Cruising and Memories

by Annette Lucido

Cruise lines coddle customers with comfortable cabins, wonderful public areas, selected shore excursions and non-stop onboard diversions not to mention nine meals a day. Today's travelers enjoy a confusion of choices. You can find special interest cruises that focus on everything from bridge or big band music to wildlife or walks on Arctic ice. Some opt for weekend or mid-week samples, others go for week-long cruises. A few cruise buffs with deep pockets even cruise round the world. The choice is yours. Shop carefully and you can enjoy real value on a trip that suits your interests and budget. 

I still remember my first cruise with Matson Lines in 1960 from San Francisco to Hawaii. As travel writers, my husband and I cruise "considerably." I treasure memories of other cruises to China, Japan, Hawaii, Alaska and other areas. My husband, Louis isn't as sold on what he calls "jail" cruises. He likes plenty of shore time, and favors calm water or river cruises where getting sick is never a problem .

Others take a different approach. We shared a table on an Alaskan cruise with couples who rarely got off the ship. They watched the scenery and played bridge instead. Another couple we met on a Hawaii cruise never left the ship without golf clubs and managed to get in at least 18 holes a day. Last cruise to Hawaii I flew in sailplanes and helicopters, we rode bikes, snorkeled, body and board surfed, road outriggers and fished between scenic drives. Last summer's cruise to Alaska found Louis fishing -- what else? -- while I went up in float planes and helicopters.

To find the cruise that suits you best, research first. You can get valuable booklets and handouts from travel agents. Most agree agents who have visited ships or cruised provide the most valuable help. Vacations on Video that sells videos of cruise ships and tours. Write World Publishing, 1020 Church St., Evanston, IL 60201 Booklets and videos use a bit of "creative" photography to make cabins look bigger and such, but everyone does, this so it evens out. 

You should also check the library for articles and books on your area of interest. These help you compare the shore activities, car rentals etc. offered on board with those you can often find for less if you book them on your own. Friends provide useful information ONLY IF they have taken enough cruises to evaluate ships, and their interests match yours. Ships do change over time. Some improve, some deteriorate, but only heroes take maiden voyages when anything that can go wrong will. Cruises are a wonderful way to see the world with little hassle.