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Cruising Then & Now

Do you remember your first cruise or vacation? I certainly remember mine, as it was one of my very first trips outside of the country — and it was on a Carnival cruise that went to the Caribbean and Mexico. I recently stumbled upon an old college album filled with travel photos. The year was 1998, cell phones were a new thing, and we “smart” travelers took vacation photos on film with a disposable camera capable of a maximum of 36 pictures (the benefit being that if you lost the camera, you would only be missing a few memories along with the paper and plastic they were stored in).

Rachelle & friends circa 1998:


Times have definitely changed, and in more ways than one. Now, I take hundreds of photos on multiple electronic devices, I don’t have to wait for them to be developed, and I can share them instantly and easily online instead of passing around a photo album amongst my friends. Going through these old pics has certainly been quite a fun trip down memory lane and it’s been fascinating to think back and realize all the differences in travel between then and today.

Here are some of the key things I noticed (besides the lack of photos) …

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First Day Sailing Away

On our first day of vacation, the last thing we wanted to do is sit through a forever-long presentation about safety and rules. I remember it felt like it took a couple hours out of our first day at sea when the announcement came on that we were required to attend a presentation, put on our life vests and go out to our muster station. At the time, I thought they kept saying “mustard” station which made me giggle (a “muster” station is a place to gather in case of an emergency). But, with all of us lined up behind one another like a fire drill in elementary school, it wasn’t really a laughing matter. Of course, the movie Titanic had just come out in theaters, so I think we were all keen to spend a little time getting to know what to do in case of an emergency and were relieved to find out that there were, indeed, enough life boats for every passenger. But it still felt like it took so much out of our day.



On my recent cruise, the process is streamlined. There’s a video in your stateroom that goes over all the important aspects of the ship. When it comes time for the safety drill, you locate your life vests, but you don’t have to put them on or take them with you. Then you locate your muster station, check in, and once everyone is accounted for, we all went back to enjoying our first day at sea. Since we didn’t have our life vests in tow, we didn’t have to go back to our rooms, and instead immediately went back up on the top deck to enjoy the view. It was nice to get all the information we needed without it taking up too much of our vacation time.



Dining and Entertainment

My palette has certainly changed in the last decade or so. My memory of cruise dining was that it was fancy schmancy with themed dinners and big buffets decorated with intricate ice sculptures. We’d get dressed up formally every night and dine at our assigned table mixed with other passengers who, by the end of the week, had become our friends. If Facebook had existed back then, I’m sure I’d still be in touch with all of them. We had one server who took care of us like we were his family, so much so that we had to have him included in our pictures on our last day at sea.



Today, cruise dining is all about choices and freedom. You can eat what you want, where you want, and there’s multiple restaurants with a variety of cuisines. The only sad part is, we never really did get to know any of the servers because we dined at a different restaurant each night. But the variety of food I got to try every night made up for it.



After dinner, back in the 90s, I remember hanging out at the piano bar all night or watching some interactive stage skits featuring passengers. Today, the entertainment has been stepped up a notch. The shows we saw were all high quality, comparable to anything I’d buy a ticket to see on land (and thankfully, the shows are free on the cruise!). From live bands to the comedy club, there was a variety of great shows to keep us going all night long.

Fun Itineraries

This is one thing that thankfully hasn’t changed. Back in my college days, we wanted to see as much as possible while sticking to a budget, and an all-inclusive cruise made it possible to do. Seeing the Mayan temples at Tulum back then was such a highlight that it sparked my wanderlust for more traveling.



The biggest difference I see now is that there is a lot more offered to customize the experience and the only thing that’s really changed at these destinations is quality of the pictures we’re able to take and share.



This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.