Why do I cruise? It’s a matter of preference really. While there is nothing wrong with spending your vacation time at a resort with a swim-up bar, laying in the sun with endless cold drinks in your hand.
Due to my Irish heritage, I don’t tan, I burn. So laying out in the sun is not my best option. I’m also not a strong confident swimmer, so activities that include spending all day in a pool, lake, or ocean swimming doesn’t appeal to me either.
On a cruise, you’re not just sailing around aimlessly, there are several destinations to get off and explore. Each port offers tours, excursions, shopping, dining, and other cultural experiences should you choose to venture off the ship.
On all three Holland America cruises, we traveled through the Eastern Caribbean and visited Half Moon Cay (one of my favorite ports), Grand Turk, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and San Juan. On the Allure of the Seas, we visited Jamaica, Haiti, Cozumel, (Punta Cana) was canceled due to the weather. On the Carnival Legend, we went to Alaska (Inside Passage) and stopped at Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Glacier Bay. On this last cruise on the Norwegian Epic, we stopped at Ocho Rios in Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico.
I find it nice to wake up each morning with a new exciting view. There are plenty of activities, demonstrations, entertainment to keep you busy onboard. Just off the top of my head, here are some activities that I have seen (most cruise lines offer similar options).
- Early morning fitness class, yoga, cardio, Zumba, spin cycle… Yes, there is a fitness center onboard, it wasn’t mentioned earlier as I don’t (but probably should) use it. There is a fitness instructor for private lessons or to help you use the equipment safely.
- Cooking demonstrations from the chefs onboard.
- Wine Tasting, Wine Pairing
- Tournaments in the Casino, Blackjack, Poker, Slot Machine, Texas Holdem
- Towelgomi, learn to fold the towels into animals
- Digital classes, Learn to use Microsoft programs, learn to transfer your pictures from A to B
- Dancing, learn Ballroom, Salsa, Cha-Cha, Country Line dancing from the trained professional crew members onboard
- Single cruisers can meet up
- LGBTQ cruisers can meet up
- Friends of Bill W.
- Sunday Religious services
- Art Auctions hosted by Park West, usually includes a free glass of champagne
- Bingo for cash prizes or win another cruise
- Movies, recent blockbusters shown in the theater
- Shopping onboard
- Short lectures on the different Ports of Call, the various excursions and what to expect when you visit the ports
- Visit the Spa for a massage, facial, acupuncture, or just to get pampered
- Card Games, Shuffleboard, Ping Pong
- Walk around the Deck for a Cause, small donations to raise awareness for Cancer, participants get a t-shirt and walk around the ship (jogging track) a few laps.
- Learn about jewelry and watches, where to buy them, which ports give you the free charm, get your coupons for freebies.
There is much more, but this is all that comes to mind at the moment.
While I don’t collect charms for a bracelet, I do pick up an ornament from each port that I visit. Each year at Christmas it’s like looking at a scrapbook as we pull out each ornament and reminisce about the time we spent there.
Eventually the cruise ornaments will be the only ones on the tree, that’s the plan anyway.
If you collect shot glasses, tiny spoons, T-shirts, playing cards, key chains, magnets, coffee mugs or anything else, chances are that you will find it at one of the gift shops. While I don’t have an ornament from Haiti, I have a few pieces of art hanging on the wall. We kind of went nuts buying local artwork on the Allure cruise.
For me, Holland America is the best cruise line for the food, service from the crew and cleanliness. The ports in the Eastern Caribbean are beautiful, no haggling and the best part/port is Half Moon Cay. A private island owned/run by Holland America.
That picture was taken by me at Half Moon Cay during our last visit in November 2017.
What I remember most about the Allure of the Seas… WOW! This ship is huge! My husband claims that the best internet connection was on the Allure. We obtained many pieces of artwork on this cruise and we met by many vendors that wanted to haggle and tell you their story about how their mother, blind with one hand makes everything you see. That is what you can expect when getting off in Jamaica, Haiti (by far the worse) and Mexico (to a lesser degree).
If your traveling with your family and kids, the Allure or any Royal Caribbean ship will WOW the pants off of you. Of the four cruise lines, this ship was the largest with the smoothest ride. It’s so easy to forget that you’re even at sea. If you suffer from motion sickness, you may have better luck on the larger ships.
Just a few things to mention, assuming that you’ve watched the video. Don’t be fooled at how empty the Promenade, Boardwalk, Restaurants are. This will not be the case once all 4,000 passengers arrive. I’m glad he pointed out how small the venues are and how they can’t seat a quarter of the guests. One place not shown in the video was the Samba Grill, a specialty dining option I recommend (unless you don’t eat meat). But overall, a great ship for families with kids with lots of things to do, something onboard for everyone.
The Carnival Legend… It’s not the ship I remember most, it’s the destination. We traveled to Alaska and the views were amazing. Typically we don’t do much for excursions, but in Alaska, how could you not want to see the wildlife and breath-taking views.
Here’s a tip if you are considering a cruise to Alaska: First, BOOK IT you can thank me later. Second, Booking in late April into the middle of May is your best bet to avoid pesky mosquitoes and lots of them. We were warned by a few tour guides of this issue, yes the weather is warmer and the whales have all come back from Hawaii and the bears are out of hibernation. Take from this what you will. We booked our cruise at the end of April into early May, sure it was a bit chilly, we did see porpoises, whales, sea lions, eagles, goats, bears, otters in their natural habitat all while not getting eaten alive. So far my favorite destination was Alaska and we look forward to going again.
Since I’ve already covered the most recent cruise on the Norwegian Epic, I will refrain from sounding like a broken record. I think I’ve covered everything a first-time cruiser needs to know before booking a cruise. I’m happy to answer questions if you have any. There are so many resources available to find out which ship is best for you. I encourage you to do a bit of research and look into your options.