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Month: October 2017

Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – & Why You Should Anyway!

Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – & Why You Should Anyway!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

Only when I has published my Top Tips for Taking a Cruise, did I realize that lots of people are resistant to even going on a cruise in the first place. Some were vaguely unsure about the idea, but plenty of others had very specific reasons why cruises just weren’t for them.

As someone who loves boats, and hops on the local water taxi as often as I can, I must admit – I was a bit surprised.

Cruise Ship View Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!DSC_0354

For me, cruises conjure up images of me inhaling the fresh sea air and looking out over the horizon, relaxing as the waves lap up on the boat, and listening to the rhythmic movement of the water. Of course, for others, cruises are viewed as either impractical vacation choices, not matching a personal travel style or budget, or just not the preferred mode of travel.

Within these reasons, though, are quite a few misconceptions about what cruise travel is or isn’t. And if you haven’t cruised before, you may not be aware of the variety that is out there, from the size of the cruise ship to the itinerary to the amenities available. There are lots of ways to make informed choices that do match your travel style, and offer a level of convenience and variety of destinations that would be difficult without a cruise ship.

So here they are. The top 7 excuses for not going on a cruise – and why you should go anyway!

Excuse 1 | Seasickness

It’s a common problem. Lots of people have motion sickness or sea sickness, although if you’ve never been on a cruise, your boating experience is likely limited to small vessels, like sailboats or a ferry. Most cruise ships are HUGE. Which means that it’s much more stable in the water, and even if get seasick on smaller ships, you may not when on a cruise.

Porthole Seasickness Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170714_194407 (2)

Even if you find that you are seasick on a cruise ship, modern (and ancient) medicine has got your back. From pills to acupressure to magnets to wristbands to ginger supplements, there are lots of options to counter any seasickness you may feel. And if whatever you brought doesn’t work, your cruise reception desk likely has remedies available for free once you’re on the ship.

Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief Original Formula, 36 Tablets, Packaging May Vary

 

 

Sea-Band Adult Wristband, Natural Nausea Relief, 1-Pair, Colors May Vary

 

 

Sailors’ Secret Premium Ginger | The Natural Remedy for Motion Sickness 36 Capsules/250 MG

 

Excuse 2 | Fear of being “stuck” on the boat

It’s true, when you’re on a boat in the middle of the sea or ocean, you can’t just disembark at will (or at least I wouldn’t recommend it). For some, it may be an existential fear, or simply not wanting to feel like they are trapped. A cruise ship really is a floating city, and is like any self-contained resort that you might visit for 5 nights or a week and never leave.

Ship Activities Band Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170720_193523 (2)

If the prospect of a full day at sea still puts a jolt of fear in you, just choose the right itinerary. Some cruises involve many days at sea, while others visit a series of ports in close proximity, so you are docked at land all day, and the boat transports you at night to the next destination. There are plenty of sailings in Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean that involve no entire days at sea.

Excuse 3 | Worry about keeping a diet

With a cruise ship essentially as a floating city, it also loads up at the start of each sailing with all of the food supplies for the entire duration. And yes, that’s a lot. You’re likely to have a buffet available as an option for every single meal, and for some people, that can get dangerous.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BW_Q6sblLK5/

But keeping a diet on a cruise ship is really just like keeping a diet at home. While buffets will be an option, there is also typically a portioned, sit-down option available for each meal as well. If you’re concerned about portion size, take advantage of ships with varied dining choices. You can also stick to salad for lunch, limit your alcohol intake (fruity cocktails add to your calorie count quickly!) and only eat dessert once a day.

Excuse 4 | Activities – what will I do all day at sea?

How entertained you will be on a cruise ship is really up to you. Ships with the most amenities will have sports available (I’ve been on cruises with rollerblading tracks, a rock climbing wall, and an ice skating rink), a gym with weight and cardio machines, fitness classes, a spa, a casino, and a rotating entertainment schedule each night.

And like with the second Excuse about being “stuck” on the boat, if you are concerned about running out of activities to do on the ship, simply choose a cruise with more days in port and fewer (or no) days at sea. Having a new city or town to explore each day, will keep your cruise filled with a variety of activities.

Check out this view from Fort Fincastle in Nassau in the Bahamas. Close to the heart of downtown, the Fort was surprisingly empty when I visited with a bunch of friends from the cruise ship, which is so close you can spot it in this picture along with the other ships in port that day ⛴ As you can see by the directions the cannons are facing, it was initially meant to defend Nassau's harbor, but was never needed and just ended up being used as a beacon for arriving ships. I love exploring further inland than other tourists (just a 15-minute walk in this case!) and I got to see a few slices of Bahamian life on the way to the Fort. For all of my top things to do (including food and drink!) in one day in Nassau, head to the blog, link in bio. Where was the last spot you wandered off-the-beaten-path? ⛴ ⛴ ⛴ ⛴ ⛴ #cruiseship #instacruise #bahamas #bahamascruise #itsbetterinthebahamas #nassau #scenicview #visualsoflife #greettheoutdoors #travelblog #blogger #blogging #TBSCommunity #IamATraveler #bbctravel #guardiantravelsnaps #ForbesTravelGuide #keepexploring #openmyworld #travelmore #mytinyatlas #worlderlust #traveldiaries #getoutthere #welivetoexplore #globetrotter #worldplaces #travelstoke #travelawesome #neverstopexploring

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Being on a cruise ship is also a wonderful opportunity to kick back, relax with a good book, and read uninterrupted in peaceful surroundings. Sometimes doing nothing can be quite nice, too =)

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWiXsfhFSqh/?hl=en&taken-by=travelsavvygal

Excuse 5 | Not wanting to eat with strangers

If you weren’t aware, many cruise ships as a default will seat people together in the formal dining room for dinner each night. On my last cruise, we were a table of twelve – six couples seated together, and none of us knew each other beforehand. While the idea of eating with complete strangers might seem a little strange, it can be a great way to socialize on the ship, and I had a wonderful experience with this.

But if you’re headed on a romantic getaway and would like some seclusion, just let your cruise line know. Most will be able to accommodate your request for a table on your own if they know in advance. You can also opt out of the formal dining room and simply visit the buffet for dinner. Larger cruise ships in particular tend to have expanded dining options as well, like a private table not tied to a particular dinner seating and specialty restaurants that you can reserve.

Specialty Restaurants Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170714_181043 (2)Specialty Restaurants Lobster Small Portion Size Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170714_192826

Excuse 6 | Ship will be full of <insert age group here>

Yes, there are many bad stereotypes about cruises out there, but not all of which are true. Some people are concerned about too many children on a sailing, who might make lots of noise and disturb peace and quiet. Others might be concerned about too many older cruisers, and be looking for more of a young vibe and party scene. And families might be seeking cruises that are kid-friendly, with not too many young cruisers partying all night.

Like with everything about cruise ships, it depends. Certainly a cruise during the summer or school holidays will be more likely to have families with children on board. Expensive cruises, like those to Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands tend to have more retirees who have both the time and money for the journey.

The itinerary will also be a factor, as well as the amenities on board the ship. For me, the composition of the other cruise guests has always been a mix, and even my recent July cruise that I expected to be packed with kids did not have a huge proportion of families on board.

TIP! If too many children on board the ship is a concern, seek to travel on a ship with an adult-only pool area.

Excuse 7 | Will be over budget buying extras on board

Certainly not everything is included in the price of your room aboard a cruise ship. There might be mandatory tipping, some casino losses, and the money you spend on cocktails by the pool and wine at dinner. And if you’re not paying attention, the extras can add up.

The way to avoid an unpleasant surprise at the end of your cruise when you get the room bill is to plan for it! When you first book your cruise, inquire about things like mandatory tipping and which items are included in the base price, and factor these in when budgeting for your trip.

Cocktails Alcoholic Beverage Package Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!20170713_215855 (2)

If there is an extra that you’ll consume a lot of – whether soda, specialty coffee drinks, or alcoholic beverages – most cruise ships offer packages that are usually a better deal than purchasing these things as you go. Planning to go on official trip excursions? There is often a discount if you book in advance of the cruise and sometimes even pre-cruise sales to reserve at the best possible price.

       READ MORE: Top Tips for Taking a Cruise

Overall, the main key is to decide what you want or need in a cruise ahead of time. Identify your budget, and then be sure the cost of the sailing plus any anticipated extras (tipping, excursions, beverages) fall within it.

There are so many options available around the world, from small to large ships and a wide range of itineraries, that you really can tailor the ship and the cruise line and the itinerary to your needs. This article with a comparison of different cruise ship sizes, including specific cruise lines for each, is a good place to start. Or check out this recent run-down of the best small cruise lines, for those looking for a more intimate overall experience.

Even if you last cruised five or ten years ago, you might be surprised about the range of options now available for those interested in taking a cruise vacation. The question is not whether or not to cruise, but simply which cruise option is right for you.

Happy sailing!

Lana

Have you ever been on a cruise? If you don’t want to go on a cruise, why not? Are you convinced after this article? Share away in the ‘Comments’ below.

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Top 7 Excuses for NOT Going on a Cruise – And Why You Should Anyway!

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Finding Zero Mile in Detroit

Finding Zero Mile in Detroit

“You’re going to Detroit? Why? Isn’t in dangerous there?”

It’s a question I received again and again leading up to my long weekend in Detroit, Michigan, to spend time with friends from Milan, Italy (random, I know). Not only was I looking forward to catching up with them, but also to exploring an American city I had never visited for the first time.

And then, the inevitable follow-up question in the conversation would come: “Isn’t that where the movie 8 Mile was filmed?”

It seems that most Americans’ (and foreigners’) ideas of Detroit come from the movie 8 Mile, based in large part on rapper Eminem’s upbringing and struggles growing up in the rough neighborhoods around the road ‘8 Mile’ in Detroit, a de facto dividing line between black and white, and poor and rich communities still.

Given that the Detroit reference point for most people was a road counting out 8 miles from the center of town – and that there are lots of other “mile” roads counting out from the city before and after it – I expected the central point, or zero mile marker, to be obvious.

But let’s back up a little bit.

Kilometer Zeros Around the World

As most of the world is on the metric system, it is far more typical to see a ‘kilometer zero’ than a ‘zero mile’ marker, but there are plenty of both to be found all over (thanks, British Empire).

For anyone who’s visited the famous Cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris, France, you may have come across this marker perched in the cobblestones out front like I did:

Point Zero Paris France Notre Dame DSC_0780

It was a bit of a ritual for me to seek out the point from which all roads in France are measured, especially in such a lovely locale in Paris’s center.

Although I haven’t been to Madrid, Spain yet (I know, I know), there is also a quite prominent zero kilometer marker there as well:

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Like in France, it marks the highway kilometer counts and is also the central point for the numbered roads within the city of Madrid.

While most of the ‘kilometer zero’ markers are still used and prominent today within the specific city or country where they’re located, few I expected to be as iconic and visible as the ‘zero mile’ in a city known for roads like Six Mile, Seven Mile, Eight Mile, Nine Mile, and so on.

Nine Mile Road Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan Point of Origin DSC_0969

The Quest

Surely, I thought that finding the ‘zero mile’ marker of Detroit to be a quick stop on my first day in town. I was mistaken.

I don’t know how this is possible, but no one knew where it was!

Not my friend who was born and raised in Detroit.
Not my friend who moved there recently and lives right downtown.
Not the guard at the nearby courthouse in the Penobscot Building.
Not even park patrol at Campus Martius, the supposed site itself, while standing with a dozen steps of the actual spot.

I finally located the ‘Zero Mile’ in Detroit on my third try, my final day in town, only realizing then that I had actually been standing right next to it my first day exploring.

Detroit’s Zero Mile Marker

So how long had that thing been around anyway, that nobody seems to know about it?

It took quite a bit of searching on the internet across my multiple searches to even find enough information to locate the spot in the end. And was hard to find even when I knew what to look for. Although Detroit has numbered mile roads that led me to seek a ‘Zero Mile,’ the central spot where counting began is actually known primarily as the ‘Point of Origin.’

Historically, Detroit’s current road system was laid out after an 1805 fire that decimated the city despite causing no fatalities. A local judge created a wheel-and-spoke system modeled after Washington DC’s street layout, designating where the mile count would start.

A 6-foot tall square granite pillar was erected to literally mark the spot where the surveying began, although over time it became buried and hidden, only visible at ground level by the accompanying marker, the ‘Point of Origin.’ The Detroit ‘Point of Origin’ marker used to be easier to find, looking like this:

Image: Waymarking
Image: Waymarking

The Campus Martius park had an overhaul as part of downtown renovations and revitalization, with the park being rededicated in 2004, and according to my research was the location of Detroit’s ‘Point of Origin,’

Despite having seen a picture online of what I now know to be the old ‘Zero Mile’ marker, and knowing the narrow park area contained it, I saw nothing even approaching this photo in my strolling.

So what does it look like today?

Zero Mile Marker Point of Origin Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan DSC_0255

As you can see, the marker is quite unobtrusive, with the year after the fire only vaguely visible. You’re only likely to find it if you’re specifically seeking it out!

To get there, go to Campus Martius, a prominent oval-shaped park in central Detroit. Go to the side of the fountain facing the restaurant, and there it is, in the ground, right by the entrance:

Campus Martius Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan 20171009_170554 (2)

I’m not sure why Detroit hasn’t kept the old lettering that boldly announced the presence of the ‘zero mile’ marker, Detroit’s ‘Point of Origin.’ But if you’d like, you too can visit the spot where it all began!

Have you visited any ‘zero mile’ or ‘kilometer zero’ markers either in your hometown or in your travels? Or managed to find Detroit’s ‘Point of Origin’ like I did? Tell me all about it in the Comments, I’d love to visit more!

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Finding Zero Mile Detroit Michigan Point of Origin

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7 Reasons to Visit Israel during Chanukah

7 Reasons to Visit Israel during Chanukah

I hadn’t planned to go to Israel during Chanukah two years ago, it just sort of happened. I knew that I was targeting the first weekend in December for a short trip somewhere, since it was a holiday weekend in Milan. After asking around a bit, I couldn’t find a single friend who was available to travel – most people already had plans.

Then, on a whim, I checked on flight prices to Israel. I have some family there, and since it’s only a 4-hour direct flight from Milan to Tel Aviv, they had been asking me when I’d visit ever since I moved to Europe.

It seemed like the next option to try, just to see. Then up pops EasyJet, one of the European discount carriers, with a fare of 68. Round trip. For direct flights in both directions.

Obviously I took this as a sign, and I booked my flights immediately. Only after that did I realize that my visit would coincide with the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. I was busy with university coursework during Chanukah the year I lived in Israel, so experiencing the fun of Chanukah there as a tourist for the first time was a welcome surprise.

Here’s why Israel is a great destination to visit during Chanukah:

Lights

Lights 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20151203_173036

Chanukah is known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ and just as you might expect, the whole country is decorated in lights during the 8-day celebration. It is a beautiful time of year for a visit, with everywhere from small towns to big cities lit up at night, like you might expect to see in other places for Christmas. You may also get the chance to progressively light Chanukah candles during the eight nights, a special tradition to share even if you aren’t Jewish.

Potato Pancakes

I promise you, I ate lots of latkes during my Chanukah in Israel. They are traditional potato pancakes that are cooked in oil to commemorate the miracle of the holiday, when a small amount of oil lasted unexpectedly for eight nights.

In Israel, I devoured home-cooked latkes at several friends’ and family’s houses, grabbed a few when out for other meals at regular restaurants serving it as a menu special, and snagged a few more when I went to Chanukah parties around Tel Aviv.

What didn’t I do? Photograph any of the ones I ate during my trip! So here’s a shot of latke-making in the US with my family from last year to give you an idea of what to expect:

Latkes 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20161225_184259

Doughnuts

Sufganiyot Doughnuts Donuts 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20151204_113317

Doughnuts as far as the eye can see is the view that will greet you walking into any bakery during the holiday of Chanukah, and this seemed to be the most-consumed Chanukah food. Doughnuts are known in Hebrew as sufganiyot, and you’ll hear that word quite a lot during a holiday visit. Like latkes, they are a traditional festive food because they are fried in oil, commemorating the Chanukah miracle.

Sufganiyot Doughnuts Donuts 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20151210_211231

Practically, sufganiyot for Chanukah are an excuse for bakeries to take their sweets to the next level, with all sorts of crazy flavor combinations you won’t see at other times of the year. From elaborate decorations to injectable “shots” of doughnut filling, it is a foodie dream to explore all of the different doughnut varieties available. And the good news is, you have 8 nights to do it!

Sufganiyot Doughnuts Donuts 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20151211_092257 (2)

TIP! Jewish holidays go by the lunar calendar, so during the nights of Chanukah you’ll find doughnuts overflowing out of bakeries across the country. On Day 8 of Chanukah, following the eighth night, it’s back to the regular bakery offerings – so get your fix of specialty doughnuts before then!

Other Winter Specialties

In addition to the two traditional Chanukah foods you’ll find in abundance – latkes and sufganiyot – there are also some other winter culinary specialties that if you visit for Chanukah, you’ll get to enjoy just by being there in the right season for it.

Top of that list for me is the Krem Bo, a dessert that comes individually wrapped, and is only available during the winter time. It consists of a circular graham cookie base, a marshmallow-like meringue mixture piled high on top, with a thin coating of chocolate around everything but the bottom.

Since it’s covered in chocolate, it would melt in Israel’s hot climate at other times of year, so is only available during winter. Most convenience stores and markets will have it in one or more flavors – if you don’t see it, just ask!

Krem Bo 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20151203_185545Krem Bo 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20151204_102514 (2)

Another cold weather favorite is the aromatic, creamy Arabic beverage known as sachlav, which will be served at outdoor stands piping hot just like hot chocolate or mulled wine in other parts of the world. Head to the nearest market – or just keep your eyes open around town – and you’ll definitely find a vendor to sample this specialty.

READ MORE: Foodie Bucket List: 16 Best Local Foods (and Drinks) in Israel

No Special Religious Restrictions

A lot of Jewish holidays are of great religious importance, and observant Jews will treat it like the Sabbath, not using their phones or computers or even turning on lights around the house. The benefit of Chanukah is that it is a relatively minor holiday not subject to the same restrictions.

So other than the typically one Sabbath that will fall over the 8 days of Chanukah, you can cook latkes with your religious friends and family with abandon, which I especially savored this trip since I have extended family members who are observant who I otherwise would not have been able to spend as much time cooking and celebrating with.

TIP! Even if you won’t be hanging out with any religious Jews when you go, there won’t be any special closures of public buses or businesses for Chanukah to worry about and track along with your itinerary.

Festivities

Festive 7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah 20151207_225916 (2)

Israelis are always looking for a sibah l’msibah, a reason to party! While Israelis might be traveling at the end of December to spend New Year’s somewhere special, people are typically around through the rest of the month, and celebrate accordingly.

I spent most of my Chanukah in the coastal city of Tel Aviv. It has a bustling nightlife during a regular week, which goes into overdrive for the Chanukah celebrations. There were multiple parties happening across the city on any given night, from low-key gatherings to late-night clubbing on the beach. Get a special taste of festivities across the country by coming during Chanukah!

Great Travel Deals

Late in the year, there is a jump in prices in late November with increased American tourism around when Thanksgiving falls and again between Christmas and New Year’s Day as many people everywhere have work holidays during that time. The typical timing of Chanukah in early-mid December positions it between those other holidays, and I was delighted to find great deals for travel during that period.

Not only did I get possibly my best flight deal ever traveling to Tel Aviv from Milan for cheaper than a domestic train ticket, but other tourist amenities were also cheaper after I arrived. Spending Friday night in Jerusalem was a no-brainer after finding availability at a decent hotel in the center of town for just $60/night, so my budget went just that extra bit farther and I was able to see more throughout the entire trip.

What holiday celebrations have you enjoyed on the road? Have you ever visited Israel during Chanukah? Anything else you want to know before you go? Let me know in the Comments!

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7 Best Reasons Why Visit Israel During Chanukah

READ MORE ABOUT ISRAEL TRAVEL:
Insider Bucket List: 20 Top Experiences to Seek Out in Israel

Impressions & Top Insider Picks for What to Do in Jerusalem

8 Best Wineries to Visit in Israel

Best Places to Eat (& Drink) in Israel

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