Trip Coach: September 9, 2008
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, answered your questions about the latest in cruise ships and booking strategies.
Carolyn Spencer Brown: Hello—and apologies for my late start. I'm here and will be firing answers back to you—you've already asked some terrific questions. And if you have any answers to contribute, please feel free to jump in.
Let's get started.
Wethersfield, Conn.: Carolyn, We are looking to book a cruise on the New England Norwegian Sprint cruise leaving NY on Oct. 12, 2008. All of the balcony rooms seem to be full on most of the New England cruises on all cruise lines including this one. Is there any way to sneak in a balcony room somehow? Do they tend to hold on to some until the very last minute booking, or when they are full, they are full and that's it? Thanks.
Carolyn Spencer Brown: Hi, Wethersfield. First let me say I did a one night cruise to nowhere on Norwegian Spirit and adored the ship.
Balcony cabins really do sell out fast—and it's, alas, likely that you may be out of luck. What I'd suggest is that you make sure your travel agent (or NCL if you booked directly) knows that you're interested in upgrading (and paying for it) and then stay on top of the situation, call every week until you leave if you have to.
Cruise lines don't hold on to much—they're under pressure to sell out every cruise. And I daresay that if cabins are left they'll be outsides or possibly insides. So stay on it and good luck.
Merced, Calif.: Hi, Carolyn. My husband and I have been very disappointed with vegetarian selections on recent cruises. While other guests are enjoying a variety of entrees, we have pasta night after night. Are some lines more vegetarian friendly? Is there a way to encourage preparation of more innovative dishes? We love San Francisco's Millenium Restaurant and cookbook, and May Wah in New York has fantastic vegetarian lobster. Thank you.
Carolyn Spencer Brown: We're actually working on a story on cruising for vegetarians and our writer, who's a vegetarian herself, has the same complaints. The lines have definitely gotten on the ball with menus that incorporate more healthful fare—but in this case they're behind.
I don't know of any line that really goes all out to cater to vegetarians at this point but it doesn't hurt to put a little pressure on the industry to recognize these passengers.
Revere, Mass.: We are getting married Oct 10, 2009. We would like to take a cruise but unfortunately it is hurricane season. I have started to look at Greece for cruises. This will be our first cruise. Any advice on a cruise line? Thank you.
Carolyn Spencer Brown: First of all, you're smart to avoid the Caribbean at that time of year. Second? I don't think there's a more romantic place to cruise than Greece and heck, it's the most beautiful time of the year.
What I'd recommend would depend a bit on your age and budget. But, sky's the limit-wise (since it is your honeymoon), if SeaDream is still in the region then that would be my first choice. The two SeaDream ships are more inclusive than most, completely romantic (check out the Balinese beds above the smokestack), offer flexible dining (no rigid rules about who you sit with and when) and only carry 110 passengers.
If you like the big ship style cruise, I'd then suggest going with Princess; ships have nightlife, lots of balconies, flexible dining, and excellent alternative restaurants. And terrific spas and fitness programs. Make sure you aim for one of Princess' newer vessels (like Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Ruby Princess); not sure which is in the Isles at that time.
Best of luck to you.
Anyone else have a good romantic pick?
Oceanside, Calif.: We wish to visit South America by cruise ship but do not know what is the best time to go. I understand that the swing season is the cheapest—when is that? Also what are the best places to visit? —Joy
Carolyn Spencer Brown: South America as a cruise destination is still (amazingly to me) under the radar. It's just fantastic, you've got European cities like Buenos Aires, gorgeous beaches in Rio and other parts of the Brazilian coast, nature all throughout Argentina (penguins, tundra) and then the incredible Chilean fjords which are like Alaska's but better (and less trafficked).
The season typically runs November - early March (it's the flip side of the Northern Hemisphere so it's the region's spring, summer and fall). And as always, cruises in the beginning and at the end tend to be good values. Also, remember too that low season for cruising in general is lowest after Thanksgiving and before Christmas—which fits right into prime time South America—so I expect there will be plenty of good deals.