“I don’t know how you do it. I hate cruising."
That’s almost always the response I get when someone hears that I love cruising. For them, cruising conjures up images of old men playing shuffleboard. Of being trapped on a weeklong seasickness extravaganza. Cheesy midnight buffets. Speed 2: Cruise Control.
Well, it’s their loss. Cruising is, by far, my favorite way to travel. And despite the peer pressure, I will continue to shout it from the rooftops: Cruising is awesome.”
"With cruising you can visit destinations that for a lot of people would be financially unattainable,” says “Cruise Guy” Stewart Chiron. “Now people are taking vacations that are a lot more exotic than people of previous generations have taken.”
Still, I will concede that the cruise detractors may — may! — have a point. Cruising isn’t perfect. For everything I love about hitting the high seas, there are some things I could do without. My relationship with cruising is definitely a love/sorta-hate one:
What I love about cruising: It’s a vacation sampler
Take little bites of all the destinations, then return later for longer stays at the ones you like. (Photo: Getty Images)
You know those appetizer samples you get at finer bars and theme restaurants, where a little of everything on the menu comes on one appetizing plate? Well, cruises are the appetizer samplers of vacations — each port of call gives you a little taste of a tourist destination. If you find one you like, you can take a longer trip there in the future (my first time in Spain was on a brief stop on a cruise. I’ve since taken longer, noncruise vacations there). On a European cruise, Barcelona can be your mozzarella sticks, Naples your potato skins, St. Tropez your onion rings; nibble on them all now, feast on one later.
What I hate about cruising: The cruise-operated tours
If I so much as see a tour bus, I run in the other direction. (Photo: Getty Images)
Being tied to a prearranged itinerary for six hours is a special version of hell for me. I did it once, and after several excruciating (and expensive) hours of being trapped on a bus with an operator who would not stop talking, my wife and I were openly contemplating a suicide pact. If you have no choice but to take a group tour for reasons of accessibility or safety, then by all means do it. But if you’re physically able to get around, and if the area you’re visiting supports self-transportation (i.e., it has reliable taxis or nearby car rental agencies, or it’s a port area that you can easily navigate on foot), I recommend going it alone. It’s cheaper. And more conducive to mental health.
What I love about cruising: There’s a bar at every turn
There’s a reason “booze” rhymes with “cruise.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Inside. Outside. Next to the bathroom. Next to the gym. You are never more than a few steps from your next cocktail. Modern-day ships make a ton of money from alcohol sales (the blog Ship Mate estimates that Carnival Cruises may make up to half a billion dollars on booze sales alone per year), so it’s in their interest to make bars as convenient as possible. And they are; cruise ship bars are visible, accessible, and oh so inviting. They’re like big, floating reminders that you’re on vacation, you’re not driving anywhere, and there’s as much liquid on board the ship as is holding it up. Why yes, thank you, I think I will have a little something…
What I hate about cruising: There’s delicious food at every turn
ANOTHER buffet?!? Make. it. stop. (Photo: Getty Images)
To take a cruise is to be surrounded by temptation with no means of escape. And for those of us who try to be at least somewhat good on vacations, cruises present numerous culinary temptations. You can spend an entire cruise fighting what will eventually be a losing battle to maintain your food discipline. It’s just a matter of what it is that does you in: the buffets, the onboard restaurants, or the poolside grills. Resistance is futile. Speaking of which…
What I love about cruising: It allows me to indulge my Star Trek fantasies
Their cruise looked like a lot of fun — as long as you weren’t wearing a red shirt. (Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Something about being on a big floating vessel with lots of people in the middle of nowhere gets me thinking I’m on the Enterprise. Sometimes I even say it to myself: “Ahead to the planet Cozumel, Warp Factor 5.” Of course, I don’t say it out loud, as I can only assume that if ginormous cruise ships have skating rinks and bowling alleys, they almost certainly have padded rooms for crazy people who spout sci-fi gibberish.
What I hate about cruising: People yelling “I’m king of the world!”
“I’m the king of the world!” No, you’re not. Sit down. (Photo: The Everett Collection)
The sinking of the Titanic was a horrific tragedy. But at least there was no one onboard yelling that played-out movie quote. People, please: That movie came out 17 years ago. Can we give it a rest?
What I love about cruising: The workout opportunities
The gym aboard the Celebrity Eclipse. (Photo: Gary Bembridge/Flickr)
The gyms I see on most cruise ships invariably are nicer, better equipped, and offer more interesting classes than the ones I belong to at home. But there are other areas where you can get your workout on. I’m a big fan of jogging along the tracks that many ships have along their upper decks. And for a little added workout, you can take the stairs between decks instead of elevators.
What I hate about cruising: Using the treadmill while the ship’s moving
Treadmills are often oriented to have a view of the bow… because apparently they weren’t hazardous enough. (Photo: Ricky Brigante/Flickr)
Because when the workout ends and you step off, you’re still on a vessel doing 20 knots. It freaks out your legs and your brain: “We just stopped running, so why the @#%^ are we still moving?!”
Geez, I’m getting dizzy just typing this. Moving on…
What I love about cruising: No pressure
If you want nothing to do, a cruise might be for you. (Photo: Getty Images)
When you’re on a cruise ship, you’re free of that “Isn’t there something I should be doing/seeing/experiencing?” vacation pressure that accompanies other trips. When you’re at sea, you’re free to follow your bliss at your own pace, guilt free.
What I hate about cruising: The onboard shows
Mary Poppins show on the Disney Dream. Y’all have fun. I’ll be at the bar. (Photo: Ricky Brigante/Flickr)
I’m sure the performers are talented. But after a day of running around the port of call, assembling in an auditorium at a given time looks too much like “making plans.” And Vacation Me is allergic to “making plans.”
So as you can see, there’s a little to hate but lots to love about cruising. And with new, more luxurious high-tech ships hitting the water this year, we’ll likely see more people let go of their cruise phobias.
“It’s insane,” Chiron says of the new superships setting sail. “The tech innovations are going to bring a lot of first-time cruisers to cruising.”
So stop with the cruise whining. Yes, there are downsides, but this is one case where the good outweighs the bad. So if you’ve been nervous about cruising, take the plunge and boldly go where you haven’t gone before.
OK, I’ll stop with the Star Trek references if everyone stops with the “King of the world” thing.
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