Want To Get Warm?

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Photo courtesy of Ken Brooks

Holland America’s Veendam sails out of Tampa to the Caribbean — always a great choice for a winter cruise.

photo

Photo courtesy of Ken Brooks

When you purchase a cruise vacation, included in your fare is your sea transportation, room accommodations, all meals on board plus your entertainment while at sea. There’s no better travel value.

All you have to do is step outside and you know we are in winter. It’s a little early, but you might want to begin making plans to escape. With the economy the way it is, you just might try to make a deal with hotels and resorts, and perhaps you can do better than published rates.

A winter cruise is very desirable and already a few of the lines are publishing lower than usual rates for this time of year on some cruises. You may even be able to pay one rate and request a several category upgrade. Often the lines will give you one category upgrade, but this year it could even be better. Time will tell!

Cruising is, in the end, the best travel value out there. Why? Because you pretty well know 90 percent of your travel costs before you leave home. When you purchase a cruise vacation included in your fare is your sea transportation, room accommodations, all meals on board plus your entertainment while at sea. What other form of holiday travel can provide that in one ticket price? And, you are in the good hands of experienced officers and crew aboard a ship that is ultra modern, offers fantastic luxury and services, and serves some of the best food anywhere.

So, where can you cruise this winter? The Caribbean always comes to mind as a good choice. Last year we sailed for two weeks on Holland America’s Veendam out of Tampa, Fla. and visited 10 warm islands. The temperatures were in the 80s each day and I could laze around the pool, get plenty of rest, read a couple books, and enjoy the wonderful entertainment provided in the main show lounge most evenings.

I had to be careful not to eat everything in sight as I didn’t want to put on weight. I put on three pounds!

Many cruise lines ply the warm waters of the Caribbean in the winter period and your ship choice will be determined by how much you wish to spend. However, no matter which cruise line you select, all will provide the basic food and services as described here.

Personally, I prefer to cruise at least 10 days to two weeks. Why? The first day is pretty much consumed with boarding and getting settled, and is basically wasted as is the last day which is spent leaving the ship, transferring to the airport and the flight home.

Another cruise choice might be a round trip sailing to the Hawaiian Islands from San Diego or Los Angeles. During this 14-day cruise you’ll relax and enjoy nine days at sea on the beautiful Pacific, and spend a day in four of the wonderful islands. You could even rent a car in each island and do your own touring. You really can’t get lost as the maps are easy to read and the roads are generally good. If you don’t want to do that, you can reserve shore tours from the ship on each island.

Always popular is a 7- to 10-day cruise along the Mexican Rivera from Los Angeles. By the middle of the second day at sea you will be sailing in a warm climate to enjoy your vacation in the west coast Mexican ports, which are usually Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. If your cruise is more than seven days, added will be Acapulco and perhaps another port.

Outlined here are the three most popular winter cruising areas close to home. In most cases you will have some air travel to and from your ship. My recommendation is to let the cruise line book the air for you. It’s simply easier and usually does not cost any more than doing it yourself. There are also other advantages.

Don’t want to cruise? How about a warm spot in Mexico? Good air is available to Cancun, and this is my personal choice of all Mexican resorts. Here are some of the best hotels and resorts in the entire country. The beaches are almost perfect and the water is Caribbean warm. Other nice areas are: Playa del Carmen near Cancun, which also has some great luxury resorts, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.

Wherever you vacation I would suggest you first speak to travel professional who should have updates on various desirable winter travel locations as well as prices. They can also make reservations for you. It’s much easier this way. Even with all my travel experience I still use a travel agent for my personal travel.

Hawaii never disappoints, and there is convenient air service to several of the Hawaiian Islands. Winter weather is some of the best in the world, and there is so much to do or not to do, whichever is your choice. If you like tropical scenery, great beaches, warm weather and luxury hotels and resorts, this may be the place for you. In Hawaii you are still in the United States, where you can trust the food and water, and the local people are friendly and polite.

The airfare will not be cheap, but you just may be able to get some decent hotel rates if you do some bargaining. I have found that if I call a hotel’s toll free booking number, I get an agent who knows little about the hotel and is not in a position to do any bargaining. However, if you spend a few coins and call the hotel direct and speak to the reservations manager, you just may be able to get a deal. Try it. Be Monty Hall and Let’s Make Deal! It may work in these unusual times.

My favorite Hawaiian Islands are Maui and Kauai. However, if you are into a lot of night action and entertainment you want Waikiki or Oahu. Here the hotels are great and the beaches fantastic. You can also visit downtown Honolulu as well as Pearl Harbor.

I always enjoy renting a car and driving around the island a few times. It’s fun to park and watch the surfers brave the waves. In Waikiki there are at least a hundred cafes and restaurants to dine, sup and enjoy. You can find a vast selection of Asian foods here, as many of the local population are peoples from the Pacific basin; you can find an array of Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisines.

Wherever you choose to get warmed up — take plenty of sun-block, your camera and your toothbrush!

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