Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fun was had by all on our annual Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Cruise this last weekend. We got to meet new friends and enjoy the old ones. We couldn't have asked for better weather, the sun was shining the entire time. Make plans to join us next year and experience the fun for yourself!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cruise destination spotlight: Panama Canal

by Erica Silverstein, SmarterTravel Staff

Cruising the Panama Canal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience reserved for only the most determined travelers. While anyone is allowed to go, 14-night itineraries and pricey one-way airfares have a way of weeding out many potential cruisers. Retirees with a lot of money and time to spare make up the largest part of this cruise audience.
The Panama Canal's cruise season runs from late September through April. The best time to visit Panama is in the winter and spring, especially since the country's rainy season lasts from March through December. For the best weather, cruise after November.

Where you'll go and what you'll do

Cruisers have two choices when selecting a Panama Canal itinerary: full crossings and partial crossings. On a full crossing, the ship sails all the way through the canal with guests onboard. On a partial crossing, the ship enters the canal, then lets guests off for shore excursions, but never crosses to the other side.
How can you tell if an itinerary contains a full or partial crossing? Check the embarkation and disembarkation ports. If they're the same (or at least on the same ocean), you'll only go partway. If you board the ship on the East Coast and disembark on the West—or vice versa—you will definitely travel through the entire canal.
It takes a day to traverse the 50 miles of locks that make up the Panama Canal. On a traditional crossing, guests can watch the scenery as the ship makes its way from ocean to ocean. On a partial crossing, ships often stop in Colón or Gamboa, where cruisers can take tour boat rides on the canal or visit the observation center to watch the locks in action. Such activities are also possible on full crossings.
The majority of Panama Canal cruises sail between Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. A few start as far northeast as New York and end as far northwest as Vancouver. Itineraries vary in length and ports-of-call, but most include several stops in Mexico on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
Additionally, ships may visit ports in Central America and the Caribbean. Puntarenas, on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, gives cruisers a chance to explore the jungle on horseback, raft, or foot. On the eastern shore, Puerto Limon offers kayaking, off-road adventures, and zip-line canopy tours. The fortified city of Cartagena, Colombia, is known for colonial architecture and beautiful beaches. Visitors can tour the Mayan ruins of Tikal and Copan in Guatemala, and explore volcanoes in Nicaragua (in Spanish only).

Which cruise lines sail through the Panama Canal?

Here's what the cruise lines are offering:
Celebrity: Celebrity offers 14- and 15-night cruises on the Celebrity Quest, Infinity, Mercury, and Summit departing from Acapulco, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Crystal: Crystal offers 10- to 16-night cruises on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony departing from Caldera, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Holland America: Holland America runs 10- to 36-night cruises from Callao/Lima, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa, and Vancouver aboard the ms Amsterdam, ms Maasdam, ms Noordam, ms Ryndam, ms Statendam, ms Veendam, ms Volendam, ms Westerdam, and ms Zuiderdam.
Norwegian: Norwegian runs 13- to 29-night cruises from Barcelona, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, and Santiago aboard the Norwegian Crown, Norwegian Dream, Norwegian Pearl, and Norwegian Sun.
Princess: Princess offers 10- to 19-night cruises from Acapulco, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, San Juan, San Francisco, and Vancouver aboard the Coral Princess, Island Princess, Regal Princess, and Sun Princess.
Regent Seven Seas: Regent offers 14- to 16-night cruises from Ft. Lauderdale and Los Angeles aboard the Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager.
Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean sails 10- to 16-night cruises departing from Ft. Lauderdale, Galveston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, and San Juan aboard the Brilliance of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, and Serenade of the Seas.

*Shileen speaking here, I personally have been to the Panama Canal, and while I didn't cruise through it, I got to stand on the observation platform and watch several ships pass through the locks. It was an amazing sight.  I highly recommend seeing it at some point in your life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Solo Cruising

The Advantages of Cruising Solo
Everyone knows that a cruise vacation is an easy way to explore the world while enjoying a wide array of entertainment, activities and dining onboard a ship that seems more like a first-class resort. Yet in the past, single travelers have chosen to stay away from this advantageous form of travel. But now cruising solo is on the rise, and here is why.

Whatever You Want to Do, It’s Doable
Cruise ships are basically giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to educational adventures such as taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a stack of paperbacks or getting a massage—you can easily do it onboard a cruise ship.

Finding Friends is a Breeze
It’s easy to enjoy the cruise on your own, if that’s your wish. But when the social bug bites and you want to mix and mingle, you’re in the right spot. Many cruise lines host a reception for singles at the beginning of the cruise, and some of these parties include dance hosts to make sure everyone has a swell time. Also, you’ll have your selection of bars, from piano to karaoke, to rub elbows, raise pints and make friends.

Single Cabins are Trendy
Several new ships, including the massive Norwegian Epic, have cabins designed specifically for solo travelers. These smaller cabins are priced for single occupancy and include everything you need to enjoy your cruise in complete comfort.

Avoiding the Solo Supplement
While the benefits of cruising are easy to see, some travelers are apprehensive of the solo supplement—the extra fee a single traveler is charged for reserving a double-occupancy cabin. Every cruise line has different rates and rules, so talk to us and we’ll find the best one for you with the lowest supplement. Also, travel agents are the first ones to know when a cruise line offers special sales that decrease or eliminate the solo supplement.