I must admit, I just don't get the whole "cruise thing." Unless you are some sort of serial eater, and the 24/7 buffets call you with the same urgency as crack does an addict, I don't see the draw.
What got me thinking about this is, I have good friends in Greenville who went on a three- or four-day cruise out of Miami to the Bahamas a few months ago. They just informed me they are going again in July and taking a son and his gal pal with them. Although I didn't share it with them -- I used my inside voice -- my reaction was, for the love of God, why?
Obviously there are plenty of people who like cruises; cruise companies, I assume, do turn a profit. I do get that it's a no-brainer vacation. You get on the boat, you float around a while, maybe stop off at a port or two for a few hours each, float around a little more, and come home. In the meantime, you are checked into a room for the duration of the trip, and you can nonstop eat, if you so choose, without consequence of cost. If you like to gamble, you can do that on board, as well as sit around on deck catching some sun. Yea, big fun! Oh, and they have lots of bars aboard, too.
I also know people who have gone on Alaska cruises. For these excursions, substitute looking at glaciers and breaching whales in place of sitting on the deck catching some sun, and you have what those cruises are like. Yes, glaciers are spectacular; but if you fly into Anchorage, glacier tours are available. I've been on them and you can get much closer than a cruise ship does. As for whales, I was in Kona, Hawaii last January on a AAA travel story and went out on a small, 16-passenger boat for some up-close-and-personal whale watching. We had them swimming within 20 feet and breaching within 50 yards of the boat. Oh, did I mention the sun was shinning and the temperature was in the low 80s?
I have been on two cruise ships in my life. One was a job assignment for the Discover America TV series. We were doing a show on American Hawaii Cruises. At the time, at least, they had two refurbished 1920s-era cruise ships that made weekly tours of the islands. They sailed around at night and you woke up each morning at a new Hawaii port: Maui, Kona, and so forth. We were there on America Hawaii Cruises' dime; we didn't let the fact that we were working get in the way of a good time. We worked 8 to 10 hours each day -- spent probably at least 2 days in helicopters shooting aerials of the different islands -- and partied hard at night.
As with most cruises, the bar bill wasn't included in the cost of the cruise, but AHC had an open tab for us at the bars. I'm sure some bean counter at the home office raised hell about that. It's amazing how many Rum Runners one can quaff when they are on someone else's dime. Although I wasn't wild about other aspects of the cruise -- too few deck chairs around the pool and not much to do on board except eat and drink -- I did think it a wonderful way to enjoy a sampling of the islands. Then at some future date, you go back and spend serious time on the island(s) you liked.
We weren't scheduled for the entire seven nights. I think we were there for five. It wasn't until the day before we were to be dropped off at a port for our flight out that our AHC liaison suggested we finish out the cruise, relaxing as the company's guests. It was too late to make that adjustment; it's something I have regretted ever since. I would have happily stood up to get some sun.
My second cruise was really two cruises. On my sister and her husband's first trip from New Mexico to visit me in Florida, we went to the Bahamas for two nights. Rather than flying over, we took a cruise ship over and back. I can't remember what we paid for the round trip, but a cabin wasn't included. Although you can make the trip with a good boat in three hours or so, the cruise line dragged it out for six or seven. Not bad going over because we were excited, rested and full of piss and vinegar. We partied, sat around the pool and ate until we nearly exploded.
On the way home, however, it was a miserable six hours. We were tired, hungover and just wanted to get home. I wanted to grab the clown playing steel drums poolside and chuck him overboard. The casino and restaurant were the only places to get out of the sun and we had had our share of sun. It probably ruined any chance that I would venture onto a cruise ship again, ever, and I mean ever.
Moreover, it seems you can't watch the news without seeing a report of a cruise ship that has had an outbreak of some mysterious disease, a mechanical breakdown that has marooned it at sea, or some sort of pirate incident. None of those things has ever happened to me at a Holiday Inn Express.
I leave the cruising to others. Give me an airplane and a hotel any day.