The Romantic Cruise
The Search for Romance on the High Seas
For many travelers, cruise ships are the essence of romance, of unbridled freedom and a stress-free way in which to see the world. Onboard, life is easy with a sweeping sense of adventure and a realm of natural pleasures that tickle the senses. The mark of a great cruise is to stand at ship's rail or on the balcony of your stateroom and wonder about encounters that lie beyond the horizon and with whom.
Los Angeles based Princess Cruises, famed for their long- running connection with the smash television series "Love Boat" that aired from 1977-86, followed by the new "Love Boat: The Next Wave" filmed aboard Princess Cruises' SUN PRINCESS during several Western Caribbean cruises, has boosted the image of shipboard romantic encounters along with the "Titanic" spectacular.
Working as a feature writer on assignment, I have experienced 46 cruises including three in 1998, three transatlantic crossings, a cruise on a Russian icebreaker to Antarctica and an ill-fated cruise on a ship that sunk. I have observed everything from marriage proposals, passionate infatuations, hot one-cruise encounters, numerous five minute kisses on the dance floor by total strangers, to endearing friendships and sudden rejuvenation of marriages, if only for the duration of the cruise.
Some important cruise details to considerSINGLES AT SEA
when looking for romance afloat.
Cruise lines vary like automobiles. Each ship has a distinct personality which is often reflected in the age of the passengers. Carnival Cruise Lines, once marketed as "Party Ships," and long catering to singles, offers a whopping 12 vessels with names such as ECSTASY, ELATION, FANTASY and SENSATION. You get the idea.
With competitive pricing, Carnival attracts singles, married couples with young children and single parents. The ships have a booming energy level and a party setting featuring live music and fast-paced adult entertainment. The line is also a major player in two to five day sailings which is an ideal getaway for those with a time crunch, and the industry's fastest growing segment.
Another player for singles is the graceful yacht-like CLUB MED 2 complete with a French twist of topless sun worshippers and dental floss bikinis.
The intimate seven-sail, 191-stateroom ship offers open seating in two dining rooms, an important asset in order to select your dining mate and hopefully avoid the wart hogs. Water sports are big as are ports of call. No facilities for children and, mercifully, they must be at least 10 years of age to sail. The ship sails the Mediterranean May through September; the Caribbean, December through April.
SENSUOUS SMALL SHIPS
Other small lines to check with a casual ambience are Star Clippers and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. The 122-passenger M/S CLIPPER ADVENTURER has access to secluded waterways, wilderness areas and primitive native villages. Windjammer, with a splendid fleet of tall ships, is a great buy and offers sensuous and casual single-only cruises on a true sailing vessel. The name tells it all.
A favorite with couples is the elegant but casual Windstar Cruises operating three 148-passenger sail cruise ships and one 312-passenger cruiser, all cruising to exotic ports of call. Guests leave the children home and enjoy an unregimented, romantic clubby setting including fine wine and award-winning cuisine at intimate tables for two.
In the same genre are Cunard's luxury SEA GODDESS I and SEA GODDESS II where a staff of 89 caters to the whim of no more than 116 Sea Goddess guests.
Cruise ships are becoming larger by the year. The 2,600- passenger GRAND PRINCESS, the largest and most expensive cruise ship in the world at the moment, caters to everyone and has more activity options than a hotel resort. Guests can get married aboard or renew vows in the first wedding chapel at sea, choose from eight supper options including the 24-hour Horizon Court Restaurant. Kids have their own pool, virtual reality center and entertainment options while romantics lounge in one of the 710 balcony cabins or the adult lounges. Romantics who are easily bored will be tested on the GRAND PRINCESS.
PORTS OF CALL & THEME CRUISES
Romantics must be aware of theme cruises that draw passengers together with similar interests. Themes range from Health and Wellness, Chamber Music and Jazz, to Big Band and Swing Dancing and big name Country Western bashes. Dance instruction included. Holland America Line-Westour's MS WESTERDAM in 1998-99 has slated 21 theme cruise departures with 11 different topics while bopping about the Caribbean.
GOLF HAWAII AND AUSTRALIA
Captain Cook Cruises, the Australian line's Great Barrier Reef Cruise, combines four days of golf competition set at three of North Queensland's top championship courses with a seven-night cruise of the stunning Great Barrier Reef.
American Hawaii Cruises' S.S. INDEPENDENCE pulls golf buffs in with a selection of 18 golf courses on four different Hawaiian islands. Tee times are arranged by the ship's onboard shore excursions staff.
Looking for informal tack, World Explorer Cruises and its SS UNIVERSE EXPLORER sells an educational focus of enriched learning, live classical music in place of Broadway-style shows, and seminars on the arts, customs, history and geology of the ports visited. They opted for a 15,000 volume library and left the casino action in the Bahamas. The core passengers are active couples, retired folks and some singles interested in broadening their horizons.
SEMESTER AT SEA
If attending a college or university and are in good standing, consider a sail on the SS UNIVERSE EXPLORER with free- spirited students from 216 schools throughout the world. University of Pittsburgh's Semester at Sea, featuring International Studies, sails to Asia Fall Term, September 10- December 19; February 10-May 20; South America, Africa, Asia and Seattle, Spring Term, February 17-May 28.
Active romantics will also find their niche on Temptress Adventure Cruises and the 99-passenger TEMPTRESS EXPLORER and the 63-passenger TEMPTRESS VOYAGER. The Costa Rican based line features soft adventure cruising to remote natural habitats, hikes through native village encampments and destinations in the best preserved areas of Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala and Panama.
The TEMPTRESS EXPLORER uses small ocean rafts to reach snorkeling and diving sights, and to arrive on shore for land excursions. Active seniors, young couples with children during summer and singles of all ages book these active, informal educational cruises where nature shines.
CHILDREN AND SHIPS
Many ships have extensive children programs while others offer nothing for the little guys making a subtle statement that most potential passengers understand. If children on the high seas are not to your liking consider avoiding summer cruises and holidays. Most ports of call seem less crowded when the kids are in school. It's a great time to sail.
Princess Cruises, marketing the family cruise, now offers guests the chance to travel with infants as young as six months aboard ships sailing in the Caribbean and Alaska. On all cruises, Princess offers onboard children's centers or supervised youth activities for children two years of age and older. Youth programs for ages 2-16 now run until 1 a.m. on most Princess Ships.
New on the cruise scene is the DISNEY MAGIC, the first ship designed specifically for guests of all ages and includes the sparkling beach on Castaway Cay Island in the Bahamas. Adults sip a potent Pina Colada while enjoying an oceanside massage and soothing music while the kids are happily occupied as only Disney can do.
Onboard, parents can have a romantic moment or two by ditching the children on Deck 5 where they are supervised by 50 or so counselors and can interact with high-tech electronic games, see a giant video wall and a hundred other things Disney has dreamed up. If not traveling with children, request their Disney Cruise Line "Adult Vacations" booklet.
THE ULTIMATE IN HIGH SEAS ROMANCE
For all the cruise offerings and with the love aspect of the "Titanic" movie in mind before the iceberg kiss, the essence of romance and sharing joyous feelings is a transatlantic crossing on Cunard's QE2. The only ship afloat offering transatlantic crossing, the gracious ship sails roundtrips from New York to Southampton 17 times in 1999 including the last transatlantic crossing of the 20th Century.
Traveling from one continent to another, deep in the ocean and in proper British style is hard to top.