So you want to take a cruise?
Over two thirds of the population of the United States has never taken a cruise vacation! Are you part of that group? Have you been thinking of testing the waters but you’re not sure where to begin? Well, your in luck the Travel Experts at Luggage Factory have plenty of tips and ideas to get you started. This is our first Travel Experts Guide to Cruises! Face it, about 70% of the Earth is covered in water. There’s no better way to explore the water than on a ship, whether it’s a small river cruise ship, a classic ocean liner or a huge mega ship with things like ice rinks, rock walls and zip lines. There’s a ship, itinerary and cruise line to suit almost everyone. Let’s set sail by first dispelling some myths about cruising. First, people may have a preconceived notion that cruising is dangerous. So is driving and flying and people haven't stopped doing that, so why no cruise? Over 20 million people cruise every year, all over the world. The International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS), is an international maritime treaty which requires ships that are flagged by the member states to comply with safety standards regarding construction of the vessel, equipment on board and the safe operation of that equipment and the vessel. The mandatory muster drill is required under this international law. Modern ships have excellent fire suppression systems, high railings and balconies-too high to fall over, plenty of lifeboats and life jackets, and highly trained and skilled crew. In 50 or so cruises on at least 6 different cruise lines, I’ve never felt unsafe. Pay attention during the muster drill, learn the route that you’ll need to take in case of emergency and act in a responsible manner! Second, you may think that you’ll be bored and that there’s nothing to do. Think again. While some smaller ships may have less bells and whistles, there are PLENTY of activities happening that will keep you entertained. On port intensive itineraries, you’ll be so busy exploring exiting new destinations that you may welcome some down time to rest and get ready for your next busy day. As for sea days? Never fear, there are plenty of activities to choose from, and they vary from ship to ship and cruise line to cruise line. Whether it’s trivia, cooking classes, mixology lessons, guest lecturers, gemstone seminars or wine tastings, you can be busy from sunrise to sunset-even later! Most ships have gyms, spas, beauty salons and casinos. For the more active and adventurous types, you may find ropes courses, rock walls, sky diving and surf simulators and maybe even ice skating. Once the sun goes down, you can go to a movie under the sky, sample gourmet cuisine, dance the night away or even attend a Broadway show. Those activities are just some of what you can find on a cruise ship! Still think you’ll be bored? You’re right, you won’t be!!! Third, you may have heard that cruising is just for old people. Well, not true. Yes, some lines, and some of the longer itineraries tend to have older crowds-let’s face it, retirees have nothing but time on their hands, but the truth is, cruising appeals to people of all ages. If you’re planning a multi-generational vacation, a cruise may be perfect since it allows you to spend time together or do things on your own. There are activities and facilities just for the kids, and many ships offer babysitting or later hours in the kids’ club. Newer ships offer family staterooms that have additional berths for sleeping, can be located closer to the kids’ club, or that even have a second bedroom (maybe even a 3rd and 4th too!) There are plenty of adults-only areas as well-pools, decks and lounges so if you want to have some time away, you will find your own special areas on the ship for relaxing. The fact is, cruising appeals to all ages and you’ll find people from 1 year old to 90+ years of age on cruise vacations. Perhaps you’re worried about getting sick since illness onboard ships often makes the news? Well, norovirus can be found anywhere, hospitals, churches, universities and so on. Again, the news media loves to discuss this when it’s a slow news day, but the chances of you getting a stomach virus, or even seasick, are pretty slim. We’ve discussed motion sickness elsewhere so we will not go into that again here. And, frequent washing of your hands with soap and water will dramatically decrease the risk of contracting a nasty stomach bug when you’re on a cruise. Finally, you may think that cruises are expensive. Think about it though. Once you’re on the ship, you really do not have to spend any extra money. Most meals, entertainment, transportation between ports and some beverages are included. Of course, there are optional items too like shore excursions, shopping, specialty dining, cocktails and the casino, but you can literally pay for the cruise and your service charges and then not spend another dime on the ship. Cruising really is a great value. You’ll wake up someplace different almost every day, you can see shows and other things for free, many activities are included in the cost and you don’t have to go out hunting for meals-everything is right there! Now that we’ve busted several cruise vacation myths, we’ll discuss itineraries, choosing a cruise line and cabin, what to pack and more in coming articles! We hope that you’ll find our series helpful and enlightening. And of course, Luggage Factory has all the essential items that you’ll need to pack for and travel to your cruise. *One of our Travel Expertd is a veteran cruiser and travel partner who has also achieved Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC) certification with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a worldwide trade group with 60 member cruise lines, 25,000 agent members and offices around the world. (ECC is the highest level of certification that can be achieved, and to do so involved hours of training, ship inspections, sales and cruise experience.)