Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cruising: The Good, The Bad, and There's Really No Ugly Except at the Buffet Line

We've been on just one cruise, but that's enough now for me to give my opinion on them. Really, I think whether you think a cruise is fantastic or not really depends on the type of holiday that you're looking for.

The Upside of Cruising

For elderly people, it's fantastic. Mom and Dad went on a number of cruises. It was an easy way for them to travel and see things without having to worry about anything. They knew their accommodation would be ok. They knew they'd like the food. They knew they'd get to see some amazing things. They knew they'd meet some interesting people. They knew they could do as little or as much as they wanted. As they aged, it became the perfect way to travel.

The food is like home. You know there will be something that you like. Even the pickiest of eaters will not go hungry. You don't need to worry about eating something you shouldn't and being sick for a week. 

There's lots to do. The entertainment people are busy busy busy making sure that there's something going on just about any moment of any day. And not just activities for adults. The kids are taken care of as well.

But if you want to relax and do very little, you can. You can read in some nice quiet places, people watch, go to a movie, or just sit an enjoy a coffee or a drink. No one keeps track of whether you pop down to your room for a nap. We didn't finish the cruise well rested, but we sure had fun.

You get to see some fabulous places that you might not otherwise every travel to. For our cruise, there is no way in that 10-day period we would have gotten to any one of the places we visited. except our starting point of Barcelona. We just aren't travelling that fast and given that we were spending time in Barcelona and France, everything else was out of the way. And a place like Malta, who goes to Malta? But it was great to get there.

It's an easy way to travel with a large group, or with a range of ages. Our group was only six people, but Eamon is 8 and Dad is 84. That's a lot of people to keep happy, and the cruise did keep everyone happy. And, until we changed rooms because of the flooding, our room was right next to Dad's making it easy to meet up and make plans.

You can spend a lot of money, or nothing. You don't need to spend an extra dime if you don't want to. Or you can spend a lot with drinks (pop and alcoholic), wifi service, fancier restaurants, and excursions ashore.

The Downside of Cruising

The main downside for us, is that your schedule is not your own. You dock at a certain time. You need to be back on ship at a certain time. There is no flexibility.

You spend just one day in each port, sometimes just a few hours. That doesn't give you enough time to really get to know a place or the people. We've been so lucky this year to stay for quite long periods of time in places. You really start to figure things out when you try to live somewhere. That doesn't happen on a cruise; you zip ashore for just a short period of time.

The food is American food. The wine is mostly American wine. There's no effort to have local, or even local-like dishes or drinks on the ship. While you might get some local food and drink when you go ashore, that just cuts into your already too short time. (At least that's what it was like on our cruise line.)

And be prepared to witness gluttony on a daily basis when it comes to food. It's hard not to stare in disbelief sometimes.

The excursions are expensive. If we had all fit in a taxi, and not moved at a variety of speeds, I suspect we would have had a taxi drive us around rather than go on any excursion. However, I'm not going to complain because given that our group was ages 8 to 84, most of the excursions we did take suited us just fine. Had we been thinking, we would have maybe just booked our own private tours on shore.

They add a daily gratuity onto your bill. This irritates me. I'd prefer that they add this amount to the cost of the cruise and pay their staff better, leaving it to us to decide whether to tip for extraordinary service.


As you can see, it really depends on what kind of holiday you want. If you want to get away, be taken care of, and relax, then yes, it's quite wonderful. If you want to get away and delve deeper in Balkan history and the people, then perhaps you'd like a different holiday.

For us, the cruise was fantastic and I don't regret it at all. It gave Dad a chance to come share in our adventure. We got to spend time with him, yet the kids had a chance to go play, hang out with friends, and burn off their extra energy. It worked out far better than any other type of travel would have with the six of us together.

It gave the kids a chance to get away from us and hang out with a group of kids for a few days. And, of course, the corollary of this is that Kerry and I had a bit of time to ourselves too. It was quite a fabulous break from all our togetherness.

It also got us to a whole variety of places that we would never have gone. We were able to see Pompeii before its further destroyed by tourists (yes, like us probably) and Venice before it sinks further into the sea.

And will we go on another one?

Truth be told, we probably wouldn't have gone on one any time soon. We've had a great year of travel, but now it's time to stay home for a bit. Next summer we want to hit the road with our travel trailer. 

But, with the flood and the credit for another cruise to be used within the year, how could we pass up on that? We can't. So spring break we're going to go on one of the Caribbean cruises. The kids are excited - not because of anything we'll see, but because of all the fun stuff on the ship!

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