Since I was 9 years old, I’ve been on cruises. Sometimes I still get embarrassed how awfully middle class this is. But it allowed me to see the world and waking up in a new country or city every day is still one of the greatest, overwhelming joys I have in my memory.
Thing is though, I didn’t realise what it taught me straight away. You know how it is… at 9 I was more interested in playing games and sulking for no reason; through the teenage years it was about boys and friends; and then finally it was the great revelation of the places I saw and the array of people I met. From the people on the street in the strange cities to the backgrounds of fellow cruisers.
So these are the things I wish I had told that little sweet (ha!) 9+ year old Kirsten about cruises, and what I think we should all still keep in mind.
Take in that view
I cannot express the importance of this. A year or two ago, I was leafing through a P&O Cruise brochure (the company we mostly went with), and I couldn’t take my eyes off a particular picture. It was the ship trailing through the stunning Sognefjord, the world’s largest and deepest fjord, Norway. I said to my mum, “Look at that! How beautiful is that? I’d love to see that view”. What did my mum say? “Kirsten… you have. On the Cold Cruise” (This is what we refer to our cruise that went to Ireland, Iceland, Greenland and Norway).
I was shocked. How could I have missed this undeniable, slap-in-your-face beauty? How could I not remember it? Granted, I was about 15, but it was because I was so focused on friends. And I’d give anything now to go back and slap my 15 year old self on the wrist and tell me to pay more attention. All I can say is, at least I didn’t miss the sunrise view into St Mark’s Square in Venice!
Culture isn’t to miss
I’ve always been fascinated by culture, but I really think I still could have been more interested. My parents are the type to read every last word of accompanying descriptions on the boards around a historical site. I think you can find something interesting and worthwhile learning about in every place you go. With every delicious nugget of information you get, you can just feel your mind expanding along with your view of the world. And the younger you realise that, surely the more time you get to learn? ;)
Don’t let anything get in travel’s way
What I mean by this is that friends (true friends) will always be there. On cruises, it may seem like making friends and being part of the group is the most important thing, but you could be missing out on a lot of cool stuff in the world. Arrange a time and a place to meet up again, and if not… there are only so many places to hide on a ship. Just like in life, the people who want to spend time with you will be there for you. Those who are worth it won’t care if you’ve gone away for a while, they’ll welcome you back with open arms (and probably a glass of wine) and it’ll be like you never left. So travel and see, explore and wander. You’ll have some fantastic stories to tell.
Appreciate what you have
I’ve been incredibly lucky to go on cruises. I’m extremely grateful for it; my older brother and sister didn’t get quite the same opportunities as me. I’ve found myself groaning about going to places like Rome, Istanbul and Athens “again…?” when I was younger, but I would never do that now. Going into an Egyptian pyramid, walking amongst the orange roofs of Dubrovnik, watching a geysir in Iceland and riding a gondola in Venice are all things I’ve been able to do through cruising, and appreciating experiences like these means that travel bug can go on biting :)