As I’ve mentioned before, I had serious reservations about being a first time cruiser. I had a vision of cruise ships as unsustainable, environmentally crippling, floating tourist traps where I’d spent my nights elbowing small children to get my share of the crappy dinner buffet and my days desperately trying to absorb an iota of local culture before being herded back to the ship. And I can pinpoint the moment where my mentality shifted.
The morning we docked in Mykonos, we were invited to a ship-wide barbecue dinner on the top deck. When we arrived that night, we were met by the most amazing presentation of food and drinks. As we filled our plates we chatted to the many couples, families, and single travelers we had made friends with along the way, laughing and comparing notes on our day’s activities.
While we ate, the cruise director gave a speech, thanked the staff, and toasted the guests. The entertainers then came out and gave their nightly performance under the stars rather than in the theater. It could not have been a more lovely evening.
After dinner, the DJ came out and fired up a set. This should be interesting, I thought, turning towards the bar and picturing a lonely dance floor with one or two determined souls. When I turned back around, drink in hand, I was shocked at the sight in front of me. A completely packed dance floor, with moms and dads grooving away, totally unashamed of their dorky dance moves, a few Grandmas and Grandpas putting everyone to shame, and our single-traveler friends were beckoning us to the dance floor. I have never seen grown adults have so much fun. (Exception: I have a group of family friends called “The Gang” who have a tendency to do the YMCA when they get together.)
Looking out at that crowd of people living it up on the dance floor, I finally “got” cruising. These people were a thousand miles from work, from chores, and from stress, and they were enjoying every minute of it, surrounded by 498 new friends doing the exact same. Cruise ships are like sleepaway camp for adults, I thought!
I think perhaps as someone in their early twenties I take advantage of how easy it is to meet people while traveling. Hostels, nightclubs, and cheap/dirty bus routes have a way of bringing people together and making you lifelong friends. In general, those are the stomping grounds of “young people.” (Disclaimer: I’m trying hard here not to offend anyone as I realize there are married couples, parents, and octogenarians alike who may frequent all the above. But speaking in general, those groups of travelers tend to stay in hotels, not stomp around nightclubs, and take planes from point A to point B.)
To prove my point, I asked my Mom how many people she had met during our hotel stays in Athens and Istanbul. Same answer as me: Zero. I’m sure had I been traveling on my own and in my usual bare budget style I would have met loads of fellow vagabonds. But the trappings of more comfortable travel can be isolating, and had we stayed in hotels or all-inclusive resorts the whole time, I’m sure we would have continued to mostly keep to ourselves.
So while some people like cruising for the simplicity of planning, or the variety of destinations, I think the greatest asset is the ability to connect with fellow passengers. Everyone is relaxed, smiling, and has their guard down. We had so much fun sharing dinners, drinks, conversations, and the dance floor with people from all over the world and all walks of life.
I still wouldn’t choose cruising for myself just yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m ruling it out entirely. My Dad has mentioned a cruise for his 70th birthday, and I actually find myself looking forward to the idea of spending another week at sea, surrounded by family and future friends.
What do you think? Are you pro or anti cruising? Chime in below in the comments!