Long lines, uncomfortable seats, having to pack and unpack – travel can be a bit of a bore. So what about an ocean cruise with transport, accommodation, food, entertainment, and sightseeing wrapped up into one package?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of an ocean cruise over other forms of travel?
Tired of early morning wake-up calls, being herded onto and off of tour buses, and having to repeatedly pack and unpack, Majid Gafoor and his wife decided to take an ocean cruise.
That was about 12 years ago, and there has been no looking back.
Majid is Hong Kong born and educated. He was a career journalist from his first job until retirement in 2004. He moved to Canada in 1985. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.
He graciously agreed to this on-line interview.
How many ocean cruises have you taken over the years?
Five so far, with different cruise lines and although each is a little different from the other, they have all been fabulous.
When, to where, and why did you take your first ocean cruise?
First cruise, I believe, was in 2005, to the Caribbean. Being brought up on an island (Hong Kong), I guess there is something about the seas and islands that is coursing through my veins so I heeded the call.
How would you evaluate the experience?
In one word – fabulous. In three words – fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. You pack and unpack only one time.
The rest of the trip you just 'cruise' along (pardon the pun). Basically you are combining sunshine, resort, nightclubbing, fine dining, socializing, gambling, dancing, shows, theatre, etc, etc, all in one floating community.
You can be as busy or as lazy as you want – everything is at your beck and call. Me, I'm a cigar smoker and the cigar divan is a bastion of male machismo – everyone with a tale (tall or not) to tell.
It would take me too long to detail all the experiences, but you get the idea.
What was your best ocean cruise experience?
The best would be waking up in different cruise ports each day (the cruise ship sails at night) and when you wake up, presto! You are in a new port city.
You have an opportunity to spend 12 hours or so in that city and then back to the boat.
What was your most unusual experience?
Well, you meet all kinds of people in all sizes, shapes, colours and sexes. It's an even playing field, and you take everyone at face value so you can say or do anything you want and there is no judgement.
Have you had any harrowing experiences?
Didn't happen to me, but in the Bahamas, I saw a BICYCLE cop (skinny, but wiry) pull his bicycle right in front of an SUV to make it stop and then proceeded to harangue four burly men who were ordered to leave the vehicle and assume the position alongside the car.
Bravest thing I ever witnessed!
What are the advantage (or disadvantages) of ocean cruises vs other forms of travel?
The advantages I have already listed in my experience. The disadvantage (if you can call it one) is that there is so much food available all the time that you tend to over indulge and that proverbial belly takes on a life of its own.
With other travel, I absolutely detest the early morning call and the sheep herding experience of getting onto the tour bus.
Can you talk a bit about the on board experience, the facilities, and how you pass the time?
There are gyms, deck games, pools (Jacuzzis as well), sports, music, a casino, shops, bars, etc. Take your pick to entertain yourself.
Then there are events (classes, karaoke, dance, hobbies, etc) that you can join. There is enough going on that anyone who says he/she is bored is either comatose or dead.
What about the food?
It's a 24-hour smorgasbord. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style. Then there are snack tables for in-between.
Dinner is more formal and you dress up and the menu is fine dining.
If after all this, you still feel the need for a feed, there is always room service, served with a smile. If you are not picky or finicky about your food, you should be able to find all you need at the tables or the menu.
No belly revenge on any of my cruises.
The time spent in cruise ports seems a bit limited. Your comment?
For me it was just perfect. I like to be driven to the destination, drop for a bit of walk/shop and then a meal and more walk/shop and then back to the boat.
I leave the exploring to the young and able. I've seen enough 'local' culture to know what I am missing.
There are so many cruise lines – Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, Windstar Cruises, the list goes on. In your opinion, what are the top cruise lines (and why)?
I stand by my choice of the Royal Caribbean International (RCCL) as their food, service, and general facilities (food and entertainment) are superb and included in the cruise price.
Some cruise lines offer a greater choice to passengers, but they charge extra for the restaurants.
Is the largest cruise ship necessarily the best cruise ship?
Size does matter. The bigger ships are steadier at sea, but you get lost between decks. Choose the mid-size cruise boat – you get your orientation quicker and you can start making 'cruise' friends sooner.
Feel free to approach anyone or group and if after a short conversation they are not what you want, move on.
Have you ever done a "cost analysis" estimating (in rough terms) the overall cost of a voyage versus a trip of similar length to similar travel destinations when the price of tickets, meals, entertainment, sightseeing, etc. are factored in?
Cost-wise, I would say cruising is the best deal since it includes all board and lodging and entertainment. But like all travel, you need to shop around to get the best bang out of your buck – wait for promotions, last minute offers, etc.
It is more cost-effective than the "all inclusive resorts" because you are offered so much more in terms of choices, and it certainly beats traditional travel where everything you want to do has to be paid for.
Any more comments you would like to make?
Cruising is for relaxing. If you are the high energy type who needs risks and adventure, this is not for you.