Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nine lines travel the world so choose your cruise


Last Saturday's "starter kit" talked prices and posed questions to ask yourself when planning a cruise.
Cruising offers value, variety, safety and more... you pack and unpack  once!
*Are the ship and amenities more important than ports? Prefer to sail the Norwegian Fjords or wander the streets of a Sicilian village?
*Must you have an ocean view or balcony? Happy with a cheaper, inside cabin? What's your budget?
*Do you want history lectures, Broadway revues, samba lessons, Mayan ruins, cobblestone streets, boutiques, wine tastings, a butler?
* Will you buy a cruise-fly package? Are you embarking in one port and disembarking in another? Narrow the field. Here are nine favorite options.
*Crystal. This top-ranked line features fine dining afloat, impeccable service from the penthouse to the pub, pampering treatments (Crystal's "rejuvenating" spas were an artform years ago), understated elegance and itineraries for the "been there, done that" crowd who seek creative slants on familiar places. Crystal's art collection is heralded. She is tops in Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast
Cruising offers beauty, relaxation, adventure and pampering.
magazine critiques for 20 years. Personalized service, fabulous food, exclusive excursions, scores of complimentary amenities on two gorgeous ships and many other perks attract discerning travelers.
*Oceania. This mid-sized luxury line is also renowned for its celebrated dining, stunning public and private rooms, terrific land tours, built-in amenities and day-long pampering. Oceania and Crystal attract seasoned cruisers who know what they want and don't mind paying for it. Oceania's port-intensive itineraries often feature overnight visits. She boasts gourmet restaurants, "country club casual," and A Bon Appetit Culinary Center with hands-on cooking classes.
*Celebrity. Versatility and vitality marked a memorable birthday on the Century for my mother, with three generations toasting mum in Europe's grand ports. Celebrity's enhancements include tropical rain
Amenities are part of the fun,
here a welcome basket of fruit and sweets.
showers in the spa, perfectly grilled steaks in open air, interactive classes in art, concierge staterooms and an ice-topped bar with custom martinis. Newer additions to the fleet, Celebrity Reflection and Silhouette have cabana-style haven, real grass recreation areas. The line also offers relaxing Caribbean trips and coastal cruises, from Seattle to San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Catalina island.
*Cunard. History, class, experience. Cunard has these in spades. I logged nine Atlantic crossings on the venerable QEII before she was retired to Dubai, and am contemplating a Mediterranean trip on one of the newer Queens. In the Queens and Princess Grill suites, the concierge, butler and amenities are sublime. Couples still dine in black tie and Canyon Ranch treatments are easily arranged, along with priority boarding and pre-dinner canapes en suite. Cunard combines old-world finesse with contemporary allure.
 *Royal Caribbean International.  This mid-priced line is tops for overall quality. Its glamorous Oasis of the Seas made  headlines in 2010 for its size and splendor.
Shore excursions spice up Keller's cruise!
   Families love it. We do,too for bang for the buck. Passengers are a lively mix and the loyalty program attracts repeat cruisers galore. You can climb a mountain nine decks above the Boardwalk, watch an ice show, hit Starbucks, plan your land tour to capture New England fall foliage or study geology in the Canary Islands, prowl the wonders of Mumbai or Muscat, sail into Auckland, sip tea in Adelaide, walk the ruins of Ephesus on 22 ships with 280 ports-of-call in 80-plus countries.
*Holland America. Whether your tastes run to the Yukon and Denali, or sun-soaked Mediterranean landscapes, Holland America's appealing, mid-sized ships offer "as you wish" dining, refined service and knowledgeable tour guides. This line also prides itself in its loyalty program, and "Mariners" enjoy savings. Whether you're walking in the footsteps of Alexander the Great or toasting under the glow of the Midnight
A private balcony is a must for Cookie! Here leaving Florida.
Sun, you'll find both surroundings and service to your liking. Like Cunard, Holland America has decades of history. Her Alaska packages are hard to beat. For fans of "Dancing with the Stars" there's an at sea version.
* Princess Cruises. Always classy, Princess has carved a niche for herself for pampering, quality, diverse ports and ability to stretch the vacation dollar and still be classy about it. Aaron Spelling's 1977 "Love Boat," shot aboard the Sun Princess in Mexico, ecame a famously popular TV show, giving the line even more cache. My cruise-loving mum adored Princess ships because they sail the world and treat their passenger royally.
* Norwegian Cruise Line. Most lines make Hawaii stops but this is the only line to regularly transit the Hawaiian islands, visiting four isles in seven days with two overnight stays to give access to the
Sailing in and out of port is one of cruising's excitements,
 here Brazil beckons at night, after an Atlantic crossing.
volcanos, luaus and waterfalls. Norwegian also visits Alaska, and her cruise tours venture deep into the wild, including railroad options, a tundra tour and a visit to a musher's home. The Pearl, Jewel and Sun are the newest ships sailing Alaska. NCL navigates the world with freedom, flexibility and a family fan club.
*Carnival. From seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises to Alaskan and Caribbean itineraries, Carnival specializes in making the most of a vacation dollar and packing huge fun into your vacation. Her always-a-party ships cruise the globe and, as her name suggests, feature glittery, glitzy, non-stop action-packed cruising. Good value for the dollar.

COMING WEDNESDAY: San Francisco opens her "Golden Gate"and we're giving away an autographed, first-edition book of poems to the winner of a "name your travel theme" contest. Details Wednesday! Remember to explore, learn, live! We post Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tell your friends about:

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