Two Ships in Two Days — A Study in Contrasts

Over the past weekend I had the opportunity to inspect two wonderful – and remarkably different – new shups

Saturday, Carnival Vista.  Big, beautiful, and bold.   Boarding at the Atrium, the ship was rocking & rolling with up-tempo music creating a typical Carnival party hearty atmosphere.  The main pool was already well utilized with guests soaking up the rays with the live steel drums maintaining the party atmosphere.   The casino is huge.  Entertainment options abound on this ship and even the most hyperactive among us would be challenged to hit all of them in a 7-night itinerary.   Water park, IMAX theater, ropes course, sky ride elevated bikes – Havana Lounge, Red Frog, Blue Iguana – production shows, comedians … the list just goes on.

While activity options abound at every turn, my exploration uncovered plenty of areas where guests seeking a quieter, gentler cruise experience could relax in peace and comfort.   Grab a good book and head toward the adults-only Serenity enclave …  I also found the aft pool area to be peaceful and almost totally deserted during my tour.

Vista is currently sailing 6- and 8-night itineraries from Miami.  This would be a perfect ship for families, for multi-generational groups traveling together, for any cruisers who prefer a high energy cruise environment with an array of activity and entertainment options.  She will move to the Port of Galveston later next fall.

PROS:   Loved the food, one of the best meals I’ve eaten on any ship anywhere; Havana Lounge; Kid’s program second to none; the prevalence of outdoor areas where a cruiser can connect with the ocean.

CONS:   Not much of a fan of the ship’s atrium area which seemed rather cramped to me; casino area had definite lingering odor of cigarette smoke; and I really did miss the white tablecloths in the formal dining room.


Sunday, Holland America Koningsdam   Classy, understated, elegant.   Holland’s new ship may be the largest in their fleet, but it remains a mid-sized ship with an upscale, intimate atmosphere.  HAL has moved to add touches of contemporary flare to their fleet, but they (thankfully!) still very much adhere to their traditional roots.   No climbing walls or water parks on these ships where instead you can enjoy an afternoon high tea, a wine tasting event, or perhaps a hands-on cooking class led by a well-known chef.

Entertainment still abounds onboard … though far less “in your face” than zip lines and belly flop contests.  Music is a resounding theme onboard Koningsdam.  B.B. King’s Blues Club offers classic blues as well as pop favorites.  Lincoln Center features outstanding classical presentations, while Billboard On Board features what you might expect – billboard classics.  And yes, there is a good-sized casino onboard as well.

Koningsdam could be a clear choice for cruisers who appreciate a mid-size vessel featuring fine dining, exceptional wines, beers and whiskeys, and enrichment programs over frenetic activity.   It is also a fine ship for families who prefer a more subdued family atmosphere.  The ship has great kid’s programming and a variety of oceanview and interior staterooms designed specifically for families.  Many accommodate as many as five passengers that offer split bathrooms that could have been taken straight from Disney’s playbook.

PROS:   Great food, varied enrichment options and intuitive service on intimate mid-size ships.  Elegant and refined shipboard experience – without a hint of stuffy.  I didn’t detect even the slightest hint of smoke in their casino.

CONS:   I found the suites I inspected to be surprisingly small, even cramped – though the bathrooms were large and beautifully appointed.  Very much a contrast with some of the expansive suite spaces found even on Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.


SO – Vista or Koningsdam – which brand of cruiser are you?   These days there truly is a ship and cruise style for almost any traveler.   We are available to help you sort through the lines, ships and itineraries to best suit your travel style, preferences and budget.  Contact us today … we welcome your questions.



When The subject of cruising comes up – and it inevitably seems to in many of my conversations! – I frequently hear a fairly predictable list of objections from the “I’m not a cruiser” crowd.    In most instances, these objections come from people who have formed preconceptions without ever setting foot aboard a cruise ship.   On rare occasion, I do encounter someone has had a less than perfect cruise experience, most generally as a result of booking a ship that was a poor match for their preferences and travel style.

My list of common objections:

I have children and need a more family-friendly vacation option.   Actually, it’s hard to imagine a more family-friendly vacation than a cruise.   Today’s ships offer an array of activity and entertainment options for all ages – including age-appropriate children’s programs from toddler to teens, all at no additional cost.   Programs vary by cruise line so be sure to select one of the lines and ships that are geared for family cruisers.  Of course, Disney is a given in this category.   Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Princess and Celebrity are also great choices for families and multi-generational groups of travelers.

There are too many children on cruise ships.   Just as there are cruise lines that cater specifically to families, there are ships and cruise lines that are perfect choices for empty nesters looking for a serene environment.  Holland America, Oceania, and Azamara are excellent choices for couples seeking peace and quiet.   Or, book one of the family-friendly cruise lines during months when children are in school – by avoiding the summer months, major holidays and school break times, you will usually find just a smattering of children onboard the sailing.

I can’t afford a cruise vacation.    Cruises can be surprisingly affordable and offer tremendous value since so much is included with your fare.   Timing is everything, of course – so for best fares, whenever possible book your cruise when families are tied up with school activities and unable to sail.   November and December can be exceptionally good to snag a great fare if you avoid the popular major holiday periods.  To optimize the cruise experience, we encourage clients to book a minimum of five nights onboard – better ships, better itineraries – and some would argue better shipboard staff as well.   All of our cruise vacations can be booked with a modest deposit and we’re happy to take payments over a period of time.  Book early to lock in the best fares!

I’m motion sensitive and afraid I’d be sick the entire time.    I’m a passionate cruiser – also one who is also exceptionally prone to seasickness.   As one who has fallen prey to the misery of motion sickness, I can commiserate with this concern.   Thankfully, today’s ships are larger with extremely effective stabilization systems to minimize motion and improve passenger experience.   I personally swear by the prescription “patch” … it totally controls any symptoms for me – I’m convinced I could ride out a hurricane in a rowboat when wearing the patch.   There are also very effective oral medications as well as a number of alternative remedies that some swear by.  There are also strategic approaches such as booking staterooms mid-ship and on lower decks – although I have sailed in staterooms forward and aft, upper and lower decks and – at least for me — room location played no significant part in whether or not I experienced discomfort.

I hate crowds and these huge cruise ships are a turn-off for me.   There are SO many small ship options that there is something for every taste and travel style.   River cruises offer vessels with approximately 100 passengers … and many ocean-going vessels accommodate just 600 to 1200 people.   Great choices are Oceania, Viking, and Azamara … even Royal Caribbean offers smaller ships at  with  competitive fares.    You might also consider Norwegian’s “ship within a ship” Haven experience that offers a private conclave with an intimate small-ship environment combined with all the fun & entertainment of a mega-ship just an elevator ride away.   These luxury suites come with front of the line access for boarding and disembarkation, offering passengers the opportunity to have the best of both worlds.

I’m afraid there won’t be enough to do and I’ll get bored.   No way!   Today’s ships come with such an amazing array of  entertainment and activities and enrichment programs that this objection just won’t hold water.   Gyms, spa services, production shows, ice skating, bumper cars. Cooking demonstrations, destination lectures. climbing walls, surfing simulators, comedy shows, piano bars, sky diving simulators, zip lines, carousels … today’s ships literally offer something for every interest and preference.   Talk to your travel advisor and make sure they guide you to a ship that will suit your interests and you’ll have an amazing vacation experience.

I’m afraid I could fall off.   I really do encounter this as a real concern!  And from media reports, you might think that people are accidentally tumbling off their balconies on an almost-daily basis.   The truth is that a “man overboard” is extremely rare.  It takes a concerted effort – and usually an extremely excessive intake of alcohol – to fall off one of these ships.    Those who fall from a cruise ship are inevitably engaging in some incredibly reckless behavior – or is the victim of some sort of foul play.

Norovirus is epidemic on cruise ships and I don’t want to catch it!  Probably the biggest misconception in the industry!  In actuality, less than one percent of norovirus cases occur on ships.   You are far more likely to pick up norovirus in healthcare facilities, restaurants, and schools than you are to contract it aboard a cruise ship.   Still, no one wants to be among those unlucky few and ruin a vacation.   Use the hand sanitizer … wash your hands frequently — be aware when you touch common surfaces and don’t touch your face until hands are thoroughly washed.

If you are cruise curious … ingtrigued by the potential of a cruise vacation  but hesitant to take the plunge  … we would love the opportunity to address your concerns and clear up any lingering doubts — with no obligation or high pressure selling.   Give us a call … use the contact us button on our site … or look up Dancing Moon Travel on Facebook and use our chat button.   We would love to hear from you!