Cruise Vacation? Is It Right For You?
A Cruise Vacation
To tell you the truth I have never wanted to take a cruise. I know several people that have taken cruises and loved them but nothing ever appealed to me about getting on a boat and traveling out in the middle of the water with no land in sight. How does that thing stay afloat? And, did you see the Titanic? No, I have always been perfectly happy right here on land. Then my son-in-law asked us if we would like to take a family vacation with them. A Caribbean Cruise. A Caribbean cruise with my daughter, son-in-law and 3 grandchildren. Who me? No, I don't want to take a cruise.
I've always loved the water but to get on that boat....well, that's another story. Plus, I would have to get on an airplane and fly to Miami to board a boat that I didn't want to get on. Did I tell you that I don't like flying either? When we got home from our last trip to Hawaii I said I would never fly again... but then I started thinking about my grandchildren and all the excitement of their first plane ride, their first cruise, their first time out of the country and so much more. I couldn't miss that, could I? So, we, my husband and I, started planning for our first cruise.
This lens is about our first cruise. I hope it helps you decide whether or not you would like to take a cruise vacation.
Boarding the Plane
I don't like flying. But, unless you live near Miami it is about the best way to get to your destination without using up all of your vacation days. I even considered driving down and meeting the family in Miami but that would have meant kenneling our dogs for additional days not to mention that fact that my husband thought I was crazy. So flying or not flying wasn't an option. I had to fly.
Going through security wasn't too bad. Yes, there were long lines, and yes, you have to get to the airport several hours before your flight takes off but all in all it wasn't too bad. I would suggest that you wear comfortable clothes because you do spend a lot ot time in the airport and also wear a shoe that slips off and on very easily. At the security check point you get a plastic pan to put your shoes, your purse or wallet, keys, belts or anything else that might make the scanner beep when you walk through it.
Finally on board I could sit back and watch the grandchildren as they discovered their surroundings and waited anxiously for the plane to take off. The picture here was worth all the anxious moments I had boarding that plane. It's my 9 year old grandson experiencing his first airplane ride. Just look at that smile. I'm so happy I'm going on this cruise!
Something To Read
I know with all the electronic gadgets out there most people and children can stay occupied for hours, which is perfect for your plane ride. However, some of us, like myself, like to read. It really passes the time fast and it gets your mind of the fact you are on an airplane flying thousands of feet above the ground!
Boarding the Ship
This is very important. Please read this and take heed.
While you are planning your cruise you will be in contact with the person who has scheduled your cruise. You should have his name and a way to contact him. He will e-mail you instructions on what you will need to board the cruise line and make sure you follow these instructions to the letter. No gray areas here, it is all black and white.
This is where our cruise went sour. You are told to have your boarding pass, which you print off the computer before you leave home, and a birth certificate or passport. My husband and I have passports and we did print off the boarding passes so we had no problems boarding the ship. However, my daughter's birth record was the original certificate received from the hospital where she was born. They would not let her board the ship. Now, they had all the boarding passes, her husband's passport, her children's birth certificates and her parents are with her and they have their passports but they are questioning whether or not she is a citizen of the United States. The cruise line determined since she did not have the original birth certificate she could not board this cruise liner.
Now, we have 3 very unhappy children, a distraught husband and my daughter, well my daughter was in a state of shock. How could this possibly be happening. We had been planning this for so long, all the luggage was on the boat, the children had worked hard to get their schoolwork done and dogs had been kenneled. This must be a nightmare. But no, it was real and it was happening to us. The cruise line would not let her board the ship.
It was Saturday afternoon and what should we do? After much discussion it was decided that my husband and I would take the children on board and that my daughter and son-in-law would stay in Miami until Monday when they could find a place to get my daughter a passport and then they would fly to Cozumel on Monday and join us there. Sounds like a great plan doesn't it? However, great plans don't always work out.
We are on board with 3 very unhappy, very worried children. Why was this happening and where is mom and dad? This was our first cruise and we had no idea where to find our cabins or who to ask. We wandered around for an eternity and then some whistles blew and the next thing I knew we were all "herded" like cattle to one of the decks for a fire drill. We stood on that deck for about a half hour while they were explaining the rules on how to board the life boats. We just stood there, with three children in tears and all of us in a daze, thinking "what in the world am I doing on this ship?"
We finally found our cabins. My husband and I stayed in our daughter's room with an adjoining door to the children's cabin. We hadn't eaten since breakfast that morning but we didn't dare leave the cabins because our luggage had not arrived. Finally the luggage was here and we could get cleaned up and go to the dining room for dinner. This was the highlight of our day. Even though we had no appetite the waiters and servers were wonderful and the food was delicious. The children fought through tears to eat a little but it was very hard on them.
Back to our cabins we settled in. We unpacked and learned how to operate the tv's and flush the toilets.
Life On Board a Cruise Ship
Once you have figured out how to get around on a cruise ship life gets much easier.
There is the Promenade Deck which has your shops, a casino and different types of cocktail lounges. Our cruise ship also had two theatres. One that was quite small and intimate for comedy shows and the like and the other larger and held stage shows. There were different shows every night so you would always be able to find one to enjoy. We particularly enjoyed the Rock n' Roll show and our grandchildren loved it too.
On the upper deck was the swimming pools and all of the food buffet areas. Food is everywhere on this deck and you could fix a plate and come out to the pool and enjoy it or find tables and chairs near the food. There was a buffet so you could make your own salads, a desert buffet, a taco and buritto buffet. These would be open at scheduled times and it was all you could eat as long as the buffet was open. For 24 hours a day you could get soft serve ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs plus coffee, tea, hot chocolate or lemonade. My grandchildren were crazy for the hot chocolate and the ice cream bar.
There were also restaurants for fancier dining, if you so chose, but these you had to pay for. The buffets were included in the price of your room and there was never any charge with the exception of soft drinks or bar drinks. The dining rooms, of which there were 2 were open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, no charge if you decided to eat in the dining room. The eveing menu's were wonderful and the food was always delicious. What made the evening meals so special were your waiters and servers. Always friendly and willing to please. Whatever you asked for they produced. For instance, one of my grand-daughters does not like meat and the menu's always had 3 meat choices. Our waiter knew this after the first night he always brought this little one a big salad and lots of fruit. She was in heaven.
The Beauty Parlor
Every cruise ship has a wonderful Spa or Beauty Parlor.
You could get a massage, get your hair done or have a facial. Also, manicures and pedicures.
As a special treat I made appointments for my grand-daughters to get manicures and pedicures. I was hoping this would take their minds off mom and dad and I think it worked, for a little while anyway.
They enjoyed the time spent with their feet in warm water and getting all their nails done. A very special treat to girls of all ages!
Our first stop was Cozumel. An Island off Mexico with beautiful blue water.
We were hoping to see our daughter and son-in-law at some point today. In the meantime, we decided to take the children into town and do some shopping and see a little of the Island.
This picture here is of a real person dressed up like who knows what. My grandson would not get near him and I can't say as I blame him.
The shop doors are all open and sales people standing on the outside urging you to come in. At first you just try to ignore them but after a while it got quite annoying. At times they would grab hold of one of the children and start leading them into the store. That got a lot annoying. We did manage to find some shops that didn't have all that pressure and the children were able to find some souvenirs. Some of the silk scarves were quite reasonably priced but most of the items were what we would find in some of the dollar stores.
The ship was staying at port until 10:00 p.m. and then we would be back at sea. The ship stewards had no contact with them so, we, at this point, had no idea what was going on. Tonight we sail and all day Tuesday we sail reaching the Grand Cayman Islands on Wednesday. We are hopeful our daughter and husband will be there.
Don't Forget a Good Pair of Sunglasses
You will absolutely need a pair of sunglasses for your cruise vacation. A second pair could come in handy. You will use them on the top deck where the pool is and you will definitely need them at your stops. It seems the sun is always shining.
Island Photo'sClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Grand Cayman Islands
Another beautiful Island with beautiful blue water and white sandy beaches. Also, another day without our daughter and her husband.
We tried to make the best of it and after a good breakfast we grab the shuttle boat to visit the Island. At this Island you needed to board a shuttle boat to get to land. It was easy to do and the shuttle ran about every 10 minutes back and forth. There was never any waiting and if you wanted you could go to the Island then come back to the ship for lunch and then back to the Island. Prices for food was really high in the Grand Caymans as it was on the other Islands.
We did do some shopping and without the annoyance of the sales people. We had a great day strolling the Island and spending our money. Grandpa and Grandma could not say no to these grandchildren so whatever they wanted they got. Whatever we could do to ease the pain of this trip, we did.
Still no news from their parents and we were starting to wonder if they would be meeting us at the docks in Miami. So much for a family vacation. At this point we were very discouraged with the cruiseline. It seems that they should have offered some support in contacting our children and keeping us posted on what was happening. Our son-in-law was in contact with them but the news was never passed on to us.
It's Thursday and this is our last island. The Island of Jamaica. The waters here were almost a turquoise blue. Awesome!
Another day to get off the boat and things were a bit easier. We all have come to the conclusion that the cruise was almost over, we had survived the week without mom and dad and we would be joining them soon. We decided to have breakfast then go do some more shopping and see the Island of Jamaica. To our surprise, after breakfast our daughter and son-in-law were in the cabin going through the luggage. You see their luggage was on the ship so they were in Miami for 5 days with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. It meant spending money on toiletries and some clothing. It also meant getting a motel room and eating in restaurants. More money! It also meant more airfare to get to Jamaica. They flew into Jamaica on Wednesdy and got another motel room for the night and rented a taxi the next morning to get them to the cruise ship. More money!
But hey, who is going to complain? We are all back together again, finally. The children were so excited. The smiles never stopped. Yes, we were all together again. Our children and granchildren made their plans for the day and my husband and I decided to go it on our own for the day.
When you get off the boat in Jamaica your first sight is lots of shops and restaurants We decided to take a taxi and see some of the Island. What we found was a lot of poverty. Our cab driver, whose nickname was Bob Marley, drove us to a little shop and said it was the best place in town to buy. Well, the sales lady let me know that she expected a tip for helping me in the store. I should have left right then and there but I didn't. I bought a couple of things and gave her a few dollars and we got back in the cab. The driver drove us around for about an hour showing us some of his island. He was so very proud of his country and what I saw was poverty. With goats running wild and houses built out of tin and cardboard.
However there are the rich on the Island too. Some of the resorts were beautiful and the properties surrounding them were lush and green.
Look at some of the pictures we took while touring the island.
The Island of JamaicaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Is A Cruise For You?
From what I have told you so far, do you think you would want to take a cruise?
Would you like to take a cruise
A little peak at what to expect on your cruise.
To Cruise or Not To Cruise
That is the question
For me it just resolved my initial thought. I never wanted to cruise and this was my first and last cruise. Here are some of the reasons I feel this way.
1. You think that when you pay for your cruise, which you have to do before boarding the ship, that everything else is inclusive. This is not true. If you want to drink something other than coffee, tea, milk or lemonade you must pay for it. At the end of the cruise you must tip your cabin boys, your waiter and servers. You can also ask to have this put on your charge automatically where you pay a percentage, per person each day.
2. Yes, the food was good. But, unless you went to the dining room for your meals you stood in line (usually very long lines) to get your food and by the time you found a place to sit (also a struggle) your food was cold.
3. Some very rude people take cruises. As a rule people are pleasant but then there are those exceptions to the rule. People cutting in line in front of you when you were getting a plate of food. People pushing you aside to get the table they wanted.
4. Some cruises are not very family oriented. So, if you are going to take a cruise check out what is available for the "tweens". For our ship, not much. It was aimed at the adults with bars, a casino and even the shops.
Please let me know you stopped by and give me your thoughts about cruising. Especially if you love to cruise.