When and where to cruise – Part 1

When and where to cruise

In my work as a travel agent, I sold a lot of cruise tours.  Some were just cruise, some were complete holidays with a lot of things both pre- and post cruise.  I myself love cruises, because you get to see a lot of different places without changing “hotels”.  Your accommodation travels with you.  For several years back, cruises were reserved for the upperclass and/or retirees.  Now, thanks to the reinvention of a lot of cruise lines, it is for everyone.

When and where to cruise
Where to cruise and when?
It’s a jungle out there.

However, like airline fares, the choices for cruises can be daunting, even for the well travelled.  Based on my background in the travel industry, and as a traveller, I have summed up the most popular destinations here.  In this blog post, you can see when it is best to go (which also means it is the most expensive), and some sample itineraries taken from different cruises which I have either taken, or sold and got positive feedbacks from my clients.  I hope this helps you find your cruise, whether it is the first time, or the umpteenth time.  If you have taken a cruise which you feel should be included here, do drop me a line and I will look into it, and perhaps add it here.  Part 1 covers North America and Europe.  Part 2 cover the rest of the world.  Will be coming out with Part 2 very soon.

An ocean breeze puts a mind at ease.

I grouped the place into geographical regions as applied to cruise destinations.  Below these,  you will find some ports which may be included, followed by the high season, and finally some cruise lines and ships you can check out.  Don’t forget that you can have a cheaper cruise during the low season, but it is not the best weather to do so.  Your excursions can also be limited as well.   I have sold cruises mostly to Norwegians, so the product suggestions are more for the Scandinavian market, but you may use the general information to find your dream cruise.  For more details, ask your travel agent.

REGION 1.  NORTH AMERICA

cruise North America, cruise
Most cruises take place in North America than other places in the world.

There are five distinct regions for cruises in North America: Alaska, the Northeast, Mississippi River, Mexico’s Pacific Coast, and the Caribbean.   Here is a closer look at these regions.  This post is just a summary of cruises.  There will come more blog posts in the future with my detailed accounts of my visits to these places.  Please also note that some information may have changed as to departure ports,  itineraries and so on, but the regions remain the same.  The cruise lines are what I am familiar with. There may be other cruise lines cruising the region so feel free to check it out.

ALASKA

Alaska cruise
See the wilderness of Alaska on a cruise.

Alaska is a fast-growing cruise destination.  With its wild and dramatic landscape, few places in the world can offer what is has.  The cruise season is when there are longer days for optimum views from the ship.

Starting and ending ports: Vancouver, Seattle, Anchorage

High Season : May to October

Some recommended excursions:  Visit Sitka which once a Russian colonial outpost,  Glacier view kayaking, whale watching and Mendenhall glacier, etc.

What can be on the itinerary:  Glacier Bay, Ketchican, Prince William Sound, Skagway, Sitka, plus more.

Cruise Lines: Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

NORTHEAST

Montreal Cruise
The Biosphere in Montreal is a museum which focuses on the environment.

In the old days, steamers plied this route, but as a means of transport and not for cruise holidays.  When steam ships sailed to and from Europe, it was also via the Atlantic waters of the Northeast.

Starting and ending ports: New York City, Montreal

High Season: Late spring – autumn

Some recommended excursions:  Inspect the  Fortress of Louisbourg and the Cabot Trail in Sydney (Canada),  explore Montreal which has been named UNESCO’s city of design.

What can be on the itinerary:  Quebec, Boston, Halifax, Newport, Boston, Charlottetown, Sydney (Canada), plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Silver Sea Cruises, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Cruise Lines

NORTH AMERICA RIVERS

Mississippi river cruise, cruise
Mississippi paddleboats never run out of style.

The Mississippi river is too shallow for your regular cruise ships.  However, riverboats (paddleboats) and barges can ply this route.  Think Mark Twain and you get the idea of the kind of journey awaits you on board a riverboat.  This is not for you if you want a cruise boat with a lot of facilities on board.  This is for you if you love Mark Twain and have a great interest in history.

Starting and ending ports: Missippi River ports

Season: All-year round

Some recommended excursions:  Visit a plantation home, join a Cajun music festival.

What can be on the itinerary:  Pittsburg, Minneapolis, Nashville, St Louis, Little Rock, Memphis, New Orleans, Chattanooga, Charleston, plus more.

Cruise Lines:  American Queen Steamboat Company, American Cruise Lines

MEXICO ROUNDTRIP

Los Angeles cruise, cruise
The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Think fiesta and island living.  Even though you don’t literally visit an island, Mexico’s Pacific Coast has that kind of vibe.  Beach-hopping, handmade artwork, great Mexican food, tequila.    There are three typical itineraries:  the first is a one-way three-four day cruise from Los Angeles or San Diego to Ensanada in the Baja Peninsula, the second is also one way between Acapulco and either Los Angeles or San Diego (who has seen “The Love Boat” series on TV?), and the third is a variation of these two, departing and returning to Los Angeles.

Starting and ending ports:  Los Angeles, San Diego

Season:  All-year round

Some recommended excursions:   Deep-sea fishing in Cabo San Lucas, playing golf in Puerto Vallarta, checking out the night-life in Acapulco, drinking tequila as you watch the beautiful sunset.

What can be on the itinerary: Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, plus more.

Cruise Lines: Princess Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Holland America Cruise Lines

 

MEXICO ONE WAY

Mexico cruise, cruise
Freshly caught fish in Acapulco.

See Mexico round-trip for more details.  Mexico one-way is a great cruise to take for first-timers and want to sample life at sea on a cruise ship.  These are short cruises which are three-four days long.

Starting and ending ports:  Los Angeles, San Diego, Acapulco

Season:  Winter

Some excursions:  Snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas, an idle day at the beach.

What can be on the itinerary:  Ensenada, Catalina Island, plus mores.

Cruise Lines: Princess Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Holland America Cruise Lines

Bahamas and Bermuda are not in the Caribbean as most people think so.

North America is the number one cruise destination in the world.  Within North America, the Caribbean is the number one cruise destination in the world.  There are three basic Carribean cruise itineraries:  Eastern, Southern and Western.  Bahamas and Bermuda are included here as the fourth and fifth cruise itinerary because cruise lines include them in their “Caribbean” destinations.

BAHAMAS

The Atlantis Bahamas, Bahamas Casino
That’s me at the entrance to the casino at The Atlantis Hotel Bahamas

Bahamas among one of the North American cruise destinations, and is not a part of the Caribbean.  This island lies in the Atlantic, east of Florida and north of Cuba.  A lot of people think that it is part of the Caribbean.  A cruise out of Florida is a three-four day trip that is also great for first-time cruise traveler.

Starting and ending ports:  Miami, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Port Canaveral (Orlando), Tampa

Season:  All-year round

Some excursions:  Go around Nassau and check out the historical structures, spend one whole day at the Atlantis’ Hotels Aquaventure.

What can be on the itinerary: Freeport, Nassau, plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines

 

BERMUDA

Bermuda cruise, cruise
The mysterious Bermuda Triangle.

Another misunderstood “Caribbean” destination. Although most people think that Bermuda is in the Caribbean, it is not.  It is about 1,000 miles north of the Caribbean.  It is, though, part of the North American region among cruise destinations.

Starting and ending ports:  New York city, other east coast cities

Season:  Late spring – early autumn

Some excursions: Check out the colonial buildings in St George, Bermuda.

What can be on the itinerary: Boston, Hamilton, plus more.

Cruise Lines: Norwegian Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruises, Holland America Cruises, Disney Cruises

 

CARIBBEAN EASTERN

Carribean cruise, San Juan, cruise
Cobblestone streets in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Usually starts  in Miami, Port Everglades or San Juan.  Port Everglades is the port in Fort Lauderdale.

Starting and ending ports:  Miami, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), San Juan

Season:  All-year round

Some excursions:  Shop to your heart’s desire at St Maarten,  Champagne catamaran sailing in the Virgin Islands.

What can be on the itinerary:  St Croix, British Virgin Islands, St Maarten, Antigua, Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruises, Holland America Line

 

CARIBBEAN WESTERN

Caribbean cruise, cruise
You can find a lot of great dining places at the French Quarter in New Orleans.

If you are particularly interested in ancient Mayan culture and want to take a cruise at the same time, then the Western Caribbean cruise is for you.  Join excursions in Cozumel, Costa Maya (Mahahual), Belize City, among others.

Starting and ending ports:  Miami, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Port Canaveral (Orlando), Tampa, Houston, Galveston,   New Orleans

Season:  All-year round

Some excursions: Relax on your own private island at Princess Cays, snorkel in Belize’s magnificent coral reef, discover Ancient Mayan Culture.

What can be on the itinerary:  Cancun, Costa Maya, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Harvest Caye (Belize), The Dominican Republic, Roatan Bay Islands (Honduras), plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Silver Sea Cruises, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines

 

CARIBBEAN SOUTHERN

Caribbean cruise, cruise
Enjoy great snorkelling and diving in Aruba.

Not as popular as the eastern and western Caribbean cruises, the southern Caribbean cruise offers a lot of natural beauty both above and under the water.  Start at either San Juan in Puerto Rico or Barbados and you have a Caribbean beach vacation ending with a cruise.  Or do it vice versa.

Starting and ending ports:  San Juan, Barbados, Fort Lauderdale, Charleston (South Carolina), plus various others

Season:  All-year round

Some excursions: Admire the picturesque Dutch structure in Curacao, dive in Bonaire, Catamaran sail away in Grand Turk.

What can be on the itinerary:  Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Trinidad, Princess Cays, Grand Turk, Amber Cove, Antigua, plus more.

Cruise Lines: Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Silver Sea Cruises

 

REGION 2.  EUROPE

Europe is the second most popular cruise destination.  It is old world so you have so much history and culture.  They have excellent cuisine and their way of living is something of an attraction in itself.  What is nice about Europe is that you can take either an ocean-going or a river cruise, and you still won’t miss out on options.   Cruise is a great way to travel in Europe at a fraction of a cost it would cost when you stay in a hotel and rent-a-car.  The parking costs are sky-high (if you find a space), there can be language barriers, border crossings can take time, eating out is generally expensive.  Your cruise is most probably all-inclusive so you don’t have to think so much about extra food expenses.    The six predominant itineraries in Europe are:  eastern Mediterranean, western Mediterranean, Atlantic ports, Ireland / Great Britain /North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and European river cruises.  Here’s a closer look at them.

MEDITERRANEAN EASTERN

Mediterranean cruise
A close up of the Acropolis in Athens.

If you are a fan of ancient history or Greek and Roman mythology,  an eastern mediterranean cruise is for you.  The itinerary traces the journey of Homer, Herodotus, and other great figures from Greek and Roman antiquity.  The locations of places named in Greek and Roman mythology becomes real.  This is my type of cruise.  I loved reading Greek and Roman mythology in my youth.

Starting and ending ports:  Venice, Pireaus (Athens), Istanbul

Season:  Late spring – early autumn

Some excursions:  Go to Delphi, once considered to be the center of the world, When here, do visit the oracle of Delphi. In ancient times, people come here to ask Phytia (the priestess of Apollo) about the future.  Another excursion you may want to consider is visiting the medieval walled city of Kotor, a UNESCO heritage site.

What can be on the itinerary:  Bari, Split (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro), Korfu, Dubrovnik, Mikonos, Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Ephesus (Turkey).  May also include Israel and Egypt, plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Thomson Cruises

Start your cruise from Istanbul and visit this wonderful and historical city before you embark on a cruise.  I have been to Istanbul twice.  Read my blogpost about my second trip here:

Istanbul is lovelier the second time around

 

MEDITERRANEAN WESTERN

Mediterranean cruise, cruise
Ruins of the Flavian Palace in Rome.

Culture and the finer things in life are the keywords for a western Mediterranean cruise.  Awesome art galleries, fantastic wines and vineyards, refined and world class cuisine, sophisticated European lifestyle.  All these plus more await you.

Starting and ending ports:  Barcelona, Nice, Civitavecchia (Rome)

Season:  Late spring – early autumn

Some excursions:  Extend your stay and spend a few days in Tuscany.  While here, perhaps stay on a castle or a vineyard, and admire the works of Michelangelo, da Vinci and Brunelleschi.

What can be on the itinerary:  Marseilles, Savona, Genova, Napoli, Palermo, Palma Mallorca, plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Viking Ocean Cruises, MSC Cruises

 

MEDITERRANEAN SOUTHERN

Mediterranean cruise, cruise
Gaudi’s Casa Mila in Barcelona.

Southern Mediterranean is a great mix of both  culture, history and great food.  A little bit of each.  Unlike the eastern Mediterranean cruises, however, there are no stops in either Israel or Egypt.

Starting and ending ports:   Barcelona, Civitavecchia (Rome)

Season:  Late spring – early autumn

Some excursions:  Visit the Catacombs in Rome, walk along the ancient 3,000 year old Carthage ruins in Tunis.

What can be on the itinerary:  Tunis (La Goulette), Trapani (Sicily), Algiers, Valencia, Cagliari, plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Viking Ocean Cruises

 

EUROPE: ATLANTIC

Atlantic European cruise, cruise Europe
The Tower of Bethlehem in Lisbon.

An Atlantic European cruise can be either a cruise  by itself or part of a repositioning cruise (description towards the end of this post).  As the name implies, it is a journey along the Atlantic.  Along this route, there are 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites.  You also get to visit five countries: Portugal, France, Spain, Ireland and Great Britain.  There are a lot of cathedrals which were sites of a turbulent past in Europe. I myself love visiting churches and cathedrals, and there are just so many of them that it is hard to choose which ones one should choose.

Starting and ending ports:  Malaga, London, Le Havre, Lisbon

Season:  Late spring – early autumn

Some excursions:  Visit UNESCO regions for wine ( Port Wine at Douro Valley near Porto), sample some whiskey in Cork, drop in the fairytale palaces of Sintra in Portugal, satisfy your gourmet palate in great restaurants in France.

What can be on the itinerary:  Lisbon, Porto, Dover, Bilbao, Brest, St Malo, Cork, Ostend (Belgium), plus more.

Cruise Lines: Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Voyages to Antiquity Cruise Lines (smaller ships with about cabins), etc.

 

EUROPE: GREAT BRITAIN, IRELAND, NORTH SEA

North Europe cruise, Copenhagen
It is “touristy”, but don’t miss the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.

This itinerary is popular because it takes you to known places.  This is for you who is probably taking your first or your second cruise, and do not want to go too “far” from home.  However, even seasoned cruise travellers can also find this cruise exciting by joining other shore excursions, or taking another variation of this cruise.  There can be a lot of variations on this itinerary.  Some may focus on Ireland, some cruise ships will go around Great Britain, some will combine both, and some will include some other European and/or Scandinavian ports of call.  Other cruise lines even have St Petersburg on their itinerary.

Starting and ending ports:  London, Copenhagen

Season:  Late spring – early autumn

Some excursions:  Visit the Humid Tropics Biome, the world’s largest plant conservatory in Falmouth (England), join a tour to an actual working whiskey (Bushmill) distillery in Port Rush (Northern Ireland), take a steam train around the Isle of Man.

What can be on the itinerary: Rotterdam, Brugge (Belgium), Copenhagen, Bergen (Norway), Harwich (London), St Petersburg, plus more.

Cruise Lines:  Princess Cruises, Cunard Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises, Silver Sea, The Small Cruise Ship Collection (would recommend this specially when you want to have some Norwegian fjords in your itinerary), MSC Cruises.

 

EUROPE: BALTIC SEA

North Europe Cruise, St Petersburg
Admire great and interesting architecture in St Petersburg.

A cruise in this region includes countries that are less visited by cruise tourists than other European countries.  This may include Scandinavia.  A great cruise to take in combination with a holiday in continental Europe.  You can perhaps start your vacation in continental Europe and end it in Hamburg where you can board your cruise ship and see the rest of Europe and the Baltic by sea.

Starting and ending ports:  Hamburg, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg

Season:  Late spring – early fall

Some excursions:  Drive to Hermitage Museum and inspect the Diamond and Gold Rooms of the Hermitage, visit the summer house of Peter the Great at Peterhof, take in the highlights of Helsinki, take a ferry to Curonian Peninsula National Park in Klaipeda (Lithuania), plus more.

What can be on the itinerary:  Tallinn (Estonia), St Petersburg, Stockholm, Riga, Tallinn, Gdansk, Klaipeda, plus more.

Cruise Lines: Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Windstar Cruisesplus more. 

 

EUROPE : RIVERS

Europe river cruise
The imposing Parliament building in Budapest as seen from the Blue Danube.

Some people like to stay close to shore and yet  be able to explore a lot of countries as one do on ocean cruises.  Europe has a lot of great rivers and this type of cruise should be considered even for seasoned cruise travellers.  It can be combined with some nights in the city before or after the cruise.

Starting and ending ports:  Rhone, Rhine, Elbe, Volga, Danube

Season:  Late spring – early fall

Some excursions: Wine tasting along the Mosel region, visit the Notre Dame Church in Paris, excursion to the Black Forest, plus more.

What can be on the itinerary: Vienna, Budapest, Bratislavia, plus more.

 

Cruise Lines:  French Country Waterways (if you love wine), Viking River Cruises, AMA Waterways, Avalon Waterways, plus more.

 

REGION 3.  THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Cruise
The rest of the world, specially Asia, is becoming more popular as a cruise destination

As for the rest of the world, this is just a summary of the regional destinations.  I will come out with a more detailed description in another post.  Please watch out for it.

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Rio Cruise, South America Cruise
Dance the day and night away under the Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro.

Starting and ending ports:  San Juan, Rio de Janeiro, Callao

Season:  October – April

ANTARCTICA

Antarctic cruise, cruise, Argentina
Ushuaia is the capital of Tierra del Fuego province in Argentina.

They say that Antarctica is the bottom of the earth. Indeed it is.  It’s land area is 10% of the earth’s surface, and yet it is not inhabited by humans.  The perfect cruise for explorers.

Starting and ending ports:   Ushuaia and other Southern South American Ports

Season:  January – February

Some excursions:  Scuba diving with penguins (how cool is that!), polar plunge (a quick dunk into the ice cold waters), mountaineering, kayaking

What can be on the itinerary:  coming up on Part 2 of this post.

Cruise Lines:  Silver Sea, Hurtigruten

 

HAWAII AND PACIFIC ISLANDS

Crater of Kīlauea Iki Volcano on Big Island in Hawaii.

Starting and ending ports: Honolulu, Kona, various others

Season:  All-year round

ASIA

Asian cruise, singapore cruise
A golden sunset captured by the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Starting and ending ports: Singapore, Hong Kong, Port Klang (Malaysia), various others

Season:  October – May

ASIA RIVERS

asian river cruise, Myanmar cruise
The Irrawaddy River in Myanmar is an important river for traveling in Myanmar.

Starting and ending ports:  Yangon, Cochin, various others

Season: Year-round

AFRICA: NORTHWEST

Africa cruise
A safari is beyond words. You just have to experience it.

Starting and ending ports:  Cape Town, various others

Season: May – October

AFRICA: EAST COAST

African cruise, cruise
Get into your Kenyan shoes and learn some African dance.

Starting and ending ports:  Mombasa, Dar es Salam

Season:  November – March

AFRICA: WEST COAST

West Africa Cruises, cruise
The Boubou is a typical dress in the west African region.

Starting and ending ports:  Various

Season:  November – March

AROUND THE WORLD

Amazon cruise, round the world cruise
The largest water lilies are found in South America. Here, from the genus Victoria.

Starting and ending ports:  Various

Season:  November – March

 

REPOSITIONING CRUISE

Repositioning cruise, cruise, Sydney
A humpback whale turns around on its back in Sydney.

Whatever the size of a cruise ship, the cost of maintenance is high.  They also have a lot of crew on board from less than a hundred to several thousands.  It is therefore crucial for the cruise lines to schedule their cruises such that it has enough ships to accommodate passengers.  When the low season starts in one region, the cruise lines will then remove their ships there and transfer them to another region which has either shoulder or high season.  This is called repositioning.   By its very nature, this is a one-way cruise.  It cost a lot, lot less than a regular cruise, so this can be your chance to take an exciting tour in the ocean.  However, do check airfares before you purchase your cruise.  A lot of one-way airfares can be more expensive.  Your travel agent will help you find a suitable match for you with a repositioning cruise and a one-way air fare.

Starting and ending ports:  Various

Season:  Variable, depending on which region

Some excursions:  Check out humpback whales in Sydney, learn to danse the tango in Argentina, go on a food safari in Hong Kong, visit Hollywood in Los Angeles, and lot lot more.

SPECIALTY CRUISES

Expedition cruises
Specialty cruises are for those who seek more adventure and action.

More details on part two of this post.  Please watch out for it.

Summary
When and where to cruise
Article Name
When and where to cruise
Description
Whether it is your first or 100th time to cruise, there is a jungle of cruise offers out there. Here are the basics of where and when to cruise.
Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *