Cruise into spring with plans for a summer vacation

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 29, 2017


METRO DETROIT — There’s something to be said for planning the perfect vacation for your family from start to finish: finding the cheapest flights, spending hours searching for a hotel that has a pool for the kids and a gym for Mom, and making sure the dates don’t overlap with pressing engagements back at home.

But after you’ve worked out every detail and wiped your brow from weeks of effort, can you even call it a vacation? There’s also something to be said for planning your holiday in a one-stop, all-inclusive format.

And that’s exactly why cruises are so popular, according to Sheri Langwald, manager of World of Travel in Bloomfield Hills.

“Because it’s easy,” Langwald said of cruises. “You unpack once with a cruise, unlike other tours of, say, Europe, where buses take you here and there. You get to see a lot more destinations, and it’s an easier way to travel.”

Easier indeed, with most cruises including everything from food and entertainment to excursions and sometimes even cocktails.

But easier definitely doesn’t equate to cheesy, said Matthew Cervone, president of Just Cruises and Vacations in Clinton Township. A vacation option that was once pegged just for retirees with a flair for shuffleboard now offers a variety of cruise packages to accommodate every budget and interest.

“There’s always the Disney cruises, and we have Disney specialists who go through the Disney College. Those are really popular,” Cervone explained. “But European cruises are really popping.”

Ireland, Italy and the Greek islands are destinations in major demand with cruisers right now, Cervone said. Even Iceland is popular, he said, claiming that the country has started monitoring how many travelers are coming in and out so it’s not overwhelmed by tourists.

Why Europe? It’s a matter of economics, he explained.

“The air industry is always supply and demand. And for a long time, airfares from the Detroit market were just too high for so long. Our agents always said, ‘If they would just bring the prices down on flights,’” Cervone said.

In order to board a cruise, most passengers logically need to get themselves to the ocean where the ships are docked. That involves a plane ride, particularly from southeast Michigan, and the airline industry ended up pricing itself into a pickle and there wasn’t much demand willing to pay for its pricey supply of flights. To fix that, airliners brought the prices down — and customers jumped.

For those going to Europe, the smaller river cruises are gaining steam with tours of the Danube River, the Rhine River and others. Trips can last anywhere from seven to 21 days, making them an ideal adventure for retirees with time on their hands for a longer stay away, according to Langwald.

“The food is good, the service is good, and the river is a really quiet place. There’s not that nightly entertainment like you’d get on a regular cruise. They might bring on local performers or a piano player. You never have to dress up for dinner; it’s a nice way to travel,” she said.

But multi-generational families are opting for unique trips that have a little something for everyone, like Hawaii and — Alaska?

“Alaska’s hot. It’s a great destination,” Cervone said.

If a cruise sounds like just the ticket for your crew, you might want to call a travel agent soon. We’re in prime cruise booking season right now — partly because tax refunds are starting to roll in, and also because families who forwent a spring break getaway are now kicking themselves.

“People who aren’t going away for spring break usually say, ‘OK, well, we’ll go somewhere this summer,’” Cervone said. “So (cruise companies) are offering a lot of promotions right now, and it can be hard to tell which one is the best deal for your needs. We’re really good at matching families with what works best for them.”