Yeah, it was a cruise, just a short 8 night trip to a few ports along the South Eastern coast of Australia. The last images (on the second post containing images are (of course) Sydney.
We started and ended in Sydney, a really interesting place to spend a few days.
A cruise ship makes for a totally different sort of holiday than I otherwise go on. Spending 2 to 5 weeks in a single place, drinking in the culture, and coming to an understanding of a some part of it is NOT what a cruise is. Living in a large hotel that changes address every other morning, and which doesn't let you out on the other mornings is closer to it
.You get to see a small part of a lot of places, along with a very large number of other people. Turning up at a relatively isolated spot with 4000 other people can run any chance of actual isolation!
Cruises are as active as you want them to be. If you're so inclined you can find activities from dawn to the wee hours of the morning and to do that every day and night. You can often choose shore activities which require a substantial level of fitness. On a cruise we did around Taiwan, we did exactly that and spent a couple of days when we returned to Hong Kong just sleeping. This time we decided to do a lot less
On this trip we didn't participate in any of the organised shore activities, and frankly that was at least partially because of their expense. The other part was that we already had other things planned. As an example, anyone who goes to Hobart and doesn't go to Mona is missing out (yeah we went to a lot of art galleries on this trip).
We went on a Princess cruise ship. They play heavily on the fact that "the love boat" was set aboard one of their vessels. I thought it was pretty naff in the 80s, and the theme hasn't aged well from there. Sure, it starts off as amusing when the evacuation lecture is sung to the theme tune of this show, but it really drives home the audience they're targeting (or their former glories they are trying to re-live).
I'd advise a number of things:
- Research the cruise line and the ship. Different cruise lines, and even different ships cater for different audiences.
- Research the ports and the activities offered. Sometimes it's just as good (and a lot cheaper) to do it yourself, and sometimes it's better to do it yourself. In any case, you really should know where you're going. You may only be there for 12 hours. Remember that the ship won't wait for you if you're late back.
- Practice good hand hygene. You've heard of gastro in cruise ships, it's real, and if you get it they will quarantine you in your cabin until you're free of symptoms for 24 to 48 hours -- that can be a lot of your trip.
- Explore the ship. Find the hidden places (our shop had one inaccessible swimming pool and a closed off bar, and I found the entrance to the crew bar!). Marvel at the number and placement of the antennas. Find out how they deal with helicopters. Watch the pilot arrive and depart at least once. Find the windiest part of the ship. See if the TV has a crew channel (one ship has their crew training videos on the last channel -- a great way to learn about some of the technical aspects of the ship.
- Understand that cruise ships are stratified by class. Who you are (i.e. where you are staying) determines where and when you can eat, how quickly you can get on and off the cruise at each end, and whether or not you pay for some things. The number on cruises you've been on with that company determines even more. If you can, book a suite, it will get you more freedom to choose where and when to eat. Choose the drink packages carefully, unless you're a big drinker you may just be wasting money. I got the non-alcoholic drinks package (designed for children!) And my wife bought a coffee card. Even though my wife drank plenty of cocktails it wasn't worth paying for the package that included them.
- If you've never been on a cruise, book something really short (3 days or so). If you hate it, you'll get paroled pretty quickly. In my experience, most people enjoy the cruise ship experience. Our first cruise was a 3 day cruise taken with a group of friends -- one of them was turning 50 and the surprise for him is that all the people he thought had come to see him off were coming with him. Apart from this we have never traveled in a group and I probably wouldn't. My wife tends to meet people and talk to them, so we are never short of company. Actually traveling alone would be a bitch, and bookings don't work that way (you would end up paying double).