Despite The Negative Press, Cruising Remains A Great Vacation


There have been a group of recent stories about the fun and disasters of doing cruises these days. And, yes, we can agree there are real issues. Trying to work out some of the “specials,” like what fluids are counted in some of the programs, might require computers and a few scholars. Who could know that an “all soft drinks” buy would not cover bottled water? It’s real fun when you want to go ashore at some place where the temperatures climb and water safety is insecure. And then you find out a bottle of water which might cost a half dollar at the store, and which you assumed would cost you nothing because you put down your money early, will cost you $5?

Now there are some real issues. Many of you may have read about passengers left behind by a cruise ship at an island off the coast of Africa. They were late getting back to the ship and wound up on a seven-country rush to catch up with the ship. Added to that, there was a medical problem.

There is a real way around that. When you cruise, you can take tours run by the ship. Yes, I know you’ll tell me that those are a bit vanilla, that they generally just go to main tourist sites and cost more than the guys with taxis waiting down by the pier. But on tours like that, the ships wait for you.

A few years ago, my wife and I went on a day tour of Florence. For those who have not been there, you land at La Spezia, a port about two hours away by highway and travel in. And the two hours works if there is relatively little traffic. After a hot, busy day visiting a museum or two and a couple of churches, we piled in and hit a real traffic jam. We were two hours away when we broke out of it, and the ship was due to leave an hour and a half later. In other words, we could miss the ship by at least a half hour. And there was a busload of us! But our guide told us to relax; the ship would wait. And it did! We got to the pier and were allowed to drive right up to the gangway at 7:10 p.m. We had been set for an early dinner, so we hit the buffet and made the show. I did need a strong drink. But they made sure we were aboard.

Then there are the ridiculous critiques. A guy named Gary Shteyngart wrote “Crying Myself to Sleep on the Biggest Cruise Ship Ever” for The Atlantic. It was clear he, and the magazine, were there for a hatchet job. First of all, they took a $19,000 suite for one person, a suite that he (mistakenly) said had no view of the ocean. And then he tried to be cute as he looked around for victims (normal people who were passengers). To set himself apart he wore a “Daddy’s Little Meatball” T-shirt.

And, boy, did he suffer. He had no real interest in talking to regular people; he went searching for a few drunks, a few people who were not all that happy. He hated the food. He seemed to criticize the water show for being wet. He described the ice show as a celebration of the periodic table. And since the big show was the Wizard of Oz, he got a chance to be the characters without a brain or heart. Yes, you would not see the kinds of shows on a cruise ship as you go through some of the off-off-Broadway shows by people so witty most of us never heard of them. After all, there’s a show for them in London that warns that some cast members eat oranges on stage. Frankly, I’d rather be in Kansas.

Cruise ships are for fun, and most are designed for middle class fun. Some aim more at families, others at folks whose families are grown and want to see more of the world. Yes, some ships can be confusing. But in general, if you want to have a really good time, they are good fun. In advance, check out YouTube, which often has videos dedicated to different ships and cruise lines. They can give useful tips in terms of first choosing where you want to go and then advise you on ways to avoid problems once onboard.

So bon voyage. And forget the fool and his meatball.