That is the question.
Honestly, it can be a hard decision, especially if one has never embarked on a cruise before. Megan and I couldn’t really decided if we wanted to add a cruise into our ‘Tour De Europe,’ but in the end we decided that it would break up the trip and be very restful to wake up in a new city or country each day! It was one way for us to see all the places we wanted to see without being totally exhausted from travel.
Some of the questions that may come up when planning a trip that may involve a cruise may be: What does a cruise actually include, are cruises restful, will I actually be able to sleep on a cruise, will I just be seasick the whole time, what are the benefits of cruising verses all-inclusive? These are just a few of the questions that may come up. I would like to address a few of these questions from Megan and my experiences. We have done two cruises so far and have really enjoyed both. We cruised from Venice, Italy to Kotor, Montenegro, Athens, Greece, Corfu, Greece, Mykonos, Greece, & Kephalonia, Greece (blogs on each destination coming up soon!). So here we go!
Megan and I have grouped most of our travel journeys into one of two categories. First there’s what we call a “vacation.” A vacation for us would be sitting on the beach, getting tan, maybe doing one or two short excursions during a week. Basically, a vacation for us consists of doing a lot of nothing and lots relaxation and sun, not having to do much except read and swim. Then there is the “trip.” A trip, for us, would be traveling from place to place and seeing and experiencing as much as we possibly can – highlights, museums, attractions, etc. Vacation is about relaxation, a trip is about adventure.
So, where do cruises fit in to all of this? I would say, the ones we have been on, Caribbean and Greek Isles, were somewhere right in between both. You sort of get the best of both worlds – a great mix between a relaxing vacation and adventure. Basically, you move from place to place while you sleep, which is an efficient way to travel, and while at sea you can relax at the pool and lounges. Granted, cruises can be busy so it’s not exactly like being at a private beach but hey, a pool is a pool.
Depending on your stops, it isn’t always simple to find a beach and relax. In the Bahamas, it was quite easy, in the Greek Islands, it wasn’t so simple – some of the nicer beaches were a farther distance from the ports. So the idea of a cruise being the ultimate in relaxation isn’t always true. You get to see a lot more places but you have to be back on the ship before sailing time, unless you really love the place and want to be left behind. Some of the cruise ports don’t have beaches at all, like Athens, which is more about seeing the sights and museums.
It is very important to pre-plan your destinations ahead of time. Otherwise you can end up wasting a lot of the short time you have onshore. Also, it can save a lot of money if you can figure out local buses and such instead of hiring a taxi (very expensive), or paying the cruise ship (astronomical). It can be the difference between $1.50 compared to $20 in transportation. Its no joke how much you can save by planning stops ahead of time.
If you are looking for the definition of relaxation, I would recommend going with the all-inclusive resorts because you can wake up, walk to the beach and relax. I would not define cruises as being totally restful. But having said that, cruises are a blast and a lot more relaxing than a backpacking trip through Europe. You also get to see way more places than you would sitting at one beach. So it just depends on what kind of a trip you are wanting to take.
Ok, so now we come to what cruises include. Most of the time they include most foods on board, most entertainment on board, and your room. They usually don’t include excursions, specialty restaurants, drinks (including soda), and certain onboard entertainment. Gratuity is not included and on Royal Caribbean, the company we have sailed with both times, they automatically take out $12.50 a day per person which does add up quickly. The food on Royal Caribbean is REALLY GOOD. They have buffets and then they have nicer restaurants for dinner that serve, four star, 5 course dinners. The food, if we are being honest, is one of the big things that keep us coming back for more cruises. All-incusive food isn’t always top quality food. Royal Caribbean’s food on the other side is quite amazing. We have sail with Royal Caribbean both times and highly, highly recommend them, from their food, to their staff, to their ships, it is always top notch.
Outside of paying for the cruise and gratuity, it is possible to spend very little money if you plan ahead of time. Plan meals around when you will be off the ship, split small meals off the ship and use local buses and trains and you can spend almost nothing off the ship if you want. It just takes discipline, they will try to overcharge you for everything on the cruise ships so be careful or the bill at the end of the cruise can be SCARY!
Megan and I don’t always sleep the best when we are not in our own quiet house. On both of our cruises though, we have slept VERY well. It is like being rocked to sleep. I don’t know if there is actually something to be said for the rocking or if it is just that we are totally wiped at the end of a cruise day, but we sleep like babies. The rooms are a little small but there is so much to do outside of the rooms that it isn’t a huge deal.
Also, being people that can get nauseated easily, we haven’t had too much of a problem with seasickness on cruises. There was one day at sea that was a little rough but they provide motion sickness pills onboard which usually take care of any problems.
One other benefit of taking cruises is that you can meet really neat people. On our last cruise we met Americans who live in Italy full time for three years. They had some great insight about traveling in Italy and Europe. We also met a couple who live in New York named Chris and Jennifer. Jennifer runs an amazing blog about style, decor and DIY projects. It is a great blog, check it out! We really enjoyed making new friends and meeting new people, it made our time extra enjoyable!
If you search long enough, you can find cruises at killer deals. It can cost less per day than getting a hotel room per night – and this includes all your food, transport to new cities, and entertainment. If you live near a port city, it can save loads of cash as well.
All in all I would highly recommend cruises. All I will say is decide what kind of trip you are looking to go on. If you want a straight ‘vacation,’ skip the cruise but if you are looking for a mix between a trip and a vacation – a cruise might be just perfect. Hopefully this blog helped give an idea of some the pros and cons of taking a cruise vs other means of travel.