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Cool Cruising

When you think of summer vacations do you picture sitting on a beach or by a pool somewhere?  I know those of you that live somewhere that gets cold in winter look forward to summer vacation and think about laying in the sun but then summer comes and some of you might be complaining it is too hot.  Sure you could cool off a little with a dip in the ocean or pool but why not go somewhere really cool like Alaska or Norway?  Would I go to these places in winter – NO WAY!   However summer is a great time to head North to escape the heat and enjoy a literally cool vacation.   Another bonus is the longer hours of daylight make you feel like you get so much more vacation time.   There is just something really memorable about looking outside at midnight and the sun is still out.

There are 4 cool places to cruise that are only available in summer.

#1 Alaska
If you had asked me about 5 years ago what I thought about traveling anywhere that is considered a colder climate I would have said no way.   That was before I actually sucked it up and went to Alaska for the first time.  I admit I was worried that I was going to be too cold to enjoy it.   I did prepare by buying a cold weather wardrobe but was happily surprised to find that Alaska really wasn’t that cold in summer.  I actually found it a nice break from the Florida heat.  After that I started thinking where else can we cruise in summer that will offer a refreshing break from summer sizzle.
Alaska really is huge with so many breathtaking things to see and explore.  Most cruise lines offer the typical 7 night round trip cruise out of either Seattle or Vancouver.   Some cruise lines have been in Alaska longer and they offer some stops that the others cannot.   Princess and Holland America have both been in Alaska for 50 years so they really are the experts and offer the best options.   If you are just doing a 7 night cruise your really want to be sure it includes one of the big glaciers – Glacier Bay really is the BIG one but the other is Hubbard Glacier.  Doing just a cruise only lets you see the very edge of Alaska.  If you really want to get more in depth into Alaska you would want to book a cruise along with a cruisetour.   The cruisetour portion will be either before or after your cruise and you can choose the number of nights.   Holland America and Princess have their own lodges but the other cruise lines will offer some type of cruisetour.   I am actually headed up to Alaska next week to do a cruise tour before my cruise so stay tuned for my trip report and  hopefully some live updates.

#2 Norwegian Fjords
After cruising Alaska and realizing that cooler locations make a nice summer break we started looking at other options.  The Norwegian Fjords always looked so picture perfect with all the waterfalls and cute villages.    It did not disappoint!  I loved every stop and even though weather conditions caused the ship to cancel our 2 stops above the Arctic circle it was still very cool to be able to say I have been above the Arctic Circle.   We went in May and even though that isn’t Peak season we had wonderful weather with even a bit of a heat wave where it was in the 80s.  For those of us on the East Coast we are kind of in the middle of either Alaska or Norway so it would a tough call as to which to pick as they are similar but also different.  If you really want wildlife I think Alaska offers more options but Norway seemed to have more waterfalls.

#3 British Isles 
You might think the British Isles are too small to warrant their own cruises but trust me they are not!   The typical British Isles cruise is 10 – 14 days.   You might think that means you are only visiting British ports but you will usually have some that are not as well.    Some cruises might even include Iceland.   Our British Isles cruise mostly focused on Ireland but we also had a few UK stops and we started and ended in Amsterdam.    Generally smaller ships do these cruises which is what I love since that means you never really feel overcrowded even when visiting some of the big cities.  Our cruise stopped at the big ones like Dublin, Cork, Belfast, and Liverpool but we also had some smaller stops too.   I really enjoyed the smaller ports where you could walk to the local pub from the ship and really feel like you were part of this small town even if only for the day.  The North Atlantic can be a little rough on the West Coast of Ireland though and on our cruise it was so rough we had to turn around and go back around the other way.   I guess they don’t call it the Wild Atlantic Way for nothing.

#4 The Baltics
A Baltic cruise is also sometimes called Northern Europe and will typically include Scandinavia and Russia.   You might stop in places like Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, and St Petersburg.   If you have always wanted to visit Russia a Baltic cruise is one of the easiest ways to do it.   The Visa requirements for Russia can be tricky but booking a cruise shore excursion will usually take care of all of that for you.   You really get to see a wide range of cultures and histories on these cruises since you are visiting so many countries.   A Baltic cruise can be pretty port intensive for that reason so that is important to take into consideration.

Cruise lines only sail these locations April – October.  Peak season for these really is June  and July.   Earlier or Later in the season can offer less crowds and lower prices but might also not have the best weather.  School vacations also mean more kids during those peak dates.

Bermuda and Canada/New England are also places that have a limited summer window for cruising but may not offer the same cooling effect as the others.   Generally  Bermuda cruises are April – November with with June – August being peak season.   For Canada/New England cruises will run May – October with August – October being the time to leaf peep.
If you are sweating right now and thinking how can I cool off why not start thinking about planning a cool cruise for next summer (there might still be some last minute deals for cool cruises this summer too – just contact me to find out).