I’ve been on a couple of short cruises (3 nights long) but later this year my family and I (20 of us) will be taking an 8 night cruise in the Western Carribean. My mom roped us into all going. 12 grandkids!!! I’m sure it will be fun, but spending 9 consecutive days with my entire family could be tiresome.
The good thing is that it’s a pretty large ship (over 4,000 passengers), and we will make 4 ports of call during the cruise. Really the only time we have to be together is at night during dinner (and not even then really), but if we missed more than one or two, it would be considered impolite.
Considering the other cruises were just with my wife and old girlfriends (no kids), this one I expect to be very different. So what is there to do for 9 days on and off of a cruise ship? What have you done for fun?
I just returned from an 8 night to Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama. There is plenty to do during the day. Of course lying by the pool and gambling but they have constant activities going on for kids and adults. Shore days go by very fast but my family enjoyed the days at sea much more. The kids engaged in all their aged group activities and I got to read and relax in peace. It seemed far too short when we pulled into our home port.
2 cents from a xenophobe who took an 8-day Western Carribean cruise:
Get a room with a balcony. If you can’t get that, at least get windows. If all you can get is an interior room, don’t go.
The ports of call are pretty short–you get to SAY you’ve been to Cozumel, Costa Rica and Panama, but what can you really see in 8 or so hours?
Beause of that, yeah you’ll want to stick with the shore excursions offered by the boat. If the excursion runs late, the ship won’t leave without you. But if you’re out doing your own thing they are under no obligation to do so. So I stroked some dolphins in Cozumel for a couple hundred bucks.
Costa Rica had the most promising excursions, but they were already sold out beore I’d caught on. So the wife and I shagged vigorously and got drunk and laid around the pool on a fairly empty ship that day.
We got off the boat to check out Panama and got right the fuck back on in under 20 minutes. Judging from the many stories we heard from our more adventurous shipmates we made the right call. I might give Panama a go in the future, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of place you’d want to spend a liesurely afternoon. Something about armed milita strolling about seemed to drive home the fact we were in a barely stable 3rd world country.
But the boat itself was cool and the free time to just do nothing whenever I wanted was marvelous. I don’t recall being bored.
I haven’t been to a cruise to that location - I’ve been on a trans-Atlantic one, one around the southern Caribbean, Alaska, and a 12 day one around the Mediterranean. Plan excursions in advance, and do something interesting, not just shop. Never go to any store the cruise line tells you to go to. Good things go early. Don’t be scared to pay for really cool excursions. When we went up the Orinoco we shelled out for a plane trip past Angel Falls which landed in a camp which included a boat ride around a lake with seven falls flowing into it. That was the highlight, and worth every penny.
As for on the ship, don’t gamble, since you are a captive audience and the odds are not set too well. We like doing trivia, and I pretty much always wind up winning something in a trivia contest. Eat. Spend time on deck. Play ping pong. Read. Go to the shows, which have gotten to be pretty good.
Which cruise line is it? A lot of them have different policies about food and the like. If your whole family is going to eat dinner together, make reservations. Our last cruise was on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, and whenever we made reservations - just for the 3 of us - we would up at a really good table.
NCL has a bunch of small restaurants with specialty foods and surcharges. None of them appealed to us, and the food in the main dining room was great.
There are a bunch of websites about cruising, including cruisecritic.com. (Search for it - I’m not guaranteeing that url.) They should be taken with a grain of salt, but have some really good pointers also. We saved a bundle taking the train to Rome and the subway to Athens instead of using the official tour bus.
Also, get a guide book from the library to get an overview of the places you are visiting. You probably won’t be at any long enough to make it worth buying a book, but you can if you find one you like.
Cruising gives you a taste of a lot of places without having to schlep your bags all over the place, but it is no substitute for a real visit.
Where was your port of call, Colon or Panama City? I can understand these remarks if you docked in Colon, but not on the Pacific side. Panama City these days isn’t all that different than Miami.
There isn’t any “armed militia” in Panama (the country doesn’t have an army at all). And the country has been quite stable for the past 20 years (and has had elections a good deal freer of controversy than several in the US during that time ;)).
Most cruise ships have a library, that no-one but you will be in - indeed no-one but you and a few of the more senior crew will even know where it is. It will have books (duh), boardgames, and most importantly quiet. Between that and the bar the time should pass soon enough.
Took the same cruise. If I recall our tour director correctly they disbanded their standing Army so their police handle those duties as well as having all the weapons left over from the Army.
As for the OP, sounds like you’re going on Carnival. We did that last year. We didn’t do anything in Cozumel, loved white water rafting in Costa Rica and made a huge mistake taking the Panama Canal boat trip.
Definitely lots to do on board ship, send the kids to the pool while you enjoy the adults only deck. It’s sooooooo much quieter.
And I echo the vote about a balcony. It is a perfect place to go to get away.
I’ve done this exact thing - a family cruise for a week. It was fun, but here’s my advice:
Do not ‘fill’ your schedule with family time - it’s a vacation and you will most likely want to do some things on your own (or nothing!).
**I **would try to make it a point to meet everyone for the formal dinner. I wouldn’t get upset if everyone didn’t attend either. The formal dinners are nice and I tend to make it a point to go to those, which is why I was able to sit with different members of my family every night. Not everyone in my family did though.
On the second day of the cruise - the first ‘official’ day we had a family meeting in one of the rooms at something like 2pm. We had a ‘meet and greet’ and had some games and such. This went on for something like an hour, an hour and a half. Then we did our own thing.
I think we had one more ‘family meeting’ towards the end. That was pretty much it for the ‘all family members gathered at one spot’.
I think we went on one or two excursions, which we planned in advance. Some family members went, others didn’t.
My advice is to only set in stone one or two ‘gatherings’ and then do as you wish. I would definitely not make it a point to deliberately plan the cruise around meeting family members or doing stuff with them. One or two meetings and dinners, maybe. Then if you are close with any of them you might want to do an excursion with them.
Perhaps it’s because, as a child, I spent several months on long ocean voyages between Europe and Australia that I don’t really see the appeal of cruises. Yes, there will be a lot to do on board, and there will be shore excursions, but why not fly to somewhere interesting, book into a hotel, and have the freedom to choose whether to stay in the hotel or get out and see the sights in some exotic place. On a cruise, most of the time, you are stuck in the hotel unless you want to go for a long swim.
I love DFW and I love that essay. But it isn’t really indicative of what someone will experience on a cruise. He was deep in a battle with clinical depression when he wrote it. If anything I think it is a great essay showing how to a depressed person everything is a depressing experience.