Seasons for sail

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"When is the best time to sail the Inside Passage and Alaska?" "When will I get the best weather for a cruise in the Caribbean?" "Why are the rates so low if I sail the Mexican Riviera in (insert month here)?" In my line of work I get questions like this every single day - heck, that's why I'm here.

"Seasons" in the travel business don't fall into simple categories like summer, fall, winter and spring. Instead they have interesting names like shoulder, high and low, just to name a few. So when is the "best" time to travel to a specific destination? A two-word answer: it depends. Are you looking for "best" as in best weather for shore excursions or are you looking for "best" as in lowest possible price?”

Choosing when to travel is just as important as choosing where you travel. Here are some of the most popular cruise destinations with a few ideas about the "best" time to go:

Caribbean
Blessed with balmy weather year around, except for those pesky hurricanes. The "best" time to go is December through May, but the "best" fares are available August through November when the weather is more iffy.

Mexico
October to May is the "best" time to do a 3- or 4-night Baja cruise or the longer Mexican Riviera sailings as you'll have comfortable weather. Summers can be very hot and surprisingly expensive - most of the ships are sailing Alaska at that time, leaving only one major cruise line doing the longer sailings. One cruise line doing an itinerary = high prices. You'll find the "best" prices in August and September, once the kids go back to school.

Hawaii
Another year around cruise destination, with October, November, March, April, May and June offering the "best" weather overall. December and January can be cool in the mornings - although you'll be swimming by 10:00am. August and September are typically the hottest months. You'll get good sale rates after Spring Break and before the end of May when the high season kicks off. You'll also find some great deals in the fall.

Alaska
With such a short season - May through September - this is fairly easy: work from the outside in. May and September offer the "best" rates with the "best" weather in July and early August. One big plus for this destination: all that summer sunshine (15 to 20 hours) makes for long days of sightseeing!

Panama Canal
The trans-canal repositioning cruises are in the spring and fall - as the cruise lines move their ships to and from Alaska. The "best" weather will be April and May - before it gets warm - but you can find the "best" rates when the temperature goes up.

Bottom line, with any cruise destination, you'll find the best rates when you book in advance, with prices increasing as the sailing gets closer and as various cabin categories fill up. Unfortunately, the weather doesn't offer such certainty, but a cruise vacation does offer one big advantage over the land-based resorts: these large, lovely floating hotels can sail around the storms.

Even storm clouds have a silver lining!

Italy's Great Cities Plus London
March 11 - March 22, 2011
From $2599.00 per person, double occupancy!

We're more than half sold, with only 14 seats still available. If you've been thinking about taking advantage of this terrific travel value, give me a call to hold your space!

Also - I have a lady in her 30's who is looking for a traveling companion, as well as a lady in her 60's. If you have been thinking about the trip, but didn't have anyone in particular to travel with, give me a call for more information!

This fantastic package includes round trip air from Phoenix, a fully escorted tour of Italy, with a total of four nights in Rome, two nights in Florence and two nights in Venice. Add in two nights in London as we make our way back home and you have four amazing cities in one fantastic trip!

Lots of wonderful sightseeing is included: the fabulous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, Romeo & Juliet’s Verona, a private transfer boat in Venice and Chianti country. You'll also have a full day in London to do as you please! Air taxes are additional - currently running $185.00 per person.

Check out the itinerary below:

Day 1 Board your overnight British Airways transatlantic flights

Day 2 Arrival in Rome, Italy
Relax in your comfortable hotel after your evening arrival in this lovely city.

Day 3 At leisure in Rome
Time to start exploring the Eternal City with your entire day free! At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a special Welcome Dinner with wine in one of Rome’s lively restaurants. (BB,D)

Day 4 Rome
Sightseeing starts with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (arranged next morning if closed today), world famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings and The Last Judgment. Continue to monumental St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Cross the Tiber and visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Then there is plenty of time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (BB)

Day 5 Rome / Pisa / Florence
Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (BB,D)

Day 6 Florence
Guided sightseeing includes the magnificent Cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry’s heavy bronze "Gate of Paradise," and sculpture-studded Signoria Square. To top it off, admire Michelangelo’s celebrated David in the Academy of the Fine Arts. The afternoon is free for independent sightseeing and browsing through the shops in Piazza Santa Croce. (BB)

Day 7 Florence/Verona/Venice
Journey north through the fertile Lombardian plains to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet’s Balcony and stroll around the picturesque market square before continuing to Venice in the afternoon. (BB)

Day 8 Venice
Start morning sightseeing in style as you glide by private boat along the Giudecca Canal to meet your resident expert. Highlights of your walking tour are St. Mark’s Square and the Byzantine Basilica, lavish Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Also watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional gondola ride. (BB)

Day 9 Venice / Rome
A kaleidoscope of Italian landscapes parades past the coach windows on the way through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills which are the home of the popular Chianti wines. Tonight in Rome, an optional festive dinner may be just the way to celebrate the success of your leisurely Italian vacation. (BB)

Day 10 Depart Rome/Arrive London
After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to London. Transfer from Heathrow to our Chelsea-area hotel. Evening at leisure to enjoy this amazing city! (BB)

Day 11 At leisure in London
A full day to enjoy London! Stroll around London's beautiful parks or take the London Underground to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels! You might consider one of London's famous double-decker bus "Hop On, Hop Off" tours, which lets you explore London at your own pace. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace - your list of places to explore is endless!

Day 12 Depart London
Our nonstop flight departs Heathrow Airport this afternoon for our early evening arrival in Phoenix.

These dates are over Spring Break for many school districts, so make it a family affair! The weather in Italy will be very mild and the crowds should be low since it's not a peak travel season.

For more information on what's included in the trip, please go to my agency site at www.travelationonline.com. Give me a call or send me an e-mail to hold your space. I hope you come with us!

Jamaica all-inclusives on sale
Two popular RIU resorts, the RIU Negril and the RIU Montego Bay, are offering wonderful rates for travel this Fall!

RIU Negril
Ocean View Room
$1019.00 per person, double occupancy

RIU Montego Bay
Run of House Room $1019.00 per person, double occupancy

The packages include round trip air from Phoenix (overnight flight to Montego Bay, with an afternoon return), six nights all-inclusive accommodation as noted and airport transfers.

"All-inclusive" means all meals and beverages - including alcohol - and your non-motorized water sports are included in the rate. All your tips are included, too. The rates are valid for midweek departures, September through November.

Jamaica is a wonderful destination for honeymooners, families, beach lovers and active travelers alike! You'll always find a resort that fits your vacation style.

Caribbean Sale
Eastern and Western Itineraries out of Ft. Lauderdale

Looking for a great getaway for a family Fall Break trip, honeymoon or anniversary? Check out these rates for 7-day Eastern Caribbean (private island, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Grand Turk) and Western Caribbean (private island, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico) departures:

Inside Staterooms from $449.00 per person, double occupancy, cruise only! Balcony Staterooms from $749.00 per person, double occupancy, cruise only!

Add air from Phoenix to this popular cruise port and you've got a terrific vacation value! The rates are valid for select sailing in September, October and into November.

Check your calendar, grab your passport and go!

By land or by sea, we're planning your next great vacation at TravelationOnline! Give us a call at 602-252-1140, or if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 and 623, call toll-free at 888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at rosanne@travelationonline.com. I look forward to hearing from you!