Travel

By Kelley Granger

Image courtesy of http://www.visitedeurope.com

It’s easy to sit on the fence, trying to figure out how you feel about a cruise vacation if you’ve never taken one. Will you feel exhilarated visiting a number of ports, or cheated that you have a short, pre-determined amount of time you can spend at each one? Will you find enough activities on board to make the time at sea worth your hard-earned pennies? Just how much green guilt are you going to feel for sailing on one of these huge ships?

All these questions are fair for first-timers, and we got the lowdown on the cruise experience with CruiseCenter’s president, Tom Baker (who was recently named the world’s leading large ship specialist by Conde Nast Traveler), and partner Ellen Kalish, who have established CruiseCenter as one of the leading sellers of these vacations – they sell more than 10,000 different discount cruises.

If you’ve never been on a cruise, maybe now’s a good time to consider your first experience. “As a cruise line controls its operating costs close to the veil, they can afford to offer low consumer prices and keep guests filling those beds,” says Baker. “It’s a buyers market for many commodity cruises to destinations like Alaska, the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Mexico!” Apparently so – in spite of our economic situation, Carnival recently recorded its best week ever (in a 37-year history) for net recorded bookings. Before you decide, check out what Baker and Kalish had to say about some of the most common cruising concerns.

CAPTION: Ellen Kalish and Tom Baker of CruiseCenter

I’ve heard that some people feel ‘stuck’ on a cruise ship. What does an adventurous soul have to look forward to on a cruise, and what options for exploration do we have?

The beauty of taking a cruise is the fact that it isn’t confining as some would think. The ships today are floating resorts. Think of a major Las Vegas hotel gone to sea complete with Broadway style theaters, spas, state of the art health and fitness centers, multiple restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and more. The adventurous soul can pamper his or her self nicely in the ships spa, enjoy swimming in a large pool, play sporting games in the ships golf, tennis or sports decks. One can jog, take a cooking class, learn yoga or Pilates, take a personal trainer, go to the movies, learn how to play a Yamaha Keyboard, take a Berlitz foreign language class, hob knob with an ambassador or movie star. These are many things one can do to enhance their adventurous side The most adventurous spirit can have the most active or passive vacation based on their desires. The ultimate part of a cruise is to visit interesting ports of call that offer cultural enrichment and activity then can be exotic, like zip lining through a tropical forest or hiking into the caldera of an inactive volcano. A cruise vacation has something for everyone. The key is talking to a known professional who will match the clients need to the right lifestyle vacation experience and budget.

I’m concerned about the environmental impact ships make. What cruise lines have a commitment to sustainability, and how are they enforcing it?

The cruise industry today is monitored more than any other form of transportation due to the extensive resort facilities it provides mixing a floating hotel and transportation to and from exotic ports of call. The cruise ship of 2009 offers a green cruise experience where everything is “green” or recycled onboard. This goes for all usable materials going into recycling including water and sewage treatment systems. Emissions are controlled and even recycled on today’s cruise ship. In many ports of call, cruise ships can even plug-in to the local electrical system ensuring that they leave a minimal footprint on the local environment. The cruise industry has taken huge measures to not only keep its guests in the safest possible of environment but trying to reduce its ecological footprint exponentially. This in part came from civic duty but also to comply with SOLAS (Safety at Sea) regulations. The coast guard, government environmental agencies and CDC all have bearings on how today’s cruise industry manages its processes day to day ensuring safety and comfort for all who travel and for those who come in contact with these floating cities at sea.

I want to take a cruise with my partner, and we want something less family-friendly, more romance-centered. Do you have any suggestions?

There are a number of cruises for couples looking for a quieter, non family, experience with today’s vast options. Oceania Cruises, which offers five-star service on intimate 684 passenger only ships, caters to adults only. These ships offer intimate, casual and elegant cruises for adults seeking itineraries which are port rich and romantic. The Regent Seven Seas ship, Paul Gauguin, is positioned year round in Tahiti catering primarily to adults and is also an intimate ship in size and passengers catering to just over 300 special guests seeking to enjoy one of the most picturesque destinations on the planet. If a cruiser is looking for an adult experience sans the children or families, they are best suited to select a cruise line that offers a smaller passenger capacity (generally carrying less than 700 passengers) and one that does not offer a children/teens program. The more romance-centered cruiser will likely be pleased.

With all the online cruise packages available, what’s the best way to find a carrier and a package that will offer quality services and a reasonable price?

2009 is a year for some of the best deals to be found on cruises by savvy consumers. A smart consumer will seek the guidance of a true travel or cruise professional who will help find the right ship, lifestyle experience and price for the travelers’ needs. It takes an agent who is experienced, well traveled, knows the ships firsthand and asks probing questions to ensure all needs are met. A good agent is a value interpreter and can hunt among all the cruise lines at a glance to determine the best prices. There are deals on all ships but the most important feature is to help the guest match that ship to their vacation needs. Remember, ships are like hotels that range from Ramada Inn to the Ritz Carlton with everything in between. A professional will sort out the details to make the planning aspect of a cruise, easy and enjoyable.

For more information, contact CruiseCenter at 1.800.497.8799 or visit http://www.cruisecenter.com.

Originally published April 2009
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