As readers of this blog already know, I’m a big fan of cruising (see my book You Can Keep Your Adventure, Just Leave Me the Toilet Paper) In my professional experience, I have run across those who vehemently oppose the very idea of a vacation out on the briny. In this installment (and some future ones as well) I will use my insight, hindsight and foresight to explain why such opposition is unwarranted; nay, downright silly.
Tip #1 – Finding Your Escape Route
A common reason given by those who aren’t interested in a cruise vacation is the desire for privacy and the assumption that aboard a cruise ship, this is not a likely possibility. An understandable assumption to be sure, but we all know what happens when we assume.
The truth is that now more than ever, cruise guests have the option of greater privacy and less forced interaction with the maddening hordes clogging the buffet line. They key lies in knowing where to go (and not go) to get away from it all. The following are some examples of where you can go to escape the crowds so that this lame excuse of needing “privacy” can be debunked for the myth it truly is.
1) Your Cabin
Consider your cabin your own personal sanctuary. It is your space and your space alone. You can refuse daily cleaning service. You can order room service all day long from your bunk. You don’t even have to leave until disembarkation. If you want to live like a recluse and let your hair and fingernails grow until they curl, that is your option. Of course, if this is the option you choose, you might want to ask yourself why you’ve bothered to cruise at all. You’ll also probably want to take a shower.
Yes, for those moments you wish to be utterly alone, you can hide out in your own accommodations. If that’s your game plan, then I highly recommend that you invest on a nice cabin – preferably one with a balcony or a porthole – where you can take your rest and room service in peace. It will also help to get rid of the stink.
2) Your Table
That’s right, most cruise lines these days give guests the option of choosing freestyle dining times and configurations. So if you’re turned off at the idea of a week of forced conversation with strangers (which can be a lot more fun that you think) just let the maitre’d know you want a table for two. You and your significant other/family can dine in peace without hearing about how much the middle-aged couple from the Midwest lost at the casino or a how the elderly couple from Florida almost won at Bingo but were waiting on an I 27.
More and more, recently refitted ships are reserving portions of their public space as adult-only areas. Usually in the vicinity of the spa, these oases are all about relaxation and tranquility, and have zero room for screaming infants – or for that matter, any other screaming individuals regardless of their age . You may not be completely alone, but you’ll be far enough from the masses so that with a decent set of headphones it should be more than just an adequate amount of privacy.
4) Libraries and Lounges
Every ship has those little corners that look nice in the brochure but are often underutilized. The libraries are commonly without seething throngs of patrons and there’s always a bar or lounge that sits quietly when no scheduled activities are taking place. If you’d like to get out of your cabin but still would rather not rub elbows with the masses, this might just be a good compromise.
5) Your Own Balcony
I alluded to this in the first listing, but having a private balcony means you get to be with you, your travel partner(s) and the ocean below – that’s it. If that’s not enough privacy, then perhaps you should move out to a cabin in the woods. I hear the Unabomber’s is available…
There are other places you can go for “privacy” on a cruise ship – your closet, your suitcase, or you can sneak into a smokestack. But the above suggestions are enough to brush aside the quote unquote lack of privacy issue. Besides, if you really want to be by yourself that badly, maybe you should stay at home. Just remember to crack a window…
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Invariably, when I’m about to leave for a trip, I get all sorts of advice from my friends and family. Be safe. Have fun. Call me when you get there (usually just my parents). And of course: Take lots of pictures.
While all are well-intentioned, that last one always seems to me to be a bit of a platitude. It implies that anyone who tells you that actually wants to see the aforementioned ‘lots of pictures’. And while I’ve found that there are a select few who would like to see ‘some, but not a lot’ of your pictures—regardless of their quality—the majority are content to skip the slideshow portion of your trip review in favor of doing something more interesting, such as painting their toenails for instance.
I can understand where they’re coming from. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend an hour looking at snapshots of other people having a great time, eating great food, or taking a selfie in front of something famous that you haven’t been to. Travel photos bring out the inner narcissist in all of us, and while we might find ourselves the most interesting thing in the world, others usually don’t feel the same. Therefore, the trick, I’ve found, is in how you present your travel photos, and I’ll briefly rundown the key elements to keeping people interested.
It’s Not All About You
Yes, as hard as it is to believe, what you saw, what you ate or what you stood in front of is of limited interest to others—even those who love you. So when taking “lots of pictures” be sure to include some of scenes that would be of interest to others: particularly striking landscapes; interesting locals; architectural nuances; funny signs and things of that sort. Ask yourself if what you’re taking a picture of is something you would want to see when others show you their photos, and you’ll have a general idea of what works and what doesn’t. So please don’t take this the wrong way, but that picture of the ham sandwich you had for lunch just ain’t going to cut it, so please spare us. (That goes for Instagram as well!)
In the age of digital photography, technology has freed us from the limitations of traditional film. No longer are we hesitant to snap off multiple shots for fear of using up our remaining rolls. Gone are the multitude of small black canisters with the gray tops—each holding a precious roll of film that may or may not contain the images we hope for. However, such technology is both a blessing and a curse, because with an endless amount of shots available, there’s the tendency to take–and here’s the problem–keep, more shots than are reasonably necessary. So if you take a shot and see that it is blurry, crooked, photo bombed by an oblivious pedestrian or anything else that means you or someone else would have no interest in looking at it, then please, trash it. I know your electronic storage device has more than enough space to preserve that shot of the armrest of your chair when you accidentally hit the button, but the age-old adage applies: Just because you could, doesn’t mean that you should.
It’s All In The Presentation
Now that you’ve made sure to keep your subject matter interesting and have culled your thousands of jpegs, it is time to go through your photos once again and move the best into a separate file. At this point, you can use any one of a number of online photo services to create your trip’s ultimate showpiece: the photo book. With leaps in print-on-demand technology, you can now create your own printed and bound hardcover book for about the price of having prints made and stuffing them in a three ring photo album. While there are some variations, most will allow you a number of options that allow you to customize your cover, mix and match templates, backgrounds and borders, as well as add captions and special effects. My own personal favorites are http://www.winkflash.com and http://www.snapfish.com. Either way, handing your audience a beautifully bound book with your own artistic flair is a whole lot more interesting than pulling out your smart phone and swiping for twenty minutes.
I know that I’m in the rare minority of people that actually do want to see other people’s travel photos. But even then I have my limits. So keep it interesting, choose your best shots, and present them well. Otherwise I’m going to go paint my toenails.
Do you have any advice to keep your photo albums interesting?