People can be so opinionated sometimes, and that’s absolutely true when it comes to travel. Everyone thinks that their unique travel style, their trips and adventures are the only way to get out there and have fun. I was recently somewhere and was told that backpacking solo is the only “real” way to see the world. Well that’s crap. It doesn’t matter how people enjoy their time traveling, as long as they get out there and do it. One of the most misunderstood forms of travel is also one of my favorites, the cruise.
As soon as you say cruise people have images swirling through their noggins about what to expect. Almost everyone considers them to be versions of the Love Boat, filled with octogenarians and the lazy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been on a variety of cruises, from large mega-ships to small expeditions style cruises but one thing they all have in common is that they are a different but fantastic way to travel. Here’s why I PERSONALLY (Note that word please) love cruises.
1. Mobility – One of the great benefits of a cruise is perhaps the most obvious, it’s a mobile experience. You are on a boat, that boat moves, that makes it possible to do and see more at a better price than if you were to mimic the experience on your own. Case in point: A few years ago my partner and I took an 11-night cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean. The itinerary was great including stops at places like Rome, Santorini, Athens and more. We knew going into it though that we wouldn’t get a lot of time in each place, the Achilles’ heel of any cruise really. But we used the opportunity to quickly gauge the destinations to see whether or not we liked them in order to plan future trips. Before that cruise if asked I would have guessed that Athens would have been a highlight. It was not. I hated it. It’s a cesspool of humanity that no one should ever visit under any circumstance. But imagine how I would have felt had I planned a weeklong vacation there. I would have been irate. That cruise gave me the opportunity to get a quick impression of Athens with ease. In other situations mobility is necessary. In the Caribbean it’s the best way to visit several islands and in more exotic destinations like the Galapagos and Antarctica, it’s the best way to get into the nooks and crannies of a new place.
2. Convenience – My last two land-based trips have been great, but they also included staying in a new hotel every night. That means over weeks of travel I never actually had the opportunity to unpack my suitcase. This annoys me. A lot. That’s why I love cruising, the ability to settle in, relax and feel at home if only for a week or so. It’s great visiting 4-5 countries and still being able to sleep in the same bed every night. It may seem like a small thing, but it’s a great luxury on a long trip and something I get to experience very rarely. Cruise ships, no matter their size, are designed to make sure you have a good time – even in Antarctica. Meals are included of course and the options are usually plentiful. That’s not to say every meal should be enjoyed on board, but it’s nice to know the option is there should you need it. Cruise ships are divided into segments, part hotel and part restaurant. How they commingle is key and it is this unique combination that makes cruising attractive and yes, easier at times than other forms of vacation.
3. Choices – One of the great misconceptions about cruising that annoys me the most is that all there is to do is eat and sleep. And eat some more. And then nap after you eat. That may have been true thirty years ago, but times have changed and so has the cruise experience. On larger cruise ships you can be as active as you want to be. The fitness centers are massive and feature near constant classes and some of the mega-ships have amazing adventure sports right on board. Throughout the days and evenings there are classes, demonstrations, sports, movies, you name it, there are a million ways to keep yourself active and occupied. If you want to that is. It’s also very easy to go to the spa and sit around the pool all day and it is this flexibility that I love. My partner likes to relax on vacation, I don’t. I have to be in perpetual motion or I explode. On a cruise we can do both and not drive each other crazy. And this is just on board the ship; don’t forget that there are several stops at new ports and countries where you spend the day playing tourist and engaging in whatever fun activities are on offer there.
4. The People – I would not have listed this on my first or even second cruise, but now it’s an important part of the experience for me. On our third cruise we were denied our usual request for a table for two and were lumped in with several other people at a table for ten. This is where we had dinner every night for more than a week and at first I was worried. I’m gay and I’m totally open and fine with that. What does annoy me from time to time is having to constantly re-come out everywhere I go. “Oh, is your wife here?” “Is that your brother?” No, I’m gay and we’ve been married for 11 years. To avoid this and any potential hateful people, we chose to eat alone until that wasn’t possible. And you know what? It transformed the trip into something extraordinary. We formed friendships that persist four years later and the trip itself was a lot more fun experiencing it with others. I love my partner, but spending every waking second together 24/7 for eleven days is a lot to ask. Since that cruise we have been better at seeking out people, forming new relationships and every time it’s been richly rewarded. This feeling of camaraderie is even stronger on small ship or expedition style cruises, where everyone enjoys living through the unique experiences together.
5. Total experience – As with any travel experience I think, the totality of the trip is more than the individual segments of which it is made. There’s just something about a cruise, something wonderful that is difficult to explain until you actually do it. It’s not uncommon to find people who have been on ten, twenty and even thirty cruises and it’s because they’re addicted to this feeling I’m trying so poorly to describe. Sitting on the balcony of your cabin and watching the sun set over the warm waters of the Caribbean as the ship leaves port is a unique experience. Watching Italian volcanoes simmer as you round the boot of Italy is a unique experience. Smiling at pods of whales following along as your ship charters the frozen waters of Antarctica is a unique experience. The only way you can enjoy any of these memories that will last a lifetime is on a cruise. That’s just a fact.
So there you have it, a few reasons why I love to cruise and why I think everyone should try it at least once. There’s no room in this world for travel snobbery and life is too short to dismiss out of hand something you’re not even willing to try. There is a style of cruising for everyone, so do some research, figure out what that style is and try it and then, and only then, can you be judgey about the experience.
Have you been on a cruise? What did you think?
23 thoughts on “Battling Misconceptions: Five Reasons Why I Love Cruises”
I’ve never been on a cruise but my husband promised my daughter a Disney Cruise since she got an award at school, so probably by the end of the year I will be able to say how I feel about it.
Having a kid, what always terrifies me when the kid-friendly cruise thought comes to my mind is the other moms. I was never one to join a neighbourhood mommy group and cannot stand the playground conversations such as “I only feed my kid organic this” or “there is no way my child will eat that much sugar”; I grew up being able to eat whatever I wanted, provided it was not overly unhealthy and I raise my kid the same way, so being “judged” like I usually am by other moms, especially in a cruise setting always drove me nuts! But I am willing to try it, all in name of positive reinforcement to your kid that did well in school :)
What you mentioned about sharing a table with other people, I noticed that over the years we became less “social” in that sense but I am noticing we are slowly changing back to our “normal” and end up not minding to share tables at all. In France a gay couple at first didn’t feel comfortable sharing a table because we had our little one with us (they said so) but we told them and so did she to come and sit beside us. They felt refreshed that to our family there was no “re-come out” interrogation and that we were sharing stories of our very good neighbours back home who also happened to be gay.
It would be so nice to see society stopping with the hipocrisy and follow the golden commandment to love and respect all like we wish to be loved and respected, eh?
Monique, thanks so much for taking the time to leave this thoughtful comments, I appreciate it. And I couldn’t agree more – live and let live! :)
Matt, firstly I love reading your blogs. They are incredibly informative and a pleasure to read.
Secondly, agree with you on cruising. We’ve been on a few, and it’s one of the best ways of traveling. Great value for money too.
Hope you enjoyed South Africa.
Very gracious of you to say Anisha thank you and I’m glad I’m not alone!
Exactly how I feel about cruises! I enjoy your posts a lot…it’s like listening to the things I’ve always wanted to say without having to say it. We must have been twins in a previous life! :-p
Thanks Bobby! I appreciate the kind words
I have only been on one cruise, but would love to go on more! My experience wasn’t great, but I think it was due to other circumstances, rather than the cruise itself (though I think I’d definitely choose a smaller cruise than one of the giant Royal Caribbean boats the next time!) I was wondering if you have encountered any specific cruise lines that were either very gay friendly or NOT gay friendly. Just trying to get an idea of which cruises to research when it comes time to plan a vacation!
Honestly I’ve never had an issue being gay on a cruise. That being said keep in mind that some cruise lines attract different people for different reasons.
My husband and I are avid cruisers – just returned from our 10th cruise (our 7th with Princess)! We can happily report that Princess ships are gay friendly. GLBT Get-Togethers are scheduled just about every evening, usually in a bar/lounge with a dance floor. This past February, we were cruising on Valentine’s Day, and gay and lesbian couples were absolutely as welcome as straight couples to participate in the re-commitment ceremony that was held in the Piazza. It was extremely touching to see some elderly couples participate in this; we suspect that many of them had faced a lot of discrimination over the years.
I wonder why they need special get togethers. Why not let EVERYONE mingle, or not.
I PERSONALLY couldn’t disagree with you more on your first point, man. I would argue that your snap judgement on Athens is a prime example of a major downside of cruising. In your quick impression, you deemed it a “cesspool of humanity that no one should ever visit under any circumstance”. Talk about being dramatic for starters, but as you said it was a “quick impression”. You simply don’t have enough time in a place on a cruise to form a real opinion, because you can’t truly judge a place in a a few hours, and we all know that. Just sayin’.
If I was alone in that thought, I’d agree. But given the fact almost every person I’ve met feels the same way, I’d say it was right on. Places click or they don’t and I do think it’s possible to get an initial impression right away. Most times it isn’t this stark, it’s more of a “I need to come back here and learn more”
Spent a week there Scott and yes Matt is a bit dramatic, but I think if he stayed a week he’d feel the same.
I visited Athens and agree with you 100%. The people were totally unfriendly and seemed to use the language as a barrier; not even attempting to communicate or be helpful. I felt like an unwelcome intruder in the city. I don’t plan to return. Thank god my partner and I used that cruise (and numerous others) to get a sense of the places we want to return to and those we will never return to. Edinburgh and Dubrovnik were two that immediately connected with us and which remain in our hearts.
Excellent explanation of the beauty and advantages of cruising.
Thanks Kerbie and yeah, we did the same thing. I recently visited Dubrovnik NOT on a cruise and I can attest to just how amazing a place it is.
Nice article Matt!
I’ve never been on a cruise and to be honest, I probably don’t care if I ever go on a cruise. My main reason is something that you pointed out – limited time in different locations. Besides, in Europe I’ve been to just about all the places that a cruise ship in the Med or around the Baltic Sea goes to, so for me it would be a waste of time.
Your comment about Athens made me chuckle and nod my head in agreement. I spent a week there for a conference and it was a dump and the people have to be the rudest that I have ever come across in Europe. The good thing is that it was easy to get out of the city too and a short drive will take you to some beautiful beaches.
I just found your page (via AFAR) and love your writing style so as Arnie said, “I’ll be back!”
Thanks Mike and welcome to the site! Keep in mind, there are also expedition and small ship cruises out there that may appeal to you more. These visit destinations such as the South Pacific, Antarctica, the Arctic, Alaska and the Galapagos.
Interesting post thank you! I used to be snobby about cruises too, and looked down on people who took them. Now I don’t, because my mom has taken me on three awesome cruises with her: up the Amazon, to Antarctica, and to the Arctic (Iceland, Faroe Is, Norway). Not only are these places I might not have seen other than from a boat, but the opportunity to spend time with family on a cruise is infinitely better than on land because you have all that downtime together during sea days. No arguments over whether to eat at a street stall versus fine dining. Sure there are downsides–I get seasick easily–but I love the ports and whole process of traveling without having to lug around my stuff or stress about planning. Anyway, thanks again for the inspiration as you have encouraged me to write about my own feelings and experiences on this too.
Your article resonates so much with me. Since I was a child, I have been addicted to travel, but I always thought cruising would be terribly boring. On a whim with a friend, I took my first cruise for 4 days in December. Now, I am a certified cruising addict. I have already booked the next one for 7 days in March (in a few weeks). I found your site because I Googled “people who love cruising.” I can’t get enough of researching this travel style until I can get out there again. :)
Oh good! I hope you enjoy it :) It’s a fun way to travel, no doubt.
Very nicely written article. I agree with your comments regarding Athens. That was a good point you made about the opportunity to get a “quick impression” of a location to decide whether it is a place that you would like to return and spend more time. You did a get job describing the benefits of cruising that many people have a difficult time articulating. I will definitely continue to read your blog. Thank you, Ginger
I’ve been on two cruises and they were just ok, not something I would go out of my way to do. I’m a tinkerer (fix, repair, make stuff, crafts, solve problems) so I find just doing things for the sake of passing the time away incredibly boring. Yes, there are things to do on board – dancing, comedy shows, fashion shows, crafts classes – but I find watching hours of This Old House a lot more entertaining than cruise on-board activities.
When I’m on land, I love exploring. I love walking and walking and walking to explore. But, that’s the big downside with cruises – you don’t really get to explore.
Sigh. I have to go on another cruise – family thing. Our oldies (80s and 90s) love it. Most in our group love it for the tons and tons of food. The oldest, in his 90s, has to eat every 2-3 hours (his life’s rule). You can’t pretty much do anything when everyone has to stop so he can eat or choose activities that fit within those 3-h intervals.
What a great article Matt! My husband and I have love cruising and share your view – there are some memories which only crusing can provide, and the opportunity to try out new destinations to see if they warrant a longer visit is a perfect bonus. Growing up in a small country town in P.R., I dreamed of seeing the world, glued to the TV whenever a National Geographic special was on and devouring encyclopedias, thinking only the rich could enjoy such wonders. Well, the military took us to Germany where every weekend we went to neighboring countries, and then got brave and went on our first cruise. It’s been a love affair ever since; now our little boy enjoys it as much as we do. Visiting several countries in a week and food, lodging, travel, and even entertainment are included? You can’t beat that! Can’t wait for our son to get a little older for the ones in our bucket list: Machu Pichu, Antarctica, Galapagos…
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