How to Pick a Cruise: 7 Tips to Keep You Afloat

 

Do you want a big ship or a small one?

  • The size of the ship may be the biggest factor in the type of cruise experience you have. Today’s cruise ships come in all sizes, from massive mega-ships that carry thousands of passengers, down to small expedition vessels or yacht-style ships that may carry fewer than 100. Each size of ship has its pros and cons. The largest ships—like a floating resort—offer a huge array of dining and entertainment options, and lots of onboard activities. They can be great for multi-generational family trips, because there’s plenty to occupy passengers of all ages. The downside is the potential for long lines for the buffet, disembarking for shore excursions, and so on, but the cruise lines are pretty adept at managing the crowds. The smallest ships offer a much more intimate and personal experience. You’ll definitely get to know your fellow passengers, and you’ll rarely have to wait for anything. Onboard activities, though, will be much more limited and will generally tend toward the intellectual. Often these cruises will have a distinct focus, such as exploring the culture or wildlife of the destination. A midsize ship (1,000 – 2,000 passengers) might be a great compromise, with lots of activities and entertainment, but less time waiting in line for shore excursions, dining, and so on. But they may not offer all the latest bells and whistles.

Do you want an action-packed itinerary, or one with more days to relax at sea?

  • Some destinations stop at a new port just about every day, like lots of Mediterranean cruises, while others may spend a few to several days at sea. If you’re looking to visit as many different places as possible, you’ll probably want as many stops as possible, but depending on the size of the ship, that can be exhausting. If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation, days spent sailing between destinations give you time to enjoy the ship’s activities and amenities, get pampered at the spa, or just relax.

Do you want to get dressed up?

  • Formal night is a cruising tradition that harkens back to the golden days of the transatlantic passage, when passengers “dressed” for dinner each night. Most ships have at least one special formal night per cruise. For some cruisers, dressing up in swanky clothes for an elegant dinner is a highlight of the cruise experience. Others may want to skip the fuss altogether and opt for a cruise line that doesn’t offer a formal night. Remember that even if your cruise has a formal night, you’re not required to take part, and if you’re on a less formal ship, no one will object of you dress up nicely for dinner! What may matter more in terms of dress code is the everyday attire that’s expected. Small expedition vessels are typically very informal, and the largest ships offer something for everyone, while more upscale cruise lines may expect “country-club casual” attire on the ship.

What do you like to do for entertainment?

  • In this era of ever-bigger ships, you can find just about any kind of nightlife you like, from movies and stage shows, to casinos, dance clubs and karaoke. You won’t be bored during the day, either. When you’re not on shore, larger ships offer an array of classes and lectures, cooking demonstrations, beer and wine tastings and more. Kids and teens are catered for with special clubs and spaces giving them a space to play and hang with their peers. Smaller ships with less space tend to focus on more intellectual diversions—enrichment lectures, card & board games, and the like. Often, they offer a robust library, as well.

Do you get seasick?

  • If you’re worried about seasickness, the size of the ship and the destination can make a huge difference. Larger ships are equipped with stabilizers to minimize side-to-side motion in all but the most severe weather, while smaller ships tend to move around more. Choosing a destination is important, too. Cruises that stick closer to shore, like the Mediterranean or Alaska’s Inside Passage, rarely enter the open ocean where wind and swells are stronger. Some areas are notorious for rough water—the Drake Passage on Antarctica cruises, Queen Charlotte Strait in Alaska, and the Bay of Biscay, for example—but the time of year can also be a factor. Caribbean cruises are usually fairly calm, but during hurricane season, tropical storms can make voyages rougher. If you are sailing where there’s a potential for rough seas, your cabin location can help. The most stable part of the ship is in the middle of the ship near the waterline. Bonus? Those are often the least expensive cabins, as well!

Are you a night owl or early to bed?

  • Most cruise ships offer plenty to keep passengers occupied after the sun goes down. On larger ships, discos, stage shows, comedy shows, casinos, and a variety of lounges and bars ensure that no one need be bored. If you’re not a night owl, though, you’ll want to pick a cabin away from elevators that can be busy late into the night, and make sure your cabin isn’t beneath a dance floor. Some cruise lines are known for their active nightlife and party atmosphere—Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian come to mind—while others tend to attract passengers who turn in relatively early. Mainstream cruise lines usually offer the most variety, while luxury and niche vessels generally offer more sophisticated (and sedate) options.

What’s your budget?

  • There’s literally a cruise for just about any vacation budget. The length of the cruise, the destination, the type of ship, and your stateroom category all play a part in the cost of the cruise. Once you’ve decided what kind of cruise experience you’re looking for, there are strategies you can use to get the most for your money. Shorter cruises on larger ships can be very cost-effective, sometimes less than $100 per person per night (a great deal, when you consider all the food and entertainment that’s included). If you’re leaning toward a luxury cruise line, taking a shorter cruise or traveling during the off season can save you some money. Or, choose a less expensive cabin, and spend more time enjoying the ship’s amenities and public areas.
  • Whichever type of cruise you pick, make sure you know what’s included, and what you’ll pay extra for. In almost all cases, you’ll have to pay for guided shore excursions, and things like spa treatments, onboard shopping, etc. Meals are generally included, except for some specialty dining options, but alcoholic drinks generally are not. What can surprise first-time cruisers, though, is that soft drinks (sodas) cost extra, too. Special offers from cruise lines often include on-board credit, which you can spend for just about anything on board the ship, and sometimes things like beverage packages or prepaid gratuities, which can save you quite a bit.Finally, consider costs that aren’t part of the cruise cost, like airfare to and from your port of departure; a hotel the night before your cruise departs; and of course, your trip insurance.
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By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail

By the Smoke & the SmellBy the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail by Thad Volger

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In By the Smoke & the Smell, spirits expert Thad Vogler takes readers around the world, celebrating the vivid characters who produce hand-made spirits like rum, scotch, cognac, and mezcal.  From the mountains of Mexico and the forbidden distilleries of Havana, to the wilds of Scotland and the pastoral corners of France and beyond, this adventure will change how you think about your drink.

Thad Vogler, owner of San Francisco’s acclaimed Bar Agricole and Trou Normand, is one of the most important people in the beverage industry today. He’s a man on a mission to bring “grower spirits”—spirits with provenance, made in the traditional way by individuals rather than by mass conglomerates—to the public eye, before they disappear completely.

We care so much about the food we eat: how it is made, by whom, and where. Yet we are far less careful about the spirits we drink, often allowing the biggest brands with the most marketing dollars to control the narrative. In By the Smoke and the Smell, Vogler is here to set the record straight. This remarkable memoir is the first book to ask the tough questions about the booze industry: where our spirits come from, who makes them, and at what cost.

By the Smoke and the Smell is also a celebration of the people and places behind the most singular, life-changing spirits on earth. Vogler takes us to Normandy, where we drink calvados with lovable Vikings; to Cuba, a country where Vogler lived for a time, and that has so much more to offer than cigars, classic cars, and mojitos; to the jagged cliffs and crystal-clear lochs of Scotland; to Northern Ireland, Oaxaca, Armagnac, Cognac, Kentucky, and California. Alternately hilarious and heartfelt, Vogler’s memoir will open your eyes to the rich world of traditional, small-scale distilling—and in the process, it will completely change the way you think about and buy spirits.

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Wanderful: The Modern Bohemian’s Guide to Traveling in Style

WANDERFULWanderful: The Modern Bohemian’s Guide to Traveling in Style by And Eton

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A girl with a love for off-the-beaten-path destinations, fashion maven Andi Eaton found herself putting aside theLonely Planet and Condé Nast Traveler guides and, instead, looking to bohemians and artists for travel and style inspiration: What do the flower children wear on their excur­sions? Where are the creatives’ favorite vintage shops? And where do the musicians go late-night dancing after the last encore? The dreamer in her wanted more than what a standard travel guide could offer, so she decided to create her own.

Wanderful is a stylish lookbook and travelogue for the adven­turous and nomadic at heart. Follow in Andi’s footsteps as she travels the United States to discover some of its most effort­lessly chic destinations—and the fashionable free spirits and wanderers who live there. Nine intimate and exciting road trip routes explore cities, forests, and in between, and will make you feel like you’re traipsing the country with your best, and best-dressed, girlfriends by your side. Every route features a peek into the closets of area tastemakers, and many routes lead to favorite trendy destinations, including Joshua Tree, New Orleans, Marfa, and Santa Fe. Throughout, there are photos, stories, and recommendations for where to shop, dine, and find music and fun, just like a local.

Perfect for anyone with a wandering spirit, Wanderful will make you want to pack a cute bag, throw on your best outfit, and hit the road for a stylish adventure.

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White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World

White SandsWhite Sands: Experiences from the Outside World by Geoff Dyer

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SHORTLISTED FOR STANFORD DOLMAN TRAVEL BOOK OF THE YEAR

From a trip to The Lightning Field in New Mexico, to chasing Gauguin’s ghost in French Polynesia, White Sands is a creative exploration of why we travel.

Episodic, wide-ranging and funny, Geoff Dyer blends travel writing, essay, criticism and fiction with a smart and cantankerous wit that is unmatched. From one of the most original writers in Britain, this is a book for armchair travellers and procrastinating philosophers everywhere.

Surpassingly eloquent . . . there’s no other writer quite like Dyer

Time

Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent

Ultimate Journeys for TwoUltimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent by Mike & Ann Howard

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Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent by Mike Howard, Anne Howard

Written by the founders of HoneyTrek.com, this inspiring book reveals hidden-gem destinations and insider tips for unforgettable couples travel.

In these informative pages, Mike and Anne Howard—officially the World’s Longest Honeymooners and founders of the acclaimed travel blog HoneyTrek—whisk you away to journeys of a lifetime. Drawing on their experience traveling together across seven continents, they curate the globe and offer tested-and-approved recommendations for intrepid couples, bringing culture, adventure, and romance to any couple—no matter their age or budget.

Chapters are organized by type of destination (for example, beaches, mountains, and deserts) to help travelers discover new places and experiences based on their interests. Each entry focuses on a specific region, getting to the essence of each locale and its one-of-a-kind offerings. The authors reveal the best time to visit, the best places to stay, and recommended activities—each with their own adventure rating to illustrate level of intensity. Special features include funny and insightful stories from the Howards’ own adventures, expert advice from other renowned traveling couples, and tips to increase the romance and excitement at each destination. A large map shows every location covered in the book, and each entry has a locator map depicting the city and country. Both entertaining and informative, this book is an invaluable resource and inspiration for a lifetime of travel.

MIKE AND ANNE HOWARD left for their honeymoon in January 2012 and have been exploring the globe ever since on what has become the World’s Longest Honeymoon. Using Anne’s background as a national magazine editor and Mike’s as a digital marketing executive and photographer, they created HoneyTrek.com to chronicle their journey across 50+ countries and share tips with fellow couples looking to make their own travel dreams a reality. Having reviewed over 100 luxury hotels and excursions across all seven continents, they know the five-star side of travel, but also know how to get to the heart of local culture. The Howards’ remarkable journey has been acclaimed byCondé Nast Traveler, Los Angeles Times, Daily Mail, CBS, and more. They’ve lectured at the Smithsonian and major travel industry trade shows; their travel advice has been the subject of feature articles in BBC Travel, Martha Stewart Weddings, The Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur magazine. Most recently, they starred in a Microsoft and Dell national ad campaign.

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The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World: Love, Loss, and Other Catastrophes–Through Italy, India, and Beyond

Worriers guide to the end of the WorldThe Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World: Love, Loss, and Other Catastrophes–Through Italy, India, and Beyond by Torre DeRoche

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A funny and heartwarming story of one woman’s attempt to walk off a lifetime of fear–with a soulmate, bad shoes, and lots of wine.
Torre DeRoche is at rock bottom following a breakup and her father’s death when she crosses paths with the goofy and spirited Masha, who is pusuing her dream of walking the world. When Masha invites Torre to join her pilgrimage through Tuscany–drinking wine, foraging wild berries, and twirling on hillsides–Torre straps on a pair of flimsy street shoes and gets rambling. But the magical hills of Italy are nothing like the dusty and merciless roads of India where the pair wind up, provising a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Gandhi along his march to the seaside. Hoping to catch the nobleman’s fearlessless by osmosis and end the journey as wise, svelte, and kick-ass warriors, they are instead unravelled by worry that this might be one adventure too far. Coming face-to-face with their worst fears, they discover the power of friendship to save us from our darkest moments.

“Like so many of us, Torre DeRoche is wracked with fear, doubt, uncertainty, anxiety; unlike so many of us DeRoche figured she might as well walk 250 miles through India. Which she does, with humor, grace, insight and a fair amount of grit, too, in this lovely and wholly uplifting account of confronting our fears… Luckily (and always enviously) in The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World we get to tag along.”

— Carl Hoffman, bestselling author of Savage Harvest

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A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785

Voyage in the cloudsA Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785

by Matthew Olshan, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

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In the year and a half since the flight of the first manned balloon in 1783, an Italian has flown, a Scot has flown, a woman has flown, even a sheep has flown. But no one has flown from one country to another. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, want to be the first. On January 7, 1785, they set out to cross the English Channel to France in a balloon. All seemed to be going fine, until Jeffries decides the balloon looks too fat and adjusts the air valve—how hard could it be? Too bad he drops the wrench over the side of the aerial car. With no way to adjust the valve, the balloon begins to sink. Jeffries and Blanchard throw as much as they can overboard—until there is nothing left, not even their clothes. Luckily, they come up with a clever (and surprising) solution that saves the day. A VOYAGE IN THE CLOUDS from Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall is a journey that will keep kids laughing the whole way.

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A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance

A Thousand Days in VeniceA Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance

by Marlena de Blasi

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This deliciously satisfying memoir is filled with the foods and flavors of Italy and peppered with culinary observations and recipes. The enchanting true story follows a woman who falls in love with both a man and a city, and finally finds the home she didn’t even know she was missing.

Fernando first sees Marlena across the Piazza San Marco and falls in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice cafe a year later, he knows it is fate. He knows little English; she, a divorced American chef traveling through Italy, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thought she was done with romantic love, incapable of intimacy. Yet within months of their first meeting, she has quit her job, sold her house in St. Louis, kissed her two grown sons good-bye, and moved to Venice to marry “the stranger,” as she calls Fernando.

“An irresistible grown-up love story.” —USA Today

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The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small by Kath Stathers (Editor)

The Bucket ListThe Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small

by Kath Stathers (Editor)

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With 1,000 adventures for all ages, it’s never too soon or too late to begin the things you’ve only dreamed of doing.

We all have things we’d like to do—one day—but work, family, school, money, and responsibilities get in the way. This invaluable guide to fun, fantastic, and life-affirming activities features an eclectic range of ideas such as self-improvement, sports-related endeavors, natural wonders, cultural experiences, culinary delights, and more. From glassblowing in the Czech Republic to swimming with dolphins in New Zealand, The Bucket List is the perfect gift for the passionate traveler—an around-the-world, continent-by-continent listing of beaches, museums, monuments, islands, inns, restaurants, mountains, and more.

Each activity is location-specific and as geographically unique as bird-watching in Kenya or driving through clouds in Sri Lanka, as well as other to-dos that can be done anywhere, such as sketching a sunset behind an architectural monument. In addition to classic outdoor pursuits, the book contains advice on how to achieve some of the most popular goals for people of all ages: direct a movie, learn to play an instrument, make pottery, protect an endangered species, name a star, try a new cuisine, or learn a new language. Whether you are more active or laid-back, serious-minded or lighthearted, you are bound to discover new, stimulating activities.

“Travel Around the World and Back with Spring’s New Coffee Table Books”
Fathom

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