Why This Independent Backpacking Nomad is Going on a Cruise

A large cruise ship sailing into a cloudy sunsetPosted: 06/14/2012 | June 14th, 2012

A lot of people hate cruises. “Oversized boats filled with oversized people.” There’s a particular disdain for them among backpackers and other “real” travelers. “Cruises aren’t travel,” people say. “You don’t get to experience the local culture. You don’t get to explore the places you visit. You’re shuttled from place to place in pre-fabricated tours in gigantic groups.” Cruises are considered fake travel for people who want to pretend they’re traveling some place without having to do any actual traveling.

I’ve been on three cruises my entire life. The first was when I was 16 and went with my family around the Caribbean. I remember going to Cozumel, Mexico, and sneaking off to drink Kahlúa on the beach. (Sorry, Mom and Dad. I guess you had to find out sometime!)

The next cruise was a Dave Matthews Cruise with some friends (I’m a huge Dave Matthews fan). It was three days to the Bahamas and watching Dave Matthews Band play on a boat. It was epic.

My last cruise was five years ago. I went with my family up the inside passage of Alaska. It was gorgeous seeing glaciers, and I even got to see killer whales chase, kill, and eat a porpoise. The whole trip was a lot of fun.

I love cruises for the same reason that everyone else hates them: because cruises are not travel.

A cruise is an adult playground on the sea. It’s like Las Vegas except on water. It’s a giant buffet, pool, random activities, tall glasses of fruity drinks, and sheer gluttony. It’s bacchanalian fun.

A cruise is a vacation.

To me, the definition of travel is going out, exploring, and learning about the world and the cultures that inhabit it. It’s about discovery. A vacation, on the other hand, is simply a break from day-to-day life where you can relax and not do anything.

And I think that distinction is often missed by the cruise haters. Getting away from home doesn’t always have to be about exploring unknown lands, trekking through primordial forest, or navigating the bus system of Calcutta. No, sometimes all you want to do is relax. You don’t want to deal with anything or plan anything. You want a break. You want to shut your mind off for a bit.

The side of a cruise ship, showing the levels of rooms and the deck

If you view a cruise as travel, you’re going to be disappointed. If you view it as a vacation, then I think it’s easier to accept the Disney-like atmosphere of it all.

After all, all travel serves a purpose.

So, next week, I’ll be going on a Royal Caribbean cruise with my friend Jason, my intention being to just sit by the pool, cocktail in hand, and work on my tan. I plan to gain 10 pounds at the buffet and then work it off at the gym. I’m going to mini-golf on a boat and sleep late. I’m going to keep my computer closed.

I am going on vacation.

And I’m really looking forward to it. I could use a break. I’m a bit burnt out. Between three conferences in the last month, my final book edits, traveling back and forth from Asia, a tour in Japan, running this website, and just trying to live life, I’m frazzled.

A lot of people think travel and what I do is a 24/7 vacation. It’s not. It takes work trying to figure out your way around the world. It’s fun work — but it’s still work. Throw in running a business on top of that, and you find yourself running nonstop from dawn until the wee hours of the morning. It drains you, especially when you do it 365 days per year.

So, tired and exhausted, I’m going on vacation to recharge my batteries.

Crowded pool deck on the cruise ship

I’ll admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a cruise. I have no idea what to expect. I’ve never been an adult on a normal cruise just trying to relax and be a “tourist.” This is new territory for me.

I may hate it. I already know that I’m not looking forward to the land excursions. I hate those things. I see them around Europe, and it’s just a large mass of people. Try seeing the Acropolis in Athens when 937,439,282,349 tour groups from the cruise ship are also there. It’s aggravating. I plan to make my own ship excursions.

Moreover, I’m going on the largest boat in the world — the Oasis of the Seas — and I may find that to be just too large and too overwhelming. Who can say? All I know right now is that I’m giddy with excitement about my vacation.

But I’m not going to pretend that a cruise is anything more than it really is: a vacation. It’s a week where your mind can shut down, someone else can plan your life, and your only concern is what time the buffet starts.

Because we all need a vacation sometimes.

So that is why this intrepid nomad is taking a cruise — and who knows, I may even enjoy myself.

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Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.