On our last cruise, we brought along three cruise first timers. Initially all of them had some concerns about the cruise. This is very normal reaction for people who have not been on a cruise.
As humans, it is common for us to have a fear of the unknown. Let’s be logical about this. Subconsciously your mind says “you want to put me in the middle of the ocean, in a metal can, with thousands of people I don’t know and where I can’t leave (unless you are a really good swimmer) if I want to.” That is part of the human fight or flight response to fear. Just acknowledge it and let is pass.
We’ll cover the most common fears below, but let me tell you a secret I discovered many, many years ago. As you walk the gangway to enter the ship you will be amazed at its size and beauty. Then you will enter the ship and be overwhelmed with its grandeur. Your worries will begin to melt away as you walk down the hallways to your stateroom. People will smile and say hello. Make sure you say hello and smile as you pass by your fellow passengers too. By the time you get into your stateroom, the excitement will be creeping in and replacing your fear. Finally, after settling in your cabin, go up to the Lido deck and participate in the sail away party. As the ships starts to sail away, as the port and city grows more distant, you cannot help but be overwhelmed with an incredible sense have happiness and excitement about what the the next few days will bring.
But right now you are still thinking about the cruise and you are in “worry mode.” So let me cover some of the most common fears about a cruise:
Sea Sickness – I covered this in a previous blog posting (just type “sea sickness” in the Search box above). Briefly, today’s modern and large ships have stabilizers which greatly minimize sea sickness. Plus there are once a day tablets and patches which will help prevent sea sickness. If you are still worried, look for a 3 day cruise and try it out. 3 day cruises are cheap and an excellent way to test cruising.
Feeling overwhelmed – There will be a lot of people you don’t know. But on a cruise, part of the fun is the opportunity to make new friends in a relaxed atmosphere. If you start to worry or panic, every ship has many locations where you can sneak away, relax, read a book or watch a movie. Then when you feel more comfortable, go back by the pool, or ask to sit with a group at lunch or dinner in the main dining room. It is easy to make friends. Hey, they are all on the ship to have a good time.
Fitting in – No one wants to feel left out or that they won’t fit in. Today’s large ships hold 1,500 – 5,000+ people. There are all types, ages, looks, and interests on-board. This is actually an advantage of large ships. There will be lots of interesting people on-board. Different cruise lines position themselves and their ships for specific demographics – ages, families, children, active or relaxed, casual or formal. Before selecting a cruise line talk with a good travel agent. Spend some time telling them what you would like on the ship. They can then get the best fit between your interest and the various ships.
Being bored – A full week in one location could lead to boredom. But the ship does not stay in one place and if you carefully selected the cruise line, ships and options, you won’t have time to be bored. If you have a fear or concern about being bored, tell your travel agent in advance. To virtually eliminate the possibility of boredom, I would recommend a ship and itinerary with most of the passengers in around your age (or an age range you prefer), one that has scheduled several stops in various ports (so you can get off the ship and see new places), that you sign up for some organized shore excursions based upon your interests, and select a ship which has a variety of activities and events that match your interests. If that is done properly, you won’t have a chance to get bored.
Feeling too young or too old – This is similar to the fear of not fitting in. However, each cruise line and ship has targeted a demographic. They spend a lot of time and money marketing to that age demographic and offering that target group the on-board environment that is appropriate. For example, you won’t find a rock climbing wall on Holland America because they market more towards an older clientele. A good travel agent help you find a ship where you will most likely be around the age group you prefer with the on-board amenities you want. Just make sure you tell the agent what you like.
Visa Issues – Depending on where you are traveling you may need a visa. US citizens on cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, and most of Europe, do not need a visa – just their passport. Your travel agent can provide you with additional information if you need a visa. There are many services which can handle your paperwork. Most all travel agencies have a relationship with one or more visa servicing companies or just do an Internet search where you can find many. Just be careful and make sure you select a legitimate company.
For most countries, you can visit their embassy or consulate office in the US and complete the entire process directly. Go online to the embassy or consulate web site and most will detail the process required and fees.
Eating at a set time and with the same people – Many cruise ships have assigned dining times and tables. Others such as NCL have what is known as ‘free-style’ dining where you eat when you want. For some, eating with other people, especially at a larger table, can be a good way to make new friends. Others prefer the freedom to eat when and where they want. Also, most cruise lines have formal nights where a suit and black tie for men or evening dress for women is required. Some people like the formality while others can’t stand it. If this is an important issue, make sure you tell your travel agent what you prefer. Personally, I prefer the free-style approach and do not like formal nights, but it is a personal preference.
Now remember what I said in the beginning. All of these fears will dissipate rapidly once you are on the ship. So go ahead and do it. You will thank yourself over and over. It will be one of your best vacations.