The cruising industry is rocking the boat. The old formula has been tossed overboard in favour of a new style of sailing, from expeditions to the edge of the world to itineraries built around interests like food or wellness.
In response to calls for a more sustainable approach, the industry is – albeit slowly – also introducing eco-friendly innovations such as large-scale recycling programs and exhaust cleaning systems; there are growing opportunities for travellers to join smaller vessels powered solely by the wind, too.
Still unsure whether you’re on board? Here are some of the top reasons why a cruise can make for a great choice. For in-depth information about the modern world of cruising, check out Lonely Planet’s The Cruise Handbook.
Time is often the biggest limiting factor for travel. You only get a handful of vacation days, and you want to maximise your adventure. A cruise can be a clever way to tick a few destination boxes on your bucket list by enjoying the abridged version of each day’s port stop as you tour its highlights. The bonus? You don’t need to pack and unpack each night.
Planning a holiday while balancing a demanding job or at-home responsibilities can make taking a vacation feel more like a chore than a relief. Have no fear. With a cruise, an entire package – flights, cabin and food – can be booked with the click of a single button, and you can figure out the nitty-gritty activities and excursions when you get on board and finally have a chance to exhale.
The cruising industry no longer plunders the same old familiar waters. Cruises now offer the chance to visit some of the world’s less-accessible and most mesmerising watery regions. From the roadless recesses of Alaska in the midnight sun's glow to the otherwise inaccessible jungle-fringed Polynesian islands; alternatively, meet highland tribesmen in upriver Papua New Guinea or, for the ultimate pioneering experience, follow in Shackleton’s footsteps on Antarctica.
'All-inclusive' is the key word of the cruising industry and it can be a boon for the budget, especially in the family travel category. Dining options on large ships are expansive, as are playtime opportunities for the kids. Even the entertainment on larger vessels has become Broadway calibre and is already included in your booking price.
At the other end of the spectrum, cruises today comprise some of the most ambitious additions to the luxury travel market, from private barges that elegantly swish along the waters of provincial France to upmarket cruisers of hotel-esque proportions sporting submarine excursions, private plunge pools and world-class art collections.
Pursue your passion on board
Themed cruises, or journeys with a particular educational focus, can be the perfect way to delve deeper into a subject of interest – from archaeology and art history to photography or marine biology – with lectures offered by specialists and scientists. It’s also a great way to meet like-minded people and forge new friendships.
No, we’re not talking about the all-you-can-eat ribs served at midnight. Much like the way Las Vegas has become a test kitchen for international food artists, cruises are striving for greatness by engaging acclaimed chefs in fine-dining restaurant partnerships and offering cooking classes for passengers.
Connect with nature
Safaris are no longer relegated to vehicular exploration. In fact, small boats do just as admirable a job of getting close to nature. Spot exotic birds and lizards in The Galapagos, kayak between breaching whales in the northern and southern seas, spot polar bears in Svalbard, sight the sea lions in Australia, dip underwater to scuba dive with sharks and stingrays or sail beside roving elephants in Africa’s interior.
You may associate cruises with overeating and binge drinking, but most cruise lines have been responding in kind to the spiking interest in health and wellbeing. Expansive spas, monstrous gyms, sports classes and clean eating options are readily available on virtually all megaships. Smaller sailings afford passengers the opportunity to slow their heart rates down and practise some self-led meditation.
Though the phrase 'digital detox' has become a bit of a cliché, there’s something to be said for looking up from your smartphone and seeing the world around you. It’s easy to unplug on a cruise, whether because the internet connectivity can be prohibitively expensive or because you’re sailing through a remote part of the globe sans cellular service. Enjoy it while it lasts, before the whole world has wi-fi.