Thursday, August 11, 2016

To Cruise... Or Not To Cruise

A while ago Hubby and I were at a party. And while he was standing with his buddies drinking beer and talking politics, or baseball, or golf, I was sitting with a group of ladies I've known for years, but usually only see at parties like this. Hockey parties. Not parties where hockey is played or watched. But parties held a few times a year where a group of up to twenty assorted couples get together, a group connected, at least initially, by the fact that the husbands play hockey together. And have for years. And years. 

So anyway, I was sitting that Saturday night, talking to Sue and Sue. Yep, there are a lot of Susans in our group. Our conversation was in part about cruises. Sue #1 had been on a Caribbean cruise last spring with three women friends and, although I had seen photos on Instagram, I hadn't spoken to her about it. She had a good time, she said. Everything was lovely. But she said there was a sameness to the daily island excursions that wore a bit thin after a while. And then we discussed the idea of cruises in general. Pros and cons. And, given that we're all getting older, whether cruising is something we might like to do when our current favourite mode of travel becomes unfeasible. Too exhausting or stressful or unmanageable. Sue's hubby and mine have known each other since they were teenagers playing junior hockey together. And they're similar in many ways including the fact that their wives both think (or know) that their husbands are not really cruise people. 

Hubby and I have never been on a real cruise. I know for a fact that I could not drag him onto one of those big, big ships with thousands of people, or even hundreds, with on-board pools and water slides, five star accommodation, and midnight buffets. Nope not a chance. And that's okay because, to be honest, I'm not interested in those anyway. Friends of ours have taken smaller, more interesting (to me anyway) cruises, to Norway and Russia, or parts of the east including China, or on rivers in Europe. But Hubby is still dead set against the idea of an extended cruise or an organized tour any longer than a few days. At least for now. And I'm okay with that. 

For now we still love to make our own itinerary, rent vehicles, and stay wherever we want for as long as we want. Usually at some point during a long trip we will book a short, organized tour. In Australia we went on a three-day "Outback Safari" that left from Alice Springs. Driven in a twenty person bus, we visited Uluru and King's Canyon, hiked, slept in permanent tent encampments, and sat around the campfire at night drinking wine and talking. It was wonderful. We met lovely people. And around the campfire, during the four hour hikes, and the long bus rides we really got to know each other. We still keep in touch with one young English couple who stayed with us in Ottawa for a few days a couple of months later when they were just finishing up their around the world trip. 

Then a few years later on our second New Zealand/Australia trip we went on a cruise. Of sorts. For three days and two nights we sailed around the Bay of Islands, in New Zealand, in the beautiful boat you see pictured below. Nine passengers, three crew, and a dog. The very antithesis of a big cruise ship. 

the Manawui, a 22 metre ketch
The Manawanui, a 22 metre ketch
We anchored at islands like the one below, where we hiked, and swam, and then were picked up in the zodiac to go back to the boat.

New Zealand's Bay of Islands
Hiking on a small island in the Bay of Islands
New Zealand's Bay of Islands
The beach where we swam after a hike. Bliss.
We kayaked, watched for dolphins, and dived for green mussels. Well some people dived. Not me. I'm not a strong enough swimmer to avoid being thrown up onto the rocks in the choppy swell. 


kayaking in New Zealand's Bay of Islands
Hubby paddling his kayak. 
One day we fished. It was kind of funny when one of the guys gently began to explain to me how to keep my rod tip up. I guess he didn't see me as a fisherman. At least until Hubby told him about the 40 inch brown trout I had caught in the Yukon. Then Hubby and I found that we each had a fish on, at the same time. And as we both reeled in, the ladies started chanting, "Sue, Sue, Sue!" They hoped I would land my fish first. So I did. Sometimes it's good to blast a stereotype out of the water, eh? Pun intended. That's Moby the dog supervising as Daniel helps Steve net his fish. 

Ecocruz in the Bay of Islands

At lunch that day, we feasted on wonderful salads, cold white wine, and freshly caught fish. Some had been made into sushi, and the rest lightly smoked, or barbequed. My first time ever eating sushi, which I only tried because Nicola convinced me I should. I loved it. And I had caught the fish.... which was pretty cool. In the picture, I'm sitting with Nicola and Steve from London, and Sally from Devon. 

lunch on board the Manawanui,

Hubby is logging some major hammock time in the shot below. Doesn't this look idyllic? That's because it was. A fabulous three days. We often talk about that trip. How we made such immediate connections with the other passengers. How when we were booking the trip Hubby had to convince the agent that we were up for it, fit enough and mobile enough despite the fact that we were in our fifties and sixties. Ha. Seems funny. Eight years later, I think I'm more up for it now than I was then. 

Relaxing on board the Manawanui
Just chilling on board the Manawanui.
But you know, as much as we loved those few days on the boat, we were happy when we docked back at Pahia. Sad to say good-bye to our new friends, but glad to be on our own again. Because we really like to chart our own course when we travel. And, as I said above, go where we want, when we want, for as long as we want. We both love to organize an itinerary: get the guide books, do our homework, then list our interests and "must see or do" things, map out our time and route. Well, you get the idea. And besides, we love the connections we make with other travellers in the quirky kinds of places we enjoy, meeting people who love doing the kinds of things we also love. So I guess we're not cruise people. For the time being. 

Now before I close I want to take you back to that hockey party. To that group of men and women whom I met because they either played hockey with my husband, or were married to someone who played hockey with him. Hockey was only the initial connection all those years ago. We're really like family now. Albeit a family who named way too many of their kids Susan. 

You see when I first started dating Hubby I think there were a couple of other women in the hockey group named Sue. Then I came along. Then John married a girl named Sue. Then Bill did the same. Then it became a joke. I remember one year standing in someone's kitchen at a party with a few of the other women trying to figure out the "Sue senority list." Which Sue came first and all that. There were, I think, five of us at that point. Then one of the guys showed up with a new girlfriend whom he introduced as Sue. "No way!" all the Sues standing in the kitchen exclaimed. The new Sue just smiled. Turned out her name was Tracey or something, and he was just pulling our collective leg. And she kindly (albeit a bit tentatively it looked, and no wonder given our reaction) played along. We always laugh about that night.




If you enjoy cruising, I hope you won't be offended when I say that Hubby and I are not cruise people. Some of my good friends take cruises every year and think I'm nuts to go canoe camping. I love them anyway. So, now it's your turn friends. Any travel anecdotes you want to share? Or other thoughts?




By the way, if you are travelling to New Zealand and think that our Bay of Islands excursion would suit you, here's the link.



Linking with Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner and Saturday Share Link-Up at Not Dressed as Lamb

33 comments:

  1. My husband and I are not cruise people either. We are also both super-duper introverts, and the thought of being unable to escape from hordes of people -- well, a cruise is not our cup of tea!

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    1. You said it better than I would have, Tricia! My feelings exactly.

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    2. Hubby hates crowds. And like you say, he'd feel trapped on a large ship. The negatives would far out weigh the positives for us.

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  2. I have to LOL at all of the Sue's. It's been a constant in my life that any class or group I'm in will have at least one or two other Sue's/Susan's/Susie's. In a folk dance group I was very involved with in my early 30's there were four of us and we called ourselves The Four Susans Of The Apocalypse.

    I'm with you on cruising, at least for now. I've been on one and while it was fun at times, neither the huge number of people aboard or having to adhere to a rigid schedule was to my liking. But I really enjoyed being on the water and what we saw of Alaska.

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    1. From one Susan to another there were way too many Susan's born in the fifties:) We were in Alaska for a few days when we travelled to the Yukon. It was beautiful. And we were not on any schedule but our own. Which made it even better.

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  3. Funny about names, the one we chose for our son suddenly came back into fashion the year he was born and there were always 2 or 3 in all of his classes. Had we realised we probably would have chosen something else.
    Our only experience of a cruise was on the Yangtze River in China in a boat with ~200 passengers and while it was worth it for the fascinating scenery, 4 days was enough. We were glad leave the confined space and also the need to socialise at dinner every evening. We've travelled a number of times in Europe. Mixing an organised tour of a few weeks, seeing major sights with erudite local guides, with equal time spent mooching around on our own works for us. Maybe sometime in the future though, when we are less fit, a cruise will seem more tempting.
    Lilibet

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    1. Our friends toured the Yangtze on a short cruise as that was the only way they would have been able to see it, but the crowds were intimidating. When it's our only option to staying home, maybe it's a good choice. Still not interested in the ones with the water slides, though:)

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  4. Love your pics , idyllic . Many of our friends are choosing cruises but hubby & I will never do that . Travelling was always important to us , becoming more adventurous with time - & money . Latterly was Thailand , North Africa , South Africa , Malaysia , Indonesia , Nepal , India & most states of the US west of the Rockies . Sometimes local transport ( Indian trains ! ) mostly hire cars . I planned routes but no fixed accommodation . The only organized trip was a Kenyan safari , great animals but we were glad of our freedom after that . We loved wandering around , meeting the locals , asking about their lives & the area , eating local food , visiting their shops & markets . Yes , there were some incidents & problems - hubbies broken bone in India , car accident in Turkey , knives pointed at us in Morocco , which were worrying at the time but are all part of the memories . Very different now . Air travel palled , places seemed more crowded , and we prefer holidaying with our dogs . We still go abroad , hubby on his war history trips & me with my sisters , plus we enjoy short trips to European cities together . I thought I would miss the exciting places , but no . We go to Scotland again next month - pack the car & drive - no airports , queues , long flights or crowds . I'm not criticizing cruises & can see the appeal of such relaxing holidays & being cared for so well , but it's not for me . I'm just glad we are all different , otherwise Scotland would be heaving . Sorry to ramble on but you did ask :)
    Wendy in York

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    1. South Africa is on our list. As is South America. But as much as I would love to learn about the culture of India, I'm not sure I could handle the heat and the crowds. You and your husband were indeed intrepid travellers. Stu is the same about being glad we're all different. He always says that the more other people like visiting cities the fewer people we meet in Algonquin Park etc. I'd love to be able to pack the car and drive to Scotland. We so loved it there.

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  5. Hi Sue
    "we really like to chart our own course when we travel". I love that line and I will use it with our cruiser friends. Perhaps in our future we will cruise, but not now. We love our road trips too much!
    Stay cool! It's a hot and humid one today...
    Robin

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    1. We love road trips too. Especially somewhere we can see different things. At times here in Canada we do tire of everything being SOOO far apart.

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  6. I've got no interest in a cruise on those giant ships. A friend and I did a guided bus tour of Italy and France last year. It was convenient but not as good as being free to make your own arrangements.

    What's with all the Susans in our generation? It's my given name too. I was at summer camp when I was around ten years old. Six of us in a cabin, five Susans and one Bonnie. What were they thinking? Could they not have spread us out? My middle and last names are common too. I've considered changing my name to Dagmar :) I suppose it's also the reason I like to use Northmoon for blog comments; at last my name can be unique.

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    1. Five Susans and a Bonnie... Too funny. I never hear of anyone named Bonnie anymore. Quite a few in my class at school, though. Along with Cindys and Lories. No Dagmars, though. But maybe if I had lived in Sweden...my brother-in-law is Swedish...and I think that was his mother's name.

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  7. We've been on several big boat cruises and one river cruise. We loved the river cruise in Europe, but each day, we headed out on our own. I can't handle the big tour buses. Gives me the creeps to think about those buses. Theresa

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    1. Small is better for us too. I hear the river cruises in Europe are very nice. Might be an option for us in the middle of a longer trip.

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  8. Hmmmmm, cruise or root canal? Sign me up for the root canal....it's over faster.

    To me, a cruise was like getting trapped in a fancy hotel for a week, but with crappy rooms. I was close to going nuts! Sure there and lots of island excursions, but having to get in a line to get off and back on our floating hotel was not fun. And the on-board activities....come on, seriously? Napkin folding? Only reason we went was due to the fact that it was my step daughter's "destination wedding". I imagine the type of experience will vary from cruise line to cruise line, but count us out next time.

    On the other hand, renting a crewed sailboat in the British Virgin Islands for a week was great. My sister, nieces, daughters, our husbands all went together and it was fantastic. Lots of great memories. Or camping! For some crazy reason I love camping which as one girlfriend put it - 'like living under adverse conditions'. To each his own.

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    1. That crewed sailboat trip sound like it was fun. We also love tripping in "adverse conditions." Good thing it's not for everyone...it would be too crowded then:)

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  9. I'm with you -- I want to be diplomatic about those who do choose cruises because I can see some good reasons for those who need more travel support. The environmental footprint of those huge boats is horrid, though, and I wish there were more pressure on the industry to smarten up. Friends of ours who have a boutique adventure company do some wonderful kayak trips from a "mother boat" base -- very small groups in spectacular but much-less-visited sites, and if we could afford those, I might consider one -- they seem closer to your time on that sailing cruise, which seems ideal. Otherwise, we're happiest plotting our own routes and I think doing the travel on our own really strengthens our relationship (I could imagine cases in which that were NOT the case ;-)

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    1. That's part of the issue with "boutique" trips, isn't it? They are more expensive. We fit our sailboat cruise into our much longer trip to Australia and N.Z. And tried to economize on other things. It was our "treat" on that trip. About the relationship thing...I agree. We are most ourselves as a couple when we're travelling or canoeing. No daily grind stresses...just making sure we don't get lost stresses:)

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  10. I like to plan my own travels and be independent- there are only a few people I'm comfortable with when travelling .
    But,who knows what's in the future?
    Everyone has one's own choices
    I was never on a cruise,but was on several organized bus trips through some European countries and had great memories (but,even than,I was making some of my routes :-))
    Dottoressa

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    1. Good point about who you are comfortable travelling with. We have friends who travel with several other couples. And we have tried to think how among our friends we could travel with. It's not a long list:)

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  11. Another great topic!

    My DH is not a fan of cruises either. I have been on two in my life...one with the ex (an awful experience all around) and the other while I was single between my marriages. The second was with a great girlfriend and her Italian family out of Long Beach down the Baja peninsula. We filled out our dinner table (no strangers!) and all hung out together as we chose, but also had private time when we wanted it. My GF and I had a grand time on our shore excursions and still talk about what a great week it was. It was also an amazing bargain, because GF's sister-in-law was a flight attendant and got us all an amazing price. So it was inexpensive, fun, and didn't expose me to any of the awful parts of cruising.

    All that said, I am older and less tolerant now (ha!) and DH and I really like planning our own vacations. Traveling with someone can be a real test of the relationship. DH & I travel well together, but I can't think of another friend (besides that particular GF) that I would want to cruise with. It's intimate quarters for a long stretch. I like my freedom!
    --Hope

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    1. It's hard enough to find travel partners... let alone on a trip in confined quarters. I'm not sure how I would be travelling with a group when I couldn't get off by myself some of the time. Even Hubby and I need our time apart when we're travelling.

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  12. My husband and I are completely with you and your husband on this topic. The only "cruise" either of us can imagine taking is one like yours on the Manawanui...relatively small craft, few people, short trip exploring waters new to us with lots of non-pool swimming opportunities and a dog. (Did Moby get to go swimming and hiking with you? In the photograph, he has the same look that our two dogs have when they are gazing out on the water, and aching to swim, from our little motorboat.) And like you two, we would enjoy that form of cruise but also be happy when it was over and we could resume travelling independently.

    Having been a flight attendant and a purser for Pan American World Airways for eight years, I have many travel anecdotes. You'll find me tossing one into a comment here when it feels appropriate...and I am writing a book about my wonderful flying life (most likely, just for my family).

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    1. Moby did not go hiking. He stayed pretty close to our skipper John. But he was a lovely dog. When we finally saw some dolphins he was the most excited of all of us. That book about your "flying life" sounds like it will be fascinating, Leslie.

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  13. We have the same discussions about whether we'll ever really be ready to try cruising, but each year we say, "nah, not yet!" We love planning our own trips and finding interesting places to stay while away. We, too, are both introverts and don't like to be in large crowds of people. And I've run the numbers, so to speak, and it never adds up to cruises being a "good value" as friends try to convince us. I can see the appeal, however, of taking the family on a cruise, as we have three grown daughters with diverse interests, plus a son-in-law and now a baby in the mix.

    For now, though, we love designing our own itineraries and organizing travel so that we have the opportunity to visit new places and feel like we get to know them. Plus, I really enjoy the correspondence with B&B/apartments/restaurant owners and staff as we dream and plan our "perfect" trip!

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    1. The planning is part of the fun, I think. Although it can be a lot of work.

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  14. Your photos are lovely. You've visited some beautiful places. Have to say cruises don't appeal to me and haven't tried one to date. Much prefer following my own itinerary. Have had some experience of group travel in China , Russia and India where travel would have otherwise been very difficult at the time. However the whole group thing gets very tiring no matter how nice people are. Always need a little break away and glad to say goodbye at the end. A short time with a group is fine with time to do our own thing too. A cruise ship with no escape? Not so sure. Iris

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    1. I agree that if travel is not possible otherwise, then a cruise or group travel must be better than not going. I have a friend who is single and does group travel quite a bit so she doesn't have to go alone. Part of the problem for me would be not being able to say ... I love this place let's stay an extra day. Hubby and I have done that quite a bit because we always leave some flexibility in our itinerary. Having taken groups of students on overnight field trips where every hour of the day has to be accounted for... I''m not keen to be on the tight schedule of a group tour. Especially when I'm not the one in control.

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  15. Almost everyone above is NOT a cruise person...so who are all these cruise people I wonder? We did one of those huge ones when daughter was young (she was dying........ to go) and never again! Awful awful awful. All those people,those lines, the mediocre food, the freezing cold hallways. Nope. Not even a small cruise. Many of our friends go on them. That's fine: for them!

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    1. Not interested before... and especially not after your description, Libby:) Sounds terrible.

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  16. We recently went on our first cruise since the Disney Big Red Boat when our son was six. I agree with all the pros and cons. We had a delightful time sailing from Boston to Montreal with stops in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec City. One point not made yet -- I enjoyed wearing all my dressy casual clothes. Now that I'm retired, the special occasions are fairly rare. Cruising doesn't require the formal attire it used to, but it's still fun to dress up a bit every night and enjoy the entertaining shows. We will cruise again but will be selective on the itinerary and size of ship. Ours was midsize with about 1,300 passengers - and not a screaming toddler in sight!

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    1. Now there is that. Good point, Chris. Never thought of the outfit wearing opportunities:) I do hear that the Boston to Montreal cruise is nice.

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.