Never been on a cruise before? There are lots of reasons why you should go. Cruises are one of the most economical ways of taking a vacation these days, and great deals are abundant. But they’re also exceptional values, especially in how much you’ll enjoy yourself: Few types of trips offer more ways for you to have fun.
1. Be a sport: Climbing walls have been introduced on many of the larger cruise ships, most of which offer lessons for climbers of all abilities, including beginners. If climbing’s not your thing, the sporting life is likely to include activities such as ice skating, basketball, volleyball, tai chi, ping-pong and surfing on wave simulators; some ships even allow you to earn your scuba-diving certification. Of course, the deck can also function as a running track with a sublime view (just be sure not to bump into your fellow passengers).
2. The casino action: Try your luck at elaborate onboard casinos, with slot machines, a roulette wheel and tables for blackjack, poker and more. Cruises used to be one of the few gambling options for U.S. residents outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City; these days, dealers on cruise ships are often more patient than their big-city counterparts, and willing to help beginners get their blackjack-table sea legs. The casinos are often open day and night, and feature tournaments to get your competitive juices going.
3. Put on your dancing shoes: Twirl, groove and boogie the night away to live music. Depending on your cruise, you’re likely to find plenty of options for dancing, from trendy nightclubs and jazz to big band and salsa. On some cruises, you can even dance under the stars - the ultimate ballroom. A bonus (if you’re so inclined): You won’t need a designated driver.
4. Wake up to a new horizon: Your morning gaze from the deck might bring you a sight of a passing ship, a modern city featuring stunning architecture, or maybe a wild, untamed coastline. Or you might open your peepers to look upon sunlight-dappled water for as far as the eye can see. What you can be sure of is that your vista will be constantly changing - and all those new views may make you feel like a new you.
5. Explore a new destination: Shore excursions let you savor the local culture while you visit a multitude of exotic and historic spots on the same trip. You might fly kites in China; kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland; visit a rum distillery in St. Lucia; pan for gold in Alaska; trek the volcanoes of Hawaii; or explore the Acropolis in Greece. The best part: Since you leave your gear on the ship, you’ll only need to pack your bags once.
6. The live entertainment: Cruises’ stage shows rival those of Broadway or Las Vegas and come complete with spectacular performers, lavish sets and glamorous costumes. Cruises also present laugh-out-loud-funny comedians, bands and singers, musicals, parades, Shakespeare and ice shows, so you’re sure to find plenty of entertainment to fit your fancy.
7. The gourmet food: Ships’ chefs create incredible concoctions, using the most exquisite ingredients - artisan cheeses, seasonal greens, tender meats and exotic spices. Cruises’ dining rooms offer sumptuous food and fabulous wines, provide an upscale, mult-course experience in their specialty restaurants and accommodate health-conscious and special-needs diets, too. Add in 24-hour room service, high tea and midnight pasta buffet and sundae bars, and you’ll be in food heaven all the time.
8. Fun for everyone in the family - children as well as adults: Most cruises cater to families with choices for kids of all ages, such as playgroup sessions, art and science activities, theater and games. Many cruises even have pagers that allow kids to buzz their parents if they need them. Older youths will enjoy a cruise, too: Teen-only lounges are common, as are teenager-focused sports, games, theme nights, open-mic sessions, movies and pool parties.
9. Never stop learning: Take advantage of your cruise’s classes, seminars and lectures to develop a new skill or pursue a passion. At-sea courses available include keyboards (the musical kind), salsa, ice carving, computer skills, jewelry making, culinary arts, wine tasting, digital photography, foreign languages, art appreciation, yoga and mixology. For those who prefer to learn by reading, many ships feature a luxurious library in which you can check out books or ensconce yourself in a comfy chair.
10. See wildlife in its natural habitat: The water your ship plies is home sweet home to some of the world’s most magnificent creatures. Depending on where and when you sail, you might encounter migrating humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, seals or even alligators and turtles. Many kinds of birds live near the water, too; look for eagles, albatrosses, penguins, puffins and terns.
11. Dress to the nines at the Captain’s Dinner: Most cruises have at least one night on which passengers are invited to don formal wear to “see and be seen.” There’s often an individual head waiter assigned to each table, and professional photographers are on hand to capture the moment with you looking and feeling swank and romantic. No formal attire? No problem - tuxedos and gowns are available for you to rent.
12. Get waited on hand and foot: Is pampering your pleasure? You’ll be in your element here. The cruise staff exists to make your experience memorable, whether that means doing your laundry, shining your shoes … or bringing tea to your deck chair as you lounge après-swim. For the ultimate in luxury, shipboard spas offer an enticing menu of massages, hot-stone treatments, facials, wraps and hair and nail treatments.
13. Everything’s included: This may be the best reason of all to cruise; the meals, the room service, the poolside pizza, the classes, the shows, the movies - they’re all part of your cruise fee. Sure, you can add on as many extras as you want, but what you choose is completely up to you. Or, since you’re on vacation, don’t worry about making any decisions at all - and just enjoy what you’ve already paid for.