Oceans or rivers, wide open or more intimate waterways, foreign lands or closer to home, I love to cruise - no doubt about it. I've been on more cruises than many, but far far fewer than many avid cruisers, like some new friends made on a transatlantic cruise last summer. A good number had over 500 days! I loved listening to where they had been, the ships they were on, where they were going next, and best of all, their most memorable experiences. Truly inspirational!
Last year, travel insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance published the results of their survey indicating that two-thirds of Americans have never taken a cruise. The stated reasons included prohibitive prices, susceptibility to sea sickness, fear of getting ill, bad reputation or word of mouth. I understand these concerns (yes, these things can occasionally happen), however I can tell you that cruises are fantastic values, amazing experiences, and most importantly, FUN!
To many of the 66% who have not been on a cruise: you are missing out! Here are my reasons why I love to cruise:
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
Visiting New Destinations
I love visiting and exploring new places and cruises allow you to visit multiple places on one trip. Many of these destinations would be difficult to see on a land based tour - the distances too far, unreachable unless you fly or come in by ship or maybe a place that never would come up on your radar. I also love the fact that cruising is a perfect way to sample new ports. If I really like the area, I plan a longer trip back in the future. Some cruise lines, like Azamara Club Cruises, have built in extra days in ports just so you can take in more of the experience. When other ships leave, you are still exploring! As Azamara often remarks, "The real experiences come to life when the sun goes down!"
Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises
Meeting New People
Meeting new people, from all over the world, is, by far, one of the best reasons to cruise. Fellow cruisers are fascinating people. Most love to share their stories of where they are from, what they have seen, new friends they have met. I still correspond with people I met years ago, and I have met folks who regularly cruise now with friends they met over 20 years ago. Amazing! The smaller the ship, the better the opportunity. It is a lot easier to make new friends on a river cruise with 150 passengers or an adventure cruise with 80 than a ship with 4000, however there are so many ways to meet people - at dinner, at activities on board, tours, even Facebook roll calls. Themed cruises, which attract like minded travelers, are also great opportunities to make new life long friends.
Photos courtesy of Star Clippers
I am by no means a certified foodie, however I do enjoy the opportunity to try new foods or see how others prepare my favorites. Cruises are a great way to sample new foods that you've always wanted to try but maybe were afraid to or didn't want to pay for in case you didn't like it. Cruises provide this opportunity and often at no extra cost. Cruises offer many options, from gourmet selections in the main dining to specialty restaurants or just plain comfort foods in the cafes. I especially enjoy it when regional specialties are served - a wonderful way to learn (and taste) more about the region you are visiting. On river cruises in Europe, for example, you are treated to local wines and beers, paired with menus from the regions you are sailing through.
Unpacking and Packing - Checking In and Checking Out, Once
I love the fact that on a cruise I check in, I unpack and I'm ready to sit back and relax, looking forward the next destination. No worrying about packing and unpacking again (and again) until the end of the cruise. No worrying about checking in and out of hotels and losing time traveling between destinations.
Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin
If I had to choose only one thing I love about cruises, it would be the sea days, or the days where you are simply watching the scenery go by. A lot of people I speak to about cruising fear "being stuck" on a ship with nothing to do. Fear not! There is so much to do (or not do) on a sea day, from simply enjoying time to read or taking a nap, pampering yourself in the spa, relaxing by the pool to attending an enrichment talk or class. On a river cruise or small ship adventure, get out on deck and take in the scenery. Allow yourself the time to unwind and unplug. It's a wonderful thing.
Photo courtesy of Sea Dream
Whether it is a small or large ship, crew members do their best to get to know you. I love the great service and attention I receive while I am on board. I also love learning more about them and where they are from - you'll find some very interesting backgrounds! I learned quite a bit about Croatia on my last cruise. Showing interest in the crew will be returned with extra attention and so much more.
It's A Great Value
Cruising offers a tremendous value, the biggest bang for your buck, considering all that is included. At minimum, accommodations, meals, entertainment and transportation between ports are included for one price. Some cruises have more inclusions (like excursions) and amenities than others, however with so many options to choose from, there is a cruise suited for just about everyone and every budget.
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