Questo articolo fa parte della sezione: Tematiche turistiche.
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Le crociere sono un tipo di viaggio con alcuni sostanziali benefici... e svantaggi. Alcune persone le amano, alcune ne hanno un'avversione. Ma esse sono degne di considerazione, specialmente se viaggiare in generale appare troppo difficoltoso. Le crociere rendono facile visitare molti posti in un solo viaggio senza dover rifare ogni volta il bagaglio e dover sedere sopra un'automobile/treno/bus/aereo. La tua camera di hotel ti segue, e ogni volta provvede al tuo trasporto. Ti puoi addormentare a Cabo San Lucas e svegliarti a Puerto Vallarta, e questo è molto vantaggioso. I tipici itinerari limitano il tempo che si può spendere in ogni posto, normalmente mezza giornata, o poco più, di attività o visite. Possono anche includere una o più giorni in mare: un paradiso se ti godi un rilassante giornata in piscina, ma forse frustrante se si preferiscono esplorazioni più attive.
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La foto della nave ripresa dalla serie televisiva "Love Boat" non è particolarmente "irreale" (eccetto per l'eccesso di felicità allo sbarco e per la ciurma tutta americana), ma è piuttosto incompleta. Cruise ships come in many sizes and classes, from huge floating luxury hotels carrying thousands of passengers across the oceans, to cozy and modest craft with a dozen cabins navigating mid-sized rivers. Voyages may last several weeks or a few days, and cost anywhere from a few hundred US dollars to tens of thousands.
Cruise lines now actively cater to several different markets, including seniors, younger couples, singles, families... or even "all of the above" with grandparents, their children, and grandchildren traveling together. Many of the larger ships accommodate all kinds of travelers, with high-volume nightclubs, children's programs and play areas, quiet piano bars, and no-adults teen cafes tucked into one corner of the ship or another. Smaller ships tend to specialize; a family with pre-teen children probably wouldn't enjoy a cruise catering mostly to twentysomething singles, and a middle-aged gay couple might feel ill-at-ease on a ship full of retirees.
Le più conosciute destinazioni per le crociere sono i porti tropicali dei Caraibi o della Costa del Messico, ma le crociere possono essere fatte in ogni posto in cui c'è abbastanza acqua per far navigare una nave e città da visitare. Le navi da crociera di ogni stazza visitano le coste dell'Alaska, Scandinavia, Su-Est Asiatico, Est Asia, Europa Mediterranea, Australia, e New England; varie isole dell'Oceano Pacifico; fiumi navigabili e laghi dell'Europa, Cina, Brasile, Egitto, e Nord America; e numerosi altri posti. Anche le nuove destinazioni del Polo Nord e dell'Antartide.
Unless your ship's itinerary is confined to a single country, you need to prepare for a cruise like you would any other international trip, including passports. Some countries may have fewer restrictions on day visitors via cruise ship (e.g. waiving visa requirements), but check with the cruise line ahead of time, or risk having to stay on the boat while everyone else explores beautiful Freedonia.
Although cruise ships sail from an increasing number of cities, most people still have to fly to get to and from their port of departure. In keeping with their full-service business model, cruise lines generally will make airline arrangements for you if you want, notifying you with flight details 45-60 days ahead of the cruise. This leaves you with very little control and can mean inconvenient flight times or long flights to hubs with available connections. For an additional fee, say $50 per person, the cruise line will process a "deviation". This means you can specify what airline(s), times, even flight numbers you'll accept, and you are then notified of the price. Usually it is better to just book your own flights. Consider leaving for your port of departure a day ahead (particularly if threatened with possible winter weather delays), and use the time for sightseeing if all goes well.
At the cruise terminal, baggage is given to the porters for loading to the ship. They generally make it clear that they expect tips. Hand-carried items are scanned just like at an airport, then you make your way to a processing desk to provide identification and set up a shipboard charge account. From there it is a quick photograph and up the gangway. The buffet awaits you. If you're not hungry, it's a good time to walk about the ship and get oriented. Before sailing there will be a life boat drill which everyone must attend; cruise lines take this requirement seriously. It usually involves explaining emergency procedures and how to wear your life vest. Pay attention. You will be on the high seas. Don't blow the whistle on the life vest. You don't know who has blown it.
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You'll be surrounded by water you can't swim in, but rest assured that all but the smallest ships will have a swimming pool, and in all but the coldest regions there will be deck chairs aplenty to lie on. The pools won't be great for swimming laps, but some new ships are being equipped with small swim-against-the-current pools.
Without the legal restrictions imposed on land-based facilities, cruise ships routinely operate a casino. (Don't expect one on Disney Line cruises, however.) Las Vegas is also the model for cruise ship entertainment venues, featuring comedians, singing-and-dancing shows, magicians, first-run movies, etc.
A daily roster of activities is planned, particularly for days at sea. This is apt to include art auctions, bingo games, kitchen tours, port and shopping lectures, cruise enhancement lectures by naturalists, arts and crafts lessons, poolside contests, etc. Family-oriented cruises will usually have some age-specific activities geared to keep the kids and teens from getting hopelessly bored.
Most ships have a gym or health center complete with exercise machines. Sometimes there are instruction programs in things like Tai Chi at a small extra cost. Many people use the "promenade" deck – which usually loops around the ship around mid-decks – for walking or jogging, but these may have stairs that interrupt your rhythm, so a shorter jogging track might be available. Some ships find room for a putting green, golf simulator, or a basketball or tennis court (enclosed by ball-catching nets) on deck. Recently some new ships have been built with an ice rink, a rock climbing wall or a "surf park".
Spa facilities are a staple of cruise ships. Everything from massages to hairdressing to exotic health and beauty treatments are available at an extra price.
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.
For both convenience and to foster a casual-spending atmosphere, most large cruise ships run a "cashless" system in which they issue a card that you use to charge any on-ship expenses (except for gambling). Typically it is settled to a credit card, but can be settled in cash if a deposit is given.
One thing you may want to bring cash for is tipping the housekeeping and dining room staff at the end of the cruise. The cruise line will suggest "appropriate" amounts to tip each of these people; this is nominally optional, but is expected as part of their pay. Some major cruise lines, including Norwegian, Carnival, and Princess, now add the suggested amounts to passengers' shipboard accounts automatically, with the option to remove or adjust this figure as desired. Royal Caribbean has the option to do this in advance.
Cruise ships often take advantage of their "international" status to sell a variety of duty-free liquor and other items that would otherwise be subject to import taxes. They'll usually feature boutique stores, and of course a shop hawking cruise-branded souvenirs.