Saturday, April 11, 2015

7 comebacks to "I Hate Cruising"

Doug Parker, aka @cruiseradio, recently received an email from a listener touting his "7 Reasons I Hate Cruising". To Doug's credit, he posted the mini-rant, politely remarked that "cruising isn't for everyone", and asked, "Weigh In. How would you respond?". Well, here is my response to each of those 7 reasons:

Spring Break?
Before you yell "I hate cruising!", there are many different types of cruises, and not all are about crowded pool parties, far from it. Take time to pick the cruise that is right for you.
While I certainly agree that cruising isn't for everyone (I'd be last to suggest that, as I'm a pretty staunch independent traveler ~ I once spent 7 months in Europe without stepping on a cruise ship or tour bus), there is tremendous value in a floating hotel that takes you to ports of call you might not otherwise experience. I also believe that there are ways to design your own personal cruise experience in a way that works for you.

Here are my tips for enjoying a cruise vacation, if you are in the "I hate cruising" camp, but you:
A) find yourself booked on a cruise with friends or family, or
B) need a low-stress vacation but can't face another all-inclusive resort, or
C) book a last minute deal in spite of yourself!

1. "I hate doing nothing, and by nothing I mean just sitting by the pool, napping, etc."
    Love that Pose
  • Doing "nothing" in this way is a choice, and you don't have to make it
  • Get fit by going to the gym every day
  • Pack your sneakers and "do the promenade" by walking around the ship a few times every day (most cruiselines will publish facts about how many times around a certain deck add up to a mile)
  • Check out the public art on the ship ~ some of it is really quite good, and there are usually unique works down every corridor of staterooms on board
  • Pack your art supplies and draw, sketch or even paint a masterpiece in your stateroom
  • Take along a few books you've always wanted to read (or a Kindle loaded up with War and Peace)
  • Bring along that digital SLR camera you never learned to use, find the little book, add some camera cards and a photography book or two ~ and spend your cruise learning, experimenting and taking amazing pictures
  • I once took a stack of travel books, post-it notes and a world map (with a roll of masking tape to stick it on my cabin walls) on a cruise, with the intention of planning an extended trip as I read about where I wanted to go
  • Heck, you could write your first novel on a ship! Or learn a new language. Or study Viking history. Or ....
  • My fav: buying the New York Times Sunday Edition and savouring it for the entire voyage (make sure you hide it so the cabin stewards don't throw it out!)
2. "If I am going to travel, I want to experience a culture. Stay in one place for an extended period of time, and really immerse."
  • Agreed, makes sense to me! (and here are some strategies...)
  • Carefully select your embarkation and disembarkation ports, and plan extended stays pre- and post-cruise
  • Consider a cruise to be a "taster" for the first time you visit a region, and identify where you want to return to
  • Look for interesting repositioning cruises (book open-jaw flights to get you to and from your ship) that will take you to new destinations
  • Seek out sailings that spend more than a day in port ~ common with luxury lines (which frequently spend 2 or 3 days in port), more cruiselines are adding late night departures and overnight stays in port
  • My fav: cruises with an overnight stay in Venice, allowing you time to explore this magical city without the expensive accommodation (these are quite common)
3. "I don’t want preplanned meals"
    Celebrity Infinity. On Deck
  • No problem - you don't have to have them!
  • Skip the dining room - I have done entire cruises, even before today's "open dining" options, without once stepping into the dining room
  • Indulge in flexible dining at the buffets onboard
  • Pick up a few extra goodies from the buffet to take back to your stateroom (cereal boxes, juices, yogurt, pastries) - don't forget, you have a fridge!
  • On the matter of a spoon for that yogurt, just "take" one from the buffet, and hide it in your room - just be courteous and leave it behind when you disembark
  • Fill a tray at the buffet and carry it back to your room
  • Pick a cabin with easy stair access to the lido café, making it easy to run up to grab a coffee or tea
  • Order room service - typically free on most cruise lines
  • If you still want table service, there are specialty dining restaurants on most ships (albeit at an extra charge), or you may be able to dine at a area of the main dining room at a flexible time
  • Remember that even for 'traditional dining', it's just the time and table that are pre-planned... there are many options on the menu and you can order as many as you want
  • In port, pick up local snacks to bring aboard!
  • My fav: loading up a tray at the breakfast buffet, then savouring it for hours on my balcony  
4. "I don’t want to have preplanned activities"
    Reading while Egypt floats by
  • Great ~ you don't have to participate in anything you don't want to!
  • The ONLY thing you MUST participate in is the safety drill on the first day onboard
  • Pick and choose the activities you want to do, or choose to do nothing at all ~ don't become one of the people who get so busy doing every possible activity on the ship, without being able to catch their breath (unless that's what you love), and arrive home exhausted (and miserable)
  • I have done entire cruises without participating in a single activity onboard
  • My fav: reading the daily schedule of activities, attempting to pick out one or two that might interest me, then blowing them all off and curling up with my book (and smiling inwardly when I hear people complain about being too busy to think!)
5. "I don’t want to see canned shows"
  • No problem... don't go!
  • You will find that the public areas on the ship are less crowded, or almost deserted, when the big shows are on (as well as during main dining times), so it's a great time to enjoy the ship
  • Pick your cruise carefully ~ find a cruise with interesting guest speakers, musicians, movies or other entertainment that is more to your liking
  • And, yes, that's a picture of the Styx performing onboard as part of CarnivalLive
  • My fav: using the sauna or whirlpool during the ship's "busy times"
6. "I don’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of people all the time"
    A quiet drink on our balcony.
  • Book a large ship, with lots of public spaces (contrary to what you might think, you will find more space to yourself on a large ship, as opposed to a small ship ~ although small ships do go into smaller ports)
  • Book a balcony ~ it's like having your own private ship when you are relaxing there (believe me, it makes a world of a difference!)
  • When you board, make it a mission to explore the ship, and look for the little nooks and crannies, where you can grab a deck chair, or an armchair, and try them out
  • Stay on the ship in port, when everyone else is off on shore excursions - you'll have the place virtually to yourself
  • My fav: slipping up to my favourite deck chair at the aft of the ship during lunch or dinner, when things are less busy, then settling in for a long session of watching the horizon
7. "I like to travel with fluidity, I want to plan what I do and I want to plan when I do it."
    Dad & Joey
  • True that you sacrifice some flexibility when cruising, but you can save yourself from overplanning by taking ports at your own pace, rather than taking organized excursions
  • If you do book shore excursions, spend some time researching your options, as you may find higher quality excursions (less people, more inclusions)
  • Create your own plan, but booking a private tour, or arranging a taxi, to take you to the sight you want to see, at the time of day you wish
  • Don't make a plan for ports: instead, decide what you want to do over breakfast
  • Try just wandering the port city at your own pace, going to an off-the-beaten-track museum, or exploring ruins on your own (just make sure you have a plan to get back to the ship on time)
  • My fav: having coffee at a spot frequented by locals and people watching
Life on a cruise
The joy of undisturbed reading time on a ship, just one of the pleasures of
setting your own pace for your cruise vacation

You have probably noticed that all these are solo activities, as my favourite way to cruise is solo. If you are travelling with others, do some research on how couples, families and other groups tailor their cruise experience to their own interests and travel style.

So, yes, it IS possible to enjoy a cruise, even if you aren't a big cruise fan.

And, of course, continue to incorporate other types of travel into your life, so that you are fulfilling your dreams, not living someone else's.

All images creativecommons on Flickr - click each photo for source info

Related resources:
Cruise lines increasingly onboard with overnights - Travel Weekly
Make the most of your overnight port call - Cruise Critic
How to Choose the Right Cruise for You - Fodor's Travel
The 10 most intimate spaces on cruise ships  - USA Today Travel

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Anzac commemorations at sea

Celebrity is one of the cruiselines sailing an Anzac Day itinerary to commemorate
the 100th Anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli (photo: wikicommons)
A colleague of mine will be aboard this sailing, which I found interesting, so I thought I would share it here.

The Battle of Gallipoli was a World War I campaign that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire between April 25, 1915 and January 6, 1916. The tiny, scenic cove where the troops came ashore is now known as Anzac Cove.

ANZAC Cove (8708685897) Observed on April 25th each year, Anzac Day was originally to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli. In Australia and New Zealand, Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance that broadly commemorates lives lost in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Tonga - and parts of Canada (role of the Royal Newfoundland at Gallipoli).

On April 25, 2015, the 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict, there will be a service at dawn at ANZAC Cove, which will be televised worldwide. Learn more on the Gallipoli 2015 website.

Here's how the anniversary will be commemorated on the Celebrity Constellation:
  • The August 22, 2015 sailing of the Celebrity Constellation will commemorate the anniversary
  • On ANZAC Day, the Constellation will sail close to Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula at Anzac Cove, where the troops came ashore
  • Passengers will be invited up on deck at dawn for the call of the bugle
  • The ship's Captain will ceremoniously lay a wreath out to sea
  • The televised coverage will be shown onboard, followed by a special service for passengers
  • Peter Donovan, noted historian, author and keynote speaker, will make presentations onboard, and point out any discernable memorials and cemeteries
  • Later in the day, the Constellation will call at nearby Canakkale for an overnight stay; this will allow passengers to visit tiny, scenic Anzac Cove the following day
There are more substantive commemorations taking place on the Azamara Journey on the official ANZAC Centenary Cruise, in partnership with the Australian National Geographic Society. Even if you aren't interested in going, the website makes for a pretty interesting read (you can even download the ANZAC Centenary Cruise brochure).

If you are interested in being onboard, as I write this there is still space on the Celebrity Constellation sailing. If you want to try to secure a cabin, or visit the area in the future, please contact me.