Vacations can be fun, entertaining and relaxing. They can also be an awful hassle if you are going to be visiting more than one destination.
Those opting for a one-stop trip more often than not end up in a resort that provides virtually all they need from meals to entertainment. If they are lucky enough to be in an area where there are other things to see and do, all the better.
The truth of the matter, though, is that those who go to most any resort end up sitting around all day, swimming a bit and perhaps taking in the entertainment in the evening. There are alternatives.
Cruising is, in fact, a resort that refuses to stay in one spot. And you have a choice that is pretty wide-ranging. There are the floating cities that look as though a piece of California or Florida has broken off and floated out to sea. And then there are smaller and more intimate ships where you can actually get to know the captain, the crew and, most important, other passengers.
This is not to knock the huge ships. They are great. But smaller cruise lines that go where the big guys can’t are a fantastic option. In some cases, the large ships are required to tender passengers ashore because harbors aren’t deep enough. Most inland rivers are, as well, way too shallow.
Filling in the gap are cruise lines such as Uniworld with its amazing European and Asian river cruises. The river ships are odd looking, appearing as though they were somehow stretched. Most only have three or four decks as opposed to major ships with up to 15 decks.
On cruises, such as those operated by Uniworld, lasting friendships have come to pass with passengers interacting with each other. The itineraries are scheduled so that a great deal came be seen and visited without the feeling of being hurried and hustled from one site to another.
A two-week run from Vienna to Bucharest, or back the other way, offers amazing options through the ports along the Danube River. There are palaces, opera houses, churches and synagogues; there is history and the historic.
But the Danube is not the only options. Check out the “Castles along the Rhine” cruises that pass through areas where Germany is on one side of the river and France on the other while aboard the SS Antoinette or River Empress. You’ll be able to see castles built along the majestic waterway, and beautiful and quaint villages and town that border the banks. There’s even the opportunity to sip wines from the vineyards where they are grown.
Start off in Switzerland in Basel and cruise for eight days to Amsterdam; try beautiful Prague on the way to Basel for 10 days on the River Ambassador. The River Queen will take you along the Rhine and Mosel for 13 days through five countries and through the UNESCO-designated Rhine River Valley.
There is an itinerary planned for each port of call. Many of the tours are included with a selection of optional trips at an extra cost. For the most part, Uniworld cruises are all-inclusive with on board and ashore gratuities, all meals on board, unlimited beverages, airport transfers and excursions led by local experts.
For those who are smart enough to plan in advance, Uniworld is offering a discount for couples. That expires at the end of the month, but check and see what is available. For more information, contact www.uniworld.com.
St. Kitts has always had a great argument for the title of the “Friendliest Island in the Caribbean.” Locals will frequently stop visitors to chat and offer help if they see a need. It is also one of the more beautiful islands in the tropics.
Attesting to its lure as a vacation destination, St. Kitts has become a major cruise stop for the big ships and their thousands of passengers. For the first time in the island’s history, more than one million passengers are expected to disembark this season, a whopping 31 percent increase over last year and more than 500 percent in less than a decade.
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas has slated six calls to the island. This year, for the first time since 2009, Disney will return with the Disney Magic making port calls. Oceana and Norwegian Cruise Lines together will make 17 stops.
All of this is no wonder. St. Kitts, along with its sister island, Nevis, has been ranked as #3 on a list of best islands in the world and best Caribbean vacations.
The sister islands (Nevis is the birthplace of American hero Alexander Hamilton) offer many historic sites, manmade wonders such as Brimstone Hill, the amazing fortress overlooking Nevis and the only manmade UNESCO World Heritage site in the Eastern Caribbean.
Bob and Sandy Nesoff are members of the American Society of Authors and Journalists.