I will be the first to admit I was a bit of a cruise skeptic. OK, not just a bit. I thought it was a cushy package holiday for the retired or those only interested in a manufactured travel experience, i.e. not my travel style.
But now I have a confession to make. I'm only going to whisper it, so make sure you're paying attention.
*I tried cruising. And I actually really liked it.*
I was first introduced to cruising rather unconventionally while in Japan, when I got the opportunity to volunteer as an English teacher aboard a ship circumnavigating the globe with Japanese NPO Peace Boat. This voyage was a whole different situation to a classic cruise experience, to be sure. Firstly, I was working, which took up most of my time on board. And secondly, it was 80 days long, quite a bit longer than your average voyage.
Hai and I recently took a 4 day cruise of the Greek Islands and Turkey aboard Louis Cruises (now Celestyal Cruises) with a group of amazing fellow travel bloggers to experience what a short holiday cruise is like. While it certainly was different to my first experience when it took 4 days just to get to our first port of call, there were many similarities too, many of which I've found to be solid advantages to travelling by ship and why a cruise is worth considering on your next trip.
You're travelling without travelling
What I mean by this is that you get to experience all the benefits of not being on transport while you're still moving from place to place. Getting from point A to point B usually requires some kind of effort and usually a bit of discomfort too. Long stints on transportation where you're confined to a seat can be really tiring and, let's face it, rather unglamourous. Staying on a ship is just like staying in a hotel room with a hot shower, toilet and amenities. Not to mention a real bed. You wake up fully rested and ready to explore a new destination that you arrived at sometime during your morning croissant and coffee.
Check out our cabin aboard Louis (Celestyal) Cruises.
There's a whole world out there
Yet, unlike a hotel where the only common area might be the lobby, the ship has a whole range of areas to hang out in all within a short walk from your cabin.
On our cruise there were restaurants, bars, lounges, a pool deck, sports area, a gym and spa, as well as umpteen outdoor spaces from which to enjoy the ocean view.
Care-free time in ports
One of the things I love most about cruising is that you can just leave all your luggage on board while you go out and explore. As someone who is usually lugging a backpack everywhere I go, I cannot overstate the kind of freedom I felt leaving it in the cabin and just walking off the ship with a small day pack.
Oh, and that's another thing that's great about cruising. They'll take your passport from you at check-in and wherever the local port authorities allow, will carry out all the immigration procedures for you. Most countries grant special entry permission for cruise passengers, since the stays are so short, without needing a dedicated visa. Of course, it all depends on the port of call and your nationality, but during our voyage with Louis (Celestyal) Cruises, we didn't need to worry about our passport once. We were able to pick it up from reception the night before disembarkation.
As someone who wasn't a fan of cruises in the past, I know there are quite a number of stereotypes out there as to what a cruise is like. Here are a few of what I would call the most common misconceptions about cruising.
There's nothing to do on board/cruises are boring
I can't tell you how wrong this is. Not only are there bars, restaurants, pools, spas, gyms and other amenities on board most cruise ships, there are also a whole host of activities going on that are included in your cruise package.
Louis (Celestyal) Cruises focus on providing an authentic Greek experience so every day and night there were activities and events along a Greek theme, such as cooking demonstrations, dance classes, live music and even Greek language lessons.
A favourite is the shipping tradition of the Captain's cocktail party, where you get to meet and take photos with the captain and his senior officers (don't worry, someone is watching out for icebergs) and have some fancy drinks and canapes. Bring your fanciest dress!
It's often possible to book a tour of the bridge too, where all the magic that takes you from one island to the next happens. One for the ship enthusiasts and anyone who is interested in what happens behind the scenes. Don't forget to take a snap that looks as if you're steering the ship! Corny but necessary!
We had a blast on our bridge tour with Louis (Celestyal) Cruises.
Only the retired take cruises
Wrong again! Our cruise had a wide range of age groups, including lots of young people and families. There was even a group of newlyweds on board who were taking the cruise to get amazing location wedding photos! And yes, they did get made up for every port. On days when we had two port stops, they could often be found lounging around at one of the bars in their white dresses, seeing no point in getting out of them only to go through the whole procedure again. Don't blame them!
You don't get to see anything in ports
Port stops are short, this is absolutely true. But if I've learned anything from travelling it's just how much you can experience in a short amount of time, even if it is only a taste of what the whole destination has to offer.
Check out the impressive library facade at Ancient Ephesus, near Kusadasi, Turkey. How often can you say you just popped into a World Heritage Site for the morning?!
We delighted in the tastes of the region one evening on Mykonos with an incredible moussaka topped off with this decadent baklava and free-flowing local wine.
You won't believe the memorable day we had on Rhodes when a trip to this local cafe resulted in a menagerie descending on our table. The macaws swooped in to grab fruit garnishes and cats started jumping in laps. When I asked if I could please have my cappuccino switched for a fresh cup, the waiter asked if there was a problem with my current one. “Well, two birds and a cat drank from it,” I said! We all couldn't stop laughing and taking pictures in wonderment. What a day!
And what about getting to check out that picture-perfect postcard view at Oia Village on Santorini! That's gotta be on more than a few bucket lists.
Plus don't forget about all the things you can see at sea as well. Pay frequent visits to the deck to appreciate where you are. Almost everyone was on deck taking in the view as we sailed through the Strait of Samos, the narrowest point between Greece and Turkey. We could see Turkey on the left and Greece on the right!
My conclusions on cruising
People take cruises for a whole range of reasons and that's why there's such diversity in them and the activities on board. You can really get as much out of the cruising adventure as you want to get out of it. If relaxing by the pool with a cocktail isn't your thing, then take your pick from the dozens of other options going on at any given time to pack your time with activities you enjoy.
Shipping life is also an experience in and of itself and I think it's something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
You don't start your journey on any other mode of transport by actually carrying out an emergency drill.
Live the high life for once! Get a taste for fine dining and enjoy being spoilt for choice. This is what happened when I chose the tea option at breakfast.
Towel art is a daily occurrence at sea. It's always fun to see what your housekeeper has come up with next. Then there's the daily newspaper that has all the important information and activities scheduled for the following day. Sometimes it's refreshing to go back to a simpler time when communication was all about the written note.
In some ports, you might even drop anchor at sea and take small tender boats to and from land. How's this for a seafaring adventure!
Have you ever taken a cruise? How did you like it?
We had a great time with this group of amazing bloggers. Go check out their blogs.
Our Awesome Planet – Top Filipino blogger Anton Diaz shares his and his family's awesome food and travel adventures. He knows the Manila food scene inside and out. If the Philippines is not on your list already, you'll be adding it after visiting his blog.
Captain and Clark – Chris Staudinger and Tawny Clark are talented storytellers and videographers whose energy for life just makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs at how incredible this world really is. Head here to be inspired.
Cruisinaltitude.com – Airline industry expert Kerwin McKenzie gives you all of his insider travel tips to make your trips hassle and stress-free. Seriously, Hai and I now do this thing at airports where we say ‘Be Kerwin' before we head up to the check-in counter. So far we've dodged airport fees, been giving priority boarding and even met the captain!
Angie Away – In 2010, Angie Orth traded her travel publicist career for a suitcase, sold all her belongings and embarked on a solo trip around the world. Now she's a full time travel evangelist, sharing her stories and tips on Angie Away. This girl has so much sass and style, you'll get hooked on her witty writing from the get-go.
Green Global Travel – Bret Love and Mary Gabbett's online magazine Green Global Travel shares stories related to ecotourism, nature and wildlife conservation, and cultural preservation. The conversations taking place on this site are more important than ever before. Essential reading for the responsible tourist.
Tammilee Tips – Tammilee and John Tillison are an unstoppable husband and wife blogging duo who share their perspectives on Travel, Food and Life on their blog Tammilee Tips. Passionate about living life to the fullest, you can always find fun new content here.
Momfluential – Mom of four Ciaran Blumenfeld is a writer, marketer, serial entrepreneur and multi-passionate hat swapper. Momfluential is where she shares stories about her life as a mom and their adventures as a family. Ciaran is wonderfully creative; love her amazing lifestyle ideas!
Cruise Critic – Chris Gray Faust is Destinations Editor for popular cruise guide site, Cruise Critic. Having taken countless cruises around the world, it's safe to say she really knows her stuff. Be sure to check out the site for everything you need to know before your next cruise!
We were guests of Louis Cruises. All content on this site is written by Notes of Nomads and reflects our own opinions. This will always be an open and honest space dedicated to getting the most out of travel.