How to Cruise Like a Pro – Bermuda Edition

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Every summer, I join my dad’s side of the family (all 22 of them) for our annual family reunion. This usually consists of a few days in Upstate New York, but every couple of years we’ll venture out of the northeast. This year we decided to return to the high seas with a five-day cruise to Bermuda on Royal Carribean’s Explorer of the Seas. This was my fourth cruise and second time in Bermuda, and at this point I feel like I’ve gotten the cruise routine down. So how does one¬†cruise like a pro? Read on, dear traveler.

1. Pick the right port.

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The port you depart from is almost as important as the one to which you’re sailing. You’ll probably end up staying a night or two in that city before or after the cruise, so¬†you’ll want to make sure that that place is somewhere you’d like to visit. This all depends on where you’re going, of course. Port Canaveral, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale are pretty common departure points for Carribean cruises, and I, as a 20-something, would personally much rather stay the night in Miami. There are also departure ports around the world, and there may be one within driving distance of your home. I’m lucky enough to live near New York City, a common departure port for cruises to Bermuda and transatlantic voyages. The first time we sailed out of New York, my parents and I drove into the port a few hours before go time and parked at the dock. That’s pretty damn convenient if you ask me.

2. You’re gonna want a drink package.

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While you can eat til you burst on a cruise and not pay a cent extra, drinks (aside from tea, coffee, water, and some juices) are unfortunately not included in your fare. And believe me, you’re gonna want a drink or five when you’re at sea all day. To save cruisers a little bit of a heart attack when they receive their bill, a lot of cruise lines are now offering prepaid drink packages. For a few extra dollars a day, you can drink to your hearts content. Royal Carribean offers a few different levels of drink packages to accommodate everyone’s thirst. I went with a package that gave me unlimited beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, and I’d say it was definitely worth it.

3. Get off the boat, dummy!

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This probably seems like a given, but a lot of folks on my cruise actually never set foot on the island once we arrived in Bermuda. If that’s what you want to do, go for it, but I’m a fan of exploring.¬†Definitely look into the¬†excursions your cruise line offers. When you have limited time in a new place, it’s nice to have someone guiding your adventures.

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My family decided on a snorkeling excursion with a local tour company. We cruised around the island on a small boat and stopped near a reef for some snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It was a nice, relaxing day out and the weather was fantastic. It also helped that they were serving complimentary Rum Swizzle all day.

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Since we were in port overnight, we decided to take it easy the next day with a trip to Horseshoe Bay. We laid out, did a little exploring, and took advantage of some excellent photo ops.

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Cruising definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive, crowded, and sometimes a little too structured. But I’m a fan of seeing the world on a full stomach, so I’m definitely into it. Now to plan the next journey.

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P.S. If you want to see a silly video I made while I was in Bermuda, click here.
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The Road to Monterey

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I may have traveled a lot over the past four years but my “vacations” have been few and far between. You know, vacations? Those trips where you have no responsibilities and the primary goal is relaxation? Ringing any bells? Probably not.

Prior to last September, my folks and I hadn’t taken a proper family vacation since 2011. We traveled a lot over those two years, but those trips were always riddled with work meetings and looming schoolwork deadlines, and they were always far too short. When I decided to go out to LA for the summer, my parents decided it was time for another Dow family road trip. I had three weeks between the end of my program and the start of my senior year, so we took one of those weeks to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Francisco.

One of my favorite stretches of the journey was our drive between Ojai to Monterey. We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch and to check out the city. We were only there for two hours, but it was just enough time for me to fall in love with the town. I also may have made some seagull friends.

After that, it was on to Big Sur. Aquatic mammals are kind of my thing, so I just about died when we pulled over to see a bunch of elephant seals just chilling on the beach. I broke out the macro lens and caught a few of these guys in action. We hit Big Sur just as the sun was setting so unfortunately we didn’t get to spend a lot of time in the forrest. It did make for some excellent photos, though.

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Before and After the Storm

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My grandparents live on Long Island, just a fifteen minute drive from the beach. It takes us about four hours to get there from Philadelphia, but my parents and I try to make the trip as often as we can. We had the great luck of planning our latest trip the weekend before Hurricane Sandy hit, devastating most of the greater New York area. Though we were worried about the storm hitting before we could make it back to Philly in one piece, we decided to take a pretty ballsy walk on the beach as the storm was coming in. The photos I took that morning don’t really do justice to the force we could feel just walking near the waves, but I felt like sharing them anyway. Mother Nature is a scary, scary lady. It’s incredible to think that these waters would go on to nearly drown entire neighborhoods just a few hours later. The people of New York, New Jersey and all the areas affected are strong, though, and they will be back on their feet and better than ever soon enough.

For the record, my grandparents (and other Long Island-dwelling family members) made it out of the storm relatively unscathed and I am incredibly thankful for that.

If you’d like to contribute to the relief efforts, check out some of these links for more information:

The Robin Hood Foundation:
http://www.robinhood.org/rhsandy

New York Cares:
http://newyorkcares.org/volunteer/disaster/

Jersey Cares:
http://www.jerseycares.org/jc_sandy_relief

Occupy Sandy:
http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/
http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/wedding-registries/

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