Cruise News and Reviews

MSC Divina

Never cruised before?  Have lots of questions?

Want to know what’s included in the price of your cruise?  Click here

Want to know where cruises leave from?  Click here

Are you in Europe and looking for a cabin for five?  Click here! 

To see what the deposit is for your cruise line Click here.

To see the cancellation schedule for your cruise line Click here.

For each cruise line’s beverage package prices, individual drink prices, and article on whether drink packages are “worth it,” go to our Beverage Package Page

The only way to get your money back, is if you purchased TRAVEL INSURANCE and you are cancelling FOR A COVERED REASON.

Here is our information for U.S. cruise terminals.

Here is our information for European cruise terminals.

Information for pregnant women and families with infants


How far along can an expectant mother be and still cruise?

Carnival – 24 weeks or less at time of embarkation which is 6 months

Royal Caribbean – 23 weeks or less at time of embarkation with Dr. note.

Disney – 23 weeks or less at time of embarkation. Dr. note not required but helpful.

Norwegian – 23 weeks. Dr note required with estimated due date prior to the cruise.

MSC – 23 weeks – once she enters 24th, she can’t go. Must provide Dr. note.

Costa – 24 weeks or less at time of embarkation. Must provide dr. note

Holland – 24 weeks or less at time of disembarkation. Must provide dr. note

Princess – 24 weeks or less at time of disembarkation. Must provide dr. note

* What age does an infant have to be before they can cruise?

 Fruit market in Sorrento

Carnival – 6 months

Royal Caribbean – 6 months. If cruise has more than 3 consecutive days at sea, they will have to be 12 months.

Disney – 6 months. One year for Transatlantic and Panama Canal sailings.

Norwegian – 6 months at time of sailing. If cruise has more than 3 consecutive days at sea, they will have to be 12 months.

MSC – NEW RULE – infants of ANY AGE can cruise!

Costa – 6 months (won’t book infants up to 18 months in inside cabins)

Holland – 6 months or 12 months. Depends on the cruise. Most European cruises are going to be 12 months.

Princess – 6 months or 12 months. Depends on the cruise. Most European cruises are going to be 12 months.

*Babysitting Services

Slide at the Atlantis waterpark

Carnival click to read their policy.

Royal Caribbean – yes, children must be at least 1 year old, offering in group setting and individually in state room, must be reserved through Guest Relations Desk (Purser’s desk) at least 24 hours in advance, but can’t be reserved prior to the cruise and there’s no guarantee sitters will be available, offered from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. if personnel are available, $19 per hour for up to 3 children in same family, pay using on board sea pass,

Disney – $9/hr for nursery. Make reservations online. Can book up to 18 hours prior to sailing (7 night sailing) but can book more when they get on the ship. Based on availability.

Norwegian – 6 months minimum age.  New Ship Norwegian ESCAPE now has a nursery for babies called Guppies program. Parents are required to be present for the guppies program.

MSC – MSC Baby Time is free but requires that the parents remain present.

Costa – 3 years and up and potty-trained.

Holland – Provided for children ages 3 and up in staterooms by off-duty staff. $8/hr for first child, $5/hr for each

Princess – Nothing for under 3 years old.

Celebrity- $19 per hour for stateroom babysitting. Toddler time for children under 3 is available for free as long as a parent is present.

Cunard – Babysitting is free for ages 2 and up. Parents are required to change diapers.

Are there any cabins that hold 5 people?

The Haven 3 Bed Garden Villa

The Haven 3 Bedroom Garden Villa with Piano, on the Norwegian Jewel.

Yes! Here is the complete list as of August 2016. Our website generates cabins for up to four people; so if you are interested in booking a cabin for 5 you will need to call us at 866-964-5482 or .

Royal Caribbean may allow a 5th person that is under 2 years old. For more details on their requirements click here.

Cabins for 5 and connecting cabins sell out before anything else.

If a cabin for 5 is what you need, it is best to book at least a year in advance, otherwise your only options will be the more expensive suites or getting two cabins.

Price Key:

$- prices are usually under $5,000 for 5 on a 7 day sailing – see Costa and Carnival

$$- prices are usually under $7,000 for 5 on a 7 day sailing- see MSC, Holland, Royal, and Celebrity

$$$- prices are usually over $7,000 for 5 on a 7 day sailing – see Norwegian, Disney, and Princess

*Prices and availability are subject to change. While we can give you a range to help guide you, the cruise lines ultimately set the price and they may differ from what you see here.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

For more specific details on Norwegian’s cabins click here.


The two bedroom Family Villa w/Balcony on the Escape.


O1, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 5, 239 sq ft, $

H2, Haven Deluxe Owner’s Suite w/ Large Balcony, sleeps up to 6, 1307 sq ft, $$$

H4, Haven 2-bedroom Family Villa w/ Balcony, sleeps up to 6, 540 sq ft, $$

Breakaway and Getaway

O1, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 5, 161 sq ft. $

H4, Haven Suites, sleeps up to 6, 603 sq ft. $$$

Norwegian Dawn, Star

S1, 3-bedroom Garden Villa, sleeps up to 7, 6694 sq ft. $$$

SA, Deluxe owner’s Suite, sleeps up to 6, 700 sq. ft $$

SC, 2-bedroom family suite, sleeps up to 6, 574 sq ft. $$

SD, Family suite with balcony, sleeps up to 6, 409 to 600 sq. ft $$

SJ, Family suite without balcony, sleeps up to 6, 409 to 600 sq. ft $$


H4, Haven 2-bedroom Family Villa with Balcony, sleeps up to 6, 506 sq footage, $$$

Norwegian Gem, Jade, Jewel, Pearl

SC, 2-bedroom Family Suite, sleeps up to 6, 546 sq. ft.  $$$

H4, 2-bedroom Family Villa H4 with balcony, sleeps up to 6, 572 sq. ft. $ $$

H1, 3-bedroom Garden Villa,, sleeps up to 8, 3355 sq. ft $$$

Norwegian Sky, Sun

O1, Family Oceanview Picture Window, sleeps up to 5, 150 sq. ft $

SF,  Penthouse with Large Balcony, sleeps up to 5, 558 sq. ft. $$

SB, Owner’s suite with large balcony, sleeps up to 5, 835 sq. ft, $$

Norwegian Spirit


Norwegian Pride of America

SD, Deluxe Penthouse, sleeps up to six, 880 sq. ft. $$$

SE, SF, SG, SH, Penthouse Large Balcony, sleeps up to 6, 515 sq. ft. $$$

SI, 2-bedroom Family Suite, sleeps up to 5, 335 sq. ft. $$$

SA, 2-bedroom Deluxe Family Suite, sleeps up to, 607 sq. ft. $$$

SJ, 2-bedroom Obstructed Suite (window blocked by lifeboat), sleeps up to 8, 356 sq. ft. $$$

Princess Cruise Line

For more specific details on Princess’s cabins click here to see more information for each ship.

S8 Family Suite

Here is the S8 Family suite from Princess.

Star, Crown, Caribbean and Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, Golden, Emerald, Grand, Crown

S8, Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 6/8 (varies by ship), 606 sq. ft. $$$

Regal, Royal, Island, Coral, Pacific, Sea, Dawn, Sun


Disney Cruise Lines

For more specific details on Disney’s cabins click here to see more information for each ship.

Disney One Bedroom Suite with Verandah

Disney one bedroom suite with Verandah.

Dream and Fantasy

8A, 8B, 8C, 8D, Deluxe Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 5, 241 sq. ft., $$

4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, Deluxe Ocean View with Verandah, sleeps up to 5, 299 sq. ft., $$$

V, Concierge Family Stateroom w/ verandah suites, sleeps up to 5, 306 sq. ft., $$$

T, One bedrooms suite with verandah, sleeps up to 5, 622 sq. ft., $$$

R, Concierge royal suite with verandah, sleeps up to 5, 1781 sq. ft., $$$

Disney Magic and Wonder

4A 4B and 4E  Deluxe Family Oceanview w/ Verandah, sleeps up to 5, 304 sq. ft. $$$

00T, One-bedroom Suite w. Verandah, sleeps up to 5, 614 sq. ft., $$$

R, Royal Suite, sleeps up to 7, 1099 sq. ft., $$$

S, Two-bedroom Suite, sleeps up to 7, 1099 sq. ft, $$$

Carnival Cruise Lines

For more specific details on Carnival’s cabins click here.

Family Friendly oceanview

Carnival Oceanview that holds 5 people.


FJ, Family Harbor Ocean view, sleeps up to 5, 230 sq ft $

FS, Family Harbor Suite, sleeps up to 5, 340 sq ft $$

Breeze Dream and Magic

6N, Deluxe Ocean View, sleeps up to 5, 230 sq ft. $


4A, 4B, 4C, Inside, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft, $

6A, 6B, 6C, Ocean view, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft, $

CS, GS, Grand or Captain’s suite, sleeps up to 5, 430 sq ft (GS), 700 sq ft (CS) $$$

Splendor, Liberty, Valor, Freedom, Glory, Conquest

CS, Captain’s Suite w/ balcony, sleeps up to 5, 500 sq ft $$

Legend, Miracle, Pride


Triumph, Victory,

4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 4F, 4G, 4H, Inside, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft, $

6A, 6B, 6C, Ocean view, sleeps up to 5, 220 sq ft, $

8A, 8B, 8C, 8D, 8E, 8F, Balcony, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft, $

GS, Grand suite, sleeps up to 5, 300 sq ft, $

Sensation, Elation, Fantasy, Imagination, Inspiration, Paradise

4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, Inside cabins, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft,  $

6A, 6B, 6C, 6D Ocean view, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft, $

GS, Grand suite, sleeps up to 5, 330 sq ft, $

Ecstasy, Fascination

4B, 4C, 4D, 4E inside, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft, $

6A, 6B, 6C, 6D, 6E Ocean view, sleeps up to 5, 185 sq ft $

GS, ES, Grand suite and Extended Grand Suite, sleeps up to 5, 330 sq ft, $

MSC Cruise Lines

For more specific details on MSC’s cabins click here.

Magnifica S3 Suite for 5

The Magnifica has EIGHT S3 suites that hold 5 and they sell out FAST!

Splendida, Fantasia, Poesia, Orchestra, Musica


Preziosa, Divina

FLA, Connecting B2 balcony cabins(triple or double/quad), sleeps up to 6, 540 sq ft  $$$

Lirica, Opera, Sinfonia, Armonia (2 per ship on Deck 9)

O2, Oceanview Cabin, sleeps up to 5, 236 sq ft, $

Magnifica  (8 total on the ship)

S3, Aurea Family Suites, sleeps up to 5, 331 sq ft, $$


FMO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, TBD sq ft, $$

FMB, Family Balcony, sleeps up to 6, TBD sq ft $$

FLA, Super Family Connecting Balcony Cabins, sleeps up to 6, TBD sq ft $$

FPO, Super Family Plus Ocean View, sleeps up to 10, TBD sq ft $$$

FPB, Super Family Plus Balcony, sleeps up to 10, TBD sq ft $$$


SE3, SJ3 Aurea Grand Suite, sleeps up to 5, 355 sq ft, $$

YC1 Yacht Club Deluxe Suite, sleeps up to 5, 355 sq ft $$

FLA, Super Family Connecting Balcony Cabins, sleeps up to 6 people, 398 sq ft, $$

FLP, Super Family Plus Connecting Balcony Cabins, sleeps up to 10 people,290 sq ft, $$

Costa Cruise Lines

For more specific details on Costa’s cabins click here.


Fascinosa, Favolosa, Pacifica, Serena

EC, EP Oceanview, sleeps up to 5, 191 sq ft, $

BC, BP Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 219 sq ft, $

GS, Grand Suite, sleeps up to 5, 336 sq ft, $$

Deliziosa, Luminosa

BC, BP Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 236 sq ft, $

Atlantica, Mediterranea

EC, EP, Oceanview, sleeps up to 5, 175 sq ft $

BC, BP, Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 191 sq ft (BC), 232 sq ft (BP)  $

S, PS, Suite and Panoramic Suite, sleeps up to 5, 353 sq ft (S) 361 sq ft (PS) $$


EP, Oceanview , sleeps up to 5, 222 sq ft $

BC, BP, Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 268 sq ft, $

GS, Grand Suite, sleeps up to 5, 455 sq ft, $$

Magica, Fortuna

EC, EP, Oceanview, sleeps up to 5, 191 sq ft $

BC, BP, Balconies, sleeps up to 5, 218 sq ft, $

NeoRiviera and NeoRomantica (very few)

S, PS, Suites, sleeps up to 5, 418 sq ft (S) 499 sq ft, $$

Victoria and NeoClassica



For more specific details on Holland’s cabins click here.

Family Ocean view cabin

This is the NEW family Oceanview cabin on the Koningsdam.

Ms Koningsdam

FA, FB Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 5, 222 sq ft $$

Nieuw Amsterdam, Eurodam, Noordam, Westerdam, Oosterdam, Zuiderdam, Prinsendam, Amsterdam, Zaandam, Volendam, Rotterdam, Veendam, Maasdam


Royal Caribbean

For more specific details on Royal Caribbean’s cabins click here.


Here is a picture of RCL’s Family Interior cabins that hold 5. These sell FAST!

Quantum Class: Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas

FC, Family Connected Junior Suite w/ balcony, 575 sq. ft. sleeps 8. $$$

FS, Family Suite, sleeps up to 8, 543 sq ft., $$

BC, Balcony Connecting, sleeps up to 5, 198 sq ft., $$

OC, Ocean view Connecting, sleeps up to 5, 182 sq ft., $ – (not available on the Quantum)

IC, Interior Connecting, sleeps up to 5, 166 sq ft., $

FJ, Family Junior Suite, sleeps up to 5, 301 sq. ft., $$$

Oasis Class: Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas

D3,  Family Balcony, sleeps up to 5,182 sq ft., $

C1, balcony Central Park balcony, sleeps up to 5, 182 sq ft, $

B1, Boardwalk Balcony, sleeps up to 5, 182 sq ft, $

F1 Family Interior, sleeps up to 5,  260 sq ft $

FO, Family Oceanview, sleeps up to 6, 271 sq ft., $

FB, Family Balcony, sleeps up to 6, 290 sq ft., $$

RL, Royal Loft Suite, sleeps up to 6, 1524 sq ft., $$$

PS, Four-Bedroom Presidential Suite, sleeps up to 14, 1142 sq ft., $$$

FS, Royal Family Suite, sleeps up to 8, 580 sq ft., $$$

A1, A2, Two-Bedroom Aqua Theater Suites, sleeps up to 8 720 sq ft., $$$

Freedom Class: Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas

FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 358 sq. ft., $$

FI, Family Inside, sleeps up to 6, 338 sq. ft, $$

FP, Family Promenade, sleeps up to 6, 327 sq ft., $$

PF, Family Panoramic Ocean view, sleeps up to 6, 406 sq. ft, $$

FS, Royal Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 8, 610 sq ft, $$$

PS, Presidential Suite, sleeps up to 14 guests, 1209 sq ft., $$$

Voyager Class Ships: Navigator, Adventure, Voyager, Explorer and Mariner

FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 265 sq ft, $

FS, Family Suite, sleeps up to 8, 610 sq ft., $$$

PF, Family Panoramic Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 406 sq ft., $$

Radiance Class: Serenade, Brilliance, Radiance, Jewel

FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6, 265 sq ft., $

FF, Two-Bedroom Suite, sleeps up to 8, 592 st ft., $$$

TS, Two-Bedroom Suite, sleeps up to 8, 532 sq ft., $$$

D1, Balcony, sleeps up to 5, 184 sq ft (Serenade of the Seas only) $

JS, Junior Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 5, 282 sq ft, (Serenade of the Seas only) $$

Vision Class: Grandeur, Rhapsody, Splendor, Enchantment, Legend, Vision

FO, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 6 guests, 233 sq ft., $ – (Enchantment, Rhapsody, Vision only)

FF, Family Ocean View, sleeps up to 8 guests, 470 sq. ft., $$ (Grandeur and Vision only)

FS, Royal Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 8 people, 463 sq ft., $$$ -(Rhapsody, Vision, Grandeur, and Enchantment)

FS, Royal Family Suite with Balcony, sleeps up to 7, 526 sq. ft, $$$ – (Splendor and Legend)

JS, Junior Suite, sleeps up to 6,  204 sq. ft., $$$

FI, Family Interior, sleeps up to 6, 260 sq ft., $

Sovereign Class: Majesty of the Seas

FS, Family Suite, sleeps up to 6 guests, 364 sq ft., $$ – Majesty only

Sovereign Class: Empress of the Seas



For more specific details on Celebrity’s cabins click here.


Eclipse, Silhouette, Solstice, Equinox, Reflection

FV, Family Verandahs, sleeps up to 5, 270 sq ft $$$

Millenium, Constellation, Summit, Infinity

9, 10, 11, 1, Inside cabins that sleeps up to 5, 170 sq ft, $$

4,5,7,8, Oceanview cabins, sleeps up to 5, 170 sq ft, $$

FV, Family Verandahs, sleeps up to 5, 270 sq ft $$$

Are there any cruises on which KIDS CRUISE FOR FREE?

Gelato for the kids in Italy

YES! But not many. We’ve listed them all below.

Be sure to contact us if you’re looking for a cruise in which kids cruise for free – as new ships and dates are announced all the time, and often the web site pricing will not reveal the correct kid-free price!

If you’re a military family in Europe you’re in luck, as kids age 11 and under cruise for free on almost all MSC CRUISES in Europe, (when they are the 3rd and 4th person in a cabin)!

Kids ages 12-17 pay a very reduced rate, sometimes as little as $99 each!!

MSC also has the same kids free policy on select sailings in the Caribbean!

Norwegian also has the 3rd/4th passenger free as one of it’s Free At Sea incentives on select sailings.

Occasionally Kids are free as the 3rd/4th passenger in Holland’s flash fares.

Costa has kids free as a capacity controlled promotion for select cabins on select sailings. Capacity controlled means that once they sell enough cabins, the promotion is over. Move quickly with this one!

For right now – that’s it! No other cruise lines are offering any kids cruise free deals. However, we know you want that. So we’re constantly on the lookout for it and all other great cruise deals and will let you know as soon as we know.

Magnifica S3 Suite

The S3 Aurea Suites on the Magnifica do hold 5 people. There are only 8 of these cabins on the whole ship!

Berthing 5 people in a Cabin for 4 on Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean can add an infant, under 24 months, to most cabins for four as long as that cabin has space to accommodate a crib. We have to call to ask.

Are there special discounts just for seniors? YES!

The cruise lines call them Senior Special promotions and they are good for cabins with a passenger who is 55 years or older.

Our online booking engine will automatically apply any applicable senior discounts to your booking if you have the box checked next to the word “senior” when you are using our site to get a cabin total for a specific cruise.

In order to get a cabin total on a cruise on our site, you’ll need to enter in the number of passengers in a cabin, and indicate past passenger, military and senior status.

Our site will then automatically look for discounts for all those variables and apply them in accordance with the cruise lines rules and as necessary to get you the best possible rate from the cruise line.

Even if no senior rate is offered by the cruise line, our discount still applies.

Below is an example of what our site looks like when you use it to get pricing on a specific cruise.  An arrow is pointing to the place you will indicate your senior and military or veteran status.

Even though it only says ‘military’, veterans do qualify for all our discounts. *


Indicate Senior Status Here

Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Costa, Princess, and Holland all have senior discounts on select sailings.

If any passenger is over 55 years old, be sure to let us know so that we may look for this discount on your sailing.

* Disney is the only cruise line that will not give it’s military discount to veterans – only active and retired military personnel.


Military Mom’s review of MSC Splendida

If you’re a military family in Europe trying to decide which cruise to take, you should see this.

It’s a military mom’s review of her family’s cruise to the Western Med on the MSC Splendida.

It’s so helpful! She talks about the room, the food, what to do in port, the drink packages, the kids clubs, etc.

We figured many of you would be interested in every word she had to say, so we’re posting the entire review below.

And, she even let us post some of her pictures. Thank you, Kacie Rosario!!

Read Kacie’s review below:

The MSC Splendida was our first cruise! We had read some reviews on MSC, and it almost changed my mind, but we decided to test it out ourselves.

We could not have asked for a better experience! From the staff, the food, the amenities, and the ports of call – it was our best vacation yet.

We really enjoyed the ease of cruising and the relaxed atmosphere of the ship. There was always something to do, but if you just wanted to relax – there are plenty of places for that too!

Everything was well organized and ran smoothly – from embarkation, the excursions, dining services, and disembarkation. We never felt like we were rushed, crowded, or pressured. When we did have questions the concierge was always helpful.

It was also nice that everything was taken care of, by Mitch, before we cruised. He had our crib booked in our room, our tickets e-mailed to us, and even signed us up for the excursions that I wanted to do.

I was a nervous first time cruiser and Mitch was great about promptly answering my dozens of emails.

We also enjoyed the dining experience onboard. Every night you have the option to enjoy a seven-course meal, and it does not disappoint. I consider myself a picky eater, and there was always something I enjoyed. The wait staff also goes above and beyond to make you feel welcome.

We have a two-year-old and I was really nervous about bringing him into the dining room and getting those annoyed stares, but the staff was so accommodating and understanding – as were our fellow diners.

We also decided to go with the Cheers package which allowed us unlimited drinks (beer, wine, soda, and water) during dining hours – which was a great purchase for us, and we certainly got our money’s worth! The buffet was also great for breakfast and lunch. They had a wide variety of options and the service, again, was phenomenal.

Our room was fantastic, and far exceeded our expectations. From the reviews I was expecting a tin shoebox, but our room was large enough for two adults to relax, and a toddler to run around.

We had a great view from our balcony, and it was nice to sit outside while we were arriving and leaving a port. The room service visited twice a day and was always quick to offer assistance.

We looked around the kids area, and we would have taken advantage if our son was older. The groups would come into the buffet at times, and always seemed like they were having so much fun. It looked like they had costume days, and plenty of arts and craft activities.

Even though we didn’t specifically use the kids club – the ship itself was very kid friendly. There are plenty of wide open spaces where we could ‘run off’ steam, or enjoy the views.

We enjoyed all of the ports of call – the only complaint I have is that we could not spend ALL day at some! We chose to do two excursions through MSC (Tunisia and Palermo) and we did the rest on our own.

We did utilize a shuttle through MSC at two of the ports, which was a great deal – it gave you a cheap and reliable way to the city center, but allowed you to still explore on your own.

Tunisia and Rome were our ultimate favorite ports.

I would suggest doing an organized excursion in Tunisia – especially if you have children. Tunisia is fantastic, but a bit overwhelming. For us it was nice to just sit back, relax, and let the tour guide take us to all of the amazing sights.

I would also suggest porting out of Rome so you can extend a couple days on the front or back end of your cruise. We opted for this planned and it worked out great for us. There is just too much to see in Rome!

In every port we ate at an authentic restaurant to that city or country. It was great to experience new things and we had fun tracking down the right place! In Barcelona we ate tapas, in Palermo a traditional Sicilian restaurant, in Rome we had plenty of pizza, in Marseille we had beignets, and in Tunisia we enjoyed some amazing local coffee. I would suggest just getting out and enjoying the culture and surroundings!

Kacie has even more pictures, great tips and info on her blog, Thanks so much for letting us share all that with everyone Kacie. I’m sure it was helpful to many folks.

Great cruise advice from a military spouse!

Military spouse, Raquel Thiebes, is a cruise enthusiast! She just wrote a great review of the MSC cruise she took recently. Here’s an tiny excerpt:

We just got back from our last MSC cruise in the Western Mediterranean a few weeks ago, and I thought I would share some tips! One of my moderators also returned from her trip on Costa and has some helpful hints below as well. Some of our advice you can apply to the other cruise lines as well. Knowledge is power, right? I’ve taken a few notes and thought these could help the next person:

Drink packages. Do the math, period. They will try to cajole you and convince you to go with the most expensive package. Do keep in mind that water, tea and coffee will ALWAYS be available 24 hours up in the buffet restaurant on MSC.

If you’re considering cruising Europe on MSC or Costa, you’ll get a lot out of her articles and suggestions.

She’s spent 214 days over the last four years on cruises to Europe and the Middle East.

Our interview with Jennifer Hicks will inspire and enlighten you!


Jennifer, when did you take your first cruise?

My first cruise was July 2009. It was a four night Baltic Sea Cruise to Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg.

Was it love at first cruise? Or did you develop an appreciation for cruising as you got older or went on more cruises?

I used to think that cruising was just for the retired set. Then I started seeing beautiful photos in my travel magazines of cruise ships in lovely places like Santorini (Thira) and Venice which got me thinking that perhaps I should look into it.

My husband took some convincing to book that first cruise but now he loves it as much as I do.

How many cruises have you taken in your life?

I have taken 20 cruises on seven cruise lines and spent 214 nights at sea. My trusted travel agent is Mitch at Military Cruise Deals. My husband is a civilian with the US Navy, and Mitch finds the best deals while providing superb service.

Obviously there are many travel choices that you could have made, yet you’ve chosen to take a cruise at every possible opportunity. Why do you keep choosing to cruise?

There are so many reasons! I love the fact that we can have family time, personal time and couple time on board.

I love being waited on in the dining room and having a menu without prices.

I love the children”s programs onboard, the evening entertainment and the many things to do.

Above all, I love visiting amazing places while only having to unpack once.

The only thing I don’t love is trying to watch my weight. Everything just tastes so good.

You’ve mentioned that sometimes your husband is not able to go on all those cruises with you. Do you ever get lonely cruising with just you and your son?

Caleb (her son) and I have been on six cruises without my husband. He just can’t get enough time off to match up with all the great deals I’m finding. Cruising is just so safe and such a great way to meet people that we’re never lonely.

You’ve cruised on many different cruise lines:

After so many cruises, have you noticed major differences in the ships or cruise lines’ quality, cleanliness, food, cabins and staff?

I’ve been on seven different cruise lines and they have many things in common. I don’t see myself ever just cruising with one line. I don’t have a favorite. I like to mix it up, try different menus, different cabins and different shows. They all deliver an outstanding vacation experience!

While you’re officially a resident of Maryland, your husband’s work has been in Europe and that appears to have influenced where you’ve cruise to. You’ve taken about a half dozen cruises that left from either Rome or Barcelona and cruised to all these Italian ports: Naples, Genoa, Livorno, Palermo, Sicily and Venice.

Did you feel like one day per cruise was not enough, so going back to these same ports on multiple cruises was still interesting for you? Where any of these ports more interesting and easier to enjoy than others?

Venice is my absolute favorite port in all of Europe. There is nothing like sailing in and out of that gorgeous city!

The exotic or unusual cruises you’ve taken are a cruise that started in Dubai and another that went to Haifa, through the Suez Canal and to Alexandria in Egypt. Many people are intimidated by Middle Eastern cruise itineraries such as that. Were you? What were the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of those ports of call for you?

The beauty of traveling to riskier places by cruise ship is that you know you will be well cared for. Risks are minimized and professional local tour operators give you peace of mind. The Middle East can be risky but I just didn’t feel afraid on the various cruises we’ve taken there.

Also, my husband kept assuring me that pirates wouldn’t want a cruise ship but prefer the oil tankers and smaller vessels. He was right. The pirates left us alone! Of course we did have an escort of merchant marines and had to stay off the open decks at night.

The Suez Canal has an amazing history and is truly fascinating to cruise through. One side of the canal is green because of the waters from the Nile and the other is dry as a bone. Many people lined the canal to watch us pass through.

I must mention Petra, Jordan as being the most magnificent archeological site we’ve been to. I highly recommend you put it on your bucket list. We were fortunate enough to visit Petra twice and still would love to return to see more. (To access Petra, cruise to Jordan’s only cruise port, Al Aqaba.)

Petra Jordan

And you took one cruise from Rotterdam that made many stops in Ireland. Many people probably haven’t considered a cruise as a good way to see Ireland. Was the famously beautiful greenery of the Irish landscape close enough to the ships ports for you to be able to experience it?

Our British Isles cruise was a 12 night on Holland American Line with two of the ports in Ireland and one in Northern Ireland.

We loved this cruise and would be happy to do another of the British Isles. Waterford, Ireland was our first port in the Emerald Isle and I had tears in my eyes as we tendered into port because the gorgeous green and the live bagpipe music combined to create such a powerful effect on me.

The weather in the British Isles is unpredictable. We thought we’d have more sun in August but we had rain almost every day of the cruise. We still had a lovely time.

You’ve also taken multiple cruises to the Greek islands at the far Eastern tip of the Mediterranean, and the Canary Islands at the far west of the Med. I’m wondering which you enjoyed most about each? What major difference you experienced between those two itineraries?

I’ve been to 10 Greek Isles and will add another in a month. Greece is absolutely one of the most gorgeous places to cruise.

Santorini is on almost all of the cruise brochures I get. There is a reason. Go to Santorini if you haven’t yet. It is the most dramatically beautiful island in Greece. It is like my equivalent of Disneyland.

Santorini, Greece

(Important note to readers! If you search on our Web site for a cruise stopping in Santorini – you’ll never find it, because the official name for Santorini is Thira. Odd, but true.

The Canary Islands and Madeira (Madeira is Funchal, Portugal) are also beautiful and fascinating. Many trans-Atlantic cruises stop here on their way to the Med. I’ve been twice to these islands and I know I’ve said this before but I’d love to go back.

On the Island of Tenerife we took our son to Loro Parque which was just as good as Sea World. It was my son’s first chance to see killer whales close up. We sat right up front and got splashed. It was so much fun!

With all this cruising comes an important decision you have to make at every port of call: What are you going to do: stay on the ship, walk off and go it alone, or take a guided shore excursion?

For many people, the shore excursions can be so expensive, many people choose them sparingly – doing maybe only one or two per cruise. How about yourself? Do you recall anything you did at ports that was free or affordable and particularly fun?

I like to take the ship’s excursions if I’m going someplace new and or know I just can’t miss a certain site.

Petra, Jordan was an example. But, they are pricey and if you do every port with a ship excursion your cruise will become quite expensive.

I’ve found the meeting up with fellow passengers on is the ideal way to be part of smaller excursion groups.

On my last cruise I joined a fun international group of 15 for sites from Alanya, Turkey. We had a memorable day together visiting three ancient sites and having a traditional lunch. In Dubrovnik, Croatia while on a Carnival Breeze(The Breeze is one of Carival’s newest, biggest ships!) cruise we took a local bus into town, walked to the cable car and rode it up the hill for the most amazing views. We had a nice ice cream in the cafe at the top and then wandered the charming city together, stopping for photos with a man dressed as a pirate with parrots on his shoulders.

I would love to hear about some of your favorite shore excursions. In case this helps jog your memory, below is a list I made of some of the ports you’ve cruised to:

Istanbul – Topkapi Palace is my favorite site there.

Athens – I live here so I think everything is wonderful but you have to go to the Acropolis.

Rhodes – I loved the Archeological Museum & the Palace

Haifa – Nazareth, Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem are a must.

Port Said, Alexandria, Egypt – The Pyramids are the highlight here. I’ve been three times to them. Egypt has over 100 pyramids so if you can see some of the others besides those at Giza you will have a more personal experience.

Dublin – We explored the city on our own and had a lovely day.

Holyhead – (Wales) We took a full day tour all around Wales with cruise critic friends. We loved the Caernarfon Castle.

Belfast – Another full day tour with friends. City tour and the Giant’s Causeway were terrific.

Barcelona – My favorite is Las Ramblas and the Picasso Museum.

Rome – We loved the Vatican Museum and Colosseum the best.

Naples – We used to live here so I feel like I’m home when we stop here. Go to Pompeii if you haven’t yet. Also the National Archeological Museum is amazing.

Venice – Hands down my favorite Mediterranean Port. Most unique city in the world!

Malaga – I loved the Alhambra Palace. Truly fabulous! Spain has a hold on my heart and it started in Granada.

Lisbon – Gorgeous city full of lots to see. Do a city tour by hop on and off bus

Valetta – I only have been to Malta once but sometimes I long to live there. It had a hold on me from the start. I took a city tour with Disney.

Monaco – It is a fairy land where everyone seems fabulously wealthy and is super safe. You must go to Monaco at least once!

Palma de Mallorca really surprised me. It has everything one would want: history, art, great shopping, beaches, aquarium. I want to go back so badly.

You’ve cruised in the following Holland ships: Westerdam, Rotterdam, Ryndam and you’re scheduled to cruise on the Noordam in April of this year. You have a young son whom you take along on most of your cruises. How did he feel about HollandPrincess and Celebrity? Did he feel there was enough to do and others his age to play with?

I love Holland America: they do actually have children’s programs and other kids onboard. The same with Celebrity and Princess. Hats off to the cruise lines for making cruising so much fun for kids!

All of the lines we have sailed have made a huge effort to make our son happy onboard and I appreciate it! It keeps me coming back to cruising again and again. We will not cruise with a cruise line that doesn’t have a children’s program.


The recent incidents of technical trouble on a few cruise ships have caused some people to be nervous about cruising. Do you worry at all about something like that happening while you are on board?

I think cruising is very safe and I think people should not be afraid. It is safer than flying or driving for sure! I don’t like rough seas but it doesn’t keep me from cruising.

I try to ignore the negative news about cruising because these incidents are so rare and don’t represent the reality of cruising to me.

What’s still on your cruise bucket list?

Well, my big dream is to take a world cruise on Holland America Line. 115 nights and 30,000 nautical miles. Wouldn’t that be something! We’re saving our money.

We thank Jennifer for taking the time to share all that with us! I’m sure it will help us all get more out of our future cruises to Europe and the Middle East.

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Royal Princess

Here’s a tip from us (and we are some very experienced cruisers)…try and book your next cruise on a NEW SHIP!

All cruise ships are utterly stunning. And the view from your balcony cabin or the top deck is the same on every ship.

But these days, the newest ships are so luxurious, so large and have so many exciting new features that – we would love to get on them right away!

Click on links below to see best deals on all upcoming sailings on the world’s newest cruise ships.

Carnival Horizon

-begins cruising in 2018

-Coming to Europe in April of 2018

-Carnival Horizon brings you Dr. Suess Waterworks, the Skyride, Ropes Course, Dr. Suess Bookville, Imax, Seaside movies, Bonsai Teppanyaki, and Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse/Brewhouse

Carnival Vista

– began cruising in 2016

– coming to the Caribbean in winter 2016- Spring 2017

-Carnival Vista brings you the first IMAX at sea, a SkyRide, and a Sports square

-The Vista has Cuban themed cabins and a Cuban themed Havana bar & pool

Celebrity Edge

-Begins cruising in December of 2018 with a blessing from godmother Malala Yousafzai

– Enjoy the Eden garden lounge, moving on the Magic Carpet bar, and a glass view that creates the “infinite” verandahs

Costa Diadema

-The Diadema began cruising the Mediterranean in 2014

– It features 7,000 pieces of art, a vintage ice cream parlour, and a laser tag/laser maze area

– Costa is consistently one of the best deals for our military families in Europe because it has cabins that hold 5!

Costa Fascinosa

-The Fascinosa began cruising 2012 in Europe

-This new ship features no less than 4 pools and 5 jacuzzi hot tubs! Plus it has a waterslide and a grand prix simulator!

– Costa is consistently one of the best deals for our military families within Europe because it has cabins that hold 5!

Cunard (More information to come)

Cunard will be adding a new ship in 2022.

Disney Fantasy

– built in 2012, the Disney fantasy does 7-day cruises out of Port Canaveral year-round

– The Fantasy is great for families with cabins that hold 5 people, Disney character greetings and a new Aquaduck water slide!

-There are also adult only parts of the ship- including a spa, for parents to enjoy while kids are in the kid’s club

Holland Nieuw Statendam

– This new ship will begin sailing in December of 2018 from Rome to Ft. Lauderdale

– From there, the inaugural season will be in the Caribbean

– This Pinnacle class ship features the Lincoln Center Stage, BB King’s blues bar, America’s Test Kitchen, BBC Earth Experiences, and light-filled curvy rooms inspired by instruments

Holland Kongisdam

-This elegant music inspired ship began cruising in 2016

-It includes Blend, where you can make your own wine, a music walk with performers, and Holland’s first staterooms for solo travelers

– Plus Food and Wine magazine designed a Culinary Arts center onboard for cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes with celebrity chefs

MSC Bellissima

– The Bellissima will begin sailing the Western Mediterranean in March of 2019

– The sister ship to the Meraviglia has a 260-ft LED dome, 20 bars, 10 restaurants, 2 specialized Cirque du Soleil shows, F1 simulators, full-size bowling lanes, and the polar aquapark

-The Bellissima has new stateroom types that hold up to 9 guests as well as studios for solo travelers

MSC Seaview

– This sister ship to the Seaside will begin sailing in the Western Mediterranean in June of 2018

– It will have a 360-degree promenade with glass railings that encircles the ship for a great view!

– This ship will also have more balcony rooms, glass elevators, public areas, and new cabins that accommodate up to 10 people!

MSC Seaside

-will begin cruising in 2017 in the Caribbean

-It will feature an interactive waterpark with slide boards on the slides, an ocean level promenade, and glass elevators

-This ship will also feature new stateroom types focused on larger families that can accommodate up to 10 people!

MSC Meraviglia

-will begin cruising in 2017 in Europe

-Cirque du Soleil has started a partnership with MSC and will perform!

-New aqua park, amusement park with bowling and a 4D cinema, and the all-inclusive MSC Yacht Club

Norwegian Bliss

– The Norwegian Bliss will sail Alaska and the Caribbean starting in November of 2018

– Kids will love the deckside racetrack, Laser tag park, aqua park, beautiful observation lounges, and onboard productions of Jersey Boys!

Norwegian Joy

-Tailored for Chinese voyages this ship features an onboard racetrack, racing simulations, and a serenity park

– For US Citizens visas may be required for China but not for Japan, see here for details

Norwegian Escape

– began cruising in 2015 to Bermuda and the Caribbean

– The Escape has Nickelodeon mini golf, a kids club, and giant water slides in the aqua park

– There is also a bowling alley, blues club, ropes course, and sports arena to keep you moving

Princess Majestic Princess

– The Majestic Princess began sailing in the Summer of 2017, christened by NBA star, Yao Ming

– The nights are host to movies under the stars, shows, dancing, and even a colorful Bellagio-style water show

– Cuisine includes world cuisine options such as a ramen bar, Gong Cha bubble tea, and dim sum

Princess Regal Princess

– began cruising in 2014

– amazing two-story penthouse cabins, luxurious amenities like Norman Love chocolates, recipes from Curtis Stone, and a see-through walkway called the “Seawalk”

-Kids will love seeing nightly movies under the stars will play on an even larger screen, or shoot in the laser shooting range!

Princess, Royal Princess 

– set sail in June of 2013 and is now cruising in Europe, and the Caribbean!

– amazing two-story penthouse cabins, luxurious amenities like Norman Love chocolates, recipes from Curtis Stone, and a see-through walkway called the “Seawalk”

-Kids will love nightly movies under the stars will play on an even larger screen with popcorn, and excursions designed by the Discovery Channel!

Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas

– Will sail in Europe starting in March of 2018

-Royal Caribbean’s newest ship includes laser tag, the hit musical Hairspray, waterslides, splash away bay, a time-traveling show on ice, daredevil shows at the aqua theater, the ultimate abyss slide, FlowRider surf simulator, and more!

-This ship has Family Suite staterooms with a slide for the kids!

Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas

-began cruising in 2016 in Southern Europe

-part of the Quantum Class that features a skydiving simulator, robotic bartenders, bumper cars, a north star observation capsule, trapeze school, and inside cabins with virtual balconies

Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas

-began cruising in 2016 and travels all over the world to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean

-part of the Oasis Class that features water shows in the Aqua theatre, a FlowRider surf simulator, a zipline, and 7 neighborhoods full of shopping and entertainment- See more here

Azamara Pursuit

-Will begin sailing in August of 2018 in Europe!

-The Pursuit will have longer journeys to smaller boutique ports

-The Pursuit has a cabaret lounge and upscale bars, lounges, & pools for an adult getaway