How We Boarded Cruise Ship for the First Time

“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!

But at last we could change it, as we were invited by Estravel for a visit to Royal Caribbean International ship Serenade of the Seas for a visit while it was docked in Riga.

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!

You can book a cruise online on Royal Caribbean International  website or with a travel agent such as Estravel.

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!

In Summary

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!


    1. Thank you for your comment! I don’t think you need to do many group activities! Once you know the schedule, you can arrange for individual tours and make sure you are back on time.

  1. Omg! This post just made me want to book a cruise right now. I’ve never been in a cruise. Surprised that it’s not as expensive as i expect it to be. And it’s grand. Wow. Lucky you!

    1. Right? 🙂 I also somehow thought it must be expensive, but turns our that not at all!

  2. My dad loves his cruises but I don’t think I’m born to be out at sea as I get myself in such a panic on boats. This one looks lovely though and isn’t too big!

    1. Inside it does not feel like a boat at all, for me the only reminder was the handrails on some areas, other than that, seems just like a big hotel! I’d like to go on a one that has the big garden in the middle, it would be lovely, I imagine the tropical plants smell there!

  3. This is mindblowing! Never been on a cruise myself either, but the idea of an inhouse sauna is immensely tempting. Also some time without constant internet could be nice.Very interesting to hear about the xperiences of cruise employees too, I’d love to interview one.

    1. The world is small, I was at a friends party and just by accident learned this! I am sure if you ask around on travelers forums, you will find plenty of people who have worked on a cruise at some point!

  4. Wow, these photos are incredible! Although I’ve never taken a cruise before I am sorely tempted now after seeing these photos! I would like to cruise the Norwegian Fjord one day, so this gives me the push to investigate it.

    1. Thank you 🙂
      Yes, Norwegian coast is definitely one area I’d like to see as well! I guess there is also the benefit of seeing the colorful houses and cliffs from water and far, not just from land!

  5. How fun! I love cruising but it is definitely a different type of travel. Its the type of trip I take it I want to disconnect and really relax because literally everything is taken care of for me. I definitely recommend it if that is what you are looking for! I’ve only been on cruises to the Caribbean but I would love to do one like the Alaska one you mentioned 🙂

    1. How was your cruise on the Caribbean, which countries did you see? I think I would enjoy this “being taken care of” part very much, as I am a planner myself and would be nice to just be there in a moment for a change 🙂

  6. I love cruises for a couple of reasons. First, you can check out many towns and regions in a short amount of time without worrying about the logistics of transportation or booking new rooms and shuffling all your things about. One day in any town has so far been enough for me to know if it’s a place I would like to spend more time in, and then I can go back for a longer stay in my favorite places instead of wasting valuable vacation time in spots that don’t suit me. Second, I LOVE repositioning cruises! They are long and cheap and few stops, but then you get to know your fellow passengers and have time just to enjoy being on the boat and lounging by the pool with a good book instead of shuffling into town to explore each day. Both approaches are worthwhile IMO, if you look at them the right way. Cruising has a bad rap in the young and hip crowd, but it needn’t.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I have read about the re-positioning cruises, when the ships go back from Europe to USA, and it is like 2 weeks at the sea, I think it’s especially great in the larger ships that have all the possible entertainment (and if the weather is nice so stay on the deck!). Actually, I have never heard from anyone young having taken a cruise (unless they work on it), for some reason just those 40+, but I totally agree that it doesn’t need to be like that, I would be very much open to traveling like this and seeing a few countries in a shorter period of time 🙂

  7. Nice pics! I did my first cruise ever earlier this year, and I was struck by the whole cruising culture. Especially the people who 1) go on several cruises per year and 2) who sometimes go on cruises without even knowing the destinations. The ship is all they care about! Looks like your ship was flashy. I hear RC does some cool things like rock climbing walls.

    1. Thank you 🙂 Which cruise did you do? I think people not knowing where they are is typical also for any kind of group travel, I have done a few of those arranged bus tours (admittedly, when I just started travelling and was too scared to plan something on my own), and I saw many people like that. Well, I guess everyone is different and needs their own type of entertainment and travel. I probably wouldn’t mind those people in the cruise 🙂 Regarding the rick climbing, yes, it is possible, and not just that, also plenty of pools, saunas, activities for kids (for English speaking kids absolutely amazing!).

  8. great review and photos! i’m not a big fan of cruises, but i do go on them from time to time. i think i enjoy certain cruises when they offer a lot of recreational activities, etc.

  9. I used to love cruises for the all you can eat and spa aspect of it but now I use it to preview places and help me get a sense of where/if I’d like to go back and formally tour the area and get to know it! Love it!


Add comment