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Don’t let the Carnival Cruise Line’s recent newsworthy items deter you from hitting the high seas. There are millions of cruises that sail each year without making the news. They have great customer service, activities for families, couples, and seniors, onboard entertainment, and unique ports around the world. Today we’ve rounded up the best of the best, from exotic international cruises to the always-popular beach destinations. Read more
If you’re thinking of taking a Mediterranean, Northern Europe, transatlantic, or Alaska cruise this spring or summer, the time to book is now. Princess Cruises has slashed fares on dozens of itineraries and departures, with savings of 50 percent or more on certain dates. All sale bookings also include an onboard credit of $25 or $50 per person (depending on cabin class).
The biggest savings can be found on the transatlantic sailings. A 14-night cruise from San Juan to London – with stops in New York, Halifax, Dublin, and Glasgow – that was $1,190 is now $499 per person. That’s almost 60 percent off! We’re also fond of the 6-night Scandinavia sailing round-trip from London for $699 (originally $1,399) as well as the 6-night Alaska sailings from Whittier, Alaska, to Vancouver for $499 (down from $924).
Certain dates and cabin classes are sold out, but there are still plenty of options to choose from. Note that these bookings are non-refundable. Head to www.princess.com/springsale.page for details.
For more great savings, check out our cruise deals.
Can’t tell the difference between a pinot noir and a pinot grigio? Well, maybe you can tell the difference between those. But if you’re going on tours of world-renowned wineries, you’ll probably want an experienced sommelier with you to help you along. That’s where Food & Wine Trails comes into the picture: The culinary travel providers are offering a complimentary Sommelier, Car & Driver program to guests aboard select Silversea Cruises’ 2012 Mediterranean trips.
When the ship docks, spend half a day touring the exquisite wineries of Livorno, Italy, Marseille, France, and Barcelona, Spain, with your own personal wine guide. Sip on the best Tuscan reds in the Bolgheri region, enjoy full-bodied Provencal vin in Bandol, or drink the bubbly Spanish Cava in Penedes. If you choose to indulge in a day filled entirely of wine tastings, travelers can opt to extend the tour for a charge of $300.
In the aftermath of the Costa Concordia crash over the weekend in the waters off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio, details of exactly what went wrong are still rolling in as search-and-rescue operations wind down and the ship’s “black box” is reviewed. Of the more than 4,200 people onboard, six perished in the accident and some 14 passengers remain unaccounted for – though rescue operations are currently halted due to safety and environmental concerns. Initial indications are pointing to grave human error on the part of Captain Francesco Schettino, who took an unauthorized route that brought the vessel too close to shore where it hit a reef (which caused it to take on water and ultimately topple over), and then failed to put standard Costa emergency procedures into place once the accident had occurred (he is currently under arrest, facing possible charges of manslaughter, as well as accusations of abandoning the ship prior to the completion of its evacuation).
Regardless of the cause of the Concordia‘s demise, current Costa Cruises ticket holders (the cruise line is owned by the Carnival Corporation) may find themselves understandably jostled by the whole event, especially given the widely published disturbing images of the partially submerged vessel and tales of a chaotic evacuation scene (parallels to the Titanic – which is commemorating the centennial of its sinking in April – have been widely drawn). We’ve been in touch with the folks at Costa and sifted through their policies and press releases to bring you the lowdown on what prospective Costa cruisers can expect in the months ahead. Read more
MSC Cruises has announced an eye-catching new promotion, which offers complimentary stateroom upgrades on select 7-night Caribbean and European sailings. Pay for the lowest-cost interior cabins with this great-value “Move Up in the World” deal, and be bumped up to balcony cabins at no extra cost. What’s more, the offer can be redeemed for peak-season sailings, so there’s no need to sail during iffy-weather shoulder seasons in order to snag the freebie upgrade. Or, splurge for a full-price balcony suite, and be upgraded to the top-of-the-line butler suites in the line’s elite cruise line-within-a cruise line, the MSC Yacht Club, found on Fantasia-class ships. Read more
To really get a proper taste of Languedoc, France, we recommend taking the scenic route (outlined below) which will let you explore several corners of the lesser-known wine region in the South of France. Rent a car, get a good map, and enjoy the ride through gorgeous countryside, hilltop villages abutting the Pyrenees Mountains, and seaside hamlets. (Just be sure to schedule your wine tastings before an overnight at one of the choice hotels mentioned below!) Before you go, check out this round-up of fabulous Languedoc wines available in the U.S. Read more
The Greek islands have sounded their siren call to maritime-minded adventurers since the days of Homer, topping the list of the world’s great sailing destinations from ancient times through present day. The isles offer stunning beaches, crystal-clear seas, world-class nightlife, lip-smacking eateries, and worthwhile shops – and island-hopping from the comfort of a cruise ship makes it possible to thoroughly sample their bounty with absolute ease. Consistently featured on some of the most coveted cruise itineraries on the high seas, the popularity of the Greek isles during the high season months of summer is illustrated by suffocating crowds and inflated costs for cruise bunks, boutique booty, and everything in between. Having just completed a shoulder season autumn sailing to the Greek isles (aboard the sleek sailing yachts of Windstar; read on to nab discounted fares for sailings with them in spring 2012), I’ve rounded up some firsthand tips on the pros and cons of crafting your own custom-tailored, cost-effective, crowd-reducing Greek island odyssey à la shoulder season in spring (March and April) or fall (September and October). Read more
Does sailing off into the Mediterranean sunset under billowing white sails sound like a head-in-the-clouds fantasy? Well, go ahead and turn that tall tale into your very own reality this fall (and beyond) onboard the sumptuous sailing yachts of Windstar Cruises. Happily, we’ve pinned down refreshingly down-to-earth rates on a duo of shoulder-season autumn sailings, as well as uncovered a special promotion for those looking ahead to their 2012 vacation planning. Read more
For you cruisers looking to ply the waters of the Med without putting your bank account in the red, your MSC Cruises ship has come in. The Italy-based cruise line has posted a Balcony Bonanza promotion for travelers who book select fall and winter Mediterranean sailings: Nab a balcony stateroom for the same rate as an inside stateroom (from $649 per person on an 8-night itinerary) or upgrade to a balcony superior stateroom for the same standard rate as a regular balcony cabin (from $849). Read more
Today’s cruise ships come packed with nearly every amenity imaginable. Except, perhaps, one: a means of stamping out the competition with your fellow passengers for everything from spa appointments to pool lounges, and bar space to the all-too-few, out-of-the-way quiet areas. Enter MSC Yacht Club.
Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of MSC. Though well known in Europe, the Italian cruise line is just making headway into the American market, thanks in part to a marketing push behind the brand’s 2009-debuted, high-end Yacht Club. Read more
Wouldn’t it be nice to spend Easter on a beautiful Mediterranean island – while spending less to do it? While sunny Cyprus is known as the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, it is also richly associated with early Christian history and many of its sights are fascinating for travelers of any faith. It was actually in Cyprus that St. Paul, traveling with St. Barnabas, succeeded in converting an ancient Roman proconsul to the Christian faith, in effect making him the first official in the Roman Empire to adopt Christianity.
Several eastern Mediterranean cruises use the exotic wonders of Egypt and Libya as major selling points on voyages. Unfortunately, recent violence and political turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya have caused many cruise lines to change ports of call or to cancel voyages entirely.
Cruise lines had recently jumped on the opportunity to add Libya as an exotic port of call on Mediterranean itineraries after the country began issuing visas to American tourists in 2010. Now, with the political uprising and subsequent US State Department travel warning, the same cruise lines are scrambling to reroute these trips. Small cruise company Voyages to Antiquity announced this month that it has canceled its first cruise of 2011, which was to sail via Libya from Athens to Rome. It was a stroke of bad luck for the company, as this voyage had originally been scheduled to stop in Egypt and Tunisia, but was rerouted to Libya due to Egypt’s political instability.
With travel warnings to Egypt remaining in effect, many cruise lines are scrambling to change routes rather than wait and see how the situation plays out. The majority of cruise lines have canceled stops in the region through the end of March, for fear of ending up like Viking River Cruises, who had to charter a plane to airlift 91 passengers out of Egypt when the unrest began. Costa, however, is staying the course by restoring cruising to Egypt after some tourist site warnings were lifted.
Considering the cost of last-minute changes and cancellations to itineraries, it will be interesting to see if the impact that these events have on the cruise industry are reflected in “safer” picks for the next season.
In just a few days, the New Year will dawn – and we all know what that means: Many a resolution will be made. I am writing this now in hopes of urging all couples to make their number-one resolution for 2011 to get the most from their romantic travels in year ahead. Here’s how:
1. Be spontaneous. Sometimes the best trips are planned on very short notice. And at ShermansTravel.com, great last-minute travel deals are just a few clicks away.
2. Try a new Caribbean island. Far too many couples get caught in a vacation rut – revisiting the same spot year after year. Repeat getaways are safe and familiar, but it’s fun to head somewhere entirely new: If you like the Bahamas, consider Turks & Caicos or the British Virgin Islands (shown above at left). If you like St. Thomas, try Barbados or St. Lucia. If you’re a fan of Aruba, try Grand Cayman or Anguilla. If Puerto Rico is your usual spot, give Jamaica or Curacao a try.
Two cruise ships couldn’t possibly be more different than Seabourn Sojourn (www.seabourn.com; shown at left; courtesy of the Yachts of Seabourn) and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (www.royalcaribbean.com). I was recently onboard preview sailings of both as they arrived in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and I can tell you they only have two things in common: They are the newest vessels in their fleets (both debuted in 2010) and they are truly fantastic ships. Come to think of it, comparing them is kind of like comparing a Yorkshire Terrier and a Great Dane. Both are best in show, but for very different reasons!
Here’s a rundown of what to expect, beginning with an aft-to-stern comparison:
I happen to believe that every couple should experience the unique wonder of Venice, Italy at least once – and, ideally, at least once every few years. This amazingly ancient city never gets old for me, perhaps because I always avoid visiting during summer tourist season, when both the heat and the crowds are unbearable. There’s no reason not to plan a trip here in winter, spring, or fall – okay, so the weather can sometimes be unpredictable (it’s typically very cold and damp in December and January, yet I have seen it hit the high 70s in early March), but that’s part of the fun. In fact, here are 10 reasons why Venice beckons now through April.
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