Various cruise lines have been making headlines lately, and mostly for all the wrong reasons. From the Costa Concordia disaster to all the bad press about Carnival cruise ships, it might make some people reconsider cruising on a resort ship for their next vacation.
But the truth is, taking a cruise is a lot like flying. You always hear about the isolated incidents where planes crash or ships sink – but the thousands and thousands of flights and cruises that go off without a hitch each year, quietly go unnoticed.
I actually have mixed feelings about cruising. There are things I absolutely love about the experience, and there are things I could do without. We recently returned from a week on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas on a tour of the Southern Caribbean. And although we travel often, this was only our second cruise ship experience – the first being another Southern Caribbean cruise with Princess a few years back.
Now, I know people who do nothing but take cruises when it comes to vacationing. But for me, I have very specific reasons why I like occasionally throwing a cruise into the travel mix. So just in case you are considering taking a cruise for the first time, I am going to share with you what I personally feel are the pros and cons of the cruise ship experience.
1. Probably the number one reason I like to go on cruises is the chance to see several different destinations on one trip. On our recent RC cruise, we had five stops on our itinerary – and two of the stops were first time visits for us to these particular islands. It’s just an excellent opportunity to scope out various travel destinations without committing to a full week or more in one spot, only to be disappointed with the experience.
Case in point – we were able to visit St. Lucia and Barbados for the first time. I loved St. Lucia for the breathtaking scenery, but as a beach guy and avid snorkeler, I would lean towards revisiting the white sand and pristine waters of Barbados instead. We had a similar experience on our previous cruise discovering the incredible islands of Bonaire and Grenada. All three of these islands are now on my radar for week long visits in the future.
2. If you haven’t been on a cruise ship before (especially a large and well equipped behemoth like Adventure of the Seas) – you will likely be taken aback by the wide range of amenities offered. Spread over numerous decks, there is something for everyone.
From swimming pools, basketball courts, rock climbing walls, roller blading tracks and ice rinks (yes – ice rinks), to a sprawling gym and spa – there are absolutely no excuses for not being active while on your cruise. The range of activities offered exceeded some of the “on land” all-inclusive resorts I have visited. Truly exceptional.
3. And after a long day of island hopping excursions and ship activities, you can look forward to some pretty impressive entertainment. Again, I think of a cruise ship as a floating all-inclusive resort (not quite all-inclusive…I will touch on that when I discuss the Cons). And compared to many of the shows I have caught at island resorts, the cruise ship entertainment seems to be considerably a cut above.
The singers, dancers and specialty performers like comedians and magicians would hold their own on any Vegas stage. And the venues are top-notch too. Plush seats in an upscale theatre with balconies no less. Its very easy to forget you are out at sea! And if you are a gambler – there’s a fully outfitted casino for you to try your luck. Fun, fun and more fun!
4. And finally, no discussion about the cruise ship experience would be complete without mentioning the food! I remember in my early 20s being “under the influence” in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, stumbling around an all-inclusive resort looking for snacks at 1:00am. Some jokester hollered at me…”come on mon, what do you think this is, a cruise ship!”
Indeed, food is plentiful at all hours of the day and night while cruising. And the quality is pretty darn outstanding. I actually debated putting this point on the Cons list. You are pretty much guaranteed to gain double digit poundage after a week of cruising. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll love doing it. The cursing and regrets come later when you try to put on the pants you were wearing when you left on your trip.
1. The opportunity to see so many fabulous destinations comes at a price. And a pretty big one at that. Even with the bad press as of late and some cruise lines dropping prices to entice people to come aboard, cruises are still pretty expensive.
For my little family of three, I generally try to keep our week long Caribbean vacations around the $4K neighbourhood. For our cruises, these vacation have both topped $7K each. When you include the flight (to San Juan in both cases for us), the cruise, the cost of the island excursions and if you enjoy libations like we do – the extra cost for alcohol not included in your “all-inclusive” package, your tab can quickly escalate.
2. Most people go on vacation to get away from the hustle and bustle of their every day personal and professional lives. And relaxation is a big part of that. For me, cruising is anything but relaxing – I generally need a vacation from my vacation when I get back. I suppose if you wanted, you could lounge around the pool for your whole cruise vacation, but that kind of defeats the purpose of going on a cruise.
There is just so much to do and you are at a different destination each and every day. We always end up squeezing in so much at each stop that we are pretty exhausted come night fall. This hectic schedule seems to make the vacation absolutely fly by – which is obviously not a good thing.
3. Finally, the one thing I always seem to struggle with on cruises is the fact that you are on a cruise ship. The rooms are notoriously small and the rocking with the waves is very noticeable. Lucky for us, we don’t have issues with motion sickness, but plenty of people can be seen walking around wearing their trusty Gravol patches. And no matter how big the ship is, you are still stuck with a defined amount of area for a good portion of your trip.
Even our suite with a balcony felt pretty tight for the three of us. And do yourself a favour – get an outside room with a balcony. How people can choose an inside room with no windows is beyond me. In my mind, its well worth the extra cost to have a balcony. Nothing beats sitting outside as the cruise ship leaves or enters ports or is out at sea. Very relaxing indeed. You may think you won’t spend much time in your room – but you do. You go to bed there, you wake up there, you get ready for excursions there, get dressed for meals there, etc. etc. The balcony is some very welcome extra square footage, with fresh air to boot.
Hopefully, my personal and likely biased insights on the cruise experience are helpful when planning your next vacation. Overall, there is much more good than bad. We will continue to take the odd cruise here and there – nothing beats being taxied from one Caribbean island to another in pretty posh surroundings. For now, back to the cage.