“Why, I’d like nothing better than to achieve some bold adventure, worthy of our trip.”Aristophanes
I'm finally taking the leap into cruising territory. There’s a lot of things that scare me with these type of trips as I crave freedom. Rocking on a boat for days at a time limits me from everyday life: running an online business, access to supermarkets and specialty stores, to something as simple as taking a walk in the park. You know, as in doing anything that doesn’t require getting shitfaced at the bar or losing your rent money at the casino? While I can certainly do both should I want to, they aren’t the only options. This was a first for me and last.
Usually, I plan my trips like this:
- Decide on the location. Places rich in food, history, and culture get first dibs.
- Book the flight. Carry on only because I like to use my money towards experiences instead.
- Book an Airbnb with laundry facilities. No kidding. Take enough for a few days even if you’re traveling for two weeks. Also, I find hotel rooms cold. In Brussels, I searched for the most ‘artsy’ part of town.
- Make a packing list by choosing a color palette then adding two textures and patterns.
- It takes me roughly a day to pack. Why? Because sometimes it’s easy to fall in love with an outfit and then later realizing you won’t get much use from the separate pieces. Case in point: workout gear. Are you really going to work out? Also, keep it simple! Tee, jeans, sneaks, a sweater or whatever is comforting for YOU to wear on the plane.
- Which brings me to this: packing enough toiletries to only get me through a few days. Find a local market, pick up some items, and make a new friend.
- Arrive at the destination.
Cruising, however, changes the flow chart just a bit. At first, it doesn't seem like a limitation and then it hits you right in the feels. Here's what you need to know before booking your first cruise.
- The flight is the least of your worries. Getting into the port may not be as easy as getting out of the airport. Brace yourself for the check-in. On a hot and humid day, make sure to pack your patience.
- Checkpoints before boarding are just as bad as TSA. I counted three before boarding the ship. The first one: old conveyor belts and scanners with security lacking interpersonal skills. My laundry detergent was almost confiscated. The second one: checking our boarding passes and passports. The third one: to check our boarding passes and passports, AGAIN. This will be fun after you've done it a few times, you know, like when you have to deboard at a port.
- Some ports are a bust as I quickly learned. Spend two days at sea only to arrive at a port that's pretty meh can make you question every decision you've ever made in life. You're only there for a few hours, so it's only to get a taste of a place. By the time, you've realized you love (or hate) it, it's time to get back on the boat. Oh yeah, remember SHIP TIME.
- …and when you get to the port, prepare for inflated prices. Excursions (one of your tickets out of the port) are EXPENSIVE. Taxis out can vary from $5+ (Turks and Caicos) to $60+ (Dominican Republic). To be fair the one in the D.R. was actually a tour guide who we had for about 4 hours. Still, that's a lot more than I spent to take a day trip to Giverny last October.
- Your stateroom, your problem. It isn't like you can just book another room should you have any issues with yours. Ours had a rotten sewage stench coming out of the bathroom and our AC was out for 3 days. What did we get? A scripted apology.
- You have to bring everything with you or you’ll be S.O.L. That means you better bring enough sunscreen, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, SUNSCREEN, and the right amount of clothing. The stores onboard don't offer much. (Shampoo and body wash (bright blue-green) were provided on this cruise, but I'm not sure if that's just Carnival. Still, if you have skin issues,
bestbet to bring your own stuff.) Now I understand why a lot of folks had massive quantities of luggage with them. Don't want to forget anything? Grab this Cruise Travel Checklist.
- Love to drink the hard stuff? You’ll pay a pretty penny to get sauced unless you want to smuggle alcohol. There are ways to do it if you Google hard enough. I understand that's how they make their money, but if I'm paying for a mojito, well damn it, I better get one. Fifteen bucks for club soda is not the business.
- You'll share laundry facilities with an entire floor unless you want to pay for laundry service. Which one is the lesser of two evils? Well, that depends on how much laundry you have, if the machines are working properly and if are ready to throw down with your neighbor over a machine. One woman almost got pounded after removing another woman's clothes from the washer. At $3 bucks a load per wash/dry (not including soap or fabric softener), I'd rather save my sanity and leave the washing at home.
- Don't like the food being served? Well T.S., that's all you've got. You'll have an assigned dining room for dinner but can hit up the buffet for lunch. There are also some restaurants that may cost extra. We tried Guy's Burger Joint (free), which saved us after a horrible dining experience at the buffet. However, how many burgers can you actually eat in one day? Sometimes things look pretty on a plate but taste horrendous. I wanted to love it, but couldn't.
- Where are the activities?! On the Carnival Victory, the pool was the size of an inflatable backyard pool. It had one waterslide which was broken for most of the trip. There's a gym, I guess. If you like to do sing-a-longs, I guess you'd be alright. You could go to the club if that isn't your cup of tea, but the music is behind several decades. Oh wait, what about a comedy club? Well, I could have stayed at home if I wanted to hear Dad jokes. Go to the casino? I've had more fun playing MyVegas on my phone. OK. OK. Go to the arcade: $ 1.50 to play an old The Walking Dead shooting game. Well, that was fun, what else? Looks like it's just playing for prizes consoles.
I'll have a more detailed post and video about what actually went wrong during this trip. This was just a quick guide (and warning) to those who are cruising for the first time. FYI: My friend and I took the cruise out of the Port of Miami on the Carnival Victory. Our ports were Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos, and Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.