What’s with all the hype surrounding cruises? To answer that right away, I’ll simply say that cruises are worthy of all of the hype that they recieve. First, let’s look at the concerns that arise in many people’s mind when they think of a cruise.
1. ‘I want to travel, not sit in a stupid boat.’
Many people are attracted to the locations of a cruise. However, the fact that you only are at port for several hours to one full day takes away from the excitement of travelling. Many are worried that they are simply paying to pass through, and they would rather spend time exploring and (very briefly) living in the country of their choice.
2. ‘I don’t want to be cramped on a boat for a week.’
The idea of being stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean does not sound too enticing. You may be worried about sinking, getting seasick, being ‘trapped’, becoming bored, and countless other things.
3. ‘This is gonna be boring!’
I was thoroughly fearful that there would be not much more to do on the boat except tan (something that I, as a black man, did not need), swim, and drink.
The above concerns should give you an idea of the common concerns that people have when thinking about a cruise. More than likely, you’ve had some of these concerns. The good news is that the cruise vacation succesfully responds to these issues, and here’s how:
The main reason that cruises are so succesful is that the boat itself is amazing. I’m confident that if the boat was not in top condition and with top features, the cruise as a whole would fail. It’s simply that important. And the reason for it’s importance should be fairly obvious: you are spending the majority of your week (or two weeks) on the boat. This is the prime reason that a person who really wants to travel and explore places can stilli have a lot of fun on a cruise. The cruise designers design the boat and it’s activities in such a way that people won’t want to leave (or if they do, they won’t be dissapointed when it’s time to leave the port). As an avid travel-enthusiast myself, I was not too thrilled at the idea of a cruise. My thought process was that I would be on the boat for the majority of the time, and although we might dock at Antigua, St. Thomas, Nassau, Puerto Rico, and Haiti, I would only be there for a few hours. Only on certain longer cruises will you actually stay at a port for multiple days, and on caribbean cruises, you’ll be at sea for the majority of the time. As I said, I was not happy at all with this. I wanted to stay in a caribbean hotel; explore an island and get the most of it; go to several beaches…
The fact is that on a cruise, you are paying for the cruise experience. If you do sipmly want to travel and experience a specific place, then by all means you should do it. I certainly wasn’t satisfied in that respect on my cruise. But, just because I did want to travel and see other countries, that does not mean that I ‘clash’ with cruising. At some point, the traveller must just accept that he is on the trip for the cruise, and not for the country. As surprising as it may sound, after a day on the boat, you may not want to get off.
Most cruise ships (the good ones, anyways) will be like a small city. In this way, the cruise manages to solve concerns of both boredom and being cramped. Despite the look of the exterior, cruise ships seem unbelievably bigger on the inside. While getting lost is not likely going to be a problem once you are used to the ship, feeling pressed for space just isn’t an issue. In fact, the only cramped areas I could find were the actual cabins. Perhaps they felt so small so that people would be encouraged to be active and move about.
Seasickness is another big concern….but it shouldn’t be. Unless passing through stormy waters (which you’ll likely only experience in hurricane season in the Caribbean), the ride will be smooth, silent, and relaxing. I personally didn’t even notice when the ship began moving from ports, and you only feel the slightest rocking when you are still, perhaps while laying down to sleep. However, the effect isn’t one of sickness, but rather of relaxation. You’ll be rocked to sleep.
Sinking, although it can always happen (as the Titanic succesfully proved) is not an issue. Ships are all stocked with more than enough lifeboats to accomodate passengers, and you’ll often be relatively close to port and other ships. Disasters are unexpected and can happen, but modern cruise-ship disasters are just particularly rare. All I can say is ‘don’t worry about it’.
The city-like feel of the ship’s interior means that if you are bored on the ship, you must be bored in most other places. In fact, a good cruise will have more things to do than many cities might have. Aside from the vast amount of static activities and places, cruises will offer daily/nightly specials, such as live shows, events, and port-related activities. Port-related activities on a carribean cruise for instance may be scuba diving lessons (done on the boat and then finished off at a port), boat excursions, tours both on land and in the water, and unique things that most might not even think of. Specifically, there was one activity in which people would put on a special diving helmet and be sent on a guided tour through the water. Of course, once you get into the actual ports you can do whatever you please. But don’t be surprised if the cruise sponsored activities turn out to be more fun.
Non-cruise sponsered activities usually entail walking or taking a cab. The caribbean islands are particularly tourist-friendly, as the islands are popular cruiseship ports. During ‘cruise season’ as natives call it, you’ll find plenty of street vendors (all of which were trustworthy and friendly in my experience), shops, and cabs. If you are on a caribbean cruise, you should definitely hire a cab and head to the beach. The beaches are simply amazing, with warm water, beautiful mountains and hills, and wonderful underwater life. If you find yourself on St. Thomas, ask for Koki Beach.
Extreme accomdation and extreme relaxation are why I was always happy to be on the boat. A good cruise will provide an atmosphere of luxury and service that most have never experienced in their life. My cruise (Royal Carribean cruiseline, by the way) had basketball courts, theaters, an ice-skating rink, swimming pools, bars, clubs (for both adults and youth), stores, restaurants catering to all tastes in foods, a cafeteria, an exercise center, a library, a spa, and even a rock-climbing wall. People who enjoy staying active had more than enough to do, and by the same token, those who like to relax had plenty to do to relax. Hot tubs, books, spas, deck chairs, and a beautiful view were the main relaxation activities.
The level of accomodation on a good cruise is simply astounding. My suite was constantly being attended to. There were two daily cleanings, and every night there would be some new snack item. Daily agendas and news were posted in our rooms, and there was an excellent all-night room service that came at no additional charge.
Of course, all cruises are not going to be the same. Every cruiseline, and every particular cruise offers a different experience. The level of accomodation for example can simply depend on your assigned server (on my specific cruise there was a server who was in charge of our room cleaning and dining hall table), or the general services of the cruise. The best advice I can give to someone interested in a cruise is to do research. The only line I have travelled on is Royal Carribbean. As can probably tell from my enthusiasm, I enjoyed it very much. When I’ve looked at reviews of the same line, I’ve seen both negative and positive reviews, which further enforce the idea that each cruise is a unique experience. However, I would feel safe saying that most of the common concerns that potential cruisers have are never realized. Take the risk, because chances are it will be one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of your life.