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May
24

To Cruise or Not To Cruise?

Never will you find people more divided than when it comes to cruises…

Caribbean Cruise - Disney Wonder - Pool

Caribbean Cruise - Disney Wonder - Pool

I have to admit the idea of going on a cruise makes me feel like jumping. Yes, I’d gladly be put in a hospital for a week or even two over being trapped on a boat with thousands upon thousands of the very same people I long to escape in the first place. Then there’s the horrible rooms. The never-ending troughs of food and of course the organized sight-seeing, which makes me feel like a cow.

breakfast buffet

breakfast buffet

But then a weird thing happened. My sister-in-law took a cruise through Europe with her five-year-old daughter and her elderly parents. She had always felt the same way about cruises as I did. But when she got home, she was like a religious convert. She could not stop talking about what a great solution it was to traveling Europe, especially with kids who really needed to have a routine, lots of activities, food, drinks, and a safe place to run around. Her daughter never wanted to leave, which was also great because she was finally able to go into towns and cities along the way by herself and sometimes with her parents and wander museums, have a coffee, or just shop while her daughter stayed behind and did the kid’s camp.

It’s also cheap as heck. No kidding. It really is.  Here’s an example of what you can get for the money:

12-night western Mediterranean

Carnival Liberty

Carnival Liberty

For $1249 per person, ocean view rooms, great food, free coffee, juice, tea and 2 nights in Europe on Carnival’s western Mediterranean cruise that is idea for a crash course in European travel. But it’s also a great place for your children to hang out. On-board there are so many kid’s clubs for all different ages, interesting age-appropriate activities planned, new 3D movies to be seen, water parks, slides, golf, jogging, spas, stores, that your children will never be bored. And because they are so fickle it’s great to have food covered, so that each and every time they want to eat, you don’t feel the pain of the bill. Even room service is free, which really takes a major worry off of most parent’s mind.

water slides

water slides

And this particular cruise covers some of the most beautiful cities in the world. It sails round-trip from Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, which is so easy to fly into. The cruise includes stops at Naples (for Pompeii and Capri), Venice, Sicily, and Livorno (for Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre), Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Barcelona, Spain; and Cannes, France.

Seven-night western Mediterranean

Nice France

Nice France

The shorter western Mediterranean cruise is a more recent addition to the Europe lineup. These trips are great for travelers who want to combine a cruise with a land tour or who don’t have a lot of vacation time.

sicily

sicily

Royal Caribbean offers a seven-night cruise round-trip from Barcelona aboard the Voyager of the Seas. The ship calls in Villefranche, near Nice, France; and Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, and Sicily, Italy. Royal Caribbean even throws in one day at sea so you can recover from the back-to-back sightseeing and enjoy the ship before you head back to land. With current prices starting at $709 per person plus taxes, these shorter sailings are a more affordable option.

Eastern Mediterranean

greece

Greece

Eastern Mediterranean sailings focus on the ports of Greece and Turkey, and often depart from or call in Italy as well. These sailings are great for history buffs because they visit many ruins and historic sites.

Celebrity offers seven- to 14-night eastern Mediterranean cruises on the Galaxy, but its 11-night round-trip itineraries offer the greatest choice of sail dates and visit the key spots. The ship departs from Civitavecchia (Rome) and calls at Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Piraeus (for Athens), Greece; Istanbul and

kusadasi, turkey

Kusadasi, turkey

Turkey; and Naples, Italy. All for under $1400 per person. It’s a pretty hard thing to turn down really when you see first-hand just how convenient cruises are for families.

Seadream yachting

Seadream yachting

Luxury yachting

And then there’s what they call yachting.  At roughly $6,000 a week, this is probably better without the kids though, because it is a far more peaceful, upscale experience than say Carnival. This is quieter, more placid and their destinations are often a little more off the beaten track, like Croatia’s rocky, curved coastline along the Adriatic sea. For people who want to experience the feel of boating but want everything taken care of for them, down the tiniest detail, then try SeaDream yacht. Here are the 10 favorite things about sailing on this ultra-exclusive and ultra-indulgent ship.

sea dream on board

sea dream on board

Balinese beds are located on top of the deck. These incredibly luxurious 2-person beds face out over the ocean and take the comfort of sunbathing to a whole new level. For daytime sun-soaking, for night-time star-gazing, this takes comfort and privacy to a whole new level.

seadream balinese dream bed

seadream balinese dream bed

Service
There are only 110 guests on-board the SeaDream at any given time and a crew of 95, which, yep, you read correctly, nearly a 1-to-1 ratio of guests to crew members. Which means unparalleled service. Every location on the ship, from the staterooms to the top deck to the dining room and bar, have top-notch attendants whose sole responsibility is providing 5-star service.

rooms

rooms

Staterooms
Each and every room offers an ocean view, flat-screen TV, internet access (the ship will even provide a laptop upon request), Belgian linens, 24-hour suite service and Bulgari bath amenities. For those who want a vacation they’ll never forget, or the most special honeymoon ever, there’s the Owner’s Suite, a 447-square-foot private master bedroom and bath suite complete with guest quarters and private living and dining rooms.

lovely food

lovely food

Food
This yacht club is famous for “Cuisine a la Minute,” which describes the fresh preparation of each dish, and unlike other mass cruise lines, each plate is made to order. A vegetarian menu and calorie-conscious spa menu are available at each meal. Take your meal topside with SeaDream’s  dining al fresco experience, watch the setting sun and stars, you’ll feel like the yacht is all yours.

seadream outdoor dining

seadream outdoor dining

Water Sports
At the back of the SeaDream, the Water Sports Marina gives you access to the crystal waters of the Adriatic. There’s a swimming platform and jet skis, kayaks, water skis, banana boats all available for guests’ use.

seadream jetski

seadream jetski

Seadream care

Seadream cares

You are not likely to see the massive 5,000 1.8 billion dollar cruise ships in the same waters as the SeaDream’s. Here, the destinations are as beautifully chosen, as unique and special as your on-board experience.

Korcula Croatia

Korcula Croatia

Korcula, Croatia
Nearly 2,000 years ago the Greeks claimed this spot as one of their favorite relaxation destinations. This island is the SeaDream’s first port of call, where cobblestone streets are lined with boutiques and cafes.

Hvar

Hvar

Hvar, Croatia
Less than 40 nautical miles from Korcula, Hvar is another of Croatia’s beautiful sun-drenched islands. And guess how you get to see it? Not by tour bus, or guided tour but by sea kayak. The kayak’s small size and maneuverability allows you to explore every aspect of this amazing island paradise. Dock in the port between the many yachts and explore the large public square in the main town. On the south side of the island, vineyards produce Croatia’s famous red wines.

split

split

Split, Croatia
Split is the largest city in Croatia. The city’s core is a residential and commercial center consisting of over 200 buildings that was once a 4th-century Roman palace. The Emperor Diocletian was famous for splitting the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western halves, and it was his palace that is now downtown Split.

Island rab

Island rab

Rab, Croatia
This island is rich with medieval architecture surrounded by thick Mediterranean pine forests. The setting is perfect for a bike ride, and guess what they bring the bikes! The paths and tracks winding through Rab’s 37 square miles of vegetation are perfect for exploring one of the Adriatic’s greenest islands, what a great way to stay healthy and feel great.

old village of Rovinj

old village of Rovinj

Rovinj, Croatia
Here you explore the history, culture and tradition of family wine-making.  Ever hunted for  rare black truffles? You can try it here. With a team of dogs, guests head into the Croatian countryside and hunt the grounds of a  family-owned business for the distinctive aroma of the black truffles, which grow completely underground.

venice

venice

Venice, Italy
Finally, what tour of the Mediterranean would be complete without Venice? Because the  SeaDream is smaller , you are allowed a much kinder view of this city without the assault that happens with the larger ships.  Part of the service on this yacht is the ability to arrange private tours of this great city’s museums and monuments so you are ale to enjoy it at your own speed.

In conclusion

I’ve learned something valuable: It’s not the mode of transportation, it’s the type. Cruises come in as many shapes and sizes as shoes. There are kid’s cruises, single’s cruises, gay cruises, Rosie’s gay family cruises, old people’s cruises, you name it there’s a cruise for it. So the trick is to do your homework.

Consider your budget first, because they vary greatly. Find the type of cruise you’re looking for and the location you want to go to and then build your cruise around it.  For families with young kids, it’s really a way to discover a new world while holding onto tome of the things kids are comforted by, as well as reliable child care and age-appropriate activities. For older people too. Excursions punctuated by time by the pool, spas, food at any time of day, movies, al fresco dining. Seriously, why was I so stupid for so long?

Don’t answer that.


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