Most of my writing is about points and miles, but that doesn’t mean that airplanes and hotels are the only way to take a vacation.
Consider A Cruise
If you’ve never taken a cruise, now is the time. You’ve heard it all before. You’ve seen those Lust for Life” Royal Caribbean commercials. You even watched “The Love Boat” as a kid and know which cast member went on to become a Congressman (It was Fred Grandy, who played Gopher.). But you may never have actually gone on one yourself. If you haven’t (or even if you have), here are a few things to think about.
Cruising Is Easy And Convenient
Forget everything you know about a cruise. Flying to Miami? Wearing a tux every night to dinner and hanging out on the smoking deck? Sure, you can do all of those. And you can also find a cruise where you can show up to dinner in shorts. You can find one that originates in one of 24 cities (and that’s in the US alone). And you can certainly find one where the smoking deck is the only outdoor place you can smoke. And you can get everything in-between.
By the way, while you can book a cruise on your own, I would recommend against it. Not because it’s a difficult thing to do; it isn’t.* Instead, use a travel agent. They can help you decide what is the best cruise line if you have kids (or don’t want to see any), choose a cabin on the ship or help you hire a private tour guide instead of paying the ship’s prices on shore excursions. They may also have access to special rates, discounts and shipboard credits that you wouldn’t find on your own. Most importantly, they’ll take care of dealing directly with the cruise line on your behalf if you have any issues.
One other thing: In terms of value, cruising is the best vacation option in the world, bar none. And it’s not necessarily the $99/night specials that you see all over the internet (Your travel agent can get you almost any deal you can find on the internet.). Shipboard credits, prepaid gratuities or other goodies will significantly reduce the total cost and then you’re done. Cruises are (almost) all-inclusive and, while there certainly are extras to buy on-board, there is no need to do so to have a complete trip.**
You Can Go Anywhere
Cruising is about more than the trip to the Caribbean or Alaska. You can go to any one of the seven continents on a cruise. You can see multiple cities without exhausting flights in-between. Want to hit every country in Scandinavia, as well as Russia and Estonia in under two weeks? Go for it. Scenic cruise of Greece, Italy and Turkey? There’s a cruise for that. While you’re sleeping, the ship is doing its thing.
Once you’re at your destination, what you do is up to you. Essentially, you are combining the best options of a land-based vacation with the convenience of having somebody to take you from city to city without squeezing yourself into an airline seat.
And when you’re on the ship, you definitely won’t be bored. Activities like those listed here are available on ships to keep you entertained.
The Islands Need You
As you know, the Caribbean has been devastated by several hurricanes. Many of these are destinations that rely almost exclusively on tourism, meaning that not only has their current economy been destroyed but also their future growth, as well. To their credit, the cruise lines have stepped in to help, offering supplies, ships and whatever the islands need. But without the tourists, the islands will continue to suffer long after the physical destruction has been cleaned up.
If you don’t have a vacation planned, please consider a visit to one of the islands. At this point, a cruise may be the easiest way to do it, but any way that you can spend your dollars, pounds, euros or any other currency, will help.
*Beginner’s Hint: A good travel agent can make a huge difference. Our travel agent just returned from a one-year sabbatical and we’re thrilled to have her back, since she has always looked out for us. On our first cruise that we booked with her, she called us the day before we paid to point out that there was a lower rate available. She took a lower commission because of it, but won all of our future business.
**One tip: For shareholders of at least 100 shares of stock, the three major cruise companies (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) will give you an on-board ship credit ranging from $50 to $250, depending on the length of the cruise, if you sail on one of their ships (or a ship owned by the parent, such as Princess, which is owned by Carnival). This is not, under any circumstances, a recommendation to trade any stock.
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