Is a luxury cruise the new avocado? You know – the thing that has been right there under our noses the whole time, a thing that we knew about but never cared to personally experience, but that has suddenly become a Thing? According to the Cruise Lines International Association (who should know of what they speak), more than 27 million people will take a cruise in 2018. Why are so many people cruising? And if you’re not one of them, is it time for you to jump on board? Perhaps. Here at Dandelion Chandelier, we just took our first cruise – on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer – and we loved it. Here are 10 reasons why you might decide to sail away sometime soon.
[Full disclosure: in April 2018 I was appointed to the board of the parent company of Regent Seven Seas]. First off, a few fun facts: a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that the forecast is for steady growth in the number of ships and passengers for the next few years, especially in the ultra-luxury segment (there will be two new ships a year entering service over each of the next four years, a 45 percent increase in capacity for the luxury market). There are lots of new entrants into the space, including the Ritz Carlton and Virgin. This April, the two new U by Uniworld cruise ships will launch — they’re restricted to those aged 21 to 45, so the millennials can do their thing with no disapproving (or creepy) stares from the old folk.
So should you get on board with this trend? That depends.
Let’s say that money is no object (or at least not an insurmountable barrier) and you’ve got the time and the resources to take any kind of vacation you like. Why take a cruise instead of flying to a glittering city or a tropical island (or to a series of desirable destinations)? Why not just park yourself and your family at an all-inclusive resort? What are the actual benefits of a luxury cruise over all the other luxury travel options available? Here are 10 elements that are distinctive (if not unique) about a cruise vacation that you could take into consideration when planning your next escape:
1. The sensory experiences. If you love the ocean (and we really do) you cannot do better than spending a few days on a ship with the beauty of the sea and sky literally all around you. When you’re on a cruise, the ocean is a constant presence. In fact, it becomes like another travel companion, and it will start to permeate your spirit in interesting ways. We loved the motion of the ship, even when the seas got a bit rough. It was like an insistent reminder to stay present, to be in the moment, to notice the strangeness and the wonder of this mode of travel. We love the smell of the ocean, and the sound of the waves, and the crisp uniforms of the captain and crew. And we really love the incredibly beautiful sunrises and spectacular sunsets that you just can’t experience in quite the same way from the shore. We saw rainbows and distant storms, bright stars and gathering clouds. Taking an ocean journey is an ancient, timeless experience. It’s very likely that embarking on one will bring you someplace completely new.
2. The butler. Sure, some ultra-luxurious hotels provide butler service. But not many. Whereas on a luxury cruise, it’s quite common. And it’s a highly enjoyable element that should not be overlooked. Our wonderful butler on the Explorer was professional, discreet, helpful and humorous – at first, we’ll confess it took a bit of getting used to, and then we came to rely on him for certain things (like that precious first cup of coffee in the morning, delivered exactly when we wanted it). It’s an old-school, Old World touch, and it’s extremely pleasant.
3. The balcony. Sometimes when you take a vacation, what you’re seeking is splendid isolation. The balcony of a luxury cruise ship is just such a place: it’s you and the sea, and whoever you invite to join you. Or not. The vista is ever-changing, and it’s a solitude unlike anything you can experience on land. If you want to hear yourself think, this is a fine way to do it.
4. Your fellow passengers. A significant element that you should factor into your decision-making process is how you feel about socializing with your fellow guests. When you check into a luxury hotel, the chances that you’ll ever interact with your fellow hotel guests are reasonably remote (unless there’s a fire drill). Sure, at a luxury resort you might make new friends at the pool. But the level of interaction on a cruise is exponentially higher. You’ll be sharing tender rides and shore excursion buses; you’ll be hanging out at the pool or the casino; you’ll be taking in a show, or a lecture, or a cooking class. You might even be working on a puzzle together. You’ll find your tribe based on your own habits and preferences: there’s a gym crowd, a casino crowd, a library gang, and lots of pool people. This is a lovely, often hidden benefit of taking a cruise: the people we met on board were well-traveled, friendly, smart and funny – and the cruise line we chose is known for fostering low-pressure interactions among the guests to create a sense of community on board the ship. So if you’re up for making some new friends, this is the perfect mode of transportation for you.
5. No cash needed. Luxury cruises are, almost without fail, “all-inclusive,” including service charges and gratuities. Meaning that you can leave your wallet and your worries behind on the shore, and just relax and enjoy yourself. Related to the point about socializing, it definitely fosters a spirit of camaraderie when you don’t have to wrestle for the check with your newfound pals should you decide to get together for dinner or drinks.
6. Spotty cellular service. We view this as a HUGE positive of a cruise vacation. You can honestly tell everyone at work (and anyone else who may be looking to interrupt your vacation) that you are unfortunately out of reach. You know, we’re at sea, sorry the phones are so bad, I’ll just have to call you when I get back next week. You get the idea.
7. Unpack once and done. This is a significant factor in the extreme relaxation level of a cruise vacation. After all, the ship is a floating hotel (among other things) and you can settle in on your first day and then never think about packing and unpacking again. It’s an extremely efficient way to see a number of destinations with a fraction of the hassle and friction of moving from one hotel to the next. Which leaves you free to spend your mental energy on more important things – like whether you should have cheesecake or chocolate cake for dessert.
8. Dressing for dinner. We hear some of you shrieking that the requirement of dressing a certain way starting at 6:00 pm every evening is a terrible element of taking a luxury cruise. Dear readers, we beg to differ. We think an evening dress code is a gracious and lovely way to segue from the rigors of the day to the languor of the evening. It will cause you to slow down, to shift gears, and for those who love fashion (and we do), its cause to break out your favorite cute sparkly tops and shoes. We’re not talking black-tie and evening gowns. Just no flip-flops and shorts. Some might grumble a bit – but everyone looks nicer and stands up a little straighter when they’re a bit dressed up – and what’s wrong with that?
9. The on-board activities. There’s a lot of good goofy fun to be had on a luxury cruise ship. Margarita Madness, Cupcake Tea-time, and a Beatles dance party were among the offerings on our voyage. Cruise ships always have casinos if that’s your thing (and they’ll stay open as long as you like). For the intellectually curious, some of the activities are tailor-made: there are cooking classes, lectures, wine tastings, and concerts. For the divas, there’s the spa and the salon. For the fitness-focused, there’s the gym. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s actually true: there’s something for everyone on a great luxury cruise ship. Making it ideal for multi-generation family vacations.
10. There’s a doctor in the house. Clearly, the goal is that you will never need one, and that you will never even see this part of the vessel. But if you’re venturing to a more rugged locale, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a well-trained medical staff at your disposal, 24/7. Luxury cruise ships can function as floating hospitals if the need arises – so if you’re a nervous traveler, or you have medical needs, a cruise could be the perfect getaway for you.
There you have it! Ten reasons to think about taking to the high seas. Come on in. The water’s fine.
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