JUST when we think cruising could not possibly become any more popular or the ships any bigger or more endowed with dazzling features and celebrity-chef restaurants, along comes news of a newly built mega liner about to leave the shipyard and sail us to adventures we never thought possible.
I have always had a fascination with cruising, but then I'm biased. A long time ago I met my dream man on a cruise ship. He was an officer, I was a passenger. Even though he was officially not at liberty to fraternise with passengers there was no stopping two fast-beating hearts out on the ocean beneath starry night skies. It was the perfect backdrop to fall in love.
Less than a year later we were married and have sailed into many a sunset since.
With super liners now plying the oceans and some of them sailing into uncharted territories, the world is open to us as never before. Antarctica, once only accessible to hardy explorers and determined scientists, is now possible and relatively affordable. The same goes for PNG. It is only recently that cruise ships have dared to sail to pristine atolls, and get us there in absolute comfort.
And in these remote places once reachable only to those fearless and strong enough for long and arduous journeys, we can enjoy days of discovery and wonder knowing at the end there is a massage and a mojito waiting for us back on board before a multi-course dinner and some world-class theatre.
Whether you like your ships super big with outdoor cinemas, rock-climbing walls, dodgem car tracks, basketball courts and grand dining rooms with ornate chandeliers is a personal choice. And it is there in abundance for you. So too is it if you are more a small-ship-with-personal-butler person who eschews 1000-seat theatres and wants no more than a few hundred fellow passengers.
Then there is the increase in popularity of river cruising.
River ships are long and sleek and many have windows that slide right open to make your suite an entire balcony.
Cruising past some of Europe's castles and magnificent old buildings, all within easy sight while you contemplate another glass of wine before lunch, is nothing short of magical. Perhaps the biggest advantage of river cruising is embarking right in the heart of cities and small towns and just stepping ashore to be met by local guides who will walk you through streets brimming with history.
Barge cruising is also gaining popularity, especially in France where your barge glides so slowly along picturesque canals that you can get off and ride a bike along the tow path. Barging is also possible in Belgium, Scotland and England and you don't need us to tell of the history and charm to be found in all those countries.
All of this and we haven't mentioned the indulgence of unpacking just the once and having accommodation, meals and entertainment paid for upfront. No living out of a suitcase or lugging heavy bags on and off trains, buses and planes. Getting to numerous destinations in one holiday and having a crew take away all your difficult decisions (pampering in the spa or dining in which restaurant tonight?) is pleasure without price.
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