Encore! For The Norwegian Encore

The following post is written by Amanda from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Amanda recently experienced the inaugural “docked cruise” of the brand new Norwegian Encore. The newest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, she can accommodate 4,000 guests.

For my first time on a ship, this beauty surely did not disappoint! I am not by any means a “cruiser”. In fact, I have never been on a ship in my life. After this inaugural though, I cannot wait to plan a cruise next year for myself! I think I really have been missing out on this on my entire life…

A few of my fellow Travel Specialists are avid cruises and made the experience smooth sailing for me, giving me great tips and tricks… Thanks Boscov’s Travel! Our Travel Specialists really know their stuff. With all the laughs and tears (from laughing so hard) we had while knowing that this was our mini-vacation, I know anyone will be able to go on this beautiful ship and make great memories – just like I did!

Some of Boscov’s Travel Specialists enjoying the ship!
Some of Boscov’s Travel Specialists enjoying the ship!

A little more about the ship… from the classy atrium to the bake shop, to the race track all the way to the mojito bar, this ship had something to offer for everyone. In addition to touring the ship and experiencing the entertainment, we had a chance to hear from Norwegian’s CEO. He shared his plans for the future and how the company is focused on the environment and issues surrounding cruising! HOW COOL!

One special perk of being invited to the inaugural is the ability to tour the entire ship to better inform each and every client. We were lucky enough to be able to tour The Haven which is their luxurious accommodations, and let me tell you they really are! With their own entrance onto the ship, their own private pool, and their own concierge, The Haven is most definitely worth the extra cost.

The Haven private pool

We were also able to experience the cuisine. The Encore has so many dining options so there is something for everyone! I am a very picky eater and I did not go hungry. The restaurants on this ship were absolutely amazing! I was fortunate enough to be able to experience various complimentary restaurants and one specialty dining restaurant. My favorite – the complimentary Manhattan Room (available on several Norwegian ships) – featured my favorite meal onboard, surf and turf. I must say, it might have been one of the best steaks I have ever had.

We also dined at additional specialty restaurants including Los Lobos,  contemporary Mexican restaurant with a modern twist. Everything our table ordered was spectacular and the views were even better. We sat adjacent to the floor to ceiling glass paneled windows and were treated to spectacular views. Paired with a delicious dinner and table-side guacamole, it is safe to say that this is a great specialty dining choice.

Food on the Norwegian Ecnore
Specialty dining, Los Cabos Salad!
Caesar Salad from complimentary dining restaurant, The Manhattan Room
Surf and Turf from complimentary dining restaurant, The Manhattan Room

I know I keep saying this, but this ship has so much to offer! Shows, the casino, comedy clubs, dance clubs, trivia, the spa, virtual games, an arcade, casino, laser tag and go cart racing you will never go bored on this ship. I was able to experience a variety of entertainment on board. First stop, the shows. Choir of Man and Kinky Boots are performed nightly in the theater and WOW let me tell you, everyone raved about these shows, especially Choir of Man. In fact, it’s the highest rated entertainment on all of Norwegian’s ships! And it’s all included – these guys perform at venues around the globe and tickets are in excess of $140/each (and worth it). Luckily, it will be complimentary for you onboard… just be sure to reserve your seats as soon as you can.

I was able to experience the Galaxy Pavillion – the virtual game room onboard –  which was nothing less than amazing! In one scenario you lay down and it feels like you are soaring through the most scenic places. I also tried a game called descendants which sadly I think I might have had the worst record on the ship but man was that game fun! Shout out to our Travel Specialist Tammy from Camp Hill who rocked it, as the worker reminded me (haha).

One thing I never got up to see due to the weather was the Encore Speedway. My colleagues who had a chance to ride it and said it was epic! This speedway hangs 13 feet over the side of the ship. Then once you’re done racing you can head next door to the laser tag on the same deck! How cool that you can have these experiences on a cruise.

My two favorite parts of the ship? The Waterfront and the Observatory Lounge for their views. Let me tell you these pictures do not do it justice. Floor to ceiling windows in the lounge, you will never have a bad view from wherever you sit. Hang by the comfy chairs and enjoy the scenery because that lounge is spectacular. When you’re done there head outside to the Waterfront for the most comfy chairs and views. They also have built in heaters in the ceiling for when it gets chilly. On a chilly Tuesday afternoon in New York, I felt warm with the help of the heaters.

This ship has so much to offer – I could go on for days, but I won’t. You should just go experience it yourself so you truly understand. I promise you, it will not disappoint. Scroll down for more photos from the ship!

 

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com 

The Majesty of Alaska and Cruising with Holland America Line

The following post was written by Lori in our Marketing Department and is a review of her experience aboard Holland America Line’s ms Eurodam to Alaska. Departing September 21, 2019 from Seattle, WA, the ship made stops in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, AL and Victoria, B.C.  

“And she gazed at the sky, the sea, the land,
The waves and the caves and the golden sand.
She gazed and gazed, amazed by it all,
And she said to the whale, “I feel so small.”

This is one of my favorite pages from a children’s book written by Julia Donaldson and perfectly sums up my Alaskan adventure. I will try my hardest to describe the majesty of Alaska, the beauty of sailing with Holland America Line on board ms Eurodam and the memories made with my mother — and I’m hoping at the end, you will want to experience it all for yourself as well.

Holland America Line’s ms Eurodam

The Ship

ms Eurodam is Holland America Line’s first Signature-class ship with a capacity of 2,104 guests. Noted for a full Music Walk experience, including Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club and Billboard Onboard, the talent on board is truly breathtaking. My favorite was B.B King’s Blues Club. The singers and band wowed the crowd with favorite blues from the 1960’s and beyond. The crowd was engaged and couples danced the night away — which was so sweet to watch.

B.B. King’s Blues Club
Billboard Onboard

There were additional performances onboard showcasing comedy, dance and more daily at the Mainstage. My favorite was the comedian David Crowe. His skits were light-hearted and side splitting funny. Equally as entertaining was an illusionist onboard. He wowed the crowd with illusions that had you wondering “How’d he do that?” for days. And if you are sitting next to someone who has their hand raised to help with a skit, you may just get pulled up on stage (me!). I’m still not quite sure where he put the blades he swallowed and later pulled back out of his mouth — eek.

Mainstage

Love America’s Test Kitchen? You’re in luck. Holland America Line has a test-kitchen right onboard. Another favorite of mine, I enjoyed learning new tips and tricks to use in the kitchen. On the menu for the day was adult grilled cheese (cheddar and brie spread, yum!) and creamy tomato soup without dairy. An added bonus, they give a unique URL of all current recipes from America’s Test Kitchen to everyone that sails with Holland America to use in their own home. So far I’ve tried a couple different recipes at home and they turned out great! Also, the demonstrator gave recommendations on places to eat in port and proved to be on-point (Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau, yum!)

America’s Test Kitchen

Dining onboard is another notable experience. Complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the Lido Market (buffet). Every day they served up fresh and delicious cuisines. You can also grab a NY style pizza at New York Pizza or a hamburger, hot dog and fries at Dive-In, all located on the same deck as the market. You can also choose to dine in the main Dining Room (complimentary table service) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We loved their lunchtime fish and chips meal and the surf and turf served during one of the two gala nights onboard. Also, the afternoon tea served at the Dining Room was a favorite and served the most delicious small plate sandwiches and desserts.
If you enjoy meeting new people onboard, ask to share a table when you go to the Dining Room. We met people from all over the United States and loved seeing them throughout the ship and staying up to date on their adventures as well as sharing our own. You may even meet a couple from the famous Punxsutawney, PA.

Dining Room

Additional photos from onboard:

Lido Pool
Outdoor Pool
The Shops
Loved my time in the gym

Insider tip: If you are flying on certain airlines, take advantage of Port Valet (offered by the Port of Seattle). It is a complimentary luggage service that takes your luggage the night before disembarkation, delivers it to the aiport, makes sure it gets on your plane for arrival at the airport when you arrive home. Port Valet will also provide you with your boarding pass (although some airlines you’ll have to get your boarding pass at the airport). It is an extremely easy process and the benefits of not having to lug your luggage to the airport is worth the 2-minutes to fill out the paperwork onboard.

Alaska

Alaska, also given the nickname as the final frontier, is packed with staggering mountains, breathtaking glaciers that are continuing to shape the land, wildlife, lively cities, unique culture and is on the top 3 of many peoples bucket-lists. With many cities only being accessible by boat/ship or plane, the people of Alaska adapt to the demands of the ever changing weather as a way of life. The Alaskan people truly adore where they live and can be felt by the warm welcome felt while touring this beautiful state.

Port 1 – Juneau, Alaska

Juneau is the capital of Alaska. Although it is not the largest city in Alaska, the town is bustling with shops, restaurants, a tram ride to the top of Mount Roberts, art and culture, excursions to experience fishing, kayaking, and the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier and visitors center. We chose the latter as our excursion at this port of call and was one of our favorites. After about a 20-minute bus ride filled with local history provided by the tour director, you arrive at the glacier with 2-hours to explore. An easy 1-mile walk up and back on Nugget Falls Trail got you up close and personal with the glacier and the Nugget Falls Waterfall.
Insider tip: For some extra fun, bring rain boots to get super close to the waterfall.

Nugget Falls
Mendenhall Glacier

We had some time before our excursion to explore so I ventured off in search of a new addition to Juneau. A 20-minute walk got me to the interactive lifesize statue of a baby humpback whale. It was worth the walk for the pictures alone and most cruisers aren’t aware of this piece of art yet.

Cruising Glacier Bay

This was my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE day out of the whole trip. Holland America Line brings a park ranger onboard this day to narrate the changing landscapes, the wildlife you see passing by and the magnificent Margerie Glacier.

Margerie Glacier

Port 2 – Sitka, Alaska

In Sitka, we chose to do the Bird, Bears and Barnacles excursion hosted by Holland America Line. We visited the Raptor Center and saw injured raptors recovering in real-life environments, bears enjoying their time and a fish hatchery and science museum.

Port 3 – Ketchikan, Alaska

This was by far my favorite port of call. I chose to explore on my own today and did a self-guided walking tour of the town and surrounding landscapes including a hike on the popular Rainbird Hiking Trail. We were in Alaska at the end of the salmon season so I got to see them swimming up the river to lay their eggs and eventually the end of their life (a bit stinky but worth it).

Port 4 – Victoria, British Columbia

This port was the one I researched the least and was the one I was most pleasantly surprised at. We enjoyed sitting down at a local pub and enjoying some beer and bangers and mash before exploring the grounds of the parliament building, the famous Empress hotel and some local shops.

I’m so thankful that I was able to visit Alaska and to experience it with Holland America Line. I can most definitely see why they are noted as the leader in cruises to Alaska from the easy online check-in prior to sailing, the daily turndown, important information and port excursion recommendations being delivered directly to your stateroom daily, the entertainment and activities onboard and the EXCEPTIONAL service and dining. I hope you are able to experience Alaska for yourself one day and you come away as humbled as I am in the presence of such beautiful and awe-inspiring scenery.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

 

Oh Joy! There’s So Much to Love About Norwegian’s Newly Reimagined Ship

Introducing the New Norwegian Joy

The following post is written by Amanda from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.

Have you ever heard of a ship that gets refurbished after only two years? Probably not – it’s unheard of. Once again, though, Norwegian Cruise Line doesn’t disappoint and has decided to refurbish the Norwegian Joy for the American market. Originally created for the Asian market, this ship underwent a $50 million makeover and let me tell you, this ship is GORGEOUS!

With a guest capacity over 3,800 and overall length 1,094 feet, this ship features a race track like sister ship Bliss, and so much more. It will make you feel like you’re living in an entertainment-packed resort no matter where you are on the ship. Take on the challenge of outdoor laser tag and virtual experiences, ride the first of its kind two level race track… then check out the water slide that hangs 11 feet off the side of the ship, the casino, observation lounge, splash academy, teen club, and a kids’ aqua park – there is something do for every member of the family.

After my extensive research, I must say I’m so obsessed with the wide range of dining options (yes, I am restaurant guru). There is an American diner restaurant, an outdoor promenade and The Waterfront where you can eat outdoors overlooking the beautiful ocean! Enjoy 16 dining options – – food is everywhere you turn.

So the big question: how can you experience this beautiful cruise ship? She will be sailing year round – summers in Alaska and the rest of the year sailing the Mexican Riviera, from Miami and LA to the Panama Canal. So if any of these sound interesting to you then get ready to sail!

I’m excited with anticipation as I’m about to book my first cruise (through Boscov’s Travel, of course) and am absolutely considering this ship! It really looks like a dream vacation with endless possibilities and things to do! Great job Norwegian! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


If you’re ready to start planning your Norwegian Cruise aboard the Norwegian Joy, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Jumping Ship: How the Rhine Reeled in an Avid Ocean Cruiser to River Cruising

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen recently interviewed Lisa Rohrbach, Boscov’s Travel’s Director of Training and Professional Development, about her first experience taking a river cruise.

Whether you’re a seasoned or first-time cruiser, it’s impossible to ignore the popularity and rapid growth of river cruising as an alternative to ocean cruising. With smaller and more intimate ships; destinations that only smaller ships can access; and a more inclusive experience with included shore excursions, alcohol and smaller expenses that add up during your vacation, like Wi-Fi, specialty drinks, room service, etc., it’s no wonder that many seasoned ocean cruisers are jumping ship to river cruising.

Lisa Rohrbach, Boscov’s Travel’s Director of Training and Professional Development, is one of those cruise enthusiasts who jumped ship from ocean to river cruising. After experiencing more than 25 ocean cruises, she recently sailed on her first river cruise with AMA Waterways on a 7-night cruise along the Rhine that included stops in France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. She shares her experience here, along with her thoughts on the differences between taking a river cruise and an ocean cruise.

Hi Lisa! We learned you recently sailed on your first river cruise with AMA Waterways. Since you’re an avid ocean cruiser, can you tell us how the two experiences are different?

River cruise ships are much smaller than most ocean cruise ships with a quieter, relaxed atmosphere—our ship only had 82 staterooms, as opposed to the hundreds that are on an ocean liner. I would compare a river cruise to an intimate family dinner versus an ocean cruise is more like an extravagant wedding celebration—obviously, they both have their positive attributes, it just depends on what type of environment and travel style you’re looking for.

What did you find you preferred about river cruising?

All of the inclusions onboard! Our price included all of our daily excursions, unlimited wine and beer with our meals, no additional charge for specialty coffees, plus all the little extra complimentary touches. Also, the food and wine onboard were excellent–we had fresh local selections daily.

What do you prefer about ocean cruising?

The evening entertainment and onboard casino. River cruises are wonderful during the day and they did offer some evening entertainment but it’s not on the same scale as an ocean cruise–it’s definitely more low-key.

Was this your first trip to Europe?

No, I have traveled to Europe many times before and have previously visited three of the four countries on this itinerary, including Switzerland, France and Germany. This was my first trip to Amsterdam, however, and even though I have visited the above countries before, many of the stops on the cruise’s itinerary were new to me. There were several quaint little towns along the Rhine which were very picturesque.

Why would you recommend a river cruise over a bus tour or independent travel?

Since you use your river cruise ship as a floating hotel, you only have to unpack once! Also, since it’s a very warm and friendly atmosphere, you develop a relationship with the staff and they quickly learn your preferences compared to staying at different hotels on a bus or independent tour.

Which excursion was your favorite or the highlight of your trip? Why?

My favorite excursion was a lovely walking tour of the old, historic center of Strasbourg, France. This area of the city looks like something out of a fairy tale with beautiful half-timbered houses with colorful flower boxes. It was so quaint and since I love history, this tour transported me back to another time!

Who do you think would be a good fit for a river cruise?

Travelers who love a stress-free atmosphere with good food and wine and enjoy walking, biking and exploring history and culture. Those who are also prone to motion sickness would prefer it over ocean cruising since we didn’t feel the movement of the ship at all.

Do you think there’s any sort of traveler who might not like one?

If you like a lot of evening entertainment, it may be too quiet at night for you. I also don’t think it’s a great fit for families with young children.

What were some highlights of the ship?

We loved our cabin, which was a twin balcony stateroom on the Violin Deck and featured both a regular and a French balcony. The lounge is a great meeting spot to relax and watch the scenery go by. We also enjoyed the regular dining and The Chef’s Table, which is an intimate restaurant that serves a five-course tasting menu.

Did anything surprise you?

Initially when you reserve a river cruise, the cost may seem higher than an ocean cruise but I was surprised that we had very few extra expenses while onboard. We only paid extra for a couple of cocktails that weren’t included in our fare, as well as gratuities to the cruise staff.

Do you have any tips for a first-time river cruiser that you’d be willing to share?

Don’t shy away from a river cruise based on the initial cost. It’s unlike an ocean cruise where the initial cost may be lower but once onboard you end up spending more money for drinks, shore excursions and specialty items.

Any other tips to share?

Yes! A great perk to booking with a Boscov’s Travel Specialist besides knowledgeable and friendly service is that you can use your Boscov’s credit card to pay for the trip in advance, receive 12 months to pay for it with no interest, and earn reward points!

A great tip! Thanks for your time, Lisa!

To learn more about the exciting destinations you can experience while taking a river cruise, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Find Bliss on Norwegian’s Cruise Line’s Newest Ship

If go-karting at sea seems your speed, get ready to meet the new Norwegian Bliss. Debuting in the summer of 2018, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the 16th in their fleet, will initially spend her summers exploring Alaska and her winters island-hopping in the Carribean and Mexico. Besides offering the largest-at-sea two-level electric go-kart race track where drivers reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, the ship boasts an aqua park with a free-fall slide, a side-by-side racing inner tube slide, and a looping water slide that extends over the sides of the ship. Younger water lovers can splash under tipping water buckets and take aim at their parents with water cannons in the ship’s aqua park. And for those looking for a little less relaxation and a little more adventure can take aim in a competitive open-air laser tag course themed as an abandoned space station.

Foodies will delight at the ship’s southern-inspired cuisine, including the new Texas Smokehouse Q, featuring authentic Texas barbeque against the sounds of live contemporary pop country music, and Los Lobos, which offers upscale Mexican flavors along with guest favorites, like tableside fresh guacamole preparation and handcrafted margaritas. Steak lovers can challenge their stomach capacity with the 20-ounce Angus porterhouse featured at Cagney’s Steakhouse, and enjoy a nightcap at the A-List Bar, serving premium cocktails, wines and spirits. Even those missing their daily latte at sea will be thrilled to hear the ship houses a full-service Starbucks location, in a nod to its home port in Seattle.

Of course, no cruise would be complete without a little relaxation and spa-time, and like the ship’s name implies, bliss can be found in Mandara Spa, which also features a full-service salon and barber shop and fitness center. Due to popularity on its sister ship, Breakaway, Bliss features plenty of outdoor promenades and lounge and bar areas, as well as al fresco dining options to immerse guests in the cruise experience, as well as the beautiful views on board at sea. Custom-built for the Alaskan cruiser, guests will be able to view glaciers and the natural beauty of our northernmost state directly from the ship, or hop off at one of the Alaskan ports for sightseeing and exploring.

After departing from Seattle, the cruise will feature stops in the Alaskan ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. Whether exploring the Misty Fjords or zip-lining in Ketchikan, or trekking through glaciers or whale-watching in Juneau, or panning for gold or dog sledding through Skagway, Alaska offers adventure for everyone. Victoria, with its stunning Butchart Gardens and famed Chinatown, as well as Seattle’s Space Needle and historic Pike Place Market rounds out just a taste of shoreside opportunities for cruisers on the Bliss’ inaugural Alaskan voyages.

To learn more about the Bliss’ itineraries and price out your stateroom or suite today, please contact a Boscov’s Travel Specialist at 800-755-8020 or email us at travelrequest@boscovs.com.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Ahoy Cruisers! Here’s What We Learned Planning Our First Cruise

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen set sail on Disney Cruise Lines in September 2017. 

Confession: Despite having spent my childhood summers on the water from Maine to Maryland on my family’s small speedboat, I had never considered taking my own family on a cruise. Although I loved my summers on the ocean on our tiny little boat, graduating up to a huge ship wasn’t necessarily something that ranked highly on my vacation bucket list. But after several friends came home from a cruise raving about their experience, and after our kids kept hinting that they’d like to visit islands and the beaches in the Caribbean, we decided it was time to set sail. With the help of an experienced Travel  Specialist to guide us through the planning process, we planned a memorable vacation our whole family enjoyed. Here are a few things we learned along the way:

It’s so much more helpful to plan a cruise with a Travel Specialist

At first, planning a cruise seemed simple and something we could on our own  (we planned the trip prior to me joining the Boscov’s Travel team). But we quickly realized that everything—from picking a departure port, cruise line and a ship, and then a category and room on the ship, as well as an itinerary that worked well for us at the time we needed to vacation—was not nearly as simple as it originally seemed. Although we pride ourselves on being able to research and plan many of our own family vacations to the beach or other nearby locales, as inexperienced cruisers, we quickly became overwhelmed by the choices and realized that we needed expert help to be able to craft the perfect vacation that also fit into our budget. Our Travel Specialist, an experienced cruiser herself, quickly put us at ease and started to explain the process to us: First, roughly decide on your budget. Next, decide which cruise line appeals to you. For us, this was our simplest choice since we own a timeshare through Disney Vacation Club and had the option to use our points in lieu of cash (which we ultimately decided against doing since our points didn’t go very far towards covering our fare). But had we not been so committed to sailing Disney, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of cruise lines and the sometimes subtle or not-so-subtle differences among the ships, as well as price-points for sailing on each line. Once we had that narrowed down, we took a look at what ships and what itineraries were available during the timeframe we wanted to sail, and from where the ship departed so we could factor in any additional transportation and pre- and post-cruise lodging costs into our overall budget. At this point, with our Travel Specialist, we compiled a small list of suitable cruises and went to work on researching the ships and itineraries to decide which one appealed the most to us. Taking the information back to our kids, we determined as a family that we wanted to experience a short 3-night cruise for the first time to ensure that we all enjoyed it (and no one would be prone to motion sickness) before we invested in a longer week-long stay aboard a cruise ship. At this time, our Travel Specialist also advised us she felt it was best to fly to Florida at least a day before our cruise’s departure to take some of the stress out of worrying about flight delays or cancellations, which might affect our ability to get to the port on time. This pre-cruise stay allowed us to get in two nights at Walt Disney World prior to our cruise, thus extending our short cruise into a longer land and sea vacation, which was great for us since we knew we’d be blending together a familiar and fun vacation spot along with a new and unfamiliar experience.

Figuring out your budget and what’s most important to you

Once our ship, date and itinerary were chosen, it was time to tackle where to stay on the ship. Unlike most vacations where we’re placed wherever the hotel chooses to put us, cruising is much different with cruisers selecting the exact room they’d like to stay in. Prices can also wildly vary with those staying in interior rooms low on the ship paying much less than those staying high on the ship with verandahs or balconies. Additionally, like airfare, cruise pricing is not set: Generally, cruises are least expensive  when the itineraries and dates are first announced (often a year to almost two years in advance – see current itineraries here http://boscovstravel.com/temp/Disney-Cruise-Line-Sailings-2017-2018.pdf), and steadily increase in price as you near the sailing date. Because our family chose a short cruise, and because we were not sailing to many ports of interest, we decided to splurge on our accommodations to make the most out of our time on the ship. As first-time cruisers, and since communication to our Travel Specialist would be cut off as soon as we sailed away from Port Canaveral unless we wanted to pay exorbitantly high roaming charges on our cell phones, we decided it would be in our best interest to have the help of a concierge staff to help us with any request, including personalized help with booking on-board experiences and off-ship excursions both before and during our stay. Our concierge privileges also enabled us to be among the first to board the ship, maximizing the time of our vacation, plus gave us access to a special lounge steps from our room that offered specialty coffee, hors d’oeuvres, and beer, wine and cocktails, which are not normally included in your cruise fare. While our concierge stay nearly doubled the cost of our cruise compared with us sailing in a less expensive cabin on the ship, as first-time cruisers unfamiliar with cruising and overwhelmed with the options each day both on and off the ship, we were glad we opted to go for a shorter cruise to save money and instead splurged for the extra help and truly personalized service we received from the concierge staff—they made everything incredibly easy and stress-free for us from the moment we arrived at the port to the moment we stepped off the ship.  While we were definitely spoiled this time by the amazing service of the concierge staff, we certainly feel more confident to sail without such a luxury next time now that we know the lay of the land and what to expect during a cruise vacation.

Because we allocated so much of our budget towards our concierge room, we didn’t have much left over for excursions off the ship, nor for much pampering or paid-activities on the ship. Cruises are packed with hourly entertainment for the whole family, and while most activities and dining are included with your fare on a Disney cruise, some activities are not, such as wine tastings, spa treatments and specialty dining and beverages. Additionally, nearly every excursion off the ship cost something—whether it was a couple of bucks per person, or sometimes several hundred per person. Since our next cruise will likely be longer in length, and we’ll place importance on the ports over the on-the-ship experience, we’ll likely sail in more moderate accommodations to be able to afford excursion adventures and some additional fun things on the ship while we’re at sea.

Other financial considerations also include the cost of passports for your family if you don’t already have them, gratuities for your dining and stateroom attendants, as well as travel insurance. We were incredibly fortunate to be the last unaffected sailing prior to Hurricane Irma’s arrival, and didn’t stress too much about her impending arrival since we knew our trip would be covered due to any delays or disruptions.

Because we received such experienced guidance by our Travel Specialist when planning our trip, and had such personalized help with the concierge staff on the ship, we were truly able to simply relax and enjoy every second of our cruise, making it a truly unforgettable and fun experience for our whole family.

If you’re ready to start planning your next cruise, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com