Honeymoons and romance are what most often come up to describe these destinations. And rightly so. Serene and sublime – perfect places to relax, play, unplug, a chance to be together. A spectacular tropical getaway.
Who knew there were so many options to think about when planning a Galapagos cruise? Cruise vs land? Sailing yacht or small ship? Which itinerary? What time of year?
Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
It’s my opinion that many non-cruisers believe all cruises are the same. The image they often describe to me: big, massive ships, lots of people, 24/7 parties, an experience similar to being a sardine stuck in a can. As someone who loves cruising and knows just how great of an experience and value it is, this breaks my heart.
Those who have cruised know this description is not accurate. Sure, there are big mega-ships, and yes, some are "fun" ships. But certainly not most, and certainly not being stuck in a can.
Even seasoned cruisers have outdated thoughts on different cruise types, or may not be aware of different options.
Ocean cruises come in all sizes and shapes, and can be categorized into three main types: Classic, expedition and adventure. The differences between them? Keep reading.
When thinking of South America, Peru, Brazil and Argentina often get the most attention. But don't overlook Chile, a country with a diverse landscape north to south and ample things to see and experience.
It's no secret. I fell in love with this country over 10 years ago. Warm and friendly people, great food, wine, interesting history. And for me, the absolute best was the amazing scenic beauty and wildlife. There is no doubt I'll be returning.
Here are my top 8 reasons to visit:
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways.
Cruising the world’s rivers continues to be extremely popular, especially in Europe. This segment of travel has seen tremendous growth in the last ten years. New ships, new and revised itineraries - it's getting a lot of attention. According to the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), cruises on the Rhine, Moselle, Danube and Elbe have grown 53% year over year. The Douro, Po and the waterways of France have grown between 24% and 30%.
Having been on three cruises myself, I understand the attraction. It’s a fantastic experience, an easy and relaxed way to travel. Unpack and pack once, the captain does the driving, wake up refreshed and ready to explore a new town. Tours and free time included. Great food and drink. Making new friends. Need I say more?
I rave about river cruising and and I believe the overall experience is a great value for all that is included. But it’s not for everyone.
Following are several points you should know before booking any river cruise for the first time. Better to be armed with knowledge than being unpleasantly surprised.
Photo courtesy of Tourism Australia
I love the ocean. I am fascinated by the creatures that call it home. I enjoy snorkeling, and someday I'll learn how to scuba dive to get an even closer look. As with many other places on this earth, some things you need to see with your own eyes. Pictures just don't do it justice.
One such experience is swimming with the gentle giants of the sea, whale sharks. Luckily diving equipment isn't required - just snorkeling. And despite their intimidating size, whale sharks pose no threat whatsoever. I admit that large mouth looks like it could swallow me whole, but thankfully they only eat plankton.
Longing to explore France's waterways for a while, I recently had the opportunity to cruise the Rhone on an itinerary from Avignon to Lyon. The three major rivers in France offer very different experiences, and this one intrigued me with the combination of Roman history, scenery and wine country.
The itinerary did not disappoint.
I have to admit that am biased towards cruising. I love being on the water, love knowing the captain takes me to the next awesome port of call (meaning I'm not driving or trying catch another mode of transport), love not packing up every day, love not having to search for a great restaurant. You get the idea.
Cruising is just plain simple a great way to vacation. It also makes for great honeymoons (very stress free) and perfect for wedding vow renewals too. My top four recommended cruises are:
I was first introduced to Dubrovnik when it was still part of Yugoslavia. I remember walking along the ancient city walls that overlook the Old Town and shimmering Adriatic Sea, fascinated by the canons that once protected the city from invasions from the sea.
Years later I came again, this time by cruise. Now the independent country of Croatia, and still healing from a long and hard fought war. My Dad and I once again climbed up the steeps steps to the top, took a leisurely walk along the storied walls, and later explored the Old Town area. There were reminders of this recent war that could be seen on the walls of the Old Town entrance and there were more people and few more restaurants, but thankfully not much else had changed. Old Town, with its limestone streets, quaint alleys and baroque buildings, was just simply stunning, and memorable.
When I think of Japan, Tokyo is generally the first image that comes to mind. A fascinating place, modern yet traditional, always changing, always on the move.
However, it is the world's largest metropolis, with over 37 million residents (9 million in the city alone). It goes without saying this means lots of crowds. And just imagine trying to cross the street at major intersections!
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
River cruising and barging has grown exponentially over the past few years, and options continue to expand. For those who have been on the rivers and love the experience, new and varying choices are exciting but can become overwhelming. For those new to the experience, all these options can certainly be daunting.
But selecting the right river cruise doesn't need to be any of this.
Following these steps will help narrow down your choices on finding a good match.
A cruise to Alaska is high on the list for many wanting to see this most beautiful part of the world. In fact, aside from the Caribbean, Alaska is the most popular destination for first time cruisers.
A cruise to Alaska is perfect for anyone new to cruising, not only for the exceptional scenery and adventure the area offers, but also because a large part of the itinerary is through the Inside Passage, the protected waters that stretch from northern Washington to Alaska's Panhandle. These waters make for much smoother sailing than on open ocean.
In fact, ALL Alaska cruises go through the Inside Passage.
This may have you concluding then, that all itineraries are pretty much the same. Not entirely accurate - you do have a number choices.
Do you think a cruise just isn't active enough for you?
This may be true statement on some cruise lines, but certainly not all. A number of small ships have, as part of their "personality", fun and exciting ways for you to maintain your active lifestyle - ways well beyond the workout room.
You can certainly go for the treadmill or elliptical machine, but check out these options. They may have you rethinking your cruise choices!
IMAGINE yourself on the teak deck of a timelessly elegant clipper ship, a warm breeze blowing in your face as the crew unfurl 54,000 square feet of sails above you.
You begin to tingle head to toe.
As you sail into the sunset, you sigh when you realize this is one of the most incredible experiences you have ever had.
Earlier this year I wrote about all the new cruise ships being launched in 2018 and 2019. They included Seabourn's all suite ship the Ovation, Scenic's Eclipse Discovery yacht, Viking's fifth ocean cruise ship Orion and Ponant's new explorer class Le Laperouse and Le Champlain ships, the Celebrity Edge and Holland America's Niew Statendam which launched in December and the mega ships launched by Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
Not to be outdone, Amadeaus, AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, CroisEurope, Crystal, Emerald Waterways, Uniworld and Viking launched or will launch new river ships.
A lot of new ships. Very exciting!
This last week I had the opportunity to sail on Celebrity's newest ship, the Edge. Over the last 12 months I attended a number of webinars to learn more about what the ship had to offer, and hands down, she is impressive.
The build up to the inaugural was exciting, but seeing everything in person is an unmatched experience. Being one of the first to see this ship with everything brand spanking new was especially sweet!
From beautiful neutral colors and jewel tones to innovative staterooms and distinctive venues and experiences, the Edge is quite the ship.
As the saying goes, big surprises come in small packages. Zodiak excursions do just that - surprise, excite and treat you to once in a lifetime experiences.
There are a number of special places in the world that are only accessible by zodiak, or skiffs - small boats designed to take a small number of people into places that bigger ships (and even small ships) just can't get to - places where there are no ports or no docks.
Here are my top five favorite destinations where zodiaks are an integral part of the whole experience. The memories just would not be the same without them.
For most people, their first introduction to Alaska includes a cruise through the Inside Passage, with stops most often in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Icy Straight, Haines and Sitka are occasional replacements for one of the "big 3", as I call them.
Each of these stops offer unique experiences that highlight the best things about Alaska: Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, salmon fishing and the 14,000 totem poles in Ketchikan, Russian history in Sitka, bears in Icy Straight and exploring the Yukon from Skagway. These are just a few examples of special memories that are created in the Last Frontier.
While I often recommend these cruises, I also point out that when 3-5 ships are in port at the same time, especially during the peak summer months, it does get crowded.
And thus it would be remiss of me not to mention the quieter ports of call.
Old world European charm. Serene villages. Steep and narrow landscapes dotted with romantic castles and lovely vineyards. Gentle, winding bike and walking trails. World-class wine. Delectable cuisine. This is the Moselle River valley.
And where I had my first official wine tasting.
The star attraction on a Baltic cruise for most people will be St. Petersburg, Russia. It was for me. I'd seen plenty of pictures of the iconic sites, which truly intrigued me, but I was also very curious about the people and what was "beyond these sites". What was it like to be in Russia?
Two full days touring St. Petersburg didn't make me an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But along with the seeing the iconic sites, I did get a glimpse of the beyond, behind the scenes if you will. For this I am grateful. I did not know what to expect, and while I had a few preconceived notions, I went with open eyes.
On July 4th, we sailed out of Copenhagen, the beginning of our 9 night Baltic cruise. We were treated to sunny days the entire cruise, and though I rarely let weather hinder my experience, I must admit that not having even one drop of rain was quite special.
A Baltic cruise had been on our wish list for a number of years, and this itinerary and timing fit perfectly into an already planned visit to Germany. In all honestly I would have preferred a smaller ship (a much smaller ship!) as it would have reduced some of the transfer time, but none the less, we packed in a lot of experiences.
A Baltic itinerary is not one I would describe as relaxing. It is however, incredibly interesting, very rich in history, with each port offering unique experiences. Following are the highlights.
This article was written by AmaWaterways.
Stepping through the Loire Valley is a bit like stepping back in time –
way, way back to a time where fairytale princes and princesses lived among kings and queens and nobility in grand, extravagant castles.
Novelist Henry James once described the Loire Valley as ‘the land of Rabelais, of Descartes, of Balzac as well as good dinners and good houses.’ Indeed, life is sweet in the Loire Valley – the food, the wine, the beauty of both the land and the many châteaux and the brushes with royalty and celebrated historical figures.
Major mainstream cruise lines have all recently introduced new ships, the 4000 plus passenger mega-ships. The Bliss from Norwegian Cruises, the Symphony of the Seas (the largest ship in the world) from Royal Caribbean, and the Horizon from Carnival, among a few. They are the "hottest" thing in cruising, especially for those who see cruise ships as their vacation destination.
What's the attraction? Exciting new amenities - race tracks, laser tag, water parks with unbelievable crazy slides, zip lines, new foodie venues including breweries and restaurants galore. And the list goes on.
These mega-ships may not be your normal type of cruise or vacation, especially for those who prefer the intimacy of a small ship experience. There may be times, however, where a big ship experience is the best option for the group traveling, for example a multi-generational family or groups with a wide variety of budgets and interests.
The secret? You can get a similar small ship luxury experience on a big ship. Here's how:
This article was written by AmaWaterways.
Is there any more perfect pairing for wine than a blend of classical romance and legendary chivalry?
The French town of Bergerac is equally renowned for its role in the love story of Cyrano de Bergerac as it is for its fine wines (not to mention elegant chateaux and a historic medieval center).
(Updated post from May 2016) Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises
When is the best time to book my cruise?
A very common question, one I get at least 50% of the time when booking ocean and river cruises. The answer? It truly depends on you, the type of traveler you are and where you want to travel.
Flexible? Not at all concerned about a getting your choice of itinerary, sailing date, cabin or cabin location? Live a short distance from the cruise port? Then yes, you could wait until closer in to the sailing date. You may find a last minute "deal", as cruise lines prefer to sail with as many cabins filled as possible. Watch out though, as they aren't always what they first appear to be. And if airfare is involved, air tends to be more expensive the closer in to travel dates.