I talk about travel a lot. Usually with anyone who will listen, and many times with people who are just standing still long enough for me to strike up a conversation. Oftentimes the conversation comes around to my favorite destinations and my advice for a better vacation. Whenever I utter the word ‘cruise’ though, I’m met with a wide range of facial expressions. From people who have never cruised before, those expressions usually aren’t positive and instead I wonder if I accidentally punched them in the face or perhaps insulted their mother. Amongst travelers who have never been on a cruise, there is a certain level of discrimination against this popular and fun way to travel and so, I want to address their concerns in this defense of cruising.
Too Many People – The modern cruise ship is large, massive even. It truly is a floating city. The people who designed these floating metropoli though knew this, and spatial planning is a key aspect in the ships. We’ve been on several large cruise ships and yes, there are a lot of people, but it never impacted our trips. We tend to do our own thing and I honestly can’t remember a single instance when I was annoyed by the mass of people. There are a lot of things to do onboard, and it’s rare to find everyone doing the same things at once. That being said, disembarking at a new port can be a pain onboard a large ship, but not insurmountable.
But what most people forget is that large ships are not the only cruising option. There is a wide variety of small ship and expedition style cruises available that offer some very unique experiences. River cruises are adept at taking passengers into close proximity to some of the great capitals of the world, be it in Europe or on the more exotic Mekong River. Excursion style cruises use small ships and give passengers special access to global treasures like the Galapagos, Antarctica and the Arctic in a way that large ships simply cannot. Finally, there is a class of small/medium size cruise ships that are more upscale and unusual. Whether it be for their extremely high-end offerings, unusual cruise routes or style of ship (sailing yacht for example) these ships are smaller and more exclusive.
Nothing to Do – I hear this complaint a lot too. People have the notion that all people do on cruises is eat, sleep and lounge by the pool. If this is all you want to do, sure, your trip can be limited to these activities, but there are so many more options onboard most modern cruise ships. First, keep in mind the fact that most of your days will be spent in a new port of call, so your time on board isn’t as all consuming as one might think. For those sea days though, the ships do a masterful job of organizing activities to appeal to a wide range of guests, from kids to grandparents. I usually find myself in the quandary of being unable to do everything I want to do. Language lessons, trivia contests, putting contests, cooking classes, exercise lessons are just a few of the activities usually offered on cruises. Plus don’t forget that the ships come equipped with spas, gyms, pools, casinos and evening entertainment options. I have never, ever once lacked for activities on a cruise.
Too Much Food – This really is a complaint of an older era of cruising. Just like any other travel choice, you can choose to do as little or as much as you want. Some would say that when I visit Paris all I do is eat, and that’s pretty much true. I don’t think eating a lot has to go hand in hand with cruising though. In fact, most cruise lines have changed with the times and offer a lot of healthy eating options and a higher quality of fare than in years past. Yes, there are midnight chocolate buffets, but you don’t have to go. When I cruise, I have three mains a day and perhaps a snack, like a gelato. That’s it, and I don’t think it’s excessive. A lot of people actually lose weight when they cruise, a result of consistently good quality food and exercise. If you want to pig out on a cruise you can, but it certainly isn’t something that is pushed on the passenger, at least not in my experience.
Not Enough Time in Destinations – This is a valid concern and one that I’ve struggled with in the past. The great benefit of cruising can also be its Achilles heel. It’s great to only unpack once on a trip and see a rich variety of countries in the span of a week. To visit the ports of call on your own would cost significantly more if done without a cruise. But, it means that you only have a day or maybe two in any one location. In the Caribbean, this usually doesn’t create a lot of heartache, but it can deter many from other cruises around the world. We took a European cruise two years ago and loved it. We knew going in that our exposure to the new places would be brief and instead of getting a total understanding, we would be getting tastes. It was great for us, we were able to visit places that are difficult to visit independently and for other places, it gave us the opportunity to see if we liked them enough to return. The example I always give is Athens and Istanbul. Prior to the cruise, I thought I would love Athens and hate Istanbul; the opposite proved true. Rather than plan a week long vacation to Greece and Athens, which would have been a disaster, I instead learned enough to know Istanbul is a city I want to explore in much greater depth. If it weren’t for the cruise, I would never have known that.
Cruising may not be the best travel option for everyone, but I do believe there is a cruise for almost every type of traveler. Whether it be a Lindblad Expedition to the Galapagos, or a Celebrity cruise of the Eastern Caribbean, there are more options than ever to enjoy the unique experience of traveling on the high seas. Cruising is also extremely budget friendly and frankly, a lot of fun. So if in the past you thought cruises weren’t for you, I’d just ask you to reconsider this fantastic travel option.
13 thoughts on “In Defense of the Cruise”
I have been on many cruises in my life. Started at age 18 when I was in the Navy. Now that I’m 50 I prefer Holland America Line. Fewer kids and 5 star service!
Follow me on Twitter @scottlara1961
Good article. I still haven’t taken a cruise yet, but ever since I toured the Celebrity Millennium when it was in port in San Francisco, I’ve had an open mind about it. Nowadays, it seems that there are cruise options for everyone — it’s a matter of making sure that a person selects the right one for their needs. I’d really like to try a European river cruise! Like you said, cruises aren’t for everyone. Travel is a very personal thing.
You’re right on the nose with this one. I just got off Celebrity Silhouette, the newest ship in the Solstice Class. I took a non-cruising traveler with me, a friend who thinks travel means a rail pass and a back pack. She was blown away by exactly the benefits you described – lots to do, plenty of dining options (no matter how much or how often or how healthily one chooses to eat!), lot of cool, intimate spaces, plenty of options for sports and exercise, and a fabulous martini bar.
While it’s true that cruise should never be a traveler’s only option, it should always be considered AN option.
May I suggest that you try Windstar next? I suspect you’d LOVE it!
Christy – @shipsandtrips
Thanks for the great comments Christy! We were actually on the Solstice a couple of years ago and loved it. Beautiful ship.
Windstar has LONG been on my radar, would love to give them a try.
Your points are spot on! I have not cruised but would love a river cruise in Europe or an Alaska cruise or Panama Canal cruise. There is a cruise for everyone.
I like how your mind set allowed you to enjoy your European cruise. I think our mindsets hold us back from a lot of things.
I overcame my prejudices on cruises about 7 years ago and I can honestly say that I have had some of the best vacations on cruises. I have also had some mediocre ones as well, but I now know what to look for and many of the aspects above are key to choosing the right ones. I love smaller boats in places that are not usually accessible and it can be a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. Thanks for the tips I am sure it will help others!
Glad you overcame your prejudices! I agree, I love smaller ships as well, although have had fine experiences on the big ones too.
Hey, if Rick Steves can come around to cruising…most people can!
Great post..i think more and more people are realizing that cruising is a great vacation value and not just for the grey hairs (I have my share). Just make sure to find the right line/ship – there are a ton of choices.
I fully agree. My mom and I travel together. She is 76 and we have done Russia, Mediteranian and going to Norway in May. Enough choices for both of us – you can go as fast or slow as you want. I love cruising and have been to more wonderful cities that i can name here. Cheap and easyto arrange via web.
That’s great! I would LOVE to do a Scandinavian cruise. You also bring up the great point that cruising is a fantastic mulch-generational travel option.
I can’t argue with any of your points, and look forward to cruising again someday. I’d like to point out though that on both cruises I took (on Crystal and Cunard) the median age was somewhere between 70 and death.
And why on earth did you think you would hate Istanbul?? ;)
Well the age has to do with the cruise line. Each has a different personality and with it a slightly different demographic. I think if you sailed with Norwegian, Royal Caribbean or Princess you’d experience a much different average age.
Great article Matt. So nice to hear a traveler defend cruising. As a five-year veteran of working on Cruises, they are near and dear to my heart. I haven’t been on a Cruise since switching careers, but I’m usually the first to advocate for people to go on cruises, especially if they’re first-time travelers. It’s a great, relatively safe way to sample various destinations and come to understand what travel is about.
NB: These days I’m completely in love with traveling by sailboat. Just did a week island hopping in the Greek Isles. If you’re really after a very organic, hands-on travel experience on a boat, try sailing. But if you want to stick with the luxury of a cruise vessel, I’m with the Christy above, definitely give Windstar a try!
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