I’ve been on three cruises so far—one with my family when I was in high school to the Mexican Riviera (with ports of call in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas); one a few years ago with a group of friends to Puerto Rico, St. Martin-St. Maarten, and Labadee, Haiti (Royal Caribbean’s private island resort); and recently on a quick 3-day trip to the Bahamas. All were terrific experiences that I’d love to replicate one day. I’d really like to take an Alaskan cruise or one around the Baltic, to see ports that I’m not likely to visit otherwise.
Every year, cruise vacations are gaining in popularity. According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), approximately seven million people enjoyed a cruise vacation last year alone. And it’s expected that the number of people cruising will increase by more than 7% this year.
Here are some reasons why a cruise is a great vacation:
- A cruise takes you away from it all. On board there’s no stress, no bothersome text messages, cell phones or emails from work, and no traffic or air pollution.
- On a cruise you can sample a broad geographic area. In fact, some areas are best visited by cruise ship such as Alaska, the Panama Canal, the fjords of Norway and islands of the Caribbean.
- A cruise is a hassle-free vacation. Once on board, you only need unpack once. There’s no driving around, looking for your hotel or dealing with public transportation. You don’t have to worry about making reservations or waiting in lines to get into a nightclub. Plus, there’s no racing to make flight connections as you travel from one destination to another.
- You get to meet new people. You might meet new life-long friends, or even Mr. (or Mrs.) Right!
- You can do it all…or nothing at all. Options for on-board activities abound. You can work out at the gym, do yoga, participate in pool activities, surf, jog around the track, watch a film, Broadway-style show or stand-up comedy act, go shopping, and enjoy a plethora of restaurants. Or you can just relax in a deck chair and catch some rays or enjoy solitude on your stateroom’s private veranda.
- On a cruise you’re pampered like nowhere else. You can enjoy breakfast in bed, have a mai tai brought to your chaise and visit the ship’s luxurious spa for a massage or facial. Plus, you’re guaranteed exceptional and ubiquitous service.
- A cruise is perfect for groups, families, and special events like reunions, honeymoons, or anniversaries.
- It’s a very safe travel experience (The Costa Concordia accident off the coast of Italy not withstanding.)
- Best of all, a cruise is a great value for the money. There are cruise vacations to suit every budget and you’ll know what you’re paying for in advance. Your cruise fare includes your accommodations, on-board activities and entertainment, meals, plus transportation from port to port. What’s not included, usually, are optional shore excursions, gratuities, alcohol and soft drinks, photos, and spa services.
Here are the top 5 misconceptions about cruises:
1) They’re for old people. According to CLIA, 29% of passengers are under 40, 52% are between 40 and 59, and 20% are over 60. The average age is 46 years old, but most cruises have passengers representing every age group.
2) I’ll eat too much and get fat. Nowadays most ships offer low calorie, spa menus. Also, most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, low cholesterol, diabetic or other diet preferences.
3) I’ll get seasick. Ship stabilizers drastically reduce the ship’s roll. Plus, the availability of advance weather information and use of preventive medications usually eliminate the incidence of motion discomfort.
4) Cruises are too formal. Many mass-market and travel/education cruises have a relaxed atmosphere. Generally only the most opulent cruise lines require you to wear a tuxedo or cocktail gown to dinners or events.
5) There’s not enough time spent in ports. Yes, most ships only stay a maximum of 12 hours in port, but some do offer overnight stays. This makes cruising perfect for sampling a region. You can always extend your trip at front or back end.
Have you ever been on a cruise? What are your impressions of the experience?
Click here to read about my in-port tour of the Crystal Symphony.