The UX of a Cruise Vacation

I spent last week on a cruise from NYC to Florida to the Bahamas.  I had never been on a cruise before, so this was a new experience for me.  I “sailed” on the Norwegian Cruise Line Gem, seen below.

The Good
Many times, just being different is good.  A cruise is unlike a “fly to a hotel in a city” vacation.  The novelty of it all puts you in a different mental place.  It’s so strange to look out the window while you are walking and see the ocean flying by.  Additionally, they had many different shows and group activities to keep you busy.  Some of those shows were excellent including a Second City comedy troupe.

The kids loved the shows, but mostly they loved the freedom to go wherever they wanted on the ship.  My smallest kid (8) said his favorite part of the ship were the stairs.  He was jumping from one platform to the next, leaping and climbing up and down.  They loved to explore on their own.  One funny interaction when I saw my kid passing me eating ice cream.

Me: Matthew, did you eat dinner?
Matthew: Yes, I ate two hotdogs.
Me: Who got them for you?
Matthew: (looking at me like I am a moron) Dad, it’s a buffet!  I think I can handle grabbing two hot dogs.

The excursions were pretty good.  We had one kayaking trip where we saw cool wildlife up close like manatees, flying mullets, herons and more.  Atlantis had an excellent lazy river, which we used for several hours.

I did use the time well and read almost all of my book Passage of Power by Robert Caro. Great book.

The Bad
The staterooms (that’s what they call “rooms”) were tiny.  Really tiny.  See image below – picture taken with you back against the door..  I am slightly claustrophobic, so this was distressing. Also, we had no window, so I knew I would not be spending much time in the room.

The biggest design flaw I saw in the ship was the lack of good places to sit.  There weren’t many couches around.  On the decks, they had lots of lounge chairs but much of it was too sunny, too windy, too noisy or too much foot traffic.  Probably the most effective solution (imho) is to add retractable awnings in a bunch of places, especially in the front of the ship in the quiet zone.

The worst part for me, although one might consider it a blessing, is the complete lack of communication options.  No cell phone.  No internet.  No texting.  You literally have no easy way to find people on the ship, whether it is your friend, your kid or your spouse.  I imagine they could have kiosks around the ship to facilitate group messaging.  Also, losing internet access for 7 days was a drag for me.  I like to stay in touch.  Walkie Talkies were tried, but different work through the thick walls of the ship.

The food was available non-stop.  They were really trying to stuff you.  However, I didn’t find the food very tasty.  It was fine.  Nothing special.  I kept hoping for a surprise, but it never arrived.  If the food had been better, I might have upgrade the trip significantly, and maybe ate more.  Then again, gaining weight would not have been fun either.

The Ugly
The kids got lice.  I got a terrible sunburn 5 days ago and it still hurts/itches.  Lots of temper tantrums by children and adults.  So that was pretty awful.  My family has its ups and downs, but we generally kept it from devolving into Lord of the Flies.

Summary
Overall, it was a pleasant time, but I don’t think I would do a cruise again.  It works for some people and less for others.  Maybe it was the claustrophobia or the lice or the sunburn, but it left me a little sea sick.

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