What's Your Take on Cruises?

A huge debate broke out a last week here at CK in the comments of my Ersatz Foods post on whether cruises were a desirable--or an awful--form of travel.

I think it was obvious from the first sentence of that post that this form of travel didn't resonate with me at all. But who cares about what I think? I want to know what you think.

Admittedly, this subject is slightly off-topic, but not entirely. After all, a big part of cruises--and an even bigger part of whether you like cruising--is the food. And I gladly admit, on my cruise, which was an eight-day Celebrity Cruise to Bermuda, I actually liked most of the food. It was mostly mass-produced, yes. It was somewhat over-salted, just like lots of restaurant food is. But all in all, it wasn't too bad.

So, readers, let's hear from both sides of the cruising debate, both pro and con: Are cruises a good way to travel? And when you've gone on cruises, what did you like, and what didn't you like? And most importantly, what about the food?

Share your thoughts below!

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Jen said...

I think they're great if you're in the mood for that kind of vacation. Sometimes it's wonderful to just have everything taken care of--to not have to think about where you're going to eat, how you're going to get around, etc. We took a cruise for our honeymoon and after the stress of getting married and throwing a wedding it was the PERFECT way to relax-the most complicated decision I had to make that week was what drink to order! They offer something for people of all ages and interests so it's a nice option for a family or even extended family trip. There is a cruise line for every budget, too. You could get a similar experience at an all-inclusive resort perhaps, but there's something really relaxing about being on the water, sitting and listening to the waves, feeling the breeze on your face.

But, cruises are probably not for the person who can't stand to sit still on vacation, and I don't think they're the best way to see a port city. You just get a little taste of each location, and if you really want to explore the land you should not count on a cruise to help you do it. Personally I wouldn't want all or even most of my vacations to be cruises, but the two I've taken were wonderful and I'd definitely do it again some day.

Laura said...

I think cruises are fine - but you have to know what you're getting yourself into.
-You won't really get to see the places you visit. Cruiseports are incredibly touristy and there isn't time to get to the real parts of a city/country before you're due back on the cruise. When I talk about places I've "been," I would not "count" anywhere that I stopped on a cruise. The same way I wouldn't "count" having visited a place when I had a layover in its airport.
-As you mentioned, Dan, don't plan on any great restaurant experiences. The food is perfectly fine and I ate it happily, but none of it would rank among my top meals. And I don't mean that from a "4 star vs 4 star" culinary perspective, but more that no meals you have on a cruise ship are really going to be that memorable (at least not the food/ambience; of course the company you keep can make any meal memorable!).
-And frankly? This will probably get me a lot of hate mail (as it did when I posted a more watered down version on my own blog), but I didn't particularly enjoy meeting people on my cruise. To generalize IMMENSELY (and I should point out that I only went on one cruise and of course didn't even meet everyone on that ship), the type of people who tend to cruise seemed to be people who wanted to play it safe and not really step outside their comfort zone. Most people I met hadn't really traveled very much (outside of cruising) and weren't very worldly, whereas I like to meet people who are totally different, challenge me, and give me new perspective on things.

All of those negative points aside, I would TOTALLY go on a cruise again for the same reasons Jen mentioned. It can be a relaxing place to read, tan, etc. Next time, I just wouldn't bother getting off the ship at the various ports, and I would probably keep more to myself/my group rather than spending a lot of time trying to befriend people whose primary interest was tossing back a lot of tequila shots because "we're on vacation, woo!" I like to drink too, but the whole acting like you're a teenager with no responsibilities thing was really off-putting to me, especially when I see that kind of behavior in adults.

(For what it's worth, I feel the same way about Vegas).

Jenna said...

I've gone on two - and if given the option? Would never ever EVER go again. In the spirit of full disclosure, they weren't trips my husband and I planned. He 'won' them from his company - every other year they essentially rent out the whole boat and the top workers and their spouses 'get' to go. (It's actually a career killer if you don't - and since we're markedly younger than most other and DON'T drink to stupid behavior... it's all just a bit uncomfortable.)

In my experience - it was miserable. We had talked to everyone we'd been told to talk to do deal with the fact I have celiac and allergies, told it was no problem... and was unable to eat ANYTHING for 5 days. The buffets had every cross contaminated, and the food was all premade with no-way items. For me, the worst moment came when this chipper little gal tried to walk me around the buffet to show me what I could eat (they all HAD been trained about food allergies) and one by one was told flat by each section leader - "Nope". By the end - SHE was in tears. And kept dropping her own snicker bars off at my room because she couldn't believe what happened. Beyond those candy bars, a LOT of soda and tea - I lost 7 pounds in 5 days. The island we went to was owned by the cruise line - and all the food on IT was prepped by the ship. The towns we got off at? Well. Booze was GF, but if you haven't eaten in 3 days, it's a bad idea to drink. Especially in front of the bosses.

It might be world's better if you don't have the stupid restrictions I do - but the whole experience was just... blah. Herded like cattle from place to place. No time to do your own thing. It's rather like being forced to go to summer camp as an adult. Too many people trying to jolly you into going with the crowd. Toss the work aspect into it?

Miserable. AND the day I got home - since I needed to go to the grocery - my husband drove us straight to a 'safe' restaurant... where I preceded to: order, eat, order, eat, order, eat, and order one more time to take home for later. NOT cheap! (But man was I hungry.)

But to be fair - it wasn't our plan, I've never been a big crowd gal, the food situation is a weird one (although those without allergies were complaining too, the food was pretty... canned) and maybe the better quality ones are world's better. But personally? I'm going to kick my husband if he 'wins' this again.

Kira said...

Granted, I'm a little biased since I met my husband on a cruise. I think they are good for certain kinds of vacations - seeing a lot of places in a short amount of time, and they're good for families.
The best way for 3 generations of us to get together for a vacation was a cruise. The young people got to do what they wanted (more active) during the day, and we still all got to see each other for meals.

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel,

I am a massive fan of cruises! I've been on 3 P&O Cruises so far and would go on many many more.

I agree that the food is something to enjoy and embrace, it's definately something I have loved on my cruises!

As a dietitian I think it's important for people to develop a healthy relationship with food but this also means not going overboard.

I've written a blog about how you can maintain your weight on a cruise while still enjoying all the wonderufl delicacies.



Daniel said...

I like the input so far. And agreed with most of what everybody is saying.

Again, there is nothing wrong at all with cruises if that's the type of travel you consciously enjoy. Many, many people swear by it, and hey, as Jen (and to some extent Laura) says, the idea that the most complicated decision you have to make is... what drink to order? I gotta say, that sounds pretty good to me.

I guess I see it as a "buffet style" form of travel. Nothing wrong with a buffet. But for my part, I'd rather go to places for longer time periods. But I can see why cruises would resonate with people too.

PS: Kira! Good for you! :) And agreed, it would be a great way to have a multi-generational family together in a way that works for everyone. Interesting point.


Nancy said...

Cruising isn't for everyone. I was a frequent cruiser (monthly) before I started working on ships. I didn't do all the typical things, although I did enjoy the Vegas style shows in the big lounges and the piano bars, comedians, etc in the small lounges. I'm not a big drinker or crowd person, but I found that I could enjoy cruises as an individual without doing the drinking bit. All the lounges serve sodas, bottled water, juices, coffee, etc. If I felt like chatting with others; if I didn't, I didn't. I always took books (if you run out, use the onboard library) and enjoyed reading them while enjoying the sea air.

As for ports, I ignored the cruise tours with all the people. I didn't enjoy being part of "the herd." I used local transportation and did my own thing. I enjoy being a visitor rather than a tourist and usually found myself "over the hill" as the locals in the Bahamas called it. I always managed to find the restuarants, shops, sight seeing options that the locals enjoyed.

I enjoyed the opportunity of visiting different ports/countries without all the flights, packing, unpacking and headaches of making a bunch of reservations, etc. Hitting the ports is also a way of seeing if you would like to spend more time there on your own.

I've only worked on two lines, but if a person made their dietary restrictions at the time they made their cruise reservations, both companies knocked themselves out to have appropriate meals available. If this is done at the time of booking, it gave the company enough time to do any needed research, order ingredients and create your menus.

For Jenna, something like that would totally turn me off cruising for life if I had never gone on a regular cruise before.

I'm a solitary type person and have found cruising quite suitable for me. I've always done my own thing all through life, so have never felt the need to fit in with the crowd. Do you know how absolutely incredible it is to be out on deck at night while most others are sleeping? It's so beautiful to see all the stars and white caps with nothing else around. Such a time of serenity.

chacha1 said...

DH and I haven't done the cruise thing. I think I would rather *work* on a cruise ship than use it for a holiday. I like a lot of open space, spontaneity, and alone time, and it doesn't seem like most cruise ships accommodate that (how could they?).

That said, the Windjammer type cruises - 12 to 15 people on a sailing ship - look tasty. Particularly the ones where you can learn to sail!

My parents went on a dance-themed cruise. They enjoyed being able to dance every night, but - not being super gregarious - otherwise felt very cooped up and stifled.

Anonymous said...

I've never been a cruise and probably won't cause my husband gets pretty bad sea sickness, and for vacation time and dollars it doesn't seem worth the risk. When we are much older and less mobile, a Danube river cruise sounds interesting though. Smaller boats, less emphasis on tequila and more on local vino.

SOme people love them, but when they are listing or describing where they have been (often places we have traveled to on our own to really experience the local culture) it seems like they just get the tourist highlights and don't really experience the destination. We really love immersing ourselves in a destination away from the most of the touristy sights so that's just us.

Laura said...

Three words: fresh, fluffy towels. And the specialty French restaurant (with the real souffle) was pretty darn good!

Anonymous said...

Love them! I have been on several cruises from the Rhine River, to the Great Barrier Reef & several low market mass market ships in between & I love them. They work for my family. They have age appropriate activities for my two year old & time/place for him to take a nap. They have sports for my husband to watch, while I can read a book, while my MIL is doing her own thing. I'll take a cruise over any other type of vacation going. (I've done land tours in Europe, I went deep into the Pyrenees, at the end of the trip, I was most satisfied with the quick trip through Pau. Maybe I am not cultured enough for a "deep" lengthy stop...)

My MIL is allergic to Onions - chick it out, if you think HFCS is in everything, try working with an Onion allergy. Carnival (One of the lowest common denominator lines afloat) was able to work with her & she actually enjoyed herself - mass market food included. So it can be done, you just have to be proactive from the very begining.