People either love or hate cruises. A cruise is a different type of holiday experience compared to a vacation where you fly somewhere or take a road trip. On a cruise, the resort comes to you!
I have been on four cruises now and love it. Russell, on the other hand, is hesitant to try it. To cruise or not to cruise, that is the question. For all of you that have not yet tried cruising, I wanted to share cruise pros and cons so that you can figure out if a cruise vacation is right for you!
Note: Cruise lines do vary and this is based on my experience on four cruises with Royal Caribbean. MSC cruises are another popular option. If you have young children, you might want to check out these pros and cons of a Disney Cruise.
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Minimize Packing and Unpacking
Packing is one of my pet peeves. I always leave it to the last minute and get Russell to do it when I can. You only have to pack twice for a cruise: once to set off from home, and again when you disembark. You are not staying in a different hotel room each night, you have your cabin and it moves with you.
See More Destinations
A cruise is like a road trip on the water. A seven-day cruise usually goes to three or four destinations. The last cruise I went on stopped in Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Martin. I prefer the chance to see multiple destinations rather than to stay in one place for the whole week.
Based on my experience on cruises, you will get pampered. I’m not just talking about the spa on the ship. Most of the cruise staff work for tips so they want to make sure you are enjoying yourself. Pretty much anything I have asked for I have gotten.
Good Cruise Ship Food
I have been impressed by the quality of food that I have had on cruise ships. I think it is better than any all-inclusive resort that I have stayed in. Plus, the cruise ship food menu has plenty of options including meals for vegetarians and those with other dietary restrictions.
In my experience, the dining room always does a great job with the presentation of the food too. Usually, the food service is all-you-can-eat. In addition to being able to go to the buffet, you can always ask for seconds or order room service.
It is easy to meet people on cruises if you want to! I am still in touch with some friends I met on cruises 10 years ago. The activities on the ship are designed to be fun and social, so choose a few that look interesting to you and go! It’s easy to make friends at dinner if you get a good dinner table assignment. I usually request a large table so you get to meet more people. If you want to be really proactive you can join the cruise forums on Cruise Critic and meet fellow passengers before you cruise.
No Cash Needed
It’s nice that you don’t have to carry any money or credit cards around for incidentals like drinks. You just use your room key for that. You just have to be careful because a little money here and there can quickly add up.
Something for Everyone
Every day you receive the list of activities for the next day. If it’s your first cruise, I think you will be impressed with how many activities there are each day. I think everyone can find something! I also like that everyone in your group does not have to do the same activity.
In addition, to the scheduled activities, some ships have several pools, rock-climbing, miniature golf, bars, shopping, and even zip-lines. If you prefer, you can always just sleep in and relax by the pool.
Cruise Travel Cons
Yes, there are cons to cruising, nothing is perfect. Here are a few reasons not to go on a cruise.
Too Much Good Food
The downside to all the good food is, of course, the calories. It is hard to eat healthily with all the delicious options like a chocolate buffet! It is easy to gain weight on a cruise. My suggestion would be to try and fit in a little gym time each day before dinner.
Cruise ship gyms offer a wide range of exercise machines and weights. You can also take exercise classes, but these may cost extra. Most cruises do offer healthy menu items which are marked with a symbol on the menu. If you can convince yourself to order the healthy options at least some of the time, that will help too.
You also don’t have much opportunity to try the cuisine at the ports of call. For example, there are so many amazing restaurants in St. Martin, but at most you would get to try one!
Limited Time in a Destination
Most cruise itineraries only allow a day at each destination. Sometimes that means you only have 6-8 hours to explore a destination. Depending on where the boat docks, getting out of the dock area can also be time-consuming. It’s best to plan what you want to do at each port to make the most of your time.
I look at it as a preview. I can see what I think of a destination and plan a trip back if I want to see more. You cannot expect to fully explore destinations on a cruise. For example, it’s just not possible to complete all the things to do in Nassau in one short visit.
Lack of Connectivity
Internet on a cruise is slow and expensive. When you are out at sea, you may or may not have cell service depending on your carrier. That can make it hard to stay connected, but if you are on a vacation, maybe it’s a good idea to disconnect and just enjoy the experience.
Extra Charges Can Add Up
When you pay for a cruise, it does include food and a lot of activities, but not everything. Extras include drinks, spa treatments, specialty dining, internet, excursions, and cruise gratuities.
Drinks on a cruise are not cheap. If you plan on drinking a lot, you should probably consider buying a drink package for your cruise. Royal Caribbean offers a package that includes drinks and wifi.
Personally, I think the specialty restaurants on cruises are not worth it because the food in the dining room is excellent, but some people do. Space on a cruise ship is limited, so they wouldn’t have the restaurants there if they weren’t popular! Sometimes you can find a deal when you book your cruise which includes one specialty meal.
I also try to avoid booking excursions through the cruise line because they are almost always overpriced. I usually try to explore on my own or book an excursion through a third party. If you book through a third party be sure to do your research!
I have also heard of people skipping the last dinner to avoid giving the staff tips. Please don’t do this. The staff works hard to make your cruise special and not paying cruise gratuities is just wrong.
Yes, the cabins on a cruise ship are small but I don’t think it’s a concern. Cruise ship accommodations are designed to maximize space. You will not be spending much time in your room. If you are able to afford it, I would recommend splurging for the balcony cabin. I loved having a little private outdoor space.
Environmental Impact of Cruises
Large cruise ships can have the same amount of emissions as a thousand cars according to an undercover investigation by the UK’s Channel 4. New government regulations require cleaner burning fuels, but outside territorial waters, there are fewer regulations.
Many cruise lines are investing thousands to millions of dollars upgrading fleets, saving money on fuel and energy costs over the long term. It’s nice to see more focus on the environment, but cruise lines still need to do better.
There is also a concern about overcrowding at some cruise ports. Yes, cruise passengers help the local economy, but in some cases, it is more than places can handle. As the popularity of cruises increases and more big ships are built, limits may need to be put in place that find a balance between tourism and overcrowding.
I can only imagine what a nightmare it would be to have a norovirus outbreak on your cruise vacation. Norovirus is not just a cruise ship virus, it can spread quickly whenever there are a lot of people in a small space. While I think the probability of an outbreak on your cruise is low, you should make sure that you are extra diligent about washing your hands. Most cruise ships also seem to have hand sanitizer stands everywhere.
Do Cruise Pros Outweigh the Cons?
You need to consider both the pros and cons of cruises before deciding if it is the right type of vacation for you. I do think the pros outweigh the cons. If you are thinking of booking a cruise, I recommend Royal Caribbean. You can see cruise options from more cruise lines on Cruise Direct and they have a best-price guarantee. Hopefully, I can convince Russell to do a cruise soon!
Have you gone on a cruise? What do you see as the pros and cons of cruising? If you haven’t been on a cruise, do you think it’s for you?
Expert Tips for Making the Most of Your Cruise
- Try to fit in a little gym time before dinner to help offset all the calories.
- Watch out for extra charges, it is easy for those to add up quickly.
- Consider booking excursions through third parties.
- If budget allows, try to get a cruise cabin with a balcony.
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