My wife's 30th birthday AND our 5th wedding anniversary are coming up and we're thinking of doing our first cruise in mid-February. We're not party people but like to relax and explore, so I'm thinking one of the lines that offers some port excursions (as well as explore the ship). No kids and probably 7 days for cruising; we're in Portland, OR. I'm reading through Frommer's 2006 guide.
A couple questions...
- I am a US citizen; my wife is a permanent resident in the process of getting citizenship. She has a Russian passport. Does anyone know if there are likely to be any hassles in the various ports of call for her (i.e., do we need to get visas, etc.)? If so, perhaps we'd do Hawaii. For whatever reason, Mexico doesn't appeal to either of us.
- For a first-timer, any opinions on East vs. West vs. South Caribbean? A big subject, I'm sure. We're looking to lie on some crystal-clear beaches, maybe snorkel, explore a bit, etc. Any opinions on Hawaii vs. Caribbean?
For Hawaii, it looks like the only practical 7-day option is to fly to Honolulu and then cruise.
I realize I'm asking a lot of big, general questions...I'm just trying to sort through an ocean of material.
Congratulations on your decision to take a cruise! I think you'll have a wonderful time, wherever you go.
Caribbean itineraries vary in their appeal. Eastern includes places like St. Thomas, St. Martin, Nassau. Beautiful places to be sure, appealing especially to people who like to shop and are looking for bargains. Eastern Caribbean itineraries often have the most days at sea. Western Caribbean, while still having good shopping in places like Grand Cayman and Cozumel, also offer some really good snorkling and other water sports. Southern Caribbean cruises are the most port intensive, where you could visit 5 or 6 islands during the course of a 7 day cruise. Beautiful beaches and some nice sightseeing, but perhaps not as relaxing as a cruise with some days at sea. Eastern and western 7-night Caribbean cruises generally leave from Florida in the winter; southern Caribbean cruises leave from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Airfare to San Juan tends to be a lot more expensive than airfare to Florida. To be sure, all ships offer port excursions on every itinerary they sail.
Hawaii also has beautiful beaches, but I think the real attraction of Hawaii is that it's a very interesting destination, both culturally and for sightseeing. The ship goes to several islands in the course of a week, by sailing among them at night. You can go snorkling in Hawaii, as well as sailing and all manner of watersports, but you can also take a helicopter ride into an active volcano, walk on cooled lava that covers what used to be a highway, bike down Haleakala, a 10,000' dormant volcano, from the summit to sea level, visit a rain forest, to name a few of the dozens and dozens of things you can do on the islands. Hawaii cruises can be more active, in that you're likely to leave the ship in the morning and not return until late afternoon.
All itineraries have things to recommend them. You just have to think about the type of vacation you're interested in taking.
I don't think your wife would have a problem visiting any ports, as a permanent resident, but I'll let someone else with more experience with that subject tackle that one.
Based on my 14 cruises and given that I live in Southern California, I highly recommend that you look into cruises of Mexico and the US Pacific Coast. Mexico has beautiful beaches, absolutely stunning sunsets, and much that is culturally and historically interesting. English is widely spoken and the Mexican people are friendly and very helpful (this is very subjective but I have spent a fair amount of time in Mexico and not once have I or my wife had any problems)). Mexico continues to grow economically by leaps rather than incrementally so it is not the poor downtroden crime ridden country too often depicted in US films and tv shows. Some cruises stop in Los Angeles, San Diego, Catalina Island, Santa Barbara which are very interesting American cities. There are several excellent ships that cruise round trip from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego. And in terms of price, I believe that you get a great cruise for money spent AND the airfare is much less than Hawaii or the Caribbean and the flights are much shorter. Hawaii is a great place to visit and to see by sea but Mexico and the US Pacific Coast is a great place to cruise as well.