I’ve just returned from my third Caribbean cruise and I’m still not sure how I feel about cruising. There are things I love about it, and things that I don’t. For me, once every 6+ years would be plenty, though I know other people make cruising an annual event. I’ve traveled on different cruise lines going to a variety of stops in the Caribbean. Here’s my Top 10 things to consider when deciding whether or not to take a cruise.
I know this probably sounds silly, but you really should consider whether you’re the type of person who likes to relax on vacation. I’m not. Sitting in the sun by the pool bores me after an hour and on a cruise, you have many, many, MANY hours that will probably be spent sitting in the sun.
2. The Food
You hear about this all the time. “The food! The food!” There is A LOT of food and in my experience, some of it is really good. You’re going to have options: buffets, dining rooms, private steakhouses, etc. I’ve found that the dining rooms are the best places to eat and on most cruises, the menu changes every day. It’s a great time to try things you might not otherwise because it’s free! And you can order as much as you like. There have been several times I’ve ordered more than one appetizer or entree because I couldn’t decide. I’m usually very pleased.
The buffet food is okay. To me, the buffets are really more about convenience. If you don’t want to change out of your swimsuit but just want to throw on a cover-up and grab something quick, this is a good option. It’s also a good choice if you have kids who are picky eaters. Or if you only want something light.
Then there are the “private” dining rooms that cost extra. I’ve never figured out why people would pay to go these when there’s so much good food already included in the price!
This is why I cruise: to explore the port cities. Shore excursions can be pricey, but I’ve learned that you can always plan ahead and find independent tour companies who will take you on the same tours that the cruise lines offer. Usually it’s a little cheaper and your group is a little smaller. The cruise lines often contract with the same tour operators anyway. Booking directly just means you’re cutting out the profit that the cruise line makes.
4. Being at Sea
I love being at sea. (Though I don’t love multiple days at sea. I like to get off the ship.) It surprised me to learn how many people are afraid of open water. But for the most part, once these people are on the water and feel how smooth it is and experience how huge the cruise ship is, they’re not so afraid anymore.
5. Extra Charges
There are several hidden charges you need to be aware of before you get on a cruise.
1) Internet/wifi charges. It costs a fortune! Most ships offer hourly plans, but they’re very pricey and very slow. If you’re taking a cruise, put your computer and electronic devices away and enjoy the break.
2) Mandatory Tips – Tips for the staff are built in to your bill. These usually run $10-15/per person, per day. You’ll see this charge on your final bill. I don’t think there’s much you can do about it, and the staff really does earn it.
3) Drinks – Cocktails and alcohol are pretty expensive. So is soda. Just know that you can buy a soda plan (and should if you drink a lot of it). You can also bring bottled water on board, which will save you money, and you can usually bring 1 or 2 bottles of wine in your luggage.
6. Onboard Activities
You may wonder whether you’ll really find much to do onboard. There are activities planned that could keep you busy every hour of the day — if they’re the kinds of things you like doing. I can usually find a couple shows or comedy routines to entertain me, but I’d say I only spend about 3 hours a day in organized activities. Which leaves too much time for me by the pool…
7. Kids’ Clubs
These are great. There are all types of organized activities and kids are grouped by age. I especially liked it for my daughter when she was younger because as an only-child, I felt like she needed other kids to play with. The staff is great and the activities seem fun. My stepsister felt funny leaving her boys with the Kids’ Club, but I think in part it was because she knew they wouldn’t behave. Too bad. They had LOTS of energy to burn and she wasn’t up for entertaining them all day.
The cruise line has remedies for that. The water in the Caribbean is very smooth. The Atlantic Ocean is a little rougher. I’ve never had trouble with seasickness, but some of my companions have felt the choppiness at times. It never really hindered their trips, though.
9. Being Away From It All
I loved this aspect of cruising. From the minute you step on board, even before the ship pulls away from the dock, you feel like you’re unreachable. It’s a wonderful feeling to let go of all the minutiae of life back home. Give in and embrace the idea of being on a floating oasis out in the middle of the sea.
10. The Cost
Actually, I find cruises to be once of the most economical vacation choices. For a few hundred dollars per person you get 4-10 days of lodging, meals, entertainment, and transportation to other countries. Budgeting for these expenses on land comes out to a lot more than what it costs to cruise. Again, if you add a lot of drinks and excursions to your cruise, it’s going to get more expensive, but dollar for dollar, cruising is a great deal.
Anything I missed in this overview of things to consider about cruising? Anything you’d like to add?
I have something to add – consider the size of the cruise ship you want to be on – medium, large, extra large, etc. We learned quickly about the extra charges and came prepared. One more thing – photos by the cruise members – you may want one to take home with you – we had a few nice ones we ended up purchasing to display at home. I enjoyed cruising and maybe in the near future I will cruise again – not an every year thing for me either. Thanks so much for sharing – Great Tips – Happy Week 🙂
Thanks for including the photo opportunities. I’d forgotten about that! We usually do end up buying at least one. In fact, we have one on our fridge right now. 🙂
I’ve never been on a cruise and I really don’t have any desire to go on one. I know a lot of people love them, but between my claustrophobia and seasickness, not to mention being one of the types you mentioned right off the bat that doesn’t relax on vacations (or ever), I’ll take my vacations on dry land near the water. 🙂
Is it sad that we can’t just lay around and relax? As much as I love to read, I don’t like sitting in the sun, and I feel myself tensing up thinking that I’m using up precious vacation time doing NOTHING! Maybe I should work on that…
Nah, I’ve learned it’s just the way I am. As long as I get some sleep, I’m good to go. 🙂
My very idea of Hell Juliann 😦 Cooped up, trapped with other people and their kids, eating and drinking too much, nowhere to run except around the deck, nervously expecting typhoons… But a very entertaining and informative piece as always 🙂
LOL. You make me laugh, Roy. A cruise would be Hell for you, I think. Though there is usually a running track…if you can dodge the people that don’t seem to care that it’s a running track.
I’m not a fan of big ship cruising. I’ve done a few, for work, but I’m not convinced they’re an ideal holiday for everyone. I do, however, love expedition cruising, where the ships are small (50-100 passengers) and there is a lot of time spent ashore. You are usually close to shore for most of the time, and usually in remote-ish areas. Sometimes this is the way to get to places you’d otherwise not be able to reach, and often the scenery is spectacular (unlike miles of empty ocean). Yes, that’s my kind of cruising.
I would love that!! I love being on boats and exploring. It’s the crowds and sunbathing that bore me on the bigger cruises.
Exactly! Do some research – there is expedition cruising all over the world.
I’ve never been on a cruise and since I first found out I was extremely prone to seasickness at the age of 10, I’ve always been wary of anything that goes on water. I also have issues with just sitting around “relaxing” (or in my book, doing nothing) so I’m not sure cruises work for me. If anything, I’d probably just spend most of my time eating, assuming I can keep the food down.
I’m sorry to hear about your seasickness. It must be miserable. I’ve always been grateful not to suffer from that because I love being on boats even in choppy water. In fact, I almost joined the Coast Guard at one point in my life. 🙂
Thanks for the tips. I’m planning a cruise for next year and am looking forward to getting away from it all.
Have fun! 🙂
Going on a cruise sounds so romantic to me. The open sea, the adventure at each port, the days away from EVERYTHING. However, I get seasick on a dock, so no matter how calm the water is, I can’t cruise. Second, one thing you don’t mention here is the crowds – all those people. I love to get away from everything on a vacation, including (and I’m not a complete introvert) – people. Those cruise ships take so many of them – I don’t see much chance for privacy or alone-ness time. On the other hand, I have a lot of friends who love each and every cruise they take.
There are definitely crowds. Especially on the sun decks and in the casinos. But there are some places on a cruise ship where you can find some space and less people. It’s surprising. But the best way to ensure that you have some space to yourself is to get a stateroom with a balcony. I highly recommend that!
Great rundown of the pros and cons!
The tip thing surprised me, though, because I don’t remember it being built-in to our bill on the one Carnival cruise we took… but that was years ago, so (A) it might have changed, or (B) I might be mis-remembering, lol.
We also took a much smaller cruise for our Galapagos experience, and I much preferred that to the big cruise experience. It wasn’t really a *cruise* though. Boat is just the only way to get around the islands, haha.
I love boats, so would like something like what you did in Galapagos. In fact, I might like it more than a cruise. On a smaller boat, I could feel the waves. Though I did love all the food and entertainment on the cruise…