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.