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What is the Perfect Cruise?

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What is is that attracts you to a specific cruise ship? Is it the itinerary, the decor, the crew, the memories? Is it an emotional bond on a deep and personal level. Or is it an intellectual decision based on researching different options and narrowing down your choices?

For that matter, how much time do you spend planning your next cruise? Do you weigh your options for months, letting your ideas percolate in your subconscience, or do you tend to book your cruise spontaneously, as in “its been 12 months, time to cruise again,” and you have one schedule by the end of next day?

I wonder about these things. I know a lot of cruises are taken each month. Some are short getaways while others are epic voyages of a lifetime. I also believe that the mainstream “contemporary lines probably a larger share of impulse trips, while the premium and luxury cruise lines get the voyages that people plan for ages.

I know different kinds of people prefer different cruise lines, but the question what kind of person do certaon cruise lines attract? I have a theory that Carnival attracts more free spirited people. Carnival has that certain, how do you say je ne sais qua, that just makes you feel giddy from the second you walk onboard. The crew is not just friendly, they displays a real sense of humor. And the decor alone is enough to make you feel crazy, because it’s so over the top it actually confounds logic.

“It looks like the decorator raided a colorblind golfer’s closet and used the plaid pants with a striped shirt and a paisly tie,” I once remarked to a Carnival staffer. He just rolled his eyes at me and said “Well, I never heard that one before.” (he had).

My theory is that Carnival ships have turquoise stained wood-grain panels with pink lizard borders skin just to obliterate all sense of normalcy. The more you try to make sense of it the crazier you get, and I think that was their plan all along.

But Carnival ships are about a lot more than decor, especially if you like funny human tricks like hairy chest and belly flop contests, conga lines, singing waiters who are Elvis one night (only the women) and Carmen Miranda the next (only the men). This is not an intellectual cruise line, these are “Fun Ships,” and they are serious about that.

Royal Caribbean is more intellectualized fun. What ship nerd can’t apprciate that Oasis of the Seas will be almost twice as big as anything Carnival currently has sailing? It will be the biggest passenger ship ever – by far. That’s a truly impressive factoid. If you have already wondered what kind of wind resistance effect Central Park will create you’re a ship nerd and perfect for Oasis.

I think it is cool that Oasis will have an AquaTheater with underwater stage lifts topped off by the first zipline on a cruise ship. I like that it will have a bar that is also an elevator to move people from an indoor deck to an outdoor one. I like that it will have a real park at sea with real trees and grass – longer than a football field. I like that it will have an ice rink with a Zamboni.

NCL is the cruise line for individualists. I love the look and feel of NCL ships, although they will probably take some ribbing for the top-heavy appearance of Norwegian Epic set to debut next year. Still, on the inside their ship decor is daring and audacious. Their nightclubs feature suggestive purple velvet sofas the size of queen size beds. They have a huge variety of dining options onboard, and the staterooms are unlike any other ships- with coffee makers, even.

The best description I can muster for the new F3 staterooms on Epic is sensual, with curvy walls, cool colors and adjustable mood lighting, plus separate rooms for the shower and commode. The suites on NCL are some of the poshest anywhere – with huge flatscreen televisions, midi-controlled baby grand pianos and jet-tubs on the balconies. Epic will have world’s first “Ice-Bar” at sea – a completely frozen room where everything is made of ice – the bar, tables, chairs, drinking glasses.

Okay – Maybe I have already lost some people talking this way. These folks think NCL is too cheeky, Carnival is too presumptuous and Royal Caribbean ships are just too big. These people generally like small cruise ships that spend quiet days at sea.

I do respect this attitude. These are real ship people. They love to be out on deck feeling the hot wind cut through their hair – or what’s left of it. All they need is a 360-degree blue sea horizon, a good book and a cool drink. No, they don’t want the reggae band or the sexy legs contest.

I like small ships, too, but generally not for too many days at sea. I get too lazy on cruises like that. I find myself thinking about lunch at 11:00 a.m. and a nap after lunch. Sounds tough, right? Oh, it is. I get so relaxed that I don’t even want to dress for dinner, and if you miss dinner on a small ship at sea you miss one of the highlights of the day.

I love small ships best when they are taking me to interesting places. I was lucky enough to take Silversea to Egypt. The tours were amazing; Petra in Jordan, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings on the upper Nile. Our suite was the perfect retreat from a day in Wadi Rum, Jordan, where the desert scenes of Lawrence of Arabia were filmed.

The smallest ship I was ever one was American Safari in Alaska. We watched humpback whales bubble-feeding in a pack of 12. This is a memory of a lifetime. I saw a wild mother brown bear catching salmon and feeding her cubs who were barely old enough to walk.

I also had a chance to sail on Crystal Serenity last year on a 16-day cruise with only four ports of call – about 12 days at sea. I did not get bored once because Crystal does such an amazing job with their onboard enrichment classes and entertainment. I could take in a recently released movie any day, in 16 days they did not repeat any of them. I took piano and computer lessons, listened to NFL coaches tell football stories and borrowed DVDs from the library all day long.

Crystal has the best food of any cruise line I have been on. Every meal was a highlight. I am not a butler person, they tend to make me nervous, but Papa knew exactly how to anticipate our needs. One night he insisted on bringing us a lobster dinner to enjoy on our veranda. With wine and the rushing sea below it was magical. We had another meal of nothing but cheese and caviar where we hosted a Princeton professor and his wife who was onboard as guest lecturer on International Law. We discussed how piracy spawned the concept of international law. He kept saying, “remember, Hostis Humani Generis,” a concept first developed by Cicero and Aristotle that sea pirates are enemies of humanity, not just any one nation.

I also love river cruises. I once sailed from Moscow to Saint Petersburg on the Stalin Canal – going places in Russia I never knew existed. That was on Viking River and it was one of my best cultural trips ever. We saw the Kremlin, the unbelievable Moscow Circus and the Kirov ballet in St Petersburg. I had already scene the Hermitage and the Summer Palace from previous trips on Renaissance.

Renaissance Cruises – we took a trip to Israel once where we floated in the Dead Sea, saw the Dead Sea Scrolls and walked along the Via Dolorosa – the path Jesus took when he carried the cross to the Mount of the Holy Sepulchar. What can you say about experiences like this?

These are all cruise experiences – the richest rewards ever in my life except my wife. I am so thankful for these experiences. Cruising – embrace it and love it, and it will love you back.

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Comment from Tim Butler
Time September 7, 2009 at 1:11 am

What is is that attracts you to a specific cruise ship? Is it the itinerary, the decor, the crew, the memories? Is it an emotional bond on a deep and personal level. Or is it an intellectual decision based on researching different options and narrowing down your choices?

The answer is yes!

Sometimes we book a cruise carefully, checking out itinerary, dates, prices, lines, ect. and other times we book on a whim just because a cruise ship looks exciting.

There is no such thing as a perfect cruise except to the one booking it!

Comment from Trackypup
Time September 11, 2009 at 11:43 am

I’d say 90% of the time we book for the destination. Where do we want to go and then let’s find the best ship to fit our needs. Out of 14 cruises, we’ve never booked because of the ship. The other 10%, we just want to get away, that’s when last minute Alaska or Mexican Riviera deals come in handy being from Vancouver.

Comment from Suzanne
Time September 12, 2009 at 6:37 pm

I book for the offerings on the ship. I travel monthly with my business and oftentimes, it is International travel so a cruise for me is all about relaxing by the pool and doing nothing. I partake of whatever the ship has to offer.

Comment from Mike M
Time September 13, 2009 at 6:22 am


The last half of your blog entry is why I cruise. It is those memories of the itineraries, destinations and wonders that I have seen are what I love about cruising. The ship is really secondary.

I can’t really handle extended land trips anymore so cruising is the perfect way to see the marvels that this planet has to offer. The ship is secondary.

I do have to admit that once in awhile you do just need some “mind candy cruising” and that’s when a Caribbean cruise fits perfectly. That’s what I love about cruising, there’s something for whatever your brain, and body, are hungry for.

Take care,

Comment from Suzanne
Time October 2, 2009 at 6:22 pm

After reading this blog, I would say the perfect cruise would be any cruise with Paul Motter!!!!

Comment from Paul Motter
Time October 2, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Somehopw I dont get the feeling that is just cuz I’m “soooo gooood loooookin'”

Its all the great destinations I have been lucky enough to see.

Comment from Ingrid
Time October 29, 2009 at 4:38 am

Most of my cruises are planned at least 9 months in advance, although I have booked just 2 months out! Itinerary plays the lead role in my choice, followed by the right ship/line for the particular group cruising. I’m a firm believer that if a first time cruiser returns and says, “I didn’t like cruising”, then they were not matched with the ship/line for their personality.

Comment from Lynn Allen
Time March 14, 2010 at 8:49 am

My family, husband, 19 & 16 year old boys, and I are contemplating a first-time cruise. We think we want to go to the Caribbean and we don’t want to be on a 5,000 passenger ship but we want to make sure there are enough activities and other teenagers to keep our kids busy and happy. The decision of what line is overwhelming….any advice?

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