First Time Cruising – Indian in the Caribbean

Being Indian, two things struck me soon after I boarded the Celebrity Summit in Puerto Rico:
1. My wife and I were part of a small minority among the passengers (under 45 years old, non-white, childless couples).
2. The staff on the Ship was predominantly Hindi speaking.

This was unsurprising. Indians tend to put up with a lot of hardship, to make a living. But we, as a nation, are not as happy to spend our hard earned money on luxuries. The staff on the ship typically spends 6 months at sea, at a stretch. Living in cramped quarters, getting shore leave once every 2 or 3 weeks for half a day. Not an ideal life.

It was easy to feel out of place, but at the same time completely ignore everyone else on the ship. The population was predominantly white republican Americans, aged over 45. We couldn’t really find anything in common with them, and after the first day, stopped going to ‘social events’ on the ship. It was funny when the ship’s stand-up comedian asked “who here likes Obama”. The theatre echoed with “boos”.

The ship was luxurious though. A bit excessive even. The service was impeccable and we were made to feel very welcome and well looked after. But we also had to cough up $25 a day in tips, in addition to the cost of the cruise. They had an excellent Gym & Spa. The pool was boring and small. The food was good, but not so good if you are vegetarian like us.

Top tips for first time cruisers (especially Indians):
1. No need for visas (or even passports) in Caribbean ports. But carry photocopies of your passport anyway.
2. Bad idea carrying passports to shore excursions — it can get wet or stolen. I managed to drench my drivers license and about $20 cash.
3. Carry a photo ID other than your passport — will need that to get back on the ship.
4. No need to buy a ‘drinks package’ in advance, unless you plan on heavy drinking.
5. All food was included, at least on this ship. Except for one fancy restaurant.
6. Avoid ship organised shore excursions when you can — crowded and generally not worth the price. Explore on your own.
7. Plan a budget before going, and then double it. Your holiday is guaranteed to turn out to be VERY expensive.

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12 thoughts on “First Time Cruising – Indian in the Caribbean

  1. Thanks for the valuable information.I too was planning to go on a cruise in Oct/Nov and need some help.I too, like you, am a compulsive traveller.Can we chat on email / gtalk??Regards,Milind

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for your post. Was wondering how old is your experience of cruising in the Caribbean. I am scheduled to embark on a similar cruise in July and just received an email from my travel planners that I should ensure visa compliance for each destination. Am very confused as in the past I have not required visas once on a cruise ship. Including Russia

    • Hi Siddharth … this post is from 2011 … so things may have changed. But I doubt it. The only place I needed a visa for on this journey was the USA (basically when arriving at Puerto Rico airport on an international flight). No one checked visas on any of the islands when getting off the cruise ship. However its best to check with the relevant embassies.

      • Thanks a ton. That’s what I suspect. Just curious if the cruise company can refuse me boarding in Fort Lauderdale. That is my starting point.
        Regards

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