Places to visit on your Algarve holidays

The Algarve ii in the southernmost part of Portugal and is surprisingly small, stretching just 155kms in the south and 52 km north on the west. In short, you can traverse the entire area in just a day. Having said that, there are plenty of reasons for you to choose the Algarve as a holiday travel destination. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by on March 21st, 2010

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Great Christmas Cruises for the holiday season

A great way to spend your Christmas is aboard a cruise liner. Some people book a cruise along with their extended family and celebrate Christmas together like every year but aboard a liner. Most cruise ships have loads of Christmas activities planned for kids, including a Santa who distributes gifts. Some ships also conduct a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Festive decorations and special menus are also the norm. What’s more, your cruise gives you the opportunity to observe how Christmas is celebrated in different cities and towns around the world.

Booking a Christmas Cruise

Always book with a reputable cruise company and if possible do so through a known cruise agent. Your agent can get you better bargains and, should the price of the cruise fall after you have booked your holiday, the agent can help you recover the difference either through upgrades, onboard credit or even a refund. Sometimes the quoted cruise price doesn’t include surcharges, port fees and staff gratuities which means that the actual fare turns out to be considerably higher. So it’s important that you read the fine print when booking a cruise. For instance, find out exactly what ‘free airfare’ means. Very often airport taxes, service fees and some hidden charges add up to more than the actual cost of your ticket! It may be advisable to simply book your own air ticket.

Cruise Routes

The Bahamas, Caribbean, Greek islands, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are all covered by cruise liners. Here are three recommended routes that offer superb experiences and great weather for a wonderful travel holiday over Christmas.

Nile Cruise, Egypt

Route: Luxor – Esna – Edfu – Kom Ombo – Aswan

Often called the ‘Gift of the Nile’, Egypt’s 5,000-year old civilization comes alive as you sail the Upper Nile. A favourite route is the week-long cruise from Luxor to Aswan (or the other way round). Your cruise company can organize accommodation in Cairo and transfers to either Luxor or Aswan.
You can sail the Nile aboard a luxury liner with full onboard amenities and a large number of people or you can opt to sail on the traditionally designed Dahabieh which is much smaller. What the Dahabieh lacks in terms of swimming pools and restaurants, it makes up with personalized service and interesting ethnic décor. Another plus is that its small size means it can sail through narrow channels and take you to places like Djebel Silsileh that a larger liner cannot access. If you are a large group of around 15 to 20 people you also have the option of booking the entire boat and have a great family Christmas vacation.
December Temperatures along the Upper Nile: 8 to 23˚C

Luxor: In Luxor you can visit the Temples of Karnak and Luxor as well as the Luxor Museum. On the West Bank is the Necropolis of Thebes and the incredible Valley of the Kings where new discoveries were made as late as 2006 and 2008. The Valley of the Queens, the Colossi of Memnon and the Funerary Temple of Hatsheput along with a host of other sites are all found in Luxor.

Esna: It has the well-preserved and intricately carved Temple of Khnum.

Edfu: The majestic Temple of Hourus is located here.

Kom Ombo: Its temple of the same name honours Sobek, the crocodile-headed god. It is a magnificently preserved temple and one of the highlights of the cruise.

Aswan: The venue of the famous Aswan dam. The nearby Elephantine island has a museum and the Abu ruins. The Aswan Botanical Garden is also worth a visit.

Spain, Morocco, Portugal

Route: Savona – Barcelona – Casablanca – Arrecife – Santa Cruz de Tenerife – Funchal – Malaga

This cruise makes for an interesting voyage as it combines the unique vibe of Spain, the African culture of Morocco and the sunny beaches of the Canary Islands and Madeira.
Each cruise operator will have their own itinerary but a possible route can include Savona, Barcelona and Malaga in Spain, Casablanca in Morocco, Arrecife and Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands and Funchal in Portugal. The duration of the cruise will be about 8 to 10 days.

Savona: An interesting port city with a medieval town centre. The Cattedrale di Nostra Signora Assunta and the Fortezza del Priamàr have baroque architecture. There’s also the Civico Museo Storico Archeologico and one or two museums dedicated to sculpture.
Average December Temperature: 19.5˚C

Barcelona: Its a feast for the senses. Its compact size makes it easy to explore. From Gaudi’s architectural marvels to Picasso’s art, and from Gothic buildings to a bevy of fine museums, Barcelona is an inspiring city that’s full of treasures. It is also famous for its tapas bars and dance clubs. Food, art, architecture, history, dance… Barcelona has it all.
Average December Temperature: 11.4˚C

Casablanca: Morocco’s economic capital and its largest city, Casablanca has a modern skyline and yet you can see a strong French colonial influence in its wide boulevards and crumbling art deco architecture. For many, Casablanca seems too westernized and it isn’t representative of the Morocco that you glimpse in Fez and Marrakech. Casa, as it is popularly called, has the grand Hassan II mosque which was completed in 1993 at great cost. The mosque has the world’s tallest minaret that soars to 210m. The mosque can accommodate 25,000 people in its main hall.
Average December Temperature: 13˚C

Arrecife: A pleasant port city with a few castles and the Charco de San Gines – a picturesque lagoon that is as yet untouched by rampant commercialization. You will find some fashionable boutiques and decent restaurants in the city and of course a nice sandy beach.
Average December Temperature: 19˚C

Santa Cruz de Tenerife: It is less touristy than you would expect and is charming in a laidback way. Its most famous landmark is the Auditorio de Tenerife, an opera house with a mammoth wave structure that vaguely reminds you of the Sydney Opera House.
Average December Temperature: 18˚C

Funchal: It is the capital of Portugal’s Madeira island. Towering cliffs look down at the sea. You won’t find a sandy beach here but the island has some hip hotels and spas.
Average December Temperature: 16.5˚C

Malaga: This is a great place to end your cruise. Its historic centre has cobbled streets, gardens and wide boulevards. Visit the 11th century Alcazaba fortress and the Casa Natale de Picasso, the famous painter’s birthplace. Trendy bars and hotels give the city a vibrant nightlife.
Average December Temperature: 13˚C

Western Caribbean

Route: Miami – Grand Cayman – Isla Roatan – Belize-Cozumel – Miami

This cruise sails from Miami, Florida, and takes you through gorgeous Caribbean countries with wonderfully sunny beaches where you can soak up the sun and have a relaxed holiday over 7 to 8 days.

Miami: Your holiday begins and end here so take time off to discover this vibrant city with a distinct Latin spirit. Miami knows how to party so you will find loads of trendy nightclubs. Its many restaurants serve every kind of cuisine for every size of pocket. Many movies and TV series have portrayed the Art Deco buildings on South Beach. This is a happening area so do take the time to have at least a coffee at one of its cafes.
Average December Temperature: 20˚C

Grand Cayman: Its the largest of the three Cayman Islands which make up the British Overseas Territory. Apart from being a tax haven for wealthy businessmen, Grand Cayman is famous for its Seven Mile Beach with soft, white sand. Every kind of water sport activity is available here.
Average December Temperature: 20˚C

Isla Roatan: Just 50 kms long and about 4 kms wide, Roatan is the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands. Here the beaches are pristine, the food is great and the hills are covered with dense forests. The island has a reef around it, making it a big draw for snorkelers and divers.
Average December Temperature: 26˚C

Belize: Flora, fauna, abundant marine life, Mayan ruins, rainforests and gorgeous sandy beaches make Belize a tropical paradise. So whether your interests run from kayaking and bird watching, to deep sea diving and historical sites, you will find there’s plenty to do and see in Belize. Altun Ha and Lamanai are the top Mayan sites.
Average December Temperature: 23˚C

Cozumel: It is Mexico’s largest island. Its Palancar Reef has attracted divers for the last several decades. Cozumel is a popular destination with a colourful and lively marketplace so if you are looking to buy souvenirs before you sail into Florida, this is the place to search for them.
Average December Temperature: 24˚C

For more December travel ideas, read Christmas Breaks at Ski Resorts, Christmas Breaks on the Beach and New Year’s Eve Destinations. Honeymoon Cruise Destinations also suggests some great cruise ideas.

Also read Royal Caribbean Cruise for more ideas about cruies around the world.

Posted by on October 24th, 2009

Filed under Christmas Cruises | 2 Comments »