|After the recent Hawaii cruise and last year's Caribbean cruise, I have a few thoughts on cruises.
1. A cruise is a great way to see a group of islands or some other group of destinations all in close proximity to each other that would otherwise be expensive to travel between. Since we didn't know which Island in Hawaii would be good to visit, we thought about visiting several. But the little puddle-jumper plain rides, taxi fares, hotels, and meals all add up pretty quick. A cruise lets you see several different places without worrying about how you'll travel.
2. The ship is like a really nice floating hotel, and they treat you like royalty. But the standard rooms are painfully small. The good thing is that you probably won't spend much time in your room, because you'll be in the pool or the hot tub, eating at one of the restaurants, or walking around your destination if the boat is docked. The food is literally amazing, and there's pretty much an endless supply of it. Norwegian Cruise Lines has an awesome system where you eat whenever and wherever you want and you don't have to sit with other people (other cruise lines have assigned eating times and assigned seats/tables). The food is really good even at the buffets. It was painful to come home and have to cook and clean myself.
3. I'm not sure the cost is totally justified. I think it would be hypothetically cheaper to stay in a hotel, rent a car, pay for each of your meals, and pay for each activity. But that adds a lot more complication and inconvenience. So I guess part of the cost of a cruise is for ease and convenience. I'm usually not willing to pay for that, but I make exceptions.
4. There's a heck of a lot of tipping. Norwegian has this system where they semi-secretly charge you another $10/day so you don't have to tip at the end (other cruise lines have an extensive guide on who you should tip [waiters, cleaning people] and how much). But everything gets put on your final bill, so it's sort of easier than carrying around cash. But every time you get driven somewhere or get a tour or get your bag carried, it's nice to tip (we often didn't tip ... oh well). If we tipped everyone we were supposed to, we would've spent around $40-50, which while it isn't that much, it's still in addition to the loads of money that were already spent on the cruise and activities in the first place. I'm absolutely sure no one survives on tips alone, so I "shouldn't feel obligated" to tip unless I received service that was "above and beyond what I expected". Does anyone actually believe that? I'd like to.
5. I think the shore excursions are only worth it if they provide some sort of unique experience. I can parasail and ride a jet ski anywhere. I can also snorkel anywhere, but if I can be taken to a really cool place and/or see some really unique marine life, I'll pay for it. Most of the excursions in Hawaii seemed like they were worth it because Hawaii is such an interesting place. The excursions in the Caribbean seemed more like activities done to spend some time. That's not really what I'm after. Also, some excursions can easily be done for less money and with less restrictions. Some excursions are bus tours of towns and things like that. You can easily walk around a small town, and that's usually free. Some excursions can also be done without going through the cruise company. Norwegian was obviously making a profit off these things, so going directly to the activity offerer would almost definitely be cheaper. But then it adds another level of complication, which gets back to number 3.
6. Taking advantage of free things is the best feeling in the world. The ship has a bunch of activities (comedians, musicians, shows) and other things (hula lessons, scrapbook workshops, necklace-making tutorials [these are largely geared towards women]) that are included in the price of the cruise. So it costs nothing (extra) to do them. But the ship also has free shuttles and ferry rides. We took a free shuttle to a shopping place and walked to a nearby beach because there were no beaches near the ship. Cha-ching!
7. For the Caribbean cruise, we had an outside cabin, but for the Hawaii cruise, we had an inside cabin. Depending on which direction you're pointed when you're sleeping, the ship will either move you side to side or head to toe. I'm not sure which is better.
8. The difference between a room with a porthole and a room with no window is extremely minimal. It's not like you sit in your little tiny closet of a room and stare out the little tiny porthole of a window. A major step up is to get a room with a balcony. Since most of my time was spent somewhere outside anyway, having a balcony would've been awesome. But it sort of depends what side your room is on with respect to what there is to see. The sunrise might be on the other side of the ship, in which case you're screwed. Or you might be facing land when you dock, at which point you'll notice how incredibly ugly shipyards are. I'm not sure a balcony is worth the increased price, but it might be. Once again, hardly any time is spent in the room. #travel