I went from working on cruise ships to taking more than 20 a year as a guest. Here's my biggest advice to cruise passengers.
J. Alexander, who used to work for cruise ships, took more than 20 cruises last year.
He said his favorite cruise was to Antarctica and that Royal Caribbean is his favorite cruise line.
He said there is a cruise for everyone and urges travelers to do a lot of research before choosing.
This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with J. Alexander, a former cruise ship crew member-turned-YouTuber who runs the channel The Shiplife, which has more than 195,000 subscribers. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.
I took 22 cruises last year, and this year it will probably be about 30. As a cruise YouTuber, I jump on every new cruise ship that comes out from a major line, and then in between that I'll throw in a cheaper or interesting cruise line, like a German or British line.
Antarctica was hands down a bucket list cruise for me. I know a lot of people don't want to go somewhere cold for a vacation, but as a kid I wanted to be a marine mammal trainer, and I fell in love over there. I look at the pictures and videos every day.
I took what's called an expedition cruise, which can range from up to $15,000 to $20,000. It's a small ship that holds under 200 passengers.
We saw all kinds of whales. We saw four killer whales attacking a fin whale, the second largest whale in the world. We saw leopard seals everywhere. We saw penguins all over the place. We would make landfall usually at least once a day, and walk around and do some hikes.
The climate over there is so random. It could be beautiful and you can see the sun for five minutes. Then the next thing you know a blizzard comes in out of nowhere and you can't get back to the ship. We'd have to sit there for about 10 or 20 minutes in the cold until the weather subsided.
Last year, I found a $50 four-day cruise out of Miami on the Carnival Conquest (plus $142.49 for taxes and fees). I found it last minute and it was crazy, but it's possible outside of the peak season, which is typically April to November.
Do as much research as you can to figure out what cruise is right for you
Cruising is not just for old people. That's always a common misconception. It's not some giant petri dish of people getting sick. On board you'll see how often they're cleaning and spraying, and the filtration system.
I always tell people to do some basic research to figure out what they think is best for them. Are you a partier? Are you looking for the cruise ship hookup? Are you looking for something a little bit more relaxed? Are you looking for a resort-style? Are you looking for luxury? Are you looking for a booze cruise? How long are you trying to go? What's your itinerary? Is there an island you want to go to?
Do all that research as much as possible to the point where you have a strong idea of what it is that you want and what you want to do on your cruise. And don't just watch my videos, because my perspective might be different than somebody else's.
Every cruise line does something better than another cruise line. They all have their strong points. I'm the kind of guy that likes the water slides, skydiving, surfing simulators — I do all that stuff.
I always tell people, "Look, join a cruise." It's a nice, safe, non-hassle way of travel. You can taste-test a couple different places and if you like it, fly back over there and actually get to know the area that you spent three hours at.
Treat the cruise crew members with respect
One six-month contract aboard a cruise ship, you will see it all. Working on cruise ships, I learned, first of all, just respect everybody. I see people who think because they have a balcony or a junior suite that they are the king and queen of the cruise ship, and they treat the crew members like they're beneath them.
One time I was working on board a cruise ship and me and the rest of the entertainment went out. A woman who recognized us from the show came up to us and said, "It's really nice that they let the help come out every now and then."
She said it in such a nonchalant way — like it was normal. Meanwhile, we have to keep a big smile on our faces and say, "Thank you and thank you for seeing the show. "
I would never think that I'm above anybody, especially crew members, but I see that on ships all the time. Being a crew member taught me the amount of work that needs to be done to keep these ships running and give everybody the vacation of a lifetime.
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