It's the travel industry's fastest-growing sector: every year sees an increase in passenger numbers and in the fleet of cruise ships on the oceans and rivers of the world. Clearly all these people can't be wrong. But with so many types of cruise on offer, which one is right for you? Easy: just follow your role model.
This man can't keep still. Nor will you, on a narrowboat on an English canal. Yes, you're chugging quietly through English countryside at its most gorgeous (as well as in and out of the back doors of cities at their most ugly). There are swans and ducks, trees and humpbacked bridges, churches and pubs - many, many pubs. But you're going to be earning that pint: canal boating is full-on. At the very least, you'll be leaping on and off and hanging on to a rope; more likely, puffing up to the next lock, teetering along the top of the gate, and then winding and heaving for all you're worth to get it open, and closed again afterwards. Skippering sound easier? Try steering a 16m-long boat through a single gate and then holding it steady in the lock as the water surges in. Or negotiating a long, kinked tunnel in the dark with another boat coming towards you. Relaxing, it isn't. But fun, it most definitely is.
Richard E. Grant
The actor has wangled himself an enviable gig on TV inspecting and staying at the world's most opulent hotels. If he were to venture out on to the sea, you can be sure he would sign up for a Silversea cruise. Intimate and luxurious, every need anticipated and catered for, whims a specialty, this is ocean cruising for sybarites. Whether tootling through the Greek Islands, stopping off for baklava in colourful cafes and exploring marble ruins by donkey, or venturing into Alaska's ice fields, nosing up to immense glaciers, comfort and thoughtfulness are a given.
Alongside fewer than 500 like-minded souls, you can explore most bits of the planet while maintaining a standard of living that, back home, you can only dream about.
Food and travel: they're a well-established partnership this chef has exploited on our TV screens in many a series. You can get a taste (sorry) of that on a cruise along the Seine from Paris into deepest Normandy, sampling - or hoeing into - its famous four Cs. Camembert, cider, Calvados and crepes: add in a bit of salt-marsh lamb or grass-raised beef and what more could a foodie want? Six-hour rice pudding, perhaps, heavy on the cream, or rainbow macarons, lobster and oysters, butter by the slab, or being a rebel with Livarot or Pont l'Eveque cheeses? The Tapestry II has most of this on board, of course, if you can't bring yourself to leave your spacious suite ...
A lifetime's exposure to the sainted naturalist means that a cruise through the Galapagos Islands is impossible without an accompanying mental commentary in Sir David's hushed and measured voice. "With no fear of humans, marine iguanas lie in heaps on the path, sneezing salt through their nostrils." Filling in any gaps is the expert guide on board the Ocean Spray, an elegant catamaran filled with all sorts of luxuries including a Jacuzzi for warming up after a swim with turtles in the chilly Humboldt current. Gliding in the Zodiacs past sea lions and pelicans, beneath frigate birds and albatross, above whales and penguins, a Galapagos cruise is a rich and unforgettable experience.
The first explorer to circumnavigate Australia - and to use that name - super-cool Flinders had a cat as his travelling companion. You can follow in his intrepid wake through some of Aussie's most spectacular scenery with none of his equally spectacular disasters. The Kimberley Quest is called an exploration vessel, but only because it can poke around and into 700km of Western Australia's most remote coast, reef and river; not because it's rugged. Far from it: helicopter on the roof, jacuzzi on the foredeck, ample food and comfort below ... Flinders would be staggered. As will you, but mainly by the stunning beauty all around.
It's a different continent, but sailing into the distant headwaters of the Amazon, surrounded by vast expanses of rainforest, you can get an authentic Dr Livingstone experience on the Delfin II. Remoteness, isolated communities, weird wildlife, great river below, even greater sky above: all that's missing is Stanley with his deathless line. Oh, and any sort of deprivation. Delicious dinners beautifully presented, quantities of varnished wood, spacious cabins with panorama windows, expert guides, a well-stocked bar ... All this, plus twice-daily outings to spot three-toed sloths, caimans, pink dolphins and vultures, and fish for piranhas.