Sunday, January 27, 2013

Get Your Cruise On

I had promised months ago to start doing more travel inspired posts, but I've been a slacker. I know if you keep coming back, you give a hoot about our day-to-day activities and Bimmer's weekly milestones. But my inspiration has been lacking lately and it's time to find a new groove.
Let's get crusin'!!!
My first cruise was back in April 2005 (yes, just 8 months before a whirlwind trip to New Zealand) with Rach and Kimhead to Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas.
(I was trying not to burn my burns in this photo!)
My second cruise was in November 2008 and was dubbed the "Lesbian Extravaganza" when Meg accompanied me after The Ex and I broke up and I wasn't sure enough about Puff yet to invite him. We hit up Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maartan, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados!
(Getting my zip on with Roger the Tour Guide in St. Lucia)
Puff and I then booked a cruise for May 2010 to knock off Haiti, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Mexico. We turned it into our honeymoon trip when he proposed 5 months beforehand.
(Because nothing says romantic honeymoon like cows on a hill)
And our last go-round in the world of cruising was our Scandinavian adventure (starts HERE) for our first anniversary in May 2011. We embarked from Denmark and went through Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden.
(My whole heart loves Tallinn)
So... what do I have to say about all of this? Well, just a few pointers I've learned over these few adventures...
#1 - Don't sail with Norwegian. Our experience was horrible. I never thought cruise ship food could be shitty, but they proved it possible. Maybe because it was an older boat. Maybe it was because we were in the Baltic and not the Caribbean. Either way, they will never get my business again. Royal Caribbean has treated us the best with the most up-to-date ships and the most comparable clientele
#2 - Unless you're in a crazy scenic locale (say, Alaska) or you just have money to burn, go with an inside room. I've always done it and they're not as bad as you think. Just be smart about it. Unpack your stuff, stow your suitcases under the bed, and make sure you like your bunkmates. It's saved me hundreds of dollars on a window I would never gaze out. The reality is, you're in your room to sleep and shower. And maybe to make babies.
#3 - Do your research ahead of time. I can't stress this enough! Just because you're on the cruise doesn't mean you're bound to their excursions in the ports. A lot of places a savvy traveler can go on their own and fare wonderfully. And save tons of money! Hail a cab and find the best beach on your own... no need to pay the cruise line $59 a person for the same thing. Plus, you can probably get away from the crowds easier this way and feel like you're in your own private paradise!
#4 - Do your research ahead of time. If you are in a place where you're unsure about your safety (Antigua) or the visa process is marked by lots of red tape (Russia) then know when it's best to just line up with a group leader with a yellow umbrella. But do your research within their tours as well. We specifically booked one in Russia that allowed for a few hours of free time. It was the *only* tour in all of their options that allowed this. We were able to see a few key sites, get a tour of the museum, and check out some places on our own. Which is how we prefer to travel.
#5 - Sometimes, travel is involved in getting to your port. Make the sacrifice if you can. When we went to the Bahamas, we left from Jacksonville, Florida. And we spent the entire last day at sea getting tossed around like Bimmer's ducky in her bath. The open Atlantic is no fun! Plus... you're going to waste days at sea staring at nothingness while you could have booked a trip that left from San Juan versus Miami and picked up another country.
So... where will we go next? I'm not entirely sure. But I know I will choose to go on a cruise again sometime. They're often times the most affordable way to pick up a lot of locations in a short amount of time. No, you don't necessarily get to immerse yourself in the culture or find all the hidden gems, but sometimes, that's not necessarily the point of a trip. If I were forced to pick? There is a Royal Caribbean itinerary that leaves from San Juan that hits St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba, and Curacao. Which would mean three new countries for me. And we all know that's the best reason to cruise in the Caribbean, right?
Til next time... happy travels!

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