Cruising – Love It or Hate It?
Cruising is definitely an amazing experience and a very unique way to travel. However, some love it and some hate it. I personally love cruising and so far I have been on 5 beautiful Mediterranean cruises, one week long each. I have learnt that cruising is not perfect, but is definitely extraordinary. Here are my advice to you, 9 things you need to know before cruising! I include some handy tips and eye-openers in a mix of positives and negatives. Real talk, unbiased.
1. More Food Than You Can Handle
Freshly made pizzas
The great thing about cruising that is an all-inclusive experience. Whilst it may depend on the company if you get bar drinks included or not, you always have access to restaurant and buffet meals and a fair share of cold and warm drinks, all included in the package. After five cruising, I have discovered, with a bit of pain on the way, that there is more food available than one can handle. For food lovers out there, like myself, I advise you to try everything, because you are only on a cruise once, or on very few occasions, and you really deserve to treat yourself. However, I also advise keeping meals small, and keeping in mind that getting too full earlier in the day may affect your other activities such as swimming, playing Ping Pong, sightseeing or even drinking some extra cocktails. I also prefer the restaurant meals over the buffet, is more comfortable, but the buffet is also a perfect option to get a quick bite and choose exactly what you want. Do note that in the restaurant you don’t have much control over the portions, and the waiters tend to give you bad looks if you leave the meal unfinished.
2. The Outdoors Pools Are Cold Even In Summer
Unfortunately this is a bit of a spoiler. I have cruised the Mediterranean in all four seasons and unfortunately even in the middle of July and August the outdoor pool was just too cold. You can sunbathe when the ship is docked as it seems to be fairly warm but as soon as it sails into the deep waters it gets quite cold. I advise looking out for a cruising ship that has indoor pools, they are much more convenient, as you get to enjoy your swimming instead of freezing in the cold water. Needless to say, nothing compares to swimming in a pool whilst sailing in deep waters, as you look up to admire the sky and look outside and get lost into the endless sea.
3. The Balcony View is A Life-Changing Experience
View from the cabin bed
Preparing to dock
In the deep sea
Good morning Tunisia
We were blessed to get balcony cabins in all occasions and I honestly recommend then to any cruiser. Whilst I am certain indoor cabins and window cabins are still okay, as you can always come out on the deck to admire the open sea, the balcony cabin is an unforgettable experience. Here are five great things about balcony cabins:
- You can listen to the sea at any time, day or night, and the calming sound of it is irreplaceable
- The balcony view when the ship leaves the dock is amazing, as you get to see it leave the land and even wave at people on the ground or on other ships
- You have more chances to see dolphins
- The experience of waking up every morning to a new port and opening your balcony to breathe in the fresh air is beautiful, especially if accompanied by a nice warm drink and some breakfast
What if you are sea sick? I am not an expert but I would think balcony is better. From my conversation to other fellow cruisers they’ve told me the indoor cabin is much likely to make you sick. Also, the window cabins, which have the small round window that doesn’t open, tend to magnify the waves and make you dizzy even when you look at them. However, opinions are shared and it’s always best to find what works better for you.
4. The Excursions Are Only Travel Tasters
The great thing about cruising is that you get to visit a handful of countries without worrying about airport transport and any other travel arrangements. You simply embark on your ship, enjoy the food, drinks and entertainment and then you wake up to a new place every morning (depending on the itinerary and how many days as sea you have). The cruising company has pre-packaged excursions ready for you, and you can pay in advance and simply get off the ship on the day and they will have everything arranged for you. This usually includes coach travel, museum and art galleries entries and so on. These excursions, although often overpriced, are definitely a great way to get a feel of the places you visit. However, they are only tasters, as you get no more than 3-5 hours outside. From my cruising experience, the ship usually docks between 7-9pm, sometimes even 1pm, and stay in the same place until about 3-5pm. This way you get anywhere between 3-8 hours on shore. The ports are often outside the main cities, and you usually have to travel by bus or coach for 15-45 minutes. I personally prefer to just walk out, especially in the ports that are in the main cities, and get a feel of the place for myself. If I really like it, I make it a priority to come back one day and spend at least a few nights in a hotel. Needless to say, these excursions are great to get a more real taste of the country/city and also do some shopping.
5. You Feel the Rocking Stronger on A High Deck
This is probably obvious to everyone, but I was had no idea before my first cruise. Almost all cruising ships have 8-18 desks, and the main entertainment is at the top, with reception in the middle. The bottom decks, under sea level, are for the engine, crew cabins and other administrative spaces. The top places are for the guests. If you are concerned about the ship rocking, I advise to try get a lower deck, as the higher you are, the stronger the movements will feel. I experienced a fair share of storms and I can testify that at the top it feels as if you are about to slide out of bed.
6. The Ships Are Precious Masterpieces
Cruising ships are truly some precious masterpieces. If you are planning a cruise holiday, I advise you to fit in your timetable some time to just walk around the ship and explore. Apart from being equipped with everything you need from restaurants, pool areas, plenty of bars and lounges, theater, library, cigar rooms as well as gym and spa, they are designed to the smallest detail. At times I was too involved into the every day activities to even realize there is a top deck and a pool bar I haven’t discovered yet, or a nice area at the back where it’s amazing to sit and watch the ship leave the port. Take your time, admire the ship and find your favorite spots.
7. There Might No Be Free Ironing Facilities On-Board
Just a quick note about ironing, on my cruises with MSC, they did not provide ironing facilities in the room for free. It is a bit costly to get the room service to sort it out for you, so I advise to bring your own travel iron.
8. The All-Inclusive Is Totally Worth It
Relaxing balcony cocktail
Evening on board
After lunch frozen cocktails and water
Another quick note – if you are pondering on whether or not to get an all-inclusive drink package, I suggest is totally worth it. Whether you drink alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, there is something special about pre-paying for everything and then not worrying about it for the rest of the holidays. With so many bars and lounges, you are almost guaranteed to want to buy some drinks. There are plenty of ways around it, such as sneaking drinks from outside, but that’s fairly complicated. I advise you to buy an all-inclusive package that suits your needs and just relax about it. In my experience, you also end up saving costs, especially if you are planning to have quite a few drinks.
9. The Ship Will Leave Without You If You Are Late
Let’s end on a very important note – whether you are embarking or coming back from a self-planned excursion, the ship will leave without you, so do make sure to come back on time. The only way the ship waits for you is if you are on one of their organized excursions, otherwise they have to stick to the itinerary and leave you behind.
1. Spread out your meals whilst on the cruise to avoid getting too full to enjoy the day
2. Look out for cruising ships with indoor pools
3. Try to get a balcony cabin
4. Check out the excursions but remember they are only travel tasters
5. If you don’t like to feel the ship rocking, get a cabin on a lower deck
6. Take time to explore and enjoy the ship
7. Bring your own iron
8. Get an all-inclusive drinks package
9. Be on time for embarkation