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Recapping our cruise: The good, the bad, and the ugly

by Karen on March 9, 2010

We’re back after a relaxing weekend at sea, but I have to say, after experiencing it? I don’t know if cruises are for me. It could be that we just had a bad experience with Royal Caribbean, but for a number of reasons, I can’t say I’ll ever do another cruise. Here’s the rundown of our weekend.

The Good

Cruising was definitely affordable. If you’re able to drive to your departure port and avoid the “extras” on the ship like alcohol, the total cost of the trip will like be much less than if you flew to a destination, booked a hotel, and paid for food separately.

For the most part, the rooms were comfortable if a little small. But it’s really true what they say about your room on a cruise ship — you spend very little time there. Even though we spent an above average amount of time trapped on the ship, we didn’t spend the time in our room. We were on the deck looking out at the water or reading.

Being at sea surrounded by nothing but deep blue ocean and sky was amazing. My favorite part of the trip was watching the sunset from the deck on our final night at sea. We went parasailing on our first day off the boat, which was definitely a worthwhile experience.

I also found it easier to relax on a cruise ship than I have any other vacation. Perhaps it’s because everything is taken care of for you, but I didn’t feel the urgency to go-go-go that I normally do while traveling. I read an entire book, which is unheard of for me on vacation. I never take the time to read while traveling unless it’s on a flight, and even then I’m usually too excited to really focus.

Since this trip was meant to be a chance for us to relax and recharge, that part of it was great. We mostly just read, slept, and ate, and I really enjoyed the relaxation. It was just what we needed.

The Bad

Honestly? I wasn’t at all impressed with the ship’s activities. Aside from drinking at the bars (expensive) and gambling in the casino (also expensive, and boring in my opinion), there was very little to do. We’re admittedly pretty anti-social when it comes to group activities, and after catching part of the ship’s comedy act on the closed circuit television, we decided to skip that, too.

Our second port of call ended up being cancelled due to high winds. They were unable to shuttle us safely from the ship to shore, so we spent our last day at sea. The ship definitely felt claustrophobic on that final day. I was frustrated and angry that we were stuck there when I’d been looking forward to getting off the ship and exploring the island — especially since our three-day cruise only included two ports of call.

For the record, the Royal Caribbean crew and staff of the ship was pretty rude about the cancellation. Their attitude seemed to be, “We just canceled half your vacation, but that’s not our problem. Spend more money at the bar! kthnx.”

I would have rather been off the ship in another country exploring rather than feeling trapped surrounded by other American tourists. It ended up being okay for us since it kind of forced us to relax for the day, but it was still a bummer. I felt stuck on the ship.

The Ugly

I debated whether I should share my feeling on this subject, but I’ve decided to give an accurate depiction of our experience. And honestly, I found the cruise culture to be a little disturbing. It was extremely strange to me to be surrounded by so much excess. Excessive food, excessive alcohol, and excessive spending.

I really don’t want to get on a soapbox here, and believe me, it’s not like we didn’t overindulge on the cruise. We ate way too much, probably drank too much (mostly because we felt like there was little else to do), and spent too much in the process. But on future vacations, I think I’d rather avoid that kind of temptation. It’s hard to resist eating and drinking too much when food and alcohol are literally every. where.

I think our biggest problem was our choice of destination. The only place we stopped was Nassau, Bahamas, which was a pretty bleak place. The entire city seemed to center on tourism, which honestly just isn’t my style when it comes to travel. I want to explore another culture and experience another city. I didn’t like being surrounded by other tourists and people seeking to cater to tourists. As Tony said, the part of the Bahamas that we saw was a lot like the beaches of North Carolina during the heavy tourist season.

By the end of the trip, when this towel animal appeared on our bed, I was ready to get home to Howie.

The Conclusion

I can definitely see the appeal of cruising, and I think it would be a good vacation idea for a family (as long as you pick a better destination than the Bahamas). If you’re someone who enjoys complete relaxation on vacation, you’d probably really enjoy a cruise to a tropical island. If you’d rather do and see more, I’d recommend choosing a destination with more to do and see than a tropical island.

It’s also possible that I just had kind of a crummy experience for our first cruise. For another perspective, read about Kacie’s cruise to Alaska. From what she’s told me, it seems like an entirely different experience than our cruise to the Bahamas with more interesting sights and experiences.

I definitely can’t wait to see how this experience differs from our trip to Europe in two months. The two trips couldn’t be more different, and I’m thinking the freedom of Europe will suit us a little better.

Have you ever been on a cruise? What was your experience like?

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1 Jill March 9, 2010 at 9:23 am

It sounds like you definitely had a bad experience, but cruising isn’t for everyone. I’ve been on two cruises and one was much better than the other. However, most ports of call for cruises really are catering to the tourist (in the Caribbean anyway. I’ve never cruised anywhere else), which maybe just isn’t for you. I also wanted to speak to the drinking thing. One cruise we took was in September, and it was my favorite. The next one we took around this time of year and I hated it. Drunk spring breakers everywhere…these people were plastered before the ship ever pulled out of the Florida port. It was ridiculous, so I can definitely relate to you there. I’m sorry you didn’t have as good a time as you’d hoped :(
.-= Jill´s last blog ..My Boss Says I Need a Tan =-.

2 Megan March 9, 2010 at 9:47 am

We went on a cruise for our honeymoon a few months back, and we were only sort of impressed. It was exactly what we needed (not having to make any decisions), but we feel like next time, our vacation $$$ could be better invested in a different type of vacation. We took a 7-day cruise up to Canada and New England so there were lots of ports of call, etc., but by the 6th day or so, we were pretty weary of the cruise culture and all the drunk senior citizens who wandered around the boat.
.-= Megan´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday, 3/7-3/13 =-.

3 rachel March 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

After my cruise (also to Nassau, did you find it really depressing, btw?) I never wanted to eat again. Too much food, too often. We did RC’s Princess of the Seas and were pretty disappointed. My mom called it the Wal-Mart of cruises, and as rude as that is, she was right.
We also had to have a day at sea for winds. Cabin fever equaled more eating and bingo-playing.

Glad you made it back safely though!

4 Marla March 9, 2010 at 10:22 am

Jill is right – cruising isn’t for everyone. We have been on 4 (my boyfriend likes them much more than I do) two weekends like yours and two longer ones. A 15 day cruise through the Panama Canal was the best – the excursions were great. But on the ship I agree, the activities are blah and all there is to do is eat and drink. The huge amounts of food everywhere disgusted me. The other thing I found is choosing the right cruise line is crucial. On one we took, 90% of the passengers were over 70 and after dinner everything shut down and the ship was a ghost town. There were a couple of families with young kids and I felt so sorry for them. You are SO going to love your trip to Europe!

5 jonathanwthomas March 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Well at least you can say that you’ve done it now. While my wife would certainly enjoy the tropical aspect of the cruise – I don’t think we would enjoy a cruise. I don’t drink at all – so I’m not sure what I would do for 4 days. Play shuffleboard? I think we’d probably spring for going to an island resort – would make it feel more like ‘going somewhere’ rather than enjoying ‘America-on-Sea.’
.-= jonathanwthomas´s last blog ..BA Strike Latest: British Airways Strike Looking Likely – Next Week Possible =-.

6 Mike @ Saving Money Today March 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy your cruise. I’ve never cruised myself and to be honest I have doubts about whether or not it’s for me. But an Alaskan cruise does sound amazing so maybe someday.
.-= Mike @ Saving Money Today´s last blog ..Taking the Yakezie Challenge =-.

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