Several hundred tonnes of floating luxury accommodates thousands of guests from anywhere between 4 to 30 days (and some go even longer), enabling an all-encompassing immersion in food, drink, and relaxation. Sounds like paradise, right? I have enjoyed many amazing moments on cruises, but I still find that the cruise life is not for everybody.
My childhood vacations were a mix of Disney and cruises (although not together in a Disney cruise). In my opinion, cruises have unfairly donned the mantle of a vacation for the elderly. Despite efforts to market cruises to younger people, there are inherent and perpetuating barriers for these journeys to be seen as unattractive towards a younger audience. While I don’t enjoy cruises as much as other forms of travel, I still see a huge appeal for this type of travel.
So, why should you consider cruising?
Cruises tend to be a very efficient use of your money, especially when considering $600 can get you a 7-day experience in an inside stateroom that includes delicious food, some well-thought entertainment, and passable accommodation. At under $100 per night, the rooms may be a little small, but very reasonable when considering all your meals are included. Of course, there are options to spend a little more for a more luxurious vacation, but you can have a great time with just the basic cost of a cruise. Note that you will probably spend more than $600 when factoring in tips, excursions and other expenses along the way, but the base cost is insanely low!
In a normal 7 day cruise, you will usually have 4 port-days where you have the option of leaving the boat to explore a port of call. This style of travel can allow you to visit up to 4 different countries in the span of a week, depending on the cruise route. The chosen ports are usually tourist-oriented, as they tend to be common stops for cruise lines. Organizing an excursion with the cruise or on land with a local tourism company gives you the opportunity to make the most of your port days.
Some of my memorable experiences include exploring a town on an ATV, a boat excursion, kayaking, dolphin encounters, and simply exploring a town by foot. Usually a port will offer a wide range of activities, so you can always find something to do. However, the important thing to keep in mind is to make it back to the boat; if not, a flight to your next port can be expensive.
On my first few cruises, I was amazed at the quality and range of the food offered. From lobster tails to steaks to crème brûlée, the dishes are usually generous and doused in flavor. There are many ways to satiate your inner foodie, aided by the 24 hour buffet lines and multiple dining options available on most floating vessels.
After a few cruises, I noticed that the types of dishes tended to be the same – which you may see on cruises longer than a week. The dishes seem to be on a set rotation, meaning that local cuisine rarely makes its way onto the boat (which is why you should try new food on port days). However, if you are considering taking your first cruise, food will definitely blow you away.
I still marvel at the outstanding ability of a cruise ship kitchen to provide food and service similar to a fancy restaurant to a few thousand people, especially out at sea. There is no way to find ingredients or extra hands to help when in the middle of the ocean. I can’t imagine how busy a cruise ship kitchen must be, especially with the constant output throughout a day.
There are intentional and unintentional elements that makes the atmosphere on a cruise ship the perfect place to relax. Being out in the open ocean with limited (and costly) wi-fi access and plugs, the constant buzzes and dings of technology are absent on floating hotels. Cell phones and computers are left in the stateroom, which leaves you lounging by a pool, enjoying a show or participating in one of the many onboard activities offered by the cruise line. There are no real schedules for you to follow, giving you a low-stress week of relaxation.
It may sound that I am bullish on cruises, but that’s where you would be sadly mistaken. I think taking one or two cruises in your lifetime would be a great experience, and it is a serviceable alternative to relaxing on a beach in Mexico or Hawaii, but I would not mistake a cruise for an adventure, and for me, travel is all about adventure. It is hard to explore a town in only one day, especially with the impending knowledge that you have to return to the ship on time. Your typical experience on land during a cruise is very touristy and there is a certain lack of appeal to have almost no control over making choices on a ship. Yes, it is relaxing, but at the expense of limiting your options.