What do taking a vacation and being near the water have in common? They both make you not just happier, but healthier, too. Vacations can reduce stress, improve productivity, decrease burnout and even lower the risk of heart attack. More time spent near the water boosts physical and mental wellbeing as well — contributing to better brain health, enhanced physical activity and improved social interactions.
When you plan your next getaway, why not combine the healing powers of water with a good old-fashioned vacay and take your trip to the high seas? Here are three of the newest ways to experience the big, blue beyond.
For Trendsetters: Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages is on a mission “to make the cruise industry cool again,” says Fortune, and if you’re familiar with Sir Richard Branson’s other travel industry forays — Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Trains — you’ll be betting on his success here.
Branson cited the lack of a “really good adults-only cruise line” as a driving inspiration for the company’s first fleet of mid-sized ships catering to guests 18 and older with stunning workout spaces; serene spas; upscale salon services; elevated dining experiences; and trendy bars, lounges and party areas. Go all out with the fleet’s VIP RockStar Service, with a dedicated “wardrobe team,” ubercool RockStar Quarters, and access to private club Richard’s Rooftop.
World-renowned architecture and design firms Roman and Williams, Softroom, Concrete Amsterdam, and Design Research Studio merge contemporary, cosmopolitan sophistication with old-world homages to nautical tradition and, of course, plenty of Virgin’s signature red details.
With the newest fleet in the industry, Virgin Voyages is also at the cutting-edge of sustainability, with a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The fleet uses Climeon technology, which converts waste heat into clean electricity, serves only sustainably sourced seafood, and has banned single-use plastics. And when it’s time to thank the crew for that RockStar service, in lieu of tips, donations to ocean conservation partners are encouraged.
For Adventurers: National Geographic
Inspired by the experiences of the scientists, storytellers and adventurers who have explored the world for National Geographic for more than 130 years, National Geographic Expeditions gives travelers the chance to encounter the wonders of the world up close while learning from the experts. Choose from itineraries in more than 80 destinations across all seven continents and get access to remote places and a behind-the-scenes, close-up view of the work of National Geographic scientists and experts.
Sail the four-masted Sea Cloud along ancient shores of Sicily and Malta, visiting five UNESCO World Heritage sites, sipping wine in Marsala and dining in a castle in Taormina. Or, travel aboard the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet and explore Alaska’s Inside Passage, meeting members of the Alaska Whale Foundation and learning about whale behavior and conservation.
Beginning this summer, the newest addition to the fleet, the National Geographic Islander ll, begins year-round voyages to the Galápagos. The intimate, all-suite ship holds just 48 guests and carries a fleet of kayaks, paddleboards, a glass-bottom Zodiac and flotilla of Mark V Zodiacs for up-close exploration. The ship’s Science Hub includes an interactive video display and lab seating for a firsthand look at conservation and research in action, and Cabins for Conservation Suites welcome Galápagos community members, local and international researchers, educators and storytellers to bring additional expertise to guests.
Every trip with National Geographic gives back — each year, the National Geographic Society is funded in part by paid expeditions and awards more than 575 grants to scientists, educators, innovators and storytellers around the world who work to understand and protect the planet.
For Families: Disney Cruise Line
Perennial industry leader for family cruising Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Wish, set sail on her maiden voyage on July 14. The new vessel introduces a number of firsts for the fleet, from the first-ever Disney attraction at sea — a 760-foot aqua coaster, to a voyage-long, interactive family experience anchored in the ancient nautical tradition of wayfinding by starlight.
In addition to Broadway-style entertainment in the ship’s main theater, theatrical and cinematic dining experiences double as dinner shows — Anna, Elsa and the rest of the Frozen gang perform in a theater-in-the-round–inspired dining room during “Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure,” and some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest stars, including Brie Larson, Paul Rudd and Anthony Mackie reprise their MCU roles in “Avengers: Quantum Encounter.”
Star Wars fans can geek out in Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge, an out-of-this-world watering hole modeled after a sleek, luxurious lounge aboard a yacht-class space cruiser. Sip signature cocktails while taking in vistas of planets like Mustafar, Batuu and Coruscant from the bar’s space window.
Ninety percent of staterooms have an ocean view, and 900 rooms have the option to adjoin to accommodate larger families. Concierge staterooms and suites feature plussed offerings like walk-in closets, master bathrooms with rain showers, sweeping living areas and floor-to-ceiling ocean-view windows.
Disney Cruise Line is unmatched in its ability to accommodate both children and adults in dedicated spaces. Kids can plunge straight from the Wish’s opulent Grand Hall on a twisting slide into the kids-only Oceaneer Club, where they can flex their STEM skills by designing a rollercoaster in the Walt Disney Imagineering Lab, create art projects in Rapunzel’s Art Studio, and bring stories to life in Belle’s Library.
While kids are safely cared for in the club, parents can relax in the adults-only spaces that include pools and spas, an entertainment district and elevated dining by a three-Michelin-starred chef.
The Walt Disney Company has set ambitious environmental goals targeting net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for direct operations by 2030. Cruisers may witness some of this impact in action during their visit to Disney’s Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas that uses energy-saving solar arrays. Don’t miss the opportunity to snorkel among the island’s coral reefs, which have been restored by Disney Conservation Team Wildlife.
Brooke Geiger McDonald is the national content director for Make It Better Media Group. A Chicago native, she has worked for publications like O, The Oprah Magazine and SHAPE Magazine and her work has appeared in The Points Guy, Parents, TravelPulse, Attractions Magazine, Disney Food Blog, and more. Her favorite nonprofits to support include Give Kids the World Village and Shedd Aquarium. Follow her on Instagram @brookegmcdonald and Twitter @BrookeGMcDonald.