Award-winning cruise and travel journalist and editor
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for cruise lines and travel companies
PORTS OF CALL
Since my first-ever cruise on Celebrity's Zenith in the mid-1990s, I've been so lucky to see the world, one day at a time in so many cases. The celebrated marquee ports of Singapore, Barcelona, Miami, Monte Carlo, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Capetown, Sydney, New York and Helsinki I share with so many other cruise travelers. Just as importantly, a lot of us have been fortunate to experience lesser known places. If it weren't for a cruise on Hapag-Lloyd's Europa (where, I do admit, just a year after our wedding I did don my bridal frock on a formal night -- it was, I hasten to add, lavender, and not frilly, so no one else knew), We started the cruise, one of the most impactful experiences of all for us, in Muscat, went on to Salalah, and then spent three days in Yemen. You can't call there now. It was powerful. And if not for cruise, I'd probably not have gotten to the Seychelles, New Zealand's Dunedin, the Caribbean's Saba, and Norway's North Cape. Among others.
There's so much more of the world to explore, and in many cases cruise is really the best way. Like so many cruise travelers I have met along the way, i have a bucket list, and it includes hard-to-get-to-places like the Galapagos, Russia's Far East, and the Antarctic.
Still, seeing the world one day at a time, on more than 300 cruises, feels like an awesome privilege. Some were short, two-day new ship previews. Others were longer voyages to the exotic lands of Arabia, India, Asia and Africa.
Speaking of Africa, my husband and I, in our 12th year of marriage, finally took a real (long, long, lovely and long) honeymoon and our pick was a Viking Ocean Cruise from South Africa's Durban, via Capetown, all the way up Africa's west coast to Tenerife and then London's Greenwich. We had so-much-fun. Which shouldn't surprise the travelers we write for, and who are lucky enough to cruise on vacation. We're often so intent on working we don't always remember to have fun. We had fun on this one!
What's been the biggest change in cruise travel in the 20-plus years I've been chronicling it, is that the emphasis, at least from the small ship sector, which by the way is booming, is much more on the experiences you'll have in port. It's much more about connecting with culture and nature and geography, and also, for those of us who sometimes just want to take a trip to relax and reconnect, about just...having fun.
That's what I've learned. You?
Panama Canal on Windstar
Not being an engineering aficionado, the Panama Canal seemed like the sleepiest of cruise itineraries. Not on Windstar. Sure, the canal transit is interesting enough (and we loved the half day spent in the pristine Lake Gatun) but the rest of the trip focused on you've-never-heard-of-em tropical outposts in Costa Rica and Panama. It was sheer fun, like summer camp for adults.
The Magic of Shipbuilding
Observing and chronicling the shipbuilding process is one of the most challenging stories to tell in cruise. And it's among the most interesting to cover. On this trip, to see the then-not-quite-finished Regent Seven Seas Explorer in Genoa, you have to be able to make sense out of chaos -- and the chance to interact with ship designers and ship builders just fills you with awe.
Why Cruise Ship Crew Matter
Sure, there are a lot of differences between a cruise vacation and a hotel or resort stay. The biggest and most important is the role that cruise crew play in making cruises extra special. I came across this interaction between the little boy and the waiter, who also is a parent, with the child's parent's just off camera. It was a moment that made everyone's day, including mine.
Ports of Call: Revitalizing
In some Caribbean ports, the propensity of hurricanes to remake the landscape is heartbreaking. And yet, out of the ashes, some ports, like St. Maarten, are inspired to create new attractions. ZipRider at Rainforest Adventures is just one such fantastic discovery.
When I first started covering cruise travel, the culinary scene was more about quantity than quality. In 20-plus years, though, there's been a culinary revolution and it's not just about what you find on your plate but also culinary traditions in the ports you visit.
Finding Joy on Cruises
Sheer joy. When, as an adult, was the last time you felt this delighted, surprised, happy? This couple, onboard Viking Ocean Cruises' Viking Star, during its fireworks celebration and christening, inspires me every single day.
Here's Why Small Ships Matter
No question, a Nordic cruise to places like Stockholm (pictured), Copenhagen and Helsinki are awesome experiences on any ship. On a small ship? It's an entirely different travel experience. On Lindblad, the community onboard, and the connection in port, made the experience much more than the sum of its parts.
The Recreation Revolution
One of the best new traditions in cruise travel has been the industry's embrace of active, recreational activities. Sure, you can relax and recharge, but you can achieve that by cycling through Austria, kayaking in St. Barths, and rock climbing in Norway.
What I value so much about cruise travel is the way it can take you to places you'd never otherwise get to. Yemen, Oman, and Moorea are among the standouts — and so is Nambia, where, literally, the ocean meets the desert. These dunes, which we visited on a Viking Ocean Cruises' trip around-South Africa-plus voyage, were a blast.