In 1977, Suzy, my sister, 'gave' me a 4-day Caribbean cruise for Christmas. I was a sophomore in college and she was living in Fort Lauderdale. She knew that if I went on the cruise, which departed from Miami, that I would for sure spend some time with her during the rest of my Spring Break. How could I refuse? I was a poor college kid.
Ever since those days, I have never questioned getting on a ship for a vacation. I am addicted to cruises and I admit it.
The intent of this column is to address what I have personally noticed to be a long list of (lame) excuses as to why people still have not tried cruising. One small statistic worth mentioning here is that approximately 5% of the people in the States have tried cruising - which means in a room full of 100 people, only 5 have had the guts and or good fortune to cross the preverbal "Gangplank of Love". That blows my mind, really it does.
Ship Tip: Only 5 out of 100 Americans have tried cruising
While this list is certainly not the end-all of excuses list, I'll bet a Piña Colada that it covers the majority of reasons why 95 of those people in that room out back still have not cruised:
Cruises Cost Too Much!
Au contraire! Let's take a quick look at the cost of a 7-Day Caribbean Cruise and a Caribbean beach resort vacation:
Of course expenses like excursions, drinks and massages run about even at either, so if you just stick to the basic costs, a cruise can come out cheaper. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule - but heck, there are to all rules! Even if the basic costs come out the same, you still get so much more with a cruise. For example; nice breezes while lying out, room service @ no charge 24 hours/day, a large casino that is open till 3am, lively nightclubs, a full spa for no additional fee and, a vessel that can go around rain showers!
Ship Tip: Cruises are economical and versatile
As for the basic rate of a cruise ship, I used $1200 for one person in a double occupancy for 7 days and nights. Brochure rates are higher and while $1200 may seem cheap to you, there are such deals out there all year long (with some holidays excluded). Some deals on many of the ships are well below $1,200 per person - but on the other side of the fence, if you want to go in prime season, book in advance and want a cabin with a verandah, you can pay $2,000+ pp.
I will be bored - there is nothing to do on a ship!
Oh, double contraire!! That is the most inane excuse I have ever heard! If you sail a new Mega-liner or even the bigger MegaMega-liner, there isn't enough time in the day to do 20% of the activities offered on a ship! Perhaps a little preview of a daily agenda will help:
Now, in case you want some activities in the afternoon on a ship, here's a sampling:
Ship tip: A cruise can wear you out or rev your engines
I will spare you and not detail the evening schedule, but rest assured you have options such as dancing in one of several lounges, flamboyant shows in the main lounge, gambling in the casino, cigar bar, Jazz bar, midnight strolls on the top deck and of course, the infamous Midnight Buffets!! And all of this is after a spectacular 7-course meal!
I will get seasick
I must tread lightly on this one because I do not want to insult anyone who thinks they may - but on the other hand, my experience says that certainly no more than 2-3% of people cruising experience sea sickness (under normal conditions). And we are talking seasickness here, not just being able to feel the boat rock a little.
When I hear this excuse, my first question to someone is "I bet you got seasick as a child on your grandfathers 25' boat while fishing in the ocean once, didn't you?". You know what the answer is, so I won't tell you - but, what people do not understand or comprehend is the overall size of a cruise ship and the fact that oceans like the Caribbean and Mediterranean are far less "rocky" than the Pacific or Atlantic.
Ship Tip: The odds are in your favor 'not' to get seasick
Let's talk about size here. The most popular size ship today in the industry are the 70,000 gross ton ships (better known as the Mega liners). Let's look at a few statistics of the Mega Ships:
And the newest class of ships is the MegaMega - which weighs in at over 100,000 tons, is over 3 football fields long, carries up to 3,400 passengers and 1,100 crew on her weekly and, the Statue of Liberty can fit inside the 10 story atrium!
If you think you might get sick - there are several safe alternatives. The most common, though, are Wrist-Bands and Patches. Each contains Dramamine and from what I have heard, have little, if any, side effects. From the few people that I have talked to that have worn either - they seem to work fine. But truth be known, most people don't need them after the first day. In fact, these ships are so bloody big that there are many times while on this ship that you'd swear it wasn't even moving.
I will feel too confined
Hardly! If it is space you want and or need, then you'll have more than you could ever know what to do with on a cruise ship. To keep this in perspective, let's compare a ship to a hotel - the most common alternative vacation to a cruise.
First, let's talk about the room sizes. Hotels win there hands down. But besides sleeping, showering and maybe a quick nap here or there, why else would one want to be in their room? In fact, I think hotels need to offer larger rooms because there is so little to do at them!
Once you leave your hotel rooms, you normally go to the hotel pool or restaurant. Sometimes a resort may have more than one of each, but that is not typical of hotels. (And let's not forget that resorts usually cost $200+/night.) So your choices of places to go on the property are limited. One main restaurant for breakfast, maybe a pool snack bar for lunch, and the main restaurant for dinner again. Compare that to 24-hour room service, main dining halls for all three meals if you choose, the Breakfast and Lunch Grilles, The Pizzeria, Midnight Buffets and the new alternative dining facilities.
Ship Tip: The options are endless on a cruise!
Hotels usually have one pool - versus an average of three on a ship, plus numerous hot tubs, full spa, volleyball, ping pong, shuffleboard, etc. And it is not just that there are so many choices on a ship - you must take into account how much space a 70,000 ton ship offers. Even many of the 30,000 - 50,000 ton ships offer lots of deck space and public lounges.
I am not one who likes crowds - in fact, I disdain them and will do just about anything to avoid them. Yet I find a cruise almost void of crowds - and that even goes for when I sailed the 101,000 ton Carnival Destiny last year with 3,400 passengers! It is called timing. If you want some extra space, try to set your daily agenda in such a fashion that you will miss the big events - which brings the big crowds.
Ship Tip: Plan your day accordingly
I like to eat breakfast around 9:30 am, lunch around 2:00pm and dinner at the late seating - which is about 8:15 PM. My favorite times on a ship are from 5 - 8 PM and after midnight. With half the boat eating at 6 PM and the other half getting ready for dinner then too, a ship is nearly deserted from 5 - 8 PM. Grab a chair and watch the sunset, sit in the hot tub - or head to the Casino. And after midnight, the ship offers tons of places to grab a quiet drink, have a dance or take a stroll on the top deck.
To my knowledge, in 20 years of cruising, I do not think I have heard anyone say that they found a cruise ship to be confining.
A cruise is goofy - Bingo, shuffleboard, Kathy Lee, etc.
If you stop being so stiff about life and learn to let go, you may realize that we ourselves are our best entertainment! There are a number of occasions where a cruise provides you with an opportunity to make an ass out of yourself. But ask yourself; "does any other form of vacation offer you a chance to limbo, do the Macarena, stuff Ping Pong balls in your bathing suit, sing Karaoke in the Piano Lounge, dress up in your wife's nightgown, hit a stranger with pillows or get up in front of 1500 people and dance or tell jokes?"
As a rule, I attend very few shows on a ship - but I seldom miss the Passenger Talent Show. It is the passenger's raw talent that often gets the biggest cheers and laughs of the week - and if this sounds goofy, than please go have another adult beverage in the Disco and don't come out 'til you are smiling!
A cruise ship offers you alternatives - more than you probably can understand until you bite the bullet and book that first cruise. I wrote a very brief review of the Carnival Destiny just after she left Italy and landed in Boston for a night. My biggest concern was that the ship was sooooo big, that I was afraid I'd never have enough time to experience all of her - and after 7 days on her, I was right.
Ship Tip: There is just not enough time to do everything on a cruise!
I am not sure of the exact statistic here, but I believe that the percentage of passengers that cruise and cruise again is about 70%, with something like 50% cruising within the next five years. I like resorts and Hotels, don't get me wrong - but seldom do they ever leave me that charged up.
If you are looking for a reason not to venture out and try a cruise - please do not use any of the above excuses that I have just talked about. Your excuse better be so good and soundproof because if you ever meet someone who has cruised, they will try to convince you that a cruise is the best vacation on earth - and they will more than likely beat you until you say yes.
Ship Tip: If a cruise weren't such a great experience, why would we cruisers bother trying to convince you otherwise?
Doug Terhune is quite the experienced "solo cruiser" and is a regular columnist and reviewer for the SeaLetter. He recently began his monthly "Ship Tips" columns.
Doug's special interest is interviewing various officers on his cruises, including interviews with the Tropicale's head chef, the Inspiration's Chief Engineer, and the Sensation's Captain. To find all of Doug's SeaLetter columns and cruise reviews, use the SeaLetter Search Engine entering "Douglas Terhune" as your search phrase.
Doug can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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