The desire to cruise the vast oceans and seas of the world has been part of the DNA of humanity for countless centuries. Explorers and warriors, merchants and those seeking a better life have all taken to the sea despite dangers and the uncertainty of the outcome.
Today we still have the opportunity to explore remote areas of the world, but we can do so with little fear of danger or discomfort. Most cruisers are looking to experience parts of the world that are new to them, and a cruise gives travelers the advantage of expert tour leaders to guide them on their adventures instead of having to strike out on their own.
There are many different genres of ocean cruising, and there’s sure to be at least one that will meet your expectations. Following are descriptions of some of the most popular types of cruises with examples of the kind of experience you will enjoy.
Gone are the days when an ocean cruise meant sitting on the deck with a good book during the day, maybe doing a little shopping at a local market in port, and dressing to the nines for dinner with the Captain in the evening (although, if that’s your thing, you can still do it!) Today’s cruisers want action, and the modern ships are well equipped to provide it. Take Norwegian Cruise Line for example. Want to whip around a race track, tackle a ropes course, or experience virtual reality gaming? Take a cycling or yoga class, join the Fight Club and then relax in the spa before dancing off your evening meal in one of NCL’s exciting nightclubs.
NCL’s “freestyle” dining policy allows you the choice of complimentary meals in any of their exceptional dining rooms, sumptuous buffet choices throughout the day, and a 24 hour pub serving all the family favorites. Specialty restaurants serve five star international cuisine ranging from escargots to sushi and Spanish tapas. There are no set dining times or dress codes – eat when you’re hungry!
How about some evening entertainment? Once again, the choices are extensive – broadway shows, jazz musicians, dance performances and comedy and variety shows will encourage even the “early to bedders” to stay up and enjoy the action.
Shore excursions can be tailored to suit your interest. Enjoy a submarine adventure to view the coral reefs in Barbados, learn some Greek history at the Acropolis in Athens, or join the throngs at a busy bazaar in Istanbul….the options are endless.
Choose the accommodations aboard ship that best fit your needs. If you’re traveling with a family, suites and penthouses with their large balconies can handle up to eight cruisers. Ocean view and inside cabins offer couples or solo cruisers an affordable choice without sacrificing comfort and service.
In a nutshell, contemporary cruising suits the casual, active lifestyle that modern travelers are looking for.
What could be more family friendly than Disney? Disney Cruise Line can take you and your family most places in the world, from Alaska to the South Pacific, and from the Caribbean Sea across the Atlantic to Europe. Each ship has its own signature Disney theme. Star Wars ambiance, Marvel Superheroes, and Pixar favorites all guarantee that you are entertained from sunrise to sunset. The cruise ships are designed for efficiency and comfort, with modern staterooms that can accommodate up to 5 guests.
You won’t be spending a lot of time in your stateroom, however, when there are so many things to do aboard ship. The kids will love spending time in age appropriate clubs that range from storytelling sessions and character visits for the younger set to computer and video game lounges for pre-teens and teens. All are supervised by cool counselors who make sure everyone is included and has a great time. The adults can enjoy a spa treatment or work out in the gym, and everyone can get together for pool time and games in the family lounge areas. Deck parties featuring much-loved Disney characters are fun for the whole family, and evening entertainment includes live shows like Beauty and the Beast and nightclub venues for the adults.
While you might be tempted to spend your whole time on the ship, you won’t want to miss out on port activities offered at different locations on the cruise itinerary. Alaskan cruises offer floatplane adventures, whale-watching tours and lumberjack shows. Zipline and snorkel in the Caribbean, or explore ancient castles and Renaissance art museums in Europe. Each port offers an experience that gives you a new perspective on how people live in other parts of the world.
Wow! All that activity makes a person ravenous, and the dining options aboard ship are designed to satisfy picky eaters and gourmets alike. Snack bars offering the ultimate “kid food” of hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza are available on every ship. The adults may prefer a restaurant like Triton’s, serving a four course fusion of French and American favorites or the award-winning Palo Steakhouse. Snack at a juice bar, enjoy an afternoon ice cream or spend some time in the candy shop – Mickey Mouse does NOT want you to go hungry!
A family vacation aboard a Disney cruise ship is bound to exceed expectations and delight everyone from the littlest Mousketeer to Grandma and Grandpa.
Premium cruise lines offer their guests just a little more in the way of amenities, accommodations, entertainment options and first class dining experiences. One example of what you can expect on a premium cruise is a seven day Mediterranean cruise with Holland America beginning in Venice and ending in Athens. You may want to add a day or two in Venice – after all, you’re already there, and it would be a shame to miss a gondola ride, a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica or a guided walking tour of this magical city to sample tapas and wine along its ancient byways.
The first port of call is the bustling city of Split, Croatia, which is contained within the walls of fourth century Diocletian’s Palace. This historic city is currently a stepping off point for ferry boats that cruise up and down the scenic Adriatic coastline. Strolling its narrow streets you’ll encounter friendly shopkeepers and cafes and bars favored by local residents, or you may want to spend part of your day enjoying the beautiful sandy beaches or visit the breathtaking Krka Waterfalls National Park.
Next you’ll visit the island of Korcula, once the home of Marco Polo. Kayaking along the hidden bays and islets of the archipelago, you can imagine fishermen working these waters centuries ago. Take a short ferry ride from Korcula to the Peljesac Peninsula for a wine tour and an afternoon snack at the home of one of the grape growers, or take a dune buggy safari through the rolling countryside.
Your next day at sea will give you a chance to explore your ship and take advantage of live musical entertainment or a BBC Earth feature presentation on the ship’s World Stage. Relax in the spa pool or take in the magnificent scenery from a deck chair before dining in one of the elegant restaurants that feature signature dishes created exclusively for the Holland America fleet.
Day five finds you on the iconic white walled, blue domed island of Santorini. Here you can opt for a scenic motorcoach tour of the island, climbing to the top of Profitis Ilias Mountain for spectacular views, and traversing the vineyards and volcanic landscape that make Santorini so unique. A number of small villages on the island take you back to medieval times, and Perissa Beach offers an opportunity for sunbathing and numerous water sports. Those that want more strenuous activity can take a short small boat cruise to Nea Kamena for a hike to a volcanic crater that is still active today.
Rhodes is your next destination, once the home of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which was destroyed by an earthquake. Plenty of history remains on Rhodes however, and you’ll have opportunities to visit the Acropolis, the Palace of Grand Masters, and the Street of the Knights before relaxing at one of the many cafes and shops that line the streets of Lindos.
Kusadasi, Turkey, another ancient city, offers you a glimpse into the culture of the Byzantine and Ottoman eras and is the site of St. John’s tomb, housed in St. John’s Basilica. In the village of Sirince you’ll find a happy blend of Greek and Turkish cultures. Taste some high octane Turkish coffee, and have your fortune told. This is also the site of the Catholic shrine, the House of the Virgin Mary, visited by thousands of religious pilgrims each year.
Your cruise terminates in Athens, where you can opt for various motorcoach excursions to see the many wonders of Greek architecture, stadiums, temples, and amphitheaters. A visit to the Benaki Museum, housing over 30,000 historical artifacts, gives you insight into the fascinating history of the advanced civilizations that once occupied the region. You’ll be missing something if you don’t visit Zafiro where you can enjoy a typical Greek meal and join the performers who sing and dance for the evening’s entertainment. Yasou! (Cheers!)
This cruise combines relaxation with the experience of revisiting ancient cultures and their astonishingly advanced civilizations –a real eye-opener.
So, wait a minute, doesn’t the word “cruise” imply luxury? Shore excursions, wonderful meals served practically 24/7, onboard casinos, spa treatments, entertainment nightly, shore excursions in strange and exciting locations? What magic ingredient besides these amenities makes a cruise a “luxury cruise?”
There are several cruise lines that make it their business to demonstrate the difference between a cruise and a luxury cruise. Three in particular come to mind, Seabourn, Silversea and Regent lines are all top shelf cruise lines that offer services and amenities that others do not.
Depending on the cruise you book, the following amenities are complimentary:
- Shore excursions
- Personal valet services
- Complimentary, unlimited Wifi
- Cocktails, beer and wine and well stocked mini bars in each stateroom
- Specialty restaurants
- More square footage and elegantly appointed staterooms with balconies
- No tipping policy
- Itineraries not offered by other lines
- The ability to customize your itinerary
Each of these lines is dedicated to providing the ultimate in customer satisfaction. The opulence of the decor, the exquisite artwork, the unparalleled excellence of the cuisine, the expert guides and onboard speakers make every day a memorable experience. The high ratio of service staff to passenger ensures that your every expectation will be exceeded – every time! You may have had the opportunity to enjoy a stay at a luxury hotel, but imagine one that opens your eyes to a new destination daily with your every need anticipated and met. There you go – that’s luxury!
There are several cruise lines that offer travelers a chance to visit remote parts of the world that few will ever see. Cruises to Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland and the Galapagos Archipelago are way off the beaten path, but are of special interest to those who value the environment and the infinite variety of plant and animal life threatened by global warming. You don’t have to be an environmentalist, however, to enjoy the spectacular scenery, rare animal sightings, exciting nature hikes and kayaking adventures that make these cruises truly unique.
Hurtigruten Expedition Cruises offers all of the above destinations among many others. Their ships have all been specially designed for the comfort and safety of their guests even in the frigid waters of Antarctica. The knowledgeable Expedition Team that accompanies each voyage provides a wealth of information about each destination and the amazing wildlife and plantlife that you will encounter. Penguins (LOTS of penguins), whales and seals in Antarctica, tortoises, iguanas and rare birds in the Galapagos will all be part of your adventure as you access remote areas by kayak, expedition boats, or Blueye underwater drones.
The UnCruise Line prides itself on sustainability and minimum environmental impact with its fleet of nine small ships that travel the world with less than 100 passengers accommodated on each sailing. These small ships can visit out of the way ports that the larger ships cannot, and its Alaskan cruises are especially popular, with itineraries that include Glacier National Park, Endicott Arm and the Ford’s Terror Wilderness region. Other itineraries in warmer climates include wildlife encounters in Panama and Costa Rica, jungle expeditions in Colombia, and fabulous snorkeling and diving trips alongside whales and dolphins in Hawaii.
Another cruise line that offers the small ship expedition experience is Atlas Ocean Voyages. Atlas’ trips combine the thrill of visiting remote, unexplored destinations with truly luxurious accommodations and amenities. Imagine navigating the UNESCO listed fjords of Norway where photographers will have endless opportunities for mind blowing shots of frozen waterfalls, towering mountain spires, and seldom seen wildlife like reindeer, puffins, arctic fox and the elusive polar bear. The “Captain’s Choice” itinerary means you’ll follow animal migrations and consider weather conditions for port landings where you’ll have the optimum chances for animal sightings and thrilling shore excursions like dog sledding or exploring an abandoned Russian city. After an adventurous day of exploration, relax on board with a spa treatment followed by cocktails poured over glacial ice.
If you want the expedition experience but prefer to do it in a warmer climate, consider Celebrity Cruise Line’s Galapagos itineraries. You can choose an itinerary that includes stays in Quito, Ecuador or longer stays that include Machu Picchu, Peru. The main focus of the experience, though, is cruising amidst the unbelievable diversity of plant life and wildlife that inspired Darwin and continues to engage biologists and ecologists from all over the world. Celebrity’s luxurious cruise ships visit several of the islands in the archipelago; stark volcanic landscapes, white sandy beaches, and sheltered mangrove swampland all providing perfect habitats for the hundreds of unique species of land animals, birds and sea creatures that thrive here. Shore excursions by Zodiac or kayak get you close to courting sea lions, frigate birds, flamingos, pelicans, tortoises, iguanas and penguins. You’ll have ample opportunities for snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, and swimming as two shore excursions are offered each day.
Animal lovers, explorers, environmentalists and photographers alike will find expedition cruising exciting and fulfilling.
Cruising the ocean on a “small ship” is a much different experience than a typical ocean voyage on a ship that is literally a self-contained city, accommodating thousands of passengers. These small ships generally accommodate less than 750 guests (some much fewer) with a crew/passenger ratio of close to 1:1. Some of the smaller lines specialize in charter work, allowing groups to take over the entire ship and customize the itinerary to suit the occasion. Even the cruises that are not chartered tend to provide more interesting, in-depth shore excursions – some remaining in popular ports overnight.
Scenic USA cruise line offers an unusual cruise itinerary to Indonesia, beginning in Darwin, Australia. On this 13 day cruise you’ll visit the Tanimbar Islands to seek out the many species of birds and enjoy traditional folkloric shows and craft demonstrations performed by the islanders who go out of their way to make you feel at home. You can choose a sailboat ride to Weluan Beach for snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding. The Kei Islands, made entirely of sand and coral with beautiful limestone formations, is another snorkeler’s dream come true.
In the Banda Islands you’ll learn all about the spice trade dating back to the 1600’s and the wars that erupted between the Bandanese local population and Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese traders and colonists who profited from the rich harvests of mace, nutmeg and cloves. You can hike along the brink of a still-active volcano or dive beneath the lava flow, now overgrown with coral. Making port in islands of the Bomberai Peninsula you’ll have a chance for Zodiac exploration of hidden caves, hikes for a swim under a waterfall, or a visit to a stilt village in the mangrove swamps. Ancient history reveals itself in blood paintings on limestone cliffs surrounding the secluded bays. These works of art are cultural treasures believed to be over 7,000 years old.
The next five days will be spent in the Raja Ampat archipelago, the most biologically diverse area of marine life in the world. It’s a gigantic region, covering almost ten million acres of land and sea. Snorkelers and divers will be in seventh heaven exploring among over 500 types of coral and all of the sea creatures that thrive here. Manta rays, friendly dugongs, schools of tuna and batfish, turtles and barracudas will glide alongside you in these pristine waters. The spectacular underwater scenery is matched by the beautiful rock formations, cliffs and hidden inlets that provide amazing photo ops for even novice photographers. The bird of paradise makes its home here, as does the Waigeo spotted cuscus, a small marsupial endemic to the region.
Disembark in Ambon, capital city of Malaku, noted for its marine gardens and historical significance, having once been colonized by the Portuguese and later by Dutch traders and settlers. Your flight back to Darwin brings an end to your visit to this Indonesian paradise.
An example of a cruise line that specializes in overnight stays in interesting ports of call is the Azamara Line. How about a 12 day cruise hitting all the high points of the amazing South African coast? Begin in cosmopolitan Cape Town where you can ride a rotating cable car to the top of Table Mountain for an unforgettable view of the busy harbor where you’ll begin your journey. The following day at sea you’ll have a chance to explore your ship, enjoy a spa treatment, join an exercise class or relax poolside before an elegant dining experience in one of the several restaurants onboard, followed by evening entertainment (if you can stay awake!)
The next day finds you in Port Elizabeth, “the Friendly City,” where you can visit the Addo Elephant National Park or walk the Donkin Heritage Trail, taking you back to life in the 1800’s. The following day in East London gives you the opportunity to relax on the beautiful shoreline and beaches of the Sunshine Coast. On day six you’ll arrive in Mozambique, settled in the 1500’s by the Portuguese. The historic architecture of Old Town with its charming parks and gardens contrasts with modern markets and diverse multi-cultural restaurants and bars along the scenic coastline.
In Richards Bay you can opt for a shore excursion to the Zulu Nyala Private Game Preserve in the heart of the African bush. The Preserve is one of South Africa’s most diverse conservation areas. You’ll board a 4X4 vehicle with a dedicated conservation ranger at the wheel, and take a 2 hour game drive with a chance to view and photograph the wild animals that make Africa such an iconic destination. Over 400 species of birds to say nothing of Africa’s “Big Five” are all permanent residents of the preserve. After this thrilling experience you’ll enjoy a buffet supper at the Zulu Nyala Heritage Hotel before your return to the ship.
In Durban visit the Victoria Street Market or get a taste of traditional Zulu culture at a homestead in the Valley of 1,000 Hills. This is the meeting place of the Umgeni and Msunduzi rivers with beautiful scenery and lots of options for outdoor adventures – hiking, cycling and rock climbing among them.
Your return to Cape Town cruising the last two days of the trip will give you time to relax and reflect on all the wonderful sights you’ve seen and interesting people you’ve met on this marvelous cruise experience.
A unique cruise is offered by Regent Cruise Line, a luxury small ship experience close to home that takes you from Montreal to New York City, cruising the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean on Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator. In Montreal take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the scenic narrow streets and historic buildings of old town or enjoy a stroll in the Jardin Botanique, a huge Chinese garden. On to Quebec City where you can enjoy “High Tea” at the Chateau Frontenac, visit the spectacular Montmorency Falls as it plunges 275 feet to the St. Lawrence River below, or drive the Beaupre Coast with a stop for a wine tasting at a local vineyard. In Baie-Comeau, Quebec, take a walking tour of local art galleries and enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many quaint bistros in the heritage district. In Corner Brook, Newfoundland, follow in Captain Cook’s footsteps driving through fishing villages populated by folks from English, French and Aboriginal ancestry. Stops at Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, offer interesting glimpses into the history of this region and their importance as harbors in the early territorial wars between Great Britain and France as well as World Wars I and II. Visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Sydney and the beautiful Victorian Public Gardens in Halifax.
Leaving the St. Lawrence River, you’ll cruise the Atlantic on your way to Hamilton, Bermuda, for a two night stay. Many shore excursions are offered here including a tour of the Crystal Caves and underground lake, a walk through the city to view historical buildings and monuments, or a ride in a glass-bottom boat to see turtles, tropical fish and a 19th century shipwreck. The next day you sail on to St. George, Bermuda, the second oldest English town in the New World, founded in 1609. As you would expect, there’s plenty of history here. Shore excursions include a tour of Fort St. Catherine where you can view replicas of England’s crown jewels. Enjoy the fresh air with an electric bike ride over the bridge to Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve. A nearby salt marsh is a haven for local wildlife and bird watchers alike.
After another day cruising the Atlantic you’ll arrive in Newport, Rhode Island, where some of the wealthiest Americans (think Astor and Vanderbilt) built their summer retreats. Tours of these lavish homes are one of the popular options for shore excursions, but you can also choose to take a harbor cruise along Narragansett Bay to Rose Island to view what is left of Fort Hamilton, now a wildlife sanctuary, and a restored lighthouse. Another option is to board a comfortable schooner for a sailing history lesson delivered by the captain and crew. Oh, the stories they have to tell about the rich and famous who lived and partied here!
The following day you disembark at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in New York. But this doesn’t have to be the end of your marvelous journey. You’re already in New York – take a post cruise extension at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel and experience this vibrant, exciting city for yourself!
Another “Small Ship” experience really deserves its own heading – YACHT OCEAN CRUISES.
If you really want to be pampered on a cruise, this is the way to go. Seadream Yacht Club’s twin yachts offer deluxe personal service to a maximum of 112 guests on cruises to the Caribbean, Europe, and even trans-Atlantic voyages. Chartering an entire yacht for a cruise is ideal for large families planning a memorable reunion or wedding, corporations organizing training sessions or rewarding valued employees, and focus groups bringing together folks with similar passions. Organize a group of wine lovers to cruise from Rome to Barcelona, with shore excursions in Italy, France, and Spain to sample the excellent wines grown in each region. Or plan a destination wedding on a cruise to the British Virgin Islands where guests can explore hidden sea pools among the boulders on the beaches of Virgin Gorda, join sophisticated island hoppers in St. Barth’s trendy shops and restaurants, or snorkel and scuba dive in the uncrowded clear waters of Saba. If the published itinerary doesn’t suit your needs, it’s possible to plan your own itinerary and take advantage of the total flexibility of a charter cruise.
But you don’t have to charter a yacht to enjoy this kind of experience. As a couple or family, you’ll soon get to know your fellow cruisers. Dining in the casual Topside Restaurant or the five-star Dining Salon you’ll be treated to world class cuisine at every meal. End each day at the popular Dessert Extravaganza, where you can share stories about your adventures with new acquaintances that will soon become friends. Extensive spa services, Tai Chi sessions and exercise facilities will ease your conscience after a sampling of bananas Foster, chocolate eclairs and ice cream creations.
Watersports of all kinds, paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling and jet skis are available on Caribbean cruises. Yoga classes, a golf simulator, nightly movies on deck, and evening entertainment at the casino and piano bar are all conducive to making your evenings as thrilling as your days.
Shore excursions include hiking and biking tours in ports of call on almost every cruise, shopping with the ship’s chef for special local delicacies to be served each night, and motorcoach tours through historical regions in Europe. Whatever option you choose, you’ll be accompanied by knowledgeable local guides who make it their business to make sure your experience is memorable (in a good way!) In this respect, a yacht cruise can be included in the luxury cruise category, as personal service from the cruise staff and local guides is consistently exceptional.