Can You Have an Authentic Travel Experience on a Cruise Ship?

I recently read an interview on authentic travel experiences on Skift with Jonathan Mildenhall, the chief marketing officer of Airbnb.

Just as home-sharing site Airbnb built itself on the promise of delivering authentic, local experiences in hosts’ homes, many travel brands are trying to promise guests an “authentic” experience during their stay.

Reading the article made me ponder two questions:

  • So what makes a travel experience “authentic“?
  • Can you ever get an “authentic” travel experience on a cruise vacation?

There’s really no broad stroke definition for what an authentic travel experience is. It means different things in different places…” writes Skift reporter Den Peltier.

So the definition of what makes a travel experience “authentic” might be better answered by what makes a travel experience inauthentic, or not real, accurate, or sincere?

  • Does staying at a standardized big-brand hotel make your travel inauthentic?
  • Is visiting Starbucks in far-flung locations authentic?
  • Could anyone have an authentic travel experience on a cruise ship?

In my travels, I do all three of these things, but I still manage to have what I consider “authentic” travel experiences as my husband and I explore the world.

We stay in many Marriott and Hilton-branded hotels, because road warrior hotel points allow us to stay in spectacular places around the world for free. We know that staying at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is not an authentic “live like the locals” Maldivian experience.  Instead, it’s like staying in a mythical paradise with an underwater restaurant, friendly baby whale sharks, and a wine bar six feet below sea level.

There’s a comfort in knowing where ever you travel, there will be hot water, Wi-Fi and crisp, cool cotton sheets.

We seek out Starbucks, not necessarily for caffeine but to add to our mug collection and to get a sense of the local culture. What unique sandwiches is Starbucks selling in Edinburgh? Mumbai? Istanbul?  Checking out the menu at McDonald’s also offers local insights, just the Big Mac index in the Economist magazine. What’s different on the menu?

We like to explore the world via a cruise ship. While some might consider a cruise vacation to be about eating at the lido buffet, rock-climbing walls, and having to take shore excursions via a bus and a guide with a microphone, we tend to see cruise ships as an easier way to explore many of the world’s far-flung destinations.

-Cruising lets us visit a lot of places within a short period of time. For example, on our recent 7-Day Canada & New England cruise, we visited five Canadian locations and two U.S. coastal destinations in seven days. We like the concept of unpacking once and being transported from place to place while we sleep.

-We seek out authentic experiences in port. Examples include renting a car to explore Haines, Alaska or Canada’s Prince Edward Island away from the crowds. Taking a local food tour, such as with Paulina of Spoon Food Tours in San Juan, Puerto Rico or experiencing the best food of Penang, Malaysia with Heritage on a Plate. We’ve conducted searches in port for the Cuban coffee in Key West, and the best lobster roll in Canada and New England. We also find local walking tours – like during this day in Quebec City, or create one of our own such this walk in Bar Harbor, Maine.

– When in far-flung destinations, we try to get to know a local. Sometimes that’s our tour guide – such as in Sochi, Russia; Saranda, Albania; and Yangon, Myanmar.

Yes, I think you can have an authentic travel experience via a cruise ship. 

Would you allow me to help you plan your authentic travel experience via a cruise ship?

Give me a call at 1-800-957-1066.