Friday, February 13, 2015

10 Lessons From Our Recent Vacation

Last week was the spouse's birthday.  The spouse loves to travel, specifically by cruise ship.  Thus, our vacation last week was to go on a cruise.  If I never go on another cruise ship in my lifetime...but I digress...

Here are ten lessons learned that certainly pertain to travel and can also carry over into survival situations.

  1. A guy I was talking to on the ship paid $75 to get from LAX to the cruise port via taxi.  Another guy paid $25 for the same trip using Uber.  The spouse and I paid $1.75 each using public transit.  Lesson: public transit of an often overlooked, but quite cheap and efficient way to travel whether at your travel destination or in your own city.  Even if you don't particularly care for public transit, it is a good idea to know how to use it anyway.
  2. We each carry a 26l backpack and with a bit of planning, we can easily pack for a week-long to month-long trip in this very small bag.  We each had plenty of clothes for all occasions on the ship from beachwear to the captain's dinner, and hauling the bags via public transit was simple and easy.  I always shake my head when I see people pull up to the ship and unload two huge suitcases each from their taxi--it looks like they are permanently moving in.  Lesson: travel light, you don't need to bring too much stuff to have an enjoyable vacation.
  3. I always carry extra food and water with me as you never know if you will be delayed and unable to find sustenance while you are waiting (or in the case of this cruise, when you will be left stranded for days with limited food and water).  Lesson: always make sure you have extra food and water at hand whether in your cruise ship cabin, vacation destination, or home.
  4. When we travel we always drink bottled water, and we mostly avoid the buffets on the cruise ship in lieu of going to the full service dining room for meals.  When you think of how many dirty hands have touched the serving spoons at the buffet it is kind of an epidemiologist's nightmare.  Lesson: your efforts at cleanliness will aid in you not getting sick while on vacation or in a disaster situation.  Sanitation is kind of a big deal.
  5. I had some interesting conversations in both the spouse's language (since half of the crew were Filipino) as well as in Spanish (there was a problem with our cabin and the guy who came to fix it spoke Spanish but very little English so a conversation in Spanish it was).  Not only does this help to make new friends and/or gather information you would otherwise not be privy to, but in the event of an emergency, I have already developed a sort of relationship with these people who could be helpful in the event of a crisis.  Lesson: learning another language can expand your horizons--as well as your survival options--during a disaster.
  6. Fortunately, a vacation like an all-inclusive cruise does not require cash but rather a credit card that can be debited for everything from drinks to ship-board souvenirs.  Even though I didn't need any extra cash, in this case, a few well-placed tips were appreciated by the crew, and in port, American dollars usually work just fine.  Lesson: carry extra cash, you never know when it will come in handy.
  7. Also, fortunately we had a very pleasant, very enjoyable vacation, however you never know when a crisis--most often medical in the case of cruise ship travelers--will strike so it pays to have a disaster plan for this scenario.  We checked our health insurance and yes, it would cover us anywhere in the world, we had extra cash (for medical emergencies the ship will usually spit you out at the nearest port to be taken to a local hospital which often isn't well versed in insurance reimbursement and will require cash for treatment), and we rolled the dice on not getting medical evacuation insurance but as we get older this may indeed come in handy in the future.  Lesson: consider what kind of "worst case scenario" you may run into on vacation and make a plan to deal with it.
  8. I realize that some people come on cruise ships to party it up and remain black-out drunk for the duration of their vacation but that sort of experience can get you into trouble in a hurry (especially in some ports).  Vacations can be enjoyable with some or no buzz which will allow you to remain in control of yourself and aware of any situation you find yourself in (not to mention that you will find your bar bill less than catastrophic when you finish up your vacation).  Lesson: never get so drunk that you don't know what is going on around you.
  9. Most vacations will end up costing more than you expected.  On a cruise ship this can come in the form of over-priced drinks, photos, and activities, while in other places you may end up paying the "Gringo tax" every time you purchase something.  Often people are much more free with their money when they are on vacation simply because they are on vacation.  Lesson: set a budget and a spending plan for your vacation and stick to it.
  10. Finally, as in any scenario, be aware of your surroundings.  In the case of a cruise (or even traveling to the cruise port by public transit), I note where the emergency exits are, who the people are that are around me, where potential weapons can be found, what the weather is forecasted to be, etc.  Lesson: just because you are on vacation, your situational awareness should take a vacation.


  1. With the recent well publicized cruises occuring in the Gulf / southern Atlantic, there is no way in hell I'm going to go on a cruise ship. To me, a terrorists dream - imagine sinking one of those with all of those 'rich Americans' - a good way to get street creds.

    No where to evacuate (if not in port) with a whole lot of confusion of where when who - nope, not for me. But your advice above is well taken and makes a lot of sense - thanks for posting them.

    1. Not my favorite way to travel but when the spouse wants something... Every time I go to the Strip or Fremont or a large casino in Las Vegas, on the other had, I have visions of an NBC attack...such good soft targets.