Cruise Travel Apps Free To Use At Sea

travel appsWhen we review travel apps that actually do something, they often tap crowd-sourced information that is as rich (or not) as the number of users who have contributed their opinions or reviews. GPS-based travel apps take existing technology and manipulate it in one way or another to bring every thing from finding a friend on the road to creating a virtual journal of our travels, step by step. In the world of cruise travel, the number of apps available is limited compared to other modes of transportation but they are often highly specific, producing information not available elsewhere.

travel appsNorwegian Cruise Lines has a newly updated travel app that can be a helpful planning tool in advance of sailing with information about destinations, ships and special offers. Once on board Norwegian’s newest ships, even more helpful features are available.

The free download for iPhone, Android and Windows 7 features photo galleries and videos; ship information including deck plans and on-board amenities; stateroom descriptions, images and floor plans; 360-degree virtual ship tours and more.

On board Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway, passengers can log on, select an Internet package to buy then text and call others on the ship who are also connected, using time from their pre-paid plan. Free services include the ability to see previews of and book shore excursions, restaurants and other on-board products like spa services and shopping. Users can view their shipboard charge account as well as a list of daily activities at any time, also without using purchased Internet minutes.travel appsSailing some other cruise line? Cruise Ship Mate ($1.99), can be even more helpful in the planning stages of cruise travel as it has the ability to see all itineraries of all major cruise lines. Included among features that do not need an Internet connection to use are deck plans, cruise ship information and a packing list. Connected, users get cruise ship deck cam links and a chat feature that enables passengers on a specific ship and sailing date to communicate in advance of and during sailing.

A unique feature on the Cruise Ship Mate app is a Cruise Ship Tracker. This one allows users to see the exact location of any ship at any time, using technology similar to that of CruiseCal, the long running subscriber-based website that pinpoints where ships are and which ships will be in port at the same time you are.

But maybe you are not really into apps but have some favorite travel websites that you would like to access quickly on your Apple iPhone or iPad?

iPhone 5 users can create quick links to their most-visited websites using the “add to home screen” option, like I did for the Gadling site. On your favorite site, in Safari, just tap the “Share” button at the bottom of the screen, tap the icon labeled “Add to Home Screen,” tap the “Add” button then launch the website from your Home screen by tapping its icon.

Looking for other helpful travel apps? Check this video for apps that tell us everything from what is going on at any given destination to where restrooms are located.


[Image credit – Chris Owen]

Photo Of The Day: A Woman At Work

photo of the day

This Photo of the Day (POTD), titled “A woman at work in the vegetable market in downtown Colombo,” comes from Gadling Flickr pool member MyLifesATrip and was captured with an Apple iPhone 5.

Not normally the camera of choice for photos I find POTD-worthy, MyLifesATrip AKA Gadling contributor Jen Pollack Bianco said of the device, “the iPhone/iPod Touch has the potential to become the must-have travel gadget” in “iPhoneography: Make your iPhone travel pictures spectacular,” a 2011 story written before the improved iPhone 5 was being sold. “Its camera is so stealth and so versatile that you no longer have an excuse for your photos to be anything less than awesome, even if your vacation is a total bust.”

I have to agree. While investing in expensive camera gear may be a good idea for the very best, most professional looking shots, Bianco’s work here is proof that thousands need not be spent to capture an engaging image. Good food for budget thought when planning future travel gear purchases.

Want to be featured? Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as a Photo of the Day.

Tips for being featured: add a caption describing the image and (better yet) your personal experience when capturing it, details of the photography gear used and any tips you might have for others wanting to emulate your work.

Now, you can also submit photos through Instagram; just mention @GadlingTravel and use the hashtag #gadling when posting your images.

[Photo Credits Flickr user MyLifesATrip]

An iPhone Case Designed With Globetrotters In Mind

These days, a smartphone is an indispensible item on most travelers’ packing lists, but if you’re heading abroad you need to make sure your phone will work – and work cheaply at that. One idea we’ve suggested before is to switch out your phone’s SIM cards so you don’t get hit with massive international roaming charges.

That’s still excellent advice, but the problem many of us face is how to get our SIM cards out of our phones, and how to keep them safe when they’re not being used. This is the dilemma that two avid travelers are hoping to address with the SIMPLcase, an iphone case designed especially for international jetsetters.Unlike most iPhone cases where the focus is on the decoration or “bling” on the outside, what makes the SIMPLcase special is what’s on the inside. The interior of this durable plastic iPhone case holds a special tool that’s used for easily ejecting your phone’s SIM card tray, so you don’t have to mess around with pins or other pointy objects that might scratch your phone. There are also three padded slots to store spare SIM cards so there’s no need to worry about losing or damaging the delicate, fingernail-sized memory chips.

Despite the internal storage, the SIMPLcase still has a sleek profile, which is great for minimalist travelers. Another bonus is the ability to turn the iPhone case into a phone stand by slotting a credit card into the groove on the back of the case. Propping the phone up this way makes skyping with friends back home or watching videos that much more comfortable.

If you’re interested in the SIMPLcase, you can pick one up for $12 by jumping on board the company’s Kickstarter project. Right now, the case is only available for the iPhone 5, but if there’s demand, the company also plans to make cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

This is just another one of the many great travel innovations we’ve already seen come out of Kickstarter. Click to check out images of the SIMPLcase below.

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[Photo credit: lgcldesigns]

Gadling Gear Review: SYSTM iPhone Cases

SYSTM Vise iPhone CaseThe iPhone is beyond a doubt a beautiful piece of technology. Over the past few years, Apple’s iconic device has set the standard by which all other smartphones are compared. But that beauty comes with a price, as anyone who has ever dropped their iPhone onto a hard surface can attest. A good case can alleviate that heartbreak, however, providing extra protection when you need it most.

Some of the best cases available today are designed and built by a company called SYSTM. They are durable, rugged and provide more protection than just about any other case I’ve found. Better yet, they’re attractive, thin and don’t detract from the look of the iPhone in any way. Here are two unique options that will ensconce your iPhone 4/4S or 5 in a protective shell that will keep it safe from just about any kind of danger.

SYSTM Vise ($49.95)
If you’re looking for the ultimate in iPhone protection then the SYSTM Vise is the case for you. It provides three distinct layers of padding by first wrapping the phone in a soft rubber sheath, which is then covered in two pieces of outer armor that lock tightly into place around the device. This hard external shell is smooth, yet easy to grip, and features access points for the volume buttons and mute switch without obstructing the camera lens in anyway.

The Vise provides a fantastic level of shock absorption, which protects both the front and back of the iPhone, keeping it safe and secure when accidentally dropped, even from a substantial height. The corner and side pads are also reinforced to keep the fragile edge of the smartphone from suffering damage as well. Those areas can be especially susceptible to damage.Considering the level of protection the Vise delivers, the case is actually smaller and lighter than you would expect. It does, however, add a measure of thickness and weight to the iPhone that is undeniable. Still, frequent travelers will probably be willing to give up a bit of size and weight in order to keep their device secure while on the road. This is the kind of case that is equally useful in an urban environment as it is on a backpacking trip into the wilderness, and unlike a lot of other cases, it is easy to remove when you don’t feel it is needed.

It should be noted that the Vise comes with a detachable belt clip, which I’m sure some people will appreciate. While it does do a good job of holding the phone in place, I found it to be a bit larger than I would have liked and didn’t use it much after initial testing.

SYSTM Hammer iPhone CaseSYSTM Hammer ($29.95)
There is no denying that the Vise provides unprecedented levels of protection for our favorite smartphone, but not everyone is willing to sacrifice weight and thickness for that level of security. SYSTM has those users covered too however as they offer a thinner, lighter case in the form of the Hammer.

This case consists of a form-fitting, soft rubber sleeve that closely resembles the inner lining that comes with the Vise. Unlike that case however, the Hammer consists of just this single layer of protection and doesn’t include the hard outer shell that makes the Vise so unique. The Hammer does have reinforced corners and is made of shock absorbing materials, which combine to provide an overall excellent level of protection without adding any undue bulk.

Much like the Vise, the Hammer is incredibly easy to add or remove from the iPhone as needed. But unlike its bulkier counterpart, you probably won’t feel the need to take the Hammer off your phone quite so often. Since it is so much thinner, and does an excellent job of enhancing our grip while protecting the device, you’ll probably just want to leave it in place at all times. After a day or two, you’ll come to appreciate the qualities that it delivers and will likely forget that you even have it on the phone anyway.

Both the Vise and Hammer are great products and would make excellent holiday gifts. The Vise provides a high level of protection for those who take their tech toys to demanding environments or are just simply hard on their phones. The Hammer, on the other hand, isn’t quite so rugged and durable, but it still provides plenty of protection in a thinner and lighter package. Either one will keep your smartphone safe from harm and just as beautiful as it was the day it came out of the box.

Hotel News We Noted: September 14, 2012

andaz napa exteriorTemperatures are getting cooler, but the hotel scene is still hot, hot, hot. Here’s your news of the week, courtesy of “Hotel News We Noted.

Hotel Openings: Andaz Napa
Wine country is getting a bit cooler this week with the opening of the Andaz Napa, formerly the Avia Napa. The downtown hotel has the traditional Andaz lobby as well as a cheeky wall-long map of Napa – all the better to help you map out your wine tasting adventure.

Tech Troubles: What Happens to Hotel iPod Docks?
iHome and iPod docking systems have become nearly ubiquitous in hotels around the country, and the release this week of the new iPhone 5 is causing some major headache in the hotel industry. It’s not because they’ll have to update apps or re-vamp websites (although they likely will, in order to match new screen resolutions and the new operational updates) but because of a change in equipment. The new phones will have a different charging port, and hotels are now scrambling to figure out how soon, if at all, they’ll need to have these adapters onsite to connect to their docking stations. A Wall Street Journal article supposes that these adapters “could soon replace bathrobes as the hotel collectible of choice.” At nearly $30 a pop, we’re inclined to agree. Why, Apple, why???

Food & Beverage: Fairmont Gets Saucy
Fairmont is putting the focus on food, encouraging their chefs to get in with the craft food movement. We’re pretty sure that means good things for us, at least for those of us who don’t count on being able to steal the mini-bottles of Heinz from in-room dining. Is there a theme of theft in this column? Perhaps. Anyway, at Fairmont Pacific Rim, expect house-made condiments (Sake Kasu Cream Cheese Aioli, anyone?) and pickled veggies, Empress peanut butter with honey and milk chocolate at the Fairmont Princess or peanut miso with local Virginia peanuts at the Fairmont DC. In this case, being “saucy” sounds like a very delicious thing.

Celebrity Hotels: Gordon Ramsay Does Hotel Design?
Answer: only when he’s getting paid to do so. Celebrity chef turned television personality turned suite designer Gordon Ramsay has launched his very first room at San Diego’s Keating Hotel. Dubbed the “Victory Suite,” the room is really more of a promo ad for his series, “Hotel Hell,” but it’s pretty darn awesome nevertheless. The suite features exposed brick walls, vaulted ceilings and glass-encased bathrooms. The hotel and suite will appear on a future episode of the series, where Ramsay redesigned the lobby, the Victory Suite and also offered up a new menu for the hotel’s MerK Bistro. Thanks to Elite Traveler for the tip.