By Eileen Ogintz
Got a vacation wish list?
Even if you don’t have anything planned — except maybe the required appearance at an upcoming family reunion — it’s fun to think about where you really want to go.
Like on a cruise. It turns out that the vast majority of people recently surveyed about vacations who have never been on a cruise — 94 percent — said they’d like to try cruising. The survey of 1,000 Americans 18 and older was sponsored by Carnival Corporation.
It’s easy to see why. The 30 million people expected to cruise this year will tell you.
You can visit new places — as a third of those surveyed want to do (no packing or unpacking; no navigating unfamiliar roads in foreign countries).
You can cruise from a port near home. On the East Coast, for example, Carnival’s Sunrise (now sailing after a $200 million renovation) will be cruising from New York City all summer. On the West Coast, Princess has six ships sailing from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle or Vancouver to Alaska. Incidentally, this is Princess’ 50th Year in Alaska complete with new experiences and sailings starting at less than $700.
You can trust someone else –a travel agent who is a cruise expert-to get you the best deal and de-stress the planning process. In fact, planning a cruise is one time you will want to consult a travel agent not least of which is because there are a bewildering array of choices–ships that cater to different vacation styles and budgets, for families, couples or those traveling solo. The key is to choose the right cruise line, the right ship and the right itinerary for your family within your budge. Ask yourself:
Do you want an action-packed trip heavy on sightseeing?
Do you want to kick back and relax?
Do you want the chance for adventure—trekking on a glacier, ziplining?
Does anyone in the group have special challenges?
Do you want a large ship with all the bells and whistles or am more intimate experience?
Do you want a ship with activities for the kids or something more adult oriented?
Seabourn, for example, is designed for upscale adult travelers who prefer smaller ships, five-star service and access to ports that larger ships can’t reach. There won’t be many kids, if any and the experience is all-inclusive with top shelf beverages and gourmet dining.
Are you seeking a “perfect” vacation or a memorable family experience? Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed said they would leave the kids behind for a perfect vacation while nearly as many (37.4 percent) said they most want to take a family vacation. (Check out the Taking the Kids 2019 Family Cruise Guide for what different cruise lines offer families.)
Cruise lines say you can have that perfect vacation (or near perfect) — and bring the kids — as there are morning-till night organized activities even on upscale lines like Princess and Holland America which both cater to multigenerational families with programming designed to teach the kids as well as entertain them.
Princess, for one, has programs in partnership with Animal Planet and special Discovery family tours. Their new Medallion Class ships enable you to completely customize your vacation with the wearable Medallion digital assistant devices that incidentally make it easier to keep in touch with your family on board. Holland America’s staff is specially trained to work with kids who have special challenges.
Carnival Cruise Line carries 800,000 kids a year — more than any other cruise line and offers organized programming for kids starting at age 2. These include a new “Zumbini” music and dance program for the littlest kids and Seuss at Sea family activities, as well as teen-pleasing hang-out spaces and programs, including special spa treatments.
Have you got foodies in your gang? Forty-five percent of the women surveyed report that food and wine are important on vacation. You can indulge your inner foodie; eat all the pizza and burgers you want or stay on a diet on a cruise ship these days with everything from huge salad-laden buffets to specialty restaurants in partnership with celebrity chefs. Cruise lines can cater to any dietary restriction and at the same time offer an opportunity for kids to try new foods as there is no charge for a second meal if they didn’t like their first pick. And with food available all day and evening, no worries of someone wasn’t hungry at meal time.
Enjoy a gourmet Guy Fiori burger (Carnival) take a cooking class (Holland America) or indulge in premium wines and spirts at no extra cost (Seabourn). Sample dishes on board from the region where you are cruising. Expect seafood in Alaska, for example.
Also expect everything from Broadway-style shows to cabarets to comedy, casinos to discos late into the night — depending on which cruise you choose.
A third of those surveyed want to go to the Caribbean and more than half want to go to the beach. A a cruise offers the way to sample different islands on one trip, whether you want to go this summer or next winter. Carnival Cruise Line has departures from ports including Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, as well as Florida. Some three and four day options start at less than $200 a person. Holland America will have 20 cruises and three ships to choose from this fall heading to the Mexican Riviera with rates starting at $699.
That there are so many affordable options may be a surprise to the 41 percent of those surveyed who report price would keep them from cruising.
See you on board!