My First Time: Taking a Cruise
While growing up ,I always imagined that going on a cruise was a luxury and such an elegant experience reserved for the wealthy. Only the elite could afford to take a cruise and travel that way I thought. I looked up to friends of mine who had experienced this kind of stylish travel. While Jeff and I were planning our crazy 4 month European adventure we had talked a few times about going on a cruise, but I didn’t think we could ever afford it. Jeff was convinced that it could be a great way to explore more of Europe and could potentially save us some money. Jeff also knew how badly I wanted to go on one since I had never done so before.
Just a week before I was to meet Jeff in Boston, Jeff called me and said he found an unbelievable cruise deal. It was a 12-day cruise on the Costa Serena. It started in Savona, Italy and went to Barcelona, Cadiz, Casablanca, Tangier, Lisbon, Valencia, Civitavecchia, Rome, and then back to Savona, plus the price was marked down 82%! We knew that for that price we would never be able to go to all these places and feed ourselves for that so we jumped at the opportunity. I was shocked at how affordable it was. I mean to be honest it’s most likely because the cruise industry hasn’t had a very good reputation the past few years and need to reboot their image. The Costa Concordia had sank just a couple years ago and they could use some good publicity. The photos and video of the ship looked impressive to say the least. There was so much you could do just on the ship and with only 3 full days at sea there would be so much to explore at each port. I was ecstatic, finally I would have my first cruise experience and regardless of the negative reputation cruises have gained in the recent past, in my mind it was still the luxurious travel experience I had always imagined.
A little backstory may help put this into perspective. Jeff and I are huge Titanic fans and every time we are on a boat, ship or even just swimming in the ocean, we love to quote the movie and comically pretend we are Jack and Rose. Cheesy, I know, but don’t pretend you haven’t done this at least once! Anyway, we were excited to play out these roles on a real ship and even though our cruise was in January in the Mediterranean, where the temperature would be around 55 degrees the whole time, we liked to pretend that ice burgs would be a major threat to our voyage.
After traveling through Ireland and England we made our way down to Genoa, Italy where our ship, The Costa Serena, awaited our arrival. As someone who had never been on a cruise a few things stood out to me. With a full ship, approximately 2,500 people, the feeling of disorganization couldn’t be more apparent. We were scheduled to leave the dock at 4:30pm, but didn’t leave until around 6. We waited and waited and when we were finally on board we wanted to purchase the unlimited alcohol package. Since we had saved so much booking the fair and since we would be celebrating my 26th birthday onboard we figured we would just get the package and not have to worry about how much we were spending on drinks. I was surprised to learn that although all your food is included in the booking price, water, sodas and juice were not.
When we were looking at the drink packages we were a bit confused. If you purchased the “unlimited” drink packaged you could get most but not all of the alcoholic drinks. You could also get a glass of water but not a bottle of water, for that you would have to purchase a different drink package, yet the water was poured from the same bottle. Under the “unlimited” drink plan you had to pay 2 euro to get a bottle of water. For me this does not make any sense. Later in the cruise I got a pretty bad head cold and not having access to water in my room was an issue for me, but I refused to pay any more for drinks. On top of that we had to purchase the package from a waitress then go wait in a huge line at the Customer Service desk so they could change our Costa Cards to say “extra”. (A Costa Card is a card that is your room key and you assign a credit card to it so that everyone uses this card instead of cash or personal credit cards. They also scan it every time you leave or board the ship)
I guess with so many people it makes sense that things would be a bit crazy the first day, but I was a little surprised and how complicated and disorganized it felt. There just seemed to be a lot of miscommunication and confusion, but with a little patience everything worked out and the next day was much smoother.
The ship itself felt much smaller than I imagined. From the outside it looks massive and I thought it would take us days to explore the ship. Once on board, Jeff and I roamed around and figured out the ship quite quickly. There wasn’t as much on board as I thought there would be. While this ship itself isn’t that old, the decor makes it feel like a cheesy Las Vegas casino. The Greek theme feels very dated and the art tries to have a traditional Greek theme mixed with a “modern” 1980’s style flare that doesn’t quite work. Although the decor doesn’t scream 2014, the ship is impeccably clean and the staff is very polite and perceptive. The next thing I noticed is how much older everyone was. I felt like I was almost too young to be there. Every time I ordered a drink or sit down at a table, everyone, including the staff, looked at me like they’re waiting for my parents to arrive. I understand that a lot of people on these cruises are older, but I think it is odd that I felt I was treated differently although I find this to be true traveling in general.
I was impressed with how much activities there were of the ship for everyone. There are many games and actives for kids and teens as well as dancing lessons, Bingo, and theatre shows for the older crowd. There is a sports bar that even played the Super Bowl (which was essential for American passengers such as Jeff).
After seeing a room without any windows and a room with a balcony I am pretty impressed with how much space they both had. They were clean, functional and have everything you would need. Of course the rooms with the balconies are much nicer and having natural light is always a plus, the inside staterooms were still nice and a great option if you don’t want to spend the money on the larger room.
Each stateroom is assigned a cabin steward who is there almost 24/7 incase you need anything. They are all very polite and extremely helpful.
There is a buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the food is pretty basic. It’s good food but after 12 days it does get a little repetitive and although it is good it is not exceptional. Every night there is a formal dinner, sometimes with a dress theme, and the food is much better than the buffet which mostly serves a revolving mixture of pizza, pasta and salad. We were seated at a table with all english speakers which was great to meet other people. We shared our dinner table with 2 Egyptians, 2 Mexicans, and a family of 3 from Honduras.
Dinner for us is the highlight of our day on the ship. Everyone shared about their day in the ports and everyone was learning a lot about where everyone is from and we found ourselves the last table to leave because we are all enjoying the great conversations.
Even though this particular cruise was a bit different than I imagined, I had an amazing time and loved our experience. I really think that cruises are a fun way to see the world and look forward to going on another one soon. We met some amazing people and saw parts of the world I would never have done to before. Cruising really is a great way to travel and although my expectations were a bit off on this particular cruise I feel like I learned a lot about what I would enjoy in the future. We met some amazing life long friends and saw so many places we fell in love with.
As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world.
Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more.