Tuesday, October 22, 2013

El Morro (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro)

El Morro juts out of San Juan harbor beckoning cruise ships just as it used to deter sea attacks. The structure is a hulking six-story fortress built between 1539 and 1589, withstanding two World Wars and several other scrimmages. Now, El Fuerto San Felipe del Morro is Puerto Rico's go-to tourist attraction, both for its extensive history and its outstanding vista of the Atlantic Ocean. You can also walk though the fortress' depths, which include a maze of tunnels, barracks and prison cells.

Admission to El Morro is reasonable, considering its size, and as one Virtualtourist notes, "what I enjoyed the most about visiting El Morro was that we were able to roam around the fort on our own." You'll enjoy exploring more if you wear comfortable walking shoes.

El Morro is one of two forts inside the San Juan National Historic Site. Its sister, the Fort San Cristóbal, is one of the largest Spanish fortresses in the Western Hemisphere. Both sites have seasonal hours; during the summer the Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and you can hike the trails from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $3 for patrons age 16 and over, $5 if you want to visit both forts. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Best Time to Take a Cruise to the Caribbean

There are more than 7000 islands in the Caribbean Sea, and cruise ships visit many of them. Caribbean cruises run throughout the year. You must select your cruise date carefully because there are certain advantages to sailing during various time periods. Your ideal date depends on several things, such as how much you want to spend, the type of weather you prefer and whether you will be bringing children along.

The Caribbean is temperate all year round, but it can get chilly in the winter and make swimming uncomfortable. This is a problem if you want to take advantage of the region's excellent snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Sail during the spring or fall if you want to do water sports in warm temperatures but don't want to deal with excessive summer heat. Hurricane season extends through November, so it's best to choose spring to avoid potential tropical storms.You are at a higher risk for flight delays or cancellations if you sail during the winter, so consider buying trip insurance.

Many cruise lines decorate their ships for the Thanksgiving through New Years Day holiday season and have special on-board activities. If you have children, they usually have some time off school during this period. They can cruise around Thanksgiving, Christmas or the New Year without missing schoolwork. School breaks also coincide with Easter and other holidays such as Presidents' Day. You will pay a premium to sail to the Caribbean during this period, but the trade-off in special celebrations or minimal disruption to your children's school schedule may be worth it.

Most schools have a break between June and August. Some employers make employees take their vacation time at some point during the summer months. Most cruise lines charge their highest prices for Caribbean cruises during the summer because of this,  but it may be the best time for you if you're under work constraints or have school-age children.

Couples who prefer not to encounter a lot of children on their Caribbean cruise should sail during the school year. Cruises to the Caribbean usually last at least five to seven days. There are more adult passengers during this period because some parents don't want to take their youngsters out of school for that long. Most of the kids on board will be age five or below, and the overall passenger count will be lower. This means shorter waits for tendering into ports such as Grand Cayman and less crowded dining rooms and other on-board areas.