I've become quite cruise ship curious - here's what's changed my mind
OPINION: One thing I love about this time of year is the start of the cruise ship season. In Wellington, that means groups of unusually dressed, slightly older people wandering around looking lost.
For a large chunk of my life, literally the only time I would talk about cruising was to mock the idea.
Cruising was for the old and unadventurous.
But two things have happened: firstly, I'm older and probably less prone to mock anyone about anything; secondly, I now know people who have been on cruises and they love them.
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So, I've got a bit of a confession; I'm starting to think I'd quite fancy going on a cruise.
Here's what's converting me.
Firstly, I am totally intrigued by the sheer scale of the monster cruise ships which now circle the world and come to New Zealand.
It hasn't quite made it here yet, but the world's largest cruise ship is the Symphony of the Seas, which holds up to 6680 passengers and 2200 crew; that's the population of Kawerau.
Secondly, more and more people seem to be converting to the idea of cruising, particularly when they have to work out ways to go on holiday with extended family groups.
Normally extended family holidays end up with people wanting to kill each other or falling out, whereas cruising, they tell me, means they can have a hassle free time doing what they want, coming together for meals, and no one is lumbered with the shopping, cooking or washing up.
For kids, cruises seem to be a Willy Wonka playground full of entertainment and food they'd never be allowed at home - including 24-hour ice cream and pizza on demand. For adults it seems like a great way to entertain bored children without having to ruin their own holiday.
Personally, I'd be that nerd person asking the captain and crew and captain if I could see the onboard laundry, engine room, morgue, crew quarters and kitchen - all the moving parts which make these monsters tick - but that's probably just me.
There's also a slight frisson about the idea of being at sea on something that size and praying to avoid storms and icebergs.
According to Stats NZ, cruise is a real growth story. Cruise ship spending rose 28 per cent to $570 million in the year ended June 2019.
In terms of people, New Zealand welcomed 322,000 cruise passengers last year, up 24 percent from 2018
It's still an older person's game with over three-quarters of passengers aged 50 years and older.
While I am intrigued by the whole cruise phenomena, I'd be happy enough to settle for a day-tour around one of these beasts just to get a look on board.
But it's not all plain sailing in the world of cruising.
There's concern about over tourism and the impact of vast numbers of passengers flooding into towns just not built to handle them.
Even here, lovely little Akaroa had changed irrevocably the last time I was there after cruise ships were diverted there following the Christchurch earthquake which closed the Lyttelton port. The little township was flooded by cruise passengers, cafe and restaurant staff were overwhelmed and exasperated and lots of the cute shops had become tacky gift shops.
And then there's the thorny issue of the industry's carbon footprint; with more pressure coming to bear on operators to swap to more environmentally friendly fuels and to stop dumping oily waste into the ocean
So, while I'm edging closer to giving cruising a shot, perhaps it will take a few more years before I actually make a booking.
Sue Allen has worked in journalism, communications, marketing and brand management for 15 years in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.