I am a huge fan of cruises. As of this post, I have spent over a month on cruise ships. By the end of this year will be close to almost two months.
Even thought I do enjoy cruises I understand they seem to be the most polarizing of trips, either you love it or realize it is not for you. I understand, cruising has a lot of pros and just as many cons and it does depend on the trip you desire. So to simplify everything let’s dive into a simple Pros and Cons list.
Warning: This is a longer post, however feel free to jump to the tl;dr version.
Unpacking during a trip is my favorite activity. First, it marks the start of my vacation. Second, it mentally prepares me that this will be my home over the next few days. When cruising you unpack once and don’t need to repack until disembarkation. If you explore the Mediterranean or Europe using a land based vacation there is a good chance you will change hotels at least once, meaning you will either live out of your suitcase or re-pack it.
This is one point which is both a pro and a con. Cruising is a great way to “sample” new locations. Typically on a cruise long than a weekend you will visit a couple ports-of-call. Think of this like a wine flight. You get a little taste of multiple locations versus a lot of one.
The worst part of a vacation, besides it ending, is the bill afterwards. The act of paying for it when the credit card bill is due is right down depressing. Cruises allow you to pay for it all, if not most, upfront. You can even reserve and pay for premium offerings such as specialty dining.
When you cruise you will become a regular of the staff. It may only be for the week of your cruise, however your waitstaff, bartenders and cruise director staff (maybe even your cruise director) will know you by name and may even know your favorite foods, drinks or other details you forgot you told them. If you become a regular with a particular line or ship the staff may even remember you between sailings.
Cruises are the best Uber driver available. Even if you are not a big drinker, cruising allows you to relax and have that extra glass of wine at a show or dinner. Headlining Shows, Broadway Style shows, Comedians, Night Clubs, Lounges with live musicians are available as nightly entertainment and there is no need to worry about a designated driver since you are a few minutes away from your stateroom.
It is very easy to meet new people. One of the easiest ways to start a conversation during a cruise is asking, “how many cruises have you been on?” Those that are cruise regulars will be more than happy to share their cruising advice. Those that are newer will be more than happy to listen to recommendations and from there the conversation will naturally flow from one topic to the next.
Cruse lines are now creating ships that each have it’s unique features. Cruise companies cater to evening entertainment but there is a lot to do on a ship during the day, either at sea or while in port. Physical activities include climbing, surfing, and water slides to name a few. Other less strenuous activities could be watching the belly flop competition, trivia, and movies by the pool and that is barely the tip of the iceberg. Some activities will have a small fee most of the activities are included in the cost of your cruise.
Excursions are available for land based vacations, however on a cruise all shore excursion logistics are planned and typically included in the price. Your excursion team will meet you either on the ship or at the pier. Transportation is pre-arranged (ferries, buses, cabs, walking). You do not have to worry about time schedules or additional payment for transportation (besides the tips for exceptional service).
If you are hungry anytime during a cruise it is only because you forgot to eat. From midnight buffets to main dining it seems like there is always food around you. Hotels do offer concierge service and recommendations to local restaurants but cruises take away most of the thought process regarding dining. If you are concerned the menus for each evening are available prior to the dinner service.
I personally enjoy the traditional scheduled seated meals, but for those that like more flexibility there is open dining in the main dining room or other meal options including specialty dinning and the buffet. Cruise lines will do what they can to assist in dietary needs and/or allergies and if there is something not on the menu don’t be afraid to make a special request.
I have already touched upon this in other pro arguments but each night there are multiple forms of entertainment. From singing with a pianoman (or gal) to broadway calibre shows there are multiple options of evening entertainment each night of your cruise. It is hard to list all the different types of entertainment as it varies so much.
There are actives for everyone regardless of age. Cruise lines understand they cater to many different people and the activities staff do a great job of offering variety during the entire cruise. I would recommend taking a photo with your phone or carrying around the daily cruise activity schedule because it is a good way to explore new activities.
Cruises allow you to explore new experiences. From a new activity to a new food. Pro tip for the dining room, you can order multiple appetizers, entrees and/or desserts. If there is something you have always wanted to try, but were afraid, now is the time to push those boundaries. You may find a new favorite.
As mentioned in the Pros, the multiple ports of call is like a wine flight a little taste of everything. Unless docked for multiple days the time in port is not enough to be able to fully enjoy the city or country. It is common in Caribbean countries for the local shops and stores to only stay open as long as there are a number people out and about. Once one shop closes typically is starts a chain reaction of the other owners closing as well. This is something to take into consider if you are are the only and/or last ship in port.
Some feel the modern day cruise ships are becoming “floating hotels”. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, the largest passenger ship in the world, hosts 5,497 guest at double occupancy and can hold up to 6,410 guests. Ships with more passengers have larger public spaces, but there are times, dinner and after a show in the mani theater, you realize you are not alone on the ship.
Even though there is little though about your next meals, pickier eaters may have issues with the menu selection. Cruise lines cater to the general public and have limited space, there may be limited menu options.
The true cost of a cruise can add up quickly. In a later post I will explore the true cost of a cruise versus a land based vacation. The price advertised is the base price before additional costs. Often not included, though required, are port fees and taxes. Another cost not included are gratuities. Gratuities are technically not required, but it is recommended you tip the staff based on the service you received. Gratuities are pre-paid, charged daily to your onboard account, adjusted, or even removed all together. Excursions, drink packages, spa treatments, and tours are just a few of the extras available on a cruise. Specialty offerings add extra memories to your vacation, but those traveling on a budget may need to make cuts.
Cruise staterooms, besides the suites, are not known for their spacious accommodations. Most staterooms are smaller than their respective hotel counterparts. Balconies are a higher commodity as they provide extra personal space as well as open air. The ship may experience a rocking motion while traveling port to port. Some may find it soothing while others may find it a distraction.
Just like all vacations available there are a number of pros and cons to cruising. It all depends on what you would like to accomplish on your vacation and how you rate each one. Cruising is not for everyone, but I would recommend trying things once to make your own judgement.
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