Why Cruises Suck
Posted on February 15, 2013 by
The whole concept of taking a cruise does not make sense to me. The travel industry will gladly provide statistics showing the number of people embarking on cruises increases every year, cruises are a better overall value than other more traditional vacation packages, and all sorts of other nice statistics. To all of those things I put my hands on my ears and say "la la la la." I'm not buying it.
I cringe at the idea of voluntarily being trapped on a glorified floating hotel for days on end. If you are on vacation, a hotel should only be a place to sleep and keep your stuff. If your vacation consists of you being in your hotel room, or any closer than a ten minute drunken taxi ride for more than 25% of the trip, you're doing it wrong. There are some exceptions to this. For example, if you and your significant other have kids and have trouble finding alone time, then any reasonable person would understand you taking a hotel "staycation" where you only emerge from your room for clean linen and Gatorade.
If you choose to go on a cruise, you're basically limiting yourself to whatever food and entertainment is provided. Granted, cruise lines try to make an effort to provide cool stuff like water slides and rock climbing walls. But compared to the options you'll find in a land based vacation, it's like going back to the early 80's when you had three channels to choose from on television. And there is no "screw this, let's get out of here" option. You're stuck. The provided entertainment is really nothing more than a diversion to make you forget you are just on a big, long, water taxi ride. I get squirmy and agitated if a daily commute takes more than a half hour. How in the world can people willingly subject themselves to about 5 days of glorified incarceration... each way???
So several days into the cruise you get to your "destination" port, or one of a few. Cruise ships will seldom spend more than one day in a given port, and you may only get a handful of hours to actually see and do whatever the port city has to offer. I don't know about you, but any city worth seeing should take more than a handful of hours to properly explore. Not to mention the locals will smell you out like the tourist you are. Generations upon generations of locals have evolved with the preternatural ability to fleece the tourist for everything they can get, while in return providing bastardized gegaws, baubles and doodads, just so you can show off to everyone that you were "there." And chances are that supposedly culturally representative, priceless memento that you painstakingly selected to remember this trip was likely made in China like all of the other tchotchkes. Congratulations, you just spent a week on the high seas risking virus infection and Pirate attacks just to get something you could have bought on eBay or down at the local Dollar Store.
Then there's the sleaze factor. Most cruise ships, despite doing most of their business in and out of US ports, fly the flags of countries like Panama, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and others. In my experience, any arrangement like this screams “sketchy” louder than Charlie Sheen at a stripper convention. Flying the flag of another country is basically the equivalent of a shady street vendor suddenly saying "Sorry, no speaka de Englas" when you realized you got screwed. These countries can provide cheaper labor, less stringent safety and environmental regulations, and less recourse for unhappy passengers. Just think about how your ticket price got to be so cheap.
So far my disdain with cruises has been limited to when everything goes well. The general public's reaction to the recent Carnival Triumph nightmare scenario is my reaction to the idea of even taking a typical, uneventful cruise. But it seems that pretty regularly we hear a story on the news involving a cruise ship. There are plenty of stories similar to the Triumph situation where a ship is sitting dead in the water after a fire or engine failure; or one of the countless stories of mass illnesses and viruses like Norovirus spreading like wildfire through the passengers; or a ship running aground and capsizing; or about yet another passenger falling overboard or missing. Once in a while we even hear about a ship that was attacked by pirates. Yes, pirates! Those are only the stories we hear about.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have never taken a cruise. The closest thing to a cruise for me was taking one of the humongous ferries across the English Channel from England to France. It was a rather nice experience, I admit, looking back to see the Cliffs of Dover disappearing from sight. It was refreshing standing on the deck in the crisp December air and psychologically preparing myself for the transition from the English speaking country I was leaving to the many non-English countries laying ahead. I also used to take the Staten Island Ferry across to New York City rather than deal with the headache of driving around the city and entering through the Holland Tunnel. The difference is these examples were very short in duration. Before I even got to the “losing my mind” stage, the trip was well over. And they were a means of transportation somewhere, not a destination in their own right.
I hear that a lot of Mediterranean cruises are nice; comparatively less time spent on the boat, and more time spent in ports of call. So, those I would consider. And there's something romantically appealing about an Alaskan or Norwegian cruise; sailing alongside stunning scenery like glaciers, coastal mountains, and fjords that dwarf even the largest cruise ship would no doubt be awe inspiring. Maybe that's it; the idea of staring at an empty sea for days on end just sounds so damn boring to me.
If taking a cruise is your idea of fun and relaxation, then please don't let me stop you. But in the time it takes you to get to the destination port, I could already have done the following: arrived by plane, checked out all the hot spots, climbed several ACTUAL mountains, learned several key phrases in the language, befriended several locals who would have decided I was not a "tourist" and was thus worthy of knowing the locally recommended places, and blended in so well that you'd be asking me for directions during your 5 hour port call. And I would still have made it home before you. So put that in your red bag and leave it in the hallway.
Note: This was (somewhat) meant as satire. I would never want to dissuade anyone from doing something that they enjoy. I know lots of people that take cruises and love them. And, it's still better than sitting on your butt watching reality shows.