A story on CNN that says the world is divided between people who love cruises and people who hate them.   I’ve met plenty of people who swear they wouldn’t be caught dead on a cruise ship for predictable reasons:  they’ll be bored, don’t want to vacation with thousands of people,  take a tux, the thought of playing bingo and shuffleboard is horrifying and, as one friend said,  “it’s about as exclusive as a day at the New Jersey shore.”

The thing is, some regions of the world are best explored on a cruise, like the Greek Islands, the Baltic, Alaska, the Panama Canal and Antarctica.  Should you want to explore these destinations on your own it will either cost a fortune and be very, very exhausting or your touring will be extremely limited.  In fact you can only transit the Panama Canal by ship and experience the awesome natural beauty of Antarctica and Alaska by ship.

Have I got a cruise for you!

STAR CLIPPERS

How about a tall ship?  One of my favorite cruise experiences is setting sail aboard the authentic clipper ships of Star Clippers, the tallest and fastest clippers ever built.   The 170-passenger Star Flyer and Star Clipper and the 227-passenger Royal Clipper visit the lush rain forests of Costa Rica, the Canal Zone and Nicaragua; toniest ports in the Caribbean (think Bequia, Dominica, Guadeloupe) and many small exclusive ports in Italy, Greece and Croatia too small for conventional cruise ships.   The mix of passengers is roughly half American, half European.  You’ll find comfortable accommodations, single open seating; affordable rates for solo passengers, good food and the chance to pull ropes if you should be so inclined.   Per person, double occupancy fares start at $1975 for a seven day voyage.

AMERICAN SAFARI CRUISES

This company’s tiny cruise  ships visit Alaska, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest and Baja, Mexico and is designed for people seeking an in-depth and personal experience with Mother Nature.    On a Baja cruise a whale breeches a few yards away while in Alaska bears, moose, eagles and whales are almost within reach.  The three ships their passenger capacity are: Safari Spirit (12 pax), Safari Explorer (40 pax) and Safari Quest (22 pax) and the fare (which start at $5595 for an eight day Alaska cruise) includes all alcoholic beverages, use of kayaks, snorkeling gear (Hawaii & Mexico), fishing gear (Alaska), airport transfers, exclusive shore excursions and massages (Safari Explorer).   Per person, double occupancy fares start at $5595 for an eight-day Alaska cruise.

Lindblad Expeditions/Nat. Geographic

You want the very, very best in nature travel, your style is LL Bean and you want to meet highly educated people like yourself.  Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic teamed up to provide the ultimate expedition cruise.  Of course you want photo tips from a National Geographic photographer, to learn nature, history and culture from a top expert.   While this company is known as being the best in  in Antarctica and the Galapagos,  it also offers cruises in the Baltic, eastern and western European ports, the Amazon and Nile rivers and South America.   National Geographic Endeavor (96 pax) National Geographic Explorer (148 pax),  the sister ships Sea Bird and Sea Lion (62 pax) and in the Galapagos, the 48 passenger National Geographic Islander.

SEA DREAM YACHT CLUB

Ever dreamed of cruising the Caribbean, Baltic and Mediterranean aboard a yacht?  Sea Dream Yacht Club delivers the experience aboard the 112-passenger sister ships Sea Dream 1 & 11, unpretentious but very sophisticated vessels.  Both have an aft platform that can be lowered to enable water skiing, swimming, banana boat rides, snorkeling and tubing.   In the Caribbean time is set aside for being served caviar and champagne at a deserted beach and in Europe you can hop off for night in St. Tropez and visit exclusive ports in Italy and Greece.  And when one of these super luxury ships pull in to Stockholm and St. Petersburg you will be noticed indeed.  One week Caribbean cruises start at $2799 per person, double occupancy.

RIVERBOATS

You’re really not up to the challenge of driving through Europe but still want the freedom to explore historic and cultural cities.  I have boats for you!   My riverboat cruise was exquisite:  we spent a few days in Prague then took a short ride to the Danube River stopping in Budapest, Brataslava, Melk.  While the cruise line provided shore excursions we were free to do whatever we liked.  And, since spent the night in port, we popped out to terrific restaurants (although the food on board was excellent.  Companies offering riverboat cruises include Viking River Cruises, AMAWaterways, Uniworld, Tauck Cruising, Avalon Waterways. and French Waterways.  Today you can take a riverboat cruise in Egypt, Vietnam and China as well.