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Category Archives: Travel

Tropical Beaches

Harbour Island is only half a mile wide and three miles long yet has some of the nicest sand beaches with an unbelievable laid back atmosphere. The island has less than 2,000 locals and only a few tourists making it a special choice for a relaxing getaway. This tiny island was once the home of the capital city of the Bahamas, Dunmore Town. Enjoy the Georgian Architecture, stroll through the tiny shops on quaint streets. And of course, lap up the sun on the beautiful pink sand beaches!

Just 18 miles long, Bora Bora is an enchanted tropical island in the French Polynesian chain. Nick-named the Romantic Island, Bora Bora lies in a secluded lagoon and boasts many secluded white sandy beaches. Intimate hotels and the quiet, relaxed South Seas atmosphere add to the feeling of romance. The secluded Matira Beach offers visitors all of that romantic atmosphere with bright turquoise water and brilliant South Seas sunsets!

Cond Nast Traveler have named this gorgeous white sand beach as one of the 12 best beaches in the world. And unlike many of the Caribbean islands, this Aruba and her beaches are geared up for the entertainment of families and kids. At Kibama Miniature Village and Park, kids can explore mini Aruban-style buildings. Adventure Golf in Aruba is billed as the world’s largest mini-golf course. Swimmers, sailors, fishermen… and kids will all find Palm Beach, Aruba as an idyllic family vacation retreat!

Very few have had the opportunity to enjoy the unspoiled, breathtaking beaches of Fernando de Noronha. Only a mere 420 visitors are allowed on the island – off the northeast coast of Brazil – at any time. In 1988, the island was declared a marine national park. Being part of a volcanic archipelago, the island treats visitors to towering rock “sculptures”, pristine waterfalls with natural swimming pools and of course the exquisite white beaches tucked below jagged cliffs and caves.

Dating from as early as 250 A.D., ancient Mayan ruins tower over the beaches. Swimmers and sunbathers can’t help but be swept up in the aura of ancient mystery when they look up from the beach. White sand beaches and crystal blue waters greet visitors to the water paradise!

These are but a minuscule sampling of the wonderful and beautiful tropical beaches awaiting vacationers. To enjoy a number of exotic tropical beaches in one vacation, check out various cruise itineraries. On some Caribbean cruises for example, you could visit four tropical beaches on a seven or eight night cruise!

Finding Discount Cruises

One tip for the cruise bargain shopper is to consider a weekend trip or short cruise. This is a great way to experience the magic of a cruise vacation even if you don’t have a lot of time or money to spare. On the Internet, you can also conveniently browse the company’s featured cruises for more discounts. This is also the best place to enter sweepstakes and contests run by Royal Caribbean.

If you’re serious about discount cruise opportunities, there is still another potentially valuable resource available online. There are a few organizations online that can teach you how to create your own travel website as a business you run from home. If done properly, you can earn an income right from home and take advantage of generous discounts on your own vacation packages, including Royal Caribbean cruise discounts.

One such travel club, Coastal Vacations, offers it members some pretty deep discounts on Royal Caribbean, and many other popular cruise lines.

As a member of the club, one can access an unlimited amount of cruises and only pay the processing fees, government taxes, and port taxes, making it a really great bargain for two people traveling.

Save Money on Cruises

Flat fare specials are one fixed price for the best available cabin at the time of booking.

Share a cabin with friends, another couple or two family members and you could easily end up cruising for free. This fare package can also be cut four ways – reducing the burden on all. You will be sleeping in head over bunks that are comfortable, so consider this strategy. Just make sure everyone gets along.

You should check into airfares at reduced rates offered by your cruise line to get you to your embarkation site.

How about an upgrade? Better cabins, discounted certificates, 10-40 percent savings off advertised prices may all be offered by your cruise line through their respective newsletters.

The early bird still gets the cruise, just like with the airlines. If you’re a good long-range planner, then you can save mucho dinero. The earlier you book your cruise – the more you save. Typically 10 – 40%.

If you belong to an association, organization, if you have a wedding party, family reunion, belong to a church group or are planning a corporate outing you can get a hefty group discount. As always, don’t be afraid to ask!

Stand by! Yes, it happens with cruise ships too. Typically you’re notified three weeks prior to departure if there is space. Late notice like this means you get a nice discount fare.

Info Types of Cruise Cabins

Some cruise cabins have VCRs or DVD players, and some televisions also have radio/music channels. The cabins also usually have a night table, reading lamps, and a chair. Most modern cruise ships come with a hairdryer, so you won’t have to bring one from home. Some standard staterooms feature personal safes, table, desk with chair, convertible loveseat, mini-refrigerator, and even Internet access, although it is often much more costly than in the common Internet lounge. The cruise line brochure or Web site usually specifies what amenities are in each cabin.

The standard cruise cabin bathrooms are usually tiny and most only have a shower (no tub). The shower usually has good water pressure, with the only complaint being the small size. Don’t be surprised if the shower curtain keeps trying to attack you! The bathroom also has a sink, toiletry shelves, and a noisy vacuum toilet like on an airplane. Often there is a small step up between the bedroom and bathroom, perfect for stubbing your toe. The bathrooms also usually have a retractable clothesline for drying your swimsuit or hand laundry.

The next step above an outside cabin is one with a balcony (verandah). These cruise cabins have sliding glass doors, giving you access to the outside. The sliding doors also mean you can see outside from anywhere in the cabin, i.e. lie on the bed and still see the ocean outside. Usually the cruise balcony cabins are also larger than the standard cabins, and some qualify as mini-suites. Which means they have a small sitting area with a loveseat or convertible sofa. The cruise mini-suites also usually have a curtain that can be drawn to separate the sleeping and sitting areas. This feature is ideal for couples (or friends) that have different sleeping habits.

Norwegian Cruise Line

A particular cruise feature that Norwegian Cruise Lines introduced is free-style dining. Historically, shipboard dining has been a structured affair, with meals served at preset hours, usually with assigned seating in the dining room and a dress code. Free-style dining changes all of that to match the contemporary American lifestyle. Passengers may choose from eight to a dozen dining areas on board and eat when they wish. Some dining areas serve cafeteria-style, with food already prepared and jean-clad passengers taking a tray and selecting their food items. The main dining areas serve menu-based meals with full service wait staff and where jeans and shorts are prohibited at the evening meal. All food in the dining rooms and cafeteria is included in the price of the cruise.

And you get more than your money’s worth in the quality and presentation of all food items. The average passenger gains seven pounds on a week-long cruise! In addition, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a selection of specialty or upscale restaurants on each ship and meals in these restaurants are offered at additional cost. For example, Asian, French, Japanese or Italian cuisine may be featured in a suitably decorated small restaurant. But know full well, the upscale restaurants excel in service and cuisine and provide value for the dollar for the more discriminating.

Food service is a major attraction on any cruise, but Norwegian Cruise Line also provides a full range of on-board activities 24 hours a day. A fully equipped fitness center attracts those who want to stay in shape on their vacation. The pool area is the hub of live entertainment day and evening. Ships have a number of bar, lounge and disco areas that come to life with talented performers every night. Also included in the price of the cruise is theatre entertainment that ranges from stand-up comedy to full show revues that rival those found in Las Vegas. And speaking of Las Vegas, while in international waters, passengers can enjoy all the amenities of a sparkling casino, including slots and gaming.

Norwegian Cruise Line, a premier cruise line, currently has ten large and modern ships in its fleet. The most luxurious ship in the fleet, the Norwegian Star, seasonally alternates on trips to Alaska during the summer season and cruises to the Mexican Riviera in the colder months. One of the newest ships, Norwegian Spirit, also sails to Alaska in the summer but crosses the Panama Canal to sail the Caribbean in the winter. The Norwegian Wind follows the whim of the wind and sails to many major destinations: Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and the Caribbean while Norwegian Sun and Dream quietly cruise the Caribbean.

The brand new Pride of Aloha, as its name implies, is dedicated to custom cruises hopping between the islands of Hawaii. There is no better way to thoroughly tour Hawaii than on a cruise ship. Also brand new, Norwegian Dawn is dedicated to sailing from New York to ports in Florida and the Caribbean.

The newly renovated Norwegian Sea routinely sails from Houston, Texas through the Caribbean. A ship fit for royalty, the Norwegian Majesty, also sails through the Caribbean to ports of call in Mexico and the Bahamas.

Family Reunion Cruises

When that urge strikes (and believe me, it will strike), you’ve got to be prepared with a plan of action. If you mention the idea of a “family reunion” to your family members without a plan, you’ll most likely end up with mayhem on your hands. The next thing you know you’ll have relatives camping out on every square inch of your floor, piling your sink sky high with dirty dishes, and making executive decisions with your remote control. In addition, you’ll become far too acquainted with the health problems and bodily functions of some of your senior relatives (Who knew that toenail fungus was so prevalent?).

So, what’s the plan of action? You’ve got to head off those pesky relatives at the pass and make sure they never plan that family reunion at your house. What’s the alternative? You’ve got to plan your family reunion on a cruise ship!

Cruise ships are the perfect setting for a family reunion. This is neutral territory, so people don’t feel they are imposing on others. It levels the playing field and takes away the control that can sometimes come into play when reunions are held on a family member’s “turf.” Plus, the best part is the cruise line does all the work — the cleaning, the cooking, and the entertaining. All your family members have to do is relax and enjoy their time together. Plus, lest we forget to mention one of the most important factors — the variety of activities onboard the ship and at the various ports of call is a perfect fit for groups who want to do some of their activities together and some separately. In other words, you’re not trapped in “family reunion” bedlam the entire time. You can take a breather at one of the many bars or lounges onboard your ship, catch a current movie in the ship’s theater, put on your dancin’ shoes for the disco, try your luck at the casino, or simply hide out in your stateroom and order complimentary room service.

If your family group has children, traditional reunions can be horrible experiences for kids! You know what I’m talking about — the endless “remember when” discussions they overhear about things they’re too young to understand, the frequent rebukes for running through the house making too much noise, and the obligatory playing with the dreadful cousins. Yikes! What kid would look forward to that? But, tell a kid they’re going on a cruise ship with a miniature golf course, a pool, a sports court, an ice rink, and a really cool kid’s activity program, and they won’t grumble about having to endure a few hours of interaction with the relatives.

Most cruise lines offer attractive rates for groups — and some offer special packages specifically for family reunions. With their all-inclusive approach (meals and entertainment are included) and hassle-free planning, booking your family reunion aboard a cruise ship is the only way to go.

Fun Free Cruising

Now before you all roll about laughing, let me explain that I have just come back from my first ever cruise. I ate three meals and some a day, drank more than my doctor would have liked me to yet I didn’t put a single pound on for the seven days we were at sea. I appreciate that most of us go cruising to get away from it all and have a good time.

Many of us even go on a diet before sailing so that we look our best as we lounge by the pools but there really is no need to put on a lot of weight while we are at sea only having to shed it all once we get back home.

Follow our ten easy steps and you will have a great time on your cruise and look fabulous when you arrive home.

1. Eating

Enjoy the fabulous food – that is one of the main reasons we all go on cruises. The cruise lines go to great lengths nowadays to make sure that there are plenty of healthy options and portions sizes are large enough to fill you up without adding unnecessary calories. My wife and I cruised on the Carnival Glory and the food -and service – was fantastic. However, if like us, you do overindulge every now and then go to step 2.

2. Exercise

Get into the gym and get on a treadmill – even if it’s only for 15 minutes (although 30 minutes is better!). It will speed up your metabolism and help burn off unwanted calories. The first full day at sea the gym is normally packed with people with good intentions. You may even have to wait to get on an exercise machine. The second day the lines are not so long and after a couple of days you can usually take your pick of machines. Exercising after breakfast is a great idea as it allows you to burn off those eggs, bacon and pancakes with the bonus that your elevated metabolic rate will continue to burn off additional calories for another two or thee hours as you bask in the sun.

3. Spa

Pamper yourself. Enjoy a relaxing massage and then dive into the steam room or sauna. You’ll feel great and you’ll lose a few more unwanted pounds.

4. Walking

Going for a walk may seem a strange idea on a cruise ship but you have miles of decks to saunter along. Wear a hat and sunscreen and carry a bottle of water and after a couple of circuits you’ll know the layout of the ship, have checked out the best places to sunbathe and burned off enough calories in time for your next meal.

5. Swimming

Swimming is great exercise and even if you can’t actually do laps because of all the other people in the pool, you can tread water for a few minutes each day which is great exercise both for burning off calories and strengthening and toning muscles.

Internet Cruises

Indeed the Internet can be a wonderful source of information to help you plan an exciting holiday, obtaining ship and stateroom descriptions, itineraries, tips on sites to see, passport and visa requirements, shore excursion, shopping, weather and local interest information,but is it the right place to book your dream vacation?

Cruise lines are investing over US$15 billion to build at least 50 new ships in the first half of this decade in addition to the over 300 vessels already in service. Each of these ships offer different amenities with unique ambiance and often this kind of information can only be understood and communicated by face to face discussions with a cruise expert to avoid turning a terrific vacation into a mediocre experience.

There is a common misconception that because something is offered for sale on the Internet, it will be an exceptional or a major saving for the consumer. More often than not however it is the ease of completing a transaction that is the major benefit for certain types of travel.

Do not assume that pricing on the Internet will automatically be the lowest. Often local agencies will have agreements with the cruiselines that allow them to offer exceptional “not to be advertised” specials.

Sometimes there are “residents specials” which are applicable only to residents of a particular country, state or province. Most cruise lines offer price protection to the consumer should the fare for your category of stateroom be reduced. A good agent will watch for reductions and ensure you receive the adjustment. Using an electronic service may not provide the same protection or make available specific specials applicable to your requirements.

Arrangements unique to your vacation such as special dietary requirements, handling disabilities, and providing meet and greet services, may be overlooked booking on-line and there may be no way to get answers your very specific questions.

On the other hand booking your frequent flyer points travel directly with the airlines or even obtaining a air ticket can be a simple process with little risk if you are dealing directly with the airline’s booking engine. Above all make sure about who you are giving your credit card to.

Info of Western Caribbean Cruise

Staterooms:

Our stateroom was an inside aft cabin and we were not disappointed. It was roomy enough and the lighting was adequate. Closet space and drawers were also sufficient for our use. We noticed that the double beds here were actually a bit better than the one we had on the Adventure since we couldn’t really feel the split between the two separate beds like we did last time. If there’s one thing that can be improved is the shower curtain. The one installed was not adequate in keeping in all the water from the shower. The shower on the Adventure utilized a double glass door system which was far superior. Otherwise, the cabin was nice and dark for sleeping at night. Although we heard a little noise from the cabins next to us, it was minimal. We didn’t miss having any window or balcony at all since we were hardly ever in our stateroom. We were either at port or elsewhere on the ship and went back to our cabins just to relax or sleep. We would definitely book an inside cabin again with RCI unless we had a free upgrade.

Dining:

The main Cascades dining room was nice and meals were good. Breakfasts had the same menu every morning. Lunch at the dining room was okay. The dinners were good but not every meal item was a winner. There was the odd appetizer and dessert that was not up to par. One thing that my partner noticed was that the portions of the main courses seemed to be smaller than those served on the Adventure. We usually went upstairs to the Windjammer to get more food after dining at the Cascades. In some parts of the Cascades room, the tables were placed too cramp so walking to out own table was tricky at times. The self serve Windjammer was good. It usually had more variety of food than served downstairs at the Cascades. Breakfast and lunch were busy at the Windjammer but during evenings, most people chose to dine at the Cascades. The two other optional restaurants onboard Portafino and Choppe House were available at $20 US per person but we never tried them since the meals already included at the Cascades and Windjammer were fine by us. Other passengers who did go to these optional rooms told us that they were nothing special. There was another cafe available during late evenings called the Seaview and they provided fare such as sandwiches, salads and burgers. This was a nice feature. One thing we did object to was that they charged for the coffee and tea there. There was also a specialty coffee place on the main centrum of the ship and they also charged. We had more availability of free beverages on the Adventure.

Service:

The service by the stateroom attendants and dining room staff was top notch as expected.

Entertainment:

The evening shows at the Aurora Theatre were a mix of the ship’s own crew of dancers and singers plus some outside comics and singers. In general, the shows were quite good. We would have liked them to mix up the entertainment each night rather than allocate music, comedy and magic into different evenings. Rather than an entire show of magic, we would have preferred each night featuring a variety of entertainment. Live music around the ship was a nice added touch.

Amenities:

Although smaller than the Adventure, the Radiance had fine amenities including the gym/spa, mini golf, pools and the shops. There was internet access but at 50 cents per minute, the service is a bit steep. There were things to do during the days at sea such as art auctions, cooking demos and dance classes. However, we felt that there was more offered on the Adventure. As for embarking and disembarking, there was no problem on the Radiance. The 6th level contained the casino and for non-smokers, this was a problem. The ventilation in the casino was not great and as a result, cigarette smoke travelled to adjacent areas near the casino. My partner wanted to avoid going on the 6th level whenever possible.

Antarctica Cruise

The tourist season for Antarctica is restricted only to the months of December through February when it is the peak of summer in the southernmost part of the world. Only vessels equipped for the icy waters cruise to one of the coldest areas of the earth. Three major cruise lines offer Antarctic cruises: Celebrity Cruises, Orient Lines, and Radisson Seven Seas. Smaller specialty expedition companies also offer other trips to this destination.

Celebrity Cruises travels to Antarctica with the polar icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, a refitted 1980’s Russian polar research vessel. This ship takes a fortunate 106 passengers to the polar region with the amenities expected from Celebrity Cruises such as pool, sauna, and gym. Accommodations are small by comparison to a cruise ship; staterooms can be as small as 135 square feet while a suite with private bath is only 285 square feet.

Currently Celebrity Cruises has one 11-day trip to Antarctica scheduled for departure February 6, 2006. The price is approximately $10,000 per person. The cruise originates and returns to Ushuaia Tierra Del Fuego, the southernmost town in South America near Cape Horn. As with all cruises in the frozen waters, destinations depend upon actual weather conditions during the cruise.

Orient Lines provides several Antarctic cruises each year aboard its world traveler ship Marco Polo. This ship was originally built in Germany in 1965 and was rebuilt in the early 1990’s. It has twelve decks and carries 826 passengers, a cruise ship not a research vessel like the Kapitan Khlebnikov. Accommodations vary from deluxe and regular suites to a full complement of cabin categories to choose from. Orient Lines has a high reputation for quality and the Marco Polo is a full service ship with many restaurants and amenities.

Orient offers a variety of Antarctic cruises throughout the season from December to February with the option of 11 to 33 day cruises, depending upon point of departure. The longest trip begins in the Caribbean, passes through the Panama Canal and tours the west coast of South America before touring Antarctica. Once the ship reaches the Cape Horn area, regular 11-day cruises to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia Tierra Del Fuego. Other cruises are 15 or 18-day cruises that start in Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina. Prices start at around $5,000 per person for the 11-day cruise.

Radisson Seven Seas provides cruises to Antarctica aboard the ship Explorer II. Explorer II is designed to cruise safely in the polar region. While this vessel carries 300 passengers elsewhere, only 198 people can take the Antarctic cruise. Explorer II is a small cruise ship with all the amenities expected from a luxury and award-winning cruise line such as Radisson Seven Seas.