Now that we are closing in on the cooler months, it may be time to think about a vacation in warmer climes. Why not an exciting cruise to destinations you may not have visited? I usually suggest cruises for a carefree vacation because it is just that ... carefree. The lady of the house can relax, doesn’t have to cook, clean or manage the home while the gentleman does not have to drive or be the “tour manager.” And it’s fun to get those cruise line brochures from your favorite travel agency office and spend time reading each page and deciding where you want to cruise to and on what ship.
Experienced cruisers realize that the ship is in fact the most important choice since one spends little time ashore sightseeing. You have much more sea time than land time.
Each ship and cruise line offers a different ambience and it is important to sort out those differences from the brochures as well as with an experienced travel agent.
Cruise ships come in different sizes today. There are the giants that carry 2,500 up to more than 6,000 passengers. If you don’t mind crowds, lines and generally impersonal service, these may be for you.
The mid-size ships carry from 1,000 to 1,800 passengers and generally provide better service and cuisine.
The smaller ships today vary from 200 passengers on up into the 900 range. These tend to be the more luxurious vessels and are usually more pricey.
Then, there are the boats that carry from 35 passengers up to more than 100.
There are a growing number of expedition ships coming on the scene that will cruise you to the far corners of the globe, usually focusing on a special interest. It may be the cool arctic areas for birds and bears or river cruising on the Amazon River for jungle excitement or faraway, rarely visited islands.
It’s up to you and the style of cruising that best suites your taste. Most cruisers simply desire calm seas, a luxurious ship, pampering, fine food and interesting destinations to spend a few hours in for sightseeing and shopping.
All ships provide various levels of entertainment and activity.
So, here are some cruise suggestions I think you may enjoy.
American Cruise Lines has four small boats featuring all American crews, large cabins and great food that generally cruise in sheltered waters in the eastern and southern portions of the United States. They also have a paddle wheel vessel positioned for seven- and eight-day cruises along the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River out of Portland, Ore.
These boats carry few passengers and offer an intimate experience allowing you to get up close to nature and to know fellow passengers. They offer a casual ambience, which many American cruises prefer today. Their boats are clean and you are in the good hands of Americans.
One itinerary I like is a Mid-Atlantic cruise that begins in Baltimore, Md. and takes you through the Chesapeake Bay area, stopping in Norfolk, Va., then Kitty Hawk, N.C., Oriental, N.C., Morehead City/Beaufort, N.C., Wilmington, N.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Charleston, S.C. This is eight days of fascinating country cruising in the so-called inland waterway.
You can phone American Cruise Lines for more information and a brochure at: 1-800-814-6880. Or visit www.americancruiselines.com.
On Jan. 13, 2011 you can experience the beautiful new Cunard Queen Elizabeth on her first transit of the Panama Canal. This great liner departs New York then sails south for its maiden call at Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., then continues into the warm waters to Aruba, Panama, Limon, Costa Rica, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to Los Angeles. The ports of call are not the most important on this voyage, but rather the maiden voyage itself in these waters and ports. There will be much celebration as the ship arrives and departs each port, as well as all the excitement of being on a new, important ship. This will be very luxurious and an occasion to dress formally for some dinners and cocktail parties. And, by using a suggested tour operator to book passage with they have included train travel from Flagstaff to New York or Ft. Lauderdale using Amtrak. What a great vacation this would be.
You may contact Train Holidays at: 1-800-543-2846 and they will make all your land, cruise and air reservations for you. Fares begin at $4,000 per person plus extras such as insurance, air travel and upgraded train accommodations.
The same tour operator is offering another luxury Cunard ship, the Ocean Liner Queen Victoria sailing out of Los Angeles for 16 days round trip to Hawaii. Departures are Jan. 29 and Feb. 16, 2011. This vacation includes an overnight hotel stay in Los Angeles the evening before sailing, all transfers, a luncheon on board the famed Queen Mary in Long Beach the day of sailing, your cruise, all shore excursions in the islands of Hawaii, a lunch at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, plus the many luxuries aboard the practically new Queen Victoria. There will also be a tour manager to assist you in every way throughout your journey. It can hardly get any better, believe me. You will stop at Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai and Maui, plus have all the wonderful, relaxing days at sea. Fares begin at $2,895 plus extras such as air, insurance, etc. Phone 1-800-323-5893.
A cruise line I have had the pleasure to sail with several times is Voyages of Discovery and their classic 650-passenger Discovery. Here you will find British seamanship, a great Asian crew, fine Continental cuisine and an onboard ambiance of pure comfort. The ship features seven decks, two swimming pools, plenty of outdoor space to relax in a deck chair, and the best informative lectures by experts in various fields. The passengers are primarily British, but you will find Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians — all good traveling companions.
Next year the 21,000-ton Discovery will cruise July 10 from England on a two-week cruise that includes Copenhagen, Denmark, Stockholm, Sweden, Ajos and Vasa, Finland, three days in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tallinn, Estonia, Gdynia, Poland, Warnemunde, Germany returning to England. Your vacation includes two nights at a fine hotel in London before your voyage, plus all transfers.
I did this last year and it was one of the best, most interesting cruises I have yet done. Fares begin at $4,000, plus your air add-on and insurance. You can’t miss with this one.
Also, the Discovery will depart July 17 on a 15-day trip that gives you two nights in London before cruising to Bergen, Norway, Geiranger and Hellesylt in the dramatic Fjords of Norway, plus Kristiansund, Lekness, Narvik Andalsnes/Molde, Norway then crosses to Lerwick in the Shetland Isles of Scotland and on to England where you will transfer to the airport for your flight home. We had the good fortune to do this two years ago. It was magnificent! Fares begin at $3,200 plus. Phone: 1-866-623-2689 for more information and a brochure.
How about a Transatlantic voyage with Holland America Line sailing for 23 days on the Eurodam from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on a cruise that stops in the fascinating Azors, then on to Lisbon, Portimao, Cadiz, Barcelona, Malaga, Monte Carlo, Portofino, and Civitavecchia for Rome? Fares begin at $2,300 plus air, insurance and transfers. These are special fares and may not be available at the time of booking.
The cruises mentioned are only a sample of the hundreds that are available to you. Shop around and you decide. It’s a great cruise world out there for your choosing. Have fun.