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By PAUL MOTTER
I have been reading comments online from cruisers and their reaction to the itinerary changes caused by Hurricane Dean. I have to say that cruisers are a hardy bunch. There is no whining or complaining about not getting to the ports they wanted. It reminds me that people who cruise are not the mindless escapist personalities the people who criticise the industry make them out to be.
Cruisers fully understand that they are at sea, in the elements of wind and ocean waves, and they love the adventure and challenge of taking on the sea. They are on a "ship," and not just on a "vacation."
The lure of the sea keeps us coming back. The power and magnitude of it calls to us. When we are on land we dream about ships, at sea we look out over the horizon, checking for distant storms, assessing the chop of the sea. We love the striking sunrises and sunsets that occur when we are under blue skies but the distance is filled with high clouds.
I suppose some non-cruisers would think we are crazy to book a cruise during hurricane season. But the people you need to feel sorry are the ones who are NOT on cruise ships but chose to go to a land-based resort in the Caribbean. Can you imagine waiting in Jamaica for the first available flight out, your vacation suddenly cancelled because there are no other alternatives?
When you think about it, a cruise ship is one of the better options during hurricane season. Most ships are now sailing in calm water in the Eastern caribbean.
WESTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISES
If you are worried about booking a cruise to the western Caribbean in the aftermath of Dean, so far none of the regular port stops are reporting any kind of damage that will affect future cruise ships ports of call. The eye passed 40 miles south of Jamaica and Grand Cayman is reporting very minimal damage.
The outlook for Belize and Cost Maya remains to be seen. The storm is just a category 2 as it makes landfall on these ports but the waves are hitting the beaches pretty hard.
FALL FOLIAGE CRUISES
I just want to point out that this week's newsletter has a few fall foliage cruises. These cruises only sail for about two months every year, and typically begin in New York or Boston, sail up the Atlantic coast to the St Lawrence Seaway, and up the Seaway towards Montreal and Quebec.
These are extremely popular cruises, and they sell out every year. Destination Oceans has a 10-day NCL cruise from New York to Boston, Maine, Halifax, Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Starting price is just $799, part of NCL's "Pity the Procrastinator" sale. I agree, steal this cruise while you have a chance because it will not last. Sail dates are September 13 and October 4.
Or get on the 6-day cruise from New York to Boston, Martha's Vineyard, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick starting at just $479, and balcony cabins from $899. By the way, if you are from the West coast and have never seen the dramatic New England coastline you are missing something very special.
WEST COAST CRUISES
Looking for great bargains on three, four and five-day cruises out of California? Take a look at what icruise is offering on ALL Carnival sailings between now and Christmas. 3-day cruises from $229 is a great deal, but a 5-day cruise for $279 is much better. Or you can get either the 7-day or the 8-day cruises down the west coast of Mexico for just $499 per person.
My personal recommendation is to take the 8-day cruises out of San Diego. First off, San Diego is one of the most convenient port cities on the west coast, or anywhere. Airport to ship is a five-minute taxi ride, but you really ought to stay in the city a few days. Fall is the best time to visit with warm temperatures through October.
San Diego's attractions are amazing. Their world-class zoo is one of the biggest and best in the world. The original Seaworld is also there. These attractions, downtown and the port are all within minutes of each other. Get a hotel with a view of Coronado island, dine in the Gaslamp District, enjoy San Diego attractions, and then board your cruise.
The 8-day Carnival cruise leaving 10-13 and 10-21 from San Diego goes all the way down to Acapulco. 7-day cruises on any line will only get you as far as Mazatlan. Acapulco is a must see, from the cliff divers to the beautiful Princess Hotel outside the bay once owned by Howard Hughes (he was living on the top floor when he died). The hotel has gorgeous Pacific ocean beaches with waves like California's but with a water temperature like the Caribbean. The kids they will love it. The grounds have strolling peacocks and labyrinthine swimming pools.
Check out the icruise listing of Carnival west-coast departures for more information.
GREAT CRUISE BARGAIN
I just have to point out the top deal on this page, a 13-night cruise in South America on the premium ship Celebrity Infinity for just $1249, and only $1699 for a balcony. This cruise goes through the Straits of Magellan, one of the most dramatic sea passages in the world, and visits the Chilean fjords, which many luxury lines report are among their most popular cruises.
Silversea has been selling this itinerary successfully for year at multiples of this price. And this is Celebrity Infinity, a premium ship. Just a fantastic bargain, assuming you can get a good deal on the airfare.