To those of you who have already caught the cruise bug, congratulations! You have already experienced one of the best ways to travel, and no doubt you will be back to cruise again some day. For the rest of you – those who have not yet cruised before – this article is for you.
I have been on several cruises, the most recent being the Allure of the Seas this year. Cruises have it all – fun, food, excitement, food, romance, food… and did I mention the food?
When you travel, you normally have to pick a destination and then decide when to go and how to get there. With a cruise, you still do that, but a typical 7 day cruise will stop in at least three ports of call, meaning you get to see several exciting destinations, not just one. When you start looking around, be sure to sign up to get automatic notifications about cruise deals from several cruise lines, and perhaps even some notable travel sites such as CruisesOnly, and Travelzoo. Cruises very often do not fill up, and you can get some great deals if you are willing to wait for last-minute pricing. These days, there are a wide variety of departure ports too. Not just Florida and California, but also Texas, Louisiana, Seattle, New York, and even Boston. You’ll want to check all of these to decide where you want to go, and how long of a cruise you want. They usually range from 3 to 7 days.
Nervous about getting seasick? Don’t be. Most of today’s cruise ships are so large, you can hardly even feel the boat rocking. If you think you are prone to motion sickness, do yourself a favor and take a gulf tour. For example, the cruises to the Western Caribbean are much smoother than the Eastern because the boat is in the calmer Caribbean waters, not the Atlantic. And there are many brands of motion sickness meds, including the patch that works wonders.
So you made your reservations, got to port, and now you are on board – what do you do? Have fun! Cruise lines are spending more and more money these days to make sure there is plenty to do on board so that nobody gets bored! Take the Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) for example. This ship has over 2,700 stateroom, and nearly one staff member for every two guests. There are multiple on-board restaurants, including Johnny Rockets and Starbucks. There is also a full-sized carousel, two rock climbing walls, and two wave zones for learning how to surf or boogie board. There is a zip line towering 9 stories above the boardwalk, as well as a 9 hole mini golf course. There are several theaters, an ice skating rink, casino, more than 5 pools, 8 whirlpools, a gym, ping-pong tables, bingo, shopping, movies…
You get the point- there is a TON of stuff to do! For those traveling with children, there is a kid’s zone on every ship where they can meet other kids their age and have fun while the parents are off exploring on their own. And, there are enough kid-friendly activities that the whole family can stay entertained together if you choose.
The meals are worth discussing also. On most ships, you can choose an early or late seating, and your dinners are usually at the same place each night. These range from casual to formal meals, and are full of exquisite menus. Expect three course meals ranging from lobster to filet mignon, with options for the kids. If you decide you want something a little more casual, most ships also have buffet-style cafeterias which serve everything from chicken nuggets to hamburgers and hot dogs. There is usually a pizza place on most ships too. Expect to eat well on a cruise. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and cruise ships understand that, with a wide variety of eggs, meats, breads, and fruit to get your day started right. Feeling like relaxing? Call room service- they’ll bring whatever you’d like to the room at no charge! It’s all part of the meal package.
Finally, there are the ports of call. At each stop, there will no doubt be plenty of suggestions for things to do such as excursions, shopping trips, beach days, boat rides, snorkeling tours, etc. You do not have to go on an official tour when you reach a port. In fact, you don’t even have to get off the boat if you don’t want to. Some take advantage of an empty boat to schedule a relaxing massage. However, if you do go on land, make sure to bring your passport and cruise ID so that you can get back on board. And whatever you do – don’t be late! The captain must depart on time, and if you are even a few minutes late, they get a hefty fine so they can’t wait for you!