Water travel may be a thing of the past for speed, but not for comfort or experience. From cruise ships to yachts to kayaks, the tranquil method of water transportation provides a great escape from the hustle of land, making the journey just as enjoyable as the destination.
South Florida is known as the Cruise Capital of the World, says Claudia Mace, managing partner with Commodore Travel in Delray Beach who highlights some of the advantages to water travel. “If you’re doing a land tour of five countries or five states, you’re living out of a suitcase,” says Mace. “With a cruise, you’re getting a cultural immersion instead of staying at hotels and packing. Whether you take a river cruise or an ocean cruise, your ship is like a floating hotel taking you to the next destination.”
Though ocean cruises tend to be more family friendly, some river cruises have trips geared toward multigenerational parties. Cruises can be especially appealing for company gatherings or family reunions. Themes can be particularly fun, such as a culinary or music cruise or any shared interest among passengers, like painting. Mace recalls a splendid wine-themed cruise she took in the South of France and Paris with a sommelier on board.
While many Caribbean cruises allow a limited amount of time at each stop, smaller European ships can be more leisurely with excursions that let you experience the culture by staying later at night or overnight. Domestic river cruises also give you the opportunity for longer day trips so you can really get a feel for the region.
The luxury market in Europe features smaller ships with a country-club feel that can access smaller ports. Smaller vessels with fewer passengers make the boarding process and departure easier. Though there are not as many activities on the ship, you get to see the local attractions. “There is so much history and culture; your experience is in the destination. It’s not about the ship,” says Mace.
The length of your stay on a cruise ship can range from two nights in the Bahamas to a grand voyage to South America or Asia that can last for months. Currently, Mace says some of the hottest cruise destinations include Norway and Iceland for the northern lights and Scotland is popular thanks to the television series Outlander. Portugal, Vietnam, and Cambodia are among some of the other top spots.
West coast excursions from California and Seattle to coveted spots like Hawaii and Alaska remain in demand. Expedition trips that tend to focus more on exploration might take passengers on a Zodiac boat for an intense cultural immersion in the Galapagos Islands or include a bike tour in Greece.
Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours will soon offer an even more elevated expedition ship with access to a submarine and a helicopter, while The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection combines their signature luxury lifestyle with the casual freedom of custom voyages in 2020. Personalized service, upscale dining, and other amenities can be expected on their yachts that are also available for private charter. Relaxation is key on the water, especially during a sea day on the bigger ships. “You can read a book and do a little Zumba,” says Mace, whose passion for cruises eventually led her to work in the travel industry. “I love having that floating hotel take me to these incredible destinations. You look out at the ocean and the sky at night and even the earth seems like a small part of the cosmos. You’re just a small blip.”
If you want to test the waters, a day trip should do the trick. From a kayak to a ferry, any vessel that lets you abandon land without a major investment or time commitment can be a refreshing way to spend the day.
Kayaking and rowing let you get some exercise while you experience nature at your own pace. Whether you join a club to go regularly or venture out on occasion, this outdoorsy adventure can be extremely rewarding.
Other day trips include boat rides that let you see landmarks near your home or in a vacation destination like Niagara Falls. Check out a steamship like the S.S. Badger that ventures from Northern Michigan to Wisconsin.