I‘ve long been suspicious of anyone below the age of 60 who says cruises are fun.
Honestly, I’ve never seen what could possibly be fun about living cheek by jowl with 3,000 or more strangers, going to organised stage shows, risking food poisoning in a 24-hour buffet restaurant, crowding around a pool the size of a postage stamp and sleeping for a week in a bedroom smaller than Gerlie’s bathroom.
And that’s before you get to the bit where 3,000 passengers want to disembark at the same time into a town where the locals rub their hands together with glee as yet another boatload of gullible idiots lands.
And now I’m back from my first ever cruise, I’m unsurprised to report that it was pretty much like that. I could write at length about the bad bits, but I’ll try to be balanced. It was at no point unbearable; and there were good bits too.
The bad bits:
– The other passengers. You couldn’t get away from them. They were shuffling about everywhere like lemmings, stuffing their faces on 24-hour free ice cream and cakes and gorging on non-stop pizza. Ugh.
– The eating. You would think my fellow passengers had never seen food before. I’ve never seen such single-minded determination at the buffet. There was pushing, shoving, elbows – one man even stole the last doughnut of the morning from my hand. “Sorry,” he said, unapologetically, as he shoved it in his mouth like he’d won some Darwinian Survival of the Fittest competition.
– The entertainment. From the Eurotrash line-dancing by the pool to the “wear-white” pool party, and from the British pub quiz nights to the lame cabaret and seedy disco bar, this is the kind of entertainment I try hard to avoid. Even the champagne bar, I’m sad to report, was tacky. Vinyl seats – say no more.
– The shopping. Billed as “designer shops”, this consisted of naff watches, polyester clutch bags, diamante brooches, “Diva at Sea” tee-shirts and acrylic-mix shawls, which were discounted further and further as the days wore on, until everything was piled high and sold at $10 a piece on the last day. Shudder.
– The pool loungers: Plastic. They were never going to be anything else, were they?
– The kids’ club. This was supposed to be the all-singing, all-dancing raison d’être of cruising with kids. But DS took one look at nursery-on-sea and begged “Please don’t leave me here.” I have to say, I could see why.
The good points:
– The sleep. The bed was surprisingly big and incredibly comfy. The combination of good bed, fresh sea air, rocking boat, black-out curtains and a policy of avoiding organised entertainment meant I got 10 or 11 hours sleep every single night. That hasn’t happened since before DD was born. The black bags under my eyes actually disappeared.
– The views. I really enjoyed watching the sea slide past. It was terribly romantic to sit on the balcony at night, the full moon glistening on the inky sea, and just enjoy the silence. Sometimes I did some yoga on the balcony at night, and that was very nice, too.
– The dolphins. Sometimes they swam alongside us but, when seen from the top of a floating block of flats, they’re about the size of garden slugs. Sweet, though.
– Travelling by boat. I loved going to bed at sea and waking up in a new country, a five-minute walk from the local market. It’s got to be the easiest way to travel.
– The food. Even for a fussy vegetarian, it was very good, like a non-stop Friday brunch. If you picked quiet times, when the stampeding herds weren’t there, it was alright. I haven’t yet dared weigh myself.
– The organisation. The cruise company was very slick. Getting on and off the boat was never an issue, hats off to the cruise company.
So will we be going cruising again? Let’s just say, I’m sourcing staffed villas in Thailand for next summer.