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Mark asks…

I want to take Hawaiian cruise so what’s the best cruiseline/ship?

I’d like all inclusive and lots of activities to choose from! Not necessarily partying.

Tijuana answers:

I have been to Hawaii 5 times and flew over each time. But I have been on many cruises and have a cruise to Hawaii booked for this fall.

First, cruises are all pretty much “all inclusive”. When you purchase a cruise it includes your cabin, all meals on ship including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and 24/7 free room service. It also includes all entertainment on ship and free use of all facilities on ship except the spa. You can use the pools hot tubs, gymnasium, sports equipment and all other facilities and equipment free of charge. All ships charge for spa service like massages, hair and nail appointments, and yoga lessons. Some ships also charge a fee for certain services like the pool table, the bowling alley, or for special restaurants not included in your normal cruise price (there may be a $10 to $20 per person gratuity/service fee).

Coffee, tea, milk, juices, punch, iced teas are included but you must pay for soft drinks and alcoholic beverages and a 15% gratuity will be added to each check each time you order a drink.

Then you will have to pay for anything you buy on ship like photos or souvenirs and any tours you book from the ship. And lastly you will pay a $10 per day per per gratuity at the end of the cruise. The only mandatory of all of these charges is the gratuity. So after you pay for your cruise the only other charge will be the gratuities.

The cruise line that has the most on board activities is Royal Caribbean and they are a very fine cruise line that I have been on about 8 times (have 2 more booked for this year on them). They cater more to families and people in the 30 to 60 age group, rather than younger crowd that normally cruises on Carnival. Another good choice would be Princess cruise line. They are very upscale, have fine ships and service. Holland America is another good choice if you do not mind being with a lot of senior citizens.

Norwegian cruise line (NCL) is the only major line that starts and ends its cruises in Hawaii. These are 7 day cruises. Other lines like Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America have cruises to Hawaii and back from the West Coast of the US. Those cruises are generally 14 or 15 days or more because you spend 3 or 4 days on the ocean getting there. The cruises leave from West coast ports like San Francisco, San Diego and/or Ensenada, Mexico. Then there are some cruises that have Hawaii as a port stop as a part of a longer itinerary such as to or from Australia or the South Pacific.

The NCL cruises begin in Oahu and visit 4 or 5 islands during the 7 day cruise. The cruise will give you a flavor for Hawaii, allow you to visit some attractions, like Pearl Harbor and the volcano, Haleakala. But if you want days of beach time you need to go and stay in a hotel before or after the cruise.

An option would be to either fly there 3 or 4 days before a cruise, or stay 3 or 4 days after a cruise. A 7 day cruise will cost about $1200 to $1500 depending upon when you want to go and what cabin you choose.

The airfare from an East coast city will cost between $700 and $800 if you make early reservations. It will probably be less from the mid-west or west coast. Hotel rooms in Hawaii, especially in beach front hotels, are very expensive. You can expect to pay $200 to $300 a day depending upon the hotel, location and whether you want ocean view or ocean front. The last time that we went, just about 3 years ago, our hotel bill for 10 nights (on two different islands) was about $2600. We stayed 5 nights on Oahu and 5 nights on Maui. You can get cheaper rooms if you stay a few blocks away from the beach in other properties. If it was my first trip I would fly there a few days early, see some things and then do the cruise.

Here’s some more info about Hawaii for you:

When your flight arrives in Hawaii look for the free booklets in the airport which describe the activities on the island and have coupons for tours and gifts. The booklets also contain maps and guides, lists of attractions, bus routes and fares, and lists of restaurants and shopping establishments. If you cannot find them in the airport, they will also be available in news racks on the street, in hotel lobbies and in some shops. There will be a booklet for each island with the title Maui Today, or Oahu Today, etc.

The top things to do in Hawaii are:

1. Oahu Island: Go to Pearl Harbor to see history at the US Arizona Memorial. You can drive or take the bus there; no need to book a tour. But you need to go early because the site is popular and the wait for your free tour can be about an hour. In Waikiki you can browse around the International Market across from Waikiki Beach, go on a sunset dinner cruise on Waikiki bay, try an outrigger canoe ride on Waikiki, go for a sail on a catamaran on Waikiki Bay, or visit Diamond Head park. If you like to snorkel go to Hanauma Bay which has perfect flap water for snorkeling on a reef.

2. Oahu Island: If you are on the island of Oahu go to the other side of the island to see the great deserted beaches (get a rental car for a day or two). Take highway 99 north toward Waimea and stop at the Dole pineapple plantation for a tour.

3. Oahu Island: The Polynesian Cultural Center is a great place to learn about authentic Hawaiian life. You can buy tickets to tour the place, and another type ticket that allows you to stay for the evening luau.

4. Maui Island: If you go to Maui, you gotta do the downhill bike ride. There are different bike companies and some don’t take you all the way to the top, and some don’t guide you back down. You can come down by yourself, there’s only one road with just a little traffic, but if you are squeamish about riding in the street, a company that accompanies you down will help watch the traffic for you. I have been twice and prefer Maui Downhill to the others. These companies have web sites They will pick you up at your hotel, take you to their shop to pick out a wet-suit (for the cold and mist/rain shower maybe) and gloves and helmet; then take you up the mountain; then follow your group down so they can block traffic for your ride; then afterwards take you back to your hotel. Expect this activity to take 75-80% or more of the day.

5. Maui Island: The Road to Hana is a great drive (you need a rental car). It’s a 45 mile winding road that takes 4 hours to drive. Its like driving through the jungle; has a bunch of one lane bridges. Then drive past Hana to the Seven-Pools attraction and go for a swim.

6. Big Island of Hawaii: go to the Volcano National Park. Also go see Akaka Falls. If you like horseback riding, go to the Parker Ranch and go for a guided ride. Drive to the south end of the island and see a black sand beach. For information about tours and things to do, click on the link below for Roberts Hawaii. They do tours on all of the islands.

Sandy asks…

My fiancee and I would like to get married in Rosarito, What do I nees to do about the marriage license?

My fiancee and I would like to have the ceremony and reception performed at Rosarito beach, but we live in San Diego. I know people that get married in other parts of Mexico, but live in the U.S. What would we need to do, to have our marriage be validated here in the states? Please advice!

Tijuana answers:

People get married in Mexico, Baja Norte all the time! It’s becoming a destination wedding location! And it’s legal They do weddings at the Rosarito Beach Hotel – http://www.rosaritobeachhotel.com/wedding_venues_rosarito_baja.php
see also – http://rosarito.org/weddings.htm
http://www.calafia-weddings.com/
http://www.weddingconnections.com/BajaMexico/HotelReceptionVenue/
You can hire a planner – http://www.ensenadaweddings.com/

Bajamar Golf Course
http://www.golfbajamar.com/eventos_i.html

Las Rocas in Rosarito
http://www.weddinglocation.com/page.phtml/lid/10265/pageNum/5/counter/0/numGen/2/ra/Mexico
or
http://www.lasrocas.com/

Estero Beach Hotel (Ensenada Area)
http://www.hotelesterobeach.com/index.html

Casa de los Siete Patios (my favorite- Just north of Ensenada and near the golf course)
http://www.ensenadaexperience.com/CasaDelosSietePatios/
or
http://www.unusualvillarentals.com/mexico/bajamarI/index.shtml

Las Rosas (just North of Ensenada)
http://weddingconnections.com/framer/index.php?id=0XXKWFYT

Ensenada Weddings (Pilar Madroza is the wedding coordinator- speaks perfect English and spends part of the week in San Diego)
http://www.ensenadaweddings.com/

You can also rent homes down there and do a beach wedding depending on the size of your wedding
http://www.10kvacationrentals.com/bajahouse/
http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/2890.html
http://www.offbeattravel.com/baja.html
http://www.a1vacations.com/Mexico_Baja_California.htm

General Info
http://www.enjoyensenada.com/

Laura asks…

What’s the best hotel you have stayed at in Ensenada, Mexico?

If it’s not too much trouble, please provide their phone number or website too.

Tijuana answers:

The best is a place called Estero beach resort, it’s on the south side of town about 3 or 4 miles past the Corona factory/distributor….
This place is gated with 24 hour security at the gate and only guests may enter. The pools are awesome, and it is ocean front if that’s what you choose, has it’s own bar and grill right off the beach too.
My friends and I go there often, and always have a blast.

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