In my last post I wondered if cruising was all it’s cracked up to me. Well, I have now returned from a my Caribbean cruise and have reached a verdict. No, it’s not.
Mind you, I went with my viewpoint on the subject of cruising already half-formed. My interaction with regular cruisers had not always been positive as I had found most of them to have little interest in the countries they visited: they spoke of “seeing” the city when they had spent a mere six hours there. No harm there you may well say and I agree: we don’t all have to like the same thing. But I felt that cruising took away the real adventure and excitement of travel, of discovering new things and being surprised by sights and sounds.
What I also hadn’t realised was the sheer competitiveness of the cruising lifestyle. Those who had cruised most often talked about their Platinum status with certain lines, their Diamond status with others and their Gold cards, all of which entitled them to various bonus events and favours, champagne in the cabin, extra captain’s cocktail party, an upgrade (the only worthwhile bonus in my opinion) and early booking rights. I listened in awe at the dinner table to the cut and thrust of the conversation and tried to work out if 4 Cunard trips equalled 3 P. & O and how many P & O’s or Celebrity Cruises would one have to do to have equal par with someone who’d done a trip on the Queen Mary. It was a world I’d never known before, one fraught with social dangers.
Then there were the back-to-backs, those who stayed on the ship and continued with the next voyage, sometimes 3 voyages all together. Many of these people didn’t even bother getting off the ship when it docked, saying “Oh, we’ve been here before and it doesn’t change much!” Well no, it probably didn’t, but don’t we all change with the years and what appealed last year might not this year so isn’t a town or city worth another look
.But then I love my casually shod feet on the ground as I roam the streets and alleyways of foreign ports. I love evenings sitting at wayside cafes and restaurants, watching the world go by as I sip a coffee or something stronger. I love the strange smells that waft from the kitchens, the sounds of foreign languages, the frisson of excitement as one tries to remember the warnings from friends of the dangers of certain places. And there’s none of that on a cruise.
I got off at every port, I went on some trips into the interior, but I don’t think for a moment that I experienced the Caribbean. I saw beautiful landscapes and seascapes through the window of a coach, I managed a walk along a beach once or twice, and sampled Creole cooking on one occasion, but we never interacted with the locals. I walked through the towns where we docked listening to the cries of the vendors, being hustled to take a taxi, buy a necklace, try some rum, but all the time aware that the ship would sail without me if I wasn’t back in time. Even on the one day I managed to have lunch in the town it wasn’t possible to meet any local characters as I normally do. I was an obvious visitor from the ship (two ships unloading over 5,000 people into a small town skews everything out of kilter).
So, I shall return to land holidays with maybe the occasional cargo-ship trip (these I don’t class like cruise ships – they are so different). A week trekking in the hills in my own country, or walking in Austria or Switzerland, lazing on an Asian beach and attending a religious festival in the evening, or jazzing it up in New Orleans is more my style.