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.
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.
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.
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?