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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
The Northern Lights, best viewed above the Arctic Circle,took the top spot on this Bucket List survey;

The Northern Lights, best viewed above the Arctic Circle,took the top spot on this Bucket List survey

While I prefer the term “Life List” to “Bucket List” — it just has a more positive ring to it — Bucket List has become the generally accepted phrase for delineating those often-challenging, mostly travel-related experiences you want to do before you, uh, can’t do them any more.

As a baby boomer, I’m acutely aware that I won’t have as much time or perhaps physical capacity as a millennial to, say, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, which has recently slipped off my Bucket List until  I can work myself into better shape. A few more years on the treadmill should do it, if my knees haven’t collapsed in the process.

The good news is, Bucket List items don’t have to involve super-strenuous exertion. In fact, according to a recent TotallyMoney.com survey of 1,000… Continue reading

Yangtze River, China: Sunrise over the Three Gorges. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

Yangtze River, China: Sunrise over the Three Gorges. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

I spent much of the fall of 2015 taking river cruises, in China and Europe. China’s Yangtze and Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, and Main rivers were all on the itineraries.

I’ve already blogged about the Yangtze cruise here and will write about the two European river cruises as time goes along (one was for a magazine, so I’ll have to wait for that article to appear in the spring of 2016 before writing about it here, but my Danube cruise accounts will appear in this space shortly).

I was already sold on river cruising before taking the last three — two of my past favorites were the Nile in Egypt and the Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans — but with every new river cruise I take, the more I like them.

As much as… Continue reading

The Xiling Gorge, one of the Yangtze's famous Three Gorges, begins near Yichang. Photo by Catharine Norton.

The Xiling Gorge, one of the Yangtze’s famous Three Gorges, begins near Yichang. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Fourth in a Series:

There are a number of iconic river cruises in the world — the Rhine, the Danube, the Amazon, and the Nile among them — and China’s Yangtze must be added to the group.

It’s China’s longest river and third longest in the world after the Nile and Amazon. “Yangtze,” in fact, means “long river” in Chinese. Also known as the “Golden Highway,” the Yangtze is the busiest river in the world and more than one-third of China’s 1.4 billion population live along it.

The Yangtze is actually divided into seven separate sections, but the part that most people cruise — and certainly the most scenic — is the 400-mile-long “Three Gorges” section between the cities of Yichang and Chongqing, a sprawling metropolis in southwest China.

My wife, Catharine, and… Continue reading

Repositioning cruises can be some of the best bargains at sea. Photo by Clark Norton

Repositioning cruises can be some of the best bargains at sea. Photo by Clark Norton

Every fall and spring, a number of ocean-going cruise ships leave one area of the world — say, Europe, Canada, or Alaska in the fall — for another, such as the Caribbean, South America, or Hawaii, to take advantage of the warmer winter waters in the latter spots.

These are called repositioning cruises (repo cruises for short), and they tend to be longer — sometimes quite a bit longer — than a typical cruise.

The cruise lines don’t want to run the ships empty, of course, so they sell the cabins often at  much-reduced rates, especially considering the length of the voyages.  You might find a 17-day October repositioning cruise from Italy to Brazil, for example, for about the same price as a regular 10-day cruise.

In the spring, you might find a… Continue reading

The Europa 2 Sails the Mediterranean. Photo from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

The Europa 2 Sails the Mediterranean. Photo from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

On board the Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd’s elite new cruise ship, I got a taste of what it might be like to sail the Mediterranean on my own private yacht.

Entering the Sicilian port of Trapani on the first morning, I arrived at the ship’s indoor-outdoor buffet as it opened for breakfast. With no other passengers in sight, I was greeted by a phalanx of servers and a cheery chorus of “Guten Morgens” and “Good mornings” (Hapag-Lloyd is a German line, but Europa 2’s crewmembers are bilingual).

For the next several minutes, I sat alone on deck overlooking the sea and the city, basking both in the early morning sun and the full attentions of the eager-to-please crew, who proffered cappuccinos, freshly squeezed juices, cooked-to-order omelets – anything I wanted.

Later in the cruise, when I went for… Continue reading

American Cruise Lines' paddlewheeler Queen of the Mississippi. Photo from American Cruise Lines.

American Cruise Lines’ paddlewheeler Queen of the Mississippi. Photo from American Cruise Lines.

River cruising is the hottest trend in the cruise world right now, and not just in Europe. It’s also thriving right here in the United States — and the aptly named American Cruise Lines (ACL)  is leading the
way.

ACL has ships cruising the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest, the Hudson River in upstate New York, the Intracoastal Waterway in the Southeastern U.S., and many more.

But my wife, Catharine, and I were most intrigued by ACL’s cruise down the lower Mississippi — from Memphis to New Orleans — partly because it was an area of the country we hadn’t explored as much as some others, and partly because the ship, the Queen of the Mississippi, was built in the style of an old-fashioned paddle wheeler, allowing us to return to Mark… Continue reading

The 2014 Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships guidebook is Douglas Ward's 29th edition. Photo by Clark Norton

The 2014 Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships guidebook is Douglas Ward’s 29th edition. Photo by Clark Norton

Each fall when the Berlitz  Cruising and Cruise Ships guidebook is published, cruise line marketing departments hold their collective breaths until they see how many stars and points their ships have received from author Douglas Ward, dubbed “The World’s Foremost Authority on Cruising” and whose 2014 edition is the 29th in the series.

An extra star from Ward, or deletion of a star from a ship’s ratings, can have something of the effect of a top chef gaining or losing a Michelin star. Ward, who takes 15-20 cruises a year and spends much of the rest of the time checking out ships in port and making shipyard visits, is known for his objectivity, attention to detail, and no-nonsense writing style.

You won’t find fluff, puff or snark in these 752 pages… Continue reading

Viking River Cruise boats glide through Europe. Photo from Viking.

Viking River Cruise boats glide through Europe. Photo from Viking.

The travel site Skift.com has just named its top 50 global travel marketers for 2013, including the senior vice president for marketing of Viking River Cruises, Rich Marnell.

Little wonder — Marnell was hired in 2007 as Viking’s director of marketing for North America, and since that time Viking’s share of the burgeoning European river cruise market has risen from 20 percent to fifty percent, remarkable considering that competition is getting increasingly fierce.

I’ve written previously about Viking River Cruises’ approach to marketing: a laser-like focus on their target customer — the classic baby boomer.

“What we’ve done is tailored the product experience for the 55+ culturally curious in mind,” Marnell told Skift. “We don’t try to be everything to everyone. For us, we see that as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.”

At a press conference last spring … 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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