Cruises are like vacations where the scenery keeps changing, but you stay in one place. Cruises are like having your own private food court–only way classier. Cruises are like small villages where you and the other passengers and the crew and staff become acquainted and share all the public spaces–restaurants, bars and lounges, showrooms, the pool deck, the casino, the library, the boutique. Cruising is like going on an adventure but having friendly “guides” to help you along the way. Cruising is like looking out at a never-ending horizon or a glimpse of everyday life going on along the shore or riverbank. Cruises are a chance to make your vacation what you want. You’re never really alone, so you feel safe, but you can have as much privacy as you’d like. No one knows you so you can take on a new persona and be the life of the party, shedding inhibitions in a way that you’d never dare in your “real life.” Since there are so many different kinds of cruises and ships, you can find one that fits your desires and expectations and make yourself right at home.
Like Traveling on a Floating Resort
One of the best things about cruising is that you only have to unpack once, and, even better, you might have a butler who’ll do the unpacking for you. No more living out of a suitcase and racing from town to town and hotel to hotel. All you have to do is stand on the deck and watch as the captain docks your floating hotel in another port. Then you walk down the gangway into a new adventure. In ports where you don’t want to miss a single thing, you can take a guided excursion in which transportation and plans have been arranged in advance for your pleasure. If a tour is not your thing, you can wander the streets, stopping at cafes and shops–you really learn about a place when you talk to the locals. Or take an active excursion, such as a snorkeling trip or nature hike or a hot-air balloon ride before heading back to your hot shower, gourmet dinner and ballroom dancing on the ship.
Relaxing Days at Sea
When your ship is at sea (usually at night to reach the next port), you have a lot more to do than just work on your tan. Most cruise lines (but not all) offer diverse and active children’s programs as well as special events for teens, such as a private disco night or moonlight swim. Between meals–and if you try, you can eat as many as seven times in a day–you can shop in the boutique, gamble in the casino, go to an afternoon tea dance or dance class, get a spa treatment, check out the library, practice your putting or play ping-pong, watch a movie in your stateroom or in the ship’s theater or even, in some cases, with your kids on a giant poolside screen. Increasingly, cruisers want to learn as they travel, so you can attend a lecture or port talk about the upcoming destinations so that your experiences onshore are especially rich and meaningful. In the evening, you and your family can attend a show or dance to the music of a guitarist in a small lounge.
Oh, the People You’ll Meet
Cruising offers one of the best ways to meet some of the most fascinating people in the world. Not only can you meet them in port but also on the ship. The guest list for my recent cocktail party on the Silver Shadow included a Princess from Spain, a former CIA operative who was around for the Bay of Pigs, a German immigrant and teacher for the deaf-turned-dance host on the ship, the star of “Phantom of the Opera” on London’s West Side, and the guy who invented the wind sail. And don’t forget what amazing stories your butler from Sri Lanka or your cabin stewardess from the Philippines can share. Your opportunities for interesting gab-fests are boundless.
There will never be a cruise you didn’t like. Sometimes the food is to die for; sometimes it’s so-so. Some ships offer large, Broadway-style shows with singers, dancers, musicians and great costumes, while others offer a guitarist or dance group from a local port. In the end, what really affects the quality of your cruise experience is the people–passengers and staff alike. And when you’re lucky, you make lifelong friends you’ll see again on and off the ship