How to Choose the Best Cruise Destination

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to Choose the Best Cruise Destination


There are so many choices of destinations and cruise lines for cruising these days. It is no longer just a way for seniors to travel either. Young couples or singles and even families are opting for this type of vacation now.

Deciding on a length and destination for the cruise is probably the most difficult choice. I look at the number of days I want to travel first of all. I have done 4-day, 7-day, and 10-day cruises. There are also much longer cruises available for those travelers who really enjoy life on the water and have the time to do it. All major cruise lines offer every imaginable amenity on their ships now.
If you live inland, you have to consider what port you want to begin your cruise. In North America the majority of cruises sail out of New York City, Miami, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Galveston, Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

In the Western Hemisphere, Caribbean Cruises are very popular. The combination of sun, sand, snorkeling, and warm turquoise water is the ideal vacation destination. Throw in some cultural experiences in Jamaica and Mexico and it becomes the perfect holiday for any age.
Cruising through the Panama Canal has always been a favourite destination for cruisers. They get to experience something that is historical as well as an amazing piece of engineering. 

There are so many cruise destinations available, not only from Canada and the USA, but also overseas. Mediterranean Cruises are extremely popular because they often include many ports of call in a 3-week period or less. On one trip you can get a taste of Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal. What a great way to spend a vacation and you can always return to spend a longer period of time in your favourite country.
I live on the West Coast of Canada. I can do what is called a repositioning cruise out of Vancouver over a long weekend. This is when the Alaska Cruises end and the ship heads back to Los Angeles or further south. I only travel one way and then fly back. It is a fantastic relaxing way to spend a weekend!
Of course you’re all set to have this wonderful experience and all you want to use be sitting in the bar with a drink in your hand but there are a few housekeeping rules that have to be gone over before you leave port. The major one of course is the lifeboat drill. Expect to spend about an hour while you learn how to lineup, put your life jacket on, and find out which lifeboat station you are required to report to should there be an incidence. In all that time I’ve been cruising I’ve never had a problem.
Then comes the joy of finding your room on a ship with seven stories and many hallways. The first day or two you spend a lot of time lost but that’s okay because the ship is huge and there are lots of things to see. It’s also a good way of meeting new people!
Sailing out of a major port is always such a wonderful experience. It’s fun watching the people on shore, waving to them, listening to the music as the ship leave the harbor.
The one-week cruise to Alaska is also a great trip. The one I recommend is the following. The ship leaves Vancouver on a Saturday evening and you spend a day and another night cruising the inside passage. After docking at Ketchikan, Alaska, you have most of the day to look around before heading to your next port of call at Icy Strait Point. Then you have a full day and evening at Juneau, the next stop. My favourite port is Skagway, Alaska. The history of the area is fascinating and because you may have a full day there I would recommend arranging to take the White Pass and Yukon Railway train ride. Then you are off to see the Hubbard Glacier before spending a bit longer at sea and arriving in Seward, Alaska early Friday morning. It gives you time to see a bit more of Alaska before flying back to Vancouver at the end of the weekend. If you would rather spend your whole time cruising rather than flying one way, that is possible too.
If you have a 10 days or so for a holiday, there is nothing nicer than relaxing on a ship out in the middle of the ocean, soaking up the sunshine as you cruise down the West Coast of California and Mexico. It’s a great way for your over-stressed mind to relax. Take a romantic getaway or a chance to have a holiday with friends or family. Nowadays it is so easy to get from Vancouver, Canada down to one of the departure ports in California.
I always like to arrive a day before my ship sails, so I have a chance to enjoy some of the area that I’m sailing from. Also, if my luggage got left behind, it has time to catch up with me.
The ports of call I enjoy on the shorter Mexican Riviera Cruise are Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. There are longer cruises, which go down to Acapulco too but I find 3 ports and a few days at sea perfect for a relaxing holiday.
Cabo San Lucas is a great spot to whale watch or just enjoy the day snorkeling at one of the many secluded beaches. Enjoy the next port, Mazatlan, by hanging out at one of the beachside tourista cafes. If you want a true Mexican experience though, grab a cab or bus to the downtown area. There are loads of shops and cafes that offer wares at local prices. Both stops are only for a few hours but well worth getting off the ship. Shore excursions can be arranged ahead of time.
The next stop, Puerto Vallarta, is my favourite port. Don’t be put off by the Walmart Super Center right across from the cruise ship terminals. Their prices for souvenirs are higher than “old town.”You can get a taxi to take you downtown for a very reasonable price and the rate is fixed from the cruise ship. Ask to be let off at the Malecon, which is a good place to begin exploring the beautiful city. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront of the gently curving Banderas Bay.
Sand sculptures built each day capture the imagination of all ages, ranging from 8-headed lizards to Mayan temples. Mimes covered in bronze-colored sand quietly reflect the ocean’s beauty as people try to make them laugh. It’s difficult for young and old to resist climbing a ladder toward the azure skies that beckon them, which is one of the many permanent bronze sculptures.
Traditional entertainment is also available throughout the day and evening at no cost, although donations are gratefully accepted. The famous Paplanta Flyers circle their way head first toward the ground as the flute and drum players keep the rhythm. The Arches are the backdrop for many hourly folklore presentations. The Malecon has a carnival atmosphere and vendors and artists sell their wares along the way. It is well worth tasting the roasted corn, a staple in Mexico, or trying some horchata, a sweet rice drink.
At any point along the way, you can turn off to check out the local markets and even swinging bridges to carefully cross. Thousand year old trees are perfect backdrops for pictures along the river. Don’t be surprised to see an iguana sunning himself in the early morning! The Malecon is only three blocks from traditional Mexico if you want to experience some very reasonably priced pastries or tacos.
Continue south along the walk and watch the pelicans frolicking at the mouth of the river where it empties into Banderas Bay. They are hoping for the catch of the day longside the local fisherman. The Malecon gradually becomes a beach walk, where parachute rides, banana boats and jet skies are available for the more adventurous tourists. The waves are often perfect for practicing body surfing. Farther down the beach is the ultimate challenge, the stairs to Gringo Gulch! The climb is rugged but the view at the top is spectacular! A bit further down the beach is a trail, which cuts over to a secluded beach area. It is a nice place to enjoy a swim and a relaxing afternoon. Keep an eye out for the dolphins and gray whales swimming too.
At the end of the day, spectacular sunsets and fireworks can be enjoyed from one of the many well-known restaurants across the street from the Malecon before heading back to the ship.
I enjoy the time at sea too. There are so many things to do on the ship besides eating and drinking and swimming. Most cruise ships have a couple of show lounges, a theatre, an exercise room, a day spa, and casino. Many are also equipped with extra facilities like a climbing wall, tennis courts, and a running track for those who want to stay in shape.
Whatever your destination is and however long you plan to travel, just remember to take in every sight you can. You may never get the opportunity to return to the same place again!


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