“You’re not Cruise People” – Travel vs Vacation

“I’m interested to hear how you liked the cruise. I wouldn’t consider you just not cruise-people, I might go so far as to call you anti-cruise,” a friend said to me on a phone call the other night. I chuckled as he said it, nodding knowingly. This was essentially the same sentiment we heard from several people upon return from our Caribbean cruise.

I couldn’t help myself. I held the monkeys.

The short answer: We had a great time, but it’s really what you make of it. I wrote earlier this month about all of the things we did. You could go on the very same cruise and spend all your time laying around, or in the casino, or you could go to the gym 3 hours a day, or spend every minute in port shopping. Nobody forces you to do anything – it’s a choose-your-own-adventure, with a lot of choices available to you. You choose how much fun and adventure you will make out of it. And let me tell you, we are fun!!!

A funny story: At ports, people will mostly do organized excursions or simply head to the beach via taxi. This is mostly what we did, except in Barbados. David and I were like, oh no, we’re adventurous, independent travelers. We will do some organized tours, but we will also adventure on our own. When we returned to port in Barbados, a tourism board person was surveying people about what they did, how they got around, and how much money they spent. When we said we walked into town, went to the parliament, took a taxi to the local history and culture museum, and took a local bus to the beach and spent about $32, she gaped at us, “You must have been here before then?” “No, we’re just adventurous….”

My revelation at the end of the trip is that there is vacationing and there is traveling.


Vacationing: the purpose is usually to relax and vacate from daily life. You don’t stay anywhere too long and you consume the place. Discomfort is minimized as much as possible and you do activities that are mostly the same anywhere. You’re a tourist and not really getting a sense of what local life is like. You might be on a beautiful beach in Mexico, but you really might as well be on a beautiful beach anywhere. Overall, our cruise was a vacation.

Traveling: you’re actively seeking out what it’s like to be a local and get off the beaten tourist path. You explore the culture, language, food, and history of an area. You’re having new experiences and getting pushed out of your comfort zone. Everything isn’t always great – you struggle through language barriers and hardships and grow and learn from the experience. This was our day in Barbados.

As I prepared this blog, I found a slew of people writing about travel vs vacation (like here, here, and here). Some have an I’m better than you air about them (not super uncommon – maybe endemic to “independent travelers”).

I don’t think one is more “right” or better than the other – they are just different.  It’s all up to your preference and what you need at that point. We love to travel adventurously, but sometimes it’s nice to just take a vacation! That’s where the cruise came from – we didn’t have the time or energy to plan a big trip. But we also love to travel because of the effect it has on us as people.

What do you think? Do you think or feel there is a difference or one is better than the other?

It might be a vacation when this happens...
It might be a vacation when this happens…

PS I promised an entry with advice…this fell out of my brain first. Next one will be advice and then I’ll move on from writing about the cruise…



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