I think that you are asking a very good question in a general sense, not because it would define a particular set of criteria for a universally suitable cruising boat but because it would provide a lot of insight into the various posters on these message boards. I say this because at the heart of your question is the question, ''What do you mean by cruiser?" These days people seem to define this term for themselves.
Traditionally, the term ''cruising'' was extremely broad and had simply indicated staying out long enough to sleep aboard. By that definition the term covered a very wide range of boats from weekenders to racer-creuisers to coastal cruisers to distance cruisers to offshore cruisers, with a wide range of nuances in between. I am not sure that is what you had in mind when you asked your question.
My view of the term is just that, my individual view, and it represents perhaps minority viewpoint of what cruising is about. In no way do I see my preferences as representing a superior form of cruising for anyone except myself. In my case, I am a near life long coastal cruiser. I have sailed offshore, and frankly I don''t enjoy it very much. I much prefer the challenges and changing scenery that comes with coastal cruising. I personally enjoy the diversity of the sailing experince that typically occurs even on a single day of coastal cruising as compared to the comparatively stable conditions offshore where you might sail in the same course in the same winds and weather for days (if not weeks) at a time.
I really value being able to voyage under sail, avoiding running the engine for days at a time, sailing into and out of docks or onto or off of the anchor
. I like poking into narrow creeks and other challenging places under sail. I live in an area where a little extra range can mean literally dozens of additional anchorages in a average day''s run. All of that means that sailing ability comes pretty much at the top of my list of criteria.
I sail in a wide range of conditions and my eventual goals for my boat is to cruise the Carribean and Europe, so seaworthiness and offshore capability was also high on my list. For that reason, I chose a boat that has an excellent short-handed offshore cruising record.
Good offshore berths, good storage, a good offshore galley and head were important. Lots of room, and wide berths, acres of teak, ''all of the comforts of home'' and all of the latest cruising amenities are not important to me.
Ease of handling single-handed and the ability to quickly adapt to changeable conditions was very important to me so I chose a fractional sloop rig
. I especially chose this rig
with offshore capability in mind.
Performance at the extremes was very important to me. Summer sailing on the Atlantic coast, where I have lived and sailed throughout my sailing carreer, tends to bring a lot of light air. Being able to sail well in light conditions means a lot more sailing days and a lot more hours sailing rather than motoring. (To me that is the greatest luxury of them all.) Similarly, when things turn dicey, there is no substitute for an seaworthy boat that can sail well or hove to when getting trashed. For that reason I chose a comparatively long boat for its displacement with a low drag fin keel and spade rudder.
Anyway, for those reasons I bought the Farr 11.6 (Farr 38) that is my current boat. If I had a larger budget there are other, more modern designed boats that I might have considered but the Farr 11.6 has worked extremely well for me.