Cruises For You

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For a relaxing and carefree vacation, you can't beat a cruise.

It’s time to begin thinking about where to vacation this summer. I almost always recommend a cruise, if you want relaxing, carefree vacations. And, you’ll know about 90 percent of your costs before you leave home. It’s much easier to budget this way.

Where to cruise is the question.

Considered the world’s most beautiful voyage is a cruise of the legendary fjords of Norway. I have cruised through the Strait of Magellan and seen the majestic fjords of Southern South American; cruised through the inside passage of Alaska, including Misty Fjords and Glacier Bay; and in 2008 cruised the Norwegian Fjords. I must say, the Norwegian fjords take the cake.

Several cruise lines include this in their Northern Europe itineraries. However, if you just want to specialize in these fjords, there is a very fine Norwegian cruise company that does a wonderful job with smaller ships. And a smaller ship is the way to see the fjords — they can get up close to the action and cruise to locations the big ships can’t get into.

I recommend Hurtigruten. This company has been in business for many years and features their very modern Fram. This is a 12,000 gross-ton ship that carries only 500 guests and has good cabins, food and service. If you think you will want to do a lot of photography from aboard ship as it cruises along scenic areas, I would not recommend booking a very large ship. Too many tourists getting in front of you with their cameras blocking your line of sight. For a brochure and more information phone: 1-866-868-0819 or visit www.hurtigruten.us.

How about a voyage to the Arctic? Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic feature their National Geographic Explorer ship, which has been constructed to withstand the rigors of moving through ice and has special instruments to do so. The Arctic is fantastic for photography. And the days are endless because the sun never sets.

You’ll explore the high Arctic in the world’s ultimate expedition ship, the 6,471 gross-ton National Geographic Explorer. You have a good chance to see polar bears and other natural Arctic wildlife. You’ll see beneath the sea from a fleet of kayaks and Zodiacs and enjoy an open bridge so you can check on the weather and talk with the captain and ask questions you may have. There will be naturalists on board for talks and photographic advice as well.

This comfortable and modern expedition ship offers all-outside cabins with full facilities, some even have balconies; all have flat screen TV’s; and the ship also features single cabins. Cruises include 13- and 15-day Land of the Ice Bears: Arctic Svalbard, plus Norway’s fjords, which is a land and sea expedition. You depart from Oslo, Norway. For more information and a brochure phone 1-800-397-3348 or go online to www.expeditions.com.

Silversea Cruises is featuring a 7-night Food and Wine at sea cruise in their intimate Silver Spirit departing Sept. 25, 2010. This all-suite ship visits Lisbon, Portugal, Cadiz, Malaga, Barcelona, Spain and Marseille, and Nice, France. It promises surprises for the senses along with a very fine itinerary. Chef Craig Strong of Montage Laguna Beach will be the reining food executive on this cruise. Visit Silversea.com.

Silversea also operate the very luxurious Prince Albert 11 to Antarctica, Arctic, Africa, Central and South America. Check them out for expedition cruises next year.

Alaska is always popular and your cruise consultant can assist you with recommendations of ships and itineraries. The most popular is the 7-day inside passage cruise operating out of Seattle or Vancouver. You can add land tours, which makes your vacation to this area even more enjoyable. Cruise fares are low right now and many specials are being offered.

One of my favorite cruise itineraries is the Baltic. Last summer we cruised from England to visit Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Russia, Poland and Germany. This two-week cruise was one of the most interesting and pleasurable I have had. Try it! Several cruise lines offer this or similar itineraries and you can’t fail with this one. Be sure your Baltic cruise includes at least three days in St. Petersburg, Russia. This will be the high point of the itinerary. Again, your travel professional will give you brochures of the various cruise lines that offer this fantastic area of the world.

The Mediterranean never fails to please, no matter how many times you visit. Some of the cruise lines that operate in this area include: Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Voyages of Discovery, NCL, Cunard Line, Oceania Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Star Clippers, Windstar Cruises, MSC Cruises. Costa Cruises and Royal Caribbean. There are others so look at the brochures to determine which ship and itinerary suits you and your tastes.

You can sail around the British Isles on Holland America Line’s Westerdam, Cunard Lines Queen Victoria, Silversea Cruises Silver Cloud, and Crystal Cruises Crystal Symphony — all very fine ships. You’ll visit not only England, but also Ireland and Scotland.

If you are thinking of a transatlantic voyage, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 does this several months during the spring, summer and fall. It’s a great way to relax before and/or after your European holiday. You might want to try one-way positioning voyages between Florida and Europe, which are offered in the spring and fall of each year by several cruise lines. Some of the lowest fares are on Costa Cruises positioning voyages.

Europe River Cruising is becoming very popular with Americans. Uniworld, Amawaterways, Tauck and others are offering fantastic ways to visit interesting cities, towns and villages along some of the most famous rivers in Europe. River cruises last between 4, 7 and 11 nights and are a more relaxing way to visit fascinating areas of the “old world.” I will devote an entire column on these cruises soon.

USA and Canada are popular cruises out of New York to New England points and Eastern Canada. Princess Cruises Crown Princess, Holland America Line’s Maasdam, the Carnival Glory, and Norwegian Dawn and Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 are some of the ships that are cruising this area in the summer. If you are planning a trip to New York, you may want to add a week of cruising. A week’s cruise to Bermuda might be fun with some great duty free shopping included.

The Caribbean is popular year around. But, the best time in this area is during the winter months when the weather is not too warm and humid and there are no hurricanes.

Mexico is good for 7-day cruises out of San Diego and Los Angeles and the ports usually include Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Again, your travel professional can provide you with brochures and recommendations.

Panama Canal cruising is nice because it takes two weeks between California and Florida and the 6-hour passage through the Canal is always interesting. Princess, Holland America, and Crystal are but three of the lines that offer these cruises.

South America holds interest for some, especially, cruising the Amazon River. I did this several years ago and you will find it an amazing experience. The Pacific Princess does this for 14 nights and departs Ft. Lauderdale Dec. 22, 2010.

Something you might enjoy closer to home is calm water cruising on the St. Lawrence River. The 32-stateroom Canadian Empress does this on their replica of an old steamship in family style. They provide educational information en route and their 6-day itineraries include a route from Kingston to Ottawa with 1000 Islands, Upper Canada Village, International Seaway Locks, Montreal, Carillon Lock and much more. This will be a very relaxing voyage with friendly, informal folks. Phone: 800-267-7868 or go online to www.StLawrence Cruise Lines.com.

I hope this has given you a few ideas for your cruising vacations this summer and fall. Bon Voyage!

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