Since the days of The Love Boat, cruising has evolved, creating a rich palette of choices. Veteran cruisers often began their cruising repertoire by stumbling into a Caribbean cruise and, as enjoyable as that is, many eventually wish to expand their horizons (pun intended) to other types of cruising.
We’ve developed our personal Top 10 list. Having been on more than 50 cruises, we are always asked which one was our favorite. The truth is that we can’t really choose just one, since each brought unique pleasures and experience.
Here are 10 categories you really should consider:
You’ll see majestic scenery that rivals that of the best nature shows on TV, as well as witness wildlife such as spawning salmon, whales, bald eagles, and other species. Many people claim these trips to Alaska are the ultimate scenic cruises.
Seasonally, these are only available late May through early September. Holland America dedicates more than half of its fleet to this venue when it is “in season.”
These cruises are mostly in Europe, on rivers that larger vessels simply can’t get to. Most things you’d like to see in Europe, such as old castles, cathedrals, and 1,000-plus-year-old buildings, are typically clustered within walking distance of each other, near where the boats dock — after all, rivers were the key to trade in prior millennia.
Most excursions and wine-pairing meals are included, too. And, some American river cruises are also available.
These cruises are a great way to see many capital cities on the Baltic rim, including St. Petersburg, Russia (a cruise voids the need for obtaining a difficult and pricey visa, making this stop a unique experience); Stockholm, Sweden (where the ship glides through a tranquil archipelago of 40,000 islands); Tallinn, Estonia (the world’s oldest continuously inhabited medieval city, surrounded by a fortress wall and 47 turrets); the fjords of Norway; and classic gems such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
Greek Island cruises
What better way to see a nation of islands than on a cruise? These cruises often come packaged with stops in Dubrovnik, Croatia, or Sicily, Italy. At a stop in Kusadasi, Turkey, near the ancient and biblically significant city of Ephesus, you will experience the world’s largest ongoing archaeological dig site. You can also climb a live volcano near Santorini, the Greek island that features a classic hillside waterfront village of white adobe houses and blue-domed churches overlooking the beautiful Aegean Sea.
You’ll have to take a plane to get there first, but what better way to see all the Hawaiian Islands than to cruise, taking your hotel room with you and not having to pack and unpack daily. Hawaii seems to be on everyone’s bucket list, including ours.
New England/Canada cruises
Don’t miss the massive 40-foot tide changes at the Bay of Fundy, the glorious fall colors, and the classic New England coastline with rustic fishing villages and piles of lobster traps on piers. Some of these cruises also go down the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Thousand Islands region. Each stop has a unique flavor.
In 2016, Royal Caribbean will begin cruising from Baltimore to Canada and New England. The nine-night round-trip cruises will include ports of call in Boston; Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The spring and autumn departures are May 26, June 23, Aug. 4, Sept. 1, Sept. 15, Sept. 29, and Oct. 13.
Southern Caribbean cruises
Let’s face it: If you’ve done one cruise, it was probably the Caribbean, which has countless options to choose from. Which is the best? While it’s a matter of taste, we prefer the Southern Caribbean.
Make your time count by starting with an inexpensive flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and you’ll already be at the start of “the good part.” As a rule of thumb, any island that starts with “saint” is a good bet. There are so many idyllic islands and ports of call, it will take you years of cruising to visit them all.
Bermuda is literally in the middle of nowhere, all by itself in the Atlantic. What’s great about this is that the ship stays docked at the same place for several days. This truly removes a lot of stress because you never need to hurry and get back to the ship before it departs for the next port.
Bermuda is actually a collection of hundreds of islands, so close together they almost appear as one big island connected by a few bridges over canals. You’ll also love the British flair, golf, and pink sand beaches.
Mexican Riviera cruises
Most East Coast cruisers only see the gulf side of Mexico: Cozumel, Calica, Cancun, Costa Maya, Progresso, or Playa del Carmen. The Pacific side offers a great alternative, including the very peaceful waters the name Pacific derives from and great destinations such as Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Don’t miss seeing the famous stone arches at Cabo or the cliff divers at Acapulco or Mazatlan.
In our October issue, we covered in depth these cruises, with their super-smooth ocean liners. The ships are staffed and equipped for a variety of activities for the whole trip, as opposed to being floating hotels taking you to your next stop. You don’t feel like you need to hurry up in the morning so as not to miss going on an excursion, then hurry back to not miss departure and dinner, and then hurry back to your room to rest for tomorrow’s early port. No cruise is more relaxing than a trans-Atlantic.
Have you done all 10 of these cruises? Do you have some thoughts to share? Post them online at RecreationNews.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Need advice? Try one of the travel agents on these pages.