May 092011

I’ve been pondering whether I should take a cruise ever since I listened to a BlogTalk Radio program hosted by Aireslibre Personal Travel about cruise deals a few months ago.

Celebrity Millennium

I’ve never really thought to take a cruise ship as a travel option, but after listening to the broadcast and hearing personal experiences of bloggers and friends, I decided to keep an open mind. Last week, I welcomed the opportunity to take a tour of Celebrity Cruises Millennium ship while it was at port in San Francisco.

Walking up the gangway, I was struck by how huge the ship was. I’d only seen these ships from a distance before. The Millennium is 91,000 tons, 965 feet in length, carries a maximum of 2,035 passengers, and it’s not even the largest in the Celebrity fleet.

It was quiet on board since most of the passengers were off exploring the city of San Francisco for the day, but I could imagine what it would be like when all 2,035 were back on the ship. Indeed, you are around a lot of people for several days and for some that’s exactly what they like about a cruise. However, as I walked through various parts of the ship, it seemed that it would be easy enough to find more secluded lounges and seating areas. The staterooms with verandas would also be nice for getting away from the crowds for a while. Basically, you can spend as much or as little time socializing as you like.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone talk about a cruise without mentioning food. There are plenty of food and beverage options on the Millennium. In the main dining room I had a 5-course lunch of Roasted Portobello Mushroom, Creamed Sweet Corn Bisque, Mixed Green Salad, Braised Beef Short Rib, and Warm Chocolate-Hazelnut Pudding. Touring the more intimate Olympic restaurant, I got a sense of elegant cruise dining. There are also casual cafés, snack areas, cocktail lounges and room service. I liked the organic food offerings as well as a Champagne High Tea.

I learned that this particular class of ship offers many balanced lifestyle activities. The Millennium has an impressive selection of educational programs, entertainment venues, and wellness services. I’m sure the range and quality of amenities vary widely across cruise lines and ships.

In addition to an art gallery, there are eclectic works of art throughout the ship. In an unexpected location next to one of the ladies’ restrooms, I noticed a small display case with a single silver shoe. It was an Andy Warhol piece from 1956.

Security personnel, waiters, spa professionals and other staff members I saw were all very friendly and attentive. You are pampered and attended to on a ship and that just might be what you need sometimes.

As with any type of travel – road trips, train travel, backpacking, slow travel, quick getaways, sightseeing excursions, adventure travel, etc. – there are countless variations depending upon what the individual traveler wants to experience. The same goes for cruises and there may be circumstances where a cruise is an attractive and viable option. Although there’s not enough time in any port of call to be immersed in a different culture or see every important site, that’s not always possible no matter how you travel. A sampling of several places may be enough to satisfy your interest or it may give you a desire to revisit and explore a destination another time.

Because there are so many choices when it comes to selecting a cruise, I think that it would be very helpful to work with a travel agent to help determine the best cruise lines, accommodations, deals and itineraries.

So now a cruise is on my travel options list. In fact, I’ve been leafing through a Celebrity brochure and a 6-day Mediterranean cruise departing from Barcelona in August is catching my eye.

What is your experience with cruises? Would you consider going on one sometime?

  81 Responses to “To Cruise or Not to Cruise”

  1. I’ve written a number of posts on cruising – why an all inclusive cruise may not be a good deal, why a river cruise is better than an ocean cruise, 3 vacations I won’t take – all basically saying I wouldn’t do a cruise. I completely understand why people like them. I just look at it as a floating city of stuff I could do anywhere on land. Plus you never get to really explore the ports and cities you are visiting. From a cost perspective, it can be a nice relaxing why to vacation without having to worry about the details. From a travel perspective, it tries to entertain me with things I don’t care about and takes away from the things I really want to do.

    • I’m with you Jeremy. I’ve done a few cruise ships and detest their hectic timetables jumping from island to island. I’d rather immerse myself. I do think cruises are great experiences when you want to just have fun with friends and getaway. That’s what I’m doing for my birthday. For me, it’s not about the travel, but about the friends.

      • I think you’ve got a great point. For many people choosing a cruise, it’s much more about friends and family time than it is about travel. Such an individual choice! By the way, Have a great time on your birthday cruise. Hope you’ll tell us about it!

    • As a pampered, get-away in gorgeous surroundings the cruise sounds/looks great. Seems like the short time you get to spend on land in the different stops could give you the opportunity to see what places are worth traveling to for a better experience of that destination.The pictures are incredible. You make me want to go.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jeremy. I totally understand your perspective since it’s similar to mine. It’s really dependent on what an individual wants to get out of the experience. I’m keeping an open mind and paying attention to all the great feedback like yours I’m getting on this post.

  2. I have actually been on two cruises in the last couple of months. I love them. One was a relaxing, beaching, shoppin cruise to the Caribbean with girlfriends and the other was a cruise of the Pacific Northwest with extra time in Vancouver. I love only unpacking once, having wonderful food, exploring a variety of destinations and just relaxing. I recommend at least giving it a chance!

    • Thanks much for your comment and telling us about your cruise experiences. Definitely sounds like you’ve had some cruising fun!

  3. Your article makes me want to go on a cruise again! I’ve been on two before–one down the Mexican Riviera with my family and one in the Caribbean with a bunch of friends. They can be lots of fun, although I prefer to spend more time on land than the amount they give you. It sounds like a great opportunity you had to go on this one while it was docked.

    • It really was a great opportunity to tour the ship. As a person who had never been on a cruise, it really gave me something to think about. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  4. Although I have a dream of cruising the Mediterranean, I know that cruises aren’t for me. The idea of being stuck on a ship with people, no matter how luxurious, doesn’t appeal to me. Give me dry land with a beach any time!

    • I hear you on this. I’ve had the same thoughts. But touring the ship, seeing the facilities, learning about amenities, etc.made me think it might be something to try under certain circumstances (but I’m sure that I wouldn’t opt for a really long cruise!)

  5. It’s funny – I hate the idea of cruises but love to read about them, probably just so I can feed my loathing 😉
    Not for me at all – a recipe for claustrophobia, frustration and social awkwardness…

  6. Every time I’ve looked into cruises, they just seem so expensive. I’m not opposed to the idea, I just want to stretch my hard-earned travel money a little further.
    I really do like the concept of champagne high tea, though. That would be so lah-de-dah! (And giggly, if done with the right people.)

    • I kind of liked the Champagne High Tea idea, too. Of course, I would enjoy that anywhere! About pricing — I’ve been hearing that cruises (nice ones, too) might not be as expensive as you think. That was one of my notions as well. I’m going to check out more pricing information.

  7. I’m anti-cruise… unless someone else is paying, of course 🙂

    I feel like I’m trapped, and I don’t like the schedules. I also feel like they don’t give you enough time to explore any of the destinations. Unless my plan is to lay poolside for a week and gain 5 pounds eating ridiculous amounts of food, I prefer to pick a destination and stay on land.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I like the “unless someone else is paying” part — that could really sweeten the whole deal, couldn’t it?

  8. Love this! I went once, for a family thing that was very important to my mom. I was pleasantly surprised. I had a great time lying out at the pool and going on the day trips. I don’t think I would ever schedule a vacation on my own on one though, and the tight sleeping quarters about did me in!

    • Thanks, Abby. What a special time! Very cool to do something that was important to your mom. I’ll bet she was thrilled.

  9. I definitely want to go on a cruise. Not because it’s a great travel experience, but because it seems like a fun way to relax and get away. Not every travel experience has to be full of culture. The cost does hold me back though.

    • You hit it, Scott. It does seem like a “fun way to relax and getaway”. A cruise may not fit everyone’s idea of a travel experience, but it does for some. About cost — I mentioned this above too. People are telling me that if you add things up, there are some good cruises available that are not prohibitive. In fact, they can be cost-effective. I’ll have to look more into that.

  10. Great post Cathy. My husband and I love to cruise when we want to sit back and enjoy the ride. It is a great experience when you are with a group of friends and the company is more important than the destination. =)

    • Thanks so much for you kind words and perspective. I like what you said about the times when “company is more important than the destination” — nice.

  11. The longest one I’ve been on was from Miami to Key West to Cozumel. I get pretty bored on the ships after a few days and never feel like you get enough time when you disembark to visit the ports of call. Plus I always eat too much and get sunburnt, so they aren’t my top pick for a holiday. That said, lots of people enjoy them and I can see their value. Guess it’s just a personal preference =)

    • I agree – it is personal preference. Isn’t it wonderful that there is no cookie-cutter way to take a trip or getaway? We’ve got lots of options.

  12. I have been on 8 cruises so far, to me, it is the BEST value for your money, most relaxing, NO Internet, NO Cell Phones, Amazing times with close friends, it is the best vacation I could possibly hope for!!

    As for the convenience, it is awesome, you board, which is easy and painless, unpack and RELAX, no checking into this hotel for a night then up in the morning to catch a flight to your next city….yada yada yada… You can just relax and depend on the Captain to get you to your next city!! Just think that is an extra 2 hours of partying the night before PLUS 2 hours of extended sleep the next morning!!

    As for the cost, I do no understand your(commentor’s) statements that the cost is prohibitive, you can take a 7 day cruise on RCCL from LA to Mexico for $1,200 or less per person. That includes a balcony stateroom, 3 full (or more) meals a day, entertainment, etc…basically all you have to pay for out of pocket is alcoholic beverages, if you choose to drink.

    Basically, in my opinion, for me, it is the PERFECT vacation!!

    • Wow, Bobby — that’s a lot of cruises! I’m seeing some common themes here — relaxation, time with family and friends. Those seem to be big pluses for cruises. Glad you mentioned the costs, too. I think there has been a perception (which I had also) about good cruises being cost-prohibitive. Good to get your perspective on that.

      Happy Sailing!

  13. Nice Article, Cathy. I wrote about cruises once called why my first cruise is destined to be my last. I think that there are things that simply don’t ‘gel’ with someone and cruises was it for me. I do not discourage anyone else from going. The one thing that I remember is how thrilled and excited the other passengers were and you can’t buy joy like that. So, it’s meant for some but not for others. I think it’s because I’m somewhat of a control freak that I didn’t like it. I like to create my own itinerary and do my own thing……while the ship certainly gave plenty of choices, I felt trapped. On the other hand, reading this article and seeing the pics are very appealing too. Decisions!!

    • Thanks for your comment, Renee. I remember reading your interesting blog post. I have to say that there was something about being on the ship and that opened my mind to it. Of course, that’s different than actually being on-board for several days with 2,000 other people. It’s very interesting to see all of the different itineraries and types of ships, etc. Still researching….

  14. The only cruise have ever been on was with Celebrity about ten years ago. We got to see some cool places since it was a 10-day trip through the caribbean, but I haven’t had a hankering to do it again. The only reason for me was that I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked at each place and my days on ship were a little boring. I get tired of sitting by a pool drinking daquiris after a couple of hours. Also, there wasn’t anybody our age (at the the time I was about 22) so we didn’t meet many people to talk to. That would have made it a lot better, I think. I’m not knocking it though. I think I just got on the wrong cruise. 😉

    • Christy, I think that 10 days would probably be too long for me on any cruise — but a couple of days sitting by the pool drinking daquiris sounds pretty good right now. 🙂

  15. Cruises have never appealed to me because I can’t get my head around the fact that it will always be water around me. I suppose because I’ve had a near-death experience in a sinking boat. Also, from what I’ve heard from people who’ve done cruises, it’s nothing better than these organised tours where you are shuttled from one site to another without giving enough time to really absorb the place.

    • Oh Marlys — What a terrible experience that must have been! Understandable why cruises haven’t appealed to you. I’m not all that comfortable around or on water myself. It seems that for some a sampling of places is exactly what they’re looking for — mixed in with a chance to relax and enjoy the ride.

  16. I find that most people I know either love cruises and take them regularly or detest cruises. I fall into the latter category. I don’t like the lack of control. If at anytime on vacation I need or want to end it or change my plans I can. But a cruise is a commitment.

    Also I have been told that different cruise lines cater to different demographics and personality types. The ship I was on 19 years ago was the Carnival Ecstasy. The name sums up the crowd.

    • thanks for dropping by, Theresa! You really got me thinking about that Carnival Ecstasy crowd 🙂

      Control is a big deal for some of us, isn’t it? That’s why I know that a long cruise wouldn’t be up my alley.

  17. I’ve just read your post and all of the comments and Jeremy B sums it right up for me. All of the things on offer don’t interest me on land so I have no reason to want to pay for them at sea. And then you only get a short time in each port. Cruises are obviously really popular and it’s each to their own…unfortunately, just not for me.

  18. I’ve taken a few cruises before (with friends and family). I admit that I have liked them from the point of view of chilling out and relaxing, but what I don’t like much is the fact that you don’t have much time to explore the cities you visit.

    It is a completely different approach to travel and not everyone like it, but I have to say it is still a good way to travel if you want to take quick peeks at different places.

    • After reading comments and talking to some folks, I can see where a getaway cruise with family and friends could be really fun. Well-said about different approaches to travel!

  19. Interesting hearing your take on it. I work on a cruise ship after all! I never considered taking a cruise before working here, but now I would consider it (if traveling with young children or old parents)

  20. I’ve never done a cruise and the idea doesn’t really appeal to me, but the ship looks beautiful. I have done several live aboards for diving and love those. To me a cruise reminds me of an all inclusive 5 star resort and that’s not really my thing either, I like to get out and explore. But good to know there are so many different options

    • I was rather enticed by the looks of the ship once on board, too. I believe that this is considered a mid-range kind of ship and that there are others in the fleet are newer and more upscale.

      So you’re a diver? Very cool.

  21. I was thinking along the same line too; ‘to cruise or not to cruise’, was thinking of planning a short cruise trip somewhere and some told me to take the cruise to nowhere.
    Hehehe, I think I would say “To cruise!”

  22. May be I’ll go on cruise when I’ll be 60+ years old 🙂

  23. We really enjoy cruising, but it is because we make the experience work for us. Oh, and we work out like freaking mad man so that we don’t gain 20 lbs.

    I am kind of craving a cruise right now.

    • You guys make a good point about making the experience work for you. About working out — I noticed on the Celebrity Millennium that the fitness center was quite nice — larger that I see in most big hotels. There’s also a jogging track on board. Eat, exercise, enjoy!

  24. I was on a Panama Canal cruise earlier this year. Although it’s fairly superficial, you do get a first impression of the various ports – enough to know whether you want to put them on top of your list (for me: Antigua Guatemala and Cartagena), or if you can live quite nicely without ever returning (Acapulco, Huatulco, LA… well, I had been in LA before).

    My biggest complaint is all those boring sea days, the incessant focus on shopping (or investing, as they like to call it), and the general, rather unappealing overindulgence. My daughters loved every minute of it, though. They swear they’ll go without me next time.

    Oh, and river cruises? Definitely. Our Nile cruise was absolutely wonderful – very old-world, very Agatha Christie. And only one restaurant on board!

    • Sophie, the idea of a river cruise is very appealing to me! A Nile cruise sounds terrific — I really like the idea of the old-world, Agatha Chrisite feeling about it.

  25. I’ve never been on one but I think I definitely would do it if I had the chance! 🙂

  26. Cathy, I’ve been on two cruises. The first a European cruise and the second a caribbean cruise. I enjoy the cruises, but realize going in I’m not going to have the kind of time I desire to explore each port. For me they were a chance to indulge in some pampering while traveling and enjoying time with friends on the ship. I would absolutely go again.

    • Indulging, being pampered and spending time with friends sounds pretty darn good. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Lisa.

  27. […] To Cruise or Not to Cruise […]

  28. I’ve never been on one, they have a bit of an image problem in general I think, but this looks like a classy option from your pics. I think there’s room in life for all different types of travel and I do like the idea of gradually approaching a new destination from sea. Funnily enough I’ve been offered a review slot on a cruise which came about through a chance encounter with another writer at an event, so I’ll get to try it out finally on someone else’s dime too, which is nice 🙂

  29. Hi Cathy, I just got to really take time to read your blog about cruising. I was just at my nieces wedding in February on the Carnival Cruise Line and totally enjoyed it..ofcourse it was! Some of our family and her friends went along with the cruise ship for the 5 days but I couldn’t. I do plan to take a cruise soon and will make a plan for just a few days. I think that would be enough for the first time and I am sure I will be looking forward to the next. I think 10 days as one mentioned would be too much and boring around the pool..but can’t beat the tan though. Thanks for posting this and making me want to go on one now..:)

    • Senaf – I’m so glad that you liked the post and that it got you thinking about cruising. The wedding on the ship sounds like it was a good time.

  30. there is a time and place for cruises. i’ve only been on one, and i’d love to do it again, but it not my preferred way to “travel.” i only wish that more of them would leave out of san francisco, so i didn’t have to coordinate extra flights! 😉

  31. I’d taken one cruise- for a bachlorette party and had the best time! I kind of feel the same way about all-inclusives as I do cruises… enjoy the experience and know and understand the limitations and you won’t care that you are on a timetable. It’s not traveling- it’s a vacation.

  32. I took my first cruise when I was 16, and the second when I was 17. Both were Mediterranean cruises, and no luxury. They were offered by high school, and gave me the travel bug forever. It was dorm living, and cafeteria food, and what a blast we had!

  33. While I’m not planning any cruise any time soon, my parents are. They have traveled all over the world and I think a cruise is one of the travel experiences they need to do. I’m sure they’d love it, from your pictures really looks like a dream.

  34. I have been on one cruise– it was to Alaska with my dad about 15 years ago. It was fun but there were very few young people and lots and lots of seniors, which made me feel a little out of place. However, the day trips were well-organized with plenty of options, and it was of course gorgeous.
    Sometimes I think a cruise might be a nice getaway for us as a family because we have 2 little kids. A cruise would give them plenty to do, and it might be cheaper than other kinds of travel. It’s definitely not my first choice but does have its pluses. The sea views from the ship are a big plus.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jenna. I was surprised to learn that cruises can be so affordable, especially for families.

      • I need to check into that more to see just how affordable they really are. I think the biggest draw for me traveling as a family would be the convenience of the food and not having to change hotels or deal with transportation, which can be challenging with kids in tow.

  35. Good post! I was just on my first cruise and wrote about it here:

    I would say – wait until you get 4000+ people on the ship and then things will change. . .

  36. Nice write up and photographs. I am a big fan of cruise and ferry

  37. I always think I’d end up feeling rather trapped on a cruise. Like being in Vegas, but unable to get out… That said, I think it’s something everyone should do once in their life.

  38. I loved my Princess Cruise from Alaska to Vancouver because there was almost always breathtaking scenery to see — even when it wasn’t officially “scenic cruising” time. Several years ago, I cruised around the Caribbean and my only sight was basically the open sea. The Alaska cruise is a really special experience and probably the best way to see Alaska. For the Caribbean I’d much rather just stay on an island.

  39. To me a cruise was perfect and I did two of them. For a single woman traveling, I wanted to see Caribbean and never would have ventured out on my own. Having a organized way seemed perfect. I partied a lot at that time too. Need to figure what part of the day I would sleep. It was fun.

  40. […] Most Controversial – To Cruise or Not to Cruise […]

  41. I’ve never been interested in doing a cruise. I have no idea why but it just doesn’t appeal to me. One of my best friends is addicted and goes on a cruise once a year!

  42. I have cruised since 1990,and, I have worked for, since 1999, so, I have been immersed in the cruising world for a long time. THings have changed onboard over the years! Cruises give you the option of packing once,and, seeing many places..With all the alternative, and, anytime dining options, now you can eat where you want,and when you want. no more regimentation, as in years past. You cruise your way, doing it all, or nothing at all. I was on the inaugural Carnival Magic,and had a fabulous time, seeing the world on a beautiful ship, with wonderful food, service, & entetainment..what could be bad???

  43. Good point about relaxation and being with friends. I think is a taster of a few ports its very good. Mind you we see a fair few single travellers go on cruises too so it depends on what aspects they prefer in a holiday.

  44. […] up with this guy in yellow? I came across this curious exhibit while on a tour of the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship while it was at port in San Francisco. Perhaps, like me, he’s always ready to fly […]

  45. […] years ago, I wrote a blog post that posed this age-old question after a tour of the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship while it was in port in San Francisco. We never left port, but I got a good perspective […]

  46. […] of the main benefits of today’s cruise ship vacations is the quality of on-board facilities. We all know that accommodation can make or break a holiday, […]

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