I know what you’re thinking what could possibly be wrong with a pleasure voyage on a full-size ship loaded with all the amenities: high stake casino, restorative spa, fitness centre, world class restaurants, fancy theatre, boutiques, clubs, sporting facilities, solarium and adventurous excursions daily. After all, with over 30 million travellers expected to cruise in 2019, chances are you may be considering adding a sea voyage onto your travel plans this year. Just in case you are, here are some of the reasons that I wanted to abandon ship.
The Hustle is Real
While there is a premise from their glossy brochures that cruises are all-inclusive, the deal is the hustle is real. Expect to pay for alcoholic drinks and bottled water, photos, extra amenities- heftily for wifi, many on board activities and not to mention hidden services charges- it all comes with an extra cost, which adds up pretty quickly and is anything but all inclusive.
You are Trapped
Off course it sounds silly to say because it’s obvious, but the reality is once you are on board you are trapped. Yes the cruise lines go the extra mile to ensure that the ship is fully loaded, as well as they try to keep things fresh and interesting with new daily activity schedules. I quickly got tired of them, not to mention the long hallways, stairways, gift shops, the auditorium, lounges, dining rooms, the casino, miniature golf course, climbing wall, exercise facilities, and swimming pools. I know what you’re saying, poor me right, stuck on a luxury ship…boohoo. Ok, but a gilded cage is still a cage and it still all felt like being on a hamster wheel.
This was one of the deal breakers for me. Once I boarded I proceeded directly to the activity desk to pre-book all my tours and excursions for the next week. There was definitely a bit of anxiety around booking these port shore excursions; since you feel that you don’t want to be left out of the fun and miss out on these once in a lifetime adventures. Just to give you an idea the cost of an excursion for my family and I ranged from €300 to €600 daily. The cruise ships want you to think that booking through them is the easiest option. In fact, I thought it was the only option until I walked off the cruise ship and the same tours and tour providers being offered on the cruise ship were available for almost half the cost at the port.
The schedules were also way more flexible than those posted on the cruise ship. At the end, I felt bamboozled and could only think of how much money I would have saved booking myself.
All dressed up with…no where to go
For me one of the most peculiar aspects of my cruise ship experience was the nightly formal dinners. After a full day of exploring on shore, evenings meant I would get really decked off and head to the formal dining room for a five-course meal. For over one week I sat at the same table, with the same people every night. To be honest, this is not the fault of the cruise ship, it’s the dining option I selected, however, it did get very monotonous fast and felt more like a daily chore.
Shape up or ship out
The ships tight schedules are more like boot camp than a leisurely vacation. Particularly if you are travelling with kids. Once the ship docks at a port of call the race is on and your only goal at that point is to get up and out. The first boot camp challenge is to navigate and seek out nourishment through a sea of hundreds of hungry passengers all of whom have accepted the same challenge.
Once you pass that round, you make your way off the ship. But don’t for a minute think you’re going to relaxingly pace yourself while exploring a new destination. Usually, you are only given five to nine hours to see it all, do it all and find your way back to the ship. Don’t be late, because there is no Plan B. Some travellers revel in the clockwork efficiency of the cruise lines and for some of us, it is just work.
Cruising by the rules
If playing by the rules is your thing, you have nothing to worry about. However, for those rebels without a cause the cruise ships have a long list of infractions. Of course, rules are important for safety and ensuring the comfort of passengers, especially at sea. That being said, there are a lot of rules, some include; skipping the muster drill, disregarding the dress code, ignoring pool rules, and taking even a morsel of food off the ship. There is bound to be a breaking point, after over a week of smiling cruise ship staff suggesting that you use hand sanitizer every time you enter the restaurants, I had enough. But then again, that’s just me.
To balance things out, I have to mention with all the things I didn’t like about cruising I actually hit the jackpot on my cruise. On my ship there where at least 10 Trinidadians working on aboard. They were the absolute best: warm, friendly, hospitable and super helpful. Each of them went out of their way to ensure that I was comfortable and well taken care of. Meeting them was my silver lining.
Listen, there are passionate cruisers and avid cruise lovers out there that feel the complete opposite about cruises. While they will strongly challenge what I’ve said, the one thing we would probably agree on is that cruises are not for everyone. While my intention is not to dissuade you from cruising, I hope I’ve provided an alternate reality from what the brochures show you.
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