Celebrating "National Old Friends, New Friends" Week
In Honor of my Mother, the Cooking Queen

Exotic Cruise Vacations - A great way to relax and eat gourmet food all day long!

Exotic cruise vacations are notorious for offering some of the world's finest gourmet cuisine. A friend of mine recently returned from a 12-day Mediterranean Cruise. She talked non-stop for over an hour about the delectable cuisine and how she gained 10 pounds because she couldn't resist tasting every morsel presented to her. Even the photos she uploaded to her online photo gallery were focused more on the food than the sightseeing.

My in-law's recently took a 7-day Alaska Cruise. Again, their main focus was the food. Although they loved whale watching and enjoyed several spa treatments, nearly all of their photos were taken in the dining room. There were photos of gorgeous ice sculptures, banquet tables filled with exotic foods and five-star dining rooms with seven-course meals. The food presentation was truly a work of art.

Next month, my daughter's best friend and her family are embarking on a 7-day cruise to Aruba. Hannah brought over brochures and a DVD of their upcoming cruise vacation and I have become obsessed with the idea of cruising ever since. I've always considered exotic cruise vacations to be for the wealthy, but after a bit of research I've discovered this is not the case. In fact, cruises are one of the most economical vacation packages available.

I located a place called Cruise Vacation Center; a one-stop shop for worldwide cruise vacations. Cruise Vacation Center is affiliated with all the major cruise ship lines including Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises, Celebrity Cruise, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America and Cunard.

Cruise destinations include Africa, Alaska, Antarctica,Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean, Coastal, Costa Rica, Cruise to Nowhere, Europe, Greece, Hawaii, Mediterranean, Mexico, New England, New Zealand, Pacific Coastal, Pacific Northwest, Panama Canal, South America, South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Tahiti, Transatlantic, Transcanal, Transpacific and a World Cruise.

I spent about two hours at Cruise Vacation Center comparing cruise lines, amenities, staterooms, best sailing dates, ports of call and prices. My husband and I will be celebrating our 7-year anniversary on December 29th and I want to surprise him with an exotic cruise vacation. Although I haven't booked our reservation yet, I found a fabulous deal on a 3-night cruise to the Bahamas. Since it departs from Port Canaveral, we won't have to purchase airline tickets, which makes the cruise even more affordable.

The cruise I felt would be perfect for our romantic getaway is on Royal Caribbean and the cruise ship is Monarch of the Seas. What really sold me on this package (besides the price!) was the gourmet food. According the Cruise Vacation Center website, one restaurant, Portofino offers pasta (my all-time favorite food), classic burgers from Johnny Rocket's (my husband's favorite food) and gourmet five-course meals in the main dining room.

Monarch of the Seas also offers plenty of entertainment inclding a dramatic two-story lounge, nightclubs and bars. I can shop till I drop in the five-story Centrum lobby lined with boutiques, sip champagne in the Champagne Bar and enjoy live shows that parallel Las Vegas and New York. The best part is, since Cruise Vacation Center offers bargain prices, I can afford to upgrade to the Royal Suite which includes a private balcony and whirlpool bathtub.

Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas Royal Suite

If you're thinking about a romantic getaway, family vacation or weekend getaway with your best friends, check out Cruise Vacation Center. Be sure to visit the "Specials" page and call the 800-number to ensure you obtain the best deal possible. Once I get my "secret" honeymoon package booked, I'll be certain to give you an update. And, I'm certain you'll see lots of gourmet food photos once we complete our romantic getaway!