Let me break it down for you. We shouldn't like cruise ships. At all. In addition to the fact that we don't fit the mold, we've been on a ship that was in a major accident (it hit a barge) and on another that refused medical attention when one of us got seriously ill. It's as though cruises are actively working against us – encouraging us to hate them.
It's not working.
I guess it's not that straight-forward. We don't like all cruises, and we're certainly not cruise fanatics (we haven't been on that many). You need to read our 5 Ways to Find an Awesome Cruise post to get the full scoop on our cruise rules. For now, though, we'll just reiterate that we're really only interested in a cruise if it enables us to do/see something we couldn't otherwise do/see. Exhibit A (a nod to last week's Glacier Palooza post):
Despite the awesomeness of things like the picture above, our Alaska cruise was a tricky decision for us. We always weigh the environmental impact of our travel, so we had to reconcile that. Also... We would typically not consider an itinerary that attracts masses of people, and we're not fans of cruise itineraries that involve visits to cheese-y ports of call that are devoid of character. Many Alaska cruises have plenty of both.
The opportunity for glacier viewing and stunning scenery won out, and we decided to go with Princess on their Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary. Good thing, too, because the things we liked about the cruise far outweighed the drawbacks.
Let's take a look at some of those things in the context of what many people fear they'll dislike about cruising. We informally threw the "Why do you dislike the idea of cruising?" questions out to non-cruisers. Here are the responses that came up most often.
Fear #1) I hate the idea of having to dress up and eat at a set time with people I don't even know.
This would drive us crazy. So it's a good thing that cruising has changed a lot in this regard over the last several years.
Plenty of lines offer the opportunity to eat whenever you want and in a variety of locations. Similarly, you can now choose whether you want to dine on your own or with others. We had lots of grab and go food – pizza, salads, sandwiches – so that we could be out on deck enjoying the views. Oftentimes, though, we snagged a window-side table for two in the dining room. The food was, for the most part, very good (including plenty of tasty vegetarian options).
While whale watching, we devoured things like this berry/thyme palate cleanser and goat cheese soufflé. A welcome departure from our camping food!
Even at breakfast, we'd sit – dressed casually – in a pretty much empty restaurant, enjoying some great nosh and a view.
Other times, we'd have a quick bowl of oatmeal from the buffet and call it good. Flexibility is key.
Fear #2) 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. However, it's usually pretty easy to find solitude when you want it. We find that people tend to follow the crowd and eschew opportunities to break away (huh, just like in life).
Ships of all sizes typically have lots of different spaces to steal away to if you want some down time. We were in heaven having a modern, fully equipped (and often empty) gym steps from our cabin. We also found an ideal, quiet place to catch up on work when we needed to. As always, we were able to keep an eye on the scenery from both of these locations.
So, yes, you'll pretty much always find people at, say, the buffet, but – with very little effort – you can have a people free experience.
Fear #3) I hate the idea of having no flexibility.
In this age of new-school cruising, there are options to suit most every taste and style. For instance, we aren't fans of the common Alaska ports of call. Skagway, as an example, has some fascinating history but the town itself is so built-for-tourists that we just couldn't jive with it.
However, the setting of these Alaska port towns is often ideal with lots of outdoor activities. So – in most cases – we'd get off the ship and immediately head away from the town for some hiking and exploring. We'd then get back on the ship later in the day and take advantage of having a phone signal in order to do some work.
So, we'd make it work for us. And others would as well. Most ports offer a wide variety of cruise affiliated or individually arranged excursions – everything from aggressive glacier climbing to small-group sightseeing.
Ultimately, this cruise delivered just what we were hoping for. Hundreds of miles of rugged scenery (including those glaciers) from a perspective we couldn't otherwise enjoy.
Pictures, like these best represent the memories that will stick with us.
in the end, we designed our cruise experience in the same we we orchestrate our NVR life - to best suit us. You can too!
We've covered a lot of Alaska goodness over the last few weeks. Do you have any questions for us on hiking, camping or cruising in Alaska?