Frommer's Cruises & Ports of Call 2005: From US and Canadian Home Ports to the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii & More(Frommer's Travel Guide Series)

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A cruise is a complete vacation, so it's important that you choose the one that's right for you. Frommer's North American Cruises & Ports of Call is the most user-friendly, opinionated, and comprehensive guide you can buy before you set sail. We provide in-depth coverage on cruises departing from U.S. ports to the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda, Mexico and Canada.

Unlike rating systems used in other guides, our system is simple. We break down the essential elements of a ...

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Overview

A cruise is a complete vacation, so it's important that you choose the one that's right for you. Frommer's North American Cruises & Ports of Call is the most user-friendly, opinionated, and comprehensive guide you can buy before you set sail. We provide in-depth coverage on cruises departing from U.S. ports to the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda, Mexico and Canada.

Unlike rating systems used in other guides, our system is simple. We break down the essential elements of a cruise experience (dining, activities, children's activities, entertainment, service, overall enjoyment, and overall value), and rate them from "poor" to "outstanding." Photos of each ship combine with the text to give a better sense of the very real differences among the various lines.

Most important, this is the only cruise guide that provides the real prices people pay for cruises, not just the rack rates. Other guides tell you that a seven-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas costs $2,099. You can pay that if you want to, but only Frommer's tells you that the same cruise is selling for $649. We give both the rack rates and the discount price for every cruise we review. This feature alone makes Frommer's North American Cruises and Ports of Call by far the most valuable trip-planning book among cruise guides.

Our authors, noted cruise experts who've personally checked out every ship sailing in and around North America, offer candid and unbiased opinions on them all. They are completely up to date, with all the latest developments and the newest ships. You'll also get complete coverage of the major port destinations, with advice on how to spend your limited time ashore.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764569005
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Series: Frommer's Complete Series , #56
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 704
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Hannafin is a freelance writer, editor, and musician based in New York City. A former Frommer’s senior editor, he now writes a biweekly cruise newsletter for Frommers.com and a monthly column for the Boston Herald, writes for various magazines and newspapers, edits for most of the major New York publishing houses and several UN agencies, and is busy coauthoring 1,000 Places in the USA and Canada to See Before You Die (Workman Publishing), a sequel to the 2004 New York Times bestseller.

Heidi Sarna has cruised on more than 75 ships of all shapes and sizes, and she loves them all (well, OK, some more than others). Her work appears regularly in Condé Nast Traveler, Frommers.com, and numerous other magazines, major guidebooks, websites, and newspapers, including the New York Times, Star Ledger, and Boston Herald. When she’s not off cruising somewhere, she lives in the Big Apple with her husband, Arun, and their young sons.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps.

Cruising in the 21st Century.

The Best of Cruising.

Part 1: Planning, Booking & Preparing for Your Cruise.

1. Choosing Your Ideal Cruise.

2. Booking Your Cruise & Getting the Best Price.

3. Things to Know Before You Go.

4. The Cruise Experience.

Part 2: The Cruise Lines & Their Ships.

5. The Ratings & How to Read Them.

6. The Mainstream Lines.

7. The Ultraluxury Lines.

8. Soft-Adventure Lines & Sailing Ships.

Part 3: The Ports.

9. The Ports of Embarkation.

10. The Caribbean, The Bahamas & the Panama Canal.

11. Alaska & British Columbia.

12. The Mexican Riviera & Baja.

13. Bermuda.

14. Hawaii.

15. New England & Eastern Canada.

16. U.S. River Cruise Routes.

Index..

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First Chapter

Frommer's Cruises & Ports of Call 2005

From U.S. and Canadian Home Ports to the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii & More
By Matt Hannafin Heidi Sarna

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-6900-7


Chapter One

Choosing Your Ideal Cruise

Forget the "overfed, newlywed, nearly dead" stereotype about cruising. That's old school. Today, you can sail a floating country club to little yachting islands in the Caribbean, bop around Hawaii in the first new U.S.-flagged ships in generations, take an expedition from Alaska over to the Russian Far East, take the new Queen Mary 2 across the pond to England, sail among the reefs and indigenous peoples of Central America, or explore North America's great rivers on floating B&Bs. There are also trips programmed with your needs and preferences in mind, whether you're a senior, a traveling family, a swinging single, a wheelchair user, or a swinging, wheelchair-using granddad. There are also active adventure cruises, cruises geared to fine food and wine, cruises with a cultural or historic bent, and, of course, the classic fun-in-the-sun relaxation escape. In this chapter, we'll introduce you to the lot of them.

1 Homeland Cruise Regions in Brief

Whether it's because of convenience or an aversion to flying (that is, the cost of flying or the fear of it), we realize lots of you just love the idea of hopping on a cruise within driving distance of your home. That's why we came up with this new home-port angle for our cruise guide. Today, you can cruise to the Caribbean from Miami or from New York, New Orleans, or Houston. You can visit Bermuda on ships that depart from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore. Alaska, Mexico, and Hawaii are now accessible from more than six different embarkation ports along the West Coast. With all of these choices, there's a good chance you can drive right up to the cruise of your dreams. In the chapters that follow, we cover all regions one can cruise to from 17 U.S. and 3 Canadian home ports. Below is a snapshot of each one.

CARIBBEAN/BAHAMAS/CENTRAL AMERICA

When most of us think of a cruise, we think of the islands (and Captain Stubing of course!). We imagine pulling up in our gleaming white ship to a patch of sand and palm tree paradise, a steel band serenading us as we stroll down the gangway in our shorts and flip-flops and into the warm sun. Well, the good news is that this image is a pretty darn accurate depiction of many ports in the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Central America. Sure, some are more crowded with other cruise ships and passengers than others and many are pretty weak in the palm tree department, but you're guaranteed nearly constant sunshine and plenty of beaches. On some you'll find lush rainforests, volcanic peaks, Mayan ruins, winding mountain roads, and beautiful tropical flowers, and on all of them, great beaches and that laid-back don't-hurry-me island pace. The typical Caribbean cruise isn't so typical anymore, and you may depart for the islands from Florida, of course, but also New York, New Orleans, and Galveston, Texas. Most Caribbean cruises are a week long, though you'll also find 5-, 6-, 8-, 9-, 10-, and 11-night sailings there. Cruises to The Bahamas are usually 3- and 4-nights long, though many longer Caribbean routes include a stop in Nassau or one of the private Bahamian islands or beaches many cruise lines operate. Central American ports, namely Belize City, Belize, and Roatan, Honduras, are part of some weeklong Caribbean itineraries, as are stops along Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. You'll find itineraries usually stick to one region of the Caribbean, either eastern (typically calling on some combination of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and The Bahamas), western (usually Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel, and Key West, and sometime Belize or Honduras), or southern (less defined, but often departing from San Juan and including Aruba, Curaçao, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, or Grenada). Small-ship cruises frequently visit the less-developed islands, mostly in the eastern and southern Caribbean, including the beautiful British Virgin Islands and ports such as St. Barts, Les Saintes, Guadeloupe, and the tiny islands of the Grenadines. Season: Year-round, with the greatest number of ships cruising here between October and April.

THE PANAMA CANAL

Imagine the particularly 19th-century kind of hubris it took to say, "Let's dig a huge canal all the way across a country, linking two seas." Imagine, too, the thousands of workers who pulled it off. Both those things are much on the mind of people today as they sail through the Panama Canal, one of the great engineering achievements of all time. There's a lot of history here, as well as a lot of rich Central American culture to explore on port days surrounding your transit. Many ships offer only two Panama Canal cruises annually, when repositioning between their summer season in Alaska and the fall/winter season in the Caribbean, but these days many cruise lines are including partial Canal crossings as part of extended western Caribbean itineraries from Florida, sailing through the Canal's locks westbound to Gatun Lake, docking for a day of excursions, and then sailing back out in the evening. The big draw on these itineraries is the pure kick of sailing through the Canal, whose walls pinch today's megaships so tight that there might not be more than a few feet on either side. The Canal's width is so much on shipbuilders' minds that they coined a term-panamax-to describe the largest ships that are able to transit. Season: Roughly November through April.

ALASKA & BRITISH COLUMBIA

Alaska is America's frontier, a giant of mountain, forest, and tundra just remote enough and harsh enough that it remains mythic, even in this age of instant messaging and Starbucks. The main draws here are all things of grandeur: huge glaciers flowing down from the mountains, enormous humpback whales leaping from the sea, eagles soaring overhead, and forests that seem to go on forever. Alaska Native culture figures in too, with the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes all holding considerable power in everyday life, from the arts to the business world. Most cruises concentrate on the Southeast Alaska panhandle, the ancestral home of those three tribes, which stretches from Ketchikan in the south to Yakutat in the north, near the border between the greater bulk of Alaska and the vast reaches of Canada's Yukon Territory. The typical cruise sails either round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia (south of the panhandle), or north- or southbound between Vancouver and one of Anchorage's two major port towns, Seward and Whittier. Both options concentrate on ports and natural areas along Southeast's Inside Passage, the intricate web of waterways that link the region's thousands of forested islands. Highlights of most itineraries include either the famous Glacier Bay or the glaciers of Tracy Arm, the old prospector town of Skagway, and the state capital, Juneau, as well as board-walked Ketchikan in the south. Cruises between Vancouver and Anchorage may also visit natural areas along the Gulf of Alaska, such as College Fjord and Hubbard Glacier. Small-ship cruises frequently visit much smaller towns and wilderness areas on the Inside Passage. Some avoid civilization almost entirely, and a few particularly expeditionary (and expensive) cruises sail far west and north, past the Aleutian Islands, and cross the Bering Sea into the Russian Far East. Season: Roughly from mid-May through mid-September, although some smaller ships start up in late April.

THE MEXICAN RIVIERA & BAJA

The so-called Mexican Riviera is the West Coast's version of the Caribbean-a string of sunny ports within proximate sailing distance of San Diego, LA, and San Francisco. The first stop is often Cabo San Lucas, a party-oriented town at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other. Think beaches, beer, and bikinis, with thatched palapa bars providing some character. From there, cruises head southeast to such ports as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Acapulco, Ixtapa, and Manzanillo, a stretch famed for white-sand beaches, watersports, deep-sea fishing, and golf, with some history thrown in for good measure. Hernan Cortes blew through the region in the 1520s looking for treasure, and in the 1950s and '60s Hollywood did the same, mining the area both for locations and for off-camera relaxation. Smallship lines also offer Baja/Sea of Cortez cruises that concentrate on the peninsula's small towns, natural areas, and remarkable whale-watching. These cruises typically sail from Cabo and the state capital, La Paz. Season: The heaviest traffic is October through April, though ships sail year-round-especially short 3- and 4-night cruises that stop in Cabo or Ensenada, just south of the U.S./Mexico border. Small ships typically cruise Baja in the winter months.

BERMUDA

Perhaps the one place in the world where you'll have a chance to see hundreds of British men's knees, Bermuda is a beautiful island chain known for its powdery pink sand beaches, created by pulverized shells and coral over the eons; golf courses; and sane and friendly manner. The locals really do wear brightly colored "Bermuda shorts" with jackets, ties, and knee-highs, but don't feel obligated to join them! Hamilton and St. George's are Bermuda's two main port towns, though the largest ships will dock on the west end at the Royal Naval Dockyard. Ships pull along side piers at all three places and it barely takes 2 minutes to walk into town. There's plenty to do, too, from shopping in Hamilton for English wool and Irish linens, to checking out the many historical sites, from the 300-year-old St. Peter's Church to the impressive nautical exhibits at the Maritime Museum at the Royal Naval Dockyard. Most people, though, are headed for Bermuda's many dreamy beaches, which are easily accessible by taxi or motor scooter. To keep things from getting too chaotic, Bermuda limits the number of ships allowed to call there, so there are generally just six doing 7-night cruises from mostly New York and Boston, but also Philadelphia and Baltimore. Season: Late April through early October.

HAWAII

The words to a song we heard at a luau on Maui offer the best description of this magical land, "Welcome to my home, right next to paradise." Honeymooners flock here for a reason: The place is gorgeous. Even the Brady Bunch schlepped Alice and the six kids here (you didn't see them going to Disney World, did you?). But it's not all about stunning beaches and hula girls. The diverse landscape on this cluster of islands in the Pacific ranges from fuming volcanoes to crashing surf, serene beaches, lush jungles, and abundant orchids and other tropical flowers. In this land where the weather really is perfect all the time, it's no surprise that the locals are friendly and mellow. Learn to surf, go to a luau, snooze on the sand, enjoy the local coffee, or check out the native Hawaiian culture, which the locals are fiercely proud of. The past survives alongside the modern world in a vibrant arts scene, which includes traditional Polynesian dance and music, as well as painting, sculpture, and crafts. Of course, Pearl Harbor is another important attraction. Norwegian Cruise Line rules the roost here, at least for now, with two ships (and a third on the way) doing year-round cruises among the islands, both round-trip from Honolulu. Otherwise, ships typically stop in the islands in April, May, September, and October, on their way between seasons in Alaska and the Caribbean. The four main calls are to Oahu, with the famous Waikiki beach; Maui, home of the historical town of Lahaina; Kauai, the most natural and undeveloped of the four; and the Big Island, where the state's famous volcanoes reside, including Mauna Kea and the still-active Kilauea. Season: Year-round; the islands are about the same latitude as Jamaica.

EASTERN CANADA/NEW ENGLAND

The classic time to cruise here is in autumn, when a brilliant sea of fall foliage blankets the region. You can also, though, now cruise these waters in the spring and summer too, as the route becomes more and more popular. Humpback, finback, and minke whales, lobster pots, Victorian mansions, and lighthouses on windswept bluffs are just a taste of what a journey along the coast of New England and Canada has in store. Big 2,000-passenger-plus ships go here as well as much smaller vessels carrying a tenth of that load. America and Canada were born in these parts, so you'll be in for lots of historical sites along the way, from Boston's Paul Revere House to Halifax, where Titanic victims were brought (and many buried) after the ship's tragic sinking nearly 100 years ago. Itineraries may include passing through Nantucket Sound, around Cape Cod, and into the Bay of Fundy or Gulf of St. Lawrence. Some ships traverse the St. Lawrence Seaway or the smaller Saguenay River. New England/Canada cruises range from 4 nights to 10 to 12, with most sailing to or from New York, Boston, Montréal, and Québec City. Season: Most ships cruise here in September and October, with a few lines also offering late spring and summer sailings.

U.S. RIVER CRUISES

So who needs the ocean? If your interests run toward history, culture, and nature, a river cruise is a fantastic option. Small ships sail throughout the year, navigating the historic Mississippi River system to cities and towns of the South; sailing through the California Wine Country for tastings, tours, and meals at noted vineyards; following Lewis and Clark down the Pacific Northwest's Columbia and Snake rivers; and even offering cruises on the Erie Canal and the rivers of New England, timed to take in the fall foliage. Some of these ships (like the American Canadian Caribbean Line vessels) are tiny and basic, carrying fewer than 100 passengers and designed to sail in very shallow, narrow waterways. Others (like the Delta Queen and American West ships) are vintage or re-created stern-wheelers that evoke classic 19th-century river travel. Season: Throughout the year in different regions. (See small ship reviews in chapter 8 for itineraries.)

2 Itineraries: The Long & the Short of It

Decided where you want to go? So now you have to hone in on the itineraries that are available.

Continues...


Excerpted from Frommer's Cruises & Ports of Call 2005 by Matt Hannafin Heidi Sarna Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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