Monthly Archives: September 2012

How to Choose the Correct Cruise Line

Generally, cruisers start with one cruise line and tend to stick with that brand. This loyalty is good to a point, but don’t let it restrict your cruise experiences. Cruises can all be quite different  depending on your choice of cruise lines. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, cruising offers many choices. Here’s a quick, and absolutely non-inclusive, primer on cruise lines.

AMA waterways: River cruising at its best. Known for their wine cruises in the fall, after harvest time, for bargain prices. But luxury anytime.

Avalon: River cruising with the added benefit of cooperative tours in every port. Immersion in your destinations along the great waterways of Europe.

Azamara: The small-ship line of Royal Caribbean/Celebrity. Their forte is overnight stays, longer stops,and  night tours for the full experience of each port of call. Especially great for European sailings. Will not disappoint.

Carnival: The “fun” ships are geared towards just that. Inexpensive, lots of activity, sometimes criticized for being too loud, very popular with groups. Good for the partying crowd. Lots of bars, DJ’s, comedy clubs. “Fun for all. All for fun!” Here is a Carnival ship all decked out for fun.

The Port of New Orleans has a cruise line term...

Celebrity: Sophisticated, modern luxury ships, stand outs for their spa experiences and cuisine. More expensive, but good value for the price. Any age group looking for upscale experience. The premium line of the Royal Caribbean group.

Crystal: Luxury cruising all the way. No one doesn’t like Crystal. Pricey, but sometimes run nice specials.

Cunard: Old-world elegance, traditional cruising. Beautiful ships. Excellent for transatlantic crossings. A step above Holland America, but in the same family.

Disney: You’d think it was just for kids, but it’s not. Consistently top-ranked ships for food and service. Families love it, of course, but adults have their own areas. This Disney ship calls Port Canaveral, FL home.

English: Disney Cruise Lines' Disney Wonder in...

Holland America: Refined elegance and traditional cruising. Some complaints that the cruisers are too old, but a great line for peace, quiet, romance for the over 50 crowd. Larger cabins than most. Mid-priced, but considered a premium line of the Carnival parent company.

Caribbean cruising by Susan McDaniel Travel

The Holland America Noordam in St. Thomas

MSC: Family-owned line known for its cleanliness and top-notch entertainment.  Quiet ships. You may not have heard of  them, but you should know them.

Norwegian: Known for “Freestyle Cruising” because of its unconventional and innovative nature. Good for the individualist and individuals. The newest ship, the Epic, now has studio cabins for solo-travelers. Mid-price range. The Norwegian ship below sports beautiful murals.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Pearl and Star in Skagway

Oceania: Deluxe cruising on smaller ships with emphasis on cuisine. Price point higher than most.

Paul Gauguin: Tahiti, Fiji, Bora Bora. THE line for the South Pacific. Small-ship cruising to amazing ports. Usually offer free air from LA and sometimes 2 for 1 sailings. Gauguin will take you to Bora Bora in style (below).

English: Mount Otemanu in Bora Bora

Princess: Relaxed, comfortable elegance. Total pampering. Their motto is “escape completely” because they tend to every detail, unobtrusively. For the total getaway consumer. Mid-priced. Princess knows Alaska. It’s the only choice for this destination. Ask me about it. I am a certified Princess Alaska Expert.

Regent: Luxury cruising and a price to match.

Royal Caribbean:  Active travelers, but appeals to every age. You don’t have to participate in all the activity. You can just watch, too. Fitness buffs will love all the options. Well-priced, well-kept ships.  New emphasis on food: farm-to-table fresh menus. (The Allure sports 25 restaurants!) Everyone loves Royal!

Caribbean cruising by Susan McDaniel Travel

Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas at Labadee, Haiti

Seabourn: Luxury cruising. Pricey, but you’re worth it!

SeaDream Yacht  Club: “It’s Yachting, Not Cruising” on these small-ships. Luxury all the way! 5-star service. You can’t afford not to go on SeaDream. Below is a SeaDream Yacht.

SeaDream II

SilverSea: Small-ship (500 passenger) luxury romance. Goes to rarely-visited ports. Romantic restaurants on board. Spare no expense and go for it! All-suite, all-inclusive.

StarClippers: Real small-ship sailing vessels and a crew that knows how to sail. You can even help. Taking you to the lesser visited ports in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Panama Canal, Europe.

Viking River Cruises: Luxury along the rivers of Europe. Viking are adding dozens of new “Longships” in 2013 and 2014. The Viking ship here is representative of smaller river cruise ships.

Viking Helvetia River cruise ship on Rhine Riv...

Windstar: Competes with StarClippers. Small-ship sailing vessels but these use the motors more than the sails. Unusually itineraries because the small ships can go where larger vessels can not reach.

Did you know there are so many cruises lines available to you? A cruise line exists for every occasion, destination, and fantasy.

NOT ALL CRUISES END THIS WAY

NOT ALL CRUISES END THIS WAY (Photo credit: roberthuffstutter)

And despite Robert’s caption above, cruises very often turn out that way! You should try one. Begin planning your own at www.susanmcdanieltravel.com or let me do it for you. Call 561-841-2224 or e-mail me at susan@susanmcdanieltravel.com. Cruising is a sweet confection you should enjoy!

A Walk on Florida’s Wild Side: The Nature Coast

Florida is divided into various “coasts.” There’s the Space Coast at the Kennedy Space Center/Port Canaveral area. There’s the Palm Coast by Palm Beach. There’s the Emerald Coast on the panhandle. And then there’s the Nature Coast that stretches from Clearwater to Ochlocknee Bay on the Gulf side.  Here is “old Florida” at its best. Spanish moss drapes from live oak trees,  endangered Gopher tortoises wander the streets, and life moves at a slower pace. And manatees live here, too.

Floirda travel with manatees

One of the many resident manatees at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Wandering endangered gopher tortoises outnumber the traffic lights

For the tourist, this is the only place in the country where you can swim with manatees. In the dead of summer you can also scallop by snorkeling in shallow waters and catching the tasty crustaceans. And you can visit the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Welcome to the Wildlife Park

The park has an underwater observatory on a manatee viewing platform in the main spring. You can watch the several manatees that live here in the summer months.  In the winter, though, hundreds congregate here for the warm spring waters. Various tour operators throughout the area arrange snorkel trips to swim with them at any time of year. Check in Crystal River as well as Homosassa. Wandering the park, though, you will see manatees slip through the water at various locations.

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

The underwater observatory is in the center of the viewing platform

Other animals in the park are mostly native Florida residents. I’m not sure how a hippo joined the group, but Lu the hippo is a crowd-pleaser!

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Hippos are obviously not native to Floirda but we love her anyway!

It wouldn’t be a Florida wildlife park without ‘gators. And there are lots of big specimens to oooh and ahhh over. All are securely located behind a fence, as far as we know. A reptile house showcases native snakes, too.

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Enough said!

All of the birds on display here are in some way unable to survive in the wild. Flamingoes, pelicans (both white and brown), hawks, owls, and bald eagles all live here. Other wild birds flock to the area of their own accord. From swans to anhingas, to migrating and resident songbirds, you might be surprised at every turn.

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Flamingoes aren’t native to Florida but they are an iconic Florida image

It’s just a fun family kind of place that you shouldn’t miss on a visit to Florida.

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Channeling my manatee persona

Florida travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Homosassa Springs is crystal clear

The springs in this area produce an amazing amount of water. It is where Zepherhills Spring water is bottled.  All kinds of sport fish gather at the springs, too. Those are snook in the picture, above. The park also contains a gift shop and small cafe. It takes a few hours to fully travel the entire park, and you can expect crowds in the winter. Why not come during the summer when you can scallop, too?

Florida travel and manatees

The manatees swim all over the springs

This side trip makes a perfect pre- or post- cruise adventure if you are departing out of Tampa, Florida, too.  When you want to play with the manatees, give me a call at 561-841-2224,  e-mail me at susan@susanmcdanieltravel.com or do some research on your own at www.susanmcdanieltravel.com . I’ll be happy to tell you all the insider secrets you need to enjoy a wonderful experience on Florida’s Nature Coast. It’s one of my favorite places.

Hint: Don’t enter the park off of US 19!

Do’s and Don’t of New York City

More cruise lines than in the past are using New York City as a departure port. The opportunity to discover New York City before or after your cruise, or anytime, gives rise to some do’s and don’t associated with NYC adventure.

1.) Do give yourself more than one day to explore this vibrant city if you can manage to do so.

Don’t miss the chance to spend even one day here if that is all you have available to you.

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

A beautiful overview of the city from the Empire State Building

2.) Do fly into Newark, NJ if it is cheaper for you than flying into La Guardia. It is easy to get from Newark to Penn Station in NYC via NJ Transit.

Don’t even think about using Amtrak for this short jaunt!

3.) Do plan on seeing the Empire State Building first thing. It will give you perspective and a beautiful overview of the city.

Don’t buy the tickets there! Purchase them ahead of time and cut your wait time in half. I can get tickets for you.

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Your destination looms

4.)  Do have lunch in one of the many Irish pubs.

Don’t rush. And don’t stick to your diet, either.

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Have lunch at one of the many Irish pubs

5.)  Do dress comfortably and wear sneakers. You will be walking everywhere.

Don’t wear sandals or your blisters will have blisters. Trust me. I know these things.

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

I loved playing tourist in New York City

6.)  Do stop and have an afternoon cocktail.

Don’t let your cousin talk you into having it at the St. Regis unless you don’t want to be able to afford to eat for a week. Although the Bloody Mary’s are legendary, and delicious.

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

The bar at the St. Regis, NYC

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

The drinks are delicious but the bill will knock you over! That’s my cousin. His idea, our bill.LOL 

7.)   Do drop by the New York Public Library.

New York City travel bu Susan McDaniel Travel

5th Ave. and the New York City Public Library

Don’t expect Rockefeller Center to be very impressive unless it is the dead of winter,  the Christmas tree is up, and the ice rink is in use.

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Rockefeller Center iin the middle of summer

Rockefeller Center, in New York City.

Rockefeller Center, in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8.)   Do enjoy Midtown and save the other areas like the World Trade Center, Wall Street, Chinatown and more for another day.

Don’t think you can see it all.

New York City travel by Susan McDaniel Travel

Looking uptown from the Empire State Building

9.)   Do plan to come back at a later date.

And don’t forget to book your cruise, too. Cunard has the Queen Mary 2 sailing roundtrip  from NYC to St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Dominica, Barbados and St. Kitts departing December 22, 2012. Other itineraries by other cruise lines are also available. Call me at 561-841-2224 or e-mail at susan@susanmcdanieltravel.com for  information and schedules.

Double Black Diamond Travel

A professional travel WordPress.com site

Exploration Abroad

Traveling and learning abroad with Joshua S

5 Things To Do Today

Lifestyle magazine covering hotels, restaurants, travel, food, arts and entertainment

Lovely Shoots

Lovely photographs of the world

Meg Travels

mostly sunny adventures

The Open Suitcase

Vacation is a State of Mind

The Local Traveler NS

Two travelers' tales and reviews from around Nova Scotia

The LGBTQ Travel Expert. Educator. Speaker. Author.

Proven expertise in the LGBTQ segment + LGBTQ Pavilion at the New York Travel & Adventure Show 2022

Jan's Travel Journal

Where I've Been and Where I'm Going

Dream BIGGER

Create The Life You Want Now!

travelola

reflections on world travel & expat life in australia

Pictures and Plane Tickets

A Bucket List Inspired Travel Site

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: