Top reasons to choose a cruise

There’s a good reason why cruising remains the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry. New ships appear on the market every year, introducing expanded choices and providing something for every taste — even for those who used to say “I’d be bored stiff on a cruise.” Not any more.

There are small ships offering the ultimate in luxury, where everything is included in the price, including shore excursions, bar bills, and tipping; there are ships harkening back to the days of ocean liner elegance but with the latest accoutrements; there are party ships, where the action goes on from dawn to dawn; there are replica 19th-century clipper ships where you cruise beneath huge canvas sails in the company of fellow ocean-loving passengers (but in considerably more comfort than those sailors of old enjoyed) — the choices are about as varied as the number of ships at sea, and that’s saying a lot.

The common denominator, regardless of the vessel you pick, is value. Value tops the list of CLIA’s (Cruise Lines International Association) Top Ten Reasons to Choose a Cruise, compiled from surveying thousands of passengers.

Why value? One price buys your accommodations, all your meals (including snacks and, in most cases, room service at whatever time of day), entertainment, and travel between ports. Even the all-inclusive land resort can’t beat that, when you consider the ports offered.

If value is number one, what are the others?

Romance ranks second, with “dining on a stateroom balcony overlooking the ocean” cited as being “as romantic as it gets.” Throw in spa services for two, waking together in an exotic port, and dancing into the wee hours, and it’s a tried-and-true recipe for the love stuff, be it a honeymoon, an anniversary, or a courtship.

Number three was, not surprisingly, cuisine. Passengers on the larger liners can choose to dine in a traditional ballroom setting, a bistro, or a casual eatery. The advent of alternative dining restaurants on a handful of ships in the early 1990s heralded a revolution in cruise food. Today, most of the popular cruise lines offer specialty restaurants, some of them, like Crystal Cruises’, included in the fare. Others, like Cunard’s gourmet Todd English restaurant, require an extra payment, but much lower than the land-based equivalent would cost. The main dining rooms have come a long way, too, with menus designed to please many palates and most dietary needs. Old favourites like pizza, hamburgers and chips, or ice cream can be found in their own nooks, often available throughout the day.

Variety came in fourth, with more than 150 distinctive ships serving the North American market, almost 2,000 ports of call, and a massive array of places to see and things to do. Two cruises are rarely the same, so if you’ve enjoyed one, it’s logical that you’d choose another, and perhaps add a pre- or post-cruise land tour.

Number five: the activities. Cruisers’ days can be as active or as passive as they please. Take in the sights at different ports of call, or kick back on a nearby beach while others shop in town. Many ships offer a variety of sports, and you won’t even miss your golf course… you can play Pebble Beach or St. Andrews on a simulator! (And several offer shore excursions featuring golf.) There are deck sports galore, and on a sailing ship you can climb the mast to the crow’s nest and get a sense of what those old sailors saw after weeks at sea.

While on board, you might opt for spa treatments, take in lectures, catch a movie, or just lounge by the pool. At night, enjoy a show, have a flutter in the casino, dance to a live band, chuckle at a comedian, or gaze at the stars, seemingly so much brighter than when seen from land.

Reason six is simplicity. Many passengers said they come back from a cruise feeling as if they’ve really had a vacation, because cruising is the most hassle-free way to go. Planning is simple, and once you’re on board, basic expenses are pre-paid. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Expanding the horizons ranks as number seven. “How can you beat falling asleep in one destination and waking up in a new one?” asks cruise fan Gerry Albrecht from Manitoba. “And you only have to pack and unpack once!”

Reunions — of family, friends, old school chums, and others — came in at number eight. The Albrechts enjoy reunions. With 24 family members, a cruise ship never fails to be a crowd pleaser.

“There’s something for everyone — from children to grandparents and great aunts and uncles. And nobody’s lumbered with the cooking, the planning, or the cleaning up. Everything is catered, and we’re all pampered.” In fact cruising as a family vacation was a factor with many respondents. Most ships have excellent children’s programs, kid-friendly menus, and even babysitting services for wee ones.

Number nine? Pampering. We all love being pampered and regardless of budget, most ships pamper their guests around the clock. Turndown service, 24-hour room service, and attentive waiters are all part of the package.

And finally, the 10th reason to cruise was satisfaction. CLIA’s respondents showed that this type of holiday produced a higher percentage of satisfied customers than any other vacation experience.

In the final analysis, you’ll choose to cruise for you. Your CWT travel counsellor can help fit your priorities to the right ship and itinerary. Will you see the world, unwind, be wild, feast on fabulous food, learn something new, bond with the family, enjoy a romantic getaway, or all of the above? Whatever your reasons, you’re sure to find a cruise that fits.

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Photo © james steidl