My love of cruising was pretty much cemented when at 8 years old on my first cruise on the Big Red Boat from the now defunct Premier Cruise Line I won a cruise playing win-a-cruise bingo.
Here I am, a few decades and more cruises than I can count later, still in love with it. In the time that I’ve been cruising – a lot has changed – and, realistically coronavirus will change things even more. While things may someday get back to what it was like before COVID, we are going to focus on what the best things about cruising were that I believe will still exist once cruising really gets going again. Read on for my top 10 Best Things About Cruising *that aren’t going to change.
10. You can go on a pretty big adventure without really going far away from home
Over the years as cruising has become more popular home ports have popped up everywhere making it easier for cruisers to get to their ship without flying or at least with shorter flights. While the coronavirus will slow the reopening of cruises from as many ports, there are still likely to be in the coming year a cruise from a place you can drive to or that is just a short flight away. For instance, my mom and I once took a cruise out of New York City (when I was living in VT full time). Got a ride down to the city, hopped on the ship down to the Caribbean, and then back to New York City and home, all without taking a flight.
9. Meeting people from all around the country and world.
I add in country because when I was a kid and cruising I thought it was so cool to meet friends from California or Oklahoma or pretty much anywhere that wasn’t in New England. Now, I see it for even more than that, as onboard you have a chance to meet people not just from where you’re from or from somewhere else in your country, but from entirely different parts of the world.
Right now first cruises that are going out since the shut down are restrictive as to where people are from. For instance the MSC Grandiosa that is on a cruise right now with only Italian passengers. As countries (the majority of them anyways) get things under control, and as we see how the cruises that are going, go, this restriction will be lifted and cruising will get back to what it was: a lovely mix of passengers and crew from around the world.
Pro tip: which cruise line you choose and where in the world it is will also influence what country the passengers are predominately from.
- If you choose a US based cruise line (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland America Line, Disney, etc) you will typically have more US passengers onboard.
- If you take a cruise out of Europe, Asia, South America (basically anywhere aside from North America), you will get more passengers local to at least the region that you’re visiting – the passengers may still predominately be US on a US based cruise line, but you’ll get more of a mix.
- Some cruise lines have ships that tend to, or itineraries that tend to cater to certain people: for instance, a Holland America Line cruise out of Rotterdam over King’s Day on the Rotterdam (who is also getting sold) there will be a lot (like a lot) of Dutch people! (Note: I learned this one the hard way when I showed up and realized everyone was speaking Dutch!)
8. As Busy Or Relaxed as You Want
Do you want to stay out past midnight and sleep until noon? Do you want to go to the gym at 6:00am and be in bed by 8:00pm? Want to go to activities all day or simply sit on the balcony and read a book? It can be whatever variation of that and everything in between that you would like, and it can change on the daily. Lazy day one day, busy day the next, the choice is yours! And, that’s not going to change. While for the foreseeable future for activities you will likely need to adhere to some amount of social distancing, there will still be activities to do, or not do as you choose.
Coronavirus note: While you can do as much or as little as you want to do when cruising resumes I would still expect that every day you will likely have to get your temperature checked… so, lazy day be damned, you may have to leave your cabin at least once.
7. Great For Families/Groups
You know how I said you can do as much or as little as you want? Do you like to go, go, go but your cousin’s best friend that seems to always tag along on family trips just wants to sit by the pool drinking margarita’s? That’s great and fine and dandy! You can all have the vacation that you want while still vacationing together! Great for the early risers that get annoyed by the night owls sleeping in (and vice versa), cruising can be the happy medium of togetherness without driving each other insane.
Pro Tip: It’s great that everyone can do their own thing, but what’s the point of going together if you don’t ever see each other? Have a conversation about what everyone is expecting for togetherness before hand and then work with that. If your aunt Suzie is expecting that you’ll be crocheting with her in the afternoon but you’re planning on going for a pub crawl – that’s a problem. For many groups they plan on always eating dinner together, or perhaps they meet up for morning trivia and then figure out what they want to do together from there. Make sure you communicate and you’ll have a great time!
Family bonus: Did you know that nearly every major cruise line has a kids club… and that it’s included in the base fare for your cruise? The programs offered between cruise lines vary so be sure to research ahead of time. This can be a great way for the kids to make some new friends and for the adults to get some adult time. NOTE: This will probably take awhile to come back onboard in a COVID world. Make sure to double and triple check with the cruise line before you plan on this.
6. A lot of bang for your buck
While there are some incredible cruise deals out there (especially if you look into next year – 7 days for $269!), even when you aren’t getting a cruise at a super discounted rate, you are normally always getting a lot for your money. The majority of cruises you could easily go the whole week without paying any more than your base rate for food (though there is hardly a ship without a specialty restaurant with a surcharge at this point), and basic tea, coffee, juice, and water is included. If you figure how much it would cost to eat while on vacation for a week the cost of a cruise can already look like a deal. Add in that you also have a hotel room, entertainment, hotel facilities such as the pool and gym, and the value really speaks for itself – and, above all of that you are floating to a new destination every night while you sleep!
Of course, the extras can really add up. A few drinks a day at $8-12 would equate to about $140 per person per week. Add a trip to the spa or shore excursions or Wi-Fi and the extras can cost as much as the cruise itself. However, cruise lines are increasingly offering sale promotions with drinks packages, Wi-Fi, and other inclusions to try to entice you to book today. Princess currently has a deal going that includes premium drinks, Wi-Fi, and gratuities. In addition, there are cruise lines that include drinks, specialty restaurants, etc. at no additional charge.
Cruise prices can change drastically depending on where, when, and which line you are sailing with, but the product does as well. However, there will still be value in cruise vacations. While prices aren’t expected to drastically drop due to the virus, the value will still be there.
Pro Tip: There are often discounts for 3rd and 4th travelers in your stateroom. Thinking of a family vacation? This could offer big per person discounts!
5. Getting out of your comfort zone… while still being comfortable
I always wanted to go to Asia, but I have a nut and peanut allergy and thus had been pretty nervous about traveling there and being able to find anything to eat. While translation apps have helped so much, it can still be a bit nerve wracking. Being able to go back to the comfort of the ship and to the security of having food that I knew I could eat was huge for me.
While everyone has different things that take them out of their comfort zone, if you are new to traveling or if there is a region that you are a little unsure of the familiarity and comfort of your ship can be a great way to experience a culture by just dipping your toes in a little bit.
4. See a lot of places in a region
Have you always wanted to go to Hawaii, the Caribbean, or the Mediterranean but aren’t quite sure where in those places you want to go? Why not go on a cruise to get a taste of the region where you can visit many islands or cities all in one trip. Then, if you had one that was a stand out favorite, you can go back there again another time.
Pro Tip: Don’t just go for any cruise in a region though. Not all cruise itineraries are created equal! If there is a specific place in a region you’ve always been interested in, see if there are itineraries that use that port as the homeport (where the cruise leaves from or ends at) for your cruise, then fly in a day or two early, or a day or two after, to get a bit more time there. Also, look at the length of time in each port. If for whatever reason the port you were most looking forward to only as a 4 or 5 hour stop, you’d be better off looking for a different itinerary that would give you a bit more time.
3. You only have to pack and unpack once
Packing, my old nemesis. Now, packing isn’t all bad – it normally signifies that you’re going on a trip and especially right now when trips are scarce that first time packing is going to seem so exciting. However, packing and unpacking repeatedly on a trip can be frustrating, time consuming, and annoying. On a cruise your bags show up at your door on the ship, you unpack, and enjoy your vacation! Simple as that.
Pro Tip: If you’re planning on staying over in a hotel for a day or two before your cruise and are also bringing a small roller carry-on suitcase, fit everything you think you’ll need for those pre-cruise days into the carry-on, that way you don’t have to try to rearrange everything in your main suitcase more than once. Same goes if you are staying at a hotel post cruise!
2. There is a cruise vacation for everyone
There is a cruise to fit everyone’s vacation needs. Whether that be relaxation, entertainment, kid friendly or no kids at all, all-inclusive, itineraries, and immersive experiences. And, while the crew won’t say this to your face: nine times out of ten if you are on a cruise and are having a bad time, it is your own fault because you didn’t do your research and you didn’t go on the cruise that was right for you. Are you on a cruise to Alaska in September and it’s raining? This would not be shocking to you if you had done your research. Find yourself thinking, this isn’t what the website showed me? The website was probably showing you the newest ship and you’ve found yourself on a ship that’s the next most likely to get sold during this shut down. My least favorite thing to hear during a week long Alaska cruise in July (with 300 kids onboard) was, “I went on a Holland America Cruise in January for 14 days to Hawaii and there were no kids onboard. Why are there so many kids here now?”
Want a giant ship with roller coasters and water slides or rock walls and skating rinks? They have those! Want a ship that is really about the lounging and you won’t see anything technicolored or resembling a mall anywhere? They have those, too.
There is a cruise that will fit everyone’s vacation needs. Whether or not it fits your budget is another story (some of the luxury brands can offer incredible pampering and inclusions but come with a premium price tag). But, if you aren’t having fun on a cruise first ask yourself, “did I do my research to make sure I booked the best cruise for me?”
Pro Tip: When in doubt about whether or not a specific ship, line, or itinerary will fit yours and your travel companions needs? The best advice is to call a travel professional. They will be know not only about different lines, ships, and itineraries, they will be well versed in travel restrictions due to COVID. You can also look for online forums or reach out to someone (like me!) that has a ton of cruise travel experience.
1. The adventure of setting sail. The amazing sunsets. The joy of being on the ocean or the sea.
Oh, there is something spectacular about being out to sea so far you can’t see land in any direction. Something about the sound of the waves against the ship, about seeing dolphins jumping along the ship and knowing there’s an entire world below you. And, then there are those sunsets. It’s hard to not romanticize the beauty of the ocean.