Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fall in love with autumn cruising

It's a grat time of year to tour the Mediterranean

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The cruise industry continues to grow so it is not surprising that questions and issues surrounding the industry often dominate my emails.

QUESTION: We are taking a Mediterranean cruise at the end of the month.

While I agreed to this timing I was not convinced it would be a great time from a weather perspective.

What are we likely to run into during October, and is it a period when people actually want to cruise that part of world?

ANSWER: Quite frankly, I prefer to travel through most of Southern Europe in either spring or fall.

Most people who go on these trips are not looking for beach vacations. They are usually journeys of discovery. That part of the world can get extremely hot and humid during the peak weeks of summer. This makes walking tiring and uncomfortable.

In October throughout most of the countries in which you will be stopping as a part of your itinerary you will have missed the months when the heat and discomfort index is very high.

It is hard to predict exactly what temperatures you will face from nation to nation, but the average highs through most of that region in October range from 20C to 24C which is perfect for touring.

At night the temperatures will range from 13C to 16C. Like here, you will have between 10 and 11 hours of daylight.

As a bonus this month is considered shoulder season, and the price you paid was likely considerably less than would have been during the peak periods.

QUESTION: We are considering a cruise through the Panama Canal this winter.

Is there a particular cruise line or itinerary we should be looking at?

As I look online and through the multitude of brochures it is easy to get quite mixed up in trying to come to a final conclusion. Can you help clarify some of this for me?

ANSWER: Just about everything on a canal cruise is focused around that singular destination.

After that, everything else is built around trying to satisfy which secondary interests the Panama Canal target demographic may be interested in.

And indeed, the market that cruise lines cater to for Panama Canal cruises is a targeted demographic. While people of all ages may be interested in seeing the 20th century mega-construction project that changed transportation patterns to this day, it seems to hold a greater fascination for people who are somewhat older than the age cohort of other itineraries.

There are a few considerations you may want to take into account.

You can go through the canal and come back around the other side starting and ending your cruise at different cruise ports, or you can choose the option that takes you partway through the canal and return to the same starting port via other ports of call.

Even though your flight schedules may be marginally more challenging, I recommend cruises that go through the entirety of canal.

Your selection of cruise ship, like any other cruise holiday you may have taken, is totally dependent on your preferred style of travel: large ship, small vessel, luxury or budget.

You may be on the ship for a longer period for many other cruises, so you want to make sure you will be satisfied with the ships amenities for the entire time you will be away.

QUESTION: What is the deal with Internet on cruise ships?

I would like to take my laptop with me but many tell me there is a room that has multiple computers for the use of clients. They also say it is the only area where you can get any effective connections.

Is that correct?

ANSWER: Let me first comment on your opening statement. There are few good deals on using internet on cruise ships.

While they all offer volume pricing, using internet on a cruise ship can be quite expensive.

If you only want to keep in touch with family once in a while you can save the weight and trouble of carrying around another appliance with you.

However, taking along your laptop is a good idea if you plan to use the internet a lot.

Because I try to keep up with my work and columns even while on a cruise, I always take my laptop with me.

Even on the biggest ships there is no problem or extra expense in using it in the comfort of my cabin. But it is important to realize satellite-driven internet has lapses, and is much slower than land-based connectivity.

It can be a frustrating experience at times knowing you are blowing through expensive minutes at a rapid rate without being able to efficiently complete the communications you set out to achieve.

Calculate your needs, but for the most part, my advice has always been to suggest purchasing longer packages than you think you will require. Your price for minute drops significantly with each level.

Through lessons learned from experience, I now automatically take the highest level. Even though I often have minutes left I feel I have saved both on the connection fees, and the cumulative total in lower priced minutes used.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 E3

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