Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 22, 2017
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Sail Away

2000 was a record year for the cruise ship industry, with more than seven million people spending their vacations afloat. While some explored Baffin Island on an icebreaker, others floated down the Mississippi on a riverboat or relaxed in the Caribbean sun, sipping on Paradise Punch. But with so many ships, choosing the right one can be a nightmare. Our field guide will help you decide which vacation is right for you.

LARGE CRUISE SHIPS
With so many mega-liners fighting for dock space, it's no wonder the floating mall is the most popular category. Competing companies are desperate to get people on board, making discounts and low fares a staple of the industry. In fact, with the right deal, you can cruise for as low as $US100 a day. Besides, it's only once passengers are on board with their credit cards that the real spending begins.
Passenger count: Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas and explorer of the Seas both boast a passenger count of more than 3000 and include a skating rink and rock-climbing wall. Carnival Cruise's Celebration holds 1500 passengers; it has a more "intimate" atmosphere but the activities are scaled-down.
Amenities: Great activity centres for children and teenagers, fitness centres, spas, nightly entertainment and organized shore excursions.
Best for people who want: An action-filled vacation without ever stepping off the ship. These larger ships are your best bet if you've got kids.
Popular lines: Cunard, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa.

SMALL LUXURY CRUISE SHIPS
Because of their size and shorter passenger lists, vacationers tend to feel more pampered on these giant yacht-like vessels. But this luxury comes at a cost, one that sometimes exceeds $700 a day.
Passenger count: Radisson's Paul Gauguin holds 320 passengers and features a retractable marina; Seaborn's sea Goddess I holds 116 passengers and a crew of 90 -- a very high staff-to-guest ratio.
Amenities: Fitness and spa activities, single-seating dining, mostly outside cabins with balconies. The smaller passenger list generally means that the food is a lot better than the fare served on mega-liners.
Best for people who want: A long, relaxed vacation without the crowds. Popular lines: Radisson, Windstar, Seabourn, Silversea.

ICEBREAKERS
From the Arctic to Antarctica, you can see the world at its harshest from the safety of your icebreaker as it tackles pressure ridges and ice floes.
Passenger count: Between 40 and 150. American Museum of Natural History Discover Tours' Yamal follows polar bear migration routes and visits the north polar axis while giving lectures on global climate change, ocean acoustics and plate tectonics. TravelWild Expeditions recreates the quest for the Northwest Passage that began in the 16th century.
Amenities: Shore excursions by Zodiac or helicopter, lectures and information sessions.
Best for people who: Have daydreamed about being part of a Northern expedition. Popular lines: TravelWild Expeditions, Zegrahm Expeditions, American Museum of Natural History Discovery Tours.

SAILING SHIPS
Because of their size, these ships are able to visit the less touristy, more out-of-the-way ports of call and are often able to stay longer in port. In the Caribbean and Central America, the focus is on water sports and calling into the tiny islands that the big ships can't visit. While all ships have a full crew, some lines let passengers hoist or trim the sails or even take a turn at the helm. Most ships aren't real sailboats, but small cruise ships with motorized sails to increase speed.
Passenger count: Star Clippers' Royal Clipper holds 228 passengers and is a five-masted sailing ship with over 46000-square metres of sails. Windjammer Barefoot Cruise's fleet has a passenger capacity that ranges from 64 to 128. They offer specials in which kids aged six to 12 sail free when accompanied by both parents.
Amenities: Real sails that flap and flutter, retractable water sports platforms, relaxed on-board activities, long stays in port, great shore excursions.
Best for people who want: To sail and who don't need an extensive list of nightlife possibilities. Atmosphere varies greatly, from sophisticated to ultra-casual, based on the line.
Popular lines: Star Clippers, Windjammer Barefoot, Windstar.

RIVERBOATS
Barges and paddleboats run on big rivers in Egypt, China, the US and South America as well as major European rivers such as the Rhine, the Rhône and the Danube.
Passenger count: The Delta Queen Steamboat Company's American Queen is the world's largest paddlewheel steamboat. With room for 436 passengers, it cruises from New Orleans up the Mississippi and stops at plantations along the way. Riverboat Queen of Abu Simbel, part of Nabila Tours and Cruises of San Francisco's fleet, takes 134 passengers on four-night trips in Egypt's Lake Nasser.
Amenities: Nightly entertainment, fine cuisine and organized shore tours.
Best for people who want: To watch the shore glide by at riverboat speed.
Popular lines: Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Nabila Tours and Cruises, RiverBarge Excursion, Continental Waterways, Swan Hellenic Cruises, Regal China.

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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