To Cruise or Not to Cruise?

That is the question.

Jennifer is organizing a group cruise thing for Patrick's 40th birthday in February. Now, while the idea of spending a week with Jennifer and Donna and other assorted extended friends and families sounds fun, the idea of a cruise has really never appealed to me. Granted, I've never actually been on a cruise, so my perception may be askew, but the whole jolly, organized, mass-produced escapade makes me wary. I envision lounging by a pool filled to capacity with screaming, splashing munchkins, becoming bored (and/or annoyed) and wandering off only to find the shuffleboard courts have been over-run by the senior citizens sporting black socks and sandals. Jennifer assures me that I will NOT be bored (and says if I do get bored there's something seriously wrong with me - hey, no argument there!).

So, besides my concern at being "trapped" on a boat in the middle of the ocean, (c'mon, I saw Titanic - I know what can happen!) I just don't know that I’m a cruise type of person. See, I'm not big into organized activities, or schedules, or people telling me what to do, or when and where to do it. The thing I love most about traveling is being immersed (if only for a little while) in a different culture - having the opportunity to do non-touristy activities; to get a feel for the local history, geography, and architecture; to experience regional cuisine and nightlife. The thrill of travel is getting to know a foreign place as intimately as possible. And, often times, that means putting aside your rigid itinerary and taking the time to leisurely explore the paths less trod. It seems to me a cruise is the exact opposite - a little floating bubble devoid of any and all cultural references, with no delightfully unexpected discoveries. It's a carefully packaged and orchestrated mass excursion designed to be experienced by all the passengers in exactly the same way.

Clearly, up until now, my views of cruises have been somewhat negative - okay, more than somewhat. But, like I said, hanging with my friends in pretty much any setting could be a fun time, so I've been gathering the opinions of people who have been on cruises to get some perspective. While the responses have varied, I must say that the pro-cruise constituency is currently in the majority. Judging by her own cruising experience, Melissa seems to think I would not enjoy being on a cruise (now where in the world would she have gotten that idea?). However, both Josh and JP enthusiastically expounded on the virtues of the cruise - extolling the intense relaxation, the stress-free environment, the lack of expense, the wide variety of activities (scheduled, yes…but varied nonetheless), the abundant and delicious food (although again, Melissa denies the quality is anything to write home about), the carefree tropical weather. As JP pointed out, you can't regard a cruise as a bona fide travel experience…instead just take it and enjoy it for what it is - a fun, low-key party on the water. Yeah, okay, cool I'm down with that philosophy. And, no doubt I would end up having a fun time. But here's the thing…do I really want to spend my limited vacation time and funds on a week-long party?

Despite the wavering going on in my head, I AM leaning towards joining my friends - after all, who am I to say no to a party!? And by actually experiencing a cruise I can then judge accurately for myself whether or not I am indeed a "cruise type person". So, if anyone else wants to weigh in on the cruise debate, your opinion would be much appreciated!

No comments: