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The Pros and Cons of Cruising

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Ah, the cruising life! When I was a young woman, I would read stories of celebrities taking a cruise and it always sounded so glamorous to me. A cruise seemed like something unreachable to an average working girl such as myself. The very idea of a cruise always had certain savoir-faire and was a luxury to be enjoyed only by the rich and famous.

Those days have changed. Cruising has become more of a household word these days, and more and more people are finding a cruise to be more affordable, with more ships to choose from, and a very pleasant alternative to vacation ideas.

The Pros and Cons of Cruising

pros and cons of cruising

In more recent times, Cruise Lines have streamlined the art of cruising by adding more ships to their fleets and offering a wider spectrum of amenities, activities and general ambiance to keep passengers happy.

As the popularity of cruising has grown, so have the ships themselves. All of the major cruise lines have gradually added more length, more tonnage and more features to each new ship being built, making them more and more attractive to passengers of all ages. This is because cruises are not limited to celebrities, nor is it any longer just for affluent senior citizens who have the time and money to cruise!

You can see passengers of all ages sailing on one ship! The reason being is that the new “mega ships” as they have been dubbed, have given consideration to the interests of all age groups and make it a point to include something for everyone. Let’s take music for example, which is an important element to consider when trying to please 2500 or more passengers, with a myriad of musical tastes.

If you stroll around a ship, you will most likely find a piano bar entertaining with smooth jazz, a disco with all the rock and roll and pulsating rhythms of the day, there will be classic “big band” music for ballroom dancing, there will inevitably be a DJ or live band playing oldies somewhere on the ship, and quite often you’ll find a solo artist/guitarist playing country tunes. Some ships may even include Latin music and salsa dancing! You can dance the night away if you so desire.

After sailing on more than 20 cruises, from small ships to mega ships, every cruise has been thrilling. I have always felt that as soon as I begin any cruise, it takes on a life of its own. In other words, no two cruises are the same! I have sailed on the same ship more than once, but it is still different and fresh, because of the new people you meet on board, and the events that take place, all play a part in making each cruise an individual experience.

I couldn’t possibly list all the positive reasons to cruise! Today’s ships are making it easier and more fun all the time. The cuisine is getting better and better, with 5-star menus and gourmet presentation. You might even see a Johnny Rockets 50’s style diner, or freshly made pizza served around the clock, or enjoy gelato, high tea, wine tastings, occasional BBQ’s on the pool deck. Buffets or sit down dining is yours for the taking!

You can shop at sea, gamble in the casino, play games, join in the wide variety of activities, take dance lessons, do crafts, take tours of the ship, galley or bridge. If it is quiet time you desire, most ships have a library with a fairly good assortment of novels and other reading material. In addition to libraries, some of the newer ships have designated game rooms with board games and cards available. A few ships have a movie theatre complete with popcorn! There is as much, or as little to do, as you would like. The choice is yours.

Oddly enough, I thought the larger ships might seem too crowded with all those passengers, but surprisingly, the mega ships are designed to give you a sense of space and due to the staggering of dinner times and show times, there was never a line or congestion in the common areas. You can always find a lounge chair by the pool, and they certainly make it easy for everyone to have a wonderful experience.

On the down side, the only thing I can think of that might be a problem, are the “At Sea” days that most ships include in the itinerary. I once sailed with a girlfriend who really didn’t like to be confined on the ship. As for me, I enjoy the “At Sea” days. Those are the times I can schedule a relaxing massage, or take a dip in the pool, or go work out in the gym, or just relax and enjoy it all!

Random Tips for Taking a Cruise

Some last minute items that may not have crossed your mind when planning your vacation.

So you think you have your trip all planned out? Make sure you consider the following tips to make your cruise a pleasant vacation experience.

For traveling, please take heed: Do not pack all of his clothes in one suitcase and all of hers clothes in another. In the event that one of them is lost (permanently or temporarily), it helps that each person has something to wear!

Also, if you want to change before dinner the first night, pack those clothes in your carry-on, as you may not see your luggage until after dinner the first night (seriously, the crew has a lot of luggage to deliver).

My personal recommendation? Choose the second (later) seating for dinner. You are still finished in time to see the nightly shows and entertainment, and you have the benefit of not interrupting your daytime activities early to go get cleaned up for dining.

For items to pack, consider the following:

Check to see if pagers are available for families on board. If not, consider bringing walkie-talkies so your family can communicate across the vast expanse that is your ship.

Bring items to layer on your clothing. Even in warm areas, nights can be brisk while walking the promenade deck at sea counting the stars, so make sure you have at least one or two warm covers.

Purchase water-proof or disposable cameras. Always overestimate how many pictures you will take, as they can always be used at another time. You can get disposable digital cameras fairly cheaply, which may be smarter than worrying about the condition (or theft) of your real one.

Bring an insulated water bottle to fill up at the buffet with water, tea, etc. so you can take it with you to the pool or to some activities.

I would recommend bringing sticky-type notes for your room steward in case you’d like to request something different or special. They are often happy to accommodate as long as they are aware of a need.

When you first board, you will want to explore the ship. However, if you want to use the spa or salon, get there soon after boarding, as the best times usually fill up quickly. The spas often offer special discounts for early bookings, specific day bookings, first day bookings, etc.

And when you are ready to leave the ship, pack everything that you purchased abroad and will be claiming on your customs form in one bag. That way, if you are questioned about any of it, it will be easy to locate. If you purchase any food items, either consume them entirely before the cruise is over or do not open them at all. Most food items cannot be brought into the US opened.

Make sure you are taking care of the people who take care of you while onboard. All cruise lines offer the option for you to pre-pay gratuities. Each line has a standard amount per person per day that you can pay in advance. These pre-paid gratuities will be split among your stateroom attendant, head waiter, waiter and assistant waiter. I always pre-pay gratuities (but feel the amount usually around $15 to $20 per day isn’t really sufficient) and then give each a little extra the last night of the cruise (so make sure you have some cash with you). I base that last night amount on the service I’ve received all week. These people work hard and depend on your tips to feed their families!

Have fun. Despite all of these rules and reminders, a cruise is truly an awesome and relaxing experience. You can visit multiple destinations in the hands of other people who are just looking for ways to serve you. It’s enough to spoil you, but it certainly is something I would recommend to try at least once!

Money Tips for Your Next Cruise

Life aboard a ship, even for a week, takes some extra financial steps. Use these tips to make for a smoother sail.

There are a number of ways to be sure that your cruise is as smooth-sailing as possible. You will likely have to make some financial decisions about how you will handle life at sea for a short time.

You will want to start in the planning process of your cruise to make sure you are making the soundest financial decisions. When booking, always ask about discounts and their requirements.

For instance, Carnival Cruise Lines extends its military discount to anyone who has ever served for 2+ years (with proper supporting documentation). Before you leave on your vacation, call your credit cards and bank to notify them that you will be traveling abroad and therefore you will need access to use your cards at international venues. Otherwise, you may get denied in your bank or credit card company’s attempt to protect your account from theft.

Once you get on board, you will want to open a ship account to cover your expenses while afloat. You might want to make sure you usea credit card to open your ship account. They often put a minimum amount on hold from the guaranteeing account and if this is more than you have in your checking account, using a debit card can cost your overdraft fees.

Everyday amenities of home will be a bit limited while at sea, but you can plan to make these differences affordable if you know what to plan for. Consider an international (if needed) phone card and call from port. The ship phones are outrageous, your cell phone may not work at sea, and abroad you are likely to face outlandish roaming charges.

If you do call home from port, travel a bit from the ship to get access to a phone, as this is also the crew’s only chance to call home and the wait for a phone is likely to be long. You don’t want to spend your entire trip to land waiting to call home! And if you want/need to do laundry either look for a ship that offers guest-access laundry facilities or take supplies and hand wash in your sink. Laundry services via the staff is costly and not worth the cost.

You’ll also want to be smart about your spending while at sea. You should check to see if your salon or spa offers discounts on days/times that the ship is in port. This is often done to attract customers during what it otherwise a very slow period for them. Also, keep in mind that the shops on board may likely offer sales as the trip goes on, so don’t blow your shopping money in the first day or so.

And those photographs? I know you will want to snatch up each one you see, but resist buying the cruise-photographer photos as soon as you see them. They will be available all week for viewing. At the end of the week, gather all of them and only buy the ones you really like the best. Also, by the end of the week, the prices may be reduced! Even if they are not, you will at least get to pick from all of your options at once.

And lastly, and most important, do NOT get left at port after an outing. You can get back on the ship, but it will be at your own expense. Travel insurance does not cover the lack of ability to tell time.

Following these tips will help make your cruise a more pleasant experience and allow you to relax as intended!