Sail Into Winter
It might just be the best time to take a cruise
Wondering what to do after the holiday excitement has waned? A cruise can be the perfect antidote for the winter blahs. Visit multiple destinations, unpack once, keep yourself (and the kids) entertained, meet new people, enjoy some nightlife, get pampered, and simply chill out—what could be easier?
What’s Your Cruise Personality?
Cruises come in all shapes and sizes—mega ships to small vessels, ultra-luxe cruises to the casual and laid-back, relatively inexpensive to the price-is-no-object experiences, and so on. The key to happy cruising is to select a cruise that matches your personality and style.
Take the time to step back and think about what you want in a cruise experience, then look for the cruise lines that fit your requirements. Every line has its own personality and appeals to a different type of person.
- Are you looking for an upscale, pampering cruise experience?
- Do you prefer dress codes and assigned seating for meals?
- Do you require a kid-friendly, family-oriented cruise line?
- Are you interested in a cruise geared toward seniors, singles, partying, sightseeing?
- Does a casual cruising style appeal to you, such as unassigned dining times and more relaxed dress codes at the restaurants and venues?
- Are you interested in an intimate, exclusive cruise experience on a boutique vessel, or do you want the variety of entertainment, people, and dining options bigger ships offer?
- Would you prefer all-inclusive cruise, or would you rather choose from bundled amenity packages and a-la-carte offers?
- Does a cruise that offers extended land excursions beyond the typical stops appeal to you?
Oh, the Possibilities
Cruise through the destination options—there are plenty. An obvious consideration is the general destination and ports of call. While a cruise to the Caribbean or Mexico from a Texas port of embarkation might seem like a slam dunk, keep an open mind and do some exploring before you decide. What you discover may surprise you, especially if you’re up for a little adventure.
Do you love wildlife spotting and unique experiences? Cruise the Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean that is a province of Ecuador. During our winter it’s summer in the Galapagos, which usually means calmer seas and excellent underwater visibility. Plus, the mating/nesting/egg hatching season for several species occurs from January through April.
Another winter option in a warm environment is an exotic Southeast Asia river cruise. A Burma (Myanmar) cruise takes you into the heart of a country that has been inaccessible for decades. The rivers—part of Myanmar’s lifeblood—are inseparable from Burmese spiritual life. Expect to see pastoral scenery and temples, and glimpse people who are far removed from western civilization going about their daily lives.
Does witnessing the greatest natural light show on earth tickle your fancy? Take a northern lights cruise from Norway. View quaint fishing villages with buildings painted in primary colors, bustling commercial ports, and austere tundrascapes from the comfort of your ship. Onshore, you can snowmobile, dog sled, cross-country ski, and take cultural tours. Or remain on board and pamper yourself with soothing spa treatments and gourmet cuisine.
The “B” Word
Cruises can be a good value for the money and there’s practically a cruise for every budget, but be sure to understand what is included in your cruise rate and what is not.
Unless you book an all-inclusive cruise, extra fees are often involved. Mandatory crew tips (service fees), Internet access, fitness club classes such as yoga or spinning, and even bottled water for your cabin can cost extra. There’s usually a charge for laundry service, which you will likely need on a longer voyage, and meals in the ship’s higher end restaurants can boost the price, too.
Depending on your desires and habits, consider adding optional packages before your voyage begins. This is when the best deals are typically available. If you enjoy drinking wine, for instance, consider paying for a wine package offered by some cruise companies. Or select a cruise where a choice of wines come with lunch and dinner, and free 24-hour room service.
Expenses that don’t pertain to the cruise itself should also be factored into your budget, such as visas (if required), pre-trip vaccines (check the CDC for recommendations or requirements if traveling outside the USA), getting to and from your port(s) of embarkation, and group or private shore excursion tours.
A cruise is what you make of it, whether you want to explore the world, have fun with the kids, or ensconce yourself in a world of floating luxury. As someone who was once a cruise skeptic, my first cruise was a wonderful experience that whet my appetite for more. Right now, I’m eying a winter cruise from Argentina to Chile around Cape Horn. Maybe I’ll see you on board!
By Annette Brooks