Cruising used to be a type of holiday that only the super-wealthy can afford (think back to Titanic), but nowadays, even a thrifty uni student like me can happily go on one. Over the past few years or so, I’ve been on a couple of cruises- one for 10 nights to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, one for 14 nights to New Zealand, and one for 6 nights to Tasmania and Victoria. And while I always come back from cruises with an ambivalent feeling, I’ve just booked myself and a friend for another one to Vanuatu and New Caledonia next February. Here’s a list of pros and cons about cruises:
You only have to pack and unpack once
The beauty about cruises is that you’re travelling from one place to another in basically a hotel, so you can just hang all your clothes up and leave all your mess everywhere. Of course, there will still come a time where you’d have to pack when you disembark from the cruise, but that’s not something we’d like to think about…
2. You don’t have to do any of your cleaning, or cooking…
Cruising is still a luxury. Period. Your lovely steward/stewardess (and trust me, they’re ALWAYS lovely!) will clean your room twice a day. As you’re walking around the cruise, you’re constantly being attended to. You have an abundant choice of where to dine, but at the minimum, every cruise will have a buffet and a tradition dining restaurant for you to choose. Others, you’d have to pay for, but it won’t be much! Although, you still have to put your own laundry in the washing machines located on the cruise, and have to pay a little too.
3. You’re free to choose however much or however little you want.
The beauty about cruises is that there is such a big range of activities to choose, and you don’t even have to feel obliged to do any! Whether it’s zumba class, trivia, bingo, reading by the pool, running on the deck, the list is endless.
4. You don’t have to be paranoid about being robbed on overnight trains/buses. In fact, you feel safe at all times.
I can’t say that I’ve been on a lot of overnight trains or buses before, but I know a lot of people who have and have heard a lot of their horror stories. Being knifed. Waking up with someone’s face right in front of them. You get the gist. The beauty about cruises is that your room is completely safe- only people in your cabin and your steward/stewardess have access into them. And since you MUST have your cabin card with you at all times as that’s your ID and credit card while you’re on the cruise, the only way for people to actually get into your cabin is if they somehow get your card, or if you’re stupid enough to lose it. In fact, all cruises have CCTVs basically every couple of hundred metres, so be assured that it’s all very safe.
5. You arrive at a new destination in your sleep.
If you’re someone who gets bored when you’re sitting in the car, or any type of public transport, then cruising is definitely much easier. You don’t feel like you’re wasting a lot of time on travelling from place to place, because the cruise keeps moving while you sleep and voila, you’re at your new destination when you wake up. Talk about an incentive to get out of bed! This was me, I was that person who couldn’t wait to get out of bed to explore a new place! Although, it’s worth noting that some port are further away from each other, so you’d have to have one or more sea days in between ports, which means more activities and food!!!
6. You can do activities that you’d never think of doing at home.
Someone once said to me: “Do everything you can on the cruise that you’d never dream of.” She said this to me as my brother and I spontaneously signed ourselves up for karaoke on our last cruise to New Zealand. I mean, you’ll never see any of these people again (unless you actually plan to stay in contact with them, which I have), so what’s there to lose? Whether it’s things like being absolutely crazy at ABBA trivia, singing Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, join a rock choir (which should be shameful when you’re a classical musician…)… Yeah, you get the idea.
7. The food is amazing.
I don’t know about you, but I never eat 3 course meals at home. Even when I go out, my cheap budget as a uni student does not allow me to have the luxury of having 3 course meals. On the cruise it’s a completely different story. You’ve paid for the food already! So whether you choose to eat at the traditional dining restaurant (3 or more courses meals everyday), the buffet (no other words needed to explain how much food you can eat at the buffet), or another paid restaurant at some extra cost (I admit, I’ve never actually tried them before, but that’s because I’m super happy with the traditional dining option), you’d sure get more than you need. Although there’s a stigma around buffet food, you’d be impressed to know that a lot of their dishes come from the same ones as the traditional dining restaurant, but just without the service and the spot-on presentation.
8. You’ll make some awesome friends.
Someone would definitely come up to talk to you on the cruise, whether you like it or not. For me, I had to a decision as to whether I wanted to keep in touch with each and every one of them them after we disembark because you just kept meeting people. With the ones that I didn’t keep in touch with, I’m glad we had shared the memories and talks that we shared. With the ones that I do keep in touch with, I try to eat out with them every once in a while, or go visit them when I’m visiting their hometown. For me, while no-one I met exactly became my ‘best friend’, it’s still nice to catch up and talk about life with them 🙂
9. The crew is absolutely amazing, and could become your friends too.
Because you have the same steward/stewardess throughout your whole cruise, and the same waiter/waitress at dining, it’s worth putting at least a bit of effort to get to know them. I loved hearing their stories of how they ended up working on the cruise, their family lives, and even recommendations on how I can get a job on a cruise. For me, I wanted to talk to them as a reminder that we’re all human. We should really appreciate all their hard work.
10. The payment system is so easy!
You have your cruise card with you at all times, which you can just give to the waiter/bartender/masseuse or whoever it is that you’re making a transaction to. All you have to do after that is to sign. Ta da. You’ve made a transaction.
11. You can get professional photos done!
Again, being cheap-ass that I am, I would NEVER in a billion years bother to pay for a professional photo, which is why I’d always seized the chance to do it when there were formal nights, and trust me, it’d be hard to have gone on a cruise and somehow avoid all the professional photographers. At the restaurant, by the atrium, by the lounge, at every port, they’re everywhere!
12. There’s no phone reception.
This may be a con for you, but for me personally, it’s definitely a pro. Sure, you could get phone reception, but they’re in accordance with the AeroSpace & Maritime, so they’re super expensive! I’m not exaggerating- it’s $15.50AUD per MB of data (please use a currency converter, as I really really want you to know how expensive it really is). Although, this wasn’t such an inconvenience for me as I’m that kind of person who only checks Facebook once a week anyway…. I really enjoyed not having my phone around though, as it meant that I could really concentrate on what I was doing, and who I was with. I sound like an old grandma right now, but I still get sad when I see a group of people at an outing and are all on their phones rather than talking to each other…. Cruises are perfect to avoid this!
You might feel like you’re bloating all the time.
For a frugal person like me, because I’ve prepaid the money beforehand, I feel like I need to do whatever I can to get my money’s worth. On a cruise, the easiest way to do that is to just stuff myself on amazing food. Sure, I’d never eat 3 course meals at home, but for some reason, I had to force myself to eat 3 or more courses for dinner everyday.
2. You might feel like you’re losing a couple of brain cells.
This was something that shocked me. I knew that the general demographic of people who go on cruises is still people of older generations, but I now understand why. Yes, you’d be able to participate in some stimulating activities such as trivia and tango dancing, but they’re certainly not as challenging as things like producing a piece of writing. In psychology, there are two general types of memory retrievals- recall and recognition. On cruises, everything that you need to remember just needs to be recognised, but recall is much harder to do and certainly exercises your brain more!
3. You might feel like you’re just wasting your life away by being lazy.
This was a big one for me! I consider myself a very active person who absolutely loves the outdoors and always gets comments from my friends: “Don’t you ever stop?” While the cruise did provide some physical activities such as country and Hawaiian dancing (and I went to all of them), it still wasn’t enough. Even though I went for a 5km run on the decks everyday, it wasn’t enough. At every port we were always one of the first people to get off and one of the last to hop back on, it still wasn’t enough exercise. I think I felt especially bad because I’d been constantly eating so much food, so I felt like I needed to burn off all that extra calories.
4. Having to mingle with people who weren’t part of my demographics.
As I said, most people who go on cruises are still old couples, and as much as I love old people, I sometimes still find it hard to think of what to say to them. As much as I may typify the characteristics of an old person, I’m still young at heart (as suggested by the name of this blog). I mean, it’s not like they were constantly judging my skirts for being too short or anything, they were all lovely, but I just wished I didn’t have to think of what to say before speaking out loud at every moment.
5. You might feel bored.
Let’s be honest. As much as the cruise tries to accommodate for a wide range of interests, they absolutely still cannot cater for everyone. I met someone on my 14 night cruise who spent the first couple of sea days searching for activities to do, and then just ended up spending the rest of the cruise at the spa when it wasn’t a port day. Plus, the activities might not be targeted at you. Who knows?
6. Some serious addiction problems might happen.
Because payments are made so easily, it’s hard to realise how much money you’re spending. No matter which cruise you go on, there’ll be bars everywhere you walk, and I’m sure the casino is also going to located at a place that is central to everything. These are all their genius marketing strategies to prime you to spend more money without realising it. My tip would be to immediately find the machine on the cruise that prints out how much money you’ve spent, and print out a record every day (every cruise should have one!).
7. Everything depends on the weather.
While all holidays are weather-dependent, cruise ships are especially so because most natural phenomena happen at sea. While we were on our 10 night South Pacific cruise in 2013, we were approaching a cyclone near Queensland, so then we all had to spend an extra night on the cruise before we could disembark. It wasn’t such a problem for me, as I didn’t have school the next day, but I can only imagine those who weren’t so lucky… Also, if the weather is too rough, ports might get cancelled.
8. The activities get a bit monotonous.
This happened to me especially on my 14 night cruise. I really admired their creativity in being able to come up with new types of activities (such as a different genre of dancing class) or a round-two of an all-time favourite (such as the ukulele ensemble). For me, I definitely found that towards the end of the cruise, I got less and less interested in the activities on offer, and would rather just spend my time walking around the decks instead.
9. You’re playing tourist all the time.
For me, I love long-term travels as I love the feeling of being culturally immersed. For me, that’s the best lesson life can teach you- appreciating what this world has and that we’re all just a tiny speck in this world. However, on a cruise you don’t get that. You’re only able to spend a day (or two, if you’re lucky) at a port, so there is no sense of learning about the local customs, culture and heritage.
10. The social obligation to dress up.
If you want to eat at the traditional dining restaurant, there’s a dress code that you need to abide by (e.g. no shorts, singlets). But there were days where I really just wanted to eat my 3-course meal while dressed in my shorts and a singlet, which I couldn’t do. There was also an obligation to dress fancily on formal nights. For me, I don’t really mind putting on a nice dress, but as I was walking around, I felt so underdressed! Everyone was walking around in their best jewellery, makeup and gowns. I just wanted to feel good in a skater dress that looked good on me!
11. If you absolutely need phone reception, it does kind of break the bank.
You might say: “Well, I don’t really need to call anyone.” While that might be true for someone like me, imagine if your cruise was approaching a cyclone and you had to work the next day. You HAD to tell your boss somehow, right? As much as it might hurt to accept the unbelievably expensive phone charge, things happen and you just have to suck it up.
12. You might miss your home.
This was me. Like I said, I have problems sleeping, so I missed my bed so much. I missed the smell of my room. I missed running on my normal running track every morning. I missed seeing the people in my neighbourhood walking their dogs. While a cruise is definitely a good place to call home, it’s just not MY home.
13. If you get motion sickness, you’ll feel the rocking.
Some people I met found the constant rocking very calming and even lulled them to sleep, for someone like me who has problems getting to sleep, it definitely did not help. I’m just lucky that I don’t get seasick, but on my upcoming cruise, my friend does, so all I can do is pray.
14. A lot of the big cities aren’t near the sea.
They say that you can’t go to some countries without going to at least some of their big cities. Countries like Italy for example. You can’t go to Italy without going to Rome. However, cruises can only stop by somewhere with water (duh!), which means you’ll have to make extra time for travelling to the city. When you’ve only got one day at a port, you really can’t afford to spend a lot of time on travelling to your destination.
15. It just feels wrong morally.
I left what I think is the biggest point till last. Every time I come back on a cruise feeling so ambivalent because of this. It just felt so wrong to think that I somehow deserved all the treatment that I got at the age that I am. What happened to earning rewards? It also felt so wrong that there were crew members who were living in terrible conditions. They had tiny rooms that they had to share with another crew member. My waiter had left his family and kids behind in the Philippines in order to work. My waitress was 27 and was worried about never being married because she hadn’t been meeting potential husbands for 5 years. They only get a month break after working endlessly for a year (contract lengths may vary). I remember seeing the acrobat practicing at 11.30pm at the atrium one night, because that’s the only time where people weren’t around. I can keep listing, but I won’t (unless you mention in the comments below wanting me to). It doesn’t matter what they do, I feel like they’re working a 12 hour shift everyday. And us? There we were, enjoying ourselves and feeling like we were entitled to whatever we wanted. It felt so wrong.
So having said all that, why am I still going on a cruise? Well… I could say that I’m playing the victim here and just accepted my friend’s invitation to go on one, but that isn’t entirely true. I felt that as someone who’s just constantly stressed all the time, I needed to force myself to hop on a cruise in order to just relax. While I know that it’s not the best way to detox, it’s the easiest way I’ve found so far. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions on detoxing!