Friday, August 17, 2018

Tranquility and views at Fish Tail Lodge in Pokhara, Nepal


After spending several days in Kathmandu, Nepal, touring temples in the UNESCO district (many of which were damaged in an earthquake in 2015) and learning about Stupas, Kumaris, and other Buddhists symbols, Larry and I flew with our guide to Pokhara on a small 10-row Jetstream plane.
FishTail Mountain as seen from Fish Tail Lodge
Soon after take-off glistening snow-covered mountains capture my attention as I gaze outside the plane’s window. The Himalayas and Annapurna Range are among the largest mountains in the world, and the sight is simply spectacular. Peaks pointing straight to heaven sparkle in the sun. Dividing India from its northern neighbor Nepal, these elegant crowning glories provide an almost impenetrable landscape with passes that are scarce and difficult. Perpetually covered with snow, these mountains crown the world as we know it.

Flying over Himalaya Mountains
When it comes into view, I snap photos of Fish Tail Mountain (Machhapuchre), namesake for the lodge where we will stay. Located on a peninsula across from Fewa Lake in a beautiful tourist area, it is only a five-minute drive from the airport. We are shuttled to the resort across the lake on a rope-drawn raft. Views are breathtaking, and it’s easy to see why the Lodge has been included in Patricia Schultz’s book 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
Raft that shuttles guests to Fish Tail Lodge
Built in the late 1960s with unique round cottages that are set amidst a lush garden, rooms are perfect for a romantic getaway or just a tranquil sojourn. The tropical environment is filled with plants and flowers, a spa is available, and our cottage is just a few steps away from the lake and mountain views. Fish Tail Lodge is endowed to the Jayanti Memorial Trust, and all profits generated by the property help promote prevention of cardiac disease and help heart patients.

A resort with a purpose
It was almost noon when we arrived, so we sat on the deck by the lake enjoying a drink and light lunch—a welcome change from the crowded, noisy cities we had visited in India and Nepal.
As testimony to the exclusive service and comfort offered, the Fish Tail Lodge has hosted many world leaders (including President Jimmy Carter), royalty (Prince of Wales), heads of governments (Prince Narihito of Japan) and celebrities. Indeed, a dignitary from Africa arrived with her entourage shortly after we did. Seven military guys with guns took tables on either side of us, so we decided it was time to move on from the outside deck.
Larry and Beverly on the deck overlooking Fewa Lake
Later we returned to enjoy crystal clear reflections of the Annapurna range and Fish Tail Mountain on the lake. Canoes are provided for gentle escapades, either self-rowing or with a guide. Although many people come to Pokhara for relaxation, adventurous travelers find plenty of hiking, hang gliding, and other challenging activities to get their adrenalin flowing.
Beautiful reflections on mountains and city on Fewa Lake
I enjoyed relaxing on the window seat in our room, exploring the property before dinner, and then chilling out for the rest of the day. http://fishtail-lodge.com/fishtail/

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Travel insurance--don't leave home without it


To buy or not to buy. That is the question.
But for us, this is never a dilemma. We always purchase travel insurance.

You wouldn’t drive a car or live in your home without insurance, even though chances are you’ll never get back in claims anywhere near what you’ve paid in premiums over the years. Yet you have it in case that one catastrophic incident might happen.
So think about travel insurance the same way. Because travel can be expensive, and the unthinkable can happen.

Our trip to India and Nepal last winter ended with my husband Larry in the hospital in Kathmandu for eight days. Even though medical expenses are less in Nepal than in the United States, we still racked up considerable claims, not to mention canceling flights and rebooking last minute later on.
One thing to remember is that if there’s a medical situation in a foreign country that requires prompt attention, you won’t be able to get preapproval from your insurance company. So you may be required to pay upfront (charge cards are generally accepted) and then receive reimbursement from the insurance company after filing a claim when you get home. Just be sure you have high enough limits to cover expenses.

What does travel insurance cover?
The main reason to have it is to protect you from financial losses if you must cancel or interrupt your trip for covered reasons or you have legitimate medical expenses. It can also cover lost or stolen items and provide financial assistance if flights are delayed or canceled or your baggage is lost or delayed.

Cost is based on the age of the traveler, type of coverage you choose, and cost of the trip. Generally the cost is around seven percent of the amount of insurance you decide to purchase. It’s not always necessary to purchase for the full amount since you only want to include non-refundable expenses when calculating the trip cost (hotel or car rentals may be cancellable, for example).
Policies are available that allow you to cancel for any reason or that cover pre-existing conditions. These typically must be purchased soon after your initial payment and will cost more than a standard policy which can be purchased any time up until travel begins.

What is not covered?
Some policies will warrant against default by the tour operator, but not all do. Also, there are restrictions on covered reasons for canceling or interrupting the trip unless you purchased an all-inclusive policy. When choosing a policy keep in mind the dollar limits for covered expenses.

One amount to look for is at least $150,000 for emergency medical evacuation. With sufficient coverage on a regular travel insurance policy, you don’t need to purchase a separate policy for this type of emergency event.
Do you have insurance from other sources?

Some home owner’s policies will cover lost items, including luggage, although payment may not happen while you are traveling and need to replace items missing. And your health insurance might pay for illness or accident expenses although Medicare usually won’t cover expenses when traveling out of the country. Some credit cards offer travel insurance as a perk if you use the card to book certain expenses, or you might have purchased insurance from the airline when booking your flights. Be sure to check all possibilities, so you can then purchase only what is needed in excess of what you already have.
Bottom line is that—like any insurance—a travel policy can provide valuable peace of mind. And reimbursement if unfortunate circumstances happen.

Images from free sites.
 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Majestic condors bring visitors to Peru's Colca Canyon


Condors with a wing span up to 10 feet glide through the mountain pass from both sides of Colca Canyon in the Highlands of Peru. We watch these gigantic birds put on a spectacular show from our perch on a rock wall rising up from the canyon.
Only later do we learn some interesting facts: Condors can live up to 150 years and, most surprisingly, they eat only dead animals, scavenging wherever they can.

We’re at a spot called Cruz del Condor or Condor’s Cross, a natural lookout on the edge of the canyon. At an elevation of 10,784 feet, it is an excellent place to watch condors soar gracefully on rising thermals formed when warm currents rise from the canyon floor. 
Looking down into the canyon
No one can predict exactly when or how many condors may perform their aerial show on any given day, but the largest crowds come to view the spectacle early in the morning when the majestic birds are hunting for food.
The valley offers stunning views of the Andean landscape. It’s a popular location for hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers, but what entices most people to this region is the opportunity to see the powerful Andean condors in flight.

We also marvel because it’s where the mighty Amazon River begins. Colca River starts high in the Andes Mountains of Peru and flows to the Pacific Ocean in stages, forming a scenic canyon twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.  Snow-melt from the 16,800-foot high volcano Mismi is a distant source of the Amazon.
Terrace farming originated by the Incas is still practiced today.
Terraces built by Inca and pre-Inca cultures are still cultivated along the canyon walls, and the name Colca refers to small granaries built into the cliffs that were used as storage for potatoes, quinoa, and other crops grown on the terraces.
Walking along the canyon rim.
We take a short hike along the canyon’s rim. Looking at down into the valley and across the canyon we spot several backpackers trekking on the rugged, often barren trails.
This lupine resembles
our Texas bluebonnet.
But we walk easily among wildflowers on our overlook trail before returning to Colca Lodge, our hotel oasis where natural hot springs welcome us back to civility.

Peru is an increasingly popular destination for U.S. travelers.

The road to Cruz del Condor in Peru.
With bustling cities like Lima and  Arequipa, historic attractions such as Cusco and Machu Picchu, a varied geology that includes volcanoes and the Andes Mountain, native cultures of the Highlands region, an expanding culinary scene, and the enormous Amazon River, Peru is one of our favorite destinations in South America.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Think about conservation when traveling


Traveling “green” and clean should be a goal whether you’re near home or far away. If you haven’t given the concept of sustainable travel much thought, here are some tips to help you get started conserving resources.

1. Take your own refillable water bottle. It might be aluminum or hard plastic, but either is better than using disposable plastic bottles which are so flimsy nowadays that they’ve become practically one-use bottles.
2. If you go snorkeling or diving in the ocean, be aware that some chemical sunscreens might damage coral reefs, so choose your protection with reef safety in mind.
    3. Look for a farmers’ market to buy local food items. The food is fresher, and you’ll get to meet the people who have grown it.
4.  Reuse towels in your bathroom and request that sheets not be changed every day if that’s the hotel’s policy.
5. Stay at “green” certified hotels such as the Element brand of Starwood. Look for hotels that used recycled materials and energy-wise materials during construction.
6. Turn off lights and air conditioner when you leave. Think about the European system in which your room key must be inserted in the appropriate slot for electric power, and electricity stops when it is removed as you leave the room.
7. Take newspapers back to the lobby for another person to read.
8. If you need to rent a car, choose a hybrid. Some hotels have special parking spots for hybrids or electric cars.
9. Walk or ride a bicycle when possible as you tour the area. Or take public transportation.
10. Stash your trash (and pack it out) when hiking. As the saying goes, “Leave only footprints.
11. Don’t feed or tease wild animals or encourage people who might want them as pets.
12. Skip items made from wildlife when buying souvenirs. If the species is endangered, the item might be the result of illegal poaching. And you might have to pay a fine.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Waterfalls in Western U.S. national parks


Waterfalls create magical, awe-inspiring scenes, and our national parks have some of the best.
Yosemite National Park, California

Upper Yosemite Falls
Visit Yosemite National Park during May and June when snow melt from the High Sierra Mountains begins to flow into streams and rivers. From nearly any location in Yosemite Valley you can see at least one magnificent waterfall—and possibly smaller transient waterfalls.
Yosemite Falls, best-known and most spectacular in the park, is the highest waterfall in North America and sixth highest in the world. Measuring 2,425 feet from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall, this two-tiered namesake attraction flows in a long, narrow stream of water that is especially forceful in late spring (by August it may be just a trickle).

The final 320 foot drop--after a series of five smaller plunges in the Middle Cascades—makes up the Lower Fall. An easy one-mile Lower Yosemite Fall Loop Trail takes visitors to the base of the waterfall where there is an accessible viewing area with extraordinary views of the powerful waterfall. Trails from the valley floor lead to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall, but hikers should be prepared for a long, challenging climb.
Bridal Veil Falls
Another recognizable waterfall, and the first one most visitors to Yosemite National Park see when entering the valley via tunnels on Wawona Road, is Bridal Veil Falls. This waterfall is popular for two reasons: It flows all year (peaking in May); and a short but steep quarter-mile trek takes visitors to the base of the fall where they can get outstanding photos of this streaming, white cascade.

Vernal and Nevada Falls are two extraordinary water plunges that can be seen close up on the popular (and often crowded) mile-and-a-half Mist Trail. As the name suggests, the rocky path is often wet from spray, which can make the hike slippery. But a trek to Vernal Falls, the first one on the trail, is entirely doable and provides a feast for the senses and breathtaking vistas that will remain etched in your mind forever.                               
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Lower Yellowstone Falls
Mist rising from Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River forms a prism reflecting greens and golds in a surreal scene. A painting by Thomas Moran of this incredibly beautiful vision helped persuade Congress to make Yellowstone the world’s first national park. After the geyser Old Faithful, this is the most photographed spot in the park.
Formed by erosion as the Yellowstone River flows over progressively softer, less resistant rock, the waterfall flows first over the 109-foot Upper Falls and then the more accessible Lower Falls. It is the biggest waterfall in Yellowstone and the most famous. Part of the reason is that it can be viewed from several different vantage points such as serene Artist Point where visitors can watch the water drop 308 feet into the mist below. 

Extended view of Yellowstone Falls
A one-way loop drive from the east goes to the brink of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River providing “wow” opportunities at Inspiration Point, Grandview Point, and Lookout Point. For a breathtaking experience, take a trail to the top of the Falls (the last stop), a short but steep three-quarters mile round trip. Hear the intense roar as water plunges deep into the rainbow mist beneath.
Grand Canyon, Arizona

Waterfalls are abundant when rafting on the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, drenching myself under a waterfall was an easy way to "shower" and get clean, especially since the river water was 45 degrees and muddy.
Nature's "shower"


Beguiling turquoise water flowing over crimson red rocks seems almost unearthly at HavasuFalls. But it’s not a dream, which you’ll fully realize after hiking 10 miles into Havasu Canyon to reach the falls. If you have an adventurous spirit, it’s definitely worth the effort to see an oasis of waterfalls in the desert southwest.
One of the most photographed waterfalls in the world, Havasu’s 100 foot drop is impressive, but the most amazing feature is its breathtaking blue-green color, which is due to high mineral content of travertine in the water.

Although located within the Grand Canyon, this tropical paradise is not in Grand Canyon National Park but rather on the Havasupai Indian Reservation.  Because it’s private land hikers must obtain a trail permit from the reservation. Havasu is one of four major waterfalls (also Navajo, Mooney, and Beaver Falls) in the indigenous home of the Havasupai Indian tribe, who have lived there for over 800 years. 
Getting ready to jump into Havasu Waterfall
Guided hiking tours are available, or helicopter rides take visitors over the canyon for a birds-eye view of the waterfalls.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier
 

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Life in rural India


After a full day touring historical sites in Delhi including Old Town, Shanti Vana (Forest of Peace), Red Fort, Raj Ghat (Mahatma Gandhi’s Memorial), Humayan’s Tomb, and Qutub Minar,  we left our resort, the Taj Palace, and flew two hours south to Jabalpur. Then we rode another five hours as our driver maneuvered through rural areas to Kahna National Park in Madhya Pradesh state of India.
Along the way we passed through many small towns, each exhibiting a level of simplicity (by Western world standards) as indicated by people sitting on the ground by the road selling apples, tomatoes, and shoes. Day laborers waited for work that rarely came. Open air stalls served food, sold medicines, clothing, and purses, or offered a shave. Entire families piled on one motorcycle, including lap babies (I cringed), but it was quicker than walking.

Away from the busyness of the cities, life is slower and more serene. But trash is piled up almost everywhere, and everything seems dirty, crumbling, or in disarray. But no one appears to notice. When something breaks, it stays that way because there are limited resources for repairs. Yet we saw children playing and laughing and getting into the same mischief as children anywhere.
As you might imagine, cattle roam freely often causing traffic jams or slowdowns on the roads. They are never eaten and usually don’t do work but are important for the milk they give—and as status symbols for some people. Killing cattle is not allowed even though cattle must fend for themselves for food.

Bicycles, cars, and pedestrians all share the road in a tenuous dance involving oblivious but complicated right-of-way. Life and death is often a matter of mere inches. There is two-way traffic on one-way roads. I gasp more than you can imagine and at times refuse to look at the road. Yet, our driver knows all this and expertly drives us safely to our destination.
Poverty and living conditions are depressing, especially to our American sensibilities. Dirt is omnipresent. Dust fills the air. Women walk with large bundles of fire wood and baskets of food items balanced on their heads. Technology is a foreign concept in the work life of villagers and farmers, although Internet capability is available in all but the most rural or secluded places.

I’m amazed by this journey. We are right in the heart of India, and these are not tourist destinations. I can’t imagine getting a better view of real life in this dichotic country. Still, I know this trip isn’t for everyone; it does require a sense of adventure and a non-judgmental mindset.
People from several villages are going to a Sunday festival.
Around dark we arrived at Kanha Jungle Lodge, our base for wildlife safaris during the next several days. Set on the outskirts of the national park, this beautiful lodge provides respite from the conditions we have traveled through.

Here we see a totally different aspect of Indian life. Wildlife conservation is an important issue in India with numerous governmental agencies aiding habitat construction and preservation. Researchers study wild animals to ensure their safety and longevity. Park visits are highly regulated and require knowledgeable local guides. With more than 200 national parks in India, tourism—both foreign and local—allows for education while boosting the economy.
I’ll share more about  our wonderful experiences at tiger reserves and game sanctuaries in later posts.

 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rivers to kayak in Texas Hill Country


Beat the heat of a central Texas summer with a refreshing day of kayaking in the Hill Country on either the Llano or San Saba Rivers, both less than two hours drive from Austin.
San Saba River

Locals think the San Saba River is as close to paradise as you can get.  After soaking up sun (bring plenty of sunscreen) floating along four of the 50 available river miles in Menard County, I agree. 
Stroking paddles rhythmically from side to side, my husband Larry and I swished our kayaks through wide open spaces surrounded by cedar, oak, and pecan trees rustling on the river’s banks.  Just as we settled into an easy cadence, the river made a tight turn into a narrow path shielded by sharp barrier grasses, so we paddled swiftly to steer away from trouble.  The challenges of maneuvering over rocks and around bends that appeared suddenly following a couple of small rapids simply added fun to our adventure.

We glided beside limestone bluffs, watching reflections disappear as our paddles rippled across the water.  Although you’re never far from a major road, the river retains the calm and serenity of nature because there’s no residential development. 
Water level of the San Saba, a 100-mile tributary of the Colorado River, fluctuates with weather conditions, so check on the status with an outfitter like San Saba River Adventures, (325-496-4364), where you can rent kayaks by the hour or by the day.

Llano River
A few miles out of Junction, we find Peacemaker River Expeditions (325-446-2363), one of several outfitters on the South Llano River.  Larry and I navigated our rented kayaks through mostly smooth waters that spun into a few small rapids, one of which gave me an unexpected dunking when my kayak grazed the bank and flipped.  Sloshing through waist-deep water, I grabbed the kayak, righted it, and hopped back in, none the worse—and even a bit cooler from my dip. 


Our kayaking excursion on the South Llano River was short and sweet (between two spots where the road crosses over the river), but you can beat the heat all day by launching on the Main Llano River (formed when the South and North Forks meet in Junction, with access at the city park).
If you want to spend the day on the water, the first public access downstream from the dam at Grobe Crossing makes for a six-to seven-hour trip, while the Yates Crossing is approximately two more hours. The main Llano River travels across miles of beautiful Hill Country terrain before emptying into the Colorado River.

Both rivers are great for fishing, birding, swimming, and scouting for wildlife.  Your first time out, it’s best to rent kayaks from established outfitters that will transport you to put-in and take-out spots. Some even provide guided overnight excursions. 
For more information:
http://sansabariveradventures.com
www.junctiontexas.net/canoeing.htm

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Thursday, June 28, 2018

First impressions of India


People have asked me why we wanted to travel to India. Isn’t it overcrowded, dirty, and noisy, they ask.
Yes, it is. But it is much more than what you see on the surface.
This fellow pushes his cart of fresh fruit along the street.
India is an ever-changing collection of colors, smells, tastes, and sounds—a feast for all the senses that can often become overwhelming.
Cities, especially, are a jumbled mass of humanity which makes accomplishing tasks of daily living difficult. Chadni Chowk, the Old Town Market in Delhi, is a good microcosm of city life for the mid and lower classes. But the market is an historical place you must visit if you really want to experience all the crazy wonderfulness of this complicated country.

Colorful blankets for sale
Chadni Chowk is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, a place where you really want to have a guide. Its open air shops offer a multitude of goods at wholesale prices. It’s the most popular place for wedding shopping—paper goods, invitations, and bridal wear.
Food was cooked open-air style. Often we had no idea what was
being prepared--and didn't dare sample it.
 Open air spice markets and food vendors peddle a plethora of items, such as the wagon full of green limes making its way down the stifling street. Boxes of second-hand books (in case you want to learn chemistry, medicine, or law) were also bundled for resale to other shops.
In cities and rural towns vendors line the streets with their wares
or sit beside the wall and wait for a "job."
People on foot, bicycles, rickshaws, and motorcycles all vie for space in narrow alleys and lanes. All modes of travel pass each other with mere inches to spare, sometimes bumping into each other. People push carts loaded with fruits, boxes, and indeterminate goods right alongside motorized vehicles. Pedestrians must be brave and aggressive—even little old ladies nose their way across the street ignoring the real possibility of personal injury.
Electric wires strung across alleys
like this seemed dangerous to me.

 
Such close encounters means horns are constantly blaring at all decibels and tones.  Vehicles are spewing noxious exhaust, and just the noise of so much movement can be a head-splitting cacophony that never stops.
Still, we rarely saw tempers flare even though the conditions would bring huge road rage in America. It seems the people are adept at anticipating movement and avoiding collisions.

But look past the rust, peeling paint, and disarray. If you can blot those out of your mind, you’ll see brilliant colors everywhere—beautifully beaded and sequined gowns, glistening textiles in Crayola hues, and elaborate jewelry in crisp gold or decorated with multi-colored stones.
Rickshaw ride

Our guide wanted us to experience a traditional bicycle rickshaw ride, but what should have been a 15 or 20 minute jaunt took us into a massive traffic jam that took an hour to navigate. We were bounced, bumped, and jostled down the pothole-laden alley as our adult bike peddler dodged so many obstacles.
Ready for our ride--we held
on for dear life.
This is the typically crowded, gaudy, smoky, smelly, loud, and hazardous picture many people have about India. People stepping over bicycles while dodging rickshaws or weaving through the mélange. Monkeys roaming on the rooftops. Castrated oxen pulling an overloaded cart. And all sharing the same limited space. It wasn’t calm, but it wasn’t contentious—just what people must deal with.

Despite the hot, dusty ride, I tried to appreciate the experience for the fact it exposed us to life in Delhi—something I know not everyone will comprehend or value. But it was through such experiences that we better understood the culture of this heavily populated country. (One in six people in the world is Indian, our guide said).
We saw plenty that was good as well as bad—including the friendliness of the people. We observed that many different religious groups lived well together, and applauded that the country recognizes the inequality of the caste system, even though this social anomaly is still practiced.

Traffic on jam-packed streets leads tomass confusion.
As we traveled on to several interior national parks to view tigers and other wildlife, we enjoyed beautiful landscapes that many Indians themselves never see. Whether they live in a large city or in rural areas, life for most people is rather simple with few amenities. And there is a great divide according to education level achieved. I’ll write more about life in India in future posts.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Friday, June 22, 2018

Cruise the Caribbean--perfect destination for families


More ships cruise the Caribbean islands than any other region in the world. No wonder--Caribbean cruises treat families to crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, abundant water sports, kayaking and zip lining, and duty-free shopping, and non-stop entertainment for all ages.
Caribbean cruises are great family vacations.
Caribbean cruises are divided into three regions: Western, Southern, and Eastern Caribbean cruises. In the Western Caribbean you can see Mayan ruins on Mexico's Yucatan coast, snorkel in the barrier reef off the coast of Belize, swim with sting rays or lounge on Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach. Roatan, Honduras is a relatively new, clean, and uncluttered port that shares the barrier reef and has an interior jungle landscape.

Because so many people cruise the Caribbean islands, you'll find the most competitive pricing and the best per-diem rates on a Caribbean cruise. You’ll also find four or five day cruises, if you’re short on time. Special offers like lower deposits, kids sail free, shipboard credits, and free shore excursions are popular enticements.
Great vacation for families

Caribbean cruises are particularly kid-friendly, making them ideal for family getaways (grandparents included). Most ships have children's programs, youth counselors, and children's activity centers that can be life-savers for parents and help guarantee that everyone has the most fun possible.  
Many ships have popular kid attractions like water slides.
Cruising provides an all-inclusive vacation. The best part, especially if you’re traveling with children, is you only have to unpack once. If you have teens who want some independence, tourching base is easy enough on a ship. Plus the Caribbean is blessed with balmy, pleasant weather year round, making it family-friendly for holiday cruises, spring break, or summer time.

Best time to go
Anytime!  If you like to swim, snorkel, or do other water activities, the Caribbean is ideal. The weather is almost always warm, Caribbean ports have activities year-round, and ships sail throughout the year. The only time you might choose to avoid is hurricane season from June 1 to November 1, which is officially hurricane season, but if no storms are on the horizon, summer is a great time to enjoy Caribbean islands.

Exploring Mayan ruins on a shore excursion in the Caribbean.
Of course, cruise ships can be packed with kids and teens during spring break and in early summer, so keep that in mind. That’s great if you're traveling with kids or grandkids who make friends easily.  However, if you’re flying into a popular port like Florida around spring break, flights and hotels may be hard to find or expensive.

During  “shoulder season,” late April to May and September to early January (except for holidays), prices are lower and crowds smaller on Caribbean sailings. Sailings longer than seven days generally attract mature cruisers because kids are generally in school and parents may not be able take so much time off work.
Cruising with kids

Families larger than four people will require adjoining rooms or a suite. But that has the advantage of more room to move around and store items as well as the possibility of some privacy for parents. Dining rooms typically accommodate young children with faster service and special menu items. Or choose casual buffet restaurants which serve the same items, allowing adults to sample fine cuisine while children nosh on familiar foods.
More fun for children on cruise ships.
If you need to travel on specific days, take advantage of early booking discounts, which are offered when you place a deposit as much as 18 months prior to your travel date. Plan shore excursions as a family and book online before you set sail.

Consider a shorter cruise, if it’s your first time. Kids will stay excited throughout, and it will be over before boredom has time to set in. Set a budget, and be sure kids know what they can charge (cruise cards act like credit cards) and what is off-limits. Or inactivate your kids’ cruise cards so they can’t run up your tab on unapproved expenses.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier