It seems like everybody these days is setting sail, cruising around the deep blue ocean on ships the size of small cities. Travelers return from their ocean adventures with strange and marvelous tales of grand movie theaters, huge climbing walls, water slides, and mounds of delicious food, but is this the reason why cruises have grown in popularity? What is it, exactly, that makes cruises so appealing to so many people.
Perhaps it’s the price. Long cruises, especially, can be expensive, and port fees, cruise cancellation insurance, and airfare (if it’s not included in the price), not to mention pricey shore excursions, can destroy your vacation budget. Just like with air travel, however, significant discounts can be found online and through travel agents, and when travelers factor in the meals, accommodation, and shipboard entertainment that are included in the fare, cruises can actually be pretty reasonable. There’s also less room for the typical nasty surprises that accompany traveling to exotic locations on your own.
Unlike land tours, which offer a similar sense of security when traveling, cruises also allow passengers a great deal of personal freedom and the ability to set their own pace. If you don’t feel like getting up for breakfast, then you can stay in your cabin and make it down in time for lunch. On a tour, if you miss breakfast, you might have missed the bus for the entire day, and you’ll end up stuck in your hotel, while everyone else is seeing the sights. Cruises have a definite relaxation factor that accompanies the fact that you are, essentially, staying in a floating hotel, which is one reason why cruises attract passengers who are celebrating honeymoons, birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions.
The fact that cruises are actually carrying passengers from one port of call to the next with a minimum of fuss or fanfare is another reason for their popularity. Unlike planes, trains, or, God forbid, automobiles, passenger can sleep, eat, exercise, and even party while the ship is transporting them from point A to point B. As mentioned earlier, the pace is slower, but for many, that’s a benefit rather than a drawback of cruise travel. Also, once you get to your port of call, you’ll be all rested up for duty-free shopping (in the Caribbean, at least) or scuba diving or whatever draws you to exotic locales in the first place.
Traveling also entails meeting a lot of new people—some of whom are nice and some of whom are not nice. Dealing with nasty flight attendants, shady cab drivers, and grouchy hotel clerks can add a level of stress to travel that detracts from the sense of excitement and adventure that should accompany any vacation. Perhaps it’s because everyone’s so relaxed or perhaps it’s because the staff is brainwashed (or desperate for a generous gratuity), but, in general, fellow travelers and staff on cruise ships seem to be a whole lot happier, nicer, and more accommodating than your average human being you encounter every day. Your fellow cruisers, who come from a variety of backgrounds, are not only happier but also more interesting to be around, and you’re actually encouraged and able to socialize on a cruise.
But let’s be honest. Nothing’s more important to you than your stomach. Airlines understand that. It seems like, on some long-haul flights, attendants are walking around every hour with another opportunity to stuff your face. Airline food, however, will never be able to compete with cruise ship food. Food is often the highlight of a cruise experience. Whether it’s at a buffet, in a dining room, or in your cabin, the food is delicious, and there’s plenty of it. In fact, you might find yourself gaining a few pounds if you’re not careful. Luckily, that’s what vacation is all about. If you are worried about your waistline, there are plenty of opportunities to exercise and stay fit onboard.
Finally, one of the major reasons why cruise travel is growing in popularity is the variety it offers. Over 200 cruise ships float in the world’s oceans and rivers today, and that number is growing by the year. Just like with air travel, there are the big names—Princess, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival—and they each have their own fleet of ships. There are also smaller cruise lines, tailored to a specific region or for a specific purpose. These days, if you do your research, you can find the perfect cruise ship to fit your needs, wants and interests.