A Cruise trip is a dream come true for many of us, especially those from the Asian countries since they are not, exactly, economy. Apart from the cost of Cruise Trip, which can amount to $280 a day for a couple, you have to reach the ... Read More
A Cruise trip is a dream come true for many of us, especially those from the Asian countries since they are not, exactly, economy. Apart from the cost of Cruise Trip, which can amount to $280 a day for a couple, you have to reach the embarkation point of the Cruise on your own. Other costs include daily trips to shore for sightseeing as the ship docks on a new location every day. The total cost on a Mediterranean Cruise, for a couple, works out to:
Cruise cost = $2000 (seven day trip)
Cost of reaching the port of embarkation(France)= $ 1850
Daily trips to shore for sightseeing= $700
Taxi + last day shore stay = $ 150
Wifi + drinks on ship = $100
Tips on ship(compulsory) = $140
TOTAL about $ 5000
Cruise ships are floating cities offering you every kind of facility in the form of Drinks, Casinos, Stage Shows, Pools, Jacuzzis, Shopping and every other form of temptation imaginable. There is a bar at every corner with irresistible cocktails beckoning you to try them out. Our ship was huge, with a crew of 800, management claimed to be preparing almost 20,000 meals a day.
The worst part is the food. The buffet halls are open 20 hours a day and every kind of fruits, salads, pizzas, breads, hundreds of type of dishes, sea food, puddings, cakes and anything else you can think of is on offer from around the globe. It is impossible not to give in to the temptation, however hard you may try. It is no brainer, therefore, that despite all precautions, all of us put on 2-3 Kg of weight within the first two days. All the food at buffet counters is on the house.
Despite all these temptations, by day two we had realized that we needed the skills of a fox to survive in this jungle full of traps at every step and if I did not watch out I would be disembarking with none of my clothes fitting me. Obviously, some strategy was required to ensure one does not pay for unnecessary things and at the same time make full use of a host of facilities being offered in the package. So we worked out a routine to do all of above, and more, as follows:
We got up at 6 AM, there being no arrangement for tea in the cabin, one was expected to go up to 14th floor buffet hall to get it, a prospect hard to follow early in the morning. So we brought two satchels of tea+ milk from the dining hall in the night, heated two cups of water in our room with a tiny rod that we always carry with us, and had a nice cuppa ready in a few minutes. (tea served in the entire western hemisphere is always lukewarm, perhaps they like it that way). Water bottles are available at €3, (even the first bottle in your room is charged), but you can always fill up the empty ones in the buffet hall. We got ready and headed for the gym located on top floor of the ship by 6.30 AM. Gym is located in the forward most portion of the ship and it gives a heady feeling watching the ship sail right from the front. Completed our cycling and treadmill routine by 7 AM and then we headed for the Jacuzzi hall located right outside, which opened at 7. At this time there are few people and these huge Jacuzzi pools, which can take up to 10 people each, at a wonderful temperature of 370C, were just what the doctor ordered. After half a hour in the Jacuzzi pools, we came out, fully charged, and headed for the Buffet Hall for a fresh fruit feast (Phalahar). Despite all temptations, refrain from eating anything else. Go back to your room for a bath and getting ready for the day’s excursion. Then head for the buffet hall again by 8.30 AM or thereabouts, depending on what time will your ship dock. Now is the time to enjoy your breakfast. Best take a round of the entire buffet hall before you choose, as there are 10-15 stations to choose from, and if you fill up from the first few ones, you will invariably regret it later on. Sadly, you will notice many of the travelers wasting a lot of food, but we don’t want to emulate that, do we?
You would want to go for local sightseeing in whichever town the ship has docked. One way is to book an excursion organized by the ship. These have to be pre booked. These trips are expansive at around € 60 per person. They take you in buses and halt at one or two predetermined places only. The other way is to come out of the dock and look for a 4-6 seater taxi. This is a much better and cheaper option, if you are in a group. Sometimes you can’t walk out as the dock gate is far away or you are not allowed to walk. In such cases, the ship organizes ferry services to a convenient point (on payment, of course, at € 10-12 a pop). Then you can make use of Hop on-off buses available locally or again hire taxis to go around. Since you have to be back by around 4 PM, you will never get enough time for local sightseeing. The best option is to choose a couple of places to spend time on and take a drive through the rest (better to do your homework before starting on your cruise trip).
After return to the ship, take a cup of tea at the buffet hall, take a shower and get ready by 7 PM and come over to the lobby bar for a drink(not cheap by our standards, a glass of beer costs around € 5+). Some of us, lucky ones, were provided with a coupon booklet which gave us a limited choice of free drinks. Do try some of the cocktails offered, they look enticing. The evening shows commence at 7.30 PM. They are performed by professionals and are a treat to watch. These shows finish by 8.15 PM and then you can come back to the Bar or go for Dinner. All the lobbies are full of stalls selling perfumes, watches and other knick knack imaginable. There is also a huge Casino on board, many times offering you free coupons to nudge you to get going. With nowhere else to go, it is not difficult to give in. All this can get pretty heady as all the décor around the lobbies is five star and beyond. This is especially true for those who have been exposed to such environment and luxury for the first time.
For dinner you either go to the buffet hall or head for one of the fancy restaurants where you are pre allotted a seat for a sit down dinner at 9 PM. If you choose the fancy restaurant route, it will take more than an hour and a half before you can finish your dinner. Also, wine or water etc., will have to be paid for at these tables. Too bad if you don’t like the dish served to you. It is no brainer, therefore, that after the first day none of us went back to that table. I suspect that, except for some stuck up guys coming to dinner in formal clothes, striking business deals, no body went back there. Some days Captain of the ship, or his Deputy, must have been the only guy having his dinner there.
Speaking of the Captain, we were invited to have our photograph taken with the captain, so we all decked up in formal clothes and landed up at the appointed place. I perceived that the Captain should feel honored to have his photograph taken with a person of my rank and standing, but that guy was even more stuck up than me and he hardly glanced at the guests and stood around looking at the sky with his female secretaries fussing over him. This looked somewhat akin to a coop full of hen, with a single bossy Cock. Imagine the temerity of these guys, they wanted me to pay for this photo! I rather thought it should have been the other way around.
While on the ship, avoid the temptation to shop even if watches, perfumes etc. are available at a fake discount of 30%. Best time to socialize and make friends is over a drink around the pool after you return from the sightseeing or just before and after the stage shows.
Be warned that there are huge queues everywhere, especially when you enter the ship or are leaving the ship in the morning. What is surprising is that there was always a big queue at the reception. You have to wait a long time to resolve a query or get to get a question answered. If it is deliberate, I couldn’t fathom the reason. They ask you to deposit € 250 at the beginning of the cruise on your card issued by them. This card is also used for exit or entry to the ship, our passports having been retained by them on arrival. All your expenses are done through this card and deducted from your deposit. Tips are also deducted every day at the rate of € 10 per person.
Parting is always a painful process but the cruise organizers seem to have undergone special training to make it more so. We were to dock at 1 PM on the final day. They asked us to deposit our luggage by 11PM the previous night. This caused us immense discomfort. It is difficult to fathom the reasons for such a wise step. To top it all we were asked to assemble at 2.10 PM for disembarkation, we all reached the assembly point, waited till 3 PM and when nobody turned up, we all just walked out of the ship. It looked kind of weird.
All in all you can have a fairly good time despite these minor hiccups. Language is a barrier on European tours, all announcements are made in, at least, four languages. Preferably, best to travel in a group, you don’t feel lost and it is cheaper as well. Read Less