I returned home recently from my 28th cruise. The first was from San Juan in 1998 with three girlfriends to St. Thomas, St. Maarten and St. Croix, and it literally changed my life! A passion for travel was realized, and a couple of years later I entered the travel industry. And the rest, as they say, is history. But that’s not why you are reading this post. There are hundreds of reasons to share with you why a cruise would be a wonderful vacation. But that would take all day, and you are a busy person! So let’s pick my top five, and I will share some of my experience with you, OK?
1. You unpack once and get to see and experience several ports of call!
Contrary to what you might think, there are so many little cubby holes and drawers on the ship, it’s really easy to create your home-away-from-home within minutes of having your luggage delivered. Drop it curbside with your luggage tags showing your stateroom number, and a little while later it magically appears outside your cabin door (and on some ships, INSIDE). Most cruise ship bathrooms have a nice vanity with shelves for toiletries, and I typically can get everything put away and get back out on deck within about 15 minutes or so. The luggage usually fits under the bed, unless you pack too many clothes or shoes! When packing, put it all out on your bed, then put half of it away!
On this last adventure I visited two ports I had never seen before…in Aruba and Curacao. The other stops were St. Thomas and St. Kitts. We packed a ton of activity into each day. Sometimes I plan ahead and schedule excursions in advance. I use Shoretrips.com for the most part, as their groups are smaller and more intimate than the large groups if you book with the cruise line, and I have never had a client miss the departure time. If you are a Nervous Nelly, then book directly with the cruise lines and pay a bit more.
2. You know (and pay for) most expenses in advance of your vacation.
Nowadays most of the big ships offer a drink package, so you can even pre-pay all your alcohol! At about $55 per person per day, my small frame can’t handle that much, but I know plenty of folks who would save money doing this. Just as with an all-inclusive land vacation, you can pretty much lock your wallet in the safe and keep it there. I do find that tipping a pleasant bar-keep or my cabin steward early in my cruise helps them remember me, so I bring lots of $1 and $5 bills with me every trip. (I keep them handy in my purse in a bank envelope) Taxis, bag handlers, and cafes will all take US currency in the Caribbean, and I have found this to be true pretty much every place in the world.
3. You are never hungry!
The cruise director, an entertainer personality who MCs every show and is the voice you will most often hear making announcements on the ship, typically has some wise crack at some point that goes something like this. “Well, it’s been 15 minutes since your last meal…time for another one!” Grin. Here’s the thing. I believe you have to hunt down the nutritious foods, as they don’t always have them in the most conspicuous places. Be sure to look over the entire length of the buffet before grabbing something. And you don’t have to wait in a long line any more…there are stations now and you can typically find the same dish in several areas. I do the three course thing at the buffet…soup, then salad, then entree if I am still hungry. maybe a cookie or a little chocolate for my sweet tooth. Of course, you can also be served for breakfast and lunch in the main dining room on the big ships, too.
You no longer must be assigned a particular table and time if you don’t want to. On this cruise we did “My Time” dining with Royal Caribbean. Granted, it’s a lot easier with two people than with a group, so you may want to assign if you have more than 6 traveling together. We still got to know our wait staff, as when we called for a time, or even if we didn’t, we were nearly always seated in the same general area of the dining room. I loved that!
4. The new ships are incredibly innovative and exciting.
These big ships are floating cities with entertainment and adventure opportunities galore! Adventure of the Seas is aptly named, to be sure. We rock-climbed, ice skated, played putt-putt, shuffleboard, inline-skated, swam, and danced. We could have done yoga, spinning, and a weight machine circuit. They have really cool boards around the ship (typically near elevators) that are interactive and will help you find out what’s going on at that particular moment. And one of the coolest, most fun things we did all week was a “Silent Party” in the disco. All were given headsets with two music channels, and we hit the dance floor. We giggled as we took off our headset to watch people dancing away, singing at the top of their lungs. Too much fun!
5. Cruising is really a weight-loss program.
OK, OK, you may not believe this one. But nearly every time I have taken a cruise, I come home in my skinny jeans, having lost a little weight! I have tricks I can share, but the most effective one is that I choose a cabin toward the back of the ship (called AFT) and I use the stairs nearly all the time. I dance into the night. I walk a LOT in the ports of call. I drink tons of water (from my BRITA bottle). I play hard, choosing active things like kayaking, ocean swimming, snorkeling and biking to really immerse in the nature and culture. No big bus tours for me!
The other thing that helps me stay fit is that I prefer wine to beer, and I avoid white food like mashed potatoes, fried food and bleached flour breads. But did you know that the ships bake their own bread every day? I cheat a bit here and get some fresh dark rolls at dinner, because I know they don’t add preservatives and it’s real food. And because their butter tastes SO GOOD!
Ready to try it out? There is nothing quite like standing on the top of a cruise ship with the wind in your hair, seeing no land in sight! One very dark night we went out to the deck where the helicopters can land if there is an emergency, and I did a “Titanic” move on the bow. Exhilarating! I have no doubt that on your first cruise you will have some amazing “firsts” of your own. Add it to your bucket list now and make it happen. You can try a short cruise to see if you like it…and I know you will!