From the Mediterranean to the Mekong, Hawaii to Hong Kong, I've been there by cruise ship, the best way to go. But, like many other aficionados, I've worried about safety since the tragic capsizing of the Costa Concordia in January. While such accidents are rare, it's reassuring that the cruise industry has enhanced its safety measures.
New safety rules
Get ready for change when you step on board. New rules now require
*Cruise ships to carry more lifejackets than passengers on board
*Most cruise lines to conduct mandatory emergency drills before the ship leaves port
*Navigational crews to stick to planned routes
I dislike putting on that bulky life jacket, but a few minutes of inconvenience may save lives in an emergency. Besides, cruise lines are now kicking off passengers who fail to attend the lifeboat drill. So don't even think of skipping it!
If you're still indecisive about booking a cruise, maybe one of the promotions or upgrades being offered this summer will get you on the gangplank. Cruise lines are eager and ready to tell you about new trends, ships and amenities.
Do you love being the first to experience new things? You're in luck: 13 new ships launch in 2012. The building boom is particularly strong in river cruising. Think of a small boutique hotel instead of a flashy Las Vegas resort — what I'm reminded of on an ocean cruise. With only 150 or so passengers, a river cruise quickly becomes a trip among friends where "everybody knows your name," to borrow the slogan from Cheers. And I guarantee you won't miss a casino or elaborate entertainment; river cruises keep you too busy exploring towns and villages, wineries, cathedrals and museums along the way.
For some of my favorite river cruises, I've barely left the mainland. In the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia and Snake rivers wind past dramatic gorges and Native American salmon fishing platforms. In the South, beautiful and poignant plantations line the Mississippi River, where paddle wheelers have recently returned.
If you want to go much more beyond our shores, in Europe there's nothing quite like seeing the castles, vineyards and enchanting landscapes of the Danube, Rhone and Seine. The Douro River provides a scenic route through Portugal, Spain and the world's oldest wine-growing region. River cruising in even more exotic destinations in Asia, Africa and the Amazon are still on my bucket list, though.