Extended Voyage versus Seven to 14-day Cruise
When I was planning this cruise on the Statendam, I had a lot of folks (including my own family members) ask me how the heck I could stand being “trapped on a boat” for 35 days. They couldn’t imagine anything so boring, and couldn’t believe anyone would be nuts enough to take a trip that involved so many days on a cruise ship. To them, at least on the surface, it seemed the equivalent of a living nightmare.
Since my own family and small circle of friends felt that way, I figured maybe some of our CruiseMates readers following along on this virtual cruise might be wondering about the same thing, so I thought I’d devote an entry to just this subject.
I guess the major difference between a short and an extended cruise is that on a short cruise, one often feels pressured to see it all and do it all. We only have seven days (and sometimes even less time) on the ship, so we want to experience just about everything the trip has to offer. You want to go to all the shows, try all the onboard restaurants, experience all the ports, enjoy all of the “drink of the day” offerings, play in the casino, etc., etc. Since you have a very limited amount of time to squeeze all this stuff in, often you find yourself falling into bed totally exhausted each and every night. On a longer voyage, I guess the main benefit is the luxury of time. You can savor the experience. You still want to enjoy as many of the cruise offerings as possible – both onshore as well as on the ship – but you have the luxury of far more days to do so. This means, you don’t worry if you miss tonight’s show – unless of course it is something really special – you don’t worry if you don’t feel like “doing” formal night tonight, because there will be many others during the course of the voyage.
With this Statendam cruise, we have the unique situation of having the ports “clustered” around “bunches” of sea days. You don’t always get that with some cruises, even the longer ones. Because of the relative locations of the places we are visiting, this particular itinerary is perfect for the person who loves relaxing days at sea, while also wanting to visit some wonderful ports.
For example, this cruise started with a five-day coastal sailing beginning in Vancouver. We then had a port stop the next day in Victoria, followed by a sea day, and then a stop in San Francisco. We then had another sea day before getting to San Diego. Of course, many people wanted to experience a bit of those ports, so they got off in all of them. But with the sea days intermingled in between, it wasn’t necessary to exhaust oneself. Then, once we left San Diego, we enjoyed a solid four days of sailing – plenty of time to sample some of the pleasures of the ship, before concentrating on six days in the Hawaiian islands. Every single day of that six days I spent running around. I went on bus and van tours, including a full day Military Base VIP tour that included Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial, as well as stops at the various military installations on Oahu. I also did a short circle island tour of Oahu, a trek to Akaka Falls in Hilo, a Grand Helicopter Spectacular (two hour flight) in Kona which allowed us to actually view molten lava, as well as a shorter Helicopter Spectacular in Kauai. We also got a chance visit some of our favorite eateries – yes, including Mickey Dee’s for a Big Mac treat – and stock up on supplies (at a reasonable price) at a local Walmart. My personal favorite was getting to visit “The Dog House” – Dog the Bounty Hunter’s shop in Oahu (located right around the corner from his DaKine Bail Bonds storefront).
Needless to say, we all fell into bed exhausted each night because each day was a pretty full one. But we also knew that we would have five more days at sea to recover once we left the islands. We would also have the chance during that time to anticipate all the new adventures we would enjoy once hitting the South Pacific Islands later on in the cruise.
Believe me, on a long cruise, one happily anticipates the days at sea and especially on this particular cruise, those sea days are a welcome change from running around from morning until all aboard time sampling all of the joys available in these island paradises.
As for getting bored on sea days, I don’t know – I guess some people might become bored, but I just can’t understand how. There is so much going on around the ship on sea days that surely there’s something for everybody. But the best thing of all is that there is always the option to do absolutely nothing if that is your desire, and not feel one bit guilty about it, because there is still tomorrow to do those things that maybe you didn’t feel like doing today. People on World Cruises have reported that they quickly learn to pace themselves. They maybe eat everything in sight for the first few days, and try to do all the activities available, but soon they settle down and realize they are in this for the long haul, and they begin to pace themselves. They have a light breakfast and maybe skip lunch some days, especially if there is something particularly good on the menu for that evening’s dinner. They learn after a few days onboard that part of what makes a World Cruise so special is the fact that they have plenty of days to get everything in that they want to do, so it is not necessary to run around trying to do everything the first week they are onboard the boat.
It’s kind of the same thing on this voyage. We have the luxury of time to experience everything we wish to experience. There is no need to do it all in a day. For example, today is Monday – our first sea day out of Hawaii. We had a full day in Kauai yesterday. I spent my morning taking a helicopter flight over this lush island. In the afternoon, it was time for a trip to Hilo Hattie’s and to the local Walmart to stock up on a few things we would rather buy now at reasonable prices – instead of waiting until we get to the South Pacific islands where prices tend to be through the roof. For example, on my last trip to the South Pacific, I got “caught short” a couple of disposable underwater cameras for my snorkeling excursions. So, I had no choice but to buy them at a kiosk at the pier on Bora Bora. I paid the equivalent of about $28 USD for each – an absolutely ridiculous price. This trip I used my head and brought a much more generous supply of these cameras with me from home – to the tune of about $7 each. Big price difference.
So today, because it is our first full day at sea, everyone seems to be quite laid back. I got up lazy this morning and nothing much has changed all day. Oh, my intentions were good last night. I carefully highlighted all of the items in the daily program that I wanted to check out. At 9:00 there was a Celebrity Coffee Chat with Jack Mayberry, the comedienne we enjoyed in the Van Gogh Lounge last evening. Then at 10:00, there was a special presentation by the Future Cruise Consultant about the process of building a new ship (the Eurodam). Then there was a cooking demonstration in the Culinary Arts Center at 11:00. This one was on Hawaiian food. There was also a lecture this afternoon at 2:30 about Whale Watching by Melvyn Foster. Lots of other stuff on tap today as well, such as Bingo, a Champagne Art Auction, fitness classes, unhosted games such as Taboo and Scattegories and Mah-Jongg, etc. And those things are just the daytime activities. Tonight is a formal night, and in addition to the regular show time in the theater (tonight will feature Elena Ivanina – a piano virtuoso), the Officers’ Black and White Ball will be held in the Crow’s Nest at 10:00 p.m.
As I said, I had my little schedule carefully highlighted with all of the things I wanted to do today. So what did I end up doing? Absolutely nothing. I just spent a lazy day relaxing and enjoying the ambience of the ship and the endless blue ocean. I sat out back, by the Navigation pool, listening to a great hour of music by Darlene and the HALCats – rock and roll favorites -- a cold drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, surrounded by friends and wonderful scenery. As I gazed out at that beautiful blue sea, with that wonderful music blaring in the background, I turned around to Trisha (my good friend) and at just about the same time, we both said – “It doesn’t get any better than this.” It is moments like this – and there are many on a longer cruise such as this one – that I cruise for. Just watching an endless blue sea, relaxing with friends, enjoying a drink, smelling the fresh ocean air, knowing that my every need will not just be met, but often anticipated before I can even give voice to it – that is why I love cruising. To be able to savor the time at sea, and not feel rushed or pressured to do it all – that’s what a vacation is all about to me.l Yes, the food on a cruise ship is wonderful, but it’s just not that important to me. Yes, the casino might be nice and a lot of people have fun there, but it’s not my thing. Bingo, art auctions, fitness classes – those things are all nice and some people love them – but not my thing. The shops onboard – lots of people spend hours in them, looking for just the right piece of jewelry. Not me. You’ll find me relaxing with friends, sharing laughs over totally ridiculous things, taking the time to meet new acquaintances and getting to know them – enjoying a drink and even, God forbid, a cigarette – all while gazing out at the vastness of an endless ocean – those are the things for which I cruise, and for me they never get old – no matter how many sea days are on the itinerary.
On a longer cruise itinerary, everyone seems to find their sea days niche, and they never seem to become bored with it – at least the majority don’t. Some people are sun worshippers. They will stake out a lounge chair and spend the better part of the day in it – leaving only occasionally to take a dip in the pool, or grab a bite to eat. Others will hole up in the Explorations Café, where they can listen to music on the iPOD type listening stations, or immerse themselves in a good book or magazine. Others just find a nice cubbyhole in which to hide out and just enjoy reading a good book, or listening to some music on their iPOD.
By the time we hit the next cluster of ports, believe me, most people are truly sorry to see the relaxing sea days come to an end, and they are already anticipating the next set. You don’t get this sort of relaxing environment on a shorter cruise. You simply don’t have enough sea days to truly get into the relaxation “zone.” People are not as relaxed and friendly on a shorter cruise. They are more apt to want to stick with their own groups, and aren’t that much interested in making new friends. But on an extended voyage, strangers become friends, and friends become closer friends. It just seems to work out that way. Maybe it’s the influence of the sea?
So I hope I’ve given you at least some sort of an idea about how a day at sea is spent onboard a longer itinerary, as opposed to on a shorter one. The way I like to think about it is that when I return to my “real” life from a longer cruise, I am truly relaxed and recharged. In other words, I don’t need a vacation to “recover” from my vacation. Life doesn’t get much better than it is onboard the Statendam right now.