Gallery

Some pictures from Navigator of the Seas

In early 2019, Royal Caribbean “amplified” its ship Navigator of the Seas to include a tiki bar, a blowdry bar, waterslides and a redesigned pool area, and so much more! Here are a few pictures from my recent three-night cruise on Navigator.

Navigator of the Seas sails 3- and 4-night short cruises from Miami to Nassau and Royal Caribbean’s redesigned island experience Perfect Day at CocoCay. Message me if you’d like to know more or start planning your Navigator cruise!

Cruise port breweries: Ålesund, Norway

Mr. Nerdy Traveler and I are big craft beer aficionados, and one of the things we do in every cruise port is look to find a local brewery. In this series of posts, I’ll be recommending some of our favorites that you can check out on your next cruise. Heck, you might even want to plan a cruise just to visit some of them!

In Ålesund, Norway, we were excited to find the fantastic beers and food of Molo Brew. We were starving after a walk around the town and the burgers and sweet potato fries really hit the spot. I was especially impressed by the extensive beer list! We tried two flights of four and two additional brews after those were done.

This being Norway, the prices were high – our two burgers and the beers cost us nearly $100 US. But we felt they were all well worth the money. Molo Brew is conveniently located in a building right next to the cruise port – as you can see below, you can actually see the cruise ship through the brewery’s large windows! (It can be kind of reassuring if you’re worried the ship will leave without you, haha.)

In addition to appreciating the fantastically wide selection, the hubby and I thought Molo’s brews were fantastic. We’re mostly IPA drinkers and we loved that Molo had a lot of hoppy options for us to choose from, including one of the best beer names I’ve seen, “David Hasselhops.”

If your Norway cruise stops in Ålesund, I definitely recommend that you make some time to stop in Molo Brew. And if you don’t have a cruise planned to Norway — well, what are you waiting for?? Message on Facebook or send me an email at cruises@lovetotravel.com and let’s get started on planning it.

 

Help for newbies: Booking your cruise

If you haven’t booked a cruise before, you might be surprised at how booking a cruise differs from other types of travel such as airfare and hotels. For instance:

  • Although cruise fares fluctuate just like airfares, you can lock in a rate by putting down a deposit. Once you do this, your cruise fare won’t increase – but it can go down! More on that later.
  • When I book a cruise for my clients, they have between 24 and 72 hours to make the deposit payment. What this means is that you can lock in a rate for your cruise for no charge while you quickly check with traveling companions, work, etc. to make sure that you’ll be able to travel at that time.
  • Final payments for a cruise are due between 90-120 days before the sail date, depending on the cruise line. Up until that final payment date, however, your agent (that’s me!) can call and have the cruise re-priced, which could lead to a lower final cost to you.
  • The correct spelling of cruise passenger names can be changed at just about any time during the process: before or after the deposit, even after the final payment. It’s imperative that your name on the reservation match your name on your travel documents, so if you notice at any point that your name is misspelled on your cruise documents, make sure to notify your travel agent immediately.
  • More than just a correction in spelling, many cruise lines will actually let you replace one passenger with someone else, up until about a week before sailing. If you’re scheduled to sail with someone and that person finds out she can’t go, you may be able to add another person to go in her place – just let your travel agent know as soon as possible so that she can make the necessary calls.

Cruising can be a little confusing*…but, it’s worth it! Working with a travel agent is a great way to navigate the complex waters and ensure that you have a great cruise vacation.

*As my grandma used to say, “I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!” 😂

Kids Sail Free? Not quite…

…or at least, not always.

I book a lot of my clients on Royal Caribbean, and with good reason — I’m a frequent cruiser of the line myself, and because of my good experiences, I always feel comfortable recommending Royal’s wide variety of ships and itineraries.

I have to admit, though, some of Royal’s marketing strategies really drive me up the wall as a travel agent. For example, the popular “Kids Sail Free” promotion only applies to certain cruise sailings, not that you’d know that from the website.

Another popular promotion on the Royal site is the “BOGO” sale – Buy One Get One 50% off, or sometimes even 60% off. What a lot of people don’t know is that this discount is reflected in the price that you seen on Royal Caribbean’s website, and doesn’t add additional discounts to the prices that you see online.

These sales are confusing, to be sure! That’s another reason why it’s good to work with a travel agent: We can help you parse through all the marketing promotions and get the absolute best price for your cruise vacation (kids or no kids).

Now, don’t get me started on the pricing of Royal Caribbean’s drink packages…that’s another story (blog post) entirely….

Cruise the Med with the Nerdy Traveler!

I’m really excited to be organizing a group cruise next May on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. This Oasis-class ship is due for a drydock and refurbishment in March 2020 and will have tons of new features added, as you can see in this video produced by the cruise line.

When booking opened for Allure’s summer sailings in the Mediterranean — roundtrip from Barcelona with stops in Spain, France, and Italy — I scooped up some cabins at the group pricing level, which offers a significant savings over the current pricing. For instance, the group’s interior cabin rate of $999 per person, including taxes and fees, saves over $300 per person over the current pricing from Royal Caribbean!

We also have some cabins available at the group pricing for the Central Park Balcony ($1242 per person) and Ocean View Balcony ($1412 per person). If these prices aren’t enough to tempt you, we’ll also be planning some fun group activities and excursions, which you’d be invited to participate in if you’re part of our group. (You don’t have to if you don’t want to, of course…but as I wrote in a previous post, group cruises are great for a lot of reasons.)

You can contact me at cruises@lovetotravel.com if you’d like more info or to book one of these cabins. I hope you’ll join us!

What your travel agent needs to know

I’ve been working as a cruise travel agent for about two years now, and I’ve learned that the process of talking with clients about potential vacations can go a lot more smoothly if they know what kind of information to give me. Based on my experience, here’s what your travel agent wants to know about you so she can help you book your perfect cruise:

When do you want to travel? But more than that, when CAN you travel? If you have kids in school (that you don’t want to take out of school), or if you have a restricted job like an accountant, I need to know that so I don’t waste our time with sailings that won’t work for you.

How flexible are you in your timing? Can you go last minute? It really helps for me to know where you live – for instance, I can tell you that trying to fly from Kansas City to south Florida in March is a fool’s errand – the tickets are outrageously expensive. But if you live in a place like North Carolina, like I do, and you don’t mind driving to the cruise ports in Florida (I don’t mind!), that’s helpful for me to know.

Are there any places you’ve been before or cruise lines that you’ve sailed on before? If so, tell me what you like and (especially) what you don’t like. If you don’t like the Bahamas, or the Southern Caribbean, makes sure you tell me that up front – even if you sort of like something, and you just aren’t sure that you want to do it again.

What’s your budget? Everyone hates this question, but honestly if you only want to spend about $5000 for your trip and I price you something that’s $10,000, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. If you want to (and it helps you feel better about spending lots of money), tell me how much you want to spend per person, per day, etc.

In your mind, what’s the ideal vacation? Is it relaxing or exciting? Do you want to try new foods and drink? Do you want to do daredevil things like rope courses and ziplines, or do you want to sit on a beach? For that matter, do you want a beach/island vacation, or a scenic one (Alaska, Norway), or a history one (Europe)?

Finally, the logistics. We can’t get you a quote unless we know how many cabins you need, how many people will be in each cabin, and what their ages are at the time of the sailing.

I’m going to ask you a lot of questions, inevitably, as we plan your vacation. But providing me with this information ahead of time will really help get the ball rolling on getting you hooked up with your dream vacation!

Should I buy travel insurance for my cruise?

Travel insurance – like all insurance, really – can seem tricky. But really, it’s just like car insurance, health insurance, etc – you can buy it to cover unexpected expenses during your cruise. The question is, should you? Here are four reasons why I recommend that you should buy travel insurance:

  1. You’re traveling during a dicey time of year, weather-wise. If clients are traveling during hurricane season (August 1-November 30), or leaving a cold part of the country where they’re likely to get snow over the winter months, I always recommend that they take the travel insurance option. During hurricane season, your cruise can be shortened or lengthened by weather – or it may even end up at a different port than you left from! Travel insurance will cover the extra expenses you might incur in a case like this one, such as the need for additional hotels or changes in air travel.
  2. You’re a worrier. Whether you admit it to yourself (and others), like my friend Jill over at FindingJillian, or whether you like to keep it under wraps, if you’re a worrier, you should buy travel insurance. Simply put, insurance will allow you to travel without some of the concerns you might otherwise have about travel interruption, unexpected medical expenses, etc.
  3. You’re going a long way. I always recommend travel insurance to my clients who are going to Alaska, Europe, and other far-from-home areas for their cruise. Why? Because travel insurance will cover your costs to return you home if you run into a medical emergency on your trip – for this alone, I feel like the investment is worth it. I’ll never forget the story of the terminally ill woman who was stranded in a hospital in Alaska, far from her family, because she hadn’t taken out the insurance. (fun fact: One of my grad school classmates wrote this news story!) Which brings me to #4…
  4. You have existing health issues (or are prone to them). Cruising is a great way to travel because it’s low-impact, and it allows a lot of people to see the world who might not be able to travel in other ways. But if you know your health is not great, or that there’s a possibility that something might go wrong on your cruise, always take out the travel insurance. Even if you never use it, you’ll be reassured knowing that you have it.

 

Happy New (Blog) Year!

After a (longer than expected) work-induced hiatus from blogging, I finally sat down today to write one more blog post of 2018 – and set out some goals for blogging in 2019, so I can try to keep myself accountable.

Now that I’m back to work full-time as a college professor, and adding in a part-time gig as a travel agent booking cruises, I’ve found it pretty difficult to find time for the blog. But you know what? Plenty of the other wonderful cruise bloggers I’ve “met” over the past year have full-time jobs and more, and they manage to get it done. I need to do better – and in 2019, I will!

I have a few concrete goals for 2019:

  1. Blog more about my 2018 travels. I took some amazing trips in 2018, largely for the point of blogging about them…and really I didn’t do as much as I could have. Look for more posts about my back-to-back transatlantic cruises and my Norway cruise and first time on P&O Cruises (which I wrote about for Sandra and Chris on their blog Brits on a Ship), among other things.
  2. Post more of my cruise ship pictures, from 2018 and before. I put together a photo gallery of my pics from Norwegian Bliss and I could do so many more of these! I think I’m a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of pictures I have, to be honest!
  3. Write more blog posts with advice for cruisers based on my own experiences. I have a few of these, mostly written to help me in my travel agent business. There’s my series on getting to various ports and my set of posts on pre-cruise planning, among others. But I’m sure there’s more I can write about, if I just sit down and think about it!
  4. Keep up with my 2019 travels. I’m excited to have three cruises planned already – a B2B Southern Caribbean from San Juan in January 2019, and a week-long trip on Allure of the Seas with my best friend in March 2019. I’ve been a little ambivalent about Royal Caribbean’s megaships in the past, so I’m eager to try the experience again and to see what my friend thinks of it, since she’s only been on smaller ships before.

I’m also looking to post on my Instagram account (@_nerdytraveler) more often. If you’re not doing so already, I hope you’ll follow me there and on Twitter (also @_nerdytravler). Happy cruising in 2019 and beyond!

Summer Caribbean cruise deals!

Thursday, June 14, 2018 — Normally, we think of summer as a high season for cruises: Kids are out of school, families are taking vacations together — even college professors like me have some time to take off and enjoy a cruise.

A busy season for cruising wouldn’t often be one in which you could get a deal – but with increasing capacity (more cruise ships with more cabins), there are still some summer deals to be found. If you have some flexibility in the next two months and want to head off on a week-long Caribbean cruise, here are two examples of some great deals going on right now – contact me if you’d like to hear more!

  • Celebrity Equinox 7-day sailings out of Miami on 7/14/18, 7/28/18, and 8/18/18, with a base cruise fare of only $799 per person (does not include taxes or fees) for a balcony room. This is a great deal on one of Celebrity’s Solstice-Class ships with July sailings to the Western Caribbean (Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman) and an August sailing to the Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten). Prices are only available through Monday, 6/18/18.
  • Norwegian Getaway 7-day sailings out of Miami to the Western Caribbean ports of Roatan, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and NCL’s private island Harvest Caye in Belize. These sailings are similarly priced but include NCL’s signatures perks including a free drinks package, free specialty dining, free wifi, and credits toward shore excursions. Deeply discounted rates without the perks are also available with prices for inside cabins as low as $650 including taxes and fees – wow! Included sailings for this sale are on 7/22/18, 7/29/18, 8/5/18, 8/12/18, 8/19/18, and 8/26/18. Prices are only available through Thursday, 6/21/18. 

As is always the case with last-minute deals like these, you have to act fast – prices and availability are limited. Contact me ASAP or email jessalynn@thenerdytraveler.com and include your phone number so I can give you a call and discuss these great deals with you. 🙂 I’d be on one of these sailings myself if my schedule for the next two months wasn’t already so booked up!

The dreaded “solo supplement”: myths and truths (Part 2)

Let’s face facts: It’s (usually) more expensive to cruise by yourself than it is to cruise with someone else (or multiple someone elses). And while I understand the reason for that, it doesn’t really seem fair at all, especially when you’re not particularly traveling solo by choice. Believe me, as someone who was single until I was almost 35 years old, I get it!

If you’re traveling by yourself, here are a few things you can do to travel solo and still keep your costs reasonable:

  1. If you can, be flexible in your travel dates. I’ve written before about how flexibility and the ability to travel last-minute are your best weapons in the fight to find lower cruise fares. Some cruise lines will reduce or even remove the cost of the second passenger on close-in cruises. Usually this is only for cruises only about one or two weeks out though, so it also helps to live close to a cruise port, so you don’t blow your last-minute savings on expensive airfare.
  2. Be vigilant on checking fares, and/or engage a travel agent to help you with this. I booked my first solo cruise, a 4-day Bahamas cruise on Majesty of the Seas, when I noticed that the price had dropped to a very reasonable $184.00 per person, which made my total cost as a solo cruiser around $400. This price is definitely an outlier: The cruise was on December 4th, which is a traditionally slow time for cruising; the price I saw when I booked didn’t last very long, likely because a number of people had the same idea that I did! But that leads me to my next suggestion…
  3. If you want to cruise solo, target times of the year that are traditionally slow so that you can find the lowest prices for your cruise fare. In the US, this tends to be the times between New Year’s and Spring Break (mid-January to early March), the dreaded second half of the hurricane season (mid-September to late October), and post-Thanksgiving through the holiday season (late November to mid-December).If cruise prices are low to start, you’ll find that paying a double fare isn’t quite so painful. For instance, the hubby and I took advantage of a sale and booked a 7-night cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas that came to a ridiculously low total price of $898. Even for one person, that would have been a deal – plus that one person would have gotten double Crown and Anchor loyalty points! Which leads to another point:
  4. Consider a studio cabin – these are cabins that are designed (and priced) specifically for single occupancy – but consider carefully. Norwegian Cruise Lines has made a point of including studio cabins on its new build ships, and these are good options for solo travelers. (I was in one for 12 nights myself and found it to be perfectly pleasant.)However, the number of solo cabins is limited, so the dynamics of supply and demand aren’t always in the solo traveler’s favor, especially on popular sailings. You might actually find it cheaper to pay the extra fare in a (double occupancy) inside cabin than to pay the studio rate. (This was the case on my Bliss sailing, but I stuck with the studio because I wanted to check out that kind of cabin.)

    Studio cabins can save you some money over paying the extra fare in a double-occupancy room, but if you’re loyal to a particular cruise line, they may not be the best bang for your buck. On my Majesty cruise, I received double Crown and Anchor points for traveling solo in a traditional double room, which allowed me to reach the Diamond level in Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program. If you calculate the number of points earned per dollar spent, you’ll find it’s much more efficient to pay double in a traditional room; however, on a longer or more expensive cruise, this might simply put the trip out of your price range. And we wouldn’t want to do that!

Just as a reminder, I’m not only a travel blogger, I’m also a travel agent! So if you’re interested in learning more about opportunities for solo travel, you can fill out this form and I’ll be happy to help you find your best options for a solo cruise. You can also follow me on Facebook, where I’ll be posting last-minute and solo travel deals.