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We went on 13 cruises in 2023. Here's our year in review.

In 2023, we went on an average of a cruise per month. We sailed on six different cruise lines and traveled to many cruise destinations. This past year was all about new experiences, ships, and ports of call as part of my quest to provide travel clients with the best information possible about cruises. If you or someone you know is interested in booking a cruise for 2024 and beyond, please contact me at kara@castawaydreamtravel.com. I’d love to help you make your vacation dreams come true. Here's a list of our cruises for the year.


Kara & Nick Page on a boat

Cruise 1: Royal Caribbean, Mariner of the Seas, Bahamas, January 2023

Our first cruise of the year was at the end of January on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. We boarded the ship in the afternoon and headed straight to lunch as usual. I was feeling quite tired after spending a week at a work conference and decided to take a nap. I woke up with chills, a fever, and a sense of dread. I felt so incredibly ill. After a series of tests by the wonderful medical staff in the ship’s infirmary, a PCR test confirmed I had COVID. I was required to stay in my room for the rest of the cruise, not that I felt like leaving since I was miserable. Room service delivered gelatin, crackers, and other foods to help me feel better while the medical staff checked my vital signs every few hours. Nick was allowed to leave the cabin in a mask after testing negative so he essentially cruised by himself. Thankfully, this ship had just been outfitted with Starlink and the internet was so fast we could stream movies and shows to our stateroom TV. We made two stops in the Bahamas though I didn't see the islands. I am so grateful for the wonderful doctors, nurses, and crew who helped keep me comfortable and checked on me regularly. I couldn’t have asked for better care. When we returned to Port Canaveral, we were escorted off the ship through the crew area where a customs & border patrol officer met us in the parking lot. We don’t have many photos from this cruise, but it sure was memorable!


Cruise 2: Virgin Voyages, Scarlet Lady, Key West & Bahamas, February 2023

In February, we opted for an adults-only cruise vacation aboard the Scarlet Lady, a Virgin Voyages ship. We visited Key West and the Bahamas on this four-night voyage. We enjoyed fantastic food, partied under the stars in our pajamas, met fun fellow sailors on a bar crawl, listened to creative live music, and enjoyed relaxing on the balcony hammock. Virgin Voyages feels like an elevated escape from reality for adults who are open to new experiences. They’re an industry disrupter in a great way. We call them the un-cruise cruise line since they really challenge the norm. There’s even a tattoo parlor onboard!


Cruise 3: Royal Caribbean, Independence of the Seas, Bahamas, February 2023

Did you know that there are a few Ben & Jerry’s Suites on select Royal Caribbean ships? When we saw one of these staterooms available on Independence of the Seas in late February, we just couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to stay in the cow-themed room. This interior stateroom is special since guests staying in the room get free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream each day along with access to the coveted suite lounge reserved for suite guests. Plus, we enjoyed the view of the cows. We enjoyed our visit to CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s fabulous private island destination in the Bahamas. Note: Royal Caribbean is currently phasing out the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream suites, so this room will likely be changing in the future.


If you’re interested in learning more about Royal Caribbean’s many stateroom options, send us a message.


Cruise 4: Celebrity, Millennium, Southern Caribbean, March 2023

In March, we flew south to Puerto Rico for a Southern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Millennium, one of Celebrity’s oldest ships. Though she was an older ship, she had been beautifully updated. We sailed out of San Juan and visited stunning Caribbean islands including St. Thomas, St. Kitts,  Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, and Barbados. This was a very special cruise for us since we made several wonderful new friends. We like to collect friendships as well as memories when we travel, and this cruise was unmatched in its camaraderie. We also got to spend time with some of our favorite crew members. Celebrity’s customer service is incredible. If you’ve never experienced a Celebrity cruise, I highly recommend it. If you’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean before, I recommend trying Celebrity since it’s the company’s more upscale relaxed luxury brand. Contact me for more information.


Cruise 5: Celebrity, Beyond, Eastern Caribbean, April 2023

In April, we sailed on Celebrity’s newest ship at the time and my current favorite, the Celebrity Beyond. The Celebrity Beyond is stunning with its modern touches, friendly crew, and gorgeous artwork. We enjoyed spending time with some of our favorite musicians as we soaked in the sunsets at the Sunset Bar. We also had the pleasure of eating at Chef Daniel Boulud’s first ship at sea, Le Voyage. That meal was one of the best we’ve ever had, and Nick and I are foodies. It was well worth the upcharge. From the nightly martini bar shows to the incredible theater performances, this ship had it all. If you’re interested in sailing with Celebrity, let me know!


Cruise 6: Disney, Wish, Bahamas, May 2023

In early May, we sailed on Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Wish. We made the mistake of booking this trip for Mother’s Day weekend and quickly realized what we’d done when we saw the massive number of children onboard. This was a huge departure from our more adult-oriented experiences from earlier in the year. The Disney Wish feels like the Grand Floridian at sea with its beautiful classic design with fairy tale touches. The rotating restaurant experiences were fantastic. We especially loved the “Frozen”-themed dining experience though the Marvel experience was also quite memorable. We spent the evenings watching incredible Broadway-style stage shows, free movies in the theater, and fireworks displays. We enjoyed the themed bars, cartoon drawing courses, character photo opportunities, and trivia. We visited Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay on this trip. If you’re interested in sailing with Mickey and Minnie, send me a message.


Cruise 7: Princess, Majestic Princess, Northbound Alaska, May-June 2023

Nick and I have been to Alaska four times in the past year and a half. We sailed with a different cruise line each time since Alaska is a destination where the cruise line matters since the itineraries and glacier visits depend on the line. In May, we sailed out of Vancouver, one of our favorite ports. We boarded the Majestic Princess for a Memorial week cruise in May. This was our first Princess cruise, so we weren’t sure what to expect from Carnival’s more upscale brand. This ship was originally created for the Chinese market and the signage was still in Chinese. We loved the wearable technology, interactive games, and app tracking available throughout the ship. You can track family members and friends via the app, which was a great feature. Be prepared for lots of “Love Boat” references from the ship’s horn to the TV show preloaded on the stateroom TV. We enjoyed sailing into Glacier Bay National Park, an itinerary stop that only a few select cruise lines visit. The park rangers narrated for hours while we gazed at the stunning scenery. We also took a fantastic excursion into the Yukon Territory, and it was stunning. If you haven’t visited Alaska, you need to go! I’m happy to share my knowledge with you.


Cruise 8: Norwegian, Encore, Alaska Glaciers, July-August 2023

Alaska and the Pacific Northwest are our favorite places to visit when it’s super hot in Florida. We decided to try Norwegian for the first time since we kept seeing their ships in port with us on our Princess cruise earlier in the season. We sailed on the Norwegian Encore out of Seattle in late July/early August. The Encore is packed with so many fun activities from a multi-level go-kart track to VR arcade and more. We loved the food, premium drink selections, and full-sized Starbucks on this ship. Fun fact: If you buy the upgraded beverage package on Norwegian, you can use your package to purchase Starbucks drinks. It was definitely worth it since I was up at 4 a.m. local time each morning since I try to stay on Eastern time when I travel. I was the first guest at Starbucks nearly every morning. One of the highlights of this trip was a wildlife spotting raft ride in full astronaut-inspired wet/dry suits. We always love visiting Alaska. Message me for tips and tricks for whale spotting, excursions, and more.


Cruise 9: Royal Caribbean, Vision of the Seas, New England & Canada, September 2023

Nick and I love to visit Canada. We’ve been to several provinces and even to the Yukon. We were missing out on the East Coast, so we decided to book a New England/Canada cruise for Labor Day week. We sailed out of Baltimore and visited Boston, Portland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. One of the highlights of this trip was visiting the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy has the largest tidal range in the world with an average tide change of 52 feet. We saw boats floating in the morning and then in the evening, those same boats were on the seabed. It was an incredible experience. We went whale watching and saw so many lighthouses on this trip. This is the ideal vacation for those interested in lobster, crab, and other tasty seafood treats. We sailed on Vision of the Seas, one of Royal Caribbean’s oldest ships. The older ships tend to sail to more interesting destinations since they can fit in the ports and under bridges like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We loved sailing to new destinations on this trip and also enjoyed our sushi-making class. We went too early in the season to see the leaves change, but we’re hoping to do a more traditional fall foliage cruise in the future.


Cruise 10: Royal Caribbean, Grandeur of the Seas, Bahamas, September-October 2023

In late September/early October, we sailed out of Tampa for the first time on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. Grandeur is the oldest ship actively sailing in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. She’s been in service since 1996, but has undergone renovations over the years. We enjoyed sailing out of Tampa Bay though it does take a while to get out to open sea. We visited Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay and Nassau on this trip. We always love spending time at CocoCay since there’s so much to see and do. This was a short, cheap cruise to get us to the Diamond Plus loyalty tier on Royal Caribbean. Diamond Plus status unlocks a ton of great benefits like five free drinks a day, free Internet days, and so much more.


Cruise 11: Celebrity, Eclipse, Pacific Coastal, October 2023

Two days after our Grandeur cruise, Nick and I hopped on a plane and flew to LAX for a Pacific Coastal Cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse. We sailed out of Los Angeles and visited Catalina Island, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego, and Ensenada, Mexico. We had an amazing time on this cruise because the crew was incredible and so was the itinerary. We spotted so many whales off the coast, spent the day at the San Diego Zoo, watched a stunning fireworks show to celebrate the Navy's birthday, and visited several famous California cities like Beverly Hills. Pacific Coastal cruises are a fantastic option if you're interested in exploring the west coast.


Cruise 12: Royal Caribbean, Wonder of the Seas, Eastern Caribbean, November 2023

After Thanksgiving, Nick and I joined a group of 50 for a week on Wonder of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's newest Oasis-class ship. We loved the new Mason Jar specialty restaurant and bar featuring creative drinks like my personal favorite, the PBJ Old Fashioned complete with tiny PBJ sandwiches on a cocktail stick. Wonder of the Seas offers something for everyone. We were especially impressed by the shows. Drones in a theater?! Wild, but amazing. We loved the large stateroom, variety of activities, and beautiful nighttime lighting throughout the ship. This ship is a great option for diverse groups who want lots of different choices for restaurants, bars, shows, and activities.


Cruise 13: Norwegian, Gem, Panama Canal, December 2023

We decided to spend the holidays on a cruise ship this year, which was a first for us. We celebrated both Christmas and the New Year on the Norwegian Gem. We loved the itinerary. We visited Grand Cayman, Colombia, Panama and sailed through the Atlantic locks of the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Belize, and Mexico. We appreciated all of the Christmas decorations throughout the ship and loved the New Year's Eve party. Though this ship has been recently renovated, the staterooms still felt quite dated and were very small. Overall, we enjoyed making new friends and celebrating the holidays at sea.

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