DIY traveler’s Guide to having a blast on a cruise
Posted On February 14, 2022
Are you a DIY traveler considering a cruise? Or being forced encouraged to go on a cruise by someone else? Don’t knock it till you try it! It is totally possible for a diy traveler to have a blast on a cruise ship. You can make it yours and get some of that diy feel even on a big ship.
Whether you’re going with friends or family that want to cruise, or you’re considering a complicated destination that’s easier to visit on a cruise, you can totally do this. You might even love it. I worked in the cruise industry for seven years and have been on quite a few cruises and helped cruise ship travelers have a great time. I’m excited to share my favorite diy tips with you!
My 7 tips for having a blast on a cruise if you’re a diy traveler are:
Even if this is not normally how you choose to travel, there are some amazing things about being on a cruise. There’s no denying some of the big benefits. I encourage you to embrace them and enjoy it! Things like…
You only have to pack and unpack once to arrive and once to leave
You don’t have to carry your own luggage
Someone else provides all the food – but you still get choices about what you want, anyone can find something they love to eat on a cruise ship!
Someone else figures out the directions and where you’re going
In general, someone else is figuring out almost everything, so it feels like a real vacation from having to plan it all
There are shore excursions available if you don’t want to figure out how to do things while you’re in port
Diy travelers should definitely consider a small ship cruise experience. It is more expensive, and you can definitely create many of the benefits of a small cruise by following my tips below. It is still worth considering and especially if you consider all the costs (such as shore excursions, which can add up and are included on small ships) it’s possible the small ship may not be that much more expensive than a big trip.
However, there’s no denying that on a small ship there will be less people on board and you’ll get plenty of personalized experiences and opportunities big ships don’t get. You can go to places and on tours (called shore excursions in the cruise industry) with far fewer people.
Spend your time in port the way you want to
This is the most important part of making your cruise feel like a good fit for you. When you’re in port, you have freedom to do whatever you want! As long as you make it back the ship before it departs.
It’s worth spending some time ahead of time figuring out what you want to do on your port days. One of the big decisions you’ll want to make is whether to do a shore excursion organized by your ship or whether you want to explore on your own.
If you’re considering a shore excursion, look for ones that have smaller group size or go to places that are not the most famous. For example, skip the tour to Lover’s Beach in Cabo and go on a different one instead. A hiking or kayaking tour is usually a good bet because they usually have a small group size. You can also ask the shore excursion staff for their favorite tour, or you can ask them which one doesn’t usually fill up (it might still be awesome, just less well known).
If you’re exploring on your own, many ports are wonderful to just walk around on your own. Look at Google maps the night before or the day of and see what looks like it would be fun to check out within what you consider walking distance.
Just walking around and finding some local food is my favorite way to spend a port day no matter where it is! This guarantees you’ll always have a unique experience. Keep in mind that it’s 100% on you to get back to the ship well before it sails, so keep track of time and manage your day accordingly. Depending on where I am, I love to go for a hike if that’s easy to do from the ship.
If you’re in a cruise ship port, don’t use yelp for picking places to go because most of the reviews are written by other visitors! Instead, ask a crew member where they like to go to eat if they get a day off in port. Don’t question it, just do what they say! Sometimes locals and visitors enjoy the same places and if you find a place like that then you have really hit the jackpot.
Another great option is to ask a local. Just go into a gift shop near the port and ask them where THEY like to go for lunch, or coffee, or for a hike, or whatever you want to do. This will give you lots of great ideas you won’t find from other sources.
Pro tip: in a tropical port, the crew will absolutely know the best beaches to go to. If that’s what you’re looking for, ask them!
Invest in learning about where you are going
Taking some time to learn about the destination you’re going to as well as the ports is a great way to diy-up your cruise.
Find books and podcasts that help you learn about the human and natural history and in addition to being more informed, this will also help you connect to the place and come up with fun things to do in port.
You can design your own walking tour based on what you’ve learned, or choose a shore excursion where you can learn even more. You can also research local food and try it out in port (see previous tip!).
Get a balcony cabin
Balcony cabins are more expensive but in my opinion absolutely worth it, especially for diy travelers. Having a balcony gives you a completely private space to watch the world go by.
Whether it’s enjoying the scenery and looking for whales and birds on a sea day, or watching port operations and the port action from high above, your balcony gives you a sense of privacy and getting away from it all without every leaving the ship.
Pro tip: get room service breakfast and eat it on your balcony at least once. Or get drinks and dessert for sunset. You get the idea!
Travel in the shoulder season
Shoulder season leads to less crowds in port and more friendly locals. Your ship will also be less crowded and your fare less expensive! The trade off is usually less than ideal weather, but for a diy traveler like you, this is totally worth it!
Even if you don’t like the idea of cruising or you’re a diy traveler, you can still have a great time on board a cruise ship. If you embrace what it is and what it isn’t and dive into local experiences in port, you’ll end your trip with great memories and plenty of ideas for your next trip.
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years and I still spend lots of time there every year. I've been a tour guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington and am a field editor for the Milepost. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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