Top 10 wackiest comments from cruisegoers

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012

Last Friday, I toured Royal Caribbean's new Freedom of the Seas. It was my first time aboard a ship longer than 290 feet. So, like many of the other visitors, I was wide-eyed at its sheer size. A whopping 1,112-feet-long, it's among the world's largest passenger ships, only slightly shorter than the Empire State Building if placed on its side. The ship is mammoth and has the amenities to prove it: Rock-climbing wall, full-sized basketball court, nine-hole miniature golf course, ice-skating rink, boxing ring, FlowRider surf simulator, shopping mall, casino, and a huge arcade that I would've loved as a kid. In short, it's amazing.

But a ship that large is bound to have its downsides, right? There's obviously enough room on board for all 4,375 passengers, but what about when it's time to get off the ship? Talk about waiting in line. And then, of course, there's the ever-present threat of Norovirus, most evident from the signs in the bathrooms that read, "Please wash your hands thoroughly. Use of soap and water will help ensure a safe and healthy vacation." Not to mention the touch-less sanitation systems placed conspicuously near the buffet and other high-traffic areas. But I suppose if everyone washes up and makes an effort to keep the line moving along, the Freedom of the Seas will be a fine place to spend a vacation. The ship is scheduled to make its first public departure on May 19, but until we hear from passengers who've returned from its maiden voyage, here's what I (over)heard from others on Friday:

David LaHuta's Top Ten Things Overheard While Touring the Freedom of the Seas

"Seconds? Hell yeah!"

- A hungry passenger at the Windjammer Café, a buffet restaurant on deck 11

"It's only about another half-mile."

-- A crew-member to a passenger searching for her room on deck 6.

"This is bigger than our mall at home for Christ's sake."

-- A husband to his wife while strolling through the Royal Promenade, a 445 foot-long shopping, dining, and entertainment boulevard

"What, no windmills? This place sucks!"

-- A feisty teenager at the miniature golf course on deck 13

"We better wear a jacket here tonight."

-- A group of men in their 30s as they overlooked the giant glass chandelier at Botticelli, one of the main dining rooms

"If you forget what day of the week it is the elevator will tell you."

-- A woman joking to her friends at the pool bar on deck 11

"Johnny Rockets? Do they shoot people out of a cannon on this boat too?"

-- A confused grandmother who hadn't heard of the 1950's-themed hamburger chain on Deck 12

"I would bust my butt on this track!"

-- A runner lamenting the jogging path's narrow runway, crowded by chaise lounges and oceanview-seeking passengers on deck 12

"Can I fight my husband here?"

-- A woman near the boxing ring on deck 11

"Don't ever call it a boat. This is a ship."

-- A crew-member to a passenger at Olive or Twist, a lounge with live performances nightly

For more on cruising, watch David LaHuta's report from the decks of the easyCruise One during its maiden Caribbean voyage by clicking here.

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Today's travel intel

The National Park Service plans to hike entrance fees at more than 100 parks, monuments, and other areas within the next few years. But popular protests could forestall the price hikes. "Park superintendents can recommend that the agency director, Mary Bomar, rescind the increases if enough people protest," says this Associated Press story. This summer, higher park passes and vehicle fees are set for 11 parks, such as Muir Woods and Bryce Canyon. Scores of other parks will see fee hikes after that. By 2009, the most popular parks, such as Yosemite and Glacier (in Montana), will charge up to $50 for annual passes. Fees per person would range from about $5 to $12. Per vehicle, they would be about $10 to $25. To protest, contact the site manager of individual parks. You can find the email or mailing addresses of site managers by looking for individual park webpages, which you can find at the National Park Service's main website, (Thanks to Kurt Repanshek, author of National Parks of the American West for Dummies, for giving this heads-up on his National Parks Traveler blog.) Overnight train travelers can often get themselves upgraded to sleeper seats at little cost. On its long-distance routes, Amtrak offers private rooms with seats that fold out into beds. (You'll find Amtrak's description of these rooms by clicking here.) The cost of a roomette is typically several hundred dollars more than a coach seat. But you can often buy an upgrade from coach to this more comfortable spot by paying only about $100 more, according to this story by James Gilden in the L.A. Times. Gilden recommends you take the following three steps to score a comfortable roomette at a low price. First, travel mid-week and at a non-holiday time because demand for upgrades will be weaker. Next, check online at and buy an upgrade. "See what room you are assigned. If it is a single-digit number, it's likely sleepers are available on that train; Amtrak assigns rooms starting with the lowest numbers first. Then you can cancel the upgrade and take your chances at the station or onboard." For the full article, click here. For other tips and strategies on bargain train rides, see this Budget Travel interview with a top train expert. For tips on Canadian train travel, click here. Fare sales to Las Vegas and Orlando are getting better at a little-known airline. Allegiant Air is a low-cost airline that focuses on leisure travelers and operates primarily out of Las Vegas and Orlando. Its fares don't show up at the major online travel websites, such as Expedia. But this young, profitable airline uses new jet planes to provide non-stop service to more than a dozen less-trafficked airports, such as Billings, Des Moines, Fargo, Knoxville, and Missoula. Recently, Allegiant has been "slashing fares on the weekend for travel two or three weeks ahead," reports If Allegiant serves your city, you may be able to travel to Sin City or one of the Sunshine State's most popular destinations at a low cost. But you'll have to visit Allegiant's website,, to check its routes, schedules, and fares. For information on two other little-known airlines, Eurofly and Condor, read this blog post at This Just In.