UPDATED May 7, 2023
While the jet age has mostly made sea travel a bygone relic, I have had the delightful opportunity to cross the Atlantic five times by ship. I recently completed a post-Covid crossing with no ill effects. Here are ten reasons I love and still recommend this special experience:
10. Value for money – Spring and fall repositioning cruises offer exceptional deals, as low as $549 for a 14-day trip. Remember, this includes all meals, private room, entertainment and activities plus the passage across the ocean. Moreover, children often go free (or at a reduced price) and have complimentary professionally-supervised activities.
9. No jet lag – When traveling by ship, clocks change at most by one hour per day. This allows your system to acclimate gently to a new time zone without the shock of a long-haul flight.
8. No cooking and no cleaning for two weeks! Moreover, no decision fatigue even thinking about these things. The onboard staff, whether on a cruise ship or freighter, looks after your every need.
7. Cool ports of call – When will you otherwise visit places like the Azores, Bermuda, the Canary Islands, Gibraltar or St. Maarten?
6. All kinds of fun stuff – swimming pools, whirlpools, rock climbing, table tennis, mini-golf, trivia games, scavenger hunts, dance lessons, cooking classes, bumper cars, pickleball, surfing and even indoor skydiving! Modern cruise ships have come a long way since the days of shuffleboard and card rooms.
5. Fantastic food – from gourmet dining to casual fare, a wide array of food options is available to suit every taste. I love the complimentary room service breakfast!
4. Cool people – a great chance to meet and be served by people from all over the world. Your fellow passengers are a wealth of travel information with colorful stories to share.
3. Live music and Broadway-style shows – singers, dancers, magicians, comics, gymnasts and even ice skating shows! Bands, singers and karaoke stars entertain throughout the day in various venues. I personally enjoy the piano bar found on many cruise ships.
2. The romance of the sea itself – We have seen flying fish, double rainbows, spouting whales, cavorting dolphins, ocean sunfish, waterspouts, deep blue water, inky night skies and even a solar eclipse! These kinds of experiences are missed when rushing through airports.
1. Finally, sea travel provides one of those rare times we get as adults to just simply “be” in a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere. The days at sea are strangely empty, yet strangely full. As our world becomes more hectic and stressful each year, this kind of downtime is healthy, therapeutic and necessary.
1. “I’ll get seasick” – My wife is susceptible to seasickness yet has completed five sea crossings. There are medicines available to help with this, and frankly, we have never experienced rough weather even in hurricane season.
2. “I can’t afford the time” – Can you afford not to? We all need to create space away from the busy pace of life. Yes, this sometimes means taking a rest from the internet, too!
3. “I can’t afford the cost” – The price includes not only your transportation between Europe and America, but also food, lodging, entertainment and activities. Repositioning cruises cost as little as $50 per day. And keep in mind this experience is much different from a cramped airline seat.
4. “Aren’t there a lot of hidden extra costs?” – You will pay tips to the staff (about $14 per day), but they work very hard to serve you. However, if you avoid spending money on bar drinks, casino gambling and shore excursions there really are no hidden costs.
5. “I’ll get Covid” – We completed a crossing in 2022 with no issues. Cruise lines were hurt by the pandemic, so they have a strong interest in protecting passengers and avoiding another outbreak. Safety measures include required vaccinations and pre-boarding testing. Our ship even had touchless elevator buttons! The US-based CDC has retired its color-code system for cruise ship outbreaks.
The best deals are the spring repositioning cruises to Europe and the fall return journeys to the USA. For those unable to take time off during these shoulder seasons, there are reasonably priced one-week crossings on the Queen Mary 2. For the more adventurous, consider traveling by cargo ship!
I sincerely hope you will consider this travel option in the future, and when you go, I wish you fair winds, calm seas and joy on the journey.