Cruises date back to the early 19th century when it was unimaginable that they would become an industry that moves more than 20 million people a year (and growing). Technically, a cruise is the name given to any sea voyage that transports passengers, although in practice we associate it more with the long voyages of several days, in ships full of comforts that look like small cities and with “everything included”.
In our case, we have taken several cruises, with characteristics so different from each other that they are actually very different experiences, so possibly even if you have never considered it, traveling on a cruise may be an option for you.
The good, the bad, the ugly
The main advantage that a cruise offers you is to visit different destinations in a short time, without having to pack and unpack every day and making the journey between the places fun as well. In this way it is possible for example to take a 12 day Mediterranean cruise in Europe, visiting Spain, France, Italy, Turkey and Greece from US$70 a day (including accommodation, food, entertainment, and basic drinks). However, not everything is rosy, the schedule is strict and each city spends just a few hours (usually between 8 am and 5 pm) so it is not a plan for those looking to get to know a place in depth. Shore excursions are usually not included (which represents a significant additional cost) and are definitely not the place you want to be if you get sick.
Types of Cruises
Duration: We have taken cruises from a few hours (such as touring Lake Victoria from Jinja in Uganda) to several days, however, the longest experience is offered by the ship MS The World, a “permanent” cruise in which its owners sail indefinitely around the world.
Size: Commercial cruises (e.g. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival…) usually have large ships carrying thousands of passengers (and thousands of employees), the largest being the Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas (both Royal Caribbean) with a maximum capacity of 6,296 passengers each. A new ship from the same shipping company with a maximum capacity of 6,500 passengers is expected in 2016. If crowds are not your thing, there are also options with fewer travelers, such as cruises to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam where on average carry 10 passengers and even in different parts of the world are offered private cruises. The truth is that even on the larger ships, there are so many options that you’ll probably never feel overwhelmed by the number of guests.
Style: While commercial cruises are relatively standard in terms of room types, restaurants, attractions, and in-flight entertainment options, they are not the only alternatives. A few years ago we sailed from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales in Chile in a space shared by 20 people, 3 floors underwater and with communal bathrooms (each berth at that time -category D- cost us US$200), yet beyond the “rooms” we were entitled to the same food and spaces as the rest of the ship’s passengers (including those who paid more than US$1,000).