Some Cruising Lessons

You don’t have to gain weight while on a cruise. If you are a fussy eater or vegetarian, there are plenty of choices. Fresh fruit and salads are plentiful. Food is everywhere and available all the time. You can have free ice cream, pizza and/or a burger in the grill area or eat meals in onboard restaurants (a complementary meal is often given to entice you to come back and pay the next time). There is an all you can eat buffet, the Trough, which is the most dangerous place to spend time. It is best to take tiny portions of the foods that sound interesting and then go back for a little extra of your favorites. Watch out for breads and starches, white sauces and cream-filled desserts.

There’s always plenty to do on board ship. Hmm, yes, there are many activities and the staff does a great job trying to keep folks entertained. Activities are more important for long periods of time (Alaska) on board, unlike island hopping in Hawaii, when you are off the ship quite a bit. Activities consist of a comedian, a singer, a couple bands, movies, karaoke, trivia games, a casino and pricey bingo. There are also guest speakers talking about the area you are cruising, and health-oriented talks in the on-board spa. If you are traveling solo and find it difficult to meet people, these activities can help. However, if you have a specific interest, such as jazz, you might be better off trying a jazz cruise, where you are more likely to meet someone with common interests.

Getting away from all the people can be challenging. If you are a detective or a writer, it is best to avoid telling people. You might find the same person “bumping” into you everywhere you go. Even with a balcony, rooms can be claustrophobic no matter the weather. Everyone is out on deck when it is nice, and it can get loud with announcements and movies. If you don’t like the constant wind from the movement of the ship when outdoors, you may have more problems than most with claustrophobia.

Figure out the best time to go. Do you like it hot, rainy or cool? Do you want the beginning of season, when the excursion folks may be new to their jobs and kids are still in school? Or do you want end of season, when staff can’t wait for it all to be over? Do you want to see spring flowers, certain animals or fall colors? Figure out what you are most interested in seeing and then book the cruise accordingly.

You may have to spend more to fulfill the scale of your expectations. For example, on an Alaskan cruise, you may see whales and experience the thrill of icebergs falling from glaciers into the ocean (calving). However, without very strong binoculars or sharp reflexes, you won’t see either from the cruise ship. Seals resting on pieces of ice are just black or brown dots in the distance even with binoculars. Twenty-five story glaciers look minuscule, when the ship is five miles out to avoid the ice chunks from all the calving in the area. Whale spouts are confused with porpoise spouts, so many folks yelling out “whales” don’t even know what they are seeing and in the blink of an eye, whatever they were, are now gone. Thus, the scale of things is much smaller than your expectations, when compared to National Geographic photos. The only way to cure that is to go on a whale-watching excursion, which will cost you more.