My bed was made by someone else. I had a choice of half a dozen restaurants at my fingertips. I could have any chair by the pool from sunrise to sunset. My room wasn’t cluttered with maps and guidebooks but a list of daily activities planned by someone else. I could dance until dawn, or I could hunker down in pajamas and watch movies.
The choice was mine.
I just returned from my fourth week-long cruise—my second with Holland America—and I’m not afraid to admit that, for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve long said there is no wrong way to travel, and though cruising is yet another one of those black sheep in the travel world, I think it’s perfectly okay to embrace it.
As a “traveler,” I’m sure I’m not supposed to relish the fact that I can visit places while someone else is leading the way, dealing with the details, making the meals and ensuring I have a good time. Nope, I’m sure I shouldn’t like traveling in a way that is so truly simple, but I do. Here’s why:
> Travel planning is left to someone else. Yes, there are choices to be made. You have to decide with which cruise line to travel, where you want to travel, for how long and when. But once you’ve decided whether you want an inner cabin or one with a verandah and booked the trip, you don’t have to do much thinking at all. There is always something going on when you cruise, and with so many classes, shows, demonstrations and workshops on the daily schedule, taking a cruise is actually an exercise in learning to say no. It’s not your job to pull into port; you just have to decide whether to get off the boat once you get there. You don’t have to cook; someone else has done that for you. You can come and go to planned activities as you please. They’re there if you want them, but you can choose to do absolutely nothing at all as well.
> Budgeting is easy. Cruise lines aren’t all-inclusive resorts, but it is very possible to take a cruise and not spend excessive additional money. Guests who choose not to spend a lot of extra dough always have access to at least a few different restaurants or dining facilities, a few pools, on-boat activities, access to most of the areas on the boat and the ability to leave the ship and wander around port. Read the fine print before signing your cruise contract as you’ll likely need to pay gratuity at the conclusion of your trip and there may be other “hidden” fees to note, but you should always be a responsible consumer, regardless of how you travel.
> Quick bites of a bunch of places. Eight hours isn’t enough time to get the real vibe of any country, region or city, but it’s a good amount of time to get a taste for it. On any given cruise, you’re likely to stop at at least two ports and often more. I know I enjoyed Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands when I passed through on a cruise ship, and I would go back for a longer visit. I also know I didn’t care for Grand Cayman, and I’d pass it up for another destination if given the opportunity.
> It’s okay to relax. It seems to me that a lot of people feel the need to do it all when they travel (trust me, I’m one of those people!) but cruising provides a 100% legitimate excuse for relaxing on vacation … and it’s easy to do. Once you get on the boat, someone else can take care of all the hard work and all you have to do is enjoy it. All things considered, that’s not a bad deal at all.
> Digital connection is not simple … or cheap! Though most cruise ships offer some sort of satellite connection now, it can be quite slow and unreliable, and it’s very expensive. I am as addicted to my smart phone as the next person, but it’s a relief to turn the blasted thing off and leave it off for awhile. I have no choice but to read a book, enjoy a fruity drink by the pool, take a walk around the deck or just stare off into the sunset. Digital detoxes are a welcome break from my everyday routine.
People have lots of reasons why they would never board a cruise ship—they feel confined, there isn’t enough freedom, cruise ships are bad for the environment—and all of these are perfectly good responses.
Not all kinds of travels are designed for all travelers. Heck, I’m not one who would want to cruise several times a year, or even more than a week or two, for that matter. But I do enjoy the experience because it is so different from other kinds of travel, and I appreciate anything that gets people out of their mundane daily routines.