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7 Places to Cruise Without a Passport
You've decided you want a vacation, but there's a problem -- you don't have a passport. Maybe you've never had the time, money or desire to travel abroad previously, or perhaps your old passport has expired. Whatever the reason, you still have choices. One option is to take a closed-loop cruise -- a round-trip sailing that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port. For that, you need only a birth certificate and a driver's license (or other acceptable, government-issued photo ID). You can't cruise just anywhere on a closed-loop sailing, but the choices are more interesting than you might expect. Below, we've compiled a list of seven places to visit without a passport, from scenic Alaska to the beachy Caribbean.
Hawaii Cruise Tips
Voluptuous women swaying in grass skirts, raging waves dotted by tan surfers on sleek boards, deserted beaches framed by swaying palms, fresh pineapple served alongside roast pork at a rocking luau: Whatever you envision when you think of Hawaii, it's accessible by cruise ship -- and right here in the United States. The eight major Hawaiian Islands are volcanic, each created from at least one primary volcano. And each is different, with distinct climates and attractions -- an aspect that makes cruising there even more appealing. On a given sailing, you might sail by the dramatic cliffs of Kauai's Napali Coast, sunbathe on Honolulu's bustling Waikiki Beach, reach the volcanic summit of Maui's Haleakala Crater and taste some of the world's best coffee in the verdant hills above Kona. A voyage to Hawaii presents a tricky situation for cruise lines: To comply with passenger shipping laws, foreign-flagged ships (which most cruise lines have) cannot sail an entirely U.S.-based itinerary without calling in at least one foreign port. Norwegian solved the problem by launching Pride of America, a U.S.-flagged ship with an American crew, which can sail exclusively in the islands; this move was not without added cost and headache to the cruise line, as it initially struggled to solve service issues and attract passengers. Most other major cruise lines fulfill the requirement by sailing out of Vancouver on repositioning sailings, hitting up Ensenada on roundtrip cruises from the North American mainland or visiting Hawaii on longer transpacific sailings. Regardless of whether you opt for a short or long itinerary, Hawaii is bound to overwhelm you with its bounty of attractions and activities. Because a cruise can only give you a quick taste of island life, don't be surprised if you return home and start planning a longer land vacation to your new favorite port of call.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
11 Best Cruise Destinations for Active Cruise Travelers
You can get a workout on pretty much any cruise, but to maximize your adrenaline-pumping options, it's best to find the right combination of cruise ship and destination. Active cruise travelers will usually turn up at least a handful of shore experiences to whet their appetites for adventure, but if you're cruising with a sedentary lot, that city bike tour or rainforest hike might get canceled due to lack of interest. Likewise, certain ports simply don't lend themselves to athletic adventures, while others have so many active choices, it's hard to make up your mind. Below, we have listed our picks for the 11 best adventure cruise destinations for those who are active travelers, as well as our suggestions for the cruise lines that make the best matches. Just don't forget to pack your running shoes and snorkel gear.
Best Hawaii Beaches
With hundreds of beaches, all of which are public, it's no surprise that Hawaii is a paradise for lovers of sun and sand. Much like the rainbows seen throughout Hawaii -- including on car license plates -- the Aloha State's beaches offer myriad colors, featuring white, black, red, pink and even green sand. There are famous beaches that cater to lots of people every day and other beaches where you might find yourself the only person for miles. But, which one is the best when you're visiting on a cruise? Here are our picks for some of the top beaches for cruise visitors.
Cruise Pricing by Destination
You've decided it's time to take that cruise to Alaska (or the Caribbean or the Mediterranean) you keep hearing about. But you're not sure how much it's going to cost you. The Mediterranean sounds awfully expensive, but what about Alaska? Perhaps a New England and Canada cruise would be more affordable? Cruise pricing is never static; no matter which region you choose to sail, prices ebb and flow. Cruise line (and even the specific ship within the line, since newer vessels tend to command more), time of year, length of trip and, of course, cabin type are all factors that affect the price of a cruise. Plus, what's included -- or not included -- determines the overall affordability of any given sailing. But some destinations are generally more affordable than others.