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Cruising by boat is a lifestyle that involves living full-time on a boat while traveling from place to place. Cruising generally refers to trips of a few days or more, and can extend to round-the-world voyages. Cruising is done on both sail and power boats, although sail predominates over longer distances, as ocean-worthy power boats are considerably more expensive.
Many cruisers are "long term" and travel for many years, the most adventurous circling the globe over a period of three to ten years. Many others take a year or two off from work and school for short trips and the chance to experience the cruising lifestyle.
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Further information on cruises
The most well-known destinations for cruise ships are tropical ports in the Caribbean or the Mexican Riviera, but cruises can be found almost anywhere there's a enough water to float a boat and cities to visit. Cruise ships of various sizes visit the coasts of Alaska, Scandinavia, South-East Asia, East Asia, Mediterranean Europe, Australia, and New England; various islands of the Pacific Ocean; navigable rivers and lakes of Europe, China, Brazil, Egypt, and North America; and numerous other places. Even the North Pole and Antarctica are now destinations.
The key advantage of a cruise ship is that it does the "getting around" for you. Large cruise ships may not be able to dock at all of the ports they visit, and instead have to anchor off-shore. Passengers going ashore are then transported to and from the ship by small boats called "tenders", in a process known ungrammatically as "tendering".
Instead of "floor" numbers, the decks on the ship may have fanciful names. You may find yourself referring frequently to the maps in the elevator and stairwell areas to figure out whether the Lido Deck is above or below the Promenade Deck. The biggest ships can be 15 or more decks deep (counting bars and whatnot perched above the pools), making even the most conscientious stairs-climber resort to the elevators from time to time.
The "shore excursions" office will usually offer a variety of sightseeing tours and organized activities such as scuba, snorkeling, kayaking, bicycling, and so forth at each port of call. These will often fill the majority of your day in port, leaving little time to explore on your own, and the cruise lines' commission can boost the price significantly over what you might spend by dealing directly with the locals. But they can be a great convenience compared to finding things to do and making arrangements yourself when you reach the dock, and also provide assurance in especially "entrepreneurial" locations that you won't be scammed. Another benefit is that the ship will wait if the tours they booked are not back on time, but probably won't wait for you if you are on your own. Popular shore excursions can fill up before you reach port - or even before you set sail - so it's a good idea to sign up online well in advance if you really have your heart set on swimming with dolphins or climbing on a glacier.
Some people experience queasiness on cruise ships. This is least likely on the largest vessels, but sensitive inner ears can sometimes react to even the imperceptibly slow and gentle rocking of a calm sea. Over the counter motion-sickness medications such as Dramamine usually help, but the drowsiness they cause make them impractical to use for the duration of a cruise. Transderm Scop is a prescription patch that's very effective. Some people find relief from special wristbands that stimulate pressure points that are believed to counteract the nausea of motion sickness.
Things to pack when going on a cruise ship:
underwear, socks, short-sleeved shirts, shorts, trousers, skirt, formal wear, windbreaker, swimsuit, travel alarm clock, sunglasses, sun screen, hat, aspirin, anti-diarrhea medicine, other basic medications, insurance, camera, film/memory card, notepad and pen for journal, handheld GPS unit and anything else you can think of.
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