June 17, 2024
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24 Hours in Port

Consider a pre-cruise stay in these six seaside cities
that hold their own as vacation destinations

By Lucy Spicer

Vacations Magazine: 24 Hours in Port
Cunard Line
If you're preparing for a cruise and would rather not rush from airport to seaport on embarkation day, you might plan on an early arrival to your ship's departure city.

And, instead of whiling away that extra time, consider officially beginning your vacation a full 24 hours before you climb aboard. From observing scientific innovations in Seattle to exploring the art scene in Miami, we've compiled suggestions for ways to fill a full day in six different cities.

To find a cruise that departs from these locales, as well as news on the latest discounts and guest perks available from your favorite oceangoing companies, consult the travel experts at Vacations To Go.

From Microsoft Corp.'s headquarters to Boeing Co. facilities to a city icon built for the 1962 World's Fair, the greater Seattle area is a magnet for technology and innovation.

Up and at 'em! After deciding where to sip your morning brew (from a cat cafe to coffee bars featuring local micro-batch roasts, the options are endless here), head about 10 miles south of downtown to The Museum of Flight to learn how we take to the skies. With thousands of artifacts and more than 175 air- and spacecraft, it's no wonder that this is the largest museum of its kind on the planet. Photography collections comprising millions of images illustrate the ever-evolving science of flight, and interactive areas like the "Cockpits" exhibit allow you to manipulate some controls yourself.

Next to the Space Needle, a futuristic symbol erected for the World's Fair that has become synonymous with the city, sits the Pacific Science Center. In addition to permanent exhibits ranging from a Science Playground to the Insect Village, this interactive museum features an Imax theater and the Laser Dome, the largest domed laser theater in the World. Open until 6 p.m., this center has myriad educational activities that easily can fill an afternoon.

Seattle doesn't limit experimentation to labs and museums, either. Many chefs here combine local ingredients, global traditions and inventive techniques to create unique dining experiences. Celebrate your vacation by splurging on a leisurely dinner at an eatery like Canlis, a restaurant housed in a midcentury modern landmark near Lake Union in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood. Imaginative dishes like halibut with foie gras and umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums) appear on the four-course menu.

Primarily a jumping-off point for weeklong cruises to Alaska, Seattle's port is served by many major cruise companies including Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Oceania Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. The Alaskan sailing season resumes in spring 2018, and May berths aboard Holland America's Eurodam can be had for as little as $899.

As temperatures begin to sink elsewhere, the sun continues to shine bright and warm on Miami. The city's beaches hold an obvious allure, but some on-land investigation reveals a treasure trove of artistic and architectural efforts.

Start the day with a short drive over the MacArthur Causeway into Miami Beach, which leads to the Art Deco Historic District in the South Beach neighborhood. More than 800 structures make up this quarter, which features distinctive buildings from the 1920s to the 1940s. Visit the Art Deco Welcome Center for information about guided tours, or roam the district yourself and marvel at the colorful facades, porthole windows and chrome ornaments.

Back across the bridge in Miami, the former warehouse district of Wynwood now is a center for arts and culture. From graffiti and murals to galleries and museums, countless installations are available for art lovers to peruse.

Wynwood Art Walk schedules a variety of themed activities and excursions, including graffiti lessons and street art tours. Reluctant to break focus for a meal? Miami Culinary Tours combines art education and gastronomic exploration with its Wynwood Food and Art Tour.

Miami's nightlife suffers no shortage of bars and clubs, but consider scoping the scene from a different perspective. Miami Flight Seeing offers sunset tours that enable passengers to observe the twinkling tableau of city lights from the skies. Bring your camera to create some art of your own by capturing the beauty of the shoreline, high-rises, the Cape Florida Lighthouse and more as night falls over the coast.

With seven cruise terminals, Miami accommodates many ships, and brands available range from Carnival to six-star Regent Seven Seas Cruises. This fall, three-night jaunts to the Bahamas on the Norwegian Sky start at $199.

On Sept. 8, 1900, one of the deadliest storms in U.S. history left Galveston, TX, in shambles. More than a century later, the island is a popular cruise port and beach destination, with some attractions highlighting sites that survived the storm.

Indulge your inner child at La King's Confectionery, located in the Strand Historic District. Although the King family moved to the island in the 1970s, they've been in the business of keeping 19th-century candy recipes alive for 90 years. Get your midmorning coffee here and let the taffy machine and 1920s soda fountain transport you to a bygone age. Pick up some treats to munch on throughout the day, or savor some Purity, the first ice cream brand made in Texas and available only at La King's. After all, who hasn't dreamed of dessert for breakfast?

A self-guided stroll along the Strand is rewarded with shops, restaurants and galleries housed in historic storefronts. Head to Pier 21 for museums that tell tales from Galveston's past, including venues dedicated to offshore drilling, maritime commerce and immigration. Also featured is the eponymous Pier 21 Theater, which offers three documentaries about the island, including one about the 1900 storm. Those who wish to cover more ground might want to consider a ride with the Galveston Historic Tour, which takes in views of the Strand, the harbor and the "Broadway Beauties," stately 19th-century buildings located on Broadway Avenue J, from the comfort of a shuttle.

The city's spookier stories come alive after dark with Ghost Tours of Galveston, which explore downtown and Old City Cemetery and are hosted by the "Ghost Man of Galveston" himself. There's even a chance of a late-night history lesson at a local watering hole: The Wizzard is a neighborhood tavern housed in a building dating to the late 1800s, and the owner is said to be full of facts about the island.

Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder ports here for sailings to the Bahamas, and Carnival and Royal Caribbean head to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America from Galveston with several vessels, including the Carnival Breeze, Carnival Valor, Carnival Freedom, Liberty of the Seas and Vision of the Seas. Hop a five-night Carnival Valor itinerary departing Dec. 11 for Progreso and Cozumel in Mexico, priced from $334.

How much do you know about Baltimore? Perhaps you've heard more about big-name destinations in Florida and New York, but Maryland's largest city has its own unique quirks that dare to be discovered.

Fuel up for the day at Miss Shirley's Cafe, a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Here, fresh East Coast ingredients meet classic Southern recipes to form menu items like eggs Benedict with soft-shell crab and succotash. As noon approaches, the house of one of Baltimore's most revered adopted sons opens for visitors: The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum is open to the public Thursday through Sunday, but private tours can be scheduled by appointment. Walk the rooms where the poet lived and wrote, and gaze upon such artifacts as his portable writing desk.

Take the afternoon to delve further into Baltimore's personality. Visit the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, where the emblem that inspired the U.S. national anthem was created, or catch a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards if the city's beloved baseball team happens to be playing that day. Countless museums and parks, many of them free to access, await the leisurely paced explorer, like the Baltimore Museum of Art and the 300-year-old Patterson Park.

Did the earlier visit to Poe's house leave you with a renewed gusto for his works? Even if it didn't, the Annabel Lee Tavern, named after one of Poe's final poems, has menu items well-suited for late-night eats and drinks. After all, who wouldn't want "Resurrection Mac 'n' Cheese" and a "Mesmeric Revelation" cocktail after a long day of playing tourist?

The Carnival Pride makes weekly departures from Baltimore for seven-night sailings to the Bahamas and, in 2018, the Caribbean, with prices from $534 this November. Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas also sets sail from this port for journeys to Canada, New England, the Caribbean and Bermuda, with select dates for the Bahamas.

Far from playing second fiddle to Manhattan, Brooklyn has become a New York travel destination in its own right. With less tourist traffic than its neighbor to the north, this borough has developed a trendy persona that feeds a robust foodie movement.

Wake up and smell the produce -- Brooklyn has more than 45 farmers markets. Though many are open seasonally and only one day a week, several have year-round schedules, so you stand a good chance of finding a market selling fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs somewhere during your morning in Brooklyn. Check www.Edible Brooklyn.com for the full list.

The afternoon is the perfect time for culinary walking tours, which vary in flavor as much as their tastings do. Williamsburg Bites: A Food Tour, for example, suggests arriving with an empty stomach. This stroll of the hip Williamsburg neighborhood includes seven full food portions, local history lessons and a chance to sample whimsical treats at spots like Momofuku Milk Bar. The Neighborhood Eats Tour: Brownstone Brooklyn, on the other hand, focuses on Brooklyn's culinary melting pot and features Middle Eastern and Italian cuisines, among others.

Still room for more? Brooklyn lives up to New York's reputation as the city that never sleeps by hosting a slew of eateries that stay open late or never close at all. A popular spot located a couple of blocks from the lush Prospect Park in the Crown Heights neighborhood is Barboncino, serving up a New York favorite: Neapolitan pizza. The restaurant and bar are open until 1 a.m. daily, with the second happy hour of the day lasting from 11 p.m. until closing, just in case you needed another reason to toast the end of your Brooklyn sojourn.

Cunard Line sails from Brooklyn to Canada and New England, the Caribbean, Northern Europe and more on the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary 2; it also operates classic trans-Atlantic crossings to Southampton, England. Prices start at $1,299 for a 12-night, round-trip cruise on the QM2 departing the borough on Nov. 26 to visit St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, among other tropical spots.

With balmy weather year-round, Long Beach, CA, is an ideal spot for alfresco entertainment from dawn until dusk.

Greet the new day at Free Yoga on the Bluff with Yogalution Movement, a donation-based studio that offers daily open-air classes facing the ocean. Can't get enough of those wavefront vistas? Ensure that the sea is in sight during lunch, dinner or happy hour by choosing a restaurant equipped with both indoor and outdoor seating, like Parkers' Lighthouse. Located along the water, this award-winning establishment has a two-story wine cellar and provides sweeping views from every table. The menu features fresh seafood and sushi, and a separate upscale steakhouse inhabits the third floor.

There are countless ways to explore the scenery throughout the day, both on land and on sea. The Long Beach Bike Share program currently includes 400 bikes available to rent in the downtown and midtown areas. More than 120 miles of paths stretch across the city, including a 3.1-mile route along the beach and a 29.1-mile bikeway that follows the Los Angeles River.

Vacationers wishing to take to the water can book kitesurfing and kiteboarding lessons, or they can board the one-hour Catalina Express ferry to Catalina Island for even more aquatic activities, like snorkeling and kayaking in an idyllic setting.

Back on the mainland, end your outdoor adventure by seeking views like the one at Hilltop Park. It remains open until 10 p.m., late enough for a stunning perspective of the sun setting over the city.

Currently, Carnival offers almost daily departures for three- to seven-night journeys between Long Beach and the Pacific coast of Mexico aboard three ships: Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Miracle. (In early 2018, the Miracle will change home ports and be replaced in Long Beach by the Carnival Splendor). Prices this winter start at $179 for a four-night cruise bound for Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Fall 2017. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.

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