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Best Baltic Cruise Shore Excursions
Whether you're touring tsarist-era palaces in St. Petersburg, Estonia's cobblestone alleyways or the islands of Stockholm, the Baltic's attractions and astounding beauty will wow you whatever you do. To give you a unique and immersive experience in each of these countries, we've highlighted a few of our favorite Baltic cruise excursions. Please note: Although these are popular tours, check with your cruise line before you book to ensure your preferred excursion is offered.
Best Non-Caribbean Cruise Destinations for Snorkeling and Diving
Once you get hooked on snorkeling and scuba diving on cruises, you begin to study itineraries with a view to finding the best spots to indulge your underwater passion. While the Caribbean is filled with opportunity, and an obvious first choice for enthusiasts of all levels of expertise, the rest of world truly can be your oyster if you pick the right ports. In areas where snorkeling and diving are popular pastimes, ships' excursions are usually offered, making your adventures easy to arrange. At other destinations, you might be on your own when it comes to booking a dive trip or finding a suitable snorkeling spot. This is especially true in areas with so many things to do that watersports rank low on the priority list of most passengers, as is often the case in European and Asian ports of call. There are a few cruise destinations with snorkeling and diving that may surprise you. Read on for a guide to finding the best spots around the world to get under the waves.
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.
Dalmatian Coast Cruise Tips
Named for an ancient tribe that lived along the eastern coastline of the Adriatic Sea in the first millennium BCE, the Dalmatian Coast is best known as the place the white and black spotted dog came from. But with a history that dates back to a time before the Greeks and includes long sweeps of time under the rule of various empires (Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Yugoslavian), there's so much to learn about and see in any of the cities and towns that dot the area's islands and coastline. The Dalmatian Coast stretches southeast from Italy's Venice (rulers from here used to oversee this part of the world), encompassing Croatia and parts of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. The ports are often visited as part of Eastern Mediterranean itineraries (although it's technically on the Adriatic Sea), as well as by small ship cruise lines that stop at smaller cities and towns exclusively along the coastline. Whether you sail an itinerary that sticks exclusively to the Dalmatian Coast or a Mediterranean journey that stops at select ports on the way to elsewhere, you'll visit towns with quaint old city centers, narrow stone streets, medieval fortified walls, cathedrals that span hundreds of years and subtle signs of the war that raged through this area in the mid-1990s. With excursions on offer that range from classic city tours and culinary tastings to hikes or kayak trips through pristine natural environments, a cruise along the Dalmatian Coast offers a rich experience to history buffs, foodies, active travelers and anyone who simply wants to explored a less-traveled path.
Best Western Mediterranean Shore Excursions
Incorporating Spain, Italy and France, the Western Med has been influenced by cultures from all over the globe -- and each one has left its mark on the region's architecture, food and traditions. Vibrant cities and iconic landmarks are located close to many of the ports, so you'll have scenic surrounds, mouth-watering cuisine and fantastic shopping opportunities a stone's throw away. Wherever you visit, you're guaranteed to discover something new about your European neighbors. But deciding where to focus your day in port could become an overwhelming task. To help you pick from the many options available, here are some of our favorite shore excursions in the Western Mediterranean.
Eastern Mediterranean vs. Western Mediterranean
The crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea sparkle year-round, making cruises in the region a hot ticket for passengers around the globe. (Even Australians make the long trek during their winter.) But with so many ports spanning the Med, how do you pick which itinerary is right for you? Generally, Mediterranean cruises are divided into Western Mediterranean – Monaco, Spain and France -- and the Eastern Mediterranean, which includes but is not limited to Croatia, the Balkan countries, Greece and Turkey. Italy does double duty, serving as an embarkation/debarkation homeport for both (usually Rome for Western Med cruises and Venice for eastern routes); Italian ports of call feature in both itineraries, as well. It's hard to go wrong with either. Both itineraries include UNESCO-approved cultural and historic sites that will help you complete your bucket list. Both also offer fabulous ports of call with outstanding cuisine and local wines, beaches for all sorts of travelers and opportunities for shopping. Keep in mind that either itinerary will be port-intensive; this is not a cruise where you spend lots of time lolling near the ship's pool. Read on to find out how to choose between an Eastern Mediterranean vs. a Western Mediterranean cruise.
First Cruise to the Baltic and Northern Europe: Lessons Learned
The Baltic -- with its marquee ports of St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen -- is a popular bucket-list cruise destination, but that means your first once-in-a-lifetime cruise there is possibly also your last. You definitely want to get everything right on the first go if there's not going to be a repeat visit to learn from your mistakes. To help you out with some Baltic Sea cruise tips, here's a recap of what we learned on our first cruise to the Baltic and Northern Europe.