Cruise Guide: Breathtaking fall foliage cruises beckon passengers

By Mike Coleman

It’s hard to tell when the seasons actually change here in Southwest Florida but if you’re among the lucky ones cruising from the United States to Eastern Canada, you know that fall is in the air.

Over the next two months some of the world’s leading cruise lines will be showcasing the brilliant gold, yellow, red and orange autumn hues viewed from high atop a lido deck near you. Many cruises not only feature New York, Boston, Quebec City and Montreal on their fall itineraries, they also include calls on quaint coastal villages featuring regional fare to warm your bones, from steamy New England clam chowder to Nova Scotia’s famed lobster.

Worried that such cruises are too sedentary? Think again. Optional sightseeing excursions run the gamut – from pub crawls in historic Halifax (with your very own band of roving musicians) to clambakes on private islands. Let’s not forget Broadway shows, haunted walks, touring New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy by jet boat, or visiting lighthouses in Maine.

Carnival Triumph will sail a series of cruises round-trip from New York. Ports include Boston, Portland, Sydney and Halifax. Sightseeing highlights include scenic Peggy’s Cove, the Fortress of Louisburg and the Moosehead Brewery.

Celebrity’s Constellation will offer guests roundtrip voyages from Cape Liberty, NJ. Highlights include Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax; an overnight stay in Quebec City, the Saguenay River and Portland. Among the sightseeing options are trips from Quebec City to the St. Anne de Beaupre shrine, combined with a visit to Montmorency Falls – one-and-a-half times as high as Niagara Falls.

Holland America’s Maasdam will operate a series of itineraries to Canada/New England, from Montreal to Boston and Boston to Montreal. Highlights include cruising the St. Lawrence River with stops in Quebec City, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Sydney, Halifax and Bar Harbor. Guests might want to become a 19th Century Redcoat soldier for a day, as offered on a special shore excursion.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel, which debuted in Europe this month, will sail on a series of 11-day Canada/New England itineraries roundtrip from New York. Itinerary highlights include Boston; Bar Harbor; cruising the Cabot Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence; Halifax; Quebec City; cruising the Saguenay River; Sydney; cruising the Bay of Fundy and Saint John. Sightseeing excursions include sea kayaking, a haunted Halifax walking tour and whale-watching sojourns.

Golden Princess will sail a series of seven week-long sailings roundtrip from New York while Sea Princess will debut in the region with three, 10-day departures from New York to Quebec City. The ship will also sail one Canada/Colonial America voyage along the full length of the Atlantic coast -visiting five of America’s 13 original colonies.

Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas will sail out of Boston on seven-night itineraries to Martha’s Vineyard, Bar Harbor, Portland, Halifax and Saint John. On Sept. 25, the ship sails from Boston to Quebec; and on Oct. 2, the ship sails a seven-night itinerary from Quebec to Fort Lauderdale. Sightseeing highlights include a visit to Maine’s Acadia National Park, a canoe trip and lobster bake.

Not to be outdone, the luxury cruise lines are keeping pace this fall with their own unique twists.

Crystal Cruises will offer five fall itineraries ranging from seven to 11 days aboard Crystal Symphony. Highlights include New York, Bar Harbor and Halifax – among a host of other destinations. Optional sightseeing tours include a Broadway performance and private lunch with the cast of Wicked in New York, an evening theater outing in Boston to see Blue Man Group or Shear Madness, and coastal kayaking along Bar Harbor’s Frenchman’s Bay.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will sail on a 12-day round-trip cruise from New York, departing Sept. 26. Highlights include Sydney; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; Quebec City; Halifax; Portland; Boston and Newport. Optional sightseeing excursions include a pub tour in Halifax complete with that band of roving musicians by your side.

The Radisson Seven Seas Navigator will sail Canada/New England waters on seven, eight and nine-night itineraries between New York and Montreal. The line is offering a host of optional shore excursions, including a ghost tour of Quebec and an excursion via a World War II amphibious vehicle.

Cruises, featuring Silver Whisper, will offer nine, 10, and 11-day cruises. Three itineraries sail between Montreal and New York and a fourth sails from Boston to Montreal. Highlights include Bar Harbor, Boston, Corner Brook, Halifax and Sydney. The line is also offering a unique sightseeing option – a flightseeing tour of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley in all of its autumnal splendor.

Seabourn Pride, meanwhile, will sail seven-day cruises between New York and Quebec City that can be booked as 14-day combination itineraries. Sept. 18 and Oct. 2 sailings from New York to Quebec call at Bar Harbor, Lunenburg and Sydney. A complimentary excursion takes passengers to the Highland Games at Sydney’s Gaelic College. On Sept. 25 and Oct. 9 the ship will call at Halifax, Boston and Newport, sailing between Quebec and New York.

Cruise Guide: Cunard queens to circumnavigate the world in 2007

By Mike Coleman

When executives at Cunard Line promise you the world, they mean it. ¨¨The company is sending its two liners – Queen Mary 2 (QM2) and her sistership Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) – on simultaneous world voyages in 2007, each with a different itinerary.

QM2, the largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive passenger liner ever built, will be embarking on her first world cruise in 2007 while the QE2, arguably the most famous and fastest passenger liner in the world, will be circumnavigating the world for her 25th time.

The Queen Mary 2 World Cruise will visit the world’s major cities and capitals. The QE2 Silver Jubilee World Cruise will visit many of the world’s most famous cities, plus smaller destinations.

Both ships will actually meet during their respective journeys. A Meeting of the Queens will take place in Fort Lauderdale, Jan. 10, 2007, and in Sydney Harbor, Feb. 20, 2007. It will be the first time two Cunard Queens have been in Sydney simultaneously since Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth regularly met there in 1941 and 1942 as part of their wartime duties.

QM2 is scheduled to depart Fort Lauderdale Jan. 10, 2007 and is expected to call on 17 countries. From Fort Lauderdale she will circle South America before making maiden calls in San Francisco, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Cochin, Dubai and Alexandria. QM2 will arrive in her homeport of Southampton, March 26, before sailing back to Fort Lauderdale.

The most experienced world voyager afloat, QE2 meanwhile is expected to depart Southampton Jan. 2 and return on April 21. The voyage will include 40 ports in 25 countries – a mix of famous cities and interesting islands including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii, Tahiti, Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Papua New Guinea, Yokohama, Osaka, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, India, the Seychelles, Durban and Cape Town. Overnight calls will be made at Sydney, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Cape Town.

Complete itineraries and fares will be announced by Cunard soon.

The year 2007 will mark the 85th anniversary of the first world cruise, in 1922-1923, by Cunard’s Laconia.

Cruise Guide: It’s a kid’s world, after all, even on the high seas

By Mike Coleman

Cruise lines are not just bending over backwards to make life onboard enjoyable for their young guests, they’re now designing ships with family friendly amenities clearly in mind. ¨¨More than one million children under the age of 18 took a cruise with their families in 2004, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), and it’s easy to see why. From mock game shows, story hours and treasure hunts to family fun events at poolside.

Even the cabins are getting a makeover. Some of today’s accommodations feature large staterooms with cordoned off sleeping quarters for parents and inter-connecting cabins for families with older kids.

While babysitting services are offered by virtually all major lines, who needs it when an amazing array of amenities and supervised activities are available for kids and parents of all ages.

Renowned for their land-based resorts, Disney’s two ships at sea pack a wallop. Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have nearly an entire deck dedicated to children ages 3 months to 17 years. Oceaneer’s Club, for kids 3 to 7, includes dances with Snow White, a Sebastian’s Musical Sea Search for instruments, and games on the line’s private island. Kids 8 to12 can venture to infinity and beyond at the space and science themed Oceaneer Lab. The Stack (Disney Magic) and Aloft (Disney Wonder) are reserved for kids 13 to 17 and include couches, a soda bar, Internet access, plasma TVs, MP3 players and board games.

Camp Carnival, offered aboard Carnival Cruise Lines, features activities for children in age groups ranging from 2 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17. For the younger set, Carnival ships feature kid-friendly amenities and programs supervised by youth counselors in state-of-the-art facilities some of which measure 4,200 square feet. On several vessels children can also enjoy arts and crafts centers, with spin- and sand-art machines; cascading poolside slides; activity walls; indoor climbing mazes and computer labs. The line also offers expanded children’s menus in the dining rooms and poolside restaurants.

Celebrity’s Family Cruising Program, meanwhile, features activities tailored to the interests of five age groups. Each ship has a staff of eight to 12 youth counselors. Age groups range from 3 to 6; 7 to 9; 10 to 12; 13 to 15 and 16 to 17. Celebrity Science Journeys, offered on every ship, encourage children to learn about science and nature. Other program highlights include youth summer stock theater, junior Olympics, magic lessons, treasure hunts and clown parties.

Each of MSC Cruises’ ships feature a designated children’s area, and MSC Sinfonia also offers a Teen Club. Children are under the supervision of trained youth counselors who coordinate organized games, sports, arts and crafts, and special age-appropriate parties. The line’s ships offer suites (double, queen- or king-sized bed plus sofa bed) and are able to accommodate up to four guests. MSC Lirica, MSC Opera, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Armonia also offer family-sized suites consisting of two rooms.

Norwegian Cruise Line ships offers supervised programs (ages 2 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 12, and 13 to 17) with a host of Kid’s Krew venues, including dining areas exclusively for kids, video arcade rooms and teen clubs. NCL America’s latest vessel, Pride of America, features extensive recreational opportunities for kids, including 250 interconnecting cabins. The ship also has eight 360-square-foot suites with private balcony, living room with double sofa bed and entertainment center, separate den with a single sofa bed, and private bedroom with two twin beds. Four additional family suites feature two interconnecting cabins that sleep up to eight and include two separate bathrooms.

The Love Boat line, Princess, offers a wide range of activities for children in three age-specific programs, with age-appropriate activities and often separate facilities for kids 3 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 to 17. Most ships feature youth and teen centers featuring art, game tables, juke boxes and the latest video games. Newer ships feature such diversions as a toddler’s play area and theater, doll’s house, crawl-through castle and splash pool. Larger vessels also offer expansive children’s and teen centers with indoor and outdoor areas or separate areas for each age group.

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean Youth Program offers five age-appropriate groups for kids. Adventure Science blends science experiments with entertainment. Adventure Art by Crayola offers kids the chance to create cultural masks and pottery. Sail Into Story Time combines a story hour with activities and projects. Adventure Family offers kids and their parents the chance to spend quality time together with a host of activities. The line’s new Freedom of the Seas, scheduled to debut in May 2006, will offer six different family-focused cabin categories specially designed to accommodate larger families.

Not to be outdone, the luxury and premium cruise lines – Crystal, Cunard, Radisson and Holland America – have not forgotten about the importance of their young sailors, either.

Fantasia, aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, features supervised activities, tables and chairs for board games, arts and crafts, giant padded cubes, Sony PlayStation kiosks, and large-screen televisions. Waves is a venue where teenagers can enjoy a video arcade. The line also offers Etiquette Training for Juniors, developed in conjunction with Gollatz Cotillion, where young cruisers learn how to handle themselves in a variety of social situations. During holidays and selected sailings, Crystal offers additional children’s activities under the supervision of experienced Junior Activities Directors in age-appropriate groups.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 have nurseries staffed by accredited British nannies. Aboard these British icons kids can participate in a dedicated Children’s Tea, served each afternoon. Queen Mary 2, the world’s largest liner, features age-appropriate programs for children in three groups: The Nursery provides cribs and cots for children ages 1 to 2 years; The Play Zone offers activities for kids 3 to 6 years old, including pizza parties, movie nights, and face painting; and for older children ages 7 to 10 years The Zone offers scavenger hunts, ship tours, quizzes, DJ booth and Xbox games.

Radisson Seven Seas’ Club Mariner program caters to children aged 6 to 17 and is offered on select voyages. Master Suites aboard Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager are able to accommodate families, and Paul Gauguin now boasts more cabin space for families. This month, kids 9 to 15 sailing aboard Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia can participate in Ambassadors of the Environment, a partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society which provides an interactive experience that encourages ocean responsibility.

Aboard Holland America ships, the Club HAL youth program features age-specific activities designed to provide kids and teens with entertaining choices. Activities planned for children ages 5 through 8 include arts and crafts, face-painting, camp-out night and candy bar Bingo. ‘Tweens, ages 9 through 12, can learn to putt, have dance parties, compete in on-deck sports events, play arcade games and tie-dye T-shirts. Teens can enjoy the teen disco, dance lessons, arcade games, sports tournaments, Sony PlayStation and movies.

Cruise Guide: National Geographic kid’s poll – Cruises rule

By Mike Coleman

The high seas are slowly but surely becoming an ocean playground for kids.

According to a National Geographic Kids magazine survey, cruising now ranks as the No. 1 vacation option among youth and rates as the “perfect summer trip”.

The survey revealed that 35 percent of kids said cruises were their most popular vacation choice. Trips to the beach came in second (17 percent) followed by amusement parks (17 percent), big cities (five percent), lakes (three percent) and summer camp (two percent).

The magazine recently polled 401 kids aged 8 to 14.

“More than one million children under the age of 18 took cruises with their families in 2004,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry’s chief marketing organization.

“And, it’s easy to see why cruise vacations appeal to the whole family.”

Dale said the survey results came as no surprise to CLIA whose 19 member lines Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian Coastal Voyages, NCL, Oceania, Orient Lines, Princess, Radisson Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea, Swan Hellenic and Windstar collectively accommodate 95 percent of the North American cruise passenger market.

It’s no wonder that cruising has become so popular with kids. To keep up with the demand for family travel CLIA-member lines continue to add amenities and activities for the family. Most of today’s lines feature extensive and highly-supervised children’s programs where kids are placed in age-appropriate groups. Teen lounges, video arcades, computer learning centers, toddlers’ play areas and even special shore excursions for children.

Cruise industry growth, in fact, shows no signs of abating. In the last 10 years CLIA-member lines added 100 new ships, 62 of which debuted in the last five years alone.
And who sailed on those ships? A record 10.6 million people took a cruise on a CLIA-member line in 2004. Officials predict that more than 11 million travelers will cruise in 2005 including, of course, a record number of kids.

Cruise Guide: Life onboard – Let the fun begin

By Mike Coleman

From world class cuisine to a host of seemingly endless activities, it’s easy to see why millions of travelers and significant numbers of Naples-area residents are repeat cruise ship guests.

This week, as we conclude our three-part series exploring the best way to plan and make the most of your first – or 10th – cruise vacation, we’ll take an in-depth look at life onboard today’s mega-liners and their intimate counterparts.

The price of your cruise fare includes all meals and in-between snacks, your stateroom, activities, parties (at least one hosted by the captain), entertainment, plus your voyage to some of the most enchanting and culturally-enriching ports in the world.

You won’t have to worry about making dinner or nightclub reservations, running to make flight connections as you travel from one destination to another, or packing and unpacking. You can lie back and be completely pampered. Or, go non-stop. Dine like never before. Enjoy one great show after another.
 
What to do?

Your cruise vacation will include an amazing array of shore excursions to choose from in each port, although each will cost extra. From golf and scuba diving to walking tours and shopping, even private helicopter rides to secluded dining venues are part of the mix.

Perhaps you’d like to get married at sea or renew your wedding vows. You may decide to join your spouse for a massage, make new friends, build your own Web site, learn a new language or rub elbows with a master chef during any one of the numerous classes offered onboard.

Enjoy a mouth-watering four-or five-course dinner, then leave the table without getting a bill. Take a pilates or spinning class, try a new diet or fitness program or relax in a steamy whirlpool.
 
We’re just getting started

You can participate in a host of onboard games, from trivia to bingo and backgammon to cards. Observe fabulous onboard art collections, enjoy an art auction, or both. Take in a guest speaker from the world of entertainment, politics, finance, cooking or sports, not to mention the many distinguished lecturers who will bring to life the port of call you are about to visit.

Lounge by the pool. Get a haircut. Read a good book or take a movie, on DVD or VHS tape, back to your cabin from often well-stocked libraries. Some ships even have movie theaters playing first-run Hollywood feature films.

Participate in wine tasting seminars and cooking classes. Tackle the rock climbing wall with friends or enjoy a game of basketball, tennis or volleyball with fellow passengers.

Walk the top deck. Get your nails done. People watch. Sip tea. Sleep.

At night, enjoy a host of bars and lounges, take in a production show or dance till you drop. The casino will be open late and so too will the galley (the ship’s kitchen).
 
E-mail friendly

Can’t wait to get home to tell all your friends how great the cruise has been? Why wait? Send an e-mail daily from the ship’s Internet cafe at a nominal fee.

How in the world will you keep track of all that’s happening onboard? Easy. Each night your cabin steward will slip a newsletter under your door, complete with the next day’s onboard activities. You can even tune in to your in-cabin television for more, including, in most cases, CNN.

And, while most people take a cruise in order to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit, there are instances, even on vacation, when you may be feeling under the weather. Thus, onboard doctors provide excellent first response and emergency care to passengers until they can be transferred to a shoreside medical facility, if needed.

It’s not talked about much. Nor will you see the doctor’s onboard office featured in any of your cruise brochures. But, like the great food, entertainment and host of amenities you’ve now come to expect from your cruise vacation, you can sail to Antwerp or Zadar with peace of mind.

The cruise lines, indeed, have you covered from A to Z.

Cruise Guide: Life onboard – The first few hours

By Mike Coleman

Could the glossy cruise brochures depicting your dream vacation be true? Will life on the high seas really be as fun and as exhilarating as you expect?
¨This week, in part two of our three-part series exploring the best way to plan and make the most of your first – or 10th – cruise vacation, we’ll take a look at what to expect during your first few hours on board today’s mega-liners and their intimate counterparts.
 
The purser’s office

Upon arrival, you will likely be escorted to your cabin and your checked luggage will soon be brought to your door by a crew member. While the urge to explore your new home-away-from-home is understandable these, however, are valuable minutes to ensure that your cabin is what you expected. You’ll have plenty of time later to explore the ship. If you paid for a balcony suite but are standing in a cabin with no view, contact the purser’s office immediately, by in-cabin telephone or in person. Kindness goes a long way here so be patient and work calmly with the purser your new best friend to resolve the issue.

This is also the best time to book your coming week’s spa treatment, salon appointment, shore excursion or to reserve a table in one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. While your cruise includes meals, usually at a set hour in the main dining room, it might be nice to step out of the norm later in the week and eat in a specialty restaurant. Spa and salon services, shore excursions and your specialty restaurant are additional expenses, not included in your cruise fare.

Didn’t have much time, before departure, to assess the shore excursion booklet provided by your cruise line? Not to worry. A great way to choose the shore excursions that are right for you is to review them on the airplane or have your spouse/kids read them while driving to the cruise terminal. Space is often limited, especially for the best shore excursions, so do your best to book as soon as you arrive. Note, some lines allow you to book shore excursions in advance on-line, so take advantage of the perk if you can.

If your voyage features a number of ports, it’s also nice to forgo a shore excursion on the day of your choice and spend it, virtually alone, on the ship. While family members and other passengers may be off on a day-long port visit, enjoy the decadent feeling of having the pools, fitness center, dining venues and other on-board amenities to yourself.
 
In-cabin safes

By now, while unpacking, you’ve probably noticed the in-cabin safe. When traveling you should keep your passport, travel documents, other important papers, cash and credit cards on you at all times but while on board it’s a convenient perk to have safe storage at your fingertips.

So, you’ve now made it to the ship, you’ve checked in and spent quality time making the necessary appointments for haircuts, facials, massages, port trips and specialty dining. What’s next? A mandatory lifeboat drill. As required by law, you and your family members, all passengers and crew must participate. You’ll learn where to go and what to do in case of an emergency.

By now you’re no doubt hungry. The ship is sailing toward your first port of call and dinner is around the corner. Once seated, you may be paired for the duration of your cruise with strangers. While this is often a benefit of cruising, meeting interesting people from all walks of life from around the world, prolonged, awkward banter with your new dinner mates may not be what the doctor ordered. Contact the maitre’ d your other best friend on board and politely ask to be assigned to a different table.

Chances are you’ll enjoy the new company, as you and your tablemates look forward to your first evening on board.

The real fun, like the week ahead, is just beginning.

Cruise Column: Planning is the key to a successful cruise vacation

By Mike Coleman

It’s official.

You’ve booked that long-awaited cruise vacation but are now wondering what you should do prior to departure. What will life really be like on board, you ask, and will it be worth it? ¨¨For first time passengers guests in some circles – these nagging questions coupled with pre-trip jitters are understandable. Over the next few weeks, however, the Cruise Guide will ease your stress levels by exploring the best way to plan and make the most out of your first – or 10th – cruise vacation.

Packing

Before departing, pack wisely. Do you really need three sweaters on a Caribbean cruise? Assess itineraries, even check weather conditions in advance, and pack accordingly. It’s a good rule of thumb when a flight is involved to at least check some bags while also taking a carry-on bag with you. Pack essential toiletries – toothpaste, toothbrush, medications, deodorant, makeup – to get you through the day and night in the event your luggage is misplaced.

Also, if you’re traveling with a spouse or kids, or both, put some of your clothes in your spouse’s suitcase, and vice versa, in case some luggage is lost by the airlines or cruise lines. That way, you’ll at least have another outfit to wear besides the clothes on your back if your suitcase ends up in Lima while you are arriving in London.

Remember, most of the major cruise ships, particularly on week-long voyages, have one formal night so don’t forget to bring that great dress, tuxedo (or dark business suit) and dress clothes for the youngsters if they are joining you.

Pack comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for casual nights on board and shore excursions. Sandals really don’t work for long walking tours in specific ports. On the flip side, if your cruise features island hopping and beaches, leave the sneakers behind.
 
Patience is a virtue

If you’re flying to a cruise terminal, make sure that the cruise line either provides a transfer to the ship from the airport (it might be included in the cost of your cruise fare) or will help you make arrangements to take a taxi or shuttle from the airport to the cruise terminal.

If you’re driving to a cruise terminal, take a moment to make a mental note where exactly you’ve parked the car. In all the excitement of finally arriving at the terminal, and seeing the ship in living color, you’d be surprised how many passengers forget the name of the garage or level in which they’ve parked their vehicle.

The best way to make the most of your cruise experience, however, rests with how well you handle waiting in line, especially on embarkation (getting on the ship) and disembarkation (getting off the ship) days.

Let’s face it, travel can be stressful and no one likes to wait in line. The cruise lines do everything they can to speed up the check-in/check-out process, but with additional measures in place to ensure your safety and security and the fact perhaps a few thousand people are taking the same voyage on the same day at the same time, patience is a virtue.

Cruise Guide: Cruise lines create lifetime memories

By Mike Coleman

She kissed me on the cheek, under the stars on the lido deck, and my life has never been the same.

Heck, I was just 13 years old, but there I was on one of Carnival’s first ships, the Mardi Gras, sailing under a moonlit sky some 30 years ago and in awe of the beautiful cruise director who only moments before had planted a big one on my cheek.

She said I was cute, or something to that effect, to my mother. And, for a brief moment, I forgot she was still standing there – my mother, that is – as I soaked in the moment of not just my first kiss, but my first kiss from a woman, no less, on a magical cruise ship sailing the Caribbean seas.

Today’s cruise lines may not promise such fireworks, but they do deliver a variety of dream vacations, each filled with their own unique experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

Embarkation usually begins in Florida – the state is home to the headquarters of many of the world’s leading cruise lines and the five primary cruise ports (Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Port Canaveral) handle most of the nations cruise traffic.

Since 9/11, however, cruise lines have been doing everything they can to bring ships to you, the consumer. As such, homeports have popped up across the nation from New York to Los Angeles, east to west, Galveston to Seattle.

Thanks to new ship launches, on-board cuisine featuring menus from master chefs Wolfgang Puck to Nobu Matsuhisa, wine and film festivals and ambitious on-board activities from rock climbing walls to Berlitz-accredited courses, and you can see why more than 10 million Americans will sail this year.

Each week, this column will explore the latest cruise industry trends. We’ll feature the amazing array of on-board recreational and educational amenities, exciting ports and unique shore excursions offered that will make your highly-anticipated voyage all the more memorable.

And, no Cruise Guide column would ever be complete without looking at the mouth-watering cuisine options the major cruise lines have to offer.

So whether it’s a romantic getaway for two, a business and incentives trip, or a family and friends gathering, this column will lead you to your own unforgettable cruise memory, be it a shared moment with loved ones or even a loved one’s shared moment with a cruise director.