Kelly Bertrand attempts to answer the big question – can young(ish) people go on a cruise? Here’s her guide to cruising for millennials!
Ever wondered what a cruise would be like? Do you think, as a 30 or 40-something, you might be a little too young to sail the seven seas accompanied by bingo, buffets and bonkers people?
You’ll be so thrilled to know that I, a slightly elder millennial, set sail on her very first cruise to answer this very question – can young(ish) people cruise?
With my best mate Gemma at my side, having left her toddler at home and with an (ironic) but firm attitude of “let’s relieve our youth!” attitude (because bingo is the way to do that) we boarded Norwegian Cruise Line’s oldest but most recently renovated ship (NOT boat, they hate that) in Tahiti and set sail around the Pacific for 10 days.
The still-very-massive Norwegian Spirit can hold more than 2000 guests, with 1025 staterooms on-board including 18 fancy suites. This ship is one of Norwegian’s more sedate options – others in their fleet include rock-climbing walls, go-kart racing tracks, aqua parks and laser tag – but is still beautifully equipped with the essentials such as two pools (one adults-only, thank God), a casino, hot pools, spa and a plethora of bars.
It’s a ship that’s suited to a jaunt around the South Pacific – but if you’re keen to have a more ‘jazzy’ cruise experience, pick your ship wisely. Thankfully, Norwegian have 18 others to pick from too.
For Gemma and I, we were all about relaxing, spending some quality time together and belatedly celebrating our 30th birthdays that were so rudely interrupted by Covid. Give us a cocktail, a book and a pool, and we were happy – although Gemma, experiencing her first time away from her 18-month-old, did take a while to remember what ‘relaxed’ actually felt like!
There’s something so wanderlusty about cruising – you wake up every morning to either a brand-new island or port, or you’re staring into the horizon as the ship chugs along to its next stop.
Our itinerary stopped in at Moorea and Bora Bora in Tahiti, Apia, Samoa and Lautoka, Fiji. Little tip from me? Moorea is where it’s at in Tahiti. If you’re planning a trip, don’t bother with Bora Bora – Moorea is just as stunning, SO much cheaper and the locals are delightful.
We swam with stingrays and sharks on our first shore excursion, swam lazily in the beyond blue waters, enjoyed a beachside BBQ and explored some of Moorea’s gorgeous islands.
Pick your shore excursions ahead of time – the good ones will fill up, and you want to make sure you experience the big bucket list you’ve always dreamed of doing! Of course you don’t have to do the prescribed tours – you can simply hop off the boat under your own steam – but check the ports, as oftentimes they’re situated away from the cities and towns you want to explore, so take some cash for taxis and transport.
Let’s get to the most important part – food and booze – because let’s be honest, it’s the spine of the entire thing. About half the restaurants are complimentary, including a HUGE all-day buffet, perfect for breakfast, lunch and snacks, and our personal favourite, the 24-hour The Local restaurant that was our favourite (get the fish burger and the margarita).
Speciality dining, the fancy stuff you pay extra for unless you’re on a bougie package, is most definitely worth it – the gap in quality between the comped restaurants and these are large (obviously) and if you’ve made the effort to go on a cruise, you want at least a night or two to really bougie it up a bit. Onda by Scarpetta is a must-visit for seriously impressive Italian, and Cagney’s Steakhouse delivered a steak that was so good, I literally had dreams about it.
Bar-wise, you’re bloody spoiled for choice. Spice H20, the adults-only pool and bar at the aft of the ship, was our favourite (I wonder why) but there’s also a champagne lounge, whisky bar, beer garden, English pub (complete with pub quiz!) and a main pool bar to wet your whistle, among others.
The entertainment was never-ending too, with rollicking shows on every night at the theatre that caters to everyone’s tastes (Blazin’ Boots, anyone!?) as well as comedy shows and musical numbers.
So, should you go on a cruise?
So, the big question – did this cruise feel, as one of our fellow media invitees so beautifully put it, like a floating retirement village? Can Millennials and Xers cruise with the best of them without feeling like a Golden Girl?
Short answer? Hell yes. But it depends on your attitude. If you throw yourself into cruise life, be prepared for buffets and bingo and shuffleboard. If you find yourself on a ship similar to the Spirit without the bells and whistles, EMBRACE your inner Golden Girl. At all times, just think – W.W.B.A.D? (What Would Bea Arthur Do, obviously).
For me, a cruise like this would be absolutely PERFECT for that big family trip you and your parents have always wanted to take – a mufti-generational holiday where everyone can pick what they want to do, but still spend some quality time making memories, with everything else taken care of for you.
To help you make up your own mind, here’s a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts as a millennial cruiser:
DO: GET THE ULTIMATE BEVERAGE PACKAGE
I’m sorry but if you’re not having a mimosa with breakfast, you’re just not doing it right. Cruises are expensive, there’s no getting around it even if you have a great deal. My advice? Get at least the basic food and drink package, so you’re not constantly worried about the little costs creeping up.
DON’T: BRING ANY INHIBITIONS
Normal you and cruise ship you are two different people, and the second you realise and accept this fact, the better you’ll be. It’s why we and our group of mostly Kiwis and Aussies (and one Spaniard, SO sorry, Marcel) found ourselves, arms linked and shame forgotten, bouncing around some very perturbed Americans in the karaoke room shouting (NOT singing) Land Down Under like it was a national anthem. Cruising CHANGES you. Oh, that’s another thing:
DO: GET YOUR FAUX AMERICAN ACCENT READY
Our boat was about 50% full with Americans and holy hell, these people know how to cruise. Day after day we met US couples on their fifth, six, seventh cruise (granted, they had a few decades on us) but trust us, these folks had some yarns (and they were also very nice at explaining how bingo worked and what bar made the best margs). But, as anyone who has been to the USA knows, they can’t bloody understand us. Be prepared for the American way of life on cruise ships, because a lot on board is geared to your average khaki pant-clad, bum-bag wearing American. That’s right – there’s a Starbucks!
DON’T: IGNORE THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Stuff changes every day on the Norwegian Spirit, so do make the effort to have a read each morning. There could be a ‘Mr Sexy Legs’ competition (I’m not even kidding), a basketball free-throw shoot-out or a special at the spa (which you’ll absolutely need because if there was one disappointment, it was that a massage was going to cost me $400 NZD).
DO: PAY EXTRA FOR A BALCONY
The rooms are pricier most definitely – but having your own outdoor space that’s just yours and yours alone is a welcome reprieve on a busy boat (sorry, SHIP). And looking at that view while you’re sipping your morning coffee? It’s just vibes. A balcony takes your experience from the special to the extraordinary. We enjoyed two spacious single beds, but usual balcony staterooms come with huge king-sized beds.
DO: GET INTO THE SPIRIT (LOL) OF THE THING
You know that time between Christmas and New Year’s where time doesn’t exist and you’ve got no idea what’s going on around you? Or when you’re in an airport and it’s perfectly acceptable to have a beer at 6.30 in the morning because everyone around you is literally still in a ‘it’s 5pm somewhere!’ timezone? Cruises are like THAT.
You will make choices you wouldn’t otherwise make. You will think line dancing is a good idea. You’ll go to 80s night and boogie on down until the wee hours before giving up and realising that the actual 80-year-olds next to you are going to both out-dance and out-drink you.
Being on a cruise is a change to throw yourself into all that is weird and wonderful and wacky about these little floating cities. Highlights for us included the aforementioned karaoke (shout out to the couple from Wales who were there every single night picking the most niche Welsh songs of all time, da iawn), bingo, and the huge Deal or No Deal gameshow played in the ship’s foyer that all of the Americans were wildly into, so we then found ourselves screaming ‘NO DEAL!’ at the top of our lungs from the overhead balcony.
That’s crusin’, baby!
The writer was hosted by Norwegian Cruise Line. All opinions are well and truly her own.