Cruising on a Sunday Afternoon
We’ve cruised for nearly 20 years and have quite a few cruises under our belt. But why did we choose cruising as a way of travel?
When we first decided to take a cruise, we headed to a travel advisor (TA) in our area who specializes in cruising. We sat with Randi (now a good friend) for about an hour as she asked us questions about our likes and dislikes and got to know us. Randi recommended Celebrity Cruises and, in particular, a seven day Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Century.
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Is Cruising Addictive?
Almost everyone starts on a seven day Caribbean Cruise (that or Mexico); this is how you get your feet wet. The baby steps of a short, sunny cruise are how the industry gets you hooked.
From the boarding (called embarkation on a ship) where we were greeted with a glass of “Bubbly,” to the room (we had a sky suite, also called a mini-suite on other lines), The excursions, the very hospitable staff, the food and yes, even the formal nights. We loved it all.
Cruising set the hook; we took the bait, hook, line, and sinker! We thought, “Now we know why people choose cruising as a way of travel.”
Now Hooked, We Need Our Next Fix (cruise)
We’d heard ads for Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), who had just started their “Free Style Cruising” marketing. No formal nights, no set dining times, do what you want when you want.
This style of cruising sounded fun, and my husband loved the idea of not having to get a tux. So we went to Randi and said: “Book us.” Randi was more than reluctant to book us on NCL. She tried to talk us out of it and told us we might be disappointed
I should say here that Randi has probably been on every cruise line and every ship. Randi’s business focuses on cruising as a way of travel because Randi loves cruising. She also really gets to know her customers and wants them to have the best experience.
We listened to what Randi was telling us but wanted this different experience. In the end, Randi’s job is to sell cruises, but I’m sure she was shaking her head and saying that old mantra “the customer is always right” to herself as she booked us on NCL.
We enjoyed our Caribbean cruise on Norwegian. The excursions were excellent! My husband realized his dream to “Swim with the Stingrays” at Stingray City. And while there were no “formal nights,” many people still took the time to dress up a bit in the evenings.
As much as we enjoyed our cruise on NCL, it turned out we missed the special touches we had found on Celebrity … Randi was right, and we were wrong. The service, food, and attention to detail on Celebrity were the cornerstone of our trip. Next cruise out we were back on Celebrity.
Back to the Familiar
We proceeded to cruise to Alaska and had more Caribbean adventures. We brought our best friends along on one cruise, hoping to get them hooked, so we’d have travel buddies. That didn’t work; it turns out not everyone likes cruising?! We cruised Alaska again with family and then took the big jump to “Europe.”
Over the years, we sailed on the Galaxy, Century, Mercury, Infinity, Summit, Millennium, Equinox, Eclipse, and Reflection. We even took two sailings on Celebrity’s sister company, Azamara, on the Quest and the Journey.
We’ve sailed on Celebrity so much we are now Elite Plus Captain’s Club Members. Elite Plus is the second-highest rank in Celebrity’s loyalty program. Zenith is the highest, but boy does that take a lot of cruises to earn!
Why Do We Like Cruising?
Cruising allows you to see many places in a short period. On a seven day cruise, you can visit 4 – 5 Caribbean islands. On a two week cruise in Europe, you can see three countries and seven or more cities.
You unpack just once, and you don’t have to worry about transportation. All of the above make cruising very appealing to my husband and me with our busy work schedules and limited vacation time each year.
Yes, you only get snippets of each city and country you visit. But cruising is a way to test the waters and find out if you want to spend more time in a particular region.
Maybe you find yourself in love with the Amalfi Coast and decide to go back there and rent or buy a home. Or you find you really can’t look at another Senior Frog’s and choose to decline your best buddies push to buy that time-share in Cancun.
Cruising for Travel is not the Only Way To Go
We’ve always interspersed our cruising with land tours in Europe. It was inevitable that we would eventually combine the two. I remember one cruise vividly, in particular for the port of Istanbul. Usually, the ship sails in the night so the guests get to enjoy the day in port.
We sailed into Istanbul under cover of darkness. I woke up the next morning, walked out on to our balcony, and had the most overwhelming feeling of being in a magical and exotic place. Istanbul did not let me down. Not then and not in the two times I have visited this magical city since.
You can go high brow and see all the cultural sights a city has to offer, like museums, castles and archeological ruins. Or be a foodie and visit markets, vineyards, restaurants, and even have local cooking lessons.
Cruises Often Create “Special Experiences”
In Barcelona, we were on a “Captain’s Club Reunion Cruise” when Celebrity treated us to a fantastic evening of live, local music and drink at the beautiful Codorniu Caves
First, there was a warm welcome from the Captain of the ship on the lavish grounds with Cava (Spain’s sparkling wine) and Tapas. Then all were seated, and the flamenco dancers performed while we enjoyed a dinner of fabulous Catalan specialties.
Tailor Your Cruise Experience to You!
You can have a DIY (do it yourself) cruise. Jump off the ship in port… maybe find a couple of other cruisers to join you… grab a local taxi driver and have them show you around to their favorite spots.
You can even choose to do nothing, sit on the deck and stare at the ocean for hours on end. There are amazing sunsets at sea!
There Are Many Things To Do On a Cruise Ship
Onboard, there are always things going on. On the smaller vessels (Azamara), there are often great guest lecturers, discussing the historical events for the ports you will be visiting.
On a “wine” cruise on the Pacific coast of America, we enjoyed a blind wine tasting where you sampled wines and guessed their variety. Thank goodness there were good sommeliers around to give hints as most of us would never have gotten half correct.
Sometimes the entertainment is kitschy… Broadway shows like Les Mis and West Side Story … Sometimes unexpectedly good … a comedian or violinist or even “Cirque de Solei” type act.
Trivia, bingo, and lousy game show replicas are prevalent… Karaoke and Line Dancing always draw a big crowd. If you go to these offerings with a sense of humor and good intentions, you will always have fun.
More recently, with better technology, there is excellent internet (for a price) and even movies on the “Big Screen Under the Stars.” How much cooler can it get than watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” while sailing under a starry sky on the open sea.
Spoiler alert… Change is coming… This fabulous evening was spent onboard the Coral Princess…
Cruisers Are Happy People
Cruisers are a happy bunch. They come from all over the world. You often will find yourself seated beside someone who doesn’t speak your language.
On a river cruise in China, my husband and I were two of maybe only four English speaking people on the boat (the other two were from England). We were seated with five Chinese … We found out later that this unusual seating accommodation was because most of the passengers on this cruise were Canadiens who primarily spoke French.
The nine of us sat each night at dinner with our language translating books on hand, communicating as best we could. A few of the Chinese members spoke a little English, and my husband knows a little Mandarin… from there, we used phrases from the back of those travel books and, of course, universal sign language.
On a few cruises, they’ve announced the number of different countries that are represented onboard… It’s always a large number; people who cruise are indeed Citizens of the World. We are happy to see the world and share our joy in doing so.
All of the above and more are the answers to “Why choose cruising as a way of travel.”
Planning Longer Cruises
We do love Celebrity. I even remarked to my husband as we stepped foot onboard the Reflection on our last cruise, “this feels like coming home.”
During that cruise, we planned for our first Trans-Atlantic crossing and booked this on the Infinity. It was a pricey booking as most “Crossing” cruises are. But the Infinity is a smaller and slightly older ship in Celebrity’s fleet and therefore offered a better value than one of the larger, newer ships.
Here is a good cruise “hack” … Cruising on any lines older ships will be more affordable… This is an excellent way to stretch your cruising dollars.
This cruise was to be our retirement celebration (more about that later), and we were considering combining this trip with some other two-week cruise.
In our long-range plans, we think we’d like to book a “round the world cruise” eventually. We thought it would be good to test the “Can we last on a ship for 30 days with as many as 15 sea days?” theory. Would this much time on a ship make us totally stir crazy?
A Different Cruise Line?
Due to the timing of our “Crossing” cruise, we were having difficulty finding a suitable matchup to extend the cruise. Then fate stepped in… a friend of my husband mentioned that they had booked a west to eastbound Panama Canal cruise, and the couple they were to cruise with had to back out. They asked us to join them…
This cruise would save us the five-plus hour flight to Florida and would test how we fared at being at sea for 30 or so days. The trip up here? The sailing was not on Celebrity; our friends were “Princess people.”
Princess is on many of the Top Ten lists in travel publications for their ships and service, often meeting and or beating Celebrity. Many people we know cruise on Princess and enjoy their sailings as much as we enjoy ours.
The Panama Canal cruise our friends booked on Princess got to Ft. Lauderdale just two days before our Celebrity Trans-Atlantic was to head out. So we booked the sailing on the Coral Princess, and this is why I curiously find myself writing today from the deck of the Coral Princess headed to the Panama Canal…
At this point, I should tell you that life, as it usually does, threw us a couple of curveballs. We did not retire in 2018, as had been the plan. And at the end of this sailing, we will not be heading on across the Atlantic. Instead, we will head back to our 9 – 5 workplace, at least for a while.