Do you know the etymology of the word ‘travel’? It comes from the old French word travailler – the same root as the word ‘travail’, which means to strive, struggle and work. And, quite honestly – what with carting your luggage around, packing, unpacking, running for buses or trains, fighting for taxis or negotiating unfamiliar roads, on the wrong side in unfamiliar rental cars – travel can still be very hard work.
And that’s why cruising is such a good idea. In fact, while we’re exploring the fascinating subject of words and what they mean, let’s look at the word ‘cruising’. It has two meanings – the first is ‘exploring a region by boat’, and the second is ‘travelling smoothly and effortlessly’. Ocean cruising is both.
Easy does it
You can think of cruising as the travel equivalent of living in a great residential estate. Modern cruise ships are like floating mixed-use precincts with ever-changing scenery. Strangely, while cruising has a huge following of savvy travellers who have discovered all the advantages, there are also loads of people who turn up their noses at cruising, saying it’s boring, crowded, full of old people, and you don’t see anything except the sea. Well, most of those myths are just that – myths – but let’s examine them.
- Cruising is boring. Wrong! In fact, you might be forgiven for thinking you are in a coastal resort, rather than at sea. Just some of the features you may find on board are a climbing wall, wave pool for surfing, pools, stylish boutiques, movie theatres and live performances, and also interesting lecture series about the areas the ship visits. Sadly, there’s no golf course but many cruise ships do have mini golf, and – if your ego takes precedence over truth – you can blame any high score on a rogue wave. Gone are the days when the only entertainment on board was deck quoits and bingo.
- The food is tired self-service buffet-style fare. On many ships, the main meal is buffet style, but that does not mean it is boring or tired. And, there are loads of fab little restaurants, coffee shops and fine dining experiences, with the odd Michelin-star chef as well, so there’s no excuse for culinary boredom.
- I’ll put on weight on a cruise. Hmm, see above. Cruise ships are renowned for their fabulous food, and it’s predicted you could easily put on a few kilograms on a week-long cruise, but you don’t have to, because there’s bound to be a worldclass, fully functional gym on board. Also – they don’t actually force-feed you. Hint: get a table as far from the buffet as you can – that way you’ll do more walking. Seriously, you could eat very healthily on a cruise (if you have the will power) and most cruise liners also have some fab spa facilities, so you could have a facial, manicure, body scrub, haircut and colour, and even a tooth-whitening session – all to complement your carefully curated perfect tan. You could look gorgeous when you disembark.
- I’ll get seasick. Modern cruise liners are well engineered with astonishingly effective stabilisers so seasickness is extremely rare.
- All you see is the sea. If you do an ocean crossing, you will see lots of sea, but it’s at sea you will see things many landlubbers never get to experience. At sea, you have the best chance of seeing a green flash as the sun sinks below the ocean – something seasoned sailors look out for every evening but usually see only once or twice in a lifetime. And there is nothing on earth quite like standing on deck at night and seeing the ghostly shapes of dolphins outlined by fluorescence as they surf the bow wave of the ship. And, anyhow, most cruises are coastal, or short hops between islands. And then others, like cruises along the fjords, are actually the best possible way to access some of the planet’s most scenic places. And – even more exciting – cruise ship itineraries are carefully designed to give you sufficient time in port to go on a tour, go sightseeing, do some shopping, or just explore.
- Cruising is just for party animals and pensioners. Yes, cruising is popular with retired people – but retired does not necessarily mean boring – and it is a great way to get a bunch of people together to party so it’s often used for company end-of-year get-togethers, and other celebrations. This usually happens on short cruises, so check before you book to find out if it is a party-oriented cruise. If you definitely don’t want party animals around, avoid cruises ‘to nowhere’. These short cruises depart and leave from the same port, have no shore time, and really are just for chilling out, time out and – yes – partying.
- Cruising is superficial. You do only have limited time in port, but that does not mean you won’t get to see the most important cultural or natural sights. Cruise ships have good relationships with shore-based tour companies that will ensure you get the best out of your short time on land. Also, most cruise ships have fascinating lecture series about the shore-based attractions, so you could step ashore well prepared to fully appreciate what you see and do.
So, make the move
The best part is – it’s only one move. You get onto the ship, unpack your suitcase into a real cupboard, and then don’t see it again until you disembark a week or two later. Home sweet home – on the move.