Have you always dreamed of vacationing on a cruise, but now the thought seems a little scary? COVID has definitely made both new and seasoned cruisers nervous about pulling the trigger on their next vacation. I’ve had several clients tell me they don’t feel comfortable booking a cruise for a few different reasons: too close quarters, not wanting to get vaccinated, and just the plain uncertainty of the future of COVID.
Rest assured, the cruise lines hear these concerns. They take all necessary precautions and safety measures to address every detail and review/modify them daily to ensure everyone’s safety. According to www.dw.com, many changes have taken place on cruise lines. Stringent hygiene concepts have been developed, so COVID-19 breakouts (similar to those at the beginning of the pandemic) can absolutely be avoided again. Other non-negotiable safety requirements include: all passengers will have to undergo a COVID screening before boarding, masks will need to be worn at certain times, and more frequent cleaning throughout the ship
I feel optimistic that the cruise line industry will continue to look for ways to make passenger safety a top concern. The most recent months are proof of these determined efforts with countless daily updates to safety protocols.
But what about people who booked a cruise before the pandemic started? Many, if not all, cruise lines offered full refunds, or future cruise credits, if your sailing was canceled. Depending on what the guest chooses to do will depend on the amount of the credit or refund. So it’s best to check with your travel agent or the cruise line directly for specific details and options.
The most important take-away from this is there are choices if you’ve already booked a trip or would like to look into booking one for the future. And when you book, definitely look into the options of a refundable/transferable deposit and/or travel protection to protect your investment.
So let’s get to the fun stuff!
Now is the perfect time to plan a cruise! After years of surging cruise travel, 2020 brought everything to a halt. Billions of dollars have been lost, so cruise lines are extending incredible offers for potential passengers. Everyone in the travel industry is expecting 2022 to be the year that travel comes back BIG! So, if you’ve always wanted to take a cruise, or miss the relaxation of being on the water, now might be the best time to put down a deposit and hold your space at these fantastic rates!
Looking for some recommendations or inspiration?
Scroll down for my top 6 “don’t miss” cruise destinations.
There is so much untouched, natural beauty in Alaska. True to the state’s nickname “The Last Frontier,” it is packed with mountains among glaciers, ample game wildlife, lively cities, unique culture, historical mining communities, and more! There’s something everyone will enjoy. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or an adventure seeker, Alaska provides white water rafting, sea kayaking, or hiking. Are you a nature lover? Bears, moose, caribou, sheep, and wolves can all be found at Denali Park. As one of Alaska’s most well-known landmarks, and home to the tallest mountain in North America, there’s so much to see and do there. Or take an authentic Alaskan dog sledding tour to view nature, or glaciers, up close. Love fishing? You can catch a wild salmon and have a restaurant prepare it for you for dinner. Let’s not forget the history buffs. Alaska has a rich and varied history, including Native Americans, Russian fur traders, and gold miners. There are museums and cultural centers scattered throughout.
The possibilities are endless on an Alaskan vacation, and I can guarantee that this will be like nothing you have ever experienced! When I went with my family a few years ago, it blew my expectations. And it remains one of my top five favorite vacation experiences to date.
All Alaskan cruises cross through glaciers, which is one of the most beautiful things to see! You’ll never know how enormous a glacier is until you experience seeing one on a boat. It’s truly remarkable.
If you have the time and the budget, I would consider taking a pre-or post-tour. One of my favorites is from Alaska Tour & Travel. The Alaska Railroad experience offers the GoldStar Dome service. This upgraded train experience includes reserved seating beneath full-length dome windows. Passengers experience unobstructed 360-degree views. Meals, drinks, and gratuities are also included in the ticket price. Find out more information by visiting their website. You can also book these pre-post tours directly with the cruise lines, and they will also take care of your transfers!
Have you dreamed of a European vacation, only to start researching and immediately become overwhelmed? With so many unique countries and cities, where to go in Europe can be a hard decision to make. Furthermore, if you have a tight vacation window or budget, the choices can be even more stressful to narrow down.
Maybe instead, consider a cruise! It’s an easy way to set sail from one country and explore a few more during your vacation. One cruise itinerary can visit multiple cities in neighboring countries, allowing you to experience different cultures, eat delicious food, and try new adventures.
I took a cruise a few years ago that had stops in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Every destination was terrific, but the highlight of my trip was riding a donkey to the top of Santorini! It was a terrifying experience, but the view from the top was so breathtaking that it made the journey there worthwhile. Check that one off of the bucket list!
The other positive thing about cruising is what’s included. The price of a cruise covers your accommodations as well as all of your meals. Typically, we structure our meals like this:
- Eat a big breakfast on the ship.
- Go into town after to explore and grab lunch (local cuisine).
- Arrive back in time for dinner and entertainment on the boat.
This perk can help budget-friendly travelers and families cut down on food costs during a week (or more) vacation.
From the turquoise waters to the ancient ruins, each city you visit while cruising seems to get more and more beautiful. Suppose you’ve never been to Europe before. In that case, a cruise is a great way to quickly visit multiple towns, decide which one or ones you’d like to re-visit in more depth, then plan a trip just to that location next time. What if Italy ended up not being as magical as you thought? Or were the blue waters of Greece not as beautiful as you expected? (I’m stretching but stick with me…) Then at least you only spent a few hours in that location instead of an entire vacation. Take a travel journal, make notes and take photos. Then work with your travel agent to plan a trip to your favorite location where you can dig deeper to find those hidden local gems… like this one!
One of my favorite things that we did in the Mediterranean, and a MUST if you’re visiting Florence, Italy, was a guided tour to a Tuscan farmhouse. This full-day experience included a market visit, a cooking class, and a 4-course lunch. It was authentic, educational, and, most of all, deliciously fun! Find out more by visiting their website.
When we booked our Panama Canal cruise, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really excited about visiting Panama. The other ports of call, Costa Rica, Aruba, and Cartagena, sounded way more exciting. To my surprise, it was much more fabulous than I thought! For two reasons:
First, I didn’t even realize we would be sailing through the actual canal and the locks. This man-made system within the channel works its magic by lifting passing ships up the canal’s main elevation, then back down. The process of moving one ship goes through three lock systems. What made this experience even more unique was we visited during the Panama Canal’s 100th anniversary. The history, stories, and cargo that has transpired as ships passed through this narrow waterway over the past 100 years, is astonishing!
Second, we were greeted by Panama City after we passed through the canal, which was even more beautiful than we could imagine. The capital of Panama, Panama City, features a coastline dotted with historic buildings and modern skyscrapers. It’s similar to a city like Chicago or Miami here in the States. Sandwiched between the architecture, you’ll find small hotels, chic bars, and some fantastic shopping. It was eclectic, unexpected, and we were pleasantly surprised.
Along with the other incredible destinations on our itinerary, we had a blast. It is an experience that we will never forget! If you take this trip, I recommend traveling from the ocean (Atlantic) to the ocean (Pacific). This full-day tour of the Panama Canal will take you on an expedition by sea and foot. You’ll view the ships that pass through the locks and the variety of plant and animal life on the canal’s shores. Learn more by visiting their website.
A New England cruise has always been on my bucket list. And, I wanted to leave out of New York City, so we could sail by the Statue of Liberty on the Hudson River. One year in the early fall, we booked a New England cruise to cross this off my list. The fall is definitely the best time of the year to travel to New England because the weather was so perfect and beautiful our entire visit.
Depending on the cruise line, there are many trips and itineraries you can choose from. We decided to go on a 7-night trip to Boston, Halifax, St. John, and Nova Scotia for this trip. I definitely wanted to go to Canada on this trip because it’s one of my favorite places to visit. (I’m sure you’ll hear me often talk about it because it’s close to the U.S., and I tend to fall more in love with the country every time I go!)
This cruise had a calming mix of gorgeous foliage, historic landmarks, and small-town culture. New England’s charm is mesmerizing, and the history of every place that we docked could be felt whether it was a small town or bustling city. Maine is known for its stunning granite cliffs and rocky beaches that line the Atlantic coastline. Where we stopped, Portland, you’ll find a seaside town that’s a haven for artists, foodies and is perfect for tourists who love water views.
In Canada, there is a rich history, beautiful architecture, the friendliest natives. They have one of our favorite dishes almost everywhere, poutine. If you have not tried this yet, you are missing out!
Overall this cruise was relaxing, scenic, and offered plenty of variety. A fast and furious vibe in the larger cities (Boston and NYC), mixed with the slower, laid-back feel in the more quaint towns, allowed us to catch our breaths and drink in the scenery.
If there is one thing I would recommend doing if you book this cruise, it would be the Duck Boats in Boston. Yes, it’s an overly touristy thing to do. Still, it’s the best way to cruise around town and see the unique neighborhoods and historical landmarks that make Boston, Boston! You’re able to see downtown by water and enjoy the harbor as well. So I highly recommend checking it out! Find more about the duck boats by visiting their website.
Cruising in the Caribbean presents endless options. All islands offer beautiful water, sand between your toes, and a laid-back way of life. Still, each has differences that make each port of call exciting to explore. There are white-sand beaches and rugged cliffs in Barbados, towering mountains and mud baths in St. Lucia, or lush rainforests in Belize. The waterfalls in Jamacia are spectacular, and the Mayan ruins contain impressive pyramids in Cozumel.
Typically, Eastern Caribbean cruises go to the Bahamas, San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and possibly the British Virgin Islands. Western Caribbean cruises sail to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Belize, Honduras, and Mexico. Southern Caribbean itineraries include Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Dominica, and St. Lucia.
With unique wildlife, landscape and history, tailored to each region, you can’t go wrong with your pick.
We chose to cruise the Southern Caribbean to visit as many islands as possible in the area. We decided to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to catch our ship, and it allowed us to explore there first before boarding the cruise.
Each port of call offered something different. Of course, you expect to see beautiful beaches. However, island tours provided insight into the history. Shopping allowed us to buy authentic merchandise, and local restaurants filled our bellies with island cuisine. It’s exciting to step out of your comfort zone sometimes and experience something unexpected.
Overall, we loved the cruise and ports of call. Every island was breathtaking, and I felt as if each stop provided better and better views! There’s so much to choose from during these itineraries. I highly recommend taking the Harrison’s Cave, garden, wildlife, and lunch tour if Barbados makes your list. This full-day shore excursion checks off several must-see items in one day. You’ll first start by going underground to explore Harrison’s Cave. Next, you’ll stroll along the palm-lined beach of Bathsheba before grabbing a traditional Caribbean lunch. Finally, it’s a trip to look for Green Monkeys at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. The tour is relaxing and educational and allows you to get up and personal with the local wildlife. Learn more about the Barbados shore excursion by visiting their website.
Added bonus … Hawaii!
Personally, I have not cruised the Hawaiian islands – yet. However, it’s on my radar. One of the perks of being a travel agent is the opportunity to attend ship inspections. Norwegian Cruise lines extended an invitation to tour one of their newer boats in Tampa, so I graciously accepted. While on board, I met an outgoing and well-traveled comedian (who works for the cruise line). He was American but had since moved to a beach in Mexico. Being in the cruise line industry for a while, he had the liberty of sailing around the world, spreading the gift of laugher. Over 1,100 cruises he has enjoyed…can you imagine?
As we talked, I had to ask him out of all the places he’s been, which did he consider the best? He didn’t hesitate and said, hands down, the Pride of America cruise. It’s the only cruise ship that sails from Honolulu and hits all the Hawaiian islands year-round. The itinerary takes you from one exotic island to another. Giving you opportunities to learn about Hawaiian culture, witness the Kilauea volcano, experience dramatic views of the Napali Coast, or possibly spot some whales. According to him, each island is different, and all are absolutely magical. I’ve been fortunate to visit Honolulu, whose beauty blew me away. I can only imagine what the other islands have to offer. This is definitely a “must-do” for my family and me in the future!
If you book this trip, be sure to visit the North Shore and Hanauma Bay while in Honolulu. If you’re short on time, you can take a tour that allows you to see the sights of both. A full-day tour will take you via mini-bus to the Dole Plantation, Turtle Town, Waimea Bay, and the Banzai Pipeline. You also have the opportunity to snorkel and swim in crystal clear waters. For more information, please visit the tour website here.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my top cruising itineraries! I hope you learned about a new destination that you’ll add to your own bucket list. If you have any questions or would like to help plan a cruise, please feel free to contact me. I’ve worked with (and traveled with) several different cruise lines, so I can provide honest feedback and offer competitive pricing through my Cruise Planners/American Express affiliation!