Grab your sunscreen and book a cruise

Bruce Hartley (l) and his partner, Bill. Photo provided.

by Bruce Hartley
Life Issues Columnist

Summer is a time for vacations for many people. One of my favorite summer vacations is cruising to a warm tropical beach. Cruising may seem costly and unobtainable to some people, but after reading my column, hopefully you will consider a cruise vacation more seriously. Also, most cruise ships are LGBTQ friendly!

Here are the things I like best about cruising:

  • You can make payments for your cruise usually with the final payment due about 45 days ahead of the date of debarkation. I usually try to book my cruise six months out and that fits my budget better.
  • The price of the cruise covers your room, food, non-alcoholic drinks and loads of entertainment.
  • Rooms are small, but you are not in the room except to shower and sleep. So who cares really?
  • Food is unlimited and you can try things you might not usually eat at home.
  • Entertainment is everywhere on the ship. Lots of games, live music and stage shows that keep you busy when you are not relaxing in a deck chair or lounger.

While on the cruise you don’t use cash. Your room key card is used to charge for anything extra that you want on the ship. Extra expenses include the spa, photos, alcohol, souvenirs, etc. These expenses are totally optional.

The final thing you will have to pay for on the ship is daily tips. Most ships charge you a daily tip fee that covers everyone that serves you on the ship from your room steward to your dining room staff. During my recent cruise the tip was $15 per day.

Ports are always fun, but you will need cash or credit card for your expenses during port days. You can spend as little money as you want. The most beautiful port that I have seen is Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. The water was clear and the sand felt like cotton under my feet. While at that port, the cruise ship provided us a large beach filled with lounge chairs and a BBQ luncheon just off the beach. We didn’t spend any money on this port day and it was amazing.

I suggest you consider taking a tour on a port day to learn and see things from a local perspective. I usually find a cab/van driver who will give me a deal for a two-three hour tour. My last tour was in Nassau, Bahamas. I hired a van driver to give me a tour and it only cost $25. Seven people and I had fun seeing the island and hearing the driver share information about Nassau. We stopped at numerous places to shop and take photos.

You’ll see many expensive excursions marketed by the cruise. However, try my idea and I believe you won’t regret it. I have done this three times and I think it’s the best way to see a port and is very economical.

The ship is like a large resort and you don’t even know you are on the water if you stay inside. The only time you know you are on the ocean is when you go outside or if the water is rocky. I understand people who get sea sick use the motion sickness bracelet and that takes care of any problems.

I think a cruise vacation is the most relaxing trip ever. I enjoy the daily newsletter that includes a schedule of activities for the following day. The newsletter is delivered to your room when the steward turns your bed down.

I also like turning my phone on airplane mode and being disconnected for the week. For those who need to check social media and emails, most ships are offering Wi-Fi for a daily or weekly fee. My partner bought a package to check his social media for $5 per day. That was perfect for him and he could stay in contact with his kids while on the ship.

If you are a competitive person, you can always enter contests on the ship. I have won numerous awards on cruises from Mini Golf to Master Mixologist to the Hairy Chest Contest. My final tip is - please get involved in the ship activities. Just like anything in life, you will enjoy it more if you participate.

Bon Voyage!

The Gayly – July 16, 2016 @ 7:05 a.m.