Whether you have taken a cruise or not, you no doubt have been hearing a lot about this style of travel in the past decade. The industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years because it appeals to many people who like what a cruise voyage has to offer.
But is a cruise right for you? Ask yourself these seven questions, and you’ll get a good idea about whether you would enjoy a cruise vacation.
Do I Like a Set Itinerary and Schedule?
I like to pick my cruises by checking out the destinations. It’s nice to earn loyalty status with cruise lines, but the itineraries rule for me. This is a great way to go to new places and get a feel for these spots. However, when you cruise, you are on the ship’s schedule, not your own. This means that the time in port and the predetermined port destinations are pretty much etched in stone (weather conditions permitting).
Some travelers prefer to have more flexibility and input into where they will go and for how long they will stay in a place. This is not the case with a cruise. I also like to travel more independently sometimes but believe that a cruise is a fantastic way to get a sample taste of a new place like the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Antigua, Bonaire or Aruba, for examples, to help me know whether I might like to return for an extended stay someday.
Would I Like Being Pampered?
Cruise vacations are popular because they allow you to relax and enjoy your time in a hassle-free manner. You can enjoy fine cuisine with excellent service from the wait staff at every meal. You won’t cook or clean a thing.
Staterooms are cleaned and the beds made up daily. You even get turndown service at night before you retire to your cabin. (Think about what your bed looks like all day at your home right now.)
Drink service is available throughout the ship, from the bars and lounges to poolside (even while you soak in a hot tub). Additionally, you can book spa services like massages and hair and facial treatments.
Would it Be Nice to Unpack Once While Seeing Several New Places?
Like I mentioned, a cruise itinerary will take you to several places during your time onboard — typically at least four stops in a one-week cruise. The benefit of traveling on a ship is that it serves as a floating hotel. So, you enjoy the convenience of never having to change rooms or unpack and repack as you move from destination to destination. Cruise ships also offer laundry services so that you can pack fairly lightly for extended voyages of more than one week.
Do I Like Being Around Other People?
Depending on the size of the ship, you could be sailing will be sailing with upwards of 4,000 other people on the bigger ocean cruises. You also can find smaller expedition ships or try a river cruise for a more intimate experience among about 80 to 160 other travelers.
Either way, you won’t be alone. If you are an outgoing person, a cruise is a great way to make new friends and enjoy a lot of activities in an energetic environment. Cruises feature late-night dancing, Broadway-style shows in big theaters, live music in lounges, comedy acts, sports bars, resort-style pool areas and large buffet and main dining room areas.
Even the biggest ships, though, offer spaces where you can easily enjoy your privacy if that is something you prefer. They have quiet spots that go unused during periods of the day, libraries, private retreats and sanctuaries with exclusive access to serene spaces with smaller pools and special services.
Popular shore excursions will have large groups of people participating, but this is also remedied by booking a private tour if you prefer to avoid the crowds.
How Do I Feel About Being Overwhelmed with Choices?
For me, the number of things to do is the most attractive part of a cruise trip. Each day offers so many possibilities, and I’m not even talking about the selection of shore activities you can do in the ports you visit.
Onboard, you have daily trivia competitions, live music, movies, games, cooking demonstrations, dance parties, production shows and enrichment talks by expert guest speakers. Don’t forget the spa, fitness center and time spent just relaxing at the pool. This represents just a fraction of the things I have found on cruise ships that keep me busy and having a blast while onboard.
Meal time also brings a whole new set of choices that make your head spin. Specialty dining, poolside grills and the buffets all offer delightful and satisfying options on most major cruise lines. Then, you get tempted by ice cream, sweets and other treats at every turn.
Would I Rather Pay One Upfront Price for My Trip?
Luxury cruises can be a truly an all-inclusive experience, but even a basic budget cruise is a fairly inclusive proposition for your cruise fare.
On budget mega-ships, you typically pay extra for items like Wi-Fi, gratuities, spa treatments, shore excursions, beer, wine, cocktails and soda, as well as specialty dining. But the base price on these ships still covers much of your trip — like travel to your port destinations, accommodations, all meals, entertainment, onboard activities, fitness center and kids clubs – all for one upfront price.
Do I Really Want to Risk Becoming Addicted to Cruising?
This is a big question to ask yourself. Because once you have decided to take a cruise, you’re likely to get hooked. Most people say “Yes” to this one, by the way.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.