Admittedly, I am a bit of a travel snob. I don’t take pride in the price tag of my adventures, but rather whether they veer off the beaten path and away from the artificial comforts of resorts and overly cushy bus tours. Therefore, no one was more surprised than myself when I agreed to go on a cruise to the Bahamas with my mother. Perhaps it was because I found the fast-paced itinerary of Portugal to be exhausting, or I missed the blue waters of Caye Caulker. No matter the reason, I now write this blog post from a room on the cruise ship. While I’m having a good time during my off-shore excursions to various islands in the Bahamas, this specific blog post focuses on the pros and cons of booking a cruise.
Pro: It is super relaxing
Travel adventures can be both thrilling and a wee bit stressful. Cruise ships remove the guess work and worry from the experience as much as possible. Swimming pools, casinos, buffets, and everything in-between are a a short elevator ride away. The complementary meals and drinks means that you can walk into a restaurant, help to yourself to a free ice cream cone, and walk out without having to pay. There are no language barriers, as well as no worries about getting lost (or at least for more than a few minutes when trying to find your room).
Potential Con: Cruises don’t allow full submersion into a culture
Some destinations, like the Bahamas, are very cruise-friendly. The main draws of water sports and Caribbean hospitality can be fully experienced in small doses; while the country’s culture is no doubt richer than what I experienced during my cruise, most people prefer the sterile, synthetic experience of insulated hotels rather than the Caribbean culture lived out by the locals. However, this is not the case in other popular cruise destinations, such as Greece or Scandinavia. Hopping from one destination to the next with no exposure to nightlife on land shortchanges cruise visitors to such destinations.
Pro: It caters to families and active drinkers
Families will find plenty of activities that cater to kids of all ages. Partiers will find free booze to be quite appealing (take note, not all cruises offer complimentary alcohol). These are the two types of people who take over the pool-area and they tend to dominate every other space which they frequent. And cruises happily accommodate them.
Con: It is easy to get bored for the rest of us
Traveling with Norwegian Cruises, I found it all too easy to grow bored. I’m not one to pass the time by drinking, and I actively avoid settings with large groups of children. Yes, the musical variety show, gift shop, smoke-filled casino, and exercise studio were fine to visit in short spurts. Still, I found myself itching for something more stimulating after a short amount of time on the ship.
Pro: It’s often cheaper than flying to a resort, but cruises will still nickel-and-dime guests
When comparing the cost of flying to Miami and taking the cruise against the cost of flying to the Bahamas and staying in a nice hotel, the cruise was the clear winner. It’s worth noting that I went over Thanksgiving and flew out of the fairly active airport of Philadelphia, so the price comparison may vary based on where you’re based and the time of year.
Food will be mostly free (as was the booze on my cruise). However, all excursions organized through the ship were overpriced (which is why I recommend you find tours run independently of the cruise). Additionally, anything that cost money onboard cost a lot of money. While gift shop products, spa treatments, and mediocre workout classes come to mind, the largest offender was the amount the cruise charged us for Internet access. As insultingly large as the fee was (roughly $30.00 per hour), it’s downright horrendous that they make their employees pay the same amount.
Con: The weather plays a larger role in what you can and cannot do
On the last day, the plan was to dock on a private island where we could get off to swim in warm turquoise. Unfortunately, the waters were a bit too choppy for them to feel comfortable shuttling us onto land, meaning that we had a day ‘at sea’ in which we were confined to the ship. If we were not at the mercy of the cruise, we would have had the freedom to exercise our own judgment or pursue a greater range of activities.
In conclusion, I have no horror stories to report about my time aboard a cruise in the Bahamas. My mother and I enjoyed our shore excursions (not organized by our cruise line), and had low expectations for our time on the ship. However, if ever asked if I would want to repeat the experience, I would have to provide a resounding no.