Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Five Things I Learned From Cruising


I had have my share of travel experiences from backpacking in Tuscany, Italy, fighting for my space in crowded buses in Kalinga and Sagada, Philippines, hiking to small mountain villages such as Dinungsay, Kalinga, standing room trains bound in some parts of Europe (this experience even included a really stinky passenger beside me and one guy almost falling off the door because the train went on a sudden halt), driving for eight hours from Maryland to Quebec, flying through cheap airlines to some far off small airport to save some money and most recently, cruising the Mediterranean and the Baltics. Cruising is one good way to travel especially if you have at least a week or more vacation time allowed. Some cruises even go for a month-long journey. It's also a good alternative for travelers who couldn't stand the stress of hopping from one transportation to another or sweating in some hotels that were misrepresented on some website; I know, I've been there.


Some people shun the idea of cruising because they claim to be hard core trekkers/hikers and indie travel purists, but understand that we are all different types of travelers and not all of us are into backpacking or trekking, so cruising is just another vehicle to explore the world. Not that there's something wrong about indie travel, but that some of us just don't have the stamina for such travel. After all, the worse thing you could do is travel and you end up miserable and unhappy while on the road. The world is here to explore, explore it the way you see fit and you'll be happier. In the end, what matters most is that you're experiencing places and culture around the world.


With two cruises in my pocket, I learned a few things I'd like to share with you.
  1. Life Is A Cruise: Cruising is a more relaxed way to travel compared to being on the road all the time. I know several cruise passengers who just lounged at the pool even if we're at port of call. Being in a cruise sort of takes away the stress of getting lost, stressing of not making your next flight, or worried that your hostel, hotel or B&B is not to your liking. In a cruise, you get your room cleaned and made up every day and your hotel floats to your next destination.
  2. Group Tours Or On Your Own: There are itineraries available at every port of call. For people who simply wants to see places without the headache of dealing with itineraries, cruise operators offer a variety of group tours. In my experience, group tours offer pick ups and drop offs, so all you have to do is hop on the bus armed with your camera and enjoy your itinerary for the day with an experienced guide. Group tours offer less travel stress and if you happen to have a knowledgeable guide, you'll be given a lot of local information about the city your visiting. Also, it's a valuable experience to be able to ask questions from your guide. On the downside, group tours can range from $50 to $200 per person and can be expensive. The good thing is, you have a choice to visit the country on your own and do away with the formatted group tour. We toured Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland on our own and we had a wonderful time going our own pace exploring these cities. However, I don't recommend going on your own in certain places like St. Petersburg, Russia especially that some of the must visits sites require you to be on a tour group. Another downside to tour groups is that sometimes, tour guides have to rush travelers because they are running late or out of time. You have to understand that tour guides follow a time schedule and that they have to make sure you have to see all the designated places in your itinerary, and still make it back to your ship before time of departure.
  3. Floating City: Boarding a cruise ship means you have a floating room and board to every country you visit. In addition, you also have entertainment onboard, activities such as learning a new language and crafts (for a minimal fee), sports and exercise facilities to keep your body in shape, choice of restaurants (some restaurants you have to pay and some are included in your cruise package) and of course, there's always that buffet table that is open 24 hours when you get hunger pangs even at 12 am. Being in a cruise ship is comparable to being in a floating city where there's a casino, a theater, spa services, laundry services, shops, library, play rooms and more. Sometimes, facilities and amenities available depends on the size of your ship.
  4. Sea Meditation: If you get tired of the casino and the onboard entertainment, you can always look to the sea for inspiration. Gazing at the vastness of the sea can be very relaxing and meditative. While on cruise, take the time to smell the fresh sea breeze, grab a book and find a quiet corner and be lost in a novel, or join an early morning yoga class to start your day right. And if you're cruising with your partner, go to the highest deck to watch the sunrise or sunset huddled in a blanket, nothing can be more romantic than that.
  5. The Ship Is A Destination: The ship's staff  comes from all over the globe. If you want to meet different types of people and personalities in one destination, the cruise ship is a good place. The ships' crew are very friendly, helpful and accommodating. Yes, they are paid to provide customer service but they're an integral part in making your trip memorable. Just think how far these people come from just to make your trip a successful one. After each cruise I took, I started missing some of the staff I met that really made an impression on me. The cruise ship itself is a country and worthy as a destination.
 This was our view while eating nutella crepes and sipping Greek coffee at a shop in Santorini.

    16 comments:

    1. I've never been on a cruise. I am not sure it suits my temperament. Unfortunately, the recent tragedy of a luxury cruise liner that ran aground off the coast of Tuscany will probably also change the way that many people look at cruises. Apart from that, I can see the advantages of a cruise too.

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      1. A cruise is not for everyone. I guess this is why we should find what type of travel suits us. Yes, I heard about that tragic Costa Concordia. It's really sad when things like these happen.

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    2. you're so lucky to be able to travel in so many places and to be able to try all kinds of adventure. i love your learnings from cruising.

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      1. Thank you. I'm glad I can share them with you.

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    3. I've never been on a cruise because of my intense fear of drowning which is probably brought about by my inability to swim. Heh! This also extends to any sort of sea transport like outrigger boats, ferries and tiny bancas! I get quite worried and nervous just sitting on a ferry like for instance the sort one takes to get from Cebu to Bohol (almost 2 hours if I'm not mistaken) or from Hong Kong to Macau (merely an hour ride) for that matter. :D

      I'll take a turbulent plane ride over a cruise, anytime. As you mentioned, a cruise isn't for everyone, present company included. :D

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      1. Yes, cruise is not for everyone. I do have a fear of the ship sinking but once I spend more time on the ship, I get more comfortable. We're opposites. I'd rather stay in a ship than go through a turbulent plane ride...lol.

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    4. I'd like to try cruising someday. I think a one or two-week cruise is just perfect for me. I don't think I could last a year-round cruise like some people do. But then my pocket couldn't afford it too. LOL!

      Really lovely pictures Kayni!

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      1. Me too, the two cruise trips I took were both two weeks in duration. I don't think I can stand a month long or longer cruise.

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    5. I think going on a cruise is not suited for budget-conscious travelers like me. I am looking into getting an Inter-Rail Pass I would like to experience travelling around Europe by train... :) I have yet to read your travel entries to Italy (I will start reading now :)) but would it be ok if you could give me some tips about backpacking in Italy?
      Thanks so much! :)

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      1. Most of my backpacking trips weren't planned. When I was studying in Rome, I just took off on the weekends with my backpack, took a train, hike around my destination and slept where I found a bed for the night - a hostel or B&B. Let me know if you have specific questions.

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    6. Cruising is like a lot of things. People who have never been pity those that have not. People that cruise pity those that don't. Most people I know who don't like cruising have never been on one. I have been on at least 7 cruises and they only get better. What happened on the Costa Concordia was an unnecessary tragedy, but more people die from car accidents each day and we still drive cars. Honestly I cruise now in Europe as it is the least expensive way to travel as a 50s something person. I didn't like backpacking in hostels in my 20s and it would be way worse now. For the type of accommodations you get, the price is really good. Way cheaper than hotels. Thanks for the post!

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      1. I agree. Traveling is a matter of choice. And yes, I was just trying to calculate the costs between cruising and getting the whole plane + hotel + tours and they're close in terms of cost. Cruising could come out less expensive and less stressful.

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    7. Oh, the view is breathtaking. Santorini is one of my dream places to see.

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      1. You know, I'd love to go back to Santorini again and just stay there longer. It's a really beautiful place.

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    8. i've never been on a cruise. but it's something i'd like to experience.

      i like what you said about people being different kinds of travelers. minsan kasi, some argue that one type of traveling (e.g., backpacking) is better than another. i myself transition from one type of travel to another (sometimes i feel like the adventurous, backpacing individual, whereas sometimes, i go for the chic, classy traveler). we may have different travel styles, but we all set out for one goal: to see the world.

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      1. absolutely, it depends on an individual how he/she wants to see the world. people should avoid being biased about other modes of travel. it's the same with me, there are times i like to travel relaxed and there are times i feel the challenge of backpacking. as you have said, we have one goal, to see the world.

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