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The Six Primary Cruises Everyone Should Consider:
A Cruise Primer

Cruising is the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry, drawing over 90 million travelers in the last two decades. Much of the allure, according to a 2004 study by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), is that passengers are free to do as much or as little as they want, and can tailor their vacation to their personal desires, whether that be romance, excitement, relaxation, escape or discovery.

Barge cruises

Barge cruises offer a relaxed, intimate atmosphere while taking you to small, remote villages.

In the next five years, close to 70 million Americans say they would like to take a cruise, and another 30 million say they will likely take a cruise vacation within the next three years, according to CLIA.

And what better time? Cruisers can now visit just about any location on earth, with ships visiting more than 1,800 ports worldwide. So if a cruise is in your future, why not check out one of these unique cruises that will take you off the beaten path for a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

1. Freighter Cruising

Freighter cruises offer a relaxed atmosphere and a chance to visit exotic ports. Ships include container ships, trampers (which have more unpredictable schedules), general cargo and heavy lift ships, and mail and vintage coastal ships (which bring supplies to small communities).

While some freighter cruises are just one to three weeks long, many require a longer stretch of time, from six weeks to several months. Passenger groups are small (usually just four to five people, but up to 12), and are generally looking for a relaxed experience onboard with plenty of free time to read, paint, converse with crew and other passengers, etc. The adventure comes in at the ports, which are remote, uncrowded and authentic, not touristy -- and in which you are completely on your own to explore.

2. Expedition Cruises

Expedition cruises take place on smaller ships that travel to exotic places for exploration. Because the ships are small -- passengers on board range from about 12 up to 150 -- they are able to navigate waters that larger ships cannot. Cruises travel everywhere from Alaska and Antarctica to the Amazon, the Galapagos, the Mediterranean and everywhere in between.

On expedition cruises, passengers can expect pleasant amenities and meals, but the real draw is the expert crew that's typically on board to act as guides. Expedition cruises take place all over the world for bird watching, whale watching, arctic exploration, wilderness adventures and much more.

Freighter Sailboat

You can actually tour the world, and gain priceless memories, onboard a real working freighter!

3. Sailboat and Tall Ship Cruises

Travel onboard a six-passenger sailboat or a 300-passenger tall ship for a relaxing and adventurous trip. These ships travel to both popular and remote locations, and some will even teach you to sail or navigate while you cruise. Passengers often enjoy the easy access to fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and wind surfing, as well as the less formal, more intimate experience of sailing on a small ship.

4. River and Barge Cruises

River and barge cruises are very much about the journey, with slow paces and, often, luxury amenities. The atmosphere is casual and intimate, with about four to 50 passengers onboard. Travelers have a chance to explore small towns along rivers and canals that are often passed by, and planned excursions are often available.

Passengers onboard river and barge cruises often enjoy the upscale food and accommodations, as well as the adventure of visiting small, remote villages. These trips are exciting, but the pace is very relaxed. For instance, according to the Barge Company, the speed limit on canals is four miles per hour. So travelers can easily cycle along the tow path and keep up with the barge, or go on ahead to explore a village along its path and wait for the barge to catch up with them.

5. Education at Sea

There are a number of ships that offer education courses while at sea, ranging from undergraduate "semester abroad" programs to continuing education programs for professionals. There is literally an education at sea program for everyone, from college students to teachers to lifelong learners. Amenities onboard are more modest, not luxurious, as the focus is on seeing other cultures around the world and interacting with the ship's community.

6. Around the World Cruises

If you have a few months to spare, you can board a cruise that will take you, quite literally, around the world. These trips are offered by major cruise lines and stop at both well-known ports and remote locations.

World cruises typically depart in January and sail for about 100 to 115 days. You can expect to travel over 30,000 nautical miles, visit between 35 and 45 different ports and cross the equator at least twice. What does it cost to cruise around the world? The going rates range from $150 to upwards of $500 per person, per day (or about $15,000 to $57,500 per person).

Recommended Reading

Piracy on the Seas: Believe it or Not, it Still Exists and May be Surging Again!

The Luxurious, Historic Hungarian Bathhouses: Unusual & Interesting Travel Destinations #6


Cruise Lines International Association

The Barge Company

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