Heading for a Christmas on the Rhine cruise aboard the AmaCerto

Heading for a Christmas on the Rhine cruise aboard the AmaCerto When I was a kid, the family friend who gave me my middle name (Marie) and braided my hair was from Germany. To keep my squirming to a minimum, Mrs. Schmidt used to regale me with German fairy tales and other stories while she did those taking-forever-to-do braids. Such a place as Germany seemed so faraway and unattainable to a young Midwestern girl. But soon I …

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Following Santa’s sleigh around the Caribbean on Oceania Cruises Insignia

This year my husband Bill and I are breaking with our usual holiday tradition. Instead of gathering with family for Christmas and New Year’s, we are boarding a luxury ocean liner and heading south on a 12-day voyage through the West Indies, stopping off at seven islands along the way. When friends who are elbow deep into gift wrap, decorations and recipes for sumptuous holiday meals ask about our plans their reaction is a mix of dismay …

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Day 10-12: Final thoughts as two sea days become three

St. Bart’s, you were but a vision seen from afar. Last night’s New Year’s resolution to maintain a sunny disposition in the face of adversity was called upon this morning as Oceania’s Insignia anchored off St. Barthelemy. The sea was as tipsy as some of the passengers after ringing in the New Year, the swells too high for passengers to safely board tenders headed into port. The captain announced he would wait an hour for the sea …

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Day 9: Rain drops and tiny bubbles in Dominica

Our day with Oceania’s Insignia in Dominca began on a low note and ended with a high and noisy one on this, the last day of the year. The shore excursion we had booked was cancelled the night before our arrival due to lack of interest. We’d planned a Jeep safari through the rainforest and natural wonders of what we’d been told is one of the Caribbean’s wildest and most unspoiled islands. Luckily, Insignia’s destination services crew …

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Day 8: A spicy day in Grenada

Oceania’s Insignia docked right on time in Grenada. Today marks our third visit here and this time we were determined to have a proper tour of the island on an excursion we booked ourselves through the Grenada Tourism Authority. On our first visit, back in 1986, our Sitmar vessel—remember that cruise line?—docked at Carenage, a perfectly shaped natural horseshoe harbor and one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean. Our 3- and 6-year-olds stayed on board with …

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Day 7: The bounty of Barbados

Two things I love about Barbados: beaches and shopping. This former British colony, independent since 1966, is an important center of commerce in the Caribbean, most of it centered in the capital, Bridgetown. The cruise terminal sits just a little over a mile from the heart of the city. As soon as we make our way through the maze of shops inside the terminal we emerge into sunlight and walk a short distance to a well-organized taxi …

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Day 6: A taste of France

You know you’re in a department of France as soon as you explore downtown Fort-de-France, capital of Martinique. The buildings with wrought iron balconies remind me of New Orleans, the beaches the French Riviera, the bakeries the boulangeries of Provence and the perfume shops the boutiques of Paris. The city even has a Galleries Lafayette where you can buy French scents and fashions and pay for them in euros. Bear in mind, though, that this French enclave …

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Day 5: Swimming with stingrays and sports on board

A stingray feels a lot like a yoga mat in the fitness center on Oceania Cruises’ ship Insignia. And the females would be big enough to plant myself in downward facing dog if only they didn’t skitter away so quickly. Bill and I were booked on the Swimming with Stingrays shore excursion in Antigua, a worthwhile experience that we probably could not have done on our own. Eleven of us met our driver at the pier in …

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Day 4: The pros and cons of a shore excursion in Puerto Rico

ABOARD THE OCEANIA INSIGNIA — What an interesting mix of culture Puerto Rico presents. Pulling into San Juan, the pretty pastel buildings of the old city rise from the piers, their Spanish colonial architecture testifying to the island’s long history. But on closer look, we spot a CVS pharmacy, a Foot Locker store, Starbucks and a Subway. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is very Americanized. Our tour guide, Tony, told us the island has 14 Wal-Marts. …

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Day 3: Getting to know Oceania’s Insignia

ABOARD THE OCEANIA INSIGNIA — I love sea days. No shore excursions, no alarm clock to set. I can just wander the ship, popping in for any of the myriad activities scheduled night and day as outlined in the ship’s Currents daily program. In the Canyon Ranch SpaClub  a woman from Ontario and I got a complimentary lesson from the hairdresser on the best haircut for the shape of our face. I also learned that guests with …

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