Having been on two cruises doesn’t make me an expert however it has given me a bit of an insight into how it all works.
The first cruise I went on was in May 2012 to the South Pacific for my great nieces 18th birthday. I went with her, her younger sister and parents and we travelled from Brisbane to Noumea, Lifou and Vanuatu before heading back to Brisbane. A number of my friends had been on cruises before and loved them so I was quite excited about the prospect.
Reality of course is always different. I struggled with being at sea (obviously the navy blood in my father & eldest brother didn’t get to me!) and I struggled with the sameness of 7 days on board. However visiting the ports was a real highlight and were somehow worth the parts I didn’t like so much.
My second cruise was with friends on an Alaskan cruise in September 2013. We had met in Vancouver and hopped on the ship for a 7 night trip from Vancouver to Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau & Ketchikan before heading back to Vancouver to go our separate ways. I enjoyed this cruise more, simply because we were closer to land and there was actually something to see. The places in Alaska were obviously extremely different to those in the South Pacific but I liked them more.
However, life on board was exactly the same on both cruises. You get up, you have breakfast, you find something to do to occupy your time (unless it’s a shore day) – whether it be the casino, reading on deck, shopping, or playing bingo. Then you go to dinner in the restaurant because you are sick of the buffet food and after dinner you go to watch a show (ok so the shows are pretty bloody amazing so they are worth going to see).
I discovered on the first cruise, which was reiterated to me on the second one, that I like to go out. By that I mean I like to be able to wander the streets of the city I’m in, I like to be able to jump on the train/bus/ferry and discover different parts of a place. I don’t do well with being confined to a small space (lets face it, after 2 days on a boat you have pretty much discovered everywhere you’re allowed to go). I like to have the option of being out and about somewhere.
I think that’s why I like the shore days so much. Even though on some of them I didn’t do much, just being able to go somewhere different was very refreshing.
Would I do a cruise again? Sure. I really want to do a European River Cruise at some point and there is a Mediterranean cruise I wouldn’t mind doing. As long as I am not far from land and I have something to occupy my time, then I’ll be fine.
Here are some Tip & Tricks I’ve learnt about cruising:
- Take a book, or two – depending on the length of your cruise, it is worth taking books. There is always somewhere around the ship to sit and read. There is usually a library on board but if it’s anything like the ones I saw then they won’t have a large collection. The libraries usually have games too, we had a bit of an epic game of Scrabble on the South Pacific cruise.
- Take a powerboard – A friend gave me the tip a couple of years ago and it’s one of the best pieces of advice anyone has ever given me. I take one of these wherever I travel now. In this day & age of technology, more often that not you’ll have more than one device to charge and especially if you are in a foreign country it is easier to have a powerboard and one adapter than 5 different adapters and only 2 plugs to charge things. (also handy when sharing a room with 2 teenage girls!)
- Take money – well have money on your credit card because whilst the majority of things are included in the price of the cruise, that cocktail you must have or that game of bingo you want to play will cost you money. Cruise ships have cards that are your all access cards for your time on the cruise. They are what allow you back onto the boat after a shore trip because they have your photo hard-coded on them. They are also your currency. Anything that costs you on the cruise will be charged to the credit card you have attached to your profile. I know of people who have come back from a cruise and had $1700 charged to their credit cards because of the things they bought on board. Your in-room TV lets you keep and eye on your charges so you know when you are reaching your limit – and you should set yourself a limit!
- Be prepared for the sameness of the food – The evening restaurant is good and you should make a point to go there because they have a different menu pretty much every night – plus it’s free and you get served! The buffet however is pretty much the same for the entire time you are on the ship. This is what I struggled with a lot, was the lack of variety when it came to the buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t horrible food – it was just the same, every day.
- Go to the shows – Every night they put on a show in the main theatre. Go to these! They are amazing. The dancers also put on shows around the other decks during the day too so I encourage anyone going on a cruise to make sure you check them out. On the Alaskan cruise we had a juggler – I mean boring right? WRONG! He was simply amazing! One of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. They are free to watch and the performers are very professional so go check them out. There are also gallery tours (recommend highly), cooking demonstrations and loads more that you don’t have to pay for to go and watch.
- Photos – The cruises usually have professional photographers roaming the decks taking photos, especially on theme nights. You can also get professionally seated ones with different backdrops. Do it. It’s free to get the photos taken but it costs if you want to buy them. If nothing else, it’s a rather fun thing to do.
- Sunsets/Sunrises – Some of the most incredible sunsets & sunrises I’ve seen have been on these cruises. Get up early and go check out the sunrise, you will feel like you are the only person on the planet witnessing this amazing sight. Gather with other passengers and watch the sun go down. They are pretty special moments.
So there you have it, my take on cruises. It might seem a little negative but that is really because they are not my favourite holiday. I would go on a cruise again but it would not be my first choice and I probably wouldn’t do it solo.
Have you been on a cruise? What are your feelings towards them?
*Featured photo is Juneau, Alaska