Ford: Take a massive fancy hotel, make it float, and it adds up to one luxurious — if crowded — cruise vacation

Cruising can be a wonderful experience. It’s a great way to celebrate important occasions. I’m not knocking the method, only the scope

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Here’s today’s quiz: Locate one town with a population between 7,000 and 8,000. (Hint: there are four in Alberta.) Personally, among Banff, Drayton Valley (7,235), Innisfail (7,847) and Ponoka (7,518), I’d choose Banff and its 7,851 inhabitants as of 2016. Call it the lure of the near and familiar because it’s in Calgary’s backyard.

Next, find a place with 2,000 to 3,000 people. There are 15 Alberta towns in that category. By that criterion, I should choose either Crossfield (population 2,983 according to the last count, or Nanton, population 2,181) to round out the needed numbers.

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And, yes, there is a reason for the separate numbers. The larger group is the customer base; the smaller, the staff.

Today’s quiz is all about numbers and whether you are impressed and wooed by them, or repelled.

Once you have made those decisions, would you willingly vacation with your combination? Would you spend a week or so trapped in a container with them? How about going to a private island with a listed population of 38? Sound like fun?

Then welcome to the world’s largest ocean-going cruise ship, which boasts a passenger capacity of about 8,000 and a crew of around 2,000.

Even the most innumerate journalist can add those numbers to make 10,000 warm bodies on the same ship. At 365 metres long, it is just shorter than two Calgary Towers of 191 metres stacked end to end.

If the thought of such a gathering makes you recoil in horror, cross the Icon of the Seas off the bucket list. As of today, it should be docking at CocoCay, a private island in the Bahamas, owned by the cruise ship company. It offers a water park, zipline and shore excursions, including kayaking, parasailing and — no kidding — swimming with pigs. It would be logical to assume a typo on the website, but blinking and then rereading the list, it still comes up as pigs, not dolphins.

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Going on a cruise can be likened to checking into a fancy, full-service hotel, unpacking, settling in and letting the hotel take you places. Just imagine the Fairmont Banff Springs in graceful transit from Banff to Lake Louise to Jasper.

Cruising can be a wonderful experience. It’s a great way to celebrate important occasions. I’m not knocking the method, only the scope.

Just the enormity of putting so many people into what is essentially a floating skyscraper of 2,805 cabins, 20 decks, seven pools, nine whirlpools and six waterslides. If that seems over the top, the ship offers a private 2,523-square-foot multi-storied “townhouse,” with a private hot tub and fenced-in patio. And just for “fun” a slide from the second floor to the first.

This “luxury” is fully booked for the year. The price for what Business Insider calls a “floating mansion” that is larger than most New York apartments? A minimum of US$100,000 for a seven-day trip.

If wretched excess is your thing, consider this an advertisement for your ideal vacation.

When my mother wanted to independently “treat” her three children, she took me on a cruise through the Panama Canal in 1993. I was hooked. In 2004, I took my husband on a cruise to Alaska for his 70th birthday. A few years later, we joined his elder daughter and her husband on a Mexican Riviera cruise to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

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All were on different ships operated by different companies. The rule I’ve discovered through experience? The larger the ship, the more people it can carry and the more “competition” for the amenities offered on board.

The one cruise left on my bucket list is a European river cruise. I particularly like the advertisement that promises “no children and no casino.” It’s not that I’m against betting — I once won $1,500 on a trifecta at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto — it just seems so useless to pay to be on a ship on the open ocean and spend your days inside a casino throwing money away.

Real house rules: James Bond is a fantasy; elegance is an illusion and the house always wins.

If your answer to today’s numbers quiz is “sign me up,” the minimum cost for a seven-day trip in an inside stateroom is $1,820 per person — one assumes two to a room.

It will be a Costco-sized vacation.

Catherine Ford is a regular Herald columnist.

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