Alaska Cruise Tours

Cruise Tours can be a great way to see the sights in Banff National Park

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is all about the cruise tour options available on Alaska cruises.

What is a cruise tour?

Simply put, a cruise tour is a land portion added on either the front- or back-end of a cruise. Cruise tours are only available on the one-way Alaska cruises that either start or end in Alaska. If you’re on a cruise that starts in Alaska, your cruise tour will be in the days before the cruise departs. If you’re cruise starts in Vancouver and ends in Alaska then your cruise tour will start when the cruise ends.

These tours are fully guided and you will have a choice of a dew different itineraries, just like with your cruise.

How long are cruise tours?

Most cruise tours add an additional 2 to 5 nights on land, but there are some cruise tours that last much longer. For example, Royal Caribbean has a 19 Night Ultimate Alaska and Canada cruise tour. This option includes a 7 night cruise, 7 night land tour in Alaska, and 5 night land tour in Canada.

Some sample 3 night Alaska cruise tours from Royal Caribbean
Where do cruise tours visit?
Denali National Park is a popular cruise tour option with amazing hikes and views

Most Alaska cruise tours, even the shortest two day options, will visit Denali National Park and Fairbanks in the Alaska interior. They also typically include tours around Seward, where the ship docks, and occasionally downtown Anchorage as well.

There are also cruise tour options on the Canada side of an Alaska cruise. These often include visits to Banff and the Jasper Ice Fields. We got to see both of these sights on our Alaska road trip, and they are definitely worth a visit at least once.

Longer cruise tours will of course visit more cities. Other potential stops on cruise tours include Alyeska, Talkeetna, and Whittier in Alaska or Lake Louise, Calgary, and Vancouver in Canada.

This is the last of our scheduled posts for Alaska Week, but there is still a lot of information available about Alaska cruises. If you are ready to book an Alaska adventure or have questions, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to us.

Popular Excursions on Alaska Cruises

Alaska has a lot of great sights and experiences to enjoy

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is all about the excursions available when cruising Alaska. Read on for some of the best experiences you can look forward to in Alaska.

Seward

Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier is a popular hiking destination in Seward. Know what to do if you run into a bear!

Exit Glacier is a very popular glacial hike in Seward. It is considered a “drive-up” glacier and has several miles of hiking trails, ultimately leading to the Harding Icefield. The Icefield itself is a bit of a strenuous hike, but there are several paths along Exit Glacier that are viable for hiker’s of any skill.

Alaska SeaLife Center
The Alaska SeaLife Center has a wide variety of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals.

The SeaLife Center in Seward is a combination marine sanctuary and aquarium. It is Alaska’s only permanent marine mammal rehabilitation facility and the entrance fee goes to help their rehabilitation efforts. Admission rates for adults are $25 a person, and you should plan on spending 2-3 hours at the center.

Juneau

Mendenhall Glacier
Nugget Falls is a popular and easy hike at Mendenhall Glacier.

By far the most popular attraction in Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is a drive-up glacier with a number of great hikes. There are several shuttle buses that run between the cruise port and Mendenhall. You can also get a taxi or a private shuttle if you would prefer. At Mendenhall, you can see Nugget Falls on a very short and paved hike, or take the slightly rougher East and West Glacier Trails. You can also take a tour to the Ice Caves if you want something a bit more unique. To get to the ice caves you have to kayak and then climb to the entrance, but if you have the time and the ability, it is well worth it.

Whale Watching

Juneau is one of the top ports in Alaska for whale watching. You can expect to see a number of humpback whales; in fact, in Alaska most whale watching tours offer a money back guarantee. If you do not see any whales you will get your money back.

Skagway

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway
The White Pass Railway is probably the most popular excursion in Skagway.

By far the most popular excursion in Skagway is the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. The railway makes a 40 mile trip to the White Pass summit, lasting 3 to 3 and a half hours. If you book the excursion directly through the cruise company, you can be picked up by the train right at the port.

Hiking
Yakutania Point is a simple hike that offers some of the best views in Skagway

Skagway has a large number of hikes available very close to the downtown area. There are a large number of shorter hikes available for hikers of all skill levels. Yakutania Point and Lower Reid Falls are two of the top hikes available.

Icy Strait Point/Hoonah

Whale Watching
Whale watching is very popular in Hoonah

If Juneau is the most well known whale watching spot, Icy Strait Point is arguably the best. Point Adolphus is commonly called the best whale watching area in all of North America, and sightings are guaranteed by most, if not all, companies.

Zipline

The zipline in Icy Strait Point is the world’s longest and highest. The ZipRider has a total length of 5,330 feet with a total drop of 1,300 feet and a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour.

Ketchikan

Creek Street
Historic Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska

Creek Street is Ketchikan’s historic red light district, and has a number of shops. It’s well worth a walk, either for the modern shopping, the views, or the history. The slogan of the area is “Where men and salmon come upstream to spawn.”

Snorkeling
The water is cold, but this excursion is HOT! Brag to all your friends you got to snorkel in Alaska.

Snorkeling in Alaska? That’s right. Ketchikan has a great snorkeling excursion complete with thick, cold-water wet suits. It’s cold, but once you’re in the water it’s not super noticeable.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for our next entry in Alaska Cruise Week. And if you’re already ready to book your next Alaska adventure, reach out and let us help you plan your new favorite cruise.

Closed Loop or One Way Alaska Cruises

Seward has some amazing views, but they aren’t available on most Seattle based cruises

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is all about the differences between round-trip and one way Alaska cruises. Read on to learn which cruise is right for you.

Why the different types of cruises?

Simply put, cruise lines have to abide by the Passenger Vessel Service Act, sometimes erroneously called the Jones Act. We touched briefly on the PVSA in our post on Hawaii cruises, but essentially the PVSA means that cruise lines have to visit a “distant foreign port” if doing a closed loop cruise. Closed loop is just a fancy term for a round trip cruise; the cruise starts and ends at the same port making a full loop.

Seattle is much closer to Canada than Anchorage is, so ships can easily leave Seattle, visit a port in Canada (often Victoria, British Columbia), and return to Seattle on a 7 night cruise. Cruises departing from Seward (or Whittier) Alaska, on the other hand, cannot. Therefore, these cruises have to either be 14 nights, or a one way cruise that does not start and end in a US port.

What are the differences?

The main difference right off the bat is of course the departure and arrival ports. One way Alaska cruises also often visit more ports than their closed loop counterparts, in part because they don’t have to budget time for the return trip. The two cruises also share many ports of call, but also have a few different stops, and the prices can be quite different on the two cruises as well.

Common Ports
Whale watching is very popular in Hoonah, but Seattle based cruises often miss this port

Both closed loop and one way Alaska cruises often stop at Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway and include a “glacier experience”. Cruises from Seattle often visit Glacier Bay, although some will visit Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier, or Hubbard Glacier. Seattle cruises also typically visit Victoria, British Columbia, often for a very short stop. This stop is pretty much just to meet the PVSA requirements, and it isn’t unheard of for a ship to only be in Victoria for a couple hours.

One way Alaska cruises can often visit Icy Strait Point, also called Hoonah. This native village has arguably the best whale watching of the typical Alaska ports, but is rarely visited by Seattle based cruises. The departure/arrival towns of Seward or Whittier are also not often visited by Seattle cruises.

Different Ships

Like we mentioned yesterday, both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have big ships coming to Alaska. Both of these new ships will be sailing round trip from Seattle. Seattle is just able to handle much larger ships, so this will likely be a trend we see continuing. This is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. We absolutely love sailing Alaska on the Radiance of the Seas, a much smaller ship with a lot of viewing space.

Cruise Tours

We will discuss cruise tours in more detail on Friday, but only the one way Alaska cruises offer a land portion option. These cruise tours add a few extra days onto the Alaska end of your cruise for a guided land tour. The exact tours vary, but often they take time to visit Denali National Park and a few other areas around Alaska that can’t be reached by ship.

Cost

This is always a concern of cruisers, but is the hardest to really pin down. The one way cruises are often quite a bit cheaper than their closed loop cousins, but at the same time airfare is often cheaper for a round trip flight to Seattle. On the one way Alaska cruises, you have to purchase two one way plane tickets since your cruise does not start and end at the same place. Flights to Anchorage are often more expensive than flights to Seattle, and since the port is not actually in Anchorage, you also have to pay for transportation between Anchorage and Seward or Whittier. Our personal favorite method of transportation to the port is the Alaska Railroad, and in my opinion that is well worth any additional cost.

Mirror Lake is one of the highlights of the train ride between Anchorage and Seward

The exact costs of cruise and airfare can vary widely from cruise to cruise, so make sure you reach out to us to figure out what your best bet would be.

Big Changes Coming to Alaska

Norwegian Bliss – The hull of the ship is decorated by Wyland, an artist known for his marine life murals

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is all about the changes coming to Alaska. Read on for some of the new experiences, ships, and ports coming to Alaska for the 2018 and 2019 cruising season.

Two Big New Ships
Everything’s bigger in Texas Alaska

Both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are sending some of their biggest and newest ships to Alaska. Norwegian Bliss is a brand new ship that was just delivered to Norwegian Cruise Line last month. At 168,000 tons the Bliss is Norwegian’s largest ship, and she is already in Alaska. The Bliss is a great ship for families as well as active travelers. The ship has a massive water park and a two deck high go-kart racing track. In another first for Norwegian, the Bliss has a modern Texas style BBQ restaurant that will feature live country music. That’s music from the second biggest state, playing on cruises in the biggest state, on board Norwegian’s biggest ship. That’s a lot of bigs! For 2018, the Bliss is the largest ship to have ever sailed Alaska cruises from any line, but not for long.

Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class ship, with the North Star Observation Pod extended

For the 2019 cruise season, Royal Caribbean will take the crown for largest ship in Alaska when Ovation of the Seas arrives in Seattle. Ovation of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class, and is just slightly larger than the Norwegian Bliss. Ovation of the Seas also has some great attractions on board, including the iFly Indoor Skydiving and North Star. The North Star a large glass pod that extends 300 feet above the ship and offers stunning 360 degree views of your surroundings. This pod officially holds the record for “Highest Viewing Deck on a Cruise Ship” and will be a welcome addition to Alaska cruises.

Both Bliss and Ovation can carry over 4,000 passengers on average with almost 5,000 passengers at maximum capacity. This is nearly double the amount of passengers on other ships sailing Alaska, so there can be some crowds in port when these ships are docked.

New Port Stops

We have already discussed how Holland America is the only cruise company docking in Anchorage this season, but there are a few other port changes as well. Several ships will be adding Ketchikan to their list of stops, including the Carnival Splendor which will visit Ketchikan only once in 2018; the final stop on a 14 night round trip cruise from Long Beach, CA.

There are also some smaller ships that will be running Alaska cruises this year. If you are looking for something a little more intimate there is the Windstar Star Legend (208 passengers), Silver Seas Silver Explorer (132 passengers) or American Dream American Constellation (175 passengers)

Windstar’s Star Legend represents Windstar’s return to Alaska after being out of the region for the past 20 years. The all-suite ship is kicking off the all new Signature Expeditions Program. This program takes cruisers closer than ever to Alaska with zodiac and kayak tours of the coastline.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for our next entry in Alaska Cruise Week. And if you’re already ready to book your next Alaska adventure, reach out and let us help you plan your new favorite cruise.

Introduction to Alaska Cruises

Welcome to Alaska – The Last Frontier

The Alaska Cruising season is in full swing, and here at Adventures With Anthony we are celebrating Alaska Week. Come back everyday this week for a new article about Alaska Cruises, and find out why Alaska is not only our personal favorite cruise destination, but also the most popular cruise destination for our clients.

Today’s post is a basic introduction to Alaska cruises. Read on for a basic overview of the ships, ports, and experiences that make Alaska cruising so popular.

Types of Alaska Cruises

There are two main types of Alaska Cruises. The first is a closed-loop, or round trip cruise. These cruises depart from and return to Seattle, Washington. They are most often 7 night, although this year Holland America has a special 14 night version.

The second type of cruises are one-way, and travel between Alaska and Canada. The Southbound cruise runs from Alaska, typically Seward or Whittier, to Vancouver, British Columbia. These cruises are most often 7 nights, and have to end in a non-US port due to the Passenger Vessel Service Act. Because they don’t need to take the time for a return trip, these cruises often visit more ports in Alaska than the Seattle cruises.

The one-way cruises also have the benefit of being combinable with cruisetours. These are extended land portions around Alaska that allow you to see more areas of Alaska. Mount Denali, Fairbanks, and Talkeetna are common stops on cruisetours. Keep an eye out later this week; we will have posts dedicated to comparing the two types of Alaska cruises, as well as a post detailing cruisetour options.

The Cruise Lines
Radiance of the Seas in port at Skagway, Alaska

Most major cruiselines sail Alaska itineraries, but there are a few differences. Below are some of the most popular Alaska cruise lines, in alphabetic order.

  • Carnival – Only offers Seattle RT cruises and one Vancouver to Seattle cruise.
  • Celebrity
  • Disney – 5, 7, and 9 Night cruises from Vancouver
  • Holland America – Has the only ship with stops in Anchorage
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Princess – Departs from Whittier, Alaska instead of Seward
  • Royal Caribbean – Will have the largest ship sailing Alaska in 2019
The Ports
Historic Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska

There are a wide variety of ports availaible on Alaska cruises, but we will list a few of the most common ports below. Later this week we will have a dedicated post detailing the best excursions available in each port.

  • Seward

    The most common start/end port for cruises in Alaska. About 2 hours south of Anchorage, Seward is a beautiful coastal town. Highlights of Seward include the Sealife Center and Exit Glacier.

  • Whittier

    Whittier is where Princess cruises start/end their Alaska cruises. Whittier is about an hour and a half from Anchorage, although there is a one-way tunnel that is only open at set times for traffic. This can add an extra hour to your drive if you have a cruise departing from Whittier. Located in Prince William Sound, there are a number of whale watching and coastal cruises offered in Whittier.

  • Juneau

    Juneau is Alaska’s capital. Mendenhall Glacier is Juneau’s most famous landmark, but Mount Roberts is also a very popular site. There is also the Red Dog Saloon, and excellent whale watching opportunities.

  • Skagway

    Skagway was a crucial town during the Alaska gold rush, and still has many museums showcasing the gold rush. The White Pass Railway is Skagway’s main claim to fame.

  • Ketchikan

    “Where men and salmon come upstream to spawn.” Ketchikan has a famous historic red light district and salmon fisheries. It is also located near the Tongass National Forest.

  • Icy Strait Point/Hoonah

    Technically two distinct entities, Hoonah is a local Native Alaskan village, and Icy Strait Point is the cruise industry’s port area. This island is prime for wildlife viewings, with a large bear population and some of the best whale watching opportunities in Alaska.

These are just a sampling of ports you may stop at on an Alaska cruise. Less common ports can include Homer, Sitka, Haines, and others. Cruises also often sail past either Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, or Tracy Arm Fjord.

Highlights of an Alaska Cruise
A pair of wood bison in Portage, Alaska

There are many things that you can experience on an Alaska cruise that you won’t find on other cruises. Some of the typical highlights of Alaska cruises include:

  • Wildlife – Bears, moose, bison, and whales are all common Alaska wildlife, but you can also see deer, otters, seals, and porpoises. Alaska is a haven for all sorts of land and marine wildlife.
  • Glaciers – Although they are shrinking, Alaska is still home to a number of very impressive glaciers. Go for a hike, a helicopter tour, or a dog sled ride to see these natural beauties before they are all gone.
  • Seafood and Fishing – Alaska has some excellent seafood that you can enjoy fresh while on an Alaska cruise. Alaskan King Crab is a local favorite, as is halibut. If you are a fisher, nothing says Alaska adventure like going out on a halibut fishing charter.
  • Culture and History – From the Native People, to the gold rush, to the modern last frontier, Alaska is filled with unique culture and history to explore.
  • Nature – Alaska has a wide variety of natural sights. Mountains, glaciers, lakes, and even a rainforest. If you are an avid outdoor explorer or hiker, Alaska has nearly every type of terrain available to explore.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for our next entry in Alaska Cruise Week. And if you’re already ready to book your next Alaska adventure, reach out and let us help you plan your new favorite cruise.

How Chase Ultimate Rewards Saved Us over $50,000 on Plane Tickets

No, that title is not a typo. Recently Luis and I booked two flights using credit card rewards points. The first flight was a one way flight in business class on Iberia Airlines, non-stop from Boston to Madrid. The second was a round trip flight in first class on board All Nippon Airlines, non-stop from San Francisco to Tokyo Narita. If we had paid cash, those same redemptions would have cost us $53,495. Now, being completely honest, we would never pay that much for a flight. Truthfully, I don’t think many people ever actually pay the full ticket price for first class tickets. Still, it is an amazing feeling to see those numbers when you don’t have to pay them.

Earning the Points

There are several different points programs, and picking the right one for your situation can be difficult. If you always or nearly always fly on a single airline, then it usually makes the most sense to join that airline’s frequent flyer program. Luis and I, however, will fly whatever airline works with our destination, dates, and budget. On our trip to Shanghai, we flew with Asiana. Singapore, we flew United. Iceland we are flying on Delta. On other recent trips we have flown on Jetblue, Miami Air, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. We just aren’t loyal enough to justify investing in any airline specific credit cards.

Instead, we decided to invest in a travel rewards program that could be used for a multitude of airlines. The three main points programs that are available include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi Thank You Points. Each program has different strengths and weaknesses, and different partners, but in the end we decided to go with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The Ultimate Rewards Cards
The three cards we used to get our free flights. Chase Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Business Preferred

Ultimately, we have four cards that are able to earn us Ultimate Rewards. The first is the Chase Freedom, which does not earn Ultimate Rewards points on it’s own, but can transfer points to another card which does earn points. We then have a Chase Ink Business Preferred, and we each have our own Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Sign Up Bonuses

The bulk of our points came from initial bonuses just for getting the cards and reaching a minimum spend amount. These bonus points are not repeatable, but they do offer a very large head start towards reaching your first redemption. The Chase Ink Preferred business card came with an 80,000 point sign up bonus. The Chase Sapphire Reserve originally had a 100,000 bonus, which I was able to take advantage of, but it currently only has a 50,000 bonus, which is what Luis received. Still, for the three cards that was 230,000 points. Enough points for the first class ANA redemption, which runs 220,000 points.

Intelligent Spending

Aside from the sign up bonuses, the other way to quickly earn a lot of points is to maximize the bonus opportunities. The Chase Freedom has rotating categories; every quarter a few new categories will earn 5x points. The Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, has a set of static bonus categories; 3x the points on all travel and dining purchases. By consistently using the right card for each purchase, you can rapidly earn the points needed for a redemption.

The Redemptions

Now, for the fun part! Once you’ve earned enough points it’s time to start planning some trips. Now, just because Chase is not affiliated with a single airline does not mean you can transfer to anybody; Chase currently partners with only 9 airlines. Still, with the proper planning and knowing about alliances, your options are nearly limitless. The 9 airlines Chase can transfer points to include: British Airways, Air France, Singapore Airlines, United, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Iberia, and Aer Lingus.

Business Class on Iberia Airlines

Since Iberia is partnered with Chase, we were able to easily transfer points from our Ultimate Rewards account directly to Iberia. Iberia has an award chart that varies by route and time of year, but for BOS-MAD in October the normal fare would be 34,000 points per person from the east coast or 42,500 points from the west coast, each way. We were able to find a special deal, where our flight would only be 25,500 points each, but we had to fly from Boston.

Since we live in Nevada, Boston is quite a ways away for a flight, but a deal’s a deal. A quick check on Google Flights, and we were able to find a flight from Salt Lake City to Boston for only $100 per person on Delta in basic economy.

Business Class for 2 on Iberia would have cost us $13,000 had we paid cash

The cash price for a first class ticket from Boston to Madrid on our travel dates is currently $13,024.80 for two people. Instead, we booked it for 51,000 points, $180 in taxes, and $206 for a flight to Boston. Our total savings? $12,638.

First Class on ANA

Unlike Iberia, ANA is not a partner with Chase. However, three of Chase’s partners have the ability to book ANA flights: United, Singapore, and Virgin Atlantic. Each option has pros and cons; United has the lowest taxes, Singapore allows you to book one way awards, and Virgin Atlantic offers redemptions for the fewest points.

Ultimately, because of the amazing value, we went with Virgin Atlantic for our redemption. Virgin Atlantic can book first class on ANA for only 110,000 points round trip from the west coast, or 120,000 points from the east coast. Compare this to United which charges the same amount of miles for only one way. That puts Virgin Atlantic in a very sweet spot for Asia redemptions. There are a couple of downsides; you have to book a round trip ticket, it has to be non-stop (which means there are only a small handful of eligible US airports), and seats only become available 336 days out. There are only 2 seats on each plane available for these reduced rates, so it is possible that travelers booking directly with ANA or with another partner have already booked all the available award seats. Still, if your dates are somewhat flexible and you can book almost a year in advance, Virgin Atlantic offers an amazing redemption opportunity for ANA.

Round trip First Class tickets on ANA would have cost us over $40,000 if we had paid cash

The cash price for a first class ticket from San Francisco to Tokyo and back on our travel dates is currently $40,470.44 for two people. Instead, we booked it for 220,000 points, and $513 in taxes. Our total savings? $39,957.

That’s a grand total of $52,595 in savings over two trips.

Four New Cruise Ships Launching Spring 2018

You may have heard that millenials are killing off the cruise vacation, but cruises are only growing in popularity. In fact, the estimated number of cruise ship passengers in 2018 is expected to increase by over a million. This large growth is only possible because the cruise lines continue building more and larger ships. A total of 13 new cruise ships will start sailing in 2018 with 2 of them sailing this week.

Jump To:

Carnival Horizon

Skyride Attraction On-Board Carnival Horizon

The Carnival Horizon was the first major new cruise ship to set sail in 2018. She was delivered to Carnival on March 28th and started her inaugural sailing on April 2nd. The Horizon will go on 4 Mediterranean cruises before re-positioning to New York for the summer. On September 22nd she will move to Miami and run 6 and 8 night Caribbean cruises. The Horizon is Carnival Cruise Line’s 26th ship and second largest, behind only her sister ship, the Vista.

Carnival Horizon Quick Facts
  • Inaugural Sailing: April 2, 2018 – 13 Night Europe from Barcelona
  • Decks: 15
  • Passengers: 3,954
  • Gross Tons: 133,500
  • Notable Features: IMAX Theater
    Dr. Seuss Water Park
    SkyRide – Suspended bike above the top deck

If you are ready to book a cabin on board the Carnival Horizon, drop us a note and we’d be happy to start helping you plan.

Do I Need a Visa?

Planning an international trip is a very exciting time but it also takes a lot of preparation. You may want to learn a few key phrases in the local language. You might want to stock up on some local currency or map out your planned stops. A passport is definitely a must-have, but is a passport enough? Nothing would be worse than getting to the airport, excited and ready to see another country, and being turned away at the check-in counter. “I’m sorry, but you can’t board. You need a Visa.”

A Visa issued to visit China

What is the purpose of a Visa?

A Visa primarily serves as a way for a country to control who can and cannot enter. Visas often have certain restrictions on them, such as duration or purpose of visit. The specific Visa, if any, required for international travel will depend on three factors. 1) The country where you have citizenship. 2) The country you are traveling to. 3) The reason for your visit. It is important to note that you will need to apply these rules to every country you will be entering, even if it is not your final destination. For example, some countries will require a Visa even if you just have a short layover while flying to another country.

How do I know if I need a Visa?

We will be happy to help you determine the Visa requirements for any travel, but the best and most up to date source is your country’s immigration or consulate department. For United States citizens, this resource is the State Department. You can search for any country on the State Department’s website and find nearly all the travel information you will need. Not only will you find out if you need a Visa, but it will also display any travel advisories that are in effect, how long your passport has to be valid for, how many blank pages are required in your passport, and any monetary limitations on entering or exiting the selected country.

It is important that you check the rules for the country listed on your passport. It does not matter what country you are traveling from, or where you live. The only thing that matters is where you are actually a citizen.

How do I get a Visa?

Typically in order to get a Visa you must make an appointment at an embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting. Some countries also allow for you to apply for a Visa online or when your flight arrives in the country. If you are visiting a country that does not support Visa on Arrival or e-Visa programs, you may also be able to hire a Visa service. These are special companies located in major cities that are home to several embassies and consulates. They can take your passport and Visa application to the embassy in person and complete the process on your behalf. These services do, however, add some significant cost to the Visa application process. Still, if you do not live near an embassy it can be necessary.

Why you Should Stay at an All-Inclusive Resort

Private Pool area at the Chic Mansion in Punta Cana

The world is a stressful place; the last thing you need is a stress filled vacation. Stress can’t necessarily be completely avoided, but one vacation that promises to minimize your stress is staying at an All-Inclusive resort. All-Inclusive resorts are certainly not for everybody. They are typically one of the least adventurous types of vacations you can take. In fact, when staying at an All-Inclusive resort you never even have to leave the property if you don’t want. Still, the number of US travelers who stay at an All-Inclusive resort is on the rise. According to PhoCusWright, in 2010 8% of all US travelers stayed at an All-Inclusive resort. In 2012 that number rose to 14%.

So why are All-Inclusive resorts gaining in popularity? I believe it is because people are finally starting to see past the old misconceptions. The fact is, there is an All-Inclusive resort option for every kind of traveler. And as an added bonus, with an All-Inclusive resort there is no second guessing your budget. Unless you choose to go off-site or get a spa treatment, you will know upfront exactly how much your vacation will cost. And here at Adventures With Anthony, we can easily package your resort and airfare into a single purchase, saving you even more.

Newly constructed Royalton Bavaro has a lazy river and a FlowRider surf simulator
All-Inclusive resort packages are cheaper than you might think

When you figure in all the various costs of any vacation, an All-Inclusive resort can become an excellent deal. When you book an All-Inclusive resort through us, the price includes round-trip airfare, transportation to and from the airport, and the resort itself. At the resort all of your meals and drinks are included, as well as a number of on-site activities. Price can vary based on location, time of year, and specific resort, but it is not unheard of for a 4 night package to be as low as $500 per person from select US cities.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to snag one of these special deals, the regular price of our packages are extremely reasonable. For example, a 6 night package in a 4 and a half star resort from Salt Lake City to Punta Cana in August is only $1,239 per person. That’s $2,478 for two people to fly internationally, spend 6 nights in a suite, and have all meals and drinks included. If you were to book this trip separately, the airfare alone would cost $1,594. That is for the same exact JetBlue flight included in the package. The resort itself, the Grand Palladium Bavaro, starts at $239.70 per night. That’s a total of $1,438.20 for the entire 6 night stay. The transfer from Punta Cana airport to the resort would normally cost an additional $20 per person. That puts the grand total of the vacation when purchased piecemeal at $3,072, almost $600 more than booking one of our packages.

Even when compared to a more traditional hotel, the value of an All-Inclusive stands out. A typical 4-star hotel will run around $100-150 per night. Lunch at a fast food restaurant for 2 can be around $20-30, and dinner for 2 can range from $60 to well over $100. Alcohol is harder to budget, depending on your personal habits, but two cocktails or glasses of wine with dinner could easily add another $25. That would mean on the low end you could spend $180 per day on food and lodging, up to $300 or more. For this same 6 night vacation, avoiding an all-inclusive would cost between $2,674 and $3,394.

You aren’t trapped at the resort
Chichen Itza, one of the world wonders, is only 4 hours away from Cozumel

While many resorts have plenty of activities to keep you occupied, you are free to explore if you want. It will cost extra, but you can book transportation to local sights or even book an off-site excursion. Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic offers trips to Saona Island, snorkel and scuba trips, a canopy zipline, and the famous Coco Bongo nightlife experience. Cozumel is close to 6 different Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza which was recently named as a world wonder. You can book these excursions in advance, although I would personally recommend waiting until you arrive at the resort. That way you will have a better idea of how much time, if any, you want to spend away from the resort.

There is a resort for everyone

When many people hear All-Inclusive, their mind tends to jump to a couples retreat. A romantic getaway to a Sandals or a Beaches resort. Something expensive and reserved for a very special occasion. Your honeymoon or a milestone anniversary, perhaps. That, however, is just one type of All-Inclusive resort. There are also resorts that cater more towards the hard partying Spring Break crowd. There are elegant, 5-star resorts with fine dining and private golf courses. If you are traveling with kids, there are family friendly resorts complete with an entire on-site water park. There is even a Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana, and a second one under construction in Riviera Maya.

AquaNick at the Nickelodeon Resort is a great escape for families

It doesn’t matter if you want an adults only or a family friendly resort. One that has less than 100 rooms or more than 1,000. Budget or extravagant. Reach out and we will be happy to help find the perfect resort for you.

Cruises to Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii shoreline
There’s no better tropical escape than a cruise to paradise

Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and for good reason. We went to Honolulu ourselves in 2016, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time on the island. It is a tropical island paradise that can compete with any destination in the Caribbean, yet finding a cruise to Hawaii is surprisingly difficult. Part of the reason for this is Hawaii’s distance from the continental United States; over 2,600 miles as the crow flies from Southern California. This comes out to about 2,250 nautical miles, which will take an average cruise ship between 100 and 120 hours to cross. That comes out to 5 full days at sea to get to Hawaii, and another 5 to return to California.

Distance is not the only problem facing cruise companies that want to visit Hawaii. For various legal, financial, and logistical reasons most cruise ships are foreign flagged vessels. This means that they are restricted by the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. This law bans any vessel that isn’t built in the US and owned by a US based company from transporting passengers between two different US ports. This act also says that a cruise that leaves from and returns to the same US port must visit a foreign port, so even if a ship were to make a round trip cruise from Honolulu, it would have to visit a port outside the United States. The closest such port is Tabuaeran on the Fanning Atoll, a full 4 days away from Honolulu.

Options for Cruises to Hawaii

Despite these difficulties, many cruise lines do offer cruises to Hawaii. If you want to take one of these magical adventures, you have four main options. A world cruise, a re-positioning cruise, a multi-week California to Hawaii cruise, or a 7 night round trip Honolulu cruise on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.

World Cruises

The most expensive and lengthy option for a cruise to Hawaii is a world cruise. These cruises are measured in months, not days and range from a 59 nights to 161 nights. The price of these cruises range from $22,000 to $80,000 per person. On these cruises, Hawaii is just another port, but what a way to see the islands.

Oceania 85 day Around the World Cruise Itinerary
Re-positioning Cruises

Some cruises are only able to run part of the year, so cruise lines need to move their ships. Alaska cruises are one of the most popular seasonal cruises and can only sail from May through September. When Alaska gets too cold, the ships relocate, often to Asia or Australia. This path across the Pacific takes them right past Hawaii, so it is a natural stop to break up the long cruise. It takes about 6 or 7 days for a cruise to reach Hawaii from Seattle, Vancouver, or Anchorage, and another 7 or 8 days to reach the South Pacific.

These cruises can be run in one of two ways. The first option is a longer cruise, often at least 21 nights with Hawaii as a mid-point stop. The second option is to split the cruise into two separate cruises. The first cruise would end in Honolulu and the second cruise would begin there. Often at least one of these cruises would island hop to multiple cities in Hawaii.

Round Trip California Cruises to Hawaii

These cruises are offered on Princess, Holland America, Oceania, Crystal, and occasionally Celebrity. There are two main itineraries available; a 15-17 night cruise from California to Hawaii, with a stop in Mexico, or a 28+ night cruise to Hawaii, Tahiti, and the South Pacific. Most of these cruises depart from Los Angeles, while a few leave from San Francisco or San Diego. The shorter cruises stop at Ensenada, Mexico, a city known locally as La Cenicienta del Pacifico, or “The Cinderella of the Pacific”. Ensenada is not a particularly popular destination, but it does have its charms. The city is working hard to improve their offerings, and they have some of the best street food in Mexico.

Ensenada, Mexico. Image Credit: By Isaacmoon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Round Trip Honolulu Cruises

There is one, and only one, cruise line that offers regular round trip cruises from Hawaii. If you want to take a typical 7 night cruise from Honolulu to the other islands, Norwegian is it. In order to get around the regulations of the Passenger Vessel Service Act, NCL had to take several steps. First, they had to create a new company, NCL America, that was headquartered in the United States. Second, they had to have a ship that was US built, US flagged, and manned with US crew. Ultimately this ship became the Pride of America. Construction was finished in 2005, and she has been sailing the Hawaiian Islands for the past 13 years.

NCL Cruise Line, Pride of America, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Pride of America runs the same itinerary year round, leaving Honolulu every Saturday. The cruise overnights in Kahului, Maui, then visits Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, and finally overnights in Nawiliwili, Kauai. Since there is no competition, these cruises can be a little more expensive than other 7 night sailings. At the lowest end you are looking at about $2,500 for two people in an interior room. A balcony room will start at closer to $5,000 for two people.

The Best Time for a Hawaii Cruise

If you are planning on taking a re-positioning cruise to Hawaii you will be severely limited. These cruises are set based on the Alaska cruising season, so your choices are typically March/April or September/October. These months also have the benefit of being in Hawaii’s low season, so flights and hotels will typically be cheaper. If your cruise is one of the ones that ends or begins in Hawaii, this can be really helpful.

If you are planning on taking the Norwegian cruise, these months can still be a great choice. Since airfare is often cheaper in the shoulder months, the higher cost of the cruise can be offset a bit. The rest of winter can be another great choice to escape to a warm tropical paradise. January through March is Hawaii’s high season, so it may be more expensive and more crowded, but it can be a great respite from the cold.

Christmas is a Wonderful time to visit Hawaii

If you’d like to plan your own adventure to Hawaii, send me a request. I’d be happy to find the perfect Hawaiian cruise for you and your family.