Time To Plan Your Winter Cruise

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Becoming more popular every year is cruising during the winter months. The folks residing in the Midwest and East want to escape the cold winter weather and often choose to cruise right after the Christmas holidays. The Caribbean is the most popular, with the Pacific and South Pacific gaining in popularity. Cruising is big with Californians and much of the west, also.

The Mexican Riviera was quite popular until two years ago when the drug lords began to shoot up towns and cities killing hundreds of people. There are still a couple cruise line ships sailing from Los Angeles and San Diego to Mexico, but more and more people are looking to other warm weather areas in which to cruise. I don’t blame them.

The good news is that you can still have your warm weather cruise. The Caribbean continues to be the top destination for winter cruisers with a host of cruise lines pleasing the public every year. You can book the mid-range cruise lines as well as the deluxe. I have to say the mid-range cruise lines are more deluxe than they ever have been. The difference is onboard ambience, dining, stateroom size and personal attention. Almost all cruise lines provide their guests with fine entertainment, wonderful food and attentive service.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Brooks

Cruising in winter in the warmer climates of the Caribbean, South Pacific and Mediterranean is becoming quite popular.

Some of the more deluxe lines offer smaller ships, which allow more personal service and a higher grade menu in the dining rooms. Some even include in the price of the cruise all your liquor, bottled drinks, laundry service and shore tours. Several even include your airfare to and from the ship’s port city. So, when you are shopping for a cruise this winter, spend time on the Internet, compare ships, prices and what is included in the fare. I strongly recommend using an experienced travel agent, also. I do.

So where will the ships travel to this winter? Consider a 21-day voyage on Oceania Cruises’ deluxe Regatta, an 850-passenger ship sailing Dec. 16 out of Los Angeles headed west to Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the big island of Hawaii, then, sailing south, crossing the equator to arrive at Christmas Island, then to French Polynesia and the most beautiful islands of Bora Bora, Raiatea, Moorea, Huahine to Tahiti where you disembark the ship and return home by air. This is a Christmas and New Year’s cruise that would be wonderful to invite friends and relatives to join you for holidays at sea. Fares begin at $5,000 for the least expensive cabin, per person, plus fees, and include airfare. This is a good price considering the fine ship, amenities, and three weeks at sea and wonderful itinerary.

Princess Cruises are offering a 14-day Hawaii cruise from Los Angeles roundtrip sailing in March 2012 on their Sapphire Princess and Golden Princess. This will allow more than nine days at sea relaxing, reading and taking it easy and you visit Kauai, Honolulu, Hilo, and Maui. This is warm water cruising on the blue Pacific. Fares begin at $1,199 for an interior cabin, cruise only.

The cruise lines get more and more creative with each year. Some of the ships are calling at the smaller islands, which once only took private yachts.

Holland America Line is one of the leaders in Caribbean service and has scheduled for Christmas time a departure Dec. 23 on their Maasdam with stops at: Nassau, Bahamas, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Gustavia, St. Barts, Roseau, Dominica, St. John’s, U.S. Virgin Islands and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. That is a nice itinerary for 10 days. Again, you may wish to invite your friends and relatives to join you for holidays at sea. Fares begin at $1,299, cruise only plus taxes, airfare etc. is extra.

The Prinsendam, Holland America’s only smaller ship, is scheduled to sail Dec. 21 from Florida for a holiday sailing of 14 days in the Caribbean to: St. John, BVI, Bridgetown, Barbados, Scarborough, Tobago, Port Elizabeth, Bequia, Harvre de Robert, Martinique, and Tortola, BVI returning to Fort Lauderdale. This lovely ship carries only 850 passengers in total comfort. It was once the Royal Viking Sun. Fares begin at $1,999 plus.

Princess Cruises are featuring their Ruby Princess to the Caribbean in March 2012 from Ft. Lauderdale calling at Princess Cays, Bahamas, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Fares begin at a low $449 per person for an interior cabin on this 7-day cruise.

You really can’t afford to stay home with these prices.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises, an upscale line, has available an interesting cruise from Ft. Lauderdale sailing Nov. 28 on a 24-night passage to Gustavia, St. Barts, Castries, St. Lucia, Scarborough, Tobago, then entering the mighty Amazon River in Brazil for stops at Santarem, Boca Da Valeria and the large city 1,000 miles up river, Manaus and returning to Florida via Devil’s Island, Bridgetown, Roseau, Tortola, Cayo Levantado in the Dominican Republic, Grand Turk and return to Florida. Fares begin on the Seven Seas Navigator at $9,499, plus free air. With this cruise line you also get a free pre-cruise, 1-night stay at a luxury hotel, free transfers from the hotel to the ship and free portage. What could be nicer?

The Panama Canal has fascinated travelers for decades. What better way to see the Canal and lock system but to pass through it. It takes between five and six hours to accomplish and you will be glued to a window or standing on deck as you pass through. Holland America Lines do this each year with several of their ships. And, are you aware that they are building a new set of locks that can accommodate larger ships that are over 950 feet in length? Construction is well under way. You can see the new cuts as you sail through the old system.

The cruises normally take 14 days from Florida to Los Angeles or San Diego. Here is one that is longer and includes more ports: the Statendam sails for 28 days departing Dec. 23 on a Christmas cruise with an itinerary that includes: Oranjestad, Aruba, Panama Canal, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, Huatulco, Mexico as well as Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego, California, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Puerto Chiapas, Mexico then to Puerto Quetzal, Guatamala, Panama City, a second crossing of the Panama Canal, Cartagena, Colombia return to Ft. Lauderdale. Fares begin at $3,949 plus.

The Coral Princess sails in March 2012 between Ft. Lauderdale and Los Angeles through the Canal. Fares begin at $1,399 for an interior cabin, cruise only.

Next summer a fleet of cruise lines will sail to Alaska from Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. This territory is famous for eye-popping scenery, generally good weather and natural thrills pleasing the most discriminating traveler. There are deluxe ships, mid-range ships and small ships plying the Alaskan waters. It is yours to choose. They vary in length from 7 days and more if you include a land tour as well.

The Mediterranean grows more popular with every year for Americans. There are 7-day cruises on up to those lasting 24 days. It depends on how much you wish to see and how much you have to spend. Some cruise lines include airfare and some do not.

Europe becomes more and more expensive with each year. I think the best value is a cruise if you just want to hit the high points of several ports of call. There are cruises that will include the Greek Islands as well as the key ports in the Mediterranean. Numerous cruise lines offer these cruises and again, I suggest you consult with an experienced travel agent before making your choice.

The ultimate cruise is, of course, an around the world cruise lasting more than 100 days and calling at more than 30 ports. What a way to go! Enjoy your winter.

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