THE PROMISE OF A FIRST CRUISE
It’s a bit ironic, but my first cruise was a cruise to nowhere. I certainly didn’t plan it that way; it just ended up being that way.
Truth be told, I am not particularly keen on cruising, but I’ve heard a lot of great things from family and friends. I thought, “Why not? Let’s give it a shot.”
It didn’t take me long to decide on a Caribbean cruise. Popular destination. Easy flight into Fort Lauderdale. Affordable. I opted for the shortest 3-days cruise just in case cruising wasn’t for me, and I padded in an extra pre-cruise hotel stay. I decided on a Princess cruise aboard Ruby Princess. The itinerary seemed reasonable with 2 “at-sea” days and a port call on the private island of Princess Cays, Eleuthera, Bahamas.
I decided to splurge on a mini-suite cabin since it comes with a balcony — I like the idea of being able to watch sunrises and sunsets from the comfort of my own balcony. I booked the flights, and my traveling companion and I were off on our first cruise, sailing into the sunsets.
SAILING OFF TO NOWHERE?
There were signs. Before the ship had even sailed off from Florida, the sky looked ominous. There was no downpour, but it was cloudy and the sun was struggling to peep through. This was not completely unexpected — a chance of shower was in the weather forecast.
The night before the port stop, the waves pounded angrily against the ship, and I even felt the ship rocking on a few occasions. A storm was brewing (or maybe it had been brewing all along?) If people get nervous about turbulence on a plane, this would be its equivalent on a ship.
Needless to say, I did not sleep well. Early morning the next day, I got awoken by a ship-wide announcement from the Captain over the intercom. In short, due to the intensity of the wind, the Captain made the decision that the ship will not tender at the port for the safety of its crew and passengers.
Since it was the one and only port call, I ended up being on a cruise …to nowhere.
Was I disappointed? No doubt, I had been eagerly looking forward to the port call. I opened the door to the balcony and stepped out to check out the weather. It was morning and bright outside, but the wind was strong, there was a light drizzle, and the visibility was poor. I retreated back to the comfort of the room. It would have been nice to step foot onto my first private island, but the Captain made the right call — the safety of all aboard should always be the #1 priority.
THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY FIRST CRUISE
I have since taken another cruise and got the full cruising experience. Even though my first cruise didn’t quite work out, it wasn’t all for naught. Here are the top 5 things I learned on my cruise to nowhere.
1. Should I book a room with a balcony?
In hindsight, the balcony isn’t necessary. You are on a ship and there are plenty of open floor decks with great views. It certainly is convenient and more private to have a balcony right outside the room, but it’s not a dealbreaker. I would not want to pay more for a balcony, unless I am on a nature cruise (i.e. Alaksa cruise).
2. Should I get a standard room or a bigger sized cabin?
I had a mini-suite suite for my first cruise on Princess (we booked early so it was not prohibitively more expensive). The mini-suite worked out well when we were stuck on the ship: there’s an extra sofa, a coffee table, two TVs in the room and there’s obviously more space. For my second cruise, I had a regular cabin which was much smaller but it worked out just fine too. Given that there are plenty of open decks/space on the ship and most of the time you’ll be spending your time outside of the room, I wouldn’t bother with a premium cabin unless unless you are booking for a special occasion.
3. How many port calls should I go for?
A minimum of 2 port calls. Even if one went off course due to inclement weather or other reasons, you still have another option. You don’t want to end up on cruise to nowhere.
4. Should I get in a day early for my cruise?
Yes and no. If it’s an expensive cruise and you don’t want to miss the sailing, or if you don’t want to wake up for an early morning flight, I’d do a pre-cruise night stay. Otherwise, it’s not necessary. I’d suggest buying travel insurance, or book an early flight so that even if the flight gets delayed or cancelled, there is still enough time to catch another flight.
5. Any other tips or advice?
If you are prone to motion sickness/vertigo, plan for some recovery time. People talk about “sea legs” and I can assure you that it’s not a fable. I experienced it, and it is disorienting, I think I felt it more in large part because the ship had rocked so much due to the weather system. If you tend to suffer from motion sickness/vertigo, budget a day or two of recovery time and avoid driving.
Have you ever gone on a cruise to nowhere, or have you had a cruise experience where things just didn’t work out?