If you are thinking of some quality down time this summer, now is the time to begin doing research and confirming plans.
You may save a considerable amount of money by doing so because suppliers are anxious to confirm as many bookings as possible. As time draws closer and they arent in dire need of filling rooms and cabins, prices are well, pricier. If huge discounts suddenly show up at a late date, its most likely for less than top-of-the-line offerings.
Among the better choices for vacations are all-inclusive resorts, where you know precisely what your costs will be and you dont have to add gratuities or other expenses.
Perhaps one step better is a cruise. Your hotel room travels with you and there is no need to pack and unpack; all meals are included (except certain premium restaurants on board), entertainment is free, and relaxation and enjoyment are incomparable.
While the hottest spots on the majority of itineraries are the Caribbean islands, smaller cruise lines have opened up a new world of memorable vacations. Uniworld sails the Danube in Eastern Europe and offers trips to Vietnam and Cambodia, Disney invites the whole family to enjoy quality time together and even caters to couples, Celebrity runs the gamut from Alaska to the Caribbean and Europe, and Royal Caribbean International offers new ships and upgraded accommodations.
The focus this week will be on Disney and Celebrity.
Just the mention of the name Disney conjures up images of hordes of children. You cant escape the fact that there could be somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000 children on board any Disney liner. But, anyone cruising one of those ships has come away amazed at the fact that the little ones are never underfoot. Programs designed to keep the youngsters happy and occupied are arguably the finest in the leisure industry.
There is adult time as well. Late shows are designed for a more mature audience, although dont expect the likes of X-rated Andrew Dice Clay performances. One thing that is missing on Disney ships is a casino. A Disney executive says the line decided to forego the substantial income a casino produces in order not to have parents sitting at a slot machine to the exclusion of their children.
Disney has expanded to Europe and now sails out of New York in addition to its numerous Florida sailings. Its Caribbean itinerary ends with a day at its fabulous private island, Castaway Cay, with swimming, water sports and sting ray feedings. For information, go to http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/.
Celebrity Cruise Lines has also added the New York/New Jersey area to its itinerary, leaving from Bayonne.
While there are nowhere near the number of children onboard a Celebrity ship, that doesnt mean the line does not provide for them. They are a strong focus for specialized activities.
Accommodations on board any Celebrity liner are always top shelf. Entertainment, decidedly more adult-oriented (although not X-rated), offers top-of-the-line singers, dancers and comedians who could easily appear on Broadway.
With a comprehensive set of itineraries that include the Caribbean as well as Alaska, Europe, South Pacific, Canada and New England, Celebrity has been making waves. For further information, go to http://www.celebritycruises.com/manifesto/home.
All cabins are roomy and comfortable. Of course, the pricier cabins offer more amenities, but even the lower-cost inside cabins does not skimp on space and comfort.
Celebrity has introduced interesting new amenities that include a grass patio, putting green and huge umbrella-like cabanas on the sunny decks. There are even huge Adirondack chairs that draw passengers for a photo op.
These ships certainly are not your grandmothers cruise liners. But, although they have grown to become huge floating resorts, the better lines still provide excellent personal service and offer comfort beyond expectations.
Bob and Sandy Nesoff are members of the American Society of Authors and Journalists.