I spent Christmas at Sea on the Norwegian Escape this past December. Our destination was the Eastern Caribbean. We visited Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas, as well as Nassau.
Over 1, 500 of the passengers were youth ranging in age from infants through 18 years. On board activities in the Splash Academy for children and Entourage for teens gave participants the option of participate in programs throughout the day and evening hours.
The Norwegian Escape’s Kids’ Aqua Park was a big draw for many young cruisers especially the enclosed tube slide. Another favorite, which was always busy, was the two-story climbing structure.
Families could be seen on the Sports Deck playing miniature golf together, shooting hoops, or playing bocce ball. Additionally, there were the many video games to share. Of course, there were also all the Christmas activities to enjoy.
Getting into the Christmas Spirit
The Christmas holiday began as soon we boarded the ship. Brightly decorated Christmas trees lit up the public areas. Holiday favorites and carols played softly in the background.
The dining rooms and buffet areas featured displays of creative winter scenes made of foodstuffs. Each of the specialty dining restaurants also had their own unique decorations that added to the spirit of the season.
Besides the dining room decorations, staff and crew created a village display in the small atrium. A set of trains chugged their way around the display. The train whistle would blow every few minutes and small puffs of white smoke would come out of the steam engine’s smoke stack. This display put many a fussy member of the under five set in a good mood almost immediately.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there were traditional holiday meals including prime rib of beef and turkey. Dessert offerings included pies, puddings and Christmas cookies.
Christmas Eve was our first port of call day. Guests going ashore boarded tenders for the trip from the Escape to Great Stirrup Bay. Besides enjoying beach activities, guests had five excursion options:
- Marine Life Encounter Eco Boat Tour
- Kayak Tour
- Stingray City Bahamas
- Wave Runner Tour
For guests staying on the ship on Christmas Eve, holiday activities began in the AM. Christmas trivia was followed by Christmas crafts. In the afternoon, Christmas movies trivia drew a huge crowd!
The Escape choir and crew led guests in singing Christmas carols in the Atrium at 9 PM. At midnight, there was an Interdenominational Christmas service in the Theater.
Christmas Day dawned early with Santa’s arrival in the Atrium. He didn’t come alone. Mrs. Claus made a rare appearance, as did some of his elves. Santa didn’t come empty handed either. He brought gifts and invited the children to have their photographs taken with him.
Guests spending the day in Nassau, our second port of call, had a choice of five shore excursions:
- Atlantis Aquaventure
- Discover Atlantis
- Discover Nassau by Land and Sea
- Blue Lagoon Beach Day
- Charm and Beauty of the Bahamas
Ship Christmas activities included a viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on the large screen in the Atrium. A family holiday glow party was well attended.
Evening activities included a performance by four time Grammy winner, Melba Moore, in the Escape Supper Club. Overflow crowds attended the Escape Holiday Spectacular, in the theater at both the 7 PM and 10 PM performances.
Many families chose to celebrate Christmas at sea on the Norwegian Escape. As a result, they got to enjoy being together at Christmas without all the work of holiday preparations.
Over the past 20 years I’ve had several opportunities to take advantage of cruises for under $500. I got to visit destinations I always wanted to see, but could not have otherwise afforded.
Before I became a Cruise Planners Franchisee, I relied on my travel agent to help find cruises for under $500. Today, as a cruise specialist, I assist my clients in finding these cruises.
Most cruises that are under $500 fall into a couple of categories that make them affordable for cruisers on a modest budget. These categories tend to include: Older ships, repositioning cruises, and seasonal discounts.
Older Ships offer Cruises for Under $500
Older ships are usually more budget-friendly because they don’t have all of what the newer, larger ships can offer, namely, more features and amenities. Also, these cruises are more often shorter in duration than cruises on the newer ships. There are overnight cruises, three and four night cruises, and seven-day cruises. While these ships may be older, they are refurbished regularly. Refurbished ships offer the same level of service, Broadway-quality entertainment, and a variety of excellent food venues found on the newer, larger ships. Cruisers, on these ships, also can enjoy pool, spa, gym, shopping, casino and many of the games and activities available on the newer ships for a much more affordable price.
Repositioning Ships offer Cruises for Under $500
Ships that are seasonally repositioned from one home port to another offer a wonderful opportunity for very low nightly per person rates. They give cruisers the opportunity to experience sea travel to interesting and exciting destinations on a high end cruise ship. Trips are usually about 10 days. Cruisers need to figure in the cost of an air flight home.
A few years ago I took a transatlantic cruise out of Tampa on the Norwegian Jade that was being repositioned to Europe. Our first destination was Key West, then on to San Juan. From there we headed across the Atlantic. Like many first time transatlantic cruisers, I was concerned about so many days at sea, without the break of getting off the ship for several hours. It turned out to be the most relaxing part of the journey. Each sea day offered a wide range of activity choices and entertainment. There were special interest lectures, pool parties, ship tours and social Meetups for adults. Youth programs began at 9 AM and ran until 10:30 PM.
The ship’s library and many lounge areas gave readers hours of uninterrupted time with a good book. The Internet Center, casino, spa, pool and gym were open from early morning to late in the evening. Evenings were spent in the theater enjoying Broadway quality shows or attending one of several music venues. Some nights, weather permitting, I watched newly released movies under the stars.
Time at sea went quickly, and we were soon in our first port of call in Portugal. From there it was on to Cork, Ireland and Falmouth, England. I disembarked in South Hampton, England where I spent a few days sightseeing in London before catching a flight home to NYC.
Seasonal Discounts for Cruises under $500
Seasonal discounts make cruising to destinations you always wanted to visit a possibility. You can book at the very beginning of a season or at almost the end of a season for Alaska and take advantage of reduced rates. You can do the same for the Mediterranean in winter, and the Caribbean in the autumn. Current listings of cruises for under $500 are listed on my cruise travel website, www.candostreetfamilyfriendlycruises.com.
If you have questions or want to book a cruise, please call me. There is no charge to you for my planning and booking assistance. I am compensated by the cruise lines for these services. In the meantime, visit my post, Tips for First Time Cruisers and make your planning and packing easier!
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Welcome to “Can Do” Street Family Friendly Cruises, your website portal for planning and enjoying luxury vacations at sea. Our site content can help you decide whether a cruise vacation is a fit for you. Current information on individual cruises, destinations and accommodations will take the guess work out of choosing a cruise.
“Can Do” Street Family Friendly Cruises is my way of sharing the travel ease, fun, and affordability of cruise vacations. To make this possible, I became a Cruise Planners Franchisee. Cruise Planners is an American Express Travel Representative. When planning a cruise, I draw on my personal cruise experiences and 35 years as an educator and recreation therapist.
Cruising is my favorite means of travel. Over the past 25 years, I’ve taken 40+ cruises, including transatlantic and river cruises. As a result, I can share what makes cruises ideal for young children and teens, as well as solo cruisers, couples, and seniors. Because I am Certified Accessible Travel Advocate, I can help children and adults with special needs to cruise in comfort.
Together we will find cruises that meet your destination interests and travel needs, while staying within your budget. I provide planning assistance at no cost.
Why a “Can Do” Street Cruises Site?
“Can Do” Street is a family site and cruises are great environments for family-friendly vacations. Cruises give individuals and families access to luxury vacations that are convenient, comfortable, exciting, and fun. Cruises pamper by providing fine dining and excellent service. Most activities are complementary, beginning early in the AM, and going late into the evening. Professional entertainment, which is offered nightly, is Broadway quality. In addition, live music is provided throughout the ship, during the day and evening.
Cruise ships anticipate the needs of families traveling with children as a standard practice. High chairs and cribs are available. The ship’s store carries diapers and other child care necessities. Dining rooms have a supply of coloring materials on hand. Children can order from a kids menu. Most staterooms have a refrigerator that can store baby bottles as well as healthy snacks.
Today’s cruises open the world of cruise travel for children and adults with special needs. In addition to accessible cabin accommodations, there are hearing and sight assistance devices on-board. Wheelchair, scooter, and walker rentals enable children and adults with motor disabilities to get around the ship and in ports. Oxygen, hospital beds, recliner chairs, and other special needs rentals make travel possible for those with medical conditions. As a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate, I can assist with planning and making arrangements for the rental of equipment. My service is offered at no charge to the those booking a cruise through “Can Do” Street Family Friendly Cruises.
What Makes Cruises Luxury Vacations at Sea?
- Cruising is a cost-effective vacation: A cruise is often more cost-effective than a land resort vacation. Most cruise costs are included in the per person rate for the cruise.
- Packing/Unpacking: You pack and unpack once. Your luggage is picked up from you at the ship terminal. It is delivered to your stateroom. Luggage is picked up from outside your stateroom on the last evening of your cruise. You pick up your luggage in the terminal after leaving the ship.
- Sea activities: All activities during the day and in the evening are free, throughout the trip, with the exception of the game arcade, casino, and spa services.
- Youth programs: Most cruise ships offer complimentary youth programs during the day and evening hours. Children are grouped by age. Staff are professionals experienced in providing recreational activities and supervising children and teens.
- Family activities: There are complimentary activities that families can enjoy together, throughout the day, and evening.
- Laundry: Cruise ships either have self-service laundries on most floors, or they offer discounts for laundry services.
- Medical Care: Cruise ships have on board medical services. Medical services are covered by the cruise insurance plan purchased when you book your cruise.
Complimentary Dining on Cruises:
- Meals Traditional dining rooms with waiter service offer complimentary dining. Buffet dining is also complimentary, as are eateries featuring pub foods or desserts. They also offer specialty restaurants which carry a charge. However, most of charges are less than similar restaurants in any city.
- Snacks: Burgers, fries and hot dogs are available on the pool decks at no additional cost. Unlimited coffee, tea, juices, milk, and soft serve ice cream are also free throughout the trip. Soda and alcoholic beverages cost less if purchased through a beverage package.
Find What You Need to Know about Cruises:
- The major cruise ships sailing from ports world-wide to destinations all over the world and river cruises
- New ships coming on line
- Weekly cruise value packages that are an affordable vacation for families
- Value packages allowing kids to sail free or at a reduced rate
- Group rates with additional amenities for family members and friends sailing together
- Information about youth programs, meals, laundry, priority boarding, insurance, medical care, accessibility, and other special needs accommodations on shipboard, and in ports
- On-board cruise life, and ports of call
- Ships with accessible, on-board accommodations, and activities for children and adults with special needs
- Destinations with accessible ports and excursions.
In my next post, I will share the pros and cons of stateroom accommodations available on a cruise. In the meantime, if you are thinking about a cruise vacation and have questions, you can reach me at 800-388-8781.
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