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One of the reasons for this industry-wide emphasis on thrill rides, activity clubs and unique excursions is the growing popularity of family cruising.
More than one million children under 18 now cruise each year, according to industry body, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). Cruises appeal to children because most major cruise line ships combine facilities and amenities for toddlers, young children and teenagers with a comprehensive programme of supervised, age-appropriate activities, plus there’s the excitement of travelling from port to port on the high seas.
While Disney’s cruise ships, which were launched in 1998, led the way in making cruising fun for kids, today there is hardly a big ship that doesn’t try to appeal to families. This summer marks the first time that a Disney cruise will hit European ports when, due to popular demand, the Magic ship launches a series of Mediterranean trips.
The 10 and 11-night itineraries include eight stops with 190 choices for excursions, from traditional sightseeing in places like Pompeii and the Coliseum, to a Ferrari test-drive and a visit to Narni, Italy, the town said to have inspired The Chronicles of Narnia.
Vicki Freed, senior vice-president for sales and marketing for Carnival Cruise Lines, said Carnival is also “seeing continued growth in the number of families taking our European cruises. By 2006, our second year of cruising in Europe, it was normal to have several hundred kids per voyage during the summer, we expect that trend to continue.” A cruise makes it easy to explore a new place in a port of call and then return to your own room with familiar food and child-friendly activities on the ship at the end of the day. Plus, the on board babysitting services allow grown-ups to paint the town and enjoy fine dining, dancing and moonlit walks on deck.
On board entertainment
The standard cruise ship list of kids’ attractions now includes video arcades, spa treatments for teenagers, kids’ karaoke competitions and scavenger hunts, not to mention basketball courts, teen nightclubs and on-board water parks.
Grown up treats
Of course, you may want to take a cruise to get away from your family. There are endless options to explore, but here are some highlights.
Celebrity Cruises offer adults-only cruises where you can enjoy gourmet dishes from master chef Michel Roux, or pamper yourself from head to toe in the AquaSpa. Another option is Crystal Cruises, deemed the “World’s Best Large-Ship Cruise Line” by Travel + Leisure magazine for eight consecutive years, which gives new meaning to the word luxury. Indulge in the wine and food festival, get fit on a yoga-themed sailing, or enjoy a dynamic lecture from a celebrity personality.
Over on the Windstar fleet, the emphasis is on gourmet meals, spa treatments and unusual shore excursions. These small ships are able to pull up to the most exotic ports of call, so if refined luxury and a laid-back atmosphere are your idea of paradise, Windstar is the cruise line for you.
As destination specialists, Orient Lines focuses on unusual itineraries and immerses its guests in regional history and culture through detailed port briefings and luminary guest lecturers. The elegant Marco Polo sails around the globe once a year, with journeys of discovery designed to appeal to seasoned travellers that want a holiday that goes beyond the guidebooks.
Tie the knot
A long-standing seagoing myth is the common misconception that any ship’s captain can legally marry a couple at sea. The fact is, up until the time Princess Cruises launched its wedding programme in 1998, no such ceremony had been conducted in more than 100 years. In fact, even today, Princess captains – providing the ship they skipper has Bermuda registry – are the only captains authorised for at sea weddings and Princess is the only cruise line that offers it.
Today, hundreds of couples are married each year by Princess captains in waters around the globe, including the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska and numerous destinations, as well as harbour side ceremonies in embarkation ports or weddings ashore in select ports of call.
When it comes to cruises, the options are endless. Today’s cruise ships are like floating resorts with all the choices fine resorts have to offer. You can be by yourself and lie back in a lounge chair, breathe in the sea air, soak up the sun, read good books or watch the ever-changing view. You can join in exercise classes, dance classes, sports contests and other organised deck activities. Perhaps you can practice your tennis stroke or golf swing, or shoot some baskets. You can go for a swim, stretch out in the sauna or work out in the gym. You can see a feature movie, attend a lecture by renowned experts, play backgammon or bridge. And that’s just when you’re onboard!
Once you arrive in port you can go off on your own or take a guided tour. You can search ancient ruins or hunt for shopping bargains. Ride a raft over river rapids, cycle down the side of a 10,000 foot volcano or ride a horse across miles of hills and beaches. Climb a waterfall or pyramid, or listen to steel drum bands, follow in the footsteps of history or the wake of a water-skiing boat. If there’s still time, sail, snorkel or go scuba diving. Spend the evening at a nightclub or casino or sample the local cuisine. In short, a cruise is the easiest way to see new places and to do all the things of which you dream.