Beyond The Floating Hotel, Travelers Find Value Ashore

If I say “cruise,” odds are good that the first thought that comes to mind is that of a big floating hotel that ambles from island to island in the Caribbean. That’s not totally wrong either; a lot of cruise ships do just that. But looking at a cruise ship as a mode of transportation, like a commercial airliner that flies from airport A to airport B, should bring different thoughts. Thinking of cruise ports as a gateway to new worlds we may never have experienced before, it’s a whole different ballgame.

So often cruise itineraries focus on what lies at the port itself, and for good reason. Many cruise ships do not stay in port long enough for travelers to go very far and get back before the ship leaves. But some cruise lines are staying longer, often well into the night – if not overnight – allowing more time to explore. That gives the notion of a cruise ship being a “floating hotel” an entirely different, much more positive meaning.

A good example of a port of call that is far more than what one might see just walking off the ship for a few hours is the UK’s Port of Tyne.

Located in Northeast England, the Port of Tyne is home to miles of coastline dotted with castles, cathedrals, stately homes and gardens, plus one of Europe’s most culturally exciting cities. Interspersed along the way are historic regions that spawned the English language, are home to dual UNESCO world heritage sites and that make the Port of Tyne a world-class destination. But it is not the port itself that draws travelers but Newcastle, the city that came back to life in the 1990s after a rebirth of the downtown Quayside area.

An interesting contrast of historic landmark buildings alongside new, modern structures, Newcastle sits on the north bank of the river Tyne. Known today as home of Newcastle Brown Ale (which is actually no longer brewed there) and the Great North Run, the world’s most popular half marathon, Newcastle offers a wide variety of attractions.

Structures dating back to 124 A.D. sit not far from modern engineering marvels like the world’s only tilting bridge.

%Gallery-184993%So which cruise lines sail this sort of an itinerary – one that allows travelers to linger longer in port? Azamara Club Cruises, Seabourn, Crystal Cruises and others with smaller ocean-going ships do. River cruise lines like Viking River Cruises, AMA Waterways and others have a shore-side focus as well.

But larger ships also offer overnights from time to time, although it is not their main focus.

Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, will overnight in Venice, Italy, on a Mediterranean sailing, as will Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. Still, big ships full of features need people onboard using them – playing in their casinos and shopping in their stores – to make a profit.

Expect to pay more on small ship lines that have a destination focus to make up for you not being on the ship, spending. Still, that premium price might well be worth it if compared to a land travel option that requires airfare, hotel accommodations and meals, any or all of which might be discounted or included with a small ship cruise.

Planning on traveling the world in a cost and time-efficient way? Including travel by ship in your travel toolbox can help.

[Photo credit – Port of Tyne]

London considering “floating hotels” to accommodate visitors to 2012 Olympics

Although London is expecting close to 5.5 million visitors for the 2012 Olympics, the city only has around 120,000 hotel rooms. Given these numbers, Olympics organizers are considering setting up floating hotels – “flotels” or “floatels” – on the River Thames for the duration of the three-week event.

Organizers are considering inviting up to three cruise ships to dock about three miles from the Olympic Park in Stratford in order to cope with the high demand for hotel rooms. London also plans to lease docking berths to yacht owners for £150,000. Of course, this is a fantastic way for the city to make money during the games, but does not solve the problem for average spectators who wish to find a room at a reasonable rate. The Daily Mail estimates that visitors to London during the Olympics can expect a tenfold increase in the regular accommodations rates. No word yet on rates for a floating hotel room, but you can probably expect your bank account to be stripped of a substantial amount of gold, silver, and bronze.

[Photo credit: Flickr user robmcm]

The floating Aerohotel

Russian architect Alexander Asadov is fighting global warming with innovative building designs. His latest concept is a floating Aerohotel, pictured above. This floating island features a 200-meter hub containing hotel rooms or residences, cafes, winter gardens, and restaurants.

The Aerohotel is held aloft by a system of supports and three main legs anchored to the bottom of the site, and unlike man-made islands with tons of gravel fill, this design preserves the aquatic ecosystem below. Asadov’s studio states that the construction costs and environmental impact of his design are significantly lower than gravel works projects.

This design can be installed in any body of water, and the plan includes docks for boats and a landing strip for zeppelins. Because if you’re cool enough to live in a floating island, you’re cool enough to travel by zeppelin.

The design is certainly interesting and futuristic, but is it aesthetically pleasing, or is it an eyesore? The idea is very appealing, but I’m not yet sold on the look. What do you think?