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Ask the Expert

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Time to go cruisin'?

A cruise is the ultimate escape -- visit multiple ports in style and only unpack once.

Posted: August 21, 2009 10:37 a.m.
Updated: August 21, 2009 10:50 a.m.

Frank, left, and Charlotte Kleeman have a little fun with their waiter during a 1999 cruise through the Tahitian islands.

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Newhall residents Frank and Charlotte Kleeman took their first cruise in 1977 and they never stopped. They have now cruised the Caribbean three times, Alaska once, the Mexican Riviera once, the Tahitian Islands once, and several cruises in Europe, Scandinavia and Russia. With all that experience, they prefer smaller cruise ships where they get to know people better.

But, regardless of the type of cruise ship, they know any cruise offers several advantages over a land-based tour. Most importantly, with a cruise, you only have to unpack once. You can visit multiple ports and always come back to your "home" at night.

Additionally, Frank Kleeman said, "One reason we cruise is you are pampered. You are virtually living a different kind of life than you are used to.

His wife Charlotte said cruising is "the ultimate escape." And she added, "We always take excursions to see and learn as much as we can. I probably enjoy being off the ship exploring more. I have ants in my pants."

The Kleemans like to take their cruises in the spring and fall. "Our children are grown, so we have the luxury of not having to travel in the summer," Charlotte said.

Frank offered potential cruisers an important tip: "Try to get to your embarcation location three to four days ahead." By doing so you can recover from jet lag and get a chance to explore the city you depart from.

The Kleemans are looking forward to more cruising in their future - particularly river cruises in Western Europe or possibly a cruise to South America.

"We have a lot of fun," Frank said.

Karen Ilich is the president of Travel Center of Santa Clarita and knows all the ins and outs of cruises. She also knows the advantages of booking through an experienced travel agent. She advises her clients to book early. Then, if there are special prices offered, she can get the discount for them.

Ilich said that the price of a cruise will vary greatly depending on the destination, season and accommodations. In general, the accommodations include inside cabins with no windows, outside cabins with windows but no balconies, outside cabins with balconies, and suites of various sizes.

Ilich said she has seen three-night cruises as low as $199 per person, but notes that the taxes can be quite high. "You've got to read the fine print," she said.

Ilich has seen seven-night cruises as low as $499 per person. But for smaller cruise ships with luxury accommodations, she has seen seven-night cruises from $2,000 to $4,000 per person (and higher).

She notes that, for international destinations, the cost of air fare can be a major consideration.

Ilich notes that the best seasons for cruising depend on the destination. In general, Alaska is best in July and August, the Mexican Riviera is April through June, the Caribbean is April through June, Europe May through September or October, South America November through March and the Mediterranean March through November.

Princess Cruises is one of the most well-known names in the cruise game - especially since corporate offices are right here in Valencia. The company also emphasizes the "unpack once" benefit of a cruise and the magical feeling you get aboard ship of being truly unplugged. Further, you can spend the evening relaxing and being entertained - all while the ship travels to your next port of call.

Now that is low stress.

Cruise amenities include delicious gourmet meals, spas, shows, nightclubs, bars - almost anything you could desire.
Your length of cruise can run from a few days up to 114 days, where your ship becomes your forwarding address for mail.

Princess offers cruises to all seven continents (including Antarctica), and the fleet includes 17 ships of various sizes.

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