Cruise ship choices
BY SHARON MCDONNELL
THE SHEER VARIET Y of cruises available
can be intimidating. You can make it eas-
ier by following a few basic guidelines.
Pick a destination and cruise type by
focusing on your interests and preferences.
Look honestly at your hobbies and any
themes you want to explore on your vacation.
Know why you’re cruising. “It depends
what you want to get out of it: connecting
with your family, time alone with your partner, a get-together with friends,” says Eva
Jenner, vice president of North America
sales at Holland America Line.
“A Mediterranean cruise is wonderful
for a romantic journey with your partner,”
she explains. “Exploring Venice, Rome,
Barcelona; going to little cafés; seeing beautiful scenery.” On the other hand, if elec-tric-blue icebergs, whale and bear sightings,
and a vast majestic landscape thrill you,
“Alaska is really family-focused and multi-generational, since those cruises are only in
summer when school’s out, and are good for
seeing glaciers and wildlife,” Jenner continues. “Asia is if you like exploring, the exotic
and spending time off the beaten track.”
If you enjoy the arts and history, con-
sider a European river cruise or Baltic Sea
cruise. In St. Petersburg, for example,
“For someone interested in history and
religion, our Rhine-Main Discovery &
Munich cruise delves into Germany’s
Jewish history, plus its current culture,”
says Ellen Bettridge, president of Uniworld
Boutique River Cruise Collection.
Maybe you just want to relax on a beautiful beach, or get in the water and admire
colorful fish and coral. If so, a Caribbean or
South Pacific cruise has your name on it.
Eastern Caribbean means St. Lucia, whose
twin peaks, called the Pitons, are a dramatic
sight. Southern Caribbean means islands
like Curaçao and Aruba, known for flat desert
landscapes, and Willemstad, which resembles
a mini-Amsterdam, with distinctive gabled
buildings in bright primary colors. From
Hawaii to Australia, many cruise lines offer
itineraries that call at Fiji, Tahiti, the
Marquesas and other jewels throughout
the South Pacific Ocean.
Big ship or small ship?
Are casinos, lots of nightlife choices,
waterslides and Broadway-type shows your
idea of heaven? Do you want to share your
ship with thousands of people or opt for a
more intimate experience? The world’s
biggest ship, Royal Caribbean’s ;;-deck
Harmony of the Seas, holds ;,;;; passengers and features a ;;-story waterslide and
two surf simulators. Viking River Cruises,
on the other hand, carry ;;; passengers.
Midsize ships, like Regent Seven Seas
Cruises, have ;;; to ;,;;; passengers.
Small ships typically offer more cultural
immersion and less glitzy nightlife; they
are able to visit smaller ports and coves very
large ships can’t reach.
“If you have kids, I recommend a cruise
line that caters to families, like Royal
Caribbean, with bumper cars and indoor
skydiving,” says Costco Travel Cruise Buyer
Jody Zegers. Some river cruises are adults-only, like Viking’s; others, such as
Uniworld’s, welcome families. But note that
even family-friendly cruises often have
adults-only areas for privacy.
How important is food?
Some cruises are more food-oriented
than others. In addition to the casual fare
favorites, some feature celebrity restaurants, like Crystal Cruises eateries from
chefs Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and
Piero Selvaggio of Valentino. Holland
America offers cooking classes and demos
tied to the destination, like paella in Spain
or spicy jerk chicken in the Caribbean, and
partners with TV’s America’s Test Kitchen.
On Celebrity Cruises’ Top Chef night,
you can order dishes prepared by Top Chef
contestants. Some Uniworld cruises in
France offer a meal at the French restaurant
that inspired Julia Child’s career, a Valrhona
chocolate tasting with wine pairing, and a
cooking demo at Institut Paul Bocuse. C
Sharon McDonnell is a San Francisco–based
Picking the right cruise for you
Costco Travel offers a variety of cruises
on large and small ships, including themed
cruises. For more information, go to
Costco.com and click “Travel” or call
Cruises can offer a wide
variety of cultural and