Have you ever been on a cruise? Although I'm not a cruise expert, I have been on several and have had the opportunity to talk to many cruise travelers about the pros and cons of this niche of travel. Cruises take a very specific type of traveler, and can be a blast if you're ready, or a horrible time if you're not.
1. It's a moving hotel. After my husband and I planned our wedding for fourteen months, we wanted nothing more than to not plan a single second more. A honeymoon cruise was just what we were looking for. We knew we wanted to go to Europe, but were exhausted by the thought of planning each train, hotel, and restaurant. The cruise saved us from all of that.
2. If you're a social person, it's a great way to meet new friends I actually witnessed a few groups of people meeting up for the second or third time on our European cruise.
3. You know the cost in advance. Barring all elective expenditures off of the ship (or alcohol on board) you know exactly what you are spending before you even disembark which is both nice for the pocketbook and makes budgeting for the trip easier.
4. Excursions can take you directly to the sites that you want to see the most. Instead of having to plan your own ground transportation, excursions from the ship can take you directly where you want to go and get you back on time. Plus, all arrangements are made for you in advance, so there are no lines or waiting for hot-ticket tourist attractions. You can make a mental note of places that you might like to return to in the future to spend more time.
5. You get to eat — constantly. No, it may not be the most amazing 5-star cuisine you've ever had, but let me tell you, if you haven't tried Carnival Cruise's Pizza Pirate station, you haven't lived.
6. You get to see a variety of destinations rather than just one or two, all in a short period of time. We did a jaunt to Italy, by way of Spain and Croatia. If it weren't part of the itinerary, I may not have made the point to go and see Croatia, but I'm so glad that the cruise went through those ports — they were some of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
1. You don't have extended time at your destinations. There is something to be said for wandering lovely streets in exotic locales without a care in the world, living like the locals and discovering restaurants and shops. If you really want to get a sense of local life in a location, a cruise won't do it for you. Cruisers are required to be back on the ship at a certain time, which leaves little leisure time in certain ports. If you want to take your time and really get to know a destination, go on your own.
2. The proximity of your fellow travelers. If you are prepared to ignore that family of eight directly next door that ignores the non-smoking signs, parties all night and acts like they own the joint, you'll do just fine. But if you want a quiet, relaxing getaway, be sure to do your research and perhaps consider non-cruise plans.
3. The food. Depending on your cruise line (more expensive cruises are starting to incorporate more options) you may not have a very large variety of choices when it comes to the cuisine. If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, it may be difficult to find something appetizing on the cruise. Also, you definitely won't be eating the local food of your destination. It will most likely be pre-planned and processed.
4. If you don't splurge on a balcony, you'll really be missing out. Interior rooms are fine if you are social and easily get along in a crowd. If you're an introvert (like me) you'll definitely want to have a balcony where you can sit with your glass of wine and enjoy the lovely view. The public decks are usually crowded and noisy, so be sure to weigh all of your options.
5. Depending on the cruise line, it can be a little cheesy. Don't get me wrong, I embrace that lovely, hilarious cheese. I couldn't get enough of our European Cruise and all of the silly videos, games and excursions. However, if you're not up for laughing at yourself — and with everyone else — definitely make non-cruise plans.
We'd love to hear your pros or cons to cruise travel, and remember — whatever floats your boat!
(Photo of Venice, Italy from our 2012 cruise, by Andie Powers)