My mom, my aunt and I booked an almost-last-minute cruise from Long Beach. We stopped in Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. It was a short cruise (5 days/4 nights on the Inspiration by Carnival), but just enough to have a few thoughts on the whole matter.
1. I live in a privileged society.
To be doted on hand and foot is something that I’m not used to. Having someone make my bed in the morning is one thing, but having someone come back in the evening to “ready” my bed makes me slightly uncomfortable, even if I’m paying for it.
One of our servers was from Indonesia and he told us that this was his 13th year working on a cruise ship. He has two kids (6 and 2, I believe) and he spends 8 months of every year away from them. Must be hard, but clearly the financial benefits are worth it.
I think a lot of this is about international economies – we were surrounded by people mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, two countries whose economies are struggling. I didn’t encounter anyone from Thailand, where the unemployment rate is only 0.4% (thanks to tourism and agriculture).
I enjoyed the towel animals that made an appearance every evening though!
2. People are gluttons.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much food in one place at one time. There are self-serve buffets (with international cuisines) at nearly any hour of every day, as well as three or four restaurants open at one time. I saw full plates being thrown away far too many times.
3. It’s exactly like an all-inclusive resort, with an “off-balance” sort of a feel to it.
That “off-balance” feeling rarely goes away. I felt like I was swaying the entire time on the boat. I mean, I was, but my head never adjusted. It made for a nice rocking feeling at night though.
4. It’s a great way to visit new places for a short time.
You can wake up in a new place every day. The ship docks and you have most of the day to explore around. We “tendered” (stayed out at sea but had little boats bring us to land) at Catalina Island, California.
We docked in Ensenada, Mexico for one day.
5. It’s amazing for families.
There are both day and evening programs for kids of all ages (not to mention waterslides, pools, hot tubs, etc.) Parents never have to cook nor clean. Everyone is happy. Win win.
6. Be sure to pick the right kind of cruise to have the best experience.
Carnival is known to be a party boat. Apparently there were parties starting at 11:30pm and buffets opening at midnight. I wouldn’t know, I was fast asleep by that time.
There are other cruise lines tailored for older folks, some for kids (hello, Disney!). I’m sure once you find the right one, it’s great.
7. If you’re looking for a warm cruise, go to the Caribbean side.
This cruise was way too cold. I understand it was winter and we were out at sea for a full day, but boy was it chilly. The Pacific side is chilly in the winter, but I heard the Caribbean side is quite warm.
8. Last minute deals for cruises are the best way to go.
I overheard some people say they paid $80 for the 5 days/4 nights cruise. If you live in the area and can take a week off, this is fantastic.
9. The inside cabins are just as good as the window ones.
Well, except for the views. And the size.
From my understanding, the point of a cruise is not to sit in your cabin the whole time, so why pay more for a view that you can’t even make use of at night?
Maybe this is my frugalness taking over, but I really didn’t mind sleeping in tighter quarters.
10. You can do whatever you want whenever you want, and be as social or anti-social as you want to be.
There is ALWAYS something to do. Sometimes there were too many things to do at once and we had to choose. From musicals to board game shows, a library to a violin bar, the entertainment was truly something.
If you wanted to make friends, you could (the chemically-induced basins of water were a prime spot), but if you wanted to read by yourself on the deck, you were free to do so, too.
Overall, I had a great experience. It was wonderful spending time with the ladies in my family and learning what a cruise was all about.