Cruising - Don't Knock It Until You Try It
by Tessa Lorien
(Los Angeles, CA)
All our friends seem to hate cruising. My husband and I have been on more than 10 cruises to some of the most amazing places in the world – Australia and New Zealand, Patagonia, Rio de Janeiro, Tahiti, Alaska, the Bahamas….and we’ve enjoyed every single cruise more than I can say. Some of the places we’ve been to have been too beautiful to describe. Even photos cannot capture the beauty of New Zealand’s Fjordland National Park, or the thrill of swimming in Tahiti’s crystal clear turquoise waters. But people who’ve never been on cruises keep saying that they hate cruising, and all I have to say to them is don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
When we come back from these amazing trips, the reaction we get from our friends is “Ugh, I hate cruising!!!!” or “I would NEVER go on a cruise” or “I don’t want to be stuck in 8x8 cabin for two weeks.” When I’m away, they say things like “Poor girl, she’s stuck on a ship for two straight weeks.” And the funniest thing is that these comments come from people who have never actually been on a cruise before!!! They have never cruised, but they somehow KNOW they hate it. What is it about cruising that arouses such unfounded and vehement declarations from people who’ve never even been near a luxury cruise ship? You don’t hear people saying “I’ve never been to the moon, but I know I’ll hate it!”
Why these misconceptions about cruising? Why do otherwise intelligent people assume that on a cruise you sit inside your cabin for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and only leave to go to the buffet line? When my friends go on regular vacations, do they sit in their hotel room or their mother-in-law’s guest room 24 hours a day? No, they sleep in their room, and they wake up in the morning and they go out, don’t they? Why is it so hard to grasp that one can do the same thing on a cruise ship?
A cruise ship is like a magic carpet. You have an exciting fun-filled day in a gorgeous place and then you wake up the next morning to find yourself in some new port, ready to enjoy another new adventure. You don’t have to pack and unpack 35 different times, you don’t have to haul your luggage on and off planes, buses, and trains, you don’t have to check into different hotels, exhausted and stressed. We have gone on traditional vacations before. We did a tour of England, France and Italy, and we did a tour of China. Those trips were interesting and satisfying, but the hassle of moving from city to city and catching planes and trains was really something I could have done without. A cruise ship is a traveling hotel. It is not a prison, it is not a deathtrap.
One thing that some of my cruise-hating friends have in common is that they have never been on a cruise themselves, but they know someone like their grandparents or great uncle Jim who went on a cruise 80 years ago and from what they vaguely remember hearing about it, they came to the conclusion that they would never be caught dead on a cruise ship. Some have been out on the water, and they confuse every boat they’ve been on with the kind of cruise ships that we go on. Some went on a boat to Catalina, and they think the cruise ship is the same size as the ferry and there’s nothing to do on board. Others have been deep sea fishing and gotten sea sick, and they equate that same miserable experience to cruising. Some have been on a ferry in Europe, and they think that’s a big ship, and that they now know all there is to know about cruising.
One complaint that I hear often is “I don’t like to sit around, I like to do things.” Why do people assume you have to sit around on a cruise? The ship doesn’t just sail around in circles in the middle of the ocean for two weeks. It makes stops. In the morning, it stops and you can get out. Do you hear me, people, you can get out. In fact you’re encouraged to get out. That’s the whole purpose of cruising. You can get off the ship and go hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking, horseback-riding, bear watching, glacier exploring, zip lining, surfing….you can do anything you can do on a regular vacation, perhaps even more because you don’t have to waste time traveling from city to city and waiting to check
into hotels, and catching buses and getting lost.
And on the days when you’re at sea (too few for my liking) there’s so much to do that it is impossible to get bored. If you haven’t been on a cruise before, you cannot imagine how enormous these ships are!!! Honestly, even being the experienced cruiser that I am, I still forget how big these ships are. When we were in Istanbul, Turkey in 2008, the Queen of England happened to be there on an official visit, and her escort aircraft carrier was docked behind our ship. The Royal Navy aircraft carrier looked so tiny compared to our ship. These ships have movie theaters, 4-5 swimming pools, casino, nightclubs, dance hall, gym, spa, miniature golf course, rock climbing walls…some of the larger ships have ice skating rinks and surf pools!!!! My biggest problem on every single cruise I have been on is that I simply don’t have enough time to enjoy a quarter of the things that are available.
Some misconceptions: #1 I have to eat all the time on a cruise ship. Yes, there’s a lot of food available, but you don’t have to eat all the time. Yes, there are people who go on a cruise and eat all day, but these are people who will go on a regular vacation and eat all day too. The people who eat all day on a cruise are not people who do amazing and adventurous activities on regular vacations and suddenly get transformed into food guzzling zombies the minute they step on a cruise ship.
#2 I will be cooped up in a tiny space with hordes of people. Perhaps this happens on some of the budget cruise lines, but it has never happened to us. You get what you pay for and this is true in cruising as in everything else. We’ve enjoyed wide open spaces, peaceful sunsets, and lovely romantic evenings strolling on the deck. The cabins are not enormous, but they don’t really have to be. You hardly spend any time in the cabin. There’s no need to spend time in the cabin. If you want to sit in your room and watch television, stay home. There’s no need to watch television when your ship is about to dock in Tahiti or sailing past a spectacular glacier in Alaska.
#3 I heard about that cruise ship that sank in Italy. I’m never going on a cruise because that could happen to me. Do I even need to address this? This is like saying I heard there was an accident on the 405 freeway. I am never driving again. According to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, 15 million people went on a cruise last year alone. The reports you read in the news about accidents or on-board sickness are extremely rare, and it is highly unlikely it will happen to you.
#4 I will be bored because there nothing to do. I don’t know where to begin to discuss this misconception. There’s soooooo much to do on a cruise that I often wish I could clone myself so I could enjoy all the activities that are available. One of the activities I enjoy most are the informational lectures or videos about the places we are about to visit. My favorite one was a lecture series on the building of the Panama Canal. That fascinating session described the engineering, finances, and planning that went into building the canal. After learning that, it was sheer delight to actually go through the canal. We entered it at dawn on the Atlantic side and emerged that evening in the Pacific Ocean.
There are Vegas-type shows every night after dinner. There are lovely little cafés and bars where you can enjoy a cappuccino or cocktail. There are bands playing in lounges where you can dance or listen to the music. There are quiet decks where you can read a book or look out at the ocean. There are yoga classes, boot camp classes, fitness seminars, aerobics classes and dance classes. There are hot tubs and pools and water slides. There are movie theaters and libraries and game rooms and card rooms and arcades and casinos. Everything anyone can want is available on a ship. My request to anyone reading this is to just give it a try. Cruising is fun, cruising is not boring, you are not cooped up in a tiny cabin for two weeks, you are not forced to eat 24 hours a day. You can do anything that you do on a regular vacation and more. Try it if you get the chance, I tried it once and got hooked, you might too!