Michaela Merz

Cruise ships

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When my youngest asked to go on a cruise during the holidays I felt very negative towards the idea. What should I, a freedom loving, individuality focused person do, squashed like a sardine in a tight space with thousands of others? I’d go insane after a maximum of 24 hours. The idea that I wouldn’t like it at all and that I would not be able to leave the ship was horrific. I had only been on a dance ship once. I was very young at the time. I found it horrible and swore to myself that I would never ever step on a large ship again. It’s not that I have an issue with ships. I love sailing, the water and I actually cannot really get enough of it. But a big ship that moves lazily through the water and in which you are pretty much held captive, was gruesome to me. Cruise ships seem like a heap of ants to me with a moat that feed their members but at the same time rule over them like dictators.

So my youngest wanted to go on a cruise and I had wanted to go to Iceland for years. And then I saw the add; a cruise in the North with a trip around Iceland exactly during the summer vacation period. I really wanted to visit Iceland but the idea that I would have to travel around the island by car and spend countless kilometers behind the steering wheel seemed similarly appalling to going on a cruise. So, it seemed like a compromise and the lesser evil to travel around Iceland on a cruise and at the same time fulfill two dreams at once.

I watched many documentaries on the environmental impact and the treatment of cruise ship staff in advance of our trip. My concerns didn’t get smaller, if anything, they increased. Nevertheless, as I had already paid for the trip it was clear that we would go.

Imagine an 18-storey building with a theatre, casino, countless bars with and without piano, clubs, discos, restaurants, three swimming pools, a gym, sauna, cinema, virtual reality room, sports club, beauty parlor etc. cabins for every price range, apartments like small flats with a balcony, a window as well as without windows in the inner part of the ship. We were nearly 7000 people aboard, of which 5000 were guests. There was something there for each and everyone of us. For those that wanted to get to know new locations- there were many presentations in advance with exciting information and the possibility to locally book countless excursions. For those that wanted to have a good time – they could relax, get a massage, sun bathe on the top deck, dance until late at night or drink in the bar and then have breakfast shortly before 11 a.m.. Sports fanatics could spend the days cycling on land or kayaking and improve their fitness level with a personal trainer in the early morning hours. You could go with the flow and not do anything other than to let yourself be entertained – play bingo, thousands of other games, watch a show at the theatre every evening, do endless hours of shopping. You could look for company and join one of the organized socials for the deaf, families with kids, single parents etc, you could stay by yourself, exclude yourself and find a quiet corner. We learnt Italian and got to know some very interesting table neighbors.

The food was important – there was food in abundance and in very high quality, available before 6 a.m. and up until midnight. You could help yourself, be served, look for a fancy restaurant or have breakfast on your own balcony. Mountains of food were prepared daily, consumed and discarded. The impertinence of some people to fill their plate up to the brim and then to leave half of it on the plate existed here just as in any other place where the concept of ‘all inclusive’ exists.

You had to pay for your own drinks. Of course it is superfluous to mention that a large amount of alcohol was poured.

I was impressed anew each day by the perfect level of organisation aboard. Imagine you had to feed 7000 people in a tight space, remove rubbish, let nearly all passengers off the boat and onboard them again on a daily basis. Nothing ever went wrong. Everything worked immaculately and waiting times were kept to a minimum. Impressive. The security measures were followed impeccably. My youngest (12 years old) wouldn’t have been able to leave the ship without my supervision, at every onboarding every passenger and every bag was checked so that nothing dangerous entered the ship. Just as important were the hygienic rules. Imagine if on a ship of this size, people got the stomach flu. Washing your hands was like a prayer and very successful.

The only thing that bothered me (apart from a few rude guests – but those exist everywhere) was the aggressive sales behavior. 1 minute massages for free, pictures, jewelry, perfume at reduced prices. But I know, we weren’t at a charitable event but with a profit driven company.

To put it short, I can recommend the idea – you go to sleep in the evening and in the morning you wake up in a new unknown location that you can discover. In the evening you return, don’t need to pack and ask yourself ‘how do I continue my journey tomorrow?’ It reminded me very much of a train journey that I took in my early twenties when I was travelling through Europe. We had a sleeper cabin and woke up nearly every morning with a new city to explore. The concept was similar, the level of comfort however, was a lot higher on the ship.

So if you’re thinking about what to do for the next holiday and you are unsure whether a cruise really is the right thing for you I can tell you that I was very positively surprised. And if there are more exciting travel destinations that I would like to visit in future and where there is a cruise, I will seriously take it into consideration.

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