Take a Cruise and Call me in the Morning

By JANIS TURK

“The cure for everything is saltwater — sweat, tears or the sea,” writes author Isak Dineson, and she’s right. There is no winter cabin fever that can’t be cured by a salty sea breeze, a piña colada on a sunny beach and a long slow boat ride.

travel2Help is within reach: It’s as close as the glittering Galveston Strand and the “let good times roll” port of New Orleans. A cruise is the most fun, affordable vacation Texans can take, and cruises are also the easiest getaways to do on a whim. Everything is provided: The suite, food, activities and excursions have been organized for you and may be booked and paid for with a quick painless click of a computer mouse. Many cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and more offer all-inclusive vacations, making it even easier to stick to a budget. Best of all, a week-long cruise can cost far less than a landlubber holiday would, and you can see lots of exciting places but only unpack once.

Whatever kind of vacation you want (from a singles cruise to an educational expedition to a Disney vacation), no matter where you want to go, (from Croatia to Cancun) and no matter how many days you want to get away, there’s a cruise for you. Here is our prescription for the best cruise cures this season.

Crystal Cruises: This cruise line is all about luxury: gourmet dining, penthouse suites and educational programs (everything from golf to language lessons). The high end Crystal Cruises are all about the VIP experience on ships like Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, which boast a nearly 1-to-1 crew-to-guest ratio. On shore, excursion opportunities are better than average—think zip lines, balloon rides, elephant encounters and more in exotic places like Bali and Hawaii.

Carnival’s Fathom Cruises: Be among the first American travelers this year to cruise to the historic Cuban ports of Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba aboard a Fathom™ ship: the newest brand in the Carnival Corporation, supported by its sister brand, P&O Cruises, bringing impact travel to life aboard the 704-passenger Adonia, the smallest ship in the P&O fleet.
Louisiana travel blogger Shannon Hurst DalPozzal recommends both the Carnival Magic and the Carnival Breeze Mediterranean cruises. “I’ve taken one of these trips with my parents and another with my daughter, and they were magnificent. We only had to unpack once, yet the itineraries gave us a sampling of many different exciting European ports and provided a fantastic introduction to the Mediterranean.”

Blue Lagoon Cruises: Local university professor Angie Sauer says her favorite trip was a Blue Lagoon Cruise to Fiji. “It was a small ship, so it felt personal with fun fellow passengers and superb service, and Fiji was simply paradise.” Blue Lagoon offers three itineraries, each journeying into Fiji’s Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, sailing to uninhabited tropical shores and anchoring in private lagoons. A maximum four hours of cruising each day ensures guests spend more time exploring onshore and less time on the ship.

Blount Small Ship Adventures: Max Hartshorne, editor/blogger for the popular travel site GoNOMAD, enjoyed an 85-passenger Blount cruise through New England. With a collection of quaint islands along its rocky coast, he says New England is best seen by water. Blount’s boats go where big ships can’t, navigating Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island and Newport and passing bays, beaches and lighthouses.

Viking River Grand European Cruise: Travel writer and blogger Lisa Chavis has traveled widely and says a favorite trip was a Viking River Grand European Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, featuring 15 days on the Danube, Rhine and Main Rivers. “We enjoyed seeing castles and dining on incredible cuisine,” says Chavis.
New Zealand-based international photographer, director and explorer Tasha Van Zandt says one of her most unforgettable trips was a Baltic Princess Cruise to Russia, with a highlight being a stop in St. Petersburg. “Recently I was featured on a television program that followed me, my mom and my grandmother as they returned to Russia together, for the first time in 37 years, to walk on the very streets where they grew up. Joining a Princess Cruise throughout Europe allowed us to visit multiple places where they had once traveled and allowed us to see St. Petersburg in a unique way. To travel by ship allows passengers to see so many incredible places quickly, and it was like being on a floating city,” says Van Zandt.

Disney Cruise Line: From its signature Sail-Away Celebration (a kid-friendly dance party) to its pirate-themed dinners and nighttime fireworks, Disney cruises are all about pleasing kids and parents and providing excellent entertainment. Life-sized Disney characters mingle with kids by the pool and in the kids’ clubs, while adults enjoy their own private dining areas, excursions, nightclubs and pools. The seven-day Disney Wonder Ship cruise from Galveston stops in Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel.

Stella Australis Cruises: One of my most memorable trips was a Stella Australis expedition cruise through the wonders of the southernmost Patagonian channels, past glaciers and the glorious scenery all the way around Cape Horn at the end of the earth. Each day we took zodiac boat outings to hike and see penguins and other magnificent wildlife. I can’t recommend this cruise enough for those who dream of exploring Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.

Seabourn Luxury Cruises: “Thread tropical jungle rivers to virgin forest isles, and then wend your way to broad, bright beaches during Seabourn’s ultra-luxury cruises to South America and Antarctica. Skirt the long Atlantic coastline of South America, and see the colorful colonial cities of Brazil, the golden beaches of Ceara and the Chilean fjords and the lush forests of the Amazon basin. Stroll the boulevards of Buenos Aires, enjoy vivid African culture in Salvador da Bahia, ride a cable-car up Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain, and dine on a beach a thousand miles into the Amazon before cruising south to Antarctica,” says the Seabourn website. A favorite sailing for late winter is the 21-Day Ultimate Antarctica and Patagonia itinerary on Seabourn Quest. Departing on Feb. 2 from Chile, passengers will enjoy stops down the western coast of South America before heading (weather permitting) to the Antarctic Experience for six days. From there, the sailing finishes in Buenos Aires. This luxury cruise line is sure to please the most discriminating travelers.

Still not convinced a cruise will cure what ails you this winter? Planning to put off for another year? Remember what Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”