Casting Off Cruise Ship Preconceptions

Carnival Cruise Ship
Getting older makes a cruise ship vacation a more appealing product. That maxim is most certainly the case when you take a quick glance at a cruise ship’s clientele. Aside from a cruise having the perception of being pricey, it’s worth wondering what other factors allow the industry to do well with older folks but not so well with younger ones. I have a hunch why, but it comes purely from my own experiences.

Based on my past travel habits, cruising falls outside of my travel preferences. Take away the appeals of travel like planning the trip, immersing myself into the local culture, and experiencing unexpected delights and there’s not a whole lot left. Where’s the fun in sitting on a giant floating hotel with all the amenities you could ever need? How can you experience a destination when you’re only in port for less than half a day before sailing onward? And can you really take in the local culture when everything is handed to you in a sanitized package?

The answers to those above questions are: 1) I’m burned out from work and need a span of time to be completely lazy, 2) a single activity that I’ve booked at the port is enough to enjoy the time spent there, and 3) absorbing the local culture isn’t too high a priority.

Sounds awful and awfully close-minded, doesn’t it? But traveling is a lot of work if your goal is to open yourself to the new and different. If your goal is to bum around while mixing in an activity or two, if you’re too tired to actually plan an exciting itinerary and would rather opt into a wholly curated travel experience, I can’t think of a better way to go about it.

For those of you who haven’t experienced the need to completely veg out, exhausted by the day to day, count yourselves lucky. But get a little older, tack on young children, and travel with extended family and the equation changes. Suddenly, having a floating resort that hits up ports with a menu option’s worth of activities becomes a lifesaver. And I’m definitely finding myself falling into this latter consumer category.

Before, I’d sneer at the concept of eating on a cruise ship buffet. Now? The wealth of food choices that appeals to varied palates becomes a major culinary benefit! Traveling with an infant is never easy, but cruising makes it much easier. The ship’s onboard amenities gave my 8-month old child options. She can lounge about on deck, listen to the ship musicians perform, and eat pureed fresh fruits and vegetables prepared by crew members.

The inability to immerse myself into the local culture wasn’t a detraction either. My wife and I were fine with doing one activity on shore at each port of call as a way to unwind and mix things up. While the shore excursions weren’t particularly mind-opening, hitting the beach, learning how to make salsa, and ziplining around the Sierra Madre mountains was a fun way to get the adrenaline pumping and add to my culinary knowledge (as basic as making salsa can be anyway).

Finally, the much maligned sea days proved to be a welcome diversion. Before, I viewed them as a tedious part of the journey since it’s so easy to feel stuck without anything to do. But with the amount of work I had before leaving on the trip, the sea days forced me to unwind, to slow down. Instead of feeling the fatigue of day to day demands, I’d go on deck and look out, across the sea, towards the horizon, all in a meditative, introspective mood.

To see that cruising exceeded my expectations when I found myself in a new consumer demographic was surprising, but enlightening. Sure, a cruise won’t be able to be all things to all people, but it accommodates different travel styles reasonably well. I might not have gotten an exceptional experience on this latest trip, but I certainly got an enjoyable one.

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