What it’s like to take cruise holidays?
Here’s my experience and it’s probably not what you think!…
Our cruise holiday was such a great experience! Once in a lifetime for most people but I hope to make this an annual event!
To be clear, this was originally a Christmas and Birthday present holiday all rolled into one – to keep our costs to a minimum just in case it was a flop of a holiday. We chose the Costa Fortuna 14 night Cruise departing Singapore with the itinerary travelling to Langkawi, Phuket, Penang, Singapore, Bangkok, Cambodia, Koh Samui then back to Singapore.
But it is with great pleasure without understating it; a cruise was one of the best, if not the very best holiday experience I’ve ever had.
Really…. why? You might ask…
Let me spell out the basics first and probably why I enjoyed my first cruise experience so much.
When you travel internationally you usually have to deal with jet lag, flights, security checkpoints, passport visas or worse, traffic during transfers or even food sickness or food poisoning. Cruising allows you to bypass all these risk factors and in some cases are non-existent. But let me explain in detail….
Jet lag only exists if you are crossing time zones and have serious problems with flying. Either the noise, heartaches, headaches, confined spaces, small seats, long hours and air quality in a pressurized cabin combined is reason enough to give second thoughts to traveling long hours in an economy seat. (But it’s the only way, right?)
A cruise on the other hand, can be an enjoyable experience crossing time zones, where hours are added at less noticeable pace. Where instead of flying, you’re open to the natural breeze flowing over water crossing borders or international waters. The heartaches are only limited to what is available on the menu and weather the coffee is to your satisfaction. The headaches are limited to boarding and disembarking the cruise at your own pace.
The small airplane seats are traded for a luxury suite with double bed and balcony views.
The long hours in a pressurized cabin are exchanged for theater entertainment, pools, water slides, jacuzzi, sauna, spa or a visit to the gym. Another great aspect is reducing your holiday risk of food sickness to an absolute minimum by electing to dine onboard instead of questionable restaurants ashore. Trading traffic and transfers from an airport disappear as every morning you wake up in a new destination as if by magic?!
Let me focus a little more about my specific experience arriving at our embarkation port in Singapore. It was simple, we took the metro train to the port and waited until the boarding line had disappeared. We finally checked in as one of the last couples to board the ship. Since we had 15 days onboard it didn’t matter whether we boarded later because dinner is served at whatever time you want. The security check lines were short and sweet, our luggage was taken as soon as we arrived and we boarded at 7pm and departed shortly after 8pm. No fuss, no stress, no screaming, no lines and best of all, no airport terminal!
The first night was brief, dinner and bed in our upgraded balcony suite. But waking up and opening the blind to the open expanse of the blue ocean with the sun shining brightly over the tropical horizon was amazing. The day flows from breakfast at your leisurely pace around 9am followed by lunch from 12pm with entertainment onboard consistently changing each day. The night life onboard was another unexpected surprise, after dinner 7pm, a show 9pm, a white theme party 11pm and the night club from 12 pm if your up for it! Already you’ve had more holiday in 1 day than 3 days ashore in a holiday city.
The location days are a little different with most electing to be up early from breakfast from 6am, followed by mass ship exodus at 8am for the shore excursions and day trips. We elected to a normal 9am breakfast before heading ashore with no lines, no fuss, no passport requirements, no security checks and were usually ashore in town in less than 15 minutes.
This was amazing, to be in a new country and all you did to get there was board a ship, eat, drink and party the previous day!
To go ashore you only needed your Cruise Card with photo ID scanner? Amazing! Just incredible! By electing to organize our own day trips we were not required to meet or greet tour guides, we didn’t have to line up or associate with people we didn’t want to and best of all, we can come back on board when it suited us.
For the next 12 days we visited 8 different destinations with most stops one or two days 8am till 6pm. This doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it’s perfect for sampling different countries. Even better was returning to the ship if we didn’t enjoy the destination or we just wanted to get some quality food and a rest.
It was a ‘taste testing’ cruise in every sense of the word, traveling to a new country and awaking to find the ship has docked somewhere new every morning was shocking and exciting at the same time. It was one of my favorite morning routines to open the curtains to see where we were and then knowing our all-inclusive breakfast at the restaurant was waiting for us; choosing from a platter of different country breakfast styles. My favorites were the German or Norwegian breakfasts, although the buffet had its own tastes from Indian to Italian style meats and vegetables.
To my surprise I didn’t want to leave the ship every chance I got
Some days we just wanted to relax because the entire holiday felt like Go! Go! Go!
On one occasion we woke to find the ship was docked in a shipping container yard?! This was a shock, as the cruise itinerary had us visiting Bangkok, however to our surprise we were over 2 hours from Bangkok in the port of Leam Chabang. It turns out that the cruise ships are so large that entry into Bangkok is impossible given the shallow bay its located in.
We hadn’t fully researched this destination port before booking the cruise and hadn’t arranged transfers to the city or booked any tours. As a result we elected to retire onboard for the 36 hours in port which was otherwise the worst part of the entire experience. Not because of the ship, but because of the air pollution and terrible views. Despite the setback we did enjoy the two days onboard using all the facilities with less than 100 other passengers onboard and the staff were extremely attentive to those who choose to stay onboard.
A obvious lesson is to make sure you review the entire cruise including all ports thoroughly before booking.
The final highlight for me was definitely the disembarking process and departure procedure. Unlike an airplane where the line in the isles is cramped with people trying to exist immediately after landing. Cruising is ‘exist at your own pace’, where we checked out of a room early morning before enjoying the breakfast onboard at our leisure. We departed immediately after docking as we had no excess baggage and cleared security and customs within 10 minutes.
This process I’m sure is determined on how much luggage you have and which passport your carrying but in general I found this a significantly less stressful and time consuming method entering a country of disembarking. Overall the entire experience was significantly better than travelling in economy class airlines with traffic loaded transfer times to high priced hotel with average food.
Would you cruise holiday again? For me, it’s not even a question… when can I cruise again!?
Explore our other cruising posts
10 reasons to take a cruise for your next holiday
Got cruise questions? Here’s the top 10 most common cruise questions answered on cruise critic
What to take on a cruise: what we packed vs what we wished we packed