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Dear Deal Detective:
I want to backpack in Belize, but my friend and travel partner wants to do an all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic and never leave the hotel. Can you help us find a good compromise that doesn’t involve lots of obnoxious tourists? We’re both female. And, oh yeah, we’re on a tight budget. Help!
This is a tricky one. I’m going to recommend one of the more “exotic” western Caribbean cruises with stops in Central America, or perhaps a southern Caribbean cruise. You can use the shore excursions to explore some of the more backpacker-like destinations such as Belize, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Rica, and your friend can stay on the ship if she’s so inclined.
To avoid being overwhelmed by tourists, obnoxious or otherwise, stay away from the “typical” western Caribbean (Mexico, Grand Cayman, Jamaica) and eastern Caribbean (St. Maarten, St. Thomas) itineraries. For the most up-to-date amenities, look for newer ships, especially on lines like Carnival and Norwegian.
Here are some ship suggestions:
- Carnival Destiny out of Puerto Rico
- Carnival Legend out of Tampa
- Carnival Miracle out Ft. Lauderdale
- Norwegian Pearl out of Miami
- Norwegian Spirit out of New Orleans
You might also want to check Princess or Celebrity, which are slightly more upscale and typically more expensive, but might still fit into your budget. Whichever line you choose, I recommend a seven-day or longer voyage if you can swing it.
Letters of the Week
Last week I printed some tips from reader Rhonda Peterson, who was answering another reader question about where to vacation with a two-year-old. That generated an interesting tip from reader Sara Hage of Chicago. She writes, “I missed the opportunity to respond to the question about family travel, but I thought it might be helpful for you to know that there is a small boutique travel company dedicated to providing relaxing trips for families with their kids. It’s called Global Family Adventures.”
Christie Beer of Decatur, Indiana, says, “I believe an all-inclusive vacation is the best way to go with children. Food is offered almost around the clock and we love the relaxed atmosphere. Being on a daily agenda is not our idea of a vacation especially with our two-, six-, and nine-year-old children. Be sure to pick a resort with childcare or a kids’ club of some kind. After speaking to the caretaker extensively and checking the area out, we’ve been able to catch some alone time, which is important to but often neglected. My kids usually beg me to let them go to the kids’ club because they have so much fun. By the time gas for the car, lodging, and food is all added up, the price of an all-inclusive is a better value with much less stress. Have fun!”
Meanwhile, several of you wrote in to help other readers as well.
To Joseph V., who asked about all-inclusive Caribbean getaways for a military family of six, reader E.S. writes, “Tell the military guy to take a cruise. Carnival offers military discounts and offers really cheap five-day cruises anyway. Alternately they could look into a Norwegian or Royal Caribbean cruise out of Baltimore.”
Concerning the letter from Kim in Missouri, who along with her husband wants to celebrate their retirement and 30th wedding anniversary but fears getting seasick, reader E.R. says, “I had a history of seasickness on small craft and ferries, so was very leery about trying my first cruise in the early 1980s. My physician prescribed me a behind-the-ear patch that worked perfectly. I never had the first symptom of seasickness. However, I did have a problem with my vision blurring and finally determined the patches were the cause. Even after I discontinued use, I found I had no problem. On subsequent cruises I found that I only needed the patches for the first 24-48 hours. I only had a problem once, and that was when a storm blew up in the middle of the night mid-cruise. At that point almost everyone on the cruise experienced some nausea so we were all in it together! At one point these patches were taken off the market because of the vision side-effect, but I believe they are now back on the market. I have also used the over-the-counter wrist bands and found them less convenient but effective. I have been on four or five cruises in the last 20 years and each was wonderful. I prefer sightseeing, but my favorite beaches were in the Virgin Islands.”
Another reader, C.C., suggests booking on “the bigger and newer ships, because they are more stable at sea. They should book a cabin on a low deck mid-ship, the most stable area. They might also want to consider a window or balcony because looking at the horizon and getting fresh air helps with seasickness. She should also wear seabands. People swear by them. For destinations, try Hawaii or the southern Caribbean.”
Have a question for the Deal Detective? Please email him your request. Be aware that due to the volume of requests I receive, I cannot personally respond to every email. The more compelling your question, the better the chance you’ll be selected for an upcoming case.
All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.