There is nothing like a cruise. You can spend all day touring an island, laying on the beach, or swimming with stingrays. At night, you can eat four-star cuisine, take in a show, or dance with your spouse or partner.
Growing up, my mother had a thing for cruise vacations, and I’ve taken quite a few in my life. They’re a lot of fun for singles, couples, or families. From the moment the ship leaves the harbor, until you dock again, you’ll have constant entertainment, all the food you can eat, and endless sights to see. Chances are, you won’t want to leave when the ship docks again.
But with all good things comes the bad, and cruising certainly has some downsides. Before you book your next cruise vacation, consider both the advantages and the disadvantages cruises have to offer.
5 Reasons to Go on a Cruise
1. Simplicity and Convenience
If you plan a vacation to a popular destination like Las Vegas, you’re going to have to plan everything from the airfare, the hotel, what to see, and where to eat. On the other hand, when you book a cruise, most of the work is done for you. You can select a cruise based on travel times, length of the trip, or destinations. Your meals are arranged, courtesy of the onboard restaurants and dining areas. The cruise plans around-the-clock activities for all ages. Most cruise lines will even help you select what sightseeing activities you want to do in port.
2. Multiple Travel Destinations
Unlike visiting a resort, which locks you in to one location, a cruise ship stops at several ports. Depending on the length of your cruise, you could see five or more different locations in one vacation. If you’re into seeing new places, you can rack up quite a few on a seven-day cruise. And since you’re on the ship, you don’t have to worry about making new travel arrangements for each spot.
3. Bundle Deals
Cruise lines offer specials on their popular destinations all the time. If you travel in the off-season, you can get a cruise package at a major discount, but you’re going to have to work for it. Cruise lines offer different package tiers throughout the year. A basic cruise package will include a small state room, your time on board, and one or two excursions. A more all-inclusive package will include airfare to and from the cruise ship’s port, a hotel stay at the port city the night prior to departure, transportation to the ship, and a decent-sized state room while on board.
To get the best deal, you’ll have to hunt through the travel websites, and you should be prepared to book several weeks, if not months, in advance. Some of the best travel websites that highlight cheap cruise deals include Orbitz, Travelocity, and Kayak.
4. A Diverse Experience
When you stay in a resort, or visit one city, you have a limited number of activities you and your family can do while still staying within the confines of your area. Cruise lines really pack the entertainment into the ship. The cruise line plans both day and night activities for every day you’re at sea. For example, you can shop at several stores, attend an art auction, get a massage, play in a ping pong tournament, lay out by the pool, take in a bingo game, gamble at the casino, or learn ballroom dancing – all within a few feet of your stateroom and while eating excellent food. If you’re the type who likes to be active when you’re on vacation, you’ll love the at sea days on a cruise.
5. Meeting New People
I made friends with a girl on a cruise once, and we stayed in touch for years after disembarking. Thanks to the buffet-style eating areas and planned group activities, you will have several opportunities to meet new people. Every cruise trip draws in people from all over the world. If you like meeting new people, a cruise can be a great way to do it. And if you’re single, “singles cruises,” much like the name implies, are specifically designed for the uncoupled to have a great time and potentially meet a significant other.
5 Disadvantages of Cruise Vacations
1. Hidden Costs
Taking a cruise will cost you far more than the cost of airfare and booking the trip. You will also have to shell out for drinks, tourist excursions, souvenirs, and tips. You could easily spend more than the cost of booking the cruise on the little things you buy throughout the trip.
Below are some financial things to consider:
- The Cruise Line Credit Card. You cannot use cash or your own credit card on the cruise ship. Instead, the cruise line will give you a special card to use, linked to your own credit card. Every time you want to buy an alcoholic drink or visit the spa, you swipe the cruise line’s card. It is extremely easy to forget that you’re using your own money and go overboard with these cards.
- Tourist Excursions. You will have to pay for anything you do in port. The cruise line will have a travel agency set up on the ship where you can book excursion trips. While this is the easiest way to do it, it’s also costly. You could spend several thousands of dollars taking sightseeing trips in port. Tip: Most excursions allow you to book with them ahead of time. If you book what you want to see yourself and bypass going through the cruise line, you’ll save a good chunk of money.
- Tipping. While you’re on the ship, 100 different people will wait on you. In your room, you will have maid service. In the dining area, you will have one primary server, a wine server, and several other waiters working your table. The cruise line also offers concierge services, travel agents, photographers, bartenders, casino dealers, and room service. While it’s not officially required, you are expected to tip at least some of these people. The cruise line will leave you a list of suggested amounts and who you should tip in your room on the last day of your trip. Tipping can easily set you back a few hundred dollars.
2. Traveling with Children
Some cruise lines, like the Disney Cruises, cater specifically to families. Other cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, cater more towards singles. Every cruise line will offer something for your children to do, but if you have younger children, you want to be careful about which cruise line you book. If you go with a cruise line geared towards adults, your children will likely end up bored by the second day, especially since they won’t be able to take part in many of the 21+ events. And we all know that bored children equals a tough time for parents.
3. Time Limits
If you’re someone who likes to really get to know a place, and cram in as many activities as you can, you may not enjoy a cruise. Typically, you can leave the ship early in the morning and must return by dusk at each port stop. All of that coming and going can create a sort of whirlwind effect, and you may never feel like you are in one place long enough – especially if you really like one of the port cities.
4. Tourist Traps
Most excursions on land are typical tourist-type events, and the ports cater to tourists since that’s where the cruise ships dock. Because of that, it’s hard to get the authentic cultural experience of the place you’re visiting – and prices are typically inflated for everything from food to souvenirs and adventures.
5. Sea Sickness
Traveling on a huge cruise liner bares little resemblance to spending the day fishing in a small boat, but there is a reason they hand Dramamine out like candy at the reception center. While a cruise ship might weigh the same as a small island, the ocean can still rock that ship back and forth.
I took several cruises without a problem. In fact, I got a little cocky about my lack of sea sickness. I might have gone as far as to mock those around me who just couldn’t hang. Then one night, a cruise ship I was on had to push through a small tropical storm, and well let’s just say karma paid me back for all those sly comments I made to everyone else.
Even if you never get sea sick, you might experience some trouble on the ship. If you have never spent much time on the open sea, you might want to test out riding on a boat before you commit to a seven-day cruise. The last place you want to realize your stomach can’t take waves is 100-miles offshore with 6 days left on your vacation.
From the onboard casino, to the midnight buffet and exotic ports, cruises offer a vacation experience unlike any other. If you do your research and book in advance, you can get a great deal on a cruise package. Once on board, if you just remember to stay frugal, you can save yourself even more money. But cruising isn’t for everyone. Before you shell out your hard-earned money, make sure it’s the type of vacation you’ll enjoy.
Have you taken a cruise in the past? What was the experience like and how much money did you end up spending? What is your favorite travel website to hunt down the best cruise deals? Tell us about it in the comments below.