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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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LA NY: Aerial Photographs of Los Angeles and New York

LANYLA NY: Aerial Photographs of Los Angeles and New York

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LA NY is a dazzling visual tale of two cities, Los Angeles and New York, as seen from the air. Photographed straight down at a ninety-degree angle to emphasize the particular patterns of place, how the urban grid adapts to local topography, and how the topography itself adapts to human purposes, these two cities are revealed as never before in astonishing detail. Photographer Jeffrey Milstein explores residential and commercial neighborhoods, parks and recreation spots, as well as industrial districts and the infrastructure of transportation. Iconic buildings and landmarks are easy to spot, alongside suburban housing developments, apartment complexes, commercial hubs, entertainment and financial centers, and airports and shipping terminals. Milstein’s work deftly combines architecture, science, and art.

Using high-resolution cameras mounted to a stabilizing gyro, Milstein leaned out of helicopters over Los Angeles where he grew up and over New York where he now lives, looking for shapes and patterns of culture from above, continually awed by the difference an aerial view makes. In addition to the urban topography, events and activities have also been captured, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and outings at the beach.

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National Geographic Atlas of Beer: A Globe-Trotting Journey Through the World of Beer

ATLAS OF BEERNational Geographic Atlas of Beer: A Globe-Trotting Journey Through the World of Beer

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This ultimate beer lover’s guide to the world is filled with stunning photography, unique drinking destinations, little-known histories, and insider knowledge from brewers and bar owners around the globe. This cover has a vintage design and a slightly worn look is intentional.

The most comprehensive beer atlas available, this richly illustrated compendium includes more beers and more countries than any other book of its kind. Including beer recommendations from Garrett Oliver, the renowned brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, and written by “beer geographers” Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark Patterson, this indispensable guide features more than 100 illuminating maps and 200 beautiful color photos. You’ll find beer history, trends, and tasting across six continents (and how to order a beer in 14 languages!). Travel tips include the best breweries, beer festivals, and pubs in each location. Smart, compelling, and practical, this essential guide will help you discover the best beer wherever you are.

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Not Afraid of the Fall: 114 Days Through 38 Cities in 15 Countries

Not Afraid of the FALLNot Afraid of the Fall: 114 Days Through 38 Cities in 15 Countries by Kyle James

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After purchasing one-way flights from New York City to Paris, Kyle James and his girlfriend Ashley quit their day jobs, planned futures, and daily paradigms to see as much of the world as they could. In 114 days, they trekked across 15 countries and 38 cities with nothing but their backpacks, their smartphones, and each other. Not Afraid of the Fall is the unvarnished story of their off-the-cuff journey: from cliff-jumping off Croatia’s untouched coasts, to bathing with rescued elephants in Thailand; from crashing mopeds on gravelly mountain roads in Santorini, to hitchhiking with strangers in rental cars in Hungary.

Part travel memoir, part love letter to those staring at the walls of a corporate cubicle, Not Afraid of the Fall is an inspiring book that captures the sweet mysteries of life on the road and an empowering narrative for anyone who has ever uttered the words “maybe next year.”

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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

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