Jeremy and I just returned from a 10-day Southern Caribbean cruise. Now don’t go getting all judgey on me – I recognize that there are some, for lack of a better term “travel snob” bloggers who don’t consider cruising to be “real travel.” But we had never been on a cruise before, so out of a sense of obligation, we just really needed to check it out for ourselves! You’re welcome. Here’s the scoop:
Cruising, at least of the 10-day variety, could be considered expensive – Until you look at it as separate hotel accommodations, travel cost, food, entertainment, touring…all rolled into one. If you were to try to do this on your own, and calculate it on a per day basis, it would be much more expensive, especially if you take advantage of the on board activities.
We saved up – We paid for the cruise on our credit card, a year in advance, and by the time the cruise arrived, it was, for the most part, paid for. Same for the airfare to Ft. Lauderdale. And we were considering this our trip to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary – Kind of a big, damn deal!
I did lots of research in advance – I first started with a list of all of the cruise lines leaving the US. Then I decided when we wanted to go. I quickly learned that there were still waaaayyyy too many options. So I started researching the different islands in the Caribbean. I made a list of places that intrigued me, and whose cultures I was curious about. THEN…I figured out which cruise lines had a ship going where I wanted to go. Since we were probably not going to do this again any time soon, better get it right.
Different cruise lines have different cultures – I chose the Royal Princess for us. Very, very, few children or teenagers. On board ambiance included string quartets and bands playing “older” music. For a minute, we thought, “Dang – We’re the youngest ones on this ship” …and then we considered the alternative. Also important, once you decide on a ship, a YouTube search will usually yield a video tour that someone has posted, so that you can look around. The Royal Princess is a huge ship, and while she holds a gazillion passengers, we never ever felt crowded. Well maybe a little in the scramble for deck chairs on sea days.
You can choose shore excursions…or not – We chose to do some excursions, because, as I said, we are newbies. Folks on a shore excursion will never get left behind. The tour guides, while locals, provided lots of information and history about each place. That said, in each port were locals who were offering the same types of services for a bit less. We hired a private tour in Barbados, and were given a delightful tour of the island, by a local in a taxi.
How you dine is not as much an issue as I thought it would be – We chose “Anytime Dining” because I thought it would be a pain to be told when we had to be to dinner, and I didn’t want to have to make idle chitchat with a shoe salesman from Poughkeepsie. (No offense, Poughkeepsie shoe sellers!) Turns out, each day you are back on the ship in plenty of time to shower and change for dinner, no matter when or how you choose to eat. It really is not that big a deal, and many people say they’ve made lifelong friends of dining companions.
Getting a stateroom with a balcony was worth it – At least for a first time cruiser. We completely enjoyed both waking up early in the morning to watch as the ship came in to port, as well as stepping out to look at the full moon and feel the Caribbean air. Many people say that they choose inside (less expensive) staterooms because you don’t spend that much time in your room – but I LOVED having my coffee and breakfast delivered to me so that I could enjoy it on the balcony.
Cashless Cruising – The cruise card = How the ship makes money! Someone told me, “You can tell how much you enjoyed the cruise if you end up getting off with a $2000 bar bill! Ours was not that bad, but I could see how it could happen. Just hand them your cruise card, and it goes on your bill. You’ve. Been. Warned.
The cruise lines have got embarking and disembarking down to a science – Yes, they know how to get you and your luggage on, off, through customs, and on your way in a ridiculously efficient manner. You don’t really need to worry about how much stuff you have. They handle it all with ease.
But the best part of it all:
The floating motel moves from one destination to the next, while you enjoy exploring the people and their culture in the places you’re visiting. We saw and did so many amazing things. Too long to share in this post, but I’ll keep writing. I’ll also post them at our companion travel blog Encore Wanderings. Look for it. We did some CRAZY FUN STUFF! Can’t wait to share with you guys!