Having been on my fair share of cruises, (I honestly can’t remember how many), I can say I have definitely learned a lot over the years. Although I am no expert, I do have some advice on this style of vacationing.
I started cruising when I was a young child, probably around the age of 7 or 8 I believe. With so many positive memories, it is hard to say that cruising is not for me. But after recently having the chance to explore countries at a slower pace, and really be able to enjoy what each has to offer (food, customs, local people), I began wondering if I would still enjoy the whole cruise-style vacation.
That being said, cruising is not for everyone. Some love it, some hate it. But for those who love it, its a really great option. With millions of people cruising each year, it obviously has its benefits.
The Great Value: For those looking for an economical vacation, a cruise is a viable option. With so many amenities included in the price, including lodging (stateroom/cabin), (most) food, (most) activities, and entertainment, it sure is hard to pass up.
The never-ending supply of food: Pizza, fries, burgers, and ice cream available 24 hours a day, it makes it impossible to ever go hungry on a cruise. And since all the food has to be pre-planned and predetermined before heading off to sea, expect to see some interesting options on the menu: I’ve seen watermelon soup and honey do soup on the menu before. Being nearly impossible to accurately predict what all the cruise-goers will decide upon, the chefs have to use ingredients from last-nights dinner.
Only having to unpack once: This is by far one of my favorite things about a cruise. I, for one, HATE living out a of suitcase, and therefore, love to be able to unpack all my necessities in neat little organized drawers.
The option to see many different locations in a short time period: When else can you see 5 different exotic islands/coastal cities in only a matter of a week? Cruises provide those who want to see a lot with a great option, although time is limited on each.
The welcoming, friendly staff on board: With so many staff on board from different countries, it’s fun hearing their stories as how they started with the cruise line. Many have been so lucky to explore different parts of the world while working with the cruise line, and sometimes their insights are top-notch. Also, they want to make you as happy as can be, so expect to make some new friends while on board.
But of course, with so many positives, there are always comes:
The never-ending supply of food: Yes, I know, I listed this as a positive as well. But in reality, I view this abundance of food as both a positive and a negative. If you are like me, and most people I know, this supply of food can become a hindrance. Want to spend the rest of the night in your teeny tiny cabin because of a stomach ache from eating way too much? And trust me, it happens. Unless you are completely able to control yourself- but with fries, pizza, and burgers right by your lounge at the pool? It’s hard not to self-indulge.
Unless I’m the only fattie out there? (And don’t lie!)
The Small, Cramped Cabin: If you are looking for top-notch luxury, than an inside economy cabin (one with no windows, and also least expensive) on a cruise ship is not what you are looking for. Expect to pay a lot more for a tiny window and even more for a balcony. I remember climbing up the ladder to get to my top bunk like it was yesterday.
Less Than 24 Hours At Each Destination: Depending on the time of arrival, most cruises allow 7-8 hours at most at each port of call. This means less exploration time as most of your time will be on board the ship. Even worse, some ships arrive at destinations at weird times of day, either early morning or late at night when most attractions are closed.
You eat most of your meals on board the ship: Having all this “free” food available on the ship, most people wind up eating at least 2 meals here. Instead of trying the local, custom flavours from all those amazing ports of call you are visiting, you’ll be eating dinner in the dining room on the cruise ship. And most likely breakfast if you want something quick before disembarking. This also means you will have less of an option to immerse yourself in the culture and talk to locals.
At-Sea Days: This is more of a personal preference, but I would so much rather be out exploring than cooped on the cruise ship. Although, most popular cruise liners have plenty of activities on board the ship, including rock climbing, water slides, comedy shows, ping pong tables, and casinos, and some even have mini golf courses. But beware- chairs by the pool get crowded really fast, so be sure to grab your lounge chair early.
All the Hidden Fees: Not everything is included in the list-price of a cruise. Remember, taxes and other fees, including tips, disembarkation fees, and others exist, and can add up more quickly than you think. Also, while cruises seem to provide a lot, and they do, not all amenities are included. Fine restaurants, alcohol, massages, and other services are not included. Neither is soda. Just be prepared to spend more of your hard-earned money on the ship itself.
Difficulty staying connected: Internet is available on most cruise ships, but that luxury comes at a pretty hefty price. At about 75 cents a minute, the slow connection provided is ludicrous. And don’t even think about using your cell while on board. Rates are astronomical.
Some tips for stress-free cruising:
– pack light: the drawers available for use are quite small
– if you want to hang by the pool, get there early, as the lounge chairs fill up really quickly
– when booking shore excursions, look for outside companies on the island/port of call. They are usually rather easy to find (with tons of reviews on trip advisor), and less expensive as well.
– leave plenty of time in order to get back to the ship before disembarkation. They will not wait for you if you did not book a shore excursion through the cruise operator
– if your cruise is leaving from a port in which you need to fly to, book a flight at least one day in advance. The worries of your flight arriving late, or even worse, being cancelled, is stress you definitely don’t want before your vacation even starts.