Cruising is not for everybody.  But I am sure it is not just for oldies like me.  I have tried a few, and the last one was with my family who went cruising for the very first time.

Patricia's Brownie Goes A-Cruising!

The Route


Being the first time,  I wanted to make sure it would be a great experience for them. And for me .  Just a short cruise.  And all “within” a somewhat “safe” and “enclosed” (read: not in open sea) body of water. Not exactly typhoon-free, nor shakeproof,  but i thought the route and itinerary is a good one for first-timers. I would have wanted an Aegean cruise for them, visiting the lovely Greek islands, but the airfare will burn a hole in our pockets, so we opted for one sailing out of nearby Singapore instead. 


I remember one cruise I joined years back.  Sailing in open seas in the Pacific Ocean, even along the coast,  can be a bit terrifying.  With kids in tow,  I wanted them to have good memories of this cruise. After all, they still remember, and complain , about that short choppy ferry ride from Hongkong to Macau some 3 years ago.  This time around, we are traveling when the waters are ‘calmer’ and along  a strait hemmed in by islands.


The Season


January is a good time to cruise around the South Sea islands, around Asia. You get big discounts during typhoon season, but who wants to risk that? 🙂


In Egypt,  cruising in summer may be a ‘safe season’ but I have to warn you about the soaring temperature.  It’s burning there!  I went around August — the height of summer — and had to brave the heat visiting the temples.   Many stayed in the boat, and there were those who joined the offshore excursions and rushed back to the boat as the heat was simply unbearable. 


The Price of a Cruise

Shorter itineraries,  cheaper?  Not necessarily.  I always compute on how it sums up on a per day basis.   But then again, we may have a budget to observe. Also, there are some cheap ones but sailing somewhere in the Americas.  So that may not be for you and me.  

As I said, you get big discounts off the cruise price during the typhoon season.  But you can actually bag some really good deals during the calm, ideal seafaring season.   You just have to watch the boards, so to speak.  Last minute deals  (just to fill in the boats to its capacity) can be quite cheap.  But remember, you may not have a choice of a room here.  You get whatever is available.   

My rule is paying below US$80 a day, all in,  is a steal.  Fine dining,  marvelous buffet spread,  free shows, and of course, free “transportation” as you sail away to your destinations.  In one cruise we joined, I watched all the movies on board. Even attended free culinary lessons.  Laughed at all the stand-up comic shows. Loved all the show extravaganza in the theatre.   Drank so much champagne during the Captain’s Night.


The Boat


Now, I am sure I will get a flak for this.  Choosing a boat can be kind of tricky.  


You may decide on a boat based on how “new” the boat is.  Of course, one thinks “new” is “safe” and “old” is “shaky”, if not a bit “unsafe”.  Frankly, it is easy to disregard the age of the vessel and simply go by the “reputation” of the cruise company or by their record.  It speaks volumes about their maintenance system and their crew. 



As for the rooms,  I went ga-ga when I splurged on a weeklong cruise in a cabin with a balcony.  I have also tried a cabin with an oceanview pigeonhole.  And a cabin with NO WINDOWS.   Given all the activities on and off the boat,  I dare say I can do with or without the comfort of a bigger cabin, or a room with a view.  However, 2 in a cabin is best.  Three may be tolerable if you are family.  Small-sized that they are,  it would be a task to navigate around a tiny cabin, much less share a bathroom with 3 others.  I caution you to check out the location of your cabin though.  We had the misfortune of one cabin right above the theatre.  We could hear the entire show in our room just when we decided on an early night.  If you happen to have no other option (we got our cabin as the cruise went on sale, so we couldn’t complain) but such a cabin above the theatre,  just make sure you watch the last show so it’s all over by the time you head back to your cabin to call it a night.



Other than safety and comfort though,  there is so much to consider when choosing the boat.   The rooms. The food. The entertainment program.  The crew.  THE SYSTEM.  The last one is important. Methinks a bad embarkation and disembarkation system reflects on the efficiency of the cruise ship. Think emergencies.  



Of course, you get those emergency drills the first couple of hours you are on the boat. Who goes where, which boats to take in an emergency, etc.   Outside of those drills, you have the embarkation and disembarkation procedures to be observed.  I rode one boat where this system simply sucks.   It was so chaotic that I was reminded how the emergency system works if it comes to that.  A mood-killer, if there is one.   Mind you, you only have so many hours offshore before you head back if you don’t want to miss your boat. Those stopovers must be utilized efficiently!  As in planning your itinerary when getting off the boat, checking out the sites, and getting back on the boat with time to spare.  I know of a couple who missed the boat,  and brace yourself………..the boat actually LEFT without them.  What a scare!


So, if the crew isn’t efficient or if the system sucks,  you’re in for a lot of anxieties.   I have quite a few to be able to do some comparisons.  The Alaskan cruise I joined via the Princess Line was seamless!   The Royal Carribean Asian cruise I did was also very efficient.   So with the smaller boat I joined when I did my Nile Cruise.  Now, enough said.    😉