Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Cruises Are the Best Vacations

It's Thursday and vacation season is about to start, so I'm throwing back to my vacation last year. I went on my first and, so far, only but hopefully not last, cruise. It was the first vacation I ever took without my family. It was just me and a friend and it was AMAZING. Not because my family wasn't there but just because it was pretty great. Seriously couldn't have been better. Part of me can't wait to go on another cruise, and the other part of me is afraid that no other cruise can possibly live up to how great this one turned out to be. However, I'm willing to take my chances.

I went with my friend, Michelle. She had been on cruises before and would tell me that cruising is the way to go. I can't say I was completely convinced until I experienced it for myself, but she was right. Cruises aren't exactly the cheapest way to vacation but they are most certainly the best value for several reasons:

1. The food
So much food. Oh my goodness. And not just quantity, quality delicious food in unlimited amounts. Pretty much anything you could want pretty much anytime you want.

2. Travel/Time
Think about it. You get on a boat the size of a small city and it takes you to your destinations. It's like being in a traveling hotel. You go to one place for a day, you go to dinner, you go to bed, and then you magically wake up at your next destination the next morning - a destination that might be a different country. So basically you're not wasting any time sitting on a plane, bus, or other form of transportation. How cool is that? Not to mention, a plane ticket to even one of your destinations could potentially be more expensive than the cost of your entire cruise, depending on where you go.

3. Variety
Cruises can give you the opportunity to experience different places in the same trip in a relatively short time. For example, the cruise that I took visited Key West, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala in 6 days.

4. Less Stress 
Unless you have an unlimited vacation budget, cruises can be less stressful by taking the cost balancing act out of the equation. When you're on a traditional vacation, you might choose to do one activity over another due to cost, but on a cruise, you can do it all because it's already paid for. You can do everything without having to worry about how much you're spending. This was especially fun at dinner. They handed me a menu and I ordered anything from lobster tail and filet mignon to escargot (yes, I ate snails. They were delicious) and not have to think about price at all. I felt like a millionaire.

Ok, so now that I've told you why you should go on a cruise, let me tell you why this particular cruise was so great. This was a very last minute trip. We literally planned our entire trip in less than two weeks. We had an extremely limited time frame in which we could go and that meant that the departure and return date picked our cruise for us. The only cruise that fit our budget and time frame was a Holland America cruise. If you don't know anything about Holland America, it's important to note that their majority demographic is 65 and older. We didn't know that. We got on the boat and all we saw were retired couples. That was not a problem, but it was a surprise, and it turned out to be a bonus. Not going to lie, I loved it. Everyone was so nice and, for lack of better words, well-behaved. Not to mention, we became very well acquainted with the approximately 10 other 18 - 35 year-olds on the boat. I highly recommend Holland America if for nothing else but the free room service. FREE room service.

We didn't know at the time when we booked this particular voyage that the theme was Dancing with the Stars, but we were more than excited when we found out. Ballroom dancing has been our favorite activity for many years so we were convinced that this was going to be good. They had a dance class where we learned a routine and then they would pick 2 finalists to compete in the show the last night of the cruise. The first dance was the waltz and Michelle was pick as one of the 2 finalists. We were so excited! Next was the tango, but I didn't get picked. Then the Rumba which I was totally confident about, but I didn't get picked. At this point, I was convinced that I wasn't going to get to be in the show with Michelle. But then it came time for the Cha Cha and I was finally picked as a finalist the day of the final show! What I haven't told you yet is that it was also Michelle's 22nd birthday. Talk about a great way to spend your 22nd birthday! We were both feeling 22 that day.

That night we competed in the final show. It was so much fun! Even though we were competing against each other, the six of us involved were so nice and encouraging. We even practiced together. Long story short, we won! Michelle took first and I took second. It really couldn't have gone any better!

Now that you probably want to go on a cruise yourself, here are some tips to remember:

1. Bring an extension cord. Ship cabins are small and usually only have 1 or 2 outlets. Bring an extension cord to be sure that you have enough length and outlets.

2. Bring a small purse or wallet. You don't need to carry money with you while you are on the ship but you do need to have your room key on you at all times and a clock and camera are also nice things to have as well. Make sure to bring along something that can accommodate these items but is easy to carry.

3. Try new things. Like I said above, I ate snails - for the first and, unfortunately, probably last time. They were surprisingly one of my favorite foods that I ate on the ship. Michelle and I agreed that if we didn't know what something was on the menu, we'd order it. Since everything is already paid for, you don't have anything to lose when trying new things. So go for it!

4. Don't over-pack. You don't need as much as you think. Just make sure to bring enough beach and exploring clothing.

5. Prioritize. When you first see all that food, you will probably want to try it all. Although, you will probably regret it later. Our strategy was to try anything we wanted in small amounts and to not waste calories on things we could get at home, like cookies. You can get cookies anywhere! We decided to go light for breakfast and lunch and to make dinner our main meal where we didn't limit ourselves on anything. It worked pretty well. We didn't feel deprived but we didn't gain weight, which can be a concern for some cruise goers.

6. Buy souvenirs. The only time you do have to think about money is when you are off the ship. I tried to spend as little as possible on souvenirs but now wish I had not been so frugal. After all, when am I ever going back to Guatemala? Probably never.

7. Take advantage of local touring companies. You might wonder how you get so much for your buck on a cruise and the answer is excursions. Now, excursions can be quite tempting, but they come at a high price. Check online for local companies that offer the same activities at a lower price. I booked a tour of the ruins in Mexico through a local company and paid half of what the cruise line was charging and we had a great experience. Just be sure to do your research and don't end up in a scam.

8. Document. Every night we made a short vlog of what interesting things happened that day. I recently went back and watched our vlog and couldn't stop laughing. I honestly didn't remember half of the random funny things that happened that we decided to vlog about and was glad that we took the time to document them.

Happy Cruising!


Annie Luhmann said...

Oh my gosh! This made me want to go on a cruise even more! It's been on my bucket list since I was eight, and I still want to so bad! It looks so fun! My grandparents love cruises and my grandma says they're for, "the newlyweds, over-feds, and almost deads." Haha

Unknown said...

This sounds so much fun! I heard that the souvenirs aren't amazing on cruise ships, but maybe yours had better ones! This made me want to go on a cruise - I've never been on one!

Unknown said...

Oh yeah, don't bother with the souvenirs on the ship or even fake touristy souvenirs in port, I meant real souvenirs from the places you visit. For example, I bought some local coffee in Guatemala that was so good but only got one bag because I didn't want to spend more money. I wish I had gotten more.