50th Birthday cruise(s) - tentatively related to Saint Anthony of Padua (Feast day 13th June)

50th Birthday Cruise(s)

Saint Anthony was nearly my chosen Saint when I joined the Catholic Church, although I ended up going with Saint Francis because of his love of nature.  June 13th (Saint Anthony’s Feast Day) is my birthday.  There are lots of stories I could write relating to this but thought I would write on cruises as we ended up going on two for my 50th birthday.

This story will not go into detail on the events of the cruises as these will no doubt be posted later but will be more about the whole thought process of cruising and whether we would do it again.

I was 50 in 2018 and I wanted to do something memorable to celebrate.  As I enjoy travel, a holiday was always going to be on the cards.  My birthday is in June, but I was living in Australia, Pippi was at college and Ben in School in UK so to have a holiday with them meant waiting to the end of July/August time.

Good friends of ours, Carl and Jane go cruising a lot and we have had several conversations about cruising with them.  They love it and most people I have spoken to also have loved the experience.  I was not sure.  I liked the idea of seeing lots of places and only unpacking once but was concerned about seasickness and lots of people in what seemed like a small place.

I spoke with Pippi and Ben about their ideas and they were happy with any holiday destiniation.  We looked at Russia but getting visas for us all was a bit of a pain.  We considered Romania but had been there for 8 days previously. We thought about Portugal and almost booked it.  We spoke about a Mediterranean cruise and they seemed cool to the idea.

By this point Paul and I were thinking about what to do in June for my birthday and as the kids did not seem so keen on the cruise, we decided to book a short cruise from Singapore to Thailand and back – 3 nights, 4 days.  When I said this to my kids and suggested we could go to Portugal instead, they were both disappointed and apparently had thought the Mediterranean cruise a good idea … So I booked that one as well.

Like us, Carl, and Jane like good food, and had spoken about the high quality of food and the great service you get on the ships.  On our first cruise which was a Royal Caribbean cruise, the food in the main hall was very average, in fact we paid extra after the first night to go to the speciality restaurants as it was so disappointing.  The ship was a relatively old design with a shopping arcade running down the middle, there were several pools, lots of bars including an ‘English pub’ – the Pig and Whistle, a spa (the massage was good), and lots of entertainment.

Neither my fear of seasickness, nor ‘over-crowding’ were justified but at the end of the cruise, although I enjoyed it, if had I not already booked the second one, I would not have done so.

The cruise in August with Pippi and Ben was for 7 nights from Athens to Barcelona with Princess Cruises.  It was a similar sized ship to the first one, but the layout was much different.  There was plenty of space to get away from everyone, if you wanted to, but also plenty of opportunity to be involved in all kinds.  The food in the main dining room was amazing, there was nothing else I can say, other than the service was also out of this world.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner offered the same quality of food and service. As part of our package, we had a dinner in one of the speciality restaurants, but the food was no better – it was still good, but not worth paying the extra for.

The last day from about lunch time, the sea was rough and by evening we were feeling a little seasick and went to bed early (except for Ben who seemed to not notice).  The cruise was amazing, we all enjoyed it.  There was something for all of us to do, Ben spent a lot of time in a teenagers club, Pip would watch films on the deck in the evening, we would all get together for meals, and for quizzes during the day.  It worked well, and I loved it.

Would I do a cruise again? Yes, although I would want to try to cruise where the sea is unlikely to be rough
What would I look for? A cruise line with great food and service – check reviews and ask people (like Carl and Jane) who have cruised regularly.
Tips? Take out the drinks package if you like alcohol, then you drink as little or as much as you like and not end up with a scary bill at the end. Take out the photo package, we had so many photo’s taken at professional level on the second cruise, it was amazing.
Cost? The initial cost of a cruise seems expensive although if you take in to account that it includes accommodation, all food, all drinks (if you take out the drinks package) then there are certainly some deals to be had.  A great advantage is most of the cost is upfront.  It is quite easy on a city or beach holiday to not notice how much money you are spending when buying food, visiting places etc.
Rooms? The cabins are small of course, on both trips we had a cabin with a balcony which are more expensive, I had said that if we ever cruised again, that we would not bother with a balcony as we didn’t spend much time out there at all.  However, following the COVID-19 cases on the cruises where passengers were confined to their rooms, I can see why a balcony would be a Godsend.
Excursions? This is where we spent more money than we should have, some excursions were worth it but in some cases, a bit of research beforehand would have show that we were docked close enough to towns or beaches to not have to spend the money on an excursion.
Other passengers? I had it in my head that all cruisers would be old … not the case, the majority were similar ages to us with similar backgrounds.  For some it was the holiday of a lifetime and for others, they practically lived on cruises, but everyone we encountered was pleasant and having a good time.

Conclusion, Cruising is a great way to see places quickly.  If you go for 10 days to Rome for instance, you will come away from Rome knowing it relatively well, if you go to Rome for a few hours on a cruise, you will see enough to decide whether you want to go back.

It works for families as there is plenty for everyone.  The entertainment onboard means that from the time you get up for breakfast until the time you go to bed, you can be entertained or find somewhere to chill out.

You can holiday cheaper than going on a cruise of course but at least you know what you are going to spend with most of it paid upfront.

I would recommend it.