Two weeks a year.
That’s the average annual escape time from the office your average American citizen who is part of the full-time workforce gets. It’s not a lot of time, so it says a lot about a person based off of how they choose to spend these precious two weeks a year. Since my return from Europe, many people in my office have asked me about my experiences. Once I finish my stories, they inevitably launch into their own travel plans for the upcoming summer – and I feign interest as they rave about their upcoming all-you-can-eat cruise ship vacation.
It’s not just one story I’ve heard about an upcoming cruise, but a half dozen people within throwing distance of my desk are taking a cruise this summer. Truthfully, all I can really think of when I hear their excitement is, “THAT’S how you want to spend your vacation?”
Apparently though, they are not the only ones, as the cruise industry expects there to be over 20 million cruise-goers in 2014, with 60% of those hailing from North America:
|Cruise Industry Statistics||Data|
|Annual cruise industry revenue for the US economy||$37.85 billion|
|Number of cruise industry jobs in the US||314,000|
|Annual number of cruise ship passengers||20,335,000|
|Percent of cruise passengers that originated in North America||60 %|
Before I continue further, I must make a disclaimer: I have been on a cruise. Two, in fact. The first one was when I was 14, and my grandparents dragged myself and 30 other family members (the horror) on a cruise from Los Angeles to Mexico and back for three nights. The second one was when I was 19, and my now ex-girlfriend invited me on a two week vacation – Disneyworld and the surrounding parks for a week, followed by a week long cruise through the Bahamas and Caribbean.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy parts of the second cruise with my ex. The first one with the large family?
But really, sitting on a boat is not travelling – and here’s why…
A Cruise Ship Is Simply Consumerism
Now, especially after taking my little jaunt through Europe, I fail to see how people say they’re “travelling” when in fact they are doing little more than floating on a water-based hotel and shopping mall. There are food courts, swimming pools, poolside service, and of course, no shortage of places to buy overpriced alcohol.
In addition to that, there is no stepping out of the box as far as food goes. The people who don’t fill up on the unlimited microwave pizza and ice cream are treated to your typical American buffet full of processed garbage.
8 Hours Is Not Long Enough To Experience A Country
I spent three days in most of the places I visited on my trip and I now know I would need a minimum of three weeks or more in order to really get a cultural experience in a foreign country. Cruise lines though are always advertising how you can, “Experience Rome in just X HOURS!”
Their idea of “experiencing Rome” is placing you on a bus to the city center, shuttling you around the city in the most efficient way possible, piling you into a restaurant with Americanized food, and generally making it so all you have to do is show up and barely have to converse with the locals.
Oh, and did I mention the prices of these cultural experiences?
The Prices Of Excursions
When I went to the Bahamas with my girlfriend, we swam with dolphins in Nassau. Her parents footed the bill at $200 each. Yes, four hundred dollars so that we could splash around and throw a couple of fish to a dolphin named Hercules. Of course, we were one of ten people in the group, and the session was half an hour. Meaning that dolphin was billed out at $2,000/hour. Was it a cool experience? Of course. However, the prices of these excursions are simply out of hand for the experience you get. $200 was more than I paid to rent an apartment for four days in the Czech Republic.
Finally, You’re Around A Bunch Of Americans
This means fat people wearing bathing suits, girls with bitchy attitudes, and parents that can’t control their children. You’re stuck in the middle of the ocean with hundreds of them for at least three nights in most cases.
On top of that, most cruise ships have at least one hairy chest contest while at sea. If this isn’t enough for you to stay away from cruises, I don’t know what is.
Do Something Better
Jump around to a bunch of countries like I did. Go backpacking, hitchhiking, or hell, take an actual vacation where you sit around and do nothing. Just don’t do it while sitting on a boat surrounded by men with hairy chests and soccer moms who haven’t lost any weight since they popped out five kids.
If you do, you’re just like every other American – too lazy or afraid to embrace the risks of planning out your own adventure, instead of letting a cruise line do it all for you.
When my co-workers return from their respective cruises, I’ll have no need to ask them what they did. I already know they did the exact same thing twenty million other people are doing this year.
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