If preparing for your first cruise, you have probably heard a lot of things about cruise vacations. Some are probably true, some are probably not true. For example, if the little pictures that you imagine in your brain when thinking about cruises involve scenes from the movie Titanic, forget it. That is a movie. What you are about to experience is real. The ships really don’t sink all that often. Odds are yours will not. But there are important life lessons to be learned from movies just like there are important life lessons to be learned from television and comic books.
- If the ship does hit an iceberg, forget your money, you can’t bribe your way on to a good life boat.
- Wear your rubber scuba suit at all times. It gets really cold hanging on to a floating door in the middle of the ocean after the ship goes down.
- Buy seasons one through twelve of Survivor and take good notes before boarding your cruise ship.
- If you have a cell phone signal, call for help. This is not the time to be Tweeting “My #cruise ship is #sinking”
- If a rescue helicopter approaches frantically point to the water and motion for them to come closer..From their point of view it will look like you’re telling them someone just went under. Those people love saving lives and won’t be able to resist coming to you first. Hey, those choppers only hold just so many people!
Here are some other myths
REAL travelers don’t cruise.
Sure, they backpack, walk, fly, drive or tele-transport. I get it. They’re cooler than me. Great. Have a good time, but don’t rub it in my face. I’m glad you can take a month to trek through the mountains or embed yourself with a tribe of monkeys. I can’t. Mr Average American has seven days of vacation a year that they can actually devote to a real vacation. Some may get more time than that but they use it up by slapping a day on the front or back of a weekend for a mini-vacation to keep from strangling their co-workers. Others burn vacation time via giving it up because their company cut back on benefits and they have to use it as sick days from time to time. On a seven-day cruise I can see up to seven different places if I have the energy and that’s what I want to do or just a couple if I want to take it easy. On that same cruise ship, I know that I will be safer than pretty much any other vacation style because cruise ships can and do avoid places where it is not safe to be on the ground, where you are Mr Backpacker.
Cruises are easy to book, I don’t need a Travel Agent
Tell that to the people who find out later that those who used a travel agent paid less, got more and had a better time once on the ship. Actually, you don’t need a regular Travel Agent at all and you sure don’t need an Internet Cruise Broker (think Used Car Salesman). Travel Agents, the kind that sell all kinds of travel to anyplace on the planet, are ill-equipped to handle cruise vacations that are changing daily in price, itineraries and ships offered. Internet Cruise Brokers have the unique ability to accept your money and forget your name at exactly the same time. What you need is a Travel Expert that specializes in cruise vacations. They are out there, you just have to find them. They most often don’t cost you a penny either. Actually, they most often save you money so just on a dollars and cents issue, they are the way to go. Cheapskates: Get over yourself. Just because you have the ability to “Click to Book” does not mean you should.
You will get bored. You might get bored on a cruise, but chances are greater you will get exhausted. The range of activities for both the passive and active is wide. I entered (and won!) a trivia contest on presidential history and I entered (but lost) one on old television show theme songs. My family and I loafed by the pool, danced in a nightclub and watched live entertainment. I don’t get that on the couch at home. Cruise ships now have everything from miniature golf courses to wave pools. When we needed downtime we vegged-out in our cabin and screened an in-room movie, hung out on deck watching the ocean roll on by or, get this: read a book.
You will have to dress up for dinner.This is 2011, not 1965. Most of the time you don’t have to be formally dressed for dinner in the main restaurant, although periodic formal nights are scheduled. On a seven-night cruise, there are two. One can always opt out by going to the buffet or grab something quick at a variety of dining venues or room service. We ate at the buffet on one formal night, not because we didn’t want to dress up but because we had a late dinner seating and an early docking the next morning.
You’ll get claustrophobic. You might but its not likely. The cabins are not as big as they look in pictures but they are quite efficiently designed and pleasant to be in. If being in small spaces is a problem, book an Oceanview cabin with a window or a balcony cabin. Most cruise lines’ standard cabins range from 140 to 150 square feet; some are as small as 100 square feet. As for the actual ships, they literally are floating resorts, with up to 17 decks and innumerable public rooms. If you feel uneasy on a ship, it is probably not claustrophobia.
Cruise costs are all-inclusive. They aren’t. I really don’t even know where that came from. They never have been. The cruise cost includes your cabin and twice-daily service for it, meals and entertainment. Drinks, including non-alcoholic ones, are extra on most lines. Shore excursions and Spa Treatments are extra. Go to one of the ship’s extra restaurants and you will probably pay extra. Ship photographers are always ready with camera in hand, and the photos are extra. Most cruise lines have trashed the old empty envelope system for tips and switched to automatic service charges. That’s $10- $12 per day per person, regardless of age, depending on the cruise line. Still, add it all up at the end, divide it by the number of days and odds are you would have paid much more for a similar vacation minus the ship.
Cruise shows consist of cheesy, grade-B entertainment. First of all, the quality of live entertainment is subjective. On a recent cruise we attended live shows every night. We saw two Vegas-style revues, two comedians, an ice skating show and one hypnotist. The talent was as professional and enjoyable as anything we have seen in theaters that don’t float. Each of the revue cast members could dance and belt out a song. The hypnotist and comedians were laughable, but they were meant to be. That”s pretty much the minimum experience you will have.
The ships have stabilizers, so you will never feel any motion.
Yes you will indeed feel motion. For the vast majority of people it is not enough motion to disrupt your cruise, make you sick or anything like that. Bonine, the over the counter motion discomfort medicine is my favorite to recommend because no one has ever told me “Chris, that stuff did not work and I was sick as a dog the whole time” That’s good enough for me. Get the generic brand of it though at Wal-Mart for a fraction of the price of the name brand. Actually, you are more apt to be rocked to sleep by the gentle lullaby motion of the ship rocking from side to side or front to back. But you will feel movement. And that is not a bad thing. Get over it.
You have to sit with people you don’t know at dinner and you’re stuck with them
Nope. Even if you are on a group cruise you can request a different dining time, smaller table, or specific location. Dining room requests, though, are just that: requests. The cruise line does not guarantee anything in that area. The Maitre d’ on the ship, though, is the king of the dining room and can make any of your requests reality. No matter what, going to the dining room to check your table assignment when you first get on the ship is a must. If you don’t like it, there will be a Maitre d’ there who can change it if you are nice about it. If you are a jerk they probably won’t change anything and will put a little note by your name with a skull and cross bones for the kitchen staff to see. Ok maybe not but a few bucks in the right palm can be one of the best investments you will make on the cruise.
Everyone gains a ton of weight on cruises
True in some cases. But it mainly depends on what you choose to eat. Today’s ships have a wide variety of dining options with something for everyone. You will not gain weight on a cruise unless you want to. The crew does not hold you down and force-feed you nor are there only high-fat junk food selections on the menu. The culinary staff on the cruise ships these days write cookbooks and feature award-winning chefs who produce the latest trendy food as well as homestyle old-fashioned favorites, all on the same menu.
So don’t worry about icebergs, torpedoes, gaining weight, how much it will cost or where you will go all that much. A cruise vacation is a great way to spend your time if you do it right. More on “doing it right” next time.