Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cruising offers choices as large as the sea itself

Cruise ships and private yachts make a pretty sight in picturesque St. Thomas.

There are almost as many cruises as there are ripples in the sea. Surfer's waves.  Shells in the sand.

Today's part one starter will help you narrow the field, and give you some idea of what to expect to pay and where you might like to go.

A cruise can be a relaxing 10-day  retreat or a satisfying, "see it all" whirlwind.  For a couple yearning  for time "alone together," a cruise offers exotic ports, with beautiful sights to explore and share.  Back in your stateroom, catch up on a stack of books, breathing in the sea air, savoring your ocean view, snuggling on your veranda and partaking of room service offered by the butler.

One of the pleasures of cruising is room service and amenities!
A cruise can also be a lively, 10-port family outing with land tours, shipboard games, evening shows and a table for twenty in the formal dining room at day's end. Many families use a cruise as a vehicle for a family reunion or  celebration. Toddlers to great-grandparents!
A cruise can artfully blend activity and rest  -- a port every few days, plenty of at-sea days and enough time to catch your breath and unwind between adventures.
A cruise is yours to design, so find the perfect one for your tastes and desires.
There are cruises on many themes -- jazz, history, wine, whale watching, classical music, gardening, swing dancing, ballroom dancing, art, fitness, antiquities and more. Cruises for singles, gays, the younger set.  Cruises that cater to sophisticated retirees with youthful curiosity and years of traveling. Often two or three couples cruise together.
 This land tour in the Canary Islands featured foliage and folklore!
Cruises can catch the tulips season.  Cruises can offer champagne and visit French chateaux or English manor homes. Cruises celebrate Darwin and the marvelous tortoises of the Galapagos. Cruises meander through the Greek Isles into the wonders of Turkey's Kusadasi and nearby Ephesus.

Decide if you are more interested in the ship itself or the ports it visits. Maybe some of each. That can be easily accomplished.

There are cruises that cross the Atlantic or Pacific with days of sailing and only the occasional island port. There are "repositioning" cruises where the ship moves from, say, a week-long Caribbean itinerary around the tip of South America and up to the Mexican Riviera. Or up the coast further to Alaska for its season.

Nothing beats shipboard R&R and
it's fun to find your room from shore!
There are cruises that transit Australia's coast, then stop off in Vietnam and end in Hong Kong or Singapore. Baltic cruises,
cruises to Bali or the Black Sea ports. To famous museum cities, including Bilbao. You can even see inland cities such as Berlin and Florence on a cruise, thanks to land tours booked through the ship.
There are cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, all over the Caribbean, the British Isles, Tahiti, India, Africa, South America, the Middle East and more. Through the Panama and Suez canals! Some cruises are "round trip"; others start in one city and end in another. Practically anywhere with a trace of tourism, you'll find a cruise itinerary. A cruise is a wonderful way to see many European highlights.
A huge advantage of cruising is that you unpack only once!
Here are a few steps to get you started:
*Are you a first-time cruiser or have you experience?  If a first-timer, do you have special destinations in mind, a favorite "must see" place, port or island? A bucket list must? If you're a veteran cruiser and don't really care where you go next, you'll be more interested in the ship than the destinations or ports of call.
*What is your budget?  Do you care about your location on the ship? If you're happy with a cheaper inside cabin, with no view of the ocean, you can reap savings and cruise for less than $80 or $90 a day per person, enjoying the public areas the ship offers. Budget-minded cruisers can hop on a ship and enjoy meals and entertainment and many activities included in the price, for as little as $60 or $70 per person per day. (If you don't mind that inside cabin.)
San Juan's fortress and castle are yours to explore during a tour.
*If you must have an ocean view, or cherish that balcony, you'll pay more, between $85 and $200 per person per day. Port taxes up the ante, so the more ports, the more you'll pay. Atlantic or Pacific crossings with several "at sea" days offer great deals, with a balcony possible for $100 per person per day, marvelous food and shows.

*If money is no object, you'll pay much more, and likely want a penthouse or grand suite and your own butler. Owners' suites often have a full butler's pantry and kitchen, a large dining room table, several televisions and bathrooms, multiple balconies and even grand pianos.
 Here's to your cruise! Safe, fun sailing!
Whatever you pay, your room will be made tidy and fresh at least twice a day -- a lovely feature of cruising. You do nothing but choose your clothes, dining options and reading material! Pack and unpack once. Plan your nap! Hop off in a port and shop for Christmas, birthdays, kids. Enjoy a show, lecture or jaccuzi.

Try to narrow the field with your own preferences and schedule, then Wednesday, we'll give you options and offer several very different ships and the places they visit during your cruise.

Gilbert Castellanos is trumpeter,
band leader and composer in
"Federal Jazz Project."
The joint is jumpin' at Federal Jazz Project, an inventive and beautifully staged production at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza. San Diego Repertory Theatre offers up a treat with music, nostalgia, terrific tap dancing, a history lesson and more.
There's time to book a ticket.  Go to, and look for our review over the weekend.

Part Two of our cruise tips with a sampling of some of our favorite cruises and ships, from Crystal's elegant Serenity in the Mediterranean to Holland America's Veendam in Alaska, Royal Caribbean's Mariner on an Atlantic crossing, Oceania's Insignia exploring intriguing ports in Greece and Italy, Celebrity's Century celebrating Europe's grand cities, and Carnival cruising the Caribbean. Then we're off to explore Alcatraz and San Francisco. Take time to explore, learn, live!
Shopping in a foreign port offers a chance for unique souvenirs,
an opportunity to explore local culture and time to pick up gifts.

We post Wednsdays and Saturdays. Please tell like minded friends about:

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