TO CRUISE OR NOT TO CRUISE? — William “Shaking” Spear
This can be a big decision because cruises cost significant money.
Friends of ours began cruising a few years ago. I was curious.
“It’s expensive, isn’t it?”
“Not really, compared to going to a resort or something, because all your food and entertainment is included. In fact it comes out quite inexpensive when you work it out.”
“But if you hire a car and do bed and breakfasts?” (nowadays often Airbnbs)
“You might holiday cheaper, but then you have all that tiring driving to do, and meals to arrange, and other planning. On a cruise ship they do the driving (they insist on it} — and all the meals, and give you bonus entertainment and movies and room service. Stewards service your room and are very good.”
The conversations continued in this vein for a while. I remained unconvinced. I had always preferred to do my own thing, visit places in my own time, eat when and where I chose.
I still like to “explore” new areas like this on land, driving the “paths least travelled” as Edward John Eyre described them in the 1830s already, but he was in his twenties when he wrote this, and I needed to face the fact that travel of this kind becomes more difficult as the demands on ageing bodies multiply.
Camping rough is cheaper, but heaps more onerous. And for me anyway, I prefer only a few days of camping rather than weeks.
As more and more of our friends told us about cruises they had taken, my curiosity was piqued. Could there be a place for a cruise in our lives one day?
Brenda and I took our first cruise a couple of years ago thanks to a gift of money from our generous children, designated for a few days in a resort somewhere. Brenda is a great shopper and found a very inexpensive cruise deal and we were off to Pacific Islands and super snorkelling, super weather, super food — super everything for 9 days! It was an irresistible bargain financially, and one we have not seen duplicated since.
Then…. when our 50th wedding anniversary approached, knowing that another cruise would cost a lot, I thought through all the possibilities. I wanted the holiday to be equally pleasurable for Brenda as well as myself. Hiring a campervan for a bush experience could be a great adventure and we had enjoyed a trip to Winton in the Australian Outback the previous year, and a more leisurely exploration of the interior would have a lot to recommend it. However, I decided this would put a lot of demands on us. Nor would the adventure be all that cheap.
As I pondered which tack to take, I began to hope there would be a suitable cruise available instead. A cruise would give much more opportunity to spend quality time together and provide a break from homestyle chores that generally continue during Outback holidays, but that are taken care of very well on a cruise. A cruise is rather like relaxing in a floating luxury hotel.
Before you think I am in the pocket of a cruise line, there are disadvantages to cruising, not least is the (debatable) spread of germs perhaps through the noisy air conditioning systems; additionally, the strange vacuum toilets and how to position yourself. For me and for Brenda, though, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
I began looking for cruises from Brisbane (our nearest cruise terminal) that would include our anniversary date. There was only one, very short, that had one stop-off at a place we had driven to previously by car. Totally unsuitable for anniversary purposes.
We began to look wider afield, and ultimately decided on a cruise out of Sydney — to which was added now the cost of flights, taxis, and an Airbnb. By this time, however, only two bottom-of-the-range cabins remained. Why were they still available? Well, they were an unusual layout and rather small. We took one and were relieved to have it. In fact it proved squeezy but OK.
Thanks to a misunderstanding, the waiters gathered around us twice at two different meals and sang “Happy Anniversary” and presented us on each occasion with a delicious chocolate cake. They had a charming ritual on our ship: no fireworks were allowed (of course) so one waiter would bang the menu covers together to simulate a firework exploding while others might whistle to simulate rockets zipping into space. The waiters on a cruise are one of the best kept secrets — cheerful, creative, pleasant, helpful and very patient.
In the end, the extra trouble and expense for us to go on a cruise was worth it, for many reasons.
To cruise or not? Lots of factors to consider; but why not keep it in the mix, for example for special occasions?