Monday, 15 February 2016

To Cruise or not to Cruise? - that is the question

January 1963 aboard the MV Willem Ruys, England to New Zealand
"Our gang" - I'm on the far right

When I was 14  I traveled by sea from New Zealand to England  with my parents and three of my brothers.  The trip took around 5 weeks and was absolutely wonderful.  All those weeks of freedom, hanging out with other teenagers all day, indulging in heaps of innocent fun, no chores to do, entertainment and meals laid on and our parents relaxed in the knowledge that we were safe and happy.  15 months later we made the return journey and it was just as good.  Stops at exotic ports along the way were an exciting added bonus. They were some of the happiest times of my early life and are etched deeply in my memory.  Curiously I have never felt the urge to go on a cruise again.  Partly, I think, because my late husband suffered terribly from sea sickness and wouldn't entertain the idea, but also because I saw it as an activity for either the elderly or for young and rowdy party animals.  Nevertheless, when my brother rang and invited me to join him, his wife, and a couple of their friends on a very short cruise I jumped at the chance.  4 nights at sea seemed like the perfect tester to see if I liked it or not. So here is my list of the pros and cons of cruising:

1. Getting up early and walking around the ship when everyone else was still asleep.  Morning is my favourite time of day and having a deck to myself to enjoy amazing sunrises was bliss
Sunrises at sea are spectacular
2. Being mesmerised by the dark navy blue sea, the frothing whitecaps and the ship's wake
3. Sharing meals and company with friends and family. We had a delicious meal at the premium restaurant one evening.
4. No telephone, no internet, no news,  no chores, no cooking = no stress
5. Good quality shows in the theatre
The beautiful, captivating, endless sea
6. Unpacking my suitcase and not having to pack again until I left the ship
7. People watching - an endlessly fascinating pastime
8. Dolphins at sea and tug boats and pilots in port.
9. The Great Gatsby Party - a theme night on our particular cruise - loads of fun
The Great Gatsby Party - everyone got into the spirit of the night
10. The adults only Oasis bar on the rear deck
11. The gentle almost imperceptible rocking that lulled me to sleep each night
12. The feeling of well being from huge lungs full of fresh sea air

1. Crowds of people
2. Too much noise.  It seemed every time we were settled in a quiet bar for a chat a quiz competition or band started playing. Most of the entertainment in the bars was pretty cheesy. Several times we had to pick up our drinks and move elsewhere for some peace
3.  As above, trying to find a peaceful spot to settle with a book.  I did manage to find somewhere each day but it took some doing
At last!  A quiet place to read
4. The feeling of being trapped aboard
5. The short time in port. It is impossible to get to know a city in a few short hours.  I like to really get to know a place, mix with the locals, eat local food etc.  It didn't matter on this cruise because I had been to the one city we visited many times before but if I was going on a longer cruise I would feel cheated.
6. From my observations over many years I have noticed that prices suddenly go up in shops when a ship is in port and small towns get over run by large numbers coming ashore.  Some passengers like to wear their ship board ID cards proudly around their neck when they come ashore.  Big mistake!  You are advertising yourself as a cruiser and therefore fair game.

There are many grades of cruise ship from pretty basic to 6 star so it is a good idea to do your homework before booking a cruise to see what best suits you.  Some ships cater more to families and the young party set, others cater to the older generation looking for peace and quiet and yet others cater to everybody.

As you can see my "Pro" list is longer than my "Con" list.  Would I go on a cruise again?  Yes, I would, but it would be for the cruise itself, not to see the world. Cruising is a  relaxing, stress free holiday but  to see the world properly and get to know a people, place and culture, requires longer time ashore than a cruise can provide.