So…You’d like to take a cruise…
by Kristy Gherlone
My husband and I have just returned from a two week vacation, that a few weeks ago, we didn’t even know we’d be taking.
We had to take a trip to Florida to care for relative, and while we were there, we’d thought we’d take a little last-minute break and hop on a ship bound for Mexico.
I’d like to tell you about it, as I think some of it is note-worthy. I will share this piece before going back to my fiction stories.
Now, I like cruising. I have been drawn to it since I was a child, intrigued by episodes of “Love Boat.” I have been a few times, and I always have a good time. I don’t think there’s a cheaper way to see so many different places or eat so much you feel like you’re going to pop.
However, there are some things I want to point out for people who have never been, but have always wanted to. There are some hidden costs, and some other things to consider before planning your vacation.
This is what I learned: (this is my perspective, anyway…yours may be quite different)
July was not an ideal time to go. The heat wasn’t the issue. (That was actually a bonus for me, as I’m from Maine. This summer it has been chilly and rainy in the northeast, but you can always count on sunny, hot weather in the tropics.) The issue was the amount of children on board(Summer vacation! Oh boy!!!).
I like children, but not one thousand and three seemingly parentless children at a time. They were everywhere! Running up and down the halls all hours of the night, taking over entire pools and turning them yellow by the end of the day…Every single hot tub and pool was filled to the brim with runny-nosed, happy children. (There was an adult only pool, but the occasional child slipped in here and there.) So, I lost some sleep and had vengeful thoughts in the middle of the night that I’m not usually prone to. Sleep deprivation can do strange things to your mind…also…I’m a bit of a germ-phobe. Ships are not good places for people with germ issues. I did alright, considering. I’m just trying not to think about it, though I have a sore throat and I’m starting to think I have caught malaria, or at the very least, a cold…
*There were lots of things for the kids to do. Free ice cream all day. Movie nights with popcorn…. games..and..oh, I don’t know since I don’t have small children anymore, but they looked like they were having the time of their lives whatever they were doing.
Hidden costs: You book from Expedia or your go to sight and it seems pretty cheap but remember…there are other fees. I’ll mention a few, but yours maybe more or less:
Airport parking (two weeks cost us over $500.00 bucks!)
Rental car if you are doing anything more than plane to ship.
Parking at the ship docks (I think ours was $80.00 for the 4 days)
Drinks on board. Alcohol and soda are not included. However, juice, coffee, tea, lemonade, and iced tea are free. A glass of wine cost me $8.75. A very tacky but true occurrence on the ship is at dinner when a waiter comes by with a big tray of shots for anyone who wants to purchase them to go with your steak or lobster…
Tips, tips and more tips. Tips for the bartenders. Tips for taxi’s and shuttle drivers in port. Tips for excursion leaders…tips for well…tips. Anyone who offers you help or goes out of their way to help gets a tip.
Pictures. On board, someone is always snapping your picture. They will place those pictures on display and hold them ransom until you manually throw them into a bin or buy them. We bought a few and spent about $200.00 for on the boat pics. Also, for pics for excursions. We did “swimming with dolphins.” If you think you can just take your own pictures, think again… no cameras allowed! They will take your picture and you will buy them. We spent $43.00, but left most behind.
Shopping. There is no way to avoid it. The ship has stores and you will buy stuff. Plan on it. Also, a lot of the countries you visit are poor. They count on your money to make it through the year. The ship dumps you in the middle of shopping centers and the people there will compliment and badger you simultaneously until you go into their store, and make you feel like a jerk if you don’t purchase at least one small item. A word of advice: your treasures will be cheaper just before the ship is getting ready to re-board. Last minute purchases will cost about half as much. Make sure you offer them less. Much less. Never pay full price because, let’s face it…that jewelry did not cost them $500.00. They paid $20.00 and if you’re not careful, you’ll buy junk at a huge mark-up.
Medical care. Thankfully, we didn’t need any, but some people do. A visit to the ships medical center is not covered under insurance. You will pay out-of-pocket for your sickness or boo-boo. (which reminds me:) “Don’t drink the water or get ice-cubes in your drink” is a pretty common caution in Mexico, but did you consider that Pina Colada? It’s crushed ice and you will not feel well later if you get one.*See Medical care…
It may not seem like it, but our trip was actually pretty fun. There are definite perks to cruising which will keep me going back. I love hot weather, visiting foreign lands, and making new friends and believe me, you will make friends. They may be drunk friends, but they are happy, and happy to meet you. I saw a woman drinking an entire pitcher of margarita at 9:00 a.m. She told me I was without humor and then went on to say that I cracked her up. I saw a man stumbling down the stairs with a bottle of beer in every single pocket of clothing he had on, but he was smiling. With the ship being so closed in, you get chummy with the people who frequent the same places as you. I like that. We exchange emails and talk about our lives at home. You get friendly with the staff. Some of their stories will break your heart…a tip might help? I hope so.
I loved my dolphin, Frida. I will always remember her. It was the opportunity of a life-time to swim with a dolphin. My heart went out to her for all of her hard work, so I didn’t make her lug me across the pool, like the dozen or so other folks did. I didn’t have the heart. Instead, I held her like a baby and spoke to her in Spanish. I think she appreciated the effort. I hope.
Oh and here is my love boat moment…just like the show! Everyone always stands at the rail, looking out, contemplating life after an argument. My companion was fabulous.(He better be since he’s my husband), but we did have a little tiff in the middle, just like Love Boat. We made up at the end. It was all very romantic.