Notes about cruising, Part 1

The tagline for this weblog notes a few of the many odd topics I’ve covered–and one I haven’t up to now: Cruising. (No, not that kind of cruising. The kind where you’re on a ship or a boat.) So, herewith the first in an occasional series on cruising–why you might (or might not) want to consider it and some of our experiences.

Fair warning: Our experiences are atypical–or, rather, they’re typical experiences on atypical ships. When we were cruising on the cheap and our favorite cruise line went bankrupt, taking a booked Panama Canal cruise with it, we wound up on a high-end cruise line instead. And we’ve mostly been on high-end lines ever since, because they meet our needs particularly well. (Hey, we both work full time, we both hate to shop, we drive Honda Civics out of preference, my wife’s hobbies cost very little, and my primary “hobby” brings in extra money: Cruising is our only extravagance.)

More about that later, when I get to specific ships. I mention it up front because I can’t give you any personal experience with Carnival, Princess, NCL (Norwegian), or Royal Caribbean, the big mainstream cruise lines: We’ve never been on any of them.

Back to the starting point: Why would you consider a cruise?

For us, it all started with Hawaii: We’d never been, we didn’t want to waste away on Waikiki, we wanted to see several islands, and back when American Hawaii was operating 7-night four-island cruises, that was one easy way to see a lot of Hawaii.

There’s another aspect to multi-location vacations: neither of us will go somewhere on the basis that we’ll find somewhere to stay when we get there; neither of us cares for repeated packing and unpacking or, for that matter, checking in and out of hotels; neither of us wants to try to find a restaurant when we’re starving (or get stuck with chain restaurants); and, frankly, neither of us really loves driving or flying.

So the idea of seeing places via cruise ship made sense: You check in once, unpack once, and you know where you’re staying in every city. You know where you’re dining too. Someone else does the driving, but you’re not stuck on a tour bus: The transportation also provides a range of things to do. (Even a library!)

We weren’t sure we’d like cruising, and it took us years to make up our minds on that first cruise. But when we took the cruise–on the Constitution, a great old liner that’s now at the bottom of the ocean somewhere–we loved it. We did one or two tours at each stop, seeing more of Maui, Hawaii (the big island), Kauai, and Oahu than we could have done on our own in a one-week trip without exhausting ourselves. We also cruised slowly past the magnificent cliffs of Molokai and their many waterfalls–something you can’t do except by boat. We found the room more than acceptable, the food good, the people varied and interesting. Accidentally, we also learned that neither of us suffers from seasickness (a surprise, since I had terrible motion sickness as a child): On the longest crossing night, there was a tropical storm, with waves reaching just under the bridge and with substantial swaying up and down, back and forth. (The Constitution was an old ship, with none of today’s stabilizers.) Our cabin was full forward and just under the bridge, getting all the motion you could get. The next morning, half the crew was sick, there was broken glass all over the gift shop, and few passengers were up and around–and we were fine.

That was our first cruising experience. We knew it wouldn’t be our last, but it was a couple of years before we saved up for another one. That one was one of the experiences that every American should have some time, and that’s almost impossible to do any way except by cruise ship (or ferry system): Seeing Alaska along the Inside Passage.

More on that later. On that second cruise, we watched a lot of the passengers who now had the time and money to cruise, but were old and feeble enough that they couldn’t fully enjoy some of the shore excursions. That was when we decided to see at least some of the world while we were still young and healthy enough to enjoy it fully, as time and money allowed. Probably the best decision we ever made (other than getting married, of course)…

In another post, maybe, I’ll provide some bullet points on why you might or might not want to cruise. I’ve offered a few hints here. Cruising isn’t necessarily expensive–actually, it can be cheaper than most land vacations, depending (I see prices as low as $500 per person for a seven-night cruise on a good-quality ship, and that includes lodging, food, and transportation)–and more expensive cruising can be worth every penny.

Enough for now.

Note: For the next 10-12 days, posting will be erratic and I may not be reading comments or approving those comments that require moderation. If you post a comment and it doesn’t appear, it must have hit the moderation trigger (links can do that, and I’m not sure what else); I’ll approve it when I can [assuming there’s not a problem, and so far I’ve never failed to approve a comment). If I don’t respond–well, I will eventually, just not for the next few days.

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