I have had several friends quiz me about our recent holidays and many were surprised when we told them we had been on two cruises this year. I kind of understand how they feel though. Before I tried them myself, I had the preconception that cruises were a) really expensive and b) for old people!
However, when looking at visiting Cuba earlier this year, we came across a cruise option and it stuck with me. We were slightly apprehensive when we boarded but ended up enjoying it so much we went on another mini-cruise around Scandinavia and the Baltics this summer and our trip to Japan later this year is part-cruise too.
Here are my reasons for enjoying a cruise:
- The food on board is ace. Eating out is a big part of going away for me and the dining options on a cruise ship are great. Whether you fancy a poolside slice of homemade pizza, a bit of everything from the buffet or a formal dining experience, a cruise ship ticks all boxes. I made sure I tried the local cuisine whilst on shore but we loved the foodie side of the ship.
- Most ships tend to be quite luxurious and offer really excellent service. We found the staff to be amazingly helpful and the public areas spotless.
- There is a lot to do on a cruise ship (but no pressure to do it!) Yes, like a hotel, some of the entertainment can be a bit cheesy but there are various activities to do to keep you occupied. We went to the gym a few times as well as some shows in the theatre. There are also usually casinos, spas, quizzes, crafts, talks about the ports you will visit, dance classes, yoga, pilates, etc. Our Japan cruise also includes a traditional Japanese spa with a strict no-swimming costume policy (!) and a nightly film on top deck under the stars complete with blankets, hot chocolate and popcorn!
- You get to visit some amazing places without the hassle of negotiating local transport. It really is cool to go to sleep in one place and wake up in a brand new destination to explore. I guess we almost treat it like a floating hotel and it really does feel very ‘easy’ getting from one port to the next. A cruise also takes care of things like visas which we found very useful when visiting Russia this summer.
- It’s not full of oldies! Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a much younger-than-expected clientele on a cruise ship. We ended up chatting to people of different ages and nationalities.
- You only need to unpack your suitcase once! One of the biggest hassles we found on our road trip was the constant packing and unpacking of our stuff. I really like the fact that a cruise ship gives you a constant base to come back to.
- It is quite a ‘safe’ way to travel. Now, I don’t mean this in a no-danger sense: I mean that it is great for less-intrepid travellers. I must admit that when we were researching our holiday to Japan, I was a bit nervous at the thought of getting around in a country where I don’t speak the language or even use the same alphabet. Although we will obviously be out and about on our own when we dock in a port, there is a bit of me that feels a bit more reassured at not having to negotiate buses and trains there.
- You see some amazing sights. When we travelled from Stockholm to Tallin this summer, we sailed past beautiful little islands and saw lots of dream summer houses whilst enjoying a glorious sunset. I also loved sailing out of Havana and seeing the city from a completely different angle.
- It’s not as expensive as it seems. Yes, cruising isn’t cheap but when you factor in all the elements (all-inclusive food and drink, great service, entertainment, travelling from place to place, accommodation) it would be hard to beat booking all the elements separately.
- There are excellent excursions on offer. I think cruise companies know you want to make the most of your time in a destination so there are some amazing trips offered to suit most budgets. We did a great walking tour of Havana, went ziplining through the rainforest in Jamaica and went tequila tasting in Mexico. Likewise, there is no pressure to book these and we also enjoyed doing our own thing each day on our summer cruise.
Now, I will say that there are some aspects that you may feel are a downside to cruising but it really does depend on the kind of holiday you are after. We tend to switch between wanting something action-packed (like our American road trip in the summer of 2015) or complete relaxation and a cruise can tick some boxes for each.
Here are some of the negative aspects of a cruise holiday:
- You are tied to the sailing times of the ship so have a limited time in each place.
- You may feel that a day isn’t long enough to get a real feel for a place and I would agree to some extent. However, I tend to treat a cruise as a ‘taster’ of a country and our one day in Helsinki has made me want to return to Finland to experience more.
- You may feel slightly claustrophobic on a ship. Personally, I didn’t feel this but I do understand that you may feel a bit trapped, especially if you have a few days at sea without any ports.
- In some ports, you are slightly preyed upon by locals to buy things, take trips etc which can be a bit overwhelming.
In summary, I am really glad I put aside my preconceptions and gave this type of holiday a try. I feel I have been to countries I may not have visited otherwise and came home feeling well-rested yet like I had been on a jam-packed holiday. Whilst I would describe myself as a convert to cruising, it certainly wouldn’t be the only type of holiday I would take. I still like staying in one place for a week and discovering the local charms but I definitely see some more cruises in our future.
Would you ever consider a cruise? x