In my first two years as the travel editor of Town & Country, I logged more than a month sleeping on cruise ships. My conclusion: they are not for serious travelers and since I was an avid explorer, they were not for me. But last summer, I tried again and discovered that not only have my circumstances changed but so have cruise ships.
In fact, after a week with my two children aboard the Seabourn Spirit, sailing in Greece and the Dalmatian isles, I, the former anti-cruiser, wished that I could sail for another week or more. I also came to believe that if you choose the right itinerary -- and most important, the right ship -- a cruise can be a perfect solution for parents or grandparents who want to minimize travel stress without sacrificing an appetite for discovery.
One reason for my turnaround is that as a curious mom (traveling without my husband) and with two children in tow --aged 10 and 12--I could cover a lot of interesting destinations with minimal travel stress. When we arrived at the ship in Athens, we were met by a smiling team who whisked our bags to our cabins and welcomed us at customs with Champagne and orange juice. We were to visit four countries that week and only once did I present our passports or unpack our bags. Our itinerary included gems like the island of Corfu and the fortified coastal towns of Kotor and Dubrovnik, which would have required multiple flights and road trips to reach independently. Instead, we found on our pillows each night a write-up of the destination, and then, we would wake up already in port or sail in as we ate breakfast on our balcony. (One of the many thoughtful daily touches: Room-service would call after delivery to see if my son would like more pancakes.)
My kids who have complained about our trips to Europe involving too much "walking and learning" loved that they could opt out of the excursions to ancient churches or monasteries that I might wake up early to do and instead go into town for a "lighter" version of exploring to walk the fortress walls or just get ice cream. Seabourn offers a range of excursions so on Corfu, for instance, you could choose an ATV exploration, an island tour (with churches) or do as we did and get a private guide so we could combine a visit to the town that is known as Greece's Capri and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Corfu town with a few hours at Aqualand, Europe's biggest water park. My favorite stop was Dubrovnik, where I explored almost every corner in the walled city and got to scout the beautiful new Villa Dubrovnik hotel, while my children opted to spend part of the day in the kids' club with a handful of other kids their age under the supervision of two adorable teachers from England. Lucy and Pippa were like pied pipers coming up with T-shirt contests, fashion shows, games and movies to appeal to a gang of 10 to 14 year olds from Texas, South Carolina, New York and Geneva.
Their favorite day of the cruise was the one 'at sea', when we dropped anchor off of a remote cove in Croatia and the water sports deck was set up.
Read more plus who should cruise; how to pick the right itinerary and how to pick the right ship.
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