As the cruise industry grows, so does the choice of ships and itineraries, appealing to a broader range of travelers than ever before. Honeymooners, families with young children, even senior travelers who require some assistance, are hopping aboard vessels filled with the promise of adventure.
Whether you’re looking to cruise through some of the most scenic parts of the United States on a small, relaxing riverboat or prefer to sail away to distant lands on a behemoth ship with an action-packed nightlife, it’s easier than ever to find a cruise that floats your boat. Here are some options.
Holland America’s 10-day Mediterranean Dream cruise, which sails round-trip from Rome, often presents a dilemma to passengers. Should they go ashore and immerse themselves in the art and history of ancient cultures in Italy, Greece and Croatia, or stay aboard the music-themed Koningsdam, the 2,650-passenger ship that heralds the line’s luxurious new Pinnacle class?
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Strolling through Dubrovnik’s Old Town, a filming location for HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” sounds divine, but so does soaking in the hydrotherapy pool at the expanded, two-level Greenhouse Spa. Dinner in Athens, complete with crashing plates and dancers shouting “Opa!” would be fun, but dining at Rudi’s Sel de Mer, the ship’s new French-Mediterranean seafood brasserie, is equally appealing. People-watching over cappuccino in an outdoor Naples café is enticing, but the new Grand Dutch Café, a coffee bar that not only serves frothy java drinks but Belgian and Dutch beers and Dutch snacks, is just an elevator ride away.
You see the problem?
There are even decisions to be made on sea days, especially when it comes to after-dinner entertainment. Many head to the World Stage, a venue with a two-story, wrap-around LED screen that enhances live shows, but others get their groove on at B.B. King’s Blues Club in the new Queen’s Lounge.
The good news is there are really no wrong decisions. On shore and onboard, this cruise is a boatload of fun.
Info: 800-599-8256, www.hollandamerica.com.
AmaWaterways’ Riches of the Mekong River cruise introduces adventurous travelers to the waterway that is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia. Millions of Cambodians and Vietnamese who call the Mekong Delta home depend on the river’s bounty for their livelihood, and fishing has been a way of life here since time immemorial.
An eight-day sailing on the 124-passenger AmaDara, a riverboat with French Colonial charm, begins in Siem Reap, Cambodia, gateway to the ancient temple ruins of Angkor, cruises to several port cities in Cambodia and Vietnam, and concludes in Ho Chi Minh City.
The upper deck is the ideal vantage point for observing life in floating villages perched on stilts in the middle of the murky water.
Men and women on their way to market deftly navigate flat-bottomed sampan boats heavily loaded with goods. Except for the modern TV satellite dishes that sprout incongruously from rooftops of ramshackle houses, the scene probably hasn’t changed much in the last few centuries.
Notable shore excursions include the opulent Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a trishaw ride to artisan’s workshops in Tan Chau, Vietnam.
Info: 800-626-0126, www.amawaterways.com
If you like your riverboats to reflect the 21st century, forget the Mark Twain paddle wheeler thing and hop aboard American Cruise Lines’ newest vessel, the 175-passenger American Constitution. A modern ship with spacious staterooms and numerous amenities ensures cruising in style and comfort.
Many rooms offer private balconies — ideal for whale watching on the 11-day Grand New England cruise that sails round-trip from Boston, stopping at picturesque seaside towns in Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island.
A popular shore excursion is a bus tour through Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine. The pristine, 49,000-acre woodland is dominated by Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard. At seaside overlooks, visitors can observe the power and beauty of the moody Atlantic Ocean and hear waves crash against jagged rock formations partially blanketed in an ephemeral fog.
The fog and other unpredictable weather conditions are what led to the creation of New England’s legendary lighthouses that dot the coastline. Built mostly in the 19th century, they may seem like little more than quaint antiquities today, but there was a time when they were crucial navigational aids. An onboard historian provides insight into the storied past of these ancient beacons and many other aspects of the region’s rich maritime heritage.
Other cruise highlights include sailing on a 19th-century style schooner and strolling through the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The big lobster boil in Rockland, Maine, is a seafood lover’s dream. Leave the refined tables manners onboard, tie on a bib and get crackin’.
The line attracts a mature crowd, mostly baby boomers and older. The crew is well-trained in accommodating those with mobility challenges.
Info: 800-460-4518, www.americancruiselines.com
From there to here, from here to there, fun things are everywhere! Carnival just added one more “fun ship” to its fleet, expanding on its Seuss at Sea program that makes the line so popular with young families.
The Carnival Horizon, the second ship in the line’s Vista class, recently debuted Dr. Seuss WaterWorks, a whimsically-designed water park named after the beloved children’s author. Most of the action is on the two water slides.
On the Cat in the Hat slide, riders zip down a 450-foot red-and-white twisting tube on a raft, and on the Fun Things slide, named after Dr. Seuss characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, they zip through a tunnel with polka-dot effects inside.
A kiddie splash zone with lots of spray toys means even the smallest members of the family can indulge in some soaked-to-the-skin fun on this seagoing playground.
The Carnival Horizon sails round trip from Miami on a number of Caribbean itineraries.
Info: 800-764-7419, www.carnival.com
Can’t decide where to go on your next cruise? Go everywhere!
Oceania’s 684-passenger Insignia, the first of the line’s four Regatta class ships to undergo an extensive refurbishment, sets sail for its annual Around the World in 180 Days cruise Jan. 11.
Walk in the footsteps of ancient Chinese emperors at the Forbidden city in Beijing, trek through rain forests in Fiji, observe koalas and kangaroos in Australia, and see the marvels of Nazareth, Jesus’ home.
The voyage includes 95 ports of call on four continents and crosses the equator four times. Prior to its renovation, the Insignia had a refined country manor vibe, as though a butler could suddenly appear and say, “Tea, Madam?” Don’t be surprised if someone actually does. The look of the ship has changed, but the impeccable service remains the same.
Fussy drapery and overstuffed furniture in the public areas have been replaced with sleek, stylish furnishings for a more modern, airy feel. The same is true for the staterooms and suites. The redesign incorporates a new lighter color palette that makes accommodations seem more spacious.
USB ports and a state-of-the-art interactive TV system that includes movies on demand are a welcome addition.
Info: 855-262-3631, www.oceaniacruises.com