The 5 Reasons I Have Resisted “Cruising” My Entire Life

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Reasons I Have Never Been On A Cruise
The Norwegian Jewel docked next to Pier 39 in San Francisco.

5 Reasons I Have Never Been On A Cruise

Cruises are a very popular travel choice.  And I get it, much like all inclusive vacations, everything is kind of rolled up into one.  It is a simple way to vacation and you can see multiple destinations at a reduced cost.  But also like all inclusive vacations they don’t seem to really be for me.  I’ll share the 5 reasons I have never been on a cruise.

The List

This article idea came to me after I posted a news story in our Facebook Group which started a little bit of a debate.  It seems like people either love cruises or hate them.  If you love them then that is great. The most important thing is traveling the way that makes you happy.  Anytime you find something you enjoy do it as much as you can! If you want to share where I am wrong in the comments section then I gladly welcome the discussion

I know it is a cardinal sin of sorts to knock something before I try it but I have a pretty good idea of what cruises entail and why I wouldn’t like them.

The Crowds

I know these ships are massive and most of the time it probably doesn’t seem too crowded.  But I have to say it just seems like cruising would be like the worst parts of Disney World and Las Vegas had a hideous baby and placed it floating on the sea.  Don’t get me wrong I love Vegas, and Disney has it’s charms, but the crowds are not one of the things I enjoy most.  And since the rooms are so small, and there isn’t a resort to go back to, you are kind of stuck in it.

Reasons I Have Never Been On A Cruise
Did I say Disney and cruise ship?!?
The Bar Tab

I have often heard that your bar tab could end up being as much as the cruise itself cost.  It is great that the food is included but they definitely make it up on the back end with the drinks.  I know you can purchase a drink package but then I would feel like I need to get my money’s worth each day. I am sure there are ways to work around it with credits via travel agents etc. but it does seem like kind of a hassle.  And it is not like you can get away from the high prices and go to a dive bar on the ship.

Speaking Of The Food

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling is trying local restaurants and trying to find the hidden gem off the beaten path.  I am not as adventurous as some when it comes to food choices but I still like to get a locals take on my favorites.  Plus I think the best way to really absorb the vibe of a place is to check out their local establishments.  When you are cruising most of your dining happens on the boat.  That takes away from the travel experience in my opinion.

Limited Time On Shore

One of the things I hate most when traveling is having an itinerary.  I like to be able to do what I want when I want and not have to worry about making it back somewhere at a certain time.  If I am loving a particular area and want to stay longer I like having that option.  With timed departures you have to get back at a certain time and it limits how much you can actually do at each destination.  I feel like you would just scratch the surface of a place instead of really enjoying it.

WiFi

This one may be to fill out the list because 5 sounds better than 4 :).  But in all seriousness the prices that the ships charge for WiFi is pretty criminal.  When we were at the Hilton in Nassau we heard people who paid for a day pass say it was cheaper than paying for WiFi on the boat.  The day pass came with WiFi at the Hilton so that is why they did it.  That is crazy!

Conclusion

I know cruising is kind of like a travel subculture and that some people absolutely love it.  I just don’t think it would be for me.  If I was going to do it I think it would have to be with a big group. I could see that being fun. Or maybe a Disney Cruise for the kids. It seems like cruising is a very divisive topic and people either love it or hate it.  No matter which way you lean I would love to hear your take in the comments.  Just be civil with each other ;).

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61 COMMENTS

  1. Mark,
    I think you nailed it on the head for me too. My wife absolutely loves cruising, I tag along. We have one coming up in September (Rome-Athens). In this case, I’m looking at it from the standpoint of getting from Italy to Athens in seven days or about the same time it took to do the trip 2,000 years ago. The 2-hour, $150 flight would suit me just fine. One last comment, you forgot to mention the Norovirus.

    • The Norovirus scare is the same cruising boogum as falling off the ship. Don’t drink and balance on the railings, wash your hands, and both are non-issues. That magazine in the airplane seatback on the $150 flight is nastier than almost anything you’ll touch on a cruise ship.

      • I do find it surprising how often people actually do fall off the boat. It isn’t like an every cruise type of thing but more often than I thought. I know Bethany had a man overboard on her last cruise. I am also surprised by how often they are found and survive.

  2. You’ve already made up your mind about cruising, so why are you asking for comments? My wife “didn’t like cruising” before she went on one, and we literally just got off the Norwegian Getaway three hours ago – our 15th in the past four years. I could debate all of your points except the WiFi one (though the WiFi was remarkably Ok for us on the Allure of the Seas last September), but will leave it with the simple advice of trying it once before you discard something that millions of people have enjoyed.

  3. I love all kinds of travel including cruises. One of the most fun trips we ever did was one week driving across France with our 18 yo and 7 yo and staying in a different place nearly every night and having the freedom to see whatever we wanted for whatever length of time. And then we dropped the car in the train station at Perpignan and took a train to Barcelona, explored for a day and got on a cruise ship the next day with stops in Italy and France. It was the best of both worlds bc 2 weeks of driving from place to place figuring out where to eat dinner and changing hotels would have been a bit much. So we had one week of freedom but really relaxation or luxury. And then one week of still seeing some stuff, less freedom but plenty of relaxation and fun. We did Norwegian and it was better than others bc we got staterooms for the same price as cramming 4 of us in one stateroom, we got free drink packages (had to pay $95 each for gratuity though) and we got free WiFi. And no set dinner time and no set dinner table/companions! Food was great and it is a wonderful way to introduce kids to “fancy” foods without spending a fortune. My youngest discovered she loves escargot! I wouldn’t want to do every vacation as a cruise for sure, but a combo trip was super fun and a great way to do Europe with kids. We actually had more space than in our hotel rooms!

  4. Insightful analysis. I don’t disagree. I’m a fan of both cruising and land-based vacations, but each one fills very different goals. When it comes to takin’ it easy all-inclusive style on the cheap, cruising is hard to beat. The booze issue you mention is pretty easily resolved with a little resourcefulness. I pretty much look at cruises as a good, cheap, all-inclusive time with friends in nice weather. I don’t view them as an opportunity to get to know anything about the ports for the reasons you mentioned. Sometimes, that fits the bill.

  5. The first time I ever went on a cruise was as a family reunion trip with my extended my family (roughly 30 of us total) one summer when I was 15 years old. I actually enjoyed it! It was an Alaska cruise so the itineraries were relaxed to begin with; plus there are parts of Alaska that is best seen on a cruise so it made sense. I felt it was a great way to vacation for my parents since they just let us go and do our own thing during the day but obviously we all met up for dinner each evening.
    Overall I think cruising is done best as a family reunion or a group trip with friends. I have friends who love to do a cruise trip first so they can visit several cities in one trip…. and if they fall in love with a city, they’d simply come back to that city another time for a week or two.

    • Thanks Joey – I agree that a group seems like the best way to do it. If I were to do a cruise Alaska or the Mediterranean would be the way I would go as well.

  6. Hi Mark. I’ve only been on two cruises on my life so far. One in 2004 cruising the Mediterranean with Royal Caribbean from Barcelona with our family (4 kids from 10-19 at the time). We traveled with a large group of friends and their families. We are together every evening in the main dining room. Littles kids enjoyed the onboard rock climbing and kids club and pool snacks. Adults loved the food and the “disco” / bar. Every day we got off the ship to your the local towns – train ride to Monaco and Nice, tour of Rome and Florence, boat trip to Capri. Everyone had a great time and we needed no car rental and no hotels, except our pre-cruise stay in Barcelona. Following the cruise we did rent a van and drove to the South of France where we rented a villa and enjoyed the local food and wine and beaches and water parks and such. Second cruise was last year touring the Alaska Inside Passage without kids. We booked a verandah suite so we had access to the lounge and plenty of room to watch the amazing scenery including glaciers, whales, eagles and more. We dined at our leisure including 24-hour in-room dining. We did a couple of the tours for whale-watching and Yukon train ride. There’s plenty of time to walk around the ports and go to a restaurant or bar. We didn’t do any drink packages but brought a couple of bottles of wine with us. We followed up the cruise with three days in Vancouver – great walking city. We went to a concert and enjoyed amazing food. Bottom line is don’t dismiss cruises out of hand. They are great options for some locations but I’m not a fan of some aspects of cruise culture, such as buffets, endless shopping, and mandatory tipping but I can see this is not different to our love of hotel and airline elite status. I am not eager to book another cruise but there may be another place where it makes sense. I wouldn’t cruise Hawaii – just prefer to be on land for several days and enjoy the island life and occasional catamaran whale watching sunset dinner cruise. PS I suffer from sea sickness so I had a fear of cruising for a long time – now use SeaBands and they work.

    • Awesome Steve as you can see from my comment above the two cruises you took (Alaska & the Mediterranean) are the two I would most likely consider. So I think you did it right! I also think going with a group would be the way to go too – thanks for sharing!

      • I grew up in Kailua, Oahu. When my neighbor wanted to cruise to Hawaii, mmmm, seemed like flying there would be better BUT, she is afraid of flying (we leave from local Los Angeles) and just wants to enjoy the relaxation of the ship. 15 days, 6 are sea days. I get that. With included beverage package as a TA perk, we can just kick back, eat, drink and be merry! She will miss A LOT of Hawaii though but she doesn’t seem to mind. Diff strokes for diff folks. On a cruise I mostly miss my streaming TV/movie device!

  7. I think the reasons for not cruising are all valid. Expanding on your drinks argument, I find that large cruise ships are designed and focused on extracting additional funds from passengers beyond the base fare already paid. Surcharged dining venues, casinos, shipboard shopping malls, commissioned shore excursions, drinks, art and jewelry exhibitions are all add-ons that you’ll pay for on your room bill on the last day. While I find cruises relaxing I’m always wary of vacation budget overruns.

    That said, I think cruising does have a place when it comes to specialty cruises. The chance to sail on smaller ships with Windstar, naturalist lead cruises to the smaller islands on Indonesia or the Pacific, or the chance to see remote places in the world that could only be reached by ship such as the Northwest Passage or Norwegian Fjords. Consider the less obvious before writing it off entirely.

    • Great points Ed thanks for sharing! I think I would enjoy the much smaller boats that the river cruises in Europe take. Something I will have to consider in the future 🙂

  8. First, not all the ships are huge. Some major cruise lines have ships as small as 1200 passengers. I sail on HAL on ships that hold between 1200-1800 passengers. Second, you can end up with shipboard credit that can pay for your bar bill. Not all ships have crazy drink prices. Most have happy hours where drinks are two for one. Some will let you take a bottle of wine on board per person for free. Some times ships will have long port calls such as 8am to 11pm. Even with 8am to 5pm, there is even time to see if you like a place enough to see if you would want to come back. In each of the ports, you can eat native food, and many times the ship will cook native dishes as well. Often you can get free WiFi on shore. Personally, I like going on a cruise to be detached from email and the web. The main reason I got into cruising was because it was cheaper than traveling to these places on my own and has more thrown in-like entertainment. I have no desire to be on a ship with 5000 passengers. And yes, your cabin may not be big, but some lines have bigger cabins than others and there are lots of public areas to go to rather than stay in your cabin. Do you go on vacation and stay in your hotel room? It is also a little short sighted to say you wouldn’t like a cruise if you have never been on one. I thought I would not like Alaska until I went-it was amazing and I went on a cruise much cheaper than I could do in a land trip!

  9. Comparing cruising to other types of travel is apples to oranges. If you are going to focus on the negatives you can find problems with any type of travel. There is nothing like waking up each morning in a new port with no packing or unpacking needed since your hotel room moves with you! Going to dinner every night where the waiter knows your name and the food is fantastic and free! Bar tabs and wifi can easily be included in the fare so only a problem if you do not plan the trip well beforehand. In the end cruising may not be for everyone, but I bet half of the everyone who thinks its not for them would change their minds after just 1 cruise on a quality ship!

  10. I think you should look at Virgin Voyages, this is Richard Bransons new venture. He is building cruise ships for people that don’t like to cruise. Free wi fi, no buffets, no dress code, free soda. adults only

  11. LOL “Disney World and Las Vegas had a hideous baby.” So true, but also like a hideous old person.

    Comments are very long on this hot debate. I think where I fall firmly into the “against” category is from my own experiences. Maybe somewhere between wet T-shirt contests on Carnival to “How to Take Care of Your Feet” breakout sessions on NCL there could be a cruise that fits.

    As it stands, though, cruises feel like floating & confining food orgies to me.

  12. I like cruising but I can understand your reservations. I think the thing to keep in mind is that all cruise lines or even cruise ships are equal. Some cruises include liquor, some include excursions. Some are short party or spring break type affairs while others are high brow events. It’s like saying I don’t like staying in hotels because they are so structured or are dirty or….. They vary, a lot.

    Imagine a nice resort that moves every night to a new fun location. You unpack once.

    With your opinions stated I would suggest staying away from Carnival, RCL and NCL. Disney is overpriced like the parks but would appeal to you if you like Disney and they offer top rate food and service much like a Disney resort does. High end cruise lines might also work for you if you don’t want to cruise with children or like a calmer experience.

  13. I agree with all of your reasons plus while virus outbreaks don’t occur every time, it’s often enough to be another check mark in the NO column.

    And I disagree that they are affordable ways to see multiple destinations in one trip (generally – always possible exceptions). I’ve priced out cruises before when I wanted to see multiple places…I could always do it cheaper via alternative means. And I could actually spend decent time in each city and actually experience the place.

    Sure, smaller and shorter specialty cruises are sometimes better – or the only – option. I’ve done a few and enjoyed them. It’s the big cruises where there are other options that I’m thinking of.

    I love boats and received basic sailing training years ago. So I’m happy to go sailing

  14. I guess you didn’t get the memo on the higher end cruise lines like Oceania, Seabourn, Azamara, Windstar, etc. My favorite is Viking Ocean Cruises. No kids, no casinos, no crowds. Included beer & wine with lunch and dinner and a very low priced package for higher end wine and liquor anytime plus an excursion included in every port, free laundry facilities, no extra cost wi-fi and more is a no brainer deal. We took a Celebrity cruise with a comparable cabin that was nearly the same cost but with more than twice the number of passengers and numerous up-selling pitches, art sales and other stuff of no interest. The other lines mentioned look pretty good, too, but I’m sticking with Viking.

  15. I have cruised almost every cruise line. From Caribbean to Canada to South America to Europe (Russia-Naples). Also have done the Gate1 inside European tours. There are equal pros and cons to both land and cruising. But, don’t ever knock cruising…. when in your life can you Board a floating city in Florida and end up in usvi St Johns( my ultimate fav) and the rain forest of Puerto Rico, with a final stop in Bahamas (day trip to the Baja mar). The key to cruising is: NEWER ship build and stick to the better lines(royal, Norwegian, or celebrity[my fav]). Notice I didn’t mention Viking or Regent due to $$$$$. MSC did a great job with their newest Seaside ship, but their food was too Euroish(too basic/tasteless) for my blood

  16. We are kindred souls. I’ve never taken a cruise although I’ve been on the Alaska ferry system, which allows for awesome sightseeing and the ability to make shore trips of the duration of one’s choosing. Mid-May through late June tends to be the driest time of the summer in Southeast Alaska, for those who are interested. The ferry system is also quite reasonably priced and some ferries even have basic private rooms with beds, toilets and showers. The food on the ferry system is also freshly prepared and surprisingly quite good.

  17. Not a fan of Vegas and Disney hardly fares any better. Cruising has never really appealed to me except *maybe* to Alaska, only because you can enjoy scenic vistas from the boat (mountains draw me like a magnet…most of my top must-see destinations are mountainous: Switzerland, Norway, Armenia, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, Hokkaido). The crowds and limited time on shore/set itinerary turn me off as well. Definitely share your sentiments.

  18. Cool Breeze made some valid points. There is a big difference between the mass market lines (think 3000 passengers and up) and smaller ships (Azamara, Oceania, Viking) and the more luxe lines (Crystal, Seabourn, Regent, Silversea). The biggest drawback for me can be the expense (I do like getting hotels on points!!) although there are some good deals to be had.

    I like independent land travel more, but I think cruising has its place, especially for itineraries that are more difficult to do independently. For example, we did a Baltics cruise on Azamara from Copenhagen to Stockholm which had a 3 day/2 night stay in St. Petersburg. Using CruiseCritic’s roll call feature, we arranged for some private shore excursions, rather than pay for pricier ship run excursions. Groups were small, and our fellow travelers were interesting, and well traveled. In some ports we did our own DIY exploring. We had some late nights in port, and in Gdansk, the ship brought Lech Walesa on to talk to us. We added on pre-cruise time in Copenhagen, and had planned extra days in Stockholm at the end, but I broke my foot (my fault) the next to last day and ended up flying home when the cruise ended.

    Second example – we just took an Oceania cruise from Barcelona along the south coast of Spain, to Madeira (Portuguese island), and 3 of the Spanish Canary Islands, ending in Lisbon. We added time pre- and post-cruise, and mostly did our own exploring with a few private shore excursions again arranged online. This ship had 4 specialty restaurants with no upcharge and the food was amazing. They also did Spanish themed cuisine a couple of nights, again with amazing food. We met lots of interesting, well-traveled people here, too.

    In June we are cruising around the British Isles for 18 days on Oceania, circling England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Lots of late nights in port, our own independent exploring many days and a few small privately arranged excursions on other days. And no driving on the left side of the road! That alone keeps the peace in our marriage! If you had asked me years ago, I never thought I’d be doing something like this.

    Yes, we will do our own land trips again, I am sure. But we are also retired now, and although we are in good health and active, we don’t always want to be doing all the moving around, dragging luggage, hassling with rental cars overseas, hopping trains, finding restaurants, etc. So, don’t write cruising off (I did for years and years). There are many different types of cruises – you have to find the one that fits you.

    • Thanks for the great comment Marilyn. Sounds like some amazing trips and I can see that cruising has it’s place for certain itineraries.

  19. David Foster Wallace, Shipping Out (the PDF is readily available on the interwebs). Or alternatively, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.

      • It’s a fairly longish article, a long form essay. I read it like 20 years ago in a Borders bookstore. Jesus I’m getting old.

        • Haha Borders or just book stores, a thing of the past! I found it and saw it was pretty long so I bookmarked it to read when I have some more time! Thanks again for the suggestion.

  20. I couldn’t stop grinning when I read the title of your article as I have always had the same thoughts when it comes to cruising although my biggest problem is not being on firm ground for so long – perhaps I should have never watched Titanic 🙂 It sure is a shame since I live in a city with one big cruising port and see those ships all the time but I share the same feelings you have on cruising; I will pass and fly instead.

    • It would be tempting for sure if I lived in a cruise port since flights are a big cost associated with cruises.

      • But that’s where the miles come in! And the hotel points for pre- and post-cruise stays.

        I suggest that if you want to consider cruising you look at the smaller ships, watch for promotions – they usually happen in January, and around major holidays. Get on some mailing lists (warning- you will start getting a lot of emails) and look over itineraries. Oceania has some very interesting ones and they can be priced less than Viking, and do occasionally run good promotions. Their 2 larger ships (Marina and Riviera) are only 1250 passengers, have large staterooms and bathrooms (except maybe for inside cabins), 4 terrific specialty restaurants, low key atmosphere.

        The website cruisecritic.com is to cruising what FlyerTalk is to miles and points, and I think FT even has a cruising forum. On cruisecritic, may posters do video reviews so you can get a really good feel for the experience. I learned a lot there, just as I have learned a lot about miles and points from blogs like this.

        You have to plan and budget for the more interesting itineraries on the smaller ships. But if you ever want to go to Antarctica, the Arctic or do Norway in a more economical way than on land, it could be a smart move. Yes, the ages tend to skew mid-50s and up, but you will meet interesting, well-traveled, interesting people – at least this has been our experience. Yes, sometimes one day in port is not enough (been there), but if you study the itineraries carefully, I think you can find some where 1 day in port is OK, and the overall cruise/value can make sense.

        That’s what’s so great about travel – there are so many options to let everyone find their comfort zone in getting out to explore our wonderful world.

  21. I have been on one cruise, Disney in 2002 when my son was 4.

    Ridiculously cheap after 9/11. Took my parents as well as wife and son

    Dad told me afterwards he was rolling his eyes going into it, but it turned out one of the best trips of his life.

    And I took a case of beer on. Saved probably $100.

  22. The easiest way to tell that you have never been on one–you keep calling it a boat, not a ship. There is a difference, because, as a general rule, a boat can fit onto a ship, but a ship cannot fit onto a boat. A ship, in other words, is a very large ocean-going vessel, while a boat tends to be much smaller. Additionally, a ship usually is defined as having a displacement larger than 500 tons.

    • Thanks for the info Randy – not sure it means a lot in the long run but at least I have that info in case I am ever on Jeopardy 🙂

  23. We took our first cruise in 2012 on Disney due to the childcare options. We have 3 kids and no family around to help, so we were exhausted and looking for a vacation that gave us a little break. My youngest was 1 year old at the time. It was a great fit for us, and since that first cruise we’ve been on 6 more Disney cruises. Now that my kids are older, we don’t need the onboard childcare as much but my kids still love cruising. My older two kids love the freedom of a cruise (they can get unlimited ice cream and steak!) The tween and teen clubs on DCL are awesome. We are trying Royal Caribbean for the first time this summer. I don’t like crowds either, but I’ve always found remote spaces on a cruise ship to chill out and enjoy the views.

    • Hopefully you enjoy Royal Caribbean as much as the Disney cruises! I have heard nothing but good things about Disney cruises…well except the price at least 🙂

  24. Being “for” or “against” cruising is like being “for” or “against” hotels: there are so many out there, some are right for you, many aren’t.

    A 4,000-person Royal Carribbean ship has almost nothing in common with a 90-person National Geographic ship other than being aquatic. I much prefer the latter, but I also recognize that people who love going on 4 RC trips a year truly enjoy that experience much more than they would Nat Geo.

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