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Travel Debate: Should You Take a Cruise?

September 30, 2009

blog_author_bar_darren

Should you take a cruise?  That answer is simple… YES!  Then again, if it were only that simple, right?  People’s most frequent reason for not cruising is almost always financial but there are also other worries about food, destinations and illness.  I’ve been fortunate to have cruised a good amount in my lifetime (enough to make myself a Platinum Princess Cruises member, ooh la la) so I’m going to address the common concerns about cruising and breakdown why you should go regardless.

I’d love to go on a cruise but it costs way too much.

Firstly, if you are reading this blog then you most likely have a passion or interest in travel; therefore, like with anything else you’re passionate about, you find ways to make it happen.  Secondly, cruising being a luxury only for the wealthy is a myth of the past, back when the costs of an enjoyable cruise far outweighed the average income of that time; however, today’s prices are relatively much more reasonable, not to mention you have many more financial options.  Cruise lines such as Carnival offer great values where you can enjoy a vacation for just over $100 a day while other lines such as Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are a little more high end, but still starting at around $200 a day.  Breaking down the overall price to how much you’re paying a day is the secret to realizing the value of cruising.  That daily couple hundred of dollars covers your transportation, accommodations and food, not to mention all the activities aboard the ship.  Compare everything you’re getting to how much you would spend daily on a typical vacation between hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc. and you most likely would reach or exceed the cost of your cruise, so why not enjoy a trip where that money also buys you the indulgences only found on a cruise such as customer service and the freedom of not having to find places to eat or even things to do.  In the end, a cruise doesn’t really cost much more than any other vacation you may go on.

What if I don’t like the food and then I’m stuck having to eat it every day?

If you browse reviews of cruise dining, you’ll always find a few bad apples.  In my many voyages, I’ve yet to encounter a dining experience that was anything less than good.  There are many ways to go about eating aboard a cruise ship and it’s this abundance of options that makes eating on a cruise something to enjoy rather than dread.  Keep in mind that as with anything you get what you pay for, so the higher end cruise lines will most likely offer a better range of fare; however, for the most part you’ll always find a main dining room, buffet, room service and then several specialty places to eat such as pizzerias and ice cream shops.  The best thing about eating on a cruise though is if you don’t like it, you can always send it back and order something else.  Your dining experience is prepaid so don’t feel handcuffed when at dinner and order whatever looks good – even if it’s more than you can eat!  The whole point of cruising is self-indulgence and the dinner table is one of the places on a cruise ship where it’s encouraged the most.

I can’t find a cruise where I like all the ports of call.  I don’t want to spend money on places I don’t want to go.

I don’t recall ever taking a cruise where I was excited about every single port of call.  Naturally, whenever one is given an array of choices they will find themselves drawn to one more than the other and the same goes with your cruise’s destinations; however, I can strongly say that no matter my excitement level before stepping foot on to land, I have never been disappointed with any port of call after I have visited…. never… not once.

Not every port of call is a lush paradise or filled with historic landmarks, sometimes they can be a poverty torn shanty town that thrives solely on the visitation of cruise ships, but this does not mean these destinations don’t have something to offer.  Two of my favorite land excursions from past cruises took place on stops such as these: Dominica and Caracas, Venezuela.  In Dominica I floated through a rainforest along a river that featured small rapids and hot springs, while in Caracas I played around in a pool with dolphins for an hour.  Both experiences were extraordinary and perhaps the fact that they were like diamonds in the rough made them all the more special, so do not discount seemingly undesirable stops.

Don’t people always get sick and spread illness on cruise ships?

I would say that on half of the cruises I have been on, there has always been a night when I’d return to my stateroom to find a ship wide issued pamphlet stating how the “Norwalk Virus (the stomach flu)” has been discovered on board.  This is often followed by frequent encouragement from staff to wash your hands and sometimes requires those who work around food to wear masks – all of which are simply precautions.  I am not saying any of this to scare you, I’m merely stating that this is a regular and normal practice on cruise ships.  A case of the stomach flu might only be detected in a handful of the 3,000 passengers on board but cruise lines are quick and efficient to nip a problem in the butt before it spreads, thus they issue warnings.  So wash your hands, take a couple more preventative measures to not get sick and then just enjoy your cruise!

Okay, so now I’m considering cruising, how do I pick the best cruise for me?

When I search for cruises, I evaluate my options by the following criteria: price, ship and destinations.

First, figure out your price range but keep it flexible.  The worst thing you can do is limit yourself to a cost because  you may pay less to sail on Carnival but the extra few hundred you spend on Royal Caribbean may mean you have more amenities at your disposal.  When your financially determining your cruise, you have to think about getting bang for your buck rather than overall cost.

Second, hit the Internet and look at the various cruise lines available (Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Carnival are the most popular).  Besides the cruise line, remember that you are living, sleeping and eating on this ship a lot, so pick one you’ll actually want to spend time on.  Not every ship in a line’s fleet is the same.  For example, I find Princess to be a very good cruise line but the quality of their newer ships far exceeds that of their older vessels.

Lastly, pick a cruise with an itinerary that not only excites you but peaks your curiosity.  Familiarize yourself with the ports of call offered before discounting them just because you may not know much about them.  Also, while the destinations are important, you must also factor in days at sea.  It’s nice to break up the early wake ups and sometimes tiring land excursions with a relaxing day at sea, so try looking for an itinerary where all of your stops aren’t strung together along a 4 or 5 day stretch.  Speaking of days, I’ve found that anything less than a 7 night cruise is too short, while anything more than 10 days can be a little too long.  Seven days should be a minimum because it gives enough time to acclimate yourself to the ship and really start enjoying it.  Meanwhile, ten days or more on a ship can start making you feel slightly trapped.

I love cruising and I truly feel it’s the best way to travel.  Nowhere else but on a ship can you enjoy the luxuries of vacationing while simultaneously traveling to an exciting new location that you can look forward to waking up at in the morning.  Hopefully all the information I’ve shared is enough to spark at least a little bit of the sailor inside of you and motivate you to make your next vacation on the seven seas.  Besides, where else could you get a sunset like this every day…

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. jonmarcotte permalink
    September 30, 2009 2:54 PM

    When doing research for a cruise, check out http://www.vacationstogo.com. It is a ghetto website, but it has a lot of helpful information (ports, boats, travel deals, etc.). It is worth checking out for new and experienced cruise goers.

  2. dreampassages permalink
    October 2, 2009 11:41 AM

    this is an awesome article. you offer a lot of great advice!

    • darrenbrazil permalink*
      October 2, 2009 1:31 PM

      Thanks! I really do believe cruising is one of the best ways to vacation so I hope reading that inspires a few people who may be hesitant about going on one.

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