Since we are already in a new year, some readers are already beginning to plan a vacation for spring and summer. My information tells me that travel will be much more popular this year than last, barring any major world problem. Last year Europe and the Mediterranean area were very popular along with Central and South America, plus river and ocean cruising in general.
In the United States, automobile travel gained strength with the West Coast gaining popularity along with our National Parks. Today, I will outline a few vacations you may wish to consider.
Are you a jazz fan? On March 6 you can arrive at the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans and be welcomed by a cocktail reception with a jazz trio, then over to famed Aurnaud’s restaurant for dinner. You would be part of a Tauck Tours Jazz event that will include New Orleans sightseeing with scheduled talks by jazz experts and a visit to a cultural museum with a Jazz concert on March 8. There will also be a dinner cruise on Steamboat Natchez with Doreen’s Jazz and Dukes of Dixieland. This is the ultimate for jazz fans, and you’ll want to be there. Fares begin at $3,600 double. Call Tauck tours at 1-800-458-2825.
And, speaking of New Orleans, you may wish to consider taking the big red paddle wheeler “American Queen” on a Mississippi River cruise with fares starting at just $1,095 for a four-day cruise with two hotel nights. You will travel from New Orleans to old south towns along the river. Onboard you will be entertained by a celebrity orchestra such as the Harry James Orchestra, Herb Reed’s Platters, Artie Shaw’s Orchestra and other known music makers. You’ll enjoy river life as you cruise by in paddle wheel comfort. Many staterooms offer private balconies. The food will feature old south recipes served in a charming style of yesteryear. Call the American Queen Steamboat Company and inquire about their offerings and request a brochure. Phone 1-888-749-5280.
A British company I have cruised with several times is offering an interesting cruise onboard their recently acquired “Voyager” (15,000 gross tons) carrying only 500 passengers that will depart London (Portsmoth), England with stops in England, Ireland and Scotland. The cruise departs May 14 for 12 days. Cruise fares begin at $1,899 per person, cruise only. Call 1-866-623-2689 for more information.
American Cruise Lines are offering an 8-day cruise from Jacksonville, Florida down the coast protected by the inland waterway to visit Palatka for a visit to Ravine Gardens State Park, then continue on to the Ocala National Forest, to Green Cove Springs, a cruise on the Tolomato River, St. Augustine, Amelia Island to explore the historic ruins and unique architecture of the Victorian homes and shops in the Fernandina Beach Historic District then return to Jacksonville. Departures are March 16, 23 and 30, 2013. You have with this company an all American crew and officers and a boat built in the U.S. Call American Cruise Lines at 1-866-226-9642. Their boats carry between 50 and 150 passengers and some staterooms include balconies.
Another British company, Swan Hellenic, is offering 14- and 15-day cruises this summer on their Minerva which was recently enhanced and now features more public rooms, more balconies and re-modeled staterooms. The ship is 12,000 gross tons and carries 350 guests. Their fares include escorted shore tours, all gratuities, guest speakers and wine with dinner. Fares are reasonable for what is offered. The Minerva sails in the Mediterranean. Call them at 1-866-923-9182.
If you are a rail fan, here is one for you: Africa’s Rovos rails on several Pride of Africa itineraries with stops between Cape-Town and Dar es Salaam, a 5-country, 14-day trip in a very deluxe train. Departures out of Cape Town, South Africa are scheduled for June 29 and Sept. 28. Each cabin aboard the train has shower, sink and toilet and is quite roomy. The train also carries two diners, two lounges, outdoor viewing area and windows that open. This train is even more luxurious than the Orient Express. Fares for 2013 begin at $5,200 per person for train travel only. Get a free color brochure by calling 1-800-478-4881. If I had a rich uncle, I would love to take one of these trips.
Ever cruise eastern Canada? If not, consider Holland America Lines 15-day cruise repositioning the Maasdam May 3 to Canada for summer cruising. The itinerary includes sailing from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. stopping at Charleston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Prince Edward Island, a sail through the Gaspe area and Sagunay Fjord to Quebec City ending at Montreal. Fares are in the area of $2,100 per person, cruise only for a good cabin. This portion of Canada is very scenic. The weather will be cool, so bring clothes accordingly. Holland America Line may be contacted at: 1-800-877-724-5425 and request a brochure.
Think you would enjoy a National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions cruise lasting 16 nights aboard the National Geographic Explorer departing May 24? You would board the ship in Copenhagen, Denmark and sail first to Rasvag, Norway, then to Bergen, Nordfjord in the Fjords and cruising through some of the most beautiful area in the world. Then, north to the Loften Islands where passengers will board Zodiacs to view wildlife, a small fishing village and back on ship to cruise one of the most famous fjords in Norway, the dramatic Trolifjord. On to Tromso which is called the “Gateway to the Arctic.” You will visit the Polar Museum and Arctic Cathedral. Then cruise further north to the high arctic to explore Bear Island, and glide a Zodiac into the coves and inlets of this mist-shrouded island populated by hundreds of thousands of fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots. You are now in the Arctic Svalbard and will be looking for more polar bears along with other wildlife as you experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The cruise ends at Oslo, Norway June 10 where you can return home by air. Fares begin at $13,899 per person, cruise only.
Holland America Line has one smaller ship, the 38,000-ton, 850-passenger Prinsendam that will depart Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, May 17 on a 31-day Transatlantic and Baltic voyage ending at Tilbury, England. Some of the ports of call will be Le Havre for Paris, Hamburg, Warnemunde for Berlin, and pass through the Kiel Canal. Visit Helsinki, Finland, Stockholm, Copenhagen and more. There will also be shore excursions to St. Petersburg. A wonderful itinerary on a comfortable, smaller ship. Fares begin in the range of $5,000 cruise only. You would have to purchase only a one-way air ticket home from London.
Cunard Line with their prestigious ships has scheduled from Southampton, England, St. Petersburg and Baltic cruises on their Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth departing May 1 and June 1 on 14-day cruises. If you think you might enjoy the formality of two very fine ships, Cunard just may be your cruise line this summer. Fares for the two-week cruise only are $3,399 for a room with a view, per person. Air fares will be high this summer for transatlantic flights, so be sure to shop around or use a travel agent.
YMT vacations is planning a people-to-people tour from Miami to Havana, Cuba for an 8-day tour which will cover Havana, the outback country and various farms and museums along with seminars and some meals. Fares begin in the area of $2,300 plus the extra meals and Cuban visa charges. Information I have is sketchy, but give YMT vacations a call at 1-800-922-9000 if you are serious about traveling to Cuba.
European river cruising is becoming popular and will be very big in 2013. In just a short time, I will write about the River Boat cruise lines and what they will be offering this year.