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I'm invited on a group trip on a cruise ship. There is nothing about a cruise that attracts me but I have never been on one. Please, if you have cruise experience, help me understand how to survive this without going insane.

I have never been aboard a cruise ship. This cruise is during the winter in the North Atlantic so I'll be indoors all the time. I don't like crowds, I don't like lining up for activities. I love water but I prefer to be in a small sail boat, or waverunner, paddleboard, or actually in the water. I love forests and mountains and lakes. I don't like sun or beaches or being indoors with lots of people. I don't drink, I don't gamble. I do like fun and games but not if I have to fight crowds to do it. I'm not claustrophobic, it's not that I can't be in a crowd, it's just that I have no potential to enjoy something if I have to stand in line and fight crowds to do it.

Help! What should I know about cruise ships that will allow me to enjoy this or at least survive it? I can't upgrade to private VIP whatever because this is a gift, I have to be gracious about it. I can't stay home because it would ruin the trip for everyone in the group. I can stay in my cabin and play games on my phone ... up to a point, but not so much that it comes off as rude.

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    Might this question be better off on interpersonal.stackexchange.com ? It's only secondarily about travel, it seems to me; the principal question is how to graciously refuse a gift which, whilst sincerely and lovingly offered by the donor, is absolutely inappropriate for the recipient.
    – MadHatter
    Aug 25, 2023 at 15:17
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    It may help if we had an idea of the ship or cruise. Cruise ships can vary from a few dozen passengers to many thousands, and the services, facilities, etc. vary a lot. Also some involve a lot of on-shore activities while others not at all. Do you like eating? Shopping? Shows?
    – jcaron
    Aug 25, 2023 at 16:26
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    Is the one who invited you aware of your dislike of the things you've mentioned here?
    – FreeMan
    Aug 25, 2023 at 17:08
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    do you have to go?
    – njzk2
    Aug 25, 2023 at 18:39
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    @MadHatter and others - the question is about what knowledge will help me make the most of this, not about how to get out of it, nor about how to enjoy generally being at sea. I have no issue with motion or wind or even with cold! And I have no desire to get out of this. The host is bringing together a dispersed family, it's a wonderful thing, I'm a critical part of a subsection and if I balk it's like dominos. I have no desire to ruin it and every desire to make the most of it and even try to enjoy it. The answers so far are excellent. I'm glad I asked it here.
    – jjjjj
    Aug 26, 2023 at 3:07

4 Answers 4

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Cruise ships vary tremendously so the most important thing to do is to research the one you'll be on. Does it have a performance space, like a comedy club or a nightly skating show, where people sit at tables and watch a thing? Does it have many different restaurants where you can eat special food? A movie theatre? Lectures on the science or history of the area you're traversing? Do any of these appeal to you at all? (Assume for the moment a complete absence of lineups and crowds, because you're not alone in disliking that and the ships do a lot of work to minimize that.)

As you research the ship, look also for hang-out spots: a place you can sit with a coffee and a book (or I guess your phone, though a book somehow seems better socially, and doesn't rely on either battery or Internet, which may be a challenge) for several hours. A place you and another person or two could quietly chat, or play cards (a deck is easy to tuck into your suitcase), or even a board game if you have room in your bag to bring one. You could even plan that with other people in the group - "anyone up for some [game] one of the afternoons? I'll bring my copy!".

Planning ahead is going to be critical. Knowing the things on board you're ok with, and the spots you want to look for when you arrive, might make it easier to endure the few things you can't get out of.

Years ago now I was a speaker at a conference on a cruise. We did talks on sea days, and had three separate days at sunny destinations where my partner (who had been included for free) and I hiked around seeing lovely flowers and scenery. On the sea days, he hung out in quiet corners and read, or watched people, or ate interesting food. In the evenings we went to shows together. He had a good enough time that he's prepared to do another purely personal cruise some day. He says checking everything out in advance was key to enjoying the time.

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    This is a fantastic answer, not merely because it's "teach me how to fish" and contains some good specific ideas, but because this is in fact my approach to planning ANY vacation to any city or country. Research, plan, and come equipped! I just did not think of a cruise ship that way.
    – jjjjj
    Aug 26, 2023 at 3:10
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    My wife just did an Alaska cruise and had very poor phone connectivity, so doubling up on the suggestion for a book :) Aug 26, 2023 at 15:59
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    Internet may not be free even if it's available, and it's likely to be slow even if you pay for it. So yes don't depend on phones.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 28, 2023 at 16:35
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Kate Gregory gives an excellent answer which I entirely agree with. Let me add a couple of extra things. Like you I didn't think I liked cruises, but when I went on one I found it much more enjoyable than I thought. Cruise lines put a lot of effort into making the experience enjoyable for all sorts of people. In particular they try to avoid lines and waiting. The only times I remember waiting in line were to leave the boat and go ashore (which is pretty unavoidable unless you wait until everybody has left) and waiting to go into an evening show because we went early to try and get the best seats. If we had waited we could have strolled in and still got good seats.

One important part of the cruise experience is the shore excursions. You say your cruise is in the North Atlantic in winter, so I'll assume it's similar to the one my relative went on, visiting New England (Boston) and Eastern Canada (Halifax, Prince Edward Island, Quebec). All of these are interesting cities with plenty of history and some options for wildlife viewing excursions.

I'll also say the cruise ships I went on had very extensive and underused libraries. They also had plenty of lectures and activities for days when there is no shore visit.

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  • Thank you for the optimism, it's helpful!
    – jjjjj
    Aug 26, 2023 at 3:11
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Many cruise ships have well-equiped gyms. Ships I have travelled on have treadmills, stationary bicycles, assorted strength machines, a few free weights; also an open space where floor mats can be placed and where they hold a few exercise classes. On some ships the gym has big windows allowing a good view of the sea while running or cycling.

Many cruise ships have inside swimming pools, although they are too small to easily swim any distance. (Reason: a big pool has lots of water and you would not want all that water sloshing around in a rough sea.)

I would recommend taking clothes and footwear for the gym.

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I'll tell you what... We're sometimes reluctant to do something but then discover it's not that bad after all, or even very fun. So, you're going, right? Don't go with a negative attitude and adopt the "let's see when we'll get there" attitude. Then, once there, just go talk to one of the staff on the boat and be straightforward in explaining your situation. You can bet that you're not the first one with that dilemma and they will surely be able to assist you and make your trip fun. Take this as a new experience and an opportunity to discover new things, and you might be surprised!

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