I’m completely at home in the air. On the road, Siri and my TomTom app can conquer most challenges. The high seas, however, are a mystery to me. So when my good friend Christina, an 8-cruise veteran, invited Amy and I to join she and TK on a cruise to Mexico, I thought I’d give it a shot.
Our cruise was aboard the Carnival Triumph, which made stops at Progreso and Cozumel Mexico.
Before I get into my experience, let me be clear on 2 things:
- The friends I traveled with were amazing.
- Without Christina’s expert knowledge, I might have flown home from Mexico.
Overall, the experience was mediocre. The cruise wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good. Everything had that, “ehhhh” feeling. The room was tiny; big for a cruise ship, but tiny. The weather was ok; cooler than ideal, but the sun was out most of the time. The food wasn’t as AHMAZING! as advertised, but it tasted fine. The casino was ultra small and open strange hours, but it was a casino. You get the picture.
Here are 5 things that I think you need to know:
- Turn off your phone and iPad when you get on the boat. Data cost $19.97/MB. While I was gone, I had 10 e-mails in one conversation that totaled 61MB. Those 10 e-mails would have cost me (or Pace) $1,220. If my iPad were on, that would have jumped to $2,440. That’s just 10 of the ~500 e-mails my accounts received while I was on the boat.
- The cruise activities fill up FAST. The minute you board the ship, find a list of on-board activities for the week, go to the activities director and sign up for everything. No one cares if you don’t show up, but you will get left out if you don’t. The “mixologist contest” participants were signed up the day prior. The poker tournament only had 10 spots available. The bingo game (yes, we were that bored) cost $40 and was full. The comedy show ran out of seats 30 minutes prior. Etc.
- Be careful what shore excursions you sign up for through Carnival. We didn’t sign up for any excursions in Progreso and found a guy selling an all-inclusive resort deal for $45. He showed us pictures and we went for it. We traveled there on a bus with people who paid $90 through Carnival for the exact same thing. On the flip side, we booked the “Twister to Isla de Pasion” early because Christina knew it fills up fast. Sure enough, it was full and people who waited to book were out of luck. Do some research ahead of time and you can learn a few things about each excursion and port.
- When they say there are 2 destinations, they mean you get 5-6 hours on shore at 2 destinations. You’ll kill about an hour getting to an excursion and another returning, so plan for about 3-4 hours per excursion. Suddenly that all-inclusive offer doesn’t look so enticing.
- Not that I really cared, but the big “first day sale” at the spa offered a 50 minute massage for $270. It was offered for $99 on last day of the cruise. For the best deal, do the spa thing off the boat, while at port.
Top 5 Favorite Things:
- Diversity. I met staff from 6 continents. They were all very friendly and happy to talk about their home country and the ship. They work ridiculous schedules, but most love what they do and are quick to converse.
- Cruises are a good way to test out vacation destinations. I think the best cruise would be a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean. If you can hit 4-6 islands on one vacation, it would be a great way to research where you want to spend a week. I learned that Progreso is not a destination to recommend to anyone for anything, while Cozumel is pretty freaking awesome.
- The Twister boat ride was amazing. A jet boat that takes you to a private island, seats 20, goes 60 mph, then does 360’s like a jet ski? I’ll have 3 please.
- …well, I guess there were only about 3 things that really stand out.
I think after all was said and done, the worst part was returning to an overflowing inbox and several more fires at work than I expected. If you are a manager, handle any accounts that need constant attention, or don’t have someone who can fill-in for you really well, the 5 days of no e-mail may make you regret every bit of fun you had.
Despite warnings from friends, I decided I needed to experience a cruise for myself. I’m glad I did, but I’ve now confirmed that land and air are for me, water…not so much.
Great post! I’ve never been on a cruise mainly because my expectations mirror what you experienced.
Thank you. Now I have some more ammo for my argument with my wife against going on a cruise.
I don’t know, I think it’s partially an issue of expectation vs reality. On my first cruise my wife and I sat with some people at formal dinner who told us unless we wanted to do special stuff like the cooking class or kayaking we should never do a ship excursion. We’d always spend less money and be more able to do what we wanted a lot easier. Do some research on your own and find out what you’d like to see and go there on your own. Most of the cabbies speak enough English that you don’t even need to know Spanish. Oh, and always remember to ask how much it costs to go where you want to. It’s pretty cheap to get most places. One more thing, if you’re going somewhere to get so drunk you can’t stand, go on a ship excursion. I hear that if you puke all over a cab in Mexico (or most places for that matter), you’re paying for it.
On our second cruise we followed the advice and found a nice quiet beach in Cozumel which had some ridiculously good food for ridiculously cheap. We also took a cab from Progresso to Dziblchaltun and got there faster than the tour group and we didn’t need to go around in a tour group (well, I suppose you can really leave that if you wanted). I think we had a lot more fun without doing boat excursions.
As for on ship, it all depeds on what you like to do. I’m not a fan of signing up for everything as you’re potentially knocking someone who wants to do something off the list to an event you’re not intending to go to, but you should sign up for what you want on the first day. Rooms are going to be small as are shops and casinos and such because you have a limited amount of ship to fit 2500-4000 people on as well as crew and shops and dining facilities, etc… You can’t expect hotel-like accommodations.
Great post, I agree with everything you said about this trip! I definitely rank the Carnival Triumph number 8 out of the 8 I have sailed on, I think it is time to retire the ship, especially when comparing it to the Carnvial Magic and Carnival Breeze! In hindsight, I should’ve just spent a couple of hunderd more dollars and went on another cruise back to the virgin islands instead. IF YOUR GOING TO CRUISE, LET THE VIRGIN ISLANDS BE YOUR DESTINATION, and at least go on a 7-day cruise so you are sure to get your moneys worth. ANOTHER TIP, ONLY GO AROUND THE SUMMER MONTHS TO THE CARRIBEAN TO ENSURE PERFECT WEATHER! I also reccomend the princess line for adult only cruising, I am just working on earning my 10th cruise at this point so that I can go for free with Carnival then call it quits. The one good thing that came out of this Carnival Triumph trip was that it was the first one for my boyfriend, so I am at least happy that any other cruise I take him on in the future will be guranteed to be better than his first one.
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Great post. I do have to say I have been on 3 cruises through 2 different companies. They were completely different due to the cruise line. Norwegian Cruise Line sounds a lot like the cruise you went on. I felt bored at times. On the other hand, if you get a chance to ride a REGENT cruise you will not be let down. I have been REGENT twice now, and both times I am blown away. There are salt water swimming pools, hardly any young children, all rooms have their own balcony, the food is to die for (all dinners are 5-7 courses). Some excursions can only be 3 hours long after traveling to locations, but some can be up to 8 hours long, and are very informative and exciting (historical tours, or kayaking or mountain biking). Trust me REGENT is the way to go. I am 30 years old a never thought cruises were for me, due to the fact I enjoy wandering and doing stuff off the beaten path as well as not being restricted, but every cruise with REGENT has given me all of these abilities. PS: I am not affiliated with REGENT in any way, just a major fan of the way they run cruises.
This is a great post. Shedding the light on the fast food of cruising and showcasing the Sampling Effect that a cruise can have. 8 countries…10 days. Our Tours are Included. As is all top-shelf alcohol, dining, tipping, taxes, fees, pre-cruise luxury hotel, transfers and every room (READ: Suite) has a walk-in closet and huge balcony. Its all included.
I do work for Regent and Oceania Cruises.
Ext. 6230 at our 800# will reach me.
OMG ..Love Regent!!!! love , love, love