I often meet people who know me as a travel writer/blogger and they tell me they are not old enough to take a cruise as though cruises are the last item on a bucket list. Anyone old enough to be aware of the cruise industry 20 years ago needs to take another look. Even Millennials know of party cruises. My under 30 savior on the Apple Crisis Support team is going on a cruise for his birthday. (Happy Birthday to Major at Apple in Atlanta). He could be teaching software navigation on a ship someday.
When I am on-ship, which these days is more than I am off-ship, the biggest complaint I hear about the cruise, regardless of the cruise line, is that there is so much to do that it is difficult to make choices. Besides continuous sumptuous feasts and a bar always open somewhere, there are classes in art, bridge, and dancing. There will be one to three enrichment speakers on such topics as the destinations, sports, science, oceanography, and astronomy. The speakers know they can’t compete with a sunny day at the pool deck. Fortunately the presentations are frequently repeated on the ship TV.
The newer cruise ships have great rooms dedicated to the very popular cooking and art classes. Oceania’s larger ships have fully equipped cooking classrooms under the watchful eye of Chef Kelly. She explains that Oceania no longer offers the open wine at the last class of the cruise as wine and knife-wielding amateur chefs do not mix well at sea. Celebrity chefs even escort shore shopping excursions for local flavors.
Shopping at sea has been elevated to an art form. Besides an increasing number of boutiques, art auctions, and learning experiences on Faberge, chocolate diamonds, and special treats to be found in ports on the itinerary, there are personal shoppers who lead shore excursions. Experts like Danielle Metzger on the Silver Seas Silver Whisper know the best places to buy gems in any country. Danielle guides guests to the shops on shore, leaving maximum time to make purchase decisions. (If cup-stacking is to become an Olympian event, then can mega-shopping be far behind?)
Celebrity Eclipse, Solstice, and Equinox are equipped with a demonstration furnace for the artists of Corning Glass. Their shows are a marvel to watch. The works of art are auctioned off at the end of each cruise to benefit a charity.
The large Royal Caribbean ships offer climbing walls, roller skating alleys, and ice-skating. There is an entire deck devoted to young people, with age-specific activities. There are sports bars inside and sport courts outside for the of-age set.
All the ships have pools, some with large thermal spas, well furnished gyms, and spa services. Hot rocks and aroma therapy at 15 knots is a wonderful experience.
The cruise directors head a growing team of performance professionals: dancers, musicians, comedians and specialty performers from knife throwers to magicians. The headline performers are on stage twice nightly, although not to be missed are some of my favorites, the string and jazz ensembles found around the ship near or in the lounges. The first person you will hear in the morning is the cruise director with the activities of the day and the last person you will hear at night is the cruise director with highlights of activities for the next day. Do they ever sleep?
Any cruise would not be complete without a casino, bingo, and the ultimate friend-making, team-building, competition-raising event – Trivia.
Cruises have more attractions than the food and drink, although meals are presented as edible performance art. The hot ticket in the theatre is always the cooking competitions and demonstrations. Always popular are Q & As with the captain of the ship and free drinks at the captains’ receptions.
Cruises are not for couch potatoes. Think of any activity you find intriguing and match the ships at sea to your idea of fun. Then think of enjoying reading a book or being athletic in the cool breezes and sunshine somewhere in the world, where your entertainment on ship will take a break only to allow excursions on shore.