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What you should know before you book a cruise

Cruising has become popular over the past years.  As it is a completely different way of traveling you might wonder if it’s something for you. We did something like 15 cruises over the past years.  Here’s what liked and what we didn’t like as much:

 Visiting multiple places without daily packing and unpacking

Living out of a suitcase for weeks can be a challenge.  Each day again you have to search for your clothes.  You always seem to be looking in the wrong place and when you finally find what you’re looking for it comes out completely wrinkled. That’s at least our experience.  That’s why we love that on a cruise you can unpack on the day you arrive and don’t have to worry about your suitcases until the last day of your cruise.  And you still visit a different place almost every day.  A combination of the good aspects of an all-inclusive vacation and a road trip.

 That’s entertainment!

Don’t worry, you will not quickly get bored on a cruise.  There are so many things to do that you might not even be able to finish the books that you brought along.  The day activities are quite different for each of the different cruise companies.  Some focus on a younger public and will offer more sportive activities, others offer more tranquil activities.  The evening program is similar amongst most companies.  Once or twice weekly they will host a show with singing, dancing, and ballet. The other evenings are filled with comedians, illusionists, and singers.  The line-up of the performers is usually very good.  We never miss showtime on the ships!


A captain once told us: “You came aboard as passengers but you will leave this ship as cargo.”  He, of course, referred to the huge amount of food that is being prepared in the kitchen on a daily basis.  Every ship will have at least 2 restaurants open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  One offering à-la-carte options, the other serves a buffet.  Outside these hours you will always find something to eat in one of the many smaller eateries aboard.  Even more dining options are being introduced on the newer ships.  Italian, Japanese, steak or sushi restaurants are making their debut.  Some companies let you eat for free in these restaurants, at others you need to pay an additional fee.

 Not enough time to discover the ports of call

Probably my biggest annoyance with cruising is that you never get enough time to truly discover your ports of call.  You only spend a few hours at every stop, usually just long enough for the largest excursion organized by the company.  If you leave the ship on your own initiative, you must, therefore, comply with the hours that the vessel moors. As a result, there is often not much time left to enjoy the beautiful places where you are. In large cities, ships are sometimes docked for 2 days but never enough to form a good and decent image of where you are.

 Excursions organized by the cruise company

All companies organize their own excursions.  In itself, a nice initiative because if you want you just have to join one of the organized tours. That is the good thing about these excursions. Unfortunately, the excursions offered are always pricey and the most popular excursions are a good example of mass tourism.  You will be shown around in tour buses and you will have the obligate stops in gift shops.

If you want to save money on a cruise, do some research in advance about the places you will visit and arrange your own excursions. This is also perfectly possible. Charming and cheaper. 


What you still need to know

A cruise is not always a full-fledged all-inclusive. For most companies, the all-inclusive formula concerns the food and a small selection of drinks (water, coffee, tea, ice tea).  All other drinks must be paid for.

You can opt-in in one of the drink packages or you can also pay for each consumption separately.

Everything is charged to your cabin so you do not need to carry any money whilst on board. 

More exclusive cruise companies go one step further and usually have all soft drinks and alcoholic drinks included.  Some even have the excursions included in the cruise.

In summary, a cruise for us is an improved version of an all-inclusive holiday. There’re more than enough activities, especially the days that you are at sea. The days you visit a port, you can discover a new place. If you have never cruised and would like to give it a try, we recommend a cruise that visits several small islands like the ones in the Caribbean. This is also the cheapest destination to go on a cruise because there are a lot of ships sailing in this region.  Cruises in the Caribbean usually have 1 or 2 sea days and call at various islands on the other days where, if you feel so, you can visit something, snorkel, dive or do another activity. You will certainly not get bored.

As said, there are a lot of companies active. In the next article, I will discuss the differences between these companies to give you an idea which company would suit you best. So be sure to keep an eye on our blog.

Have you been on a cruise? What did you think of it?

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