Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

Visiting Jamaica can feel as if you've fallen into an advertisement for the good life: palm trees sway in the Caribbean breeze while reggae music plays in the background. With a year 'round average temperature of 80° and more than 250 days of sunshine, a visit to Jamaica is meant to be spent outdoors.

Aside from the incredible snorkeling, hiking, and scuba diving that can be done all around the island, there are several outdoor attractions of note in Jamaica, many of which focus on the beautiful rivers and waterfalls that dot the island.

So, when you're planning your next time to the Land of Wood and Water, add a few of these outdoor activities into your itinerary.

Dunn's River Falls

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

When we visited Jamaica last year, this was one of the places that my husband and I visited. We were a bit wary since it's the largest tourist attraction in Jamaica, and we usually shy away from places like that. Now that I've gone and climbed the falls, I'm really glad I did! It was busy, but not super crowded even in late May, and there were more locals than tourists climbing the falls with us. Dunn's River Falls are a fun challenge, but even kids can make the climb, so it's not super strenuous.

YS Falls

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com
{via flickr user Alberto Bondoni | creative commons}
This attraction is another favorite among visitors and Jamaicans alike. Although the falls aren't quite as steep as those at Dunn's River, the experience is still a fun one for all ages. There are also natural pools to splash about in, a zipline tour through the lush canopy, and picnic tables in the well-maintained gardens for a mid-day break.

Martha Brae River

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com
{via flickr user Cesar | creative commons}
There aren't many times in your life when you have the opportunity to be pushed down a river on a bamboo raft, but this is one of them! There are dozens of guides available for hire, and each will be happy to push you downriver using a sturdy bamboo pole: it's a gondola ride Jamaica-style!

You can also rent tubes along the river for a relaxing, scenic ride through the heart of Falmouth. This is a popular stop for visitors since it's so close to the cruise port in Falmouth.

Mayfield Falls

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com
{via flickr user Gerald Azenaro | creative commons}
Located in Montego Bay, Mayfield Falls offer nearly two dozen small cascades along the Mayfield River. These smaller falls might be less dramatic than the other waterfalls on this list, but the slower currents and gentle pools are fantastic for families with younger kids or people who aren't up to climbing Dunn's River Falls or YS Falls.

Green Grotto Caves

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

Another favorite from our trip last year, the Green Grotto Caves are both a peek into the geological history of Jamaica and a great way to learn about the colonial history of Ocho Rios and the surrounding area. You'll don a stylish hard hat for your tour as you weave in and out the multiple cave structures on property. The Grotto, one of the highlights of the tour, is where the Bond film Live and Let Die (1973) filmed a pivotal scene.

Reach Falls

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com
{via flickr user Tach_RedGold&Green | creative commons}
Although the waterfall often takes center stage, there are many other reasons to visit Reach Falls. Keep a look out for a glimpse of the wild pigs that call the surrounding forest home, take a hike up the river to go into the underwater cave, or relax in the naturally heart-shaped jacuzzi for a refreshing end to your visit.

Cave Valley

Located in the very heart of Jamaica, Cave Valley centers around a series of limestone caves. Although the caves are the focus of the area, Cave Valley historically has been a meeting spot for animal traders and sellers, a function that remains (in a smaller iteration) today. Explore the historic village of Vera Ma Hollis Savannah, where freed slaves based while fighting the English during the colonial period. Then, head out to take a peek at the bats inside Rat Bat Cave or hike to nearby Noisy Water Cave.

Cliff diving

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com
{via flickr user Chris Ford | creative commons}
Not for the faint of heart, cliff diving at Rick's Cafe on the West End Cliffs is a heart-racing experience of a lifetime. There are multiple platforms from which to jump, the highest of which tops out at 35 feet. Some daredevil locals will often climb to the tops of nearby trees to showcase their most dramatic jumps--definitely not something that's recommend for the first-timer! Cliff jumping is free, but it's always nice to buy a drink or burger (that's overpriced) from the cafe.

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When you're done exploring the island's best outdoor activities, head to one of Jamaica's stunning beaches for the perfect end to a busy day. With over 50 public beaches on the island, you'll be sure to find one nearby!

Which of these outdoor activities would you like to try on your next trip to Jamaica? Which have you already done on past visits?

Jamaica's Great Outdoors: 8 Experiences You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 15

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 15 | CosmosMariners.com

A little bit of fun, a little bit of work: isn't that how every good weekend should be?

Landon, my husband had been feeling terrible all week, so we had a night in on Friday catching up on the last season of The Walking Dead. Only a few more weeks until we find out what really happened with Negan!!

Saturday: jump castles and baby shopping


We goofed off on Saturday, heading to a carnival that my sister (who's in HR) heads up every year for her company's employee appreciation day.
Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 15 | CosmosMariners.com
My sister winning Aunt of the Year on one of the bouncy slides! (I definitely wasn't going to haul this gigantic self of mine up there, so I'm glad she took one for the team)
My sister and my daughter are closerthanthis, so my sister had made sure there were plenty of things that Britton would love at the carnival including cotton candy, bouncy castles, balloon animals, and a glitter tattoo station.

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 15 | CosmosMariners.com

After my daughter bounced herself into near heat exhaustion in the 88+ degree weather we're still having here in Charleston, we pulled her away from the cotton candy and headed to do a little shopping. I've only got about 6.5 more weeks until my scheduled surgery to get baby #2 out (and I'm counting every day since I've gotten to the beach-ball-with-legs stage), and I'm feeling the pressure to get all of those last minute things done before his arrival.

We picked up a few more outfits and a few things for the nursery before going home and collapsing on the couch.

Sunday Workday

Then, yesterday, we worked around the house. I haven't talked too much about the house on the blog yet, so let me bring you up to speed: we bought it nearly 2 years ago and it needs so much work. We're no strangers to home renovation as we nearly completely gutted our last house and then reworked it completely on our own, but things tend to move much more slowly these days. Having kids and traveling as much as we do equals very few weekends at home to work on the ever expanding list of projects that need to be done.

On Sunday, we tackled a major one: cleaning and pressure washing the porch in anticipation for it to be painted in a few weeks. I have no idea why the previous owners would build a white house and not immediately add on a white porch, but they didn't, so we've had a white house with an unstained, unfinished front porch for the last two years. It looks so undone, and it drives me crazy!

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 15 | CosmosMariners.com

We also (almost) finished the nursery, so baby boy can make his appearance whenever (though I really hope for his lungs' sake that he hangs in there a few more weeks). :D I still have a few things to do, but it's close enough for me to feel good about bringing him home from the hospital to his new room.

How was your weekend? What did you accomplish?


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

In recent years, Iceland has hit the travel scene in a big way. And, given that the country is very safe for visitors, has gorgeous scenery straight off of a postcard, and is where you can often see the Northern Lights (a major entry on my bucket list that still needs to be checked off!), it's no wonder that people are clamoring to book their trips here.

While visiting the Blue Lagoon, Glymur waterfall, and Lake Myvtan can be cornerstones of a fantastic visit, I'm a firm believer of diving into the museums and arts of a country to really get a feel of the history, literature, and culture. So, in between trying to capture the perfect picture of the Aurora Borealis and taking a dip in the thermal-heated Blue Lagoon, make some time to immerse yourself in Iceland's rich culture at these incredible museums in and around Reykjavik.

Saga Museum

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com
{via}
If you find yourself wanting an immersive tour through the history of Iceland, head straight to the Saga Museum. The 17 3-D exhibits each focus on a notable moment (the Black Death, The Battle at Orlygsstadir) or important figure (Leifur the Lucky, Sister Katrin, Snorri Sturluson) in Icelandic history. Kids will love the life-sized figurines placed in each exhibit area. And if all of that wasn't enough, there is an area where you can dress up like a Viking and take pictures.

Gljutrasteinn-Laxness Museum

I really, really cannot resist a visit to an author's home. Perhaps I'm hoping to tap into the literary genius that's sure to still be floating around inside?

For other book lovers, don't miss the Gljutrasteinn-Laxness Museum, which is housed in the residence of the late Halldór Laxness. Laxness won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 (and remains the only Icelander to do so) and was a prolific novelist, poet, and playwright. On the self-guided audio tour, you'll be able to walk through Laxness' home, which has been left exactly as it was when he died in 1998. Even if you're not familiar with his works, it's a fascinating look into the daily life of a literary genius.

Reykjavik Art Museum

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com
{via}
Here, at the largest art museum in Iceland, you'll be able to explore buildings on three different properties and contains over 3,000 square feet of exhibition space. If you're interested in contemporary Icelandic artwork, take in the ever-expanding collection of artist Erró at the Hafnarhús location. Two of Iceland's most important painters, Johannes S. Kjarval and Asmunder Sveinsson, are spotlighted in the Kjarvalsstadir and Asmunder Sveinsson Sculpture Museum.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum

When you're living on an island, maritime occurrences are just as important as those that occur on land. Founded in 2005 to record the ins and outs of Iceland's watery history, visitors to the Maritime Museum can learn about everything from the country's cod wars of the mid-1900s to how the Coast Guard continues to patrol the icy waters surrounding the country. Families traveling with little kids will enjoy exploring the docked Coast Guard ship just outside the museum.

The Settlement Exhibition

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

Immerse yourself in 10th century Viking life in this incredible museum. Explore the beginnings of human life in Reykjavik with the archeological artifacts here: the 10th century longhouse is the star here. Interactive exhibits and historical background help visitors understand how these early settlers made a life in Iceland's often unforgiving climate.

Don't forget to take a peep at my favorite part: the Settlement Sagas, a collection of medieval manuscripts that are now on public display for the first time in their very long histories. The manuscripts were written during the 12th century, but they recount information that dates back as early as the 9th century. No wonder that UNESCO named Reykjavik one of its "Cities of Literature" back in 2011. Sounds like my kind of place!


National Museum of Iceland

Dating to 1863, the National Museum of Iceland is a cornerstone of the country's culture. This is another fantastic place to explore Iceland's history, where visitors can learn about the Vikings, medieval artwork, and contemporary issues. The main collection is supplemented by visiting collections, so you're sure to find something incredible with every visit.

Culture House

In the Culture House's six exhibits, visitors can see manuscripts from Iceland's major authors (including Halldór Laxness, above), visual histories of the country, and beautifully illustrated medieval manuscripts. One of the permanent exhibits, Points of View, takes visitors on a pictorial history of the country's beauty.

Arbaer Open Air Museum

With grass topped buildings and traditional Icelandic architecture, the buildings of the Arbaer Open Air Museum allow you to step back in time. Many of the 20 buildings onsite were moved from central Reykjavik as a way to preserve "old Iceland" and its culture. The plot of land where the Museum is located was a working farm until the early 1900s, and several of the buildings are refurbished from the farm's earliest days. Peek into a house decorated as it would've been in the 1920s, learn about children's toys in one of the permanent exhibits, and learn about the Catholic Church that was turned into a sports hall.

Aurora Reykjavik

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

If you'd like to see the Northern Lights, this small but informative museum is a great place to start before turning your eyes to the sky. The interactive displays allow visitors to learn more about the myths behind the colorful lights and the science that creates them. If you can't go home without the perfect photo of the Aurora Borealis, make sure to stop by one of the museum's photo booths, where you can get tips on how best to use your camera when shooting the lights.

Have you visited Iceland? Which of these cultural Iceland tourist attractions would be on your itinerary?

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Odds + (Week)Ends: Volume 14


Well, this isn't quite the post that I had planned for today, but my daughter decided that she was deathly ill on the way to school. Instead of heading to work at the coffee shop to finish up the post I was going to run, I got to bring her back to the house where her mysteriously hurting stomach cleared up suspiciously fast after a two hour nap.

In other words, I've been conned by my three year old. What a way to start the week!

While my daughter usually loves school, I suspect that I might have worn her out this weekend with everything we did.

I know that I'm definitely tired, but I suppose doing anything at 32 weeks pregnant will do that do you. Seriously, my daughter and I have been going to bed within an hour of one another lately. And her bedtime is around 7:30. Pregnancy woes.

This past weekend, I headed up to Saluda, North Carolina, with my parents and daughter--it was something I'd been looking forward to for a while, and I was glad that I hadn't gotten big and unwieldy enough to stay home.

The annual Saluda mountain weekend was a tradition that we all started about 6 years ago. Usually, it includes my sister and my husband as well, but she was busy with something for work this weekend and my husband had already made plans to visit a friend who was coming in from Richmond, so that left my parents, daughter and I to make the journey.

After hearing about our success with AirBnB in Ireland, my mom and dad wanted to try it out for this weekend. We ended up finding this gorgeous and perfectly eclectic cottage tucked away in the North Carolina mountains above historic Saluda. I seriously could've stayed in it all weekend!


Alas, we had to venture out (otherwise this might be the world's most boring weekend recap), so we headed to two of the area's most awesome attractions: SkyTop Orchard and the Biltmore House.

At SkyTop, we got to pick our own apples, which was so much fun. My daughter loved being hoisted up by my dad to get just the right apple for our bucket.


That excursion along would've been enough to send both Britton and I back to the house for naps, but we had an appointment at the Biltmore House (aka "The Castle" to my Neuschwanstein-loving daughter). Even though she was tired, Britton was a trooper as we clambered around 4 stories of the Vanderbilts' palatial home.


This will probably be the last trip I take before I get down to the business of having this second tiny traveler. Part of me relishes the down time (if you can call taking care of a toddler and a newborn post-c-section down town), but part of me can't help but wish we were able to do more traveling this fall. I LOVE fall travel because the weather is so much more agreeable and there are just so many great things to do this time of the year, but, alas, I don't have much of a choice.

Look for longer blog posts on our AirBnB cottage, the Biltmore House, visiting Saluda, and the apple orchard over the next few weeks!

I hope you had a fantastic weekend, too. :D What exciting things did you see or accomplish?

P.S. I'm restarting the Odds + (Week) Ends series only with a different focus. Instead of being a weekly travel round-up, it will now be a weekend recap series for more of that day-to-day stuff that I've been wanting to add to the blog!


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

I was provided a MunchPak free in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own. 

Whenever we travel somewhere, my husband and I love to focus on locally owned restaurants and shops. Doing so allows us to have more contact with the flavors and textures that make up whatever region we find ourselves in that day.

I'm a firm believer that local foods are the way to deepen your travel experience, so I'm the one trying whatever fun, strange, and weird I can find (well, as long as the food plays nicely with my shellfish allergy). Because of this love of new foods, I created the Tasty Travels series, one that's newer to Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown, but still one that is near and dear to my heart.

Today, let's focus on snacks, those sweet or savory (or sometimes both!) little treats that provide the perfect pick-me-up on your sightseeing and adventures. Even if you can't travel right now, it's still fun to try candy, chips, or cakes from somewhere far off.

And that's exactly what the MunchPak provides. A monthly subscription box service for people who love to travel and eat, the MunchPak sends a curated selection of treats from around the world. When my MunchPak arrived in the mail, it was all I could do to keep my daughter and husband from devouring everything in sight.

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com
That's a happy little package if I've ever seen one.
Like the good blogger I aspire to be, I pried the box from their desperate hands, and set about checking out what we'd gotten.

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

In the MunchPak original, customers are promised a minimum of 10 snacks, so our package exceeded that by a few, which is always nice. I also liked that each snack was a full sized version (like you'd purchase in a store) rather than a sample of each. This version of the MunchPak is $19.95 per month.


One thing that I wished had come with my MunchPak was a card explaining where each snack could usually be found in the world. In several instances, there were either multiple languages on the packet so we couldn't narrow down the country of origin. A card like that could also give a quick description of what we'd gotten that month, which would eliminate some of the guessing that we had to do for the packages that had zero English on them. 

So, what exactly came in my MunchPak? Let's explore!

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

We'll start with my daughter's favorite, the Blue Razz Juicy Sour Twists. These were delicious and just the right amount of raspberry flavoring, sweet and sour. They were the texture of Twizzlers, but cut smaller (which was great for small preschooler hands). 

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

Besides having a name that my husband and I giggled over endlessly with our seriously juvenile humor, the Japanese Cream Collon snacks tied for our favorites. With an outer shell that's reminiscent of Pocky sticks and a vanilla creme filling, this was one that we fought over. 

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

The other treat in our two-way tie for favorite were the humorously named Chicken Macho puffs in Choco Macchiato flavor. Hailing from Korea, these reminded me of Cocoa Puffs cereal, only with a much richer chocolate taste. 

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

If you love Pocky sticks, but crave a savory version of the sweet biscuits, the Pretz Pizza sticks are a great find. As someone who adores all things pizza and savory, this was a great afternoon snack...while they lasted. I was surprised that they had so much tomato, garlic, and basil flavoring, which made for a great snacking experience.

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

The Soda Candy was one of the things in this box that I'm glad I tried, but I don't think that I'll seek out again. A hard candy shaped like a throat lozenge, the Soda Candy had the flavor of a Sprite without the carbonation mixed with sour apple. 

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.comI'm not a fan of jerky in general, and definitely not when I'm still suffering from morning sickness as I was when I went through this box, so I had my husband and daughter try the Western's Jerky Sticks for me. Of the two flavors, my daughter preferred the Bacon flavor (not surprising since she LOVES all things bacon) while my hot-sauce-loving husband gravitated towards the pleasantly spicy Jalapeño flavor.

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

The Bugsy Snacks Grill Flavor was one of the packages that we couldn't read any of the information (as we're not versed in Hebrew) on this Israeli snack. Diving into the spiral twists taste-blind, we weren't totally sure what we were tasting: it was a little savory, very crunchy, and salty. It turns out that "Grill Flavor" equates to grilled chicken flavored twists (I had to look it up on MunchPak's site), which just didn't translate for our tastebuds.

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

The Sabritas Adobadas potato chips were...interesting. They weren't terrible, but again, not one of the flavors I'd seek out again. There was a salsa-esque flavoring on these Spanish chips: I love salsa and I love potato chips, but I'm just not sure I want to cram handfuls of this combo in my mouth.

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

Another item that was a taste-and-guess were these grape chewy candies. Although the texture (a much chewier version of a Starburst) took some getting used to, the flavor was incredible. It tasted as if the candy company had somehow managed to solidify sparkling grape juice into these little squares. I wish I knew more about their country of origin, but, alas, my language knowledge fails me again.

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

Hailing from Turkey, the chocolate Paykek was moist and tasty, something I wasn't expecting in a pre-packaged snack cake. It was plenty big enough for all three of us to have on two different occasions, which is saying a lot considering my husband and daughter each have a major sweet tooth. 

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com

And then we end with the cherry pastry thing. I wish I had a better description for this, but I couldn't read any of the writing on the packaging, nor could I find anything on the MunchPak website about it. Basically, it was a cherry cake, but, unlike the Paykek, this cherry pastry was dry, almost flavorless, and absolutely the worst thing we had in our package. It was the only snack we each took a bite of and then immediately threw out. Oh well, I guess 1 out of 12 isn't bad. 

So, the question remains: 

Would I order the MunchPak again? 

Definitely. I can see this being a great thing to give as a gift to a travel-loving friend or as a way to treat your family each month. I felt that the pricing was fair for what we ended up getting, and I loved the surprise of trying new flavors and textures. 

Have you tried any food-based subscription boxes? Which of the snacks in this MunchPak would you be interested in trying?

Tasty Travels: MunchPak World Snack Box Review | CosmosMariners.com
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Monday, September 12, 2016

8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now

8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now | CosmosMariners.com


Cruising: it seems as if everyone has an opinion on it.

Some people refuse to go on anything else, while others refuse to even consider the idea. I fall in between--I've been on several cruises and very much enjoyed them, but like to vary my travel methods between boat, rail, car, and plane.

Variety is the spice of life, after all!

If you're one of those people who can't understand why anyone would spend a week or more aboard the same ship, this post is for you...and you might be surprised at what you find.

Here are my top 8 reasons why I love going on cruises.

1) There is a wide variety of activities on board. 

I went on my first cruise when I was 11. Being a kid, I had no clue what I was getting myself into other than I was sailing around on a boat for 5 days. Imagine my surprise when my family and I boarded and there were so many things to do that we needed to get a newspaper delivered to our room each night!

One of the biggest things I hear from other travelers who haven't been on a cruise is: "Oh, I'd never go because I know I'd be bored." I cannot refute this emphatically enough, as you will only be bored if you choose to be bored. (And there's plenty of room for that on the pool decks if you'd prefer to wile away your time in the sun with a drink in your hand!)

On past cruises, I've often enjoyed my at-sea days as much as the port days since there are so many options on board. I've taken a Zumba class, attended an art auction, watched karaoke (I'm way too chicken to join in), browsed in the library, attended a silent disco (which was possibly the greatest thing ever), shopped for souvenirs, had a makeover, taken a towel animal folding lesson, and joined a conga line during one of the evening parades. Cruising is basically like going to summer camp for adults--arts and crafts and movie night included!

8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now | CosmosMariners.com
Watching the hilarity that was "Battle of the Sexes" one night

2) You get to visit multiple countries on one trip. 

My slow travel buddies will absolutely hate this aspect of a cruise, but I love being able to get little tastes of several places within a short time span. Think of a cruise as a beer flight: you get to try multiple new things in order to decide which you'd like to experience more completely. In a Mediterranean cruise, for example, you might get to see Italy, Croatia, and Turkey within a week or so, while a Caribbean cruise will hop between Puerto Rico and several of the Virgin Islands.
8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now | CosmosMariners.com
Walking around Cozumel, Mexico
Approaching travel this way has really helped my husband and I figure out where we'd like to spend our money on a longer land-based vacation in the future. And I'm guilty of loving all the new stamps on my passport!

8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now | CosmosMariners.com
In Labadee, Haiti


3) There's so much included in the base price.

Unlike traditional vacations where you pay a la carte for your hotel, food, tours, and entertainment, cruises pack in a massive bang for your buck. Without spending any additional money (for shore excursions and the like), you will have a room for the duration of your cruise, 3 meals a day, all the snacks you can eat, evening entertainment options, poolside music and events, the vast majority of the on-board activities, and access to all of the ports (where, if you're really cheap like me, you can just wander around on your own!).

Add all of this into the fact that cruise companies are constantly offering discounts and on-board credit, and you can score a fantastic deal for your vacation.

4) The dining experience is fantastic.

Having cruised with three different companies in the past, I can tell you this: the food can vary greatly depending on what you order and where you order it. The daily buffet is expansive but probably won't rock your socks too much, but there is something to say about the sheer number of options you've got there.

That being said, I've had some truly spectacular dishes on cruises, and I even bought the cookbook being offered during the cruise we took for our honeymoon. What can I say? The Toffee, Caramel, and Banana Mousse Parfait had to come home with me one way or the other!

Whether you love formal dining or not, definitely plan to spend a few of your nights in the main dining room. The wait staff is usually incredibly attentive (even figuring out your favorite drinks and bringing them to you before you order!), and the atmosphere is fun, lively, and entertaining. Best of all, it's included in your cruise price.

8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now | CosmosMariners.com
The main dining room aboard the ship we took for our honeymoon (Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas)

5) A cruise has the ability to appeal to many different generations/ travel groups.

Of all of the reasons to go on a cruise, this is the one that I love the most. Whenever I book a cruise, I know that there is something to do for everyone on-board, and, since everything is in close proximity, it's not a big deal for me to go read by the pool while my husband spends a little time in the casino.

I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I think it would be so much fun to take my kids, my parents, and my husband all on a cruise. We've done multigenerational trips before, and they've worked out very well, and I imagine that the flexibility that comes along with a cruise would give us all the space to do what interested us while allowing us to come back together for meals.

6) Kids' clubs are fun for the entire family.

A former kid myself, I've attended a few of these kids' clubs and had a blast. When I was 16, I went on a Disney cruise with two of my friends and one of their families, and we gladly went to the teenagers' club. There are separate activities for different age groups throughout the day (and even night for the older kids), and there's no extra charge to drop your child off for a few hours while you go to the spa or gym or just hang out by the pool without getting splashed.

7) You don't have to pack and unpack constantly.

While I love going on a long road trip, the whole new-room-every-night thing can get old quickly. On a cruise, you settle into your room for the duration of the trip, unpack everything you brought once,  and then leave the driving to the captain and crew. Pretty sweet.

8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now | CosmosMariners.com
Our home away from home on our most recent cruise
8) Variety of destinations available 

Where I've grown up, cruising is often synonymous with the Caribbean since we can get cruises from nearby ports for very inexpensive prices. If you're considering cruising, don't think that sunny, sandy destinations are your only option! You can do a river cruise through Germany, a tour of Northern Europe, a trip through the Mediterranean, a cruise through the Panama Canal, or an overview of China, to name a few. If there's water in or near your destination, there's probably a cruise there!

So, where have you cruised? If you haven't cruised before, where would you like to go? What's your favorite part of a cruise?

8 Reasons to Book a Cruise Now | CosmosMariners.com

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