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Glacier Bay – The Jewel of Alaskan Cruising

Marjerie GlacierThe majestic grandeur of Glacier Bay and its 1,045 glaciers and pristine waters is nowhere more evident than at the mile-long face of Marjerie Glacier, a towering monument to nature’s magnificence.  Sadly, however, climate change has taken a toll here, too, as only five of Glacier Bay’s 1,045 glaciers are considered to be “healthy,” i.e., not retreating.  See Glacier Bay now, while you still can.

 

Norwegian’s Studio Cabins a Perfect Fit for One

cabinThe bane of traveling solo has always revolved around having to pay the double-occupancy accommodations price – especially on cruises.  With their innovative, single-occupancy Studio cabins, however, Norwegian Cruise Line has resolved the pricing issue while delivering a completely unique solution.  Available on their newest ships, the compact (100 sq. ft.) Studio cabins-for-one not only offer a practical, ingenious design with an affordable, single-occupancy price tag – they also feature access to a keyed-entry, shared lounge area (with a self-service wine bar) that’s perfect for making connections with the other singles aboard.

 

Happy Half Hour on the High Roller Really Spins the Wheel

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When Caesars Entertainment conceived of the High Roller as the anchor attraction for its new, open-air LINQ Promenade, it came as no surprise that the observation wheel – featuring twenty-eight, 40-passenger, spherical cabins – was designed to be the world’s tallest.  And by looking at the colossal structure, it became fairly obvious that the wheel was supported using bridge-building technology.  But the Happy Half Hour promotion is an only-in-Vegas twist I never saw coming.  For a price starting at $37,  guests enjoy a scenic, 30-minute ride and an in-cabin, all-you-can-drink open bar that combine to create what is arguably the most unique Happy Hour experience to-date.

 

Germaphobes Can Enjoy a Cruise Vacation — Really

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Although the media plays up reports of norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships, a recent CDC report showed that cruise ship incidents represent only 1% of the total number of outbreaks reported.  That said, cruise passengers can take simple precautions to stay healthy onboard by first making use of the ubiquitous hand sanitizing stations at the entrances to dining venues on all major cruise ships.  I also carry a pocket-sized sanitizer to use at the table – after I’ve perused a menu or shaken hands with new tablemates.

Hand washing, of course, is always the best defense against germs.  Experts advise 20 seconds of continuous washing with soap and water.  And for those long flights (with super-dry cabin air) on the way to or from a cruise embarkation point, travelers should apply saline gel to the inside of their nostrils.  The lubrication provides a defense against drying and cracking membranes that are a host for airborne viruses and bacteria.

For added protection in my cabin, I always travel with a Verilux Clean Wave Portable Sanitizing Wand ($59.95), which instantly sanitizes hard-to-clean – or easily missed – surfaces like the TV remote or bathroom door handle with UV light.  I use it religiously and thoroughly as soon as I come aboard and start unpacking.

 

The Cosmo Hits its Stride

cosmoFinished in 2010, just after the Great Recession had ravaged Las Vegas, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas had its work cut out for it.  Wedged between MGM’s CityCenter and Bellagio, the independently-owned property represented yet another would-be condo project that almost went bust – and then was converted into a hotel.  But ultimately, that was to our advantage.  Almost 5 years after opening, The Cosmo has now hit its stride, with the popular Marquee Nightclub and Dayclub and hip supper club Rose.Rabbit.Lie leading the way.  And the larger-than-normal, would-be condo accommodations are certainly a treat, featuring the Strip’s only private terraces with unbelievable views – just like the one above.

 

Della’s Kitchen at Delano is a Hidden Gem

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Only in Las Vegas would an 1,117-suite hotel tower be considered a “boutique” hotel, but, alas, Las Vegas operates on its own, very large, scale.  As the reincarnation of Thehotel at Mandalay Bay, Delano offers a quiet respite in a town better known for noise, excessive stimulation and 24/7 activity.  And Della’s Kitchen, the ground floor, farm-to-table restaurant serving breakfast and lunch in a comfortable room, is a hidden gem.  Top quality ingredients, expert preparation and exacting service combine to offer diners an experience that goes far beyond what they would expect from this unassuming eatery.  It’s one of my new favorite restaurants in Las Vegas; one that I’m sure won’t remain unheralded for long.  Oh, and did I mention that the homemade cookies are killer?

 

Switching Gears on MSC Divina

msc-divina-1024x576Stepping off of Norwegian Getaway this morning and onto MSC Divina two hours later provides a jarring juxtaposition that points up the hardware differentiation among the megaships in the market today.  While Norwegian Getaway is wildly fun, attractive and features an over-the-top, amusement park-like top deck, MSC Divina is all about Italian style.  Beautiful and tasteful design combine in her public spaces to evoke a modern European hotel with flair, right down to the Swarovski Crystal-lined staircases in the main lobby.  Ciao, Divina, pleasure to meet you.

 

Lido Leads the Way on Getaway

Bucking convention as the quick and convenient but not always quality Lido buffet, lunchtime spreads in the deck 15 Garden Cafe provide a surprisingly nice variety of ethnic foods, with the Indian and Asian dishes being particularly tasty.  Other interesting and notable menu items include braised oxtail, okra stew, ground lamb kebabs, lemon chicken and quinoa salad, and a melange of asparagus, broccoli and baked brie.  Wait a minute – is this Norwegian Cruise Line?  Yep, and the upgrades even extend to the burger grill, which features patties with Hawaiian and bleu cheese toppings.   In addition to the always-busy, soft-serve ice cream dispensers, better quality hard ice cream is scooped at both lunch and dinner – at no extra charge.  And the made-to-order crepe station at dinner was an unexpected and delicious surprise!

Welcome to Your City

norwegian-getaway-1024x576The welcome to modern megaship, mass-market cruising is often a jarring one, as the terminal can be packed so thick with humanity that you begin to second-guess your vacation decision.   And then, you’re on board — and it’s wonderland. Launched in mid-2014, Norwegian Getaway embodies everything the line has learned to-date about what its clientele needs – and wants.  The sports deck is loaded with an amusement park-like panoply of pleasure activity options, including five gargantuan water slides; a complex and challenging ropes course; a bungee trampoline; 9 holes of mini golf; a kids aqua park; full court basketball; and a double rock climbing wall.  And if that’s not enough impressive hardware, how about 59 of the line’s groundbreaking Studio single-occupancy staterooms; the 80 suites in the intimate, luxurious Haven ship-within-a-ship complex; and 2 bowling lanes?  Add to that ubiquitous touch-screen kiosks throughout the ship that help passengers navigate  back to their cabin, display realtime restaurant availability, and even pinpoint the exact casino location of that Lucky 7 slot machine that’s sure to pay off – someday.

 

Didn’t This Used To Be….?

If a hotel-casino could have an identity crisis, The LINQ would qualify for at least a few sessions of group therapy.  After all, the name changes – from the Imperial Palace to the Quad to the LINQ – occurred in rapid order over the course of two years, prompting some to ask:  “Where am I again?”  But the transition, and the associated pain, were ultimately worth the cost.  The open, modern lobby/casino, with its clean lines and generous spaces, is the polar opposite of the old Imperial Palace’s cramped, dingy, smoky casino.  And the rooms – about half of which have been completely revamped so far – are comfortably furnished and even a little edgy.  Overall, the LINQ provides a good value for the budget traveler, especially considering its prime, center-Strip location.

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