12 days on a cruise ship…alone??

As you know from this blog, I plan most of my cruises at pretty short notice. We booked our cruise to Cuba just one week before departure, and most of our recent cruises have been booked around 2-3 months ahead of time. (I find that this is a great way to find deals on cruises with a lot of rooms left to fill!)

But in February 2017, I did something unusual: I booked a cruise for a whole 12+ months ahead of time. The sailing was the inaugural transatlantic of the newly built Norwegian Bliss. I picked this ship and this trip for a few reasons, but one of the main ones was that I wanted to check out Norwegian’s solo cabins, which can be found (in abundance!) on the Bliss and other new-build Norwegian ships including Escape, Breakaway, and Getaway.

At the point where I decided to take the cruise on the Bliss, I’d never cruised solo before. So as a sort of test cruise, I took a short 4-night cruise by myself on the Majesty of the Seas – and I loved it! Now, it’s important to say that I do love traveling with other people – cruising is a great way to spend time with friends, and I love cruising with my husband, who had never cruised before we met a few years ago. But any kind of traveling with another person requires some planning, and some compromising – and sometimes, to be honest, I just don’t want to do that!

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m on day 3 of my 12-day transatlantic on the Bliss. So far, it’s been a lovely, relaxing time – and this has been a great ship for exploring. I’m planning to use the time on our nine (!) sea days to write up plenty of blog posts and share lots of pictures with you!

Researching your port stops

There are a lot of reasons I love cruising, but one of the main ones is that I LOVE doing research on what I should do in each of my port stops. After all, I’m a nerd! As I’m planning for my upcoming transatlantic cruise on the new Norwegian Bliss, I thought I’d do a blog post to tell you about how I research and make plans for my days in port.

You always have the option to book shore excursions through the cruise line, and sometimes – when I’m in a new port or a new part of the world – I’ll do this, for a few reasons. It’s easy – I don’t have to do a lot of work; I just log into the web site and pick my trips through the online pre-cruise planner. When you book through the cruise line, you know that the ship will always wait for you if your excursion is delayed returning.

But I’ve had good and bad experiences with shore excursions through the cruise line, and for that reason, I often try to make my own plans.

If I decide to do my own research, I start with a simple Google search. For my Bliss transatlantic, I only have two stops: Ponta Delgada, Azores and Halifax, Nova Scotia. I began my research on Ponta Delgada with a Google search for “Ponta Delgada cruise port.” I find that adding the words “cruise port” to my search helps to refine the results so that I get specific advice for stopping in a location on a cruise ship vs. taking a land-based vacation.

Often I’ll find that one of the top results is a port information page from the website Cruise Critic. Cruise Critic is an excellent resource for planning your port stops and you can also visit their cruise port specific message boards to read about other people’s experiences in those ports.

Occasionally, your Google search will turn up a real gem. In this case, I found this extremely helpful Ponta Delgada guide from a website called Tom’s Port Guides. Now, being an academic/nerd, I know that it’s always important to check out your sources to make sure they’re reliable, so I looked on this site (as I always do) for an About Us page to learn more about the site. Turns out these well-done guides are created by a guy who loves to travel and likes to create travel guides for his favorite cruise ports. Thanks, Tom!

Next, I’ll do a Google search for the name of the port with the word “blog” swapped in for “port.” This will help me find blog posts from people like myself who like to write about their travels. It’s important to check the dates on these posts to make sure that they’re current, and of course with any travel blog, it’s important to remember that the author’s experiences and decisions might be different from your own. I was fortunate to find this fantastic description of Ponta Delgada from TravelShopGirl and now feel like I have a great idea what to expect from my day in Ponta Delgada!