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gluten free cruise food

10 Best Cruise Lines for Gluten Free Food

Last updated on March 6th, 2020 at 10:15 am

gluten free food

A quick background… 

A Gluten-free diet excludes the protein gluten, that includes the exclusion of wheat, rye, and barley. The diet has been known to aid people who are diagnosed with celiac disease managing its symptoms. This form of diet has become widely popular among people who aren’t diagnosed with a gluten-related medical condition. It has been claimed that going through this nutritional regime improves health, aids in weight loss, and increases energy, although more research is still needed. 

People who adhere to gluten-free diets and would like to go on a cruise have to go through the extra burden of meal planning, restaurant research, and preparing packed food and items from their kitchens. There is good news for those people as all cruise lines, without exception, now offer gluten-free meals.

All a prospective cruiser has to do is to make the request in advance and give the cruise line notification prior to their sail date.  Notifying a cruise line of an incoming gluten-free cruiser (or cruisers, as is more usually the case) gives them ample time to order larger quantities of gluten-free ingredients.   This allows the cruise line plenty of time to lay in the amounts necessary and ensure that all requests are met. 

For those who are interested in taking a gluten-free cruise, we have listed below 10 of the best cruise lines for gluten-free food.

1. Royal Caribbean

The Royal Caribbean menu is incredibly conducive for those who are trying to avoid gluten. Amazingly, every night they provide at least one (on most occasions several) gluten-free appetizer, a main dish, and dessert. They offer gluten-free sandwiches, pastries, and pizzas from separate cooking areas to avoid cross-contamination.  

Be sure to contact your travel advisor or Certified Vacation Planner and request that the gluten-free remark be noted in your reservation details. If your reservation is made online through royalcaribbean.com, add your request to the “update personal information.” section.

To cover all your bases, you may also send an email request to [email protected]; be sure to include in your e-mail the guests’ names, booking number, ship name, and sail date, then your email will receive an automated response.

symphony of the seas

2. Carnival Cruise Line

Since Carnival has a large fleet of ships and is noted for being a famous commercial cruise line, they are adequately stocked all the time for gluten-free cruisers.  Without exception, all of Carnival’s cruise ships serve gluten-free bread, different kinds of pasta, pizzas, and desserts.  They also have a well-known restaurant called Guy’s Burger Joints, where you can get bunless burgers and french fries as gluten-free options. Gluten-free beer is also available onboard Carnival’s cruise ships, and if you request ahead of time, the chefs can bake you a gluten-free cake.

3. Cunard Line

A cruise line committed to providing deluxe accommodations on the seas, the Cunard team oversees dietary specifications in a professional manner. All of the ships in the line employ specialist head waiters and chefs to manage special dietary requests, and they’ll coordinate with you about the options available.

Gluten-free breads are available throughout meal times, and sauces are whipped up separately to meet dietary requirements. On top of this, gluten-free kinds of pasta, biscuits, cookies, and cereals are provided throughout the cruise.

To ensure you receive gluten-free service aboard your Cunard cruise, you are required to inform your operator at the time of booking and confirm the request at the purser’s desk when you board the ship.

4. Holland America Cruises

They made dining for cruisers with Celiac’s disease or gluten sensitivities more convenient by marking food items without gluten with the symbol of wheat next to their descriptions. Customers can also request for gluten-free buns in their Dive-In burgers. For your special dietary needs that require assistance, you may contact Holland America Cruises Ship Services at least three weeks prior to your departure at 1–800–541–1576.

5. Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian offers a handful of gluten-free options onboard as part of their regular menu, including pre-packaged cookies & toast. But with advanced notice, they can prepare gluten-free pastries, pasta, and even pancakes. Gluten-free dessert options include ice cream, souffle, and creme brulee. Always coordinate with your head waiter, and Norwegian Cruise Line will pull out all the stops whenever possible. 

6. Princess Cruises

They offer a variety of gluten-free products such as bread, cereal, spaghetti, and macaroni. They have created a special gluten-free mix that they use to make cookies, cakes, muffins, pancakes, and pizza crust. Princess Cruise will accommodate guests with any special dietary needs.

Like any other cruise lines, it is crucial to notify them in advance, at least 35 to 65 days in writing, depending on the particular cruise you’ll be booking. Another perk of booking a balcony cabin or above, by giving them a head’s up, you can order a deluxe balcony breakfast or dinner (for a fee,) and they will include items such as gluten-free muffins, french toast, pancakes or kinds of pasta.

disney cruise ship

7. Disney Cruises

Disney theme parks have earned a successful reputation when it comes to accommodating special dietary needs, and Disney cruises did not fall far from the tree. Simply make a note of your gluten intolerance or any other nutritional restrictions when booking your trip.

Onboard Disney Cruises, they sell their famous gluten-free popcorn, grab one and take it to the cabin for a snack. During breakfast, you will not be limited with their pastry spread such as muffins, toast & pancakes. To keep up with their awesomeness, they also prepare gluten-free donuts. You can wrap up your dinner with gluten-free desserts.

8. Seabourn Cruise Line

Famous for providing luxurious cruises, Seabourn Cruise Lines guarantees your gluten-free needs are met by arranging a variety of gluten-free pastries, and even breadsticks.  All menu items are provided with a clear gluten-free label. Chefs are fully equipped to make any menu item as long as requests are made in advance.  You can specify your gluten-free needs on Seabourn’s pre-cruise online portal prior to cruising.

9. Azamara Cruises

Though Azamara is a small cruise line, they can provide the necessary accommodations for gluten-free cruisers.  Specify your gluten-free orders the night before, they can make pancakes, waffles, and other items. You can enjoy gluten-free dinners, particularly in their 2 specialty restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C. They offer a choice of whole-grain dinner rolls, hamburger & hot dog buns, various gluten-free pasta, risotto, rice noodles, some soups, gluten-free soy sauce, pancakes, waffles, plain bagels, muffins & cookies.

If you are planning to book a suite, expect the butler to drop by with coffee and tea along with with the most delicious gluten-free scones, jelly, and whipped cream

10. Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line

A luxury cruise line, Regent Seven Seas goes above and beyond in making a gluten-free alternative for almost any item on the menu.  In addition to all the gluten-free staples such as bread and various kinds of pasta, Regent goes the extra mile in ensuring that you don’t miss out on delicious dishes.  For instance, at Regent’s Chocoholics high-tea service, they offer an entire gluten-free menu, consisting of finger sandwiches and gluten-free desserts such as meringue and fruit tart.

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

cruise vlogs

18 Best Cruise Vlogs That You Need To Binge-Watch

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:24 am

As cruise lovers, we prefer to be on board in the middle of the sea than being on land, even virtually. But during those times we have to be away from the blue, we have modern-day storytellers that would bring us back right in the midst of the salty air–vloggers. Armed with cameras, microphones, tripods, and laptops, they tell stories that we love to immerse ourselves in. To help keep your bucket full, here’s a list of 19 of the best cruise vlogs that are binge-worthy.

cruise vlogs - cruise videos

CruiseTipsTV

Sheri and her family started CruiseTipsTv in 2013. They are making astonishing progress, moving forward to 2020, having over 480 videos, more than 80,000 youtube subscribers, a Cruising academy, and almost 15 million viewers, their vlogs are treasure troves for both new and seasoned cruisers.

Sheri also recently ventured into podcasting, the CruiseTipsTV Unplugged, where they feature weekly segments on cruise tips and cruise stories.

Check out CruiseTipsTV on YouTube

Sean and Stef IRL 

A married couple who are based in Orlando, whose goal is to travel the world one cruise at a time, is hosting Cruiseflix. Sean and Stef Mullen, are professional filmmakers who have won 3 Emmy awards, are producing informative but fun cruise vlogs that are topnotch. 

With the mission to inspire and connect with people all around the globe and show the joy of travelling, their vlogs will definitely leave you feeling good about life, relationship, and cruising.

Check out Sean & Stef on YouTube

Emma Cruises

Creator of Facebook page “Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People,” Emma breaks the stereotyping of cruisers as old school. In her cruise vlogs, she features cabin tours, cruise booking tips, and tricks, ship reviews, and she genuinely sails the coolest ships making cruising hip for Millenials.

Check out Emma Cruises on YouTube

SoloCruiser

A solo traveller, Julia produces vlogs that present the reality of cruising, both good and bad. She started uploading videos on youtube in 2012 and shares her personal insights she has learned from various lines, which are extremely helpful for people who want to try cruising alone.

Check out SoloCruiser on YouTube

In The Loop Travel

John, the content creator of this innovative vlog, was able to integrate fitness into cruising. Their philosophy is to travel fit, travel happy, and travel often. He provided answers to health-conscious cruisers who do not want to miss out on both fun and fitness.

Check out In The Loop Travel on YouTube

I Like Cruise Ships

This youtube channel launched a little over 3 years in creating video content and has been steadily gaining traction. Russell, who has worked on cruise ships for more than 20 years, is running this channel with the expertise we all need to know about cruising.

Check out I Like Cruise Ships on YouTube

Cruising With Wheels

A channel that primarily focuses on everything about cruising and provides informative videos for accessibility on and off-board while cruising. To get the most out of your vacation, preparation is imperative when cruising with a disability, and watching vlogs of this sort is a massive help.

Check out Cruising with Wheels on YouTube

Cruise Radio

Cruise Radio has made it onto the list of both our favorite cruise blogs and now, one of our fav cruise vlogs. Their YouTube channel consists of over 26,000 subscribers and over 4 million total views on their videos. Since launching the website in 2009, founder Doug Parker has created exceptional content, whether that’s on the website, podcast or video.  Their ship tours are well done, informative and interesting.

Check out Cruise Radio on YouTube

Popular Cruising

Jason Leppert, the genius behind Popular Cruising, produces in-depth cruise reviews and tour views. He acquired his passion for cruising from his parents when he was just 2 years old, and after 130 sailings, I don’t think there’s stopping Jason from embarking. You’ll definitely love his behind-the-scenes cruise explorations, previews on upcoming ships and shoreside excursions.

Check out Popular Cruising on YouTube

Cruise Fever

Founded by two brothers who are passionate about cruising –Ben Souza and Jonathan Mark. These siblings made sure that their viewers are not just obtaining tips, reviews, and ship information — they keep their followers posted on the latest trends and news in the cruising industry. Their youtube channel has over 40,000 subscribers and about 17,000,000 views.

Check out Cruise Fever on YouTube

Paul and Carole Love to Travel

Paul and Carole have travelled to over 40 countries, tried different kinds of accommodations, and have been to 19 cruises. Now they want to give back to the cruising world by offering their honest opinions through their festive vlogs.

Check out Paul & Carole Love to Travel on YouTube

Griff and Alyssa

A lovely couple who adores cruising shares their adventures and provides informative videos with fantastic cinematography. Their content is perfect for cruise veterans and new cruisers alike who are looking for reliable information about their next travel.

Check out Griff & Alyssa on YouTube

Jim Zimmerlin

Jim has been running his own youtube channel since 2006 and has attained almost 300,000,000 views. People love him, he is an enjoyable person to watch with videos that offer varieties of fun – from cruising, trains, American Cocker Spaniel dogs to expensive toys. 

Check out Jim Zimmerlin on YouTube

La Lido Loca

Started uploading videos on youtube April of 2017, and they haven’t stopped since. In their lively vlogs, they generously share practical tips and realities of cruising that can help anyone in making informed decisions for their next cruise. To help out the cruising community, they created a Facebook community called La Lido Loca Community to help answer questions about cruising and provide a platform for wonderful travelling stories to be shared on.

Check out La Lido Loca on YouTube

Josh Hocum

Travel, Sleep, Repeat –that is Josh’s mantra. Though he seems laid back, he creates videos with thrilling cruise contents that transports viewers right at the very deck of each featured ship. If you are interested in the Carnival, you’ll love him more because a lot of the videos in his channel features the Carnival. His 3.8 million viewers are enough testament that he produces one of the best cruise vlogs out there.

Check out Josh Hocum on YouTube

Paro DeeJay

Since July of 2013, Jay and his wife Dee have been uploading content on youtube, which now has 685 videos and almost 2.8 million views. Besides the undeniable fact that they provide cruise tips, reviews, and tours of different cruise lines, what sets them apart is their amusing parody songs and cover tunes. 

Check out Paro DeeJay on YouTube

EECC Travels

An absolute must-watch vlog for families who enjoy cruising together. EECC Travels is composed of Alisa and Jason (Couple) and three sons. They make travelling as a family doable, especially for those who have children and haven’t tried cruising. You can check out their channel and be ready to be inspired to travel with the whole fam.

Check out EECC Travels on YouTube

Trev and Chels

Viewers absolutely love this young couple on their travels, with the traction of over 56 million views, there’s a reason why cruisers are captivated by them. They create videos with superb editing and perfect voice-overs that features the cruise experiences vividly, and it is keeping people hooked.

Check out Trev & Chels on YouTube

Talking Cruise

Equipped with the current news, cruise ship tours, and topics from around the world of cruising in a fun and unique format. Hosted by Chris Cardona, with 19 years of working in the cruise industry, his channel is a gem for anyone who’s planning to go on a cruise.

Check out Talking Cruise on YouTube

Before you start your vlog-watching spree…

Going on a cruise can be intimidating with all the preparation, booking, parking, finding the right ports, and so on and on, but these vloggers manage to contribute to the cruising industry by featuring and creating content that will genuinely make the process a bit uncomplicated. But hey! It’s all worth it, so I hope you’ll enjoy watching 19 of the best cruise vlogs. 

And, don’t forget to check out our Top Cruise Blogs post too!

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

best cruise blogs

20 Best Cruise Blogs to Follow Today

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:41 am

UPDATED – 2020 EDITION! 

We’re back for 2020 with lots of changes to our list. The biggest change is that the Top 15 Cruise Blogs as expanded and is now the Top 20 Cruise Blogs. There were too many new cruise bloggers to keep the list at just 15 and, why not have 20 for 2020? 

For readers who LOVE cruising as much as we do, you likely use your free time (or work time…) searching for the best deals on cruises, reading about new ships or new ports and tweaking your budget to allow for that next cruise.

We love reading and researching our next cruise as much as you do, so in order to help you find the best, most useful and most interesting cruise information out there we have compiled a list of 20 Cruise Blogs that you should check out, bookmark and read often.

***If you’re not into reading and you would rather watch a video, check out our 18 Best Cruise Vlogs here.***

best cruise blogs

1.)  cruisemaven.com – Have a fear of flying or want to avoid hectic airplane travel? This blog is for you! Cruise Maven aka Sherry Laskin Kennedy is an avid cruiser who has traveled around the world and avoided taking a plane since 1995! Not only does she point out all the various places you can go on a cruise, but she dives into helpful tips for river cruises and train travel.

2.)  cruisehive.com – Started in 2008 by Emrys Thakkar, a former Carnival Cruise Lines employee, this site is full of helpful cruise tips, ship info, a cruise forum, videos and more.

3.)  avidcruiser.com/blog – Operated by experienced cruiser, Ralph Grizzle. He’s been on over 200 cruises and operates a number of cruise related websites. He offers and expert opinion and features blog posts, videos, ship review and more. His Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/avidcruiser is full of helpful videos to help you make decisions about your next cruise.

4.)  cruise-addicts.com – Run by John Shallo, Cruise Addicts is an online community for those who love cruise travel. Ship/Cruise reviews, cruise tips, cruise forum and much more. Their Twitter account is full of deal alerts, helping you find some of the best deals that might only be available for a short period of time.

5.)  eatsleepcruise.com – Is a husband and wife duo with 10+ years of cruising history. Despite their different personalities, they both share a passion for vacationing and cruising. Their website features honest reviews, ship info, cruise excursion information and more.

6.)  cruisemiss.com – CruiseMiss aka Danielle embarked on her first cruise in 2007 and has hooked ever since. She writes insightful, in-depth posts from her travels in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Europe & Scandinavia.

7.)  chriscruises.com – Chris Owen is somewhat of a legend in the cruise world. He’s certified as a Master Cruise Counselor and currently contributes to a number of large online publications like examiner.com. He’s rated in the top 10 cruise bloggers worldwide and the content on ChrisCruises.com is not to be missed.

8.)  cruisereport.com – Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson are the faces behind CruiseReport.com which has been online since June 2002! Chris provides technical oversight of the site which features blog posts, reviews, pictures, port reviews and much much more. Because the site has been online for so long, it’s has so much information that for those planning a cruise, this site is the ultimate find!

9.)  cruzely.com – This website founded just a couple of years ago has quickly gained traction as a premier resource for cruise information, cruise tips, parking, hotels and more. With daily updates there’s plenty of information to keep you coming back each day to indulge in your cruise addiction.

10.)  cruisefever.net – Started in 2011 by 2 brothers, the site is operated by a staff of 2 – Ben Souza and Jonathan Mark. Ben has written more than 500 articles about cruises and currently cruises more than 5 times per year. The site is full of ship info, port details, reviews and has a vibrant community on Facebook with over 80,000 likes. They site has updates on a daily basis and if you’re not currently following them, you should be.

11.)  popularcruising.com –  I first got hooked on Popular Cruising by watching their videos on YouTube. Their Youtube Channnel features some of the best quality and in-depth cruise info that I’ve been able to find online. The site is operated by cruise expert Jason Leppert who has been on over 80 cruises. Make sure to check out their video page here.

12.)  thecruiseblogger.com – If you want cruise tips and information from someone who really knows cruising, this is the blog for you! Anna, the chief blogger worked on a cruise ship as a crew member and is married to a crewmember. She spends 6 months of the year cruising with her husband (a deputy captain) and writing about her experiences. You can’t get much closer to the action than that! 

13.)  allthingscruise.com – AllThingsCruise, launched September 2009, is an independent travel enthusiast website, currently staffed by Heidi Allison-Shane, Cynthia Boal Janssens & Renee Goyeneche as well as a number of guest contributors. The site is jam-packed with reviews, ship and destination information and more.

14.) cruiseradio.net  – Cruise Radio had been around since 2009 and features a wealth of information, videos and a Podcast to help you with your cruise planning. Often reporting live from a cruise ship, this is an entertaining and helpful blog. 

15.) lifewellcruised.com – Directly from the blog – “I’m Ilana. I’m an avid cruiser and have been giving out insider tips for more than 10 years!” Definitely an informative cruise blog that you should check out!

16.) yourcruisegirl.com – Your Cruise Girl began in early 2018 and has steadily grown because of the helpful, insightful cruise content. This is definitely a blog you will want to add to your reading list.

17.) profcruise.com – Started by retired College Professor, Sarah, this humorous cruise blog is easy to read, interesting and engaging. It features insightful information on various cruise ships and destinations.

18.) officialcruiseguru.com – Written by Diane Tierney, an experienced travel writer based in Canada. Her work has been published in many professional publications including the Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and National Post, as well as a number of other media outlets.  

19.) cruisingisntjustforoldpeople.com – Otherwise known as “Emma Cruises” on her Instagram account, Emma is a UK-based cruise blogger. She’s active on social media and writes from first-hand accounts of travelling on various cruise ships and cruise lines. 

20.) shipsandchampagne.com – Writer Flavia knows what she wants from a cruise. She’s most interested in Elegance, Fine Dining and Conservation and she writes from this perspective. Follow her through her blog as she details her own experiences. 

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

Top 10 Benefits of Going on a New Year’s Cruise

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:29 am

Traditionally, the advent of the New Year is symbolic of new beginnings.  An entire year of fresh, brand new days lie ahead. It has been this way throughout history.  On New Year’s day in ancient Babylonia they would return borrowed objects. “First footing” would see the Scots visiting neighbors to wish them well.  In Holland, the circle is a symbol of success, and so the New Year sees the Dutch eating donuts, and to me they have the right idea!

As January 1st approaches, we tend to reflect and look back.  We assess where we have been and resolve to do even better in the coming year. Motivation is renewed along with an accompanying sense of optimism. It is a time for enriching opportunities and the promise of welcomed change. Hope is ushered in with an air of excitement and anticipation.  

It is no wonder that all of the traditions and expectations for a brand New Year are accompanied by an atmosphere of celebration. This goes along with a desire for a social setting that brings people together.  If you are thinking about starting your own tradition or looking for a memorable way of celebrating the New Year, a cruise, especially the one where they serve donuts, would be the perfect way to start.

1.) PERFECT WEATHER

caribbean weather

We are often at the mercy of Mother Nature where we live, but a cruise gives you the bonus of being able to choose the weather you want to celebrate in.  If so inclined, you could choose the cold, breathtaking beauty of an Alaskan cruise. The rest of us would probably think more along the lines of warm breezes in the Caribbean.  MSC Seaside offers a Caribbean cruise this New Year’s Eve. You would depart on December 29th, 2019 and sail to ports like Jamaica, Cozumel and the Cayman Islands, all known for their tropical weather.

2.) THE KIDS WILL LOVE IT! 

Bringing along those you love the most makes for a memorable, bonding time.  It is an opportunity for your children to experience, literally, a whole new world.  Carnival offers a New Year’s Eve gala for the adults and a Camp Ocean’s Night Owls for the munchkins.   While fees do apply, the kids can have their own adventure by staying up late and doing fun activities.  It is a perfect balance that allows both parents and children to celebrate in their own style. 

3.) A TIME TO BE WAITED ON

Departing on December 30th, the Celebrity Infinity will take you on a five-night western Caribbean tour.  This ship carries 2050 passengers with a crew to passenger ratio of 2.05.

In May of 2019, reviewer “ncHatch” traveled as a couple.  According to a review on Cruseline.com, out of five stars, ncHatch gave the Infinity five stars.  As a self-described “hard to please guy”, ncHatch stated that  “All staff were extremely friendly, helpful and courteous. Food was delicious and plentiful. The ship was clean and well maintained”.  

4.) THE MORE THE MERRIER

Family reunions allow us to touch base with our roots, and continue to solidify that unique connection.  A cruise offers a variety of accommodations for a solo trip, as a couple, group or reunion. The advantage of Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Sea, is that you could have your entire family around you, and yet have independence from having to house, feed and entertain all those cousins!  Think of the freedom from laundry along with strengthening the family bond into a New Year! The Independence of the Sea offers a 6 day Western Caribbean New Year cruise that is loaded with activities that everyone will enjoy.  

5.) THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY

symphony of the seas

When we reach the end of another year, we seem to take a collective breath.  We can hit the reset button and know that we have a break before we start again.  In between spectacular islands, The Symphony of the Seas has opportunities to relax and indulge in some play; something we adults do not have the time for in our “real life”   Release your inner 12 year old on the the Ultimate Abyss slide. It is more than 150 feet above sea level and offers side-by-side slides that send you down 10 decks at a rate of 9 miles per hour. (No eating donuts beforehand)

Participate in Laser Tag and a surf simulator.  You can also – no kidding! – ice skate while at sea!

6.) STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY PLANNING

Giving you endless possibilities, on an 8 day Southern Caribbean Holiday Cruise with 6 ports, you could easily lose track of time. To help make your time even more stress-free, Celebrity Summit will give you a list of popular excursions that are tried and true. A New Year holiday without the hustle and hassle will add to the enjoyment.

7.) A CHANCE TO SOCIALIZE

Humans are social animals. It seems like we are hardwired to connect with one another. It is even more evident when there is cause for celebration.  We gather for the milestones that are important in our lives. New events, both happy and sad, are shared with others. As celebrations go, New Years is a big one.  It is a chance to gather with friends and family or to meet new people. The Norwegian Encore has arranged a single themed cruise. This is the perfect way for single travelers to celebrate and enjoy the holidays while meeting new friends.

8.) CRUISES OFFER A ROMANTIC GET-A-WAY

Time together, without outside influences, can be really hard to come by. Even if you and your significant other are alone together, you can still be intruded upon or called away.  That intrusion would be hard to come by on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Princess Cruises has a 10-day cruise that goes through several ports, including Dominica.  If you desire even more exclusion, take a walk into the rainforest that is in the center of the island where you will find the Emerald pool.

9.) EVERYTHING YOU NEED

 A cruise ship is like a floating city.  Everything you could ever need and those things that you never realized you needed are all in one spot.  Cruise ships provide basic expectations such as exceptional food, housekeeping and helpful crew staff.  They also provide fundamentals like a laundry room with irons, toiletries, and a convenience store. The ship always has a doctor that you will hopefully never need and pharmacy items. Exercise rooms and spas to pamper yourself are also standard on a cruise ship. There are a variety of games and activities depending on the ship, restaurants and shows and the opportunity to do as much or as little as you want.  If you choose to take a New Year’s cruise, rest assured that everything and anything you might need will be available to you.

10.) UNPLUGGING IS GOOD FOR YOU

unplugged beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life is busy and demanding.  Most of the time we thrive on it and actually welcome the challenges that enable us to grow.  Unplugging every so often helps us to be at our best and most energized. Recharging our batteries is essential to that restoration.  A New Year’s cruise is the perfect way to unplug, recharge, reflect and celebrate the new beginning that is around the corner.  Just don’t forget the donuts!

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

15 Cuba Shore Excursions You Won’t Want to Miss!

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:43 am

With its favorable climate, beaches, colonial architecture and distinct cultural history, Cuba has long been an attractive destination for tourists. 

cuba-cruise-ports

In 2015 the Obama administration allowed Americans to once again travel to Cuba under 12 categories of legal travel. People-to-people trips, which emphasized creating direct contact with the Cuban people through cultural activities, were the most popular when Americans were able to travel to Cuba.

But fast forward to 2018 and the Trump administration reversed course on many of the previous administration’s decisions regarding travel to Cuba. Today there are many more rules surrounding who can travel to Cuba, and for what purpose.

Currently, the United States will not permit group, educational or cultural trips, known as “people to people”, to the island unless they were booked before June 5th of 2019, according to the Treasury Department. Nor will it allow cruises, private yachts or fishing vessels to stop in Cuba.

However, under the “Support for the Cuban people” category, individuals can travel to Cuba, but they must have an itinerary filled with meetings and visits with local business owners, artists or others. They must plan on participating in local activities and staying in a private home, instead of a hotel. 

While travel to Cuba for Americans may seem complicated, all the unconventional processes of getting there are well worth it.

Upon reaching the irresistible shores of Cuba, casual glances will never satisfy your travel thirst. As you hear the intoxicating sounds of salsa music you will be compelled to immerse yourself in the life of Havana. 

Below we have compiled 15 Shore Excursions in Cuba that you won’t want to miss!

  1. Stroll Along La Habana Viena

You might be walking on uneven streets which will make sturdy, comfortable walking shoes a must. It will also be wise to bring your own bottled water to make sure that you stay hydrated throughout your stroll. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Havana and this unique island nation

  1. Grab Good Grubs

tamales in cuba

Cuban cuisine has various influences; Spanish, Carribean, Taino culture and Asian. Since they have a tropical climate, fruit and root vegetables are the most common ingredients in their dishes. They also abound with rice, meat, and beans, which together they call “congris”. Below is a list of Cuba’s most popular foods.

  • Tamales – Similar to the Mexican tamales, but in Cuba meat is mixed with the dough and not used as a filling. They serve this in most restaurants.
  • Medianoche – Sweet egg bread filled with ham, pork, cheese, and pickles.
  • Vaca Frita – Fried beef, with the meat marinated in lime, garlic, and salt.
  • Frita – Cuban version of a hamburger.
  • Arroz Con Pollo – Cuban version of paella, but without the seafood.
  • Lechon Asado – Milk piglet, cooked whole on a split until the skin is crispy.
  1. Ernest Hemingway Trail

ernest hemingway cuba

If you’re a lover of the many works by writer Ernest Hemingway, you will definitely enjoy this historical tour. You can also visit the Hemingway Museum in Finca Vigia and there is a monument in his memory in the town of Cojimar.

  1. La Gran Piedra Jeep Tour

“The Great Stone” sits on top of a mountain ridge that is large in proportions. Part of the Jeep tour is ascending the steps (on foot) and enjoying the breathtaking view of the Sierra Maestra Mountains along the blue Carribean Sea.

  1. Tropicana Cabaret

The oldest and most popular show in Cuba that highlights the country’s culture. Make the most of this excursion by staying after the 2.5-hour show and enjoy dancing under the stars.

  1. National Museum of Fine Arts

The National Museum of Fine Arts is located at the very center of Cuba and has 24 rooms exhibiting both ancient and contemporary art collections.

  1. Jurassic Island of the Iguanas

Don’t miss the chance to visit Cayo Largo, a small resort in Cuba that has captured the hearts of thousands of tourists. On this island, you will enjoy the beach, coral reef, Cuban seafood, and of course, the groups, called slaughters, of Iguanas.

  1. Tobacco Tour

Wear your hiking shoes and dive into nature. In this tour, you can enjoy the sight of the tobacco plantations of the Viñales Valley where they grow the best tobacco in the world. A short trip to one of their cigar factories can make this an educational experience as well. As you take in the beauty of the valley you will also see the oldest geological formations in Cuba with their limestone hills and subterranean rivers.

  1. Havana Private Salsa Dances

With just a few hours and a price ranging from $15-$25 per hour, you can take home a new skill and a very important part of Cuban culture; Salsa Dancing. There are a number of places throughout Havana where a local instructor will teach you everything you need to know about Salsa dancing.

  1. Vintage Car Private Tour

Feel like taking a stroll down memory lane? This Cuba excursion is perfect for you. Take a spin along the seafront in a vintage car and wear your Panama hat and sunglasses to truly get into the Cuban spirit. Throughout the tour, you will also see numerous vintage cars as you drive along the streets of Cuba. These classic cars are still used by the locals for their everyday commute, not just for a show.

  1. Yumuri Valley Jeep Safari

This Jeep adventure will lead you to parts of Cuba where a 4×4 Jeep is your best option to experience the terrain. The first stop will be the Coral Beach. Wade through the waters and snorkel while enjoying the aquatic beauty of Cuba. Next, move on with a motorboat ride down the Canimar River. After that, you will go through Matanzas Town, the provincial capital, where you can check out their unique Saturno Cave. 

  1. Historical Tour

Journey back in time to 1953 and learn about the Cuban revolution. Visit Granjita Siboney, which is now a museum, and stroll through the Barracks of Moncada. Tour the famous cemetery of Santa Ifigenia and,  lastly, explore the anthropological Bacardi museum. Experience Cuba and the important history behind it.

  1. Make Friends with the Dolphins

Rancho Carejo is the venue for this unforgettable Dolphin Adventure. They have a 4-hour program that starts with a relaxing trip to the site by a luxury boat. For half an hour you can spend time interacting with dolphins.

  1. Crocodile Farm

Discover Cuba beyond the popular resort of Varadero and travel towards the Zapata Peninsula on the south coast of the island. Get off the beaten path to experience a more authentic side to island life. Here you can see the diversity of local flora and fauna with a visit to a crocodile farm.

  1. Street Snacks

If you only have limited time in port, you can dig into authentic Cuban treats right on the street. As you walk through old Havana learn more about Cuba’s culinary history as you chat with some local vendors.

Remember – Don’t be in a hurry. While time management is important when you only have a day or two in port, remember to allow breathing room in your itinerary for you take in the beauty of this beautiful destination. 

For more detailed information on Cuba, check out our Cuba Cruise Port Guide to Havana

10 Things to Bring on Your First Alaskan Cruise

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:45 am

alaska cruise packing

Alaska; The Klondike; The Last Frontier. There are many names for this beautiful State – the most northern state in the USA. It’s a place with unmatched beauty, spectacular wildlife filled with sights and sounds not available anywhere else in the United States. 

It’s no wonder that Alaska is also one of the most popular destinations for cruises in North America with over 1.3 million cruise passengers expected during the 2019 season alone.

Most of those passengers arrive between the months of April and September making it a busy spot for the summer season. 

One of the most common questions that we hear people ask regarding a cruise to Alaska is “what do we pack for our Alaska cruise?”

Due to the extreme weather conditions that Alaska can have throughout the year, it’s no wonder this question is so popular. 

Do you bring shorts?

Do you bring a winter jacket? 

Is it going to be cold all the time? 

Your first Alaskan cruise is sure to be a highlight of your travel experiences, but being prepared for the weather will certainly make your trip more comfortable and that’s why we’ve created this Cruise Packing List, specific to your first cruise to Alaska

  1. Ekouaer Women’s Long Thermal Underwear Fleece Lined Winter Base Layering Set

Overall Rating 4.5/5

These double layer, soft Long Johns will keep you warm and give you the option to wear lighter or heavier clothing on top and they’re machine washable.  

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We’re not going to lie. It might be a little chilly on your Alaskan cruise so you might want to start out with a layer of thermal underwear. These double layer, soft Long Johns will keep you warm and give you the option to wear lighter or heavier clothing on top and they’re machine washable.  

2. Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Hiking Boot 

Overall Rating 4.5/5

Durable and lightweight, these hiking boots have an advanced traction sole that will help you keep a firm footing on the rough terrain.

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It’s hard to stay warm when your feet are cold. Taking along a good pair of hiking boots on your Alaska cruise is a great idea. Keeping your feet both warm and dry is important if you’re really going to get out there and enjoy the beauty that Alaska has to offer. Durable and lightweight, these hiking boots have an advanced traction sole that will help you keep a firm footing on the rough terrain.

3. NEOSAN Womens Thick Ribbed Knit Winter Infinity Circle Loop Scarf

Overall Rating 4.5/5

Stay warm in the elements and look good at the same time.

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Functional and stylish, this NEOSAN Knit Infinity Loop scarf is a great addition to your Alaska Cruise Packing list. Stay warm in the elements and look good at the same time.

4. TRENDOUX Winter Gloves for Men and Women

Overall Rating 4/5

Durable and lightweight, these hiking boots have an advanced traction sole that will help you keep a firm footing on the rough terrain.

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Do you ever avoid wearing gloves because it makes using your Smartphone nearly impossible? Have no fear – these TRENDOUX winter gloves will solve that problem. No longer to you need to suffer from frozen fingers, just to be able to text a friend or snap a picture of the beautiful Alaskan landscape.

5. Aurosports 10×25 Folding High Powered Binoculars With Weak Light Night Vision

Overall Rating 4.5/5

These lightweight, waterproof binoculars will let you see far away objects 10x closer.

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One of the benefits of a balcony room on an Alaskan cruise is the opportunity to sit outside and be able to take in the beauty that surrounds you. These lightweight, waterproof binoculars will let you see far away objects 10x closer. They even come with a low level of night-vision. While you won’t be able to see at night like a US Marine, you will certainly have an advantage over everyone else who didn’t pack binoculars!

6. Wantdo Women’s Hooded Packable Ultra Light Weight Short Down Jacket

Overall Rating 4/5

A hooded down jacket is just the thing you need to pack for your outdoor adventures on your cruise.

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Dressing in layers on an Alaskan cruise is important. With temperatures that can vary by 30 degrees in one day, having the option to put on or remove clothing will make your time in Alaska more comfortable. A hooded down jacket is just the thing you need to pack for your outdoor adventures on your cruise.

7. Mpow 097 Universal Waterproof Case

Overall Rating 4.5/5

Check out this handy pouch that can hold your smartphone, ID and any other small items in a water-proof case.

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There’s nothing more frustrating than dropping your $750 Smartphone, especially when it falls into a puddle or a snowbank. Don’t let that happen on your cruise to Alaska! Check out this handy pouch that can hold your smartphone, ID and any other small items in a water-proof case.

8. 4Monster Hiking Daypack,Water Resistant Lightweight Packable Backpack

Overall Rating 4.5/5

It folds up so small that it will go into your suitcase without taking up valuable space.

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Looking for a backpack that you can fold up and store in your checked luggage? No need to waste your carry-on allowance with this unique backpack. It folds up so small that it will go into your suitcase without taking up valuable space. When you’re ready to use it in Alaska, you just unfold it and fill it up with items you will need for the day. And, no need to worry if it’s rainy and wet since this handy backpack is water-resistant!

9. Minus33 Merino Wool Reversible Shade Beanie

Overall Rating 4/5

Stay warm by slipping on this machine washable, Merino wool beanie.

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While your mom might have told you that you lose 80% of the heat out of your head, it’s not exactly true, but that’s no reason to skip wearing a hat either. When you go outside on a cold day – take note of what on your body is covered and what is not. Chances are good that your head is the only thing exposed to the elements so it does make sense that you can lose body heat out of the one exposed body part. Don’t let that happen! Stay warm by slipping on this machine washable, Merino wool beanie. It’s not just for keeping your head warm though – it can also help keep the sun off your head if you happen to be a little light on hair up top!

10. Merino Wool Hiking Socks Crew

Overall Rating 4.5/5

These breathable Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm on the coldest days, and fresh in the summer.

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There’s no sense putting on a nice pair of hiking boots for your adventures in Alaska, if you don’t first start with a good, high-quality pair of socks. These breathable Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm on the coldest days, and fresh in the summer. The thick construction will also help cushion your feet during long hikes over rough terrain.

A Traveler’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Charleston

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:46 am

When visiting Charleston, S.C. for the first time, many travelers are thrilled about the nearly endless list of things to do during their trip. Charleston is known for its beautiful beaches and marshland as well as its world-class culinary scene, but the city also offers plenty of opportunities for great shopping as well. Between your kayaking excursion through the marshes and your big dinner at one of the best restaurants in the area, be sure to make time to pop into some of the best places for shopping in Charleston

shopping bags

Best Shopping in Charleston

King Street

Located in downtown Charleston, King Street is the go-to shopping destination for locals and visitors alike. While upper King is the place for dining and bar hopping, lower King is home to a plethora of great stores. Whether you’re looking for big-name stores like Forever 21 and Louis Vuitton or small local boutiques, King Street has it all. Most of the shops in this area sell clothing, but you will find a number of home decor shops and jewelry stores. Seek out some of the independent boutiques like men’s clothing store M. Dumas & Sons or Spartina 499 to bring home unique pieces influenced by Charleston’s personal style.

Market Street

The Market Street area of downtown Charleston is one of the top tourist destinations because of its rich history and a number of shops, restaurants and bars. Even if you’re planning to shop in the area, it’s worth paying a visit to the indoor/outdoor marketplace. If you’re looking for more traditional souvenir items, this is the best area to go shopping, though you will also discover a few local art galleries and boutiques with unusual offerings. You’ll also notice a number of people selling handmade sweetgrass baskets weaved in a traditional method developed by the local Gullah culture with bulrush, a kind of marsh grass. 

Farmers Markets

No matter what area you’re staying in, you’ll find weekly farmers markets throughout the city. The downtown farmers market takes place every Saturday afternoon between the months of April and November. Here, you can find a number of great handmade items like artwork and jewelry, experience a taste of the area’s food trucks and enjoy live music in the beautiful Marion Square. If you’re staying in a vacation rental, you may also want to consider filling up a box of fresh, local produce to enjoy in a home-cooked meal during your stay. On Sundays, you can enjoy a Sunday Brunch Farmers Market in the outdoor area of local music venue the Pourhouse and pick up a few unique souvenirs at the same time. At nearly any farmers market in the area, you’ll discover beautiful pieces of local art and products like homemade soaps and candles.

Tanger Outlets

While King Street offers a variety of different shopping opportunities, you might want to head to the Tanger Outlets in North Charleston if you’re hoping to completely re-vamp your wardrobe. Though the outlets offer only items from popular brands, you can find great deals on typically expensive items. Find a great new pair of sneakers for half the price at the Nike store, score a great deal on a new professional wardrobe at Banana Republic or discover even lower prices at places like H&M. 

 

Mount Pleasant Towne Center

For anyone staying at a vacation rental in Mount Pleasant, the Towne Center is the best place to go shopping in Charleston. You can enjoy your vacation by staying on the nearby Isle of Palms and pop over to the Mount Pleasant Towne Center to shop at stores like Athleta, Belk or Palmetto Moon. While in the area, you can also dine at one of the center’s restaurants, including Grimaldi’s Pizzeria or Zoe’s Kitchen, and then head to the movie theater to catch a late-night flick. 

Best Places to Stay in Charleston, S.C.

Downtown

For travelers seeking an area with a bustling nightlife, downtown is the best place to stay in Charleston. You’ll have quick and easy access to the city’s many restaurants and bars and stay within walking distance of the shopping district. Though you’ll have to head outside of the city to spend the day at the beach, downtown features some of the city’s best attractions, including Waterfront Park, Rainbow Row, the Battery and the aquarium. From downtown, you can walk or bike over the city’s most notable structure, the Ravenel Bridge, and snap some pictures from one of the best vantage points in Charleston. 

Folly Beach

Those people looking to take a beach getaway should look into staying on Charleston’s Folly Beach. Located just 20 minutes from downtown, Folly Beach is on James Island and is known for a bohemian beach vibe with great small beach town restaurants like Jack of Cups Saloon, Chico Feo and The Drop-In Bar & Deli. Unwind in a beachfront vacation rental to stay close to the water and all of the area’s activities. 

Isle of Palms

If you head in the opposite direction of Folly from downtown Charleston, you’ll discover the city’s other most popular beach—Isle of Palms. This area is located in the town of Mount Pleasant, also a mere 20-minute drive from downtown. If you’re planning to shop while staying here, you’ll be just down the street from the Mount Pleasant Towne Center. You’ll have access to fun beach bars like the Windjammer and upscale restaurants like The Boathouse at Breach Inlet. For those trying to decide between Isle of Palms and Folly Beach, keep in mind that Isle of Palms tends to attract a slightly more family-oriented crowd though both destinations are great for any kind of traveler.

While staying in Charleston, S.C., you’ll be able to dine as some of the South’s best restaurants, explore the gorgeous beaches of South Carolina’s coast and learn about one of the most historic cities in the region. During your stay, you should plan to explore one of the many shopping options throughout downtown and the surrounding areas. And, don’t forget to check the farmers market schedule for the most authentic taste of the area’s shopping, food and culture.

 

The Best Places to go in Miami for Taking Instagram Pictures

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:54 am

With its sun-kissed skies and shimmering beaches, it is no wonder why people love Miami. This tropical paradise is undoubtedly a perfect place for taking pictures. If you are visiting Miami, then you must never forget to bring a good camera with you. To up your Instagram game, here are some of the most Instagrammable locations in Maima that you need to check out!

Wynwood Walls

This unique outdoor space is filled with colorful graffiti murals, serving as perfect backgrounds for your photos. Locals and tourists love coming to Wynwood Walls to appreciate these arts while also get some amazing shots.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

This may seem unlikely, but among the modern cosmopolitan city lies a 1920s colonial villa with a mosaic pool and French gardens. The place is an ideal spot for quinceañera and wedding photos because of its picturesque views of Biscayne Bay and lavish interiors.

 OTL, Miami

Nothing looks better on an Instagram feed than a great latte art. OTL is a new coffee shop in the Miami Design District, serving amazing coffee, avocado toasts, baked goods, among others. Not only will you find the place so Instagram-worthy, but you will also love the food as well!

Crema Gourmet Espresso Bar

Another great place to go for coffee is Crema Gourmet Espresso Bar located in the suburbs of Coral Gables. This café is situated in a pink building with an outdoor terrace. Take some pictures with a row of round white tables and Parisian rattan chairs and you are all set!

Versace Mansion

If you want to go all out, book a room at the Versace Mansion on Ocean Drive for a special experience. This property is none other than the place where Gianni Versace was murdered on the front steps. With the charm of an Italian villa, the courtyards, and luxurious pool, your pictures will look like a million dollars!

 The Broken Shaker

For a casual bohemian hangout spot, check out the Broken Shaker at the Freehand Miami. This patio will be your tropical paradise decked in palm trees, greenery, and wicker chairs for lounging and enjoying a nice cocktail.

Sugar at EAST

Sugar is a trendy lounge on top of the EAST hotel. With its incredible views of the Miami skyline, the place is a go-to spot for bloggers.

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)

This contemporary art museum is eye-catching with its hanging columns wrapped in greenery and a stunning view of Biscayne Bay. Admission is also free during the first Thursday and second Saturday of every month.

Miami Design District

At the Miami Design District, you will get so many photo options that you will end up spending half the day here. This open-air shopping place features a glass globe at the Palm Court, a newly renovated Post Office building, and Netscape – an outdoor art installation designed by a German designer Konstantin Grcic featuring a 24-seat web of hanging chairs.

Miami Beach

Go to Miami Beach and check out the colorful lifeguard stations along the beach. All the colors will give your Instagram feed a splash of color and boost your follower count in the process.

If you’re looking to go on a cruise, get in touch today! We’re happy to help plan the perfect trip for you.

 

How to Get Cheap Drinks on a Cruise

Last updated on June 5th, 2019 at 11:49 am

When you are on a cruise trip, chances are that you will neglect to keep track of your spendings as much as you should. It would be a shame to end your amazing cruise trip with a big fat bill. If you do not want to exceed your vacation budget, it is best that you limit yourself from using too much money.

One of the things that people tend to spend more than they expect on is alcohol. Fortunately, there are a few tricks that you can use to control your cruise budget. Here is how to get cheap drinks on a cruise while still enjoying the trip:

Get bottle service
If you have never noticed, bottle service costs much less than drinking at the bar. Although this service may not be available on all cruise lines, you can check whether your cruise provides it online or ask them via phone call before the trip start date. When you choose bottle service, you can have a bottle of liquor delivered straight at your room door. Since almost everything is priced at a surcharge on a cruise, you can save a little extra by bringing your own soda as well. This way, you will also be tipping the waiter less.

Buy beverage packages
If you do not want to be limited to a certain selection of drinks, it is best to buy a beverage
package beforehand. Most cruise lines offer these packages so that their customers can enjoy unlimited drinks while knowing that they will only pay one fixed price. It is like a drink buffet! There are many packages from which you may choose. If you are not a fan of alcohol, you may get a beverage package that excludes alcohol. This option is usually priced quite low. If you want to enjoy drinking liquor, you have to be willing to pay a little bit more. However, it shouldn’t be an exorbitant amount. In fact, some cruise lines offer packages including alcoholic drinks for less than $50 per day! Make sure to check the details before you make a purchase.

Join liquor tastings
This is another smart way to get yourself tipsy without spending a dime. Check the cruise
activities and events on the itinerary to see if there are any liquor tastings. If your cruise line is hosting it, make sure that you set your alarm. This is an excellent opportunity to enjoy yourself and try out many different alcoholic drinks without spending a fortune. You might not get drunk, but the tasting will surely satisfy your cravings.

Fuel up in port
Although you may be on a cruise trip, there will be stops along the way. This is your chance to fuel up with alcoholic beverages at the bar. It isn’t that difficult to find a pub or bar that sells drinks at cheaper prices than on board. Keep in mind that getting bottled beer is a better option if you want something strong. Frozen drinks tend to be mild and might not be enough to get you drunk.

Bring your own wine
Wines can be incredibly expensive on board. Try checking the rules of your cruise line to see whether outside bottled drinks being taken in or not. If they do, it is likely that will permit no more than one bottle per person. You may buy wine from your local supermarket or bring a bottle from home. If there are many people in your group, you will be enjoying quite a selection of wines without having to overpay.

If you’re looking to go on a cruise, get in touch today! We’re happy to help plan the perfect trip for you.

RELATED POST: Water, Wine, Beer & Soda – Cruiseline Beverage Policies

4 Beautiful Botanical Gardens That You Must Visit in Miami

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:57 am

Although Miami is mostly known for its beautiful sandy beaches, it is also known as the “Cruise Captial of the World.” This is partly due to its diverse birds and plants species. As the weather in Miami is mostly wet and warm, the city has the optimal conditions for vegetative growth and botanical gardens that Miami is now famous for. If you are planning a visit to the city of Miami, here are some of the most beautiful gardens to check out:

1. The Kampong
The Kampong is a 9-acre botanical garden with many different varieties of plants and tropical fruits. Here, there are over fifty types of mango trees that you can see and taste. The Kampong is home to some of the most stunning flowering trees and fruits native to South Florida.

The Kampong Gardens. 4013 Douglas Rd, Miami, FL, USA +1 305 442 7169

2. Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Miami Beach Botanical Garden is a 2.6-acre greenspace founded in 1962. This tropical paradise is home to over hundreds of plants and flower species, including ylang-ylang trees, frangipanis, orchids, palms, among several others. You will also get to experience a sense of serenity from looking at the beautiful fountains and listening to the sound of birds chirping. There is also a Japanese garden that is definitely worth checking out as well. In addition, Miami Beach Botanical Garden also offers Saturday morning yoga classes in the garden. The best part is that they will only cost you $15!

2000 Convention Center Dr, Miami Beach, FL, USA +1 305 673 7256

3. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is one of the best choices for an outing in Miami. The Wings of the Tropics Conservatory is one of the attractions that you should not miss. It features numerous exotic butterflies and tropical fish, as well as some of the most beautiful and rarest plants in the world. Moreover, the garden also features a 16,500 square foot conservatory, displaying over four hundred species of tropical plants, including rare palms, ferns, orchids, aroids, bromeliads, fruit trees, and cycads. If you are lucky, a rare African rainbow lizard may make an appearance as well!

Fairchild Garden. 10901 Old Cutler Rd, Miami, FL, USA +1 305 667 1651

4. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Located in Coconut Grove, the Vizcaya estate was built over a hundred years ago as a winter resident for James Deering, a wealthy businessman from Indiana. After his trip to Italy in 1910, Deering was inspired to build Italian Renaissance gardens. He hired a young Colombian landscape architect, Diego Suarez, to design the gardens for this estate. Even after all these years, the gardens here are still as marvelous as they were a hundred years ago. Thousands of visitors come to visit the estate each year to see the beauty of the gardens with their own eyes. The lavish gardens are characterized by fancy fountains and antique sculptors, all of which perfectly match with what Deering had envisioned for his gardens.

Villa Vizcaya. 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL, USA

If you’re looking to go on a cruise, get in touch today! We’re happy to help plan the perfect trip for you.

Things You Must Do and See In Miami – Our Guide

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 08:59 am

If you’re planning your trip down to Florida & will be visiting Miami, you’re in for a treat. Winter and spring are the peak seasons to visit The Magic City; if you ever find yourself in town, here are some things you cannot miss:

The Venetian Pool

 If you are looking to swim, relax, and tan, you should check out the Venetian Pool. This historical lagoon is made out of coral in the heart of Coral Gables. It has been around since 1924 and has many caves and waterfalls to explore. It’s an excellent place for family and friends to gather, soak up the sun and enjoy the beautiful, blue water.

Pérez Art Museum 

Also known as the PAMM, this beautifully designed museum hosts many popular events and exhibits with minimal, multi-dimensional and mixed pieces from some notable artists. Walking around the museum is a great experience, and the gift shop has many little quirky trinkets you can take back home for your friends and family.

There’s also a restaurant on-site called Verde that serves a great coffee with delectable snacks. In front of the museum is a great waterfront view with artistic swing chairs.

Wynwood Art Walks

You haven’t had a good time in Miami until you’ve seen Wynwood, which is the central arts district with art walks. This walk takes place every second Saturday of the month. Galleries open and offer viewings with refreshments, music, and entertainment with a “block party” vibe. Bars show off their local talent & trucks will serve up some delicious food while you enjoy the scenery and street art. It’s a fun walk that you will never forget, especially if you’re an art enthusiast.

Calle Ocho and Viernes Culturales

Going to Little Havana is a must when you’re in Miami; it’s the epicenter of Cuban culture and politics. Many men will gather around for cafe con leche and pastries to talk about their memories of Havana. It’s also popular with families that want an authentic Cuban meal. Little Havana has some great lounges that allow people to come to dance and listen to local bands while they sip custom drinks and enjoy great meals.

Visit the Miami Zoo

Miami zoo is an excellent place for both tourists and locals. Go check out the largest and oldest zoo that is home to 900 animals. It is known as one of the best zoos in the United States – there are feeding stations, water areas, and boat rides to enjoy with friends & family.

If you’re looking to go on a cruise, get in touch today! We’re happy to help plan the perfect trip for you.

Developing Global-Mindedness Through Excursions

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:01 am

Never underestimate the power of travel. When we think of travel, it’s often the relaxation and fun of being in a different place that crosses our minds. While that is undoubtedly a major benefit, traveling is more than that and it allows us to become internationally-minded people who appreciate the diversity of cultures.

Most of us all live in our little culture bubble, vaguely aware of what is happening beyond our usual comfort zone areas of home, work, and when we’re really bold, we might know what is happening in our neighborhood. This limited way of living not only causes us to be rather ignorant of the rest of the world; but also fearful. It’s human nature to fear the unknown, which is why traveling is a wonderful starting point to expand your experiences and develop a more sophisticated perception of others and their cultures.

Putting more thought into this, here are some ways that travel excursions can help you understand the world and people better, and appreciate co-existence.

Appreciating people different than you:

While traveling or on an excursion, you will come to realize that people all over the world have more similarities than differences. Every country has its customs, traditions, and celebrations. It’s great to be invited into someone else’s culture. The more you learn about others, the more you realize there is nothing to fear from unknown people or cultures because we are all alike in more ways than you can imagine.

Informal learning environment:

If you were never much into studying, an excursion will give you an easy and pleasant way to learn about the history and the society of a people. European cruise excursions can be a great way for you to take a closer look into the rich history of this continent and its cities while enjoying a feel of luxury. This could be a great learning gift for children and teens who appreciate learning in different ways other than or along with a standard schooling system. Touring castles, museums, famous structures, and such other attractions will broaden anyone’s imagination and you’ll come up with lots of facts that would take years to learn otherwise. You’d be surprised just how much your culture can have things in common with other cultures.

Deep information:

With a guided excursion, you will learn not just the facts that are written in books, but lots of bits and pieces of information that would be very difficult for you to find out in other ways. You will learn the whys and hows about something or someone, hear tales and anecdotes, and gain valuable information that can only come when you are involved and have the desire to understand more.

The value you gain from travel and excursions is actually priceless. You will not gain value in coins and bills but you gain a new perception to take back home with you. We often hear about people who come back from traveling ‘a changed person’. This change is almost always for the better because you will come back refreshed plus the exposure to places and people will ultimately make you a better, more broad-minded person.

The Bereavement Cruise

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:03 am

Who would think that combining a cruise with a grief conference would make sense? There are theme cruises for many common interests including, Musical Groups-Christian, Blues & Classical Music, Life Style Theme Cruises, Comedy and Entertainment and Crafting Theme Cruises, Dance Themes, Fitness Themes, just about any theme you can think of. So, why not a Bereavement Cruise? You would be surprised to know that most people who find the Bereavement Cruise on line, have done so because they looked up, “Bereavement or Grief Cruise”. I would imagine that there is a whole subset and groups of people, who love to cruise who have also experienced the loss of a loved one! This is one of the reasons why combining a cruise with a grief conference makes sense. The Bereavement Cruise is the only theme cruise created specifically for grieving families.

In 2015 I founded Journeys of Hope Healing and Health and opened a travel agency. I had been a travel agent back in the 90’s. I opened the agency for the sole purpose of creating the first official Bereavement Cruise. By that time, I had been working in funeral service and with grieving families for over 25 years. I had a good idea of what people needed when they grieve. Journeys of Hope Healing and Health’s mission was to create conferences and events that provide support and programming for families who are grieving the death of a loved one, no matter how much time had passed since the loss. Shortly after the travel agency was opened and Journeys of Hope Healing and Health was established, I partnered with Mitch Carmody who graciously agreed to help develop and present a series of seminars and activities available for guests to participate in during the cruise. Mitch created the seminars at sea program modeled after his foundational philosophy about proactive living and proactive grieving. Mitch and I had both experienced the loss of a child. Combined, we have over 60 years’ experience working with grieving families. Both of our extensive work in the bereavement world is our life’s’ work and our children’s legacy.

The concept of a Bereavement Cruise had probably been thought of, but nobody actually created one. When you think about it, the idea of a cruise ship is a good option to coordinate a Grief Conference on. After all, the overnight accommodations are included along with all the meals, entertainment and activities, sunrises and sunsets over the sea and beautiful ports of call. The Bereavement Cruise brings grieving families together to experience transformational healing among other bereaved families on a beautiful ship, sailing on the healing waters of the ocean. It is a unique opportunity to experience joy and grief with other participants who are or have been on a journey of grief.

The first official Bereavement Cruise sailed on September 16, 2016. It was a three night sailing out of Port Canaveral Florida. Many people who joined us on that first cruise said that the cruise was not long enough. With the success of the first cruise, the second bereavement cruise was set to sail February 2017. The second Bereavement cruise was a five night sailing out of Tampa Florida. By this time, I had partnered with Glen Lord, a bereaved father as well as the founder and owner of The Grief Tool Box and The International Grief Institute. Glen and I officially formed Journeys of Hope Healing and Health, LLC. Together, we enhanced and created a new version of the Seminars at Sea Program, still headed up by Mitch Carmody. Guests who joined the group for the 2017 cruise along with repeat guests all agreed that they wanted a seven-night sailing. So, the third bereavement cruise was set to sail March 3, 2019. By the time the third cruise sailed, with the instrumental efforts of Glen, Journeys of Hope Healing and Health partnered with 16 of the top grief support specialists from across the world. The seminars at sea program grew to a seven-day sailing, three days of seminars, many small group sessions, a night of remembrance and a walk to remember, art projects, a few burials at sea and so much more. With 77 guests, the largest group yet, the 2019 Bereavement Cruise was a phenomenal success.

I want to share a summary of the 2019 Bereavement Cruise. During the seven-night sailing, on Royal Caribbean’s beautiful Oasis of the Seas, guests experienced a variety of workshops, small support group sessions and group activities, including arts and crafts, interactive healing modalities, comradery among the group and all of the amenities that a five-star ship has to offer! One night was dedicated to a remembrance ceremony and walk to remember-top deck under the stars with a ceremonial burial at sea. We had four families who actually buried their loved one’s cremains during a private ceremony, with the support and presence of the ship’s staff. The four families received a certificate, including the captain’s signature and the exact coordinates where the disbursement took place. By the end of the cruise, last thoughts and lots of hugs and tears were shared-it was a bid farewell, for now. The guests went home with a “tool box” of coping skills that can help them to continue their grief journey with knowledge that they otherwise did not have and/or confirmation and validation that their own unique experience of grief is “normal”! The most special thing they went home with is a new friend or friends, who are or have been where they are on a grief journey and a lifelong friendship was formed!

All of the kind words and comments shared by past guests include- wonderful, grateful, thankful, sincere, awesome, beautiful, spectacular, terrific, outstanding, impressive, marvelous, special, great, fabulous, brilliant, amazing, incredible, magnificent, healing, helpful, life changing-all serve to touch upon what the Bereavement Cruise is! As one special guest shared, “Thanks for such a lovely event that resulted in a lot of healing, great teaching, so much compassion. Overall one of the greatest and most helpful seven days I have ever had in my entire life.” This dear woman is 83 years old and just lost her beloved husband last November! Another guest shared, “This week is the first week that I have felt peace in seven years.”

I think these testimonials, which are only two of many, speak volumes about how special this cruise is! It certainly does help people in a way that one would never expect! I have often said, “I can’t accurately describe what the Bereavement Cruise is. You have to experience it to truly know what it is about!”. The next Bereavement Cruise is set to sail, April 19-26, 2020. You can visit: www.j3hhh.com for all the details. We look forward to welcoming all on board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas sailing, once again, out of Port Canaveral, Florida.

What to Expect When Dining on Cruise Ships

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:04 am

For most people who love cruising, food forms a big part of the experience. With so many options to choose from, it is the perfect opportunity to sample things you haven’t tasted before. Since everything is already paid for, you will not be wasting any extra money.

While it’s great to have an opportunity to eat anything you want, you still have to be careful not to gain too many pounds during your trip. That is why it’s always good to focus on the best and healthiest foods as much as possible. If you don’t want high-calorie food, you can always ask the cruise crew for some guidance.

The chefs, waiters and other support staff on most cruise lines are highly competent. They have years of experience in their line of work and know how to take care of everyone’s needs. When you explore Caribbean cruise sailings, you can expect them to be able to provide you with the best that they have to offer. You just need to be clear in what you want and they will provide it.

Here are some of the things you can expect when dining on cruise ships:

1. Freedom to switch tables

You don’t want to share a table with people you are not getting along with. If you want a different table for one reason or another, you just need to ask the Maitre d’ and one will be found for you. The best way to go about this is to make your request on the first day to give them enough time to make the necessary adjustments.

2. Friendly wait staff

Everyone who works on the cruise ship understands the importance of good customer service. Since the restaurant staff will be looking after you through the entire trip, ask them questions and be nice to them. Also, don’t forget to leave them an appropriate tip once the cruise is over.

3. The buffet option

Although there is the main dining room where you will find some of the best food, there is also an option to go for the buffet if you are trying to save time. Being served at a large dinner table can take a long time especially when everyone keeps ordering additional entrees.

4. Wide variety of food to choose from

Going on a cruise is any “foodie’s” dream. It is an opportunity to try food from different cultures. Even if you are not really a food fanatic, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sampling one or two new delicacies. Even if you are a vegan, there will be something for you.

5. Privacy if you need it

Although the tables seat up to eight people, you can request a table for just two if you want. This should be done well in advance to make it easier for your request to be fulfilled. You also have the freedom to pick a dinner schedule of your choice.

If you want to make the most of what is on offer on a cruise ship, it is important to be adequately prepared. In some cases, you will need to be dressed for the occasion, so make sure you carry some formal attire. Also if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Best Adventure Cruises Retirees Might Want to Take

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:07 am

The cruise industry is expected to grow this year with around 30 million travelers estimated to go on a cruise up 6% from figures in 2018. Although the cruise passenger profile has been changing over the years making it attractive to a younger age group, retirees and senior groups are still part of the industry’s traditional market. With so much time and perhaps enough money to spare, a cruise is a wonderful option for people who are no longer working. One trend that is catching up in the cruise industry is access to destinations that were previously out of reach. In some cases, the only way to explore these destinations is through a cruise ship making it an exciting prospect for those who want to see something different.

Is It for You?

The decision to go on a cruise depends on several factors. One is financial capability. If you have planned and executed a financial strategy for retirement, you probably can live comfortably and still afford cruises with your savings, pensions, and investments. The average savings of a retired person between 55 to 64 is $104,000 and with average social security benefits which is $1,413 a month according to the Social Security Administration, you might not be able to live on a ship, but you can go on some adventure travels.

Other factors to consider include health, mobility, and the willingness to go to remote destinations. You should also take into account any medical conditions that you have, and if you tend to get motion sickness then look into ways to reduce this before traveling to ensure a positive experience.

Here are some of the most exciting cruise destinations for your retirement years. 

Go Wild in South Georgia

One of the many places that you might want to go to is South Georgia as part of a voyage to Antarctica. Replicate the trail to the whaling station of the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton who was lost at sea and landed on the island 100 years ago. Watch the largest colony of king penguins in the world, see elephant seals, and spot the only songbird in Antarctica, the South Georgia pipit. Otherwise, admire the icebergs and bundle up, for the area has a very inhospitable climate.

Enjoy the Wilderness of Half Moon Cay

If you love the beach, book a cruise to Half Moon Cay or Little Salvador in the Bahamas. The private island has a two-mile crescent beach with cabanas, a water sports center, and park. Swim, parasail, fish, or snorkel with stingrays. Only about 2% of the island is developed and the rest is in an untouched state. Enjoy nature hikes, spot wildlife, or do some sun soaking, Half Moon Cay is a great place to unwind and relax.

Walk on Wrangel Island’s Tundra

Wildlife fanatics will surely want to book a trip to Wrangel Island in Russia where you can find polar bears, walruses, snow geese, and Arctic foxes, among others. Located 86m off the coast of Siberia, the island boasts of an arctic landscape and diverse ecosystem and is a UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site.

The island was also once home to the last Woolly Mammoths on Earth. Find some of the remnants of these extinct mammals, see wolverines, whales, lemmings, and lots of birds. There are about 169 bird species for the serious bird watchers!

Cruises are sometimes the only way to see remote destinations. And if you’re planning to spend a part of your retirement exploring exciting sights, a cruise is not only affordable but also an adventure that you might not want to miss.

Must-See Destination in Costa Maya, Mexico: The Mayan Ruins

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:09 am

Planning to vacation in Costa Maya, Mexico this year? Regardless of how you get there, there’s one destination you certainly won’t want to miss: the Chacchoben ruins. This lesser-known site is an unforgettable way to experience the history and culture of the ancient Maya.

The History of Chacchoben

Chacchoben was a ceremonial center for the Maya civilization, with its pyramids dated between 200 B.C. amd 700 C.E.  In its prime, Chacchoben was one of the many temples home to a number of Maya rituals, including human sacrifice.

The site was restored and opened to the public in 2002. Today, travelers can stroll around the pyramids and seek a guided tour to learn more in-depth information about the ancient culture’s history and achievements.

The Beauty of the Maya Ruins

Located a little less than an hour from Costa Maya, the ruins are surrounded by lush and largely untouched vegetation. The pyramids, moss-covered stones and tall palm trees highlight the harmony between Mexico’s natural elements and the Maya civilization’s abandoned structures.

Not only will you experience a site of cultural and historic significance, but also enjoy Mexico’s biodiversity. Costa Maya and surrounding regions are home to many rare species of birds, mammals and plantlife that allow immersion in natural beauty.

Travel to Costa Maya, Mexico

For more information on the Chacchoben Mayan ruins, check out Windstar Cruise’s travel guide on the historic site. Whether you seek out a cruise ship excursion or a guided tour, your trip will guarantee that you find Costa Maya unforgettable.

Must-See Attractions on Your Cruise of America’s Great Lakes

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:10 am

America’s Great Lakes — Superior, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Erie — make up the largest body of freshwater on Earth, accounting for one-fifth of the freshwater surface on the planet, Live Science reports. Cruising the vast expanse of the Great Lakes is an unmissable opportunity. You’ll not only experience stunning scenery and breathtaking shorelines, but also enjoy the comfort and luxury of a personalized cruise service. Here are the top attractions you should check out on the way.  

Lake Superior

In Michigan, history buffs must visit Delaware’s underground copper mine tours. You get to explore the mines and learn about how they operated in the 1800’s. You’ll need good walking shoes and bringing a flashlight helps. There’s also outdoor walking trails on which you can see old mining equipment, antique engines, and ruins from the 1870’s. Once you’ve finished the tour, peruse the gift shop for mining artifacts, model trains, copper specimens, and locally handcrafted copper jewelry. Pack a picnic lunch — there’s picnic benches both outside and even below ground! You’ll also find the Graveyard of the Great Lakes on the southern shore of Lake Superior, a hotspot for shipwrecks. You can learn all about the shipwrecks at the Great Lake Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, including, the dangers of maritime transport and the developing technologies making it safe.

Lake Michigan

No cruise of Lake Michigan is complete without a stop-off in Chicago. Be sure to check out the beautiful Navy Pier which is home to a large indoor complexions with plenty of shops. Pop into a cafe or restaurant whenever you’re feeling peckish. If you want to plan a special, celebratory dinner, look into Chicago private events in advance of your trip. There’s also an indoor ice skating rink and Centennial Wheel — an almost 200 feet tall ferris wheel offering 360-degree views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. You’ll also find plenty of places around the lake to rent paddle boards. So, why not try paddle boarding as you explore Lake Michigan’s beautiful beaches — Montrose Beach, Pictured Rocks Lakeshore near Grand Haven and 63rd Street Beach in Chicago are some of the most popular beaches in the area for stand up paddleboarding. And at Belmont Harbor, you can also try trapeze, juggling, acrobatics, and other circus activities offered by the Trapeze School in Chicago right on the beach.

Lake Huron 

In Lake Huron, visit Fathom Five Marine Park, a land and water reserve on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. Fathom Five has preserved twenty-two shipwrecks from the nineteenth century which snorkelers of all levels can enjoy exploring. There’s also the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary located in northwestern Lake Huron — home to hundreds and hundreds of well-preserved shipwrecks. Some people dive down to see the deep-water wrecks, while other visitors can snorkel from the shore or view shallower wrecks by kayaks. Alternatively, take a glass-bottomed boat tour to learn the history of a wide variety of shipwrecks from the mid-1800s to more recent wrecks from the past century.

Lake Erie

When you’re cruising Lake Erie, stop off at its most popular landmark: the Marblehead Lighthouse which is the oldest Lake Erie light in operation. Tours are held in the summer for a small fee. The surrounding grounds are ideal for picnicking and taking in spectacular views of the lake. There’s also a museum in the keeper’s house operated by Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society. Your trip also won’t be complete without a visit to Cedar Point Amusement Park — the second oldest amusement park in the US. You’ll get to choose from seventy rides, including eighteen roller coasters. Look out for “Steel Vengeance” — voted “Best New Ride” as the tallest, fasted, and longest hyper-hybrid roller coaster in the world.

Lake Ontario 

Rochester, New York is a must-see city on Lake Ontario with so much to offer for people of all ages and interests. Visit Ontario Beach Park to swim in the lake, stroll along Charlotte Pier, and ride the beautiful 1905 Dentzel Menagerie Carousel. You can also tour the Genesee River brewery, shop for local goods at the Rochester Public Market, and walk alongside the world-famous Erie Canal. And if you want some peace and quiet, pay a visit to Fair Haven. Here you’ll find quaint shops and eateries, as well as Fair Haven Beach State Park, which offers exceptional fishing, multiple picnic areas, and a relaxing lakefront hiking trail.

A cruise of America’s Great Lakes will take you on many unmissable adventures. You’ll experience beautiful scenery, fascinating cultural and historical sites, big cities, and quaint towns. With so much to see and do, this cruise will be one you’ll never forget.

Discover Dark Sky Cruises, The Top 2019 Trend For The Whole Family

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:14 am

If watching stars, comets and galaxies from the decks of a ship sounds like a dream vacation for you, then you will love the upcoming trend of dark sky cruises. Away from the city lights that smother the gorgeous sight of the night sky, a cruise in the open waters is perfect for stargazing. That’s exactly what a dark sky cruise is all about. With 44% of American travelers reporting they’ve been on one or more cruises in the past 5 years, and 76% of passengers believing cruises are better family vacations than land-based trips, a dark sky cruise sounds like a very tempting option. Let’s explore this new trend and find out why it could be perfect for your next family adventure.

Why the night sky looks so much better from a cruise deck

Humanity has gazed at the stars and planets in awe for generations, but things started to change when larger cities were built. All those night lights obscure the sky with their brightness and hide the stars from our sight. If you want to set up a telescope on your balcony and spot constellations and planets, chances are you won’t find many. That’s why stargazers need to get away from cities and into the open field to get a good look at the amazing night sky. The effect of artificial lighting is so profound, that many countries have created dark sky reserves from where the beauty of the firmament can be properly appreciated. In fact, a new wave of travelers chase after “dark sky destinations”, select places around the world from where they can contemplate a clear night sky. Since 80% of Americans live in an area where the night sky is obscured by light pollution, dark sky tourism is expected to rise sharply in 2019.

Dark sky cruises combine the best of both worlds. There is no better way to get away from artificial lighting than sailing away from the shore. Surrounded by black waters and the faraway horizon, the whole family can gather on the deck, pull out the binoculars, and spend some unforgettable time watching the stars as they’ve never seen before. The fact that you are on a cruise means you can reach faraway destinations, like the Arctic circle, and watch in awe the magnificent Northern Lights. Plus, you can enjoy all the benefits and comfort of a cruise, with activities for the adults and the kids, delicious meals, entertaining shows and the adventure factor of sailing around on a titanic vessel.

Dark sky cruises have something for each member of the family

One of the biggest challenges of scheduling a family vacation is that you have to find activities that every member of the family can enjoy. With a dark sky cruise, everyone will have something. Most dark sky cruises are designed as educational vacations, so they offer plenty of activities involving astrotourism, natural sciences and even a bit of wilderness adventure. The kids will love the games and guided sessions of stargazing, teens will have a great time with adventure tourism and educational challenges, and adults will appreciate the delicate beauty of the night sky and the lessons on astronomy and other natural sciences. Many of these cruises have the seal of approval of educational companies; for example, the Discovery Channel offers a line of science-themed cruises named “Discovery at Sea”. These packages include stargazing as well as other activities like swimming in the wilderness and interacting with exotic species.

What to take with you on a dark sky cruise

Some dark sky cruises might provide equipment for night sky observation, but in most cases you will have to bring along all the stuff that you need. It’s important not to forget any of the essentials, so your family can share entertaining evenings looking at the stars. First of all, one or more pairs of binoculars will be necessary. You can take a telescope with you if you want, but binoculars in general are easier to carry and set, and will do the job just fine. Larger binoculars will provide a clearer picture of the night sky, but will feel heavy in your hands. For this reason, you should also take a tripod – especially if you have little kids that will get tired easily. On top of this, you can make the experience more interactive by downloading a stargazing app, which will help you identify stars and constellations and display interesting astronomical information.

Your family will never forget your dark sky cruise experience

Dark sky cruises have everything a good family vacation should have: a fun proposal, educational activities, a bit of adventure, and all the commodities a cruise can offer. Take this chance to see the gorgeous night sky as you have never seen it before, and share this unforgettable experience with your entire family. Book a dark sky cruise to your favorite destination and create memories that will last forever.

Hold Fast Unto the Experience: Keeping Your Cruise Memories Safe

Last updated on January 14th, 2019 at 02:47 pm

Going on a cruise ship is a great way to see the most popular cruise destinations, like Alaska, France, and Canada. These countries are popular primarily because of all the unique and wondrous sights that you can see and experience there. Going on a cruise is not just about the hearing the “all aboard” call or feeling the beckoning caress of the open sea breeze on your face. It is also about getting to take breathtaking photographs that you can keep with you for years to come. Of course, that only happens when your photos are safely and effectively stored for posterity. So, how should you go about keeping your photos safe?

The Right Camera

The sea is beautiful but she can be treacherous–especially when you factor in high wind speeds and the salt that lingers in the air. That salt is particularly corrosive for cameras and its add-on equipment. If you’re rocking some high powered equipment, you might want to reconsider and opting for something that’s waterproof. 

At the very least, get photo capturing gear that is tough enough to survive exposure to moisture and salt. On the off-chance that you like high-powered cameras that aren’t waterproof, you can use rain gear to keep it dry. It is ideal to cover as much of the camera’s body and any lens that you’re using in this type of scenario.

High Capacity Memory Card

Digital cameras changed the way we store photos; instead of film, we now have digital files. Those files do take up space, however. You could be snapping away at the sights you see only to find that your camera is full. Instead of going through the difficult task of choosing old snaps to delete, spare yourself from that and get a memory card that has storage space that doesn’t disappoint. 

A reliable memory card ensures that you can just snap away without having to worry about missing anything. The beauty of it all is that you can simply pack spare memory cards so if one is full, you can load a fresh one and keep on snapping. Just make sure that you have a secure case to keep them in so they don’t get lost or wet.

Be Aware of Your Belongings

When you’ve got the camera and the memory card, you’ve got the ingredients to taking snaps of great memories. All that can come to a screeching halt if your camera gets stolen. No matter where you are in the world, there will be criminal elements and you need to be on your guard. Pricey camera equipment makes prime targets and you can keep your cruise memories safe by downplaying the bag you keep your cameras in.

If you’re staying at a hotel while at a port stay, do not leave your camera and equipment in the room. When you are out taking photos, be aware of your surroundings. Always remember that when the camera gets swiped, the precious memory card within gets swiped too. Being alert especially when you are on vacation is a habit that you should make a part of your life.

Use Cloud Storage

A savvy traveler will never be too far from connectivity and this is something that you should take advantage of. Before you go to bed, you can back up the photos from your memory card unto cloud storage. You can even upload them at night while you’re sleeping all you need is a card reader, a laptop, and stable internet. While this step isn’t a requirement, it offers extra security for the photos you’ve taken. So even if something unfortunate happens to the camera or the memory card, the files are safe for access at a later date. 

Consider a Photo Book

Now that your photos are as safe as can be, it’s time to think about sharing the memories and keeping them for years to come. The natural option would be to upload the photos to your social media page for all your friends and loved ones to see. However, those photos are only going to be there for as long as you keep that profile up.

If you want something a bit more physical, consider ordering a photo book with a reputable company. You can give them copies of your photos and they can put into a book that showcases them. You can even make the book tell a story so it’s a great way to really personalize these memories. Photo books make coffee table books and great additions to personal libraries. If you keep that book safe, it’s something that you can leaf through for years to come.

Keeping your photos safe is a matter of planning ahead and being alert. Sharing those photos and safeguarding them is all up to your creativity. A cruise is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you should treasure accordingly.

4 Biggest Travel Mistakes Tourists Don’t Realize They’re Making

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:17 am

travelling with a passportTraveling is fun, and it’s a great way to experience a different culture. Regardless of how well you plan a trip, problems are inevitable. These problems usually happen because you are unaware of the mistakes you’re making like not doing your research prior the trip or being negligent of your surroundings. Problems happen all the time, and there are ways you can minimize on these.

Here is a list of the biggest mistakes you might not realize you’re making when you travel:

1. Not Paying Attention to Their Passport

Knowing how long your passport needs to be valid for will help you prevent future problems. People tend to overlook the passport date of expiration and only realize its importance once they’re at their destination. Some countries, like China, require that you have three to six months remaining on your passports before traveling.  If you’re having problems securing your passport, here is a good Passport info guide to help you.

More than having a passport, you also have to make sure that it’s safe when you travel. Do the following to safeguard your passport:

  • Carry it everywhere you go

You’ll need to bring your passport anywhere you go and best if you carry it in a bag that you can wear across your body. Keep it secured inside the pocket of your bag and make sure your bag zippers are always shut.

  • Each person carries their passport

Most mistakes people make is giving all their passports to a single person for safety. But, what you don’t understand is you’re risking all of it in the event of theft. Each person who’s old enough should carry their passport.

  • Lock it up when you can’t bring it

Most hotel rooms will have a safe that you can use to lock up your belongings. If you’re not confident enough about their security, you can bring your own locking travel safe.

  • Check it regularly while traveling

Check your passport in private while you’re touring the city. Doing so will give you peace of mind.

  • Make passport copies

Keep a photocopy of your passport pages and divide them up. This will make replacing and reporting your passport stolen a much easier task.

Your passport should always be kept safe, and it should be your priority whenever you travel.

2. Underestimating Language Barrier

English may be the universal language, but you can’t expect everyone to speak or even understand it. Sometimes, expecting locals to speak English can be offensive. A good rule of thumb is by asking politely if the person knows or understands the language. Here are also other ways you can overcome language barriers:

  • Do your research

Before even boarding the plane, know what language is spoken in the destination you’re going to. Some countries may have more than two official languages which vary from city to city.

  • Learn a few words

Buy a phrase book and learn a few local languages such as “thank you,” “goodbye,” “yes,” and “no.” Learning a few phrases will earn the respect of locals and help you immerse in their culture.

  • Avoid using slang and speak clearly

If ever you do find someone who can understand and speak English, it’s best to speak clearly and concisely, but never loud.

  • Use your smartphone

There are tons of app that you can use to help translate phrases for you. If you do ever find yourself in a challenging situation, you can just take out your phone and find the words you need.

3. Not Bringing Appropriate Clothing

clothing for a vacationMore often than not, in an attempt to pack light people tend to bring the lightest clothes which can sometimes mean shorts and tank tops. While those are appropriate when you’re going on a cruise, it’s not always applicable to some destinations. Sometimes dressing like the locals can be useful as you won’t be a target of pickpockets.

Here are some tips on how you can pack appropriate clothes:

  • Use close-toed shoes when traveling as flip flops or clogs are usually frowned upon by some nationalities.
  • Wear pants most of the time and reserve your walking shorts going for the beach or the park.
  • Never use shirts with profanity, military or even religious symbol as it draws unwanted attention and may even incite violence.
  • Bring neutral colored pieces clothing, nothing screams tourist than a brightly colored shirt.

When traveling, you’d want to avoid drawing too much attention to yourself. Pack appropriate clothing all the time and try look like a local. Furthermore, never wear flashy jewelry when traveling and keep your camera inside your bag when not in use.

4. Inappropriate Behavior

Some travelers are unaware that they’re being disrespectful because this is what they’re used to. You have to remember that your culture is so much different from the country you’re going to. Also, never think that you should be given special treatment just because you’re a tourist. Here is a list of disrespectful things you should watch out for when you’re overseas:

  • Commenting negatively in public – If you’re not in a private place among your peers, never give out negative comments. This is disrespectful even if you think that you’re giving constructive criticism.
  • Not being careful with what you wear –  There are countries in the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, where they don’t allow people to bare too much skin. Countries in Southeast Asia will be more lenient when it comes to the type of clothing, but make sure they’re not too skimpy. Being careful with your clothing means that you respect a country’s culture and practices.
  • Taking photos of people without their permission – Some tourists travel to third-world countries who will take pictures of a child in rags or a mother nursing a baby on the side of the road. No matter how pure your intentions are, politely ask if you can take their photo before taking out your camera.
  • Wearing a hat inside an establishment – It’s unnatural for some countries to see people wearing hats inside establishments. Some countries will find this behavior rude. Take a look around before sticking with the hat.
  • Expecting the same luxuries you’re used to – Some places will not have the luxuries and privileges you’re used to. This is especially true if you’re traveling to a remote destination. You can’t expect rural hotels or motels to offer you something they don’t have.
  • Littering – No matter how poor the environmental policy of a country is, don’t add up to it. As a traveler, you should do your part in helping the environment by being eco-friendly. Avoid littering, bring reusable bags and straws and accumulate as little trash as you can.

Conclusion

Like many things, traveling is a skill that you learn over time. It’s okay if you’ve committed some mistakes listed here, what’s important is that you’re doing something about it. Just being polite and keeping an open mind can help you avoid mistakes most tourists make. If you’re in doubt, you have to check the Internet beforehand.

Why Taking a One-Way Cruise Might be the Ultimate Vacation

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:18 am

Around 20 million people each year will enjoy a cruise vacation. If you’re one of those people, you know how fun, relaxing, and luxurious a cruise vacation can be. But, do you ever wish you had a little more time at your port of call? There are a lot of tips and tricks for getting the most out of your cruise vacation, but what do you do if you want to stay in port a little longer, enjoying your destination? A one-way cruise, or a repositioning cruise, may be the perfect solution for you.  

What Exactly is a Repositioning Cruise?  

Think of the cruise ship as an airplane. Your typical, closed-loop cruise route is like a roundtrip ticket. After your journey, it takes you right back to where you started. Whereas, a repositioning cruise is like a one-way ticket. You start at point A and end up at point B. Cruise ships change routes from time to time and have to get from one place to another somehow. Lucky for all of us, they often use that opportunity to take passengers along as well. The downside is that not every port offers one-way cruises, and some may only be offered at certain points in the year, but if you plan your vacation well enough in advance, you should be able to find the cruise you’re looking for without any trouble.  

Where Can I Go?

For the traveler looking to embark and disembark in the United States, you may look into a cruise that sees the Panama Canal. You can sail from Florida, tour the Canal, and arrive in Los Angeles where you can get spend a little time at the Santa Monica Pier, stroll down Rodeo Drive, or hike up to the Hollywood sign. Or, if you live in LA, you could plan your trip in reverse. Fly to Florida, do your sightseeing beforehand, and take a relaxing, leisurely cruise home. Feeling a little more adventurous? Try cruising from the U.S. to Quebec and spend some time in our neighboring country, Canada, before coming home.

Get a taste of Old Quebec City by exploring the Petit-Champlain District, which dates back to the 1600s. Or, take a day to do a little whale watching.

Feeling a lot more adventurous? Go for a transatlantic cruise.

Get on the ship in New York, and sail across the ocean to places like Spain, France, and England. Enjoy the sandy beaches of Ibiza, a romantic gondola ride in Venice, or an enlightening walking tour in the historic streets of London. And for those looking for an especially exotic vacation, you could try flying to and from the cruise. Spend a little time in Hong Kong before hopping on a 13-day cruise through Southwest Asia over to Thailand where you can see some of the beautiful beaches in Phuket. Or get on the ship in Rome, and go for an Arabian adventure that sees you through Egypt, Israel, Greece and other places that many people only dream of seeing.

Let’s Talk Logistics

Now, if you are a die-hard, veteran cruiser, you may enjoy the inclusivity of a closed-loop cruise but don’t worry. With the right planning, your sea-to-land (or land-to-sea) adventure can be just as simple to navigate. If you plan on partaking in any excursions or day trips while you’re visiting, you will have to take that into consideration. Book your reservations ahead of time if you can, or at least, get an idea of what you plan on doing and seeing. Then, brush up on the cultures that you’ll be visiting. Take the time to learn a few words in the native language, and watch the faces of the locals light up. Even just a simple “hello,” “excuse me,” “thank you,” or “have a nice day” is more than enough to win bonus points. But don’t worry if you won’t have the opportunity, you’ll find that many countries speak English in addition to their first language – and often, a couple more on top of that! Just make sure that your travel documents, safeguards, and necessities are in line before you go; that should be your main priority. Bring along a travel binder that holds copies of your passport and ID, travel insurance policy documents, trip itineraries, boarding passes, etc. Accidents happen, but we can try to be as prepared as possible.

Ready to take the plunge? Go for it – adventure awaits! If you like the idea but just aren’t sure if you’re ready, start by acquainting yourself with both methods of travel. Try flying roundtrip to your next vacation, then try out the traditional cruise experience. Once you’re familiar with both modes of transportation, going half-and-half will be no sweat. Do your research, make your hotel reservations, plan your transportation, book your flights, and voilà! You are good to go. Bon voyage!

quebec city attractions

11 MUST SEE Sights in Quebec City

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:24 am

Have you ever been to a place and there is just “something” about it that you immediately fall in love with?

For me, that place is Quebec City and specifically, Old Quebec City.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about the city that intrigues me so much. Maybe it’s the people or the natural beauty? Or it could be the, history, landmarks and architecture – Or maybe it’s just the great food?

How could a place only a 10 hour drive from my home be so different? It was like my grade 7 history books came alive and everything about the city was mesmerizing.

What’s So Special About Quebec City?

Quebec City is to Canada what Boston is to the United States. Quebec City has a rich history, dating back to the 1600’s when it became the first permanent settlement in what today is Canada.

While other settlements existed in Canada before Quebec City, many were simple trading posts erected to support the fur trade. Quebec City on the other hand grew into a significant settlement that helped to establish New France and eventually what we know today as the country of Canada.

QuebecCityPort

For visitors to Quebec City, expect a city rich in history with beautiful architecture, amazing food and friendly people.  Quebec City is becoming a hot cruise destination – so much so that they have announced a major investment into the cruise terminal recently.

Quebec City makes the perfect stop for a cruise as much can be seen during an 8 hour stop, however if you do get a chance to stay a few days longer, you will not be disappointed. 

Here are 11 historical sites that you MUST visit on your next cruise into Quebec City.

Old Quebec

Quebec City is really divided into 2 cities technically – Quebec City and Old Quebec City, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Quebec City as a whole is a vibrant, modern city with its own flare while Old Quebec City is the original settlement, surrounded by brick walls that acted as a defense against the British, who sought to take control of  what was then a part of New France.

The old city itself dates back to the 1600’s and many buildings built during this era are still standing and in use today.

Take a stroll through the narrow streets and you might be convinced you are in Europe. Small shops, narrow cobblestone streets and vibrant colors give this city a charm not found many other places in North America.

For those coming into Quebec City on a cruise ship, the cruise ship dock and its proximity to Old Quebec could not be more perfect. A short 15 minute walk from the cruise ship and you will be in the heart of Old Quebec City.

Take time to stroll the streets, visit the shops and restaurants and read the historical plaques located around the area. If you do nothing else while in Quebec City, visit Old Quebec City for sure!

Place Royale

place royale quebec city

Located within Old Quebec City, this town square has been in important gathering place since it was first commissioned by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. Considered the “cradle of French civilization in America,” this town square will transport you back in time in the blink of an eye.

Beautiful architecture dating back to the 1600’s including the oldest stone church in North America (Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church.) are situated here, as well as the Place Royale Museum where you can learn about this settlement and its importance to the the fur trade with American indigenous fur traders.

Situated around the perimeter of the Place Royale are unique shops and cafes which make a great spot to sit and people-watch.

Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

Notre Dame Quebec City Cathedral

Also on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, this church is the oldest in the Americas north of the Spanish colonies in Florida and New Mexico. Pope Pius IX declared it to be a minor Basilica in 1874.

Originally built in 1647, it has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt twice and in 2014 the cathedral celebrated it’s 350th anniversary. The church is located within Old Quebec and just a 10 minute walk from the cruise ship dock.

Chateau Frontenac

chateau frontenac quebec city

No visit to Old Quebec would be complete without a photo of the famously picturesque  Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.

Why?

Because it’s the most photographed hotel in the world! The hotel sits atop a hill overlooking the St. Lawrence river, providing a spectacular view of the area.

Originally built in 1883 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad as a means of promoting tourism in Canada, the hotel has been expanded several times since.

From an historical standpoint, the Chateau Frontenac has been in many films and more importantly, was the site of a meeting between Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, as they planned the allied invasion of occupied Europe during World War II.

If you have time either before or after your cruise, staying a night in the Chateau Frontenac is not to be missed. While it’s not cheap ($400+ per night) the experience is one you won’t soon forget. Even if you can’t stay overnight, visitors are encourage to take a stroll through the first floor which has shops and a cafe.

Plains of Abraham

plains of abraham quebec city

This 2.4 km long park park was the site of the historical “Battle of the Plains of Abraham” otherwise known as the Battle of Quebec. This particular battle was fought in September 13, 1759 as part of the Seven Years War between British and French soldiers. It only lasted about 30 minutes, but what followed would change the course of history in Canada.

The French were lead by Louis-Joseph de Montcalm while the British were lead by General James Wolfe. Both leaders died from injuries sustained at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

For lovers of history, this location and battle was important as it allowed England to gain control of Quebec City (Upper Canada) as well as key locations throughout the USA.

Located at 835 Wilfrid-Laurier Avenue, today the Plains of Abraham is used as large public park complete with festivals and outdoor activities and is the starting point for many tours of Old Quebec. This park is often compared to Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in England .

Gare du Palais

After visiting Chateau Frontenac (above) you might be thinking “I’ve seen a building that looks like this before” – you are not losing your mind! Gare du Palais is a train station built by Canadian Pacific Railway in 1915, with a similar design to the Chateau Frontenac.

Today Gare du Palais serves trains from VIA Rail, which is the national railway service in Canada as well as coach buses from Orleans Express. In 1992 the train station was designated as a Heritage Railway Station.

Via Rail is a great option for those traveling in from Toronto or Montreal or visitors heading to other locations in Canada, such as the capital – Ottawa which is about 6 hours away via train.

Grande Allée

Grande Allée

Looking for cafes with patios, upscale restaurants, budget eats or unique shops with an urban feel? The Grande Allee is just what you are looking for.

During the day the street is alive with pedestrians strolling and packed patios where you can get lunch or drink. In the evening it comes alive with dance clubs, DJs and live music.

This unique street is home to restaurants and small hotels built in old Victorian buildings, complete with one of the most unique Starbucks stores we have ever visited.

The Grande Allee is on the opposite side of The Plains of Abraham and a taxi would be advised if traveling from the cruise terminal to the Grande Allee.

île d’Orléans

Île d Orléans Quebec

Looking for a slower pace? Forget the busyness of Quebec City and escape to the country. Located a short 15 minute drive from the cruise terminal, this island sitting in the St. Lawrence River is home to many farms, villages and shops.

By renting a car, you can drive the perimeter of the island in just a couple of hours, but keep in mind there are no highways or fast moving roads on the island and when you get to the island you will see why.

Driving over the bridge to Ile D’Orleans will feel as though you have journeyed to the French countryside. The pace is slower and the countryside is dotted with small farms, fruit and vegetable stands, art galleries, artisans, craftsman, bed & breakfasts and tiny idyllic villages. While on your drive, keep an eye out for a small sign for the Confiturerie Tigidou, which will lead you up a winding, hilly driveway to a barn which houses some of the most delicious jam you will have ever tried.

Ile D’Orleans has been a highlight of each visit to Quebec City.

Quartier Petit Champlain

quartier petite champlain

Forget big box stores, modern shopping malls and national store chains. Quartier Petit Champlain is the complete opposite. Small shops, art galleries, craftsman boutiques and cafes dotted along the streets offer an old world charm not found many other places in North America.

No trip to Quebec City should ever be complete without a stroll down the narrow streets of Quartier Petit Champlain, located in Old Quebec. Named after founder Samuel de Champlain this area is the oldest commercial street in North America. Preserved for over 400 years, the charm of this area will cause you to fall in love with the city.

If you plan on purchasing a bit of Canadiana to take home, Quartier Petit Champlain is home to many artists and artisans creating all kinds of interesting products.Make sure to try a piece of creme de sucre, a type of, delicious, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth sweet that is similar to fudge. (Can you tell how much I love it?!)

Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site

quebec city fortifications

While the walls around Old Quebec City give it a quaint, historic charm, 400 years ago these same walls provided much needed protection from invading forces.

The walls, almost 5 kilometres long (3 miles) surround the oldest parts of Quebec City. For visitors with an interest in history, taking a guided tour around the walls will give you a brief history of why the walls are there and how they protected the city during its 300+ years.

Located a 10 minute walk from the cruise terminal, a visit to the Information Centre at this historic site will give you a quick overview of the fascinating history of this beautiful city.

Epicurie J.A Moisan

j.a. moison quebec city

If you work in retail and have an interest in history, this is a stop you will appreciate. J.A. Moisan is the oldest grocery store in continuous operation in North America. Opened in 1871, this store has been providing for the grocery needs of the local area for over 140 years.

Today J.A. Moisan is a gourmet food-lovers paradise, offering all kinds of gourmet cheeses, meats, fresh breads, wine and beer. A small cafe at the front of the store offers delicious pastries and coffee. Strolling up and down the aisles of J.A. Moisan feels like stepping into a time machine. The wood floors and attentive staff are a nice change from the large scale supermarkets of today.

And the list goes on…

Quebec City is so full of things to do, sights to see, food to taste and souvenirs to purchase that we could not possibly detail in just 11 points.

We just hope that we have given you enough reason to  consider taking a cruise to or from Quebec City in the near future.  

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

things to do in jacksonville

6 Attractions in Jacksonville That You Don’t Want to Miss!

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:25 am

Jacksonville, coined as one of the most populous cities in the USA, (#12 on the list of most populated cities in the USA as a matter of fact!) definitely offers no shortage of a good times.

The beautiful thing about this city is that there is a little bit of everything for everyone: love digging your toes into the sand and relaxing on a picturesque beach? Sure thing! Enjoy 22 miles of beaches.  

A connoisseur of all things art? Jacksonville has not one, not two, but many different locations dedicated to just that. From the Corks Art District, to Project Atrium at MOCA, to a plethora of different art galleries, Jacksonville has a wide selection to choose from.

What about something for all the foodies out there? Feast on some delicious coastal cuisine and craft beer, or induce the most epic food coma ever at Maple Street Biscuit Company.

Jacksonville is a city that has plenty to offer, and while you might get through everything in one visit (hey, that’s a good thing!), here are some excellent suggestions to check out while you’re in town.

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

Catty Shack is a nonprofit organization and home to majestic felines such as lions, tigers, leopards, lynx, coatimundis, foxes, cougars and bobcats. They specialize in providing habilitation to big cats, saving them from ultimate demise in the wild or in captivity.

During an afternoon visit at Catty Shack, guests will be greeted and invited to watch a video detailing the history of the ranch and other specifics. Then, tours will begin at approximately 1:00 PM, in which you get to meet all the animals and hear about their natural habitats and personal anecdotes. After the tour, cool down with some foods and drinks at the concession area.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, making this an economical way to spend an afternoon in Jacksonville.

Riverside Arts Market

Treat yourself on a Saturday morning after a week of exploring the city by settling down and checking out this colossal market, featuring everything from farmers, artists, bakers, jewelry & crafts makers and more! Under the Fuller Warren Bridge, this event runs during rain or shine, with over four thousand visitors every weekend.

Want to relax after a long day of perusing all the shops? Chill out at the riverfront amphitheater and enjoy live music. Yoga classes at 9 AM are also offered until March, before the “cold” kicks in.

Kingsley Plantation

Named after early estate owner Zephaniah Kingsley, Kingsley plantation is a key historical site and a must-see travel spot in Jacksonville. In 1814, Zephaniah moved to Fort George Island, where the plantation now resides today, with his wife Anna Madgigine Jai, from Senegal, West Africa. The plantation produced a plethora of interesting exports, such as: Sea Island cotton, citrus, sugar cane, and corn.

Kingsley Plantation is open seven days a week from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and admission is free. You can explore areas such as the slave quarters, barn, waterfront, kitchen house, and interpretive garden—all at your leisure. However, for one main attraction on the property, the actual plantation house, it is closed during the week and only open on a limited-basis during the weekend. Call ahead for reservations.

Big Talbot Island State Park

Encapsulate yourself in a dreamy, island oasis on one of northeast Jacksonville’s most unique islands. Whether you want your day to involve bird-watching, hiking through diverse island habitats via a plethora of different trails that lead to different picturesque locations, launching a boat from the north end of the island to go fishing, touring through majestic salt marshes, embarking on exciting kayak tours, a serene waterside picnic on The Bluffs, bicycle riding, and a plethora of other activities, there is plenty of action to fill a day with, and then some.

The park is open from 8AM to sundown, all year long. Admission fees are: $2 per person to access the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier, $3 per vehicle entry to the Bluffs picnic area, Blackrock Trailhead, and Big Pine Trailhead, and $4 to use the boat launch.

Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach

Everyone loves a good water park. Fortunately you don’t have to stray far for world-class aquatic entertainment while in Jacksonville. With too many things to do, we’ll focus on my favorite attraction: the actual waterpark.  

Shipwreck Island Waterpark

Typhoon Lagoon – A half-million gallon water wave pool. ‘Nuff said.

Splash Cove – If you’re traveling with young children, this is the perfect place to get some rest and let your little kiddies play. It features two small slides.

The Rage – The first uphill water-coaster in Northern Florida. The rider is propelled up to 18 MPH!

The Pirate’s Play Village – Slides galore. Featuring five, “The Cannonball Burst”, “Blackbeard’s Revenge”, “Pirate’s Plunge”, with the last two, “Sea Pups Racer” and “Junior Jolly”, being perfect for small children, this is another location in the park easy to settle down in.

The Lil’ St. John’s River – Single and double tubes float comfortably along a 720-foot river at 5MPH, allowing viewers to spectate the action from a comfortable distance.

The Eye of the Storm – This slide rises over 40 ft and riders are challenged to see how many revolutions they can achieve before hitting the bottom.

Jax Brew Bus

Beer aficionados, stop right here! This is your version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Except with delicious lager. The Jax Brew Bus will take you on a 4 ½ hour tour of Jacksonville’s infamous craft beer scene. Here, you’ll get to sample 10-15 local craft beers while visiting 3 different breweries. Stops include: Green Room Brewing, Intuition Ale Works, Engine 15 Brewing Co., Pinglehead Brewing Company, Bold City Brewery, and more!

Pickup and drop off locations are even customizable, giving you the ability to tailor this tour to your preferences. For only $55 per person, this is a steal.

You’ve pretty much fallen in love with Jacksonville now, right? Of course you did! Well, maybe if you decide that a cruise stop isn’t enough, Jacksonville was number 5 on the top 20 cities to invest in. Check out information on how to snag your dream home in this gorgeous city.

cruise payment plans

Cruise Payment Plans – Pay for a Cruise Without Breaking the Bank!

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:28 am

Let’s face it; Not many of us are rich.  Most of us do not have a stack of cash just waiting to be spent, especially for something like a vacation which would be classified as a luxury purchase. 

For the vast majority, there is the reality of student loan debt, mortgage or rent payments, car payments, insurance, credit card debt and the list goes on. At the end of each month you are left wondering where it all went! 

After all of your everyday expenses, how in the world are you going to be able to afford a cruise?

By thinking and planning creatively, you CAN afford to take a cruise without breaking the bank. Here are 4 ways to pay for your cruise with a payment plan or other creative means. 

credit cards

 

Credit Cards

Without a doubt, most people pay for a cruise via credit card, especially when booking online. The real question is this; When do you actually PAY for your cruise if you pay via credit card. Many are religious about paying their credit card balances in full each month to avoid interest, but is that always feasible when the purchase is $1000, $2000, $3000 or more? 

For many, it’s just not feasible to pay this off the next month, however there a few smart things you can do. 

  • Be diligent about what you can pay each month if you know ahead of time that you can’t pay for all of it at once. Perhaps you can commit to paying down an extra $200/month on the balance so that your trip can get paid for relatively fast and you don’t end up paying hundreds of dollars in interest.
  • Take advantage of new credit card offers. Some cards come with travel points when you sign up, others have payment plans when you spend over a certain amount on a vacation, making it easy to pay in installments.
  • Take advantage of travel points already accrued on your credit cards to reduce the amount you need to pay.

Whatever you do, do not book the cruise on your credit card without a reasonable expectation that you can pay for it. While it may seem like a good idea at the time, you might end up paying for a cruise several years down the road. 

Cruise Layaway & Installment Plans

Timing your cruise booking just right will allow you to pay in interest free installments. For most cruise lines, full payment must be received about 75 to 90 days before the cruise sets sail. If you want time to pay your cruise in installments, book early. For example, if your cruise is $2000, booking one year in advance will give you 9 months to pay, which breaks down to just $222 per month leading up to your final payment date. By the time you set sail, the cruise is already paid for! 

A number of cruise lines will do the math for you and even allow you to choose this method at checkout on their website. Carnival for example offers Carnival EasyPay that breaks the cruise down into installments that need to be paid in the required timeline and travel agencies may also offer similar plans.

Check with your travel agent or cruise line for information on how they can make it easier to pay for your cruise.

Personal Loans or Line of Credit

Similar to credit cards, lines of credit or personal loans offer a viable way to pay, but just like credit cards, going in with a plan to pay is the best option. Too many people fall into the trap of buying something on credit and then figuring out how to pay for it later. Avoid this by going in with both eyes open, knowing that you need some time to pay, you are willing to make installment payments and knowing that you will pay interest. 

A line of credit can be a little more dangerous for those without disciplined budgeting skills because the minimum payments for a line of credit are so low. A personal loan, on the other hand, will come with a set loan amount, a set interest rate and a set period of repayment – ie. 12months, 24 months etc. 

With a reasonable credit rating, a personal loan can be easily obtained through your bank or other financial institution. 

Your Own Savings Plan

cruise savings plan

It might seem obvious, but the old fashioned way of paying for items still works. Talk to anyone born in the 1920’s or 1930’s and you will learn a whole new way of buying. They just did not buy anything, unless they had the money to pay for it! 

This generation lived a simple lifestyle and was proud to live within their means, pay for items in cash and save up money when a large purchase was coming. They were not caught up in the consumer treadmill that has enveloped the generations that came after.

It’s a simple concept, yet one that so many miss. If you know that in 1 year’s time, you want to take a $3000 cruise, pay yourself $333 into savings each month and watch it grow. By the time you need to book your cruise (ie. 90 days before it leaves), you will have cash in the bank. No stress, no payments, no interest. It worked for our Grandparents and it can work for you too! 

Get the Right Perspective

Cruising does not have to be expensive, you do not have to go into great amounts of debt to take a cruise and you can have an enjoyable vacation without the stress of finances before or after. In a world full of impulsive materialism, you can buck the trend and through careful planning have a wonderful cruise vacation that makes sense financially. 

best cozumel shore excursions

12 Best Cozumel Shore Excursions

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:32 am

12 best cozumel shore excursions

Cozumel Mexico is the most popular cruise destination in the Caribbean, with over 3 million visitors annually and a favorite among the major cruise lines. Taking a shore excursion during your time here is definitely worth it, no matter the excursion you choose. 

Cozumel itself is an island off the coast of Playa del Carmen Mexico, with 3 cruise ship ports.

The first and most popular cruise terminal in Cozumel is the International Pier, located about 3 miles from the downtown area of San Miguel. Filled with shops and restaurants, it’s a wonderful gateway to your visit to Cozumel.

The second pier is located in downtown San Miguel, which is the largest city on Cozumel island. The pier is directly across from shopping, restaurants, a Starbucks and is a popular spot to catch a taxi for a tour of the island. 

The third cruise terminal on Cozumel, Puerta Maya, used only by Carnival Cruise Lines. This exciting port is filled with over 50 shops and restaurants and is your gateway to your Cozumel shore excursion.

Cozumel in general is a safe island with most living on the island employed in the tourism industry. It’s far enough away from the mainland that anyone wanting to cause trouble with petty crime will not make the effort or expense to get over to Cozumel.

Touring around the island without a shore excursion or group tour is feasible and safe, unlike other destinations in Mexico, however if you want to make the most of your visit to Cozumel, a shore excursion is suggested.

Below we have compiled a list of the 12 BEST COZUMEL SHORE EXCURSIONS, provided by the largest non-cruiseline shore excursions company, Shore Excursions Group. 

#1. Mayan Ruins of Tulum

tulum mayan ruins

Visit an ancient Mayan city, the only one built on a coastline! A 45 minute ferry ride, followed by an air conditioned coach bus ride will take you to this ancient city, located across on the mainland near Playa del Carmen. Explore ruins, walls, temples all with a professional guide giving you a full overview of the history of the ruins. For any history buff, this 2 hour tour of the ruins is not to be missed! 

Click here to get more info on the Mayan Ruins of Tulum excursion shore excursion

#2. Cozumel Jeep & Beach Adventure

This 5 hour tour has it all. Adventure, swimming, snorkeling, sightseeing & food! What more could you want?  The adventure begins by being paired with 2 others (4 people per Jeep) as you begin your guided tour of the island. Follow paved roads, dirt paths and sandy terrain, visiting multiple sights of interest around Cozumel along the way.

A highlight of this Cozumel shore excursion is a stop at Punta Sur Bay where you can take in the beauty, either by relaxing on the beach, swimming or snorkeling 100 yards out to a shallow reef.  Following your beach and snorkeling adventure, head over to a beautiful beach resort for a late afternoon lunch and drink and then back to the ship

Click here to get more info on the Cozumel Jeep & Beach Adventure shore excursion

#3. Minisub Dive Tour

This 30 minute underwater tour is an experience not soon forgotten! After receiving a few tips to ensure your safety underwater, you will enter a tiny one-person submarine and begin your underwater adventure. Just 15 to 20 feet below the surface of the water is a whole new world: colorful fish, plant life and coral formations. If you’ve dreamed about being Jacques Cousteau, now is your chance! 

Click here to get more info on the Minisub Dive Tour shore excursion

#4. Cozumel Electric Bike Ride & Snorkel

Get some exercise by pedaling your way around Cozumel on this guided tour, or let the state-of-the-art electric motor do the work for you. Either way, you will enjoy the sights, sounds and smells as you tour the island with a professional guide to show you around. Stop at a local bar/restaurant for lunch and drink. 

The tour also includes a stop Sky Reef for a 45 minute guided snorkel. See underwater life come alive in vibrant color. This 3 hour tour will be a highlight of your time in Cozumel. 

Click here to get more info on the Cozumel Electric Bike Ride & Snorkel shore excursion

#5. Buggy Island Overview & Snorkel

Jump into a 4 seater Dune Buggy and tour Cozumel in this fun, exciting vehicle. During your excursion you will tour ancient ruins, a historic town, drive along scenic coastline and stop for a guide snorkel tour at SkyReef Beach Club. Experience local culture, dive into local, traditional cuisine and enjoy this 4.5 hour excursion before heading back to the ship.  

For guests with mobility issues, this tour may be a perfect fit as folding wheelchairs and mobility aids can be taken along, and walking is minimal. 

Click here to get more info on the Buggy Island Overview & Snorkel shore excursion

#6. Flavors of Mexico: Chocolate, Tequila & Tacos!

If you didn’t get enough to eat on the ship and you have a flare for local cuisine, this tour is for you! This excursion takes you to Discover Mexico Park where you will take part in a hands-on chocolate making workshop, followed by a Tequila tour and presentation on the Tequila making process. 

A visit to the Popular Museum of Art will immerse you in the Mexican art scene with colorful mosaics and works of art from local artists. 

And, last but certainly not least, a Taco buffet and drinks will top off this exciting shore excursion. 

Click here to get more information on the Flavors of Mexico shore excursion

#7. Atlantis Submarine Adventure

Ever dreamed of cruising underwater in a submarine? Now is your chance! This exciting excursion will take you in a ferry, 15 minutes out to sea, where you will board a submarine. Once inside this US Coast Guard certified submarine you will descend 100 feet and have the chance to experience a whole new world that few will ever see!  This 2 hour excursion is an experience you will never forget – You’re welcome to bring along your camera to help you remember the incredible sights!

Click here to get more information on the Atlantis Submarine Adventure shore excursion

#8. Dolphin Swim Adventure at Chankanaab National Marine Park

Dolphins are some of the most intelligent mammals that live in the ocean and now is your chance to interact with them, up close! During this excursion you will learn about dolphins, their habitat and behavior and then it’s time to get your life jacket on.

Now you’re ready to get in the water and actually swim with the dolphins! For 90 minutes you will interact with the dolphins, swim together and be amazed as they communicate with you. This 5 star excursion won’t disappoint!

Click here to get more information on the Dolphin Swim Adventure shore excursion

#9. ATV Adventure to Jade Caverns

Enjoy this 2 hour off-road adventure on your very own ATV. After suiting up in protective gear, you’re off to traverse the jungle and visit a Mayan coral cave. Stop for a refreshing swim and admire stalactite formations and learn about the natives who previously lived in these areas many years ago. 

This 3 hour ATV Adventure is the perfect way to see the jungle of Cozumel Mexico!

Click here to get more information on the ATV Adventure to Jade Caverns shore excursion

#10. Manatee Swim and Chankanaab Park

Swimming with Dolphins is popular, but what about swimming with Manatees? This unique shore excursion lets you swim with these massive 1300 pound gentle creatures. 

While the Manatee swimming portion of this excursion only lasts 15 minutes, the Chankanaab National Marine Park offers many more activities that you’re welcome to take part in, including swimming, snorkeling, visit the museum or just relax on the beach. This is included in the cost of your shore excursion.

Click here to get more information on the Manatee Swim & Chankanaab Park shore excursion

#11. Playa Uvas Beach Getaway (Beverages & Food)

Prefer to relax at a breathtaking beach with a drink in your hand? This excursion is for you! Spend the day at the resort being treated like royalty, with abundant food and drinks as you soak up the sun in this beautiful setting. 

But – just because you enjoy relaxing, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do! Take part in a 30 minute guided snorkel or a kayak tour to help burn off those extra cruise calories. 

Click here to get more information on the Playa Uvas Beach Getaway shore excursion

#12. Cozumel Shore Snorkel & Lunch

Snorkel in Cozumel once and you will see why this is one of the premier snorkeling destinations in the world! You don’t have to travel far from shore to see spectacular marine life including colorful fish, coral reefs and plant life. 

Don’t worry if you’ve never snorkeled before – This particular excursion is designed with beginners in mind. Equipment is provided as well as professional instruction before entering the water. A Mexican-themed beach lunch is included in this 2 hour excursion, before heading back to the ship.

Click here to get more information on the Cozumel Shore Snorkel & Lunch excursion

When your ship stops in Cozumel – Get out and explore! Book a shore excursion, walk around, enjoy the beautiful weather, go shopping and so much more. It’s no wonder Cozumel is the top cruise destination in the Caribbean.

baby boomer cruises

Top Cruise Lines for Single Baby Boomers

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:34 am

As baby boomers head for retirement, they aren’t slowing down. In fact, the 78 million Americans that fall into the baby boomer category have redefined retirement. These are folks that are going to rock concerts, sky diving and traveling the world in their illustrious golden years. In addition to their energetic lifestyle, baby boomers are fearless and demand to live on their terms.

single baby boomers cruise

Using the most recent census data, 20 percent of adults have never married. In April 2017, the New York Post announced that baby boomers are “over marriage”. With a desire to stay single, this generation still wants to cut loose and party. That means the number of solo travelers will continue to climb.

Cruising is a favorite pastime for many Americans. Family vacations, girls’ weekend, and the solo cruiser. People of all ages love a vacation that includes food, sun, and an endless array of activities all while surrounded by a picturesque landscape.

Keeping in mind that most cruises include buffets, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, bars, casinos, and first-class fitness centers. Finding the cruise line that meets your expectations can be more difficult that managing your online dating profile.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

norwegian epic single cruise rooms

Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) is trying to attract the single baby boomer generation by welcoming solo cruisers with their new Studio Staterooms. In fact, Norwegian Cruise Lines has been voted Porthole Magazine’s best cruise line for solo travelers for the last 5 years. Their new Studio Staterooms cost half the typical double occupancy rate. Which equates to more travel time for dollars spent.

The Studio Staterooms offered by Norwegian Cruise Lines do not skimp on luxury and measure about 100 square feet, perfect for the solo traveler. The Studio features a full-size bed, separate bath area and has a television, hair dryer and safe.

Norwegian Cruise Lines offers more by providing a private Studio Lounge that is shared only by Studio guests and access requires a keycard. The Studio Lounge provides a big screen television as well as refreshments, and snacks. The Studio Lounge is one of several places you can meet fellow single cruisers or find a quiet spot to read a book.

If that’s not enough to entice the solo baby boomer, Norwegian also offers a discounted cruise fare for select sailings. Cruisers can get a regular stateroom at a reduced price. All these discounts and Norwegian still offers dozens of bars, adult only lounges, multiple restaurants, Broadway entertainment and plethora of shore excursions.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

Cruisers 55 and over may qualify for the senior discount. But solo travelers should expect to pay 200% for their cruise since all rooms rates are based on double occupancy. Royal Caribbean made the list of top cruise lines for single baby boomers based on the port of call options and ship amenities.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) offer plenty of opportunities to meet new friends. Start with dance lessons or the attend the Latin Fiesta where things are sure to get hot. Enroll in a culinary class or try one of the escape rooms. This cruise line has taken notice that baby boomers are not finished learning and they offer classes with enough variety to win our hearts and our travel dollars.

Spend your afternoon in the adults only solarium, far from the noise and distractions of tiny travelers. In addition to all this adventure, RCCL offers scuba diving certification, on board zip lining and parties into the night.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) offers a senior discount, you’ll need to notify them when making your reservation. CCL offers a program they call VIFP, short for Very Important Fun Person. Members of the VIFP can take advantage of members-only fares, specials and more.

carnival cruise shipCarnival Cruise Lines also offers the lowest price guarantee and the great vacation guarantee. If you decide within 24 hours of embarking on your trip that a Carnival Cruise is not for you, the Guest Services team will take steps to get you off the ship as quickly as possible.

With all the fun waiting on board the CCL ships, it’s doubtful anyone would want to leave early. Carnival Cruises offer art exhibits and art seminars. Alchemy Martini Tasting and mixology competitions. If you’re looking for something a little more peaceful then head to the serenity adults only retreat or stop by the Cloud 9 spa for nearly a dozen different treatment options that are sure to arouse your inner Zen.

You Get What You Put Into It

Whatever you desire from your solo vacation, the top cruise lines for single baby boomers is guaranteed to keep you busy building friendships and making memories as you cruise to next port of call. No matter the cruise you choose, remember to fill your time with the things you love or explore the unknown. Make sure to have the right travel coverage when going outside the country!

About Lindsay Engle

Lindsay Engle is the Travel Expert at MedicareFAQ, a learning resource center for senior healthcare. Lindsay loves working in the senior healthcare industry. Aside from her job, she has a great passion for animals and loves traveling. In her spare time, she enjoys snuggling on the couch with her pets as well as trying out different cruises with her boyfriend.

What NOT to Pack on Your Next Cruise

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:35 am

Take note next time you’re boarding a cruise ship. As you step onboard the ship and are being checked-in by security staff, there’s a table or series of tables with various items sitting on them. It resembles a lost and found table at a school or church. 

But these aren’t lost items. 

The random items sitting on these tables are items that your fellow cruiser passengers tried to take onboard, but were confiscated by security as they are on the prohibited list of the particular cruise line

Want to avoid the time delay and embarrassment of having items confiscated? Take note of the follow items that are prohibited on cruise ships.

Prohibited Items on a Cruise

Liquor (Beer, Wine, Spirits)

It’s true. Think you’re going to enjoy a bottle of your favorite whiskey in your stateroom – think again! Each cruise line has different beverage policies, but in general, other than a bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner, Beer, Spirits & Coolers are prohibited items on a cruise. For more information, see our post: Water & Wine: What You Can Bring Onboard

Firearms, Knives or Weapons

Let’s set the firearms debate aside for a moment and get straight to the point. Firearms are prohibited on cruise ships for regular passengers. Unless you are a law enforcement officer or security guard, onboard in an official capacity and with prior approval, all other firearms are prohibited and will be confiscated. This includes knives, nunchucks and any other item that is considered a weapon.

Explosives

Do we have to explain this one? Explosives are prohibited items and may get you in hot water with the local authorities. 

Bicycles

Sorry if you had planned for a nice bike ride around Bermuda. You will need to rent a bicycle at your destination as they are prohibited.

Boats or Canoes

We’re not sure where you would put a canoe in a tiny stateroom, so just don’t bother bringing one. 

Hand-Cuffs

Cough Cough…Sorry, you can’t bring those. 

Segways

Lots of ports have Segway tour shore excursions, but you can’t bring your own Segway onboard. 

Household Appliances

If you’re the type of person that likes to make toast in the morning, or heat up a TV dinner, you are out of luck. Household appliances like Toasters, Toaster Ovens, Microwaves, Waffle Makers, Hot Plates, Coffee Makers, Electric Water Kettles and Blenders are all prohibited items and will be confiscated upon boarding. But don’t worry; there’s plenty of food at the many restaurants throughout the ship, and most of it’s complimentary. 

Clothing Irons

Due to the risk of fire, clothing irons are not allowed onboard. If you need clothing ironed, talk to your stateroom attendant for options. 

Heating Pads & Blankets

For safety reasons, heating pads and heating blankets are not allowed onboard. If you are feeling chilly, ask your stateroom attendant for another blanket. 

Pipes/Hookahs & Illegal Drugs

Do not try to bring cocaine, marijuana or any other illegal recreational drugs onboard. They will be confiscated. 

Gaming & Video Systems

We aren’t sure why you would want to bring video games or a DVD player while heading out for a fabulous cruise vacation since there are so many other activities; These are prohibited items including DVD & Blu-ray players and Gaming stations such as X-Box or PlayStation.

Fireworks

For safety reasons, fireworks are not permitted onboard. Sorry if you thought you could have your own fireworks show, right from your balcony. 

We hope that your cruise will be an amazing experience and hope that NOT being able to bring the items listed above doesn’t cramp your style too much! 

As always, check with your cruise line directly if you have any questions about specific items. See below for more information.

Royal Caribbean Prohibited Items

Carnival Cruises Prohibited Items

Norwegian Cruises Prohibited Items

Beauty!

Three Ways to Ensure a Budget-Friendly Family Cruise Vacation

Last updated on May 7th, 2020 at 01:02 pm

If you’re planning a family cruise vacation, you’ll need to budget at least $100 per day per person, exclusive of airfares, according to Tripsavvy. While this has been the standard pricing across the board, more cruise companies are charging extra for items that used to be included in the standard pricing. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t make more savings even as you plan to enjoy the ultimate cruise experience.

Of course, the first step begins with choosing a dream cruise destination like Canada, the Caribbean or Hawaii and knowing what to expect so you can take advantage of all available opportunities to save money. 

Here are three ways to ensure you have a budget-friendly cruise vacation. 

Opt for a Shorter Sailing

Up to 30% of Americans wish to go on a cruise vacation. While planning for an extended cruise trip is great, the budget involved is quite high. How about starting out with a shorter sailing option, like a week-long cruise? In fact, taking a four or five-day cruise yields greater savings than a week-long cruise trip. While it all depends on how well you’ve planned to finance your cruise vacation, opting for shorter cruises is a clever way to squeeze in a quick but great getaway without overstretching your overall travel budget. Many cruise companies plan week-long trips from locations like California to Florida or the Caribbean Islands to Mexico. With cruises averaging between $100-150 per person, booking such trips with your family can help you cut your travel costs in half.

Design Your Own DIY Shore Excursions

Instead of opting for one of the shore excursions that cruise lines offer, consider saving some money by planning a few DIY family-friendly activities ashore with an independent tour company well in advance. While some cruise lines include unlimited shore excursions into their rates, you’ll likely end paying much more than you would if you planned the excursions yourself. Do some research before booking your trip to determine if you can visit top attractions on your own if you book with an operator.  With kids, most of these independent shore excursions will offer great discounts, saving you even more money.

cruise-ship

Look Out for Cost-Friendly Packages

With the unexpected pricing for everything from fitness classes to sodas and meals at alternative restaurants, it’s easy to see why anyone without prior knowledge can end racking up a hefty cost for a cruise vacation. To ensure a budget-friendly cruise vacation, make sure to look out for cost-friendly packages like an unlimited soda package instead of buying beverages a-la-carte. If you want to stay connected throughout your cruise vacation, opt for a Wifi connection package instead of paying on-the-go at a rate of 75 cents a minute. Going for vacation packages helps you land the best value deals and mitigate high fees.

While taking these steps with definitely help you save while planning your family cruise vacation, seeking out a cruise line that best suits you and your family’s individual needs is what matters most. Make sure you have lots of exciting activities to keep you all engaged. Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney are known for their abundance of activities for the whole family!

Webp.net-resizeimage

Money-Smart Tips To Make Your Dream Cruise A Reality

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:38 am

Sailing off into the beautiful sunset, experiencing the warmth and culture of all the beautiful tourist islands and attractions the world has to offer.

The popularity of cruise holidays continues to grow and in 2015, we saw a record revenue of $39.6 billion dollars for the global cruise industry and a formidable 12.41 million travelers originating from North America. However, this dream vacation can be expensive to fund with the average passenger paying almost $1,800. Whether it is planning a romantic cruise or an adventure for the entire family, achieving this dream comes with months of preparation and planning for most, including money management.

To help you be money smart and get on your way to booking that cruise, check out these handy tips that can help you better manage your money leading up to it.

Give Up Daily Splurges

A shocking 55 percent of Americans forget to incorporate vacations into their budgets each year. By looking at your daily spending habits, you can easily find unnecessary spends such as that daily cup of coffee. Eliminating these habits will reduce your outgoings each week, leaving you with spare money to put away towards paying for your cruise or your spending money. Making lunch rather than purchasing food when you’re out is a great way to not only save money but also keep your diet healthy.

A great idea is to start a cruise fund either by using cash or with a separate savings account. By depositing even a small amount each week, you can quickly find you have saved enough to afford the cruise tickets. If you do plan on utilizing credit for your cruise, be sure to look at your credit report and take steps necessary to improve your credit prior to your cruise. Around 15 percent of Americans in 2016 planned to finance their vacations with their credit cards.

Time Your Booking

A great tip: research the best times to book cruise vacations. Certain seasons and months such as are peak times for holiday goers and travelers. Therefore, booking a cruise in these months will cost you a pretty penny. However, if you take the time to book in advance or to shop around online, chances are you can get yourself a decent deal. Off seasons include the fall months such as October and November. Take advantage of the many comparison travel websites available to find the best deals around you. Information is power.

Make An Onboard Budget- Before You Step Onboard

Part of keeping track of your money comes with smart management and a budget can help you do just that. Set out your onboard budget before you set sail and be strict about sticking to it. Based on information gathered online and form your travel agent, you would be able to garner an idea of the amount of cash needed for your vacation. Be sure to include a built in emergency fund buffer for unexpected expenses onboard.

While onboard, be accountable for your spending with the help of mobile apps or even a manual budget to keep track of your cash as you go along. Online resources such as printable cruise planners are great tools to help you stay in control of your budget. Don’t forget, you can still enjoy and experience the beauty of a cruise without indulging in every activity offered. Preplan activities and restaurants and allocate the funds before the cruise. If you do want to engage in an unplanned activity, stick to what your emergency fund can afford. This way you can avoid racking up credit charges you are unable to repay and damaging your credit score.

Take Advantage Of the Perks Of Credit

Finally, make use of those perks that come with your credit cards and accounts. Most of them offer promotional benefits such as air miles, loyalty points and cash back. Using these benefits can help you be money smart in several ways. You can use the cash back as a dedicated savings amount for your cruise prior to booking. As for your air miles, these can be used for free flights to ports removing the need and cost of transport. Loyalty points can sometimes be used by cruise operators or by retailers to purchase any essentials for your trip.

So get out there and start exploring. With some research, good timing and budgeting you can still fulfill that dream of visiting the beautiful destinations on offer. By being money smart before you even step onboard, you can still achieve your travel dream and be financially savvy.

Seattle

What to See in Seattle on a Cruise Stopover

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:40 am

Put on your comfortable shoes, grab your camera and disembarkyou’ve arrived in Seattle and time is of the essence. Home to some of the most beautiful scenery on the West Coast, the Emerald City is a popular choice for cruise stopovers. From picturesque parks to fish-filled markets, skyscrapers to a gum wall, Seattle is the perfect combination of art and smart. We’ve narrowed down a list of must-see things to ensure your short time in Seattle is memorable.

Space Needle

Space Needle tower in Seattle
Photo by ESB Professional

The famous Space Needle landmark stands at 605 feet tall and is an absolute must during a trip to Seattle. Whizz up to the observation deck in the elevators and look out the glass windows over the busy city landscape below. Once at the top, enjoy breathtaking panoramic views across Elliott Bay and rows of skyscrapers, and on clear days, the snow-capped peaks of the mountainous backdrop. After you’ve had your fill of photo-taking and fresh air, grab some food at the rotating restaurant, SkyCity. Located in the UFO-shaped part of the Space Needle, the restaurant is praised for its fresh cuisine and unique dining experience. Tuck into some crab and watch the Seattle skyline drift by.  

Seattle Great Wheel

Over on Pier 57, the Seattle Great Wheel perches on the water edge, slowly turning to reach a peak of two hundred feet. The wheel gives fantastic views of the waterfront, dotted with the white specs of sails and boats. A ride is a great group activity as each gondola fits up to eight people, and if you’re feeling brave, request a VIP gondola and complete your journey with a glass floor. Visitors can buy tickets in advance or at the base of the wheel.

Large Ferris wheel in Seattle called the "Great Wheel"
Photo by TS Photographer

The wheel is particularly spectacular at night when it’s illuminated by colorful lights shining across the calm bay. When you’re back on solid ground, wander along Pier 57 where you’ll discover a games arcade and a vintage carousel, perfect for young children or nostalgic adults.

Pike Place Market

A short walking distance from the Seattle Great Wheel, Pike Place Market is the community hub of Seattle. Established in 1907 to bring together farmers and locals, the market is an energetic space filled with fresh produce, artisanal shops, and entertainment. Stroll through the buzzing atmosphere, sample foods, buy cute gifts, and remember to duck when the fresh fish catch takes place. The throwing has been a tradition for more than 30 years and entails fish vendors launching seafood to one another, much to the amazement of spectators.

Pike Place Market entrance in Seattle
Photo by Checubus

If you prefer something with a lower velocity, the market hosts an array of events throughout the year, as well as guided tours and educational workshops. Need to restore your caffeine levels after a day exploring? The first-ever Starbucks shop is located across the road from Pike Place Market and has kept its original outside appearance. Swing by for a cappuccino and a slice of history.

Gum Wall

True to quirky Seattle form, a side alley wall covered in colorful, chewed gum is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. The wall has been collecting used gum since the early 90s and is over 50 feet long. It got its new coating when people going to the nearby theatre would stick coins to the wall using the gummy substance. After a while, the coin tradition was dropped and only gum was stuck on the expanding brick. While we definitely recommend you don’t get too close to the sticky alleyway, visitors are encouraged to contribute to the wall, so remember to get chewing before you arrive, and leave your mark in Seattle.

Wall covered in chewing gum
Photo by f11photo

To reach the gum wall, follow the ramp down Pike Street and turn left, you won’t be able to miss the bright mosaic pattern.

Fremont Troll

The Fremont Troll is another edgy artwork in Seattle, hiding under the North end of the Aurora bridge. The sculpture emerged on Halloween back in 1990 and was created by Steve Badanes, Donna Walter, Will Martin, and Ross Whitehead, who won a contest with the arts council to improve the messy underpass. With long, shaggy hair, a skinny frame and curled bottom lip, the troll is both scary and endearing. In his extended right hand, the sculpture crushes an old Volkswagen beetle car, while its right eye is made using a car’s hubcap. The significance of the car parts on the troll was intended as a protest against outsider development in Seattle.

Fremont Troll in Seattle
Photo by f11photo

Travelers are free to clamber up the 18-foot troll and pose for photos. If you’re visiting around November you may see people in costumes getting ready to celebrate ‘Troll-oween’ — a festival beginning at the underpass and moving on to other unusual art pieces in Seattle.

Ducks

Amphibious vehicle for sightseeing called a duck
Photo by Steve Estvanik

During your time in Seattle, you might just spot a duck in the lake — not the quacking kind, but the popular amphibious trucks that offer tours of the city on land before driving into the water for a mini cruise. The vehicles were originally built for military use to transport cargo from the water directly onto the shore. Nowadays the ducks are driven by a Coast Guard-certified captain, coasting along the Seattle waterfront, through Pioneer Square, past Pike Place Market to downtown, and finally splashing into Lake Union. The way the ducks are designed means that the journey on both roads and waves is smooth, but don’t expect to sit quietly, the tour is rammed with singing and dancing, as well as surprisingly facts about Seattle. The ducks depart all year round from either Westlake Center or the Seattle Center, but their availability depends on the season, so it’s best to check the schedule before booking.

Kerry Park

Kerry Park Seattle
Photo By e X p o s e

Make the most of being on solid ground by making your way to Kerry Park. Situated halfway up Queen Anne Hill, the park may be small but it has big sights. With an unobstructed view of the city and the bay set against the grand Mount Rainier, it’s no wonder Kerry Park has featured in multiple movies. Sit on the grass and enjoy a picnic, watch as ferries glide across the water, or marvel as the sun sets over silhouetted roofs. Kerry Park is the perfect spot to take in Seattle in its entirety, and to make a lasting memory of the city.

Loved Seattle so much you want to go back? Find the perfect accommodation for your next trip on AllTheRooms.

 

About Grace Brennan

Grace Brennan is a writer and copywriter from the U.K. She's had the pleasure of living in 5 countries, combining her two loves: language and travel. She currently lives in Medellín, Colombia.

Virgin Islands

Your Guide to the Biggest Virgin Islands Transformations Since Hurricane Irma

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 09:42 am

Planning a cruise after Hurricane Irma? Here’s your update to the Virgin Islands today.

The Virgin Islands have been a hot topic of discussion in the travel world the last few months. When Hurricanes Irma and Maria unleashed strong winds on the islands of the Caribbean, everyone was watching. Now cruisers want to know what to expect when porting in the Virgin Islands after the storms.

If the Virgin Islands were in the news before, they’re certainly making headlines now. The positivity and adroitness in recovery has been astounding. Each and every day, jaw-dropping progress has been made, paving the way for a whole new travel experience for cruisers.

Cleanup efforts have focused on appealing to cruise travelers first, as cruise ships have been making stops in the Virgin Islands since early November. Cruise travelers’ favorite hotspots have received prioritized attention and are now strikingly renewed.

Here’s your resource guide to the biggest transformations since the storms to help you maximize your time in port:

Restored Beaches After the Storms

The National Park Service has been laser-focused on getting the parks cleared and enjoyable after the hurricanes. Here are the open beaches of St. Thomas and St. John:

  • Maho Bay, St. John – Chosen by National Geographic as one of the world’s best beaches.
  • Hawksnest Bay, St. John – Known for light crowds, lovely sands, and great snorkeling.
  • Honeymoon Beach, St. John – If you love water sports, this is your place. Snorkel gear, stand up paddleboards, kayaks, and chairs are now available for rental here.
  • Trunk Bay, St. John – Widely renowned for its 650-ft marked underwater trail.
  • Magens Bay, St. Thomas A beautiful, heart-shaped north coast beach with nearby bars and restaurants.
  • Cinnamon Bay – A snorkeling paradise, with a wealth of exciting marine life to discover.

Where to Take a Hike Now

St. John is the island travelers go to for nature. Two thirds of the entire island is protected by the Virgin Islands National Park. And according to the National Park Service, all trails are open and ready to explore, including these all-time favorites:

  • Bordeaux Mountain Trail: St. John’s highest peak offers gorgeous scenic lookout points.
  • Caneel Hill Trail: Another beauty with stunning views at the top.
  • Reef Bay Trail: This trail wins for most interesting. It’s a steep and invigorating hike, with a petroglyphs stop-off along the way, plus a serene beach and a refreshing Caribbean swim waiting at the end.
  • Lind Point Trail: Use this trail to get to the pristine Honeymoon Beach.
  • Ram Head Trail: The hike is intense (wear sneakers), but go all the way to the end for phenomenal cliff views with crashing waves.

Top Open Restaurants Near Port

Porting in St. Thomas is a delight of flavorful cuisine. From burgers to authentic Caribbean fare to seafood with Charlotte Amalie harbor views, port-convenient restaurants have been open and serving diners for over a month. Open restaurants of St. Thomas, around Charlotte Amalie, include:

  • Big Kahuna Rum Shack
  • Bumpa’s
  • Burger Maxx
  • E’s Garden Teahouse
  • Gladys’ Café
  • Ideal Roti
  • Jen’s Island Café & Deli
  • Rum Island Pub
  • Sabroso Restaurant
  • Sharky’s
  • Side Street Pub
  • Tavern on the Waterfront
  • The Green House
  • The Left Banc
  • Virgilio’s

Want to check on a specific favorite? Get the complete list here, updated regularly by local restaurant owners:

Plus, over 20 restaurants are open in St. John’s Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. Take a boat over and enjoy the delicious fare. Check out the comprehensive list here.

This year, treat yourself to the ultimate Caribbean getaway. Take a cruise to the always beautiful Virgin Islands.

This post brought to you by Sonic Charters St. Thomas Boat Rental.

At Sonic Charters, our goal is simple: to ensure that your visit to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands is greater than you ever dreamed. Whether you want to swim with the vibrant fish of the reef, kick back on a white sandy beach accessible only by boat, or party it up out on a tranquil bay, we have exactly the rental or charter for you. For $100 off a Luxury Sea Ray Sundancer rental, use Coupon Code: HOLIDAY17

5 Extraordinary Sights

5 Extraordinary Sights To See On Your Iceland Cruise

Last updated on February 1st, 2020 at 09:51 am

Reykjavík Iceland
Photo by: Ruby Mendez, Reykjavík, Iceland

On a cruise to Iceland, you’ll experience dreamy, breathtaking landscapes of volcanoes, glaciers and pristine wilderness. The country is home to more strange beauty than most places in the world. With its black sand beaches, blue ice caves and snow-covered mountain peaks, Iceland offers plenty of natural drama.

The capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, is located on the edge of the arctic circle. The majority of cruise ships dock at the Skarfabakki cruise port. This port is located just under two miles from the city center. Most tours leave from Reykjavik’s downtown area, which is easy to access from the pier.

Luckily for cruise travelers, many of Iceland’s most dramatic sights are located within easy reach of Reykjavík. Here are five spectacular things to visit on your Iceland cruise.

The Blue Lagoon

Photo by Frank Denney on Unsplash

A trip to Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon is the perfect way to spoil yourself for the day. Located about 45 minutes from Reykjavík, this natural geothermal spa is set in an extraordinary landscape of black lava rocks. Guests bathe in warm milky blue water that originates more than 6,500 feet below the surface of the Earth. At between 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit, the water is always nice and warm and contains minerals that have been found to slow down the aging of the skin. For more interesting facts about the Blue Lagoon, check out this blog post.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church, Iceland
Photo by: Ruby Mendez, Hallgrímskirkja Church, Iceland

This towering church can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Standing more than 244 feet high, Hallgrímskirkja Church is the tallest building in the town and the most striking. It was designed to mimic the lava flows found in Iceland’s landscape. Inside the church, you can take an elevator to the 8th floor where you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city. On a cloudless day, Snaefellsjokull glacier can even be seen from the observation floor.

View of Reykjavík from Hallgrímskirkja Church
Photo by: Ruby Mendez, View of Reykjavík from Hallgrímskirkja Church

 

Þingvellir National Park

Photo by Ruslan Valeev on Unsplash

Most first-time visitors to Iceland travel the “Golden Circle,” which is a favorite tourist route in Southern Iceland. Many of the country’s best sites are along the Golden Circle. Þingvellir National Park is often the first stop on this route.

Þingvellir was one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones. With its unbelievable scenery, it is no wonder that this park is a famous filming location. Its beauty is represented perfectly on the silver screen.

The national park has both great geologic and historical significance. In AD 930, the Vikings established the world’s first democratic parliament at this park. They conducted the meetings outside. Ancient stone foundations serve as a reminder of the parliament activities that took place so long ago. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the only such site on Iceland.

The site is located in a fissured rift valley that developed as a result of the meeting of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. So, you can stand between two continents when you visit this park.

Gullfoss Waterfall

Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash

Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls. The falls are nicknamed “Golden Waterfall,” for pneumonia that occurs when sediment in the water makes the water appear to be a golden color in the sunlight. Located on the river Hvita in Western Iceland, the falls plunge more than 100 feet in two different stages straight into a beautiful, rugged canyon. If you visit on a sunny day, you might be rewarded with gorgeous, shimmering rainbow above the falls.

 

Geysir – Strokkur Geothermal Area

Photo by: Emily Mendez, Geysir – Strokkur Geothermal Area, Iceland

One of Iceland’s most cherished natural phenomenon is the Geysir Geothermal Area. Located at the foot of the Laugarfjall Mountain, in the Haukadalur Valley, this geothermal area has been active for more than 1,000 years. Walking through the otherworldly landscape, you’ll notice boiling mud pits and active geysers, which are fragile, rare wonders of the world. The most active Geysir in this area is Strokkur. It erupts every 10 to 15 minutes or so and sends boiling water hurling towards the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

About Emily Mendez

Emily is a freelance writer who is passionate about travel—and especially enjoys writing about cruises. Emily has written on a variety of topics and enjoys dancing, working out and cooking when not traveling. Check out Emily’s blog and LinkedIn profile below.

A ROMANTIC WEEKEND_ (Custom)

Romantic Weekend in Santa Monica: Venice Beach

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 10:15 am

Santa Monica is the very special part of Los Angeles, with which you fall in love from the first sight, walking along the ocean with your beloved partner, hand in hand. When you come here on weekend, you will surely think, “I’d love to keep living here!” You might be even jealousy of locals who can spend their weekends at Venice beach all the time.

You will get the best impressions and the most vivid emotions of that part of Los Angeles here, in a place where the movement does not stop for a minute. Talking about things to do in Santa Monica, it is impossible not to mention bicycles, skateboards, surfing, outdoor workout in the famous Venice Muscle, basketball, parkour, slacklining, yoga, and dozens of other activities. If you prefer active way of life, you need just to rent any necessary sports equipment.

How to spend your weekend? Guide from MariaDating.com

Santa Monica is simply created for fans of riding a bicycle, there are several bicycle tracks, the most popular of which is Marvin Braude Bike Trail that is stretched along the Pacific Ocean.

If, for some reason, the bicycle is not your option, come here just to stroll along Venice Beach Boardwalk, it is a very picturesque pedestrian street. An incredible number of creative people who have left the “standard” way of life, meets here. They make unique things (souvenirs, paintings, drawings, photographs), and sell all these works right here. However, they are inspired not only by the sun and the ocean, here, you can legally get a prescription that allows smoking marijuana, and this, of course, also explains a big number of relaxed people in the area.

Talking about romantic things to do in Santa Monica, pay attention at Venice Beach itself. This beach is very different, you can come here dozens of times, and you will find something new each time. The running past surfers with boards, helicopters flying overhead, huge lazy seagulls on the shore, the music of local guys, the sound of waves and the smell of the ocean as well as other pleasant little things will make you enjoy your romantic weekend here.

Santa Monica Attractions

There are other interesting beaches in Santa Monica. For example, Santa Monica Pier is noisy, windy, with crowds of tourists and the feeling of a fairy tale. You will find here a vintage amusement park with wooden creaking ceilings and decorations, based on the legendary Route 66. Buy ice cream, ride the famous Ferris wheel (which, by the way, works only with solar panels) and feel like happy children.

route 66 santa monica

The best entertainment of the evening is the sunsets on the coast of the great Los Angeles. If the weather is good, then you will see a spectacle of incredible beauty and an amazing end of the day. One of the greatest “sunset” places is Palisades Park that is next to Ocean Avenue and is right above the cliff, with a succession of endless beaches ahead. Here you can make a picnic, or sit in silence on old park benches, or just stop in the parking lot directly opposite the ocean and, even without leaving the car, enjoy romantic moments.

 

Where to Eat in Santa Monica

As for places, you will be able to find easily a place for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Be sure to stand in five-minute line to Intelligentsia Coffee Venice Coffeebar or The Bottle for your cappuccino to go. Go to The Butchers Daughter Venice, there you will get the very tasty pancakes, a huge choice of juices and a wonderful breakfast menu.

To feel like locals, who decide to arrange a romantic evening, come to Montana Avenue, it is the street with the most romantic restaurants in Santa Monica (however, take into account that you need a reservation for dinner on Friday and weekends!)

family-cruise

13 Best Cruise Destinations for the Whole Family

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 10:17 am

Going on vacation together as a family or an exciting touring adventure is a great way to bond and relax. At the very least it is a just reward for managing to tolerate, irritate and enjoy each other’s company for the preceding period. More importantly, memories created on such occasions last a lifetime and usually remain the things we hold on when the passing of time takes away our loved ones.

However, planning for a family vacation can be one of the most demanding tasks you get to accomplish. This is further compounded by having to bring the kids along resulting in extra costs, luggage, and supervision work and seeking to meet the divergent preferences of where to visit. Luckily, there is such a solution that largely solves just about every one of these issues, going on a family cruise.

Family cruises offer a number of advantages over other vacation plans especially on the logistics side. The costs are favorable and you do not have to keep hassling for a place to eat every meal. You are also saved from the need to keep moving with luggage while the locations and onboard activities are many, catering for different ages and even whole families.

The icing on a great family cruise vacation is a great destination. While some destinations are uniquely great for singles or couples, some provide great attractions for the whole family. Here are 13 best cruise destinations for the whole family.

1. Canada and New England

This is one of the interesting destinations on this list because it does not scream exotic as several other destinations on this. However, it offers plenty of attractive landscapes, great weather during summer, and interesting city life from Boston, to Quebec and Montreal. To top it all up, it is one of this area is one of the most affordable destinations you can cruise to.

The area has a long cruising season from May to the end of October and offers several options in the duration of the cruise from four to seven days or longer ones from 10 to 14 days with more stops. In Newport Rhode Island, you can engage in family hiking, venture into town sightseeing the biggest mansions in North America.

In Maine, whale watching expeditions and paddling excursions bringing you close to seals and ospreys are a fulfilling family attraction. Quebec offers plenty railroad fun, Maple Museum Tours, music and buffet meals while Nova Scotia is an adventure and bird heaven. It is a trip best for children aged 8 and above

2. Caribbean

The Caribbean is an exciting option offering both the sun-drenched sands as well as the affordability and numerous attractions along the way. The weather is great and the beaches have attractions and activities suitable for all ages while the spirit onboard the ship is one of an unending festival.

The eastern Caribbean is great for first-timers and those with younger kids as the port is never too far away from the ship. Cruises last between 3 or 4 nights to 10 days or more. Western Caribbean is for the more adventurous types of attractions such as zip lining over the forest, tours and excursions, and jungle tubing. There is plenty of culture and history to explore so it is never a dull moment.

3. Mexico

It is becoming rare to find Mexico only cruises with most featuring a trip through the Caribbean. This doesn’t mean if you would not get one of you do your research well. The all Mexican cruises make stops in beauty havens like Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco.

Whether you are looking for activities like snorkeling and scuba diving, family resorts, a tour into the Mayan culture and history, a game of golf, an expansive view of marine life and aquatic parks or bird watching, there is always something for everyone in the family.

4. Bermuda

Eight islands make up Bermuda a British colony but home to thousands of American visitors who get so attached and exhilarated by the island that the first visit is always the first in many to follow. It has the appeal of the Caribbean with the closeness and familiarity of New England.

The endless blue skies and waters, the country club relaxed air, and the numerous activities and attractions fill up what is usually a six to eight days long cruise with at least two nights in Bermuda. Top attractions include the Bermuda Aquarium and the Natural History Museum and Zoo. Activities include horseback riding, scuba diving, biking, golfing and a vibrant nightlife for everyone.

5. Alaska

This is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations and the unique attractions make the reason obvious. It is a destination for those who love adventure and the sheer beauty of nature. You can easily move from riding a dogsled to sea kayaking and flying over a volcano. The landscape includes glaciers, mountains, a rainforest and the Arctic Tundra.

You also get whale watching and your adventures also get you close to a unique set of indigenous wildlife like moose, bears, the musk ox, and caribou. The nature of excursions and tours call for older children at least aged ten and above.

6. Hawaii

Experiencing a Hawaii cruise can be challenging if you only want a cruise that begins and ends in Hawaii. While this is the best way and adventure to appreciate the beauty and attractions of the island, only the Norwegian Cruise Line offers a Hawaii only cruise lasting seven days. Other cruise lines begin their tours from the Canada, the US’ west coast, or Mexico.

Still, the attractions on offer in the different islands like Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island more than make up for any inconvenience suffered. From a trip to the Pearl Harbor to a snorkeling in the reefs, a submarine tour of the USS Bowfin, great beaches and surfing, amazing restaurants and local shopping joints, and one of the best spots for whale-watching worldwide.

7. Barcelona, Spain

Spain makes is generally a great destination for tourists and many of the Mediterranean cruises do pass there. However, the jewel of a cruise to Spain is Barcelona with its large port and plenty of activities and attractions for the whole family.

The great weather, the festival atmosphere especially at La Rambla, the architecture and landmarks like the Sagrada Familia, cuisine, theme parks and amusement parks, outdoor markets and the hiking and water sports are among the many attractions that fill this destination.

8. Venice, Italy

Italy is a country rich in culture, history, and landscape attractions whose experience is magnified by doing the trip on a cruise. With ports near Rome, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum are some of the top attractions and if your schedule allows you can get to Florence.

However, just like in Spain, the city you want to be in is Venice and as far as your cruise is concerned even Rome cannot come close to the majesty and beauty of this city with its castles, churches, museums, and waterways connecting the numerous island.

9. Greece

This is another destination on the Mediterranean with many of the attractions and iconic sites easily accessed from the ports. These include Athens with its Parthenon and Oberlaender Museum and the great viewpoint at Lykavittos Hill. If you love the beaches then the Greek Isles are your place with many historical points from Patmos to Delos.

With many cruises visiting this nation, you have a variety of options. However, an all-Greek cruise for ten or more days is usually the best way to experience, luxury, history, and culture as a family.

10. British Isles

England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are amazing destinations for a family cruise as they are especially friendly for younger children. These locations with their iconic cities and coastlines offer a little bit of everything.

The close nature of the isles means you will spend less time on board between stops end you get to explore British Isle attractions including the historical sites, the adventure parks, the fishing cities, the beautiful wilderness, historical locations and amazing beaches especially if you visit from May to September.

11. St Petersburg, Russia

Russia’s only Baltic easily dwarfs all the other destinations in the area. Better still, at the very least you will have two full days to view and enjoy the splendor and beauty of this magnificent city.

St Petersburg is home to the second largest Museum in the world the Hermitage Museum, numerous canals, the iconic architecture including churches, palaces and castles, festivals and historical sites. It is a great destination for the family with interesting tours.

12. France

When it comes to the ultimate cruise destination, France ranks up among the best. It has several coasts the popular ones being the Corsican coast, the Mediterranean one, the Atlantic coast and the Channel coast.

This gives the country several ports for cruise lines to stop over and each has unique attractions and breathtaking beaches. The culinary, the historical sites, the golf courses and water sports activities and landscape are among the various treats waiting for you and your family. You can hardly go wrong with a cruise to France regardless of the children’s age and the occasion.

13. Bruges, Belgium

The port of Zeebrugge is a common stopover for many cruise lines in Western Europe. It is the entryway to Bruges a town steeped in history and home to several iconic museums. This is the ideal cruise trip for a quiet and relaxed adventure.

There are several attractions including the churches specifically The Church of our Lady, the museums, the marketplace and historical sites like the Flanders field and Ypres.

Conclusion

Family cruises allow you to enjoy the best time together with your loved ones. They are affordable yet offer unforgettable experiences that are both informative as they are relaxing. These 13 destinations offer a variety of mix for all the magic cruises offer and will suit your family well.

Feel free to share your experiences and other exciting destinations you would recommend in the comments.

About Safe Cruise Parking

Over the many years we've been in operation, Safe Cruise Parking has built a solid reputation offering safe car parking space for families going on a cruise.

CRUISINGwith a Disability (1)

Cruising with a Disability: 5 Ways to Make it Easier

Last updated on February 22nd, 2020 at 10:20 am

If you’re disabled yet keen to travel, a cruise is perhaps the best option. Seeing the world with complete ease, it’s the ideal way to visit multiple destinations without the hassle of multiple plane journeys or an excessive amount of movement. However, with that being said, it’s still vital you’re doing all you can to prepare and make it easy for yourself.

Here are five ways to ensure smooth sailing when cruising with a disability.

Research thoroughly

Perhaps the most important thing to do in making the cruise easier for yourself comes before you’ve even boarded. It’s crucial you take the time to thoroughly research your options, considering everything from the route the ship takes all the way through to the facilities on board the boat itself.

And, of course, your priority should be the accessibility. It’s important the ship you choose caters to disabled passengers – often you can find details upon the website of the cruise, if not in any brochure or alternative guide. If you’re still unsure on the suitability of the ship for you, consider making a phone call and discussing directly with the cruise line to ensure you’re making the right decision.

Once you’ve made an informed decision, be sure to think about the itinerary of the cruise and where you’ll be going. The whole point of going on a cruise is disembarking at various countries along the way and exploring, which could prove to be difficult in certain areas of the world – although it’s always an option to stay on the boat, it’s not what you’re cruising for.

Let the staff know beforehand

It’s likely the majority of staff will already be aware of any needs or considerations you have in order to make your cruise comfortable and enjoyable. But, on the off chance someone isn’t aware, be sure to politely let them know. Often, staff on cruise ships are almost overwhelmingly friendly and willing to do all they can to accommodate you and make you feel at home, so don’t fret.

Whether you need to change rooms, you need assistance moving through the ship or you simply have a minor query you need to be addressed, don’t hesitate to simply ask. You’ll be met with a warm reception, as the staff’s main focus is satisfying guests and ensuring their time spent on and off the ship is a good one.

Have an accessible room

Speaking of rooms, it’s important to ensure during the booking process that you’re securing a room suitable for you. This is especially important if you’re wheelchair-bound – ensure you’re on a floor where no stairs are required. And, although elevators make it easier to go up and down, in the case of an emergency you could be stuck if they’re out of service.

Again, it may be worth directly contacting the cruise line to see if there are any available rooms perfectly catered to you. With a prime location and easy access, it’s certainly worth asking.

Consider embarking and disembarking the boat, the proximity to the upper deck and to the ship’s restaurants and places for entertainment, and ensure you’ll easily be able to get from A to B. Cruise ships are large, and so it’s crucial you’re situated in the right part of it.

Ensure the destinations you’re visiting are suitable

As previously mentioned, it’s vital you ensure the destinations the ship will be stopping at are suitable for you to head off and explore. It’ll often be cities, which are a safe bet – there’ll be no issue traversing the streets, especially in a well-developed area. If, however, you want to cruise to the more wild, untamed places, such as Caribbean shores or Southeast Asian jungles, you need to consider your mobility.

And, depending on where you’re travelling to, you need to be prepared. It’s a good idea to save some emergency numbers on your phone should you come into danger or injure yourself – although the chances of it are highly unlikely. A great tip for if you’re travelling in Europe is that the emergency number remains the same. Save 112 on your phone and the emergency services are just one call away.

Bring the right equipment with you

If you require some additional things to help you on your cruise, make sure you’re able to bring them. If you’re wheelchair-bound it’s almost always allowed, but should you require any additional medical supplies or equipment, be sure to run it by the cruise line first.

As previously mentioned they’ll likely do all they can to accommodate and welcome you, but sometimes things could be off limits for security or space reasons. It’s crucial you check beforehand to ensure you’re kept safe on the boat within reason.

single

The Ultimate Cruise Ship Packing Checklist

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 11:52 am

Ultimate Cruise Packing ChecklistAfter years of working diligently to pay the bills, raise the kids and or work your way through the tough times that life can bring, you have finally decided to take a cruise. It’s an exciting time and you’re going to be off to places you may have only dreamed about over the years. Along with the excitement of traveling to exotic lands, however, comes the task of packing for the cruise and making sure you have what you need for the time you will be away.

Whether your cruise is just for a few days, or you will be away for a week or longer, here are some excellent packing tips to ensure you have what you need while away. This packing list is based on a 7-day cruise and you can, of course, calculate your list based on the number of days you will be away.

Casual/Sportswear

There’s something to do every minute of your cruise adventure, and whether you’re stopping in the sunny Bahamas or you’ve booked an Alaskan cruise, you’re going to need active wear to last the entire trip. Basically, pack for the number of days you will away and include an extra couple shirts or pairs of pants/shorts in case you have a drink or food spill.

Just as a precaution, if you are an avid hunter or love wearing camouflage clothing, you will want to refrain from packing it for a cruise. Some countries have banned camouflage because it closely resembles military wear or militant clothing and you will not be allowed to wear it while away from the cruise ship. It’s best to leave it at home so you don’t forget and accidentally wear it off the ship where you may be sent back to change or could possibly even be detained by a foreign police department.

Packing for a cruise - Tennis Shoes

Unless you plan to sit by the pool all day or lounge on a beach when the ship docks, you’re going to be on your feet a lot, so comfortable shoes are a requirement unless you want to suffer during your trip.

  Here’s a list of what you need to bring for comfortable, casual and sporty clothing.

  • 2-4 swimsuits 3-5 pair shorts (denim or cotton are fine)
  • 5-7 casual shirts (This may include tank tops, t-shirts or button shirts)
  • 1-2 Sundresses for outings or lounging 1-2 sweaters/sweatshirts (The evening air can be chilly on the ocean)
  • 1 pair sweatpants 1-2 pair jeans or cotton pants

You will want to avoid cut off shorts when packing as they are not usually considered appropriate items to wear in public rooms or in a dining room. You can wear blue jeans while on a cruise but if the cruise has a dedicated formal evening, jeans will need to stay in the room and you will want to dress your best as you go to dinner or out for the evening to dance or unwind after a long day.

Underclothing

  • 4-7 pair socks
  • 3-5 bras (Sports bras are a great choice when on a cruise or when planning to walk and explore the areas the ship will stop)
  • 7-14 pair underwear

Shoes

  • 1-2 pair sandals or flip flops for poolside
  • 1 pair tennis shoes or other comfortable walking shoes (Wear your tennis shoes when boarding so you can save space in your luggage)
  • 1 pair evening shoes/dress shoes

Packing for a cruise - Sunglasses

Accessories

  • 1-2 pair sunglasses
  • 1-2 hats (athletic hats or large floppy hats to block sun are ideal)
  • 1 belt if you normally wear one

Evening Wear

Evening wear, or formal attire, is a fun way to dress up for an evening or two while on a cruise. It a requirement, but if you love to dress up and look your best, you may want to take along some formal attire to at least wear to dinner or for dancing while on the cruise.

Many cruise ships have a dedicated formal evening where it is expected that everyone on board, unless staying in your cabin or away from the public areas or dining hall, will dress in formal attire only. For a 7-day cruise, you will want to pack at least 2 formal outfits.

Suggestions for formal attire/evening wear:

Women: Unless the dining room/dance hall is filled with designer ball gowns and tuxedos, you can dress formally for the evening in a nice pair of slacks and a blouse or a dress. Be sure to wear comfortable, yet appealing shoes to accent the clothing you choose to wear. Some women, however, prefer to wear a formal, full length gown when dining or dancing during the cruise.

Packing for a cruise - Men's Formal Wear

Men: A dress shirt and a pair of dress pants are appropriate for a formal evening on the cruise. Keep your pants clean and you’ll be able to wear them more than once while on the cruise.

Other Items to Pack

Bring a beach bag or large carry bag for times when the ship docks. It will come in handy to not only carry items to shore, but can also be great to stash things you purchase and want to bring home with you after the cruise.

Other items to include when packing include:

  • Camera and camera bag
  • Battery charger for phone, tablet and camera
  • Sunscreen/tanning lotion
  • Non-disposable sports bottle to take water with you as you travel the ship or when you leave the ship to explore.
  • A small first aid kit including bandages, disposable nitrile gloves, antibacterial ointment and tweezers. You never know when you may need this while away from the ship on an outing.
  • Laundry bag
  • Passport/Vaccination Certificate/Visa
  • Extra batteries for camera, phone and other electronics

While not on a packing list, it is also a good idea to have a good travel insurance policy in place when you take a cruise or make sure your regular policy will be accepted in the areas you will travel. Accidents and illness can happen anywhere, and making sure you are protected with a good insurance plan will go a long way if you should happen to twist an ankle or get bit by a dog while off the ship and exploring a new country.

Things to Avoid Packing

Things to avoid packing on a cruise

All cruise lines have a list of items they will not allow people to bring on the cruise. Here are a few items you should avoid packing when you will be boarding a cruise ship:

  • Liquor
  • Firearms
  • Flammables
  • Explosives
  • Hard liquor or beer
  • Bicycles
  • Boats/canoes
  • Segway’s
  • Household appliances
  • Heating pads
  • Hookah pipes
  • DVD, Blu-ray players or Gaming stations such as X-Box, PlayStation or Nintendo
  • Illegal drugs
  • Items that generate heat including coffee makers, clothes irons, steamers and hot plates
  • Knives
  • Scissors (Unless the blade length is under 4 inches)
  • Baseball bats and other sporting equipment
  • HAM radios

All cruise lines have their own specific policy on what is acceptable to bring on board. Some of those listed are acceptable on some cruise ships but not on others. You will want to check with the line before determining what to pack and what to leave at home.

Packing for a cruise can be one of the worst parts of the entire trip. Following these simple guidelines can help ease your packing worries and will help prevent packing items that may be confiscated or considered inappropriate for the trip. Wherever your destination may be, have a wonderful cruise!

Beyond the beaches in Bahamas

Bahamas: Beyond the Beaches

Last updated on January 5th, 2018 at 03:40 pm

Located between the east coast of Florida and the North Atlantic is an archipelago of 700 tropical islands and more than 2,000 cays known as the Bahamas. These islands are the ultimate playground for cruisers seeking sun and turquoise ocean views.

With no shortage of spectacular beaches, most cruisers spend the majority of their stop lounging on sugar white sands. While this might seem like the perfect day, there is so much more to explore in the Bahamas.

From the lively town of Nassau to the spectacular mangroves of the Andros, this popular cruise stop is more than just a beach destination. In fact, the majority of the Bahamas’ beauty lies beyond the beach. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary on your next cruise to the Bahamas, check out these ideas.

Snorkel the Mysterious Blue Holes of the Bahamas

Visit Dean's Blue Hole on your Bahamas cruise
Ton Engwirda, Dean Blue Hole Long Island Bahamas 20110210, Coloration, Cropping and Straightening by Emily Mendez, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

If your cruise itinerary includes a stop at Freeport, then consider visiting one of the mysterious blue holes strung around the island. Named for their deep indigo color, there are more than 1,000 blue holes located in the Bahamas. They can be found in various places—in the depths of the ocean, hidden in the forests or right off the beach.

Blue holes reveal a lot about the past. Some even hold clues about prehistoric life in the Bahamas. These underwater caves offer divers and snorkelers plenty of fascinating marine life and interesting geological formations to explore.

Learn About the Women Pirates Who Once Plundered the Seas

Learn about female pirate Anne Bonney on your Bahamas cruise
By Anushka.Holding (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Bahamas was once one of the most notorious pirate havens in the world. Nassau’s population consisted mostly of pirates back in the early 1700s. What most people don’t know is that some women pirates were just as feared and merciless as their male counterparts. They roamed the seas in search of revenge, freedom and fortune. Two of the most well-known female plunderers, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, ruled the Bahamian seas, sailing under the skull and crossbones of the Pirate Flag.

On your cruise to the Bahamas, visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum and learn about the swashbuckling history of these two females. They have a fascinating exhibit dedicated to Bonny and Read. This interactive museum is located right in downtown Nassau, just five blocks or so from the cruise ship dock.

Spend a Day at One of the World’s Most Spectacular Resorts

Visit Atlantis on your Bahamas Cruise

When arriving in the Bahamas, the glitzy, coral colored resort Atlantis is the first thing that cruisers usually see. Nicknamed “Vegas by the Sea,” this resort is quite impressive.  With its 141 acre waterpark, 21 restaurants, a world-class casino and one of the largest marine exhibits in the Caribbean, Atlantis offers tourists plenty of things to do for the day.

You can visit the marine exhibits, which are home to more than 50,000 aquatic animals. If adventure is more your thing, then check out the resort’s waterpark—Aquaventure. Teens will love the 200-foot body slide—The Abyss, which plunges into a lagoon. Little kids will have a blast at Splashers, a  Mayan-themed pool and water playground.

Visit the Exumas 

Visit Exuma on your Bahamas cruise

In the Exumas, the coastline is flawless, and residents enjoy a slower, more peaceful way of life. It is no surprise that many celebrities have made these idyllic islands their home. The Exumas consist of hundreds of islands and cays that are scattered across the Bahamas. They are renowned for world-class diving, colorful reefs, historic ruins and swimming pigs.

There are many things for cruisers to explore in the Exumas.  You can spend the day just like the contestants of The Bachelor did in season 20—swimming with pigs. These creatures are the only inhabitants of the tiny island of Big Major Cay. If you are not quite up to froliking in the ocean with pigs, there are plenty of other things to do in the Exumas. You could go deep sea fishing, swim on the Tropic of Cancer or feeding the iguanas.   

To escape to the Exumas, you’ll need to take a shore excursion or charter from Nassau as these islands are located several hours from the cruise dock. That is why they are best visited on cruise itineraries that include an overnight stop in Nassau. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy the  Exumas during your stop. Although you’ll have to venture a bit off the beaten path, a day trip to the Exumas is worth it.

About Emily Mendez

Emily is a freelance writer who is passionate about travel—and especially enjoys writing about cruises. Emily has written on a variety of topics and enjoys dancing, working out and cooking when not traveling. Check out Emily’s blog and LinkedIn profile below.

Pamper Yourself small

The Best Places to Pamper Yourself In Vancouver

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 11:57 am

Contrary to popular belief, luxury cruises can be quite hectic from start to finish. Daily itineraries are generally jam-packed with full day excursions and more often than not, travelers can’t wait for the rest and relaxation that awaits on board their ship after a long (but exciting!) day.Pamper Yourself In Vancouver

For guests that get to port in Vancouver, B.C, that relaxation can happen on land as well. Why not venture off ship and pamper yourself in the city voted the best travel destination in Canada?

Even if you’re one of the lucky few cruisers who has their own personal butler to tend to your needs, Vancouver has plenty of options for pampering unavailable aboard a cruise ship.

There are dozens of beautiful spas scattered across the city offering premium Canadian spa services, some of which you’ve probably never even heard of before.

Whether you’re in Vancouver for a day or have officially ended your cruise, these exotic treatments will no doubt leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready for your next day’s adventures:

Hydrafacial

If your hectic travel schedule is taking a toll on your complexion than the Hydrafacial treatment may be the perfect solution for you. Offered at numerous spas and clinics across the Vancouver metropolitan area, this gentle resurfacing treatment instantly rejuvenates the skin, thanks to its five step system that includes cleansing, exfoliation, extraction and hydration. It also delivers antioxidants, hyaluronic acid and peptides into the deeper layers of the skin for a one-two punch of nutrients.

Hydrafacial Vancouver

Your skin will feel smoother and softer immediately following treatment; it will also restore that natural glow your skin’s been missing over the last couple of weeks. This relaxing treatment is perfect for travellers too busy to keep up with their regular beauty routine- nourishing results from the Hydrafacial can last over a week!

Lomi Lomi Hawaiian Coconut Massage

Absolute Spa at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (located close to the waterfront for easy access) offers an out-of-this-world Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage that will relax you from head to toe. All of the knots and aches you’ve built up over the last few weeks of travel? Consider them gone.

Lomi Lomi Massage Vancouver

The Lomi Lomi “loving hands” massage is a light pressure massage that mimics the flow of waves, relieving sore muscles with continuous strokes. An hour of this spa favourite will leave you relaxed and rested, ready to dock your ship for your next day’s excursion.

Foot Reflexology

Foot reflexology has been around for hundreds of years but it’s only now becoming a staple at urban spas. Known as an ancient way of healing, reflexology can help alleviate stress and relax the mind to promote better overall health. By stimulating circulation, therapists focus on reflex zones in the hands and feet to apply pressure and boost health in corresponding organs.

Foot Reflexology in Vancouver

During busy travel days, a helpful pick me up like reflexology can be the perfect way to boost energy and relaxation without the time commitment required with other spa treatments. Most spas offer reflexology appointments starting at just 25 minutes in length, for a spa treatment ideal for the busy traveler.

Drop In Fitness

Who says relaxation can only come in the way of spa treatments? Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a killer workout to rejuvenate the body (and mind!). Vancouver has numerous fitness facilities throughout the downtown core (only a short walking distance from your port stop) that offer gym privileges for guests. From complimentary workout passes at family-friendly clubs to affordable drop in rates at a more upscale gym, the options are endless for cruisers wanted to get a proper workout in in-between excursions.

Drop Inn Fitness in Vancouver

Thermal Stix Treatment

A slight twist on the classic hot stone massage, Thermal Stix treatment is a luxury spa treatment (offered at that Red Cedar Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel) that uses heated wooden batons to relieve tension and pain. When applied on targeted areas on the body, the heat from the batons releases muscle tension, providing guests relief and comfort. Combined with Swedish and Shiatsu hand techniques, this luxurious spa treatment can help fuel tissue purification and blood circulation for complete body and mind relaxation.

Thermal Stix Massage Four Seasons Vancouver
From press.fourseasons.com

Poll

Which spa treatment are you most interested in trying out?

  • Hydrafacial
  • Lomi Lomi Hawaiian Coconut massage
  • Foot reflexology
  • Drop in fitness
  • Thermal Stix treatment

About Lauren Martineau

Professional freelance blogger & writer, storyteller & adventuress. When Lauren's not typing 80 wpm, she's travelling and staying fit.

The-MIND-BLOWING-1

The Mind-Blowing Street Art of Valparaiso, Chile

Last updated on January 5th, 2018 at 03:40 pm

The Mind-Blowing Street Art of Valparaiso Chile

Valparaiso (literally, “Paradise Valley”) is more than just a small, gritty seaport close to Santiago. It’s a haven for creative artists and an outdoor gallery bursting at the seams with vibrant masterpieces.

The talented street artists of this small city in Chile have treated nearly every surface in the city like a blank canvas – covering the walls and buildings with bright, highly detailed painted murals. Any wall, facade or flat surface is fair game and an ideal target for a colourful masterpiece. Like a punk rocker, Valpo (as it is often called) is covered head to toe in tattoos and looks completely badass and amazing.

As I huffed and puffed up the steep streets, admired the views of the blue Pacific and marveled at every intricate piece of al fresco artwork – I fell in love with Valpo. It is gritty, poetic, messy and a little bit rough around the edges. In his poem “Ode to Valparaiso” Pablo Neruda described it as the “the patched-up prow of a small brave ship.”

Valparaiso doesn’t have much in the way of attractions or “things to do.” Instead, the best thing to do while in this city is to roam the multi-hued streets and soak up the creative, bohemian vibe. The city clings to the steep hills, looking down at the water. If you don’t feel like testing your lungs with a steep climb, you can take one of the dozen funiculares – vintage elevators that slowly slide up and down the hills.

Stairs with Street Art Valparaiso Chile

A Culture of Street Art

These artists aren’t rogue vandalists who have splashed their artworks on Valpo’s ramshackle collection of buildings. The local authorities here actually support street art as long as it contributes to the aesthetic of the city. It is used as a form of social and political expression and it has come to define the city. The local government has commissioned a number of pieces around the city.

Graffiti and street art are embraced here, as it is a land of free expression where artists can make controversial statements. The artworks, painted in bold strokes on the sides of buildings for all to see, give a voice to the oppressed, make criticisms of society and call out for positive change.

Cafe and hostel owners want to have their buildings splashed with unique and creative murals as it attracts more visitors. After all, Valparaiso has a growing reputation as one of the quirkiest and coolest cities in South America and visitors visit to enjoy the edgy, artsy vibe. People have traveled from all over the world just to take Chile tours and see the street art here.

How to Find Street Art Valparaiso Chile

How to Find the Coolest Artwork in the City

It’s hard not to find cool artwork in Valparaiso, you’ll discover it around every corner. Take your time and wander with your eyes open. There are a few great streets and neighbourhoods that are quite street art heavy. This disheveled yet beautiful city is a popular stop on cruises through the area. (Remember, if your cruise is going to stop in the USA, you will need to apply for an ESTA.)

Check out Avenida Alemania which winds down the hill, as it offers some gorgeous views of the harbour and some cool murals. You should also take a walk along Calle Cumming and Calle Ecuador and check out the houses that feature art in a range of different styles. Also, walking downhill from Cerro Abajo is like walking through an outdoor art gallery – there is so much great art to enjoy. Templeman Street on Cerro Alegre is also a fantastic place to see street art.

Then, head to the open air museum in the neighbourhood of Bellavista, which is populated with murals, paintings and mosaics. The museum was originally started in 1969 but was abandoned during the dictatorship of Pinochet between 1973 and 1990. In 1992 over 70 artists of Valpo came together to complete the open air museum project – including Roberto Matta, Maria Martner, Eduardo Perez and Francisco Mendez. This is one of the projects that began the renaissance for street art in Valparaiso.

If you would rather walk around with a local guide who can show you the best neighbourhoods for street art and tell you about the history and meaning behind the paintings – check out these graffiti and street art tours. Bring your camera on these great Chile tours, you are going to want to snap photos of almost every wall and surface you see.

What do you think of the street art in Valparaiso? Let us know in the comments below.

Things to do in Vancouver

The 5 Things You’ll Regret Not Doing While in Vancouver

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Vancouver integrates the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest with hip urban sophistication.

This metropolitan gem offers the arts and culture you’d expect from an urban paradise, and it offers so much more that makes it an idyllic nirvana. Visitors call Vancouver the New York City of the Pacifc West Coast. What could be better than to combine the energy and sophistication of Manhattan with a West Coast Canadian vibe?

Vancouver BC

Vancouver has nestled itself between the Strait of Georgia and the Canadian Mountains, and blanketed itself with a ring of evergreen forests. Take in exhibitions like the Vancouver Police Museum or Maritime Museum, or visit the Vancouver Aquarium, which has a top-rated conservation program coupled with unparalleled research and education.

Seeing the sites in Vancouver is easy because of two conveniences: inexpensive public transportation and free WiFi.

 Public Transit and WiFi

Use the SkyTrain for your travels from the Waterfront to the airport on Sea Island. Trains run every seven minutes, and you’ll find them fast and reasonably priced (less than $10 one way) whether zipping across the city, or making several stops along the way. Riding a driverless train is pretty exciting, too. The TransLink site has a wealth of information, including schedules and maps, fares, and other useful information for navigating the Vancouver metro area.

Vancouver skytrain tracks

When you’re ready to connect, look for Shaw Go WiFi and follow the directions to create a guest account.

Gas Town

Several blocks to the east of the Waterfront lies a chronicled neighborbood with a wild past. When Gastown emerged during the 1930s, it rivaled New Orleans with its revelry and love for carousing, but has since become a hip epicenter of culture and trade. This national historic site has seen a renaissance and renewed interest with the emergence of tech companies and a youthful population who make this area their home. Be sure to check out the Gas Town Steam Clock at the corner of Water and Cambie Streets!

Stanley Park

Take a tour of Stanley Park, the 400 hectare green space northwest of town. This naturally forested park boasts totem poles from the First Nations tribes, the Empress of Japan statue (also know as the Girl in a Wetsuit), 25+ kilometers of bike trails and so much more.

stanley park vancouver totem pole

Opt for a bicycle tour (some are less than fifty dollars) that offers lively interaction and excellent exercise as you explore Robson Square. Then you’ll cycle along the Vancouver Waterfront to make your way to Stanley Park, which is an inspirational example of natural Pacific Northwest beauty.  The ride along the seawall makes for memorable moments. It can be hard to avoid the temptation to stop and take pictures every ten meters. It’s really that gorgeous, but you’ll need to save some of your phone’s battery life for the other pictures, including the scenic views of Vancouver and the surrounding areas from Prospect Point as you look out across the Lions Gate Bridge.

You can also walk drive, or take transit if you’d rather save your energy for another adventure, such as a trek across the Capilano Bridge near Grouse Mountain.

Lions Gate Bridge

lions gate bridge

Take the Lion’s Gate Bridge by foot, bike or car to reach the North Shore.  The short 1.8 kilometer journey through the sky becomes magical when mist fills the air, and it’s an experience most travelers never forget. You’ll feel as though you have journeyed far from the urban bustle of Vancouver, but you’re only ten minutes from downtown.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Bridge free shuttle provides you with a more direct route to the temperate rainforest nestled to the north of Vancouver. For about $30 USD, you can walk across the bridge at dizzying heights. You’ll hike amid old growth firs populating an ancient forest.  You’re going to want to wear your sensible shoes, have your camera ready and take a printed copy of your ticket with you. If you can overcome any apprehension about heights or motion sickness, you’ll savor the experience for a long time to come.

Sea Island

Airport food is usually just something to fill your tummy so you don’t eat the armrest on the plane. It can taste like an arm cushion, too. The Flying Beaver Bar & Grill (a sister restaurant to Victoria’s Flying Otter Grill), however, offers great bar food consisting of unbeatable breakfasts, awesome sandwiches served with a side of greens, and satiating dinners. The harbor views are equally spectacular, especially if the weather allows you to sit outside on the deck —  take the corner seating if it’s available.

And Beyond

seaplane in vancouver

Ride the ferry (two hours) or a seaplane (20 minutes) to nearby Nanaimo, where you can sample locally made chocolates while shopping or go ziplining. If Seattle is in your future, try taking the train for another opportunity to enjoy incredible scenery.

Vancouver offers plenty to do for intrepid explorers of all temperaments who want to experience  the sophisticated crowning jewel of the Canadian West Coast.

About Debi Christensen

Debi Christensen is a freelance writer from Texas whose heart lies in two places: the Lone Star State and the Pacific Northwest. She divides her time between writing, traveling and sharing her experiences with others, but her ultimate dream is to own and fly her own seaplane, a DHC-2 Beaver with a round engine.

lake union seattle

Taking In the Sights at Seattle’s Lake Union

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:11 pm

Your cruise ship docks and you’re ready to disembark from one of Seattle’s cruise piers for some offshore fun. Grab your sunnies – Seattle enjoys more sunny days than Juneau, Alaska or Hilo, Hawaii – and get ready to play.

Just three miles and fifteen minutes from Seattle’s Cruise Ship Terminal, Lake Union beckons. The quick cab ride is just the beginning of your adventure inside Seattle. And just why would you want to leave the water to go see more it?

seattle lake union

Lake Union is the nearly 600-acre Mecca of Seattle, where residents and tourists alike come for fun.

Once the exclusive domain of shipyard and logging companies, Lake Union boasts a lively and upbeat vibe for a variety of businesses, including tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Zillow. Residences line the east and west shores, but it’s the hip South Lake Shore that will keep you occupied and entertained.

Charm on the water

Unless you’ve been to Amsterdam, the bohemian houseboats and floating homes on Lake Union may be like nothing you’ve ever seen – except for in Sleepless in Seattle. There are more floating homes here than anywhere else in the United States, and hopeful residents jockey for positions on the waterfront.

seattle lake union houses

This aquatic settlement had its early roots in the logging camps around Seattle, and then others discovered the allure of living on the water. The original homes were inexpensive solutions to a housing shortage, and even college students in the 1930 and 40s could easily afford to live in a floating home.

Now living on the water is a trendy lifestyle choice, with some of the homes costing millions of dollars. Even smaller homes can cost $800 per square foot or more, but they are hardly snooty. This is a community that comes together to help each other, especially when storms roll through. The best way to see the collage of unique homes dotting the waterline is by boat or kayak.

Lake Union is the hub of energy in Seattle.

A 90 minute narrated boat tour with Argosy Cruise Lines will place you in the center of everything happening on Lake Union as you cruise among planes, paddlers and other boaters. For an even more personal tour, check with the Floating Homes Association for their next Open House; you may be one of the lucky ones who get to walk the docks and visit with the residents.

Up into the air

Tour the lake and Seattle by air.

Even if you’re not a fan of flying, taking off and landing in a seaplane is a surprisingly relaxing experience. Pilots will tell you that it has something to do with the water.

kenmore air float plane

Take a float plane tour with Kenmore Air, and you’ll see a bird’s eye view of Seattle from your window seat in a de Havilland Otter or Beaver. From your vantage point, you’ll glimpse the University of Washington and professional sports stadium Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. You’ll be flanked on one side by the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier off in the distance.

The tour includes narrated audio of the trip; go ahead and listen to it. The sound of the engine prevents you from be able to chat with the pilots, and often, each other.

In your own hands

During the warmer myths, you can combine your love of exploration with a little exercise by renting a kayak or paddleboard to take your on tour of Lake Union. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy the lake.

Several outfitters are available to serve your needs. Northwest Outdoor Center – Paddle Seattle offers sunset tours, full moon tours or stand-up paddle board tours.

Art and culture live here

If you’ll be in Seattle in early July, you may want to make it a point to get to the Wooden Boat Festival held on Lake Union. The city holds its annual firework display here, too.

chihuly garden sculptures

On the north shore of Lake Union sits the Chihuly Studio, where glass artist Dale Chihuly creates his masterpieces. You won’t be able to tour his studio, but you can take pictures from the water. Instead, on your way back to your ship, stop by the Chihuly Garden and Glass to see exotic hand-blown glass sculptures in vibrant colors, many of which are inspired by Pacific marine life. Yes, they will ship your purchases for you.

You’ll be back aboard your own ship in record time, with plenty of memories of Lake Union.

About Debi Christensen

Debi Christensen is a freelance writer from Texas whose heart lies in two places: the Lone Star State and the Pacific Northwest. She divides her time between writing, traveling and sharing her experiences with others, but her ultimate dream is to own and fly her own seaplane, a DHC-2 Beaver with a round engine.

Going Ashore

Playing it Safe: Pack Some Caution When Going Ashore

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:15 pm

For many, port hopping is one of the best parts of cruising. You can snorkel in Grand Cayman today, sombrero shop in Cozumel tomorrow and parasail in Roatán the day after that.

Who wants to worry about safety when we’re having that much fun?

But it doesn’t have to be a pain to take precautions while adventuring in the Caribbean ports. Here are some simple, good-sense suggestions to ensure you get back to the ship in the same shape you were when you got off:

Keep it clean. Whether you’re taking a tender, catamaran or walking around town, your hands are going to inevitably be on something. Bringing a small hand sanitizer can help keep any bad germs at bay.

Sun shade. On the beach, we expect to get sun. But it shines on the sidewalks too. Suntan lotion, sunglasses and a hat are essentials for a day in port—however you’re planning to spend it.

Keep it close to the vest. Wallets should be well secured and not visible. Cross-body bags are best for women.

Don’t be bugged. With the Zika virus still a concern, consider slathering on some bug repellant before going ashore.

Forecast: sun with rain. Bringing a small umbrella or raincoat that folds into a tiny bag will come in handy for those pop-up rainstorms common the in the Caribbean, particularly in places like St. Thomas and San Juan.

Make sure time’s on your side. A watch is a must. The cruise lines have their own ideas about handling time zone changes and the ship’s time is not always the island’s time. To make sure you get back onboard before your ship sails away, ensure your watch is set to the ship’s time and this should be your guide—not the clocks in port.

Risky business. Yes, you can save money by taking a taxi to the beach or touring with a local. But know that the ship won’t wait for you. Traffic jams, breakdowns, detours—any of these can delay your trip back to the pier. If you book with the cruise line, though, the ship will wait—or at least help you catch up with it after it’s left the dock.

Know where you’re going to. The ships usually have some sort of a map (typically given during port shopping talks), or you can get one from the local tourist office. Having a destination and being aware of where you are will keep you from getting lost and wandering into places where it’s not the best to be.

The road less traveled. That neat little back street may beckon, but if there’s no one else on it, you might think twice. And at night, it’s best to avoid streets that are not well lit.

Look right. Many of the islands (think St. Thomas, St. Kitts and Bermuda) have British origins and drive on the other side of the road. It helps to know this upfront so you know which way to look when crossing a street.

Mind the gap. On some of the islands—like anywhere—there may be sidewalks in disrepair. In Castries, St. Lucia, there’s a big gap between the sidewalk and the street, presumably for drainage, so you’ll want to be extra cautious if you’re planning to wander around. And sturdy walking shoes or sneakers wouldn’t hurt either.

Rum and sun make a heady mix. There’s nothing like a frozen Margarita or ice cold Carib to take your vacation up a notch, but overdoing it can make you forget you’re in the sun and bring a bad burn or dehydration. Or make you forget you have a ship to catch.

Don’t be “photoblivious.” You might really want to take that photo, but it’s probably not a good idea to stop traffic to get it.

Disguise your camera. If you tend toward more expensive equipment, the pros suggest carrying it in non-brand name bags and straps to prevent against theft.

Sweet and discrete. Respecting the locals, their property and way of life, and keeping a low profile in port will help you stay safe and get respect in return.

Most important of all. Know how to reach the cruise line’s port agent or U.S. embassy if the worst happens and you need help. You can usually find the contact info in the ship’s newsletter on the day of your visit.

Or, maybe this is the most important tip of all: don’t cuddle a wild iguana! I wish I were making this up—to the horror of all around him, a cruiser at St. Thomas’ Crown Bay pier mugged for the camera holding an iguana he snatched from the rocks.

To sum it all up—do some prep, pack some useful stuff, take along your common sense, and don’t take unnecessary chances. That’s the very best way to safeguard your health and the rest of your vacation.

About Diana Greenburg

Diana Greenburg got into cruising late, but is trying very hard to make up for lost time. She writes for a living, but in her spare time does a blog on—what else—cruising! Visit Musing About Cruising at Musing About Cruising

Avoiding

Avoiding Embarkation Day Jitters

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:19 pm

The mere size of a cruise ship can be overwhelming. Add to that the hundreds or thousands of other passengers boarding at the same time as you, and it is no wonder everyone isn’t nervous on the first day of a cruise.

First day jitters are common, but with an understanding of what to expect, as well as a few tips on how to manage that first day, you will set yourself up for a smooth and easy transition from land-lubber to experienced cruiser.

Show up a Day Early

Too many times cruisers will try to fly into the cruise port city, and take a taxi directly to the port. While the personal satisfaction of perfect travel logistics may be appealing, you are also setting yourself of for a lot of stress, and possibly a missed cruise. Everything from commuter traffic to a delayed flight are uncontrollable and could cost you to miss the cruise.

If you are flying into your cruise port city, give yourself a little flexibility by arriving the day before. This gives you the time to enjoy a nice meal, and relax with a nice night’s sleep prior to the busy day of boarding the ship. You will also be able to pace yourself and comfortably get ready in the morning without trying to sprint through an airport.

Flying to Your Cruise

Prep for the Queue

On your first day, you will have to stand in a queue as hundreds of people are trying to board the ship at the same time. Make sure you pack snacks, water or a refreshing beverage, as well as a book or earbuds to pass a little time.

Bringing along a non-intrusive folding chair or stool may also be a nice luxury as you wait for hours to get through the line.  If you have mobility issues, or standing for long periods is difficult for you, find a staff person as they may have some suggestions to help.

Boarding Cruise Ship
Photo credit: roundedbygravity via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

How Do I Check in?

Boarding a cruise ship is much like boarding a plane, except your luggage will be collected outside the cruise terminal. You will first go through a security check and your luggage will be scanned.  Unlike a flight, you will likely fill out a health questionnaire. When there is a lot of people in a confined space, like a cruise ship, viruses can spread quickly.

Once you are through the security check you will move to the check in line. Prior to the check-in line you will want to make sure you have all of your citizenship and identification documentation available for each member of your party. This is also where you will take a photo for your ship passenger photo ID.

What Do I Do with my Luggage?

Porters will typically meet you at the cruise terminal ready to take your luggage. Make sure you don’t hand them your carry on bag (first day cruise bag), and make sure you have your documents, money, and prescription medication.

Customarily you will tip $1-$2 per bag for porters. You can expect to have your bags in your room within a few hours, however, depending on the size of the cruise it may take longer, or you may receive some bags before you receive others. It’s often best to make sure your day bag is sufficiently packed and let the porters take care of the luggage.

Cruise Ship Luggage
Photo credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar via Foter.com / CC BY

Be Prepared

Preparing a list prior to travel days can be indispensable. You should have two packing lists for your cruise. The first is a carry on (day bag) list, and the second is your luggage list. Most people are comfortable enough travelling to know what goes on their luggage list, however, don’t forget to leave room for souvenirs you’ll possibly buy while traveling. One rule of thumb is to leave 20% to 30% of your bag empty if you choose not to pack an additional bag just for souvenirs.

It is also wise, especially if flying to the port, to pack each suitcase with at lease one outfit for each person in the cabin, instead of each person having their own suitcase. That way, if one suitcase happens to go missing, everyone in the cabin will have a few clean items to wear until the missing suitcase shows up.

Packing for your cruise
Photo credit: becca.peterson26 via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Secondly, your first day bag (carry on) should have everything you will need for that first day from clothing (bathing suit, under garments) to personal medication and other toiletries. You should also remember to pack your personal identification such as a passport and driver’s license, as well as cash. What many people don’t realize is that ATMs at heavily traveled areas such as airports and cruise ports can often have mechanical problems and sometimes even run out of money. Remember, you will have possibly thousands of people withdrawing hundreds of dollars in a short period of time. Plus, the ATM fees on the ships are high.

Your carry on should have enough items to get you through that first day, but not so much that you are struggling to carry the bag.

Explore and Enjoy

By following these few tips, the first day cruise jitters can be minimized. This allows you to enjoy the excitement of getting on the ship, grabbing a drink, and heading up to the top deck for the sail away.

Cruise Ship Sail Away
Photo credit: lynn dombrowski via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

About Jody Mabry

Jody Mabry is a multi-award winning freelance writer who splits his time between Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA. When he is not out on assignment he can be found with family, and knocking a few balls around the tennis court.

5 Helpful Tips for

5 Helpful Tips for Cruising with Kids

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Pool days, time in the sun, meals you don’t have to cook, on board entertainment, and family bonding time are all great aspects to taking a cruise with your children. The great part about choosing a cruise for your family vacation is the organized nature of a cruise line.

You don’t have to plan a ton of transportation, pre-planning excursions is a breeze, you have your choice of on-board entertainment, and the food is already made. For traditional vacations you might have to do a lot of walking, waiting, packing children into the car, packing them out, planning out your dinners, and finding things to do. If you’ve never cruised with your kiddos, there are a few tips to make the trip a little easier.

cruise-ship-615116_960_720

Kid-Friendly Cruises

Not all cruises are created equal and there is a difference between kid-friendly cruises and kid-tolerant cruises. Do your research on the cruise lines you’re considering and decide on if the entertainment, culture, activities, and amenities will suit your child’s age. Disney Cruise Line is the obvious pick for kid friendly cruises since their appeal is aimed at children with dance parties for kids, themed dinners, fireworks, Disney character mascots everywhere, and other kid-based entertainment. They also have adult-only dining areas and quitter pools for parents as well. Don’t discount the other cruises, though; Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian are all top-ranked kids cruises as well. Royal Caribbean has a partnership with DreamWorks, Carnival is budget-friendly with ropes courses, and Norwegian hosts musicals for kids as entertainment, so there are a ton of options available to cruise with your children.

kid-1401157_960_720

Pack a Carry-On

Many people with younger children know to carry some sort of bag full of supplies with them, and this is even more true when you are on a cruise with children. When you’ve checked in and boarded your ship it can still be several hours before you have access to your room or your luggage has been delivered. This can be a surprise for many parents with young children that need a bottle or a diaper if you don’t have it with you, but it can even be difficult with just a restless kiddo that needs a toy, book, or a nap in a quiet place. Be prepared for this delay, wait time to board the ship during stops, and other times it might not be as easy to go to your room and grab a diaper or a snack.

On some cruise ships, they do not sell diapers, formula, or wipes, so be sure to carry these things with you. Maybe not all the time, but be sure to have everything you’ll need in case it’s difficult to find on your ship or in each port.

Bring Entertainment

Certain ships have a ton of entertainment for children, but if you’re on a cruise line that doesn’t cater to children they may experience some boredom. Even if you are on a ship that is family-friendly, bringing some onboard entertainment is still a good idea. Reading material, video game consoles, toys, coloring books, or movies are all a great idea to keep you littles busy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your children will be satisfied with the entertainment on the ship. Chances are they would like some of their usual entertainment from home in down times.

Cruise ships don’t have lines like an amusement park, but they do have lines and your kiddos will experience some waiting. To fill these moments think along the lines of car games with a twist so that they don’t get too restless and fussy. You may not be able to play the license plate game, but you can play the Disney character game saying how many Disney characters you’ve spotted. I spy, singing a song, or the alphabet game are all great ways to entertain your children in these moments.

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Tiny Details

For your first time cruising with children there are many small details that you won’t realize until you board. For one, children that are not potty trained are not allowed in many pools on cruise ships. Some offer splash areas, but this can be a deal breaker for many parents or children. Also, not all ships have showers with bathtubs which can be a deal breaker for parents that have kids that take baths. If you need a crib or playpen, let the ship know as soon as possible. Strollers may either be hard to come by or not available at all.  Power outlets are also scarce in your room, so it would be a great idea to bring a power strip when travelling with the family that may have a few things to plug in. Some babysitting services won’t take children younger than a certain age, so it’s smart to check that age limit. Checking message boards for certain cruise lines or forums for parents are great ways to find out insider information about cruise lines from actual cruisers.

Health and Safety

Before cruising you should speak to your children about health and safety tips. Luckily there are many passenger counts, checks, and curfews on many ships to keep a good track of passengers. Make sure your children stick to a buddy system, never go into someone else’s room or let anyone into yours, and to check in regularly. When you leave the ship at your stops, stress the importance of your all aboard time so that your older children stick to a schedule. With many ships having limited or expensive Wi-Fi and no cell service, staying connected to family may be difficult so it’s best to establish check-in times.

Cruises can be unhealthy situations, so be aware that your child might be in close proximity to other sick people without many options to get away from them. There are situations where a high percentage of passengers are sick on a ship and they are not able to dock in certain areas – and getting a refund for these situations isn’t common. Also, seasickness is common and if your child hasn’t been on a ship before you may not know if they will be affected. It’s smart to bring motion sickness medicine and other types of medicine on board just in case.

The cruising experience is amazing and one that everyone should experience at any age. It’s a fun experience for the whole family where you can see many places, go on fun adventures, meet people from all over, and watch your children experience new things with you. As far as big family vacations go, choosing a cruise is a great idea for fun experiences for all ages and less stress for planning. No matter which type of vacation you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find it on one the many cruise lines available to the whole family.

About Chelsy Ranard

Chelsy is a writer living in Boise, Idaho. She worked seasonally in Alaska from 2010 to 2014 guiding, managing, and marketing tours in a variety of capacities. When she isn’t writing she spends her time missing Alaska, spending time with her animals, and exploring Boise. Make sure to follow her on Twitter

triple-banded

You’re Onboard Your Cruise Ship: Now What?

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:22 pm

triple-banded

First cruise? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The first day of your first cruise is arguably the most difficult as you try to figure out the logistics of your vacation and more importantly, how the cruise itself works.

Luckily, once you’ve gotten through your first day, the rest of your cruise will be a cinch. With a couple tips on what to expect, where to go, and how to prepare you can tackle your first cruise like a pro.

1. Don’t go to the buffet

Cruise ships are notorious for adding a few pounds to your waistline with their massive and diverse buffets. Most ships offer free buffets throughout the day along with the cost of your cruise. And for many people the buffet is not only a supplement to vacation, but the vacation itself.

So, the first thing to do, is not to go to the buffet. The vast majority of people who are on the ship will head directly for that buffet line. What this means for you is hundreds of people struggling to find a place to sit, tapping their plates and trays as they slide between each other. The first day of the buffet is often a mess, and better avoided. But, don’t worry, the buffet will be there all week, and you can explore it as much as you want then.

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2. Be friendly and meet the staff

The staff on the cruise ship will be busy that first day as they assist cruise goers on where to go and what to do on the first day. Despite this, meeting the staff, especially your room steward, on that first day, and leaving a positive impression on them is one of the best things you can do to make your trip go by smoothly.

The positive response of learning someone’s name and recognizing that they are doing a good job will pay for the trip itself. Remember, the crew knows the ship better than anyone, and they can offer sage advice on the best times to eat when dining areas are not busy, excursions worth going on, and if you’re lucky you may get a few freebies and personal courtesies.

Last day Cruise

Smile, when you see the staff, greet them, call them by their first name, and thank them for their help. This is an easy way to make sure you have a comfortable trip.

3. Pack your Day Bag and Don’t spend all your time worrying about your luggage.

As long as you have a day bag to get you through your first day, you shouldn’t need to worry about where your luggage is. There are hundreds, if not thousands of passengers aboard your ship, and it will take some time for all of the luggage to be delivered to each passenger’s room.

So, don’t worry about if your luggage has been lost, or when it will arrive. If it hasn’t arrived by the second day, you can then start your inquiry.

Instead, think about packing your day (carry-on) bag. Your day bag should have all the supplies you will need for your first day, such as: extra set of clothes, bathing suit, prescription medication, identification documents, and anything else you feel you will need until your luggage arrives.

On board cruise ship | Cruise Port Advisor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Explore the ship

While everyone else is crowding into the buffet line, you can better spend your time exploring the ship. Most ships provide a map and literature to acquaint you with the ship. By taking the time to walk around and explore you will save yourself a lot of time while you’re out at sea.

It helps if you earmark the areas you would like to explore first and then spend a little time simply walking around to get your bearings, and likely find rooms, and amenities you didn’t even know about.

 

About Jody Mabry

Jody Mabry is a multi-award winning freelance writer who splits his time between Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA. When he is not out on assignment he can be found with family, and knocking a few balls around the tennis court.

SEATTLE

7 Lesser-Known Seattle Attractions

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:23 pm

 

Trying to find something to do for a few hours while you wait for your cruise to board can be an annoying task. Even more annoying is getting caught up in touristy parts of a city and not being able to actually enjoy the layover.

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of a few things to do around Seattle that will keep you out of the high priced and high traffic tourist trap. If you’re worried about transportation Seattle has you covered with free buses during certain hours of the day.

Mystery Soda Machine

The mystery soda machine is an old vintage soda machine on Capitol Hill. Aside from its age, it looks pretty inconspicuous. The mystery comes in when you find out that no one knows who keeps it stocked. It appears to have a never ending supply of soda and juice for all your beverage needs. There’s plenty of stories surrounding the soda machine including those of discontinued sodas popping out every so often. The reality is though, it has no permit, the nearby locksmith lends it power and no one can track down an owner. If you’re up for spontaneity and a little bit of sugar this is a must try stop.

Fremont Trail Troll
Photo credit: MoreLife81 via Foter.com / CC BY

Fremont Trail Troll

Troll lore has been around Fremont for a while but it went to a whole new level in 1989 when a giant Troll sculpture was built under the Aurora Bridge. The sculpture was commissioned by the Fremont Arts Council and was built by the Jersey Devils and Steve Badanes. The sculpture has become a monument for the area and a fun photo opportunity for both kids and adults. The sculpture has helped to grow the culture of Fremont and their fun loving, mischievous Trolls.

Gum Wall

The gum wall is one of Seattle’s worst kept secrets, but if you happen to be out of the loop, it is a large brick wall that has become people’s favorite place to dispose of their used gum. This disgusting attraction is located in the alley behind one of Seattle’s biggest landmarks, Pike Place Market. If you need to get rid of your gum before frying up your fish you now know the place to stop. The wall was recently cleaned, removing 20 years of people’s ABC gum in an attempt to preserve the historic walls of Pike Place on either side of the infamous wall. Go stick your colorful gum on the bare bricks and be one of the first to restart this unsanitary tradition.

Seattle Gum Wall
Photo credit: Nicola since 1972 via Foter.com / CC BY

Nevertold Casket Company

If weird and unusual is your thing then check out Nevertold Casket Company. They are in the business of collecting and selling items that are said to be haunted. The eclectic mix of items make great souvenirs if you’re willing to risk the bad juju that may accompany the object. The store is located off of 13th and Jefferson and is a quick stop for anyone just wanting to peruse and learn about weird history. They even offer a virtual tour on their website if you want to scout it out before committing.

Northwest Seaport- Maritime Heritage Center

If you haven’t gotten your fill of boats, check out the Northwest Seaport. They are a “non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime heritage of Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest.” The museum is home to an array of ships including two that are considered National Historic Landmarks. They offer tours, sleepovers and on board story time for kids. It’s a great opportunity to explore different kinds of boats and learn about the impact the marine industry has had on the community. Before or after your cruise, this could be a really cool place to stop and learn more about the vessels that helped make cruising possible.

Walker Rock Garden

The Walker Rock Garden is a labor of love created by Milton Walker and his wife in their backyard. It is now managed by their daughter who has kept the garden open to the public. Milton created large sculptures and other art out of rocks and pebbles all over the garden that was maintained by his wife. The large formations are whimsical and enchanting for both kids and adults. It is a great little oasis in the middle of Seattle for anyone who wants to stroll around a park and enjoy the art.

Gasworks Park

At the site of an old gasification plant the city of Seattle has erected a 20 acre park. The park offers beautiful views of Seattle and the Puget Sound. With acres of green grass and rolling hills, as well as walking paths and play equipment it is a great place to take the whole family if you want a mini escape from the business of the city. Parts of the old gasification plant were left behind and have been repurposed for the park.

Gasworks Park Seattle
Photo credit: iriskh via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

The boiler house is now a covered picnic shelter with tables and grills; the exhauster-compressor building is now a play barn for the kids. They’ve even left an assortment of old equipment in the play barn and painted it in bright colors for the kids to explore and learn about. This park with a unique history is something you won’t find anywhere else and is definitely worth the trip to go see.

These are just a handful of quirky locations around Seattle. Ask the locals for some of their favorites and you might find a few more hidden gems.

About Ally Mann

Ally is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys camping, backpacking, boating, her German shepherds and getting lost in the middle of nowhere.

BEST

Best Vancouver Cruise Port Hotels

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Best Vancouver Cruise Port HotelsWhile the cruise season in Vancouver is relatively short, many ships embark or disembark from the pier at Canada Place, heading to or coming from Alaska, California or Hawaii. It’s a great city to take time to explore before or after your cruise, but it can be tricky to find the perfect hotel. Whether your budget is small or you want to splurge, you’ll find a great place to lay your head with our list of the best cruise port hotels in Vancouver.

Pan Pacific Vancouver

300-999 Canada Place, Vancouver BC. V6C 3B5 | 604-662-8111

Pan Pacific Vancouver
If finding a hotel close to the cruise port is a priority, then look no further than the Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver. Sitting in a tower above the cruise pier at Canada Place, you literally ride the elevator from your room to the cruise check-in. This 4-diamond hotel offers the ultimate in luxury, from its beautifully appointed rooms and suites to the internationally renowned Spa Utopia and Salon. Enjoy spectacular views of Vancouver’s downtown or the not-so-distant mountains from the 8th floor rooftop heated saltwater pool. Enjoy breakfast and lunch with waterfront views at the Cafe Pacifica or have a drink on the outdoor patio at the Cascades lounge before savoring West Coast-inspired cuisine at the award-winning Five Sails restaurant.

Their Alaska Cruise Package offers breakfast for 2, a late checkout and complementary luggage transfer downstairs to the pier. On-site long-term parking is also available. Remember, prices are in Canadian dollars, which makes for a good deal for most international guests. Click here for great deals on the Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver.

Miles to Port : Onsite

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Luggage Porter

Long-Term Parking : Call for Details

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor, Heated

Auberge Vancouver Hotel

837 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC | 604-678-8899

Auberge Vancouver Hotel
he luxurious Auberge Vancouver Hotel is ideally situated to the Canada Place cruise terminal – only 2 blocks away – and offers fantastic shopping, dining and attractions right outside the door. The finishes and furnishings are of the highest standard which is evident as soon as you step into the opulent lobby. Enjoy amazing mountain views from the large, well-appointed rooms and suites complete with daily, complimentary delivery of a newspaper, bottled water and gourmet chocolates, right to your room. Take a dip in the large indoor pool or whirlpool after having a relaxing hot stone massage at the Spa. Work off any unwanted post-cruise weight at the state-of-the-art onsite Terminal City Club Fitness Centre. A complimentary continental breakfast is served daily and any type of cuisine is just a short walk away, or enjoy a pint of cold beer and fish and chips at the onsite Lion’s Pub.

Cruise guests are pampered to as the hotel offers complimentary luggage porter service to the pier and will arrange for transportation for guests, unless you want to enjoy the fresh sea air by walking the 2 blocks to the cruise terminal. If you drive to Vancouver, the hotel has special parking rates for cruise guests in their secure, underground parking – just call for details. For more information and great rates, click here.

Miles to Port : 0.5 (2 blocks)

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Complimentary Luggage Service

Long-Term Parking : $ – Call for Details

Breakfast : Complimentary Continental

Swimming Pool : Indoor

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Vancouver Downtown

1110 Howe Street, Vancouver BC | 604-684-2151

Holiday Inn Downtown Vancouver
Located only one mile from the cruise pier at Canada Place, the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Vancouver Downtown is a perfect choice for those looking for a reasonably-priced hotel. The hotel has been recently renovated and is steps from trendy bars, shopping and restaurants, including famed Robson Street. Enjoy the indoor pool, fitness center and free WiFi as well as the onsite UnWind – West Coast Social restaurant and lounge. The stylish and comfortable rooms offer quality linens, mattresses and pillows, leaving you refreshed for your cruise adventure.

The affordable Cruise Package includes breakfast and taxi transportation to the pier for 2 people. For more information on the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Vancouver Downtown, click here.

Miles to Port : 1

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes – with Package

Long-Term Parking : No

Breakfast : Hot – Complimentary with Package

Swimming Pool : Indoor

Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel

1128 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC | 604-684-1128

Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown

Enjoy upscale amenities and first-class service, all at a reasonable price at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel. Located 2 blocks from the cruise terminal among great shopping, restaurants and attractions, you’ll love the mountain and ocean views from your room or suite. Enjoy a dip in the heated indoor pool or a workout at the fitness center before having a delicious meal at the onsite restaurant, Showcase. Get a refreshing night’s sleep on your pillow-top mattress and enjoy the spa-like bathrooms.

The hotel offers a Pre and Post-Cruise Package in Vancouver which includes a hearty breakfast buffet for 2 (a $27 pp value) as well as one-way taxi transportation to the cruise pier at Canada Place. Click here for more information on the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel.

Miles to Port : 0.5

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes – One Way

Long-Term Parking : No

Breakfast : Hot – Complimentary with Package

Swimming Pool : Indoor

Cruising (1)

Tips for Cruising Out of the Country

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:29 pm

Tips for Cruising Out of the Country

Immerse yourself in other countries, relax at sea, and live in luxury by spending your vacation cruising.  Cruising allows you to pick your ship, your destinations, and the culture of your sail. If you decide to take a cruise outside of your home country, cruising can involve a few more rules and technicalities that are tied to your trip. You’ll need to follow certain guidelines not only for cruising but also for travelling outside of the country which can be tricky for first time cruisers or first time international travelers.

Getting Through Customs

Customs is a tricky thing because it’s done differently depending on what country you’re going to, which one you are leaving, and which cruise line you are sailing with. However, be prepared to deal with customs at some point on your trip if you are leaving the country. One common mistake when going through customs is not having a notarized letter for permission to travel for any minors that are travelling with you. Even if you are one of the minor’s legal guardians, the other legal guardian must provide notarized permission. Some other tips for going through customs or border protection is to stay off your cell phone, don’t try to bring any undeclared items, and keep receipts for everything you buy both on and off of your ship.

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Currency

Before heading out on your overseas cruise, it’s best to plan out your finances. Your ship should work with the currency that is normal for the country you sailed from, but the other countries you visit will obviously have a different form of currency altogether. You’ll need to notify your bank that you will be travelling out of the country so that your accounts aren’t frozen, set up online banking to keep track of finances better, carry a few different forms of payment, and make sure to carry some cash. Research ways to exchange your money ahead of time and avoid using your credit card to avoid hefty foreign exchange fees. Chances are you will be travelling to a few different countries in a short amount of time and in port for even shorter, so it’s best to have this ironed out well before hand.

Plan for Emergencies

Just like any other travel plans you’ll want to be prepared for emergencies. Keep your passport on you when you leave the ship, keep a photocopy of your passport in your safe in your room, research travel insurance, and keep some finances both on you and on your ship. Being a victim of theft can be a scary thing in a foreign country in general, but the stakes are higher when you are cruising. Many ships aren’t able to wait for you to board before they leave for the next port. This can be an issue if you are a victim of theft and you’ve lost your passport and money as a result. If you are unable to reach someone on board about your problem, they may leave without you. Without money or a passport this can pose a big problem as you won’t be able to leave to meet up with your belongings at the next port. So always make copies of important documents, keep money in a few different spots, and stay in safe and public areas when you are on land.

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Organize an Itinerary

Keeping an organized itinerary will help to make sure your trip goes exactly as planned. Especially if you are cruising with a few other people, it is important to make a plan so that all parties will know where everyone is at all times. This will also help to maximize your experiences on your cruise. If you book excursions off of the ship, do it in advance to ensure a spot. This usually ensures cheaper rates as well.

Make sure to plan for extra time and confirm that everyone knows when your all aboard times are so that no one gets left behind. When travelling in another country everything is brand new and will probably take you longer than usual to figure out travel plans, restaurants, or outings in the short time you are off your ship, so just make sure to leave some extra time for unforeseen holdups.

Research

Before going on your overseas cruise, research the areas you’ll be residing in. Read guide books, learn some basic phrases in their native language, read about their culture, and find some locations that you’d love to explore. Cruising instead of traditional travelling offers you the ability to see many different locations in a short amount of time and to relax and live in luxury at the same time. Figure out which aspects of this type of travel are most important to you and organize your itinerary based on what is important. The places you visit will mean that much more if you know a little bit about the area you are in. This can be cumbersome if you are seeing many different places, but immersing yourself in some knowledge about these countries will make your trip much more exciting.

Cruising within your home country is a relaxing and enjoyable experience, but cruising outside of your country is a whole other adventure. It’s a way to step outside of your comfort zone and discover the beauty of the world outside of what you know. Just be sure to be prepared and know how to get through customs effectively, plan for the change in currency, plan for emergencies, organize your itinerary, and research your locations. Now set sail, discover new places, and enjoy your vacation in your own way.

About Chelsy Ranard

Chelsy is a writer living in Boise, Idaho. She worked seasonally in Alaska from 2010 to 2014 guiding, managing, and marketing tours in a variety of capacities. When she isn’t writing she spends her time missing Alaska, spending time with her animals, and exploring Boise. Make sure to follow her on Twitter

Cruising 101-

Cruising 101: A Guide to Your First Cruise

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Cruising 101-

The cruising sector is one of the fastest growing travel divisions in the world with around twenty million people taking a cruise each year from American ports. “There has never been a better time to go on a cruise,” Fast Cover travel insurance’s CEO Dean Van Es said. “In Australia we are also seeing great increases in the number of people cruising, with over one million people going on a cruise in the last year.”

There are now more first time cruisers booking their tickets. If you’re cruising for the first time there are a number of common mistakes to be wary of. We have found eight mistakes that travelers make time and time again.

­Forgetting travel insurance

Travel insurance will likely feel like a needless expense and ideally, you come home from your cruise without thinking about your insurer once. But there is always a risk when it comes to traveling, even on a luxury cruise. One of the risks is that the cruise might be unexpectedly cancelled either by the cruising company or because you become sick or injured and can no longer go. If this happens you might lose the deposit you have made towards the trip. Various travel insurers provide cover for cancellations.

Another issue is the cost of emergency medical attention on the cruise. If you need to see a doctor on the cruise ship or need to be evacuated due to a medical emergency you could get a bill from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Travel insurance can provide cover for these medical emergencies.

Check the weather before booking

here’s a reason cruising the Caribbean through September to early December is cheap. It’s hurricane season. In Alaska it is snowy in May and there’s heavy rainfall in September. The off-season of cruising to Europe usually indicates much colder temperatures. Don’t get too enticed by the prices, make sure to check what season you’ll be cruising in.

Forgetting visa requirements

It’s important to research what requirements the ports you’ll be visiting have with regards to visas. If you don’t have the right visas the cruise line may deny you when you try to board, or you will have to stay on the ship when others visit a port. Check the fine print on the cruise line’s information.

The cheapest cabin might not be the best

The cheapest cabin might be appealing, but it also might mean spending the length of your trip with no window to look out of in the privacy of your room. It may be worth the extra money for an ocean view from either a window or a balcony. You also might have a less pleasant experience if your cabin is close to the bar, where noise will keep you awake, or the crew quarters which could wake you up as early as 5am. If you’re on your first cruise or know that you are likely to feel seasick choosing a cabin near the center of the ship can help minimize the feeling of the ship rocking on the ocean.

Check out the extras

While your fare covers the main restaurants and activities there is likely some additional experiences you can enjoy on board for an extra fee. Many ships have specialty restaurants. For example, there is Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver on Royal Caribbean cruises, Curtis Stone has specialty restaurants on Princess cruises as does Nobu on Crystal Cruises. There may be spa treatments available as well.

Pre-book shore excursions

If you really want to scuba dive or go on a sightseeing excursion as offered by your cruise, book yourself in before the cruise begins. There is a possibility that the tour will sell out before you get onboard. Also, remember to check whether or not the activities you book are refundable.

Remember lotion and conditioner!

Many liners only provide shampoo and soap in the bathroom (luxury liners are often more generous). Pack the other products you will want during the trip.

 

Avoid these mistakes for smooth sailing on your next cruise!

About Laura Hedge

Fast Cover is an Australian travel insurance company which provides cover to Australians of any age. They also cover 43 pre-existing medical conditions automatically including high blood pressure, diabetes and celiac disease.

WaterWineOnBoard

Water, Wine, Beer & Soda;
What Beverages You Can Bring On Board?

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:37 pm

The most popular Cruise forums around the internet are filled with questions from cruisers looking for answers. It’s no surprise that the most common cruise questions are beverage-related and go something like this:

  • Can I bring bottled water with me when I board?
  • Can I bring wine with me on a Carnival Cruise?
  • WilI I be able to bring Soda on my Royal Caribbean cruise?
  • “How much wine can I take on my cruise?”

With beverage packages getting more and more expensive, and single drinks costing upwards of $15 on some cruise lines, avid cruisers are looking to save a few dollars on their next cruise.

Look no further – We have compiled a list of the water, wine, booze and soda rules at each of the major cruise lines.

For restricted items other than beverages, click here to read our post: What NOT to Pack on Your Next Cruise

Carnival Cruises Beverage Policies

 

In 2016,  Carnival banned all bottled beverages, including water, to avoid smuggling alcohol on board. No glass bottles, no plastic bottles of any kind!

Bottled Water is provided on board for $4.50 for 12 500 ml (16.9 oz) bottles. You can purchase these in advance if you wish to avoid paying a gratuity and can take home any unopened bottles.

If you are over 21 years of age, you are allowed to bring with you One (1) 750ml bottle of unopened wine or champagne per person. There is a corkage fee of $15 if you want to consume it at dinner or a bar.

Also allowed are a maximum of 12 unopened  355ml (12 oz) beverage cans or cartons, of non-alcoholic beverage, brought aboard at the time of embarkation, or during a port of call stop.

Ensure you bring these with you as part of your carry-on luggage, not in your checked.

As with most cruise lines, alcohol purchased at a port of call will be stored for safe keeping until the end of the cruise.

CLICK HERE to visit Carnival beverage policies

Royal Caribbean Beverage Policies

 

Great news for those “loyal to Royal!” Finally, after many discussions and debates among cruisers, Royal Caribbean has updated their non-alcoholic beverage policy. As of September 1, 2018, on the day of boarding, guests can carry on small amounts of non-alcoholic beverages. 



“Small amounts” means 12 standard-size (17 oz/500 ml) cans, bottles or cartons of water, juice, soda, etc. Distilled water, or beverages such as dietary beverages or milk for babies or medical purposes are permitted and don’t seem to fall under the max. 12 rules.  Checking non-alcoholic beverages (i.e. sticking luggage tags on cases of water) will no longer be permitted.

Wine & champagne are allowed in your carry on luggage, but is limited to 2 750ml bottles per stateroom. There is a $15 corkage fee if you wish to consume it in public areas (ie the Main Dining Room during dinner). Note that if you are doing a back-to-back cruise, you are allowed to bring additional bottles (ie 2 bottles per stateroom per sailing).

CLICK HERE to visit Royal Caribbean beverage policies

Norwegian Cruise Lines Beverage Policies

Per Norwegian’s Beverage Policy, water and soda are not allowed to be brought on board in either carry-on or checked luggage. If these are found, it will be disposed of.

If you require water or milk for medical or special needs reasons,  email the access desk – [email protected] to obtain permission prior to your cruise.

Wine and champagne, however, are permitted (no limit as to how many is stated on NCL’s website) but are subject to a corkage fee based on bottle size –  750ml bottles are $15 and 1500 ml Magnum are $30 – regardless of where you drink it, even your stateroom. Sorry to all the boxed wine lovers – only bottles are allowed.

CLICK HERE to visit Norwegian’s beverage policies

Disney Cruise Line Beverage Policies

Passengers that are over 21 years of age are permitted to bring on board at the time of embarkation, or ports of call, 2 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne or 6 12 oz beers. If you wish to consume your wine in the dining room with dinner, there will be a corkage fee of $25 per bottle. As with other cruise lines, you must carry these on with you. If you put them in your checked luggage, they will be held until the end of the cruise.

While water bottles or soda are not specifically referenced in their policies, Disney does state that non-perishable, government approved snack foods are permitted as long as they are unopened and in their original packaging. We are assuming this includes bottles of water or cans of soda. Just don’t bring Grandma’s homemade cookies. Those will be confiscated.

CLICK HERE to visit Disney Cruise Lines beverage policies.

Holland America Beverage Policies

each passenger over 21 years of age is permitted at the time of embarkation 1 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne as part of their carry-on luggage. A corkage fee will not be charged if you drink this bottle in your stateroom. You can pack additional bottles in your carry-on luggage, or purchase wine or champagne at a port of call, but you will be charged a corkage fee of $18 per bottle regardless of where you drink it, including your stateroom.

No other alcoholic beverages are allowed and will be confiscated.

Click HERE to see Holland America’s policies.

Bottled water and soda is also allowed (no limit) as long as you carry it on board with you on embarkation day.

Princess Cruises Beverage Policies

 

On Princess, each adult which has reached drinking age is permitted to bring 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne aboard on embarkation day. The first bottle will not be charged a corkage fee if consumed in the stateroom, but any others will be subject to a fee of $15, regardless of where is it consumed.

While not specified on Princess’ website, passengers seem to be allowed to embark with non-alcoholic beverages. As a good rule of thumb, it’s best to carry unopened bottles or cans in their original packaging with you when you board as opposed to packing them in your checked luggage.

Click here to learn more about Princess’policies.

Celebrity Cruises Beverage Policies

 

Celebrity permits 2 750 ml bottles of wine per stateroom. If you wish to partake of it in one of the dining or bar venues, you will be charged a $25 corking fee per bottle.

There appears to be no “policy” for or against bringing your own case of water or soda aboard with you, but in their FAQ of “What Not to Pack” it does mention “Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic beverages” but older posts on other forums state that people have brought their own non-alcoholic beverages on board as long as they are unopened and as part of their carry-on luggage. Since Celebrity is owned by Royal Caribbean, their policy may be similar (see above). 

Click HERE to see Celebrity’s policies.

MSC Cruises Beverage Policies

As MSC Cruises is gaining popularity in the North American market, it’s important to know their policies on what can be brought aboard at the time of embarkation.  Their policy differs from all other cruise lines currently sailing from North America, in that they do not allow ANY beverages, including alcohol of any type to be brought on board at the time of embarkation, whether you want to consume it in your cabin, or not. 

MSC even takes it a step further in their policy on “Passenger’s Conduct”  that “in order to ensure safety and security standards, it is strictly forbidden to bring food and beverage on board the vessels…. any local or “typical” food item purchased during the cruise in any port of call will be collected and returned at the end of the cruise.”  It seems that unless your dietary item is prescribed by a doctor, you can’t bring it with you. 

Click here to see more information on MSC’s policies.

Costa Cruises Beverage Policies

Costa is another European cruise line making it’s foray into the North American market with cruises departing from Fort Lauderdale.  Their beverage policies, including alcohol, are similar to MSC’s, with having no allowance for bringing food or beverages on board during embarkation.  In fact, they will confiscate and hold any food or drink at the embarkation port for you to collect after you disembark your cruise. If something is purchased at a port of call, it will be kept in custody with the ship’s officers and will be released to the passenger at time of disembarkation. At least we know where they stand!

For more information  on Costa’s “Personal food and beverage items” policy, click here.

Marella Cruises Beverage Policies

Marella Cruises (formerly Thomson Cruises) is a UK-based cruise line, but has world-wide itineraries including those that begin and end Montego Bay, Jamaica travelling around the Caribbean, as well as to Central America and Colombia. You can’t bring your own beverages on board, but you won’t need to! One of the many great things about Marella Cruises is that “All Inclusive is Standard” which means selected soft drinks, juices, cocktails draft beers, cider and wines. They also have tea and coffee-making facilities in each cabin! 

For more information on Marella’s beverage policy, click here.

Caribbean Cruise

What to do on a Caribbean Cruise

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:40 pm

Caribbean Cruise
Besides hitting the twenty-four hour buffet, gambling, and sun-bathing on the deck, there are plenty of things to do on a Caribbean cruise.

We’re talking on-shore time.

You’ll get the chance to dive into tropical locations that feel like they’re straight out of a movie.

Ahead of time, you can choose what to do at each stop. But you only have so much time at each stop before the ship departs. It’s important to optimize your itinerary so you don’t end up floundering at the port.

Of course what you do entirely depends on where you go. Courtesy of VaycayHero, here’s a map that highlights some of the top tropical destinations.

Top destinations for tropical

Caribbean destinations occupy seven out of the eleven spots here. It’s a matter of narrowing down which destinations you prefer and finding the cruise line that will take you there.
When I went on a Caribbean cruise, at the outset I found it helpful to think about what types of activities I really prefer. Then, I was able to book based on where I could do these activities. Here are five activities I recommend, and where you can get at them.

Exploring Mayan Ruins

On Belize, Cozumel, and Honduras you can book a guided trip to any number of sites. I recommend Belize. There, you don’t feel as much like a tourist as you do an explorer. Although cruise traffic has increased by 45%, the number of visitors is not nearly as high as the other ports with Mayan attractions.

Altun_Ha_Belize
The Sun God’s Temple

When I visited the ruins at Altun Ha, the tour guide whisked us from Belize City north toward the ruins, telling us about Belize’s culture in perfect English the whole way. I was surprised to find out English is Belize’s official language—the only Central American country where this is the case.

The Altun Ha ruins were massive, and since the trip wasn’t swamped with other tourists my brother and I were able to climb to the top of the Sun God’s temple to look out over ancient structures and verdant broadleaf jungle.

Zip-lining Through the Jungle

Zip-lines are thrilling, but you haven’t really experienced one until you’ve done it jungle-style. When I went, we did the Jungle Top Zipline Adventure. Jungle Top is near the port at Roatan, Honduras.

You’ll be able to see your cruise ship and the expanse of jungle as you sail through the air, weightless. The staff is extremely helpful, especially if you’re extremely nervous. At the end of the 17 line trip, you find yourself on the beach, where they introduce you to some of the animals in the mini-zoo, including an incredibly cute Capuchin monkey.


One side-note: right now the there’s a travel warning for Honduras because of the high crime. Roatan, however, is separate from the mainland and is considered safer. If you don’t want to risk it, Cozumel and Costa Maya both have zip-lines as well.

Swimming With Dolphins

dolphin discovery3

The Dolphin Discovery Costa Maya is well worth it, especially with family and young ones. You can book this through the cruise line. This won’t take you far from the port, so you’ll have time to explore the city of Mahahual after.

The dolphins are well-trained, to the point where you don’t feel there’s anything wild about this, but then again to get a wild dolphin swimming experience you’ll have to go to a beach and just hope they show up.

The staff at Dolphin Discovery will guide you through a number of activities with the dolphins, including being pushed on a boogie board, which I thought was a blast.

Just feeling the dolphins’ smooth skin and sensing their awareness makes this worth the time. There’s also a Dolphin Discovery at Cozumel.

If you’d prefer a relaxing beach experience and excellent food, try Maya Chan beach, about 15 minutes out from Mahahual.

This is an all-inclusive resort with floats for the water, bikes, snorkeling gear, food and drink included, you simply book your time through the resort. About as paradisiacal as it gets.

Cozumel snorkel tour

Cozumel is one of the top diving destinations, and the Cozumel H2O snorkeling is a superb excursion.

You have to book this through them, not through the cruise, and be prepared for four hours of reef exploration. From the southern end of the island, at Caleta Harbor, you’ll head out on a boat to reefs that aren’t quite as frequented, because you’re not booking through the cruise ship.

At the first reef, El Cielo, you’ll get accustomed to the equipment and check out the starfish in about four feet of turquoise water with soft white sand beneath.

The next stops at Columbia and Palancar include a variety of hard and soft coral, and tons of tropical fish. They also feed you fresh fruit and a soft drink, and provide all the gear. Highly recommended.

cozumel snorkling

Just relaxing

Finally, I recommend just relaxing as much as you can. For the sole purpose of relaxation—and fun—overall the Maya Chan Beach resort was fantastic. Spend time at the beach in the shade, get a massage, eat some fish tacos—this is the relaxing tropical cruise environment at its best.

About Daniel Matthews

Daniel Matthews is a writer and musician from Boise, Idaho. His first tropical vacation was Hawaii at the age of four, after which he has been to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Phuket, Thailand, and a Caribbean cruise. When he's not playing music, writing and traveling, he's thinking about playing music, writing, and traveling. You can find him on Twitter @danielmatthews0.

THE NEW YOU

San Francisco on a Budget: How to save more than $1,000 in San Francisco

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:41 pm

THE NEW YOU

The neverending hills, the delicious smells wafting through Chinatown, the dense fog rolling in from the Bay every morning and magically lifting by afternoon, revealing a whole different side of the city — all these things and more make San Francisco one of the best towns to visit in California.

I fell in love walking the streets of this city, exploring the different neighborhoods and stopping in nearly every coffee shop I passed. But spending a fortune in any city, even one of the most expensive ones in the United States, just isn’t an option for a young traveller like me, so I always plan ahead to save a few pennies.

Whether it’s your first time in San Fran or your hundredth, check out my tips for saving some cash during your stay.  

Consider a cruise

Want two vacations in one? Take a cruise! You can easily find one along the West Coast that either starts from or ends in San Francisco, and you can cross a few more places off your travel bucket list at the same time.

Booking a cruise at the last minute (when cruise lines drops the prices to fill empty cabins) or bundling your cruise with a hotel stay in SF can also save you some money. Just plan a few extra days before or after your cruise to explore the city!

railing-405911_640

Check out free attractions

Some of the greatest things to see in San Francisco are completely free — Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park are just some of the top tourist destinations you won’t spend a penny to visit.

Visit #thatSFtree at Mount Davidson State Park — a famous eucalyptus tree that once topped Mount Davidson and has since fallen, but is still a cool place to sit and view the city — or take a turn on the rope swing at Billy Goat Hill. And don’t forget to say hello to the Sea Lions off Pier 39!

fishermans-wharf-3735_640

Look before you book a hotel

As I’ve mentioned, San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world. So yeah, hotels within the city are typically pretty expensive, climbing to $150-$200 a night. But, doing a little research before you go can keep some jingle in your piggy bank and help you avoid staying in a dump.

Check out the different neighborhoods and local attractions around the hotel you’re interested in. If you stay somewhere in the same neighborhood you’ll be spending most of your time, you can justify spending more for a room by saving on transportation.

Pick one meal a day to splurge on

One of my favorite parts about travelling is trying new foods, and San Fran is one of the most gastronomically pleasing cities I’ve visited. One stroll through Chinatown and a plate of sesame chicken was all it took to make my stomach fall in love with the city as much as my heart already had. But, eating out can get expensive.

chinatown-672181_640

If you aren’t able to grocery shop and make some meals wherever you’re staying, I’d recommend choosing one meal each day to splurge on, and save on the others. A lot of people tend to save for nicer dinners, but there are tons of great lunch and breakfast (and brunch!) places in the city, so pick a different meal each day to go a little fancy for!

And depending on when you’re travelling, you may even get to participate in San Francisco Restaurant Week, which is definitely worth splurging on.

Don’t bother with an international phone plan

If you’re not local to the United States, then chances are you won’t be able to use your cell phone without racking up some serious international charges. And no one wants to come home to a giant phone bill.

Use a local SIM for your phone, and you can possibly save hundreds of dollars — and you won’t be tied down to wifi in order to send messages and make calls. Just unlock your phone, pop in a SIM card from a local convenience store, and you’re all set!

Save on in-town transportation

Walking the city is the best way to familiarize yourself with it, but San Francisco makes that a little more difficult. With all the hills, your calves will be screaming by lunch, and you’ll be begging to hop on a cable car to get around the rest of the day.

cable-car-789778_640

Taking public transportation is the easiest way to get around, and typically cheaper than taking a taxi everywhere, but even those cable car rides can add up quickly. Luckily, the city provides multi-day visitor passes for tourists on municipal transportation. A single ride ticket could cost you $7, but a seven-day pass is only $35.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to travel the world, even if your destination is a little on the pricey side. Just do some research before you go and make smart choices during your trip, and you can make the most of any vacation on a budget!

About Claire Lovesti

I've been travelling around the world since my mum farewelled me in a teary goodbye and I haven't looked back since. 3 continents, 16 countries, and 38 cities later and I'm here to share my adventures.

MiamiOnDemand

Miami On Demand

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:41 pm

MiamiOnDemand

With the click of a button, Miami is at your service. No, really. In the last year, Miami has seen an exponential increase in the number of on demand services offered locally.

We’re talking about more beauty, transportation and other similar services you can book using an app and will come to you, wherever you are, within a few hours.

We’re talking about less stress, greater convenience, and more time to explore Miami during your vacation. The locals are already using these three on demand services. Here’s why you should be too.

1. miRide

Need a ride? miRide is exactly what you want. With as little as a few hours notice, you can use their app or website to schedule and pay for a ride with a professional chauffeur. The best part is, unlike most top-tier services in Miami, miRide’s luxury car experience is affordable, at only a slight premium over the cost of a taxi. We recently booked the Sprinter to and from a boozy brunch at the Biltmore Hotel and the cost came out to around $10 per person each way. So, go ahead and treat yourself with a safer, more pleasant ride. After all, the best in Miami shopping, dining, and nightlife is even more beautiful when seen from the back of a miRide.

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2. The Glam App

In Miami, no local leaves their house without full hair and make-up but when you’re on vacation, who has time to go to the salon? Enter The Glam App, a beauty-on-demand app that launched in Miami this summer. Whether you’re looking for a nail polish change or a full hair, make-up and nails overhaul, The Glam App makes it easy to get in your beauty regimen around your vacation schedule by bringing the salon to you. “We come to you, glam you up, and you don’t have to spend over $100,” says actress, blogger and The Glam App co-founder Cara Santana. Sounds like a win-win to us!

makeup-603731_640

3. Zeel

We’ve established that Miami is the type of destination where it’s okay (in fact, it’s encouraged) to treat yourself. Massages are one of our favorite ways to treat ourselves, which is why we love the concept behind Zeel, an on-demand massage service. Whether you are looking to be pampered Miami-style or you need to unwind, you can book a massage therapist to your home, hotel, or office with as little as a one-hour notice. Zeel offers different options of single, couples, back-to-back and chair massages so make sure to visit their app or their website to find the perfect massage for you.

physiotherapy-567021_640

About Margarita Wells

Margarita Wells was born in Mexico City, Mexico and relocated to South Florida at the age of 12. Since then, she has lived all over the Southeast Florida coast from Delray Beach to South Miami and everything in between. She finally settled in Miami after attending college at the University of Miami and there is no place she would rather be. Margarita has always had a passion for writing. In 2012, she channeled her love for Miami and for writing to start a blog about Miami life called ThankYouMiami.com. She is also a freelance writer for publications such as Localeur, Société Perrier and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Margarita spends most of her free time enjoying and writing about the best of what Miami has to offer, including the fashion, food, the arts, and our local natural resources. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire others to live for the moment and celebrate the wonderful things our city has to offer.

cruises to canada

Cruises to Canada: What You Need to Know

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:43 pm

 

Cruises to CanadaFall cruises to the East Coast are a popular option to truly experience the beauty of Canada. Beautiful cities like Halifax or quaint fishing villages give you a glimpse into life in a small Canadian town.

On the other side of the country, Vancouver offers a big city feel with a mild climate, beautiful natural scenery, laidback lifestyle mountains, lakes and the Pacific coastline.

Which Cruise Lines Cruise to Canada?

A number of the large cruise lines offer scheduled cruises to Canada, most notably in the fall. Norwegian, Holland America, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess Cruises as well as luxury lines like Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Crystal all offer cruises to Canada. You can easily depart from New York or Boston and head north visiting stops in Maine and then into Canada, with stops often in Halifax (Nova Scotia) and Saint John (New Brunswick). Many also depart from Montreal or Quebec City before heading eastward.

See Popular East Coast Ports & Excursions

Have You Visited Canada?

Although a large portion of the U.S. population lives within a days drive to a Canadian border crossing, many have not ventured to the north to check out what Canada has to offer. As a Canadian myself, I obviously have a bias toward loving my own country and find it easy to promote the country in which I live.

No matter what Canadian cruise destinations you choose, we hope this Canadian crash course  will make your trip memorable and avoid any possible problems or misunderstandings.

peggys-cove-NS
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Canada is BIG

Just like the United States, Canada is a large country with many distinct regions. Canada is divided into 10 Provinces and 3 Territories. Think of Canadian provinces like States in the U.S. Understanding Canadian geography will give you a better understanding of just how vast the country is.




As an example, if you started on the west coast in Vancouver, British Columbia and drove straight through to the tip of the east coast, you will drive almost 7000 KMs (4300 miles.) Once you get the end of the road near Sydney, Nova Scotia, you aren’t quite at the end yet. You would then need to catch a ferry to get over to the province furthest to the east – Newfoundland, which is an island Province.

map-of-canada

Since Canada is so large, you can understand why Canadians find it weird when our American friends say things like “I have a friend in Toronto (a city with 3+ million people) his name is Dave. Do you know him?”

Canada’s population is about 35 million people, most of which live in cities like Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, London, Winnipeg or Vancouver. This handy list of Canadian cities will give you a reference for cities throughout Canada.

Canada Adopted the Metric System in the 1970’s

Canada uses the Metric system, not the Imperial system like the United States. This means that we use Kilometres, not Miles, Centimetres, not Inches, Kilograms, not Pounds and Litres, not Gallons. United States, Burma and Liberia are the only countries in the world to continue to use the Imperial system so if you travel outside the United States, it’s likely handy to learn the conversions or download an app to your smartphone to handle this.

As a side note – Canadians use British English when we spell, so when you see words such as “centre” or “neighbour,” they are spelled correctly.

Weather in Canada

Canada’s weather can vary greatly across the country with summertime temperatures ranging from the 70’s to the 90’s in degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s NOT cold in Canada all year round, unless you happen to visit areas far north near the North Pole.

For example, the most northern city in Canada is Iqaluit (Nunavut) where the summer temperature is usually in the 40’s or 50’s degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind, the distance from Toronto to Iqaluit is 2300 kms (1400 miles) which is similar to the distance between Boston and Fort Lauderdale.

While it’s cold in the far north, only a very small portion of Canada’s population lives in the far North. The majority of Canadians live in areas where the weather would be more like Seattle, Detroit or Boston as an example.

Winter may surprise you as well. While much of Canada has snow on the ground between December and February, not every community in Canada has snow all winter. Many of us in Southern Ontario for example (near Detroit) have experienced more than one green Christmas in the past 2 decades, while our friends in Boston or New York (just an 8 hour drive away) had plenty of snow at the same time.

If you expect to go skiing in September when your cruise ship stops in Canada, you might be disappointed! (We would love to have you back in the winter though, to enjoy a ski resort in Collingwood Ontario, Whistler BC or Mont Tremblant Quebec.)

Vancouver, BC
Vancouver, BC

Sales Tax in Canada

Don’t be surprised when you visit a store to see 10 to 15% tax on top of the purchase price.

You read that right: 15% Sales Tax in some locations.

Depending on the province or territory, the tax rates change slightly as we have both a Provincial Tax and a Federal Tax. The Federal Tax rate in Canada is 5% and each individual provinces tacks on an additional percentage for their cut, which ranges from 0% in Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to 10% in Saskatchewan.

Quebec City, QC
Quebec City

Currency in Canada

Canada uses the Canadian Dollar as our national currency. Currently $1 US Dollar will buy you approximately $1.30 Canadian. You will find that most goods have a similar cost to the United States, so American vacationers get a great value by visiting Canada right now. This currency converter will help you plan your trip.

Our paper-based money as of 2014 is made of a plastic-paper meant to stop counterfeiting. We have denominations of $100’s, $50’s, $20’s, $10’s & $5’s. Beyond that, we have coins for everything else. $2 coins are called Toonies, , $1 coins are called Loonies (not because we’re crazy, but because the bird on the coin is a kind of duck called a “Loon”.) We also have quarters, nickels and dimes.

Thankfully as of 2014 we no longer have pennies. All purchases are rounded to the nearest 5 cents, unless you’re paying with a credit card.

If you are planning to travel to Canada, get some Canadian currency before you leave the United States. Some merchants in Cruise port cities may accept U.S Dollars however your exchange rate may not be as favourable and you will likely get Canadian money for change.

canadian-money

Visa, Mastercard & Debit Cards

Travelling with a Visa or Mastercard is the easiest option as both are widely accepted in Canada. Debit cards are a bit different. In Canada, our national debit system is called “Interac” which we have used since the late 1980’s. Basically, for Canadians with Canadian bank accounts, we have debit cards that immediately deduct the amount from our chequing account when used at an ATM for a cash withdrawal or purchase at a store POS system.

Most American ATM cards will work in Canada, but it might be worthwhile to carry some Canadian cash and a major credit card just to be safe.

Liquor in Canada

alcohol-in-canada

The Canadian drinking age 19 years of age in most provinces and 18 in Quebec! If you’re 18, 19 or 20, Canada is the place to go if you want to drink legally.

Be aware though – Each Province and Territory has different laws surrounding where alcohol can be sold. In many provinces, liquor is sold through Government owned and operated stores which means that local convenience stores may not be able to supply you with your beer and wine.

Laws in Canada

Driving

Generally speaking, we have many of the same laws as the United States. To go through them one by one would be difficult. If you think it’s illegal, it probably is and if you’re unsure, you might want to Google it before you do it. Seat belts while driving are required, no texting while driving is allowed, no drinking and driving is allowed and watch your speed on the highway (remember to look at the KM/hr gauge.) If you rent a car, you will find driving in Canada no different than in the United States.

However, if you plan on renting a car when you dock at a port in Quebec, there are a few unique road rules to consider:

1) Road signs will be in French (though many have international symbols).

1) In Montreal, you cannot turn right on a red light. You also can’t cut through private property to avoid stopping at a red light (ie cutting through a corner gas station to turn right).

2) When driving on a highway (freeway) you can’t pass another car on the right.

3) Left lanes are for passing only. Don’t be the slow driver holding up traffic behind you – you will get a ticket.

4) If you live in New York State or Maine, any Quebec driving infractions (i.e. demerit points) are transferable.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in public buildings, restaurants, public transit, shopping centres, etc.

Weapons

One other thing you might want to know – We’re just not into guns. This isn’t meant to be a political discussion about the right to carry a weapon, just be aware that civilians cannot carry guns at any time (other than hunting) and our gun-related crime is quite low. If you try to enter Canada with a gun (especially a handgun) you’re going to have a very hard time getting into the country!

Travel Documents for Entry to Canada

A United States Passport is required to enter into Canada. At one point several years ago, a driver’s license was accepted but in recent years it’s become mandatory to carry a passport. If you’re not an American Citizen, check Passport requirements with your home country before trying to enter Canada.

Houses in Canada

houses-in-canada-igloo

While a Grade 6 Geography lesson might have displayed pictures of igloo’s as the main type of housing in Canada, Canadians do not live in these anymore – and haven’t for many many years. Even if they did, we couldn’t live in them year-round because we don’t have snow during the summer anywhere, other than the tops of the Rocky mountains.

Our houses look almost identical to those found throughout the United States. If you went on a cruise hoping to see something totally different, you’re out of luck.

Sports in Canada

Let’s talk about sports. Canada = Hockey. It’s that simple. We have 7 Canadian NHL teams and we’re REALLY into supporting those teams. Besides the NHL teams, nearly every community in Canada, no matter how small, has a local hockey rink where Saturdays and Sundays are spent watching minor hockey.

Baseball isn’t as popular in Canada as Hockey, but we do have one MLB team – the Toronto Blue Jays. If you’re on a cruise, you’re not going to make it into Toronto. Even if you stop in Quebec City, it’s still an 8 hour drive one-way to get to Toronto. On a side note, if you ever do return to Canada, Toronto is a wonderful city to check out!

Football is a semi-popular sport in Canada, but not as large as it is in the United States. Our national football league is called the CFL (Canadian Football League) and it consists of 9 teams. The games are fairly well attended, but the players don’t earn millions of dollars like NFL players.

hockey-in-canada

People in Canada, eh

Generalizing all Canadians as the similar to one another is much like suggesting that all Americans are the same. Since the country is so large, there’s great diversity in people across the country. People in Newfoundland are quite different from people in Toronto, complete with their own dialect of English that is distinct to Newfoundland.

Think of the differences between people in Texas and people in New Jersey. Regional dialect, food, culture, pace of life; Almost anything you can think of that defines people from different regions of the United States applies across Canada.

In Quebec, most people speak French as the official language of that Province is French. The East Coast of Canada is known to be very friendly to visitors and the West Coast of Canada is known for it’s Seattle-like lifestyle.

Food in Canada

Canada is a multi-cultural nation, with almost every nation in the world represented so our food diversity goes far and wide. Here are a few examples of food and beverages that differ between Canada and the United States.

Iced Tea – If you ask for Iced Tea in Canada, you most likely will get sweetened tea. We don’t usually serve cold, unsweetened tea like in many places around the United States.

Ketchup Chips – These wonderful chips are popular with Canadians. Think Paprika and salt on chips. They leave your hands bright red, but they’re not for everyone.

Butter Tarts – Somewhat like a pecan pie, in a smaller single-serve pie shell, usually with raisins but sometimes pecans as well.

Donair – Found in Nova Scotia –  Similar to a Greek Gyro, but with a twist. The sauce is what makes it different. It’s a sweet milk-based sauce that pairs well with the flavour of the meat, Tomato and Onion.

Poutine – French fries with gravy and cheese curds. These can vary by region, but the best Poutine is going to be found in Quebec.

Mmmm. Poutine.
Mmmm. Poutine.

Bienvenue au Canada!

To sum up this entire post, let me state that Canada is friendly, rich in history, and is naturally beautiful from shore to shore and season to season. We would love to have you visit us on your next cruise. Welcome to Canada!

*Disclaimer: This piece was not meant to offend our American friends in any way if you don’t find this information helpful. As I’m sure my American friends enjoy some light-hearted joking at our expense we do the same here. We have found that even though we’re so close geographically, many Americans don’t know much about us so this piece was meant to educate and inform.

We’re a polite bunch so if this offended you let me say one of our favourite national phrases: I’m sorry.

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

miami-roadtrips

The Best Three Road Trips to Take from Miami

Last updated on July 21st, 2018 at 10:40 am

Miami Roadtrips

One of the best parts about living in Miami is the city’s proximity via boat and plane to other countries.

One of the tougher parts about living in Miami is that the city is trapped at the southern tip of a looong state, so we are not privy to the interstate road trips familiar to people who live in other states.

That said, Florida has some incredible destinations that are within a few hours from us via car. Today we’re taking you on our favorite three road trips from Miami. Don’t forget to bring your GPS, your favorite playlist, and your sense of adventure!

Northward Bound: Indialantic, Florida

Lou's Blues

Only three hours north of Miami, the Town of Indialantic is the perfect place for a weekend seaside escape. The beaches are less crowded and more family-friendly than the beaches in Miami. Plus, everything (read, food, drinks, and hotels) is much more affordable.

We love to stop by The Blueberry Muffin, a local diner with amazing blueberry muffins, for breakfast.  At sunset, there is no better place to enjoy a cocktail and beach views than the second floor of biker bar Lou’s Blues.

And, if you’re looking for more late night music and fun, Bunky’s Monkey Bar is open until 2 a.m. and has daily specials.

Pro tip: If you are flexible on dates and/or accomodations, check different websites for great deals on oceanfront hotels. During past visits we have had enjoyable stays at both the Crowne Plaza Melbourne and the Radisson Suite Hotel for under $100 a night.

Southward Bound: Key Largo, Florida

Lionfish Spearfishing in Key Largo

To the untrained eye, Key Largo looks like the type of place you pass by on the way to Key West and the Lower Keys. To Miami-ans, it is the perfect road trip because it is close by but sufficiently removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.

If you enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving, there are plenty of local outlets from which to rent gear or book a trip. Crowd favorite snorkeling and diving spots include the Christ of the Abyss and shallow water reefs of John Pennekamp State Park. After you work up an appetite, stop by Mrs. Macs Kitchen for a superfishwich and homemade key lime pie.

Pro tip: Instead of taking US-1 from the Turnpike, bring $1 in cash so you can take the less urbanized and less crowded Card Sound Road. Make the time to stop just before the tollbooth at Alabama Jacks or just before the road reconnects with US-1 at Shipwreck’s Bar and Grill for fresh seafood, a cold beer, and some quality Florida Keys people watching.

Westward Bound: Everglades City, Florida

Everglades City Smallwood store

Everglades City is located on the southwest end of Florida around Chokoloskee Bay in an area with a rich Native American history. Because of its remote location and its mature mangrove coverage, it also has a history of drug smuggling and crime involving its small resident population.

Nowadays, Everglades City is a quiet place ideal for outdoor explorers because of its proximity to Everglades National Park and the 10,000 Islands. To capture the city’s unique history and charm, visit the Historic Smallwood Store – there is a $5 entry fee – or at Camellia Street Grill, a delicious waterfront eatery.

Pro tip: For a more personalized wilderness experience, book a kayaking trip with top Trip Advisor ranked Shurr Adventures, which offers naturalist-guided kayaking trips for groups of one to six people.

 

About Margarita Wells

Margarita Wells was born in Mexico City, Mexico and relocated to South Florida at the age of 12. Since then, she has lived all over the Southeast Florida coast from Delray Beach to South Miami and everything in between. She finally settled in Miami after attending college at the University of Miami and there is no place she would rather be. Margarita has always had a passion for writing. In 2012, she channeled her love for Miami and for writing to start a blog about Miami life called ThankYouMiami.com. She is also a freelance writer for publications such as Localeur, Société Perrier and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Margarita spends most of her free time enjoying and writing about the best of what Miami has to offer, including the fashion, food, the arts, and our local natural resources. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire others to live for the moment and celebrate the wonderful things our city has to offer.

Port-Canaveral-Cruiseport-Hotels

Best Port Canaveral Cruise Port Hotels

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:44 pm

Port Canaveral cruiseport hotels

Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

1550 North Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL, 32931-3268 | 321-799-0003

Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

Start your cruise vacation early with a stay at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront resort. If you’re driving to Port Canaveral, take advantage of their Park, Stay & Go package which offers parking and shuttle service to the cruise terminal. If you’re flying into Orlando, they provide, for a fee, shuttle service from the airport and then to the cruise port.

Relax on the beach or in the oceanfront heated pool before enjoying a drink at the LongBoardsTiki bar. Enjoy a delicious seafood dinner or hot breakfast at Salt Restaurant, and grab a Starbucks coffee at Cool Beans. The modern, comfortable rooms with free WiFi will offer a great night’s rest before you board your ship the next morning. Click here for more information on the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront.

Miles to Port : 5.5

Airport Transfer : $

Port Transfer : Yes, with package

Long-Term Parking : Yes

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor




Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral

3435 N. Atlantic Ave Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 | 321-784-4800

Courtyard Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

Let the Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral look after all your pre-cruise details with their great cruise packages. The Park and Cruise package offers long-term parking for the duration of your cruise and round-trip shuttle service to Port Canaveral. If you’d rather park at the port, take advantage of their Port, Park & Cruise package, which offers a voucher for 40% off port parking with a one-night or more stay. Flying in to Orlando? Book the Fly, Snooze & Cruise package which includes round trip transportation for one person from Orlando International Airport & to the cruise terminal. Additional people are $45 each.

Centrally located to great shopping, restaurants and Cape Canaveral area attractions, this comfortable hotel offers an outdoor eco-friendly mineral pool, onsite cafe which offers a wide range of choices including Starbucks coffee, Tiki Bar with fire pit, fitness center and whirlpool. Click here for more information on the Courtyard Cocoa Beach Cape Canaveral.

Miles to Port : 4.5

Airport Transfer : Yes – with package

Port Transfer : Yes – with package

Long-Term Parking : Yes – with package, onsite or Port discount

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

2080 North Atlantic Avenue, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 | 321-783-9222

DoubleTree Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

Your warm chocolate chip cookie awaits your arrival at the DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront. It’s perfect for cruisers driving to Port Canaveral as you can book their Park, Stay & Go package (see Special Offers on their website) which offers parking at the hotel with shuttle service to the port. Inquire with the hotel as they also have partnered directly with Port Canaveral to offer 40% off parking at the pier with a one or more night stay.

Relax on the private beach, swim in the heated outdoor pool or enjoy the ocean view from your room as you sit on your balcony. Dine poolside at the 3 Wishes restaurant, offering delicious choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including brick-oven pizza. Other restaurants are located across the street and nearby. Click here for more information on the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cocoa Beach Oceanfront. 

Miles to Port : 5.2

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : No

Long-Term Parking : Yes, with package or 40% Discount at Port Lot (Inquire)

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

Radisson Resort at the Port

8701 Astronaut Boulevard, Cape Canaveral, FL, 32920 | 321-784-0000

Radisson Resort at the Port

Located just a couple of miles from the cruise terminals, Radisson Resort at the Port offers great amenities for couples and families cruising out of Port Canaveral. The Park & Cruise package offers shuttle service for two, to and from the port as well as parking for the duration of your cruise. You can also include breakfast for two with the Park, Cruise and Breakfast package.

Grab a drink at the Tiki Bar before lounging by the free-form pool and waterfall, or play some tennis at the illuminated courts. Have a snack or delicious meal at Flamingo’s before you retire for the night in your comfortable room featuring a Sleep Number® bed so you awake refreshed for your cruise adventure. Click here for more information and great rates on the Radisson Resort at the Port. 

Miles to Port : 1.2

Airport Transfer : $

Port Transfer : Yes

Long-Term Parking : Yes

Breakfast : $ (included with Park, Cruise & Breakfast package)

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

Four Points Sheraton Cocoa Beach

4001 N. Atlantic Avenue Cocoa Beach, FL, 32931 | 321-783-8717

Four Points by Sheraton Cocoa Beach

Enjoy the beach-themed Four Points by Sheraton Cocoa Beach for your pre-cruise stay. Located in the heart of Cocoa Beach, they offer a Park and Cruise package which includes free parking for your cruise and round trip transportation to Port Canaveral.

Your kids will be enthralled with the huge shark and exotic fish aquarium located in the Shark Pit Bar & Grill, and for the surfing enthusiasts, the World’s Largest Surf Complex (TM) is located within the hotel. It offers beach rentals, surfing lessons and great shopping for those forgotten pre-cruise items. After a great night’s sleep, grab a coffee and muffin at Starbucks before you head to the pier. Click here for more information on the Four Points Sheraton Cocoa Beach and great deals on rates.

Miles to Port : 4.4

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes

Long-Term Parking : Yes

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

PortMiami (1)

Best PortMiami Cruise Hotels

Last updated on January 5th, 2018 at 03:40 pm

Best Port Miami Cruise Hotels

With so many different accommodation choices in Miami, it can be difficult to choose a hotel for your pre-cruise stay. Considering location, amenities and cruise packages, here is our list of best PortMiami cruise hotels, from the ultra-luxurious, to the more budget-conscious.

InterContinental Miami

100 Chopin Plaza, Miami, Florida, 33131 | 305-577-1000

InterContinental Hotel Miami

While the InterContinental Hotel Miami doesn’t offer any cruise-specific amenities, the location and quality of the hotel is why it has made our list of best PortMiami cruise hotels. This 4 star hotel is located less than 2 miles from PortMiami, and offers spectacular views of Biscayne Bay while in the heart of Miami’s Business and Financial districts. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the three onsite restaurants, or savor a cocktail at Toro Toro. It is also a short distance from some of Miami’s best shopping and other restaurant choices.

The extensive, state-of-the-art fitness center is perfect if you’re looking for a great workout before taking a dip in the beautiful outdoor pool. Enjoy a massage, manicure or pedicure at the luxurious mySpa facilities or enjoy a game of squash at the Downtown Athletic Club, located across the street. The sophisticated, well-appointed guest rooms and suites offer a relaxing stay before you depart for your cruise. Ask at the front desk for a port view so you can watch your ship arrive. Click here for more information on the InterContinental Hotel Miami.

Miles to Port : 1.8

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : No

Long-Term Parking : No

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

Hampton Inn & Suites Miami/Brickell-Downtown

50 SW 12th Street, Miami, Florida, 33130 | 305-377-9400

Hampton Inn Miami Brickell Downtown

If the InterContinental Miami is a bit out of your price range, the newly opened Hampton Inn & Suites Miami Brickell Downtown is a great option. Besides getting rave reviews on TripAdvisor, they offer a Park, Stay & Go package which includes one-way transportation to your cruise terminal, 50% off the regular cost of parking for up to 7 days, and complimentary welcome drink, WiFi and hot breakfast.

In addition to great amenities, it’s location is ideal – within a short distance of fantastic restaurants, shopping and entertainment. Take a swim in the roof-top pool and whirlpool, and lounge in their pool-side cabanas before grabbing a cool drink from the Pool & Lobby Bar. Unique to the Hampton Inn family with its boutique feel, combining urban design and contemporary art, you’ll enjoy the comfort and eco-friendliness of their guest rooms. Click here for more information on the Hampton Inn & Suites Miami Brickell/Downtown.

Miles to Port : 2.8

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes, one way – with package

Long-Term Parking : Yes – 50% off for 7 days

Breakfast : Hot

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

Embassy Suites Miami International Airport

3974 NW South River Drive, Miami, FL, 33142 | 305-634-5000

>embassy suites miami

If you are flying into Miami before boarding your cruise, the Embassy Suites Miami International Airport is a perfect spot for your stay with its complimentary hotel shuttle. If you book their Cruise Package, it also includes drop off transportation to PortMiami for two and WiFi access. Their Park, Stay & Go package offers 7 days of long term parking as well as transportation to your cruise terminal.

As with every stay at an Embassy Suites, your hot, cooked-to-order breakfast is complimentary as well as an evening reception with snacks and beverages in the magnificent atrium where you’ll see ponds, waterfalls, palm trees, tropical plants and even cockatiels. This all-suite hotel is close to shopping and restaurants and offers complimentary shuttle service within a three mile radius. If you wish to stay in, enjoy a fine steak dinner at the onsite Grill 305 restaurant and swim in the newly renovated pool area with whirlpool. For more information on the Embassy Suites Miami International Airport, click here.

Miles to Port : 7.8

Airport Transfer : Yes – complimentary

Port Transfer : Yes – with package

Long-Term Parking : 7 Days

Breakfast : Hot

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

Hilton Miami Downtown

1601 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL, 33132 | 305-374-0000

Hilton Miami Downtown

The Hilton Miami Downtown is a perfect located for those cruising from PortMiami, located just 5 minutes away. The hotel has Special Offers which include a Park, Stay and Go package which offers 7 days of parking and shuttle service to the port. You’ll enjoy the panoramic views of Biscayne Bay and the short distance from Miami’s art and design districts, including Coconut Grove and Miracle Mile.

The outdoor pool has amazing views from its 7th floor terrace where you can enjoy a cool beverage or casual lunch at the CityVu pool bar. Shopping and restaurants are plentiful and Bayside Marketplace is close by. Your tastefully decorated and comfortable guest room offers convenient amenities and will provide you with a great night’s sleep before you leave for the ship. For more information on the Hilton Miami Downtown, click here.

Miles to Port : 2.1

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes

Long-Term Parking : 7 Days

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

JW Marriott Marquis Miami

255 Biscayne Bay Boulevard Way, Miami, FL 33131 | 305-241-8600

Marriott Marquis Miami

If pre-cruise luxury and pampering is what you’re looking for, a stay at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami is a must. They even offer a Sail Away Pre and Post Cruise Stay Package which includes a delicious breakfast for two at the onsite 345 Restaurant, a $25 credit to be used for transportation to the port, and complimentary late check out if you don’t want to be the first to the port.

This sleek and modernly designed hotel has combined art and sophistication, paired with the latest technology, from the lobby, to the award-winning db Bistro Moderne restaurant, to the luxurious guest rooms. In addition to the expansive fitness center with on-site yoga studio and heated outdoor swimming pool with amazing views, there is a virtual bowling alley, an NBA-approved basketball court, and an indoor golf school with a Pro Shop, putting greens and golf simulators. Click here for more information on the JW Marriott Marquis Miami.

Miles to Port : 2

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes – $25 Transport Credit w/ Pkg

Long-Term Parking : No

Breakfast : Yes – with Package

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

First-Cruise

Will You Be Bored on Your First Cruise? That Depends…

Last updated on August 19th, 2018 at 10:09 am

First-Cruise

One of the objections I’ve heard from people who have never cruised before is that they believe that they will be bored on a cruise. I don’t quite understand that comment since it never occurred to me that that I “could” get bored on a cruise.

The great thing about a cruise is there is always something to do, or there is always nothing to do.

It depends on what you want to get out of your cruise.

Variety is the Spice of Life

If you are looking for a time of relaxation, sprinkled with seeing new places, it’s great. You can spend your day sitting on deck with a book, then stroll into port when you dock and experience a new and different culture.
If you’re looking to be entertained, cruising is also great.

Soak up the sun!
Soak up the sun!

On the Ship

Major cruise lines employ a highly qualified and enthusiastic activities crew that always has something planned for a variety of tastes (3 or 4 different activities starting every half hour). Major cruise lines are quite aware that they serve a wide demographic, so they’re always looking for activities to suit many different age ranges and activity levels or interests.

If you’re into sports, there are a variety of sports to play or just catch a game in one of the bars onboard.

Hockey
Hockey on the Pool Deck!

If you’re into music, there are a number of music-related venue/activities/shows that will interest you.

The ship's orchestra putting on a concert.
The ship’s orchestra putting on a concert.

 

If you like relaxing and being pampered,there’s a spa which offers everything from mani-pedis and facials to massage and skin rejuvenation, or just soak up some sun on the pool deck.

 

If you like eating (don’t we all), there are plenty of venue’s serving various types of food around the clock.

Enjoying french fries and onion rings at Jonny Rockets at sea!
Enjoying french fries and onion rings at Jonny Rockets at sea!

And the list goes on…
The larger ships often have more amenities – think water parks at seas, surfing, mini-golf, golf simulator, basketball court, bumper cars, ice skating, rock climbing, merry-go-round, bowling, just to name a few. Of course there’s usually the more traditional shuffleboard, casino, ping pong that’s found on most ships, regardless of size.

Rock Climbing on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas
Rock Climbing on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas

The Right Cruise Line Makes All the Difference

Picking the right cruise and cruise line is important because demographics will play into the types of activities that are planned. Shorter, less expensive cruises (often Caribbean) cruises tend to draw a younger crowd who are looking to have a good time and be entertained.

You will probably see favorite activities like the belly flop or sexiest man competitions, dodgeball, pool volleyball or scavenger hunts.

It’s but it’s safe to say that if you cruise on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Norwegian or Celebrity, you will find most of the above to be true.

Longer or more expensive cruises (Alaska or New England, for example) often draw older couples because they have more time and often disposable income.

On premium cruises you will see activities such as joining a choir or golf putting tournament, cooking and art classes, as well as enrichment lectures on topics generally related to the area in which you are cruising.

Cruise lines like Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania, Silversea & Crystal Cruises offer various levels of luxury and amenities that cater to a specific segment of the market (older and wealthier) while the major cruise lines tend to cater toward the middle-class with some exceptions.

Keep in mind that the above are generalizations and not applicable to all situations because each cruise line and ship is different.

Playing mini-golf in the middle of the ocean!
Playing mini-golf in the middle of the ocean!

We’re Pretty Sure You Will Love the Ship!

St. Thomas
Photo credit: roger4336 / Foter / CC BY-SA

No matter what cruise you’re on, you will probably see information sessions on spa amenities or the best port shopping, Q&A’s with the ship’s captain and crew, featured movies, bingo, slot tournaments, trivia contests, as well as live music throughout the day and the main entertainment in the theater at night…but the list could go on and on forever.

The main thing is to make the most of it, step out of your comfort zone and perhaps try something new and exciting.

At Your Port of Call

Don’t forget that the ship is only part of the cruise; there are beautiful and interesting destinations to explore once you reach your ports of call.

Shore Excursions

Once you arrive at your destination you have the opportunity to take a number of shore excursions. You will want to pre-book shore excursions long before your cruise, after doing thorough research to find a shore excursion that suits your interests, activity level and budget.

shoreexcursions
Tour Buses waiting to take passengers to various shore excursions in Bermuda

 

The cruise lines would like you to book directly through them, but you don’t need to do that. There are a number of shore excursion companies that can help you choose the right shore excursion to enhance your first cruise
experience. Swimming with dolphins, parasailing, island tours or culinary tours. Whatever your interest, there’s a shore excursion for you!

Exploring

Don’t feel like booking a formal shore excursion? Why not just explore your port of call. You will want to check on the safety of the area that you are visiting, but many locations are safe enough for you to wander around on your own and explore.

cozumel
Tour of Cozumel by Taxi

Food

One of our favorite things to do is to check out the local cuisine at the port of call. This can either be done through a culinary shore excursion or by wandering around exploring your surroundings.

Fresh pico de gallo & chips - El Mercado Cozumel
Fresh pico de gallo & chips – El Mercado Cozumel

Shopping

Most ports have a wide variety of shopping to choose from. Each port specializes in different types of goods based on the local skills and natural resources available.

Beaches

While you might not want to stop at a beach in Alaska, many cruises stop in areas with beautiful beaches that can be quite close to the ship. If you simply want to relax, bask in the sunlight on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a cruise is the perfect way to get there.

Will You Be Bored on Your First Cruise?

That’s a tough question to answer and each person has their own opinion, but we certainly don’t think you will be bored on your first cruise. Keep in mind – on our first cruise, the ship caught on fire so there wasn’t time to be bored, but that’s definitely not the experience of most!

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

money-saving-cruise-tips

10 Money Saving Cruise Tips

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:55 pm

money saving cruise tips
There are many reasons why saving money on a cruise might interest you. If you’re like me, my budget is finite, which means that I don’t have an endless supply of income to do as I please so I have to look for ways to save money on things like vacations.

My philosophy on taking vacations goes something like this; I would rather vacation more often and look for ways to save money, rather than “go big or go home” on a fewer number of vacations. To travel fairly often means that we have to get creative to finance our vacations using what little cash we have, but we’ve learned so much along the way and had a lot of fun.

We fell in love with cruising, not only because of the amazing ships, the great staff and the wonderful destinations, but also because going on a cruise is a fairly inexpensive way to travel. Dollar for dollar, we just can’t afford to take a vacation on land that offers as much as a vacation at sea.

Over years we’ve learned a number of ways to get the expenses down to a minimum, but it’s take creativity and some sacrifice.

Check out our top 10 ways to save money on your next cruise.

1.) Drive to the Port – Unfortunately this won’t work for everyone, but if you live within driving distance to a port, take advantage of it. Unless you can get a really cheap flight, driving saves you a lot of money. Our theory is that if we can drive there in about a day (ie. 8 hours drive) we can likely save money. If it goes beyond 8 hours and we need to get a hotel and eat a number of meals at a restaurant, if can get expensive and time consuming.

There’s an added bonus to driving to the port;

When you drive to the port you don’t have to worry about how much your baggage weighs or how many bags you take. Booking a flight for a cruise can be tricky since most airlines now charge for every piece of luggage and have weight limits.

2.) Go with an Interior Cabin – I know many will disagree with this, however we would rather cruise in an interior room more often, than break the bank on a balcony less often. Here’s our thinking: You will probably not do much more in your cabin other than sleep.

There are so many things to do around the ship that we normally spend very little time in our room. If we want to go outside, we never really have a hard time finding a nice spot to sit and enjoy the view. On our last cruise we were upgraded to an outside room which had a window. That was a nice option too and is still less expensive than a balcony cabin.

3.) Buy excursions in advance or don’t buy any at all – The cruise lines would like you to believe that you can only buy shore excursions from them, but it’s simply not true. There are a number of reputable shore excursions companies out there that offer the same shore excursions as the ships, but at a price that is sometimes up to 50% lower. If you don’t have the money to buy a shore excursion, don’t fret.

Sometimes it’s nice to just get off the boat and see what’s there. In some ports, it’s safe enough for you to explore yourself. Do some research and be your own tour guide, but be smart about it. In locations where safety may be an issue, watch who you talk to or buy from. For example, in Cozumel, there are plenty of taxi’s available near the port and a tour is fairly inexpensive. Another example; If you’re docked in Kings Wharf Bermuda, the island is quite safe and public transit is inexpensive. You can tour around on your own and spend very little. Be careful in places like Jamaica, Freeport, Nassau and a few other Caribbean ports as naive cruise guests can sometimes make good targets for criminals. Google is your best friend before your trip!

4.) Deposit cash into your onboard spending account – Cruise lines would like you to add a credit card to your online charge account, but it’s not mandatory on most cruise lines. We normally deposit a limited amount of cash into our online spending account and we keep and eye on our spending. Because the cruise lines offer so much within the cost of your cruise fare, you don’t “NEED” to spend a fortune on incidentals. Using a Credit card can give the false sense that money is endless and a large bill on your last day can really ruin an otherwise great trip.

5.) Bring lots of $1 USD bills – At most ports of call, you’re going to want to carry some US cash to use for tipping. Carrying small bills allows you to tip restaurants, taxi’s and other service providers when you’re off the ship. Making sure that you have the cash before you depart will also save you money.

The ATM’s located on the ship have services charges from $2.50 to $5 each transaction, not including the charges that your bank may also charge and at ports of call, ATM fees can be as high as $9 per transaction! A few extra withdrawals can really add up. Be prepared with an assortment of cash denominations and you will save.

6.) Avoid the on-ship “sales” – Most cruise lines do it; Most often during sea days or near the end of the cruise an overly enthusiastic cruise director will announce over the loudspeaker that there’s an AMAZING sale happening. Whether it’s $10 watches, $10 t-shirts or $20 necklaces, these hyped up “sales” are nothing more than sales gimmicks to get you to part with more money. Often the products sold are high margin, low quality items that you won’t be very satisfied with once you’re back on dry land. Yes, a “designer watch” for $10 is too good to be true!

7.) Set a limit at the casino – Hopefully this isn’t news to you, but casino’s make money by helping you lose yours. It’s as simple as that! While it can be a rush to hear the bells and see the lights of all the “winners,” chances are quite high that more people in the casino are losing money versus those that are winning. If you want to save money on your next cruise just don’t go to the casino at all, but if you plan to play, set a limit and stick to it.

8.) Eat & Drink only complimentary food or drinks – During your cruise, much of the food that you have access to is already part of your cruise fare, but there are also premium food options that cost extra. Even if you eat only at the complimentary venues, you’re still going to have a great vacation and experience wonderful food and service. We have been on 7 day cruises where we never once purchased an upgraded food or beverage option and we still had a great time! After all, we were still enjoying the great weather, enjoying the shows and other entertainment and didn’t feel as though we missed anything by not partaking of a premium steak or sushi.

As for beverages, coffee, tea, water, iced tea and lemonade are often part of your cruise fare and available at many venues around the ship. Also, check the policy with each individual cruise line – but you may be able to bring some of your own beverages on board. Some cruise lines allow you to bring a limited amount of water, soda or wine onboard.

9.) Plan your packing – One of the best pieces of advice I could give you: Don’t wait until the last minute to pack! Plan what you’re going to need to bring at least a few days before you go. Start by making a packing list and think about it for a few days. In the days leading up to your cruise it’s highly likely that you will remember or think of things that you might want to take. For examples, with toiletries – make a comprehensive toiletry list as you’re packing so you don’t forget anything.

Items are expensive on the ship.

As an example, one morning my wife woke up with very red eyes. I was trying to be kind by saying “Maybe it will go away” but in all honesty, she looked pretty bad! We ended up buying a small bottle of eye drops as the onboard store for $12! The same eye drops at Walgreens or CVS would have been about $3. Think about all the various items that you might need and try to bring them along. Check out this handy cruise packing list to give you a headstart!

10.) Don’t Park at the Port – While it might be most convenient to park directly at the port (if you’re driving,) parking fees at the port are usually higher than if you park off-site. Depending on the port that you are departing from, many off-site parking lots exist close to the port offering free shuttles to the port. Most parking lots are a short shuttle ride away from the departure port and are anywhere from 15% to 30% cheaper than parking at the port.

Nearby hotels will offer similar packages but will bundle in a night’s stay at the hotel as well as parking. For us, if we have driven a number of hours to reach the port, we go a arrive in the departure city one day before the cruise and stay at a hotel that offers a park & cruise package. We enjoy a relaxing evening at the hotel and then catch a ride over to the port in the morning. Our car stays safely parked at the hotel and they pick us up at the port upon our return.

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

cruises-value

Think Cruises Are Expensive? Think Again!

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 01:06 pm

Over the past decade we have taken both land vacations and cruise vacations and after looking at our spending on both types of vacations I concluded that for us, taking a cruise was one of the least expensive ways to have a great vacation.

cruises-value

 

I don’t want to be so bold as to say it’s the cheapest way to take a vacation for everyone, but certainly for couples, it can be an economical way to see the world. Vacations are a luxury, so they’re never going to be “cheap” but there are options for getting the most value out of your vacation. I’ve heard from a number of people that they believe cruising is expensive, but what we have found is that cruising is not as pricey as one may think. If you’re prepared and budget in advance, we have actually found that it’s much cheaper to cruise for a week than to stay at a hotel for a week on land.

Here’s Why Booking a Cruise Can be a Great Value:

 

Food

Cruises are full of good food and lots of it. Any time of day and almost any genre that you what. Most of it is included, except specialty restaurants which may have a cover charge. It’s still quite possible to take a cruise and never pay for any food other than what is included in your fare and yet never feel ripped off. When you stay in a hotel, there may be free breakfast but you’re on your own for lunch and dinner, which could easily cost $50+ per day for 2 people if you want to eat well. The food in the complementary dining venues, main dining rooms, etc. is very good – often better than most people will get at home. We tend to see it this way. Breakfast in the Main Dining Room is a $30 breakfast, Lunch in any of the venue’s is likely a $30 lunch and dinner might be $80-$100. When you look at the value of the food alone it becomes apparent that cruises offer a good value.
cruise value

Beverages

Most cruise lines include beverages such as coffee, tea, water, iced tea and some juices. If you intend to indulge and drink a lot and often, the cruise lines offer beverage packages ranging from bottled water and premium juices and espresso-based coffees to unlimited alcohol. When purchasing a package, honestly think about how much you will drink, as they can be a great deal – cheaper than on land. If you’re only going to have a glass of wine with dinner, or a mid-afternoon cocktail, buy individually. It’s more expensive to buy them one at a time, but cheaper in the long-run.

Tips

Most cruise lines offer pre-paid gratuities, anywhere from $12-$14 per person per day of the cruise. It seems expensive at first glance, but when you realize that this covers your room attendant who comes in twice a day, your wait staff over three meals and snacks, it’s a pretty good deal. It’s like being treated like a King or Queen for a week!

Live Music & Shows

Every night there’s a wide variety of entertainment situated throughout the ship, from Broadway-like productions to intimate piano bars. There’s no charge for any of these shows as it’s included in your cruise fare. On most evenings of a cruise we can partake of a show in the main theatre and then head over to one of the many lounges or bars to catch some live music by very talented artists.

Excursions

Excursions can be expensive if you always purchase them through the ship. The cruise lines tell you that it’s not a good idea to book elsewhere since the ship could leave without you if your excursion runs late and only the cruise line guarantees that they will wait. This isn’t exactly true. Excursion companies such as Shore Excursions Group, one of the largest in the world, offers a similar guarantee, even stating that if something goes horribly awry and the ship ends up leaving (which they state has never happened), they will ensure you get to your next destination to meet up with the ship, on their dime. Plus, excursions booked outside of the cruise lines are often much cheaper, even for the exact same excursion.
The other option if your budget is tight; Don’t book an excursion at all. Do a bit of research since many different cruise ports offer a lot for cruise passengers either within walking distance of the port or a short (and often cheap) taxi ride away. Just be smart since some ports are safer than others.

Speciality Restaurants

The food in these venue’s is usually top notch and offered at a fair price that is comparable or even less than what you would pay for the same dinner at a fine dining restaurant on land. If you want to visit a specialty restaurant onboard but budget is a concern, visit for lunch when the cover charge may be lower.

Things to Do

There are no shortage of things to do on a cruise. When you’re at sea, the cruise director and recreation staff do an amazing job at keeping your entertained (and they try to get you to spend more money.) Pictures, Exercise Classes, Sports, Lectures, Casino, Spa, Wine Tastings. No matter what you’re interested in, there’s something for everyone.

cuba in the distance

Natural Beauty

Most cruise destinations leave from or stop at some of the most beautiful and interesting places in the world. Whether you’re at sea on a warm sunny day or docked at a Port in Bermuda or Jamaica, there’s no cost to take in the beauty that surrounds you.

When you look at all that a cruise has to offer, it’s unlikely that you will find a land vacation that offers so much variety, with such high quality food and service for anywhere close to the price of cruise. With cruises starting at just $299 in many cases, you can’t beat the value of a cruise.
CruiseDirect: Limited inventory on Last Minute Cruise Deals. Best Price Guarantee & No Booking Fees – Book Now!

About Jonathon Hyjek

Jonathon is the tech guy behind CruiseportAdvisor.com. When he's not stuck in front of his computer, Jonathon enjoys travel & cruising (even after being on a cruise ship that caught fire - a story for another day!)

miami-in-a-day

Discover Miami in Less Than One Day

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 01:07 pm

miami in a day
You arrive in Miami the day before your cruise and you want to discover the beautiful sub-tropical city outside your hotel door.

Your first move is to pick up your travel guide or do a quick Google search only to be overwhelmed by hundreds of options in dining, sightseeing, and shopping in Miami.

All them sound amazing but how can you possibly fit them all in? The reality is you can’t but, with the right guide, you can make the most out of your short stay.

Enter Miami Culinary Tours, which offers three-hour food tours daily around Miami’s historic neighborhoods of Little Havana, South Beach, and Wynwood. While their tours center on Miami food, they also explore the history and culture behind the dishes, making them the ideal itinerary when you’re in a time crunch. They are also incredibly cost-effective considering Miami prices. One tour costs between $59-$69 per person and includes five food stops.

The only choice you have to make is whether you’re more intrigued by the beach vibes of South Beach, the art of Wynwood, or the Cuban culture of Little Havana. Because we are least familiar with Little Havana, we recently joined Miami Culinary Tours for an excursion around the neighborhood led by native Miami-an, Ralph. The tour was delicious, filling, and extremely educational (did you know the City of Miami has an official “Rooster Removal Team” that takes care of feral roosters?).

Check out the photos below to see what you can expect when you go.

miami culinary tour

 

Our tour group gathered outside a local art gallery to learn about West African influences in Cuban culture.

El Pub Miami

At El Pub, our first stop, where we filled up on tostones rellenos de picadillo (shown above) and chicken empanadas.

miami cuban sandwich

A tour of Miami would not be complete without a stop at a ventanita, or window, through which Cuban coffee and sandwiches are served.

cuban coffee miami

The tour only traversed half a mile, but we staved off exhaustion with a shot of colada, Cuban-style espresso.

miami mojitos

We stopped by the famous Ball and Chain Bar on Calle Ocho to learn about its role in music history and taste a traditional mojito.

Azúcar cuban ice cream in Miami

Our tour ended at homemade Cuban ice cream pioneer Azúcar where we enjoyed a scoop of delicious Abuela Maria ice cream while Suzy Batlle shared the story of how

the men at Domino Park helped her perfect her mantecado (Spanish for shortbread) ice cream recipe.

Visit our Shore Excursions page to book an excursion for your time in Miami

About Margarita Wells

Margarita Wells was born in Mexico City, Mexico and relocated to South Florida at the age of 12. Since then, she has lived all over the Southeast Florida coast from Delray Beach to South Miami and everything in between. She finally settled in Miami after attending college at the University of Miami and there is no place she would rather be. Margarita has always had a passion for writing. In 2012, she channeled her love for Miami and for writing to start a blog about Miami life called ThankYouMiami.com. She is also a freelance writer for publications such as Localeur, Société Perrier and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Margarita spends most of her free time enjoying and writing about the best of what Miami has to offer, including the fashion, food, the arts, and our local natural resources. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire others to live for the moment and celebrate the wonderful things our city has to offer.

Best Galveston Cruise Port Hotels

Best Galveston Cruise Port Hotels

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 01:07 pm

If you’re cruising from Galveston, chances are you’ll want a place to stay the night before you depart, or perhaps you want to check out the area after your cruise.

Galveston might not be on your radar as a great place to visit, but there is plenty to see.

Check out all these unique attractions while you’re in Galveston.

Once you realize what a great place Galveston is, here’s our top picks for the best Galveston cruise port hotels.

Hilton Galveston Island Resort

5400 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, Galveston Island, TX 77551 | 855-271-3621

Hilton Galveston Island Resort

Enjoy your pre-cruise stay at the Hilton Galveston Island Resort, complete with complimentary long-term parking and cruise terminal transportation. This AAA 4 Diamond rated hotel is full of wonderful amenities and is located within walking distance of shopping, restaurants and is just steps from the gorgeous beach.

This 32 acre resort boasts 10 restaurants and bars including Rainforest Cafe and IHOP, heated outdoor swimming pool with swim-up bar and pool-side cabanas and fitness center. You can also treat yourself to a day of fun at the nearby Pleasure Pier, Galveston’s historic amusement park. Your elegantly appointed room offers amazing Gulf views, some with private balcony. Click here for more information on the Hilton Galveston Island Resort.

Miles to Port : 3.8

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes – Complimentary – Contact Hotel for Details

Long-Term Parking : Yes – Complimentary – Contact Hotel for Details

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

The Tremont House, A Wyndham Grand Hotel

2300 Ship’s Mechanic Row, Galveston, TX, 77550 | 409-763-0300

The Tremont House Galveston

Located less than a mile from the Galveston Cruise Terminal, The Tremont House, A Wyndham Grand Hotel offers upscale elegance and timeless sophistication and 19th Century charm. With their Park and Sail Package, you will have overnight accommodations in one of their luxurious rooms, valet parking for up to 7 days, as well as round trip transportation to the cruise terminal.

Guest rooms boast 12 foot ceilings, state-of-the-art air purification systems, and hardwood floors. Stay fit in their new onsite fitness center or visit the spa and pool at the nearby Hotel Galvez. Dine at the Tremont Cafe before enjoying a drink at the Rooftop Bar. For more information and great deals on rates at The Tremont House, click here.

Miles to Port : 0.3

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes

Long-Term Parking : 7 Days

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Offsite

Hotel Galvez & Spa A Wyndham Grand Hotel

2024 Seawall Blvd., Galveston, TX | 409-765-7721

Hotel Galvez

Enjoy pure luxury and sophistication with a stay at the Hotel Galvez & Spa, A Wyndham Hotel. Built in 1911, the hotel underwent a multi- million dollar renovation in commemoration of its 100th anniversary. Known as the “Queen of the Gulf” you will quickly realize why this property boasts a 4 Diamond AAA rating once you pull into the elegant circular drive lined with towering palm trees and see the expansive oceanfront view.

It also offers a Park and Cruise Package with free valet parking for the duration of your cruise as well as round-trip transportation to the Galveston cruise terminal with a one-night stay. Pamper yourself before you cruise with a spa treatment, and take a dip at the heated outdoor pool with swim-up bar. Enjoy delicious seafood dinners at the onsite restaurant, or head to the nearby Strand for some resort-town shopping and restaurants. Click here for great rates and more information on the Hotel Galvez & Spa, A Wyndham Hotel.

Miles to Port : 1.8

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes

Long-Term Parking : Yes

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

Holiday Inn Resort Galveston-On the Beach

5002 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77551 | 409-740-5300

VFMLID=42921676

The Holiday Inn Resort Galveston – On The Beach is a perfect spot for passengers looking for a pre-cruise stay. Long term parking and port shuttles are complimentary, but there are also cruise packages available such as the Park, Stay and Go package which offers breakfast for two adults (kids always eat free) in addition to the parking and transportation.

It’s location is perfect – under 3 miles from the cruise terminal and offers beachfront accommodations (just across the street) for a great price. Kids will enjoy the playground, arcade as well as the children’s pool which is attached to the large outdoor pool with waterfall and the Schlitterbahn Waterpark is nearby. There are numerous onsite eateries, a tennis court and fitness facilities if you want to get one last workout in before you indulge on the the ship. For more information on The Holiday Inn Resort Galveston – On The Beach, click here.

Miles to Port : 2.7

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : Yes – Complimentary

Long-Term Parking : Yes – Complimentary

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Outdoor

Moody Garden Hotel Spa & Convention Center

Moody Gardens Galveston

While not offering amenities specific to cruising, this list would not be complete without mentioning Moody Gardens Hotel Spa and Convention Center. This 4 star hotel is popular among Galveston visitors because there is so much to do and see, right on the resort property. There is a botanical garden, aquarium and rain-forest, a spa, beautiful beach and three restaurants. Kids will enjoy the 3-D theatre and Discovery Pyramid science exhibit and Palm Beach with its lazy river, wave pool and slides.

The hotel itself has an outdoor tropical pool with a swim-up bar, Jacuzzi and adults-only area, complete with cabanas and poolside beds. There is also an indoor lap pool, perfect for a bit of exercise, or a dip in the water in cooler weather. This pool is fully accessible. The rooms themselves offer luxurious bedding, complimentary WiFi, bath robes and maid service twice a day. Long term parking and shuttle can be arranged by contacting the hotel. For more information on Moody Gardens Hotel Spa and Convention Center and great prices on rates, click here.

Miles to Port : 5.7 miles

Airport Transfer : No

Port Transfer : $

Long-Term Parking : Contact Hotel

Breakfast : $

Swimming Pool : Indoor/Outdoor

 

Alaskacruise

Frugal Tips for Alaskan Cruisers

Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 01:08 pm

Alaska Cruise Tips
All aboard your adventure through beautiful Alaska! Cruising is an amazing way to visit many towns in a short amount of time for a fraction of what it would normally cost to visit so many destinations. Especially in Alaska where many towns are only able to be reached by boat or plane, cruisers are really travelling smart and getting the most out of their dollar. Here are some tips for those hoping to save a little bit of money on their cruise through Alaska.

beer
Photo by Chelsy Ranard

Drink on land or bring your own
For those that have cruised before, you know it’s pretty overwhelming how expensive it is to drink on the ship. Beverages range from $5 for beer to $20 for cocktails. Instead of drinking alcohol from the cruise ship, bring your own. Be aware some cruise lines have limitations on how much you are allowed to bring on board, but you will save a ton by bringing your own wine or liquor on board. If your particular cruise line has strict limitations on alcohol, just drink on land. In Ketchikan, the Arctic Bar is right on the dock and you can drink an Alaskan Amber while waiting to get back on the ship. In Skagway, their local brewery has spruce tip beer that is amazing and hard to find in the lower 48.

Deals Deals Deals

There are travel deals everywhere if you know where to search for them. There are coupons for car rentals, cruise ship cabin discounts, hotel rooms, and so much more. Tour Saver coupons offer many discounts for excursions, although you do have to purchase the coupon book. The price of your cruise itself is negotiable. Make sure to book early to receive the cheapest rate. Also, the time of year that you book your cruise can greatly change the price and feel of your cruise. The cheaper Alaskan cruising months are May and September and will have a lot less children on board although the weather may not be as nice.

Don’t buy any jewelry

There are many jewelry stores both on the cruise ship and in port. A lot of ships do non-stop advertising for their jewelry, so chances are you know the problem if you’ve been on a cruise before. The jewelry stores have a few issues for the frugal cruiser: the prices are marked up by 200%-300% and they are not locally made despite some of their claims. It’s true that there are markups on many tourist items in general and definitely on everything you purchase on a cruise ship, but a jewelry purchase is not worth it. It’s better to save the jewelry shopping for when you’re at home and purchase something with a “Made in Alaska” sticker if you’re trying to find something locally made. Icy Strait in Hoonah has locally made wood crafts that would make authentic, amazing souvenirs.

Book excursions privately or not at all

Photo by Adventure Carts
Photo by Adventure Carts

Booking excursions from the ship is way more costly than booking directly through the business. It’s better to research your port destinations first and figure out which excursions you want to do and book ahead of time. Booking ahead of time is essential. The perks to booking through the ship are that you know if there is space for you on the excursion and your transportation is organized. These issues won’t matter if you make a reservation, but trying to book on the dock last minute can mean even higher prices, booked tours, and unreliable transportation. Wildlife sightseeing excursions tend to be expensive and seeing wildlife is never really promised. However, if you’re set on seeing wildlife, try the Exclusive Whale Watching Cruise in Juneau. They promise to completely refund you if you do not see a whale and they have never had to give a refund. That is as close to a guarantee as you’ll get. No matter which way you go, excursions are still an expensive commodity in each port. Fortunately, each city is absolutely beautiful and offers a variety of free options off the ship. To save some money, take a walk around the city instead of booking an excursion. The farther from the docks you walk the more local the city will feel. Take a ride on the city bus, go on a hike, or eat at a local restaurant instead.

Bring your own camera

Everywhere you go there will be a camera. On the cruise ship, on the dock, and on every excursion there will be someone taking photos of you. This can be very useful on excursions like the Alaska Canopy Zipline in Juneau where there is a very real risk of dropping your camera or you are unable to carry your big DSLR, but be sure to have it with you on the cruise ship where you can ask other passengers to take photos of you instead of buying photos for $15-$30 on the ship. Plus, the beauty of Alaska cannot be understated. You will kick yourself for not having your camera with you everywhere you go. If you’re nervous about bringing your camera from home in the sometimes harsh conditions in Alaska, buy a cheap disposable one from the gift shop in port or on the ship.

Stay disconnected, you’re on vacation

Photo by Chelsy Ranard
Photo by Chelsy Ranard

Take this time to relish your time away from the rest of the world. Stay away from the internet, social media, online work, and texting. You’ll have plenty of time to share photos, update statuses, and work when you get back home. Staying disconnected will help you to stay relaxed and keep your purse strings tight. Wi-Fi rates on the ship are high and your phone plan may not work in certain areas of Alaska without super expensive rates. If you absolutely have to send out a tweet about how amazing Alaska is, wait until you’re on land. You will be able to find a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi. This way you’ll save yourself from the cruise ship Wi-Fi and be able to experience a local cup of coffee. K-Bay Caffe in Homer is an amazing local coffee ship with Wi-Fi, latte art, and great coffee.

About Chelsy Ranard

Chelsy is a writer living in Boise, Idaho. She worked seasonally in Alaska from 2010 to 2014 guiding, managing, and marketing tours in a variety of capacities. When she isn’t writing she spends her time missing Alaska, spending time with her animals, and exploring Boise. Make sure to follow her on Twitter

8 must do

8 Must-Do Things While Visiting Honolulu

Last updated on January 20th, 2020 at 01:57 pm

honolulu

There are countless unique sights to be marveled and experiences to be had in Honolulu and the exotic island of Oahu. Below we are sharing with you eight of the most unique things you should not miss while visiting Honolulu.

Paradise Cove Luau

This is the single most popular luau show in Hawaii and one you must not miss if you truly want to connect with the local culture. The Paradise Cove Luau offers a night of pure Hawaiian hospitality and fun!

During high season, you can enjoy a full blown luau on virtually every night that includes with a sunset dinner, lots of exotic music, local dancers and songs, as well as the chance to get some authentic souvenirs and your very own lei flower garland!

Oahu Shark, Whale and Dolphin Dive

Diving is hugely popular in Hawaii and Honolulu in particular. However, the most thrilling experience one can enjoy under the waves is inarguably the Oahu Shark, Whale and Dolphin Dive offered by numerous local diving schools there.

This is your chance for a thrilling encounter with the sea’s top predators in a shark cage that is as safe as it’s hair-raisingly thrilling. Add to that playful dolphins, ponderous turtles and the (relatively) rare chance to observe a whale in the distance from Ohau’s north shore and you’ve got one of Honolulu’s most amazing experiences!

Honolulu Sailboat Chartering

Whether you’re a seasoned skipper or just a boat enthusiast, chartering a sailboat is definitely one of the best ways to make the most out of your trip to Honolulu. Explore hidden coves, dine in a glorious sunset and visit the best tourist attractions in style becomes easy with a chartered sailboat.

Sailboat chartering services from reputable providers will ensure a smooth and thoroughly enjoyable sailing experience you won’t soon forget!

Your dedicated skipper will help you find all the hidden gems around the island of Oahu and by making the most out of your chartered sailboat you can actually elevate your Honolulu experience from good to great.

Pearl Harbor

No visit to Honolulu can be complete without a visit to Pearl Harbor’s museums and memorials. A trip there includes visiting the USS Missouri tickets and the USS Arizona Memorial (the two most popular Pearl Harbor attractions), along with an astounding number of less known but equally thrilling museums and memorials that encapsulate a piece of history for modern visitors.

Pearl Harbor an amazing destination even without the memorials, as you can also visit the world-famous North Shore beach for some surfing and enjoy breathtaking vistas at the nearby Nu’uanu Pali Lookout.

Oahu Helicopter Tour

While not a replacement to chartering a sailboat, a helicopter tour over Honolulu and across the island of Oahu will surely delight you. Such a tour will empower you to see the island from another perspective and discover secrets only seen from a bird’s eye view.

Fly over the iconic Waikiki Beach and numerous attractions including Aloha Tower, Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbor and many more!

Waikiki Beach

Arguably the world’s most famous beach, Waikīkī, best known as Waikiki beach is a pristine beachfront district of Honolulu that boasts breathtaking beauty. Waikiki is the epicenter of Hawaiian tourism and the go-to point for most tourists who first arrive on the island of Oahu.

The white, sandy beach is home to numerous local bars and restaurants, and it also serves as the base of operation for most of the island’s diving schools and watersports activities.

Hanauma Bay

Located just east of Honolulu, the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a unique natural embayment of stunning beauty. The bay is naturally carved out of a tuff ring and is considered as one of the most important marine nature preserves worldwide, with more than 400 species of fish and lots of turtle hatchlings flapping about in the sand.

Hanauma Bay is second only to Waikiki in terms of popularity and its distance from Honolulu makes it a fairly unspoiled destination for visitors who wish to enjoy the genuine beauty of Oahu without having to go through the usual tourist track.

Diamond Head

Imposing over Honolulu, Diamond Head is the iconic inactive volcano and emblem of the island that towers over the far eastern side of Waikiki beach. Diamond Head offers outdoors-loving tourists the perfect outlet for hiking and outdoor exercising, all while enjoying a stunning panoramic view over the island of Oahu. The head boasts numerous different hiking routes, catering to all demographics and tastes.

The crater on Diamond Head used to be Oahu’s military base but is not open to the public as a recreational space. On top of the trail, visitors get to pass through a repurposed military tunnel and up a few flights of stairs into the old bunker in order to emerge on top of Diamond Head!

About Clint Lenard

Clint Lenard has been writing about travel for 3 years, with a focus on Island travel. You can learn more about the company he works for by visiting: www.sailingswiftsure.com

Boston Top 10

Top Ten Things to See in Boston

Last updated on February 3rd, 2020 at 01:34 pm

Top 10 Things to See in Boston

With cruises running from May to late September, there is no better excuse to take a trip up to Boston, MA, often referred to as “Beantown”. Whether you choose a New England cruise or a roundtrip voyage from Boston to Bermuda, you must reserve some extra time to explore this great city. With plenty of history, outdoors spaces, and food, Boston is the perfect port city for a few pre-cruise and post cruise days. When you do decide to visit, here is our local guide to the Top Ten Things to See in Boston.

Boston Harbor
Photo credit: nordique / Foter / CC BY

10. The Charles River – Love that dirty water, Boston you’re my home! Every trip to Boston should involve a stop at the Charles River. A stroll along the Boston Esplanade might be the perfect way to spend an afternoon or catch an evening concert at the Hatch Shell. Perhaps you want to get a bit deeper, so why not cruise down the river in a sail boat, paddle boat, or kayak.

Boston Esplanade
Photo credit: izik / Foter / CC BY

9. Harvard Yard – When in Boston, you might want to “pahk ya cah in Hahvahd Yahd”. All kidding aside, nothing is more prestigious and academic than these impressive grounds. The center of the University, this 22 acre area includes some of the campus’ oldest buildings and green spaces, and it’s home to the statue of John Harvard, who the university was named after when it was built in 1638.

Harvard Yard
Harvard Yard

8. USS Constitution – Old Ironsides floats on. When you visit Boston, be sure to take a short ride to Charlestown where you can explore the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel. At the USS Constitution Museum, exhibits tell the tales of the ship’s construction and the men who called the ship home during war. While the Constitution is set to enter dry dock for the next few years, you can still step foot onboard this maritime marvel.

USS Constitution Boston
Photo credit: David Jones / Source / CC BY

7. Bunker Hill Monument – Not far from the USS Constitution, you will find the Bunker Hill Monument. This 200+ foot granite monument commemorates the first major battle of the American Revolutionary War between the British and Patriot forces fought on June 17, 1775. You can climb all 294 steps of this National Historic Landmark for a spectacular view of north Boston and the surrounding harbor and ports. You might just see your cruise ship!

Bunker Hill Boston
Photo credit: mkfeeney / Source / CC BY

6. Sam Adams Brewery – What started out as Jim Koch’s passion to produce a “better beer” ended up igniting a beer renaissance in America. With few domestic options for American craft beer, Koch and his business partner founded the Sam Adam’s Brewery and in 1985 began selling its signature lager. You can relive the history of this now iconic brand by touring the brewery located a few miles south of the city-not to mention sample a few pints.

Sam Adams Brewery Boston
Photo credit: ep_jhu / Source / CC BY

5. Union Oyster House – The oldest restaurant in the U.S., the Union Oyster House has been serving guests since 1826. The rustic atmosphere and fresh seafood make this award winning restaurant worthy of at least a photo-op, if not a pit stop for refueling during your time spent traversing through the city. Of course, you must try a cup of New England clam chowder and grab a few oysters on the half shell during your visit.

Union Oyster House Boston
Photo credit: shinya / Foter / CC BY

4. Hanover Street – If seafood is not your thing, or you have a bit of a sweet tooth, then you have to make the trek over to Boston’s North End. The center of this Italian district is Hanover Street which is lined with great restaurants, coffee shops, and authentic markets with imported Italian delicacies. Some of our personal favorites in this area include Lo Conte’s, located a block from Hanover Street, and the world famous Mike’s Pastry.

Mike's Pastry Boston
Photo credit: Mulad / Source / CC BY

3. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market – Are you ready to shop while in Boston? Then, head over to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Familiar brands and distinctly Boston stores are mixed between the two original buildings, which also house a variety of dining options. This area has enticed Bostonians and travelers alike for over 270 years. During the summer, a Farmers’ Market, featuring locally grown and sourced products, runs every Friday.