Six 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.
There are many unfortunate misconceptions about cruising, mostly spread by people who have never actually been on a cruise. The truth is that the cruise of the 21st century looks a lot different than it did even just a few short years ago. Cruising is ultimately what you make it. If all you want to do is sit in a lounge chair and soak up the rays, you can, but there are so many more options available to the modern traveler. The best cruise lines out there provide guests with incredible active experiences, all designed to introduce passengers to new destinations and making those new ports of call the true focus of the trip. If you pick the right cruise line, your trip can be educational, interesting, fun, active and so much more. It’s ultimately though a matter of personal taste, but it’s yet another reason why there is in all honesty a cruise line or itinerary out there for everyone, even the most independent of travelers, like myself.
A Type For Every Triper
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 smaller ships that offer more individualized service. 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. A few 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, including the one I most recently took with Windstar Cruises to Tahiti. Given the unique destination and the style of ship, I’d personally call this a mix between small ship and expedition style, but regardless of what you call it the cruise was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever enjoyed.
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, Egypt, 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.
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.