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FreshCruiser blog features tips, news and insight to make the most out of a family vacation without sacrificing luxury & a healthy lifestyle. Focus on fun, active, & healthy travel. Enjoy!

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Enjoy all the tips, news, insight, and advice on luxury family travel that highlights fun, active, and healthy vacations. Explore how to make the most out of your family vacation without sacrificing luxury.

FreshCruiser.com opens readers’ eyes to new adventures and calms any fears of traveling with children. With a special focus on family cruising, the website includes tips to staying active, eating well, and taking advantage of all the opportunities while on a family vacation.

Entries in cruise (33)


Review of North Star on Royal Caribbean Cruises

I do research on every ship we are considering to find out if the amenities, cruise size, and activities are for my family before we book. I have to admit, when I came across the North Star on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, it wasn’t on the top of my list. It would be a $40 per person charge since we were sailing during the Ovation of the Seas China season. The price seemed high compared to all the included activities such as the rock climbing wall, bumper cars, roller skating, and Splashaway Bay.

I was wrong.

It was one of my favorite activities I did while cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. I was able to literally experience a birds-eye-view of the ship.

Your journey starts by entering the capsule. The glass-windowed capsule has 360 degree views. The capsule moves slowly throughout the approximately 12-minute trip.

As North Star’s arm moved over to the port of the ship, you are suspended over the ship, looking back at all the cabins and upper decks.

Next, the arm extends upwards to an 80-degree angle and you are now over 300 feet above sea level. As you look down to the ship, you feel as though you are “soaring” and almost spying on the fun below.

A North Star Date  – Left the kids behind

On a sea day, my husband and I dropped the kids off at the Adventure Ocean and had an afternoon date since my toddlers were unable to go on the North Star due to height requirements. Leaving the kids behind, allowed us to truly take in the vast height and remarkable views. There was only one other couple in the pod with us, which made the experience more romantic and all around enjoyable.

I highly recommend the experience.

About North Star

Below are a few North Star Facts (Source: Royal Caribbean)

  • Guinness World Record holder for being the “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship”
  • Available on three Royal Caribbean ships: Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, and Anthem of the Seas.
  • 14 guests including room for one wheelchair, plus one Operator
  • Complimentary on all sailings (Except for Ovation of the Seas sailings during its China season)
  • Open while at sea and in port
  • Air conditioning and heat available in the pod
  • No limit to the amount of times a guest can experience North Star
  • Premium packages available


FreshCruiser Tip: It will be the most crowded at the beginning of the cruise. Plan to go on North Star a few days later to escape the crowds.


Diary: Our first cruise with children

It was a big moment in our parenting journey. We introduced our children to the joys of cruising. We took our one-year-old and three-year-old on a 3-day cruise leaving out of Long Beach on the Carnival Inspiration. The ship departed on Friday evening and returned early Monday morning.  The itinerary included one day at sea and a port of call in Ensenada, Mexico.  My husband and I have taken over 10 cruises before having children. Cruising with kids opened up a whole new world to us. We loved it.

My husband and I like to explore the entire ship upon embarkation. As we entered the Carnival Inspiration, we set off to discover all the fun places on the ship. At one point my son stopped and looked down at the Lido deck at all the people sun bathing, eating, and drinking. He was memorized. It was a moment I will never forget.  I was viewing everything through his eyes. I realized that it is important to slow down and take it all in.  My husband and I tend to rush from one place or activity to the next.  

Pre-children, we would rush to arrive at the buffet or dining room before breakfast was over. On this cruise, we were the first people to arrive at the dining room for breakfast. We got there at 7:20am. We were all dressed and ready to go but found out it was too early for breakfast.  After a quick wait, we had a nice quiet breakfast together. There’s a magical feeling of having the cruise ship to yourself in the early morning.

Soft serve yogurt for breakfast? Sure.

Pushing the bed to the wall so the kids could stand on it to look out the window? Of course.

Riding in the glass elevators to glaze at the people in the atrium? Every time.  

Bedtime? Bedtime was when we were partied out. One night we followed the show’s dancers to the after party in the atrium. My son and I danced to Tina Turner’s Proud Mary while my daughter fell asleep in my husband’s arms. Another night my son was completely exhausted and begged to go to bed during our 5:30pm dinner.

We weren’t even off the ship and were already discussing when we could go again. My kids tried new foods, heard a wide spectrum of music, watched in awe during the nightly shows, and learned cruise terminology (port, starboard, cabin, lido deck, aft, forward). Before having children, we would be extremely relaxed and well rested as we disembarked at the end of a cruise. This time, we were exhausted. It was 100% worth it.


FreshCruiser quoted in Scenic Tours news article, "Travel resources to help you plan your river cruise"

FreshCruiser's cruising expertise on planning a river cruise was recently included in a news article from Scenic Tours.

Here's an excerpt from Scenic Tours News story, "Travel resources to help you plan your river cruise."

Planning a river cruise should be an enjoyable experience. One where you and your partner get to relax, safe in the knowledge that everything is taken care of for you and that you get to experience new places almost daily from the comfort of one luxurious ship...

"Ideas of a vacation vary greatly and it’s important to find a cruise that is right for you. For instance, just because your parents or friends enjoyed a certain cruise, it doesn’t mean you will enjoy it as well. I encourage people to ask fellow cruisers their opinions and I always ask them why they picked the cruise, what was their favorite part, and if there is anything they would avoid." - FreshCruiser

To read the full article, which includes more of my thoughts on travel resources to help you plan your river cruise, visit Scenic Tours News.

FreshCruiser Tip: When looking to plan a cruise, don’t be afraid to ask questions to people you trust or travel professionals.


FreshCruiser quoted in Emerald Waterways article, "River cruising versus ocean cruising"

FreshCruiser's cruising expertise on river cruising versus ocean cruising was recently included in a news article from Emerald Waterways.

Here's an excerpt from Emerald Waterways News story, "River cruising versus ocean cruising."

"Whether you’ve previously taken an ocean cruise and would like to find out what a river cruise entails, or have never taken either and would like to discover which you’d prefer, our guide aims to help you make a decision on which cruise experience you should try next.

Both river cruising and ocean cruising offer fantastic opportunities for exploring the world’s best destinations, but the two may differ more than you would imagine.


“River cruising is truly about enjoying the river scenery, experiencing local cultures, and getting pleasure from the quaintness and luxury of the ship.

“I like that larger ocean cruises can travel far distances at a swift pace. On a recent ocean cruise, we visited diverse ports in Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Israel.” - FreshCruiser"

To read the full article, including more of my thoughts on river versus ocean cruising, visit Emerald Waterways News.


In pursuit of your dream of travel, even with a family

If you recently entered into parenthood, chances are you feel your days of jet-setting to an exotic location for a quick weekend trip are over. Not only do I encourage you to bring baby along, but there is a new world of traveling open to you. Consider a cruise. Cruises are a great way for families to travel as there is such a variety of activities to do. Cruises include your food, which helps with budgeting as well and dreaded wonder of where can I find something that my kids will eat? Cruises are known for their buffets, which in the parenting world is a dream food destination as it makes even the pickiest eaters happy.

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Headed to Rome on a cruise? Get off the beaten path and follow these tips from experienced tour guide & scholar, Theresa Potenza

The port of Civitavecchia outside of Rome is a popular stop for cruise ships visiting the region. Depending on the type of transportation you use to enter into the city, the ride is about an hour each way, which leaves visitors rushing around to see Rome before heading back to the ship. Many travelers have previously been to Rome, and are ready to see something new. But where to begin?

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Best vacation songs of all time

As I sit here in non-vacation mode day dreaming about being on vacation, I often dream about sitting on my verandah looking out over the sea, fully relaxed with a my favorite drink, listening to some of my favorite music. Which then leads me to this, what IS in fact the very best music to listen to while on a cruise? What should I load my playlist up with before heading out?

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Experts of the Port: The Maritime Pilot

Ever wonder about that little speed boat that pulls along your ship as you enter and depart the port?  Most of us who have been on a number of cruises know that this is the Pilot Boat which delivers and retrieves the pilot from the ship.  But, who needs a pilot anyways?

It wasn’t until I was on a cruise ship which called on Flam, Norway when my curiosity sparked surrounding the pilot.  There we were, slowly gliding through the mirrored waters between the massive and impressive fjords leading into Flam as suddenly, out of the tranquil landscape, approached the small pilot boat as if it were out of a movie.  As is normally the case, all the passengers on deck leaned over the railings to watch the pilot jump on-board.

Celebrity Century cruising into the port of Flam, Norway

Sometimes, the sea is like glass, as was the case in Flam, other times it is a far riskier boarding maneuver as the seas don’t always seem to cooperate.  One exciting time was while we were departing the beautiful and picturesque port of Cartagena, Colombia.  As we exited the port flanked by impressive forts on either side, we noticed the wind and waves really kick up. 

Exiting the port of Cartagena, Colombia

Sure enough, at that same time, we saw the pilot boat approaching to retrieve the pilot.  It’s amazing how much a little boat like that can bounce around in the swell.  Our enormous ship then took a wide turn towards port to shield the smaller pilot boat from the weather.  In doing so, the sea flattened and the pilot was then able to hop right off and head home.  Even though many of us have seen it a number of times, it’s always amazing to see the process unfold.  As conditions are never constant, it’s always fascinating to see how the two ships work in harmony.

Pilot boarding the cruise ship

Each time a ship enters and departs port, the pilot plays a vital role in the success of the journey.  While the ship’s captain has tremendous abilities and training pertaining to navigation and the function of their ship, their knowledge of specific ports cannot be compared to the port’s pilot.  The pilot is truly an expert of their home port.  They must know and memorize in great detail all of the unique features of their particular port such as water depths, tides, currents, and hazards just to name a few.  In fact, a pilot can essentially re-create an entire navigational chart for their port all from memory!  Many characteristics of an individual port must be learned over time by experience as they cannot be properly communicated by chart or book.   A ship’s staff cannot possibly acquire the enormous wealth of knowledge that a pilot has on any particular port making the role of the pilot essential.  Since pilots have so much responsibility over the lives of so many people along the enormous sum of money these vessels and their goods represent, becoming a pilot is a highly competitive process.  As a result, pilots are generally very handsomely compensated as salaries are generally well into the six figures.

Celebrity Century leaving Alesund, Norway

When I first pictured the role of a ship pilot, I imagined they boarded the ship and immediately took over the controls as an airline pilot would do.  However, in most cases, the pilot functions as an advisory role leaving the Captain of the ship with full command and responsibility over their vessel.  The crew of the ship and the pilot work in tandem to successfully navigate through the narrow, congested, and sometimes hazardous conditions that often exist at port.  On a side note, I later found out during my Panama Canal cruise that the only time that pilot actually takes control over a vessel is during the crossing of the Panama Canal.

Pilot boat leaving after picking up the pilot from the cruise ship

As in most business ventures, the primary goal is to make a profit.  Unfortunately, this profit goal is not always in harmony with safety.  Cruise and commercial shipping companies are often in a race against the clock as there is incentive to get in and out of port as quickly as possible.  By utilizing a pilot, this potential conflict of interest is immediately eliminated as the pilot, unlike the ship’s captain, is a public employee who does not report to the ship’s owner.  Safety becomes the one and only priority.  With countless ships entering and exiting ports on a daily basis around the world, it is not by luck that we rarely hear of incidents at port.

Freshcruiser Tip: Each time you leave a port, I hope you do what I do now and take a second to think about all the great and competent individuals who have dedicated their lives to ensure your safety each port at a time.