My idea of a fun vacation is not staying in a tiny room or battling crowds to eat, be entertained or simply relax by a pool — all of which happens on cruises. My husband and son, however, are big fans of cruising. This means for the past decade, our spring trips have been on mega-ships. Over the years, I have realized there are certain things I can do to make cruising more enjoyable.
Tips for reluctant cruisers
1. Get a room with a balcony. It’s more money, but the ability to open the doors and get fresh air makes the tiny room bearable. It’s also a nice spot for room-service breakfast or late-night drinks. (Just keep your fingers crossed that the cruisers in the staterooms on either side of you don’t smoke.)
2. Steer clear of the all-you-can-eat buffets. This is, in my view, by far the worst part of cruising. The buffet areas are like cattle calls, and — trust me on this — the food looks better than it tastes. Once you wrestle over the food options, you then have to wander around in search of a place to sit and actually eat. Not fun. Luckily, most cruise ships have other options. The dining room is often open for breakfast and lunch, and there are sometimes smaller cafes on other parts of the ship. (In the “it’s more money” category, most ships also have “upsell” restaurants that charge a flat fee per person for special dining. Some are quite good.) Do your research ahead of time so you have a plan.
3. Find peaceful nooks and crannies. If you’re craving some alone time, you can find pockets of quiet on the busiest of cruise ships. Some have library or game rooms, and many cruise ships have pool areas for adults only. Deck chairs are often tucked into corners on decks that aren’t as highly populated. On your first day, investigate the whole ship and find those spots.
4. Don’t buy into the “forced frivolity.” Taking a cruise can be exhausting, and for some people, the constant activity is just the ticket. Not me. So, although, you can cram an activity (shows, dances, pool, bingo, gambling etc, etc) into every minute of every day, it’s OK to just say no, retreat to your tiny room and take a nap.
5. Carefully consider whether you really need to buy that painting. Or half-off watch. Or tanzanite ring. Full disclosure: I do not care for shopping. But even if I were a shopper, I just don’t see the allure of buying these items on cruise ships. The hard sell can be a bit much, too. If you like to shop, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the items that are on sale. But take a minute and think about whether it’s a “must have.”
6. Try different cruise lines. You know the expression, “familiarity breeds contempt?” It’s true for cruises, too. If you go on the same cruise line year after year — even if you’re on different ships — there is so much that is the same (dining room meals, for example) that it can become boring. I’ve found that the perks you get for being a repeat cruiser aren’t really enough to keep me dedicated to one cruise line.
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