It was this time last year we visited Bev and John in the south of France. While touring the Dordogne Valley, we looked into the future and started planning our next journey. None of us had been to Alaska. For John, it was the only state he hadn’t visited. For us, it could be a long road trip from the middle of Florida, across the lower 48, up through Canada into Alaska territory, in the van… yeah right.
We’ve all known someone who has been on an Alaska Cruise, right? It just may be a logical way to cover some Alaska territory. A cruise might be in the cards.
There are several reasons we had never been on a cruise prior to this Alaska tour. For us, the list included: lack of independence, buffet lines, environmental impact, cost and… well… all things distasteful of Americana (extravagance, abundance, and privilege.) Ultimately, cruising is not for everyone, but neither is our style of travel.
Our form of travel is budget/value, adventurous and probably pushes the comfort zone of most Americans.
With this in mind, I share my thoughts on the pros & cons of a cruise.
The Pros of Taking a Cruise
Let’s start on a positive note. There are some things we liked about taking a cruise. My favorite thing was unpacking once. Seven days, one bed and no lugging baggage – it’s really nice! Once onboard, all our entertainment needs can be met: there are cooking classes, live music concerts, trivia games, big screen movies, or going to a comedy show. People who are into gambling, ball room dancing, or yukking it up at a bar, all get their entertainment fix.
There is no debate about dining options, or “when” to eat. If you’re hungry, head to the grill. If it’s dinner time – your table is waiting. Food is going all the time: abundant, bottomless and pretty darn delicious.
Contrary to everything we’ve read about the tiny quarters of a stateroom, our room was big and luxurious. (Remember, we are budget travelers.) Our room had a big ole king size bed, a desk, mini fridge, loveseat, medium screen TV, private bath, ample closet space, and a large glass sliding door which opened to a 4×8 veranda with a glass banister. It was magnificent! The only time it felt small was navigating the hallway when room service delivered breakfast on their huge serving tray.
Ah yes, a room with a view, eating luxuriously with dessert every night, made us feel rich and indulgent.
You are on someone else’s schedule. If a particular port calls to you, you would have to take note, and make plans to stay longer another day. Cruises are also quite insulating. It is difficult to get an authentic, cultural experience when you are limited to the boat, port and the shoreline jewelry shops. Of course, excursions give travelers opportunities to explore in depth, but those can be abbreviated opportunities. (Seize the chance to get off the beaten “onshore excursion” path and get ashore. Skip the costly excursions and explore the port on your own.)
Another drawback are the (potentially) hidden costs of a cruise. Many amenities on the ship cost big bucks. Things like yoga classes, a facial, bar drinks (from coke to alcohol), even coffee – other than the drip variety – will cost you more. They don’t even show prices, making “a day in the spa” look like the only thing you need to do, is show up. We did some exhaustive homework before taking this cruise, asked a million questions. Easy missteps can wind up being expensive lessons.
To Cruise Or Not To Cruise
If you want a “vacation”, then a cruise will likely fit the bill. Check out our post on vacation vs travel, or 10 Steps to Create a Life of Travel. If you’re adventurous, enjoy authentic and cultural experiences, then a cruise will likely be less fulfilling. For us, I don’t see a cruise in the future forecast.