A few weeks ago I put it out there on Instagram that I'd been wanting to write an article answering all the frequently asked questions I get about going on a cruise! Inevitably, whenever I talk about our trips with Princess Cruises, people get very curious about life on a ship. Is it safe? Is it claustrophobic? Is it all old people? Is it expensive? Well, today's post is here to answer what we can and give you a better idea of what to expect when you're aboard!
What's it like on the ship, and do you get sea sick? Is it claustrophobic? What's there to do on board?
So, first of all, once you're on the ship it's just like being in a big hotel. I kind of liken it to being in Vegas because you completely forget where you are. As in, in the middle of the ocean. On a calm day at sea, you have no idea you're even moving! The ships are huge. It's not unusual to get lost or think you're heading one direction only to realize you've gone the wrong way. To me, this is a good thing. You're constantly discovering new places on board to eat, hang out, or relax.
As for getting sea sick, as someone who avoids roller coasters, sitting the back of a car, and choppy waters on small boats, I've been totally fine on both cruises I've been on without any assistance from a patch. There are some who choose not to risk it and get a motion sickness patch that they wear the entire time - a few people on the trip with us do this and they always work, so there are definitely preventative measures you can take if you think you might get sick! Even the stormiest day at sea is pretty beautiful.
For the record, the spa is my favorite place to hide out from the crowds. It's truly relaxing and never too packed! There's also a gym, tennis courts, basketball, and track to walk on outside, so you can find many ways to get some fresh air. The only time I ever felt like there were a lot of people around were our days at sea that were nice enough for most people to want to be above deck.Then, the pool area can get a little jammed, but you can also always upgrade to more private areas for an extra fee.
This brings us to the topic of cost...
Are there amenities you would recommend getting? Do you have to pay extra for everything? What if you don't want to sign up for the tours in port?
Everyone has different priorities on a cruise. The nice thing is that you can make them whatever you want them to be, which is why I think they're ideal for family travel. Everyone from the kids to the grandparents can do things at their own pace! As for amenities - I would spring for a balcony room vs. an inner room. It's a magical experience to wake up at sea and have the ocean right there. It also helps me not feel claustrophobic on the boat. I like having fresh air, and it's fun to watch the boat pull into port! They happen to be a good place to take a selfie after getting ready for the evening's activities, too.
When you get to port, you have the option of joining in on paid excursions or doing things on your own time. Most of the time, we choose to explore on our own, but the tours can be great too as they get you from one place to another. Really, it depends on your destination! Sometimes the port is right at the city you're visiting, like when we were in Oslo, where you can walk right off the ship. Other times it requires a little transportation. Doing a little research ahead of time will help you decide which ports you think you can handle on your own and which you might want to book excursions for. You can also do guided tours with a local, which we did in Marseille and it was so perfect! Our guide was fantastic, and totally made the trip. We had a private driver and got to do everything at our own pace.
You do not have to pay extra for everything, but it's good to consider all your options up front when booking. We always choose the anytime dining, which means you can pick wherever you want to go at anytime. There are packages like the All Inclusive Beverage Package that you may want to consider if you plan on indulging in wine and cocktails on the regular, but all of this is optional.
What's the food like?
While I wish there were a few more healthy options on board (like a juice or smoothie bar!) dining options on the ship are vast and surprisingly fresh! The buffet is kind of heaven, I'm not gonna lie. They have everything and breakfasts are pretty epic! It's nice to be able to pop in there at almost any time. There are many dining rooms to choose from for lunch or dinner, and some really special options like the Chef's Table which is an epic experience, so you can make some nights casual and others very indulgent. Also, as made obvious above, the desserts are EPIC. For a one or two week cruise, there are enough options that you won't be getting sick of the menus anytime soon.
Also: ROOM SERVICE. If you're feeling antisocial one evening, take full advantage of good old fashioned room service. This also comes in handy on the days when excursions start extra early! We had the breakfast sandwiches sent to our room in the morning with massive amounts of coffee so we didn't have to join the crowds at the buffet.
Do you feel like you have enough time in the various ports or do you feel rushed?
My absolute favorite part of being on a cruise is the ease in which you get to see so many places in such a short amount of time. I've traveled through Europe on train, or through parts of Africa via the tiniest airplanes. You guys, cruising is insanely convenient. You go to sleep, and you wake up somewhere new! Of course, that comes with the caveat that you only get so much time in each place, and not necessarily at your own pace.
I love that Princess has started opting for some ports being an overnight (like our St. Petersburg stop), giving you more time in cities that you should enjoy for longer! I also love having time on the front and back end of these trips to explore the port cities. Our first cruise started in Barcelona and ended in Rome, giving us time in each city. The last trip we ended in Copenhagen, and - having learned from our last trip - booked a few extra days there on our own. It was nice not to have to get right back on a plane from the ship!
As for the various ports, the answer is yes, sometimes things will feel a bit rushed. Again, though, it depends on where you are and what you've chosen to do! For example, we decided to do Berlin on our last cruise, and I totally regretted it because with the train ride in it took forever to get there and I felt like we barely had any time. I would have rather booked something that was a little closer to shore, or maybe that's one of those days to just enjoy staying on the ship while most people are off! Of course, in smaller towns, like on our Mediterranean cruise, there was much more time to be leisurely in our exploring. It just depends on where you're going and this is why researching is essential!
What tips would you offer someone on their first cruise? Who do you think cruising is ideal for? Is it really geared towards older people?
Hopefully, some of these questions were answered above, but to summarize all my thoughts on cruising from the experiences that I've had:
Cruising is for anyone, because you can make it whatever you want it to be - more so than I realized! It's definitely ideal for those who are looking for travel that feels more curated and guided, who might have disabilities that can be better catered to with an experience like this one (ie, cruising makes it easier to get around!), and I think it's super ideal for families who are looking to have a trip that will please everyone. For someone like me who has traveled quite a bit, I enjoy it because each time it's introduced me to places that weren't necessarily on my radar, that I would like to return to, and it allows for a unique way to see the world! There's something very calming and special about traveling by sea.
To fully enjoy your cruise, I do think it's best to do a lot of research ahead of time, and figure out the type of cruise you want. The Mediterranean cruise we went on was much more leisurely because of the number of small ports. Scandinavia was busier because most of the ports were larger cities, which required a bit more effort to plan on our own.
I would say take full advantage of the spa and at least one or two planned excursions - they really are fun, I promise! Plus, I love chatting it up with other cruisers! These people are from every part of the world, and it's always interesting to learn a little more about your fellow passengers. Also, hit the gym when you can to offset those cruise calories! Ha.
If you have more questions about cruising, leave them below! I'll happily answer whatever I can. I'm already looking forward to the next one!