Thursday, November 24, 2011

Observations on My First Cruise Part II

Now that I've spent time reviewing our ports of call I'll dedicate a few paragraphs to my thoughts on the whole cruising experience itself. I'll go through some of the pros and cons based on my observations. I may write more about the negatives which happens to often be human nature but I have enjoyed the experience overall and am glad we have taken this most unusual route back to the US.

strolling in Barcelona
Let's see where can I start with my pros list of traveling by cruise. I guess first of all it is a ridiculously easy way of traveling which is why I guess it is so popular. I agree with what others have said in the past about the the convenience of traveling to different ports without having to worry about transporting from place to place. It so nice to spend the night in the same room while traveling to different cities.

tourist escalators in Cartagena, Spain - doesn't get much easier than this  :-)
An obvious positive item about cruising is the food. It is so nice to be able to eat three meals a day without having to go through a lot of of hassle. The quality and variety of the food have been pretty good in my opinion. The portion sizes weren't also as big as I thought they would be but the good thing is you can order as much as you want which I'll also address when I get to the negatives. I also like the options between restaurant and the buffet. In the restaurants they have a mix of open seating and reserved seating. Reserved seating with the same people was something that I absolutely did not want to do. Our seating was open. Most of the time we ate by ourselves but did have some nice meals with other passengers which was nice change of pace. Personally, I enjoyed the restaurants more than the buffet. I just like to have someone else to serve us plus it can help with portion control too.

crew member by a desert station on our kitchen tour
Another aspect that I like were all the activities. I enjoyed going to shows virtually each night or watching movies in the movie theater. We even checked out a few movies to play in our room's DVD player. Throughout the day there were numerous classes or presentations on various topics. We went to a few talks on subjects and a few classes but not too many. A couple other things I like was that the library which had over 5,000 books in it. I read a fascinating book on the CIA called Legacy of Ashes. I also enjoyed working out in the gym especially now that I have gained a few pounds in the nearly 3 months we have been traveling during this segment. After we were done with port calls we usually got up each morning around 8 am to work out.

book on how to make towel creations - we actually went to the class
Now let's talk about some of things I didn't like. The first one I'll talk about is food again. While I enjoyed the food I was also disgusted at times by a few things. The first was there was so much food and so many overweight people eating so much of it. I kind of expected that but what I really didn't like were times when people couldn't decide which main course or desert that they wanted so they just ordered two or three items while only eating a couple bites while then discarding some of items they didn't like. I will not go on too much about this but all the waste gets to me at times.

Alethea supervising the pulling out of port in Ajaccio, France
Next item that I didn't always enjoy was being confined to the ship. I guess I have become used to always being on the go that I sometimes struggled with being restricted to the ship at times. Good news was there were plenty of activities to keep things somewhat interesting. Having so many days of sea in a row wasn't always that enjoyable to me. I know it allowed Alethea an opportunity to catch up on her writing but I was getting kind of stir crazy. I was probably suffering from internet withdrawal a little. I can do without a TV but I miss being online just to research different things or just to entertain myself. Internet access was available for a cost of .75 per minute which was too steep a price for me. You could access Holland America's sites along with the New York Times site for free. Speeds were slow since we were connecting via satellite.

orange trees in a city park in Malaga, Spain
Only other somewhat major item that I didn't enjoy was that our ship and apparently many others in the area were struck by an increase in gastro intestinal or GI issues. This meant that certain things were adjusted or closed. For example, you couldn't use the self-serve laundry machines, serve yourself at the buffet, you couldn't touch salt & pepper containers, serve yourself drinks, and library books that were returned were quarantined for 14 days. Ironically enough the casino was never impacted by this. Imagine that! For some reason I didn't notate when they lifted all the restrictions but I would say it was around the 7th or 8th day of the cruise. I did more laundry than I was expecting in our sink but I am kind of used to it by now. We did eventually do one load of laundry. It only cost $2 to wash and $1 to dry in normal size washers and dryers. I was expecting it to cost more but then again a lot of people were on our ship for multiple cruises. Many got on in Athens or when the ship was in Rome previously. I spoke to multiple passengers that had been aboard for at least 20 days before we came aboard.  

our bathroom, where I did a fair amount of laundry :-)
One other thing I was kind of disappointed in was that there were a lot more areas you can smoke in than I was expecting. You could smoke in the casino obviously and some of the bars along with the wrap around deck that a lot of people walked on. Not sure if this has to do with what regulations we were under or maybe just the preferences of their customers.

selling stuff next to our ship in Tangier, Morocco
Hopefully that wasn't too many negatives. I have never been on any of the cruise critic websites for reviewing cruises but I plan on leaving some feedback when I have the time. I did enjoy myself and am glad we chose to come back this way. The positives far outweighed the negatives and I am open to additional cruising. It was also an interesting way to spend my birthday. Never thought I would celebrate a birthday in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Last year I was in the Jordanian desert. Alethea made it special by arranging for a steak and lobster meal along with a red velvet cake. The Indonesian crew members sang happy birthday to me in Bahasa which is the official language of Indonesia.

Alethea on the behind the scenes kitchen tour
As far as future cruising is concerned, I still would like to see Alaska and take some of the river cruises throughout central Europe as Alethea has done before. Since we've arrived here in Miami, Florida we have actually managed to book another cruise! We've got the time and found a great last minute deal. It is on a different line which will be a good comparison. It is a 7 night Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian leaving from Miami on Sunday the 27th. It will make port calls in the Bahamas, Ocho Rios Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel Mexico. The starting price is only $349 per person. I've only been to the Bahamas before, so I'll be looking forward to these ports of call as well.

Happy Thanksgiving from Miami, Florida!

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