June 22, 2009

Recently, I have been hearing from a lot of people that they aren’t fans of the cruise vacation.   When I talk to them, their cruise experience has been on one of the big cruise ships with 3,000/4,000/5,000! of their “closest” friends – a veritable anthill at sea.  Yes, I hear you!   Having grown up watching the Love Boat television show in the late 1970’s  and I spent years dreaming about my own cruise vacation.  When I finally did take my first cruise, I came home and cried.   It took me 3 years of working full-time in travel to convince myself to take another cruise.

There is an alternative to those vast cruise ships!  In the last 10 years, there has been many new small-ship/luxury/expedition cruises added to the marketplace.  The focus on these cruises is the destination and the culture and history of the destination.  The ships hold no more than 1000 people, usually less than 700 and in many cases, less than 300.   These cruises are often all-inclusive, meaning that wine, cocktails, soft drinks, mocktails are included in the price of your cruise.  Recently, a luxury cruise line with maximum 700 guests and all oceanview balcony suites has started including shore excursions, 2-for-1 rates, airfare in their cruise rates.  From personal experience on this cruise line, I hardly saw other passengers unless I sought them out. 

Expedition cruises are also extremely popular.  These cruise ships have naturalists, biologists, historians, geologists on the ship (no Broadway-style shows!) and because of the ship’s small size, the ship can go into smaller ports and get close to the nature.  But, gourmet food and wine is served.  You sit with whomever at meal times.    There are no formal nights and no photographers chasing you around the ship.

Finally, river cruises in Europe are great, too.  These are small ships with no more than 200 guests.  They sail the rivers of the world – Rhine, Danube, Douro, Nile, Yangtze, etc.  They cruise at night and dock in the center of town, allowing guests to hop off the ship and be in the center of town.  Again, these cruise fares include gourmet food, fine wines and premium beverages and all shore excursions.

Anyway, do not despair, you are not alone in not enjoying the big ship cruise lines.  Yes, I have now cruised around the world on many different cruise lines, but mostly on small ships/luxury/expedition cruises.


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