Almost five years ago (wow, time flies) I wrote a post in defense of cruising. Even though I was still a newbie blogger at the time, I quickly saw the derision cast upon the cruise industry by travel writers and bloggers, most of whom had never even taken a cruise. A Caribbean cruise was the first “adult” vacation I took and since then I have had the opportunity to cruise many times and in many different ways. While my own personal opinion on taking a cruise has evolved over the years, I am still a firm believer in them as a great travel option. That’s not to say that I would enjoy every style of cruising but that’s sort of the point. It’s tired and cliché but it’s also true when people say that there is a cruise out there for everyone. Whether it’s small ship expeditions or a mega-cruise to Cancun, everyone’s travel styles can be accommodated on a cruise. While I wouldn’t take a cruise for every trip, I do think when added to our quiver of travel options that they are a fun and different way to see the world. With all of this in mind, here are a few reasons why I think everyone should consider taking a cruise at least once.
It’s Corny But There Really Is A Cruise For Everyone
I mentioned it in the introduction, but cruising has never been more popular than it is today and thanks to that there really is a style of cruise out there for every kind of traveler. The problem is that so many people put down cruising without ever having even been on one. I can’t stand that kind of travel arrogance, it really drives me insane. It’s one thing to try something and not like it, but to cast aspersions on millions of people just because of how they choose to see the world is obnoxious. That being said, not every cruise is suitable for every kind of traveler. Personally, while at one time in my life I enjoyed those large, mega-ship cruises I’ve veered away from them now. 5,000 people on a ship is just too much for me, and I much prefer the size of the Viking Ocean ships that accommodate around 1,000 guests. To help steer you in the right direction, I thought I’d highlight a few different styles of cruises and point out their strengths and weaknesses.
Mega-Ship – The most recognizable and affordable form of cruising, it’s also the style that draws the most criticism amongst the travel elite. I hate that though, a lot. Anytime anyone leaves home to travel, especially internationally, is a good thing and should be lauded, not criticized. But, admittedly, it is not a travel style for everyone. Ships typically carry anywhere between 3-5,000 passengers, but thanks to new technologies and marine design it really doesn’t feel as if you’re sailing with that many people. The best cruise lines manage the crowds so that you don’t have to wait as long and can get to the business of relaxing faster. But not all cruise lines are made the same, so be sure to do your research as to which line is best for you.
Small-Medium Ship – This is my preferred style of ocean cruising because it usually incorporates the luxury cruise lines where attention to detail, service and quality are all at a premium. Two years ago I took a large ship ocean cruise that was so miserable, I thought my days on the high seas were over. Then I joined a Viking Ocean cruise and almost immediately I changed my mind. With fewer than 1,000 guests onboard, the Viking Star was the perfect size and the luxury amenities onboard made it an experience I know I’ll never forget. There are many cruise lines out there from small to medium that provide this same level of service, whether it’s on Paul Gauguin in the South Pacific or on an ultra-luxury cruise ship in any other part of the world.
River Cruises – If you’re a regular reader of this site then you know I have an affinity for river cruises. But I didn’t feel that way a few years ago. Like so many other people I had an incorrect and outdated notion of what river cruises are really like and it was only after taking one that I grew to love them. For a long time river cruises were not great. Relegated to the approaching death demographic, the ships were old and tired. But then in the 1990s and early 2000s a renaissance in river cruising took place with new ships, new ports of call and an entirely new look and feel. Today they’re popular amongst many different age groups, including Gen Xers like myself and are a great way to experience destinations not only in Europe but in China, India and even along the Mekong River.
Expedition Style – At the core of my travel preferences is getting out there and experiencing new places as intimately as possible. Some of my favorite trips have been to far away and hard to reach places, and expedition style cruise ships are the only way (usually) to reach them. My first experience with this different style of cruising was when I visited the Galapagos, joining a Lindblad Expeditions cruise along the archipelago for a week of discovery and learning. Then a few years later I again took another expedition style cruise, but this time in Antarctica. These ships can be luxurious, but many times are much more basic. They’re also categorized as small ship, usually with only 100-150 passengers or so onboard. But the air of excitement and the spirit of discovery is what makes them so very special. There’s nothing quite like exploring hard to reach places with other like-minded people, learning from each other and just having a great experience.
Great Value and Access
Whether you take an ultra-high end cruise or a more basic mega-ship sailing out of Miami, there is no denying that cruises are an amazing value for what you get in return. When looking at the overall cost of a cruise you have to keep in mind that it covers your accommodations, food and travel. To visit 5 islands in the Caribbean including hotels, flights, meals and travel time would cost many thousands of dollars, whereas a cruise takes you to the same destinations with ease and at a fraction of the cost. This scales as well when you look at some of the most luxurious ships floating along the seas. For a commensurate luxury hotel with food and travel on the mainland, luxury travelers would spend much more than they do at sea. It’s this easy access though that appeals most to me. There is nothing better than going to sleep in one city and waking up in another. As a frequent traveler the constant packing and unpacking and shuttling about can be exhausting at times. With a cruise, no matter what type, the ability to fully unpack once is amazing and frankly makes me feel more human. I also love not having to constantly navigate train stations and airports. It saves me time and since my trips tend to only be 7-10 days in length, time is money and the more I can see and do instead of transiting is worth a lot to me.
Meeting People Can (Sometimes) Be Fun
One of the aspects of taking a cruise that isn’t usually highlighted is meeting the other passengers. On my first cruise I was hesitant to put myself out there and engage with the other passengers, but once I did it completely transformed the travel experience. Over the course of many cruises, from oceans to rivers, I have made many new friends, keeping in touch with several even years after the trip. More than making lifelong friends, meeting new people while on a cruise makes the travel experience a lot more fun. It’s fun to see how other people react to new places and experiences and chatting about our days at dinner always gives me new ideas for future trips. I also just really like talking to new people, learning about their lives and seeing what makes them tick. The other passengers can easily transform a generic travel experience into something extraordinary, you just have to put yourself out there.
Don’t Let Others Tell You What To Like or Not Like
One of the underlying themes to this site and all of my writing is to encourage people to travel more. A big part of this is to frankly ignore some of the advice that so-called travel pros put out there. I get so annoyed when people put down experiences they consider to be too touristy or generic. It comes from a place of arrogance and privilege. Most people only travel once, maybe twice a year and when they do travel they want to see aspects of destinations that made them famous in the first place. This translates to the cruise experience and whenever I see travel experts putting down the entire cruise industry my blood starts to boil. There really is a cruise style for every type of traveler whether you prefer the mega-ships or a barefoot sailing tour of the Caribbean. Do I think a cruise should be the style of trip you take every time you leave the house? No, like all things in life moderation is key. Personally, I like mixing up my styles of travel, from completely independent to cruises to something in-between. It makes me a more well rounded traveler and ultimately, makes me enjoy the travel experience that much more.
So if you haven’t taken a cruise before, start researching them and discover for yourself what makes this style of travel so very special.