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6 Off-the-Beaten-Path Caribbean Ports
If you've cruised into the same old Caribbean ports so many times you know the straw market vendors by name, it might be time to broaden your horizons -- which means seeking out a cruise itinerary that ventures to less-traveled islands. True, cruise ships can't be accommodated everywhere in the islands. But some lines -- particularly those with smaller ships, including Star Clippers, SeaDream Yacht Club, Island Windjammers and Windstar -- call at some truly off-the-beaten-path Caribbean ports of call. Here's a look at some lesser-known spots ripe for discovery.
Best Budget Cruises
Budgets can get tight at times, but that doesn't mean you have to ditch your vacation plans all together. If taking a cruise this year involves penny pinching, why not consider a cruise on a line known more for value than for the latest splashy features? Unlike the airline industry with its low-cost carriers (think Spirit Airlines, Ryanair or even Southwest), not many cruise lines would be considered budget (though some older ships on well-established, contemporary cruise lines, like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, could fall into this category). So, to help in your search for cruise deals, we've come up with three categories for penny pinchers -- budget cruise lines, budget itineraries and budget seasons. You don't necessarily need to sail with a dedicated budget cruise line to find rock-bottom rates, but you need to know which itineraries and cruising seasons traditionally have the lowest prices. With savvy strategies, you can even find extremely affordable sailings on more upscale cruise lines, as well as the mainstream ships. So stop moping and start shopping -- there are plenty of affordable cruise vacations if you know where to look.
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.
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.
Southern Caribbean Cruise Tips
The Southern Caribbean harbors the lion's share of the region's islands. But, because many are smaller and less developed than more easily accessible northerly ones, they tend to be less traveled. And that's a big plus for been-there, done-that cruisers eager to experience new ports of call. The region, which includes islands lying east and south of St. Maarten/St. Martin, has always been a bit more exotic than its Western and Eastern Caribbean counterparts. That's due, in part, to strong colonial influences that endure. Indeed, Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Barts are part of the Republic of France; Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire are part of the Netherlands; Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda retain a British colonial legacy; and farthest south, just off the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago exude Latin flair. These influences guarantee an interesting mix of natural beauty and culture. Aruba and Antigua are regarded for their soft, sandy beaches. Martinique, St. Lucia and Guadeloupe wow visitors with spectacular scenics, from rainforests to volcanoes. Dutch-influenced Curacao and its sibling, Bonaire, host great snorkeling and scuba diving spots. St. Barts is so French, you'll swear you're in the Mediterranean while sipping a glass of something at a sidewalk cafe. Martinique and Guadalupe also harbor both French and West Indian trappings. Grenada, relatively undeveloped, is laidback and exudes a genuine small town vibe. Opportunities to go (quite literally) off the beaten path abound on islands such as Dominica, where the countryside is so lush, the foliage is in and of itself, an attraction. In contrast, the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) are arid and sandy, but have their own stark beauty. With its cultural diversity and geographic variation, the region is bound to appeal to all types of travelers.