|The Norwegian Jewel, my home for a week in the Caribbean.|
The only reason why I went on the cruise is because my boss told me to go. My employer at the time was paying for it, and there was going to be a lot of training that happened on that ship. It was early mornings, long days, and late nights. It wasn't a vacation, but it was a
|The view of Miami from my balcony as we set sail.|
I wasn't at all excited for it, and in the weeks leading up to it I started to downright dread it. In my mind, I was not a cruiser. I was a backpacking-wearing, small group-traveling, eco-conscious wanderer. Not a chaise-lounging, fruity drink-sipping, shore excursion-taking cruiser. I was convinced that I wouldn't have any fun, and that I would come back with a (now completely rational) hatred of cruises.
I was so very wrong.
|The ruins of Altun-Ha in Belize.|
Everyone is a cruiser, you just have to find the right itinerary. If you enjoy ship culture, choose a longer duration or one with a few days at sea. If you are like me and enjoy a new port every day, choose intensive itineraries. For the Caribbean, ships sailing from San Juan usually have a new port every day; many Mediterranean and Baltic cruises have only one day at sea.
Pro tip: book your airfare through the cruise line; that way, if anything goes wrong (late ship, missed transfer, etc) they will take care of the arrangements for you. If you decide to book them yourself, err on the side of caution and book your flights with a one day window on either side. You'll end up paying for a hotel before and after your cruise, but that way if there are any issues or delays you should still make your flight.
|Fishing in Roatan, Honduras.|
Make sure (before you book!) that you know exactly what is included. With most cruises, gratuities aren't included in the fare. What else isn't included? Shore excursions, souvenirs, certain restaurants on the ship, and usually drinks. No one likes expensive surprises at the end of a trip!
- Buy the pop package on the first day. It will seen obscenely expensive at first, but it's nonstop so you'll end up thanking yourself later.
- Most cruise lines will allow you to pre-book your excursions; this will ensure you have a firm handle on your budget for the trip. You can always change them when you get on board if you have a change of heart.
|Floating in the Caribbean.|
I ended up meeting some wonderful people, seeing places that I had never been to before, and discovering a whole new way to travel. Oh, and of course I learned a lot from my seminars! ;)
The most valuable lesson from this cruise: don't judge a trip before you've traveled it.
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