If you’re thinking about your next vacation splash out, you might be considering booking a cruise. Cruise ship-related horrors of the early pandemic aside, cruises remain popular for a lot of reasons — they offer an all-inclusive vacation that moves to a range of exotic locales, can avoid bad weather simply by changing course, and offer a seemingly endless range of activities.
On the other hand, cruises suck. They are environmentally disastrous, crowd you in with thousands of other people with varying attitudes towards health and safety, and are rarely as all-inclusive as you might wish.
But we get it — the relaxing simplicity of a cruise is a powerful draw. So why not replicate much of that experience with a little creativity? Here are some of the best alternatives vacations that are just as relaxing as a cruise.
Otherwise known as an all-inclusive resort, a “land cruise” takes a lot of what you love about the cruise experience (all-inclusive food and activities, luxurious accommodations) and land-locks them in a gorgeous resort. While resorts tend to skew more expensive in terms of the initial booking, they also tend to include more in the “all-inclusive” part than your typical cruise line. Plus, not only can you really explore and get to know a place instead of running from spot to spot in an exhausting race, you often won’t even need a passport to get to some of the best vacation spots.
Sticking to land reduces the environmental impact of your vacation immeasurably, and you’ll likely find that sitting poolside with a drink in your hand feels the same whether you’re doing it in the middle of the ocean or while on a beautiful Caribbean island.
If it’s the sense of adventure and the variety of locations that draws you to the cruise life, consider booking an old-school guided tour in an exotic locale. Sometimes called “escorted tours,” these vacations take care of everything for you — lodging, meals, and activities — and pair you with an expert who arranges travel throughout the region, ensuring you see all the spots of historical, environmental, or aesthetic interest. At the same time, a guided tour is often the best way to get a more localised and authentic experience, because the person(s) guiding you know the area well and be able to steer you to the off-the-beaten-path restaurants, shops, and natural wonders that you would 100 per cent miss while racing through on a cruise port of call.
If it’s the luxury amenities of a cruise that excite you, consider booking a high-end hotel in a nearby metropolitan area and splashing out for everything — the high-end meals, the in-room spa treatments, and the Olympic-size pool. If you’re dropping a mint on a hotel stay, the concierge will be your best friend and can help arrange for any entertainment you want to experience in the area — or you could just sleep in, sample all the brunch options, and hit the bar at night to lock in that lazy luxury.
Book a freighter ship
If you want the experience of being on the water without the guilt of participating in a cruise that pollutes the world’s oceans and strains local environments to the breaking point, consider a freighter ship. That’s right, a freighter ship — almost all freight ships have accommodations for the company bigwigs to use when they need to travel with the ships, and when those accommodations (usually quite swanky) aren’t in use, tourists can book them.
Freight ships go all over the world, so you won’t lack for destinations, and the crews are typically delighted to have company on their voyages. You won’t be additionally contributing to pollution or engaging in mindless consumerism because the boats would be sailing with or without you and are engaged in the vital business of transporting goods around the globe. This is a very different experience from a hectic, action-packed cruise, but might be ideal for folks who want the all the adventure without the crowds or the noise.
Sail around the world
To get a luxury cruise experience with a much smaller environmental impact, you could go sailing. Sailboat cruises combine all the food, mobility, and activity options of a traditional cruise with a more eco-friendly tall ship, powered by nothing more than the wind. Well, and the backup engines, in the event of uncooperative weather, but you can rest easier knowing that you’re not polluting the oceans most of the time.
Plus, sailboat cruises tend to involve much smaller passenger populations of a few hundred, or even just a few dozen, so they’re less overwhelming and more sedate than your typical mega-cruise. And sailboats, being smaller craft, canvisit ports of call that those enormous cruise ships simply can’t. That means you have a lot more options in terms of destinations and the things you can do once you arrive. Bon voyage!