by Paul Ross
A vacation on a large cruise ship is a lot of things: convenient, easy, hassle-free (unpack once!), planned and scheduled, largely affordable, entertaining and unchallenging. You’ll know when, where, with whom and pretty much what you’re going to eat, who won the knobby-knees contest at the aft deck pool between the disco and life raft station zebra and exactly how long the “endless night soiree” will last. What’s not to like? At times, and on specially-themed outings, there are even opportunities to learn something. But, mostly, there is relaxation--especially during those long “days at sea.” Yes, vacation cruising can be many things. But it is not travel.
Travel can include difficulty, surprise, expense (both monetary and personal), challenge and always a chance of the unknown, which necessitates awareness. There are “lessons” aplenty but they’re rarely pre-digested and aren’t spoon-fed. You not only learn about the places and people you visit, but also about yourself.
You’ll have to find eateries on your own and they may be native and weird. Or, as an adult, you might even enjoy a brand new taste sensation. There may be a schedule--which can vanish in the instant it takes to get a blown out tire, be caught in a storm, or meet an unexpected situation or person of interest. Cruising is Disneyland afloat. Travel is what happens behind the scenes, beyond the gates and out in the world. The challenge is real but so are the adventures, discoveries, revelations and delights.