Cruise vacations are a lot of fun and a great value, but they’re not for everyone, so I want to explore what to expect on a cruise ship vacation and help you determine what type of cruise is right for you. I actually think almost everyone will love cruise vacations, but you have to determine what type of a cruise is for you – a short 4-day cruise, a long 14-day cruise, a Caribbean Cruise, a Mediterranean Cruise…well, you get the picture. I must confess that at one time I was not a fan of cruise vacations. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t think of a worse way to spend a vacation than on a ship. But in the past few years, I’ve become a converted fan to cruise vacations and have been on three very fabulous (and very different) cruises (primarily because I was chasing a cheap travel deal) and I can now honestly say that I love a cruise ship vacation! But let’s go over a few questions you should ask yourself to determine if a cruise is for you or if a cruise is not for you.
1. Do You Get Sea Sickness or Motion Sickness Easily?
The number one reason many people think that they will not like cruise vacations is because they are prone to getting motion sickness or sea sickness. I personally understand this as I can get very sea sick when I am a passenger on speed boats, small boats or catamarans if I do not take the necessary precautions. For me, these precautions involve taking a motion sickness prevention product called Bonine (for adults and kids) that you can purchase at any drugstore or department store like Target or Walmart (but use only as directed). Personally, I haven’t had any issues with sea sickness on cruise ships (even when we’ve experienced very high winds or swells and the boat was really rocking).
2. Why Do You Want to Take a Cruise Ship Vacation:
A. Because You Want to Experience a Cruise?
Cruise ships are like four-star floating resorts and they are much more than a vacation. They are an experience like no other vacation you’ll ever have. Cruises are a great value since they are “all-inclusive” vacations that include your transportation to different ports (when you’d otherwise have to book additional airfares), your hotel (since you always have your cabin), and your meals (offered 24/7 on many cruise ships). They are one of the best travel deals you can get for a cheap vacation when you add up what it would cost you to do a similar vacation with additional airfares, hotels and meals, not to mention the quality of the accommodation.
You can make your cruise ship vacation whatever you want it to be. Your days on a ship can be packed with activities from morning until night or you can just spend time relaxing, go shopping and sunbathing by the pool, or just hang out in your stateroom. And when you arrive in each port, there are dozens shore and land excursions for you to do as well.
If you’re single or a couple with no kids, then you may want to avoid taking cruise vacations during a season when school is out (especially during spring breaks) or traveling on a cruise line that heavily caters to families. If you have a family, make sure you don’t choose a cruise line that caters to older adults (including senior citizens) and is not kid-friendly. Several cruise lines have kids travel free programs (or offer this discount periodically, like MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises) and these are good cruise lines for you to look into.
B. Because You Like the Cruise Itinerary and Ports of Call?
One of my favorite things about a cruise ship vacation is that you’re able to visit many different destinations all on one cruise, without ever having to repack and all for one amazing price! On a recent 10-Day Western Caribbean cruise, I had a balcony stateroom and went to the Cayman Islands, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico for a total of $535 per person (including port fees and taxes)! This cruise itinerary was perfect because I had just the right amount of time at every port city and country that we visited.
Now from the good to the bad and the ugly when it comes to choosing cruise vacations based on the cruise ship itinerary. I took an amazing 8-Day Mediterranean Cruise out of Barcelona with ports in Naples, Rome, Florence, Nice and Marseilles. I had never been to Spain, Italy or the South of France so this was a great itinerary in principle. What I discovered — and what you need to be aware of — is how limited time can be when you port. Usually port time is no more than 10-12 hours. For example, by the time I actually got into Rome from port (a 60-90 minute train trip), I only had seven hours to actually sight see. You definitely need much more time than that to see all the city of Rome has to offer and hit the highlights (the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel & The Coliseum).
On cruise vacations, you also need to be prepared that you may occasionally be unable to port due to inclement weather conditions. This is what happened with Florence so I did not get to get my proverbial photo holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. With all that said, I had two weeks of incredible experiences packed and condensed into four days on shore including being blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square in Rome and standing just 12 feet away from him as he came by in the famous “Pope Mobile.”