People often ask me why I love cruises, even as they are often considered as “floating cesspools”. To that, I say, take some vitamins and then have some fun!! However, there are some negatives I’ve heard over the years, that I’d like to help you work through so you can feel good about booking that cruise next summer:
1)They can make you sick – let’s face it, anytime you are surrounded by large quantities of people in small areas, you run a risk of getting sick (yes airplanes I’m looking your way). Unfortunately, you’re bound to touch a banister or pool chair that was already touched by 50 other people, of which maybe 2 were sick. You need to be careful, and fortunately, cruise ships have made it easier for us ever since the Norovirus outbreaks threatened quite a few itineraries. Nowadays, you can’t even complete embarkation without a cruise employee spraying hand sanitizer on your hands. Then before entering the buffet, you get spritzed again. My humble suggestion? Bring Lysol wipes, and do a quick wipe down of the furniture, knobs, and especially, remote control in your cabin. If everyone did this, I bet we’d all be less sick, but at least you can remove some of the excess germs in your room. Why not also pop in an Airborne or other vitamins while you’re at it? Boost that immune system, and you may get off that cruise ship without so much as a sniffle. Also, be careful and try not to constantly touch your eyes and mouth with your hands. When I’m on a cruise, I make a conscious decision to keep my hands at my side unless I’m about to eat – you should too.
2)You are “stuck” on water for x days – depending on your itinerary, you may have up to 2-3 back to back days at sea. If you choose a Transatlantic or Pacific Islands (Hawaii/Australia) itinerary, you may even have 6-7 days at sea. Admittedly, this is not for everyone. After seeing nothing but water for 3-4 days you may get a bit stir-crazy, and we don’t want you to audition for Mutiny on the Bounty. My humble suggestion? First, you need to know yourself. If you are the kind of person that gets to the airport 20 minutes before a flight because you just want to walk right onto the airplane, then please don’t pick a cruise with more than 2 back to back days at sea. By day 3 you may have an issue. If you’re like me, and a little more patient, then there are 2 easy things that can makes these days fly by. First, thoroughly read the schedule of events you receive in your cabin each night. For days that you’re on land, these itineraries really only matter for meals and show times J But for days at sea, they truly become crucial! Depending on the ship, you can go rock climbing, surf, play in sport tournaments, watch new(er) movies, participate in scavenger hunts or trivia competitions, and even take bartending or cooking courses. Literally, the cruise companies don’t want you to be bored as they want your repeat business – so they go out of their way to ensure they stock up on tons of activities and games for adults and families to keep everyone engaged. Secondly, pack right and you’ll be ok. I love to find a chaise lounge in the shade and catch up on my James Patterson or Phillippa Gregory novels that I hadn’t read in a while. Sometimes, I’ll make sure that I load my iPad with my taped tv shows, and attempt to clear out my Tivo while I’m away. You can literally binge an entire season of a show that you’ve been waiting for over the course of 2 back to back days at sea (along with a few margaritas!)
3)You have to book a really expensive cruise excursion. So this is a pure myth. I think out of the last 8 times I’ve been cruising, I signed up for a cruise sponsored excursion once. My humble suggestion? Do your research in advance!! First off, cruise companies don’t have a monopoly on activities – most of the time, there are some activities at port that the cruise doesn’t even offer, that you can find for decent pricing if you did a little Tripadvisor search. For example, I’m headed on a cruise that visits San Juan, Puerto Rico, next week. After doing some research, I found a sailing excursion for a private tour around the bay for a very (very) fair price. This activity was not offered by the cruise line, but with a little research, I was able to find this option and best part? We won’t be with any other cruise passengers! Second tip, even if there is an activity that you want to do, don’t assume you should automatically do it via the cruise line. They severely upcharge every excursion, and most of them are offered by independent operators. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve independently booked the same tour offered by the cruise for 30-40% less, and some of these times, the tour operator will even pick you up from the cruise port. Not to mention that most of the time when you book separately, you’ll get a private tour, or one with only 1-2 other couples who are staying in the city and booked with the tour operator (no herding). The critical part is choosing a tour operator that has great reviews on Google or TripAdvisor, and reach out to them to ensure they understand cruise protocol, and that you have to get back to the ship by a set time. I’ve been cruising on a consistent basis for over 7 years, and we haven’t gotten left at port yet (knock on wood!) I don’t, however, recommend this option for folks who may have ambulatory issues or may otherwise be impeded in traveling, as cruise companies will not leave port if their own excursion parties have not returned yet. Thus, when you take a cruise sponsored tour – you can breathe a bit easier. However, you are definitely on your own if you book a tour independently (still worth it!)
4)The food isn’t great – We all know that I love to eat high quality, great tasting food. I am not about to tell you that the cruise dining rooms are underrated, because they aren’t. But I will tell you the following: 1)Did you really book a cruise because of the food? No. You likely booked a cruise because of the ports the cruise visits, or because it was a great, economically sound way to spend time with family/friends, etc. Keep focused on what’s important; 2)You can check out that night’s dining room menu around midday if you visit the exterior of the main dining room. If the menu suits you great! If not, then you can consider visiting a specialty restaurant. Many cruises now have specialty restaurants that focus on a particular cuisine – Asian Fusion, Italian, Steak/Seafood, French, etc. These restaurants are usually quite tasty, and the waiters go out of their way to ensure you feel as though you’re having a special dining experience. I don’t spend my money here all cruise long, but I like to sneak one night in when I’m not ecstatic about the main dining room options; and 3)eat when you’re at port. I always try to ensure that I carve out some time while we’re at port to eat in whatever city we’re visiting. I like to try the local cuisine, and when I head back on board, I’m no longer ravenous. Plus, in some ports, like throughout the Mediterranean, or in South East Asia, local cuisine is simply fabulous, and a must try! Thus, if the menu options aren’t amazing that night, I’m not devastated.
I hope this information was helpful for you! I’ll post an article on what my favorite cruise line is (and why) at a later date!!