“How come you have never been on a cruise? Not even across the Baltic sea to Stockholm?” This is a question we have been asked a few times, and yes, indeed, up until now we had never been on a cruise ship!
The Little Giant
The first surprise for us the size of the ship – 90 kilo-tonnes! It has enough space to fit 2490 passengers and 850 crew (the industry standard is to have roughly 1 crew member for every 3 passengers). The ship was so big that it docked not in Riga Passenger port, but nearly in Daugavgriva, terminal KS! During the tour we found out that in comparison to other cruise ships, this one is actually considered small.
Yet that is an advantage, as smaller ships are able to get to more destinations, as not every port can accommodate very large vessels. The larger the ship, the more it is likely to be a destination of it’s own. The experience sounds to be similar to that in an All-Inclusive resort, where you can lounge at the pool, and if you want to, take one of the day tours, as every day the ship is someplace else!
The Destinations and the Passengers
On the day that we visited the ship, most of the passengers seemed to do just that – sightseeing! Just a few stayed at the saunas and outdoor pools, and a few older ladies were assembling puzzles in the recreational area of the ship.
Naturally, we had a question about the age. The average age of a cruise passenger is 38 years (and many families travel with children), but for Baltic sea cruises it’s much higher, over 60, as those are usually the passengers who have already done most of the other cruises.
So, what kind of cruises can one take? We had heard of the Baltic sea cruises, obviously, Caribbean too (I still remember that gallery on a social network a friend of mine posted – just 20 pictures, and all taken on 7 different islands!), you can also take cruises in Asia, departing from Singapore. More experienced cruise fans go to Alaska, you can also see the seas of Australia and New Zealand, the Middle East and Mediterranean. Probably Mediterranean cruises are the most known, and we also wrote on the blog about experience in Santorini for the other side – when cruise ship season is over. Also, usually the cruise is done in a such a manner that you have to take it in it’s entirety and cannot leave in the middle, so it is not a means of transportation between islands.
What to Expect?
When boarding the ship, we had to leave our IDs with a dedicated guard (and we learn that passengers can arrange for their passports to be stamped at the ports!), next we went through security. No outside alcohol is allowed, and any duty free purchases are stored separately and to be collected at the end of the cruise. The first thing we noticed inside is the inauguration plates, from all those times ship has docked in a new port! There was Puerto Rico, Hawaii and many more!
Depending on the season, the same ship can travel various routes, in summer it is in the Baltics, in autumn in travels to New England and in winter the Caribbean. We also saw a picture of Whoopi Goldberg on the wall, as she is the godmother of this ship.
What should you wear on a cruise? It should be comfortable and reasonable enough to dine with other people, which is very similar to resorts, where men in shorts and ladies in swimsuits usually get sent back to their rooms to change. The only difference on the ship is that there is also a formal dinner, the captain’s reception, that requires evening attire. Attending it is not mandatory.
All of the food is included with the ticket, you must pay extra for the alcoholic and other special drinks. If you would like to dine at a special restaurants, there is also per-person fee.
Prices and Bookings
Somehow we had the impression that cruises are very expensive, but turns out that not at all! Interior room starts at roughly $400 for a 3 day cruise, food included. Unfortunately, we did not get to see any rooms this time, as cruises are usually fully booked.
Many cruises offer reservations for even end of the next year, and some, like the new largest ship in the world Symphony of the Seas to be finished in April 2018, are booked up already!
What to Do on the Ship
Many of the activities on the ship are very similar to those in a resort – a large SPA, gym, outdoor pool, cinema, casino, many bars, cafes, restaurants and entertainment hall where singers are practicing during our visit. Parents can leave their children to a special daycare and there are activities for children of all age!
The biggest impression is from the restroom – even the mirrors are in marine style, round illuminators! Turns out, square windows have an engineering weakness – the corners, that’s why ships and airplanes have round or rounded windows.
One thing that is different from resorts is the accessibility of the internet – since a satellite connection is needed for the ship, internet is not free, but a single connection card can be purchased for about $70. A chance to really go offline!
Life on the Ship
Just few days after visiting the ship, we have a chance to meet a Latvian girl, who has worked on a cruise ship for three years. Is it really like they say, no free days? What skills are needed to be able to work on a ship?
Turns out, she spent her first 10 months without holidays on Alaska cruises, with time off in the middle of the day and during the night. When passengers disembarked, she also had the chance to see the places. Even after 10 months on the same route in Alaska she mentioned she would like to come back to see the wonderful nature again!
For the skill set she mentioned English language skills and good discipline are needed. I have heard many people say that it is an excellent opportunity for young people to see the world! Following travel blogs and traveler Instagram accounts I have noticed that many of the bloggers have started their journey this way!
It is absolutely clear than we must do a proper cruise, and some day soon! Be that Caribbean, where we will also bring 20 pictures from 7 places, or more serious photo expedition to Alaska (perhaps, one of those famous cruises where they have scientists on board who also teach you about wildlife?), we will definitely explore one of those on our own! It is not without a reason they say that once you try it, you will always want to travel this way!