- First Cruise - introduction to this hub
Description on selecting a cruise, benefits and info.
Destination or the Ship?
The first decision to make when selecting your cruise is: What's more important to you? The destination (where the ship is docking), or the ship's lifestyle, or maybe the need to get away from your life stresses and chill out.
In my case, I opted for the cruise line that would take me to Alaska's inside passage AND also be a round trip cruise. (For those who haven't checked out Alaska cruises, many of them are one way northbound or southbound. The theory is you do a separate land tour of Alaska and then do the cruise part, or vice versa.)
The cruise line I selected is known for having a more traditional, older clientele, with a focus on classes and shows. Some of the other cruise lines are more active, for younger travelers and young families, and they focus on activities, sports and nightlife.
The strongest benefit to cruising is that even though you'll be making multiple stops / visiting various towns, you only have to unpack once.
Another benefit for many people is that cruising is a terrific way to just get away and relax. You can do as much or as little as you want.
Things I Didn't Know BEFORE - -
I found it so strange in talking to people who had been on cruises before. I'd mention to someone that I was planning my first cruise to Alaska, and was then told - "you need to talk to Jane about cruising." So I would, and the usual response was: "you'll love it"; "it was my favorite vacation", etc..
So then I followed up with questions about what was and was not included in the price, and the answer was that most things were included - - you'll love it! I'd ask about the formal nights I had heard about, and all I knew was that there would be a couple formal nights.
Even at the cruise line's website, while it gave me info, it didn't give me all the details that I needed. I've become accustomed to hotel rooms with the little coffee brewer and the iron and ironing board. None of these were mentioned at the website. So I contacted them and was told that for safety reasons, the cabins did NOT have either of those appliances. Bummer! Of course, they DID offer laundry service (for a fee). It wasn't until I was actually in my cabin that I saw how expensive the laundry service was. They did have a package plan which included unlimited pressing for the week for $30. So that's what I opted for. As far as the coffee - I could get it at the restaurant or through room service.
As I mentioned earlier, I was concerned about the formal nights. Some people get excited about getting all dolled up, but I'm not one of them. I did pack a nice "Sunday church" type dress (no sparkles or rhinestones). But after being on the ship, I quickly learned that the "formal dining night" was only in the main dining room. So I went to eat at the large buffet-style dining option, and that was casual for every meal.
Why??? - - First and Last Cruise
First, I want to state up front that I had excellent service, food, cabin, etc.. The cruise line staff was wonderful and always did everything to make sure everyone was well taken care of. The top four reasons why this was my first and last cruise:
1. I'm accustomed to walking around and exploring the neighborhoods beyond the tourist areas. I like to try to experience the people and culture of the towns I'm visiting. However, some of our ports we stopped in, we only had 5-6 hours before the ship would leave. If you miss the ship, you've got to find your own way to the next stop. (For clarification, if you take a tour that the cruise line has put together, then they will not leave without you, even if the bus gets a flat tire or something. But if a local / private tour you're on runs into a delay, there's a good chance you'll miss getting back on the ship.)
2. Despite all the activities and things to do on the ship, it's still a very confining experience. My ship departed from Seattle on Sunday afternoon, and our first port stop was Wednesday morning. Which means out of a 168 hours (7 full days on the ship), we were able to get off the ship about 25-30 hours.
3. Many people lead stressful lives - - between their pressures at work, with family and sometimes schedules that involve running their kids around to various sports, music, dance activities. THAT'S NOT ME. While I do have some monthly deadlines that can sometimes be a little frantic, I can cope and the stress timeframe is short.
4. It was the most expensive vacation I've ever had. Most cruise lines penalize the solo traveler, and I had to pay double for my cabin. This one week cruise was double the cost of my two week trip to Malaysia, and double my two weeks in Germany / Poland, the one week in Banff (Canadian Rockies) and the 10 day tour to Israel. I went on this cruise to celebrate my 60th birthday and knew it wouldn't be cheap, but I didn't think it would cost one arm and two legs!!!
Alaska By Land
I'm such a big fan of cool weather and mountains, and I had plenty of in the middle of July.(temperatures were usually 45-50 degrees)
So now I'm planning to take an Alaskan trip - - by land. Probably mostly by train. Alaska is a huge state, and I'm not interested in spending all my time driving.
I don't know if it will be next year or not, as I've got to build up my vacation fund again. But I'm already reading up on what and where I want to visit!