By No Vacation Required, on January 17, 2015

Debunking myths about cruising

We shouldn’t like cruising. Like, at all. One one of our cruises, we were on a ship that was stranded at sea after colliding with a barge. On another, one of us got seriously ill. It’s as though cruises are trying to make us not like them. Sort of like that boyfriend who tries to make you break up with him so he doesn’t have to look like the bad guy.

Well, cruises, you aren’t getting rid of us that easily.

Despite all of our bad experiences, we’ve gone on to sail across the world’s major oceans, nearly circumnavigated continents, and explored remote parts of the globe only accessible by boat. It is safe to say that the things we appreciate about cruising outweigh those things that should keep us on terra firma. And we’re not planning to stop any time soon.

Still, we’re aware that many travelers have some misconceptions about cruising. We informally asked a bunch of non-cruisers, “Why do you dislike the idea of cruising?” Here are some of the more common responses, followed by reasons we think they just don’t float.

“I don’t want to dress up and eat at a set time with people I don’t even know.”

Agreed. This would drive us crazy. So it’s a good thing that cruising has changed a lot in this regard.

Viewfinder Tip: Consider taking a repositioning cruise; these one-off experiences can be very cost-effective and offer really unique itineraries.

Plenty of cruise lines now offer the opportunity to eat whenever you want, in a variety of locations. Similarly, you now can choose whether you want to dine on your own or with others. We tend to gravitate toward the grab and go food (pizza, salads, sandwiches) so we can be out on deck enjoying the views. When we do opt to eat in sit-down dining-rooms, we often are able to snag a window-side table for two.

Also, making time for some nice meals in the dining room is definitely worth it. The food, for the most part, is very good, and several cruise lines include tasty vegetarian options. For instance, on a recent Alaska cruise, we devoured goodies such as a berry-thyme palate cleanser and luscious goat cheese soufflé. All while watching whales breach just outside the window. And NOT talking to strangers.

“I hate the idea of feeling stuck on a ship, isolated and not able to get away from people.”

We hear lots of people express this concern. We feel the same way. However, it’s usually pretty easy to find solitude on a cruise ship when you want it.

Typically, all ships have different spaces to steal away to if you want some down time. For example, during a cross-Atlantic trip on the Celebrity Solstice, we spent a lot of time hunkering down in a private alcove (with a great view of the ship’s awe-inspiring library) to get some work done away from the crowds.

Additionally, spaces that tend to be hopping in the evening—such as lounges—often are devoid of people during the day. While you probably will find people at, say, the buffet, with very little effort you can find plenty of space there to enjoy solo, too.

New-school cruising means lots of space

“I need flexibility or I’ll feel penned-in and bored.”

In this age of new-school cruising, boredom is almost certainly not going to be a concern. In fact, the opposite is more likely; you’ll find so many things to do that you might actually have to force yourself to relax. And that is not even accounting for “shore days,” and other days when you are off of the ship.

Port days bring loads of flexibility. Many of the ports-of-call we’ve visited have been too cruise-y for our tastes. Instead of doing the prearranged shore excursions, we have found drivers to take us to great nearby hikes or off-the-beaten-path beaches. When these alternative plans haven’t worked out, we just have gone on big runs and headed for the outskirts of towns to experience the destinations away from the often less-than-authentic port areas.

One key point about venturing out on your own: If you are not on an official cruise tour, the boat will not wait for you if you don’t make it back in time. Always be prepared to return with lots of time to spare.

Ultimately, cruising isn’t going to work for everyone. But we’ve found that many of the reasons why people decide to not give cruising a shot are outmoded perceptions and hold-over ideas from the industry’s early years. From our perspective, cruising has enabled us to see things that we would be hard-pressed to enjoy otherwise. Without cruising, we never would have seen rugged coastlines and towering glaciers, and we never would have gotten tastes of places to which we almost certainly will return later in life.

What cruise itinerary most interests you?