Cruises used to have the dubious reputation of being the ideal vacation choice of the elderly, but a lot has changed since the days of Bermuda shorts-clad septuagenarians playing shuffleboard on the Lido deck. (Confession: Shuffleboard is actually a fun game.) Over the years, cruise lines have taken a long, introspective look at themselves and worked hard to be more inclusive by accommodating a number of vacationing styles (family, luxury, adventure to name a few) and demographics. When it comes to cruising, there is something for everyone and that is what makes sailing aboard a cruise ship a great vacation choice. So, why should tourists choose to cruise?
SAFETY ON THE HIGH SEAS
An often overlooked benefit of cruising is security. As increasingly larger vessels are being built by major cruise lines, they are veritable floating cities with some ships having the capacity to hold the population of a small town. With so many passengers and port calls all over the world, proper security is an absolute necessity. On most ships, guests’ stateroom key cards double as a coded identification card. For the uninitiated, upon boarding guests have their photo taken and are issued an on-the-spot ID card. The card houses all information about the guest and, during debarkation in port, is swiped by a crewmate and his/her photo appears on a computer screen for review. In port, a security perimeter is maintained which allows only authorized personnel near the ship.
With the recent spate of terrorism in countries where there are ports of calls, cruise lines have wisely altered itineraries to avoid danger, making cruising one of the safest forms of travel.
A FOOD LOVER’S PARADISE
I will admit, I have sailed aboard some vessels whose culinary offerings were not exactly…er, appetizing (I specifically remember a dining room aboard a cruise ship that shall remain nameless that boasted a Mexican-themed night and served a dish called ‘Mexican fried jalapeño broccoli–I wish I was kidding). I have traveled through Mexico extensively and never have I encountered this dish. The good news is, horrendous dining experiences are a rarity. Cruise lines have renewed interest in their culinary programs; some have even employed the guidance and expertise of respected celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud, Todd English, Jacques Pepin, and Geoffrey Zakarian. Though cruise lines may request a surcharge for eating in renowned chefs’ restaurants, it is often far more inexpensive than dining in their land-based eateries. Dining aboard cruise ships has evolved into more than uninspired buffets and 24/7 fast-casual dining. Consider Holland America’s ms Koningsdam. The vessel is home to the Culinary Arts Center, a show kitchen that transforms into a new dinner concept, an immersive farm-to-table experience where chefs prepare simple, artisanal dishes and guests enjoy each course as it is freshly prepared. Meals emphasize fresh, thoughtfully-sourced selections while incorporating select ingredients harvested from a glass-enclosed potager adjacent to the kitchen.
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Think about it. Many cruise itineraries offer multi-country visits, calling on various ports of calls. It is not uncommon for a ship to visit 3 or 4 countries in a single itinerary. Granted, guests may only have a day in port to explore and sight-see but it is still a great way to sample a bit of what a destination to offer and cruise lines have gotten very creative in curating their offshore experiences and excursions. From guided walking tours and adventure hikes to cooking classes and art museum/gallery visits, guests have an array of off-the-ship activities from which to choose. Booking airfare/transportation to numerous destinations and excursions separately could be quite costly and would most likely deter many tourists, but booking a cruise is an effective way to see new places for a fraction of the cost.
ONBOARD ACTIVITIES & AMENITIES
While nothing quite compares to the excitement of debarking in a beautiful city, a fair amount of time is spent on the ship and cruise lines realize the importance of keeping guests entertained. Sailing vessels are like self-contained cities, complete with stores, restaurants, nightclubs, spas, lounges, bars, and even libraries onboard. Honestly, debarking isn’t even necessary. (Kidding. Staying onboard all the time would kind of defeat the purpose, no?) There is no such thing as boredom on a cruise ship as there is almost always some activity taking place. Entertainment directors, those responsible for curating onboard activities and catering to myriad guests’ tastes, are constantly seeking new ways to outdo themselves. MSC Cruises even introduced a partnership with famed acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soleil, which will debut in 2017 in its 10,700 square foot Entertainment Lounge. Talk about entertainment on the high seas!
Are you ready to set sail yet?