Q&A: Cruising Through Life

By Paul Gallant

Shelley Samycia loves to cruise. And with 97 cruises (and counting) under her belt, she has a very clear idea of what she enjoys most at sea. Cruising lets you explore many exotic destinations—while unpacking just once. “Plus, I get the VIP treatment from the wonderful crew,” says Shelley. “I also get to meet people from all over the world, many of whom share their interesting travel experiences and tips.”

Why cruising?
I watched The Love Boat on TV and thought, “This looks exciting.” So, in 1985, I set sail on the Island Princess to Mexico. It lived up to expectations—even if Captain Stubing was nowhere in sight. Back then, you could still throw streamers off the side of the ship like they did on TV. Later in my cruising life, I actually got to meet Stubing himself (Gavin MacLeod)—a youthful dream realized!

Do you have an all-time favourite destination?
Sailing around South America and onto Antarctica over New Year’s with my family. We spotted icebergs the size of buildings, penguins playing on ice flows and whales cresting in glacial waters. When we approached Antarctica, I was amazed at how serene the feeling was there—we spent peaceful days slowly sailing through calm channels.

Where should newbie cruisers start?
I recommend a seven- to 10-day Caribbean cruise during our winter or an Alaska sailing in summer. Both destinations are close to home and offer plentiful flight options. They’re also great for couples, families or multi-generational travel because there are numerous cruise lines to select from: small, mid-size or mega ships full of activities to please all ages.

And for more experienced cruisers?
I suggest a longer trip, more exotic sailings or river cruising. Look for a destination that has recently opened up as a cruise destination, such as Cambodia, Myanmar or India. It’s best to do long-distance itineraries sooner than later—as you get older, that 16-hour flight can take a toll. You want to be able to walk around to do everything that’s offered. Walking up 777 steps to Mount Popa in Myanmar? That is probably easier to do now than in 10 years.

Do you have a routine when you first step aboard?
If a ship has specialty dining, I’ll find out if they offer a reduced price on the first evening, which is often the case. Then I unpack as fast as I can so I can start enjoying. If it’s a new ship to me, I like to make my own way around to get familiar with it. I’ll find the jazz club, wine bar or that special nook that might be a nice place to sit and read the morning newsletter. Every morning of the cruise, I pickup the daily newsletter to highlight onboard activities I don’t want to miss. I also take it with me when I go ashore, as it lists contact info for the ship and port agents, should I need it.

What are you favourite ship activities?
Complimentary classes and guest lectures. Sometimes they’re not even about the destination. One time I was sailing from Singapore to Mumbai, and they had a guest lecturer from NASA. He had nothing to do with where we were going, or where we were stopping, but it was very interesting. On the flip- side, I also love just relaxing on my veranda and watching the world float by.

Have you planned your 100th cruise yet?
I’m hoping it will be this year and it will likely be a new destination—something off my bucket list, for sure!

Plan your cruise with an AMA Travel Cruise Specialist by calling 1-866-989-6594 or visiting AMATravel.ca/Cruises