Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is Cruising Right for You?

Is a Cruise a Holiday for You?

So many people ask me "why do you like cruising so much?" Well that is an easy answer, but I thought I would do a blog entry about it.

I grew up with the Love Boat series. I would watch the show every Saturday and dream that I was Vicki -- I was Vicki but only 20 years younger -- but one day I wanted to experience what was happening on board the "Love Boat". Things are definitely different than on the "Love Boat"

- cabins are much much smaller

- cruise director/purser do not welcome you on board with a list of passengers on a clip board

- your room key now also acts as a card to charge everything while on board

- ships are much much larger

- never once saw Charo, or heard her

- you rarely see the Captain interacting with the public

- at sail aways you never see them throwing streamers off the side (not green)

- security is much much tighter, rarely see guest on board

- a lot less formal

- now there are tons of options for dining, not just one small dining room

- entertainment is vast and everyone will find something to suit their taste

- you never see stowaways

As I grew up I knew that a cruise would be in my future, but I couldn't afford it. I worked full time but decided my goal was to sail so I took on a part time job to save for a cruise. My first cruise was in the fall of 1989 on Carnival Ecstasy. I was hooked.

I have done many other vacations, land tours, Europe, All Inclusive to Mexico, Car trips, and been all over Canada, but my heart has always been in cruising.

I first introduced cruising to my husband in 1997 on the original Star Princess. Thankfully he enjoyed it and was open to cruising again. We sailed again on a back to back in 2002 and I can safely say that he too was hooked after that.

Cruising offers you so much more than other vacations.

- Unpack once and visit many different spots

- Accommodations are at a high standard and depending on how much you want to spend you can decide on your cabin type, from and inside, outside, balcony, mini suite, suite and full suite. However all cabins get the same treatment throughout the ship. We've been on some land vacations where if you booked a higher room you were given priorities and access to special areas.

- Activities onboard are numerous. You can be as busy as you want or as relaxed as you want, it is up to you. I have never been bored on a ship.... but at a land based holiday you have to leave your resort to get a full range of activities that you would get on a ship.

- Dining, now sure everyone says you will gain weight, and yup they are right. But it is up to you as there are so many options for dining. You can eat in the dining room, the buffet (some ships have two buffets), room service, one of many specialty restaurants, hamburger/pizza up on deck, and some ships have sushi and tapas bars. Of the above list only the specialty restaurants and sushi/tapas come at an extra price, otherwise it is included.

- The people! Everyone on board is on vacation, everyone got on when you did, and everyone is getting off when you do. On land vacations you make friends with someone and they leave a day or so later. Relationships develop and long lasting friendships continue.... laughs are heard throughout the ship as you get to know everyone.

- Cruising rewards loyalty. We sail with mainly Princess and after five cruises they give you free Internet package, priority boarding, lounge for disembarkation. After 15 cruises the perks grow to also include laundry/dry cleaning, mini bar set up, priority tendering, wine tasting etc. So far I have never seen a loyalty package like this for land vacation.

- The price is very reasonable. Often the price I pay for a two week cruise vacation (including air) is much less than a one week all inclusive at a four star resort. Sure the price of the cruise doesn't include alcohol, but usually the saving of around $400 can pay for a lot of drinks. The price I paid for my first cruise is similar to the price I pay for my cruise now. One thing that has happened is that they now charge for more things while on board, like specialty coffees, tapas, etc. But the way I look at it I would rather pay a low price for the cruise and then decide what I want to buy while on board.

- The staff -- truly these are the people that make our vacation. They are all very dedicated individuals who work very hard to make your holiday the best it can be. We have become friends with many crew and have even sailed on their ship again to see them.

- Cruiselines usually guarantee their prices. Which means if you book and then the price comes down before final payment (some cruislines even offer after final payment) they will lower your price too. This doesn't happen at resorts. When you book, you pay and too bad if it goes down.

- The ports! The thoughts of travelling around and stopping ports each day is such a dream. Sure you may have limited time in each port but it sure gives you the opportunity to see if this is a place you want to come back to or not. And for many this may be the only way they get to see these places.

- The sea days! They say the sign of a "true" cruiser is that they love sea days. When we first booked cruises we wanted as many ports as possible. That has changed, it is very important to us that we have time to relax and those sea days provide that. On sea days we sleep in, get room service breakfast, get a latte from the coffee bar, read a book, lounge in the sun, eat lunch in the dining room, see a movie in the afternoon, play trivia with friends, have drinks with friends on our balcony, take dance lessons, go on tours of areas of the ship, and the list goes on and on and on.

Have I convinced you? Have I left anything out? Feel free to comment.

Standing By

Cruise Dreams

Must be time for another cruise as I am starting to dream about cruising and vacation. Unfortunately it is still two months till our Panama Cruise on the Island Princess.

This cruise starts in Vancouver and sails to San Francisco on a two day cruise. Then it sails 15 days San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale.

Originally we booked just the second leg along with our friends Jerry/Rose and Karin/John who we have sailed with prior (Golden in May, Star in November). We snagged cabins near each other and Bernie and I thought we would just book the two day Vancouver/San Fran leg when the price came down.

We watched and watched and it seemed like Princess was holding cabins for the entire 17 day trip as there were insides available for the entire 17 days, but the same cabins were not available for just the 2 day cruise. We could understand why Princess would want to sell 17 days instead of just 2 days then a 15 day cruise. But final payment came and went and still these cabins were being held as a 17 day cruise. We waited longer and now it is four weeks after final payment and the price of balconies has come down and is cheaper than outsides. Guess they are trying to see the higher cabins, keeping the cheaper ones for last minute deals? Who knows... I am not use to this. We have done these repos for three years now and by now the price has gone down. It certainly has for the other repos.

Last night we both decided we were tired of waiting and we booked the two day. The price was still good but you can't help saying to yourself would it go down. The main reason we booked is that our cabin that we are doing the 15 days on is still available so we won't have to change cabins. If it would of been taken I think we wouldn't of cared and would of just waited it out and settled for whatever we got.

I am relieved, I no longer have to check the sites for better prices -- and rest easy knowing I don't have to pack up after two days and change cabins in San Francisco.

Now back to my dreams.... 8 weeks!