When you first arrive on the dock, you see your cruise ship off in the distance. It looks majestic as it is gently bobbing on the emerald-colored waves of the ocean, and it is an excellent time for a photo op.
As you approach the loading area, you see that it is actually crammed with people jostling to get on board with all of their luggage and get settled in their cabins before you depart. This can be a very hectic experience that might even involve getting elbowed, so watch out.
In cruise brochures, the pool always appears to be one of the highlights of the cruising experience. It often has pool toys floating around, maybe a wave pool, and lots of other activities you can do.
The pool is an area everyone on the ship gravitates to, which means it is often chock full of people who are drinking and having a good time. It is not one of the most relaxing areas on the ship, unless you want to listen to pumping music from the DJ and start dancing with your fellow passengers. Everyone needs to boogie once in awhile.
Relaxing on Deck
While you may picture yourself sitting in a deck chair in the sunshine enjoying a cocktail while you listen to the gentle waves below, in reality, this is very unlikely.
In fact, the decks are so crowded that very quickly all the deck chairs are occupied. So, passengers often drag out mattresses to sit on. Not only is it unsightly to look at, but it is also loud and busy and there is so little room for everyone.
Your stateroom or cabin is where you will spend quite a bit of time unless you decide to never sleep. If you shell out the big bucks then your cabin will look like a modern hotel room, jacuzzi, and all. On the other hand, if you decide to go for a more budget-friendly cruise then your room will more likely resemble a more modest motel room.
All that matters is that the bed is comfortable and you can get a good night’s rest. A cruise is about what you are going to see, not what where you’re going to sleep after all.
Taking in the Waters
Many passengers who have traveled on cruises will tell you that when there are rough seas the decks are almost certainly going to flood. We don’t mean the pool decks we mean the lower desks.
You see, after rough seas, cruise ships can take on water and passageways and rooms n the lower decks can be flooded. While you would think this was only a one-time occurrence, it is actually quite common.
Most cruises offer a range of dining options, from buffets to a la carte menus. Some cruises do have amazing dining experiences, but those are usually at an additional cost. A lot of the time the food is served buffet style and is a lot like cafeteria food. This buffet-style cooking leaves a lot to be desired.
Serving the food buffet style allows the kitchen to produce a mass amount of food, very quickly, and feed the hundreds or even thousands of people aboard the ship. Often this food sits out for hours before you even get to it.
The Cabin Bathroom
When you imagine the bathroom on your luxury cruise liner, you think it will all be gleaming marble with expensive finishes. Maybe a giant bathtub and a walk-in shower. Unfortunately, because space is tight on cruise ships, most bathrooms are kind of an all-in-one.
Tile and some porcelain is normal, but your shower will actually be your entire bathroom which can be both convenient or the beginning of a slippery slide. Everyone should bring some shower sandals when going on a cruise. This will help you avoid some potentially sudsy situations, and keep you from slipping and sliding all over the room.
It seems the only people eating well on a cruise are the first-class passengers because, like most passengers, the crew and staff also eat buffet style.
However, unlike the passengers, this food is a lot less appetizing and a lot of the time it is passenger food that has been ‘repurposed’. For example, the leftover gravy from the passengers was served to staff as soup after the chef added a little water.
Ocean For Days
We’ve all watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and seen Ariel frolicking with all different types of exotic sea animals. Most cruisers hope to see some dolphins following along in their ship’s wake, jumping out of the water and doing some tricks.
In reality, unless you go diving or snorkeling there is a very low chance of seeing anything while onboard the ship. These sea animals like to stay in the depths, rather than out in the open.
Working On A Ship
Working on a cruise ship seems like it could be pretty glamorous. You get to travel all over the world, stop in every port, and meet tons of interesting people in the process. Living aboard a ship isn’t easy though.
The employee level is full of tiny little rooms with two to four people living in them. Everyone gets their own bunk but it means you get pretty up close and personal with everyone you work with.
Those pictures that show breathtaking scenery of golden sand beaches and swaying palm trees as you make your way in to port are beautiful. Docking is something all ships have to do when they are ready for their passengers to disembark and head out on activities.
Ports themselves are not very scenic though. Usually, it is just a cement structure surrounded by some fairly murky water with a few palm trees dotted along the shore.
Unless you have signed up for a Backstreet Boys cruise, the music onboard is going to be less than professional. You will have a wide array of genres to choose from such as classical piano, smooth jazz, and even some stars doing covers of crowd-pleasers like Dolly Parton.
It will never be as good as the real thing. So, for this portion of the cruise just grab a cold beverage and sit back and relax to the genre of your choice.
If you have seen the movie Titanic you may be expecting a fine dining experience where everyone dresses for dinner and meals are served on fine china. Well, just like the buffet menu, the dining room is also a bit of a letdown. Instead of a lavishly decorated dining room, most cruises have massive dining halls that are loud and packed with guests.
While there are some waiters who serve specific tables, dining on a cruise ship is similar to eating at the food court.
It’s not all smooth sailing. Every cruise is required to have several emergency drills to prepare the passengers for possible disaster. These drills are called muster drills and they are supposed to help passengers familiarise themselves with the emergency procedure.
While these drills are indeed necessary, you are likely to end up on a crowded deck in the heat with the other passengers for an afternoon. Staff often leave the passengers lined up on deck while instructions are shouted out and as a result, these drills can take up a lot of time. If the complaining of other passengers isn’t bad enough, muster drills normally aggravate staff and alarm young children.
While the sun might be fun, too much is a bad thing. That’s why sometimes the deck may look more like a tent city than a luxury cruise ship.
Staff often put up sun protection that, while it is practical, it’s quite an eyesore to behold. Passengers fill the deck in pleasant weather and many even construct their own sun protection using beach towels and sheets taken from the cabins.
Just like with most airlines, lost luggage can happen when you travel on a cruise ship. Sometimes luggage can get left behind when you first get on the ship, leaving you with no clothing and necessities for the rest of the cruise.
Often luggage is left out in the rain or sun and things get damaged easily. If your back is left out in the rainy weather like this, you better hope your bag is waterproof.
If you think a cruise makes for a great family vacation you may want to think again. While there are special programs to keep kids entertained, these programs don’t run 24/7.
Often there are only a few activities planned for kids throughout the day and evening which frees up a lot of time for your kids to be bored. This means that for a lot of the trip your kids will be cooped up in the cabin, often with no TV. So be prepared for close quarters and a lot of nagging and fighting.
When you go on a cruise be prepared to play a lot of shuffleboard on deck. Shuffleboard was an iconic game played on many cruises at the turn of the 20th century and it is still played on cruise ships today.
Usually played on the promenade deck, many cruise programs include set times to play this anachronistic game. If that doesn’t sound too bad then keep in mind that most of your time spent playing shuffleboard will involve standing on deck watching others play as you wait for your turn.
No Lifeguard on Duty
While many cruise ships have some gorgeous swimming pools on deck, very few cruise ships actually employ lifeguards.
This means that the busy pool areas are not patrolled by lifeguards and children must be attended by parents at all times. If you expected lazy days at the pool during your cruise, you may find your pool time is sent watching over unattended children. With pools overflowing with swimmers during peek hours, swimming can be quite dangerous.
While rooms in the internal part of the ship are much cheaper, the topside rooms are guaranteed to have a beautiful ocean view. Well, actually this is not always the case.
This is because many of the lower ‘ocean view’ decks have the lifeboats. These massive lifeboats can completely block your ocean view. So while you may pay the extra money for a view, you may find that come check in all you have is a view of the lifeboat.
Plenty of Karaoke
No matter where you go onboard, you may find that you end up listening to an inordinate amount of Karaoke music. That’s because many of the bars and lounges have a Karaoke system set up so that passengers can entertain themselves when no entertainment is scheduled.
As many cruises come with complimentary drinks, a lot of the passengers who shouldn’t be singing find the courage to sing anyway. So from off-key best friends to flat couple-duets, you are going to hear a lot of it.
Some cruises will offer an age-specific demographic so that older, younger, or even single people can know if it is a cruise they want to purchase. That being said, if you don’t look into the age range of the cruise you are going on, you may be in for a bit of a surprise.
The demographic for most cruises is an older crowd, and if you are in your 30s or 20s then you may have a bit of trouble finding people to hang out with.
The Cruise Ship
When you first begin researching what cruise you want to go on and where you see page after page of glossy white cruise ships that appear to have just left the shipyard. Those gleaming white sides look like they are ready for anything.
Some ships are not as white as they once were, and this is due to lots of use, and other exposure to the elements of the ocean. Saltwater corrodes a lot of surfaces which leads to some wear and tear.
The Endless Drinks
Most people imagine they will be drinking artfully crafted cocktails, like mai tais, Pina Coladas, and strawberry daiquiris. This is not quite the case, although those drinks can definitely be found in certain areas. Usually, all the free alcohol comes in the form of beer, and mixed drinks that just have a shot and some soda mixed in. It’s not fancy but it will still get the job done.
Plus, it tends to be included in the price of your cruise, so you can go wild. The unlimited free alcohol also means that the quiet ambiance of the ship that you expected might be ruined by throngs of drunk passengers.
Aside from all that rain and dark clouds, sailing into stormy weather can be quite terrifying to experience first hand.
When the seas are rough and the ship passes through a thunderstorm, guests are often confined to certain areas and it is common for the ship to get struck by lightning. It is also scary when rough seas shake these gigantic liners. Although you could be perfectly safe onboard the experience can be incredibly scary for even the bravest
Some men will go on cruises thinking that it is the optimal place to meet some women for a fun cruise fling. The thing is, you will probably be joined by a group of other men looking for the exact same thing which can mean standing out from the crowd can be hard.
When heading out on a cruise, just go with the intent of having fun with your friends, rather than all the girls you are going to try and meet.
The Onboard Casino
Playing a few hands of blackjack or spinning at the roulette table can be a nice way to pass an evening. Maybe you and your loved one can dress up and make it an event. However, most cruise ships don’t have a full Las Vegas type casino onboard.
Instead, they have a variety of different slot machines for you to try your hand out. This can be fun to, all you need to do is push some buttons and maybe win big.
King Of The World
We all remember the iconic scene in Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack and Kate Winslet as Rose. They are standing at the prow of the ship shouting in glee, going “look I can fly” or “I’m king of the world.”
This scene is one that many cruise-goers want to recreate. It never looks quite as good as the original though and a lot of people just look like they are about to do a swan dive into the ocean.
Couples love to go on cruises. They get to get away from their regular 9-to-5 hustle and bustle and simply spend time together. It’s a great way to become closer to your partner and create some new experiences together.
That being said, an overloaded cruise full of families, retirees, and 20 somethings looking to have a good time may not be the romantic experience you envisioned. That’s why specialty cruises exist now. Bring the romance!
We all want to imagine that the weather will be perfect for our entire cruise, sunny skies, calm seas, and sunsets that last forever. But we’re not in charge of the weather and that means it can turn whenever it wants.
Sometimes a storm will blow in and it will rain for a few days which forces everyone to stay indoors. This can make for a less than exciting cruise experience, but that is why you need to always have some board games and books.
Going To The Beach
The beaches in brochure photos always look pristine. There are a couple of sun loungers, an umbrella, and a coconut ready to be sipped on. Most of the time, the cruise ship will just moor offshore and ferry its passengers over in smaller zodiac boats.
Once on shore, it is a “free for all” of the people going wild and splashing around on the beach. This might actually be a good time to stay aboard if you want the pool to yourself.
When your cruise is finished, you will have to disembark and pass through the port terminal. You might need to go through immigration or simply wait your turn to leave the area. Some of the terminals look like airport lounges, while others resemble a busy immigration point with people trying to get to the front of the line as fast as possible.
Don’t expect this to be the luxurious portion of your experience. Just get through it!
The Onshore Tours
Usually, when you imagine a tour off of a cruise ship you see yourself riding around in a speedboat, waterskiing, or even jetting off to a different part of the island for some other kind of adventure. A lot of the time, you make it to shore and you are put on a tour bus with some of your fellow passengers and sent on your merry way.
You still get to see the island but from the land rather than the shore. Just read very carefully about what activity you have signed up for.
Last, but not least, we come to the captain of the ship. We all imagine a swarthy sea-faring man who has tales to tell but most of the time you won’t even meet the captain. He or she tends to stick to the captain’s deck where they are able to monitor the weather, the ship’s systems, and ensure that you are staying on course.
All in all, you will have an amazing cruise, just make sure to choose the one that fits all of your criteria and check out reviews before you book!
Onboard Hot Tubs
Once on board, all you want to do is hit the all-inclusive drink bar, grab something nice and cool and sit back in the hot tub with a view. You get to gaze out over the ocean as the ship zips out of the port.
One thing you need to remember though is that hot tubs are small. This means that you will not be alone in there, instead of four or five people might be squished in next to you. You can make some new friends this way but also you may just want to sit on your balcony in your cabin rather than have to be in such close quarters with complete strangers.
For anyone that has experienced that queasy stomach feeling between nausea and almost being sick, then you know what being seasick feels like. on cruise ships, it’s not all smooth sailing and even the hardiest sailor can succumb to seasickness. It is incredibly unpleasant, and if you are someone afflicted by it then you may find yourself spending a lot of time on the upper deck.
One of the ways to eliminate the feeling is to constantly stare at the horizon because it doesn’t move. If all else fails at least there is a railing for you to run to, with nothing but the ocean below.