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Monday, January 29, 2024

A Comprehensive Review of the Aft-Facing Penthouse Suite on the Norwegian Star Cruise 2024

Welcome aboard! In this blog post, we'll take you on a journey through the luxurious Aft-Facing Penthouse Suite on the Norwegian Star cruise ship. From exclusive perks to spacious interiors and breathtaking balconies, we'll explore the ins and outs of this suite, helping you decide if it's the perfect fit for your next cruise adventure.

Section 1: Setting the Stage Let's start with a quick reminder that all proceeds from the YouTube channel associated with this cruise experience are generously donated to charity. Supporting their cause is as simple as giving a thumbs up or hitting that subscribe button when you look at our full video walk-through:

Section 2: Ship Overview The Norwegian Star may not be the largest cruise ship, measuring in at 965 feet long, but it offers a unique charm that sets it apart from today's mega cruise ships. With 1172 cabins accommodating 2,348 passengers and 1,311 crew members, the ship has undergone refurbishments, the latest in 2018. But the refurbishments were minor like adding USB outlets to cabins. 

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Section 3: A Closer Look at the Penthouse Suite The Aft-Facing Penthouse Suite, located on decks 8, 9, and 10, provides a spacious haven for passengers seeking an elevated cruising experience. We dive into room 10228, a prime example of luxury, space and comfort.

Section 4: Exclusive Perks and Thoughtful Touches Booking a suite on Norwegian Cruise Lines comes with a myriad of benefits, ranging from Priority Access during embarkation to exclusive dining experiences at Cagney's and Portofino's, specialty restaurants transformed into a lunchtime haven for Haven and suite guests.

Section 5: Suite Interior Features From plush robes and Nespresso makers to daily deliveries of champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries, the suite is adorned with thoughtful touches. The spacious wardrobe and bathroom area provide ample space for multiple guests to get ready comfortably, but the drawbacks are small shelves and safes and outdated decor, especially in the bathroom. Substantial drapery allows for privacy in the bedroom and bathroom areas from other areas of the cabin, like the desk, table and of course, balcony. 

Section 6: The Balcony Experience The balcony is a highlight of the Aft-Facing Penthouse Suite, offering unobstructed views above and below. The soothing sounds of the ship's wake make it a serene setting, with padded chaise lounges and chairs for the ultimate relaxation.

Section 7: Balancing Act - Pros and Cons As with any accommodation, there are considerations. Worn decor, combined tub/shower rather than a walk-in shower, outdated furnishings, and small safes are drawbacks to be aware of. However, the decision to book this suite ultimately depends on personal preferences, budget, and cruising style.

Conclusion: Is It Worth It? In conclusion, the Aft-Facing Penthouse Suite on the Norwegian Star is a gem for those seeking a balance of exclusivity, comfort, and the amenities of a larger ship. While there are some downsides, the overall experience, including superior service and dining, makes it a worthwhile consideration.

Closing Note: Make Meaningful and Healthy Travel Happen Whether you lean towards opulence or the allure of larger ships, making meaningful and healthy travel choices is key. If this review has piqued your interest, don't forget to check out the associated YouTube channel and consider supporting our charitable efforts.

Embark on your next cruise adventure with insights from our exploration of the Aft-Facing Penthouse Suite. Safe travels and may your journey be filled with unforgettable moments!

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Carnival Dream's Gulf of Mexico Adventure: Navigating Through Stormy Seas

Embarking on a 14-night cruise that included a visit to the iconic Panama Canal, passengers aboard Carnival Dream found themselves facing unexpected challenges on the final day of their voyage. A sudden bout of severe weather in the Gulf of Mexico prompted the crew to take precautionary measures, leading to an hour-long confinement for all guests and crew members.

Encountering the Storm: As the ship sailed through the Gulf, it encountered severe weather conditions, prompting a decision to confine everyone to their staterooms. This precautionary measure was essential to ensure the safety of all on board, considering the potential hazards on the decks and stairways caused by the intense squall. This event was reminiscent of what a Royal Caribbean ship encountered in Port Canaveral

Coping with the Weather: The confinement lasted for about an hour, during which crew members diligently checked for damages and other potential hazards once the ship had navigated through the turbulent weather. Following this, caution was advised for all passengers moving around the ship, with outer decks remaining closed in adherence to standard procedures during foul weather. See video footage here:

Impact on Entertainment: Unfortunately, the adverse weather conditions led to the cancellation of some evening entertainment on Carnival Dream. The motion of the ship in the rough seas was deemed unsafe for performers, prompting the cruise line to prioritize the safety of both guests and crew members.

Localized Incidents and Quick Response: Localized flooding and disarrayed furniture were reported in some areas of the ship due to the rough weather. However, the ship's crew promptly responded, addressing the issues and cleaning up affected hallways and public areas. Fortunately, no significant damage was reported.

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Cancellation of Special Events: The challenging weather conditions forced the cancellation of the much-anticipated Diamond and Platinum Party, a gathering for the highest levels of Carnival Cruise Line's VIFP guests. The cruise line, recognizing the inconvenience, compensated Diamond and Platinum guests with a $25 onboard credit to their Sail & Sign accounts.

Looking Ahead: As the impacted cruise successfully returned to Galveston on Saturday, January 27, the Carnival Dream has set sail on its next adventure—an 8-night cruise visiting Key West, Freeport, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau. Despite the weather challenges, the cruise line hopes for smooth sailing on their future voyages.

Conclusion: While rough weather is not uncommon in the Gulf of Mexico during the winter months, Carnival Dream's recent journey showcased the cruise line's commitment to passenger safety. As the ship continues its voyages, passengers can look forward to the captivating experiences and destinations that make cruising a unique and unforgettable adventure.

Friday, January 26, 2024

A Heartbreaking Tale of Loss: Norfolk Couple's Dream Cruise Ends in Tragedy

In a devastating turn of events, the picturesque landscapes of Cozumel, Mexico, became the backdrop for a tragic incident that claimed the lives of a Navy veteran and a dedicated local nurse. Robert Baker, 72, and Diane Baker, 62, embarked on a dream vacation aboard the Norwegian Sky cruise ship, only to have their journey cut short by an unforeseen motorcycle accident during an offshore excursion.

The couple's "5 Night Caribbean: Great Stirrup Cay & Cozumel" cruise, which commenced on January 21 from Miami, took a heartbreaking turn when the Bakers decided to explore Cozumel on a rented motorcycle. Little did they know that this decision would lead to a fatal accident along Cozumel's Southern Coastal Highway.

The tragedy unfolded during daylight hours but went unnoticed for several hours until a passing motorist discovered the crashed motorcycle and the Bakers on that fateful Tuesday night. The couple was reportedly returning the motorcycle to catch their cruise ship, scheduled to depart at 5 p.m., when the accident occurred. The exact timing of the crash remains unknown.

This unfortunate incident sheds light on the risks associated with vehicle rentals in foreign locales, particularly during vacation excursions. Cozumel, in particular, has witnessed a series of accidents involving American tourists, emphasizing the dangers of renting vehicles in unfamiliar territories.


The Bakers' fate echoes a similar incident in September 2023, where two American passengers from Carnival Paradise, Natalia and Ashley Ortega, were involved in a serious scooter accident during a separate excursion. The cruise ship departed without knowledge of their situation, leaving the injured passengers behind.

Cruise lines like Carnival Cruise Line strongly advise against renting motor vehicles from non-approved vendors in ports of call due to less stringent regulations compared to the U.S. Variable conditions of vehicles and roads, combined with lax enforcement of local traffic laws, significantly increase the risk of accidents. Passengers are urged to evaluate their own experience and comfort level with different modes of transport and prioritize safety gear like helmets and protective clothing.

The aftermath of overseas incidents also reveals the complexities families face when dealing with accidents abroad. In the case of the Bakers, their son, Sam Eisenhuth, struggled to obtain information about the accident through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Similarly, the Ortega family grappled with exorbitant medical bills.

Honoring the memory of the Bakers, active members of the Real Life Christian Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, a Celebration of Life service is scheduled for February 2 at 6:30 p.m. During this difficult time, our thoughts are with their family, and these incidents serve as a somber reminder of the importance of safety and awareness during travel.

the U.S. Department of State often provides travel information, including advice on renting vehicles in foreign countries, through its travel advisories.

Here are some general considerations when renting a vehicle out of the country:

  1. Check Travel Advisories: The U.S. Department of State issues travel advisories for different countries, and these advisories often include information about safety and security concerns, including those related to transportation.

  2. Local Laws and Regulations: Before renting a vehicle in a foreign country, it's crucial to be aware of local laws and regulations regarding driving. Different countries may have varying road conditions, traffic rules, and enforcement standards.

  3. Approved Rental Agencies: Travelers are often advised to use well-established and reputable rental agencies. Some travel advisories may caution against renting from non-approved vendors due to potential issues with the condition of vehicles and the quality of service.

  4. Insurance Coverage: Understanding the insurance coverage provided by the rental agency and whether it aligns with personal needs is crucial. Travelers might consider additional insurance coverage for better protection.

  5. Road Safety: Some travel advisories provide information about the general safety of roads and transportation infrastructure in specific countries. This includes insights into potential hazards and risks associated with driving.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding renting vehicles in specific locations, it's recommended to check the latest travel advisories on the official website of the U.S. Department of State or consult with the relevant embassy or consulate. Travel conditions and advisories can change, so it's essential to stay informed with the latest information before planning any trip.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Breaking Cruise News: Sun Princess® Inaugural Sailing Faces Unforeseen Cancellation. Will more sailings be affected?

We bring you breaking news from the world of luxury cruising, and it's not the kind of update we were hoping to share. Brace yourself for the latest on the Sun Princess® sailing, originally set to embark on its inaugural journey on February 8. It is very likely additional sailings will be affected too. 

Behind the Scenes Drama: What's Happening with Sun Princess®?

Rumors are swirling in the cruise community, and it seems there's more to the story than meets the eye. Reports from a concerned insider on social media have shed light on unexpected challenges the Sun Princess® is currently facing. It appears the ship may not be ready for prime time for the next three months. Some sources even claim that Princess employees are still off the ship, residing in hotels instead of their designated cabins.

See the full notice here: 

Intriguingly, some have shared concerns about the ship's readiness. Restaurants remain incomplete, air conditioning systems are not yet operational, and crew and passenger cabins are still a work in progress. It was suggested that the ship may not be ready for months and that PRINCESS CRUISE LINES HAS KNOWN THIS FOR AWHILE.

Personal Impact: How Does This Affect You?

Now, why should you care about these behind-the-scenes happenings? Well, if you're one of the excited future passengers booked for the February 8 sailing, you're directly affected. It's with regret that we report the cancellation of this much-anticipated cruise. But we strongly encourage you to keep a watch out for cancellation if you are on any sailing later in February and even into March.

As future passengers ourselves, we understand the frustration and disappointment this unexpected turn of events brings. The anticipation surrounding this inaugural journey was palpable, and now, we find ourselves at the mercy of decisions beyond our control and cancelling reservations surrounding the ports of call on this cruise.

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Refunds, Future Cruise Credits, and Travel Plan Adjustments

In response to this unforeseen situation, Princess Cruises is committed to making things right for its valued passengers. Full refunds, including cruise fare and pre-purchased onboard services, are on the horizon. Additionally, a 50% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) will be extended for a future Princess® voyage and has already been added to our Princess Captain's Circle Account. To clarify, you will get 50% of the cost of the Sun Princess canceled cruise in your account, not 50% off a future cruise! 

Understanding that your travel plans might need a shake-up, Princess Cruises is ready to assist with up to $200 per guest to cover change fees related to your flights. Simply provide documentation of the fees here.

Fortunately for us, we booked our business class flights with points for the departure to Barcelona and with Princess EZ-Air for the return from Rome. The most expensive portion of this cruise, airfare, is easily canceled for us but may not be for those who have booked independent air plans that cannot be canceled or changed. The $200 per guest fee will only partially cover most passenger's expense incurred.

Charting a Course Forward: Your Next Adventure with Princess Cruises

To quote John Padgett, President of Princess Cruises: "Though we find ourselves in a moment of disappointment, we encourage you to look ahead. Your journey with Princess Cruises is far from over. Consider joining us on another Sun Princess® voyage, where we promise an unforgettable experience filled with adventure, relaxation, and cherished memories."

Navigating the Storm: Sun Princess® Saga Unfolds

As the Sun Princess® navigates unexpected delays, the disappointment echoes through the cruise community. Princess Cruises, recognizing the challenge, is actively working to ease the impact with full refunds, future cruise credits, and support for altering travel plans.

Our flexible approach to business class flights with points provides a silver lining, but not all passengers may share this fortune. The $200 per guest fee, while a gesture, only partially covers the expenses incurred, especially for those with non-changeable independent air plans.

Anticipating that ours won't be the only affected voyage, rumors suggest the ship may not be ready for months. We advise fellow passengers to keep an eye on emails akin to the one we received, signaling cancellations. Princess Cruises is likely implementing a rolling cancellation system, adapting to the evolving situation.

As the Sun Princess® saga continues to unfold, stay informed, stay patient, and stay hopeful for the eventual smooth sailing that awaits in the not-too-distant future.


Monday, January 22, 2024

The Windy City Tops Orkin's List: Chicago Holds #1 Spot in the US for Bed Bugs Four Years in a Row

The Windy City, Chicago, has once again secured its position as the worst city for bed bugs, topping Orkin's Top 50 Bed Bug Cities List for the fourth consecutive year. The list, based on treatment data from December 1, 2022, to November 30, 2023, highlights the prevalence of bed bug issues across the United States. In this blog post, we explore the cities with the most bed bugs, discuss the increase in concern among travelers, and provide essential tips for identifying and preventing bed bug infestations.

Bed bugs are typically 3/16 inch long and red to dark brown in color.

The Bed Bug Cities Ranking: The top three cities on Orkin's list remain unchanged, with Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia claiming the first, second, and third spots, respectively. Noteworthy shifts include Greensboro, N.C., making a substantial jump of twenty-five spots to enter the Top Twenty. Milwaukee and Tampa also moved up by fifteen and ten spots, respectively.

Why the Concern? As the Paris Bed Bug craze continues, travelers are increasingly vigilant about avoiding these stealthy pests. With the prospect of increased travel in 2024, it becomes crucial for individuals to learn how to identify and thoroughly check for bed bugs in hotel rooms, both internationally and domestically, while also taking precautions not to bring them home.

Characteristics of Bed Bugs: Bed bugs are typically 3/16 inch long and red to dark brown in color. These nocturnal insects feed on the blood of sleeping humans and are adept at hiding. Travelers are advised to be cautious, as bed bugs can easily cling to luggage, purses, and personal belongings, facilitating their transportation from one place to another.

Top Bed Bug Cities: The list of cities with the most bed bugs is extensive, and Chicago leads the pack, followed by New York, Philadelphia, and others. The ranking is based on treatment data from both residential and commercial treatments conducted by Orkin.

What cities have the most bed bugs? 

  1. Chicago
  2. New York 
  3. Philadelphia 
  4. Cleveland-Akron, OH 
  5. Los Angeles 
  6. Detroit 
  7. Washington, D.C. (+2)
  8. Indianapolis (-1)
  9. Charlotte (+5)
  10. Champaign, IL (+1)
  11. Columbus, OH (-1)
  12. Cincinnati (+1)
  13. Atlanta (+3)
  14. Grand Rapids, MI (-2)
  15. Denver 
  16. Baltimore (-8)
  17. Richmond, VA (+9)
  18. Greensboro, N.C. (+25)
  19. St. Louis (+6)
  20. Youngstown (+7)
  21. Pittsburgh (-3)
  22. Dallas-Ft. Worth (-5)
  23. Flint, MI (-2)
  24. Raleigh-Durham (-4)
  25. Milwaukee (+15)
  26. Charleston, W.V. (-7)
  27. Greenville, SC (-3)
  28. Norfolk, VA (-5)
  29. Davenport (+8)
  30. Nashville (+3)
  31. Tampa (+10)
  32. Toledo (+6)
  33. Dayton, OH (+1)
  34. Knoxville (-4)
  35. Las Vegas (new to list)
  36. Omaha, NE (-4)
  37. South Bend, IN (-9)
  38. Houston (+6)
  39. Cedar Rapids, MI (-8)
  40. Ft. Wayne, IN (-5)
  41. San Francisco (-19)
  42. Buffalo, NY (-13)
  43. Harrisburg (-7)
  44. Seattle (-5)
  45. Miami 
  46. Orlando (+1)
  47. Minneapolis (new to list)
  48. Oklahoma City (new to list)
  49. Louisville, KY 
  50. Lexington, KY (-4)

Proactive Tips for Prevention:

To help homeowners and travelers prevent bed bug infestations, Orkin recommends the following proactive tips:

At Home:

  • Regularly inspect your home for signs of bed bugs, focusing on hiding spots such as mattress seams, behind baseboards, and electrical outlets.
  • Decrease clutter to make it easier to spot bed bugs during inspections.
  • Thoroughly examine secondhand furniture before bringing it inside your home.
  • If you are a frequent traveler, there are bedbug resistant mattress covers for your home.

During Travel (S.L.E.E.P.):

  • Survey the hotel room or cruise cabin for signs of infestation.
  • Lift and look in bed bug hiding spots, including the mattress, box spring, and furniture.
  • Elevate luggage away from the bed and wall.
  • Examine luggage carefully while repacking and upon returning home.
  • Place dryer-safe clothing in the dryer for at least 30-45 minutes after a trip.

Conclusion: With bed bugs proving to be resilient and challenging to control, awareness and proactive measures are essential. As we navigate the potential increase in travel, staying informed and following preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of encountering bed bugs. For more information on bed bug prevention and control, visit Orkin's website.