Hmmm - I always suspected I was different. My wife and I have been on 8 Caribbean
cruises in the past 4 years, all on Carnival and we love them. Partly, this is because we’re temporarily prevented from resuming sailboat cruising, but mostly it’s about expectations. For us a cruise ship
represents a week long escape from stress and a chance to be pampered with virtually no decisions to make other than when to go to dinner - we don’t really ‘do’ much, I usually bring 4 or 5 books
, and we've been known to haunt the piano bar. It is very much a floating resort hotel
, and from that perspective it is also a super bargain: We typically pay about $1,100 plus an automatic $140 charge for tips for a 7 day cruise
-it helps to live in Florida
so you can drive to the ship. In my opinion, the free food
is excellent and often outstanding, the alcohol is expensive (although beer
is cheaper than the Bahamas), and I can actually enjoy one Broadway style musical in seven days. We always eat and drink too much; it always costs more than we expect; and we always meet interesting people - including two people taking a break from long time sailboat cruising, and a guy who thought a Carnival cruise would be a cheap/cool way to check out a couple of boats for sale
in St. Thomas. Some observations:
- for the most part a cruise ship is not even going to take you to the same harbor that you would typically anchor
a sailboat in. If you expect to do real site seeing, you’ll have to pay extra for an excursion and you have very limited time. For the most part we don’t do this partly because it’s exhausting and we don’t want to need a vacation
after our vacation
. In 8 cruises we have done 2 excursions - one was a ½ day sailboat/snorkeling charter
to St. John - very cool. I will not get off a cruise ship in San Juan
or anywhere in Jamaica
- staying on the ship is more fun. We like Charlotte Amalie - check out the shops, buy some T-Shirts, and have exotic pizza at Amici’s; and Phillipsburg - check out the shops, buy some T-Shirts, check out the boardwalk, and have poutine and Canadian beer
at the Get Wet Bar; back to the ship for a nap. Martinique
are beautiful, but not where the cruise ships dock
- you must take a ferry
or excursion, or don’t get off at all.
2. Lines - for initial boarding and final disembarking, these are unavoidable. For this reason alone, I will not take a less than 7 day cruise - gotta rest up between lines. Otherwise, lines are easily avoided - if the boat docks at 9:00, have a bloody mary and wait awhile before you leave the ship. The only real exception is the stupid U.S. Customs
practice which requires all passengers on a ship whose last port was say St. Maarten (Holland) to have their phony Massachusetts
birth certificates, etc. inspected when the ship docks in St. Thomas - even if you’re not getting off, you have to go through the line.
3. Crowds - it makes a difference how ‘full’ the ship is. We cruise off-season because it’s cheaper and less crowded. Still, we are usually up at the crack of dawn and often have the entire Lido deck
to ourselves for an hour or so. I have spent several afternoons dosing, watching the ocean, and pretending to read in a lounge chair on a 300' open deck
with no one else but an occasional waiter.
In the end, I don’t particularly care where a cruise ship goes, I just like them.