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Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. Fall foliage enthusiasts, for instance, will find September and October the best time to take that Canada/New England cruise, whereas families much prefer to sail the region in the summer when school is out and temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
Your Guide to Half Moon Cay Cabanas
A private cabana is a plush way to enjoy the pristine sand and surf of Half Moon Cay, Carnival Corporation's private island in the Bahamas visited by Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America. Half Moon Cay cabanas are colorful wooden outposts peppered along the island's shoreline, and while they all offer special amenities, offerings vary based on cabana type. If you're not sure which enclave is the best fit for you during your time ashore, read Cruise Critic's guide to Half Moon Cay cabanas.
Best Bahamas Shore Excursions
A cruise to the Bahamas conjures images of sugar-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, but the islands have much more to offer than a chance to bask in the sun. The port cities of Nassau and Freeport are stepping stones to a wide variety of experiences, from world-renowned snorkeling and scuba diving to foodie and cultural tours that take you off the beaten path. (And of course, you can still have that picture-perfect beach day.) Check out the top Bahamas shore excursions in each of these popular ports -- all of which can be booked either through your cruise line or independently.
Best Eastern Caribbean Shore Excursions
The eastern reaches of the Caribbean are a unique blend of melding cultures and tropical waters, as well as territories that remain a part of the United States. Eastern Caribbean shore excursions are also a blend of familiar beach days and more unique and adventurous sights and activities. It's a part of the world with a surprising amount of history if you wish to unlock it, but miles of sand stretch before you if you'd rather not think about anything at all. Before the sun melts all your cares away (including the ability to make decisions), we mapped out some of the best Eastern Caribbean cruise excursions so you can sprinkle your next sailing with the right amount of exploration and relaxation.
Bermuda vs. Bahamas
If you're new to cruising, it's easy to get Bermuda and the Bahamas mixed up. Both island chains have a shared British heritage and are located in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean. Both are easily accessible from the East Coast, which makes them a favorite for cruise lines. Yet, the two archipelagos have some important distinctions when it comes to cruise seasons and itineraries and island attractions. Read on for more tips on how to choose between a Bermuda or a Bahamas cruise.
Shopping in Cozumel Cruise Port: 9 Popular Souvenirs
Shopaholics of all types can have a field day shopping at the Cozumel cruise port and nearby San Miguel. If you'd like to pick up a branded souvenir, just stick to the two open-air shopping malls adjacent to Cozumel's three ports. You'll find Senor Frog's, Margaritaville and Pirana Joe stores selling all manner of branded merchandise, a Diamonds International and Colombian Emeralds and a number of stores selling overpriced trinkets and "authentic" Mexican goods. But what if you're after something a little more local and authentic -- handmade in Mexico, rather than China, for example? We recommend heading to the Mercado Municipal (Calle Dr. Adolfo Rosado Salas), about a 10-minute walk east of downtown San Miguel, the biggest town on the island. It's the best place to pick up local goods at significantly lower prices than you'd find in the main street Quinta Avenida, just off the town square. No matter which type of shopper you are, here are nine of the most popular souvenirs and our advice on what's worth buying when you go shopping in Cozumel. Editor's note: There are a few natural items that you do not want to buy in Mexico because they will be confiscated on your return to the United States (or possibly before that, upon your return to your ship). These include coral (particularly black coral, which is endangered), turtle shells and any marine life, such as pufferfish and starfish.
7 Places to Cruise Without a Passport
You've decided you want a vacation, but there's a problem -- you don't have a passport. Maybe you've never had the time, money or desire to travel abroad previously, or perhaps your old passport has expired. Whatever the reason, you still have choices. One option is to take a closed-loop cruise -- a round-trip sailing that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port. For that, you need only a birth certificate and a driver's license (or other acceptable, government-issued photo ID). You can't cruise just anywhere on a closed-loop sailing, but the choices are more interesting than you might expect. Below, we've compiled a list of seven places to visit without a passport, from scenic Alaska to the beachy Caribbean.
Compare: 12 Best Cruise Ships in the Caribbean
When sunshine, frozen pina coladas and steel drums call, you know it's time for a Caribbean cruise. Luckily, you can choose from a wide variety of ships and itineraries throughout the Eastern, Western and Southern regions. Whether you're keen on visiting a particular port (scuba diving in Grenada, anyone?) or are simply in need of some vitamin D, we make it easy to decide which option is best for you. Compare everything from onboard activities to price tags in our breakdown of the 12 best cruise ships in the Caribbean.
Best Months to Cruise the Caribbean
The Caribbean isn't just one place. In fact, the region most consider as the Caribbean encompasses about 26 different countries and territories overseeing roughly 7,000 different islands. While the culture and offerings of each Caribbean port are truly unique, one thing is surprisingly consistent: the weather. The Caribbean is an incredible year-round destination for cruise ships and part of that reason is the sunny and reliable conditions offered by these islands for many months out of the year. Unlike Alaska, which has a limited cruise season, Caribbean ports are open January to December, which can make planning your voyage a difficult decision. Luckily, we've broken down a number of factors from the slight changes in weather (yes, there is a rainy season) to average price, so you can feel confident about picking the best month to cruise the Caribbean.
10 Best Cruise Destinations for Active Travellers
You can get a workout on pretty much any cruise, but to maximize your adrenaline-pumping options, it's best to find the right combination of cruise ship and destination. Active cruise travelers will usually turn up at least a handful of shore experiences to whet their appetites for adventure, but if you're cruising with a sedentary lot, that city bike tour or rainforest hike might get canceled due to lack of interest. Likewise, certain ports simply don't lend themselves to athletic adventures, while others have so many active choices, it's hard to make up your mind. Below, we have listed our picks for the 11 best adventure cruise destinations for those who are active travelers, as well as our suggestions for the cruise lines that make the best matches. Just don't forget to pack your running shoes and snorkel gear.