Last month, I took my first cruise as a grown-up (previous cruises have been with my parents) and found it to become a very culturally eye-opening experience.
I broke completely out of my norm of independent travel and stepped curiously into mass consumer travel. Rather than hostels, determining local buses, and street food stalls, it had been a lush stateroom, endless buffets, and planned events. Rather than young and independent travelers, it had been families celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, and quinceañeras.
Even though you may not find out about your destinations on a cruise (more on that in a bit), you learn a whole lot about people. I came across that there’s a definite cruise culture, a culture which makes for incredibly interesting people-watching. Since for a number of people a cruise is their only type of travel, it had been interesting to listen to about travel and the world from those that see it through an extremely sterilized and commercialized experience.
In the end, a cruise is a resort-meets-Disney World on the ocean.
Things That Amazed Me
First, there is formal night, a night where you decorate for a “nice dinner.” It had been like likely to adult prom. Individuals were dressed to the nines — I even saw people in tuxes. Families were taking portraits (like the classic “back-to-back mother/daughter shot”), and teenage girls celebrating their quinceañeras ran around in prom dresses and tiaras. I recall overhearing one guy say that formal night on a cruise may be the only time of the entire year he dresses up. But what really interested me was that for a lot of people, this appeared like a special day regardless of the overrated cheese factor. I can’t really find out why people loved it so much. It’s only a formal night on a cruise. You get lobster rather than steak, and it’s nothing like those pictures they take are free.
I felt that folks made a big deal of the night time because you were likely to make a big deal of it.
Secondly, I was amazed that cruises were such family events. My cruise buddy Jason, a far more experienced cruiser than I, explained there are actually just a few boats for singles or teenagers. Most ships have a tendency to be populated by families or older adults. Considering all my cruise experiences, I could see that. What I must say i found interesting was the type of families here: tons and a great deal of large, extended families. Our stateroom was surrounded by a family group that used seven rooms. At dinner, one family used three large tables. Everywhere I looked, I saw large families. Cruises, it appears, are where families head to travel. I assume it’s the brand new family reunion.
Because cruises for that lots of people are expensive of money, it made me wonder: Do people know they could check out Paris for much less? Do they even care? Or do they cruise because it’s a straightforward, organized way to get everyone in a single spot?
For some of the people I spoke with, a cruise was only a simpler and easier way to arrange a big family gathering when compared to a massive visit to Paris.
And in speaking with people, what I must say i learned was that travel and vacation were synonymous words for them. This is their vacation, however in their mind, this was also traveling. Your investment fact they never left “the resort” — to many people on a cruise, this is travel.
And I think that’s unfortunate. There’s nothing at all wrong with a vacation, but to believe that heading to a mass consumer destination is the ditto as travel isn’t a good thing. Exactly like heading to Vang Vieng and saying “I’ve gone to Laos” isn’t really true, so is going to a cruise port or an all-inclusive resort. It sterilizes the destination and hides the neighborhood culture. You aren’t really experiencing Mexico when you’re in Señor Frogs, nonetheless it was amazing if you ask me just how many people expressed the theory that “Mexico rocks !!” while there.
I think there’s a definite difference between travel and a vacation. The foremost is about exceptional world, the latter about relaxing.
The Dark Side of Cruise Culture
On the main one hand, I believe cruise culture is interesting because it’s always about having a great time, keeping a glass or two in your hand, eating, and meeting new people. It’s an extremely happy and lively atmosphere. And that’s good.
But there is the dark side to cruise culture: it’s insular. For a number of people, a cruise may be their only chance to get out and start to see the world. It may be their only chance to see other cultures, especially since most Americans don’t travel a whole lot. And what I didn’t like about the cruise was that it had been so inwardly focused, with everything designed around never looking beyond your ship. I disliked how there is no emphasis on studying the destinations we were likely to.
In Haiti, when I started asking my Haitian tour guide in Labadee (Royal Caribbean’s private resort, in which a double-walled, barbed-wire fence keeps people out and us in) about life beyond the wall, he became visibly uncomfortable about discussing it, as though it was taboo to go over “things that happen over there.”
Now, we don’t have to have a discussion on Haitian, Mexican, or Jamaican politics (the three ports of ask my cruise), but I don’t understand why cruises couldn’t at least offer some basic information regarding their ports of call. There is nothing inside our daily itinerary planner about our destinations. (Jason confirmed that happened on a great many other ships too.)
In ways, I felt just like the ports of call were completely irrelevant. If there’s no effort to see travelers about their destinations, you will want to just park the boat somewhere near a beach and stay there? Why make a show of it?
We Americans don’t travel much. Our news programs don’t appear to report on a whole lot beyond what Miley Cyrus does. I know that is likely to seem offensive, and I don’t mean it to be, but cruises have a definite “Middle America” feel to them. (I take advantage of that term because “Middle America” is often considered synonymous with bland, cookie-cutter consumerism.) Cruises certainly are a highly commercialized and sanitized experience; they gloss over the truth of each destination to produce a bubbly, you-don’t-need-to-think-about-it picture. That’s something I must say i hate about American culture. It’s often very insular, which appeared to perpetuate that attitude.
I met individuals who had never traveled beyond a cruise. People that went on cruises several times per year. Even though there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cruise, what I learned on the ship is that cruises focus on a superficial, turn-off-your-mind type of travel. (Writing this post made me recognize that I saw the very same thing on my old Carnival cruises, so I’m not trying to select Royal Caribbean.)
I’m happy folks are leaving their houses. That’s a part of the proper direction. I’d favour someone on a cruise than in the home. But while most of us need a vacation, cruise companies could at least provide some fundamental understanding of the ports of call they visit. Shit, print out the Wikipedia page for heaven’s sake. Anything is preferable to nothing.
Instead, I felt that lots of of the people on cruise lines knew little about the world beyond your US, and cruises were a lot more than pleased to oblige them and support that attitude. Note: Not absolutely all cruises are such as this. There are various wildlife and nature cruises which have naturalists and lectures on them.
Lots of people write off cruises as a result of sanitized, Disney feel to them, and I definitely found on the carefree vibe. I’ll definitely embark on a cruise again because I enjoyed tuning out. For once, I enjoyed not traveling. (And for the reason that vein, all-inclusive resorts are most likely in my own future, too.) There’s nothing wrong with attempting to sit by the pool with a glass or two in your hand. That’s all I needed.
But also for that family whose only experience out from the country is that one cruise? There should at least be the choice for more information about the neighborhood culture in order that family can leave with some understanding of the neighborhood area beyond that it has zip-line tours, some ruins, and cheap drinks.
On the other hand, maybe I’m let’s assume that people care and want to find out more about their ports of call instead of drown their brains in frozen piña coladas.
They could not, that will be why cruise lines don’t provide anything beyond mindless entertainment.
But that thought depresses me an excessive amount of.
I’d rather think there’s still hope.
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