Focus On Cruising

Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships

A Great Opportunity To Sample Azamara

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Azamara Journey

I answered a question the other day from a reader asking about a land/cruise combination vacation in the Caribbean.  I advised him that he should consider San Juan, the port that I think would give him the most options.

I’ve just received an email from Azamara Club Cruises that I think would be ideal for this sort of vacation.  The Azamara Journey will sail round trip out of San Juan on Novemnber 22, 2011 for a 5 day cruise, with stops in St. Martin, Virgin Gorda, St. Johns and, on Thanksgiving Day, St. Barts.

This strikes me as the ideal length for such a combination trip.  It also offers an opportunity to experience Azamara without having to commit to the more typical – and far more costly – 10 to 14 day cruises usually offered by Azamara.

As a bonus, the ship is at anchor in St. Barts until 1159PM on Thanksgiving Day.  For those who want a more intimate holiday dinner than that offered on board, any one of the absolutely wonderful restaurants on St. Barts would fit the bill.

I sailed on the Azamara Journey through the Baltic two summers ago and had a memorable time.  Many of my fellow passengers were repeat cruisers from much larger vessels.  Praise for the experience on board Journey was universal.

For those who can’t get away over the holiday, Journey will be sailing a 7 day itinerary from San Juan to Barbados the following week.

Technorati Tags: Azamara Club Cruises, Azamara Journey, Cruise line, cruise ship, land/cruise vacation, San Juan, St. Barts, Thanksgiving

Your Questions About Cruise Deals And Cruise Vacations

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Sandra asks…

Do you get good deals for booking a vacation/ cruise last minute?

Is it possible to get a last minute deal?  I am looking to go in the end of June, but I want a good deal and I don’t mind taking a chance for the last minute.

John answers:

There’s always the possibility.  Is it likely?  No.  The more likely outcome is you’ll wind up paying more and settling for whatever is still available.  You’ll have a better chance of getting just the right cabin on the cruise you want by booking in advance.

Thomas asks…

What are the best deals or places for a cruise and stay vacation?

My girlfriend and I are looking to take a week vacation in the Bahamas or Caribbean and we want the experence of both a cruise and an island stay. We plan on going in a year from now but that may change based on when the best time to go is.  We will both be 23 at the time of our trip.  Any information or help is appreciated.

John answers:

Because of your age, don’t bother looking at Carnival as their rules state that one person must be 25 or older in your cabin.  The best weather, but the highest prices,  occur during the winter months.  Summer is less costly but very hot and humid.  Avoid mid-August through the end of October, if you can.

Now, combining a hotel stay with a cruise is certainly possible, but the options are limited.  Cruises to the Bahamas are roundtrip, beginning in the US.  You can’t just get off the ship and stay.  So if you have your heart set on the Bahamas, you should just do a land package and save the cruise for another time.

If you opt for the Caribbean instead, look for cruises that either begin or end in San Juan, or offer San Juan roundtrip.  Princess Cruises offers regular sailings from San Juan, as do other lines.  You could then combine a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay with the cruise itself.  You could stay in Puerto Rico or the nearby Virgin Islands, or even go a bit further afield.

Depending on what you’re looking for in a cruise, you should also look into Windstar Cruises which offers roundtrip sailings out of Barbados and St Martin.

Donald asks…

When you’re thinking of going on a land vacation (not a cruise) how do you go about finding deals?

I want an all inclusive vacation.. do I have to go to a travel agent or can you actually get it online… help

John answers:

Well, Donald, although this column is focused on cruises, I’ll take a shot at the answer.  You can find packages on line, many people do it.  Try Travelocity or Orbitz.  You can also go to tour operators’ websites, such as GoGo or Travel Impressions.

You might find, however, that the abundance of information and choices is a bit overwhelming.  It’s always best, I think, to use a good travel agent.

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Technorati Tags: Bahamas, Barbados, caribbean, cruise deals, Cruise lines, cruise ships, cruise vacations, last minute cruise deals, Princess Cruises, Puerto Rico, San Juan, St. Martin, Windstar Cruises

Your Questions About Cruises Locally And Transatlantic

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Maria asks…

Whats a good website or vacation packages I could get to go in a cruise?

Me and my cousin are thinking about going on a cruise. but we just don’t know where to start looking for a great price.  What are some websites you would recommend me to visit, or where have you gone that you really liked.

I live in Alabama so I would like a cruise that will leave from Alabama and not from some other place I would have to drive.

John answers:

Maria, you’re timing is good, if you and your cousin are prepared to act relatively quickly.  There is only one large-scale cruise ship home ported in Mobile, Carnival Elation.  Unfortunately, Carnival has recently announced that the Elation will depart Mobile for good on October 22nd.

If you plan to take your cruise after that date, or if you would like more options, then you should look at cruises from New Orleans or the major Florida ports.

Some websites to explore:  Carnival’s own website, Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.  And you won’t escape my customary advice that you use these websites for research, and then use the services of an experienced travel agent to actually book the cruise.

Finally, where have I been that I really liked?  Too many places to list.  Travel is one of life’s great experiences.  Go with an open mind, be prepared to learn and be inspired.  You’ll grow and be richer for the experience.

Mandy asks…

What is the best website for finding cheap vacation packages/cruises?

My boyfriend and I are in college and needless to say, on a very tight budget. But we’d love to get away for a few days or a week inexpensively. Do you  know of any good sites for this?   Have you gone somewhere that was really inexpensive??  I’ve checked out most of the mainstream websites but we are still trying to find a good deal.   Any info would be great!  Thanks!

John answers:

Google cruise discounts for college students.  You’ll get a number of options.  One I thought was interesting was American Airlines’ site at aa.com/college.  You’ll find discounts on flights and flight/hotel packages.

There are other vendors offering group discounts on cruises.  Just proceed with caution, as some of these might not be completely trustworthy.

You should also ask around campus as much as possible.  There are probably plenty of your fellow students who have explored this question as well.  You may get some good pointers.

Steven asks…

I need help finding a cruise vacation package to the Caribbean leaving from Rome, Italy.

I currently live in Germany and am trying to plan a cruise to the Caribbean at the end of November or early December. I need a cruise that is leaving preferably from Rome, Italy because I’d like to go there too but really anywhere close to Germany would be great. I’ve been trying to find one on my own and am getting very frustrated so if anyone has any tips that would be wonderful.

John answers:

Steven, you are looking for a repositioning cruise.  These are offered by the cruise lines when the cruising season ends in one region and ships are moved to another region for a new season.  These are one-way, of course, so you’ll have to fly home.

Rome to Ft. Lauderdale is a definite possibility.  Rome to the Caribbean is not.  Pacific Princess will depart Rome for Ft. Lauderdale on November 27th.  You could sail from Malaga to San Juan on Royal Caribbean in November, however, if that appeals to you.  Visit cruisetransatlantic.com for a handy listing of all the transatlantic cruise options.

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Technorati Tags: Carnival Elation, cruises from Mobile, Expedia, Ft. Lauderdale, Malaga, Mobile, New Orleans, Orbitz, Pacific Princess, repositioning cruises, Rome, Royal Caribbean, San Juan, transatlantic cruises, travel agent, Travelocity

Drugs At Sea

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Serenade of the Seas

Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers had a busy day October 24th in San Juan.  In two separate, apparently unrelated incidents, a total of four passengers from the Serenade of the Seas, fresh from a seven-night Caribbean cruise, were taken into custody for drug possession.

In the first incident, Diana Hortencia Latigua-Lorenzo, 32, a citizen of the United States, and her brother, Breidy Latigua-Lorenzo, 20, from the Dominican Republic, were arrested at the port after disembarking the 2,110-passenger vessel.  The Customs Agency reported that its officers found 6.48 kilograms of heroin wrapped in duct tape and placed in a large number of shoes inside their luggage.  The Latigua-Lorenzos had been sent for secondary screening after having given officers inconsistent information.

In the other incident, the agency says it found 3.5 kilograms of cocaine in three brick-size packages between the beds of the cabin occupied by Melinda Ivette Quiñones-Cruz, 28, and Cristian Gabriel Oquendo-Lopez, 21.  The drugs were discovered during a random inspection of Serenade of the Seas by a K-9 dog team.

I’m bothered by this on so many levels.    It saddens me that something I love so much – cruising – can be used by a few others to sow so much harm, just to satisfy their own greed.   You understand the motivations intellectually and yet, viscerally,  you just can’t fully grasp how they can do what they do.

You just shake your head.

Technorati Tags: Cruise line, crusie ship, drug arrests, San Juan, Serenade of the Seas