In the United States, Columbus Day falls on the second Monday in October but many other countries celebrate the famous explorer on October 12th every year. That’s the day in 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived in the “New World” while searching for a shortcut to Asia. It’s a particularly special day for Americans of Italian descent and is celebrated in Little Italys around the country.
It took Columbus and his three ships almost three months to cross the Atlantic, but these days the journey can be accomplished in a matter of hours. But flying between the continents isn’t nearly as interesting as doing it the way Columbus did – by sea.
Cruising offers travelers a way to see the world without having to worry about organizing accommodation, meals and sightseeing excursions. You can partake in as much (or as little) of the on board entertainment as you want and can usually find your own spot on the ship to get away if you need a break from your fellow-passengers. Cruising isn’t for everyone, but if you want someone else to sweat the details, taking a cruise can be a lot more adventurous (and cooler) than you might think.
Here are some unique ways to sail the seas just a little more comfortably than the crews of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.
Weird and Wonderful Destinations
Cruising the Mediterranean can be a little like a History 101 lesson that lets you take a quick look at the famous sites but doesn’t give you enough time to really appreciate what you’re seeing. If you’re going to try cruising, look for companies that specialize in out of the way destinations where getting there is as exciting as arriving. How about sailing to Arctic waters from Norway on a cruise where the sun never sets? There are even tours that will take you all the way to the North Pole. Or you can try the other end of the planet, heading out from the tip of South America on an Antarctic adventure. Think Newfoundland instead of British Columbia or the Amazon instead of the Nile. Before you write off cruising as a floating buffet through Europe’s hot spots, be sure to check what else is out there.
Boarding Open Only to Millennials
A common stereotype about cruise ships is that they’re basically floating hotels full of wealthy seniors looking for a break from the retirement home. Not so. Several cruise companies limit their passengers to the under 40 crowd and provide facilities and services that appeal to a younger demographic. Classy rooms, international food with vegan options, and excursions that let you actually do something as opposed to being a passive observer. Climbing, paragliding, sea kayaking and SUP boards are just some of the options mixed in with the usual shopping and sightseeing. And the entertainment isn’t confined to magicians and cover bands.
Small is Grand
When most people think of cruise ships, they picture 12-storey behemoths that hold thousands of passengers and are basically floating resorts. Those are certainly out there, but there’s another side to cruising that appeals to those that prefer adventure over amenities. River cruises use smaller ships, and many only hold a couple of dozen passengers. Just about anywhere you can go on a big ship can also be reached with a small one, so don’t think you have to take an elevator to breakfast just because you’re on a cruise. Many companies operate with sailing ships, historic canal barges, and even purpose-restored tug boats to offer their guests a more intimate, personal and relaxing experience. If owning a luxury yacht isn’t quite in your income bracket, you’d be surprised at how accessible renting one with a group can be when compared to paying full fare on a more traditional cruise.
Wherever you find yourself this Columbus Day, take a moment to consider the thrill of seeing a coastline from the deck of a ship - and wonder how those early explorers ever made it, navigating by the stars.
Happy Columbus Day!