What You Should Know Before You Book A Cruise

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Why the hotel of the ocean might be the way to go.

When people think cruising they think older retired couples or spring breakers going crazy on their way to Cabo San Lucas. Well, that might not be far off, but today, I want to offer my perspective on cruising.

I might still be new to cruising, but at 24, I do have a little wind under my sails. My first cruise was in August 2015 and, unfortunately, FromBrownEyes was still two months away from conception so I do not have a recap to link for you. I went to Alaska and Canada for 10 days with my parents and brother to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Meyer family.

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My second cruise was in June. To celebrate our birthdays (82 and 24 respectively) and my acceptance into my Master’s program, my grandmother and I spent two weeks in Europe. You can read a recap of each country we visited: Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Poland.

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I cruised with Princess both times. From what I have heard and researched, Princess is a more expensive line, but I think you get what you pay for.

Here is the breakdown as I see it:

The Food:

 

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Let’s start with the good stuff. A big part of cruising is having all-inclusive food. 24-hours a day, you can find food on the ship. And it is good food. The Executive Chef on my most recent cruise has a culinary resume that includes cooking for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. When deciding where to dine, you can choose between the buffet and about eight different restaurants (although some will run you a few extra bucks). The buffet is about tasty convenience and quantity while the restaurants are about delicacies and quality. But don’t be mislead into believing that you leave the dining table hungry in the restaurants. Dinner is three or four courses daily and will take easily over 2 hours, especially if you are at a shared table (a great way to meet your fellow cruisers). When booking your cruise, you can opt for anytime or set dining. Anytime is pretty self-explanatory, but set means that you eat at the same time everyday with the same people. It keeps you from having to share the same small talk every day before dinner (who you are and where you are from), but it also greatly limits the amount of people you meet. I personally recommend anytime dinning.

 

The Entertainment

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Everyday an agenda is delivered to your room with the entertainment highlights. Especially during the days when you are at sea, it is jam packed with things to do. Often, the hardest part about the day is deciding what activities you are going to cut because there are too many good, overlapping options!

The live entertainment on the boat is one of the best things about cruising. Each night, as you are traveling to your next destination, new entertainers are brought out to keep you engaged and happy. There are plays and show choirs and, my personal favorite, themed performances. For instance, while in Russia, we saw traditional Russian folk dancing. It is a really fun way to experience the country’s culture in a different way.

You can also check out the art gallery, the casino, or watch a movie under the stars. There are plenty of bars and lounges to grab drinks at (although it will cost you extra), or you can hit the gym or swimming pools for free, something I really recommend because you will be consuming a lot of calories.

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The People

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There are about 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crew on board. But fear not, at 18 stories high and 1,000 feet long, there is plenty of room aboard. There will be passengers and crew from all over the world, so enjoy striking up conversations with a diverse group of people!

The Accommodations

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This will completely depend on how new of a ship you are on, but my experience is that the accommodations are outdated. Luckily, the mattresses are not as old as the carpet and are super comfortable. The rooms are pretty tight quarters, but hopefully that will encourage you to get out of the room and enjoy the fresh air outside. There is a TV and a mini fridge (although you have to reach a certain status level to have it filled for free). You can pay extra for a suite or a mini-suite, where you will have a separate seating area. You can also choose to pay extra for a balcony, which will provide you with a little more space and some excellent views.

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The bathroom is pretty small and comes equipped with a toilet that will make you wonder why we are not using the same technology to launch people into space. The cruise line provides shampoo, body wash, and soap bars, so only bring along conditioner.

The Excursions

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There are a few benefits to booking excursions with your cruise line. One, you are guaranteed to make it back onto the boat (and, yes, they will leave you behind if you are late getting on board…it has happened to my uncle). Two, you will be with other passengers. This will be a great way to meet more people and make life-long friends. Three, you will get preferential treatment. If you have a private tour booked, you will get to cut tons of museum lines and some museums, like the Hermitage in Russia, will even open early to private tour groups! Of course, nothing in this world is free and that includes convenience, so be ready to pay a little more.

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Convenient way to travel

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Cruising can be an expensive way to travel, but that might just be the initial sticker shock. First, you are saving money on transportation costs. You can see seven countries without ever visiting an airport or train station and will only have to unpack once.  As you sleep, the captain sails you to the next country and when you wake up, you are refreshed and ready to explore. Second, you know where you meals will be coming from and that they will already be paid for. Third, your excursions and entertainment are all covered as well. With other forms of travel, it can be hard to budget your spending as you go. With cruising, you pay for almost everything upfront and you are free to enjoy your trip without financial worry.

Hidden Costs

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Well, there are a few things that you don’t pay for upfront. I already mentioned the restaurant (only applies to a select few) and alcohol fees, but also be ready to pay about $14 per person per day in gratuities. Honestly, when you think about all of the meals you are eating, the entertainment, and the house-keeping services you are receiving, $14 a day is a bargain. So many people are ensuring you have a great time! The gratuities will be charged right to your credit card, so you do not need to carry any tipping cash.

I hope this provided you with some insight into the world of cruising. Bon voyage!

-TM

What are your thoughts on cruising as a way of traveling? Let us know below.

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