I'm currently on a cruise ship somewhere in the Mediterranean sea, en route from Barcelona to Casablanca. Most people here are either retirees enjoying the easy life or younger folks celebrating birthdays, weddings, or anniversaries. My friend Brian and I are neither-- we're using the ship as a mobile work retreat.
As a nomad and an entrepreneur, I find myself working in a large variety of places throughout the year. I have a nice setup in my RV, but I'll also work from friend's offices, airplanes, airports, friend or family's houses, trains, Regus offices or any other number of places. However, my absolute favorite place to work is from a cruise ship, in particular long transatlantic cruises like the one I'm currently on.
The number one enemy of productivity is distraction, either in the form of entertainment or things like chores and phone calls which feel productive but break up the day. Cruise ships are a remarkable way to eliminate all of those things. Efficiency can be so high on a cruise ship that I schedule things like entire rewrites of major sections of Sett or the writing of a brand new book for the two-week cruise.
On a cruise ship, everything is taken care of for you. No time at all has to be allocated to cooking, choosing your meal, or to cleaning. You show up at the restaurant, in which all of the food is free, order whatever you want from the rotating menu, eat, and then immediately get up and get back to work.
When you get back to your stateroom, it has been cleaned and the bed has been made. Today there appeared, with no explanation, a big platter of fruit, which will make a great snack while working.
Wifi is present everywhere, but very expensive, ranging from twenty to seventy cents per minute, depending on which package you choose. This actually suits work very well because it's reasonable enough to commit code, look something up occasionally, post blog posts, and stay on top of emails, but it's too expensive to check Facebook compulsively or to get caught up in the dreaded Reddit -> Hacker News -> Reddit cycle.
If you get a stateroom with a window, like the one we were upgraded to for free this time, it's quite comfortable to work from your room. If you need a snack, you can order room service, which is either free or carries a flat rate of $2 per order. Again, no cooking or cleaning up.
If you prefer to work outside your room, which I do if I don't have a window, there are always plenty of decent places to work around the cruise ship. Good options are the library, cardroom, or one of the nightclubs that are empty but unlocked during the day. On the last cruise I went on we found a perfect lounge in which a string quartet played for four hours each day. We were always the only people in attendance, which made our makeshift office feel particularly decadent.
Despite working for most of the day, it's nice to have high quality breaks. Meals on cruises can be quite long, and they seat you with random people. Most of the random people are probably not like the people you normally associate with, which can be a mixed bag, but allows for some shifts in perspective. If you go with a friend, you can debrief with him on your workday. Brian has been working on building a video game, so we've been talking about some ideas for that.
And, of course, you get to visit a bunch of new places. To really understand a city you may have to spend weeks or months there, but that doesn't mean that a day or two is completely useless. I use the port stops to visit specific places, like the Fundacio Miro in Barcelona or the Hassan Mosque in Casablanca, or to just wander around and get a sneak preview of a new place. This is especially valuable for places like the Azores or Canary Islands, where you probably wouldn't otherwise find yourself.
If you're visiting a port that doesn't have anything you're excited about, you can also just find an internet cafe and handle phone calls and downloads that you weren't able to do on the ship. I may do this in a few days in Tenerife, since last time I was there I couldn't find anything particularly interesting to do.
When you visit these ports, the process is incredibly efficient. The ship takes care of all of the immigration stuff behind the scenes, so you get off the ship without having to go through customs. You're generally very close to downtown, versus airports which require trains or taxis, so you can immediately go do what you want to do. And unlike flights, you can get to the ship just a few minutes before the scheduled departure time and get on.
After returning to the ship, it's easy to immediately get back to work because there's no unpacking or settling in to be done. You just pick up your computer, head to your favorite workspace, and get rolling.
My favorite days, though, are days like today, when we're in transit and not actually visiting a port. For this reason, I always choose the transatlantic cruises, which have five to seven days in the middle with no stops. The amount of work I'm able to do during those days, completely free of distraction, is incredible. Doing the work feels easy because there's no friction or drain on willpower avoiding distraction. Frankly, if you're not into bingo and ballroom dancing, you may find there's not much for you to do on the ship other than work or read.
For certain types of work, like writing or coding, a cruise ship is a near-ideal environment. However, if you need to make a lot of phone calls or be connected to the internet all the time, it wouldn't make any sense to do. There's also a benefit to being around other people in your industry, and that generally isn't going to happen on a cruise ship, although I don't find it to be a problem for short term trips.
Transatlantic cruises are the best ones to choose for a couple reasons. First, as I mentioned, they have the highest ratio of sea day to port days, which gives you plenty of long blocks of time in which to work. Second, they're among the cheapest cruises available. If cruises were expensive, the added productivity boost may not be worth it, but at $30-50 per day, the cost is almost negligible.
I built a tool called Cruise Sheet which helps you find the cheapest cruises. If you book through it I get a small commission, which funds future work making it even better. I also have a bunch of tricks and tips to get cruises extremely cheaply (my record is $10/day), which I will share if there is interest.
Photo is me in the Library of the Costa Luminosa.... right now!
Ugh. Cruise ships are a plague. Get informed about what they do to the ocean. I know its hard to see out of your fuzzy tech bubble, but the real world *is* out there and you're pooping on it.
That's a load of crap.
"In one day alone, a cruise ship generates 21,000 gallons of sewage, which is often dumped untreated once the ship is three miles from shore, as well as one ton of garbage, 170,000 gallons of wastewater, 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water, and 25 pounds of batteries, fluorescent lights, medical wastes, and expired chemicals."
Is untreated sewage really a problem in the ocean? Surely there's a lot of defecation happening in the vast array of sea life. I find the chemicals far more troublesome.
I think the problem is when 21,000 gallons is dumped all at once. Find me a sea creature that poops that much and then we'll talk.
Right, like I said, a load of crap! ;) What's one of the major differences between a container ship and a cruise ship? The amount of sewage (crap) due to the number of passengers. Maybe a cruise on a container ship would be better since you are essentially getting the same benefits mentioned in this post without supporting the more mainstream cruise industry (though you are still dumping your crap into the ocean.)
Ugh, I thought I already posted this comment, but it didn't show up. I apologize for the spam if my first one did actually go though.
You know I noticed an online video where a university or college invented a new type of toilet that separates the pee from the poo. The poo is then used to generate natural gas for burning. Heat, cooking, etc. The cruise ship could benefit from such an invention. As well as households, public places, or anywhere.
Cargo ships are usually way more expensive than cruises though. I'm about to book a 26-day trip across the Pacific aboard a cargo ship and it costs $3300, which is by far the best price I've found for the crossing. Last year I booked a 5-day trip from Sri Lanka to Malaysia and it cost $1200. They're carrying millions of dollars worth of cargo so they try to make it worth their while to take extra passengers.
How is a cruise ship any different than the city of Portland Oregon that is constantly dumping raw sewage into the Willamette river? Google "portland oregon raw sewage willamette river" and your'll find tons of instances where thousands and thousands of gallons of raw sewage is just dumped into the river. Then check out other big cities like Seattle.A fleet of cruise ships with the same population of Portland is cleaner than that city.
The difference is Portland spent 1.4 billion to clean up that mess. It was a bad decision the city made generations ago and now we have a massive system to prevent those overflows into the river. Cruise ships could care less about fixing their problems. Flushing their trash and water overboard keeps them profitable.
"Cruise ships could care less about fixing their problems."
Could or couldn't?
If cruise ships are dumping, then are the freight ships also dumping waste. If this is the case the world is gonna have a big problem in the future. That's too bad. Oh well, they will deal with it later when it becomes too much of a problem.
Oh Yeah, One more trick. Get a CREW Internet Card. Pick your favorite waiter cabin steward or bar tender and have them get you one. $20 for 200 minutes. Sometimes I'll have them get me two and get a third for them selves- they appreciate that. $60 for 400 minutes and it covers a tip too! - ALWAYS get a crew internet card. :)
was hoping someone would bring this up. For standard passenger internet access I paid around 50 cents a minute on holland america. Far from ideal.
Yeah, transatlantic are GREAT if you can find a cheap way home. That's the trick with them. :)
Our last cruise was a transatlantic, but after airfare it fared about the same as an "average good deal", a Balcony about $100 ea per day including all taxes and port fees.
I may or may not have just spent 45 minutes checking out flights/cruise prices. Love this idea so freakin' much!
Thanks for finally validating a thought I have had in the past!
Also, poked around Cruise Sheet (awesome) found a little bug on this page:
Dumping SQL to the page.. eek! Looks like ship_id is not getting a value in your query.
hey tynan, before you arrive in tenerife, send me en e-mail to "chris (at) nexusgroup.ch"... we can have a coffee and i can show you some nice places if you want...
We had an awesome time on a week Tenerife. I did a story (I'm a tech and travel writer) on http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2011/may/14/tenerife-eco-holiday-green-village
though I had to do the interviews in Spanish
and we also did some interviews hiking with Mary Cabral (senderismoydeportes
Wow, that's crazy cheap. There's people making more money on welfare programs than these cruises are charging. Hm, welfare cruise lines. It could work.
I love San Francisco so much that every time I return here from a trip, I resolve to stay for a while and enjoy the city. That never happens. Next week I'm going to Tahoe, then Vegas the following weekend, and then to Austin for SXSW the week after that. Cabo or Hawaii follows in early March, but in late April comes the most exciting upcoming trip: a sixteen day cruise to Rome.
Cruises are full of old people. As best I can tell, that's because young people haven't figured out how awesome and cheap they can be. In fact, I can easily say that of all the travel I've done, cruises probably represent the best bang for the buck.
Before I tell you how to get them cheap, let me tell you why cruises, especially long duration one-way cruises are amazing.
One of my favorite aspects of cruises is that they can take you to places you may not otherwise visit. For example, the cruise my friends and I are taking stops in the Azores, Seville (Spain), Valencia (Spain), Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and Rome. Without cruising, I probably would never make it to the Azores, and those southern Spanish cities are unlikely as well. They're just too remote and too expensive to come up at the top of my list when choosing a trip.
My mind has been scrambled the last couple days. I don't know why, it came on very suddenly. I've made massive strides over the two weeks before - I accomplished about six months worth of work over two weeks. I felt on top of the world. I wasn't even very tired afterwards, I felt good, ready to go.
Then yesterday, just bzzt - nothing. Foggy, almost like confusion. Couldn't focus at all. Strange. I said, y'know what? I haven't had a day off in a while, I'm just going to take the day off. Went and sat at a cafe and listened to some audio for about four hours, walked around and saw the city, went and had a massage, and then sat and ate fruit. Spend like 10 hours in a row just thinking and relaxing, which is good, I don't take full days off very often. I had some good ideas when I was out at the cafe and took some extensive notes, so I got some production out of it too without even trying to.
Now, I wish I could say, "And then I was recharged, and today I was awesome!" But no, I woke up in a fog again. Damn this. I track my time and have some routines to keep me running well, but I was foggy despite it, unable to focus really. Suck, what is this?
I was working, but it was half-working. Now, half-working is a big problem in my opinion. Half-working tires you out as much or more than real full working, but you get about 5% as much stuff done. Yes, 5%. Good work requires something like focus. It doesn't necessarily require the highest levels of focus and flow (though that stuff is very good), but it requires working through the mentally difficult parts when they come up. The worst part about half-work is you cruise through the easy enough stuff, then stumble on a difficult part.
This is doubly bad, because when you come back to your work, you're staring the hardest part in the face. This sucks, you need to kind of regroup and double down to get re-started while staring a difficult or complex part of work in the face. But again, I was in that mental fog and so I start half-working on it, and then I wander off again. And I try to come back to the work, but then - bam, there's this hard problem staring me right in the face, that I already failed to conquer twice.