Great cruise ships

Getting there is better than being there.

Story: Joe Angione

If you’re like my wife and me, you’ve taken many ocean cruises to places like the islands of the Caribbean and European ports. However, our 23 cruises have left us rather jaded: After visiting these ports once, there was little reason to cruise there again.

Take the Caribbean. Popular ports like Grand Cayman, Curacao, Aruba, St. Thomas, and Cozumel have become little more than glorified souvenir bazaars filled with T-shirt and trinket shops selling stuff made anywhere but the port you’re in. After a couple of hours of looking for something worth buying, and not finding it, you’re back on your ship wondering why you ever got off.

God made only so many ports to visit. There’s nothing new under the sun to hold your interest. This has worried cruise lines for a long time. That’s why their newest ships are huge, eye-popping destinations in themselves.

Imagine recent additions like Carnival Cruise Lines’ AIDA Nova, weighing 184,000 tons with 23 decks to accommodate 6,600 passengers and entertain them in a 360-degree theater-in-the-round. In comparison, the storied Titanic was considered gigantic at just 48,000 tons.

Then there’s Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Bliss and Joy class ships at 167,000 tons each featuring staterooms for 4,000 passengers, a two-level car racing track, a huge, 3-D games video screen and a deck-long aqua park.

How about Royal Caribbean’s new Symphony of the Seas? At 260,000 tons and 1,180 feet long, the ship holds 6,000 passengers and is equipped with a globe that sends passengers soaring out over the ocean.

The latest additions to these cruise fleets are longer than an aircraft carrier, and some are even wider and weigh twice as much as an aircraft carrier. Most feature new high-energy adventures: rock-climbing walls, zip lines, ice skating rinks, basketball courts, flying and surfing simulators, miniature golf, full productions of hit Broadway musicals, even a performance of Cirque du Soleil on NCL Cruise Lines.

Big doings for today’s cruise passengers are much more than sweaty walks through portside souvenir shops or a few hours on a blazing hot beach. And onboard events aren’t centered around a few crowded pools and packed dining rooms offering predictable menus. The new ships let you select from nearly a dozen specialty restaurants and lots of intriguingly themed bars and lounges.

You may never want to step off these ships until your exciting cruise is over. 

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