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Cruises

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MSC cruises sail the world. Photo from MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises had the last remaining cruise ship at sea. Photo from MSC Cruises

As of late April, 2020, world cruising came to a complete halt, when the MSC Magnifica ended its epic voyage around the world that began way back on January 5, just about four months and a lifetime ago.

At the time, there were relatively few public stirrings about a mysterious virus apparently emanating from Wuhan, China, and passengers were treated to several stops in South America before rounding Cape Horn and heading to the South Pacific.

The rest of the Magnifica‘s voyage didn’t exactly go as planned (though, ironically, free of coronavirus, it was actually one of the safest places to be on the planet).

Rejected by some Pacific islands — the virus by now had struck several other cruise ships, which were all seeking safe havens and, in many cases, being turned away —… Continue reading

The Deluxe Veranda staterooms on Viking Ocean ships are spacious and light-filled.. Photo from Viking Cruises.

The Deluxe Veranda staterooms on Viking Ocean ships are terrific, if you can afford them. Photo from Viking Cruises.

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about how to get the best value for your cruise dollar.

Which cabin you choose can mean a difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars in your cruise fare. Along with the general luxury level of the cruise line itself, the length of your cruise — and your ability to restrain yourself at the casino, bar, or art auction — your cabin category is likely to be the main variable in the entire cost of your cruise.

How do most cruise lines price their cabins and suites? Three general rules usually come into play:

  • The higher the deck, the higher the price of the cabin.
  • The bigger the room, the higher the price. 
  • The better the water view, the… Continue reading
Christ the Redeemer Statue overlooks all of Rio from Corcovado mountain. Photo from riodejaneiro.com.

Rio de Janeiro is one port on an Oceania cruise to South America. Photo from riodejaneiro.com.

Oceania is near the top of my list of favorite cruise lines.

It features mid-sized ships, in the 600 to 1,250 passenger range, interesting itineraries covering much of the world, and terrific food — or, as their ads put it, “the finest cuisine at sea.” In my experience — which includes two Oceania Mediterranean cruises — this is no exageration.

Oceania cruises are ideal for baby boomers — the atmosphere onboard is refined and the passengers tend to be older adults.

The cruise line is rolling out two new ships, one in 2022 and another in 2025, the first two in its new 1,200-passenger Allura-Class line.

And now for the good news: Oceania is currently conducting a contest to name the 2022 ship, with a top prize of a free inaugural cruise for two… Continue reading

The expedition ship MV Cascadia sailed the Haida Gwaii islands. Photo by Robert Waite.

In Part II of Robert Waite’s chronicle of his trip to remote Haida Gwaii — an archipelago off the west coast of Canada, in British Columbia — he takes us aboard the MV Cascadia, a small  expedition vessel that holds a maximum of 24 passengers.

Along with comfortable accommodations and amenities, the Cascadia provided plenty of opportunities for visiting the islands, formerly known as the Queen Charlottes, where the biological diversity is the richest on earth and Haida tribal culture is making a comeback.

If you haven’t read Part I of this two-part series, I suggest you go there now and you’ll have the full context for reading about this extraordinary journey.

By Robert Waite

Once aboard the Cascadia, much of our seven-day voyage was determined by weather and tides.

Tides on the east… Continue reading

Haida Gwaii’s mist-covered islands are sheer magic. Photo by Robert Waite.

In this post, Part I of a two-part series, guest contributor and baby boomer Robert Waite chronicles his journey to little-visited Haida Gwaii, previously known as the Queen Charlotte islands, off the coast of British Columbia.

Part I offers an introduction to the tumultuous history and compelling culture of the islands, while part II will detail his voyage through them aboard the MV Cascadia, a small expedition ship that allows for shallow landings and coastal kayaking trips while balancing comfortable accommodations with environmental protection.

Getting to explore Haida Gwaii personally is a far cry from the distant views afforded from Alaska-bound cruise ships as they pass Haida Gwaii sailing along the Inside Passage, often in the dead of night. Like me, if you’ve made that trip, you may have wondered what you were missing on those islands. Now we… Continue reading

Classic cars in Havana, Cuba, are now a cruise itinerary attraction. Photo by Clark Norton

Most Americans will no longer be able to view Havana’s famous classic cars. Photo by Clark Norton

A little over three years ago, I was able to travel to Cuba on a cruise ship and write about my trip for a AAA publication in Colorado and a cruise magazine, as well as for this blog.

The cruise ship was mostly populated by Americans traveling on a “people-to-people” program run by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a Riverhead, New York-based organization promoting U.S.-Cuba relations.

The cruise included lectures on Cuban culture, tours of historic sites, a visit to the famed Tropicana nightclub, and other activities, such as visiting a privately owned restaurant as well as various Hemingway haunts around Havana.

And yes, we did meet many Cubans along the way, including government tour guides who spoke remarkably candidly about how they surreptitously supplemented their meager official incomes.

Restrictions had… Continue reading

The Murray Princess paddlewheeler at sunrise on the Murray River. Photo from Murray Princess.

The Murray Princess paddlewheeler at sunrise on the Murray River. Photo from Murray Princess.

My experience with Australian river cruises was something of a mixed bag. When our kids were young, my wife and I took them on a “Crocodile Cruise” on the Daintree River in far north Queensland.

The tropical setting was exotic, the little riverboat was appropriately atmospheric, and breakfast — including frontier-style Billy tea — was included.

The only problem: there were no crocs. Well, we did spot one baby croc toward the end of the day, at which point everyone on board started madly snapping pictures, none of which produced a clear image of the elusive reptile.

On the other hand, the boatman did allow our son, Grael, to play captain and steer the ship for a while, and we met some nice people onboard.

Our guest writer today, Sam Hoffman, lives in Australia and describes… Continue reading

Prague's famous Charles Bridge is often jam-packed with tourists. Photo by Clark Norton

Prague’s famous Charles Bridge is often jam-packed with tourists. Photo by Clark Norton

You may have experienced it yourself when battling humongous lines to enter San Marco in Venice, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, or when you found yourself in a wave of fellow travelers struggling to get a peek at the changing of the guard at palaces in London, Athens, or Prague.

You may have been put off by hordes of drunken revelers in Amsterdam, Mallorca, or Berlin (of which, we trust, you were not one yourself).

You may have found small Alaskan ports or Croatian islands too overrun by your fellow cruise ship passengers to appreciate the beauty that attracted you to such cruise itineraries in the first place.

You may have sought out privacy in Iceland’s hot springs, only to find them packed with Game of Thrones fans drawn… Continue reading

Pitcairn Island boasts some dramatic seascapes.

Pitcairn Island boasts some dramatic seascapes.

When my daughter, Lia, and her partner, Mike, traipsed into the wilds of North Carolina last August for an unobstructed view of the total eclipse of the sun, they also ventured into the rising realm of Astro Tourism — along with thousands of other Americans who journeyed near and far to find the ideal locales to witness that extraordinary celestial event.

Having just had cataract surgery, I wasn’t among them, alas, and here in Tucson the sky barely darkened during our partial eclipse, which was hundreds of miles south of the band of totality that swept across the U.S.

I was able to view the “super blue blood moon” eclipse on January 31, a lunar event that had not occurred in the United States since 1866. But that was visible right here in my front yard, and all it required was walking a few… Continue reading

The new Viking Star, the line's first ocean ship, cruises in Istanbul. Photo from Viking Cruises.

The new Viking Star, the line’s first ocean ship, cruises in Istanbul. Photo from Viking Cruises.

How many days in advance should you book a cruise to get the best price?

In part that depends on your destination, according to the website Cruisewatch.com, which uses artificial intelligence to study trends in worldwide cruising. In this case, says a Cruisewatch press release, they undertook a “massive study [that] examined 18,983 sailings by region with departures in 2017.”

They also conducted an “intensive analysis of over 18 million data points” (which are, of course, too numerous to detail in a press release or just about anywhere for that matter, but we are nonetheless grateful for modern technology).

Cruisewatch says the massive study found a “surprising trend: as the date of departure approaches, cruise prices fluctuate to a greater extent.” Some regions, they note, show as much as a 71… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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