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Middletown Transcript
  • Travel and Adventure: Why take a cruise?

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  • By Sharon Whitley Larsen
    Creators Syndicate
    I love cruises. I have cruised the Arctic Circle, the Australian Gold Coast, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean and even crossed the Atlantic twice. My shortest cruise was five days (Greek Isles), the longest 27 nights — a Celebrity cruise from San Diego through the Panama Canal that ended in England.
    And I have friends who would love to cruise if only they could talk their spouses into it. Some reluctant ones think they’d be bored floating on the high seas for days. But the fact is passengers can do as little — or as much — as they wish. Some days there’s nothing better than sitting on the balcony, getting some sun, hearing the sea splash against the ship, spotting some dolphins and reading a good book.
    My husband, Carl, on the other hand, once took a Zumba class and loves to attend the ship’s lectures, which have ranged from “Behind the Scenes at the Clinton White House” to marine biology. During our Panama Canal cruise, “Uncle Marty” (Marty Harrington) kept the ship’s theater packed with standing room only for his fascinating lectures on the canal’s history. Passengers rose at the crack of dawn to watch the incredible sailing through the engineering feat of the famed canal locks — a journey that took some five hours. The massive ship had just 2 feet on either side of the narrow canal to spare.
    And we love attending the evening entertainment, where we have seen some fabulous singers, dancers, comedians and acrobats. And, of course, it’s fun to participate in the many shore excursions offered or venture out on our own.
    Barbara and Dale Burke of Honolulu enjoy cruising with their two sons.
    “One of the things we enjoy most about a family cruise is having dinner in the formal dining room every night,” Barbara said. “A meal averages an hour and a half. Outside of a cruise, we don’t find the opportunity to spend that much quality time together where we sit and talk without the interruption or distraction of phone calls, text messages and TV in the background.
    “We also enjoy the variety of activities planned throughout the day. No one is ever bored. There is something for all ages, including a DJ and dancing for young adults into the wee hours of the morning.”
    I met Carolyn Goltman, who is single and 30-ish and lives in South Africa, during a Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise. She has flown halfway around the world to take several cruises by herself. Her last one was an Eastern Canada cruise on Royal Caribbean.
    “Cruising is the ‘no fuss’ way to travel,” she said. “Once you are aboard your cruise ship you can unpack your bags in your more-than-adequate cabin and relax for the duration of your trip. No packing and unpacking of suitcases — and you travel from one destination to another in the comfort of a luxury cruise liner sipping cocktails.
    Page 2 of 3 - “My first cruise was to the Caribbean, and from there I decided this was the way to travel. I have now cruised the Med (France, Spain and Italy), and the cruise still to beat — Alaska. Cruising is such an addictive form of travel that you start planning your next cruise whilst still on your current one. Cruising can also prove cheaper than land tours in most cases. Although traveling solo, as I do, I am ‘penalized’ by having to pay a single supplement (I essentially pay double rate as I am occupying an entire cabin on my own). However, don’t let being single put you off cruising. There are ‘singles and solo traveler’ gatherings almost daily, and you are pretty much guaranteed to meet a ‘cruise buddy’ along the way. I have made some amazing friends on my cruises with whom I still keep in touch. So if you are looking to travel, cruising is definitely the way to go.”
    With some deals — including repositioning cruises (found via travel agents, Crucon.com, TravelZoo.com, etc.) — cruises can be booked for about $100 per person per day (gratuities extra). Where else, for that price, can you have room and board, all the wonderful food you can eat, twice-daily housekeeping service, nightly Vegas-style entertainment and transportation to various ports of call? There are also children’s and teen centers for daily activities, spa treatments that are discounted on port days and no luggage fees or weight limitations — not to mention the interesting people you meet from all over the world. We still keep in touch with cruise friends from Australia, England and South Africa.
    On some ships it’s also possible to tour the bridge, engine room, galley and the theater’s backstage. We’ve also been lucky enough to dine at the captain’s table on several cruises.
    We tend to cruise with Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity, but we have friends who also love Princess, Seabourn and Holland America. There are so many cruise lines to choose from, and most have loyalty programs offering special deals on future cruises if booked onboard.
    One of the most fascinating cruises we have taken was exploring the Norwegian fjords on the Norwegian Coastal Voyage (Hurtigruten). As the captain expertly maneuvered the ship within a narrow fjord — seemingly where we could reach out and touch the cliffs — he smiled and waved to acknowledge the applause from admiring passengers bundled up on the outside deck below.
    We always fly into our departure city a few days early — both to explore the area and to catch our breath before boarding the ship. Once we left from our home port, San Diego, to sail to Hawaii and back. Some passengers barely made the sail time because they had flown in that same day from the East Coast. A connecting flight had been canceled and they arrived breathless.
    Page 3 of 3 - The Hawaii Celebrity cruise especially appealed to me since we didn’t have any airport hassles. After we were driven 15 minutes to the pier, we boarded the ship, had a leisurely buffet lunch on deck and received “bon voyage” calls from several friends.
    For five days we were at sea participating in classes (ukulele, hula, lei-making) and lectures on Hawaiian history and culture. Then we toured three islands for five days and spent the next five days sailing back.
    One Australian couple we met on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Sydney takes two 12-night cruises each year. The husband confided to me that he’s a homebody and not a fan of traveling, but since his wife loves cruising so much, he lets her choose where she wants to go and he willingly tags along.
    “It’s only a few weeks out of the year,” he said. “And if she’s happy, I’m happy.”
    Pat and Art Pion of San Diego have taken some two dozen cruises.
    “We’ve cruised enough that the itinerary really doesn’t matter,” Pat said, smiling. We just get on the ship and go!”
    WHEN YOU GO
    Norwegian Coastal Voyages: www.hurtigruten.us
    Royal Caribbean International: www.royalcaribbean.com/home.do
    Celebrity Cruises: www.celebritycruises.com/home.do
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