We’ve all heard the usual clichés about cruising. The truth is that decades ago, cruising may just have been a one-size-fits-all affair that wasn’t a great fit for many travelers. But with the cruise industry continuing to reign as one of the fastest-growing categories in the leisure travel market, it is innovating and creating in ways travelers have never seen. Sure, there are plenty of cruises that still don’t appeal to me. But there’s something for everyone, and it’s never been easier to find cruises that align with my tastes and passions.
I’ve had the opportunity to cruise twice — three times, if you count diving liveaboards! — and I loved both experiences. I may have come aboard skeptical, but I returned to land surprised by how much I enjoyed my fellow passengers, how much I loved watching the world go by from the deck, and how much I missed the serenity of being at sea. It’s not the first time I’ve proved myself wrong. Over the years I’ve surprised myself by enjoying cruises, all-inclusives, group tours and all kinds of things a younger and snobbier me would have turned her nose up at.
Which is why I gave an enthusiastic nod when asked to review O·C·E·A·N by Carnival Corporation’s new TV show Ocean Treks. Hosted by Emmy-winner Jeff Corwin, Ocean Treks explores a new coastal city each week through the lens of a true thrill-seeker and nature-enthusiast. One glance at Jeff’s resume reveals a man who cares deeply about conservation, a fact that sold me on the series from first press of the play button.
It got me thinking about the ways this show might inspire travelers including one in particular — me!
What Ocean Treks Teaches Us About Cruising
The first two episodes of Ocean Treks have brought us along with Jeff as he explores port cities from the Star Princess — though so far, screen time has been dedicated solely to what goes on when you’re off the ship.
It’s no secret that Maine and Alaska are at the very top of my state wish list, and so I was glued to the screen for the first two twenty minute episodes featuring Bar Harbor, Maine and Ketchikan, Alaska — upcoming episodes will feature Juneau and Vancouver.
• You can have wild adventures. Playing shuffleboard on deck? Sipping mai tais at a chain restaurant in port? All valid choices for spending your day — this is a judgment-free zone! — but for those looking for a a little more adrenaline on their vacations, Jeff really shows that cruising can be for you, too. In the pilot episode’s Bar Harbor adventure, Jeff kicks off the day with a stint as a ship hand on a lobster boat followed up by cooking a traditional lobster bake. That afternoon, he goes rock climbing and hiking in Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain and swings by the local Oceanarium before hopping back onboard the ship. I love that he takes something conventional like a cruise and shakes it up by finding incredibly immersive and active experiences to enjoy his time in port.
When I spent a week onboard a diving boat sailing The Bahamas, I never once felt like I was trading adventure for being at sea — quite the opposite, in fact! Waking up in a new corner of the island archipelago each morning gave us ample time to explore the reefs, cayes, and beaches that brought me to The Bahamas in the first place.
• You can cruise solo. As a frequent solo traveler, I love that Ocean Treks shows Jeff cruising alone — one area of travel in which going it solo can still be taboo. Certain cruise lines are friendlier than others to solo travelers. Holland America’s Single Partners Program hosts events like cocktail mixers and provides a roommate-matching service in which you can be paired with passengers of the same sex who want to share — and you’re guaranteed to only pay the agreed-upon price, even if no partner can be found. Some of Holland America’s ships offer solo cabins with a smaller twin bed and a smaller price tag to match.
When I went on a cruise through the Peruvian Amazon solo, I half expected my fellow guests to pity me. Instead, they embraced me! I was quickly taken under the wing of an amazing group of travelers who treated me like an old friend, and given extra attention from staff who always made sure I was having enough fun to fill a whole cabin.
• You can squeeze a lot into a day. So many people are afraid of missing the boat, literally, that they stick to simple excursions, shop in port, or stay on the ship entirely. I love that Jeff really shows how much you can pack into one short day! In last weekend’s Ketchikan episode, he dove into Alaska’s local economy by salmon fishing with an expert guide and explored native Alaskan heritage by meeting with a master server of Tlingit totem poles. Later the same day, he went ziplining and spotting black bears and bald eagles!
When my mom and I went on a small ship cruise through Greece and Turkey, time in port was super important to us. So we made sure to search for itineraries with long call hours, and enjoyed long, full days exploring islands like Santorini and Rhodes. In just one day on Santorini, we rode the cable car to Fira, wandered though Oia, sunk our toes into our first black sand beach, hiked the caldera volcano and set off on a sunset sail. Some islands we loved and checked off our list, others we were so enamored with we vowed to return (and I have — twice now!)
My Cruising Bucket List
Of course, I can’t watch a travel show without opening a few tabs on my browser and planning a fantasy trip. Watching Ocean Treks got me thinking about all the many cruises that are on my ever-expanding bucket list! After a plan for a family reunion cruise in the Caribbean fell apart a few years ago, I haven’t had one in my cross fairs in a while, but that’s changing. Again, if you consider a diving liveaboard to be cruising — let me know if you think it qualifies! — this list would double with dream trips to the Galapagos, the Coral Triangle, and beyond!
Here are the trips that are currently calling to me…
• A cultural experience in Cuba. Who doesn’t want to go to Cuba? It seems everyone I know is just back from, gearing up for, or swooning over a trip to this storied island. And while doors are opening for Americans to travel there, there is still a bit of red tape. One way I’d love to cut through it is Fathom’s Cultural Cruise To Cuba, a trip I’ve been fascinated by since reading my dear friend Angie’s experience on their inaugural sail.
• Exotic river cruises. I’m currently toying with adding one of several Southeast Asian River Cruises to my itinerary for my annual return to Thailand. The Irrawaddy in Burma, the Mekong through Cambodia and Vietnam and even the Chao Phraya in Thailand are all home to tiny ships I’d love to sail on. Further afield, the Chobe River that borders Namibia and Botswana in Africa calls to me, and I loved my Amazon river cruise in Peru so much I’d jump at the chance to hop aboard another in either Peru or Brazil.
• A weekend in Bermuda. At some point when I lived in Brooklyn, I became obsessed with the idea of taking a cruise from New York to Bermuda. And this was even before I visited the island nation and realized how obsessed with it I was! I used to see the ships docked on the edges of Manhattan and just salivate at the idea of a long weekend away without ever having to hit an airport — and having a few days at sea to enjoy the ship guilt-free. While there are several cruise lines that sail between the East Coast and Bermuda, Carnival is the only line that offers four night cruises straight from the the five boroughs. Week long versions allow for more time to explore Bermuda, but with just one vacation day to spare you can swing the four day itinerary!
• A Caribbean running cruise. I’m not sure when I first discovered that niche, speciality cruises were a thing, but wow — there truly is something for everyone! Music festivals at sea and travel blogging conferences afloat are just the beginning. Personally, I can’t wait to some day sign up for the Caribbean running cruise, which features onboard fitness and nutrition lectures and has a 5K or 10K set up at every port. Mediterranean yoga sails have caught my eye, too!
• An Alaskan adventure. I’ve always dreamed of visiting Alaska by boat or by train — turns out I don’t have to choose! Holland America offers Alaskan packages that combine a cruise along the coast with a rail journey inland — and after 70 years of exploring the region, I think they know what they’re up to. I’d love to follow in Jeff’s footsteps and really immerse myself in the natural beauty of this area with all kinds of active adventures.
• A Polynesian dream. Confession — I kind of have this in mind for a honeymoon. I’d love to combine a cruise to the most remote atolls of Polynesia with time on land at some of the region’s most romantic resorts. Can you imagine a dreamier trip?
• Antarctica in style. Like Cuba, I feel there are few hardcore adventurers who don’t have Antarctica on their bucket list. From following other’s trips I know the Drake Passage is going to be rough, so I dream of tackling it from the luxury of the Seaborn Quest. I hope there are some amazing Seaborn Conversations to distract me from the seasickness! In the other direction, I think exploring the Arctic — Greenland and the Norwegian Fjords — would be magical from a boat.
Want to sail away? Tune into Ocean Treks on ABC Saturday mornings starting October 1. Wondering where to watch? Check here to find scheduled air times in your area, and watch previews on the show’s YouTube channel.
While you wait for the next episode to air, tell me, what cruises are on your bucket list at sea?
This post was brought to you by the Carnival Corporation portfolio. I have been compensated for my participate in the #SailAwayFromHome campaign. As always, all ideas and opinions are my own.
I considered a cruise about a month ago and was troubled by what appeared to an inability to really experience the port and have an adventure. I knew there had to be a way. Now I can’t wait to get into this show!
My cruise bucket list also includes an African river cruise, a speciality cruise (like the running one), and an Antarctica cruise. More cruise posts in the future would be well-received from this reader!
That’s awesome to hear! Hoping I can make one happen soon.
Diggin this post! I work seasonally for Princess Cruises and spent 3 summers in Alaska (and worked with Arctic marine mammals in Barrow last summer)! I also went on Fathom’s 3rd cruise to the Dominican Republic, but I’d love to check out their Cuba itinerary too! I’ve got some blog posts up of Alaska ports and cruising and 1 about Fathom too if you’re interested! I’d love to do an Amazon cruise like the one you went on too!
Someday I’d like to work onboard a wildlife research ship to Antarctica as well. Dream destination!
Off to read your Fathom post now! I’m sure you have a great guest perspective as someone who has also worked on the other side.
I completely agree with not liking a big cruise ship! the smaller cruise ships that I’ve been on have been so much more fun! A Croatian cruise (on a ship with only 48 people!), and something that I think you’d enjoy, an Egyptian cruise (I’ve done both the Nile and Lake Nasser).
Definitely always wanted to do some of the rivers in Asia as you mentioned as well, the hurtigruten in Norway (https://www.hurtigruten.us/), and instead of a traditional cruise in Alaska, the Alaskan Marine Highway System, where you can take ferries from place to place and then drive once you’re there (https://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/). As usual, keep up with the great posts!
Oh my gosh, how could I forget Egypt?! I’ve wanted to do one ever since I read my friend Angie’s account of hers (she inspires many of my trips!) I can’t believe I forgot to include it!
I’ve kind of had to come to a realization that cruises aren’t all bad xD I’m starting to embrace the idea now, so maybe someday I’ll take one myself! Obviously I would have to take one to Antarctica unless I wanted to pay crazy money to take a plane. Besides that, I would love to do an Amazon river cruise
When it comes to Antarctica I’d choose a ship over a plane regardless of cost. I think it’s one of those places that’s all about the journey!
I just recently returned from a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska with Holland America Line and it was the most amazing experience! Unfortunately we didn’t do the train portion due to time restrictions, but the cruise was magical! I highly highly highly recommend X
Ahhhh amazing, so great to get a personal recommendation! Have you blogged it yet? Off to check!
I’m in for the fjords!
Just tell me the days to block off in my schedule… I’m there!
I love cruising! I didn’t think I would when my husband first talked me into it, but I’m a huge fan. The ship just adds to the experience. I can’t wait to check out the episode about Bar Harbor – one of my favorite places in the world – and I would love to sail there. I also really want to try river cruising – there are so many good ones out there!
Yes, river cruising really intrigues me! I think I have many more ahead of me in my travels… working on one for December or January in Thailand right now!
Alaska yes! I’ve never hopped abroad before but never say never.
I’ve travelled around Cuba. It’s hard work. I’d go as far to say it was my least favourite country to backpack out of the 16 during our career break so a couple of cruise stop offs would be a much better way to see the island!
I’ve heard a few people say similar things… another reason I’d perhaps love to visit on either a cruise ship or a diving liveaboard with a few days tacked on in Havana to boot.
I have never ever considered a cruise before, but I also never knew that cruises could actually be so niche. If cruises keep going in that direction I might actually hop on one one of these days!
Right?! All these festivals and conferences at sea sound like a blast!
The Amazon, Antarctica, Svalbard, rivers in South East Asia, India, Caribbean, Galapagos etc etc. Ha, the list is endless and I’ve never actually been on a cruise!
Galapagos I’m torn on — I don’t know if I want to do a cruise, a land trip, or a diving liveaboard. Perhaps all three? 😛
Frankly, it is the dream of my life to travel on a cruise. Beautiful feelings, purely weather,brightness of the sun in the mid of the deep blue water. Feel like you are in “paradise”.
I hope you get to live that dream someday, Sameer!
Antarctica has to be the ultimate cruise, but I’d also love to take a few less mainstream trips.
The RMS ship that serves Tristan de Cunha from Cape Town would be one, whilst the journey to Pitcairn Island is supposed to be even less frequent and harder to secure a place upon 😉
I like the way you think! Those sound like badass trips…
I’m definitely going to try to watch this series! If I ever did go on a cruise, it would have to be a smaller one, becasue though they are more expensive, you’ll get better value, privacy, and not as many people. I would love an Antarctica cruise, french polynesia, the Galapagos, Mediterranean, and the amazon river cruise that you did!
I have really enjoyed doing smaller cruises, though I wouldn’t be opposed to trying one of the big megaships just for the experience — and all the amenities! Rock climbing wall what!?
What about the environmental impact that all these cruise ships have? Have you ever thought about all the waste that one cruise ship generates? The impact that they have on local environments, that they often destroy in order to build ports?
I have indeed thought about that. While the environmental impact of cruising can be cringe-worthy, the industry clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. So I love seeing the steps various cruise lines are taking to move in the right direction. Here are some links you might be interested in:
I just can’t convince cruises.
– not enough space
– too many people
But maybe I’m wrong
They may not be for everyone, but I have to say on the two cruises I’ve been on neither of those were issues. Maybe a small ship with less people would be a good fit for you — or maybe not 🙂
I’ll try something with sails 🙂
Alaska Cruise is my #1 cruise dream. After that probably a seriously luxurious Caribbean cruise. And a Viking River cruise.
Yeah, Alaska is a must for me someday. I plan to visit all fifty states eventually but… that’s one of the ones I’m most excited about!
The only cruise I’ve ever done was a small ship (8 cabins) in the Galapagos and it was pretty fantastic! I don’t know that I’ll ever do a big cruise ship since I don’t like crowds, but I do think it’s probably the best way to see the Inside Passage. And of course, a European River cruise, those look pretty cool.
Ahhhh, The Galapagos! They are calling my name, Leigh! 🙂 Gotta get there someday soon…
I went on my first-ever cruise last year, and fell head over heels in love with the experience. It was everything I wanted and more. Number one on my list would be to fly to Alaska, spend a few days in Denali, and then cruise down on Princess to Vancouver, and fly home. I also want to do more Caribbean cruises, and eventually a Mediterranean one (bummer that it’s so expensive). Great post!
That’s awesome to hear Marni! I’m right here with you on the Alaska goal. Dying to make it happen one of these days!
Why don’t you do a review on Carnival’s other series, The Voyager with Josh Garcia? It’s a great show that highlights the culture, cuisine and handicrafts of beautiful port destinations. Never mind that Josh is an incredibly likable and honest host. Tune in, you’ll love it!
Hey James! I’ll look for that! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂
An Anartica cruise is on my bucket list, but I want to do one of the smaller ships that let you get on Anartica itself and not just step foot on an outlying island. I’m the only one in my circle that wants to do that though, everyone else prefers to go on a bigger ship which I understand would be more comfortable and offer better entertainment.
I would also love to so an Asia cruise and Alaska.
Interesting, having never looked into Antartica cruises before, I didn’t even know about that distinction!