During the dates of January 23rd to February 4th, I did another new experience: I went on a solo cruise.
Now, to be fair, this isn’t my first cruise. I have actually been on two other cruises in my life with my mother, but it seems that each cruise so far has been quite the experience for me and has given me interminable memories.
I wanted to make this blog post for a few reasons. Firstly, I want to discuss cruises in general and how they function. Secondly, I want to share with all of you some particular highlights of the trip. And, finally, I want to explain to you all why you need to go on one (if my previous points weren’t already great enough).
What is a cruise?
In its crudest definition, a cruise is a short-term living situation. Cruises can last anywhere between 3 days to around-the-world cruises that are 245 days in length and visit all 6 continents and stop at 113 ports (and cost a shit-ton of money).
Cruises provide you with your meals for the whole day, a daily itinerary for entertainment, pools, a fitness center, and your own private room. On top of this, they provide you with shore excursion options which you can book at an extra cost and some cruises even provide an unlimited drink package which is well well worth it considering that basic drinks on the ship (like a gin and tonic) may cost you twelve dollars. There is always a time food is available for you and you can order as much as you want. Entertainment options range from karaoke to song-and-dance by ship members, to comedians and gameshows. Many may even offer dance lessons to you on board. The pools are a great way to relax, some cruises—the larger ones—even have waterslides. The gym is usually equipped fairly well and my last experience with Norwegian Jewel was very good and they had a great gym that is better than 90% of hotel gyms. Finally, it goes without saying that accommodation is provided and even your travel expense as well as it takes you from Point A to Point B.
What does all of this cost?
Well, all of that cost me around $1,500 dollars for twelve days. I added the drink package on to mine and it came out to just above $2,000. That drink package essentially meant I got open bar for twelve days. It was fantastic.
Highlights from Sydney – Auckland
First, I am going to preface this section with first saying that I am listing the highlights not by itinerary, but by what I enjoyed the most, meaning you will see what I enjoyed the most first and I’ll include a few more extra ones afterward too. By no means, however, is this all of the things that I did, these are just the highlights of the trip; some are not worth mentioning. All of the ones that I mention, by the way, are all new experiences for me. However, I can assure you that just because it is another new experience, doesn’t mean my ranking system was altered in any way. If I had gone to a very good wine tasting, I would have listed it, but my wine tasting was probably my least favorite compared to other wine tastings which I did in South Africa. That was a great experience (a story for another day).
Highlight One – Sheep Sheering (Akaroa, New Zealand)
In Akaroa, I got to see sheepdogs and sheep shearing. While this may sound rather lame and grandfather-ish, I assure you it is a very neat experience to learn how these dogs are trained and then to watch them in action as they herd the sheep for the farmer. You can take a look at the video below.
After this demonstration, I got to see a sheep sheared. Again, this may seem exciting for old people, but it was actually very eye-opening and informative on the sheep farming business. The skill that is used to sheer the sheep is impressive and to see the sheep so docile while they are being groomed is another very uncanny thing. An interesting piece of information that I learned during this is that sheep get sheared once per year. Video below!
Highlight Two – The Giant’s House (Akaroa, New Zealand)
This was absolutely fantastic.
Essentially, the Giant’s House is the home of first Bank Manager in this town of New Zealand. Now a very famous artist, Josie Martin, lives there. She has been all over the world doing artwork and she transformed this place into a menagerie of mosaic masterpieces.
Currently, I do not have a home. Well, not a place that I own anyway, but eventually, I will and one of my goals is to make my home amazing (like every landowner’s dream I imagine). In particular, I’ve thought about the library and the amazing collection of literature that will be available to my future children. Upon seeing this, I now have the idea for having an amazing garden too. Although, I am not artistically inclined in this sense, so if this were to happen I suppose I would have to marry an artist, who too, shares that passion, but this is still a nice little fantasy of mine as this backyard was amazing.
From pianos to fountains to a “throne” featuring a good angel and a bad angel to a particularly interesting piece about Adam and Eve, this backyard captivated me the entire hour I was there. See all of these things in the pictures below!
Highlight Three – Wai-o-Mapu
Wai-o-Mapu is the thermal hot springs in New Zeland. Essentially, for my Americans reading, it is the Yellowstone of New Zealand, albeit a little less impressive if I’m being honest. The reason for that is that there were no active geysers like Old Faithful, but like Yellowstone, the smell of sulfur was omnipresent. There were two particular features of this park that I thought were quite beautiful.
First and foremost, a spot called “The Artist’s Pallete” (see picture below).
Second, there was another spot located at the end of the trail where a stunning green lagoon appeared. Like, I’m talking real green. I am unsure if the photo below even does it justice, but it was very stunning.
On this particular day, a few hours beforehand, I got to have another new experience and see a tribal dance from the Maori indigenous folk. I doubled up on this experience and even participated in trying it out as well because I figured, “Why not?” (see video below)
Highlight #4 – Aerial Duo
I was a little naughty on the cruise ship and took a video during one of the performances. This couple from Russia was just soooooooo good that I couldn’t not take a video. Every part of this five-minute video is amazing from their outfits, white like angels in heaven, to the song—very romantic—to the breathtaking feats that these two perform while being suspended by cloth.
This is just one of their performances, and they did others while on the ship. The cruise even had what was called Le Cirque Bijou that was also very impressive, but I didn’t get a chance to take a video there. That show was sold out.
The reason why this show impressed me is because of the aerial feats that they performed, surely, but also, their physical conditions. To keep so fit while on a cruise ship (especially when I have just mentioned the food situation up above) is impressive. The dancers and cruise ship staff, too, keep very fit and are typically younger in age (from 20 – early thirties). Individuals who work on the ship sign up for 9-month contracts (or longer). This is a great way to experience the world, meet incredible individuals, and also, if you’re not careful, get fat. The dancers who I saw on the ship were ripped and had six-packs. (While on this cruise, I kept my six-pack somehow, but I was also only there for 12 days, so I am unsure how they keep such great fitness levels without access to a fantastic gym unless if they are very fastidious in their diets.)
Why You Should Go
As if what I mentioned to you wasn’t enough, here are a few more interesting things about cruises that may persuade you to eventually book your own cruise
1) People Watching
As an author, I do this quite a bit. I enjoy it. I would like to say I’m overly observant when it comes to other individuals and I like to get to learn more about them in hopes that they sometimes fuel the characters in my stories. Well, I am proud to say that if you like people watching and interacting, cruising (especially cruising solo) is where you meet plenty of interesting individuals.
The very first day on the cruise I went to this thing called “Sailing with Solos” which is an activity that most cruises offer to help solo cruisers find other solo cruisers to interact with. Now, just because it is “solo” doesn’t mean that it means “single”, too, although in my experience that is what it meant. I am not single, but I had quite an odd experience when an older woman (at least 75) came up to me and got to know me. Also, in the midst of talking to me, she definitely winked at me. #awkwardaf
Other solo cruisers were characters. There was one individual from Miami who was also named Michael and who was only interested in trying to hook up with someone half his age (which would be around my age) and who was particularly picky about his women (for he told me this in one of the nights) although he, himself, did not keep his own body up to standards. Another solo cruiser (maybe 65 – 70) had gone on over 600 cruises. That is seriously a lot of cruises. I am pretty sure he never leaves a ship at that point. It made me wonder how he was able to afford continually cruising.
Another solo cruiser, who was also older, told me while in the hot tub one day, that he doesn’t work so that he can make 50K a year through “the system” and then spend that money to go on cruises. Hmmmm . . . The people you meet. Anyway, I did not come back to another one of these meetups after the first one because there were no people my age.
That isn’t to say, though, that I didn’t find people my age. I did. In fact, being a solo cruiser forced me to interact with people (not like I needed that anyway). While interacting with others, I met some very awesome people while on my cruise. One individual was a software programmer from California and I met two, young Chilean girls which brought me back to mís días en Chile. I talked about Chilean culture and it was just great meeting people from Chile because it inundated me with lost memories and great feelings.
Cruising alone, I quickly realized how much of a saint my mom was to take me on two cruises already. I mentioned before the price tag I paid for just the cruise and the drink package, but I would say that I also spent 1000+ dollars on excursions as well. After the first day, I called her and told her how much I appreciated her and what she has done with me in taking me on these adventures whenever she has come to see me.
2) Vacations are a time of relaxation
I am sure I am not the only one who believes that, at some point, vacations end up being a chore or a job more than how they should function, as that of a period of relaxation. Using a personal example, a few years back I went on a Euro-Trip going from London to Barcelona to Ibiza to Italy and through Croatia. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic journey, but I was constantly checking where to stay (including location, price, amenities, etc), what to do in the locations that I stayed, airline tickets, hours of operation, etc. At the end of it all, it didn’t feel like a vacation. Yes, I got to see awesome things and meet amazing individuals, but I was constantly doing something or checking something and not appreciating the time that I had off. Throughout my whole forty-day travel, I only recall one or two days that I would consider a vacation where my only questions were: “What kind of beer do I want to drink today?” “What kind of food should I eat today?”
Cruises take all of this guesswork out of the picture if you choose to utilize them as such. They give you the places that you will go and give you a list of options for you to choose from for what to do. Transportation is provided, in some cases, meals are provided, and you don’t have to do anything yourself. In essence, this is the lazy form of traveling, and it also explains why most people on cruises are typically older (50+).
I was talking with a woman in New Zealand who said had the above philosophy, that cruises are for “old people.” She went on to mention that “I have two legs. I am able, so why not do it myself?” And, to that, I say this: to each their own. Personally, backpacking for a year sounds like a horrible idea, especially considering I can’t even do forty days. What matters is finding out what works for you.
I took this solo cruise because I wanted to reward myself with actual vacation time. Time where I could sit, write, read, and not have to worry about the next day or the next city, etc. I accomplished a lot in 2019 as you have read in some of my other blog posts, and so I felt a nice relaxing vacation such as this is what I needed.
If your goal is to have uninhibited freedom, then a cruise is not right for you. If your goal is to see as much of a city or a country as you possibly can, again, a cruise is probably not right for you. Many cruises only spend anywhere from 6-10 hours at a single port, meaning that you will most definitely miss out on other highlights of the city you would see if you had the chance to spend more time there. This is one of the drawbacks of cruises, and one of the most important things to consider when going on a cruise (the itinerary). However, if your goal is to relax and live like a king or queen for x amount of days, then a cruise is definitely for you as customer service and the food on cruises are unparalleled.
3) Another New Experience
As this is the title of my blog post, it is only fitting that I add this in as the last reason that you should experience a cruise. For most people, it will be another new experience. Many of my friends have never been on one before. Moreover, they have never even considered it due to the precognitions that I mentioned before (being for old people).
If you haven’t done a cruise yet, take this as an opportunity to gain another new experience in your life. Most likely, you will also be visiting another new country, albeit for an abbreviated amount of time. If you don’t want to go outside of your home country, there are river cruises that you can do as well, or cruises that are down the coast of a country.
Even if you’ve done a cruise before, I have a hard time imagining that there wouldn’t be something unique that you can do whilst on a cruise. For example, perhaps you’ve cruised before, but you’ve never cruised with your significant other? Or, perhaps, you’ve never participated in one of the game shows that they have on the cruise ships and have made a total mockery of yourself? Go ahead. Do it. No one is going to know who you are after the twelve days or so on the ship. Your reputation is saved and any slight embarrassment you may feel will be washed away.
Cruises are a vehicle for us to break out of our monotonous routines many of us find ourselves ensnared in during our daily lives. Also, if you’re like me, you can use them as a reward system. Reward systems are nice and I talk about it briefly in my article about resolution writing (here) as the last point in how it helps us succeed with our resolutions.
In essence, reward systems are delayed gratification. You can read more about the concept of delayed gratification here. But, in general, when we have a big reward like a cruise or vacation set up, we should feel the sense of needing to earn that cruise or vacation, and thus, it helps us reach our long-term goals faster. This has been the case with me.
One of my resolutions is to finish my first draft of the fourth novel in the Guardian of the Core series by the time I turn thirty (end of June). I managed to have some amazing writing days on the cruise and I actually wrote +20K words while on the twelve-day cruise.
Hopefully, during the course of this article, I’ve given you a low-down on how cruises function and operate and why you should consider one during your next planned getaway. Like I mentioned before, if your goal is to see more of a place, cruises are not good for that, and it is one of their largest pitfalls, but they are fantastic for relaxation and can be quite romantic as well. Who knows, you may even meet someone on a cruise ship as well and hit it off.
That leads to the final question that I’m sure all of you are wondering about: Where do I find these cruises? Well, it wouldn’t be a holistic article if I didn’t give you a website, so if you click here you will be taken to a website that allows you to search for cruises (or land tours) around the world.
I hope you found this article interesting and good luck in your future travels. For me, I am dodging the coronavirus one country at a time, and I currently find myself in Bali, Indonesia. That will be touched on briefly in my next blog post. Come back next Wednesday!