When I was 16, my mom broke the news at the dinner table that we’d be going on a European cruise with her extended family, and I was convinced it was April Fool’s Day. We weren’t “cruise people.” My entire childhood was filled with trips to the jungles of Costa Rica and skiing the Rocky Mountains. We were a family of outdoorsy adventurers, not fluorescent casinos and open bars. But a few weeks later, we boarded the Queen Mary 2 and set sail for our family’s first water-logged vacation.

It was actually nice.

As a 16 year-old, my fondness for the ship was primarily based on the fact that I found some lovely, teenage Brits to keep me company, and there was no shortage of well-appointed places for us to hang out, or go swimming. But my family never booked another cruise, and I never gave it a second thought…

Until I got a job as a singer on a German cruise ship.

The rest is history. I’ve been working on a ship, in sporadic contracts, for about two years now. And while I’ve learned numerous lessons about the world, it’s safe to say I’ve learned a bit more about cruises themselves. As a young, adventurous twenty-something, I wouldn’t say I’d gravitate towards purchasing a cruise package for my ideal vacation. And I’m not alone. But according to the Cruise Lines International Association, the average age of a passenger is around 46 years old, and getting younger every year. And cruise lines are taking note of the changing trends among passengers. Silent discos, rock climbing walls, and Starbucks are sliding onto modern day vessels, shaking up the typical routine of art auctions and walking tours, with wide-eyed scouts leading an army of dinosaurs along flat sidewalks.

But before I get too preachy, rest assured I’m not here to sell you a cruise. I don’t care if you book a cruise, because if you’re reading this in English, it most likely won’t be with my full-blooded German cruise line… But I do want to de-bunk a few misconceptions, as a former cruise-hater turned cruise-appreciator.

True or False: Cruises Are for Lazy Travelers

This is quite possibly my favorite talking point to de-bunk in regards to cruises. Guess what y’all? I’m in the best shape of my life, thanks to a cruise ship. And you can be too. Modern day vessels are packed with things to keep passengers moving and entertained, especially on sea days. Those state-of-the-art gyms are there for a reason. Use them. It’s easy to squeeze in a morning workout before heading out for a day of exploring. If you need a little help getting motivated, ask the gym staff! On our ship, there are an abundance of high-energy classes in addition to calm, morning yoga sessions. And my personal favorite activity? Late night Zumba under the stars. It’s a kind of magic…

Off the ship, a wide variety of biking tours are the perfect way to see a new place, while staying active. I’ve met couples who pick their next cruise exclusively based on the bike tours available, as that’s how they prefer to see nearly every port. My personal preference is a morning run through the day’s port city, to gather my bearings and see the different neighborhoods, before returning, post-shower, to walk around the areas that caught my eye.

So yes, you will encounter lazy people on the ship, just as you will off the ship. But as cruise passengers become younger, and more active, the narrative of the average ship traveler is shifting. And I welcome this energetic change, and new running partners.

I happily declare this FALSE.


True or False: Cruises Are Filled With Boozy Drunks and Bachelorette Parties

To put it in plain, uncomplicated terms, this is what I will say in regards to sloppy drunks on board. Is your cruise four days or less? Yes? Then it’s probably a booze cruise, with every person vying to, understandably, get their money’s worth out of the free beer on tap in the restaurants while they can. It’s understood by all crew members that “short cruises” are just plain messy. (Of course there are always exceptions.)

I’ve had the sweet luxury of working two contracts comprised of primarily long cruises. And when I say “long” I mean 14-17 day itineraries. These cruises are quite the opposite of their drunk, bachelorette-laden, short counterparts. With more time, everyone is relaxed, and there is no rush to get that final glass of complimentary wine with dinner before the restaurant closes, because it will be there for another 14 dinners. What a gift. Of course there are still fantastic pool parties with drink deals and festive cocktails being served in fresh pineapples, but I find the energy on longer cruises to be much classier, and as a result, cleaner.

So in fact, this is both True AND False.

True or False: A Cruise Isn’t an Authentic Way to Experience a New Culture

I used to think that Caribbean cruises were a bunch of ports with touristy pools, beaches, and swim up bars, with little window into the host country. Guess what? Some of them are. But almost everywhere, you can travel five minutes beyond the duty free mayhem in port, and start to see the true colors of the various destinations. In some places it’s more difficult than others, but islands like St. Maarten and Cozumel are brimming with culture, and an authenticity, that immediately greet you at the gates of the cruise terminal.

It all comes down to your itinerary.

For instance, in Norway, Iceland and Scotland, it’s nearly impossible to be trapped in a touristy port area, as all of the ships dock in small, coastal towns surrounded by local fisherman and outdoor guides. As an American, the most authentic view I’ll ever have of Russia, came in the form of weekly stops in St. Petersburg with a ship. Taking the public transport into the heart of the city, allowed me to see a side of this country steeped in history, that Americans don’t often see on US news outlets. And in Ponta Delgada, the quaint city welcoming people to Portugal’s Azores, the cafes and plazas directly across from the marina offer a taste of Portugal that’s just as authentic as the side streets of Lisbon, complete with Nata tarts.

So, are you lounging by the cruise port pool in Amber Cove, Dominican Republic? If yes, then this myth is indeed True.

Otherwise, it is False.

According to travel trends, every year more millennials are attracted to the ease and convenience of a floating, all-inclusive hotel when planning a stress-free holiday. And I get it. With a hotel room that travels through the night, allowing you to wake up in a new country every day, it’s possible to pack your limited vacation days with many different destinations. To be perfectly honest, I still think there’s nothing like being a twenty-something and backpacking through an unknown place, staying in the most basic of basic accommodations, and getting to know the local people. But having worked and sailed all over the world, I’m also convinced that some places, like Norway, are best seen via water. With limited vacation time, a cruise can strike the perfect balance between seeing new places every day, and maintaining a sense of calm (I promise, the gentle rocking at night is so soothing). And, might I add, there is nothing in the world like walking to an open deck and seeing whales and dolphins jumping out of the water, just a few meters away from your bedroom.

Like any other trip, a cruise requires some careful planning in terms of company and itinerary. For instance, if you’re young and looking for an action-packed trip, I’d advise you to skip over Viking and look at Royal Caribbean. But it’s the year 2019, and the internet can answer almost every question you may have in regards to activities on board, port cities, and food options. And in an age when Travelzoo, Booking.com, and many other sites offer steep discounts on cruises, it might be time to consider seeing the world from a new, floating perspective…

Who knows, maybe we’ll pass each other on a morning run through Helsinki.

Awesome port, by the way.

What other myths or misconceptions do you have questions about? Fire away in the comments below, and stay tuned to see the answers in Cruise Confessions: Part Two!