Archive for the ‘Cruise Vacations’ Category

How to Pick the Right Cruise Cabin

There can be nothing more delightfully reassuring than being allotted the best cruise cabin as you embark on your cruising holiday. Although the cabins look similar to the naked eye, they do vary. You can choose wisely as per your personal requirements and budget. Here is how you can choose the perfect cruise cabin to ensure a pleasant journey.

Selecting Perfect Cruise Cabin

It is common knowledge that holiday cruises are always in demand. If you have opted for a cruise trip for your vacation, then it is time for you to start selecting the most appropriate cruise cabin for your family. Fortunately, there are enough cabins to suit your specific requirements. Here is what you need to consider before you pick out your cruise cabin.

Cabin Tariff
Cruise ships usually have cabins with different tariffs on separate decks. Cabins on higher decks have a better view. Therefore, these cabins happen to be some of the costliest on the entire ship. Similarly, cruise ships have cabins in various sizes with different standards of services and accessories to suit our holiday budget. There are cabins that face the front side, rear, as well as sideways with a clear view of the ocean. As a thumb rule, you may expect a very high tariff on cabins facing the ocean. While cabins located in the central part of the deck tend to be cheaper since they do not offer an ocean view. Cabins located on the lower decks are the cheapest, but you need to brace yourself against the sound of the turbines of the ship. If you are looking for a special suite, say a honeymoon suite with a dedicated butler, private pool, etc then the prices may soar to a very high level. However, such suites are worth every dollar spent!

Cabin Size
Cruise cabins cannot be expected to be as huge and extravagant as a regular hotel room. Except for suite cabins, most of the cabins do not exceed 200 sq. ft in their total size. This cabin size is generally meant to include the balcony adjoining the cabin. So if you are going to be on the cruise for a long time, it is best to consult the website of the cruise for cabin dimensions. Alternately, you might have to pack as light as possible to enjoy maximum cabin space comfortably.
Peaceful Cabins
There are so many passengers who opt for a cruise vacation for Christmas and new year’s eve so as to enjoy the dance and parties taking place as part of the cruise attractions. However, there are several passengers who wish to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing vacation on a cruise ship. If you are one of them, I suggest that you avoid cruise cabins located directly below the restaurants, dance clubs, or a very crowded deck of the cruise ship. Similarly, cabins located near the ship’s elevators or the atrium are likely to have the most footfall, thereby making it a very noisy area. Ideally, search for a cabin that has other cabins above as well as below it. A cabin located at the extreme end of the passage is the safest bet, although it might require you to walk a long way each time you wish to access the attractions aboard the cruise.
Cabins with the Best View
Ideally, higher cruise cabins are said to have a better view of the ocean. However, make sure to choose the ideal position of the cabin too. A cabin located at the very front of the ship may offer some excellent views but will tend to be too windy as the ship cuts across the sea. The safest bet is to go for a cabin with a side view or a rear view. However, most cruise ships have very limited cabins towards the rear. You can fetch a rear facing cabin if you start booking well in advance. Similarly, be choosy with cabins with side views. Very often, there are lifeboats attached to the balcony railing of these cabins, which are likely to obstruct the view. Make sure to check with the cruise company or the website about selecting a cabin without any visual obstruction.
Cabins for Families
You might be traveling on the cruise ship all by yourself or with your partner. At such a time, all you need to do is choose a room to suit your requirements, such as going in for a single or a double bed cabin. Similarly, if you’re traveling with many family members, there are options to choose adjoining cabins that have connecting doors. If you are traveling with a child, choose a cabin that’s equipped with a convertible sofa in addition to a double bed.
Nausea-free Cabins
It is quite common for people to feel seasick during long cruise voyages. Moreover, this nausea and discomfort is pertinent to people opting for cruise cabins on higher decks than lower decks. This is because, the swaying effect of the ship is felt more on the higher decks than the lower ones. So if you or any of your family members have a tendency to feel seasick, it is best to opt for cabins located on the lower decks.

These are some of the specifications that one must look for when selecting the ideal cruise cabin. However, it is always safe to be an early bird and finish your booking process well in advance so as to get a wide choice of cabins and avoid last-minute disappointments. Once done, you can start planning and packing for your cruise vacation.

Cruise Ship Ratings and Reviews

Cruise ships are a man-made gift to the whole mankind. They have fulfilled the human fantasy of ‘gliding’ over water. Traveling in a cruise is a blissful experience. Cruises are huge ships that provide magnificent amenities to the passengers. Nowadays, there are many cruise ships providing varied services. One will find a wide range of different cruise ships to choose from, for spending their vacations. From a classy luxurious vacation at sea to a more modest yet rejuvenating holiday secluded from the outside world, cruise ships offer a varied kind of experience to people of different tastes and pockets. So, according to your budget and preferences, you can decide on a cruise shop and sail on the deep waters. You can spend time in the waters of Caribbean Sea, Arabian Sea or even the big oceans. So read on and take your pick and get ready to enjoy soothing waves of the salty waters.

Reviews of Famous Cruise Ships

The following list gives you a gist of what the popular cruise ships in the world offer their passengers.

Azamara Journey

It travels to various destinations, like East Caribbean, Europe and The Mediterranean. Each state-room and suite is provided with its own butler services. A few other facilities include restaurants, concierge amenities, spa and wellness center, coffee cafe, piano bar and wine bar, live entertainment and daily enrichment programs. Along with these, the spacious verandas made available to the guests, win this ship a four star rating.

Carnival Pride

The fabulous Renaissance lobby of this ship awes the guests, the moment they step in. It is a perfect family ship that renders excellent ocean views from the private balconies. With a four star rating, this cruise ship is well-ranked for the destinations namely, East Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Celebrity Constellation

This ship was chosen no.1 in the Top 10 Large Ships category by Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Its personal attendant service makes each guest feel like a king. It’s a party for sports lovers as they will find a full-size basketball court, compact football field, paddle-tennis tables and volleyball court on the Sports Deck. There is an entertainment deck that has a theater, teen lounge, card room, library and much more. A wide range of destinations, like Canada, East Caribbean, Mediterranean, Europe, Pan Canal, Scandinavia and South Caribbean is responsible for its five star rating.

Crystal Symphony

The six-star commitment can be seen in every small detail of the ship. It has got a good rating for almost all the amenities, like dining rooms, public rooms, spas and fitness centers, cabins, entertainment, etc. The ship earns five star rating due to the above features as well as the destinations it travels to, namely, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Caribbean and Canada.

Disney Magic and Wonder

Disney Magic truly creates magic with the family and individual entertainment programs it renders. The regular stops of Disney Wonder at fun-laden Castaway Cay private island adds an adventurous touch to its voyage. These ships have the right amount of everything that every individual in a family can expect. Both have a rating of four stars each. Disney Wonder travels only to the Bahamas whereas Disney Magic covers the East Caribbean, West Caribbean, Mediterranean, Europe and also covers Transatlantic.

MS Amsterdam

This cruise is well-known for its elegant styling. It reminds its guests of the historical excursions of the Dutch traders who sailed in search of treasures. Priceless antiques, burnished brass, sweeping staircases, etc., display original works of art. It has a five star rating and covers Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Pan Canal, Mexico and Alaska.

Norwegian Jewel

Its specialty is that it is built for free-style cruising. The ship’s amenities list features 13 dining options, a ‘Bar Central’ with connected martini bar, champagne, wine bar, beer and whiskey pub, Bora Bora Health Spa, etc. It travels to Bahamas, Canada, Caribbean, East Caribbean, Scandinavia, Transatlantic and West Caribbean and has a four star rating.

Oceania Nautica and Regatta

The Oceania Nautica has decks and verandas decorated with the finest teak furniture, exquisite custom stone and tile work. They feature the finest silver and crystal chinaware as well as a distinctive museum-quality art collection. While featuring the tile work similar to its sister ship Nautica, Oceania Regatta also has four unique, open-seating restaurants, a world-class fitness center and spa, 8 lounges and bars, a casino and 342 lavish suites and luxurious staterooms, with 70% space turned to private verandas. Each has a five star rating. Oceania Nautica itinerary features destinations, like Asia, Australia/New Zealand and the Mediterranean. Oceania Regatta takes the Caribbean, Europe and Mediterranean routes.

Ruby Princess

The Ruby Princess renders the famous Sabatini’s Italian trattoria and the Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant, with a relaxing oasis for adults called The Sanctuary. It also offers multiple entertainment options, personal choice dining, Lotus spa with fitness center, an extensive children and teen’s center, a wedding chapel and 900 staterooms with private balconies. Ruby Princess has East Caribbean, Bahamas, South Caribbean, Transatlantic and Mediterranean listed on its itinerary. This cruise ship has a five star rating.

Seven Sea Mariner

It is the world’s first ship that has balconies to each of its suites. The main attractions include a sparkling entertainment program with celebrity guest appearances, a computer equipped Internet Cafe, dance hosts, a state-of-the-art Judith Jackson Spa and chefs of the famed Cordon Bleu of Paris directing one of the Mariner’s restaurants. This ship has a four star rating and travels to Africa, Alaska, Australia/New Zealand and Asia.

Independence of the Seas

The Royal Caribbean cruise line’s Independence of the Seas features out-of-the-box ideas for a cruise like a surf park, cantilevered whirlpools, ice-skating rink, a full-size boxing ring, H2O Zone water-park and more. The destinations Africa, East Caribbean, Europe, Mediterranean, Transatlantic and West Caribbean cross its path. It has a five star rating.

Carnival Destiny

Soon to be named Carnival Sunshine, this cruise spends its time in the Caribbean waters. It offers 5 days and 4 nights of fun-filled leisure. You can have a dip in any of its three pools and enjoy a fine dining and wining experience on board. In 2012, the ship is all set to undergo a multimillion refit. If you are looking for a long sea adventure, then you can look forward to a 16 day trip that Carnival Destiny is going to embark on in the year 2013. The journey is going to commence in Miami and end at Civitavecchia, a sea port in Rome. It has a three star rating.

Allure of the Seas

It holds the prestigious record for being the largest passenger ship ever constructed. This ship has the capacity to accommodate 6,360 passengers along with 2,164 crew members. This ship was fully built in 2010 and the same year, it went on its maiden voyage. From Port Everglades to Bahamas and the Caribbean, this voyage is surely going to be an amazing vacation for its passengers. It usually gets 4 to 5 star ratings from the passengers.

Celebrity Eclipse

Carrying 2, 825 passengers along with crew members, Celebrity Eclipse sails from Miami, Southamptons or Fort Lauderdale to either Caribbean or Europe. You can take advantage of many of its fine entertainment facilities like art gallery, casino, bar, restaurant, glass auctions, library and many more. This ship is hailed as one of the most environment-friendly ship as it is laden with latest technology that enables the ship to save more energy than any other ship. It has got 4.5 star rating out of 5.

MSC Magnifica

This is a grand cruise ship that embarked on its maiden journey from Amsterdam. With a series of Mediterranean voyages, this ship was initially targeted at European rather than American travelers. It has a three-deck waterfall and theater along with a show lounge and disco. This cruise offers a classy experience. From Zen garden to oriental music and sushi bar, MSC Magnifica tempts the passengers to be a bit adventurous in their taste. It has got 4 star rating.

There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea. – Joseph Conrad.

After lavishly traveling to so many beautiful destinations, this is exactly what comes to the mind. Choosing the right cruise ship based on the destination criteria as well as the cruise ship ratings is very essential for an absolutely enchanting cruise vacation. If the right choice is made, there is no greater pleasure than traveling the world on a cruise ship. Happy traveling!

Things to Bring on a Cruise to the Bahamas

Going for a cruise vacation is certainly an exciting thing, but packing luggage is certainly not that fun. If an individual is traveling to Bahamas for the first time, then he/she might not have a clear idea on what to carry and what to leave. The best that first time travelers can think of are clothes and money and in this confusion the chances of forgetting important items is very high. Hence, it’s better to do all the packing at least one week in advance.

What to bring for a Cruise to the Bahamas

People from all sides of the globe flock to the Bahamas to enjoy its white sand and heavenly waters. The island is situated on the eastern coast of the US which helps this tiny piece of land to avoid various natural calamities. The bright sunshine makes it one of the top golf destinations of the world. Apart from the countless water activities, Bahamas also offers an amazing view of the flora and fauna for its visitors. Many people don’t know but Bahamas is an independent nation and hence it is essential to make pack necessary items before heading towards it.

What to Wear
Bahamas normally experiences warm weather. Hence, people traveling during summer seasons, should carry light-weight clothes as temperatures run up to 90°F. Avoid dark-colored clothes and wear comfortable slippers and shoes. People who are planning to spend most of their time near the beach should carry more swimsuits. Men and women should also carry an extra formal suit and a beautiful gown for attending any formal parties hosted on the cruise.

Important Documents
Place all you personal identification documents and paperwork in a separate backpack. Carry airline tickets, cruise documents, proof of citizenship and driver’s license, and carry multiple copies of all these documents and keep them separate in case they are lost. It is a good idea to carry additional traveler’s checks and cell phones.

Personal Care Items
A cruise liner is a place where customers are provided with all the possible comforts they need. Although complimentary personal care items such as shampoos, shower gels, razors and sunscreens are available it is a good idea to check with the cruise liner just to be sure. People who plan to spend most of their time outside will need loads of sunscreen, if they don’t want to get sun burned.

Bring Books
If you are traveling alone, then carrying a book to pass time is a great idea. Bring your own reading material because books and magazines available on the cruise ships would be more expensive. Most of the Bahamian population speaks English, but many of the locals might use regional phrases which might be unfamiliar to tourists. In such cases guidebooks prove very helpful.

Luggage
Luggage rules on cruises are much more relaxed than luggage rules on aircraft. It is advised that each tourist carries not more than two suitcases weighing less than 50 lbs each. Some cruise liners also allow guests to carry small coolers filled with non alcoholic drinks. People who want to shop around this beautiful nation should get a duffel bag and take advantage of the duty free shopping experience.

Sports Equipment
It’s also a good idea for tourists to bring golf clubs, scuba diving equipment, tennis rackets and balls from home. This would help save lots of rental fees.

Bahamas is a beautiful destination and a place which offers something for everyone in the family. It is important to know when to set foot on this little slice of heaven, tourists should be aware that hurricane season begins from 1st June to November 30th. However, many cruise liners still travel between this time even though there are high chances of coming face to face with harsh weather conditions.

Helpful Tips to Find the Best Cruise Deals

Sea cruises, without a doubt, spell class, style, and luxury. They seem to have it all―spacious cabins with top-of-the-line amenities, multi-cuisine restaurants, spas, swimming pool(s), recreation areas, and amazing live entertainment. And move over seasickness; because most cruise liners today are the very definition of comfort.

So, when you’ve got a liner that lets you travel in style to the most exotic destinations in the world, from Scandinavia to Antarctica, you naturally assume them to be jaw-droppingly expensive. Well, some of these sure are, but there also are a variety of options to suit your budget. The following pointers will come in handy to find you that dream cruise vacation.

How to Find the Best Cruise Deals

Begin with Research
The first rule is also the most obvious one on the list; to be able to find a bargain on your cruise vacation, you need to invest a good deal of time in research. Get the basics in place by deciding:

– myour destination
– myour choice of ship (big or small)
– type of cruise (adventure/family/singles/exotic)

Once you have these answers in hand, you can get to the task of zeroing in on the cruise that ticks all your boxes. Read up on cruise companies and their reviews on the Internet. This will help you shortlist a few options. You can even order brochures of the trips that interest you.

Proceed to Booking
If this is your first cruise trip, it is suggested that you book it through a travel agent. A cruise, unlike a regular holiday, is like your mode of transport/accommodation/sightseeing all rolled into one. Which is why a travel agent’s expertise will come in handy to book a trip that suits your needs. An agent can help you pick the right cruise, a good cabin, food and beverage options, age-appropriate entertainment for the family/group, include a few steal-deals, and perhaps throw in a discount as well.

A few cruise companies even appoint certain agents to accept bookings from customers. In such cases, the agent will not charge you anything for the service rendered, as he is already being paid a commission by the company. So, in case an agent is trying to coerce you into choosing a particular cruise, give it a deeper thought before you come to a decision.

Usually, the good agents are sure to have a Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) affiliation. A CLIA-certified agent is considered to be worthy and experienced to offer the best services, having completed a training program. Plus, you may also look for referrals, and pick an agent that has been recommended by someone you trust.

Finding the Best Deals
Finding the best cruise deals requires some amount of experience as well as expertise. To a first timer, it is akin to rocket science; and there are more chances of the person being taken for a ride, rather than a cruise. But here’s a thumb rule―your best chances of snagging a steal are at least 8 to 10 months before the sailing date. The best cabins are on sale during the early days, so you’re ensured a wide choice. This is especially true of popular destinations like the Mediterranean or Caribbean. If you’re thinking of going off-track, say Antarctica for instance, then you have to book at least a year in advance. Such cruises are not as frequent as the others, but are phenomenally popular (and not to mention, expensive).

Getting in Last-minute
Last-minute deals are a bit of a gamble when it comes to cruises. This is because, unlike regular vacations, your options are severely limited. So, while it’s true that you may find some last-minute value deals, they may not necessarily be to your liking. If this is your first trip to the seas, it is recommended that you play it safe and book in advance. Once you gain experience, you’ll automatically be trained to snag a steal at the last moment.

Be Weather Wise
Ensure that you complete your homework regarding weather-related aspects before you book your trip. Be in the know about the kind of weather to be expected at your destination, plus the general conditions of the sea throughout the duration of your trip. Doing so is important because lull-season cruise trips may fit perfectly in your budget, but the dowdy weather conditions throughout the cruise may dampen the overall experience. This may seem a bit trivial to some, but keep in mind that if you don’t like the weather, you simply can’t leave a cruise midway, for obvious reasons.

Consider the Whole Hog
A cruise isn’t just about the ship. You need to add the cost of traveling to the port of departure, perhaps a night’s stay here, and the return flight from your destination. Adding up all these things will give you an accurate picture of your actual expenses. Just ensure that your pre- and post-cruise expenditure does not eat into what you thought was a bargain cruise price.

There are endless number of things to consider when you’re booking a cruise trip. But listing them all out would translate to a lot of confusion. So, don’t be too pressurized, and book your trip in a relaxed state of mind. You’re sure to get the best deal this way.

A Guide to Help You Plan a Caribbean Cruise

Tip to help plan a Caribbean cruise
Considered to be the exclusive domain of the rich once upon a time, cruising has nowadays become one of the most popular modes of travel―not only because they offer you luxuries and amenities that fit perfectly into your budget, but also owing to the plethora of activities that these “floating resorts” offer. Plus, cruises enable you to see numerous, so-called exotic destinations in a single trip. Many tend to think that taking a cruise vacation is not very cost-effective, and that such a holiday would burn a large hole to their pocket. However surprisingly, contrary to this popular belief, most cruise fares are all-inclusive, thus, making it one of the most affordable travel options.

Planning a Caribbean Cruise: A Traveler’s Guide

These days, cruise ships sail to a number of exotic locations throughout the world. Nevertheless, the Caribbean continues to remain the number one cruising destination. A picture-perfect “sand and palm tree” tropical paradise that the Caribbean is, it offers several opportunities to tourists, both for adventure as well as relaxation. Considering each and every rocky outcropping and sandbar, there are hundreds of large and small islands that are surrounded by the Caribbean waters. However, out of the 45 or 50 that make it onto the world map, about 25 are regularly frequented by ships, operating through various cruise companies all over the globe. Here are a few tips to help you plan a hassle-free Caribbean cruise.

Choosing an Appropriate Cruise Line

► As of now, roughly about 20 cruise lines from the US sail the Caribbean waters. These include both the big ship cruises as well as those which are smaller in size.

► Big ship cruises offer a plethora of luxurious amenities and activities on-board; however, owing to their huge size, generally only the largest ports are covered in their itineraries. So, choose such a cruise line only and only if you intend to visit just the major ports and not the more exotic ones.

► The main advantage of opting for a smaller ship is that it can get into smaller harbors, which often have more to offer than the larger ports, in terms of beauty and serenity. There is no doubt that these might be lesser-known, lesser traveled ports and harbors; however, this very thing might also put them on the list of the most beautiful ones, undisturbed/less affected by excessive human intervention. So, if you intend to explore the less-trodden paths, opt for a smaller ship and experience the sanctity of the Caribbean.

Tip: If you are traveling on a budget, opt for a bigger ship. You might avail some great discounts and luxury amenities, fitting just right into your budget. Smaller ships, owing to their “exotic” itinerary, mostly offer limited number of bargains.

Planning an Itinerary

► It is important to note that in spite of numerous picturesque islands all across the Caribbean, not every island is a cruise port. Keep this in mind while planning your itinerary.

► In-depth research is the key. While you pen down your probable itinerary, check your wish list thoroughly with respect to whether or not a particular place is accessible through a cruise ship.

► Before planning your itinerary, decide upon what you wish to do most during your vacation―whether you wish to indulge more in sailing and in adventures such as scuba diving or whether you want to stay more on land.

► As of now, Caribbean cruises offer two broad categories from which you can choose your itinerary.

The first category is of the western Caribbean islands, meant specially for those who intend to do a lot of sailing. This involves places such as Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Costa Rica.
The second category is that of the eastern Caribbean islands, meant for those who prefer to stay on land and indulge in some serious shopping. Destinations such as the Bahamas and Puerto Rico form a part of the itineraries of this category.

► Moreover, as mentioned above, depending on the size of the ship you choose to sail in, your itinerary will vary between big ports and small harbors.

Tip: Several cruise lines, such as the Disney Cruise Line, also offer stops at some private islands. So, if budget is not your constraint, you can opt for an elaborate itinerary like this.

Duration of the Cruise

► One of the most important aspects to look at when planning a Caribbean cruise vacation is the duration of time you want to be at sea, and whether it is feasible.

► On an average, the duration of a standard cruise ranges from one week to about ten days. However, longer cruises are also available.

► It is vital that you also consider your overall budget while deciding the total duration of your cruise as both these factors are directly proportional to each other.

Tip: If you wish to opt for a longer cruise, choose an itinerary such that there are more number of and preferably, longer port calls. You surely don’t want to end up falling sick, right in the middle of your vacation.

Best Time to Cruise

► The peak season for cruising the Caribbean waters is between mid-December and mid-April. This is the time when most cruises are jam-packed, owing to which, there are limited numbers of discounts and bargains. On the contrary, you may have to pay higher prices.

► If you plan to go during the peak season, ensure that you book your cruise well in advance, at least a year ahead. The earlier you book, the more discounts you may avail. Last-minute discounts during the peak season are available, but are extremely rare.

► On the other hand, if you wish to avoid large crowds and avail great discounted offers, choose to go in the off-season, i.e., between the months of June and November. The overall rates for cruises during this time are usually lower, sometimes even up to 50% less than the normal rates.

Note: During the off-season, the Caribbean is prone to hurricanes. Therefore, while cruising does not stop, many cruise ships are likely to change their normal routes.

What’s Included and What’s Not

► This is an important aspect that needs thorough checking before booking the trip with a particular cruise line. The number of things that your cruise package includes will determine whether or not it is a good deal.

► In general, an all-inclusive cruise fare includes: (i) breakfast, lunch, and dinner; (ii) tea and coffee; (iii) a basic room; (iv) tap water; (v) daily room cleaning; (vi) charges for entertainment; and (vii) transportation charges.

Tip: Booking a lower deck will not only save you money, but also keep seasickness at bay!

► If you wish to book an airline ticket through your cruise line, you will have to book your package that way. Otherwise normally, airfares are not included. It is essential to note that booking an airline ticket via a cruise line is, more often than not, an expensive deal, and it is rather a better idea to book one on your own.

► An all-inclusive cruise fare will not include expenses such as spa services, shopping at on-board boutiques, fitness classes, casino gambling, expenses incurred on alcohol, and so on. All these are ways for a cruise line to earn additional revenue.

► Moreover, if you wish to book guided excursions with your cruise line, you will have to inquire in detail regarding the same. Whether or not these are included in the basic fare varies from cruise line to cruise line.

Note: Thoroughly check and recheck what all is included in your cruise fare, and determine whether it suits your needs and budget, before going ahead with the booking process. You definitely do not want to land up on the wrong ship, especially after paying such a hefty sum.

Go ahead and book a Caribbean cruise vacation for yourself. However, don’t forget to obtain all your valid travel documents, documented proof of the vaccinations you have taken, travel insurance papers, and most importantly, your medicines along with the doctor’s prescription. Ask for a detailed packing list from your cruise line and pack accordingly. Ask specifically if there are any sort of dress codes for on-board events such as Captain’s Dinner, etc. So, set sail and have a wonderful vacation!

Tips for Choosing the Best European River Cruise

At the cost of sounding very ill-informed, it must be admitted that cruise ships were, until recently, considered to be a perfect holiday for those who found themselves on the wrong side of 50. It involved a comfortable setting, with lots of time spent bobbing up and down on the calm waters of the Danube or the Rhine, seeking the most wonderful photo ops of continental Europe. It still is all this, but you’d be surprised to know the extent to which cruise companies have reinvented themselves to cater to a more younger and hipper crowd.

So, before you dive right in and book one for yourself, here are a few things that you’ve got to keep in mind.

Pick one that is all-inclusive
With group holidays, most itineraries are not all-inclusive, which can be a shame, as the traveler has to be mindful of what he can or cannot do. Therefore, it is better to pick a cruise that gives an all-inclusive deal, upfront. This should include all of the following―airport transfers, tips, meals, drinks, excursions, and on-board facilities like spas, specialty restaurants, pools, gyms, etc. Try to evade the “conditions apply” deals as far as possible, as it is really hard to keep a track of what you’re allowed or not allowed to do.

Screen their specialties
With their growing popularity, cruises are now catering to all kinds of travelers; gone are the days when it used to be the ‘elderly’ way to see Europe. Once you dock, there are ample opportunities for doing whatever it is you want to, be it cycling, exploring, clubbing, or simply taking the designated walking tour conducted by in-house tour guides. You’ve got to be clear about the kind of excursions that are offered, as some companies can be quite rigid about their itineraries, and not allow patrons to go off on their own, for safety concerns. If you’re more of the outdoorsy type, and the cruise offers a lot of museum visits, you know you ought to bypass it.

Don’t forget your budget and your purpose
European cruises can be quite heavy on the pocket. Does it seem any surprising that they’ve been the preferred way to travel for well-off retirees? An all-inclusive, two-week cruise can easily cost you in the range of USD 6,000 or thereabouts per person. Which can amount to nothing, provided you are the type who’d want to travel in style. But if you’re a backpacker at heart, or for whatever reason your mind’s not in it, you won’t be able to enjoy it, no matter how lavish the setting.

Know that the weather can be a complete dampener
April to October is the cruise season in Europe. But mind you, the weather in April and early May can play spoilsport at times. It can be wet and chilly, which means that you may have to spend most of your time indoors, rather than being on the deck to enjoy the views. Also, the rains may cause the water level in the rivers to rise, making it impossible for ships to pass under bridges. Conversely, in case of a drought, the low water level would also mean that ships cannot pass through. Late May to July, therefore would be more appropriate than April.

Pick a cruise that’s right for you
Rhine? Danube? Seine? No, all European cruises aren’t the same; in fact, they do cater to very different kinds of clientele.

The Rhine-Moselle-Main cruise is more about exploring the picturesque side of Europe, as it takes you along the historic corridor of the continent, viewing the most breathtaking castles, mountains, and landscapes. This cruise charts the course of the Rhine, from Switzerland to Amsterdam, into France and Luxembourg, and culminates in Germany. Fans of fairy tale landscapes and history buffs will immensely appreciate this route.

The Danube crosses the Iron Curtain, entering Eastern Europe, which offers a fresh perspective into Europe for those who have had enough of the western part of the continent. The Danube flows from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania, passing through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

The Rhone cruise is made for wine lovers, since it sails through Provence and Burgundy, two of France’s top wine-making regions. You’ll have ample visits to vineyards along the way, sampling the local produce, and enjoying the gorgeous views.

The Douro is another exciting option for those wanting to explore Portugal and Spain, two very unique and distinct destinations in the western corridor. The Douro river rises in north-central Spain, and flows southwards into northern Portugal, and finally emptying into the Atlantic at Porto. Stops along the way include the Golden City of Salamanca, and the sleepy fishing hamlet of Pinhao, as you take in the vine-covered, rugged hillside along the banks of the Douro.

The cruise you pick should foremostly, reflect your choices about the kind of holiday you wish to go on. Therefore, conduct thorough research before you take your pick.

Cruising through the rivers of Europe is one of the most amazing ways to appreciate the beauty of this picturesque continent. Remember to book your trip at least 8 months in advance, though, as the best of these get filled up before you would imagine.

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