I guess even though most of you are well travelled, few have considered a cruise as a travel option so far.
Thanks for your experiences in the Caribbean, Kintante
Actually there is at least one other member of this Community who has used "Cruises" reasonably extensively as a mode of travel! I have just calculated that, across the last 12+ yrs we have spent c 250 days "sea cruising" plus another 40+ days "River cruising".
The former figure is significantly extended by the inclusion of a "Round the World" trip of 115 days. I remember Els's reply when I mentioned to her that we were going to be away "for a while" that she feared that she might go crazy if stuck on board for that long. And she has a point. But an RTW is a bit like extreme distance running - one has to pace oneself and be prepared for long periods of boredom. 5 or 6 continous full days at sea needed to cross the Pacific (even with an Island stop) or the Atlantic takes some managing if you are at heart an "Independent traveller"! Something to do just "once" in one's life!
However, I do feel that every "traveller" needs to experience a deep sea voyage of several days - preferably with some really rough weather - in order to begin to appreciate what it was like to travel around the World in the pre-aviation era and thus begin to comprehend just how "remote" many of those WHS, which we now get to after less than a day's flying, really were for many centuries - just as one "needs" to have the experience of a rail journey extending across several days or a bus trip of 24hrs+ etc in one's "travel portfolio".
You quite seem to have liked what I might call the "Cruising" aspects of your cruise - A "State Room" - or even a "Balcony" ("Not too expensive")! For those not attracted by such facilities I should mention that we always travel as near to "steerage class" as we can get - i.e Inside Cabin low down (Better in rough weather as well - try to get midships), and enjoy it. Chacun a son gout, but we find that one actually spends very little time in one's cabin (though that could be because of our "little black hole" cabin of course!) and one can "see the sea" just as well from the deck or a public area. On most ships nowadays, all (or most) of the ship is open to passengers of all "classes" so one isn't excluded from other aspects of the voyage. I appreciate that you are travelling en famille and Mrs Kintante (as well as yourself) may have certain "standards" which have to be maintained! We, on the other hand, always measure our cabin on the sort of criteria we would use to choose a hotel, where 3*** or 2** is our target! You also mention the "Entertainment". When I draw up a list of the "Negatives" of cruising, very high up my list come
b. Captain's dinners
c. Formal evenings
They CAN all be avoided. However, what can't be avoided is the Cruise director's holiday camp-like announcements of the upcoming day's/evening's "fun". We usually find on board that there is a small but dedicated group of "Travellers" who are NOT on board for "Fun"! We are characterised by studiously avoiding such functions , getting up early to see the sun rise or the sail into port.
It is perhaps worth highlighting that there is "cruising" and there is "cruising". I divide the cruise market as follows
a. "Adventure Cruising"
- small ship (c 50 -150 pax), most "landings" by Zodiac or at most a "Tender" as the "ports" being visited are not capable of taking a vessel. Some larger ships will use tenders (either their own, or ones coming out from the nearby port) but, for ships much larger than 1500 pax, many of whom might be infirm this is an option they try to avoid and, even if they arrive at such a port the captain may take any excuse to "cancel" the landing and rely on the local hawkers coming on board instead to sell their wares
b. "Destination Cruising"
. These will be "Larger" ships (I personally put a limit at around 1200 pax) but ones on which the "on board" aspects are not the main/sole attraction. These may well offer a different port nearly every day. They attract what I might term a "cross-over" clientel. But there will still be many passengers who are "SOBs" ("Stay on Boards") or those for whom wandering around the port town is itself an "adventure". You may however come up against "difficulties" when wanting to "do one's own thing". First - getting on shore. Some ships are known to give priority to those on paid excursions, especially if a tender is involved. Second - getting one's passport. Ship's Pursers HATE giving out passports once they have all their passengers safely on on board and their passports filed away for review by Immigration (You may get ashore with your ship card but the local immigration will still have viewed the passenger list and documents before clearing the ship) - passengers tend to do things like losing them or forgetting to hand them back!! I always insist on having my passport whenever I am ashore and have had to "go to the top" before now to get it. You might need it for - reductions in entry price, car rental proof of citizenship, police checks. money change etc etc and can't guarantee that a photocopy will suffice.
c. "Entertainment Cruising"
- I guess the ultimate are the cruises ex-Miami or other US Eastern Seaboard ports for whom the trip is primarily an excuse to leave the US licensing and gambling jurisdictions and provide fun, sun and booze. Such ships might well visit e.g "Haiti" by stopping at the cruise line's very own resort where the passengers are cossetted, protected and only meet "carefully selected" Haitians!
I would suggest that the issue for WHS travellers is to try to choose ships/cruises from Categories "a" and those in "b" which provide opportunities in their route/ports of call for a degree "(semi-)adventurous" self organised travel. So - to indicate how our cruises have fitted in to our "WHS" and individual travel needs.
a. Antarctic and Atlantic Islands. 49 days - Purely Category a cruising and fairly low in WHS terms - We only got Gough/Inaccessible! (But you can pick up some in Argentina on the way to the ship). But as we know the WHS list has some major gaps. Antarctica itself and South Georgia for example -and there are those "other" Travel lists of birds, mammals, ecosystems and islands to pick up. You will get some "Nice" rough weather at some time too and on a fairly small ship!
b. West Africa. 30 days Mid Category b with a good chance for some "personal adventure" opportunities and a few WHS (Goree, Abomey. Gold Coast forts). We stopped off in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Benin and Sao Tome. Such a trip can in part "cover" a series of individual African trips - but of course without the "overland experience". On this trip (and on the RTW) we ofetn tended to rent a taxi with a driver -at most ports these are waiting at the entrance though, sometimes, we pre-booked off the Web. It also has an advantage of giving access to a number of countries for whom getting a visa would otherwise be a hassle. But, beware, not all countries give Cruise Ship passengers "easy entry". I think of Japan and Australia which needed a "face to face" and fingerprints
c. Indian Ocean. 18 days Category a. Quite good for WHS -took in Zanzibar, Kilwa, Aldabra and Valle de Mai. And T List on E.g The Comores
d. Svalbaard. 10 days. Category a. Only 1 T List but SUPERB!! By far the best way of seeing Svalbaard
e. Eastern Aegean - 10 days. Category b. The equivalent of Kintante's Caribbean trip but in Europe - a different port/island nearly every day - and quite good for WHS. We took in (or could have if we hadn't already seen some of them so that we saw other things) Rhodes, Ephesus, Acropolis, Bahai, Akko plus several T List such as Knossos. But this sort of cruising is not for the "Completist". Just as Kintante found, one will still have to go back for the islands which got missed out. Another factor to consider is the "risk" of Car rental. There is a saying in English about "Not missing the boat" and, when you are on your own with a rental car and a ship which will leave whatever at, say, 5pm, it begins to take on a special meaning!! How much spare time do you need to allow for possible breakdowns, traffic jams etc ( We got held up for over 2 hours trying to cross Tel Aviv on this trip - luckily we had an extra day in port but we would have been in trouble otherwise! )?? Sometimes you may just have to accept that what you "need" to see is just too risky time-wise to do on your own and pay the outrageous prices for a Ship organised excursion - but at least the ship will wait for them!
I would like to finish with a suggestion that people might like to look at River Cruises. We have crossed from Amsterdam to the Black Sea and from Astrakhan up to St Petersburg. Now, I am very prepared (and do - 6000kms around Spain and another 6k in Turkey this year) to drive many kms around Europe to see its sites (And rather less to rely on its trains) - but a River Cruise can provide a fine alternative experience. There is nothing quite like seeing the Middle Rhine, Wachau, Vienna, Budapest, Kazan, Novgorod etc etc from the River. The "Cruising" is far more interesting than just being "At Sea" and every day will bring 1 or 2 stops where one can easily do ones "own thing"