From small, luxurious ships to behemoths with climbing walls, make sure you know what you want before you book.
After my divorce, my mother, Celia, said, “Go on a cruise and you’ll meet a guy.” Celia was anxious to marry me off. For years she held onto the unrealistic fantasy that I’d meet Mr. Right on a cruise. Instead, I met lots of creeps, jerks and two-timers. I’m still single — and still cruising.
Since Celia took me on my first cruise from Miami to Nassau when I was 13, I’ve cruised on just about everything, from the Oasis of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, to a 34-cabin Swedish canal boat and Windstar’s luxury yacht. In short, I can offer some sound advice.
Many cruises are themed, with interests ranging from quilting to holistic health. Celebs, famous drag queens, astronauts and chefs are among those brought aboard to schmooze and educate guests. Every ship has a distinct personality, ambience, look and vibe. With so many options available, selecting a cruise can be challenging, so do your homework when selecting your dream cruise.
Romance on the water
Cruises have always been popular for celebrating anniversaries. Now, the simplicity of a cruise is luring honeymooners, too. A friend and her husband not only honeymooned on a Disney cruise, but celebrated their first anniversary with Mickey and Minnie. Kids along on a Disney cruise? After tucking them in, parents can escape to Pink, Disney’s intimate champagne bar, for some together time.
History and culture
If you’re a history buff, book a “cruise to nowhere” on the Queen Mary, the last of the luxury liners, now a hotel permanently docked in Long Beach, Calif. This art deco masterpiece, with her stunning decor, exotic woods, etched glass and hand-painted murals, is packed with World War II history and memorabilia. Be sure to take one of the ship’s historic tours.
For those interested in World War I history, European Waterways has scheduled a World War I Commemorative Cruise (May 18-25) marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. Guests will visit battlefields, war cemeteries, monuments and museums.
Guests step back in time and learn about the history and culture of American Rivers on the American Queen. Gingerbread trim and antiques adorn its Victorian decor. Daily lectures by the Riverlorian, the onboard historian, bring history to life.
Art on board
Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships are like floating museums with multimillion-dollar art collections and their own art curator. Guests can opt to explore the collections by taking self-guided iPad tours. On a Solstice Class ship, I was dazzled watching a glob of molten glass being transformed into a stunning masterpiece at the Hot Glass Show, a creative collaboration with the Corning Museum of Glass.
Looking for luxury
I felt like Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis on Windstar’s 310-passenger sailing yacht in the Greek Isles. Smaller ships have the advantage of getting into ports that bigger ships can’t.
On Azamara’s Quest, we docked in the hearts of Marseille and Monte Carlo (next to Onassis’ yacht, the Christina). Known for exclusive events such as behind-the-scenes tours of the Monaco Palace, Azamara builds more overnight and extended stays into its itineraries. Some luxury ships provide butler service and all have a small passenger-to-crew ratio.
It’s a family affair on select Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney ships, which offer an abundance of activities and events catering to all age groups from infants on up. Youth clubs with counselors provide age-appropriate activities in state-of-the-art facilities, play areas, nurseries and child care.
Carnival’s water park keeps kids amused for hours while parents chill in Carnival Breeze’s Serenity, an adults-only quiet zone with chaises, poolside bar and Jacuzzis. Families can hang out together or, with so many activities, go their separate ways and reconnect at dinner.
Oasis of the Seas is like a floating theme park with tons of bells and whistles, including rock climbing, mini-golf, zip-lining, body surfing and even a carousel.