I can say with certainty that cruising is NOT my favorite way to travel, but when you create space for the experience, it can be pretty fun and definitely a low-hassle travel option for singles couples, families, and multi-generation groups seeking to appease the needs of all ages. The greatest part-you get to see a lot of places and only unpack once.
My first cruise was on Royal Caribbean back in 1998 admittedly a little rough-I was three-months pregnant, I was seasick, and I was in a wedding. There was a lot to do and I was never in prime state to party with the crowd. However, one of my most memorable travel experiences was renting bikes on St. Thomas and wheeling around the island where we found our "someday we'll buy that mansion and turn it into a bed and breakfast" house. We are still waiting on that dream, but I'll never forget how much fun we had getting out beyond the cruise ship tourist zone and into the local tide.
Fast-forward 18 years to my second cruise experience as I entered the travel industry. We sailed away from the Miami port on the Norwegian Sky, known to most in the cruise world as a party boat that specializes in a quick three-day Bahama-rama trip complete with the ocean's only all-inclusive drink package. I've decided that's not something I need, but plenty of folks seem to find it highly desirable. My favorite part of that cruise was-again-on land, busting past the tourist zone on-foot to tour Nassau's beaten path of local commerce and unfortunate poverty outside the cruise port gates. Cruise companies do their best to proffer goods, services, and funding into the towns that support their ports, but the local government's may not always have the best interests of their people in mind, and the money doesn't always get to where it needs to go from what I could tell.
I did happen on a wonderful small hotel and pool with day rates where even cruisers could head on over for a day at the resort for lunch and pool access for a low price, and it wasn't far from the cigar and chocolate-making factories. Again, you find little gems amidst the beaten tourist roads.
My most recent cruise was in January of 2017 with other agents to experience the Carnival Conquest, a bigger ship with less nausea-inducing swells on the way out of Ft. Lauderdale. The ship was giant, and like most shops, laden with a smoke-filled casino right in the middle that was hard to avoid to get back and forth between dining and the cabin. My most enjoyable experiences were either on my cabin balcony (ALWAYS GET A BALCONY ON A CRUISE) for some peaceful reading time, or again-on land discovering Key West, Cozumel and Grand Cayman where we found a great day beach retreat with a pool, food, and a bar for $2.00 a piece entrance fee. (We found out later the cruise sells a tour to this place for $60.00.) We hoofed it down a Cayman road to get to this lovely haven along Seven Mile Beach, then found a local bus for $5.00 to take us back to port at the end of the day.
Along these cruise journeys I was introduced to many Caribbean islands, and I appreciated the ease of travel on a ship. Still, I am a land-lubber who loves viewing the ocean, riding on the ocean, but exploring the islands in middle of the big ocean blue.
Deirdre Oss is a veteran city planner, mother of two awesome teenagers, and wife to an amazing husband and travel partner. A city girl for generations, her home and heart are in Denver, Colorado with family and friends across the country and the pond. Over two decades working in city planning provided the foundation for her to explore different cities through the lens of community planning to create places for people to thrive in daily life and beyond. This perspective allows her to travel with an eye toward local economy, transit, and special neighborhoods that appeal to both residents and tourists.