This is a particularly popular time of year for cruising. Lots of families have come to enjoy the opportunity to visit and explore new places by water. Cruise companies know that and have taken to building bigger ships to take advantage of this growing trend. And I mean BIGGER!
The largest cruise ship afloat these days is almost the length of four football fields and it has a crew of nearly 2,300 taking care of 5,400 passengers. That’s 7,800 people on one ship, enough people on board for a small town. By the way, this particular vessel boasts seven neighborhoods and some 25 restaurants and activities galore from lots of entertainment venues to amusement attractions that undoubtedly make some theme parks take notice.
I can just imagine the miles of buffet lines, labyrinth of interior passageways, slot machine choices and plethora of drink umbrellas. Just image, the entire ship goes to one little island and everyone gets off for a few hours and snorkels around the same fish. The next day they are allowed off the ship to go shopping for tourist trinkets and when they get back to the vessel they can slide their credit card through more machines and acquire still more trinkets.
I’m sure such a mega-cruiser has its fans, but I worry about those who are turned off by this on water largesse. These monster ships will make some cruisers turn away from boating all together. Now, that’s a shame.
That’s not for me. I vote for the little ship that could, something with two or maybe three cabins instead of two or three thousand cabins. What a difference a boat makes. One has more than 20 restaurants. The other has one galley and a small fridge. One has chefs, captains and waiters by the hundreds. The other requires you to bring your own groceries and you have to do your own cooking. One plies the high seas. The other cruises smoothly along a placid coastal waterway framed by mangrove wilderness.
My vessel doesn’t have an activities staff; it doesn’t have an ATM; it doesn’t have an onboard hospital. In fact, it doesn’t have a schedule unless you say so. If it’s Tuesday, it won’t be Belgium but just tell the captain and you could be on Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, or a beach you’ll have all to yourself on Cayo Costa.
The little boat that could doesn’t have line dance contests nor does it have stop lights to handle onboard pedestrian traffic. Passengers don’t cut into the buffet line to take the last shrimp. On my cruise ship, dressing up for a meal means pulling a tee shirt over your swimsuit. After your delicious repast -- Hey, you bought the groceries -- prepared by loving hands in the private galley, you can have drinks on the aft deck.
There is no disco, no line dancing, no ballroom waltzes. But if you want to shake a leg you can climb the steps to the fly bridge and whoop and holler a bit. Just a bit, though. Or, you may prefer to just sit in silent pleasure as the Florida sun sinks behind those dramatic clouds on the horizon.
Put this information in your vacation planner. And the next time you’re thinking about a cruise, think small. Like two or three cabins small.
Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters, and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, a liveaboard yacht school. Both are based at Cape Coral, Florida. Barb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 1-800-262-7939.