With more and more people turning to cruises, it was time to see what the fuss was about.
A month ago I broke a 15 year self-imposed ban on cruising. I had never been on a cruise, but after seeing the reprehensible behaviour of an elderly American cruise ship tourist towards a local Artisan in Mexico when I was 19, I vowed never to become her, nor travel like her. As we were wandering around the colourful street market in colonial Merida, I overheard her “bargaining” with a local Artisan who had made a gorgeous hand-woven tapestry. The Artisan gave her a price and said it took her over a week to make. It was full of colour, designs, patterns and was meticulous in its’ detail. Her price fell on deaf ears as the lady, in her drawl, offered $20. I was beside myself, not only with disgust but with my heart feeling heavy that someone could be so insulting.
Another reason I had never looked into cruising as a holiday option (besides thinking it’s always been for old people) was that I wasn’t sure they had been keeping up with the times regarding environmental protection and sustainable tourism. What were they offering the people in the nations where they docked? Were they recycling? And did I only want to spend one day in a country with 3000 other people?
Full disclosure. I had an amazing time of course. I can drink all day, lay by a pool, judge a World’s Sexiest Man Competition, win The Quest and over eat with the best of them. I went with a bestie who had cruised twice before and between us we managed to find the other “young” people on the ship in about 3 days.
When we boarded we were greeted by incredible staff who were wonderfully helpful, polite and couldn’t do enough for you. We were however, faced with older/elderly entitled people who were rude, demanding and ungrateful, sadly even Australians this time too. After some snide comments, quite possibly the rudest behaviour I have ever witnessed and an argument over the fancy dinner table about a steak knife, we didn’t have to deal with them too much.
We travelled from Singapore to Dubai via Phuket, Goa, Cochin and Muscat. As we docked in each place, we became a lot like sheep, lanyards ahoy, numbered stickers on our shirts and following a person with a paddle. You can of course do your own thing, and in all honesty, I would say a mixture of both is good. In Oman, where you pull right into the heart of Muscat, it’s very easy to grab a taxi for 3 hrs and get shown all the sights and take 100s of photos, all for a fraction of the cost of the onshore excursion price. However, in Phuket we did the shore excursion that went to Phi Phi Island and snorkelling and ensured we were back for the “All Aboard” time. NB: If you do it yourself or organise another companies land tour and get lost or come back late, the boat will not wait, it will however wait if you are on a ship arranged shore excursion. When our tour to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai went array, they left the buffet open for the groups that had got back late.
So, does a quick toe dip in each country give you enough time to make a decision on returning and/or allow you to see just enough that it scratches that itch? It seems it does both. There were a few people saying that the two stops in India were enough for them due to the heat, happy they had been but didn’t need to return, but that they would love to spend more time in Thailand and Oman. I think being given that short time in each place ensures you soak up as much as possible because by 7pm you’re outta there, so you better make the most of it.
Having backpacked my whole life and done a few tours with G Adventures, I really wanted to see how these big business cruise liners stacked up with their sustainable tourism and environmental impact. We went with Royal Caribbean and based on talking to some long-time cruisers, they are the best. (They also own Celebrity, Tui, Azmara Club, Pullmantur and Skysea.)
After reading the Royal Caribbean sustainability reports which encompass everything from waste management, emissions, heating and cooling etc to their charitable arm, it shows that Royal Caribbean are leading the way with ship innovation, reduction of pretty much everything they use that can cause the planet harm and provide the communities they visit with education and help to build sustainable tourism. Each ship hand sorts its’ rubbish – although this is excellent for the planet, I do feel for the person having to sort it, but it does mean that there is very little waste to landfill and they recycled 37.42 million pounds (16973426.5 kilos) in 2016. Despite this, one thing they can definitely work on reducing is their copious use of plastic straws and water bottles.
In an era of change, where we are on the cusp of globally re-learning habits towards plastic and single use items, and with more and more people making cruises their holiday of choice, it’s imperative that these large companies lead by example. The impact we have had and are having on the oceans is horrific, however thanks to shows like David Attenborough’s Blue planet 2, the world is finally sitting up and taking notice. (If you haven’t seen Blue Planet 2, please do yourself a favour and watch it. It is truly spectacular.)
So, to cruise or not to cruise? If you want a relaxing holiday, where everything is at your fingertips, drinks, food, comfort, entertainment, trivia (so much trivia), friends, great destinations, tons of fun and don’t mind taking a few extra kilos around your waist home, then cruising is the way to go. If the timing and destinations were right, I would definitely cruise again.
If you would like to read Royal Caribbean’s sustainability reports and learn about their emissions reduction process and waste management please go to www.rclcorporate.com/environment
If you would like to read about G Adventures charitable arm and sustainable tourism projects please go to www.planeterra.org
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If you would like to see the travel video of this amazing trip please check out the Travel Video section of this site www.theuniversesbike.com/videos/