Most veteran cruisers know what a back to back (b2b) cruise is, where you stay on the same ship for consecutive cruises (check out my Guide to B2B Cruising if you’re new to the idea). And many, like me, have dreamed of retiring to a b2b2b2b2b2b2b2…until death. But I’ve recently changed my plans, and you might consider doing so too once you learn about side to side (s2s) cruising.
What’s a Side to Side Cruise?
It’s not a new dance move your kid will teach you only so they can laugh when you look like an octopus trying to navigate their first venture onto land wearing four pairs of ill fitting roller skates. A side to side cruise is when you disembark one ship only to embark on another ship at the same port on the same day. I have my first one planned for a few weeks from now when I’ll disembark the Discovery Princess then walk next door to immediately board the Celebrity Solstice at the San Pedro Cruise Terminal in Los Angeles.
While I suspect the vast majority of my readers are currently plotting how to fake an extended illness so they can get off work long enough to try it too, a few may be skeptical. So allow me to convince you…
Why Should I Book a Side to Side Cruise?
1. For a vacation from your vacation.
The transition back to regular life after a cruise can be exhausting and cause one to utter that well-worn phrase: “I need a vacation from my vacation!” Solution? Book another cruise! A “recovery cruise,” so to speak. This is the primary reason I’m trying my first side to side. Let me explain.
I have a kid. Who will be joining me on the first cruise. And will probably try teaching me a new dance move. Now while no one wants to admit that they low-key dislike their children at times, one doesn’t need to be strapped to the lie detector machine to acknowledge that vacationing with children isn’t always super relaxing. Yes, it’s fun to see their excitement and watch them take in new experiences and make memories as a family and blah, blah, blah. But it’s also work! So I’m sending my son and husband home (“Bye guys, I’ll miss you!” And the lie detector says, THAT’S a lie!) and hopping on a solo cruise so I can relax and unwind after my first cruise. (That has to be the most privileged, first-world thing I have ever said – let me be clear how humbled and thankful I am to have a life that allows me to say that. And DO that!)
Okay, but why a side to side instead of a back to back?
2. To avoid boredom.
I’ve never been bored on a cruise. And my only concern about an extended cruise on the same ship is missing my dog. However, I also like the idea of mixing things up a bit. By switching ships, one can experience different activities and entertainment, different restaurants and bars, different scenery, and a new crew. On a back to back, you’ll likely experience the same menus, same activities and entertainment, same crew, and maybe even the same ports. You can really mix things up by switching to an entirely different cruise line and itinerary (which is what I’m doing).
3. To create a custom itinerary.
Side by side cruising can allow you to create your dream itinerary. Or at least a really cool itinerary not offered on a single ship. My side by side cruise takes me to both Mexico and the California Coast.
4. Because you can’t decide between two ships.
Book them both! Plus you’ll achieve to your goal of sailing every cruise ship at sea faster if you book side to sides instead of back to backs.
5. To justify overeating.
Walking from one ship to the other has to burn at least enough calories to justify a third dessert at dinner each night, right?
6. To hide.
This one doesn’t really apply to me because I only ever need to hide from my family and they’re aware of my plans to board the Celebrity Solstice after our tearful (ha!) goodbye. But maybe you’re trying to elude someone like the police or an assassin. Ship hopping will make you harder to track!
Too out there? Okay, but speaking of getting caught, you might be wondering: that all sounds good, but what’s the catch?
What’s the Catch? Disadvantages of Side to Side Cruising
While I’m generally sold on side to side cruising, there are a few disadvantages when compared to back to back cruising. First, you have to pack up after your first cruise. My second favorite thing to do on a back to back cruise is to take a photo of the exterior of my cabin door on the last night and post it to social media with the caption: what’s missing from this photo? Then I keep people in suspense for a few hours before following up with: MY LUGGAGE! I also enjoy gloating at dinner when my table mates ask about my plans for the evening: NOT PACKING!
But on a side to side, you have to pack and move your stuff over to a new ship and cabin.
My first favorite thing to do on a back to back is to use that glorious time after debarkation and before embarkation when I have the ship almost totally to myself to secure a prime lounger that I will hog all week because no one, passenger or crew, is brave enough to move the seedy romance novel I have reserving it for fear that someone might think it theirs (you should consider that one of my best cruising tips, btw).
On a side to side, you’ll have to sprint to that prime lounger on embarkation day with your seedy romance novel only to discover a back to backer left their smelly gym shorts on it!
You’ll recall that earlier I said my plans for retirement have changed. In light of discovering side to side cruising, my new plan is b2b s2s b2b s2s b2b…death. Who’s with me? And with that…
Homework (10 points): Post any questions and share any experience you have with side to side or back to back cruises to the comments. Also, be sure to check out my Complete Guide To B2B Cruising.
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