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Vacation cruises are surprisingly affordable...and far more entertaining than expected
Like many people of my middle-aged generation, when I thought of taking a vacation, a cruise never registered that far up on my list of options.
I always preferred the Orlando/Myrtle Beach/Las Vegas-type destinations…until I sat down and actually priced out the differences and discovered that a typical week-long cruise is very affordable. Book far enough in advance, in fact, and it can be a third less expensive than any of the “standard” vacation spots.
And cruises have come a long way from those of my parents’ generation. Very high-end cuisine, modern Cirque du Soleil-style entertainment, great shopping, and plenty of leisure activities can keep you busy without ever once leaving the ship.
After a good deal of online searching and talking with friends (both in person and on social media), we settled on a seven-night Bahamas cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, departing out of New Orleans.
Getting there is fairly easy. There are a number of connecting flights from Chattanooga to New Orleans by way of Atlanta, and Royal Caribbean has their own airline booking service that ended up being quite a bit cheaper than any of the usual airfare websites. Or, if you’d rather drive, it’s a reasonably straightforward drive out I-24 to I-59 down to I-10 and on in to the city. Takes about nine hours, give or take the leadness of your foot.
The boarding process is fairly simple. If you have a passport, you’re golden. If not, a birth certificate and driver’s license will suffice (though it really is worth it to get a passport).
Once onboard, the cabins were nicely laid out and comfortable, if a bit on the small side if you’re used to staying in modern hotels. But considering that about the only time you’re in your cabin is to sleep or shower, that’s not a really big deal. I’d advise booking at the least an outside stateroom with a window, if not a balcony.
The ship itself is both quite massive and surprisingly artistic. From the center atrium (where aerialists perform on a regular basis) to the architectural lines of the ship to the tasteful decorations and artwork throughout, it felt far more like a resort hotel than I had expected.
And with the modern stabilizers and state-of-art propulsion, you barely even notice the motion. Unless you are just one of those people who get seasick no matter what, it’s not a problem anymore.
Which is good, because you wouldn’t want to be too sick to eat. And the variety of dining options is amazing. From (very good) cafeteria-style all the way up to very high-end fine dining, I could find nothing to complain about. Thank goodness for the exercise room.
Though we could have had fun just staying onboard, the ports of call in Key West, Nassau and CocoCay all had their strong points. Key West is still as fun as it ever was, Nassau is a very interesting city (I highly recommend visiting the Ardastra Botanical Gardens & Zoo and their wild flamingos), and CocoCay is a privately owned island resort that neither of us wanted to leave.
All in all, for the best bang for your buck, you’ll not be disappointed heading out to sea.