Vacation and travel are not necessarily the same thing. Vacation comes from vacare, to be unoccupied, and it’s about heroic relaxation. Travel comes from travailen, to strive or journey, and it’s about awesome adventures. The happy meeting place for these sometimes antithetical activities is a cruise ship.
If it’s relaxation you want, the typical ocean liner offers swimming pools, spa facilities, scrumptious food, and perhaps too many ways to slake your thirst: You might find a piano bar, an ice bar, a martini bar, and even a bar where the drinks are made by robots. No matter how many places the itinerary includes, you only have to unpack once.
For adventure, cruise ships pull into more than 1,000 ports spread across the world’s continents. They give you access to zip lines, bumper cars, and skydiving simulators—and that’s just on board. Disembark and you can fish for king salmon in Alaska, ride a gondola along the Grand Canal in Venice, or feed stingrays in Grand Cayman.
And for all the intoxicating amenities, the biggest luxury may be a simple one—the chance to stretch out on a deck chair and watch the light shimmer on the water as you sail to your next destination.—Bruce Anderson