I learned a lot on my recent cruise of the Adriatic and Aegean seas, not the least of which is about cruising itself. If you’re a first-time cruiser, here are some things you should know:
- There is an obscene amount of food available, almost all of the time.
- Even if the food is mediocre you will visit the buffet 30 times per meal because it seems free. (It’s not.) If the food is good, which it often is, increase buffet visits to 75.
- The dessert displays are deadly. Beware of any food that’s adorable; it has exponential ass growth properties.
- Pack elastic pants. (see numbers 1, 2, and 3)
- There’s a fitness center full of chiseled bodies to increase your self-loathing.
- There are thousands of people aboard and most of them will take the same shore excursions as you do. You are cattle. Moo.
- While ashore, you must wear a sticker so you are easily identifiable to tour guides and fellow passengers. This very special sticker also has super powers that can translate ‘sucker’ into any local language.
- Almost everyone is drunk after 6pm, often before.
- An unknown fact to many is that cruises double as hairy-back conventions.
- Disco is not dead. It’s alive on Deck 4.
This list is only slightly exaggerated, but perhaps paints too negative a picture. I should be positive, and fair and balanced, just like Fox news. Here are the good things you should know about cruises:
- Eat up, people, there’s food everywhere! (1.a) adorable foods are delicious.
- Everyone’s drunk! Party on, dudes!
- Fitness freaks are, um, motivating.
- At sea, you can gamble and avoid taxes on life’s staples like vodka, cigarettes, and chocolate!
- Everyone’s back is more hairy than yours. Go YOU!
- Speedo-clad men help you brush up on male anatomy.
- Your fellow cattle come from all over the world. Meiu.
- You can dance like a sweaty fool because disco is not dead!
- You get to travel hundreds of miles without driving, getting on a train or plane.
- You’re able to see multiple, fascinating destinations without packing and unpacking your suitcase.
- Knowledgeable tour guides can teach you ten times what you might learn on your own. (And they might be the only local people you meet.)
- For the tentative or unsure traveler, a cruise is an ideal option; there is safety in numbers if that’s your thing. Moo.
- Cruise personnel are masters at moving people around efficiently. I was fascinated by their precision, always executed with bonhomie.
- The slight, gentle sway of the ship and the sounds of the ocean will make you sleep like a baby.
In spite of the fact that I had a blast (really!) and saw amazing sites, I probably won’t do it again. I prefer wandering around on my own to explore, because it’s only off the beaten path that you discover the realness of a place. I desperately missed hearing the local languages – when vendors and locals see the hordes of tourists they automatically speak English. If you don’t respond, they try Spanish or French.
What I missed most was spending more than a few hours in each location. I’m so grateful that I decided to spend an extra day in Venice and one in Istanbul on either end of the cruise. Without that extra time, I would have come home with far less understanding and appreciation of those cities, and fewer precious memories. More on those destinations next time.
A cruise, like many things (except kale), is something you should try at least once. Hop aboard a floating city and briefly see the world. But know that cruising gives you a whole lot of breadth, but not a lot of depth. For real exploration and a richer experience, choose a single destination and dive in.