To some, cruising on the high seas can be scary. We’ve all heard of the high-profile mishaps over the past year or so that have frightened many. Or, that’s the impression. Actually, cruising has never been more popular and these incidents have not deterred cruisers.
Some of the concerns relate to viruses that spread rapidly among the ship’s passengers. No question, this can occur, but cruise lines have placed hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the trip as these viruses are mainly transmitted via hands. Common sense will tell you to use them as frequently as possible.
Folks may be skittish about the incidents, but others are simply apprehensive about cruising in general. I didn’t cruise at all until 2007 and since then, I have embarked on 10 journeys and regret none of them.
Simply put, cruising is an enormously fun and entertaining experience. You can choose four-day, seven-day, 10-day, 14-day cruises, or whatever is offered. I recommend a shorter span for first-timers to see if this is type of vacation is right for you.
You receive a lot for the money when you cruise. Of course, you get a cabin though generally they are small and space management would be needed. Some come with portholes or balconies; some are interior and have no natural lighting. Your call. The interior cabins are cheaper and are as comfortable as the others.
You can eat all the food you want with a wide variety of cuisines from which to select, and food is available for most of the day and night. Note that ships operate a few specialty restaurants that come at an extra cost, but one does not have to partake. In addition, you can enjoy top-notch entertainment for free on each cruise. Eat when you want, sleep when you want, exercise when you want, and participate in the endless choices of activities or you can choose not to participate at all. You set the agenda.
What’s not free: alcoholic beverages and sodas, photographs taken by ship’s photographers (no obligation to buy them), gifts, Wi-Fi connections, and excursions at the ports-of-call. Also, ships have a casino on board and operate them except when in a port. All these are optional and you can determine to the extent you want these or can afford to participate.
Having two major cruise lines departing from Baltimore not only makes it convenient but also cuts the costs significantly. If you are budget conscious, a local departure is considerably cheaper than flying to a destination first. Royal Caribbean and Carnival currently operate out of Baltimore and their cruises can take you to such destinations as the Caribbean, Bermuda, or New England. You can check with their respective websites for schedules and prices.
There are large LGBT cruises like Atlantis, RSVP, Olivia, and Pied Piper. These are a lot of fun and you will be spending time with thousands of folks who are also LGBT, which could add to the comfort. They also have a great line-up of entertainment and offer theme parties almost each day. Therefore, the enjoyment level is high, as is the cost since LGBT cruises charge significantly more than conventional ones (the “gay” tax, some would say).
Nonetheless, with LGBT folks receiving greater acceptance of late, one can be LGBT and still enjoy the non-LGBT cruises. Same-sex dancing in the ship’s disco, for instance, doesn’t even warrant a blip on the radar; it’s considered routine now. Most people on a cruise are there to enjoy themselves, not judge.
You can book your cruise online or through an agent. I had very good success with Cruise Planners (Bellecruises.com) and Vanessa Addrienne Consulting (Vanessaaddrienne.com). Both provide excellent service at no cost. I recommend you purchase insurance to protect against the unexpected.
There are ways to do your research online, such as the site Cruise Critic—a popular vehicle to check out what others think. However, be cautious as some of the comments may be from people who have axes to grind.
Treat yourself to a cruise; you’re likely to be hooked.
Gay Life July 2014