If you love to travel, you may be unsure whether a cruise is the right sort of vacation for you. Being "stuck on a boat" and unable to come and go as you please can seem confining and limiting. Getting off the ship only at certain ports of call for excursions seems like it could prevent you from seeing the "real" parts of a place.
As a travel blogger, I felt that cruising was something I should be able to discuss with some authority. However, I have never actually taken a cruise! I'll freely admit that the concerns I mentioned above are my own, though they do tend to be oft-heard refrains from people who love to travel.
Fortunately, Larissa, a travel blogger at Life with Larissa, has cruise experience and was willing to speak with me about her thoughts on cruising. Thank you so much, Larissa! Read on to learn about Larissa's history with cruise vacations. I hope it helps you determine whether a cruise is right for you!
Danielle: What made you decide to take a cruise as opposed to another type of vacation?
Larissa: My sister was actually talking about how she never gets to go anywhere for spring break, and I believe one of my cousins had just gotten back from a cruise, and recommended we look into it. It seemed like the best option for our first family vacation!
Where did you decide to cruise? What made you choose those locations?
For both cruises, I went to the Eastern Caribbean. Those destinations just happened to work best with the time I was able to vacation, and I was not complaining. More specifically though, the first cruise, my family went to Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Grand Turk, Turk and Caicos. The second cruise, my best friend and I went to Half Moon Cay and Nassau, both located in the Bahamas.
What did you think of the overall cruise experience?
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed so many different aspects of the cruise – from the food, to the ports of call, to the entertainment, to the variety of options available to cruisers. Both times, I couldn’t get over how so many things could be offered ON A SHIP! Haha…it still kind of blows my mind!
What did you like best about cruising?
I really enjoyed a lot of different things – it’s hard to pinpoint just one! I guess what I liked the most is that everything can be taken care of. If you prepay everything, you seriously don’t have to worry about anything else, unless you plan on eating at specialty restaurants or ordering drinks without the special packages.
Did you do any excursions? If so, which did you really love?
Yes, I did two excursions – one per cruise. During the cruise with my family, we had an excursion on St. Thomas. We went to the Magic Ice Ice Bar. It was an interesting experience for sure, and we had a lot of fun, but it’s probably not what most people think about when they think excursion. It was literally a bar made of complete ice, and there was even an ice slide which my sister and I slid down! Haha…that was pretty entertaining. They give you parkas to go in, as everyone is in their shorts, tanks, and flip-flops! We also had a paddle boarding excursion lined up for Grand Turk, but we were informed the morning of that it was cancelled due to unsafe water conditions. That was the one that I was really looking forward to – I think I would have enjoyed that one the best!
During the cruise with my best friend, we booked a day resort pass for Nassau. We had access to unlimited food/drinks, use of hot tubs/pools, access to the ocean, access to kayaks, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some other things. That was super neat and relaxing, and we befriended one of the bartenders. She made us this amazing drink that I still dream about. I don’t remember what it’s called, or what was in it, but man – whatever it was, it was DELICIOUS!
Was there anything you didn’t prefer about cruising?
The first time I went on a cruise, I pored over the Carnival website. I looked at various cruise forums. I downloaded cruising apps. I wanted to familiarize myself as much as possible with the notion of cruising, and what to expect, before we actually went. I learned that it is possible to get seasick, and there are a variety of ways to combat that [i.e. motion sickness pills, ginger, green apples, sea bands, etc]. I opted for the Sea Bands option, as I’m not too big on taking pills, and I’m not a big fan of ginger. These bands are supposed to press down on a certain pressure point, which helps with the nauseous feeling. I don’t think mine really did anything, but they might – as I didn’t feel nauseous all that much [but I also didn’t keep them on all the time, which is why I don’t think they helped that much]. But anyways…that’s not even the point I didn’t like. What I didn’t read about, was that once you land back in your port of call, and get off the boat and start heading home, you can still feel the effects of the boat swaying. That was the most sick I felt the entire trip. It was awful. Thankfully, my family had allotted an extra day in Miami before we flew back home, so I spent the entire day in bed. So…just so you’re aware, keeping taking those pills until a day or two after you’re done cruising! Especially if you’re driving home after the cruise.
Do you have any advice for readers who have never cruised before?
Read as much about cruising as you can. Pore over the website. Check various forums. Ask questions if you’re unsure about something. Read reviews about ships, and about ports of call – but at the same time, take them with a grain a salt. Some people do have very opinionated comments about what they did and did not like about a particular aspect of cruising. Make sure to research which cruise line you would like to go on. Carnival has a reputation of being the “fun ships” and they are geared more towards families and partiers. Odd combination – I know. It’s because they are usually the best bang for your buck. Disney cruises are usually geared more towards families and Disney fanatics – I hear they are amazing, and I want to go on one so bad! Royal Caribbean is also geared toward families – but it’s a bit pricier than Carnival. But they look like they have a lot of fun on the ship as well. They offer a lot more activities than Carnival [of course depending on the ship]. Norwegian and Princess is geared more towards the older population and has a more laid back and relaxed feel. And within all these different cruise lines, you’ll find a variety of different ships. I found that I like the larger ships better, as they have more to do, and you don’t feel the motion of the ocean as much!
What sort of outfits do you recommend bringing on a cruise ship?
Well, I guess it really depends what time of the year you’re cruising, and where you are cruising to. As we were going to the Caribbean both times, I packed very summery clothes – shorts, tanks, t-shirts, skirts, and dresses – really just outfits you feel comfortable in. Of course don’t forget to bring at least two or three pairs of swimsuits, so when one is drying, you’ll have another to use. It’s also important to remember, even during spring break [and probably in the summer as well], it can get pretty chilly, especially at night. And sometimes the air-conditioning indoors can be much. So make sure you pack a cover-up, jacket, and some socks! You’ll also want to pack one or two super nice outfits for elegant night, depending on the length of your cruise. Most everyone dresses up, and the main dining room has a special menu for these nights!
How was the food onboard?
The food was so good! I wouldn’t consider myself a foodie or anything, but I do enjoy great food, and I had no complaints while I was onboard. Sure, there were things I didn’t particularly like, but there are so many options to choose from, it’s honestly not a problem. We quite enjoyed Guy’s Burger and the main dining room for breakfast and dinner – oh and Sea Day Brunch was delicious! And don’t forget to take advantage of room service!
How was the entertainment on board?
I personally thought the entertainment on the Carnival Glory was a lot better than the Carnival Ecstasy. It could have been that it was a bigger ship; I’m not entirely sure. On the Glory, we went to the Love & Marriage Show; we went to the Comedy Club; we watched movies on the Lido Deck; we saw dancers perform. It was great! Something for everywhere for sure! They also have bingo and trivia, and other activities to participate in, but those were an additional cost. On the Ecstasy, they also had the Love & Marriage Show and Comedy Club, but they didn’t have as many other show options.
How does cruising compare to a regular vacation?
“Regular” is such a relative word; however, when I think of vacation, I think of going to the beach and not doing anything. The most I usually do is check out the local shops, and cook meals if I’m in the mood. So for cruising, it’s the best of both worlds – you get to relax and do nothing, and you also have the option to go exploring a [potentially] new area!
Where do you hope to cruise next?
I actually just confirmed with my friend that I will be cruising with her and her mom in 2019 in Asia! I’m so excited for that – it will be a completely new experience for sure. I’ll have to do a whole other batch of researching. Because not only will it be in January, but I’m not aware of what to wear, what excursions to expect, or anything!
Thanks again to Larissa! Check out more about her adventures on her blog, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Have you been on a cruise? Where? What did you love most?