When I talk with friends and family its kinda of funny how some have very strong opinions about cruising. You either THINK you will love it or hate it, there is a rarely middle ground. A lot of folks think they will get sea-sick. Others think the rooms are so small you will feel confined. Even more think there is nothing to do and you’ll get bored on the ship. I’m here to debunk all those preconceived notions and offer you some insight into the world of cruising.
Let’s start with a case study from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line! I had the pleasure of joining 6 of my friend with my husband on a cruise out of Galveston. This was a 7 night cruise to Roatan, Coasta Maya and Cozumel. The price was incredibly affordable (right around $1,000 for 2 adults in an inside stateroom) and would be nice weather.
Booking with Royal Caribbean is incredibly simple when using your friendly travel agent (that’s me) and I take care of setting up your stateroom, linking you with everyone in your party, shore-excursions, drink packages, you name it my concierge service has you covered at no cost to you! My travel companions got the benefit of me traveling with them, and everything was smooth sailing…pun intended 🙂
Each ship and each cruise line will have a variety of staterooms available but to make this very general here are what’s typically available:
- Inside Stateroom (typically the most cost effective)
- Ocean-view Stateroom
- Ocean-view Stateroom with Balcony
- Family Suite
- Concierge Level Stateroom
That’s not even half of what you can book but you get the general idea. Our friends booked ocean-view staterooms with a balcony. I on the other hand, didn’t love having a balcony. On our last cruise I did get a little motion sickness from seeing the waves and therefor opted for an inside stateroom.
**FIRST PRO-TIP** If you think you might get seasick, opt for an inside stateroom. Take it one step further and get an inside stateroom in the middle of the deck. That way you will have the lowest probability of feeling the motion from the ocean. I found that not seeing the movement outside greatly decreased my motion sickness as well.
With Royal Caribbean and many other cruise lines (excluding Disney) you can pre-purchase a drink package. This gives you access to soda or alcohol depending on which package you choose. I personally don’t drink much so we opted to not get the alcohol. Our friends did and to get your money’s worth, you need to have at least 6 drinks per day. For me that’s a lot but maybe not for others. Disney does not have an alcohol package but does allow you to bring more wine/beer on board than other cruise lines.
**SECOND PRO-TIP** Purchase drink packages and shore excursions in advance, they will most likely be cheaper than the pricing on-board. For shore excursions they can also sell out, so its highly recommended to not wait until the last minute.
Now its time to head out for your cruise. For Galveston, I highly recommend you reserve parking in advance. There are many lots around the Galveston port but not all are close to the actual cruise check in. The earlier you book the more choices you will have for parking. Give yourself plenty of time to navigate the small streets of Galveston, with so many people arriving and departing on the same day traffic will be a little crazy. With that in mind you might want to get to the cruise terminal when it opens. I normally like to arrive later in the day to have my stateroom ready when I board but with the Galveston traffic you might not want to do that.
**THIRD PRO-TIP** Make sure you check-in online to your cruise BEFORE you leave. This will expedite your check in process and get you through the lines faster. Be aware, there will be MANY lines to go through but if your well prepared it will go nice and smooth!
Now that your on-board its time to have fun! Each day you will be provided a daily schedule of events. Trust me, there is no shortage of things to do. I did find my personal tastes were better suited for a Disney Cruise with their list of activities, but Royal Caribbean had a lot of things to keep you buys. From trivia, to beverage seminars, to pool activities there is something planned every thirty minutes to an hour for you to participate in. Most cruise lines also have a casino but that is not accessible until you are in international waters. I don’t enjoy gambling and smoking so I wasn’t interested in that but for most cruise lines (excluding Disney) that’s an option for entertainment.
**HONESTY POINT** I did feel a little bored on our Royal Caribbean sailing. I don’t gamble, I don’t like swimming and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money for beverage seminars. I felt like I had so much more to do on a Disney Cruise with movies, trivia, character meet and greets. This is where your own personal taste will make a big difference in the cruise line you choose. I know that Disney is where I want to spend my cruising time but many people love Royal Caribbean because of the casino and beverage packages.
Now that your on-board, lets address the point of feeling like your in a tiny room with no space. Look, these staterooms are pretty small especially if you have an inside stateroom. There is no getting around that. That is why there are so many activities planned through-out the day so you have a reason to get out of the room. In addition to the many activities there are so many relaxing spots to read a book or just enjoy the day. You can sit by the pool (which will of course be loud), there are many lounges, and there are a few sundecks with nice chairs away from the pool which will be much quieter. Yes your stateroom is small, but the ship is HUGE. You can easily get lost on the ship just walking around and seeing everything it has to offer.
Not only is there a lot to do during the day but at night there are shows, comedy, musicians and dancing to keep the party going all night. We saw a comedian on Royal Caribbean that was hilarious! Their fancy ice-skating show was a total let-down, not impressed at all. Not to keep comparing to Disney but the entertainment on Disney Cruise Line is spectacular, at times cheesy but on the whole amazing. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though since Disney is, at its core, an entertainment company. If you thought there was a lot to do during the day, just wait until night time! You can stay up until the wee-hours if you really wanted to!
**FOURTH PRO-TIP** If room size is important to you, upgrade to a family/large suite. Those can be very spacious and typically have a balcony for even more room. These will be higher in price but will give you the square footage you are looking for.
Let’s talk about sea-sickness because other than small rooms this is the comment I hear most often. I cant go out on a lake and not feel sick. I often times take Dramamine on planes because I get sick. I cant read in the car because I get sick. You can imagine that this was a really big concern of mine going on our first cruise. Our first cruise was an Alaskan cruise and there was one day where I did have to take Dramamine but it was admittedly a rough day on the water. Our table-mates said this was the roughest day they had ever experienced and they had been on 10 cruises at that point. I took the Dramamine and it did help, I didn’t get sick. I didn’t feel great but the next day the waters evened out and I was fine the rest of the trip. So far each cruise I’ve been on has had one rough day at sea where I took a Dramamine and evened out. As long as you travel with that, maybe even some ginger gum you should be fine. I heave heard there is a sea-sick patch that you wear behind your hear but its a lot stronger dosage and some people have adverse reactions to it. If you do want to use the patch, maybe test it out before you use it on the ship.
If sea-sickness is a worry for you but you still want to try a cruise out here are a few suggestions:
- Start out with a shorter cruise. There are many 3 night cruise options that will introduce you to cruise culture.
- Try out an Alaskan or river cruise. These are not on the wide open sea but a fjord or river and by nature are a calmer.
- Pay attention to the seasons. Winter has rougher waters than summer. Hurricane season (June – August) have the potential for treacherous waters. Cruise around those time frames.
- Get an inside stateroom in the middle of a higher deck. This will have more stability than an ocean-view stateroom.
Now, SHORE EXCURSIONS! This is another hot topic right now since many cruise lines visit countries with safety concerns. For my part, the Royal Caribbean stops felt very safe and the shore excursions were very professional and I never worried for one minute about my safety. There were a lot of really interesting options in each port but here is what we did where and what I thought about it:
- Roatan, Hondures – Gambalina Nature preserve. I think we would all say that this was our favorite of all the excursions. One of our friends has always wanted to interact with monkeys and I found that this was a place where we could do that. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable, had so much information to share about the park and the plants within it. I learned so much! Of course the highlight was the animals. We got to have macaws on our shoulders and then we visited monkeys that climbed all over us! They were surprisingly soft and so much fun!!
- Costa Maya, Mexico – Mayan Ruins Tour. Joe and I ventured off from the group today because I really wanted to learn about the Mayans and visit some ruins. Joe wanted to do the ATV tour but he was a great husband and went with me so I didn’t have to go alone. I loved visiting the ruins, we learned so much about the culture and got to walk around and investigate some of the grounds. While it wasn’t an ATV ride, I still had a great time.
- Cozumel, Mexico – Tequila Tasting. Did you know there are many different ways to make tequila?! Well, I know that now! With this tour we got to taste 3 different tequilas, learned the proper way to taste tequila and had some delicious street tacos. This tour was fun but pretty short, if the weather was better it would have been nice to add this on to a beach day. That being said, it was a rainy nasty day so we all decided to just head back to the ship early. This port did have the most shopping but was the most commercialized. Speaking spanish is a plus, it will help you haggle some deals!
**FIFTH PRO-TIP** I highly recommend booking shore excursions with your cruise line. They screen their tour providers and must meet quality standards. You are welcome to take your chances with what you find on shore, but know that they are not “certified” but a cruise line and may not be the most trust-worthy.
I bet you thought I was going to forget to talk about food. Silly reader, clearly you forgot how much I love food!!! Cruises are notorious for all-you-can-eat buffets and the ability to get food whenever you want. I’m here to tell you that’s 100% true and is pretty fantastic. I will say not all cruise line food is created equal and the price you pay for your cruise should tell you the quality of the food. Carnival has a pretty bad reputation for food. Royal Caribbean has solid food but I wasn’t wowed by anything, the dessert in particular was consistently a let down. Disney Cruise had amazing food and was consistently delicious. All cruise lines (except Disney, you rotate between 3 dining rooms) have you in the same dining room each day for dinner. If you are a larger party you will be all seated together, but if you are a party of two-four you may be sharing a table with strangers. For breakfast and lunch you can dine on your own time in a restaurant or the buffet. Room service is always available but there is now a delivery fee for most cruise lines. You can also get food at the pool and some quick locations around the ship. There is also pay dining options, with Remy on the Disney Cruise so far my absolute favorite. Soooo good!!!! Many cruise lines are introducing dinner on your own time which allows you to eat whenever you want (within dinner hours) and can get a table for your party size. Basically what Im trying to say is, there is no shortage of food no matter the time of day. Eat your heart out!!!
**SIXTH PRO-TIP** You can order as much food as you want! When you are ordering off a menu at any of the “included” dining rooms you can order every item or multiple items and there is no additional charge. Go crazy if you want!! Make sure you are nice to your server and give them a good tip at the end of the cruise 🙂
Last but not least, formal night! If there is one thing I love its an excuse to get dressed up. I love that cruising is pretty much the only form of travel that still celebrates the elegance of travel. You don’t have to participate in formal and semi-formal nights, but why wouldn’t you?! Its so much fun to be fancy. The entertainment for the night usually reflects the upscale atmosphere as well so be fancy and have a wonderful night of entertainment. This is usually the night with the most upscale food as well (lobster anyone) and lots of photo-ops to capture you and your loved ones in your finery. Don’t we all look fancy!
When its all said and done, I really love cruising. You can visit multiple locations all while leaving your luggage in one room. Its a great way to see all sorts of destinations in a “all-inclusive” kind of way. I also love cruising, like I mentioned, because it brings back the elegance of travel. Gone are the days when people dress up to fly across the globe. Cruising is one of the last forms of travel where you can really feel glamorous, and I love that. In my humble opinion, cruising is something everyone should try at least one. Hey, you never know if you never try it right?! Remember, if your interested in even talking about a cruise, I’m happy to help with any destination and my services are completely free! Let’s bring back the glamour and romance of traveling with a cruise, I bet you’ll love it!
CHIME IN!!! Have you been on a cruise before? If you could cruise anywhere in the world, where would you go? How do you feel about formal nights?