So I finally did it …
After years of skepticism, I joined Nomad Cruise 9 to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Barcelona to Recife, Brazil.
Soooooo … what did I think of the Nomad Cruise?
Well, in this Nomad Cruise review I’ll give you a quick summary of my personal experience and my thoughts on whether the Nomad Cruise is worth your time.
Coronavirus Update: Nomad Cruise XI has been cancelled due to the current outbreak. It’s a tough situation, but props to the Nomad Cruise folks for making the right call for the health of our nomad community and the communities we visit. I’ll update this page when future cruises are announced
PS – If you’ve taken a Nomad Cruise yourself, please share your own perspective in the comments below!
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What is the Nomad Cruise Anyway?
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The Nomad Cruise is exactly what it sounds like – a cruise ship filled with hundreds of digital nomads and remote workers.
During the cruise, there is a conference on board featuring keynotes and workshops from various digital nomad entrepreneurs.
There are also many unofficial “meetups” covering everything from professional topics like like social media, travel writing, or affiliate marketing to hobbies like acro-yoga and various styles of dance (I learned the Lindy Hop!).
The folks behind the Nomad Cruise usually run a couple cruises per year, and seem to always use the Pullmantur cruise line, which is a budget cruise line that runs on older ships.
They also tend to pick repositioning cruises (i.e., where the cruise line has to move a ship between regions to account for seasonal demand).
This is a smart move, as many digital nomads tend to also move seasonally between continents, so you can use the cruise as transportation between destinations.
All of this means the cruises are actually pretty affordable considering they include food, alcohol, and accommodation for the length of the cruise.
If you want to give the Nomad Cruise a try,
the next one leaves in April from the Caribbean to Portugal. (update: that cruise was cancelled due to coronavirus. I’ll update this post when the next cruise is announced)
Apply to join through my referral link and mention my name (“Nate Hake”) for a quicker application AND 100 Euros off your ticket price!
Why I Was Skeptical (And Avoided the Nomad Cruise For Years)
Before we dive into my full Nomad Cruise review, you should know a bit of where I am coming from in writing this review:
I’ve been a digital nomad for nearly three years (here’s my story of becoming a digital nomad), and I can’t tell you how many times people have told me about the Nomad Cruise.
But I resisted joining for so long because I’m usually super skeptical of programs like this (as long-time readers of this blog will know, I’m a particularly vocal critic of remote work programs – which I think usually offer terrible value for what they provide).
Part of my issue with nomad programs generally is that they sometimes tend to be dominated by “wantreprenuers” and “bro marketers,” which I candidly find to be the most nauseating corner of the digital nomad community.
I also personally resist anything that encourages group think or homogenization.
I think that there are many paths to the digital nomad lifestyle, and I worry that too often these kind of events result in a “lemming effect” that discourages free thought, innovation, and individuality.
Hey – are you a digital nomad? – Be sure check out my latest post and video on why I think Georgia is the Next Big Digital Nomad Hotspot!
And so at first I lumped the Nomad Cruise in with those other nomad programs out there, thinking it must be the same.
I only signed up for Nomad Cruise 9 after hearing nothing but rave reviews from past cruisers for years, and in large part because I needed to go from Europe to South America anyway.
So I figured it was worth giving it a shot.
And, as it turns out, I was (mostly) wrong about the Nomad Cruise.
Let’s dive into my full Nomad Cruise review and I’ll explain why:
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My Nomad Cruise Review
I joined Nomad Cruise 9, which ran for 13 days from Barcelona to Recife, Brazil, stopping in Gibraltar, Tenerife, and Cape Verde along the way.
What the Nomad Cruise Does Well
The Community is Unmatched
I originally organized this Nomad Cruise review with a “pros” and “cons” approach to evaluating the cruise, but quickly realized that this doesn’t fairly represent how I feel about the cruise.
Because, while I could probably list more cons than pros, the truth is that there is one pro that by itself far outweighs all the cons in my mind:
The people behind the Nomad Cruise has done a truly remarkable job of bringing together an incredible community of like-minded people and putting them in an environment that allows organic connections to flourish in unexpectedly beautiful ways.
The Staff are Really, Truly Wonderful
I really can’t say enough good things about the people who organized the Nomad Cruise.
Every single one of the staff members was kind, caring, helpful, and doing this because their heart was in the right place.
I also found it heartening that the organizers were so myopically focused on providing a quality product, as opposed to upselling participants at every turn (as I had expected them to).
Heck, apart from a single bus ride at the end of the cruise, there were hardly any upsells on offer at all – the price you pay for the Nomad Cruise basically covers everything you’ll need.
It’s tempting for organizers of events like this to use them as an opportunity to squeeze every dime out of their participants, so I was really impressed to see that the Nomad Cruise people clearly have a “product-first” approach that really values their guests.
The Pre and Post Meetups Are Really Cool
The 13 days on the cruise itself represented only about half of the time I was immersed in the Nomad Cruise, due to the fact that both before and after the cruises there are many official and unofficial meetups organized on land.
From having dinner with 20 cruisers I’d never met on my first day in Barcelona to exploring Brazil with my favorite friends from the cruise afterwards, my Nomad Cruise experience really stretched over a full month in the end.
It could have gone even longer had I opted to stay in Brazil and hang out with my new friends, but ultimately, I decided that I needed to hop over to Argentina to focus on work.
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Even here in Buenos Aires, however, I still see people I met on the Nomad Cruise almost every single day!
The Cruise Offers Decent Value for Money
I think the Nomad Cruise is a steal considering how much you get for what you pay.
I paid 1600 euros to have my own outside cabin, which works out to about 125 euros/day.
And I paid more than many because it was possible to get in for at little as 1,000 euros if you shared an inside cabin.
That’s a really good deal in my mind because it includes housing, food, alcohol, a conference, lots of pre and post events, plus all the onboard amenities like the pool and gym.
Plus, it includes transportation between continents (I needed to get from Europe to South America anyway, so even a cheap international flight would have cost me about 500 euros).
Oh, and though you should consult with your tax adviser for your own circumstances, many people I met intended to deduct the cost of the conference on their taxes to boot.
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How the Nomad Cruise Could Improve
Overall I was enormously impressed with the Nomad Cruise.
I give a ton of credit to the organizers, as I can only imagine how many moving pieces an event like this must entail.
Considering the scope and breadth of the event, it was remarkably well run and exceeded my expectations by quite a lot.
Still, nothing is perfect.
And you’re reading my Nomad Cruise review for direct and honest takes, not marketing material.
So, in the spirit of candor, I do want to note a few suggestions where I feel there is room for improvement:
Pay The Speakers
I have to be honest that I didn’t attend most of the speeches, because I personally felt that I got more value out of the meetups and spending time connecting with other nomads on the boat.
But I do have to note that I think the cruise could be improved by paying its speakers.
In fact, the Nomad Cruise apparently not only doesn’t pay its speakers, but actually requires the speakers to pay to attend the cruise.
I mean, think about it:
How many A-list speakers are going to be willing to spend two weeks on a boat to give a talk, and PAY for the privilege?
I’d personally be willing to pay more if it meant the speakers got paid. I just think people should be paid for their work – especially considering that the Nomad Cruise advertises itself (heavily) as a “business conference.”
Have More “Free” Days
The Nomad Cruise conference schedule was PACKED.
Even though the cruise was a whopping two weeks long (waaay longer than a normal conference), they had keynotes and workshops nearly every single day for most of the day. They even had speeches during the days we had land excursions!
But the true strength of the Nomad Cruise, at least in my mind, is not the programming at all – it’s the organic connections that happen among the incredible participants on board.
The one “free” day they had on the schedule was, in my opinion, the best day on the boat because it allowed those organic connections to flourish.
Now, in fairness, nobody makes you attend the speeches (and so I happily skipped most of them), but they DO prevent you from organizing meetups during the official programming.
Which brings me to my next point …
Give More Time for Meet Ups and “Shows”
The best part of the Nomad Cruise programming wasn’t the official speeches, but the far more engaging unofficial meetups.
Anyone can organize a meetup, and nearly 100 people on my cruise led meetups on a shockingly diverse array of topics.
Some of these meetups also serve as organizing springboards for participation in the excellent shows and competitions that the Nomad Cruise runs, including a talent show, a speaker challenge, and a Shark-Tank knockoff called the Piranha Tank.
But they only allotted 2 hours per day for the meetups, which meant that very often you were forced to choose between several appealing meetups that conflicted with each other.
Significantly reducing the “official” schedule and leaving more time for the meetups would be a major improvement, IMHO.
Find a Cruise Line with Better Food Options, Especially for Vegetarians
This isn’t really the Nomad Cruise’s fault, as they have to go with what the cruise line offers, but honestly, I personally really struggled to eat well on the cruise.
I am a vegetarian and while there were veggie options, they were limited, mostly tasteless, and generally not terribly healthy (for obvious reasons, fresh fruits and veggies are hard to come by on cruise ships).
The options for vegans were even worse.
Also, I found it SUPER annoying that you basically couldn’t find ANY food anywhere the ship for several long stretches of the day, including between 10:30 AM and 12:30 PM (meaning that waking up late could leave you starving for a couple hours) and after 10 PM (meaning no late night munchies!).
Overall, this is a product of the fact that Nomad Cruise always runs with Pullmantur Cruises, which is basically the most budget-of-budget cruise lines.
Definitely a first world problem, and not a deal-breaker by any means, but next time I do a Nomad Cruise I’ll probably bring a few grocery bags worth of my own food on board.
Improve the WiFi Situation
Again, this isn’t the fault of the folks behind the Nomad Cruise and is sorta to be expected on a SHIP, but the WiFi was incredibly expensive and virtually useless.
Which is sort of ironic considering that WiFi is the lifeblood for most digital nomads.
Also, even if you paid for the WiFi, it only worked on one device at a time.
Which wouldn’t be a big deal …
EXCEPT that in order to switch devices you had to get a hold of the cruise line’s Internet representative – who only worked a few limited hours per day and usually had a ~30 minute line of people looking to switch devices.
It was such a hassle that I never actually ended up using WiFi on my laptop at all (to be honest, I didn’t mind having a digital detox anyway).
For future cruises, it seems like they should just set up a router in a conference room and let people connect from there, though I don’t know if the cruise line would allow that.
Or better yet, they could get a better cruise line – maybe one that doesn’t solely run ships built before I was born ….
For Goodness Sake, Get Rid of the Racially-Charged and Offensive Terminology
I don’t know why, but the otherwise amazing Nomad Cruise organizers do one thing that really annoys me:
They insist on referring to groups of Nomad Cruisers as part of a “tribe.”
But here’s the thing: “tribe” is a word with racist, hurtful roots stemming from the colonial era.
I realize not everyone fully understands why this word is inappropriate, and I know no one intends its use with malice, but here’s a refresher:
“Tribe, a concept that has endeared itself to Western scholars, journalists, and the public for a century, is primarily a means to reduce for readers the complexity of the non-Western societies of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the American plains. It is no accident that the contemporary uses of the term tribe were developed during the 19th-century rise of evolutionary and racist theories to designate alien non-white peoples as inferior or less civilized and as having not yet evolved from a simpler, primal state.”–David Wiley, Michigan State University
Maybe you don’t see a problem with the word, but I sure as heck do, especially given the context.
It is definitely NOT an appropriate word to describe a group of mostly-white, mostly-socioeconomically-privileged people who travel around the world and “settle,” even if temporarily, in countries that are still dealing with the lingering effects of colonization.
Using the word “tribe” shuns responsibility for reflecting on how the digital nomad community should positively relate to the places and communities we visit, work, and live in.
And, rather than acknowledging the privileges that allow us to live this incredible and relatively new lifestyle (a lifestyle that is only accessible to us because of our privileges), using the term “tribe” mockingly flaunts those privileges in an offensive way.
Even if you don’t agree with me, the term is still totally, completely, and utterly unnecessary.
The word “crew” would work so much better on a boat anyway, don’t you think?
FAQs About the Nomad Cruise
How’s the WiFi on board?
Pretty bad and ridiculously overpriced.
I paid over $140 for the top level WiFi package, which Pullmantur advertises as being capable of streaming Netflix.
What. A. Joke.
The WiFi functioned sporadically for basic things like What’s App and the occasional email, but it was unreliable and I quickly learned to just embrace the cruise as an opportunity for a digital detox.
Bottom line: don’t go on this cruise if you have to be connected. But consider whether you really need to be, and whether it might be healthy for you to disconnect for a bit.
What’s the ship like?
Omg – so incredibly old and outdated.
Nomad Cruise uses Pullmantur, which is quite literally the cruise line that other cruise lines give their used ships to when they are too old and run down to use them anymore.
And, believe me, it shows that the ship is a hand-me-down.
I went on my first cruise in 2008 after graduating college, and I have to say that even though that was TWELVE YEARS ago, that NCL ship was soo much more modern than the glorified barge we took across the Atlantic.
With all that said, you’re not going on the Nomad Cruise for the facilities, so in the end I honestly can’t say I minded all that much.
Do you have to be a digital nomad already to join the Nomad Cruise?
In fact, the plurality of the people I met on the cruise are not nomadic in any sense, but purely “aspirational nomads.” There were quite a few who are partially nomadic in that they have a base and travel frequently.
But I would say that only maybe 30% of the attendees were true full-time nomads like myself.
As I was hoping to use the cruise to connect with other nomads for the long term, that was a bit of a letdown. But at the same time, I do fully support the fact that they leave it open to people who are interested in learning more about the travel lifestyle.
What’s with the application process?
The Nomad Cruise folks claim that they require you to apply to the cruise in order to ensure that they curate of a community of the “right” people.
Honestly, I’m not sure how strict the application process is in practice, as I’ve not heard of anyone being rejected, and personally I think it may primarily function as a scarcity marketing tactic.
In theory, they could use the application process to ensure that only actual nomads attended the cruise, but it’s clear to me they are still a long way away from having enough demand to fill a cruise with just nomads.
PS – Supposedly, you can get quicker application approval by applying through this link and mentioning Nate Hake as your referrer.
Is it just Nomad Cruisers on board the ship?
The way it’s marketed, I originally had the impression that the boat would be filled exclusively with people attending the Nomad Cruise conference.
But once on board, you realize that the nomads share the ship with “regular” cruisers. In my case, that meant that the ship was filled with a lot of Brazilian families and seniors.
At first, it kind of annoyed me that this wasn’t more clearly communicated, but to be honest it didn’t end up mattering in the end.
It’s pretty obvious who is and isn’t a nomad (the nomads literally wear name tags), and the nomads tended to stick together in a way that made it feel like we had the boat to ourselves even though we didn’t.
Wait, I have to wear a nametag the whole cruise? WTF?
While no one is going to force you to wear a name tag (I think, anyway), it’s highly encouraged for good reason.
Not only do the name tags help you remember each other’s names, but I also felt that they were important gesture for signaling an openness to connecting new people even during the later part of the cruises when people had more established social groups.
So, sure, it’s a little dorky, but it’s practical and an important part of the Nomad Cruise spirit.
Summary: Is the Nomad Cruise Right for You?
Overall, I’m very glad I went on the Nomad Cruise and I would happily join a future cruise if the itinerary fits my travel schedule.
I think the cruise is best for people who are just starting their nomad lives, or who really value the social and community aspects of it. At this point, I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to attend solely for the conference aspect alone.
But, hey, you can read Nomad Cruise reviews like this one all day but, ultimately, my experience is just that – my personal take on it.
Why not try it out for yourself?
Also a quick FYI if you’re interested in the Nomad Cruise:
Nomad Cruise XI leaves in April 2020 from the Caribbean to Portugal, and you can get 100 Euros OFF, plus expedited review of your application, by completing these two steps: Nomad Cruise XI is cancelled due to coronavirus
- Step 1. book through this link, AND
- Step 2. mention my name (“Nate Hake”) as your referrer!
I hope you enjoy the Nomad Cruise as much as I did!
Before you go, be sure to check out what else we have going on here at Travel Lemming:
- 52 Ways to Get Paid to Travel (That You Might Not Have Thought Of)
- The Top 30 Emerging Travel Destinations for 2020
- FlexJobs Review: Is the Remote Job Site Worth It?
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