Calling all virgin cruisers

Over the years I have met many people who are apprehensive about taking a cruise, and yet other who wouldn’t travel any other way. To be honest, being a restless borderline ADD person, I was quite skeptical about cruise vacations myself. Being locked in one place for days at a time is surely not my thing. I love to explore new places, eat at local restaurants, mingle with the natives and run on firm ground.

However, I took a leap of faith and decided to try it out for myself. Since I was still unsure of sea travel (did I mention I also have motion sickness?), I looked for the shortest and most affordable cruise vacation. It turned out to be a four day journey from Tampa, Florida to Cozumel, Mexico onboard one of Royal Caribbean’s newly refurbished ships during Christmas time.  There were more decisions to be made – the type of cabin (pothole, square window or balcony), the location of the cabin (which of the 9 floors did I want; in the middle or the tail of the ship) and dinner options (early or late seating). I decided on a balcony cabin located at a high floor, away from the elevators and in the middle of the ship. Have to say those were some good choices!

The cruise ships nowadays are like floating islands. They are huge, with a capacity of 3000 passengers and 1000 crew members. There were hundreds of cabins, 2 full service restaurants, a lounge, piano bar, dance floor, night club, spa, gym, casino, running track, game room, shops and a performance theatre. Forget motion sickness, I didn’t even feel it move when we pulled out of the port and were on our way into the Gulf!

Because of the holiday season, the entire cruise ship was decked up with Christmas trees, ornaments and decorations. Santa paid a visit and there was a special midnight feast of sculptures made entirely of chocolates, candies and cakes served on Christmas Eve. We even had a traditional Captain’s Ball for which the ladies had to dress up in formal dresses and the gentlemen put on their suits and ties.

Perhaps the most eye opening experience for me personally was the vast number of activities that are available onboard. Each morning, we were delivered a schedule of events and classes taking place that day. There were cooking classes, dance lessons, games, competitions, Broadways style performances, comedy shows and more. One could easily fill up a day between activities, meals, massages and of course, on land excursions. Once the ship docked at a port, you had time to get off and sightsee. You could even pre-book a tour from the cruise itself.

When I landed in Cozumel, I went horseback riding to the Mayan ruins, and then spent some time at the beach, grabbed some lunch at a Mexican restaurant and shopped for local arts, vanilla and jewelry. I also enjoyed watching the sunset from the ship’s floor to ceiling windows while enjoying a glass of wine each evening. The four days flew up magically and I didn’t feel un-entertained even for a minute.

With the economy being slow, cruise travel is really suffering which has led many cruise liners to lower their fares significantly. It has become an affordable way to travel, especially to some of the European destinations. The fares include room, all meals, entertainment, taxes and tips. For Americans not wanting to pay the high cost of Euro, this is a great deal.

Cruise to Amazing Alaska with Expedia!

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Sucheta Rawal

Sucheta is an award winning food and travel writer, who has traveled to 90 countries across 6 continents. She is also the founder and editor of 'Go Eat Give' and author of 'Beato Goes To' series of children's books on travel.