Cruising is back and the major cruise lines are spicing up spring and summer travel plans by offering some really incredible itineraries for those who enjoy cruise vacations. The industry was basically dormant for much of 2020 and parts of 2021 as the world negotiated its way through the COVID pandemic. But now, the high seas are again available and the destinations that you want to see are waiting with open arms to welcome you back.

Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
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Triple-A, the American Automobile Association knows a thing or two about cruises. Despite what their name suggests they know more than just the price of gas and where the closest hotels are to the Grand Canyon. The organization recently conducted a survey of its members to see which cruise destinations were at the top of the list for vacation plans and the suggestions might help you choose a cruise.

Your first decision in choosing a cruise and a destination is who is going with you. Will it be a long date for two? Will it be more of a family vacation with smaller children? Are you going with a group?  What special interests do you have? Those questions should all be entertained before you even decide where you want to go ashore. Because the first thing you need to do is pick a cruise line.

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My experience has taught me, you get what you pay for. But you need to know what you're paying for before you hand over your credit card. For folks who are looking to "throw down" with dancing and drinking and lots of nightlife. There are cruise lines for that.

If you want someone to watch and entertain your kids while you do as little as possible on board, there are cruise lines that specialize in that, too. There are also more stodgy and traditional cruise lines where you'll be asked to dress for dinner and no you can't wear your Crocs into the main dining room.

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Once you've figured out your ship then you need to know where to go. The Triple-A survey suggested that cruisers who want to depart from an American port ranked Alaska and Hawaii as the top two origination points on their list. Alaskan Cruises can sail from Seattle and Anchorage. Hawaiian Cruises sail from California and Honolulu.

Now would be a good time to note that sailing from Seattle and California will likely result in more "days at sea". That's where you're on the ship in the middle of the ocean. Too many "days at sea" can run up your bar tab and cause overspending in the casino.

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OldSchoolSlots via YouTube
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On the east coast cruisers who wish to embark from American ports were looking at Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and New Orleans as their gateway to the Caribbean. Passengers who were looking at Bermuda as a destination or the Canadian maritime provinces suggested that New York would be their departure destination.

By the way, the AAA survey found that most cruisers wanted to go to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda loosely in that order. So, if you're thinking Alaska or Hawaii, think "full ship". That means a lot of people.

Karl Callwood via Unsplash.com
Karl Callwood via Unsplash.com
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Now, if you're willing to fly a little to sail a lot the International port of embarkation that topped the Triple-A survey was Vancouver Canada. This port is a gateway to Alaska since it's basically Canadian Seattle.  Cruisers who wanted to see the Mediterranean were opting to sail from Barcelona in Spain, Venice in Italy, and Athens in Greece.

The sail away from Venice is spectacular even though the local authorities no longer allow the big ships on the Grand Canal, it's still quite a sight to see. Barcelona is a great town to visit and if you've got a cruise ship waiting on you, I'd like to wait there. Athens seemed to be a little more chaotic but chaos is part of the Greek lifestyle I guess.

Yang Yang via Unsplash.com
Yang Yang via Unsplash.com
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AAA subscribers also had river cruises in their travel plans for 2023. The ones most sought after were the cruises that left from Paris in France or Budapest in Hungary. No matter which river cruise you take if you don't get to see Amsterdam or Hamburg Germany you're going to miss a treat.

Azhar J via Unsplash.com
Azhar J via Unsplash.com
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Northern Europe cruises were the fourth choice for those surveyed by Triple-A. No matter which line you choose you can bet the destinations will be filled with history and almost everyone will speak better English than you. If this is your first international cruise, I would go to northern Europe.

The only drawback I found is money. No, not the lack of it but the currency exchange you have to make between countries is a pain in the ass. The Euro was so much more convenient but travel is not about convenience, it's about adventure, right?

Rounding out the top five destinations from international ports were cruises that served the Middle East and India. Many of those cruises depart from Saudi Arabia which would be an adventure unto itself.

Georgy Trofimov via Unsplash.com
Georgy Trofimov via Unsplash.com
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Now is a great time to book a cruise. The cruise lines are offering some great low fares and you can save even more on future cruises once you're onboard. If you know how to play the game you can use future cruise credits to pay for your current cruise while paying for a cruise two or three years down the road.

One other thing, unless you're an alcoholic and I mean chronic alcoholic don't sign up for a drink plan. You'll be money ahead just paying for your drinks and you won't feel the need to get drunk every night to get your money's worth. On a recent cruise, I calculated the cost of just the soft drink coffee package to be the equivalent of 53 large specialty coffee drinks over seven days. Do the math before you decide.

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