Cruise season has kicked into high gear with new and abundant opportunities to set sail. Whether you’re interested in traveling to the Caribbean, Europe or New England, now is the perfect time to explore ocean adventures, when you can bypass hurricanes, get the best prices in an off-peak season and experience stunning fall foliage.
Temperaturewise, it’s a really nice time to travel, says Carl Howard, a travel specialist at All Points Travel in Atlanta, adding that the crowds aren’t as huge as in the summer months, a point echoed by others in the travel industry.
“One of the big differences is the fact that it’s a different group of people traveling, so you will have fewer smaller children and more independent business people as well as some older folks,” said Jo Giraud, an accredited cruise counselor who owns Independent Traveler.
There are also new amenities that the cruise industry has never seen before, including two-for-one ticketing, shore excursions and onboard credits, which Giraud credits to the economy as well as the season, which is typically slower than its summer counterpart.
Here are some new options and destinations to fill your cruise itinerary this fall:
Park, cobblestones, cafes make for Oasis of the Sea
Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Oasis of the Sea, is all about firsts. The ship, which will be the largest cruise ship on the water with a capacity of 6,296 passengers, will have the first amphitheater and garden on the sea. The amphitheater is home to a water and light show, while the Central Park area features a faux city tableau with cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes and shopping.
The ship, which will sail to the Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale late this year, has plenty for sports and outdoor enthusiasts, including zip lines, rock climbing, pools, basketball courts and a fitness center.
Besides all the standard amenities, there are some twists: Balcony guest rooms may face the water or overlook the “boardwalk” area on the ship’s interior; the ship is divided into seven “neighborhoods”; and some guest rooms have lofts.
High seas surprise: The zip line is stretched nine decks above the “boardwalk” neighborhood. The 82-foot journey begins near the stern and takes riders over a carousel.
Info: Oasis of the Sea’s preview voyage is Dec. 1, while regular service begins Dec. 5. Five- and seven-night cruises include ports in St. Thomas, St. Marten and Nassau this year; 2010 itineraries include Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico. 866-562-7625, www.royalcaribbean.com
Carnival, Celebrity add Baltimore departure point
Carnival and Celebrity have added cruises out of Baltimore.
The Carnival Pride, the first ship to sail year-round from Baltimore, has a seven-day Florida/Bahamas cruise (Port Canaveral, Nassau and Freeport) and a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise (Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay [Bahamas] and Freeport).
The Celebrity Mercury will sail out of Baltimore beginning Nov. 12 and will have multiple itineraries to the Eastern Caribbean and Bahamas. The Mercury will be based out of Baltimore from late October to February, and out of Vancouver, British Columbia, from May to September.
Prices for the Carnival Pride begin under $500 for a seven-night Bahamas cruise, while prices for the Celebrity Mercury begin just under $600 for a nine-night Bahamas cruise.
Both ships are moderate in size; the Pride can accommodate 2,124 passengers and the Mercury 1,886.
High seas surprise: David’s Steakhouse on the Pride provides white-glove service in a room that features a replica of Michelangelo’s David as well as murals. On the Mercury, fresh pastries and desserts are a specialty at the Cova Café.
Info: Carnival Pride, 888-227-6482, www.carnival.com; Celebrity Mercury, 800-647-2251, www .celebritycruises.com.
3-D theaters are among Disney ship bells, whistles
The Disney Wonder, a 2,400-passenger ship with itineraries to the Bahamas, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal and Alaska, became the first cruise ship with a 3-D theater when it opened the retro Buena Vista Theatre in 2008. The Disney Magic, with itineraries to the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Europe, has its own Buena Vista Theatre. The Buena Vista theaters have 268 seats and can screen first-run films in 3-D. Wood paneling and red velvety seats adorn the theaters, which combine Art Deco and Nouveau elements.
High seas surprise: One-upping itself, Disney added a fourth dimension to its onboard 3-D theaters by including lasers, fog machines, streamers and lighting to create an immersion experience during 3-D screenings. Film characters are also often available outside the theater after screenings.
Info: Disney Cruises, 800-951-3532, www.disneycruise.disney.go.com.
New England, Canada are also cruise destinations
Visit the mansions of Newport, R.I., experience the history of Boston or see fjords and whales near the St. Lawrence River while on a cruise to New England and Canada this fall. Luxury cruise line Silversea and the more moderately priced Costa Cruise Line offer New England-Canada itineraries out of New York, Montreal or Quebec.
Silversea offers high-end luxury with all-suite accommodations on the Silver Cloud (296 passengers) or Silver Whisperer (382 passengers). In October, Silversea has a Montreal-New York itinerary with port calls in Quebec City; Gaspe, Quebec; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Nova Scotia’s Sydney and Halifax; Bar Harbor, Maine; and Boston. In October 2010, there is a New York round trip with a similar itinerary.
Costa offers a less expensive option with 11-day voyages on the Atlantica, which can accommodate 2,114 passengers. Costa’s Canada-New England cruises start in New York and end in Quebec or vice versa, but both make port calls in Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown and Saguenay, Quebec.
High seas surprise: Book either cruise for mid-October for the best color of foliage season. When in port in Newport, bring your tennis racquet and play on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Info: Silversea Cruise Lines, 800-722-9955, www.silversea.com. Costa Cruise Lines, 877-882-6782, www.costacruise.com.
Provided by Demand Studios