Tips for a happier, healthier cruise

This past weekend we took a three-night cruise to the Bahamas. There were a lot of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t discourage you from trying it for yourself. It’s definitely an economical way to travel, and even though I don’t think I’ll do another cruise in the future, I definitely recommend it to those travelers who are looking for a relaxing getaway rather than a non-stop travel experience.

If you decide to try cruising for yourself, here are some things I wish I’d known before our trip.

Take the stairs.

You will be eating too much, and the food is mostly bad for you. Yes, in an ideal world you’ll eat nothing but reasonable portions at the giant buffet, but I don’t have that kind of will power. If you don’t either, one way that you can make sure you can (somewhat) counteract the damage is to ignore the slow, overcrowded elevators and take the stairs. There were 12 floors on our ship, and we were constantly going up and down the stairs. By the end of the trip, my calves were aching, which tells me I got at least a little exercise.

Bring a watch.

I don’t know if it’s part of the cruise “experience” and they want you to forget the time, but there was a serious shortage of clocks on that ship. We had to turn on the TV and flip to the channel guide to see the time in our room, because there was no clock. The only place we ever saw clocks were on the stairs. A watch would have made it easier for us for us to keep track.

Remember: nothing is “free.”

Because food is included in the cost of your ticket, you won’t receive a bill at the end of your meals. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling, but beware: that feeling makes it easier to spend money on the extras on the ship. After all, food is “free,” right? Why not treat yourself to all of the extras? But food isn’t free. Remember how much you paid for that ticket, and budget for extras accordingly.

They give you a little card hooked up to your credit card, which is what they swipe for all extra purchases. Don’t get too caught up in the “free” mentality, or you’ll undoubtedly end up with a painful bill at the end of the trip.

Read the fine print.

Several times we were almost duped into spending money without realizing it. For instance, after dinner we were offered a cup of espresso. There was no mention of an additional charge — until I read the fine print at the bottom of the menu that said specialty coffee drinks were subject to additional charges. Know what’s included with your ticket and what’s not so you won’t be surprised.

Be (somewhat) reasonable.

You are on vacation, so your resistance will already be low. Then you’ll be surrounded by unlimited food and drink. You’ll be approached by a bartender with a tray of delicious drinks every five minutes. All you have to do is swipe your magic card.

Take it from me, though. If you eat, drink, and spend too much, you will be sorry. We set a limit for what we could spend on the trip, which we only exceeded slightly. I can’t say the same for the food. I ate way more unhealthy food than I intended, and I definitely regret it.

Enjoy yourself, indulge, but also keep in mind that the real world is waiting for you, and you can’t leave those extra calories behind on the ship.

Photo by 27828104@N08