Travel guides for cruisers

Sure, you could go to the library and do some research, check out a bookstore for the latest printed guides, but why? Everything you need is right here, literally at your fingertips. Let’s take a look at some of the online resources available to help plan our cruise vacations.

A good first stop is the cruise line websites themselves. There, you’ll find a bunch of good information about the ships, the cruise line and shore excursions they offer. To get more in-depth information about different ports and locations though, you need more than that.

Right here at Gadling we have a bunch of great people that travel the world, reporting on pretty much every aspect of travel on a regular basis. Travel gear and other topics that can totally be applied to cruise vacations are here too like airline information for that flight to the port, hotels for pre or post-cruise stays and restaurants in cities you might not be familiar with.

I like the easy-to-read blog format of this information with a bit of a personal twist to it way better than the dry, catalog-type you might get out of books.

Online travel guides like AOL TravelGuides are good too along with videos that give a clear picture of what you might see when your ship pulls into port. Actually, both Gadling and AOL Travel Guides cover many cities that are destinations for land-based vacations and ports of call for cruises. If your ship stops in Barcelona, you may not need a hotel but learning about the area adds great depth to your cruise experience and knowing what to watch out for, from an experienced land traveler who has been there, is good stuff.

Videos are another online resource that can be really good to consider. AOL has a bunch of them that really give you a good idea of what to expect.

There are other sources out there too. One I like is Insider, a relatively new one that offers over 2000 videos from all over the world, many in HD. From Aruba to Vancouver, you can find a good video at Insider Perks.

If video is not enough cruise-related information for you, try the radio too. has hours of interviews online, waiting to tell you all about everything from the latest cruise news to in-depth interviews with cruise directors, travel experts and more.

Not to throw out all the travel guides, iPhone users have a bunch of Aps that can be helpful too. A new one from the legendary Berlitz name, the Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships. At $12 from itunes it’s half the price of the book and updated throughout the year.

Flickr photo by Kenny Miller

Royal Caribbean still helping Haiti- a year later

A year ago Royal Caribbean International came under close scrutiny as the line planned to visit their private destination of Labadee, Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked the island. I was on board Freedom of the Seas last January when critics said it was in bad taste for the line to have cruise passengers go ashore for fun and sun while so many were suffering on different parts of the island nation. A year later, not a lot is better in Haiti and Royal Caribbean continues to call.

“Please go back to the ship and tell everyone to come ashore, we need them” I was told by local resident and Royal Caribbean island crew member “Franclin” at the time.

His plea was in response to a lower than normal number of passengers getting off ships calling at the island, a move that was hurting them financially as natives tried to sell hand-crafted items.

At the time, Royal Caribbean was scorned by some for visiting the island even though they were delivering much-needed relief supplies including much-needed basics like water at a time when ports elsewhere were damaged and unusable.

The effort continues today, a year later, as the cruise line continues to call at Labadee.

Humanitarian Relief to Haiti is an ongoing effort at Royal Caribbean. Highlighted by opening one fo the first schools to be built after the earthquake in October 2010 and company blogs that helped keep the world informed, relief efforts started just three days after the earthquake. The efforts continue too as company lets those with Royal Caribbean Visa cards help by donating their points to help in aide programs. Guests aboard sister-lines Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises can donate to Food for the Poor’s Haiti Relief Fund via their onboard charge accounts while sailing.

Noted by AOL Travel as one of 2010’s Worst Natural Disasters, the question remains:

“Well, it can only get better there in 2011, right? Right??”

Royal Caribbean has made much more than a “show” of support as they continue efforts long after the TV cameras and journalists have moved on.

Photos: Whitney Owen