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Cruisin’

Our ship docked in Nassau, Bahamas

Last week I went on my first cruise. As well traveled as I am, cruises are something I’ve avoided, mainly due to some preconceptions I had. But when my father-in-law suggested getting the whole family together, we couldn’t resist the opportunity for our boys to hang out with their far-flung cousins who are sandwiched between them in age.

Below, I’ve laid out my expectations, and the realities I encountered.

Expectation #1: Too much food.

This one proved true. It was far too easy to eat any time of day or night, but at least the food was good, with lots of variety, especially at meal times. I would have preferred more options for snacking besides pizza, and it would have been nice for refreshments to be available in more places, but in general I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and selection in both the buffets and main dining room.

I didn’t think I’d want to eat in the formal dining room every night, but it was a nice break from buffet meals, and the portion sizes were not ridiculously large. However, our friendly main waiter took it personally if we didn’t want to try an appetizer or dessert. He was also prone to bringing an extra for us to try if he thought we were missing out. That’s how I ended up eating escargot!

Thankfully, the ship had a gym. There were no cross-trainers because the ceiling was too low, but I had a fabulous view from the treadmill during sunrise one morning. And I managed to only gain about a pound during the trip. For a combined nine days on the road and the sea, I call that a success.

Expectation #2: Seasickness

As a car passenger, I can’t read for more than 30 seconds without growing hot and feeling the pangs of nausea, and I’ve had a similar experience on some ferry rides, especially when the water was choppy.

So, I was pleasantly surprised during the first two days to find I had no problem with the ship’s motion. The last two nights—when our speed was up to 20 knots—I succumbed to the need for Dramamine, but got by with only a quarter of a pill.

Comedian and juggler Randy Cabral

Expectation #3: Party people

Oh yeah, the party people were out in full force. If you like gambling, karaoke, drinking around a pool, shopping, or hanging out in bars, a cruise is definitely for you. My husband and I didn’t take advantage of many of the shows, but we did enjoy a couple of comedy events.

We also sat through a round of mostly bad karaoke with some of the family, but if not for the company, we would have left early on.

Expectation #4: This would be great for the kids

For my 12 and 14 year old boys, this was the perfect trip. Not only could they hang out with their cousins, they could go off and do it without us always around. The ship had teen lounges, a rock wall, the pools, and 24-hour pizza. On Coco Cay–RCI’s private island–they had a teen adventure excursion where the kids snorkeled and spent a couple hours on a water slide and inflatable playground out in the bay. What more could a kid want?

And it was a nice break for the parents not always having to entertain them, or drag them to our “boring” events.

Eep, there's a man in my bed!

Expectation #5: Small cabins

Yep, the rooms are small, though I’m sure we could have paid more for something larger. We opted for a mid-range room with a square window—which I was very glad to have. Basically, there was just enough space on either side of the queen bed to scoot in sideways.

Add a small desk/vanity, a little closet, and a miniscule RV-like bathroom and that’s it folks. I expected to spend less time in the room than we did, but for the most part we were either sleeping, napping, getting away from the crowd, or getting ready to go somewhere.

For a longer cruise–ours was four nights–I would want a larger room, but for the short time we were there, it was good enough, and it was nice not to have to pack/unpack for each stop like we did on the drive down to Miami and back.

Overall, I liked the cruise more than I expected to.

I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy being out at sea without any land in sight, but to my surprise it was just as pleasant as watching the water from the beach, with the added bonus of an amazing view of the stars at night.

Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, the ports were nice, and Royal Caribbean’s private island was more fun than I expected. And I added nother first: jet skiing! Probably the most fun I’ve ever had on the water.

Seriously. Ever.

So, would I cruise again? Maybe. Preferably on a similar trip with a port to dock in every day, or to a place where cruising would provide a unique perspective, like Alaska.

How about you? Any cruise experiences to share?

0 Comments

  1. Reply

    I’ve done one cruise and I highly recommend it.

    http://www2.ncl.com/cruise-destination/HAWAII/overview

    It’s the only cruise line that offers a Hawaiian cruise that starts and ends in Honolulu (rather than Vancouver, La or Mexico) so that you spend the entire time in Hawaii. It’s exactly as you described you want to try. You travel only at night, and then wake up at your destination, visiting four different islands. No gambling because there is no gambling in Hawaii. This also means you spend more time on shore. We saw other cruise line guests heading back to their ships hours before we did because their ships did not spend the night in port. They traveled out to open sea for the gambling!

    We were also told this is the only cruise line in the world where 95% of the employees are American, again, because of Hawaiian law. It’s a casual cruise and a few people who were accustomed to more formal cruises weren’t impressed with casual American wait staff (rather than more formal European, for example), but we thought it was great.

    • Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation, Pooks. I hadn’t really thought about us heading out to sea so we could gamble, but it makes sense. The only place we stayed late was Nassau, which was nice because it had been so hot during the day that we waited until after dinner to go back into the city. Of course, by then it was nearly deserted except for the construction crews.

      I like the idea of a more casual environment. My original reason for not wanting to eat in the main dining room every night was having to pack extra clothes that we wouldn’t usually take.

      If we cruise again, I’ll definitely check out NCL. Thanks!

  2. Reply

    I don’t know that all NCL cruises are this way. My impression is that it’s the Hawaiian cruise that is. They have an upstairs dining room where people can dress up and a downstairs dining room where people can wear casual clothes. No assigned tables, no assigned dining times. A few restaurants that require reservations that you pay extra for; we went to one and it was nice but not particularly worth the effort and expense unless you just really wanted a “finer” dining experience.

    But my impression from what I remember is that these were elements that were part of this particular cruise itinerary, with the expectation that people in Hawaii were there for a more casual experience and would be more likely to wear bermuda shorts than dress up. That said, people were dressed nicely, just casually, and there were lots of kids. I don’t know what special activities they had for them since we had no kids with us.

    I found it a wonderful way to see Hawaii, without spending time in airports or at ports waiting for boats, and then crossing to a new island, or just spending all our time on one island. I’d do it again.

    • Reply

      As far as dressing up goes, I’d expect people in the Caribbean to be similarly casual, but I know some travelers really like having an opportunity to dress up. I’m just not one of them. 😉

  3. Reply

    Welcome home! Sounds like you had a great cruise. It’s too bad you didn’t see more shows. I hear they are quite impressive. It’s one way a lot of talented actors/dancers/singers get to Broadway.

    I probably won’t ever cruise because I have vertigo issues. I also am terrified of being trapped at sea.

    But I know so many other people who love cruisin’. My BF in DC is going to Alaska for her 50th bday. Her bucket list was 50 states by age 50. Alaska is the last state. They arrive on her actual birthday!

    • Reply

      Thanks, Christine. We had a good time. I don’t mind missing the shows. That was by choice because we’re not big musical fans, but we did enjoy the comedy shows.

      I don’t see cruising as a regular choice for me, but I won’t say “never again.” Congrats to your friend. What a great accomplishment. I’m at 42 States right now, so maybe I can get in 50 by 50 as well. 🙂

  4. Reply

    So nice to have a vacation like that (despite the few criticism)… I was dreaming that I was on board too 🙂 I’ve never been on a cruise this is why, I should try it one day.

    • Reply

      Overall, Mirella, it was still a lot of fun. A great way to do a family vacation too since we could hang out or easily get away as needed.

      If you get a chance to go sometime, do it. It can be fairly inexpensive for a 3-4 night cruise. You’d have hundreds of friends by the end, I’m sure! 😉

  5. Reply

    I’ve got “cruise” on my bucket list, so it was so great to get your insights on this. I would definitely like to do a tropical one and an Alaskan one. And I believe there are some that go check out the Norwegian fjords. That could be pretty cool.

    • Reply

      Maura: Despite my reservations, it was definitely something I’ve always wanted to try, and I don’t regret it at all. The Norwegian fjords sound amazing. That would be a good reason to cruise. I’ve also heard good things about the smaller boats that cruise along rivers like the Rhein, or through China.

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