Taking a cruise around the British and Irish archipelago as well as Western Europe gives you the opportunity to see more capitals of world culture, great historical cities, than almost any other cruise possible. Furthermore, it’s not just good for city trips; and as every Briton knows, the country is also home to a diverse selection of natural eco-systems and landscapes for the nature buffs and hill walkers amongst us.
Could a cruise around Britain & Western Europe be cheaper than other transport?
By travelling around these countries on a cruise ship instead of by train, plane or automobile you stand to save hundreds of pounds in travelling costs to see exactly the same sites. The public transport in Western Europe is some of the most expensive in the world and few cruises can provide as economical an experience when compared to other ways of getting around between the same areas.
The most common itineraries are between 10 and 14 days long and really it takes this much to see everything you want to see in this region. However, 3-5 day cruises are becoming increasingly popular as a way of having a long-weekend-break departing from the UK.
Where do these cruises typically embark from?
The largest ports in the region are in the UK and either Dover or Southampton are the most common ports of embarkation and disembarkation. Smaller ships may leave from other less common ports although this does not necessarily mean that those ports will be less well known. The smallest ships, for instance, may be able to leave from a spot on the river Thames in London. Many cruises, when starting or ending on Continental Europe, will do so from either Copenhagen or Lisbon.
What sorts of itineraries are available?
One of the more popular types of sea cruise would be cruises that tout the Scottish Islands, particularly the Hebrides which include the islands of Skye, Islay, Jura and Lewis. Many of these are famous for their whiskies making this a perfect trip for a whiskey lover. The main operator of these is Hebridean Princess Cruises.
Then there are the river cruises which tour continental Western Europe which offer the ability to visit a far greater variety of countries in a shorter period of time. The boats, however, are a little bit smaller and this may not suit everyone. Even smaller are the many canal barges which offer cruises in the region which are particularly famous for their tours of French towns and villages.
Like most of the more off-piste cruising areas, this one has seen a recent surge as other destinations have become more expensive. The most popular type of Canada and New England cruise occurs in the autumn when the trees lining the Eastern Seaboard erupt in all the reds and golds of the season. These cruises generally take over seven days, and will call at ports such as Boston and Halifax as well as, less commonly, Quebec City and then many far smaller ports such as Martha’s Vineyard and St John’s, Newfoundland. They generally embark from any number of ports on the Eastern Coast of the US and Canada but two of the more popular choices are New York and Boston.
Increasingly, however, there are other options for cruises in the area with 3 to 4 day cruises gaining market share every year. Whilst the longer 10 day autumn trips typically attract a crowd that are, so to speak, more advanced in years there are now cruises running year round which cater to a younger clientele. These cruises also tend to have more adventurous shore excursions with nature hikes and bicycle rides and white water rafting common options. Particularly popular is the opportunity to take a speed boat ride in the Bay of Fundy with its unique rock formations and large tidal range.
Like Alaska it provides the opportunity to spot many types of wildlife that you might otherwise never see, from humpback whales to moose as well as to see a sub-Arctic environment depending on how northerly your tour goes. Moreover, the high season for Canada/New England lasts longer than for Alaska lasting from May to October.
What kind of cruise ships visit Canada & New England?
A good mix of large and small vessels visit Canada/New England every year. Large ocean-liner companies Princess, Carnival and Royal Caribbean bring some of their biggest boats to the area. However, many people prefer to go with mid-size or even small boats to tour the Eastern Seaboard. Although the boats themselves may have fewer facilities, their size allows them to dock at a wider range of ports. The operators offering mid-size ships in the region are Holland America, Crystal and Celebrity and there are many options for smaller vessels including American Cruise Lines (who embark from Providence, Rhode Island) and St Lawrence Cruise Lines (Quebec City).
Canada / New England Factfile
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Canada is larger than the United States of America in terms of size but has a population a tenth the size, 90% of whom live within 160km of the US border.
The Eastern Seaboard was home to 12 of the 13 original colonies of the United Kingdom which formed the backbone of what was later to become the United States of America. As a result, most of the oldest buildings in the country are situated in this area.
Montreal’s jazz and film festivals are both well known around the world for the prestige and quality of entrants and performers.
Worcester, Massachusetts has the world’s only Toilet Museum as well as preserving Old Salem, famous for the witch trials.
When people take a cruise to Australia or New Zealand they tend to visit ports in both countries, not just because they are close to each other but because they each represent a remarkably different experience. The most common Australian ports of call (including Sydney, Melbourne) tend to be vibrant urban areas whereas New Zealand, whose largest town has a modest population of just under half a million, represents a slower pace of life. What’s clear, however, is that both islands
have a lot to offer tourists – especially those looking for a more active holiday, full of adventure sports and sailing.
Best Ports in Australia and New Zealand
1. Relive Penal Transportation at Hobart, Tasmania
This is better than it sounds. The town of Hobart, Tasmania is a cruise port which was originally founded in support of the island’s penal colony. Much of this colonial era architecture and history survives making it a picturesque and educational place to step ashore. Try visiting Taroona, the tower formerly used to make gun shot for keeping the prisoners in check. Alternatively, visit the exceptional museums that document this period in history, or the nearby sub-antarctic botanical gardens which keep plants at minus zero temperatures year round.
2. Visit the Scotland of the Southern Hemisphere at Dunedin, New Zealand
The strong local Scottish identity means that you can buy kilts or locally fermented malt whiskey in the shops around Dunedin. This part of NZ is also far enough south that you can occasionally find penguins on the island. It’s also well place for allowing you to explore a number of New Zealand’s many canyons and gorges.
3. Try your Hand at Sailing in the Bay of Islands
This is an area of outstanding natural beauty, surrounded by forests, mountains and some of the best deep-sea fishing on the planet. The area is also popular amongst sailing enthusiasts and there are many opportunities available for either renting a small boat yourself or enjoying a zip around the scenic bay on a crewed vessel.
4. Visit the Largest City in Australia
Sydney is the most metropolitan experience you are likely to get in a cruise to the area so if you love all of the hubbub of city life, make sure you take the time to sample the delights of a city widely known as being one of the most beautiful in the world. As a large town, it often plays host to large outdoor festivals and sporting events, adding to its interest for the short stay traveller.
4 Facts About Australia and New Zealand
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People often imagine the two countries to be similar when in fact, geographically, they couldn’t be more different. New Zealand is a mountainous country of fjords, ravines and coastal cliffs. Australia, on the other hand, is one of the flattest countries on earth.
The population of Australia is just over 20 million which is less than a third of the UK population despite being over seventy times the size. The population of New Zealand, by contrast, is about 4.4 million.
New Zealanders are colloquially known as Kiwis after the long-beaked, flightless bird that is native to its shores. The fruit is named after the bird, rather than the other way round.
Both countries are former British Colonies and members of the Commonwealth group of nations. They both have the Queen of England and Wales as their head of state and incorporate the UK’s Union Flag into their flags.
[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]Everyone knows of the French Riviera, known as one of the first high-class seaside resorts in the world, but how many people have heard of the Mexican Riviera?[/blockquote] The idea is a newer one, stemming from the Mexican Government’s attempts to stimulate tourism along the country’s Pacific coastline by building resorts during the 1970’s. The idea worked and soon the area became known worldwide for its mix of spotless white-sand beaches and dramatic coastal cliffs, ascending into the pervasive Mexican jungle. Among the more well-known ports on this stretch of coast are Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
In the US, the area is famous for being the subject of the TV series “The Love Boat” which played a big part in popularising cruises amongst the American public. Partly as a result, the Mexican Riviera is often ranked in the top five most popular cruise destinations in the world and has a year round service from many of the major cruise lines. Like the Caribbean, the area is temperate for most of the year but can become too hot for some during the height of summer (August, September).
The vast majority of tourists visiting Mexico are American and the most common departure ports for these cruises are San Diego, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, California. Luckily, these ports are also convenient for those travelling in by plane making a Mexican cruise a possibility for people from all around the world.
What cruises are available to the Mexican Riviera and from which companies?
Some of the biggest cruise companies offer itineraries in the Mexican Riviera including Carnival, Crystal, Holland America, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. A variety of cruise lengths are available, starting at three days and going up to 14 days. The briefest cruises will call only at Ensenada whilst the longer ones will generally have an itinerary involving Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.
5 Must-Sees in the Mexican Riviera
1. The Death Defying Cliff Divers of Acapulco Bay
Just outside of the luxury resort town of Acapulco is a a pair of coastal cliffs known as La Quedabra. In between them is a narrow, shallow inlet of water into which local men dive from dizzying heights. It’s an outdoors variant of the old fashioned circus trick of diving into a tiny pool and the tourists love it, coming back time after time to witness the feat.
If adventurous stunts are not to your taste then there are plenty of other things to draw you to Acapulco, from the Zona Dorado high-end shopping district to any of the numerous luxury hotels that line the seaside.
2. Go Whale Watching and Meet the Sea Lions at Cabo San Lucas
There are many reasons to go to Cabo San Lucas, from the brand new resorts to the legendary club Cabo Wabo Cantina ran by former lead singer of Van Halen, Sammy Hagar. However, the most striking thing as far as we are concerned is the wildlife including plentiful California Gray whales (December-March) and barking sea lions to be found lolling about on the rocks at Land’s End.
Aside from the wildlife the area is also known as a favourite hangout for celebrities and for its championship golf courses. Famous photo opportunities include El Arco, a natural stone archway located at Land’s End, and Lovers Beach, the only beach in the world surrounded by two different oceans.
3. Be Blown Away by La Bufadora Geyser in Ensenada
La Bufadora is a powerful, intermittent geyser located in the resort town of Ensenada. Every day, tourists gather from all over the world to watch it fire, often reaching heights in excess of 80 feet. The fun of La Bufadora is seeing it, hearing the thunderous bang it makes when it goes off, and then watching unsuspecting tourists being drenched by the spray. The area is also home to a beautiful coastline as well as many up and coming Mexican wineries providing excellent quality for the money.
4. Take a Hillside Pulmonia Tour in Mazatlan
Mazatlan is the largest port on this stretch of coast and is known the world over for its watersports and fishing. However, without a doubt the most unique part of visiting Mazatlan is taking a tour on a pulmonia, an open-sided taxi, up to the clifftops for a magnificent view of the bay and the Sierra Madre mountain range.
5. Walk the Cobbled Streets of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town
In stark contrast to its ultra-trendy nightlife scene, Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town is well known for preserving all the best of European culture and architecture. Walk the sculpture-lined streets and explore any of the towns six or so art galleries. The town is famous for its artists and the town’s malecon, or esplanade, has many examples of local sculpture.
Bermuda is one of Britain’s five Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and its low levels of direct taxation make it popular amongst British expats. Technically, though, it’s not in the Caribbean at all but the Atlantic. However, its climate, geography and culture are as Caribbean as can be, leading most people to group them together.
Aside from its reputation as an island haven for the rich and famous, it is also known for its exceptional natural beauty. It is famous worldwide for its pink sand beaches and exceptionally clear waters, making it easy for tourists to come face to face with marine turtles, terrapins and tropical fish on some of the world’s best snorkelling tours. The architecture on most of the island is a mixture of 19th-Century cottages in every colour and modern shops and museums.
Despite having the largest population of any of Britain’s Caribbean possessions, it is actually a pretty small island chain – 8 islands connected by bridges and causeways. As such, you can travel the whole length of the island in about 15 minutes, making it possible for you to see literally everything on the island even if you are only stopping there for a few days.
Due to its previously ambivalent stance towards megaships, Bermuda remains an up-and-coming destination for cruise tourists. Only recently has it begun opening its ports to these larger vessels for fear of overcrowding, and they remain slightly less trafficked than the Bahamas or other similar islands. For most tourists, however, this will be a good thing – this beautiful Caribbean island chain has yet to be spoilt by excessive tourism and is now readily accessible by means of a cruise.
This fierce protectiveness of their island is what makes Bermuda the beauty that it is:
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Billboards, advertising hoardings and neon signs are banned
There are strict regulations on driving:
Including a nation-wide speed limit of 20 miles per hour and a ban on car rentals.
Moreover, the nation has what some would see as fairly puritanical rules on showing flesh
You’re not allowed to show more than a certain amount of flesh when you’re more than 25 feet away from the sea and any shorts you wear off the beach must end no more than two inches above the knee. Hence the need for the world famous Bermuda shorts.
[styledbox type=”general shaded” ]Still, whether despite or because of all that, Bermuda remains an exceptionally popular tourist destination with over 500,000 visitors per year with – amazingly – around 50% of them returning within a year![/styledbox]
Top 5 Most Popular Things to Do
1. Enjoy the Bright Blue Sea at Horseshoe Bay Beach
Bermuda’s most popular beach is Horseshoe Bay and for good reason. It has an excellent mix of natural beauty and modern facilities. This beach is also ideal for families with young children as it has a lifeguard patrol throughout high season making sure that you and your family are bathing in safety. Famous for its pink sand.
2. Snorkel Coral Reefs in Some of the Clearest Waters in the World
The lack of rain in Bermuda is what makes the water so clear – without rain there’s no chance for sediment and organic matter to run down from the land into the sea. As such, the islands are the perfect environment for snorkellers who want to check out the beautiful coral reefs. Scoot along on an aqua scooter to zip through these waters and see all manner of exotic underwater life.
3. Golf at a PGA Course
Port Royal Golf course was designed with the help of the PGA to be a challenging course and has since played host to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf (2009). Exceptionally well-maintained with carefully manicured lawns, the course also maintains high standards when it comes to its dress code – make sure to come with a shirt that has a collar.
4. Dive the Famous Bermuda Triangle
Numerous diving companies offer boat trips out for diving ship wrecks and coral reefs in the Bermuda Triangle and, as with the snorkelling, the waters are amongst the clearest in the world. The diving schools in the area are also world-renowned for their level of skill and expertise.
5. Meet Seals, Turtles, Fish, Monkeys and Tropical Birds at the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo
Wildlife can be unpredictable and even if you’ve already gone snorkelling and diving you may not have been able to see all you wanted to. Thankfully, the Bermuda Aquarium, Natural History Museum and Zoo exists to enable everyone to see a full range of Bermuda’s flora and fauna without even having to get wet! The aquarium is also home to the world’s first living coral reef exhibit, for all those who might not be able to see a coral reef by snorkelling.
Which ports do they dock at?
For large cruise ships, the most common port of call is King’s Wharf which right on the far edge of Bermuda, on Ireland Island. It is, however, just a short ferry ride to the capital of Hamilton. While you’re there, however, you may want to try out the new Snorkel Park, visit the Bermuda Maritime Museum or play with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest. The other common ports for cruise liners are Hamilton and St George’s but these are both too small for the mega-ships and as a result it is becoming less common for a cruise to dock there.
[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]Cruises to Northern Europe offer a unique opportunity to sample a wide range of cultures which few people outside of this area are familiar with. [/blockquote] A typical cruise of Northern Europe might take in countries as different as Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. Others may even include areas as distant as Iceland and Greeland. Itineraries may opt to explore the whole region or focus solely on one, a popular country such as Norway – the choice is yours.
When most people think of this region they think of the Norwegian Fjords (which happen to be on our top 10 cruises list) and maybe a few of the more famous Scandinavian capitals like Copenhagen (home to famous authors Hans Christian Andersen and Soren Kierkegaard) and Stockholm, a cultural and economic centre. However, there are also cruise ports in: Riga, Latvia; Tallinn, Estonia; Kalipeda, Lithuania.
Since Estonia and Latvia have entered into the European Union, cruise tours have begun to dock there far more frequently. Both these cities, although not as well known as they should be, are home to some of the most stunning architecture, and amazing places to visit in Estonia in Europe as well as both having up and coming nightlife scenes. These factors, plus the relative affordability of a Northern European cruise, are contributing to the increasing popularity of this region for cruise-lovers.
Most Popular Northern European Itineraries
Baltic Sea Cruises
The Baltic Sea is the area of water between the East Coast of Denmark and Russia, framed by the coasts of Finland and Sweden. The most popular ports of call on a Baltic cruise are Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallinn – all capital cities of these European nations.
Cruises going to The Fjords
Everyone has heard of these stunning water-valleys, dotted around the Norwegian countryside. The biggest port on a Norwegian Fjord cruise is usually the picturesque city of Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city and one of the most vibrant cities in the region. Smaller ports visited on these cruises, often on the verge of fjords themselves, include Stavanger, Geiranger, Tromso, Alesund and Trondheim.
Gulf of Bothnia
Little known outside of the region, these waters between the eastern coast of Sweden and Finland are the northernmost reaches of the Baltic sea. Travelling here gives you the chance to experience the surprisingly different cultures of Finland and Sweden. The main Finnish ports in this area are Rauma (whose ancient wooden houses are a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Pori (famous for the lovely Yteri beach). On the Swedish side you’ll usually end up stopping at Sundsvall with its beautiful stone houses and Lulea.
Arctic Sea Cruises
Your opportunity to sample the icy delights of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. This cruise is increasingly being regarded as quite trendy. Take your opportunity to enjoy the thermal baths of Reykjavic and pick up some Faroese knitwear.
Where do these cruises generally start out from?
The most common ports to embark from are Stockholm and Copenhagen, capitals of Sweden and Denmark respectively.Flights to these cities from the UK are frequent and relatively inexpensive, and from the US are at least relatively common. Travellers from the UK, however, may prefer to start out at home taking a boat from Dover, Southampton or Harwich.
4 Facts about The Baltic You Probably Didn’t Know!
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Over 85 million people live within the catchment area of the Baltic Sea – in other words, in the coastal areas where the rain that falls eventually runs down to the Baltic.
A wide range of languages are spoken in this region: Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, German, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian.
At any one time at least 2,000 large ships are sailing through the Baltic, most of them freighters carrying cargo to and from the Baltic nations.
As a mix of fresh and saltwater, the Baltic sea is one of the largest bodies of brackish water in the world, giving it a unique eco-system all of its own.
The Nile river runs for over 4,000 miles through nine countries, stretching from Lake Victoria in Uganda to the Alexandria, Egypt where it meets the Mediterranean Sea. The majority of Nile river cruises tend to focus on Egypt with the typical route starting at Luxor and ending at Aswan. On the way, it passes by some of Egypt’s most magnificent ancient monuments. From the mind-bogglingly vast collection of Ancient Egyptian monuments at the Karnak Temple Complex to Archangel Michael’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral.
Cruise excursions are also an excellent way to access many other famous monuments in the country such as the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and the Temple of Kom Ombo. The great advantage of taking a cruise along the nile is that almost the entirety of its population lives along the green belt that follows the Nile through the country. This also means that almost all of the historic population centres, with their ancient architecture and modern museums are located in easy reach of the river. Not to mention the modern day Egyptian culture of farmers tilling the land and traders selling spices and local crafts in the local bazaars.
What kind of ships are used for Nile cruises?
Don’t expect a massive ocean liner with gambling and a gym, the Nile is nowhere near deep enough for a large boat. The majority of the cruise boats touring the Nile carry just over 100 people in four passenger decks. Facilities on board generally include a pool (on the sun deck), restaurants, air-conditioned cabins with TV and mini-bars. The quality of the boat differs greatly between different providers, from rather old vessels to brand new ones so make sure to take a good look at the pictures before booking.
The person navigating the boat is the Chief Navigation Officer, and will be someone with many years of boating experience on this river. Generally, they grow up in a village on the banks of the Nile and start boating from a young age before eventually gaining enough respect from the cruise operators to be allowed to pilot one of their boats.
I’ve heard it gets crowded during high season…
From October to April there are roughly 300 cruise ships doing the typical route down the Nile. The main downside to the overcrowding is that in these circumstances, cruise ships sometimes tie up to one another to prevent them from knocking each other around on the waters. This is ok if you are in one of the boats on the outside but on the inside this very often spoils you view. Travelling during high season can also make the whole experience slightly less relaxing as the river is slightly noisier, but there will likely still be stretches where there are not too many boats.
The Bahamas are an island chain of around 700 islands and home to the port of Nassau which regularly tops the lists of most popular cruise ports in the world. Nassau itself is known for playing host to some of the world’s most luxurious resort hotels, including the enormous, all-inclusive hotels lining Cable Beach. Meanwhile, nearby Paradise Island is a gambling mecca with everything from high-roller blackjack tables to slot machines.
These are just two of the Bahamas’ 30 populated islands, however, and many cruises will also choose to visit the less heavily developed Grand Bahama, home to the towns of Freeport and Lucaya. Lucayan National Park is located here and this is the place where Pirates of the Caribbean II and III were filmed. Meanwhile, in Port Lucaya there are a wide variety of shops and restaurants which frequently feature live entertainment.
Freeport is also a casino centre, bigger than Paradise Island and also surrounded by crystal clear waters and sugar white beaches. There are also plenty of opportunities to pursue adventure sports such as parasailing and cave diving on both these islands. Your cruise operator may well have links to recommended local providers for this sort of activity and it is well worth asking questions about this before leaving the boat.
Weather: When’s best to take a Cruise to the Bahamas
Unlike an Alaskan Cruise, December to April is the high season but due to the Bahamas proximity to the Equator you can expect to experience very little temperature variation around the year. The rainy season is May to October but the rain generally doesn’t last long so don’t let this put you off necessary. It is possible to experience hurricanes in this season. There’s a 1 in 5 chance of your being affected by a hurricane if you travel in this season.
Food – The local cuisine of the Bahamas
Those looking to sample the local cuisine will appreciate the tradition of fish frys, outdoor fish frying parties generally involving live music and dancing. These are generally held once a week in well-known locations and if your boat is staying overnight at a port this is a perfect opportunity to join one of these. One of the more popular ones happens on Taino Beach, Grand Bahama every Wednesday.
Language and Culture
The official language is English but a Bahamian dialect of this is widely spoken. The majority of the locals are of African descent but there is a minority white population who are descended from American Loyalists and British Puritans. There is also a small Bahamian Greek culture, the result of workers who came over to work in the sponging industry. The country achieved independence from the United Kingdom in the 1960s and still retains many signs of its British colonial past. Strangely enough, you may be able to find specific cruise deals to the Bahamas through Twitter, often the major cruise lines have special offers and release them through twitter.
Hawaii is a chain of eight volcanic islands each with different geographies and climates giving each a character entirely of its own. Most Hawaii cruises will begin at the capital, Honolulu on the island of Oahu which has all of the attractions of a large city as well as the famous Waikiki beach – former playground of the Hawaiian monarchy. Oahu is also the surfing capital of the world with some of the largest waves hitting its Northern shores every winter.
However, Maui and Kauai represent a completely different experience with far less real estate development taking the place of the natural rainforests and waterfalls. These islands are particularly well known for their hiking excursions although they are also home to many white-sand-blue-sea beaches, most of which are far quieter than Waikiki.
There are many cruises which start and end in the port of Honolulu although if you are looking for a longer trip it is also possible to travel there from many ports on the western coast of America, Mexico or Canada. Doing the cruise this way will mean about a week at sea in the Pacific, the desirability of which will depend on the kind of cruise vessel you’re taking.
Top Six Beaches Outside of Waikiki (We Wanted Five But There Are Too Many Good Ones)
Situated on the north shore of the island this is without a doubt the most famous surfing beach in the world. In the summer, however, the waves are a lot smaller making it ideal for anyone to take a paddle in. Sun, sea and white sand are exactly what you get at this beach.
Kaanapali Beach, Maui
An extremely popular beach, lined with luxury resorts and famous for the many scuba and snorkelling schools available in the area. This area is particularly good for families as there are a large number of lifeguards all along the beach as well as plenty of facilities. The waters are generally pretty calm and it rarely gets as crowded as some of the other popular beaches – the happy medium between isolated and popular.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Big Island
This is the best place in all of Hawaii for spotting sea turtles and for those who have never been to a black sand beach before, the experience is an unforgettable one. The beach is surrounded by swaying palm trees so it really does look like a beach rather than a volcanic wasteland.
Poipu Beach, Kauai
Excellent for young children, the water is calm and shallow as well as clear enough for inexperienced snorkellers. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful beaches on the islands with a fair range of facilities. As such, it was once voted America’s Best Beach.
A great, fairly secluded beach with a massive lagoon where you can often sea locals diving for crab and octopus. As per the name, you can expect to see an early 20th-century shipwreck here, stuck in a coral reef. The waters here are rough but it’s nevertheless worth coming out for the dramatic scenery and solitude.
A man, a plan, a canal – Panama! This famous canal even has a palindrome dedicated to its honour. Completed in 1914, the purpose of the canal was to allow ships to move between the East coast of the Americas and the West coast without having to sail all the way down to Cape Horn and around.
This cut the time many freight ships took to complete their routes in half and completely changed the shape of modern day America. Furthermore, because of the immense amount of earth that had to be shifted as well as the careful managing of the tidal waters, the canal has been hailed as “one of the seven wonders of the modern world” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
High season is from October to April but the rainy season ends in November so after November is the most pleasant time to visit. The cruise liner that goes to Panama the most often would be Princess Cruises but most major tour operators will have at least one ship going there in summer.
Cruise Itineraries to Hawaii
In terms of itineraries, the canal itself is only 50 miles long but most cruises to Panama take 14 days and travel from Florida, stopping in the Caribbean, Mexico and other locations. Others, however, can be longer or shorter depending on your taste with anything from 7 to 21 days possible from the bigger cruise lines. As standard, all cruises will depart from Florida (Miami or Fort Lauderdale) and end in L.A (San Diego or San Francisco). Most typical cruises will also stop at Colon, Panama which sits on the Eastern entrance to the canal and Limon, Costa Rica on the Western side.
Some of the most popular excursions are to be found in the area around Puntarenas port, Costa Rica. These include a trip to Tabacon Hot Springs, the luxury resort and spa based around volcanic springs, therapeutic for sore muscles they also form beautiful miniature waterfalls in the river running down to the pools. The Poas Volcano is also an unforgettable sight, as it is filled with an unbelievably bright blue lake.
Meanwhile, an excursion to Villa Blanca will give you the opportunity to walk through an authentic cloud
forest. Or you could go see some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
If you don’t dock at Puntarenas and would still like a rainforest trip then your best bet is to try out the new aerial tramway in Braulio Carillo National Park, just outside of Limon, Costa Rica. This takes you out, through and sometimes above the forest canopy where you’ll come face to face (literally) with all manner of Central American wildlife.
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.