Confessions of a First Time Cruiser


It may not be in any dictionary or medical journal, but it is as real as the fear of flying or being stuck in an elevator with Lady Gaga. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Its effects are devastating and include lack of adventure, lack of fun, and possibly a lack of tan. I know, because I was a victim of this unreasonable fear of waterborne recreation. Which is weird because, as evidenced by posts like this one, I love water.

Like many “cruise virgins,” I was apprehensive at best when considering our family’s first cruise vacation. The prospect of “a week on a boat” had visions of sheer boredom running through my mind, and that of my teenaged daughter, who would be traveling with a friend. Catastrophe didn’t concern me; if the ship started sinking, at least there would be something to do! I just couldn’t envision fun in a closed environment. I’m a Get-Out-and-Do-Something kind of guy who likes to see the sights, stroll the city streets and play in the sand and surf! A week…in a floating hotel…really?

Sound familiar? If you or someone you love is afflicted with Cruisephobia, take heart. It’s really not so bad!

Port Lucaya Marketplace

We saw more of the ports than the ship on our family’s first cruise. The colorful Port Lucaya Marketplace was nearly empty when we arrived, a great opportunity for a quiet stroll.

Debunking the Myth

First, let’s debunk that closed environment idea. Yes, you are on a ship, a definite confined area for those without gills. On most cruises, though, you are docked in a different city every day or two and have hours to go explore and play. Cruise excursions really round out a vacation, and they are incredibly varied. Whatever your interests, you’ll find something appealing. Watersports are a natural on many cruises. If you’re in the Caribbean, you should take advantage of the abundant snorkeling and diving opportunities, especially if it’s something you haven’t done before. Mediterranean and river cruises offer a great chance to see many historic and modern cities with shopping, museums and sightseeing galore. Either way you’ll have plenty of sights to see, city streets to stroll, and sand and surf to play in.

About the time when you might be headed back to the hotel or out to a restaurant in a landlocked vacation, you get back on the boat, head for the restaurant and then enjoy some nightlife of your choosing. Options might include a bar, a pool, a bar in a pool, a casino, a bar in a casino, etcetera. And while the grown-ups are playing in the Grown Up Club, the kids will enjoy their own kids’ club, teen club, or even babysitting for the wee ones. Our teens absolutely loved having the freedom to explore the ship and enjoyed the teen activities, where they made friends from around the world that they still keep in touch with! (Tip: Bring walkie-talkies that look like cell phones. You won’t have phone service most of the time, so that’s a good way to give kids some freedom but still keep in touch. And, if it looks like a cell phone instead of G.I. Joe’s communicator, they’re more likely to actually use it.)

Norwegian Sky at Great Stirrup Cay

If this is off board, why would anyone stay onboard? No wonder this is the way we usually saw the ship.

Of course, if you so choose, you can stay on the ship during port days (to use the cool sailor lingo) and…well, to be honest, I don’t know what the people who stay on the ship do because I was never one of them. Maybe they swab the deck or something.

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Do You Need More Time Onboard?

Believe it or not, you might actually not get to do everything you’d like to onboard. Our first cruise had no sea days – meaning we were never “stuck” on the ship. Sailing between islands overnight meant most of our ship time was spent sleeping and, more often than not, eating! We certainly didn’t miss the buffets, but never managed to take in a show or the casino. I overheard a couple talking about winning $500 at bingo the first night, so I made that a priority but still only managed to go once. (And didn’t win a bloody thing!) We took in an art auction (and spent the money I didn’t win at bingo), browsed the shops, found the gym and the library, and attended a few on-board seminars and deck parties, but I really would have appreciated more time for all of the amenities. I certainly didn’t feel cheated and was never bored, and I made a First Cruise Note to Self to be sure future cruises included at least one sea day to enjoy the ship.

There are cruises that are almost entirely spent onboard. Transatlantic cruises, often repositioning cruises moving the ship from Europe to the Caribbean, or vice-versa, have as many as 14 days at sea. I can imagine smaller and older ships might be a bit too limited to be enjoyable unless you really dig pool time, but today’s super ocean liners, such as the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class or Norwegian’s Epic, are floating entertainment centers. Part theme park, part summer camp – with a show lounge – these huge flagship vessels are well tailored for sea crossings.

Balcony View, Norwegian Sky

Lovely balcony with a great view. I wish we had taken more time to enjoy it!

Does Size Really Matter?

Many who suffer from Cruiseophobia worry about the cabins. I was so concerned about the small size that I booked the largest balcony (not suite) that I could find. It helped that we could book an inside room for the girls just across the hall. Though our cabin said it held four “comfortably,” I would not attempt it. Friends who cruised advised that the room didn’t matter much because we would not be in it much. Turns out, they weren’t far off. Nearly every day, we were out by 9am and didn’t return until well into the evening, except to change. The kids seemed to only be in their room for sleep and room service! Still, I am glad we opted for a separate room for the teens and the balcony room for us, even if only for the view and the fresh air.

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Sadly, Cruiseophobia still afflicts millions, some who may be incurable despite my happy tale. Luckily, there is a simple cure: Take a cruise! Enjoy the salty air, the mind-boggling buffets, and the adorable towel animals. See beautiful beaches, the endless horizon of the open sea, and pitch black night skies that twinkle with a million stars you never see from land. Explore a seaborne city, an island paradise, or a modern yet ancient metropolis. Take that cruise vacation and cure your own Cruiseophobia.

Daiquiri Shack-Bahamas

One stop at a friendly establishment ashore – such as this – is sure to cure what ails you, Cruiseophobia or otherwise!

Have you been cured of Cruisephobia, or are you still suffering needlessly? You’re welcome (and enouraged!) to share your story in the comments! Our first family cruise, a four-day jaunt through the Bahamas on the lovely Norwegian Sky, cured my Cruisephobia but left me stricken with an incurable Cruiseamania. Happily, the only cure is another cruise.

6 comments on “Confessions of a First Time Cruiser

  1. Congrats on your first cruise! For some reason, I thought you’d cruised before! Glad it wasn’t as scary as it seemed — the pictures are gorgeous (and colorful!).

    Next time, bring us each back a coconut daiquiri. 🙂

    • Thanks, Dorian! This was cruise #1 a couple years ago. Far from cruise #Last if I can help it! 🙂 Say…plans are forming for a Med cruise in 2014 – you guys handle excursions there as well, yes? We’ll tweet you with questions as we get further in the planning.

  2. I’ve never been on a cruise and am unlikely too as I am not keen on boats, even ones that stay still. I would like to visit some of the places they go to,

    • Hi Bob – thanks for stopping by! I kid a lot about being afraid of cruising, but I know there are people who are just not comfortable on ships. It is definitely not for everyone but it is an easy way to get to lots of great destinations. Personally, I enjoy being onboard – whether it’s a canoe or a cruise, I love being on the water. I know many people who prefer to fly to the Caribbean, for example, and spend the time at the resorts there rather than cruising between islands. The advantage, of course, is that you get more time to explore that island instead of the limited exposure from a shore excursion. Either way – happy travels!!

  3. having been on almost 10? cruises so far in my life, and I kind of agree with what you’re saying, in that I too, don’t like being stuck on the boat for days at sea. The last cruise I went on stopped at 6 different islands in 7 days, so it wasn’t so bad! Having been on a bunch of cruises, I think those days are over for me now, but definitely understand the value cannot be beat!!! And the possibility to see so many different places is awesome!

    • Wow – 10 Cruises? They must agree with you! Six islands… I really do like the ability to see so much in such a short span of time. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for sharing, Jessica!

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