Comparing Cruising to Land Travel

Jul 11th, 2005, 10:31 PM
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Comparing Cruising to Land Travel

We returned from a 12 day Mediterranean cruise a few weeks ago. We had a long time to plan for it and to research our stops. I got alot of help here and on cruisecritic. We didn't do any shore excursions or hire private drivers or guides. We have been to Europe on our own numerous times so we figured DIY was going to be fun, and it was, just exhausting.
We started from Barcelona and saw as much as we could in the day and a half before we left. Definitely on my short list of places to return to for a longer visit. Our 1st stop was Villefranche Sur Mer. We took the train to Nice in the morning and Monaco in the late afternoon. We didn't try to get to any of the hilltop villages, because we thought we would be pushing our luck. The train back from Monaco was an express and bypassed our stop. A little unnerving, but we figured it out. A word about the crowd. Our ship had 2,000 people on board so wherever we docked, we pretty much took over. Everytime I would see the tour groups with the leader and her paper plate above her head, and all the lemmings following, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The crowds were overwhelming.
Our next stops were Florence and Rome, 2 places we had been before. We really enjoyed having 1 extra day to hang out in the historic center of Rome. We took the train in and got off at San Pietro, because I wanted to see if the Basilica was as wonderful as I remembered. It was! Then we walked from the Spanish steps to the Trevi to Piazza Navonna. It was a nice day, but we kept it very low key. In Florence I basically spent 6 hours shopping except for a wonderful lunch at Sostanza and a quick tour of Santa Croce Cathedral. I have seen the Duomo and David before.
Naples was another story. The taxi drivers practically assaulted us when we got off the ship, they are so aggressive. We got to Pompeii and rented an audio guide. I really didn't like it. It does NOT take the place of a human guide that you can question. We took the train to Sorrento and spent the afternoon. Again we didn't go to Capri or any farther because we were afraid we couldn't get back to the ship in time. We did take a hydrofoil back to the ship, so we didn't have to run into any more cabbies!
We had our 1st day at sea and boy were we ready for it. It was like having the weekend off after working doubles all week! We were exhausted. And that is my main problem with cruising the Med, or anywhere that has great ports. You can't do anything completely. You sure can't see a port in 8 or 9 hours and then when you return to the ship you are tired from running around all day, but you want to go to dinner and rehash the day with your tablemates or you want to go to the evenings entertainment or you want to gamble. My point being, you're on this floating resort but you are too tired and do not even have the time, even if you're not too tired to enjoy what the ship has to offer so you're not really reaping the benefits of the ship or of the ports. Its kind of half assed. Hope I can say that on this board. I felt like I REALLY had to take advantage of all the ship had to offer so I couldn't even relax, I was trying so hard to do everything in 1 day.
Our next 3 stops were Athens and 2 greek islands. Mykonos was probably my favorite for 1 reason. We got there early in the day and the ship was so close that we could spend all day at the beach and shopping and go back to the boat to shower and change and then come back to Mykonos for dinner and hanging out all evening. I didn't feel rushed for once. Athens didn't take up too much of our day, because after the Acropolis we went to the Plaka and straight back to the ship. While everyone was running around Athens we hung out at the pool and finally really relaxed.
After Athens we had another sea day and again I felt pressured to get it all in, 2 days were just not enough for 12 days on board. Our next to last stop was Dubrovnik. I had no idea how beautiful Croatia is. We will probably go back there next summer. Our last stop was Venice. Again, we had been before so 1 more day was a gift and we enjoyed it.
I think even with the pluses which were, most food and lodging were a bargain because the $ is down, we only had to unpack once and ofcourse we saw some incredibly wonderful sites, cruising isn't for us. No matter what anyone says, you do need more clothes on a cruise. You can't wear the same stinky blouse around strangers you're eating with every night! Ya gotta have clean clothes. If you shop, and who wouldn't with 10 stops, you need something to carry all your treasures home in so between the extra clothes and the souvenirs, luggage becomes an issue. I hate that, I usually travel carry on only. I have a short attention span, but even I need more then 1 day to really visit a city or town or island. And the last reason I don't think cruising is for us is the one about exhaustion. Its just too much to do. Maybe a shorter smaller cruise with less stops and for longer stays. Do those exist? Just my views, thought someone might want to know. I wish someone would have told me these things.
zwho is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 07:10 AM
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Sometimes it doesn't help if someone else 'tells you these things'... it is all a matter of personal taste and "pace". It might be ok for someone who is looking for more 'overview' sightseeing, whereas you were looking for 'in-depth' sightseeing.

I know that I am not the 'cruise the Caribbean' type personality, because I would not like being restricted to a ship's schedule, and I think it would feel too "slow" for me. We hit the ground running and don't stop until we get home.

We greatly enjoyed our first Europe vacation on Trafalgar Tours, but other than one France tour, we've been doing the 'train' thing. I like that a lot.
Travelnut is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 07:34 AM
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zwho, thanks for a very useful description of your reactions to a cruise. For better or for worse we've booked one for October 2006. I'll be interested to see if I have similar reactions. You certainly put into a nutshell some of the vague apprehensions I've always had about cruising. Hadn't thought about the clothes business but I'm sure you're right about it. Our cruise if of the Greek islands. I finally decided that the convenience of having the ship take us from place to place rather than trying to arrange ferries myself might outweigh some of the negatives you've mentioned. I guess I'll find out. Great, useful post. Thanks.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 07:43 AM
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Thank you for posting such an interesting and thoughtful trip report. Very useful perspective.
suze is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Thanks for your replys. First to Travelnut, I wasn't looking for indepth sightseeing. I knew you can only see so much in 8 or 9 hours, but since we only had 1 day in each port I researched each one, and usually picked 1 or 2 things to see and do in each port. Nice, the Marc Chagall Musuem and the Market. Monte Carlo, the Casino and the Palace. But again, since we didn't do shore excursions or hire private drivers we put alot of miles in our tootsies and it wears you down eventually.
And to Julie, I'm glad I could help and everything I wrote is the truth (from my viewpoint, anyway)but I'm conflicted a little. If someone offered me the chance to do it again, I can't say I would turn it down. It was amazing, and I am 100% sure you will love your cruise. Just go with your eyes open and realize luxury doesn't equal leisure!
zwho is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 08:40 AM
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Interesting and seemingly objective observations, zwho.

Add me to those who don't like cruises mainly because you only get a brief taste of anything on land. I've always thought it interesting than many people will point out over and over again that one or two nights per city when land traveling does not allow you any time to savor an area, yet some of those same people might think nothing of taking a cruise, where you don't get a day or two in each city, you only get 8 or 10 hours!

I guess my main personal thing against cruises is that it is all about the ship. You don't experience life in other places, you experience meals and activities on board a ship. Just when I want to go off to some little local restaurant somewhere, it's time to go back to the ship, set sail, and join the same group at the same table for the same "ship" food. No matter how "great" that food might be, it isn't like sitting at a little local restaurant trying the local specialties.
Patrick is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 08:53 AM
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Not surprisingly there are actually quite a few people out there for whom it is <B/> all about the ship and they seem to thrive on it. Some of these people have cruised more than 40-50 times, they sign up years in advance to be on maiden voyages, can tell you the history of the ship, the Captain, the company, etc., etc.

And for others, the dining experience with the same folks night after night is one of the highlights of the cruise.

Just goes to show once again that what is wonderful for one person can be dreadful for another.

Then there are the folks who seem to be versatile enough, if "versatile" is the right term, and are able to enjoy a wide variety of travel styles.

Zwho, thanks for posting this and I am certain you are not alone in your feelings.
Intrepid1 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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i apologize for not closing the "bold" on this previous post...hard on the eyes, I know.
Intrepid1 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 09:35 AM
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Thanks Intrepid1, What you say about dedicated cruisers is 100% correct and that was part of the problem with a 12 day, only 2 day at sea Mediterranean cruise. You really didn't have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful ship and all the activities on board, because if you did that you weren't going to see the ports. And whats the use of spending all those $ on a Med cruise if you can't see the ports? Might as well do an all inclusive resort.
Patrick, I am in the same camp as you although I really enjoyed meeting everyone in the evening to see how their day had gone. We did the local cafes at every stop, we just did them for lunch. I just think whether you are doing a quick tour or a long stay, 1 day out of 10 others is too much to remember. I'm glad I kept a journal. Even our pictures were a little confusing, I hate to admit.
zwho is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 10:24 AM
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I enjoy cruising a lot, but only to certain destinations. Specifically, it would be a cruise that either hit ports that are so small that you can see all there is to see in about 7 hours, or the entire destination in general is not of huge interest to me.

There are many cruises that I wouldn't enjoy, such as the Mediterranean - because I know I would hate to return to the ship each night - too much to see on land.

I've cruised Alaska, the Caribbean and Baja, all of which I enjoyed greatly. I was able to see what I wanted to see and still had plenty of time to enjoy whatever it was on the ship that I wanted to do. I enjoy the days "at sea" the most while cruising, actually.

I enjoy both types of travel equally, but the number of destinations I would enjoy while cruising is far outnumbered by the destinations I would prefer to see by land.
chepar is offline  
Jul 12th, 2005, 11:00 AM
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Thanks for a helpful trip report. The idea of a cruise has lurked in the back of my mind for a couple of years. For now, though, I think we should stick with land trips. We are early 50's, and I am thinking a day will come when I will delight in having someone else take care of getting me from place to place instead of using public transportation. Thanks, PJK
PJK is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 08:03 AM
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Thanks for your honest opinion on this. It helps us future travelers who are going to a Med. cruise and points are well taken.
I have a 2006 Med. cruise planned. I am swaying toward it mostly because my husband wants to. I have been to Italy 3 times now and it all started with "i want to go to Italy for our 10th aniversary". So, he see's a commercial for a cruise( he has been on 1-i have been on 3)and decides "thats how we will do Italy"!!
He feels i like to pound the pavements to much as i get up and dont stop all day when i am on vacation.
So, as "Intrepid1" said "versatile".
At least i am getting him to Europe to begin with!
I also will be doing a 12 day( 3 days in Rome pre-cruise-yeah!!) but knew we needed down time for him. Thats why i went with an itinerary that has 3 days at sea. I also was careful to take note of departure times at ports with some of them being 7 to 8pm.
One port stop is Venice and it stops at 2pm and does not leave untill the next day at 5pm. That also was a plus.
So, i am doing with with an open mind but have a feeling i know in the end i would prefer to "land travel".
lvitaly is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 08:24 AM
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This thread helped me.

I am one of those versatile travelers who have tried many differing modes. About every 7 years I do a cruise, and have they changed in the many decades since my first! And that thought is coupled by the variance in size, style, pricing etc.

But saying all that, I much prefer land travel for all the reasons mentioned. And the primary one is that I love to eat with the locals. I enjoy the ship company as well, but like to meet the people of the country I am visiting.

JJ5 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 08:46 AM
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zwho, I said you were looking for more 'in-depth' because it wasn't necessarily your first time in the area generally speaking.

Your very honest assessment is valuable to those considering different approaches to their travel.
Travelnut is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 01:53 PM
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And also thanks zwho, because I have a friend who is trying to convince me to do a European cruise, smaller and very high end. But I can see that I would rather see two places in depth and on my own "time".

And do I hear you on the "exhausted" level achieved by trying to appreciate shipboard activities to the full levels when the amenitities are so nice and various. I needed a vacation from my vacation after a 7 day Caribbean cruise last Feb.

JJ5 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 02:40 PM
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zwho - Great post. I'd been considering a Med cruise but I'll pass, at least for now. I think I'd still like to do an Alaska cruise though.

dcd is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 03:00 PM
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I think the question of whether it's "all about the ship" depends on the cruise. I know some of them are that way; people can hardly wait to board the ship and eat another meal. ;-) But we took an Orient Lines cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona and loved it. (They call theirs Destination Cruises.) It included several days travel and free time at each end, and in each port they basically kick you off the ship early in the morning. The beauty of it is not only that you don't have to ever lug a suitcase as you move from one city to another (and therefore don't mind bringing some extra clothing for dinner) but also that you approach each port from the sea, which can be very evocative of the times when these cities were first built. I will never forget sailing past Stromboli at night and seeing its red glow, or sailing into Positano. It is also a great experience if you are bringing kids, because they the combination of the touring and the amenities at sea -- the pool, games, etc., with the freedom to walk around the ship, depending on their age. Orient Lines has wonderful local guides in each port.

Our family will never forget that cruise, and my husband and I had already been to Europe many times the land-based way.
artsfan is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 03:51 PM
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We like both crusing in Europe and land travel.

On a cruise, I love only having to unpack once, not having to figure out how many days to spend in each place, not having to research public transportation, hotels and restaurants.

We select a trip for the itinerary, although we love Oceania Cruiseline so much, that I'd have to exhaust all their itineraries before we switch back to any other line. Small ships, open seating dining, friendly staff.

Especially during the European heat wave of 2003, we love coming back to our air conditioned ship, relaxing with a glass of local wine, and not having to figure out what restaurant to go to or how to get there.

When we travel by land, we're exhausted every day; on a cruise, the at sea days give us a forced break, which our legs can really use.
abram is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 03:54 PM
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I did a trip report last year that partly covered a Med cruise we took. Here's the link:
Gardyloo is offline  
Jul 13th, 2005, 04:44 PM
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Thanks for the report. Cruising has an appeal but I don't think I'm quite ready yet. Just don't like the "just as I find something really interesting I have to get back to the ship" thing. Whadd-ya mean you won't wait for me!!!!? Anyway, I think sometime down the road it will for sure be appealing but for right now, I like wandering the streets of what ever city at my leisure. My brother and SIL just got done with a Panama Canal cruise, and my brother, who really likes to be exploring etc. just about lost his mind. Just too much time at sea for him. Anyway, thanks for posting.
crefloors is offline  

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