Brian and I have been on four cruises together. While Brian is a big fan of cruising, I think that it is a vacation that comes with some trade-offs. Sometimes I would just prefer to be in a hotel on land. For this reason, we tend to take both cruise and traditional vacations. No vacation is perfect, but if you haven’t cruised before there are a number of things to consider before booking your first cruise.
When deciding if cruising is for you, it is important to consider both the pros and cons. Based on our experiences and the experiences of friends and family, we have compiled a list of the major pros and cons of cruising below:
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Pros of cruising
#1: You get to see a lot of places on a single vacation
The best part about cruising is that you get to visit many places in a short amount of time. For instance, last year we took a 9-day cruise on the Baltic Sea. We visited Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Sweden, and Finland. In just nine days we visited six countries over two continents. That would be much more difficult to do on land.
#2: No packing or arranging travel between destinations
On a cruise ship, your hotel comes with you. So there is no need to unpack and repack your luggage when you travel to a new destination. Plus, you don’t waste valuable vacation time on planes, trains, or buses. You simply go to sleep and wake up in a new place.
Cruises have loads of entertainment available. Although it varies by cruise line, we have seen Broadway shows, magicians, musicians, Cirque du Soleil shows, and comedy acts. Most cruise ships also have options such as spas, casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, obstacle courses, pools, and waterslides. And of course you can always just grab a lounge chair and hang out by the pool.
#4: Low stress
Cruising is a pretty relaxing vacation. They are essentially floating all-inclusive resorts. You don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to eat or deciding what to do that day. You’ve likely already booked your excursion and just have to be in the right place at the right time. I find that cruising forces me to take a few days to just relax and read a book or go to the spa. Some days are ‘at sea’ days meaning that your ship is traveling and you don’t have the option to disembark. If we were staying in a traditional hotel, I would be inclined to pack every minute of every day with some amazing adventure. This can get really exhausting.
The food is certainly a highlight of cruising. Food is available all day everyday and there are seemingly endless options. I am sure food quality varies from one cruise line to another, but as frequent cruisers on Norwegian Cruise Lines, I can tell you that the food is wonderful. We especially enjoy and regularly frequent their specialty restaurants (which are an additional charge but totally worth it).
Cons of cruising
#1: Limited time at each destination
My least favorite part about cruising is that you have a very limited time at each port. Depending on your cruise line and itinerary, you may spend as little as 5-6 hours at a destination. I sometimes feel as if I am missing out. You disembark from the boat, complete your excursion, and then are back on the boat. You don’t get to see or do a lot at each destination and sometimes you don’t even get to sample the local food. Similarly, on most itineraries you don’t get a chance to explore your destinations at night.
#2: Sea days
Although I talk about the advantage of having ‘sea days’ above, the truth is that I generally dislike them. Brian has always been better at relaxing than me. I tend to get a bit stir-crazy. I know there are a million things to do on the boat, but knowing I can’t get off makes me a bit uneasy.
#3: The rooms
The rooms on cruise ships are tiny. Even when we splurged and got a ‘luxury’ room in the Haven on our last NCL cruise, the bathroom was still like a closet. If you purchase a standard room, the room sizes can feel a bit claustrophobic. There isn’t a ton of room to move around or store your personal belongings. Because we don’t tend to spend much time in our room this isn’t a major problem for us, but sometimes it is a bit frustrating.
Although the food is generally quite good, the buffets can be a nightmare. The buffet might be my least favorite part of cruising. We avoid them at all costs, but sometimes it is the best or only option (especially at breakfast). Essentially, you end up with hundreds of people competing for food and for a place to sit. It feels chaotic. And the buffets are massive, so it is easy to get overwhelmed. When visiting the buffets, we generally find a place to sit and then have one of our party stay to reserve the table while the rest collect their food. This means that you hardly get to enjoy a meal together; especially because we find we have to make many trips to get drinks, condiments, dessert, etc.
#5: Motion sickness
Motion sickness can ruin your vacation. Brian and I take 24-hour Dramamine when cruising. It certainly works, but it can leave you feeling a bit drowsy and lethargic. On one of our recent cruises I decided to try to go without Dramamine for a day. It was a huge mistake. I was very sick and spent most of the day in bed. Some people try wearing anti-nausea wristbands (the most popular brands are Sea-bands and Psi bands), but I haven’t tried them. I worry that the cotton wristbands would be uncomfortable to wear all day- especially in warmer destinations.
If you are considering cruising for the first time, I hope this list helps you to determine if cruising is for you. We always have a wonderful time when we cruise which is why we keep going back, but there can be negative aspects to cruising (although this is true of any vacation). You can also check out my review of Norwegian Cruise Lines here.
Do you enjoy cruising? Are there advantages or disadvantages that should be on my list? Please let me know in the comments!