Is It Better to See Some Places From a Ship?

Alaska glacier cruise view from the ship

If a relative invited you to go on a cruise ship with them, would you do it?

Our former contributor Liz Lewis did when her mom invited her on a world cruise a few years ago and she chronicled parts of her journey on this blog. From the ship’s deck she saw some things most travelers don’t, like the Suez Canal. When contributor Kristin Winet went on a river cruise, she ended up in the Croatian war-battled town of Osijek and got some great photos. Without that stop, she would probably have never set foot in that place in her life.

We don’t publish a lot of cruise stories on Perceptive Travel and when we do they tend to be about unusual experiences. From Athens to Singapore by cargo ship in the current webzine issue for example. Or cruising with the locals up the coast of Norway in winter.

Still, if I look through the sale offerings on a UK site while the British pound is at a low point, some of their cruise deals look enticing. I had no idea you could cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2, with 7 nights at sea and four nights in a NYC hotel, for as little as £999 per person. That includes meals, so when you start comparing that to what a plane ticket costs it starts looking like a slam dunk. Other journeys have Rio and the Amazon River, or a Central America adventure that goes through the Panama Canal.

Cartagena skyline

Cartagena from the water

Ship Cabins and Adventure Travel?

A recent trip I took to Alaska for the Adventure Travel World Summit got me thinking about the possibilities of how the cruise world and the snobby “real traveler” world can perhaps converge at least a little here and there. First of all there was a panel on how adventure travel and cruise ships intersect. Many local tour operators get a lot of their business from cruise ships. Sometimes it’s in a very shallow way, as on short excursions that put people on a zipline and then send them back to the floating hotel. There are others that get it right though, especially Uncruise with its adventure-focused, activity-heavy trips along the Baja Peninsula and the Pacific Northwest.

Uncruise adventure trip Baja

I also went on two different one-day boat cruises around the sounds and fjords of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and got lots of great photos from the water. Sure, I’ve walked on glaciers, hiked past them, and even went camping next to one on that trip. To truly get a sense of their awesomeness though, it can make sense to step back and see them from a distance, to see where they’ve actually carved out a path over thousands of years before receding. The view from the sea is entirely different.

Buadepset and Danube River

Budapest and the Danube

Then there are river cruises, which have exploded in popularity over the past decade. They’re still mostly a bastion of the retiree set, but that’s bound to change over time. It’s hard to deny the appeal of floating along a river in Europe and walking off the boat into a city that has been there for a thousand years. These are not lame Caribbean port stops that are really just giant gift shop towns. People live and work in these stops. They’re vibrant, full of life and history.

Unless it’s a trans-Atlantic journey, I think the key factor in these trips is whether you’re moving around, if you’re doing things, if you’re seeing panoramas you couldn’t see from land. That’s different than being in one cabin out of 3,000 on what amounts to a giant floating convention hotel with bumper cars and cheesy dance shows.

I probably won’t be on one of these anytime soon. Well, unless I get invited as press to cover the first Comic Con cruise that’s departing out of my home city of Tampa in a few months. I’d be my teenage daughter’s personal superhero if I made that happen and bring her along…

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