imageTime we had us a little coffee-side chat about going on cruise ships for vacation.

The occasion of this discussion is a fellow who left a comment (in our comments section) that went to the idea that the only reason people take cruises is so they can brag to their friends about how many cruises they have been on.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I mention cruising because, for many people, it is a very cost-effective way of traveling. The traveling part is included, the meals are included, there is entertainment, nice exercise equipment, and a whole lot more.

I don’t know if the reader was practicing up to be a “troll” who lives under a post, but the suggestion that cruising is an ego-trip, demands some public discussion so that MY decision isn’t taken out of context as an erudite expression of self-interest.

Cruising is practical.

Let me do a little comparison with other popular “vacation” approaches and you’ll see what I mean.

RV

I have yet to do a recreational vehicle vacation.  To me, it’s just another driving trip but with some major differences:  The “car” is longer, requires much more attention to driving, sucks down a lot more gas, and in many places, you have to pay $30 (and up) to park it.

Say you drive 400 miles in a day.  And let’s say that the terrain is like Utah or Colorado:  You’re looking at 100-gallons of gas or diesel, so round off to $300 to be on the safe side.

Then you have to do food.  Figure $20-bucks per person, and that’s before you do a couple of dinners out.  And when you eat in, who does the cooking, who does the dishes, and is that REALLY a vacation for the lady of the house?

No sir…not to my way of thinking.  So my first point is that an RV adventure may be fun for the guy, but it’s not necessarily one for the lady of the house.

Exception:  A buddy of mine has a 20-foot bumper tow, fitted out with ham radio gear and he take meticulous care of it.  When he and his wife go somewhere, they have their dogs, make reservations at state parks (cheap) and actually do a good bit of hiking and back-country ham radio.

This fellow is a serious prepper, retired officer, and oh – did I mention also going on the cruise?

Car Vacations

Elaine and I have driven back and forth across the country lots…I mean lots and lots of times.  She’s even driven an 18-wheeler cross-country, co-driving with one of her sons.  And I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of accident-free miles, myself.

But here’s my bitch about driving vacations:  You sit on your butt for 8-hours in the car, trying to stop every 90-minutes for a safety break and walk-about, so no you have 9-hours of driving time.

We joke (only it’s not funny at all) that the first day of any road trip for us is getting out of Texas.

To be sure, this is a lot cheaper than the RV approach, except that hotel/motel fees run $100 a night, unless you want to stay in a potential roach palace.  And then you have meals out and after three or four days of burgers for lunch…it’s not much of a bargain for either spouse.

Boating Vacations

Remember, I lived on my offshore capable sailboat for 10+ years and sailed everything on the West Coast from the north end of Vancouver Island to Mexico.

Great fun: Salt air, the challenge of the sea, keeping sails trimmed, marlinspike, ships systems and all that.

But sailboats (monohulls) are not fast.  At best they make about 7-knots if the winds are perfect.  Otherwise, it’s a rolly ride south from the Golden Gate, through the Potato Patch, only to arrive off Monterey in a fog, motor-sailing at 6-knots with 18-foot rollers off the stern quarter and a crew verging on mutiny.

After pulling 24-hours on the helm, and eventually seeing the lights of the oil rigs down the Santa Barbara channel rounding Point Conception, you ask yourself:  If this really a vacation, or just a fitness program you can drop out of?

Flying Vacations, Private Plane

This is by far my favorite way to travel.  BUT while very fast (we flight plan 130 miles an hour), so Atlanta from our place is a 6.5 hour jaunt including fuel stop at KGLH, it requires even more attention to detail than sailing.

Since I don’t do instrument flying (I can, but not legally, so I don’t because that’s a quite shortcut to permanent underground housing) we are somewhat weather-limited.  And, fuel ain’t cheap, either.

By the time I write a column (which invariably wakes up Elaine) and flight plan (it takes about 30-minutes per day of flying, just in the planning stage) and we stay in a hotel, and get there in a cab, suddenly,, we find the “hundred dollar hamburgers” involved in flying while fun are not an every-day occurrence.

Several times a year we will go somewhere, but it’s where we can stay cheap, have relatives, or just want to really see the countryside without spending a day driving from here to Amarillo.

At least with the airplane (which costs less than a used Camry) we can be out of Texas in 90-minutes, or less.  At a casino is Shreveport in 90-minutes, too, or one in Mississippi in two-hours, or so.

But again:  Not the most relaxed way to travel.

So How Does a Cruise Stack Up?

Let’s add them up, shall we?

There’s no driving for me.  No flight planning, no time on the helm, no watching the infernal depth sounder of radar.  No looking out for oncoming traffic, no special eyes out for hidden radar cops, or (in Tennessee) the confiscate your moneymobiles that target out of state drivers.

Yeah…sounds like a vacation, to me.

On the ladies side of things?

Elaine can have someone besides her make the bed, do the laundry, cook the meals and do the dishes.  Toss in a great set of exercise equipment with a view of the passing waves, or whatever port we happen to be in, and it’s like home without all the hassles.

There’s nightlife (casino, shows, and entertainment), dancing, and when it’s all done, there’s no turn on deck to trim sails.

Food mysterious appears.

When you go shopping for a cruise, try different lines because they all have a different take on things.  Elaine’s been on almost all of them in his lifetime (13 or 14) and I’ve been on one – if you don’t count living on a sailboat for 10-years with enough sea time for a captain’s ticket).

That was the Masdam Holland-America and 2002, or thereabouts.  Last big trip for my mother before she passed away and a grand time was had by all.

It was a smaller ship, however.  The Norwegian Jewel is a bigger ship, more things to do, and that’s why I wanted to responded to the cruising troll.

No, it’s not about where you’ve been.  It’s about the being there and having fun.  If you don’t have a lot of friends (we know four other couples who will be on this cruise) then sure, maybe if you don’t know how to strike up a conversation, it could be a bit daunting.

But for real humans, who like adventure in well-planned doses, there’s nothing quite like a cruise.  I’ve already done the cave swim down south of Playa del Carman…but that reminds me there is another kind of adventuring that is really good.

And that is?

All-Inclusive Resorts

Don’t overlook these, either.

There are several good ones south of Playa del Carmen, which is 70-miles, or so, south of Cancun.

These feature some of the same kinds of adventures as the cruise ships (zip lines, golf, archeological hikes, snorkeling, scuba, cave diving etc.) but you work from one base of operation.

Many of these are even more “inclusive” than the cruise ships because they include booze.

On a cruise ship, there is usually an “all drinks” included option, but it penciled out when I ran the numbers to a break-even point of six drinks a day.    Maybe once upon a time, I could have come out ahead.  But the older I’ve gotten, the less booze appeals, and the more time on a treadmill matters.

Still, all inclusives mean a break for the spouse, too.  Take the golf option.  Swim with a dolphin, dive a cave.

Comparison Shop

The economic way to decide any of these things is to run out the cost per person, per day, including the air fare.  A mini-suite will run about $165 per day.  But remember, that’s upstairs (we’re on Deck 11) and with a balcony and all that.

You can knock that down to around $100 per person per day and less (I’ve seen a few “specials” on different lines that don’t have an ocean view (e.g. no port hole) in the $75/per day range.

Just use some common sense because with cruises, like anything else in life, there’s a trend to “get what you pay for.”

Next vacation for us?  Later in the spring…being “retired” finally?  Maybe a trip up to see one of Elaine’s sons in Colorado.  But, as we have discussed before, if you’re going somewhere to stay for a good length of time, use www.airbnb.com to find really good deals.

Remember, last year, we stayed up in the Seattle area in a small condo for $1,300 per month… a rate that was a real deal because of inflated housing prices in that area.  Generally the bigger the city, and the longer you shop, the more value you’ll get at AirBnB.  We were able to stay more than twice as long because there was no killer hotel bill.

Bottom Line?

A week-long cruise isn’t a bad way to go sample food, entertainment, people, and places, particularly when we have a brother-in-law who lives on the property with us and watches everything like a hawk.

Life isn’t about bragging…it’s about memories stored between the ears and lessons learned about people and life.  Cruise trolls notwithstanding, it’s a vacation for my wife, too.

Write when you break-even,

George  george@ure.net

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