ITINERARY SUGGESTIONS FOR FIRST-TIME CRUISERS AND LESS EXPERIENCED TRAVELERS
- Stick with shorter itineraries of a week or less.
- Sail from a port close to your home, if you want to avoid air travel.
- Caribbean, Mexico, or Bermuda itineraries are good choices for first-timers.
- Bermuda can be especially suitable, as English is the national language and they limit the number of ships allowed in port on any given day. The weather is always around 80 degrees as well.
- If you're not a "beach bum," take an Alaskan cruise.
Another alternative to the "beach" cruise is New England and Canada in the fall. It is a great opportunity to see the fall colors and change of season.
- Once you feel comfortable with cruising, expand to Europe! European cruises are a great introduction to that continent, as you don't have to worry about unfamiliar living conditions or high exchange rates. (you pay for the cruise in US Dollars as opposed to Euros.) After exploring the chaotic streets of Rome, it's so nice to come "home" to the relative familiarity of the ship.
ITINERARY SUGGESTIONS FOR THE WELL-TRAVELED
- Experience the Galapagos, guided by experienced professional naturalists. You will explore many of the islands which make up the Galapagos National Park.
- Experience a once-in-a-lifetime river cruise on China's Yangtze River, where you can tie up directly to the town walls.
- Take a Christmas river cruise in Europe, visiting small villages and the famous Christmas Markets of Germany.
- Welcome spring with a Holland river cruise, when the tulips are in bloom.
- Be an Eco-Tourist! Take a small expedition ship exploring the nooks and crannies of the Alaskan waterways, where large ships cannot navigate. Get up close and personal with the glaciers!
- Take a luxury or small-ship cruise through the Baltics, Scandanavia, UK, Scotland, and Ireland.
CRUISING IN THE USA OR FROM PORTS CLOSE TO HOME
There are many options for those wishing to stay within the USA or depart from a port close to their home town. In addition to the traditional Florida ports, most cruise lines now have ships leaving from all coasts of the USA. Examples include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, Galveston, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Some itinerary choices leaving from USA ports:
- Cruises to New England, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda sail from the East Coast.
- Mexico itineraries sail from the West Coast.
- Ride the Delta Queen up the Mississippi.
- Enjoy a liesurely stern-wheeler cruise on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
- Savor a wine cruise on a small ship, cruising the Napa River through the Napa Valley.
CARIBBEAN AND BAHAMAS
The Caribbean islands range from lush, tropical paradises to arid, mountainous beauty without much foliage. Each island has it's own distinct flavor and personality.
- Good choice for first-timers and those who just want to relax.
- The obvious... warm weather! You don't necessarily have to like beaches. My husband enjoys exploring the towns and sights without even setting foot on the beach.
- Shopping bargains to be found on jewelry, liquor, electronics, perfumes, and more. Consult Cruises By Kate for advice on which islands are your best shopping destinations.
- Do not assume that the water or air temperature will always be 80 degrees. The waters can get pretty chilly during winter if you're in the Bahamas or northern Caribbean islands. In any case, it sure beats the winters in the northern USA!
- If you are visiting a common port such as St. Thomas or Nassau, it can get crowded when multiple ships are docked at the same time. Most ships have shore excursions going to the same places, and shopping on the same streets. If you have four megaships in port at the same time,that can mean 8,000-10,000 tourists flooding the streets and beaches. Have faith-- there are many ways around this problem! Cruises By Kate can advise you on out-of-the way attractions and beaches, the proper timing of your sightseeing, and give you ideas of where to visit to beat the crowds.
Contrary to popular belief, Bermuda is not anywhere near the Caribbean. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean approximately parallel to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Due to the tradewinds, the temperature is 75-80 degrees Farenheit all year round.
- Bermuda is a beautiful, clean, and safe island with a definite British character, ideal for first time cruisers.
- English is the national language.
- Located in close proximity to many US East Coast ports of embarkation. This makes Bermuda an ideal "short cruise."
- Has two sides to the island with distinct personalities: the old, European feel of St. George's, and the more urban capital of Hamilton. In both ports, you can find high-end shopping, bargains on English goods, and historic buildings. Many lush beaches and parks lie in between, including the famous "pink" beaches.
- To protect it's character, the Bermuda government limits the number of cruise ships allowed in port at the same time.
- Sometimes the cruise lines use their older, smaller ships due to port restrictions or short cruise duration. (this could also be considered a "pro" if you like smaller vessels!)
CRUISE LINE'S PRIVATE ISLANDS
Many cruise lines operate and maintain their own private islands. On Caribbean itineraries, you usually will stop at one of these.
- Well-groomed beaches and facilites await you. Ships will have barbecues and beach games ready.
- Locals may be there to sell their goods.
- Depending on how well planned out the design of the area, it can get crowded. Some cruise lines do very well in this respect, while others not so much.
- You usually have to "tender" to the island, which means you take smaller boats launched from the ship.
The Mexican ports are either on the Mexican Riviera, accessed via California home ports, or the Yucatan Peninsula, located on the Gulf of Mexico. (Usually accessed via the Southeastern US home ports.)
- Highlights include the beaches, golf, deep-sea fishing, and water sports.
- Some ports are known for their galleries of Mexican modern art and Indian art and crafts.
- Mayan ruins are highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula.
- Also in the Peninsula are lush ecological parks, containing crystal clear lagoons in which you can swim and meander in inner tubes.
- Riviera ports can be very touristy; "bars and beaches." However, it is always possible to get away from the mundane. Cruises By Kate helps you to avoid the tourist traps!
- The sights in the Yucatan Peninsula are usually far from the ship's pier and hard to get to on your own. Because of this, it is recommended you take the ship's shore excursions. This will protect you from missing the ship in case of delays.
CANADA AND NEW ENGLAND
A beautiful way to explore our neighbors in the north is a cruise to Canada, leaving from the East Coast and/or New England. Particularly lovely is an early fall cruise in order to witness the colors change. Whale-watching cruises have become increasingly popular in late summer and early fall as well.
- Active individuals and families will find many excursions to suit their lifestyle.
- No need to fly to the point of embarkation if you live on the East Coast.
- Great way to explore our own continent, with no language barriers.
- 4-5 night cruises can be had if you don't have time for a week.
- Can be cold and rainy, especially in the fall.
- Not a lot of port time on short cruises.
Picture waking up in the morning to a view of immense blue-white glaciers. You step outside on your balcony to get a better look with your binoculars, and you happen to notice two bears on the shore or a forested island fishing for their breakfast. You cannot find this scenery or experience anywhere else in the world, and you will remember this trip for a lifetime.
Cruising Alaska these days generally means cruising the Inside Passage and the southeast coast of Alaska. You begin either at the north end of the itinerary in Seward (near Fairbanks) and cruise down to Vancouver or Seattle, or vice-versa. You can also take round trips from Seattle or Vancouver, but you will see much more if you cruise one way and take a ship sponsored land tour on the return in opposite direction. (Commonly called Cruise Tours.) Cruise Tours are the ideal way to see the land-based Alaskan sights such as Denali which you can't reach by ship. A highlight of the Cruise Tour is the train ride through the Alaskan wilderness, with guides and specially designed trains for optimum viewing.
- Location, location location! Even though cruising in Alaska is at an all-time high, it is still possible to find the road less traveled.
- Coastal Alaska is a rain forest, believe it or not! This means be ready for misty, wet weather often.
- Because the weather is so unpredictable, you may not be able to take scheduled shore excursions such as "flightseeing" via airplane.
- Some of the ports are now extremely built up and congested with shopping and kitsch. You MUST get off the main streets or do an excursion in order to experience what Alaska has to offer.
Do you dream about taking a trip to Europe, but just don't know which cities to visit? Are you intimidated by the cultural and language barriers? Worried about the unforseen expenses? Then a cruise is a great way to get a "first look." As an added adventure, spend a couple of days prior to or after the cruise in the city of embarkation.
- Advantage to a completely land-based tour: you are protected against the unfavorable exchange rate by purchasing your vacation and associated expenses with American dollars, not Euros.
- You can get a "taste" of Europe without having to pack and unpack, face unfamiliar situations and languages. At the end of every day, you can return to the failiar environment of the ship. This can give you an idea of where you might like to visit and spend more time on a land based European vacation.
- You have the option of exploring on your own, or taking a ship-sponsored excursion. Cruises By Kate can also arrange for private guided tours.
- Only a day or two is spent in each city. There is no way you can "see it all" in that amount of time.
- "Tourist Fatigue:" you visit so much in such a short timespan that it all can begin to look the same if you don't take a break. (this is where a day at sea on the ship would help, if it's built into your itinerary.)
- Cruising is not an ideal way to gain a real feel for the various countries, as it is not at all in-depth enough and you are not immersed in the culture.
OTHER DESTINATIONS COMING SOON! (Hawaii, South America, Asia, Panama Canal)