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Friday, July 18, 2014

Cruising the Web

Looking for reviews on a ship? Help on picking a cabin? There’s a website for that. How about tracking your ship’s whereabouts? Finding out who else is sailing with you? There’s a website for that too.
 
There’s so much stuff on the web for cruise planning that it can be hard to know where to start. So I’ve spent time sifting through a lot of it so you can spend less. Here’s my take on the best online resources for ship reviews, cruise advice and getting excited about your upcoming trip:
 
Cruisecritic.com—The most robust and well known of the sites, it gets more visitors than all of its competitors combined. It has detailed reviews of ships and ports by its authors, a huge database of member reviews, industry news, feature stories and cruise deals, as well as active roll calls (connect with fellow cruisers before your trip). Musing’s Top Feature: It has the most vibrant forum, with readers writing in all day long on a wide variety of topics. The site’s members also work with many of the ships to host free “Meet and Mingle” events during cruises that can feature “cabin crawls” (peek into different cabin categories), presentations by the crew, raffle drawings, food and gifts.

Cruiseline.com—Search for trips on this site, view ship reviews and photos by members, and get overall ratings of ships based on member reviews. There are also feature stories, cruise planning advice, roll calls and a forum. Musing’s Top Feature: This site verifies members actually took the cruises they’ve evaluated, designating the reviews with a green “Verified Review” ribbon. You can also access the free smart phone Ship Mate app to track your ship’s whereabouts at any given moment, connect with others on your trip and more.

Cruisemates.com—Provides reviews by the editors of ships and ports, and a forum with reviews by members. Member reviewers are asked to rate ships on various criteria, and each ship is given an overall rating based on this input. There’s also advice on cruising and cruise deals. Musing’s Top Feature: Lively feature stories are submitted by columnists such as Janice Wald Henderson, a food editor and writer for epicurious.com.

Cruise-addicts.com—Includes industry news, cruise deals, ship reviews, photos submitted by members and forums. Musing’s Top Feature: This site is a winner for audio/visual features, with its array of videos on the ports, ships and the industry, as well as podcasts. It also has a variety of webcams on the ports and an interactive, real-time cruise ship tracker.
 
Cruisedeckplans.com—Sick of straining to see the tiny stateroom numbers in deck plans on websites or in catalogs? This is a site for sore eyes! Deck plans are interactive and enable magnification. Hover over a room number and you get cabin descriptions and occasionally, insider info that you’ll never get from the cruise lines. Like when a cabin could be noisy because it’s near a crew work room.

There are also deck plans with on-the-spot photos of public rooms that have been submitted by readers. The site is actively recruiting member photos and will even pay (though you’ll have to submit a lot just to cover the price of a cup a coffee). Most of the site’s info is available for free, but a modest membership fee gets you even more. Musing’s Top Feature: The whole site is unique and offers something no other one does—the ability to find a stateroom on a deck plan without getting a headache.

Porteverglades.net—This is the official website of Port Everglades, Florida, one of the busiest ports in the U.S. It includes a port map and two weeks before you sail, you can find out from which pier by viewing the Ship Schedule on the homepage. It also alerts you to construction that may slow down traffic into the port.
Know of any other great sites? Do share!