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.
My mom really wants to do this for Thanksgiving this year
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!
I love reading this, as I’m taking a cruise in Dec and I’m so nervous that I’m going to hate it. Everyone keeps telling me AWESOME it is though. You and your Mom are sooo gorgeous!!!
Oh I’m so excited for you (and to read about it!) Where are you going? With what cruise line? I think you’re the kind of person who will always find a way to have a great time!
Jess’ parents invited us to join us on their Mediterranean cruise this summer and we were not sure how we’d feel about it either! It’s quite different from our usual (independent & budget) travel style but we truly enjoyed it. We stayed away from the organized shore excursions which just aren’t our thing, but the ship itself was amazing and we will be back on a cruise ship at some point too, I think.
It looks like you, me and Gary from Everything Everywhere are all posting cruise reflections right now! And even more interesting, for a group of independent travelers, we all had pretty positive experiences!
Good thing you declared that exception, Alex!!!
And that first pic of Kathryn … uh, wow.
She’s a looker! And yes, while on the cruise we did discuss the madness that would ensue if we were to get The Gang all together on a cruise for a week.
Mom and were with a couple last night that did just that, for the guys 70th birthday he had all his kids, their spouses and grandchildren on a cruise for a week. He said it was worth every penny.
Lets start planning now! I can’t wait!!
Yay! I’m so glad you discovered the upside to cruising (while also experiencing some of the downsides like the rushed, sales-pitch tours, the crowds and the lack of immersion). I’ve been pro-cruising since my very first cruise back in 2005 when I met an awesome couple from our dinner table who proceeded to teach me several new dance steps in the nightclub. Since then, we have met all kinds of people on cruises, including a few we still keep in touch with!
I also love dipping my toes into a place and deciding if I want to return.
I love staring out at nothing but the sea.
I love not having to worry about where I am going to sleep or eat.
Oh, and I love the crew. Cruise crews are some of the best people you will ever meet with some of the most incredible stories.
You definitely listed the positives in a very poetic way here! And I CAN’T BELIEVE I didn’t mention the crew! We met so many amazing crew members, such as the waiter from Istanbul who wrote down suggestions for our time there, the production cast who were the friendliest people ever, and the personal trainer who kept me in stitches. Definitely one of the highlights.
Looks like you had a great time! I like cruising for the most part. I went on a Carnival cruise to Mexico that was awful…pretty bad food, trashy drunk people, etc. But I went on a Greek Island cruise as well, and loved it–it was such a convenient way to island-hop (the ferry schedules were so confusing, and it streamlined the process). I also went on an Alaska cruise a few years ago. Granted it was with a very nice line that had phenomenal food (Regent Seven Seas), but it was a great way to explore an area that is otherwise difficult to reach. I did a cruise in the past on Royal Caribbean that is so/so (to Mexico, Belize and Key West). My parents go on a lot of European ones and love them. People love to hate on them, but they’re not all bad. Especially since you spend a lot of time off the boat. Though sometimes at sea days are relaxing…I love sitting on deck and reading while watching the ocean pass by!
Hi Emily! Thanks for reading. Hmmm, I’m sensing a theme to your comment. It seems maybe the Caribbean-area cruises are a bit easier to fall towards mediocre whereas in other areas they tend to be a better caliber?
Well, I am not sure about your ‘can’t wait’ comment for the 70th birthday cruise. I can bide my time and enjoy the ensuing 5 years (i can hear you Kathryn, OK 4 years and 3 months and 25 days)
It’s never too early to get started on planning! I will even volunteer my travel-agent skills 🙂
Wow looks like it was such a fun and awesome vacation!! Thanks again for inviting me….!!!!
If you play your cards right, maybe you’ll be invited to Dad’s birthday cruise!
It’s fun to see the similarities (ex: culinary artistry) and differences (ex: classical concert in Ephesus) in luxury versus not cruises. I think cruising sometimes gets a bad rap but with an open mind I really truly believe most people might be surprised what it’s really like. Meeting people and even crew members is one of the neatest aspects to me and I’m shy and introverted!
I’m definitely inspired to give this a try. Nice writeup!
Glad you enjoyed your first cruise. I got hooked on them during a spring break cruise in high school and have been enjoying them ever since… although me and the other passengers seem to be much older now than they did on what was then a spring break party ship. Now I just enjoy sitting on the balcony watching the waves… and of course busting some serious dorky dance moves
Thanks for reading, Chad! The balcony was definitely my favorite spot on the ship. Especially the morning I saw dolphins next to the boat!
Neat to see a written out view from a passengers perspective. I work seasonally on big ships and mainly only get to see the crew side of life onboard.
What an interesting job that must be, Joy! Hard work but a lot of fun too, I bet 🙂