Mom & Dad take cruising the Caribbean: A PRO/CON LIST FOR BEGINNERS
My husband and I just returned from a cruise in the Caribbean to a very cold and rainy Arizona… It was our first time away from Maddux for more than one night since he was born, so we were both excited to return to him and sad that Arizona is landlocked and not in the middle of the sea.
I wanted to write a post talking about the pro’s and con’s of cruising for those who may be wondering if it is their type of traveling. I have been on 3 different cruises, 3 different cruise lines, with 10 different cruise stops. I am no expert, but I have a pretty good idea of how things work.
In my opinion, cruising is for you if:
-You enjoy traveling, but don’t enjoy planning or tedious details
-You enjoy seeing new places, but do not enjoy long drives or plane rides (not because you are traveling by boat, but because you are entertained the whole time you are traveling rather than sitting in a car or one an airplane)
-You want a place to take your children where you can spend some time separate from them relatively stress-free
-You don’t enjoy finding places to stay or dealing with customs when you go abroad
-You don’t enjoy toting luggage from place to place when you change locations while on a trip
-You are a senior or are traveling with seniors who have limited mobility
Cruising is likely not for you if:
-You enjoy being entirely in control of everything you are doing and every single detail
-You want to spend extended amounts of time in one country or see several cities in one country
To share in greater detail the pro’s of cruising, let me expand on my bullet points. Going on a cruise is a great way to see new places while already having all the decisions made for you. The hardest decisions you will make is whether or not to do an excursion or sit on the beach. You will have hundreds of things to do to keep you entertained while on the boat, at least ten places to choose from to eat and plenty of beach chairs to choose from on the lido deck (the pool deck ;). You get to pit stop at new and fun locations, but you are also entertained the whole time you are traveling. While the boat is taking you from place to place you can play sports, surf, zip line, watch a live show, eat some ice cream, play in an arcade, gamble, shop, swim, hot tub, go down giant slides, run laps, eat at the buffet, enjoy music in Central Park, ride a carousel, eat sushi, take a nap, etc. etc. etc. You have a long list of ways to be entertained the whole time you are going from one destination to another.
There are kids clubs, teen clubs and babysitting on board so you can enjoy time with your children, but also drop them off to be entertained by the cruise staff if you want to spend some time on your own. You only show your passport getting on and off the boat, and don’t have to go through customs every time you stop to visit a new country. You leave your luggage on board in your room, it gets cleaned nearly every time you leave it, there are laundry services if you require them and you don’t even have to touch your suitcase. On your last day you can opt-in to have them valet your luggage to the airport and they will take it off the boat, check it in at the airport and you don’t have to see it again until you land at home!
The staff are all incredibly kind and they work very hard to ensure you have a great time. There are fancy dining areas as well as casual ones, ice skating shows, diving shows, musicals and game shows. If you find yourself bored, it’s only because you aren’t taking full advantage of all the options! Cruises are also great for older people who struggle to get around. The ship is very accommodating, as well as the staff and even the entertainment. We went on one cruise with my little brother, parents and grandparents. My grandparents loved relaxing by the piano bar, my mom loved relaxing by the pool and my little brother loved playing mini golf. There is literally something for everyone.
That being said, there are con’s to cruising. I felt them more intensely this last time than my previous experiences on a cruise ship. One tough part of cruising is that you are not in absolute control of your trip. You can choose excursions that fit your personality and travel style, but you can’t choose the locations you stop or how long you stop at them. The moment we landed in Puerto Rico, I was so sad because I knew I wanted more time there. It was a short day, so we only had until 2 PM to be there. I wanted to spend days in San Juan! Granted, if I hadn’t have stopped there on a cruise, who knows if I would have ever been inclined to go to Puerto Rico. Now I know I must go back. You have to stick to the timeline of the cruise ship or they will literally take off without you, and take your luggage with them!
You also don’t have the ability to travel much within any given country. If you don’t love the city they chose, you can’t just quickly hop over to another very often. Your ability to really spend time getting to know a place is very limited. Also, often the stops are private locations owned by the cruise line. For example, we stopped in Haiti but it was a private part of Haiti that didn’t truly show the country or their culture. It was very catered to tourists and beach days. I would have loved to see Haiti in it’s more authentic form. However, it does ensure the safety of the guests, so if you are worried about going to a certain country, taking a cruise there really helps with safety as the ships only port in locations that are pretty safe.
Each cruise line has different personalities, and I will do a follow-up post based off my experience with Royal Caribbean, Princess and Carnival cruises.
From personal experience, my husband LOVES cruising. He prefers the days at sea on the boat over the stops in different countries because he is always entertained and loves the pool. I really love seeing new places, so although I would never say no to a cruise I also really love having more flexibility. It is a great way for us to travel together, because it touches on both of our ideas of a good time.
If you are considering a cruise, I’d love to hear any questions you have about how it works! I will be happy to tell you in more detail about our experience cruising.