[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]The main draw is the landscape and the wildlife. On an Alaskan cruise you can often see whales, eagles, bears, and meese from your boat against a backdrop of dramatic mountain ranges and endless pine forests. It’s no wonder that these cruises are getting more popular every year.[/blockquote] One drawback, however, is the weather and we don’t just mean that it’s cold. Most Alaska cruises go in the summer months when it is less cold but persistent rain and grey skies are common. Meanwhile, this unpredictability can make excursions hit-and-miss. Some cruise ships offer helicopter and plane tours so that you can spy out more wildlife but these are often cancelled at short notice due to inclement weather.
The most popular operators in Alaska are probably Princess Cruises and Holland America although the vast majority operate at least one itinerary in Alaska. It is important to remember that there is a trade-off to be had between the big and little boat cruises. The choppy seas of the Gulf of Alaska may be easier on the stomach if you take a giant cruise liner but you are far more likely to see a lot of wildlife if you take a smaller boat.
What an Alaskan Cruise Itinerary Looks Like:
The Inside Passage is a sailing route that passes on the inside of the many islands that make up the Alaska panhandle, on the south-west of the state. It can pass through Ketchikan, Skagway and Sitka, three Alaskan ports that are amongst the most popular with tourists. The Alaskan stretch of the route is around 500 miles long and generally takes about 7 nights on a cruise ship. Cruises on this itinerary generally leave from Vancouver or Seattle making them convenient for those travelling in by plane.
Gulf of Alaska
The Gulf of Alaska is an area of water more northerly than the Inside Passage and these tours generally go from Seattle or Vancouver up to Seward or Whittier which are near to the town of Anchorage. This area has markedly choppier waters than those of the inside passage, as mentioned above. Generally these cruises will last 7 days and will also take in some of the Inside Passage route and may visit Ketchikan, Skagway etc.
If you’re willing to spend a fortnight at sea then there are some cruises that will travel from as far away as San Francisco to destinations as northerly as Anchorage. Another benefit of these itineraries is that it makes it more possible to make trips over land that last a number of days.
Smaller cruise ships
It’s possible to book expedition cruises with a number of companies who will take you to more out of the way ports with shallower waters as well as allowing you to get more up close and personal with the marine wildlife.
Popular Alaskan Ports
Creek Street is the main street in Ketchikan and it’s built on a wooden pier sitting on top of the water. It’s full of restaurants and independent stores as well as having colourful timber buildings reminiscent of a pioneer town. It’s Alaska’s fourth biggest town giving it a surprisingly vibrant atmosphere for a place out in the middle of the arctic wilderness.
Juneau is the state capital as well as the largest city, situated in the middle of the historic gold belt. Tourists on excursions may choose to take the Mount Roberts Tramway for aerial views of the mountains and harbor. The area also features bear viewing platforms and art demonstrations from native craftsmen and women.
Another former gold town, well known for its walking and mountain flying tours offering a birds eye view of the thundering Skagway river. There’s also a historic miners steam railway offering short trips for $110 dollars. Continuing the pioneer aesthetic, you can visit Jeff Smith’s Parlor famously run by the con artist and gangster Soapy Smith.
This town changed hands between the Tlinget Indians and the Russians before eventually falling under US rule as a result of the Alaska purchase in 1867. It remains the centre of the tribal government of the Sitka tribe and native arts and crafts are to be found all around the city as well as remnants of the Russian culture such as Saint Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral. There’s also the Alaska Raptor Center which looks after injured American Eagles.
If you’re looking for one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cruises imaginable then Asia is a good option for you. In just a few days or weeks it is possible to visit countries as different as India and China, Japan and Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia, or all of them together. It should come as no surprise that Asia is still virgin territory for many cruise lovers – all of the top 10 most popular cruise ports in the world are in the Caribbean islands. However, this only makes it more of a unique experience for those who choose to go off the beaten cruise route and try something different…
In recent years, many of the larger and more well-known cruise providers such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have begun to send cruise ships to Asia, enabling cruisers to flit between destinations as distant as Qingdao and Singapore. On the other hand, many smaller ships are also available for seeking out the many smaller cruise ports of the region such as the tiny port of Larantuka(pic below), nestled at the base of a beautiful forested mountain on the island of Flores, Indonesia.
High season from December to March which means the best time for budget travellers is October/November or April.
Top 5 Cruise Excursions in Asia
1. The Great Wall of China
If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the Great Wall then an Asian cruise is an excellent way of going about it. Most cruises that stop at Beijing will have excursions to the Great Wall but if not then it is only about an hour’s journey by road if you would like to organise it yourself. Beijing actually has two cruise ports, Tianjin and Xingang, both of which are located in the city of Tianjing which is itself a two hour drive from Beijing. As such, if you want to take an excursion to the Great Wall it will take up a whole day but the trip is undeniably worth the effort.
2. Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the largest, grandest religious monument in the world and was described by one of the first Western visitors as “a rival to that of Solomon… erected by some ancient Michelangelo. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest must-sees in the East Asian area. Unfortunately, the nearest cruise port is a 7 hour journey away from Angkor Wat. Nevertheless, the cruise companies recognise its popularity and offer overnight stays in port in order to make this excursion popular.
It is possible to visit the temple from either Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s only cruise port and one which is surrounded by four beaches, or Bangkok.
3. The Grand Palace, Floating Markets and Many Temples of Bangkok
There are well over 20 highly ornate temples in the city of Bangkok (known in Thai as the City of Angels) as well as the Grand Palace of the King of Thailand and the world’s largest floating market. In fact, it’s hard to recommend the best thing to do in Bangkok when so many things compete for the top spot. Taking a walk around the city and soak in the sights and sounds might be enough on its own.
4. Kerala Backwaters, Cochin Port, India
Many cruise ships offer boat excursions to the Kerala backwaters on the local ketuvallam, hand made house boats, with thatched roofs and private rooms. The Kerala backwaters themselves are a series of lagoons lined with tropical palm trees and known worldwide for their exceptional natural beauty.
5. Tokyo. Just Tokyo.
It’s almost a cliché to point that Japan is about as different from America and the UK as it can get but as we all know there’s an element of truth to every cliché. There are a million exotic experiences you can have in Tokyo, even if you’re only docking for one day: meet a geisha, take a traditional Japanese bath at the Oedo Onsen Monogatari or hang with the famous rockabillies of Yoyogi Park. Like Bangkok, Tokyo is one of those larger than life Asian cities that represents a microcosm of the country it’s in. This makes it the perfect way to sample all that’s Japanese about Japan in a short period of time.
It should not come as a surprise to learn that Caribbean cruises are the most popular type of cruise in the world.
It certainly features in the top 10 cruising destinations mentioned on the same site, and it continually crops up among the most popular destinations listed on countless other websites too.
Why is this? Perhaps it is the gorgeous weather, the warmth that enables you to enjoy time out on deck when you are cruising from place to place. It also provides you with an opportunity to visit many Caribbean islands, whereas a traditional holiday to this part of the world may restrict you to just one island.
[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]Over 65% of all UK cruises leave from the four cruise terminals at Southampton.[/blockquote]
While some cruises to other destinations are only available at certain times of the year, Caribbean cruises are available on a continual basis. It is perhaps not surprising to discover many passengers hailing from the UK are particularly eager to book a winter cruise, to escape the uncertain weather in this country.
If you are considering boarding a Caribbean bound cruise for the first time, you will likely have some questions about the experience. Here we have covered most if not all of the main areas to focus on.
Can you book no fly cruises to the Caribbean departing from the UK?
Cruises headed for Europe, the Fjords or similar areas typically leave from one of the UK based ports. However since the Caribbean is a lot further away you will often see cruise offers that require you either to fly out to meet the cruise ship or fly home once the cruise ends.
However if you prefer not to fly you can find some no fly cruises departing UK ports including these:
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These cruises tend to be far longer in duration than those which require a flight one way as part of the booking. This takes into account the extra time spent at sea. Typical lengths of such cruises can be as follows:
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Clearly while you may want to go on a no fly cruise you will have to consider your budget and the amount of time you have available for a Caribbean cruise. If you would rather try a shorter cruise you may have no option but to catch a flight out to the departure port.
Do all Caribbean cruises visit the same islands and destinations?
No; in fact there is far more variation than you may at first expect. Cruises to the Caribbean are typically split into three different types, visiting one of the following areas in particular:
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Eastern Caribbean – including Nassau, St Thomas and St Maarten
Southern Caribbean – including Aruba, Grenada and Dominica
Western Caribbean – including Havana, Montego Bay and Playa del Carmen
Incidentally the Mexican Riviera is often included as part of the Caribbean too; so don’t be surprised to see a few Mexican destinations included on some itineraries to this part of the world. These include:
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If you enjoy your first cruise to the Caribbean you can therefore go on other cruises to the same part of the world while visiting very different areas in the process.
Which cruise lines offer Caribbean cruises?
Since this is the most popular part of the world for cruising, most cruise lines provide a range of cruises to the Caribbean. These include the following big name lines:
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Norwegian Cruise Line (Website: www.ncl.co.uk)
Royal Caribbean International (Website: www.royalcaribbean.com)
When you are searching for potential cruises you will notice many other names cropping up as well. It is wise to delve into each line in more detail, as some lines are better for certain types of traveller than others.
Children friendly Caribbean cruises
Disney Cruise Line
One of the biggest reasons why families head out to the Caribbean on a cruise liner is because of the gorgeous beaches that await them on arrival. However you still have to get there and if you have children you’ll want to book a cruise that enables you to travel on a child friendly ship. Disney hits the top spot in this respect, but if you are travelling from the UK you will find several other cruise lines to consider as well, including Royal Caribbean.
Affordable Caribbean cruises
A Caribbean cruise can be expensive if you don’t shop around. While Celebrity Cruises offers Caribbean itineraries that are easier on the pocket, be sure
to consider other cruise lines as well. Princess Cruises is another name that is regularly connected to good value cruises.
What would a typical itinerary look like?
There is no easy answer to this one. It all depends on which part of the Caribbean you visit and how long your cruise is set to last. However we have picked out a number of cruises departing for the Caribbean this year and given the highlights below. This should give you an idea of what to expect on a typical cruise.
You should note the cruises listed below are all no fly cruises and thus feature an impressive list of destinations. Shorter cruises that require you to fly in one or both directions to meet your ship will have far fewer ports of call included in the itinerary.
35 nights in the Caribbean with P&O Cruises
This trip departs from Southampton and heads to a number of stunning ports of call before returning home to the same port 35 nights later. You’ll visit these destinations during your Caribbean cruise with P&O:
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26 nights in the Caribbean with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
This trip also leaves from Southampton and offers a number of appealing destinations:
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24 nights in the Caribbean with P&O Cruises
This is a shorter trip than the previous P&O cruise, but it still takes you to some stunning ports of call:
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32 nights in the Caribbean with Cruise & Maritime
This month long trip will treat you to a number of beautiful destinations before you return to the port of departure, Tilbury:
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[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]Grand Cayman and Barbados are among the most popular Caribbean cruise destinations[/blockquote] Source: www.thomascook.com
When is the best time to go on a cruise to the Caribbean?
In terms of living in the UK, you’ll probably find it more appealing to go during our winter months. The downside is it can be more expensive to book a cruise to this part of the world at this time. Look out for special deals or last minute deals if you have some time available to head abroad on holiday. Alternatively you can get some deals by booking well ahead of time, depending on the cruise line you book with and the specific trip you are looking for.
However it is typically better to spend a little more and get away from the UK winters. You will also be escaping the hurricanes that can ravage the Caribbean anytime between June and November each year. While cruises are still available during this season, it is more likely your cruise may get diverted or miss one of the ports you are scheduled to visit. Bear this in mind if you want to postpone your cruise until the summer months.
Is a Caribbean cruise ideal for you?
While every cruise typically spends one or two days at sea, a trip to the Caribbean will usually mean three or four days at sea in order to get there (if not longer; it’s dependent on where your first port of call is situated).
Many cruise passengers want to explore the Caribbean and all it has to offer, but it may not be ideal for your first ever cruise. Shorter trips of just a few days are available to the Caribbean, but these typically depart from and return to a port in another country much closer to this part of the world. Thus it is often better to get your ‘sea legs’ on a shorter cruise much closer to home before embarking on the cruise trip of a lifetime to one or more parts of the Caribbean.
Introduction: Guide to Barbados Cruises, with hints and tips to getting the most out of your Barbados cruise holiday!
Around 450,000 people arrive in Barbados every year on cruise ships, and with some of the most beautiful platinum-sand shorelines in the Caribbean it’s easy to understand why. The island boasts plenty of duty-free shopping in Bridgetown alongside lush rainforest jungles containing an eye-popping selection of wild flora and fauna situated further inland.
Within the Caribbean, Barbados has long held the nickname “Little Britain” for its strong connections with the UK and this fact has left its mark on the island to this day. Driving is on the left, the language is a local variant of British English and administrative regions are based around the island’s Anglican parishes. These cultural ties have had the knock-on effect of making Barbados particularly popular amongst British tourists and as many as 175,000 of them visited in 2010.
What to do when the cruise ship docks in Barbados (Read: Cram lots of activities into a couple of days or chill out and do things in your own time)
History buffs will be drawn the island’s many plantation houses and gardens as well as the well-preserved chattel houses, temporary structures originally built to accommodate slaves. Many of these establishments house museum collections and offer guided tours, enabling tourists to experience the legacy of colonialism close up.
Others will prefer to spend their holiday lapping up the scenery and the island affords such a wide variety of leisurely tropical walks and adventurous hilltop hikes that you are sure to find something to suit every level of fitness.
When a cruise ship stops in a port you are generally only there for a day or less and whilst you may be able to fit in plenty of sightseeing this way you’re still going to have to prioritise. Below are our Top 5 things to do in Barbados, all of which are located near enough to where the cruise ships dock (Bridgetown) to make them viable activities for a one-day excursion. Try a few or, if you’re up for it, see if you can squeeze in all of them!
Essential ‘must know’ facts & figures:
Currency: Barbados Dollar, although US Dollars are widely accepted
Language: English/Bajan Patois.
People: People from Barbados are known as Bajans. Like much of the rest of the Caribbean they have a reputation for taking life easy. Politeness is considered important as is friendliness – if you pass them in the street be sure to greet them!
Drinks: Mount Gay Rum is the island’s favourite tipple. If you’re not a fan of straight spirits try asking for it in a Daiquiri.
Food: You won’t find much fast food on Barbados but this is generally available in volume on cruise ships. The local delicacy is also the national symbol, the flying fish, served best at Oistins Fish Fry.
Travel: The blue buses, run by the Barbados Transport Board (BTB), are safe and reliable but do not give change. Taxis are affordable and readily available and do not run on meters.
Hurricane Season: Between June and November. Possibly not the best time to visit.
Top 5 Things to Do on a Barbados Cruise Excursion
1. Sun Yourself On White Sand Beaches in Holetown
If you’re looking for the classic, picture perfect Caribbean beaches you’ve seen in the brochures then Holetown, Barbados is the place to go. Just a 15 minute ride away from the cruise port in Bridgetown, Holetown has palm trees, blue seas and platinum sand stretching for miles in both directions. This area is home to a number of highly exclusive hotel resorts but the entirety of the beach is public. When you feel like you need to cool off take a walk through the famously colourful chattel village or dine in one of the many bar-restaurants lining the beachfront. There may also be opportunities to swim swith sea turtles or go snorkelling in coral reefs around this area.
A stylish blend of modern and British-style colonial era architecture surrounds one of the most popular duty-free shopping towns in the world. Head down to department stores such as Cave Shepard and Harrisons for a mix of local and international goods, from gemstones to spices. Alternatively, take a walk down Broad Street for a mix of smaller shops. For rum fans there’s also the Mount Gay Rum Tour http://www.barbados.org/mountgay.htm which lasts 45 minutes with the ticket price including free tasting sessions. The patriots amongst you may also enjoy snapping a pic with the bronze statue of Lord Nelson in Heroes Square.
3. Gaze in Awe at Harrison’s Cave
For just BDS$60.00 an electric tram ride takes visitors on an hour-long ride around the breathtaking rock formations. Again, this attraction is just a short taxi ride from the cruise port in Bridgetown.
4. Meet the Monkeys at Welchman Hall Gully
If you’ve never been the the jungle before then now’s your chance. Welchman Hall Gully is the former site of a plantation owned by the Welshman William Asygell Williams whose natural garden has now been turned into a national park. The area is renowned for its wildlife, including monkeys and many species of bird, as well as for its hiking paths suitable for all levels. It is geologically linked to Harrison’s Cave and the two are so close to one another that it’s well worth spending the time to see one after the other.
5. Take High Tea at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion
This luxury hotel is unapologetically British in style and culture and serves a daily high tea between 3:30 and 5pm which is popular with tourists. Many cruise ships will have a departure which rules this out but if this is not the case then it’s worth making the time. The staff are highly customer oriented and you can expect nothing less than the height of luxury when you dine here. It’s an excellent experience for anyone who would like to know what Barbados was like during its heyday.
Where do Barbados cruises generally depart from?
There are currently no transatlantic cruises departing from the UK and calling at Barbados but this only adds to the adventure, giving you the chance to visit an additional destination that you might not have otherwise considered. The most common starting point for a cruise to Barbados is definitely Florida but there are a number of other options listed below for those who would like to see more of the Americas.
The most common ports for cruises to Barbados are without a doubt Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In Miami you’ll have the opportunity to visit sun-kissed beaches at the same time as enjoying all of the hustle and bustle of one of America’s biggest cities. Plus, the nightlife in Miami is known around the world for its eclectic mix of exclusive clubs and Latino music bars. Ft. Lauderdale meanwhile is known as the Venice of America and his home to over 4,000 restaurants and 120 nightclubs, having built up a reputation over the years for being the place American college students go to let their hair down.
2. New York
If you’re looking for a holiday that takes in hot and cold contrasts then starting your cruise in the Big Apple is the way forward. Go shopping on Madison Avenue, visit the Statue of Liberty or chomp on a hotdog with mustard and ketchup before hopping on board and heading for the Caribbean. The trip down the American coast takes a few days, which on a luxury cruise liner will be a pleasure, before arriving at your destination.
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
An option frequently overlooked by British tourists, if you’ve ever wondered what South America is like a great way to find out is to start your trip in one of its largest cities. With plenty of old-style European architecture the city has a completely different atmosphere than either New York or Miami whilst at the same time being completely different than anything you’ll ever find in Europe. Visit porteño style cafés or take a wander down the multi-coloured streets of La Boca.
4. For time-savers – Intra-Caribbean
Those looking to save time and money will, of course, not depart from any of the above but will instead opt to fly straight to the Caribbean and take a roundtrip cruise from there. There are a number of cruises departing from Bridgetown Cruise Terminal in Barbados or from a number of the other islands which call at Barbados at some point along the way. This option is particularly popular amongst British tourists.
What kind of cruise ship can I expect?
As one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Caribbean there are a number of luxury cruise liners which dock at Bridgetown as well as cruises on smaller (but by no means small) vessels such as clippers. Below is a list of the different cruise ships which visit Barbados along with some of the shops, restaurants and activities you can expect to find on board.
When you book a Barbados cruise with Carnival you can expect to travel on one of the above Conquest- or Concordia-class cruise ships. For a bit of a fun, each of the ships comes with its own theme, with Valor being based around “Heroes and Heroics” for instance. All of the ships have 24 hour room service as well as 24 hour casual dining in multiple different restaurants, representing cuisines from around the world. There are plenty of things to do on board for kids and adults with children’s entertainers, live emcees, a cinema, internet café, library, casino, live music and much, much more. They definitely give you the luxury experience.
Just as luxurious as the ships above, the Caribbean Princess features a giant poolside cinema running films outdoors at all hours. Spa treatments are available including massage and facials inside while street performers entertain the travellers in the onboard Piazza. Meanwhile the Emerald Princess comes with over 900 rooms that have balconies allowing you to watch the sun set over the open seas. Both ships also come with fitness centres as well as numerous cafés and wine bars – there are activities to suit every preference on board these cruise liners.
Star Clippers (Royal Clipper)
Star Clippers operate two 7-night Caribbean cruising tours which stop at Barbados: a tour which takes in the Windward Islands and one of the Grenadines. This operator has none of the pzazz of the previous two cruise operators and its ships are much smaller. At the same time, they are amongst the world’s largest sailing ships and they pride themselves on providing a subtler experience, more akin to yachting than taking a big American cruise. The Royal Clipper has five masts and boasts a three-deck dining room as well as passenger accessible crows-nests for you to climb up and admire the view.