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Chapter 7 The geography of cruising.

After reading this chapter, you'll be able to

* Describe the importance of geography to cruising

* Define the world's major cruise regions and itinerary patterns

* Klatch each region with the kind of traveler who favors it

* Identify each region's seasonal patterns

Gil Grosvenor, the chairman of the National Geographic Society, tells of the time when someone sitting next to him on a plane discovered who he was. "Oh, I just love geography," she enthused. "That's why I like to travel. One of these days I'll get around to taking a cruise. Probably to Las Vegas...."

That would be quite an achievement, since Las Vegas is about 250 miles inland. The only bodies of water in Vegas are hotel swimming pools.

Las Vegas, though, is one of the few places on earth where cruises can't travel. Whether by sea or by river, cruise vessels can access thousands of ports. And those places not accessible by ship can be experienced through a pre- or postcruise package.

Geography plays an essential role in cruising in many ways:

* Cruise clients often decide which voyage to take according to the itinerary, not the ship or the line. (This is especially true of first-time cruisers.)

* Certain places are best experienced by ship. To drive or fly from town to town in Alaska, for instance, is difficult, expensive, or, in some cases, impossible. Cruise ships, however, get around Alaska's coastal waters easily.

* Cruises are especially appropriate when you want to visit clusters of islands, such as those of the Greek islands, Indonesia, and the Caribbean. Air connections within these island groups are often awkward and, in the case of the smaller islands, nonexistent.

* Travelers often prefer to visit underdeveloped countries via cruise. The ship is secure, the food familiar, the transportation dependable, and the lodging reliable.

Geography is relevant not only to passengers but to those in the industry, too. The ship's staff must have an intimate knowledge of the ports they visit. Land-based personnel must understand how places impact the experience that they market and sell. Travel agents need to be fully familiar with geography, too. Their port knowledge establishes their credibility and professionalism, builds loyalty and trust, and maximizes the probability of client satisfaction.

So let's explore the world of cruising. To help you along, maps accompany each place described. Study them carefully as you read. Many of the place names you'll encounter will be new to you. Be prepared. And let's make it a bit easier by starting with one of the most familiar places of all: North America.

Cruising North America

More cruises take place in the waters that surround and flow through North America than anywhere else in the world. To simplify things, we can identify five distinct cruise regions in North America: Alaska, the Northeast, the Mississippi River and its tributaries, Mexico's Pacific coast, and the Caribbean. Let's examine each.

Alaska

Few places match the drama of Alaska. Pristine inlets, unpolluted skies, white-blue glaciers, jagged mountains, intimate towns--these are what have made Alaska one of the world's fastest-growing cruise destinations. The cruise season here is limited to around May through early October, when daylight lasts longest and temperatures are most pleasant.

Two cruise itineraries predominate. The first, the Inside Passage route, usually begins in Vancouver, British Columbia, or Seattle, Washington, and threads its way northward among narrow channels, past wooded islands to a turnaround point (usually at or near Skagway). (See figure 7-1.) The ship then returns southward to its starting point. The vessel calls at three or four ports along the way. Among the most popular stops:

* Sitka, with its traces of Russian influence. (Sitka was once a Russian colonial outpost and capital of Russian America.)

* Juneau, Alaska's compact capital, picturesquely nestled at the base of a mountain.

* Skagway, a key town in Alaska's gold-rush era.

* Glacier Bay, where passengers see chunks of ice cracking off glaciers and thundering into the icy waters.

* Ketchikan, a center of Native American culture and the self-proclaimed Salmon Capital of the World.

The second common itinerary: a one-way cruise from Vancouver or Seattle to Anchorage (or vice versa). The ship stops at many of the same ports of an Inside Passage cruise, then continues northward to visit Hubbard Glacier, College Fjord, Prince William Sound, and the Kenai Peninsula. From Anchorage, many cruisers extend their vacation experience by taking a 356-mile Anchorage-Fairbanks escorted railroad journey, with a layover stay at Denali National Park. (The park is the home of Mt. McKinley, North America's tallest peak.) Another land-excursion option: Passengers disembark at Skagway for a trip to Canada's Yukon and on to Fairbanks (or the reverse).

What kind of people are drawn to an Alaska cruise? The ecology-minded, for sure, and those who appreciate scenery and a pure outdoors environment. Families with children are more likely to cruise during the summer months, while seniors predominate during the early and late Alaska cruise seasons.

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A few smaller cruise lines explore the Pacific Northwest region south of Vancouver, including voyages up the Columbia River.

The Northeast

Passenger ships have plied the Atlantic waters off North America for well over a century. One of the most famous was the Fall River Line, made up of elegant steamers that served as transportation between New England and New York City. Another was the legendary Bluenose, a schooner that sailed between Maine and Nova Scotia. And, of course, the great ships of the early twentieth century followed a route from Europe to New York that curved along the Northeast's shores.

Today, coastal cruising in the Northeast is experiencing a renaissance, with ships sailing between two of North America's great cities, New York City and Montreal. (See Figure 7-2.) The most common intermediary stops:

* Newport, Rhode Island, the site of some of America's greatest mansions.

* Boston, Massachusetts, the "cradle of liberty" of the United States.

* Bar Harbor, Maine, gateway to Acadia National Park.

* Saint John, New Brunswick, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, two key cities of the Canadian Maritime Provinces.

* Quebec City, Quebec, a little bit of seventeenth-century France right here in North America.

The Northeast cruise season extends from late spring through fall. Fall foliage cruises in October are especially popular. The passengers who are found aboard a Northeast cruise are diverse. History and tradition are what attract them.

Ships occasionally venture into more southerly Atlantic waters, often as part of repositioning cruises from the Northeast to the Caribbean. Among the possible ports visited: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, Norfolk, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, increasingly, are serving as departure ports for cruises, as well.

A very popular cruise itinerary is the East Coast to Bermuda run. Operated from April through October (primarily from New York City), it provides an intriguing alternative to staying at a Bermuda hotel. (Bermuda limits new hotel construction, so landbased lodging is often at a premium.) Once there, cruise passengers can experience quaint towns and pink-sand beaches.

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The Mississippi River and Its Tributaries

A quick quiz. Which of the following cities can you get to from the Mississippi or one of the rivers from which it flows: Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, Little Rock, Memphis, New Orleans, Chattanooga, Charleston?

The answer: All of them. (See Figure 7-3.) It's amazing how many fascinating places border the great rivers of America. Regular cruise ships rarely sail the Mississippi or its tributaries. The waters are too shallow. But two other kinds of vessels do--riverboats and large passenger barges.

The great riverboats of the nineteenth century were legendary, the stuff of Mark Twain novels. In the early twentieth century, they virtually disappeared. Their comeback has been spectacular, with new paddlewheelers--every bit as ornate and majestic as the original ones--carrying passengers year-round to some of America's most interesting places. They're like time machines to America's past.

Who favors a North American river cruise adventure? Those passengers tend to be older and fairly upscale, with a deep interest in history. They're willing to forgo a resort-like onboard ship experience for the simple pleasures of visiting a restored plantation home, experiencing a Cajun music festival, exploring a vital city, or simply sitting in a rocking chair on the boat's "front porch," watching America's past and present glide gracefully by.

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Mexico's Pacific Coast

Sun, sand, great shopping, sensational food, a fiesta spirit--these and more attract tourists to Mexico. And these very same things appeal to those who wish to take a cruise along Mexico's Pacific coast.

Three itineraries are typical. The first is a three- or four-day round-trip out of Los Angeles or San Diego (often as an extended weekend getaway) to Ensenada, a festive town on the Baja Peninsula. (See Figure 7-4.) Along the way, ships sometimes stop at Catalina, a charming island only 26 miles off California's coast. This itinerary operates year-round and often serves as a "sampler" for first-time cruisers. Typically, passengers are of all ages and interests.

The second itinerary is longer. It takes passengers one way between Acapulco and Los Angeles or San Diego (in either direction). This "Mexican Riviera" itinerary operates mostly in the winter and features the following ports:

* Cabo San Lucas, at the southern tip of Baja. The big attractions here are beautiful coves, snorkeling, and superb deep-sea fishing.

* Mazatlan, another fishing paradise that offers jungle tours, shopping, folklore shows, and lively cantinas.

* Puerto Vallarta, with pristine beaches, an extensive market, and a dramatic golf course.

* Acapulco, Mexico's grand old resort. Numerous night spots, countless restaurants, and the famous cliff divers make Acapulco a dramatic beginning or end to a cruise.

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The third itinerary is a variation of the previous two. The ship sails from Los Angeles, visits three ports, then returns to Los Angeles.

Often associated with the Mexican Riviera is a Panama Canal cruise. Beginning in Acapulco, this route takes passengers to the Canal, perhaps visiting a Central American port along the way. After passing through the Canal, the vessel may call on ports in Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean itself. The itinerary, of course, can operate in reverse, from the Caribbean to Acapulco. Panama Canal cruises generally last 10 to as many as 24 days. Some shorter itineraries that focus on the Caribbean and Latin America do transit a lock or two of the Panama Canal as a special voyage feature and sometimes call on Colon, Panama.

The Caribbean

It's the number-one cruise destination in the world. And it's one of the most misunderstood as well.

Here are three things the layman usually gets wrong. First, Bermuda is not in the Caribbean. It's nearly 1,000 miles north of the Caribbean, at about the same latitude as Charleston, South Carolina. (See Figure 7-2.) Second, the Bahamas aren't in the Caribbean, either. They, too, are in the Atlantic, just east of Florida and north of Cuba. (See Figure 7-5.) (They are, however, often on Caribbean itineraries. More about that later.) And third, the Caribbean islands are not all alike. There are big ones, small ones, mountainous ones, and flat ones, with just about every culture and nationality represented.

Three basic Caribbean cruise itineraries exist: the Eastern Caribbean, Southern Caribbean, and Western Caribbean. For convenience, let's add the Bahamas as a fourth itinerary option. One proviso: What constitutes each region is open to debate. Some cruise lines, for example, call on Martinique as part of an Eastern Caribbean sailing. Others include it in their Southern Caribbean program. Still, we need to organize these islands in some fashion. What follows is the general pattern. Most of these cruises operate year-round, though fewer ships are positioned here in the summer than in the winter.

The Bahamas A Bahamas cruise is to the East Coast what an Ensenada/Baja cruise is to the West Coast--a three- to four-day getaway that often provides travelers with their first taste of cruising. Most cruises to the Bahamas depart from Miami or Port Everglades (at Ft. Lauderdale). Others leave from Port Canaveral (east of Orlando) or Tampa. As with an Ensenada cruise, the people onboard are highly diversified. The key Bahamian port is Nassau, with wonderful shopping, historical attractions, and great diving nearby. Four-day itineraries often include Freeport. The Bahamas are also occasionally visited on longer itineraries out of New York City, Baltimore, or Philadelphia.

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The Eastern Caribbean This itinerary (seven days or more) usually begins and ends in Miami, Port Everglades, or San Juan, Puerto Rico, with its historic old city and many lovely beaches. (Some cruises depart from Port Canaveral.) The ships then sail eastward, (See Figure 7-6.) calling on a number of the following islands:

* The U.S. Virgin Islands, made up of St. Thomas (great scenery and shopping), St. Croix, and St. John (only the smallest ships anchor here).

* The British Virgin Islands, much less developed than their U.S. counterparts. On one of these islands (Virgin Gorda) is "The Baths," a unique beachside formation of boulders.

* St. Martin/St. Maarten, governed jointly by the French and the Dutch. Ships anchor on the Dutch side (St. Maarten), where most of the shopping can be found. The French portion (St. Martin) is famous for its fine restaurants.

* Antigua, a lush tropical island with a unique attraction, "Nelson's Dockyard," where the British Caribbean fleet was headquartered during the eighteenth century.

* Guadeloupe and Martinique, which share much in common: French culture, volcanoes, deep-green scenery, and plenty of shopping.

* Other Eastern Caribbean islands that some cruise lines call on are Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and St. Kitts.

The Southern Caribbean Less visited than the other Caribbean regions, the Southern Caribbean is a popular choice for those looking for a more exotic, port-intensive itinerary. Cruises generally leave and return from either San Juan, Puerto Rico, or Bridgetown, Barbados. (See Figure 7-7.) Among the islands visited:

* The "ABC Islands" (for the letters that start each of their names): Aruba and Curacao, with their fine beaches, casinos, and picturesque Dutch buildings, and Bonaire, one of the Caribbean's greatest dive destinations

* Trinidad, the home of steel drum bands, calypso music, and the limbo

* Barbados, a busy island with old plantation homes and an underground wonder, "Harrison's Cave"

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Southern Caribbean itineraries sometimes include ports on the South American mainland, such as La Guaira (the port for Caracas, Venezuela) and Cartagena, Colombia. Some also visit Margarita Island, a Venezuelan island just north of that country's coast.

The Western Caribbean Conveniently accessed from the same Florida ports as Bahamas cruises, and occasionally from Houston, Galveston, or New Orleans, the Western Caribbean (sometimes including the Gulf of Mexico's coastal cities) offers a broad spectrum of island and mainland experiences. (See Figure 7-8.) Here are the most popular:

* Cancun, on the Yucatan Peninsula, one of Mexico's most popular resorts. Cancun has good shopping, great restaurants, and plenty of entertainment. Relatively nearby are several remarkable Mayan ruins. Off Cancun is Cozumel Island, where some ships dock, too. Diving and fishing have made Cozumel famous.

* The Cayman Islands, another legendary diving spot. Two famous attractions: a turtle farm and "Stingray City," where divers can swim with these ominous-looking yet gentle creatures.

* Jamaica, famous for its reggae music, varied landscape, and numerous attractions. The best-known: "Dunns River Falls," where a river cascades down a series of step-like stones that visitors can climb.

* Haiti, on the western side of the large island of Hispaniola. Its blend of French and African cultures is intriguing, and its folk art is widely collected.

* The Dominican Republic, occupying the eastern side of Hispaniola. It boasts historical sites, many golf courses, and shopping venues.

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Sometimes included on a Western Caribbean itinerary are such Mexican mainland ports as Tampico and Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, as well as Key West, Florida. The Central American ports of Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, Roatan Island, Honduras, and Belize City, Belize, are also increasingly popular. If the political situation changes, Cuba will probably become a major cruise destination. Remember, too, that many Western Caribbean cruises stop at Nassau, Bahamas.

The huge variety of options in the Caribbean demonstrates why it's so popular. This diversity also reflects itself in the composition of cruise passengers. Caribbean and Bahamian cruises attract just about every kind and age group of passenger imaginable.

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Cruising Europe

After North America, Europe is the world's most popular cruise destination. The combination of history, architecture, cuisine, and elegant living make Europe an especially seductive continent to cruise. Except for a few places, virtually every country in Europe is accessible to seagoing or rivergoing vessels.

Cruising offers many benefits that are especially well suited to Europe:

* Cruises make visiting the Continent efficient. Transfers, border crossings, and the like are inconsequential if you're cruising.

* Language problems are minimized. There's no need to decipher road signs or figure out from which track your train will be departing.

* Cruises guarantee a consistent level of accommodations and dining, something that's somewhat unpredictable with land-based European lodging.

* Considering how expensive gas, tolls, and good European lodging can be, cruises offer a real value.

* Cruises are especially interesting to veteran European visitors, since ships call on many ports off the beaten "land-based" path. Culture seekers and history buffs favor European cruises.

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Six itineraries predominate: the Western Mediterranean; the Eastern Mediterranean; Atlantic ports; Ireland, Great Britain, and the North Sea; the Baltic Sea; and river cruises. Most are 7 to 14 days long and take place in late spring, summer, and early fall.

Let's review those six, keeping in mind that--as with the Caribbean--there can be plenty of variations.

The Western Mediterranean

Few regions offer as much culture as the Western Mediterranean. It's known for its sophisticated lifestyle: historic villages, chic boutiques, rich art galleries, fine wines, and refined cuisine. A Western Mediterranean cruise typically calls on ports on the mainlands of Spain, France, and Italy. The Balearic Islands, Gibraltar, and the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and Malta are popular, too. (See Figure 7-9.) Morocco, a North African country south of Spain, often is included on Western Mediterranean cruises. And some ships venture out past the Strait of Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic.

The three most popular ports of embarkation and debarkation in the Western Mediterranean are Barcelona, Spain, Nice (on the French Riviera), and Rome, Italy. Several dozen other ports are popular intermediary stops. (Note: Rome's port is actually the town of Civitavecchia. For a list of the ports that serve other major European and Middle Eastern cities, see Figure 7-10.)

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The Eastern Mediterranean

For those who treasure ancient history, few places rival the Eastern Mediterranean. From the key ports of Venice, Athens (Piraeus), and Istanbul, ships sail forth to retrace the paths of Homer, Herodotus, and other greats from antiquity. (See Figure 7-11.)

Which are the most popular places for ships to visit? Greece, of course, especially its islands of Corfu, Mikonos, Crete, Santorini, and Rhodes; the legendary ancient cities of Turkey (of these, Ephesus is the most famous); and, despite the fact that they're in the Middle East and Africa, not Europe, the ancient nations of Israel and Egypt.

Atlantic Europe

Sometimes as part of a repositioning cruise (more about that later), other times an itinerary in itself, an Atlantic European cruise usually features Portugal, France, and, occasionally, Spain, Ireland, and Great Britain. (See Figure 7-12.) If it were a long cruise, the itinerary might start at Malaga, on Spain's southern Costa del Sol, journey around to Lisbon, Portugal, continue northward to Bordeaux, France, and finish in London, England. Another variation might commence in Lisbon and finish at Le Havre, Paris's northern port.

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Ireland, Great Britain, and the North Sea

Familiarity--that's what makes Europe's northwest regions especially attractive. The culture is familiar, the cities well known. But cruising enables even the veteran traveler to experience these places in an altogether different way.

The variations here are many. Some cruises circle Ireland, others go around Great Britain. A common itinerary starts in England and goes on to ports in Belgium, the Netherlands (especially Amsterdam), Germany (via Hamburg), Norway and its western fjord coast, and Denmark (the most important port here is Copenhagen). (See Figure 7-13.)

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The Baltic Sea

Increasingly popular, a Baltic cruise takes in many countries that are less commonly visited than other European destinations. Here's one possible itinerary: The ship leaves Hamburg or Copenhagen for Stockholm, Sweden, and ends at that former home of the tsars, St. Petersburg, Russia. (See Figure 7-14.) A more southerly route would take the ship along an uncommon path, past the three Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, perhaps with a stop at Tallinn, Estonia.

River Cruises

Many tourists believe that those destinations in Europe's interior can't be part of a cruise. This is hardly true. Pre- or postcruise tours, of course, offer limitless possibilities. But so do river cruises.

Among the most popular rivers for boat and barge cruises are France's Rhone (and the nation's many canals), Germany's Rhine and Elbe, and Russia's Volga. (See Figure 7-15.) THE cruise river, though, is the Danube. Here are three cities that a Danube cruise might visit: Vienna, Austria, Budapest, Hungary, and Bratislava, Slovakia. A glittering trio of cities, don't you think?

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Cruising the Rest of the World

North America and Europe dominate today's cruise market. But there's every indication that more "exotic" places are becoming increasingly popular to today's more adventuresome traveler.

Cruising is well suited to unusual destinations. Air, rail, and roads in Africa, Asia, and South America can be challenging. Border crossings are complex, monetary exchange rates confusing, lodging unpredictable, and safety a concern. A cruise cushions the traveler from much of this, providing a secure, reliable environment from which to explore adventurous destinations. The only thing that can get in the way: terrorism or political unrest, which cruise lines swiftly respond to by altering or, in extreme cases, canceling itineraries and repositioning their cruises elsewhere.

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Four regions feature an especially favorable context for off-the-beaten-path cruising: Central and South America, the Pacific, Asia, and Africa. Let's look at each.

Central and South America

A land of diverse topography, cultures, and attractions, Central and South America offer a wealth of ports to explore. Central America--one of the world's prime ecological destinations--is sometimes visited as part of a trans-Panama Canal or Western Caribbean cruise. South America's Atlantic Coast is quite popular, too (especially from October to April), with departures typically out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Intermediate stops might include Devil's Island (off French Guiana) and such Brazilian cities as Belem, Recife, and Salvador. (See Figure 7-16.) Some ships journey up the Amazon River, all the way to Manaus.

Occasionally, cruise lines visit South America's Pacific coast or even offer a month-long itinerary around South America. The latter routing would go beyond Rio and visit Montevideo, Uruguay, Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Falkland Islands, through the Strait of Magellan, and on to South America's Pacific coast. Most likely Pacific ports of call are Valparaiso, Chile (Santiago's port), and Callao, Peru (Lima's port), with many other possibilities in between.

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Before rounding South America's tip, however, the ship might "detour" to Antarctica, one of the most remote places possible, usually by way of Ushuaia, Argentina, and/or Punta Arenas, Chile. (Some cruises visit Antarctica from New Zealand.)

Many of South America's grandest attractions are inland, but can be visited as part of a shore excursion or a pre- or postcruise package. Among the possibilities are mighty Iguazu Falls, accessed from Brazil, and Peru's Machu Picchu (reached from Lima via Cuzco). Two other remote destinations are Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands, both far off to the west of South America.

The Pacific

The perfect tropical island--of such places dreams are made. That's why the Pacific is a fantasy destination for so many. There are thousands of picture-perfect tropical islands sprinkled about the Pacific's 64 million square miles of water. (See Figure 7-17.)

And what more efficient way to sample them than on a cruise? In the South Pacific, ships primarily sail the islands of Tahiti and Fiji, but Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands are visited as well. (See Figure 7-18 for a Tahitian itinerary.) Farther south, cruises around New Zealand and along the eastern coast of Australia are quite popular. Most South Pacific cruises operate November through April, when the Southern Hemisphere's climate is at its best.

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In the North Pacific, Hawaii has been a popular cruise destination since the early twentieth century. (Prior to the jet age, ships were the primary way of getting there.) A cruise represents an efficient way of visiting several Hawaiian islands without having to pack and unpack. One or two ships are permanently based there and call on Fanning Island, part of the Republic of Kiribati, to the south. Repositioning cruises in the spring and fall often stop in Hawaii along the way.

Asia

To summarize all the cruise itineraries that feature Asian ports is next to impossible. A few general patterns exist, though. The political climate permitting, several sailings weave through the many islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. (See Figure 7-19.) A second pattern: Southeast Asia, with Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore as key countries. India's ports are on a few itineraries, often in conjunction with Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Hong Kong and other major Chinese and Taiwanese ports constitute another typical itinerary. Finally, Japan and South Korea represent a natural geographic combination for cruising. Most cruises that visit Asia take place between October and May, though a few ships remain during the summer months.

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Africa

Five major cruise itineraries for Africa predominate.

* The first includes the northwestern African nations of Tunisia and Morocco, sometimes in combination with the Canary and Madeira Islands. (See Figure 7-20.) These cruises generally take place from May through October.

* The second itinerary lies on and off Africa's east coast. The ports of Mombasa, Kenya, or Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are usually coupled with such Indian Ocean islands as Zanzibar, Madagascar, the Seychelles, the Comoros, Reunion, and Mauritius.

* The third pattern is a variation of the second. Instead of returning to either Mombasa or Dar es Salaam, the ship sails on to South Africa (or vice versa).

* A fourth itinerary visits Africa's west coast. These last three itineraries typically take place in the Southern Hemisphere's summer, which is November through March.

* Finally, there's one of the most legendary cruise itineraries of all, the Nile River, usually between Egypt's Aswan and Luxor. Nile cruises operate year-round and employ boats specially designed for river cruises--unlike the Amazon, regular cruise ships cannot navigate the Nile.

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For a summary of the destination information you've just read, see Figure 7-21. Note also that you've just read about the major itinerary patterns. Many others exist. Some of these lesser-known itineraries may become popular as consumers experience them and become jaded about the more common voyages. Indeed, this has already started in the Caribbean. Mass-market cruise lines have begun to call on islands that most people had never heard of only a decade ago.

Repositioning Cruises

Throughout this text we've referred to repositioning cruises. A repositioning cruise occurs at the end of one region's high season and the beginning of another's high season. It would be folly, for example, to leave two dozen cruise ships idle in Alaska's winter when they could be deployed elsewhere.

Here are the most common repositioning cruises in September, October, and November:

* From Europe across the Atlantic to Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, or even South America

* From the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal to Africa's east coast and its islands or into Asia

* From Alaska down the U.S. west coast to Mexico, the Panama Canal, and/or the Caribbean. (Sometimes the ship may "sidetrack" to Hawaii along the way.)

* From Alaska across the Pacific to Hawaii and on to Asia or the South Pacific.

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From March to May these repositioning cruises are reversed. For instance, a ship stationed in the Caribbean might cross the Atlantic to return to Europe.

Though repositioning cruises typically feature many days at sea (and are quite a value), every attempt is made to call on ports along the way. A ship sailing, say, from Northern Europe to the Caribbean might dock at the Azores, Bermuda, and Miami.

Some Miscellaneous Thoughts

* Occasionally, cruise lines operate "cruises to nowhere." Typically, the ship leaves a port, circles out for a few days, then returns--without making intermediate stops. Passengers are kept occupied by the activities that take place on the ship.

* Allied to this is the concept of the ship as a destination. The vessel is marketed as a floating resort, competing for the consumer's attention and dollars with land-based resorts in Las Vegas, Mexico, Hawaii, and Orlando. The goal is to make the passenger feel that the ship is every bit as interesting a place as the ports visited.

* Sometimes a ship's "culture" is strongly affected by its crew's countries of origin. The ambiance of a vessel with Greek crew members might be exuberant and hearty. Another with a crew from Britain might be more formal and refined.

* On rare occasions, a port on the itinerary may be substituted or deleted. Two possible reasons for such a change might be stormy weather conditions or political unrest at the port or region visited.

* Large cruise lines tend to feature newer and larger ships at mass-market destinations. Somewhat older and more modestly sized vessels predominate on itineraries to more exotic places, like Asia, Africa, and South America.

* Some cruise lines call at their very own privately owned islands. Most are in the Bahamas or the Caribbean and feature picnics, barbecues, nature trails, organized games, local craft vendors, all manner of watersports, and broad stretches of pristine sand.

* Meals aboard ship are often themed with appropriate food and waiter "costumes." One night might have a Caribbean theme, the next, Italian. Oddly, these might have no relationship to where the ship is traveling that night. A Polynesian night can occur in the Greek islands; a Greek night can occur in Polynesia. (The cruise lines do try to ensure, through entertainment or food, that the destination and shipboard ambiance, to some extent, match.)

* Some cruise line chefs do believe, however, that food should reflect the region the ship is visiting. But not in the way you might think. They argue that cold weather destinations make people want higher-calorie, more bland food, while warm tropical places make passengers want lighter yet spicier cuisine.

* CLIA publishes a handy grid that cross-references major destination regions with its member lines. This enables you to find out which cruise lines visit a certain area of the globe. For an example, see Figure 7-22.

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Questions for Discussion and Activity

This chapter's Questions for Discussion and Activity are combined. They're also different from the ones you've done before. Below is a list of cruise ports. Your assignment: to identify the country or U.S. state for each port. Use any resource at your disposal. (An atlas might be a good start.) A clue: Some--but not all--are mentioned in this chapter.
Port                 Country or
                     U.S. State

Auckland
Bali
Bar Harbor
Barcelona
Barranquilla
Bergen
Bombay (Mumbai)
Budapest
Buenos Aires
Cairns
Callao
Cape Town
Casablanca
Catalina
Charlotte Amalie
Civitavecchia
Cozumel
Dakar
Ensenada
Fort-de-France
Haifa
Halifax
Hamilton
Istanbul
Juneau
Key West
Kusadasi
Lahaina
Leith
Mahe
Manaus
Manila
Marigot
Mazatlan
Mombasa
Montego Bay
Montevideo
Nassau
New Orleans
Nice
Ocho Rios
Odessa
Papeete
Philipsburg
Piraeus
Port Everglades
Port Kelang
Port of Spain
Portofino
Pusan
Recife
Santorini
Seward
Shanghai
Singapore
Sitka
Southampton
Stockholm
Tallinn
Tunis
Valletta
Valparaiso
Vancouver
Yokohama
Zanzibar
Zeebrugge


Marc Mancini, Ph.D.

Professor of Travel

West Los Angeles College
FIGURE 7-10 European and Middle Eastern ports

Here are the ports that serve important towns and cities on European/
Middle Eastern itineraries:

* Alexandria                Cairo, Egypt
* Cadiz                     Seville, Spain
* Civitavecchia             Rome, Italy
* Haifa                     Jerusalem, Israel
* Kusadasi                  Ephesus, Turkey
* Le Havre                  Paris, France
* Leith                     Edinburgh, Scotland
* Livorno                   Florence, Italy
* Piraeus                   Athens, Greece
* Southampton               London, England
* Zeebrugge                 Brussels, Belgium

FIGURE 7-21 Destination summary

Region                Starting/Ending Ports         Season

Alaska                Vancouver, Seattle,           May--October
                      Anchorage

Northeast             New York City, Montreal       Late spring--fall

North America--       Mississippi River ports       Year-round
Rivers

Mexico--round-trip    Los Angeles, San Diego        Year-round

Mexico--one-way       Los Angeles, San Diego,       Winter
                      Acapulco

Bahamas               Miami, Port Everglades,       Year-round
                      Port Canaveral, Tampa

Bermuda               New York City, other East     Late spring--
                      Coast cities                  early fall

Caribbean--Eastern    Miami, Port Everglades,       Year-round
                      San Juan

Caribbean--Southern   San Juan, Aruba, Barbados     Year-round

Caribbean--Western    Miami, Port Everglades,       Year-round
                      Port Canaveral, Tampa,
                      Houston, Galveston, New
                      Orleans

Mediterranean--       Barcelona, Nice,              Late spring--
Western               Civitavecchia                 early fall

Mediterranean--       Venice, Piraeus, Istanbul     Late spring--
Eastern                                             early fall

Europe--Atlantic      Malaga, London, Lisbon,       Late spring--
                      Le Havre                      early fall

Europe--Ireland,      London, Copenhagen            Late spring--
Great Britain,                                      early fall
North Sea

Europe--Baltic        Hamburg, Copenhagen,          Late spring--
Sea                   St. Petersburg                early fall

Europe--Rivers        Rhone, Rhine, Elbe,           Late spring--
                      Volga, Danube ports           early fall

Central and South     San Juan, Rio de              October--April
America               Janeiro, Callao

Antarctica            Southern South American       January--February
                      ports

Hawaii and            Various                       Year-round
Pacific Islands

Asia                  Various                       October--May

Africa--Northwest     Various                       May--October

Africa--East coast    Mombasa, Dar es Salaam        November--March

Africa--West coast    Various                       November--March
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Author:Mancini, Marc
Publication:Cruising, A Guide to the Cruise Line Industry, 2nd ed.
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:5567
Previous Article:Chapter 6 The pre-, post-, and off-ship cruise experience.
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