flowers, champagne and a deluxe four-course meal featuring delicate sweet lobster tail or juicy steak among many available delicacies.
Many guests bypass the main dining room altogether and opt for a casual dinner from the ship’s buffet, which offers flexibility with dining times and allows more casual attire. The buffet is also a great option if your time on shore runs long and you want a quick bite to eat when you get back onboard.AAA / Inspector 511
Cruise ships now offer Broadway shows and on Royal Caribbean, they also have high diving aqua shows, ice-skating shows, parades and parties on the Royal Promenade.
Disney Cruise Line has open-air, music-and-dance deck parties—like their swashbuckling “Pirates in the Caribbean” celebration—that are heavy on fun and fireworks! Princess Cruises presents “Movies Under the Stars,” where they show first run films, sporting events and concerts outside on a large LED screen.
Cunard Line’s flagship Queen Mary 2 has the only planetarium at sea and can send you on an epic voyage across the solar system or teach you to navigate by the stars. Grab a bag of popcorn and Twizzlers onboard Carnival Cruise Line to catch a blockbuster film like you have never seen it before in the first IMAX® theater at sea.
Cruise lines offer enrichment courses and classes, too. Maybe you would like to learn how to make the perfect dry martini or listen to a historian talk about your next port of call. You can take an art class, learn Tai Chi, discover the latest dance moves or listen to a jazz band straight from the streets of New Orleans.AAA / Julie Ouellette
In the old days, shore excursions were bus rides to see the highlights of the port you were in. Those “city tour” experiences still exist, but there are many new options as well:
Culinary Tours. Tour a local marketplace with a chef from the ship and purchase local products to bring back onboard and use the ingredients to prepare your dinner. Take a tasting tour where you can learn the history of a local product like tequila and taste the different varieties or visit local pastry or chocolate shops and savor the sweets.
Volunteer Tours. Spend the day giving back to the local community by participating in a service project.
Cultural Exchanges. Visit a local family’s home and share a meal while you learn about their life and culture.
Active Tours. Cycling, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, sailing and golfing tours are available on most cruises.AAA / Julie Ouellette
Think all there is to do on a cruise is to sit by the pool and watch a belly flop contest or play shuffleboard? Think again! While a cruise ship is a great place to sit back in a deck chair, relax and read a book, many people want a little more excitement on their days at sea. Large cruise ships today have waterslides, miniature golf courses, rock climbing walls, full-size sports courts and laser tag courses.
Some activities are particular to a specific cruise line:
• Royal Caribbean has the FlowRider® surf simulator, bumper cars, ice skating rinks and RipCord® by iFLY® skydiving simulator.
• Carnival Cruise Line has a ropes course and the Skyride—a two-lane suspended course with pedal-powered “bikes” that takes you above the ship.
• For a more laid-back activity, play a game of bocce on a real grass court on Celebrity Cruises’s Solstice class ships.
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