Travel Thoughts by Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together….Cruising!
I love cruises and have tried to do one a year in recent years. Cruises are a typically a really good deal when figuring the cost of a vacation. The price of the cruise includes your lodging, travel between multiple destinations, all your meals, and a wide variety of entertainment and activities. And, you can usually find some really awesome deals where they offer free perks or discounts. Once you consider all these things, the price of a cruise can be a bargain over paying separately for hotels, meals, entertainment, activities, and doing it all in multiple destinations. You just need to do your research.
My first cruise was when I was 19 or 20. My aunt and I took a Carnival cruise that included ports in Cozumel Mexico, Georgetown Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios Jamaica. I was in my 30s before I took another cruise – a three day Carnival cruise to Nassau in the Bahamas that was combined with four days at Disney. Then, in 2010, my Mom and I went on another Carnival cruise – this time for five days to Key West and Nassau. I started my annual cruises in 2015 when a friend and I took a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Boston to Portland and Bar Harbor in Maine and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada. In 2016 I took a Holland America cruise to Alaska with a friend. I then took the Coastal California cruise on Princess in 2017 with four ports along the California coast and Ensenada Mexico. Royal Caribbean took me to Bermuda in 2018. I did the epic Transatlantic Cruise on Celebrity in 2019 that took me across the Atlantic to the Azores off Portugal, two ports in Ireland, and Liverpool, England. My last cruise was in 2020 just before all the Covid stuff began – I took a Hawaiian Island cruise on Norwegian. I do have a cruise booked for next year – it was originally planned for earlier this year, but we all know why it got pushed out – I’m going on Royal Caribbean and it is actually almost the same cruise as my very first one. This time I’m cruising out of Galveston, TX and going to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Falmouth Jamaica.
Once I complete the one booked in 2022, I will have been on TEN cruises and used SIX different cruise lines – Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, and Norwegian. Do I have some tips to share? Duh…..sure do! So, here goes:
First – do your research! At minimum, you can find some awesome deals, if you look for them. But, also, each cruise line is different. Sure, they all offer the same basic concept and services/amenities. But, they range in pricing, level of luxury, and some offer different destinations above the typical ports of call. You get what you pay for and it really depends on what is important to you when choosing. My personal favorite: Royal Caribbean and Celebrity – both from the same family of cruise lines.
Remember that not EVERYTHING is included in the base price. Your cabin, tons of entertainment and activities, all the food you can possibly eat, and basic beverages are all included. So, yes, you can absolutely make yourself very happy and have a great time without any of the extras and the expenses that go with them. Extras include alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, spa treatments, on-board shopping, internet access, and on-board specialty restaurants. Look for possible “free perks” – some cruises may offer free packages and on-board spending credits that could cover or help with these. If the cruise you choose doesn’t offer free perks, some of the extras may be worth the cost to you to enhance your experience. And, of course, all these things are optional, so it’s all up to what you want out of your cruise and what your budget is. However…..one of the expenses that are not included but are also not usually an option are gratuities – you don’t “tip as you go”, but you are expected to pay a lump sum gratuity that will be divided among the service providers – most of the time you pay this upfront at booking and the crew that are rewarded work hard to make your trip enjoyable, so they deserve it.
A few other things to consider: 1) Cabin category – inside (no windows), ocean view (a small portal or window), balcony, or suite. The cost goes up for each category. I recommend, if your budget allows, to seriously consider a balcony cabin. 2) Check out the shore excursions at each port ahead of time – there are lots of them that offer a wide variety of things to do and prices – choose what fits your interests and budget. Of course, you can go “on your own” when in port, but there are risks and sometimes unexpected expenses to consider. 3) For dinner: there are LOTS of food options all day, every day. But when it comes to dinner, you have a few decisions – buffet or main dining room – in the main dining room, do you want a set time every day or the flexibility to go when you want – and then there are the specialty restaurants that come with an extra charge. I like to mix it up and try them all. I like to choose “my time” dining so I can have some flexibility depending on what else is going on. I also ask for a “share table” so I can meet and eat with different people every night. And…..give those specialty restaurants a chance. Some cruises offer one or two free specialty restaurant perks. But, if not, they are really worth the extra cost at least once during your cruise – they are amazing! But, plan ahead cause they fill up fast. 4) And, lastly, every night you’ll get a booklet of the next day’s activity list – don’t just toss it aside! Look it over and highlight anything that interests you so you don’t miss anything – there’s so much to do, but also don’t forget to take time to just lay out on the deck or pool-side and relax…..a lot – after all, you’re on vacation!
There are several posts on my blog of the various cruises I’ve been on – way too many to link here. So, just go to my blog at https://thoughtsbykim.com and type in “Cruis” – without the “e” to include different terms I used for cruise adventures – in the “Search here” box and it will bring them all up for you to spend some time reading through or pick ones that pique your interest. Or, you can type in a more specific key word to narrow the search.