Saturday, January 24, 2009

Guys & Cruises: The New Male H(e)aven

Men are finding that the cruise experience has them specifically in mind. Contrary to popular belief, guys and cruise travel can—and do—go together. While persuading one's husband, father or a male friend to take a vacation at sea may have been a challenge in the past, today’s cruises offer men of all ages plenty to do—with or without accompaniment by the women in their lives.

“Cruise lines today are pursuing male cruisers as never before, by creating new on board experiences previously unseen and targeted specifically with the men in mind” says Bob Levinstein, CEO of Cruise Compete, LLC. "At sea or in port, there's plenty to keep the male cruiser contented all day long, whether in “active mode” or simply relaxing by the pool or on the beach. It's easier than ever to get a man on a cruise because they are virtually guaranteed to have an unforgettable vacation."

Industry reports indicate men now account for nearly 45 percent of all cruise guests. The number of male-targeted activities offered by the cruise lines clearly reveals this ever-increasing appeal to men of all ages. Among them:

Fabulous Food “24/7”—It’s always “meal time” on a cruise ship. Casual buffets and bistro-style cafes offer light menu items, and ethnic specialty restaurants offer the reservations-only dining experience. Virtually all ships feature 24-hour pizzeria services and room service. The cruise lines also offer expansive menus for persons with special dietary restrictions. In many eateries, casual attire is welcome.

Hit the Gym—Want to continue that workout at sea? The cruise lines have terrific running tracks and state-of-the-art gyms/equipment. What better way to work off that sumptuous cruise cuisine than doing a few laps around a track atop the ship’s upper deck, breathing in that fresh sea air?

Tee It Up—Thought you couldn’t golf at sea? Men who prefer to hit the links rather than the pool or beach can indeed enjoy the game at sea. In addition to amazingly real, on-board computerized golf simulators, many cruise lines have expanded their stops at some of the world's most picturesque and challenging golf courses throughout the world.

Sun Time is Fun Time—Not everyone likes to bake in the sun all day, so the cruise lines have turned themselves into floating entertainment centers. The newest innovations include bowling alleys and Flowrider surfing pools. Virtually all of the major cruise ships already feature winding water slides, challenging rock-climbing walls, giant trampolines and ice skating rinks (sans hockey sticks and pucks), among other recreation amenities.

Private Islands—Many of the cruise lines utilize “private islands” to which only they (and their guests) have access. Their many amenities include beach and water sports, snorkeling, boat and kayak rentals, and hiking and sightseeing opportunities, to name but a few.

Experience Unique Adventure—Cruise travel offers countless opportunities for men looking for adventure. In addition to the private island opportunity described above, a number of cruise lines offer port excursions to fulfill active lifestyles guaranteed to raise everyone's adrenaline. Carnival Cruises take travelers to Belize on an unforgettable cave tubing and rain forest exploration tour. Those traveling with Celebrity Cruises to Alaska have the opportunity to experience a thrilling rain forest canopy and zip line adventure. Cruisers who “like it hot” may enjoy Norwegian Cruise Line's mesmerizing helicopter ride over Kilauea, the Earth's most active volcano. Crystal Cruises puts travelers who enjoy speed behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car in Monaco, with both on- and off-course instruction.

Pick Your Vice: Beer, Wine, or Cigar Bars—There is no shortage of bars on most cruise ships. International brewers showcase signature and specialty beers and sponsor special onboard beer-tasting parties for those of drinking age. For the more sophisticated palate, wine-tasting opportunities abound. Many cruise ships also feature cigar bars with an expansive assortment of stogies to choose from any time of the day or night. When in port, travelers are invited on special excursions to visit local pubs and brewers. For example, Carnival Cruises’ guests visiting Saint John, New Brunswick can sample their favorite Moosehead beer products and other specialty beers only available on Canada’s Atlantic seaboard.

Roll the Dice—For the “gambling man”, virtually all ocean cruise ships feature floating casinos (with the exception of Disney Cruise Lines). Popular games such as blackjack, roulette, poker, craps and slot machines test one's luck while passing the time. Note that the casinos only operate when the ship is at sea, or when local laws allow gaming in port. If an on-board casino is not enough, many cruise ports also feature land-based casinos. Veteran cruisers tell us that Royal Caribbean's newest ships feature the largest gaming areas.

Relaxation (Spa) Heaven—In the past, the health spas found on many cruise ships were filled almost exclusively with female guests. Times have changed, however, as more men are enjoying the luxurious pampering and ultimate relaxation afforded spa visitors. Renowned Steiner of London, the largest spa provider in the world, operates many of the spas at sea which now rival the very best land-based spas. It is not uncommon to see men enjoying massages, facials and pedicures. Additional services include aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, and thalassotherapy (seawater-based treatments). Herbal and seaweed wraps also are common among many spa guests.

Greatest Shows on Earth—Forget sappy lounge acts; they don’t exist aboard today's cruise ships. From Carnival's “Fiesta Latina and Far from Over: The 80s Musical Reviews”, to Royal Caribbean's “Invitation to Dance”, based on the popular Dancing with the Stars television show, the cruise lines are producing lavish new, multi-million dollar, special effects-laden entertainment extravaganzas. These Las Vegas-style productions are sure to please even the most discerning cruise travelers (and men with short attention spans).

As Cruise Compete's CEO Bob Levinstein puts it, “The cruise lines are offering a number of exceptional deals during 2009 and beyond on a variety of sailings to destinations around the globe. Cruise fares include accommodations, superb food all day and night, white-sand beaches, world-class golf, relaxing spas, gambling, adventure and quality entertainment and shows. Simply put, for an average of $50-$100/day, there is absolutely no better value out there."

Cruise Diva adds this advice: "Don't pay more for your cruise than your tablemates. CruiseCompete makes it easy to let independent agents compete to offer you the best deal." It's a quick and easy way to get the best deal on your cruise vacation. Avoid time-consuming shopping around and let travel agents compete for your business.

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