Ask the cruise director: What is your favorite cruise destination?
One of the most popular cruise directors of the past decade, Matt Mitcham, is offering his insights to cruise fans in a series of pieces for The Points Guy. Presented in a question-and-answer-type format, the pieces originally appeared in The Points Guy’s cruise newsletter (sign up here). Mitcham retired from Carnival Cruise Line in August.
Today’s question for Matt: What is your favorite cruise destination?
The Caribbean has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, so picking just one favorite destination would be impossible. However, having been fortunate enough to spend almost 14 years sailing around the Caribbean, one of my personal favorites has always been Jamaica.
Jamaica had a bad rep for many years, but they’ve worked hard over the last decade to build up the tourism industry and make tourists feel safe. Don't get me wrong, it still has some sketchy areas, but what country doesn’t. As long as you stay in the tourist spots, you'll be fine.
Traveling anywhere overseas is all about using common sense. If you happen to walk down an alley and there are two men with ski masks on...it's probably a good idea to moonwalk your booty back out of there.
One of the best parts about going on a cruise is all the incredible tax- and duty-free shopping available to you, and when it comes to shopping, Jamaica will not let you down. The trick is to purchase your souvenirs on the way back to the ship. It's amazing to see how much the price drops when they know it's your last chance to buy. Jamaican vendors carry everything from Bob Marley T-shirts to Rastafarian hats (which are always a hit with the men). It's incredible how a few Red Stripe beers and a Rastafarian hat makes a man feel like he's suddenly part of the "Cool Runnings" bobsled team.
Jamaica is also stunning in natural beauty, so make sure you get away from the port area. Check out some of the local attractions such as Dunn's River Falls and the Blue Hole. And don't even get me started on the food! Have you even really been to Jamaica if you haven’t tried the local jerk chicken? This savory treat is a must when visiting this chilled out little island.
Like many, Alaska was on my bucket list for years, and it definitely lived up to the hype. It really is a place that everyone should visit at least once. From glaciers to mountains and waterfalls, Alaska is just breathtaking.
I wouldn’t normally say a balcony is a must on a cruise, but for an Alaskan cruise, it really is. Nothing beats sitting on your balcony, wrapped in a blanket, with a hot cup of whiskey…I mean cocoa, watching all the incredible wildlife. Hopefully, you're luckier than I was! I would sit for hours with my wife, just waiting for a glimpse of sea life, and like clockwork, every time I would go to the restroom a whale would leap out of the ocean. This is why I now travel with Depends… just kidding, Pampers are softer.
On a Caribbean cruise, you spend most of your day laying on the beach, sipping on a cocktail. But in Alaska, you tend to be a lot more active. There are so many fascinating shore excursions to enjoy, from dogsledding down the glaciers to panning for gold, it's just one adventure after another. Most people need a vacation after this vacation.
One thing you will notice is a change in the demographics on an Alaskan cruise. There aren't many youngsters onboard. The good thing about this is the hot tubs are not full of children, and the elevators don’t stop on every floor. Hooray! As we're in our mid-30s, we thought this might be a little boring. But let me tell you, these people know how to tear up the dance floor. You haven’t lived until you’ve done the cha-cha slide in slow motion.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
Mitcham has served as cruise director on several Carnival ships including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze. Known for his six-pack abs, shirtless selfies and effervescent personality, he was recently profiled in People magazine as the “hunky cruise director.” He was named the cruise world’s best cruise director in 2019 by the cruise industry’s leading magazine, Porthole. You can find him on Instagram at @mattcruisedirector.