Today’s quiz: What is water? What is a boat? A ship? What is a cruise?

American – indeed Western – thinking generally relies on a logical premise that two different answers to the same question cannot both be correct. I must inform you that sometimes, even often, as it relates to travel, several answers or definitions can all be right.

If you vacation on the water, you might travel across the Atlantic on a 3,000-passenger luxury liner, cruise from town to town along the Seine with 120 other like-minded folks, or splash along on a Zodiac in the Galapagos.

Let’s start with the large ship, cruise experience. It all became popular with the “Love Boat” plying the western coast of North America from Alaska to Cabo San Lucas, on the ocean and on ABC-TV.

The Pacific Princess had it all – dining, wining, entertainment, pools, ports; the resort hotel that you traveled on, not traveled to. The experience still exists, larger than life – a floating resort with the added enticement of tourism.

The largest of today’s cruise ships can carry almost 10 times as many passengers as Captain Stubing’s ship. They are longer than, and almost as wide as, the world’s largest aircraft carrier. They boast ice skating rinks, zip lines, Las Vegas-style shows, gourmet restaurants, casinos, outdoor movies and even lawns.

All of this comes at starting prices as low as $80 to $85 per person per day, including just about everything but your gambling losses. Kids sharing the same room lower the per-person price.

That environment isn’t for all of us.

At the other end of the spectrum are the more intimate ocean-going liners. Carrying as few as 300 passengers, these ships might lack the big shows and flashy amenities, but they cater to the passenger in a way that is not possible on a mega-ship.

Obviously somewhat more expensive (from $125 to $200 per person, per day up to I-can’t-imagine-how-much), you’re likely to encounter a more refined experience, with entertainment based more on lectures and small ensemble music.

More to the point, however, is the ability of a small ship to access less traveled ports, with quick and easy debarkation at the port, and neighborliness. Neighborliness? With far fewer passengers, people are likely to get to know each other and develop relationships. These ships are less attractive for families with young children, but that might make them all the more attractive to others among us.

Take these extremes and consider all of the combinations in between – that’s an overview of ocean-going cruises today.

Keep on trippin’.

Despite more than five decades of travel, Stuart Blickstein still delights in finding new and exciting experiences. thepurposeful