Cruise Travel Apps Free To Use At Sea

When 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.

Norwegian 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.Sailing 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]

5 Ways To Save Money Booking A Cruise Vacation

A cruise vacation has a lot of value already built in. Sailing from one popular port of call to another on board your floating hotel, transportation costs are locked in, as are all meals. Still, there are some additional factors to consider, such as fare codes that can add up to real savings at the time of booking or later, when lower prices come along.

Consider Restricted Fares
Give the cruise line what it wants and savings can add up fast. Locking in a cruise with no way to change or cancel without paying stiff penalties can lead to perks for customers as cruise lines give low pricing and generous upgrades. This is a great option for those who have travel plans set in stone. But those with possible changes in the future should avoid this option.

Don’t Care Where You Sleep
Another way to save is by booking a stateroom category that does not get a cabin assignment at the time of booking. For those that do not care where they sleep, booking an unassigned (AKA “guaranteed”) stateroom can bring great pricing benefits.

Special Discounts
Cruise lines offer special discounts for seniors, residents of certain states or geographic areas, active or retired military members and others who fit into specific groups. Buying far in advance, these fares may not be available as they are often added later in the booking cycle to encourage new reservations.Keep Looking After Booking
New promotions coming up down the line, after booking, may be applicable to your existing reservation. Watch for cruise line sales around the holidays. Check your email or mailbox between booking and sailing too, as special offers may apply to you and your already-booked sailing.

Holland America Line, for example, has its Sail & Save sale, an annual promotion period that started December 10 and features special savings on multiple cruises and destinations.

“Our Sail & Save promotions make this the perfect time to start planning a 2013 vacation,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs in ETurboNews. “These offers make it possible for more travelers to take a family cruise, an extended holiday or that once-in-a-lifetime trip at a good value.”

Use A Travel Agent For Their Intended Purpose
Travelers can easily click-to-book a cruise on most cruise lines. But should they? Travel agents have first-hand, I-work-with-this-everyday knowledge consumers don’t. Cruise lines commonly court travel agencies for their cruise business with special agency-only offers not available online.

Another way to save? Win a free cruise.

Celebrating the arrival of Disney Wonder in Miami on December 23, 100 lucky families won their own five-night Disney cruise vacation, as we see in this video:

[Photo Credit- Flickr user by blmiers2]