No one I know spends more time on a cruise ship than Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of the popular cruise site Cruise Critic. And I know a lot of people. She’s been on more than 300 cruises, from the 6,100-passenger biggest ship ever to an 8-passenger barge that was only half-full. “These trips have included visits to a range of ports from the marquee places of St. Maarten and Barcelona to seriously off-the-grid Iquitos, in Peru, and Komodo, in Indonesia,” she say. In other words, if it floats, chances are she’s tried it. Brown started covering the cruise industry as a staff writer at The Washington Post and has freelanced for numerous publications in the U.S. and U.K., from Conde Nast Traveler to The Times.
What makes her the world’s smartest traveler? It’s her sense of balance. “People talk about it,” she says. “I’m always practicing travel balance, and it can be really tricky to do so on cruise ships, both onboard and in port.” On ships, especially the larger vessels, there are so many activities that it’s tempting to just run all day – and all night — from the spa to restaurants, from shops to casino, from informative lectures to evening concerts. “It can be exhausting and exhilarating,” she says. All of which brings us to her favorite travel tip: Often, the best activity on a busy trip is … rest. “Sometimes dinner and a movie – in the sanctity of your own cabin – is an excellent night in,” she says. And since cruise lines offer a nice range of free, in-stateroom meal service and movies-on-demand on the television, why not? Even better, if your balcony has a decent dining table (Princess and Celebrity are good here), an alfresco meal is delightful. “Onshore, vary your sightseeing regimen,” she adds. “If one port is an intense tour, spent soaking up history and culture, aim to have a beach or café day the next.” Sometimes, Brown just stays on the ship. With most of the other 2,000-plus passengers off on tours, it’s like having your own private resort. Great advice from the world’s smartest cruiser.
The World’s Smartest Traveler is a weekly series about the visionaries who inspire us to travel smarter. Its curator, Christopher Elliott, is the author of the upcoming book, How to Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic Books).