By Victor Block
Civil War buffs Tom and Elaine Preston wander through reconstructed forts where a major battle of that conflict was fought. Betsy and Andy Cross follow a guide slogging through a dense rainforest. Lauren Davis and Jim Goodman enjoy an exciting Go-Kart track and exhilarating water slide.
As inviting as these disparate experiences are, they have something in common. All take place during cruises that appeal to people who are seeking something a bit different.
The Prestons are passengers on an American Cruise Lines boat sailing on the Mississippi River out of New Orleans. Along with the battlefield tour, they visit plantations and other sites along the way. On-board activities include informative lectures by historians and naturalists. The company offers river and coastal trips to 25 states. (800-460-4518 or americancruiselines.com)
Betsy and Andy Cross are exploring a very different locale. Their voyage aboard the Motor Yacht Tucano penetrates the vast Amazon rainforest which is home to some 15,000 species of wildlife. Launch rides and land hikes provide animal sightings and visits to isolated villages along the shoreline. The boat offers comfortable accommodations for up to 18 passengers. (800- 510-5999 or latinamericanescapes.com)
The Norwegian Cruise Line ship that Lauren Davis and Jim Goodman chose exemplifies the expanding choice of activities available at sea. Passengers may zip around a Go-kart track at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. The Ocean Loop water slide propels thrill seekers through a series of twists and turns including a transparent section that extends over the side of the vessel.
(866-234-7350 or ncl.com)
The choices are equally imaginative aboard some Royal Caribbean Cruises ships. If glow-in-the dark laser tag and bumper cars don’t provide enough excitement, there’s the highest slide at sea and simulated sky diving. (866- 562-7625 or royalcaribbean.com)
The pace is much slower on sailings touted as “Cruising with a purpose.” Craft Cruises specializes in planning voyages for people who share a penchant for knitting, crocheting and similar pastimes. Along with the usual cruise ship activities, they take classes from experts in their area of special interest. (877-972-7238 or craftcruises.com)
Learning opportunities aboard Maine windjammer boats focus upon nautical pursuits. Passengers may try their hand at steering, get instruction in navigation and participate in other sailing tasks. As they do, the graceful wind-powered tall ships sail along the picturesque coast of Maine. The 13 member vessels of the Maine Windjammer Association also offer special interest trips that focus upon themes ranging from whale watching and birding to chocolate and wine. (800-807-9463 or sailmainecoast.com)
Mother Nature’s formations dwarf boats that ply the calm water, which include everything from rowboats and kayaks to fishing craft and bamboo vessels. The ship that I called home for several days and nights, as part of a Myths and Mountains tour, replicated a traditional “junk,” yet provided very comfortable accommodations and served sumptuous buffet meals. (800-670-6984 or mythsandmountains.com)
Do you have time to go to sea for weeks or even months? Can you make do without the fancy, upscale amenities of a modern cruise ship? Are you happy as a member of a small group, rather than mingling with hundreds of other passengers?
If so, you may be a good candidate for freighter travel. A tiny percent of ocean-going vessels carry passengers along with cargo. They include container ships whose decks are laden with truck-size metal boxes, and general cargo carriers that transport an A (automotive parts) to Z (zucchini) alphabet of goods.
A good source of information and bookings is Maris, a freighter cruise specialist that operates a membership club which offers discounts on voyages and periodic newsletters. (800 – 996-2747 or freightercruises.com).
Another helpful contact is Stride Travel. It includes listings of river and small ship cruises among thousands of packages offered by hundreds of tour companies. (Stridetravel.com)