There are people who take a cruise and then there are people who take eight cruises in two years.
“You get hooked on them,” said Phillip Gregg, a freelance photographer who lives in Dothan with his wife, Patti Taylor.
Their first cruise together was to the Bahamas. That was two years ago. Since then, the couple have visited around 10 countries and 18 port cities, all while cruising. They’ve been to Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Cuba.
“We just kind of started talking about bucket lists,” Patti said of taking that first cruise. “What have we always wanted to do? And we just kind of started jotting things down. I had always wanted to go on a cruise.”
The best time of year to take a cruise will depend on the destination. Peak and offseason months will vary for a Caribbean cruise versus an Alaskan cruise. But along with the destinations, the ship amenities and the ease of paying for your vacation in one package appeal to those who take cruises regularly.
Phillip and Patti said they have found taking a cruise is just as affordable as a vacation to a Florida beach, especially when you add up the cost of lodging, food and entertainment. Plus, they said, a cruise is fun.
These days, most major cruise lines feature not only swimming pools but water slides, putt-putt golf, spas, walking tracks, gyms, and a variety of restaurants. Carnival even put a roller coaster on top of one of its ships. There are formal nights where guests can get dressed up for dinner and excursions into port cities. Ships may have casinos and piano bars, and Facebook has made it easier for passengers to arrange meet-and-greets with fellow travelers.
“It’s such a variety of things, it doesn’t matter your walk of life or what your interests are, you can find something to do,” Patti said. “And then there are some cruises you’re like, ‘I want to go take a nap,’ and you just go take a nap.”
You can be as involved as you want in ship-sponsored activities, she said. There’s no pressure.
The cost of a cruise varies depending on the time of year and type of room you reserve — you can take a cruise for a few hundred dollars per person. Interior rooms are usually cheaper and are all you really need, according to those who cruise regularly, because you’re rarely in your room.
The cruise price includes most of your food and beverages while you’re on the ship — exceptions include alcohol and sodas. The price also includes entertainment and activities on the ship, excluding casinos. If you stick with the same cruise line, you are likely to earn points for discounts.
Shore excursions are extra, but can be scheduled and paid for in advance as well. Cruise lines will provide room cards that can charge expenses back to a credit card.
Roger and Gail Sanders went on their first cruise in 2007 to Key West and Nassau. They try to go on two cruises a year — one around New Year’s and another in early June. This year, the couple will embark on a Mediterranean cruise that will cross the Atlantic to come home and wrap up in New York City.
“You don’t have to worry about anything,” Roger said. “You don’t have to worry about what you feel like eating today and you’re wondering what restaurant to go out to, because no matter where we go to sit down, there’s something you can choose from.”
Gail said the couple enjoy the shore excursions and learning about the places they visit.
“We try to get some of the historical things everywhere we go,” she said. “Some people just hit the beach or the Margaritavilles, but I’m like what’s the point? I want to see what’s past the port doors.”
For Phillip and Patti, cruising has allowed them to get out of their comfort zones. Patti tried snorkeling for the first time, and Phillip climbed to the top of Mayan ruins even though he doesn’t like heights.
“I always thought cruising was unattainable, some fantasy, some dream that I could never, ever do,” Patti said. “Here in two years we’ve been on eight.”