The world opens up

From su­per lin­ers to barges, there’s a des­ti­na­tion wait­ing

Life & Style Weekend - - TRAVEL -

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.

with Ann Rickard

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