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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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Tough Rides: Brazil: In To the Depths of the Amazon

Tough Rides BrazilTough Rides: Brazil: In To the Depths of the Amazon

by Ryan Pyle

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Join adventurer motorcyclist Ryan Pyle as he spends months exploring the most exciting and remote locations in Brazil. In his book Tough Rides: Brazil he takes us on the most incredible journey in an effort to better understand the stunning and complex country of Brazil. In the end, Ryan completed his circumnavigation of Brazil in sixty days, pushing himself beyond limits while also learning the helplessness of being trapped in the remote Amazon, hundreds of miles away from any help or assistance.

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The Lost City of Z (Movie Tie-In): A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

thelostcityofZThe Lost City of Z (Movie Tie-In): A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

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In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless people perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called -The Lost City of Z.- In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann interweaves the spellbinding stories of Fawcett’s quest for -Z- and his own journey into the deadly jungle, as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century.

David Grann is a longtime staff writer at The New Yorker. He has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, from the hunt for the giant squid to the mysterious death of the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes expert. His stories have appeared in several Best Americanwriting anthologies, and he has written for The New York Times MagazineThe AtlanticThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

-Suspenseful. . . . Rollicking. . . . Reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller. . . . The Lost City of Z is at once a biography, a detective story and a wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing that combines Bruce Chatwinesque powers of observation with a Waugh-like sense of the absurd. Mr. Grann treats us to a harrowing reconstruction of Fawcett’s forays into the Amazonian jungle, as well as an evocative rendering of the vanished age of exploration.- — The New York Times 


-Breathtaking. . . . Grann brings Fawcett’s remarkable story to a beautifully written, perfectly paced fruition. . . . Any writer who can breathe life into letters written by scientists in the early 1900s deserves more than a hat tip.- — The Los Angeles Times
-Thoroughly researched, vividly told. . . . Grann recounts Fawcett’s expeditions with all the pace of a white-knuckle adventure story. . . . A thrill ride from start to finish.- — The Washington Post

-In a hyperconnected and exhaustively charted world, here is a revelation about wildness and the mad desire to plunge into it. . . . Unfathomably riveting. . . . Grann wildly delivers the goods.- 
GQ

-Brilliant. . . . Impressively researched and skillfully crafted. . . . Grann makes abundantly clear in this fascinating, epic story of exploration and obsession, [that] the lethal attraction of the Amazon mystery remains strong.- 
The Boston Globe

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The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 2.23.30 PMThe Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

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When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries.
What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.
From childcare, education, food and interior design to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

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The World Atlas of Tea: From the Leaf to the Cup, the World’s Teas Explored and Enjoyed

world-atlas-of-tea The World Atlas of Tea: From the Leaf to the Cup, the World’s Teas Explored and Enjoyed by Kisi Smith

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The United States is the fourth largest global consumer of tea, with Canada following right behind. Black tea is the most popular but green tea sales are growing rapidly — more than 60 percent in ten years — driven by its proven health benefits. Specialty tea outlets are expected to double to nearly 8,000 by 2018 and an additional 40,000 coffee retailers are expected to generate more than 30 percent of their beverage sales from tea.

The World Atlas of Tea covers tea from the ground up, including why the soil in China makes different tea than the soil in India. Tea mixologist Krisi Smith explains what a tea drinker needs to know to appreciate teas of all descriptions. She follows tea from the plantation to harvesting and processing to how to make the perfect cup. The book is illustrated throughout with beautiful color photographs taken in the field.

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A Walk Across America

a-walk-across-americaA Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins

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Twenty-five years ago, a disillusioned young man set out on a walk across America. This is the book he wrote about that journey — a classic account of the reawakening of his faith in himself and his country.

“I started out searching for myself and my country,” Peter Jenkins writes, “and found both.” In this timeless classic, Jenkins describes how disillusionment with society in the 1970s drove him out onto the road on a walk across America. His experiences remain as sharp and telling today as they were twenty-five years ago — from the timeless secrets of life, learned from a mountain-dwelling hermit, to the stir he caused by staying with a black family in North Carolina, to his hours of intense labor in Southern mills. Many, many miles later, he learned lessons about his country and himself that resonate to this day — and will inspire a new generation to get out, hit the road and explore.

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Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders

atlas-obscuraAtlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylar Thuras & Ella Mosla 

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“It’s time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. Talk about a bucket list: here are natural wonders– the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that’s so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Architectural marvels, including the M.C. Escher-like stepwells in India. Mind-boggling events, like the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, where men dressed as devils literally vault over rows of squirming infants. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, Turkmenistan’s 40-year hole of fire called the Gates of Hell, a graveyard for decommissioned ships on the coast of Bangladesh, eccentric bone museums in Italy, or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England …”

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