Saturday, August 27, 2016

5 Ways to Enhance Your Cruise Ship Dining Experience

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Cruise Dining Tips

We've just returned from a fabulous 7 Night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Carnival Magic.   We employed these tips during our cruise and thought we'd share them with our readers.   Even though we'll use the Carnival Magic for examples, the principles can be applied to most contemporary cruise lines.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it's a good start to enhancing your cruise dining.

Navigating the Buffet

Entering the ship's buffet restaurant you may be thinking that you just died and went to heaven or perhaps you are just overwhelmed by the scene in front of you.  

Tip:   Don't just Dive In

One of the main entrances to the buffet is often from the Lido (pool) deck on your ship.  You will notice that shortly after entering, there's a serving station which has a long line.   Do not stop here, but continue further into the restaurant.   On most ships, there are several identical serving lines, many of which may have shorter lines.

Besides the identical lines, take notice of the unique stations.  For example at breakfast, there is usually an omelet station where you can get made to order eggs & omelets.   This line may be long, so be ready to wait.   Check out the signs overhead to help navigate through the maze of stations.
Walk around the buffet to decide on the options that interest you for this meal, and take note for later in the week, when you may want something different.

Instead of waiting in the long serving line one morning, we opted for the much shorter continental breakfast line and then added some bacon from the omelet station (there was a waiter serving bacon and ham - you didn't need to wait in the omelet line).

Poolside Dining

Getting some sun or shade on loungers is one of our favorite relaxing things to do during a cruise.  We typically have breakfast in the buffet and then search out a good spot to camp out for a few hours.    Since prime locations (such as those right by the pool or in a shady location) get taken first, another option is to divide your group and eat in shifts.  (Most lines frown on you just leaving something on the lounger to reserve the chair and they may remove the items if you aren't back within a stated period of time - so be aware of the rules on your ship).

Tip:  Dine by the Pool

Lunch is a great time to eat poolside.  On Carnival cruises you can dine at Guy's Burger Joint or Blue Iguana right by the pool.  While there may be a line, it usually moves quickly, and you can get back to relaxing by the pool in no time.   There is also a 24 hour pizza station by the aft pool.  Most cruise lines have similar options. 

Sea Day Only Options

The reason we selected Carnival Magic for our latest cruise was to try Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse which is only open for limited hours on sea days.  Many cruise lines have similar restaurant venues, so be sure to plan your dining schedule ahead of time.

Tip:  Try the Unique Dining Options

Due to the limited serving hours, you can expect dining venues like these to be busy.  Plan to arrive when they open, or even shortly before that.   In order to keep our poolside loungers,  one person went on a food run for the two of us.   Check out the menu ahead of time so that you know what you want to order. 

Anytime Dining

We've been cruising for over 30 years and grew up on traditional dining where you were assigned a dining time and table in the main dining room.  Every night you went to dinner at the same time with the same people.   Nowadays there are many more dining options and we encourage you to select an option that has some flexibility.

Tip:  Select Flexible Dining

Some people prefer to eat early and others late.  That is why traditional dining over the years had two choices.   There are others, that for health reasons, must eat at a certain time each day.   The good news is that even with flexible dining plans of today's cruises, any of the above schedules can be accommodated.

One big advantage of flexible dining is that you can select your dining time based on evening activities that you want to do.   Some days, after touring, you might be tired and don't want to rush to dinner. The choice is completely up to you each evening during your cruise.

We still enjoy the traditional dining experience because the wait staff gets to know you, making for an enjoyable experience.   On our Carnival Magic cruise, we had the best of both worlds.   The first couple of evenings we arrived for dinner, signed in, and took whatever table they escorted us to.  Then we found the wait staff of Singsoong and Posy.   We really enjoyed them, their service, the hot food, etc., so every night after that, we asked for a table in their section.  They would greet us by name and take care of all our needs very efficiently. 

Specialty Dining

One big draw for cruise vacations is the inclusive dining options.  When we think about dining on a cruise ship we compare it to dining at home.  Some days you opt for fast food while others you want a more relaxing dinner.   For special occasions, you may opt for your favorite steak or seafood restaurant which usually comes with a higher price tag as well.   On a cruise, you can enjoy any or all of the above choices throughout the voyage.   The choice is up to you.

Tip:  Specialty Dining for Lunch

Are you celebrating a special occasion during your cruise?   Why not make at least one night a little extra special by dining in one of the many specialty dining venues on your ship? 

Sometimes you can dine at a specialty restaurant at lunch for a reduced price or even complimentary.   The menu might be simpler than in the evening, but you still get to experience that extra ambiance.  On Carnival cruise ships that have Cucina del Capitano, there is a pasta bar option for lunch which allows you to taste their Italian specialties for no cost.


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How Have You Enhanced Your Cruise Ship Dining? 

Hopefully this article gives you some ideas about options you have when on your cruise vacation.  We'd love to hear from you about your best experiences.   Feel free to contact us via social media or our contact information if you have questions.


Join us every Wednesday evening at 8pm EST for lively conversation about food travel brought to you by It's a tasty world & we're dishing it up!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Departing For Carnival Magic

We suggest traveling  the day before cruise to embarkation city for a stress free start of your vacation.  At least it's the only thing within your control to start things on the right foot.

Following our own advice, we departed for Orlando, Florida midday the day before embarkation.  The flight was on time, which is unusual, so we were off to a good start.   After just over two hours we were in Orlando.   As we exited the plane we saw lightening in the distance.   Because of the storms in the area,the tarmac was shutdown and luggage could not be unloaded from the planes.

We got to  baggage claim and weren't surprised to see the sign indicating bags would be delayed due to the severe lightening in the area.   They wouldn't resume unloading luggage until it was safe to do so.

We waited  for more than hour before bags started appearing on the conveyor belt.   Imagine the stress that would be added if this happened on cruise embarkation day.  We did have two aces in our pocket even if this had been cruise day - travel insurance and cruise line transfers to the pier.   At least we would have had someone to assist us if necessary.

We selected Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Airport as our pre-cruise hotel because of several factors:  airport shuttle, price, value, and location to food choices.  There are several restaurants within walking distance which is helpful when you are relying on shuttles for transportation.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hanover Park Car Show 2016

Visit Our Booth
Hanover Park Car Show

Attention car enthusiasts - don't miss the Hanover Park Motorcycle & Car Show this weekend in Hanover Park, Illinois. This charitable event, which benefits children in the area, will have motorcycles and cars of all shapes and sizes as well as a vendor show.

Date: August 7, 2016 / Rain Date: August 21, 2016
Time: 12:00 pm-4:00 pm
Location: Hanover Park Metra Station Parking Lot, Lake Street & Barrington Road

Would you like to see some of the fastest cars in the world compete?

We'll have information at our booth about the 2017 Grand Prix voyages on Azamara Club Cruises.

Ask about Grand Prix Voyages

Monaco Grand Prix. Join us for the renowned Monaco Grand Prix, one of the world's most challenging Formula One races through the narrow streets of Monte-Carlo. The thrill of screaming engines and burning tires is matched by glamorous crowds and yachts, buzzing helicopters, and celebrities who know a good party when they see one.

Once again, Azamara Club Cruises is offering a 5 Night Grand Prix Voyage, which will be in Monaco on race day.  Whether you purchase Grand Prix tickets and watch the race, visit the Grand Casino, or other nearby attractions, your day in Monaco will certainly be one of the highlights of your cruise vacation.

Spin to Win

If you stopped by to visit us at the Streamwood Summer Celebration, you know that we had a wheel filled with prizes for you to win.

This will be your final opportunity to visit us before the drawing for  $3000 credit  on your next dream vacation.   Must be an eNewsletter subscriber to be eligible for the drawing.

Stop by our booth this Sunday

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Streamwood Summer Celebration Recap

Streamwood Summer Celebration
A Success  

 We've just completed our tenth annual appearance at the Streamwood Summer Celebration's Business Expo sponsored by the Streamwood Chamber of Commerce.

The Summer Celebration runs the last weekend of July each year and is well attended.  The weather cooperated with a variety of temperatures with the rain occurring before the start of the fair on Friday.  Saturday was mild and humid, but that didn't prevent  crowds from attending the event.  Sunday was warmer and more humid, but there still was a breeze keeping the expo tent comfortable.

In addition to show-casing local businesses in the expo tent, there were plenty of activities for families. Local bands performed throughout the weekend, there was a parade on Saturday with over 100 entries this year, rides for the children and young at heart, bingo, face-painting, ice cream eating content for the children and lots more.  Many volunteers from the village make this a special event each and every year.

Lots of Interest in Land & Sea Vacations

We spoke to many couples, families, and individuals that were interested in getting away for a vacation.   As usual, we had a large supply of brochures, which we call "wish books" on hand.  One of the most popular brochures was the Royal Caribbean Quantum-class brochure which highlights this marvelous new cruise ship class that has everything you can imagine including bumper cars. 

Unfortunately, I couldn't talk with everyone personally this year because I was splitting my time between my booth and making announcements on stage.  Many of you spoke with my husband Gary, who has as much knowledge about the various vacation options as I do.  We love talking to people about our more than 30 years of cruise and other vacation experiences.

Special Promotions Continues

If you didn't register for our eNewsletter, be sure to do so on our website.   This way you'll always be aware of our latest promotions, including exclusive offers that won't be found anywhere else.   You could even win $3000 towards your next vacation. 

To Our New Followers

We'd like to welcome new readers to our Blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter, Pinterest, and website, who stopped by to talk with us at the Summer Celebration.   I look forward to talking to you more in the future to help plan a great cruise or land vacation for you and your traveling companions. We've included links here with a brief explanation of some of the resources we offer to our followers.   Please be sure to take advantage of all these opportunities, as that is the best way to stay informed.
Join our eSavers

If you haven’t signed up for our eSavers Newsletter yet, be sure to do so. This is just one of our communication vehicles to keep you informed about industry news and special offers for our loyal followers.

Like Us on Facebook

Be sure to visit our Facebook Fan Page and "Like Us" so that you can be in the inner circle of our Fans. You’ll have the opportunity to be the first to know about specials and other exclusive information, such as updates from cruise lines.

We have several boards on Pinterest which might be of interest to you.


Follow us on Twitter: @ChrisPappinMCC  Pinterest: CruiseWithChris Pappin and Facebook: CruiseWithChris Pappin Cruises Inc for more ideas.

Each week we post images from our trips and participate in several travel chats on Twitter.

Take advantage of these resources to assist in you in planning your dream vacations.  Of course, we are always available to answer any questions you might have about travel and the industry.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Meet Us at Streamwood Summer Celebration

Once a year we participate in our local Chamber of Commerce hosted Summer Celebration.
This will be our 10th appearance at the show.  I have turned over my role as Chairman of the Chamber's Summer Celebration Committee so I shouldn't have to split my time between the Chamber Booth and my personal one, and look forward to meeting many of our fans during the three day event.

For those in the area, it is your chance to meet us in person to discuss your vacation plans, pick up some brochures, and take advantage of our exclusive offers.   Here is one of those specials that we will be featuring during the event July 29th - 30th.  We also extend the offers to our readers - ask us for complete details.  (click the link above for times and location)

Exclusive Offers This Weekend
Cruise Sale

Royal Caribbean Sale
Even if you aren't able to visit us at our booth, you can still take advantage of our special offers like this one from Royal Caribbean and other Cruise Lines.

You may be familiar with BOGOHO promotion where you get 50% second guest.   Additional amenities are now combined to make this an even more attractive offer.

Carnival Cruise Sale

We rarely write about our cruise and land offers in our column, but these were too good to pass up.  Don't miss out on these great deals! 

We hope to meet many of our local fans at the Summer Celebration.  This is one of the best parts of the business - being able to have 1-1 conversations in person to help plan your dream vacation.  So where do You want to go?
Click for Schedule of Events


We get several calls for cruise ship and land vacation brochures.   In this day and age, the majority of the suppliers have cut down on printed materials and replaced them with online versions.

We stock brochures that are available from our suppliers on a regular basis and increase our stock in time for this annual event.   If you are in the area, this is a great opportunity for you to browse our "wish books".

Did you know that was how I convinced my husband to take an Alaska cruise?  He had said, "It's cold there.   We live where it's cold.  Why would I go on a vacation to somewhere that is cold?"   Well we've been back to Alaska several times since that initial look at an Alaska brochure.

What's on your wish list?   If we don't have a brochure, we'll be happy to do some research and provide you with all the details.

Come see us if you are in the area this weekend - or call us afterwards to discuss your wish list.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Overnight in Hoorn Netherlands

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Avalon Artistry II Docked
Overnight in Hoorn Netherlands

We arrived in Hoorn around 8 PM at the tail end of our dinner.   After dinner we strolled through town taking a few pictures of the town with the sun setting on this harbor town.


City of Bold Explorers

Hoorn played an important role in the 'Age of Exploration' and some famous navigators are closely associated with the town.  Probably the most famous was Willem Schouten (1580-1625) who attained eternal fame by being the first person to round the southernmost tip of South America in 1616 and named it "Cape Horn" in homage to his hometown.

Continuing our Own Exploration 

In the morning, the included tour was a visit to the Dutch Villages of Edam & Volendam.  Since we had been there before during our Tulip Time river cruise, we decided to explore Hoorn some more on our own.

Additional photos can be found on our Rhine & Moselle Shutterfly page

Click on the image to the left for more Blog posts about this trip.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

5 Ways to Explore Cruise Ports

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Preparing for Your Cruise Vacation

Whether this is your first cruise or you are a seasoned cruise veteran, you will want to do some pre-planning before your vacation begins.  The type of cruise (ocean, river, expedition) will factor into the amount of planning that you do as well as your overall vacation budget.

River Cruises

We'll start with the trip that requires the least amount of planning ahead of time.   River cruises usually include most of the excursions in the price of the cruise.   There might be some optional tours, which could be complementary or available for extra cost, available for each port of call.  It is advisable to review the list ahead of time and book the ones that interest you the most, if that option is available to you.

Local Guides

For the most part, you'll be docked near the center of activity in your port of call.  There may be times where you'll need to be shuttled, typically by bus, to your tour starting point.

Whether you are walking, on another vessel (like a canal boat), or a bus, you'll be accompanied by a local guide who will provide you with information about what you are seeing as well as background information including food, culture, and history.  You may have some free time to explore after the guided portion of the tour.

Your Cruise Director will explain the tour options, usually the night before arrival in port. Typically there are different difficulty levels which you'll select by picking the audio phone color of choice.

Ocean Cruises

Similar to river cruises, there will be a list of shore excursions published on the cruise line's website and brochures.   You can browse the list ahead of time and select / pay for the ones that interest you the most.   Booking shore excursions requires the least amount of planning on your part since the tours include the most popular attractions in each port of call.   Once again, you can select difficult levels by reading the descriptions and selecting accordingly.

Level of Comfort

New cruisers tend to use cruise line shore excursions because it is the simplest and there is no worry about finding your way around town or making your way back to the ship on time.  Another option is to use a tour company like Shore Excursions Group, who we work with on a regular basis, to find similar tours to those offered by the cruise line.   Those tours are usually cheaper and the groups tend to be smaller than the ones with the ship.  They will guarantee return to the ship on time or they'll get you to the next port of call at their expense.  That takes the worry out of missing the ship departure.

Private Tour Guides

Your vacation specialist can provide local guide contacts should you decide to book one or more tours with a local guide.   The internet is another source for finding local guides.  This is a great option if you are traveling with a group (even a small one).   The tour price is divided by the number of guests, and this option gives you a customized experience at a reasonable price.

On Your Own

If you are looking to blaze your own trail, you can explore completely on your own.  You will want to be sure to have the ship contact information with you and pay close attention to when you must be back on board the ship.   There usually is about a 30 minute window between the time to be back and the actual ship departure, but you don't want to cut things close and be left behind.

The least expensive option will be to head out on foot, perhaps getting some local cuisine or do some shopping (OK, that might not be cheap).  You will want to do some research before your cruise to see if there are attractions within walking distance or a short cab ride away.  For the sun worshipers, catching a taxi to a local beach is a great way to spend the day in port.   Most taxi drivers will be glad to come back to pick you up at a set time.

Another option we offer is Resort for a Day.  Instead of selecting a beach at random, you can play at some of the most magnificent resorts while your ship is in port.

Click on the Infographic above for some more details.  Browse our blog and website as well to learn more about our adventures.


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Where have you explored? 

Hopefully this article gives you some ideas about options you have when on your cruise vacation.  We'd love to hear from you about your best experiences.   Feel free to contact us via social media or our contact information if you have questions.