Tuesday, June 23, 2009


We have taken cruises to many different parts of the world. While cruising is not the ideal way to see the interiors of countries, it does have some advantages. One is that you are in the same room each night and don't have to drag luggage from hotel to hotel. Another is that you can get food on board the ship so you don't have to worry about local cuisine and its problems. Many times you don't even have to change money into local currencies because the ports will take American dollars.

However, there are disadvantages of cruising besides the fact that it is hard to see the interiors of countries. Although food is available at all times, you do get tired of it, especially if you are on a long cruise. I am not a fan of ethnic eating and on the last cruise, it seemed as if you had very little choices, even in the buffet, besides the food of the country that the ship was featuring that night. I am one of the only people who loses weight on a cruise because I find the desserts, although very plentiful, too rich for me.

Shore excursions are very expensive. It is no fun to sit on a crowded bus where the air conditioning doesn't work properly to see cities four hours away from the ship. It is also interesting to note that you are usually taken to very expensive souvenir shops on the tour where someone profits instead of being allowed to shop the local markets. On one tour in Marrakech, we were taken to one of those expensive shops where few people purchased items; yet were rushed through the souks where we would have enjoyed bargaining with the local merchants. Also the tours guides that are on the shore excursions may be great guides or may be mediocre - it's just the bus you are assigned to that determines who your guide may be. See my post on tour guides a while back.

Lunch on shore excursions can be an interesting experience. The tour companies try to make the food served indicative of the native cuisine. That is fine in Israel, where we were served regular meats and vegetables raised on a kibbutz, but in China, it is a different story. I always like to know what I am eating and how it is seasoned. A sample menu should be provided along with excursion information.

Embarking and disembarking can be the best or worst part of the cruise depending on port regulations. I loathe being forced out of my room on disembarkation day only to sit in a public area for three hours waiting for my color to be called. Most of the time embarkation is not a problem but once someone in line let an entire busload of people get ahead of us and another time we had to wait outside in the hot sun for over a hour.

We have chosen anytime dining on our past two cruises. This means that we supposedly eat when we want and with whom we want to eat. However, to get a table for two means making a reservation first thing in the morning. Otherwise you will get stuck with someone who takes the entire time to go through one course. And the waiters won't start the next course until everyone has finished the present course. I am just not in the habit of taking two hours to finish a meal. After a 9-hour tour, it is a lot easier to eat in the buffet, where you get the same food as in the formal dining room, just not the presentation. Fine with me.

Balcony cabins are great. You can take pictures as you come into port, sit outside in privacy, and have a great window to view the ocean. But you can look out over someone else's balcony or they can look down over yours, depending on the architecture of the ship. And 90% of the time, your balcony is near that of a person who smokes the smelliest cigar ever known to man.

You think you got a deal on your cruise? You will think again when you see your shipboard account at the end of the cruise. In addition to your expensive short excursions, bargains from the gift shop that you couldn't do without, and the cost of soft drinks and bottled water (if you forget to purchase it in port on the previous stop), the cruise line tacks on a daily resort fee that is usually $10.50 to $11.00 per person per day. It can get expensive on a longer cruise. Some people have shipboard bills higher than what they actually paid for the cruise, especially if they spend a lot of time in the lounges (which we don't).

I do enjoy cruises. I like someone else making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, and cooking my free food. I like looking out at the ocean. I like going to bed at night feeling the rocking of the ship (if it isn't too much). But the points above are points to consider when booking your next sea vacation.

1 comment:

Brian R said...

My sister and I disagree on this. She loves cruises though is very selective in the excursions, generally finds it better to do her own thing in port. I have never been on a cruise, unless you count 24 hours from Helsinki to Germany and believe I would find it boring. I like doing my own thing, planning and finding my way is more than half the fun. However I agree that packing up and moving every few days can be trying. Oh just realised I enjoyed a Rhine cruise for 3 nights in 1974 but that was not an ocean cruise.