Some time ago, Gal and I went on a cruise together. It was the first time we had been on that type of cruise. What a wonderful lesson in perspective it was. Sometimes, we need a change of scenery to appreciate what we have.
Many years ago, we cruised from Miami to the Bahamas, but that was very short and the only thing I remember is that everyone gambled, and we didn’t like that at all.
The second time we cruised was when we lived in Singapore. Our daughter was 9 years old and our son was just under 3 years old. We took a cruise for three days with another family. They had an 8-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old baby. We were at sea and things didn’t get as glamorous as we’d expected, because we had no babysitting arrangement and it was not very friendly to kids.
We ended up agreeing with our friends that one night, they would stay with all the kids and we would see the show and the next night, we would swap. It was two nights and apart from the excitement of being at sea and having “free” meals, it was hard work.
This time, we went on a cruise because our daughter had gone on a cruise with her husband and it had been a great experience for them. We booked a 7-day cruise and started asking friends and family about their experiences, which were mostly positive.
So, we went on the cruise and this is what we learned.
Our week on the cruise was way cheaper than any holiday we could think of. Usually, Gal and I take 3 days off in a beach town on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, and those days cost us more than the week of cruising.
When we were on the cruise, we discovered that some people had even paid a lot less than we had, because they had registered to receive last-minute deals. Annoyingly, those deals started about 3 days after we’d bought our tickets.
Food and the Fear of Missing Out
Many people on the ship were obese. When I say obese, I mean BIG. Some of them could barely walk and had to squeeze through the doorways.
It was a bit scary to see that so many of those people were gathered in the same place. The main food area on the ship was like a food court. They had Mexican, Chinese, Indian, soup & salad, barbecue, hamburger and sandwich areas. Some days, they had sushi, and every day, they served a huge selection of desserts.
This food gallery was open most of the day, with an hour to an hour and a half break between meals. Yet, every time we were there, people piled their plates like they were starving.
On the first day, Gal and I tasted the different options to figure out what we liked. On the second day, a lot of the food was different, and there was no chance we’d be able to try it all. So, we realized that this overwhelm of food disturbed people and cluttered their thinking.
Just before we left for the cruise, our kids told us about FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out. Looking at the abundance of food, we realized that was exactly the feeling it created. We knew that every time we stepped into the food gallery, we needed to notice our FOMO and not let it control us.
Our daughter told us that they had hardly been in their room, so we got the cheapest rooms, and that worked for us. Some people got a room with windows (ours had no windows), and even with a balcony, but we really didn’t spend much time there and the balcony rooms cost twice as much.
One advantage of a room with no windows was the darkness, which helped us sleep better and longer. We were on vacation, so that was great. However, having no windows also makes it harder to wake up naturally in the morning.
The feeling at night was like sleeping on a water bed, as we rocked gently from side to side.
Walking in the long and narrow corridors, people often looked a bit drunk, even when they weren’t, because of the movement of the ship. The rocking movement was 3-dimensional and unpredictable, which created some funny situations.
Fortunately, we didn’t have motion sickness and didn’t have to take any medication for it.
We absolutely loved the music and entertainment on the cruise. There were musicians who sang and played different styles all day long. It was wonderful, and we could sit for hours and just listen to the music.
Every night, there was a different show, which ran twice that night, and the shows were fantastic. There was also a different themed dance party every night, and we love to dance. And throughout the day, there were various games, like Music Trivia and Bingo.
It was wonderful, and we loved that side of the cruise very much. Dancing was great fun. It was wonderful to see both young and old people on the dance floor. At the Gatsby party, the White party and School party, people were very serious about their costumes and I loved it.
At the School party, there was a group of wild, hilarious women, dressed as nuns. They danced and played until the end and were fantastic entertainment themselves.
Gal and I are not alcohol drinkers, but we realized that the reason the cruise was so cheap was because the ship was a floating bar and made a lot of money from people drinking.
When we boarded the ship, each of us go a card on a lanyard, which we could load with money and use as a credit card. In the reception area were machines for loading the card with money.
While Gal and I figured out how to load our card for the first time with $50 (Gal wanted café-style coffee), a girl stood next to us and loaded her card with $750, which was more than the cost of our 7-day cruise. We were shocked.
People drank like crazy all day long. On one hand, a ship is a wonderful place to drink, because you don’t drive anywhere, so you don’t kill anyone or get killed yourself. But on the other hand, I thought those people probably missed so much of the fun because they were totally drunk.
When our daughter was on her cruise, her husband, who has a business, had to connect to the Internet, so he ended up buying some data that didn’t work at all. The advice we got was to let go and “get off the grid” for a week.
Wow, that was amazing! As soon as we made that decision, we already felt free in some way. The only thing that bothered us was that our youngest daughter was going to take her driving test and we wanted to know how she did. We ended up calling her from the tourist information center in Nouméa, New Caledonia, for a few minutes, and were happy to hear she’d passed.
Other than that, it was a wonderful opportunity to “get off the grid”. We used our phone a camera and that’s it. It made me think that, if we put our mind to it, we could get off the grid at home the same way on weekends. We just needed to get over the FOMO.
Our cruise stopped at 3 islands along the way. The cruise concierge offered island tours and we planned to buy them on the ship.
Then, we talked to some “regulars” on the cruise, they told us those tours were very expensive and we could get the same things from the locals on each island.
This was mostly true, although in one of the tours, our driver tried to pressure us into pay him more. We also heard of people who were blackmailed and paid a lot of money for their driver to take them back to the cruise on time.
The swimming pool and gym on the ship were free, but the whole fitness and spa section was a money-sucking machine. The “wellness consultants” were very pushy in trying to make us buy spa time, health treatments and slimming programs with the promise that we would become heathier and prettier if we just paid money.
That was not something we liked, but it seemed to work for them, because they kept the “hard sell” until the last day of the cruise. They offered free seminars about health, where they spent half the time telling us how unhealthy we were and the other half selling us products and/or services to “solve our problem”. And oh, by the way, if we made the purchase on the spot, it would cost only half of our liver…
Again, the cruise was cheap because people on vacation tend to spend a lot of money on “feel good” products and it was easy to tempt them to buy.
Gal and I have a rule for this. We never buy anything at sales seminars. We take the information, sleep on it, research it and contact them, or someone else giving the same service, outside the hyped presentation.
This meant that we expected it when we went along for the talks, and we were very accepting when they started selling. However, on the last couple of days, they changed from “Buy today and by the end of the cruise your problems will disappear” to “You don’t expect your problems to disappear in a short time, so buy products that will last you 3 months to fix your problem”.
We didn’t like that at all. We felt it was too unpleasant and avoided the wellness talks in the last two days.
Meet the Regulars
We were very surprised to discover that most people on the ship were not first timers. For most people, the cruise was their second, even seventh. We met a 91-year-old man who told us that was his 32nd cruise! He said his daughter bought him several cruises a year.
We immediately thought about the joke that it was cheaper than a retirement village or a nursing home, but maybe it’s not a joke at all.
Some people we met said there were much better cruise lines than the one we were on. They said others gave better service and more things ware included, like café-style coffee and additional restaurants. One old woman told us that in one of the cruise ships, there was an ice-skating rink that was free for all.
One woman we met at one of the dinners said she worked very hard, put in long hours and every 2 to 3 months, took a week off on a cruise. She slept a lot, drank a lot of wine and read book on deck.
In summary, it was a good practice in fighting our fear of missing out, resisting temptations to eat more, to buy more, to spend more and to fit in with the crowd, and we even had some fun as we practiced. The lesson in perspective was totally worthwhile and cost effective.
May you cruise through the new year!