Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

To Cruise or Not to Cruise

Harbor in Hvar, Croatia

How you travel is rarely given as much thought as where you travel to, but it is just as important to your overall experience! With interest in cruises on the rise, we've decided to highlight some of the unique benefits that set them apart from other modes of travel.

You'll see the sights, including ones you've never heard of
While planning a trip to another country, it can be tempting to rely on the tried and true tourist attractions rather than seek out the road less traveled. Cruises, by virtue of their geographical boundaries, give travelers a taste of what life in that country is truly like by focusing on local culture as well as “can’t miss” sites. A vacation in Peru, for example, would be incomplete without a visit to the historic Plaza Mayor, but docking at a small village along the Ucayali provides a more authentic glimpse into day-to-day life in the Amazon. A good cruise includes both types of experiences, creating a more holistic impression of the region and preparing you for any questions your friends may have. Speaking of...

The fjords of Bergen, Norway

You'll impress your friends with your newfound knowledge
Because so many cruises are built with a theme in mind, travelers have the opportunity to delve into a topic of interest while enjoying a more relaxed environment. Surveys have shown that people seek out educational experiences while traveling, indicating that relaxation should not preclude mental (or physical) stimuli. Whether experiencing chamber music in the Mediterranean or exploring flora and fauna in the Galapagos, cruises give travelers the chance to learn something new. Just remember your neighbors when practicing your new taiko drumming skills!

Oporto, Portugal

You'll feel right at home while broadening your cultural horizons
In contrast to other methods of travel, cruises provide a more even balance between immersion and reflection, allowing travelers to experience what a country has to offer without feeling overwhelmed by culture shock. Stepping outside your comfort zone (literally) can be a bit intimidating, so cruises are a great choice for uneasy travelers because they combine the freedom of exploration with a strong sense of community; that way you can travel to far-flung places without feeling too far from home. But don't take our word for it -- one of our very own travelers raved about her "joyous experience" along the Waterways of Holland and Belgium, gushing that "...the ship was a lovely 'base' and the leaders were all marvelous - and, I might add, we had a thoroughly delightful group of fellow travelers!" 

Still can’t decide if a cruise is right for you? Let our nautically-themed photo collection Full Steam Ahead help you!