Saturday, March 29, 2008

Do You Need Money for Food on a Cruise?

Food is a big part of a cruise vacation--it seems like every time you turn around there's someone ready to feed you. If you haven't been on a trip yet, you might have the question, "do we need money for food on a cruise?"

The answer is no--sort of.

Your meals (all you can eat) are indeed included, and you can find plenty of afternoon snacks too. What's not included are your drinks. Expect to pay for sodas, alcoholic beverages, and bottled water.

If you've got kids or you're a frequent soda drinker yourself, you can get an unlimited soda pass for about $50 (for a week). (Alas, there's no similar deal for margaritas and mai tais.)

There are also special "alternative" dining options on board most of the big cruise ships. If you want to partake in something besides the buffets and dining room options included in your ticket price (these restaurants are often themed... Mexican, Asian, Italian, etc.), then you'll pay something like $10-$30 per head to eat there. Your regular (free) dining options are perfectly satisfactory however, so you shouldn't feel compelled to eat at these places.

So, the short answer is no, you don't need money for food on a cruise, but you may for drinks depending on your preferences.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kenya to Start Cruises to Islands of Lamu and Zanzibar

If you like the idea of a cruise in an exotic area steeped in history, you may enjoy heading to Kenya.

Previously, the country hasn't had the ships to offer cruises to its coastal islands, but according to a recent article, that may change soon.

Kenya: Ferry Services to Launch Cruise Tours mentions that they're hoping to get ships that can handle the ocean waters and take passengers on trips to island destinations such as Lamu and Zanzibar.

Some of these islands have histories of settlement dating back a thousand years. Lamu is Kenya's oldest living town and was one of the original Swahili settlements along the coast of East Africa.

So, if you enjoy a vacation that teaches you about history and lets you experience different cultures, you may want to keep an eye on the soon-to-be cruise industry based out of Kenya.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Low Dollar Makes It a Great Time to Cruise in the U.S.

For those of us in the U.S., everything from food to rent to travel is getting more expensive as the value of the dollar sinks, but if you live elsewhere and have been thinking of a vacation to the U.S., now is a great time to visit. Euros and other currencies go a long ways when converted to U.S. dollars. And if you really want to get your money's worth, think about a cruise.

Cruises include the cost of the travel (sailing from port to port), your meals, your entertainment, and your lodging all in one ticket price. Sometimes, depending on who you book with and what kind of deals you swing, airfare to your departure port is included as well.
For the best deals, look to U.S. cruises that stay within the country's waters for the most part, such as...
  • Hawaiian cruises that circle the islands are quite popular (and warm and tropical if you're looking to escape dreary weather).
  • Cruises to Alaska often leave from Seattle and are a great chance to see glaciers and the beauty of that area (though you'll have some Canadian stops along the way).
  • Less common are cruises up U.S. rivers or along the east and west coasts, but these are a great way to see the country.
Browse around to see what sounds good to you, and enjoy what your money can buy you here right now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fastest Cruise Ship in the World?

When I think about cruises, I tend to think of taking it slow, spending my days exploring various ports, and sleeping while the ship is chugging along to our next destination. After all, vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing, right?

But if you want bragging rights, you may be wondering what the fastest cruise ship in the world is, so you can book your trip on board and tell all your friends how quickly you zoomed from port to port.

Well, since inquiring minds want to know this information, I looked it up. According to the Travel Channel, the fastest cruise ship is the Olympia Voyager from Royal Olympia Cruises.

"Climb aboard the fastest cruise ship in the world, with four engines each running at 13,000-horsepower, and experience cruising at 31 knots per hour (that's about 35 mph). At 25,000 tons and less than 600 feet long, the Olympia Voyager is not the largest of ships, but its speed allows for less time between ports and more time relaxing at destinations.

"The Voyager offers a variety of tours including the Mayaribbean Tour, which leaves from Houston, stopping at Playa del Carmen, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. Passengers on this trip can explore the ancient Mayan ruins, snorkel in Cozumel, or take a trip to the Xcaret eco-archeological theme park in Mexico. These destinations belie the fact that this is a Greek-themed ship with each of the boat's six decks named after Greek gods.

"The onboard entertainment - including Broadway shows and an art museum - is just as cultural as the on-shore excursions. A special enrichment program even features lectures from archaeologists, foreign affairs experts, astronomers and pianists."

So, not only is she speedy, but it sounds like the Olympia Voyager has a lot to offer too!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Next Big Cruise Destination -- Asia

Cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean are old hat. People want new and exotic places, and many countries in Asia are ready to pony up to get that tourism dollars the cruise industry offers.

In an MSNBC article about the cruise industry's solid prospects, even during the coming U.S. recession (cruising is a gloabl industry these days after all), the writer mentioned that Asia is the next big cruise destination:

"Executives also hinted at the next big destination — Asia. Singapore, Taiwan and Korea announced new cruise terminals anticipating the growth. Cruise executives say the new cruise terminals aren’t just targeted at North American cruise travelers but are also aimed at the people who live in the region."

The article also mentioned that cruises tend to be 20%-50% cheaper than land-based vacations, so if you've ever dreamed of seeing historic pagodas and Buddist temples, a cruise ship may be the way to get there.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Amazon Riverboat Cruises in South America, Educational and Exotic!

If you're looking for something more exotic than your traditional cruise to the Caribbean, think river cruise. Think Amazon river cruise in South America. Peru, to be specific.

This is where I'm thinking of heading for my next vacation. I did a Hawaiian cruise in December, and while it was fun, I'm ready to get a little more off the beaten path.

You can find many outfits running riverboat cruises along the Amazon's tropical waterway. Many feature an eco-tour bent, which is appealing to many earth-conscious travelers who want to learn while on vacation, not just get a tan.

As an example, consider one of the Amazon Riverboat expeditions from Green Tracks. Your guide will be an expert zoologist or anthropologist from the USA:

"Our tour leaders are among the most experienced Neotropical experts anywhere. All are naturalists who have studied the flora and fauna and are experienced travelers. Our leaders enjoy sharing their knowledge and make lively and interesting travel companions!"

On the cruise, you won't spend your whole time on the boat. You'll get chances to hike, bird watch, and fish for piranha too (the last thing isn't something I personally need to try--what does a piranha taste like anyway?--but hiking in the Amazon forest would be a blast!).

The Amazon cruises are a week long and run just over $2,000 (not including airfare), so check them out if you're looking for something a little more education and exotic than the mainstream cruises.