Special Interest Cruises Tips

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(25) River and Canal Cruising

River and canal cruises offer the opportunity to explore interior destinations traveling the rivers and canals of Europe, Asia, South American and North America. River and canal cruises are leisurely and casual. Because the ships used on river cruises are much smaller than cruise ships (average 40 to 200 passengers), there is more camaraderie with passengers and crew members. Barge cruises are even smaller with fewer than 50 passengers and slow cruising on narrow waterways and canals. But, don't think spartan. Most of the small river cruise vessels and barges are well-furnished. Meals are delicious and entertainment consists of a piano bar, cultural lectures and performances by local groups. Another perk, shore excursions are usually included in the cost of river and canal cruises.

Popular river cruises feature itineraries on the great rivers of Europe, French wine country, the Nile River in Egypt, Amazon River in South American and Yangtze River in China. In North America, cruise California wine country, trace the path of Lewis and Clark, get up close and personal in the Inside Passage in Alaska or travel the Mighty Mississippi River on an authentic riverboat. Some of the leading river cruise lines include: Grand Circle Travel (www.gct.com), Peter Deilmann Cruises (www. deilman n- cruises .com), The Barge Connection (www.bargeconnection.com), Cruise West (www.cruisewest.com), Uniworld (www.uniworld.com), Viking River Cruises (www.vikingrivercruises.com), Avalon Waterways (www.avalonwaterways.com) and Delta Queen Steamboat Company ( www .majesticamericaline.com ) .

   

(24) Cruising Under Sail

If Pirates of the Caribbean stirred the desire to run away to sea, consider a sailing ship cruise. If you have sailed before, you know what to expect. If you don't have your sea legs, you will either love sailing or not. (Note: Sailing on a genuine masted sailing ship in rough seas is not for those prone to motion sickness.) With the exception of powered luxury sailing ship cruises, don't expect glitz, glamour or large scale entertainment on sailing ships. Sailing is all about camaraderie and the experience.

Like other cruises, sailing ship voyages run the gamut from a no-frills to laid-back luxury. A hands-on working cruise on a former fishing schooner (Maple Leaf Adventures - (www.mapleleafadventures.com) to barefoot-sleep-on-deck-if-you wish Caribbean cruises (Windjammer Barefoot Cruises - www.windjammer.com) are examples of typical no-frills sailing fun. On the luxury side of sailing, Sea Cloud Cruises (www.seacloud.com), Star Clipper Cruises (www.staclippers.com) and Windstar Cruises (www.windstarcruises.com) are popular masted sailing ships with plenty of perks and no work.

   

(22) Cruising with a Group

Cruises are a perfect environment for a family reunion, business retreat or friends' getaway. There's plenty for everyone to do. You can mix business with pleasure. It's easy to arrange special activities for your group. And, groups get special cruise discounts.

There are also advantages for the organizer of a group cruise. Many travel agencies offer special perks for cruise organizers who refer additional cruisers to them. Most cruise lines offer a free cabin for a cruise organizer who fills ten or more cabins. Be aware that with perks come responsibilities as “cruise group leader.” Members of the group look to you to arrange activities and handle problems that crop up. Unless you are a veteran cruiser, it pays to use the services of an experienced travel agent as a group cruise escort to handle the logistics.

   

(21) Cruising for Physically Challenged Travelers

Of all types of travel, cruises are one of the best ways for a disabled traveler and their companion to enjoy travel with minimal hassles and maximum benefits. But, do not assume that all ships can accommodate your unique needs. Newer and larger ships are usually more accessible than older ships. Some itineraries are also more accessible for than others.

Ports that require the use of small boats (tenders) to go ashore may not be able to accommodate wheelchairs, especially in rough seas. In some cities, sidewalks and streets may be cobblestoned and impassable in a wheelchair or tour buses may not be accessible. Once you are in international territory, U.S. accessibility legislation does not apply.

Areas you need to question include:

  • Accessible embarkation and debarkation.
  • Accessibility of public areas of the ships, such as theatres and lounges.
  • Cabin door widths and flat (no sill) entrances.
  • Bathroom accessibility/ accommodations.
  • Accessibility at ports of call.
  • Assistance on shore excursions.
  • Medical releases required for travel.
  • Medical oxygen availability and restrictions.
  • Handling of service animals.
  • Medical facilities and level of care onboard.
Find a travel agent who specializes in working with disabled travelers. They know what cruise lines, ships and ports can accommodate your needs and offer an enjoyable experience for you and your travel companion. Visit www.access-able.com for more information about travel with disabilities.

   

(20) Gay and Lesbian Cruising

Many gay and lesbian cruisers enjoy cruising with a diverse mix of fellow travelers on whichever cruise line meets their personal interests and budget. However, there is also a growing cruise market specifically for gay and lesbian single travelers, couples and families.

If you are seeking a cruise with an open environment and the opportunity to meet other gay and lesbian travelers or families from around the world, look for cruises marketed by companies like RSVP Vacations (www.rsvp.net), Atlantis Events (www.atlantisevents.com) and Olivia Cruises and Resorts (www.oliviatravel.com).

   

(19) Singles Cruises

A singles cruise may mean a cruise filled with single people who enjoy connecting with other singles or a singles cruise may mean you have no travel partner. If you are single and looking for romance, don't believe cruise marketing that promises you will meet the guy or gal of your dreams onboard any cruise. Statistically, single women far outnumber single men on cruises, especially in the over 40 age set. Research cruise market demographics before choosing a singles cruise. For instance, the average age of cruisers on Holland America is 60+ and the average age of cruisers on Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is under 40. If meeting other singles is your cruise goal, search for a cruise line that specifically markets cruises for singles. Check out the tips and cruise news at www.singlescruise.com or www.cruisingforlove.com.

If you are simply traveling solo and not interested in making connections with other singles, the most important criteria for a cruise is usually the cost of occupying a cabin that is priced for double occupancy without having to pay twice as much. Look for cruises that offer discounts on single occupancy cabins.

Heads Up: Some cruise lines and travel agencies offer to match single travelers with a roommate. Think twice before agreeing to room with a total stranger. Even for the most flexible person, sharing a room and bath with someone who has different sleeping patterns and personal habits can turn a dream vacation into a nightmare. Get to know a potential roommate before committing to the intimacy of sharing close quarters.

   

(18) Honeymoon Cruises

A honeymoon cruise is a natural setting for romance. Take advantage of all the ship has to offer or escape the world in the privacy of your stateroom. No need to worry about making dinner reservations or finding a hot nightspot. Everything is there for you.

When considering a cruise honeymoon look for a cruise line that meets your demographics as a couple. Most honeymooners don't want to cruise on a ship filled with kiddies or seniors (unless they are seniors). Ask about special discounts or cruise amenities for honeymooners. Request dinner seating with other honeymoon couples. Take advantage of luxury and pampering with leisurely champagne breakfasts (lunch or dinner) in bed. Book a couple's massage. This is your special time; make the most of your honeymoon cruise. The Caribbean is the top cruise honeymoon destination. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess are four cruise lines favored by honeymooners.

Heads Up: If you are newly married without a passport or photo identification with your new married name, clearing airport security and immigration is complicated. It is best to book your cruise under your maiden name so that it matches your photo identification.

   

(17) Wedding Cruises

Imagine a wedding onboard ship or in a romantic port paradise. Getting married on a cruise places a whole new twist on a destination wedding for the wedding couple and wedding guests. A cruise ship wedding is usually less stressful and often costs less in the long run than a traditional wedding. Best of all, you are “on location” for a great romantic honeymoon immediately following the ceremony. For wedding guests, a cruise wedding combines celebrating the wedding and a dream vacation. Compare costs for guests who travel to a traditional wedding, paying airfare, accommodations, local transportation, food and entertainment with the cost of a cruise that includes these factors.

Cruise weddings can be simple or elaborate. Some cruise lines offer services of a wedding coordinator to handle all the details, including flowers, music, photography/videography and the wedding cake. Although most cruise ship wedding take place while in port, some cruise ships have added wedding chapels or offer sunset ceremonies on deck.

Here are some important considerations when planning a wedding cruise:

  • Does the cruise line offer wedding services?
  • Can you marry at sea or only in port?
  • What is the cost of a cruise wedding ceremony and what is included?
  • Who will perform the ceremony?
  • What legal documentation is required?
  • What group discounts can your guests expect?
Note: Many couples also celebrate wedding anniversaries by renewing their wedding vows on a cruise. As a rule, the only requirement is your original marriage license. What a romantic surprise for a spouse!

   

(16) Family Cruising

Family cruises offer something for all ages and interests. There is time for togetherness and time for separate kid-fun and grown-up fun. Parents relax while the kids are entertained and even educated in creative shipboard programs. Evening in-cabin babysitting or group babysitting is available on most family-oriented cruises. Cruise lines with high scores from families include: Disney Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises.

When considering a family cruise, look for:

  • Family-friendly staterooms like suites or connecting cabins. Some cruise cabins sleep four in a standard cabin, but think crowded.
  • Kids' programs differ from one cruise line to the next. Look for cruises that offer multiple age groups rather than combining tots and pre-teens. Newer ships typically have larger centers designated for different age groups from tots to teens.
  • Request a typical daily kids' activity schedule for each age group.
  • Check the ratio of kids to cruise counselors. Ask about what training youth program directors have?
  • How are port days handled? Do kids always go ashore with parents or are there onboard programs allowing parents freedom for shore excursions?
  • What are family dining options? Are families seated with other families for traditional dining? Are there kids' dining nights?
  • How are evening babysitting services handled and what is the cost?
  • How do parents stay in touch with cruise staff and their kids? Are pagers provided for emergencies?
  • What are kids' program restrictions and rules? Most cruise lines require that tots in group programs be potty-trained. Chronic behavior problems may result in dismissal from organized programs.
Check www.cruisecritic.com and www.familycruises.com for family forums and reviews of family-friendly cruise lines and cruise ships.

   

(15) Baby Boomer Cruising

Baby boomers are classified as people born between the years of 1946 and 1964, putting this generation between 43 to 61 years old. Proclaiming that 60 is the new 40, baby boomers (76,000,000 strong) are currently the leading cruise market segment. After years heading the workforce and being avid savers, boomers have raised their family and are ready for quality “Me” time and experiences. It's time to re-kindle romance and fulfill long-awaited travel dreams.

The majority of baby boomers want to be entertained, have it all and do it all in style. As a diverse group, some boomers are all about the luxury experience; other boomers are all about adventure. Cruise lines are more than happy to provide the pampering and pleasure they enjoy. Some of the cruise lines preferred by baby boomer cruisers include: Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Celebrity, Oceania and Princess. Favorite boomer cruise destinations run the gamut from the Med, Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Boomers also enjoy leisurely river cruises and transatlantic crossings.

   

(14) Senior Cruising

In addition to general cruise market categories, there are cruises for just about any personal demographic, interest and special occasion. Until recent years, seniors were traditionally the leading group of cruisers. After all, they are retired with plenty of time to travel. Today, seniors still make up almost one-third of the cruise market. Savvy cruise lines cater to seniors with enrichment programs and upscale entertainment rather than wet T-shirt contests and all-night discos.

With diverse personal tastes and budgets, there is no single “best” seniors' cruise line. However, some of the cruise lines favored by mature travelers include: Holland America, Cunard and Crystal Cruises. Regardless of which cruise line you choose, if you want a cruise experience without toddlers and teens check the school calendar. Avoid traveling in summer and during winter and spring breaks when school is out. Cruise during off-season and shoulder seasons when the kids are in school and enjoy the benefits of best cruise prices!

   

(23) Theme Cruising

In addition to diverse passenger demographics and destinations, cruise lines often feature special theme cruises. Examples of theme cruises include:

  • Culinary cruises with cooking lessons/culinary demonstrations.
  • Literary Cruises with readings and writing workshops by celebrity authors.
  • Gaming cruises for players who love all types of games and casino play.
  • If you love a good mystery, look for a Murder Mystery at Sea cruise
  • If you are into speed, check out a NASCAR or Harley theme cruises.
  • Groove to Big Band, rock ‘n roll, jazz or classical sounds with top-names on music theme cruises.
  • Hone a hobby or learn a new skill like: photography, oil painting, antiquing or golfing on hobby theme cruises.
  • Get healthy on a theme cruise featuring clinics on quitting smoking, losing weight and toning up.
Tap the power of the Internet. Enter the search words for your special interest followed by the word “cruise.”

   
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Ray Lokar