by SAM HATCHER
Cruising continues to be one of south Florida’s most delightful and best value experiences.
With cruise ship ports in Tampa, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale there are a plethora of options from three and four-day sailings to as long as a week or ten days.
And, while virtually all cruises sailing from south Florida ports offer destinations ending up somewhere in the Caribbean, there are still plenty of choices as to what to see and where to visit.
Many and especially those living in Florida within an easy drive of a port are taking advantage of what often is described as “last minute” cruise fares.
Each ship line offers discounted last-minute fares that become available as early as six weeks from sailing dates and even more attractive from windows three weeks out and less.
In many cases the fare deals offered for last-minute sailings may be so good that staying a week on a cruise ship may actually rival the affordability of staying at home for a week.
Think about it. Fares include all your meals (even if you eat six times each day and have snacks, ice cream, and cookies in between), sleeping quarters, recreation and entertainment.
How can you possibly keep the electricity on at home, heat or cool your surroundings, enjoy such a variety of foods from lobster and prime rib to magnificent deserts, have a private club like atmosphere in which to exercise, and quality entertainment each night for the price you might pay for one week on a last-minute cruise deal.
Cruise values booked close to sailing dates begin around $150 per person. Visit cruise line websites or any one of several travel websites to investigate just how good of a deal you might get.
If there are any cautions or things on which to be alert, it might be what type of cruise environment you want to experience and what destinations you want to visit.
With respect to the matter of cruise environment consider that some ships may cater more to children and families such as the Disney Line, while others attract a young millennial partying age. And then of course there are those ships with a reputation of luring let’s
just say a more mature passenger audience.
My wife and I recently took one of the last-minute fare deals offered by Celebrity Cruise Line sailing on The Reflection out of the Port of Miami.
Everyone has their own tastes but we prefer Celebrity ships because for one thing Celebrity maintains a strict dress discipline for evening meals in the main formal dining rooms.
That doesn’t mean men are required to wear suits and ties or women cocktail dresses. But it does mean shorts, flip-flops and tank tops are off-limits and will not be permitted.
For those desiring to wear swimsuits, flip-flops and similar attire for their night-time dinner experience there are other options or other places on ship that allow such.
Our week-long Celebrity cruise featured port visits to Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, and Saint Kitts/Nevis. The January voyage provided absolutely delightful weather with sunny skies, temps in the lower 80s and gently blowing trade winds.
If you’ve never cruised before, try it.
It’s a great way to get away, see a different part of the world, know you’re in a safe surrounding, and not break your bank account in doing so.