Being on the Ship is Like Being in America
Another reason why Taz and I like to cruise is because assuming that you take an American cruise line (Disney, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, etc.), then when you get back on board the ship after a day in port, it is like being back in America.
No, the cruise ship isn’t sovereign US territory, but the American cruise lines tend to do things in the same way that they would if they were operating a land based hotel in America. The food is prepared according to US health standards, and staterooms are cleaned and maintained according to American health codes.
These two facts alone greatly reduce your chances of getting sick while traveling. I’m not saying that nobody ever gets sick on a cruise. Sometimes cruise ship passengers get food poisoning or catch a virus, but the same thing can just as easily happen at home. It makes me feel good to know that when I am onboard a cruise ship I don’t have to be as careful about what I eat or drink as I might have to if I were eating in a restaurant in port.
Besides adhering to American health codes, being onboard a cruise ship is like being in America in some other ways. Usually the entire staff speaks English, although cruise ship employees tend to be of extremely diverse national origins and so some employees speak English more fluently than others. Another thing that is nice is that when you are on board an American cruise line, the official currency used for onboard purchases is almost always the US dollar.
I have known people who prefer to have a completely immersive experience when they visit a foreign country. Even though I can certainly understand that desire, there is still something nice about familiarity. After a long day of sightseeing the last thing that I want to have to worry about is trying to speak the local language well enough to order dinner. Likewise, I don’t want to have to worry about performing currency conversions in my head so that I will know how much dinner is costing me. Sure, these are all things that I have done before, but I tend to make mistakes when I am tired and it is really nice not to have to worry about currency conversions or language barriers while onboard.
I think that it is probably the fact that cruise ships don’t really give you the chance to be completely immersed in the experience of foreign travel that has led some to claim that cruise ship passenger’s aren’t real travelers, but rather tacky tourists.
Believe it or not, the issue of traveler vs. tourist is something that has been hotly debated. If you don’t believe me then just Google the phrase “what is the difference between a traveler and a tourist” and you will see just how many different opinions there are and how passionate some people can be in defending their reasoning.
In my opinion, a tourist is someone who is primarily interested only in being able to tell their friends that they have visited a certain place. They might take a few pictures, do some shopping, or send some postcards back home but that is the extent of their involvement with the destination.
On the other hand, I view a traveler as someone who has a bit more interest in the destination. Maybe they take the time to learn a bit of the language or some of the destination’s history. A traveler may also seek out attractions that aren’t on the tour bus routes.
So using my definitions (which you are free to disagree with), I think that it is fair to say that on most cruises there are a mixture of travelers and tourists on board.
I also think that it is safe to say that there is nothing wrong with being a tourist. Admittedly, in some ports I myself am more of a tourist than a traveler. The role that I take on varies depending on my level of interest in a particular port. For example, in Russia I was interested in learning about the history and culture, whereas the last time I was in Mexico my big priority was renting a speedboat and shredding some waves.
So why do tourists get such a bad rap? I think that it’s the obnoxious tourists that give all of the others a bad name. For instance, I once saw an American woman walk into a store and blatantly insult the clerk’s heritage. She then took his stunned silence as a sign that he didn’t speak English, and said so.
On another trip, Taz and I set out on a boat ride on a river that ran through a rain forest in South America. There was one passenger in particular who just couldn’t seem to grasp the idea that there is a reason why they call it a RAIN forest.
Even though the boat had a roof, rain would occasionally blow in the windows. She complained about getting wet for so long that the guide eventually lowered the side curtains just to shut her up. Of course that meant that we could no longer enjoy the scenery, and we no longer had any fresh air. The boat began to feel like a steam room.
These are just a couple of examples of obnoxious tourists, but they are far from being isolated incidents. Around the world, Americans have a reputation for being excessively loud, demanding, whiney, and rude. Sadly, this reputation seems to be justified in many cases.