Whenever I get back from a cruise people ask me if I liked it and would recommend it.
I’ve been on 3 cruises now and each one had things in common as well as unique offerings. I will share what I loved and disliked and some other things to consider when deciding if a cruise is for you.
What I love about cruises
You can see multiple locations on the same vacation while staying in the same room and only unpacking once
Food is included and you can basically eat anytime
Sunsets and Sunrises are beautiful with unobstructed views when you are at sea
Meet new people that you wouldn’t otherwise get to know from all over the US
The staff are extremely friendly and accommodating
They have the freshest croissants I’ve ever had, I know this seems like not a big deal but some of their food is ah-mazing!
The décor and ambiance around the ship is beautiful and intricate. There is definitely attention to detail and the dining rooms and lobbies are especially elaborate.
Wide variety of activities and entertainment on the ship. There’s something for everyone.
What I dislike about cruises
The food is somewhat similar with not a ton of variety and some of it is not the best
There are a lot of add-ons that add up quickly like drinks, speciality dinners, excursions and internet (this day in age internet should be included)
It can get crowded on the first day, at sea days and at certain ports if there’s multiple cruise ships
You are on their schedule and all the tours are groups (you can do a private tour for more money)
The rooms and bathrooms are tiny and not the most luxurious accommodations
The first day is the worst because the rooms are not open until early afternoon and everyone is at the buffet. Even if you don’t mind crowds it isn’t very pleasant.
Communication with others is really difficult. You can't just call home when you are at sea. Also if you are with a group of people you can't just text or call them to meet you somewhere.
Things to Consider
If you have a special diet they will accommodate you but it is limited and you may not like what your options are. Tell the cruise line prior to your cruise if you have dietary needs so they can better serve you.
Most days at sea were calm and I didn’t feel the ship move a ton. If it’s windy you will feel the ship moving. It may not affect you on the ship but for me I felt like the room was moving for 3 days after I got back on land after the cruise.
If you are picky about your rooms, I would have low expectations going into it. The beds on our last cruise were quite hard with no bounce to them. Felt like I was laying on a padded piece of wood. The shower is tiny and I’m not a big person.
Everything at the cruise store is expensive so if you need sunscreen plan to pay double. We only packed a carry-on so we couldn’t take sunscreen and it was $22 for a bottle. Still cheaper than a checked bag but unnecessary to be that expensive in my opinion.
You will eat a lot so wear something that is forgiving. We don’t usually eat an appetizer, main meal and dessert every night so by the last night I was stuffed and didn’t order much. The buffet is good too so just plan to eat more than usual unless you are well disciplined.
Wardrobes are different on a cruise. Bring several outfits per day. You will have a casual outfit around the ship, excursion outfit, by the pool and going to dinner outfit. I brought a lot of outfits that you could dress up or dress down. It can be windy and cold on the deck at night so bring a light sweater even in a tropical location.
If you go to a free seminar/activity, plan to get a sales pitch to buy something that they are talking about. We went to a 'get flatter abs' class and they tried to sell supplements which of course we had to try once we listened to the whole talk. It’s basically one of those infomercials that gets you hooked. I'm not saying what they are selling is bad and not worth it, just plan to spend extra money if you decide to buy anything.
Every cruise line is different with what clientele there will be and the time of year will make a difference. We were on a ship during spring break and we couldn’t find a chair on the sea day and there were a lot of kids. We also went on one in November on a different cruise line and there were hardly any kids and plenty of chairs on sea days. Do your research on what dates, ships and activities make sense for you.
When you go off the ship and outside of the port area (walking on your own) plan to have locals trying to sell you stuff every step you take. Some ports are worse than others. Inside the port area is very safe and we felt very comfortable. Security makes you show your cruise card before entering from the outside. One port was horrible when we tried to leave the gates and I felt very uncomfortable. Just be aware of this.
I would highly recommend booking some excursions to really see the location. You can book excursions through the cruise line, when you get there or from a separate entity prior to your cruise. I don’t think one is better than the other but they do have their benefits and negatives. Yes the excursions from the cruise ship are more costly but they guarantee you make it back to the ship and it is so easy and convenient. Excursions are a snapshot of the location to see if you want to come back. They are not cheap so plan extra money for these.
The activities on board are endless. There is so much to do that you can participate in or skip it too. There is something that everyone can enjoy like comedy shows, karaoke, musical shows, arts and crafts, etc. Most are free but some do cost extra.
Once you get a room with a balcony you can’t go back to an interior room. I love having a balcony and if you can swing the extra cost it is totally worth it!
There are so many opportunities to try something you have never done before or food you’ve never tried. To make the most of your cruise I would suggest you do at least one new thing. Try karaoke, eat something exotic, try snorkeling or swimming with stingrays, hold a sloth, feed a monkey, pet an iguana, go zipling or do something totally out of character for you.
Look at the ship before you book because they are all different. Each ship offers something slightly different. Look at the size, capacity, ports, activities, and restaurants. Also check if it's a newer ship or older ship, this could make a difference for your total experience.
Cruising can fit any budget. You can spend as little or as much as you want. You can find an excursion for $20 or $300 or you could just stay on the ship and spend nothing. You can get an interior cabin, oceanview, balcony or a suite. You can get free drinks, a pop package or an alcohol drink package. You can eat food that is included or you can splurge and eat at specialty restaurants. There are options for every budget.
I hope my thoughts on cruising help you to decide if a cruise is the right choice for you. I don’t think cruising is for everyone but it can be a neat experience if you’ve never been on one before.
For reference my cruises were to the Caribbean for 7 nights and we’ve done Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.