Cruising is an ideal vacation. There is a world of variety available. It is important to do a bit of research in order to choose the right ship, the right destination, the right mix of passengers for your needs.
If you’ve never cruised before, I would suggest you start out with one of the three or four day itineraries to the Bahamas or Baha Mexico to whet your whistle. The ships in those markets are not the mega-size but will give you a good taste of what
cruising is like. They are still very nice ships with all the excitement and
amenities cruising offers and you can see if you enjoy ship life, being waited on
by extremely attentive staff, having nonstop activities of every kind. Rarely, do
passengers not become cruising enthusiasts.
Next, explore the different cruise lines and ask questions of your family and friends who have cruised. There are also very good cruise websites such as www.cruisecritic.com where you can communicate with frequent cruisers and get feedback on particular ships, what to pack, even which staterooms are best. If you’re young singles, you would definitely not want to cruise on a ship that caters mainly to seniors! Itineraries are very important as well. Initially, I wanted to go to Caribbean destinations and I had to be in port every day or I was psychotic. As I grew older, I found I liked to have a day at sea in between a port – and I wanted to travel other places. I love Mediterranean cruising and the capitals of
Scandinavia and St. Petersburg, Russia was one of the most beautiful cruises I
ever did – as was one from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. Now, I
even enjoy the transatlantic crossing with six days at sea – and they can be a
Ships range from small to mega vessels holding over 3500 passengers. Choose accordingly. Most are elegant, some with priceless art collections, beautiful atriums, lovely showrooms, spas to rival those on land, indoor swimming pools,
gorgeous dining rooms. Cabins, unless you can afford the large suites, are not
huge – but most of your time is usually spent out and about on the ship. Regular
cabins are intimate, to say the least and the bathrooms are tiny – again, if you
have money to burn ( I usually prefer to spend mine on another cruise! ), larger
cabins have larger bathrooms.
Most cruise lines don’t have classes ( other than on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and other
ships of that company ) so all passengers eat in the same dining rooms – and what an
experience that is. Meals are included in the price of the cruise – unless you are
dining in the specialty restaurants offered by some cruise lines – for those you pay a small additional fee ( usually about $20 – nice for a change, especially on a long
cruise and a special occasion ). There is a huge selection at meals and you can order more than one or two or three entrees – or whatever. The staff are incredible and so accommodating. Recommended gratuities are so low for the way these crew members work.
Alcoholic drinks are not included in the cruise price but tea, coffee, lemonade are included. Bars are everywhere on the ship and prices are about what you would pay in a nice bar shore side. In the dining room, there are wine packages available to help allay the high cost of wine with dinner.
Entertainment abounds with stage productions and guest entertainers nightly in the showrooms, and other events going on all over the ship. For example, on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas, there will be a singer/piano player in the Schooner Bar, in Boleros, in the evening, there will be a Latin band until midnight, then the Dueling Pianos ( rock and roll ) take over, elsewhere on the ship, late night karaoke
is a big event, into the wee small hours, there’s disco, each night, there’s dance music for the swing and ballroom dance crowd.
In addition to the dining rooms, there is the buffet for those who prefer to dress casually, many ships have pizzerias, ice cream bars, coffee shops – and there is always room service!
Activities are many and varied. From dawn to dusk, there are physical activities such as aerobics and exercise classes, some geared to those who cannot do the more
strenuous ones, aimed at keeping us fit. There are games of trivia, funny events such as newlywed and not so newlywed games, dance classes, napkin folding, port lectures with information on the sights to see and places to shop. Some of the ships
have ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, basketball courts, and other activities of that nature.
The spa offers every service from manicures and pedicures to massage, facials, hot rock therapy, even tooth whitening – and all sorts of exotic treatments – many of them at reduced prices when the ship is in port.
For children, most cruise lines have excellent activity programs, geared to different age levels and even something for the teens. This makes cruising, an ideal family vacation.
Shops on board, with different daily specials, open when the ship is at sea, entice passengers to part with the money they don’t spend in the casinos and bars. There are also art auction so you can pick up art work to fill that empty wall at home. Casinos, also open when the ship is at sea and into the wee hours of the morning, are extremely popular.
Loyalty programs encourage passengers to return to the same cruise line. There is a loyalty ambassador available to encourage passengers to book their next cruise, with a bonus for doing so, before departing the ship they are on.
I must admit that I am a confirmed cruiser, with 71 cruises, now, in a little over
twelve years – and three more booked in the next four months. I find it a wonderful way to vacation, to meet new friends, and an almost effortless way to travel.