I’ve heard several clients say here lately “ I will never go on a cruise” and then we start to discuss what they do want to do…and in the end, they choose a cruise. I’m not saying everyone should cruise or that every trip is right for a cruise. However, I decided to use this as an educational moment :)
Most people think of HUGE (2,000 to 6,000 people) cruise ships like those operated by Carnival or Royal Caribbean or any of the other big names when they think of cruising. Yes, of course, they are in the cruising business and I do not mean to imply that these are bad cruises, because they are not. However, they certainly aren’t for everyone. Or, they may work for someone’s first cruise, but then people may want to explore in a different way….or you may sail with Royal Caribbean 30 times in your life, but that isn’t the focus of this little post :)
The purpose of this to show you the other options out there in cruising.
One of the reasons that cruising is popular and often works out well as a travel option is you can see many places in a relatively short amount of time while only having to unpack once.
This is very true in destinations like Europe. To be able to see Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Russia (and perhaps other countries) in the span of 7 to 10 + days is amazing. If you flew between these destinations, it would take you a week and you would see nothing other than the inside of an airport. In port you do have a limited time (normally around 8 hours), but if you fall in love with a place, then you know it is worth the return trip to explore more in depth.
If you want to see Alaska and experience being outside kayaking, looking at glaciers and marine mammals (whales, etc), you could fly into one city and drive from there. To see all you want to see, you would likely have to pick up and move to at least once…and even from a home base, you would have to take boats out each day to see what you want to see (and many of the most beautiful areas are not accessible by land). That can all be a bit logistically challenging and time consuming. A cruise on Uncruise, for example, allows you to kayak right from the ship and go out into smaller boats to explore the glaciers. The boats are designed for Alaskan waters and there are 100 or fewer people on board. In port, you can hike or bike or walk around and explore. There are naturalists on board and your fellow travelers are typically well educated and active. There is no 24 hour a day buffet (but you are well fed).
Another example is Hawaii, if you want to visit several islands in one trip, you used to have to fly from one island to another. Now, there are a couple of cruise lines that visit the Hawaiian Islands.
In Asia, there are sailing options that cover lots of ground and stop in places that don’t often have as many visitors because they are off the beaten path. I’m talking about ports in Borneo, the Hundred Islands of the Philippines, islands off Cambodia, little ports in well-known countries like Indonesia (very different from the typical destination of Bali).
For Antarctica, cruising is the only way to get there (unless you land a coveted spot on a work team stationed at one of the outposts).
Cruising can also give you a place to stay during a busy event. Take the Grand Prix of Monaco. Hotels are sold out or cost a fortune during the event. However, cruise lines like Windstar dock in the area and stay overnight so you can experience the Grand Prix and not have to worry about finding (or paying for) a hotel. Windstar can also get you tickets and VIP access to the events.
So far my examples have all been for ocean cruises. There are of course also river cruises. While river cruises don’t cover as many miles per sailing as ocean cruises typically do, the ports that you visit are often difficult to get to on your own. They are often further removed from the main train or flight routes, and to have a more immersive experience in an area, a river cruise can provide an easy means of transportation. River cruises are not limited to Europe (although there plenty of options there). There are river cruises in the US on the Columbia, Snake and Mississippi Rivers. There are cruises on the Ganges in India, the Amazon in South America and the Mekong and Yangtze rivers in Asia. The Nile cruises in Egypt are more popular than ever and there are options to combine river cruises and safaris in Southern Africa. This list is not exhaustive---there are many, many options.
There are ships of varying sizes and shapes to take you on these journeys---from options that hold 8 or 10 people upwards to the giant ships I mentioned earlier. Some options welcome children and offer a lot of activities to keep them happy and engaged and other options are for adults only. Ages vary on each type of sailing, but the average age continues to drop and millennials are choosing to cruise more than previous generations did when they were younger.
There are also several options to charter boats where you just sail with your friends and family (or co-workers, church group, or other people you know). It isn’t as expensive as it sounds and the per person rate can often be LOWER than booking rooms on a regular sailing.
Please feel free to message me with any questions you may have or to learn more about options that might work for your journey.
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica.