WHERE BIG SHIPS CAN'T GO
Cruise travel offers access to nearly the entire planet in safety and comfort, moreso now than ever before. Regardless of which cruise line we choose, comparable travel any other way continues to be less efficient and more expensive. As an ongoing result, travelers cruise more frequently. Rightfully so, travelers are being presented with more choices as cruise lines expand. Those choices are not just in numbers of ships but more focused cruise options as well. Still, along with all the wonderful parts of cruising more often come some unique traveler challenges.
Fabulous Food Hangover
The culinary aspect continues to be one of the most enjoyable parts of cruise travel. After sailing, it’s one of the most commonly referenced parts of the experience. Culinary offerings are almost always rated highly regardless of the cruise line or dining venue. Included in the fare or optional for-a-fee; dining is an element of the experience that all passengers on every ship will engage. Cruise travelers like that fabulous dining options offered at sea are not the same as they commonly experience on land. What they don’t care for all that much is the after effect of those dining options that can result in higher numbers on the bathroom scale back home.
Commonly suggested to reduce the effect of fabulous food at sea: take the stairs not the elevator, use the gym and one-size-fits-all methods of which a quick Google search of ‘ways to not gain weight on a cruise‘ will tell you there are plenty of suggestions. CruiseCritic has a nice list. The challenge here is that some suggestions apply and others don’t. That makes planning for frequent cruise travel hurdles essential.
- Forget The Diet But Not The Reason For It- Odds are there is no possible way to emulate your at-home lifestyle at sea. Still, flexible dining options are available. Portions are smaller, enabling travelers to try a variety of dining options, as they should. Also a line item selling point of cruise travel; the ability to try different things. That’s still alive and well.
- Good News For Special Dietary Needs– Cruise lines do an excellent job of meeting specific dietary requests. Special diets ranging from strictly vegetarian to food allergies of all sorts are receiving more attention from cruise ship chefs now than ever before.
- Expect The Unexpected- I have become really good at this and am rarely caught off guard. I know, for example, that late dinner absolutely does not work for me. I can’t eat then go immediately to sleep. It’s not going to happen. Still, what a surprise it was on a recent Windstar cruise when the bread products served at dinner were fresh, solidly ‘just out of the oven’ quality and plentiful. Bread is the part of cruise line dining that is most commonly done poorly. I did not see that coming at all. The moral of that story: take nothing for granted.
- A Case For Flexible Dining Time- The standard early or late seating is still available on most big ships, not so much on smaller ships where everyone dines at the same time. If presented with a choice, the flexible My Time, Anytime, etc option might work best, enabling travelers to dine when they choose.
Disrupted Schedule Aftermath
“My friends like late dinner and I hate it”, began the email from a rather frustrated frequent cruise traveler. “We like sailing but don’t like being joined at the hip with our REALLY needy friends ALL DAY LONG” So what to do? Two issues at work here, both rather easy to address as far as the friends are concerned. Cut the cord on dining and just tell them “We don’t do late dinner” and “We would love to see you at (breakfast, lunch, a show, at the pool) every day but the rest of the time is ours” They’ll live.
The needy nightowl friends solution does bring up an issue that was easier to deal with in the past; disrupted schedule aftermath. Commonly heard after a really good cruise travel experience: “I need a vacation after my vacation”. Travelers can easily experience so much that a sensory, if not physical, overload makes getting back on track after sailing difficult. That was fine when a cruise was happening once a year. As focused cruise options equate to increased sailing frequency, schedule disruption becomes more of an issue. Also a rather easy fix for many: take time off after sailing too.
Our upcoming Grand European Tour with Viking River Cruises was an attractive choice for a number of reasons. In addition to an interesting itinerary, the time of the year we travel, that it’s Viking and more, that it ends on a Friday is a plus. Flying back to Orlando from Amsterdam that Friday, we’ll be home for the weekend before normal life must resume on Monday.
Sail once every year or two and the only regrettable part of a cruise might be that it had to end. Increased sailing frequency has rendered the idea of any given sailing being a singular ‘cruise of a lifetime’ as dated as cruise travel being for ‘the newlywed or nearly dead’. Coming up, some other unique traveler challenges resulting from focused cruise options. Staying connected (or not) at sea, dress codes, pre- and post-cruise hotel packages and more are all topics worthy of a new look as we sail more.