I’ve just returned from my third Caribbean cruise and I’m still not sure how I feel about cruising. There are things I love about it, and things that I don’t. For me, once every 6+ years would be plenty, though I know other people make cruising an annual event. I’ve traveled on different cruise lines going to a variety of stops in the Caribbean. Here’s my Top 10 things to consider when deciding whether or not to take a cruise.
I know this probably sounds silly, but you really should consider whether you’re the type of person who likes to relax on vacation. I’m not. Sitting in the sun by the pool bores me after an hour and on a cruise, you have many, many, MANY hours that will probably be spent sitting in the sun.
2. The Food
You hear about this all the time. “The food! The food!” There is A LOT of food and in my experience, some of it is really good. You’re going to have options: buffets, dining rooms, private steakhouses, etc. I’ve found that the dining rooms are the best places to eat and on most cruises, the menu changes every day. It’s a great time to try things you might not otherwise because it’s free! And you can order as much as you like. There have been several times I’ve ordered more than one appetizer or entree because I couldn’t decide. I’m usually very pleased.
The buffet food is okay. To me, the buffets are really more about convenience. If you don’t want to change out of your swimsuit but just want to throw on a cover-up and grab something quick, this is a good option. It’s also a good choice if you have kids who are picky eaters. Or if you only want something light.
Then there are the “private” dining rooms that cost extra. I’ve never figured out why people would pay to go these when there’s so much good food already included in the price!
This is why I cruise: to explore the port cities. Shore excursions can be pricey, but I’ve learned that you can always plan ahead and find independent tour companies who will take you on the same tours that the cruise lines offer. Usually it’s a little cheaper and your group is a little smaller. The cruise lines often contract with the same tour operators anyway. Booking directly just means you’re cutting out the profit that the cruise line makes.
4. Being at Sea
I love being at sea. (Though I don’t love multiple days at sea. I like to get off the ship.) It surprised me to learn how many people are afraid of open water. But for the most part, once these people are on the water and feel how smooth it is and experience how huge the cruise ship is, they’re not so afraid anymore.
5. Extra Charges
There are several hidden charges you need to be aware of before you get on a cruise.
1) Internet/wifi charges. It costs a fortune! Most ships offer hourly plans, but they’re very pricey and very slow. If you’re taking a cruise, put your computer and electronic devices away and enjoy the break.
2) Mandatory Tips – Tips for the staff are built in to your bill. These usually run $10-15/per person, per day. You’ll see this charge on your final bill. I don’t think there’s much you can do about it, and the staff really does earn it.
3) Drinks – Cocktails and alcohol are pretty expensive. So is soda. Just know that you can buy a soda plan (and should if you drink a lot of it). You can also bring bottled water on board, which will save you money, and you can usually bring 1 or 2 bottles of wine in your luggage.
6. Onboard Activities
You may wonder whether you’ll really find much to do onboard. There are activities planned that could keep you busy every hour of the day — if they’re the kinds of things you like doing. I can usually find a couple shows or comedy routines to entertain me, but I’d say I only spend about 3 hours a day in organized activities. Which leaves too much time for me by the pool…
7. Kids’ Clubs
These are great. There are all types of organized activities and kids are grouped by age. I especially liked it for my daughter when she was younger because as an only-child, I felt like she needed other kids to play with. The staff is great and the activities seem fun. My stepsister felt funny leaving her boys with the Kids’ Club, but I think in part it was because she knew they wouldn’t behave. Too bad. They had LOTS of energy to burn and she wasn’t up for entertaining them all day.
The cruise line has remedies for that. The water in the Caribbean is very smooth. The Atlantic Ocean is a little rougher. I’ve never had trouble with seasickness, but some of my companions have felt the choppiness at times. It never really hindered their trips, though.
9. Being Away From It All
I loved this aspect of cruising. From the minute you step on board, even before the ship pulls away from the dock, you feel like you’re unreachable. It’s a wonderful feeling to let go of all the minutiae of life back home. Give in and embrace the idea of being on a floating oasis out in the middle of the sea.
10. The Cost
Actually, I find cruises to be once of the most economical vacation choices. For a few hundred dollars per person you get 4-10 days of lodging, meals, entertainment, and transportation to other countries. Budgeting for these expenses on land comes out to a lot more than what it costs to cruise. Again, if you add a lot of drinks and excursions to your cruise, it’s going to get more expensive, but dollar for dollar, cruising is a great deal.
Anything I missed in this overview of things to consider about cruising? Anything you’d like to add?