Choose your cruise

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Cruise vacations - their popularity grows every year, along with the size of the ships.

The list of cruise ship amenities is as vast as the array of food on the buffet - rock climbing walls, surfing pools, state of the art spas, adults only "sanctuaries" and "alternative dining options."

Let's face it - the evolution of a cruise vacation is never ending. And isn't that great?

Small, cramped cabins have given way to light and airy staterooms. Strictly observed dining room hours have given way to more "freestyle" food options. And with shore excursions available for online booking, the stampede to the shore excursion desk is a thing of the past. These days cruise ships are more like floating resorts, with more amenities and flexibility than ever before.

With the host of choices we have when sailing, there are always lots of questions to ask before you go on a cruise vacation. Besides choosing a cruise line, where you want to go? 

Do you like water sports? A Caribbean or Mexico cruise is for you, offering tons of snorkeling and diving options on each itinerary.

Like to golf? Jump on a Hawaii cruise, where you can set up tee times at some of Hawaii's most famous courses just like you set up a shore excursion!

Does natural beauty appeal to you - plus a huge drop in temperature? Don’t miss Alaska! Still one of my favorite cruise destinations, I loved the wide variety of activities here, from zip lining to glacier skiing. 

Do you like history? Europe/Mediterranean, Canada/New England - these itineraries all have lots of museums and/or historical treasures for you to explore, including some of the most famous and historic ports in the world like Rome, Athens, Istanbul or Venice. You'll never lack for things to explore!

And if you just like to relax on the ship, try a trans-Atlantic or repositioning cruise, such as a Panama Canal cruise, offered when the cruise lines are moving ships from the Caribbean to Alaska, and which will offer lots of days at sea.

Shipboard life is as varied as the number of ships sailing the seas - each cruise line has a different "flavor," and even within the same cruise line, different ships will offer a very different experience.

Royal Caribbean is an excellent example of this. I’ve sailed on several of their ships, which have varied greatly in size and amenities. Ice skating rink? Check. Surfing pool? Check. Zip line and rock climbing? Check and check.

Most recently, I sailed on their brand new behemoth, the Allure of the Seas. Offering a huge number of amenities, it also offers a whole new kind of balcony stateroom experience, where their interior staterooms have balconies looking over a beautiful courtyard. It was an incredible ship!

And Royal Caribbean is not alone. Each year cruise lines like Carnival, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line are offering more elaborate ships, while other cruise lines like Holland America and Celebrity will offer a more upscale cruise experience on a smaller ship.

Once you decide where to go, there's the question of where you want to be once you're onboard.

In "days of cruising past," it used to be rather simple - inside or outside, port or starboard. Now your cabin will come in various shapes and sizes, many offering balconies - and if you're on one of the gigantic Royal Caribbean ships, you can get an inside cabin with a window or a courtyard view with a balcony! It's easier than ever to find something that works for you.

So where's the best place to be on a ship? The laws of physics say the best place to be is an inside cabin, centered directly mid-ship from front to back and top to bottom. This is where you’ll feel the least amount of side-to-side rolling and forward to aft rocking.

Now let's be honest - not everybody wants to be here. Sometimes even the sickest of sea dogs would put their desire for natural light ahead of their fears of a queasy stomach, so before you set sail on your next much deserved vacation, let's go over a few terms so you can choose the type of accommodations that will be right for you.

CRUISE GLOSSARY

Inside - A cabin located on the interior of the ship. While in most cases this cabin will be identical in size and amenities to an outside stateroom, this type of accommodation does not have a window. If you're the kind of traveler who uses their stateroom to sleep and change clothes, an inside cabin offers your most economical option. 

Outside - A cabin located with one wall on the exterior of the ship. Traditional portholes are pretty much a thing of the past, but you will find the windows come in a big variety of sizes and shapes. Most are large, allowing for lots of natural light in the cabin. While not the least expensive option, you'll often find these accommodations aren't much more than inside cabins.

Balcony - This category covers a wide variety of staterooms! While stateroom sizes are pretty consistent, the balconies differ in size - even on the same ship. Balcony staterooms are most often located on the decks in the center of the ship from top to bottom, making them a comfortable option. Rates vary from pricey to outrageous, but some people swear they won't sail without one. You'll see these cabins called by lots of names, too - Verandah, Suite, Mini-suite. This will differ from cruise line to cruise line.

Port and Starboard - This is easy! Left and right. Here's the trick I use to remember one from the other - "port" and "left" both have four letters. Some experienced cruisers will always sail on the port side as they say you get a better view. While this may be true in some itineraries, it's not true for all. You'd be amazed at how maneuverable the ships are these days, offering all sides of the ship terrific views, even in tight quarters. And personally, I'd rather have a nicer cabin on the Starboard side than a minimum one on the Port.

Fore and Aft - Another easy one! These terms refer to the front and back of the ship. Something to think about: be careful of being too far forward - you may hear the anchors being hoisted early in the morning and late at night. By the same token, you don't want to be too far back either, as you'll feel lots of motion. Again, the best place to be here is in the diplomatic middle.

And last but not least, look carefully at your deck plan. If at all possible, you won't want to be over or under a busy public deck. I don't care how good the insulation is, you don't want to hear the bing bing bing of the casino when you're trying to sleep, nor do you want to hear the deck stewards rearranging the chairs each morning. We all work too hard these days to have our vacation marred by pesky interruptions!

A cruise vacation ranks very high on my list of great ways to travel. The convenience and comfort of today's glittering and modern ships will make your vacation a memorable one!

And if you "choose to cruise," there are some fantastic rates for Mediterranean cruises for the Fall! Seriously - I’ve never seen rates this low!

SPECIALS

Magic on the Mediterranean
7-night Eastern Mediterranean out of Rome, plus two nights in Rome!
October 8 - October 18
From $1689.00 per person, double occupancy!

When you’ve got Inside Cabin rates starting from $499.00 per person, double occupancy - which is what you often see in the Caribbean, not in the Mediterranean - you can put together a fantastic vacation package!

Because of these incredible rates, I’ve put together an air/cruise/2-night hotel stay in Rome package for October that you’ll love!

Inside Stateroom packages start at $1689.00 per person, with Ocean View at $1889.00 per person and best of all? Balcony Staterooms with this package start at $1989.00 per person! And this includes two post-cruise nights in Rome!

Amazing!

And check out the fantastic itinerary:

08-Oct  Depart Phoenix for Rome, Italy

09-Oct  Arrive Rome, transfer to ship in Civitavecchia, Italy - Ship sails at 5:00pm

10-Oct  Messina (Sicily), Italy 

11-Oct  Cruising        
 
12-Oct  Piraeus (Athens), Greece   
 
13-Oct  Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey      
 
14-Oct  Chania (Souda), Crete, Greece  
 
15-Oct  Cruising        
 
16-Oct  Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy  - transfer to your Rome hotel

17-Oct  Full day in Rome

18-Oct  Return to Phoenix

All your transfers are also included - the only thing that isn’t would be your air taxes, currently running around $150.00 per person.

If enough of your are interested in this particular sailing, I’ll be able to put a group together through Royal Caribbean, which will offer some terrific on-board amenities, too!

Contact me soon to hold your space for these incredible rates!

And there are more deals to be had in my favorite part of Mexico - Cancun!

There’s a terrific sale going on for September through November (staying away from Halloween/Dia de los Muertos and Thanksgiving) for selected RIU Resorts properties, and the rates are terrific!

The packages below include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights all-inclusive accommodation as noted, airport transfers and tips. Air taxes are additional.

RIU Cancun
Ocean View Room
From $899.00 per person, double occupancy!
One of my favorite properties in the Hotel Zone! You are walking distance to all kinds of shopping and nightlife, plus the hotel is terrific!

RIU Playacar
Run of House Room (best available view at time of check in)
From $879.00 per person, double occupancy!
A wonderful beach - and close to the terrific town of Playa del Carmen, this comfortable property is great for families and couples!

These rates are based on availability and are valid for midweek travel in September, October and November. Rates around holidays and weekends will be higher.

By air land or sea, we do it all 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, you can 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!