As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of cruises. The idea of watching the world pass by from atop a floating high-rise hotel, visiting over-commercialized ports-of-call with thousands of fellow passengers in what feels like an invading tourist army, and sitting through sequin-encrusted musical revues just isn’t my idea of a good time.
Which makes it all the more surprising that I find myself drawn to these two remarkable “cruising” adventures. Though they differ in scale, both offer a chance to have true extraordinary experiences that go way beyond simply oohing-and-ahhing at the elaborate ice sculpture anchoring a traditional cruise ship’s midnight buffet:
While the region you’re traveling through is the most obvious attraction to any cruise, there’s a lot to be said for sailing aboard a ship that has its own unique appeal. Like the 439-foot Royal Clipper, for example. With its 42 sails unfurled from five masts, the world’s largest sailing ship is an imposing spectacle you’re not likely to see again anytime soon. And if feeling yourself being carried along by the power of the wind isn’t enough of an adventure for you, there’s the chance to visit distinctly less touristy destinations and try once-in-a-lifetime on-board activities like climbing up to the crow’s nest to enjoy the panoramic view.
While the idea of chartering a sailboat and island-hopping through the Caribbean sounds romantic in theory, from a practical perspective the lofty price tag and steep learning curve put the experience out of many people’s reach. Which is where the idea of being a crew member aboard one of the luxury sailboats that ply the waters of this yachter’s paradise comes in. While you’ll need some sailing experience for most paying gigs, there are a few boats that will take complete novices who are willing to pay a reasonable daily rate and invest a little sweat equity by raising sails and pitching in with a few chores. To learn more and get an idea of whether this affordable cruise ship alternative is right for you, check out this New York Times story of one such trip aboard the two-masted schooner S.V. Illusion.
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