Why I Don’t Cruise… and an Alternative

Why I Don’t Cruise… and an Alternative

I have learned over my years of traveling to never discount a manner of traveling.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t

Cruise Ships at dock

Cruise Ships at dock

think that there’s right or wrong method of traveling the world; not better or worse, per se, but different.  As long as you have the right intention for you travels the method in which you do so is up to you.

The idea of going on a cruise ship has never really spiked my interest, although I do understand it’s draw.  Jump on a ship where all your entertainment and food is included and be whisked away to a new exciting place.  I especially understand the draw if you live somewhere near a cruise ship port such as Miami or Houston.  The price of a night on the cruise ship is only slightly more expensive than a nice hotel room with more included.

I took a cruise a couple of years ago as a part of a family vacation, and I have little intention on cruising again.  Despite the benefits, the downsides to me are much worse.

  1. Lack of Responsible Tourism– As the passengers are whisked off on to the island they do little to ensure that the place of embarkation is respected.  I’ve seen hoards of tourist fly off the boats and working like a hurricane as they trample whatever destination they land on.  In Honduras on Roatan Island I enjoyed peace and excitement at the same time, until one day I went down to the beach to find it covered with empty beach chairs.  By mid-day they were covered with people demanding service from the locals.  By evening they were
    A beach somewhere on Grand Cayman Island

    A beach somewhere on Grand Cayman Island

    gone and the beach stayed covered with bottles, plastic, and left over food.  As one of the locals put it “the tourist come off the ships for 5 hours, and then we spend 5 days cleaning up after them.”

  2. Lack of an Experience – At 8am you are allowed off the ship, “be back by 5pm” they shout as you leave.  You are greeted by smiling faces dressed in traditional uniforms disguising the hope of giving you a taste of their culture.  But most would rather race around on mopeds or drink cheap beer that indulge in the local flavours.  9 hours being herded around like sheep to one tourist destination is hardly enough time to truly experience a location.
  3. Lack of Foreign Feeling – I guess this is what many people, namely Americans, want when looking for a vacation abroad.  They are hoping to feel comfortable on their trip.  To me, being uncomfortable and working your way out of that comfort zone is one of the greatest benefits of travel.  I actually once heard a comment from a cruiser replying to the question of whether he liked his time in Cozumel, Mexico to which he replied “yes, but gosh there are a lot of foreigners here.”

An alternative

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of river cruises.  Out on the open ocean days can be spent seeing nothing but open water, but on a river cruise you can sit out on your deck and watch the world go by.  I was recently approached by someone promoting Viking River Cruises, and as I looked through their site I became strangely intrigued by the option of combining luxury with a more exotic location.  A trip through China, Thailand, Ukraine, or Cambodia put the adventure back into the experience, while all the while maintaining your home base on the ship.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever do another cruise in my life (I rarely say never) but I do know that if I do another cruise it will be something very much along the lines of what is offered by Viking River Cruises.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. We did a Mediterranean cruise and found it a good way to have a quick snapshot of different places to which we have since returned for longer visits. Not sure I’m really keen to do another one though.

    River cruises – one thing I’d love them to do is a family river cruise. The ocean-going vessels are all clued up for family travel but as yet I can only find one Rhine river cruise (on one date only) that is designed for kids. At present the set-up is very much for the older traveller. It’s not that my child would need a room full of playstations or specific entertainment but maybe a few other children on board, flexible dining etc?

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  2. After taking a cruise to Alaska and seeing just how tourists behave (the massive swarm snatching up every kitchy souvenir with Alaska stamped on it) I was really put off the whole thing. I also really hated being stuck and watching all of the beautiful wilderness drift by instead of diving in and exploring it.

    That being said I’ve always wanted to do a Rhine Valley river cruise. They say even if you’re madly in love with castles you come out of there never wanting to see a castle again since there are so many. Being an avid castle lover I wish to accept the challenge 🙂

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  3. I agree with Trish–some of the smaller Mediterranean ones can be great. It was the perfect way for my sister and I to explore the Greek islands for the first time, especially since we had such trouble trying to organize the logistics ourselves. I also liked the Alaska one I went on. But I have gone on two Caribbean ones that were so touristy and much more like you described, and they weren’t very good experiences. The tourists on it weren’t classy and it did feel quite a bit artificial.

    I have actually been DYING to go on a river cruise–it seems like they are able to take you to smaller destinations and give a more personal experience. It’s also cool that you go down a river and see more of the towns rather than being out on the ocean. I really want to go on one of the Russian or Eastern European ones!

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  4. I can’t say I don’t cruise – because I’ve never been. But I must say that the reasons you don’t (or didn’t) enjoy it are along the same lines of the reasons I’ve never actively sought a cruise experience. And I too am intrigued by the river cruise idea. There is a European company: Avalon Waterways that has particularly peaked my interest.

    Great article Brendan!

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  5. cruise ships are the best, they have their own live entertainment and some pools on the deck .

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