Yep cruise-haters, you read that right - the title says "awesome" and "cruise" in the same sentence. Surprise! This post is for all of you anti-cruise readers, who would say that going on a cruise is no where near your Bucket list. To be honest, I would have never thought that we would be the kind of guys who would put those words together either, but some great experiences on cruises have completely changed our attitudes.
Open your mind and take a look at the following tips for finding an awesome cruise.
1) Forget (almost) everything you think you know about cruising.
If you're like our old selves, you think of cruises as: crowded, cookie-cutter, party-centric and predictable (among other things). That's not an entirely fair assessment.
To be honest, our idea of cruises used to be pretty one-sided. We couldn't get past envisioning the quintessential weeklong Caribbean "booze" cruise as an ultimately painful exercise, serving only to dumb down the vacation experience.
So, first off, you need to let go of those preconceived notions. Don't misunderstand - those types of experiences can and do exist on cruises for people who want that (which is fine), but they do not define all cruise experiences.
2) Expand your search. It's all in the itinerary.
The further you get your mind away from the more traditional cruise itineraries the better. Those aforementioned Caribbean cruises can tend to live up to the way that they've been labeled.
When we were in South America a couple of years ago, an ad for a cruise jumped out at us. The two week cruise took passengers from Uruguay all the way around the tip of South America (Cape Horn) to Chile. looking at the route, we were completely transfixed by the incredible sightseeing and outdoor opportunities along the way - a stop in Ushuaia, another in Punta Arenas, days cruising through the fjords and straits. Incredible.
We had never looked at cruising long enough to consider the fact that a unique itinerary like this could make all of the difference in the world.
3) Pay attention to price. Longer itineraries are often less money per day.
Clearly, the Cape Horn itinerary had gotten our attention. Upon further investigation, we learned that these less popular itineraries often come with a substantial discount. Then, when we found that we could jump on this 14 day cruise for under $500 US each, we were sold.
I remember we checked and re-checked, thinking that there was no way we could have an ocean-view cabin, meals and all that good stuff for under a thousand bucks.
It was true, and we had a great time.
4) Consider a repositioning cruise.
Repositiong cruises typically happen when the seasons change and ships are migrating to a different part of the world for the new season. Pay especially close attention to cruises that occur in the April/May and September/October timeframe.
After our fantastic Cape Horn cruise - and another to Antarctica - we were hooked. We then started to dive into researching repositioning cruises and the accompanying price savings. Cha-ching!
Last October we jumped on an irresistible offer - a repositioning cruise from Sydney to Los Angeles (the ship would then be heading on to do itineraries in South America from November to March). The price came to, I believe, about $50 per day for each of us. We had the opportunity to see much of New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Bora Bora / Tahiti and Hawaii as we made our way across the Pacific Ocean towards California.
5) Remember that uncommon cruises often produce unexpected results.
There's no denying that what makes a cruise awesome is the overall experience (although an amazing price does help!). The beauty of following the previous four tips is that it often leads to an experience that is far from the drunken, predictable cruise we outlined at the beginning of the post.
Repositioning cruises or those a bit off the beaten path, tend to attract a completely different type of passenger. We have found that most of our co-cruisers have been interesting people with a true bug for travel and an interesting set of experiences. People who were on, for instance, the Cape Horn cruise were - like us - interested in amazing sights rather than poolside drinking games and talent competitions. Because our cruise from Sydney to Los Angeles was particularly long (about a month) we met others in the midst of riveting, long-term traveling adventures.
In a future post, we''ll get into the nuts and bolts of thriving while on a cruise and successfully living in less than 200 square feet of space (without killing someone). For now, look at the idea of cruising a bit differently, and it just may open up a whole new world.
Oh... and for all of you who enjoy party-centric cruises, that's cool. Because our motto is "live deliberately," we say: Do whatever resonates with you.