There is no right way to travel.
This is what I tell people who reflexively condemn cruising as not “true travel.” It may not be the ideal method for many experienced travelers, but for others, from families to older folks, it’s a very appropriate and convenient means of seeing the world.
By now I’ve been on a number of cruises with family, from Alaska to the Mediterranean to the Baltic and, most recently, through the Panama Canal. I’ve since witnessed my fair share of the pros and cons of taking a cruise.
I generally prefer to stay in one location for extended periods of time when traveling, usually with Airbnb for the whole “live like a local” experience. It’s a travel lifestyle that suits my meager budget and interests, however it also calls for ample time abroad, a “luxury” many cannot “afford.” Because I’m a single freelancer, it’s not hard to find bargains on shared apartments, but it would be arrogant of me to assume that others should do the same, when most people have full-time jobs and limited vacation time, albeit more money.
This is where cruising can be beneficial. Travelers can witness a lot in a limited amount of time. Imagine waking up to a new port in the morning, experiencing the highlights of that location, coming back to a full meal, crashing in bed and waking up to an entirely new adventure the next day. There’s a sort of magic to it all, like teleporting from one world to the next.
Therein also lies the biggest shortfall of cruises. With the constant movement and limited time on most routes, you really can’t experience the full magic of any destination. It’s very much a sampler platter of places. Visits to non-port cities like Rome, Florence and Berlin are usually half-days, as reaching these cities require substantial transit time. That isn’t to say you can’t learn anything on cruise tours; it really comes down to how engaged and well researched you are beforehand, a truth that applies to any form of travel (or living, for that matter).
Cruising can be cost effective as well, especially when compared to staying in hotels and paying for similarly bountiful meals on your own. Accommodations, dining, travel and tips are all included in the booking price. And while much can be said about onboard dining, I found that the meals in the included restaurants were pretty good. I looked forward to meals, anyway.
There is an excess to cruising that can be sickening. It’s common that people gain substantial poundage, though it is also possible to lose weight while going on a cruise. I’ve done it. Eat sensibly and stay active. Go to the gym if that’s your thing. I preferred walking laps on the deck and staring out into the infinite ocean (life is so real, man).
Perhaps the best cruise routes are the ones where being on the boat is the actual highlight, routes like Alaska’s Inside Passage and the Panama Canal. These are experiences you cannot witness fully without being on a boat.
It should also be noted that there is growing resentment against cruises from residents in cities like Venice and Barcelona. Indeed, in the former it’s not just about the influx of tourists, but also an infrastructure issue as well; it’s been reported that large ships displace the waterbed and cause damage to the canals. These are legitimate problems against cruising that should be kept in mind. Don’t forget that you’re entering places where people live en masse, and that you ought to show the utmost respect for local culture and customs. At the very least, stay out of the way.
Reverence, appreciation and humility; there is no right way to travel, but there is a right way to be a traveler.
Photos below were taken on a Princess Cruises’ Panama Canal Cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale and arriving in Los Angeles. Hover over photos (desktop) or tap and hold (mobile) for descriptions. If you like what you see, why not follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter?
PRINCESS CRUISES’ ISLAND PRINCESS
ORANJESTAD, ARUBA & SURROUNDS
THE PANAMA CANAL
SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA
SAN JUAN DEL SUR & GRANADA, NICARAGUA
PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO