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Find shore excursion news for cruisers, Travel Agents and Tour Operators in our ShoreFox Cruise Blog. Fascinating stories, adventures, new opportunities and perspectives: read them here first. From here we post on Facebook and Twitter, and summarize it once a month in a newsletter. Stay tuned with your preferred channel including the RSS feed.


Cruising From Venice? What You Need to Know 2014-07-08

When you think of Venice several words probably come to mind: Gondolas and canals. Romance and architecture. Venice is a magical place to visit, and sailing in or out on a cruise ship gives you a birds eye view over the top of the buildings and through the canals.

Venice 4

Getting There

First things first - we recommend that you plan to spend some time in Venice either before or after your cruise. Venice is a magical city with lots to explore, and it would be a shame to miss it! There are lots of great tours available, or you can buy a guidebook and while some hours away visiting the attractions and dining on delicious regional Italian specialties.

Once you’ve arrived - either at the airport or the cruise terminal - there are water taxis waiting to take you to your downtown hotel. Never heard of a water taxi? As an island city, Venice has no streets and therefore no cars. To compensate, they have a fairly robust system of public water buses, public water taxis or private water taxis. Since you’ll likely be traveling with luggage, and most of your travel will be on foot, it’s best to prepare in advance to save yourself from any stress.

Venice 1

Pack Light(er Than Usual)

When you arrive to the cruise terminal, either via a private water taxi or a public vaporetto (water bus) there is a long walk to the checkin counter and then onto the cruise ship. Some cruise lines offer dockside checkin for your larger bags which you will want to take advantage of. However there is still your carry on luggage to consider. So try to pack as lightly as possible! It can be very hot in Venice in the summer, and dragging a suitcase around for extensive time outside can feel like torture.

If you are arriving with your luggage to St. Mark’s Square, there are typically land porters with giant carts available for hire. It may only seem like your hotel is a few blocks away, but with all the bridges and steps and tourists to walk around, we definitely recommend that you take advantage of this service. Just make sure to negotiate the rates before you set off. And when you are getting ready to leave your hotel, have the concierge call a land porter for you. It’s traveling in style, as the Venetians do.

Venice Sightseeing

Getting Around

When you arrive back to Venice on your cruise ship, and want to go to a hotel in downtown Venice, you will have the choice of a private water taxi or the public vaporetto again. The private water taxi is definitely more convenient, but expensive. You can expect to pay 70 euro or more for the service. And keep in mind that each person is allowed to bring one suitcase, with additional suitcases charged extra by the driver.

The public vaporetto is pretty convenient to use, but you will need to wait for it. The #1 runs on a loop between the cruise terminal, the train station, and St. Mark’s Square - a drop off point for many hotels. Per adult, each ride costs approximately 7 euro, and can be purchased on the day of the ride at the ticket counter. Each ticket is valid for 1 hour once its been stamped. To ride the vaporetto, get the ticket stamped in one of the automated machines before you get onto the water bus. Italian police frequently ride the water buses and will check to make sure your tickets are valid. If you are going to be traveling around for a day or two, you might want to consider getting a multi use travel card for the appropriate amount of time - you can save a lot of money this way.

Venice 5

See & Do

There are many beautiful areas to explore in Venice. Make sure you pack good walking shoes - heels are less than ideal - as most of the streets and walkways are on cobblestones and there are literally hundreds of bridges to cross up and down. St. Mark’s Square, Piazza San Marco, is a tourist hub where most people start their exploration. You can visit the famous Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, with their incredible architecture and gold decoration. Check out the Bridge of Sighs, a favorite for lovers the world over near St. Mark’s Square. Hire a private gondola, complete with a singing captain, to ferry you around the Grand Canal or through some of the smaller waterways. Sail over to the Murano Island and learn how the famous Venetian glass is made - don’t forget to pick up a souvenir. Or visit the famous Venetian casino at night where you can act out your favorite James Bond fantasy. Just make sure you are dressed to the nines.

The Future

There is an ongoing dialogue about the future of the cruise industry in Venice. The locals claim that the cruise ships are polluting the delicate environment, and they don’t like that most of the time the ships are taller than the the buildings. There is an ongoing effort by various conservation groups to try to ban them. So if this is on your bucket list, make your plans now and enjoy this amazing experience.

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2014 Cruise Industry Trends 2014-06-11

Group

Approximately 22 million people are expected to take a cruise this year, But while cruising is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry, only about one in four Americans has ever taken a cruise - as compared to three out of four who have taken a beach vacation. So how are cruise lines going to attract all these cruise “newbies”? And, more importantly, cruise lines are struggling to attract millennials and younger cruisers who feel that cruising belongs to their parents' generation. Here is a roundup of the most exciting cruise trends that major cruise lines have invested in in order to attract a new crowd:

Entertainment Acts with Recognizable Names

Younger “would-be” cruisers aren’t typically interested in Broadway shows and oldies cover bands - the previous mainstay of cruises. They just don’t appeal because its dated, and this concerns millennials as they are worried there won’t be enough to do onboard. So cruise lines are looking to change this with the introduction of major mainstream pop, country and rock acts like Jennifer Hudson, Lady Antebellum and Tony Award-winning musical performances.

Broadening Global Horizons

In the search for new itineraries and destinations that will appeal to a broader global audience, U.S. cruise lines are turning toward Asia. More ships are being sent to Asia for dedicated saplings, and the newest Royal Caribbean ship “Quantum of the Seas” will be positioned out of Shanghai. Cruise lines are looking to give North Americans more destination choices, and to capture the burgeoning Australian, Korean, Chinese and Japanese markets. Interested in seeing major international cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok and Tokyo. River cruise lines are also investing in Asia making it easy to traverse the complex waterways of China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

More Food Options

In a world where you can order your dinner delivered hot and fresh via a smartphone app, many potential cruisers worry about lackluster buffets. So cruise lines have started to partner with celebrity chefs to contemporize their menus and options: Carnival has partnered with Guy Fieri to launch on-ship burger joints, Norwegian has a partnership with the Cake Boss and Royal Caribbean has ties to Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz.

Faster, Cheaper Wi-Fi

Connecting to the web on a cruise ship hasn’t always been easy. For years the cruise lines message to passengers was that cruising is a great way to disconnect. However, in this day and age it’s an unthinkable concept. Besides traveling with laptops, most cruisers bring smartphones and tablets with them and want to be able to connect with the outside world and share their experiences during the cruise.

The cruise lines have taken notice and are quickly investing in improving their infrastructure dramatically. Starting with the newer ships, faster and more affordable options are being rolled out which is great news for everyone. Expect cheaper internet access in the future, as well as 3rd party smartphone apps that will work at sea to help passengers connect with one another as easily as they would on shore.

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Cruising Down The Panama Canal 2014-05-19

Panama Canal

Starting from the Atlantic side, ships are waiting in the Bahia Limón for their assigned slot. This is the canal side of Colón with access to the first locks, known of the Gatun Locks. By law, a local pilot is required to board the ship to help the Captain navigate. He or she comes on board the night before - if you are quick-eyed you will see a small boat approach the ship and drop the pilot off. This way the cruise ship is ready to start passing through the canal in the early morning hours. You will typically hear the captain announce “all decks open”, which signifies the start to the passage and gives guests access to the front of the ship.

History

The Panama Canal turns 100 years old this August. On August 15, 1914 the “SS Ancon” was the first ship to pass the new 60 mile (80 kilometers) canal. The canal shortens the distance between New York and San Francisco from 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) to under 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers). The French and Americans built it in two batches between 1880 and 1914. During the construction period more than 30,000 people lost their lives in the swamps: they died from accidents, malaria, yellow fever, and snakebites. The Americans invested $375 million dollars and controlled the canal until December 31, 1999. Since then, it resides under the ownership of “the people of Panama”.

How It Works

The pilot maneuvers the huge cruise ship carefully into the first lock. As a passenger it feels like sitting in a shoebox. There are only a few inches between the reeling and the walls. In fact, if you reach out you can touch the lock! That’s how close it is. After the cruise ship is positioned properly, the gates close. It takes 8 minutes to lift the ship by 30 feet (9 meters) as water floods into the lock, slowly raising the ship. Little engines steer and stabilize the ships, as the ships can’t use their own propulsion or thrusters in the narrow locks.

Every year 14,000 ships pass the canal, approximately 200 of which are cruise ships. The difference in the water level between the Atlantic and the canal is 80 feet (26 meters). The ships are lifted in 3 steps over this hurdle. Then the ships cruise in the canal and on artificial lakes through the rain forest and the continental waters divide until they reach on the other coastal side the other lock system where again 3 locks lower the ship back to the sea level.

Locks

The Panama Canal is a busy water street. Up to 40 ships pass through the canal each day. And it’s a huge source of income for the Panama government. The transit fees are calculated based on the cargo or number of passengers. A ship like the Norwegian Pearl pays e.g. $300,000 dollars and for the MS Zaandam it’s approximately $200,000 dollars. During the night it’s much cheaper. But that’s not an option for a cruise liner as the guests onboard would not appreciate waking up having missed the entire experience!

Looking Ahead

If you want to experience the original Panama Canal crossing, you need to hurry a little. In 2015 the modernization of the canal will be completed. The locks are being elongated and widened, so that bigger ships can use the canal. But for comparison: Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships will still be too wide to pass through.

When your ship arrives at an appropriate time at the last lock, you be greeted by an announcement of the local visitor center. “Bienvenidos, Bienvenue, Welcome to Panama.” And everybody will wave their hats. So grab your camera - and your hat - and enjoy this famous crossing!

Click here to learn more about the Panama Canal and the new lock system.

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Go Green: Travel & Cruising Tips 2014-04-23

Hawaii Lady

The basic concept of green travel is the importance of protecting the natural and cultural environment of the places you visit. That means conserving water and resources, respecting plants and wildlife, respecting local cultures and ways of life; and contributing positively to local communities. Green travel when cruising means conserving resources and reducing your footprint both onboard the ship and ashore.

Why Go Green?

In 2014 over 21 million people will sail the oceans on cruise ships - which means it’s more important than ever for travelers to minimize their individual impact on the earth’s natural and cultural treasures. The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global. Taking a green approach to travel is an easy and essential way to protect the places you love to visit, not just for yourself but for the travelers who come after you and for the people who will continue to live there long after you’ve sailed home. As an added bonus, it often makes for a more rewarding, authentic travel experience, encouraging deeper connections with the people and places you visit.

Eilat

How Does The Cruise Industry Hold Up In Terms of Environmental Standards?

Although accidents have happened, cruise ships' environmental standards meet or surpass all U.S. and international laws. And while cruise ships tend to get a bad rap, most companies go above and beyond what is required by law to protect the ocean and marine life. For example, ships are required to reduce the solid waste they generate by purchasing in bulk, encouraging suppliers to use more efficient packaging, reusing packaging when possible and packaging more environmentally friendly materials. In addition, ships must actively recycle glass, metals, wood, cardboard and paper.

In the last 10 years, cruise ships have cut their waste and garbage almost in half, while sustaining a growth in cruise capacity averaging 8% percent annually. That’s a pretty significant accomplishment!

Caldera Costa Rica

So How Can You Contribute?

There are several easy steps you can take to make your cruise more eco-friendly:

1) Keep your showers short, and shut off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.

2) When you leave the room, turn off the air-conditioning, heat, television, lights or any other electric devices. This is a big one! Energy spent on air-conditioning empty cabins is huge and typically just wasted.

3) Reuse your sheets and towels instead of having them changed every day. Most cruise lines have a program to support this - when you hang up your towels in the bathroom they will not be changed and they will notify you before linen change day to give you the choice to “opt-out”.

4) Follow the cruise line’s recycling program and sort your trash accordingly.

5) If you like to drink lots of soda, consider purchasing one of the cruise line’s soda packages. Instead of opening (and potentially wasting) a new can of soda each time, you get a souvenir mug that you can refill as often as you like.

Ensenada EcoTour

6) When ashore, consider using a shared ride system to get around. It’s not only better for the environment as you use less fuel, but it will be cheaper than paying for a private taxi too!

7) Consider booking an eco-tour to experience and support local, smaller tour operators. They will benefit from sharing the beautify of their islands and you will gain an appreciation that can’t be matched.

8) Make sure to pick up after yourself on the beach. It’s important to keep the beaches clean - as trash you leave beyond could wash out into the ocean and prove very harmful for the ocean’s natural ecosystem, fish and animals.

While these behaviors might not seem to add up to much, when a critical mass adopts them it will be hugely beneficial for the environment. And that’s something we can all get behind. Safe and green cruising everyone!

Got any other tips for us? We’d love to include them. Send us a note at hello@shorefox.com and we’ll make sure to include a shout out to you in our next blog post!

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Caribbean Shore Excursions: The Best & Brightest For A Memorable Day 2014-04-10

Horse

Horseback Riding in Aruba: With fabulous coastline that you can’t see from the inside of a car, why not get out in the open air and take to the beach on a horseback riding adventure? See the beauty of Aruba and visit the famous Alto Vista Chapel - all skill levels are welcome and its fun for the whole family. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the scenic vistas!

Snorkeling With Green Turtles in Barbados: One of the highlights of visiting Barbados isn’t on shore, it’s in the water! With its warm marine temperatures, there is a friendly local population of green sea turtles that are happy to come swim around you while you snorkel with ease. While still wild and free, the turtles have been acclimated to humans through years of friendly interaction. Feed them with your guides and enjoy this amazing experience.

Jungle Cave Tubing in Belize: Known a lot more for it’s jungle, with a network of caves and rivers, than for its beaches, take advantage of Belize’s unique ecosystem with a foray into cave tubing. Let your guide lead you on an easy trek through the jungle before hopping in a comfortable tube (complete with headlamp!) so you can enjoy coasting down the river with family and friends. It’s easy for children, and guaranteed for great views and laughs as you slowly laze your way through the water.

Mudbath

Catamaran Sailing & Mud Baths at the Drive In Volcano in Castries: The famous Pitons are a must visit for any cruise traveller coming to St. Lucia. But regular sightseeing tours are a dime a dozen. Instead, take to the water in a luxury small group catamaran to sail around the island for some unforgettable views before going with your group into the volcano (you will literally drive into it!) and enjoying a therapeutic mud bath. Your senses will explode as you enjoy this multi-faceted and fun tour.

Explore the Fat Virgin Baths in Tortola: The British Virgin Islands has a remarkable geological rock formation on the western end of the island. Accessible only by boat, huge boulders are strewn all along the beach. Creating amazing photographic opportunities, and featuring some world class snorkeling, climbing and exploring this geological phenomenon is fun for all ages.

Jet Ski Over to Stingray City: Everyone plans a visit to Stingray City when they reach Grand Cayman - it’s the premier attraction. But why sit on a boat like everyone else when you can control the speed and drive your own jet ski! Take a tour of the island in the water and break away from the crowds as you feel the rush of the wind in your face and the refreshing spray in your hair.

Blue Hole Kayaking

Blue Hole Kayaking in Freeport: From the comfort and safety of a two person kayak come explore the famous Bahamas blue holes and its amazing marine life. You can expect to see a variety of marine life, including possibly sting rays, nurse sharks, turtles, starfish, baracuda, tarpon, bone fish, permit, sergant major, grunts, snapper, grouper, lobster and octopus. The water at the blue holes is a fantastic clear and shimmering color. Kayak over to where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed and enjoy this unique outdoor ecotour!

Visit Little French Key & Play with Monkeys in Roatan: One of the best kept secrets of Roatan, is Little French Key. You have to take a short boat ride to get there, but from the moment you arrive its clear that you are in paradise. Relax on a white sand beach and go kayaking or snorkeling at your leisure with a guide. Enjoy a delicious fresh caught lobster lunch and drink freshly made drinks by friendly bartenders - included. Want to see some jaguars up close? You can do that, and play with the local Howler Monkeys at the immaculate zoo. Swim in the sparkling blue water and enjoy your best day ever. We guarantee it.

Mangrove

Kayak & Snorkel in a Mangrove Lagoon in St. Thomas: Skip the standard sightseeing tours - did you know that St. Thomas has some incredible ecotours for you to take part in? Nature guides kayak with you through the protected Inner Lagoon Marine Preserve as you pass in between the many beautiful manglar islands that are made up of red mangroves. Many birds nest in the trees, such as the endangered brown pelican, blue herons, night herons, egrets, yellow warblers, hummingbirds and many more. Juvenile fish hide among the many roots of the red mangrove trees. Arrive at the southernmost tip of St. Thomas where a fringing coral and shell rubble barrier reef divide the crystal clear waters of the lagoon and the Caribbean Sea. Snorkel a coral-fringed mangrove nursery with easy beach entry snorkel in the clear protected waters.

Fly On a Zipline & Explore a Banana Plantation in Puerto Limon: Cross the jungle like a monkey and see the lush green forest from up high as you zip on the best line in Costa Rica! Enjoy amazing views of the Caribbean Ocean and the Banano River, and admire the local nature, and inhabitants, around you. Ever wonder where your delicious bananas come from? Visit a real working banana plantation and have fun learning about the growing cycle of this golden fruit.

Toucan in Puntarenas

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