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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The long and short of cruising offers variety from one day to 126 days at sea

   Out to Sea column for Oct. 27/12
   (c) By Jim and Barb Fox
Chilling on the white sand beach of Half Moon Cay, a cruise line “private island” in the Bahamas, with a Holland America ship at anchor. (Jim Fox photo)
   Ever thought about taking a leisurely two-week cruise visiting many of the smaller and less-visited Caribbean islands?
   Or, how about 30 days at sea circling the Hawaiian Islands and then off to Tahiti and Bora Bora?
   Then there’s 126 days at sea on a luxury cruise circling the world.
   When reality sets in, today’s time-deprived and financially strapped society can only dream – but there’s an alternative: taking one of the new, shorter cruises now widely offered.
The Caribbean is a top choice for shorter cruises as Holland America Lines' Volendam is shown in port at Roseau in Dominica, known as the "nature island." (Jim Fox photo)
    In a Fogg
   Perhaps it was Phileas Fogg, the most-famous of circumnavigators, who inspired the notion of sailing around the world.
   Unlike the character in the 1873 Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days, many people today are lucky if they can squeeze in a two-week vacation.
   This cruising trend reflects changing lifestyles and economic realities and has prompted lines to offer short and even-shorter cruises – starting with just an overnight at sea.
   “The convenience, affordability and incredible choice of short cruises are tremendously appealing,” said Christine Duffy, president and ceo of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
   Available world-wide, even luxury and specialty lines offer “mini” or “sampler” cruises that are also attractive to first-time cruisers wanting to “test the waters.”
   A survey by CLIA, representing 26 cruise lines and 15,000 travel agents, finds that short cruises have strong appeal to vacationers of all ages including those combining a cruise with a stay at a resort and last-minute travellers.
   Enjoying a sunny and hot day at sea on the Caribbean Princess after leaving Grand Turk. (Barb Fox photo)
   A day at sea
   Holland America Line offers no time to get seasick on its one-day voyage from Vancouver to Seattle.
   The next of these one-day jaunts is May 4 and 10 priced from $95 while there are four-day sailings Vancouver-San Diego and from Buenos Aires, Argentina on Dec. 16 to Rio de Janeiro, and a five-day Australia circumnavigation departing Nov. 19.
   “Short sailings are popular among our past guests as a quick getaway or an add-on to another cruise,” said Erik Elvejord, HAL’s director of public relations.
   Since the line’s usual sailings are seven days or longer, “it’s a nice introduction to show non-cruisers our premium product,” he added.
   Celebrity Cruises is about to begin four-and five-night cruises to the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale on the newly “Solsticized” Celebrity Constellation.
   Cunard Line features an annual five-day Fourth of July getaway from New York to Canada and New England ports along with its popular six-day transatlantic crossings on Queen Mary II.
   Princess Cruises has a new series of three-to five-day sailings from Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles on the Ruby Princess and Golden Princess.
   A leisurely, sunny day at sea in the Caribbean on the Volendam. (Barb Fox photo)
   Sailing, sailing
   Carnival Cruise Lines now devotes half of its sailings to short cruises helped by the some 30 departure ports in North America that are within a day’s drive for many people.
   The Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexico/U.S. West Coast traditional short-cruise markets remain strong but travellers are looking to other destinations such as Europe with more sailings available year-round, the survey found.
   Along with more itineraries of one week or less offered by the large lines, Europe’s river cruise companies also offer shorter voyages.
   Avalon Waterways has four-day sailings on the Danube River, four-night Christmas cruises and short “cruise-only” options popular with independent travellers.
   Crystal Serenity offered five-to eight-day voyages in the Mediterranean over the summer and plans to continue with more.
   Silversea Cruises, another high-end luxury operator, offered a six-night itinerary this year.
   Paul Gauguin Cruises recently introduced seven-day itineraries in the Caribbean and Europe on its new 90-passenger Tere Moana.
   Oceania Cruises features seven-night voyages in Europe and the U.S. West Coast while Regent Seven Seas Cruises has a week in Europe, Alaska and Scandinavia.
   SeaDream Yacht Club, famous for its two ultra-luxury yachts, has a five-day Caribbean voyage.
   Louis Cruises enables travellers to discover the Greek Islands in four days and MSC Cruises has three-and five-night voyages in the Mediterranean, South America and Caribbean.
   Holiday itineraries and repositioning voyages often are other opportunities to enjoy a shorter cruise.
   Short cruises “will not replace other cruises” as many lines have added longer voyages and world cruises are a “very strong growth market,” Duffy said.
   “For many travelers, this shorter taste of cruising will be an unforgettable experience,” she added.
   For more information on cruise lines and sailings: www.cruising.org


Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at outtosea50@hotmail.com
For more Out to Sea trip tips: http://outtoseatravel.blogspot.ca

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