Stepping Out: Cruising
In my very first post, I talked about stepping out and exploring the world, even if the first steps are just in your own neighborhood. However, if you decide to adventure further out but you are not sure where you want to go, cruising might be for you. It’s how I first discovered the larger world and it was an easy and stress free way to grab a sneak peek of foreign cities and countries that you might like to explore later with a larger time commitment.
My first cruise was to the Mediterranean and it was where I fell in love with the island of Malta, a Southern European island country which sits smack dab in between Italy, Tunisia, and Libya. It is now independent but at one time was a French, British, and Spanish territory. The amount of history in this small little island can fill volumes. It has medieval forts and churches, gorgeous beaches, and a still active order of knights. I have yet to return because of the excitement of exploring the rest of the world, but I vow to return where my passion for travel began.
This is what cruising did to me: revealed new lands and mysteries and introduced me to dear friends who are now a part of my international family.
Not all cruises and cruise ships are created equal. Customer service varies and cruise goer atmosphere and personalities are different each time depending on the ship, the destinations, and the port the ship leaves out of. My last cruise to the Baltic was out of England so had a predominantly British clientele which was great since I have frequented the United Kingdom and try to keep up on the latest British news and gossip so I can sound smart over a pint at the ship’s pub. The Mediterranean cruise, my very first, was deeply international and I was able to meet people from various countries expanding my curiosity of exploring the world and it’s people. Being from Southern California, the Mexican cruises don’t hold a lot of interest for me, it’s more of a long weekend with a bunch of locals partying it up.
Wherever you decide to go, read the reviews on the cruise line and the particular ship you take, then look at the ports and see if any hold any interest for you. That should better inform you on where you want to go and how you want to do it.
The Excursions. Being a first timer, the excursions might be for you to at least get your feet wet. However, after cruising a number of times, I find the ship-provided excursions get a little predictable. Pull into port, board a crowded bus, have the famous sites pointed out to you, follow the tour guide’s schedule and return to the ship. Watch out for the excursions that offer a free bottle of wine or some trinket, the crowd fills up fast and it's a mad dash for the free item. It kind of ruins the mood when you see someone only want the free item and not enjoy that ancient castle that's been standing for centuries.
I end up being my own tour guide and research the ports the ships go into using their excursions as a jumping off point. What this does is free my companions and I to go at our own pace, as long as we return to the ship in time. You don’t want your name blaring on the cruise ship speaker asking for you to report in, then the ship leaves, and you have to find your way to the next port to meet up with the ship. If planning your own excursion, you need to plan your time to the second; however, I believe in spontaneity and not to religiously stick to any particular itinerary. On any given day, you might discover something unplanned and end up sitting at a roman cafe on the Piazza Navona, drinking fine wine, laughing at the others from the ship that wish they weren’t stuck with their current tour. You just have to be comfortable with your traveling party, and be happy whether you stick to a plan or not. With proper research, you can account for all situations. And if you just want a vacation where everything is done for you, that is fine as well.
The Ships. If you never even leave the ship, there is plenty to do on board. With all inclusive packages, you can eat and drink to your hearts content. Just don’t forget the gym to lose all those extra pounds. Hint, another reason why you should take an excursion anyway to walk off the eating and drinking. The ship provides so many activities on and off for all ages from rock climbing, dancing, art auctions (dangerously addictive), water-slides, shopping, and gambling.
Tip: don’t forget, if you don’t have an all inclusive package, drinking and gift buying can add up and you might have a heart attack when that little slip of paper goes under your door with your final bill. So easy to swipe the shipboard ID and room card like it’s free money. My first cruise, I learned that the hard way.
I just shared a little insight to cruising. There are so many choices out there, that it would take multiple posts to cover it all; however, keep coming back to my blog for future tips and stories regarding cruising. Just consider what you want to do when choosing a cruise. Looking for a party every night? Are you a foodie? An adventurer? A night owl? Family considerations? Budget? The information is out there, explore and have fun.