Powered by endless buffets and free-flowing booze, cruising has long seemed like the perfect vacation for sunseekers. But a new crop of journeys — with thrilling attractions, archaeologist-led excursions, and gourmet dining — offers plenty of excitement for everyone else. And don’t worry; there’s still lots of booze. — Edited by Regan Fletcher Stephens
4 First-Time Cruiser Tips
Here’s what to know before you go, according to Brigitte Feinberg, adviser at Avenue Two Travel in Bryn Mawr.
Set the Schedule EARLY
The cruise line will open up reservations for dining, spa treatments and excursions prior to departure. Book accordingly. “If you wait till the cruise, options may not be available,” says Feinberg. “You want to enjoy all the ship has to offer.”
Don’t Miss the Boat
Flight delays could make you miss your cruise, as we’ve seen from the recent Airmageddon horrors this year, says Feinberg. Plan to get to the cruise departure destination at least one or two days ahead of time to avoid being left at the dock.
Stock Your Carry-On
Airlines lose bags — and even if yours are just delayed, once the ship sets sail, you’re out of luck, says Feinberg. Pack medications, extra clothes and a swimsuit in your carry-on, just in case.
Get Your Sea Legs
Peruse your ship online before boarding, and once you arrive, stroll around for a self-guided tour, “so you know where everything is in relation to your cabin.”
The Family Adventure: Disney Cruise Line
The new Disney Wish offers multi-generational travel at its easiest — and most enchanting.
There’s been a Dream, a Wonder, a Fantasy, and now, finally, a Wish. In June, Disney Cruise Line unveiled its first new vessel in a decade, with a sea of captivating restaurants, entertainment and attractions. And while it would be fair to assume a Disney cruise is really for the kids, Wish offers plenty of new and nostalgic magic to engage everyone else in the family, too. Keep reading here.
The Grown-up Getaway: Virgin Voyages
Though the cruise is adults-only, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy shop on Virgin Voyages’ all-inclusive Scarlet Lady.
It was a very “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” moment — stepping out of the airport into the sweltering Miami heat and an Uber hooked up with flashing red party lights. And for the next five days, the wonder didn’t stop. Keep reading here.
The Educational Journey: Ponant
Immerse yourself in Greek history, culture and cuisine on a Ponant cruise of the Southern Aegean.
You can learn about ancient Greece by setting aside a few months to wade through Homer’s Odyssey, or you can hear about it from an archaeologist — while aboard a sleek ship, coasting from island to island across the Aegean Sea. French expedition ship operator Ponant recently partnered with Smithsonian Journeys — part of the Smithsonian Institution (which includes the world’s largest museum; maybe you’ve heard of it?) — for itineraries that are part immersive education, part effervescent holiday. Keep reading here.
The Wilderness Voyage: Holland America Lines
Explore the outdoors — and drink Veuve in a luxe stateroom — on Holland America Line’s “Alaskan Explorer” trip.
I’m sipping soft bubbles of champagne on my private ocean-facing balcony, staring out at electric blue hunks of ice as they float in the waters of the formidable and remote Glacier Bay National Park. Somehow, the freezing ocean full of diving whale tails and splashing otters and the vast tundra dotted with massive brown bears seem close even as I dig into my lobster-topped eggs Benedict — brought to my balcony by room service. Keep reading here.
Can’t get away? This vessel stays in Philly.
Want the cruise experience without the travel hassles or costs? Board a City Experiences ship at Penn’s Landing for a two-hour buffet brunch or sunset dinner (from around $75 to $125 per person), and enjoy the people-watching as much as the views. You might spot a raucous bachelorette party, a family celebrating a college graduation, and an elegant couple in black-tie attire, all on the same ship. If you want privacy, take your champagne to the top tier for a romantic moment.
Published as “Come Sail Away” in the September 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.