Cruising the Southern Caribbean

By: Michael C. Podlesny

Vacationing in the Southern Caribbean via a cruise ship offers all the amenities, benefits and perks of a one-stop-shopping mega store. In this day and age of mass consumerism, it's easy to see why the vacationing public is increasingly drawn to this mode of travel. All of the best dining, drinks, and shops are offered in proximity of guests' staterooms (that's what they call the staying quarters on the ship.) Tourists can experience sun and sea, luxurious accommodations, and explore a slew of tropical islands all while unpacking once. Here we examine three major cruise lines traveling the Southern Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Since they are all same caliber, traveling to the same islands, many of their outstanding features are similar. For example, all three cruise lines traveling the Southern Caribbean have casinos, extensive spas, casual and fine dining experiences, themed bars and lounges, live entertainment, and supervised youth programs. Average prices per night range from $650-$2000 depending on the location of your stateroom. An interior room will be the most economical, an ocean view falls into the next pricing level and a balcony room is always the splurge.

Because they are so similar it's important to find the exceptional feature(s) of each cruise line. Weeding out the similarities and bringing key attributes to the forefront will help you decide which cruise line is best for your family or travel group.

The Princess Cruise Line experience, although offer youth programs, facilities and child care is not necessarily geared towards children. A quick glance at their website largely depicts adults lounging, sipping champagne, and dining in fine attire. They boast specialty restaurants, a cigar lounge and a wine caviar bar. Guests can also partake in the Scholarship at Sea, which offers over forty enrichment courses per voyage. Adults can indulge in a number of classes from cooking, visual arts, computer skills, photography and ceramics. A trip aboard a Princess Cruise Ship will offer personal enrichment along with extensive spa, fitness, and salon services.

Norwegian Cruise Lines offer something unique called "freestyle cruising." This means there are no fixed dining schedules, no dress code except for resort casual, and open ended disembarkation - you can leave the ship at port whenever you are good and ready. They too claim the most luxurious of spas and the best casinos at sea - and they most likely live up to high expectations. This added feature of flexibility however, may be ideal for large groups of varying age ranges, where it may be difficult to get everyone ready for a 5:30pm dinner seating.

Carnival Cruise Lines pack a punch in every one of their cruise ships, or 'fun ships' as they're referred to on their website. Carnival boasts boat loads of activities for all ages with special attention to the youth experience. Camp Carnival is geared towards children ages 2-11, that is broken down into toddler, junior, and intermediate. Children, under watch of camp counselors, can experience arts and crafts, games, and swimming. Club C, ages 12-14, is a program where kids can hang with their peers, go to supervised parties, play games, etc. Finally, Club O2 is the teen experience, for teens 15-17, and was voted 2007 Travel Age West Editors Pick for Best Onboard Teen Program. CLUB O2 mixes friends, music, entertainment, sports and style for the ultimate high seas` top teen cruising experience.

The right cruise line will stretch your dollar, giving you more bang for your buck; the wrong one will leave you disenchanted in the middle of that big blue sea. As with all travel, do your research to find the best deals and experiences!

By: Maryann Loprete
Edited By: Michael C. Podlesny

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