When going on a cruise, each one has a variety of optional activities and services which may be unique to that particular ship or be available on any others in the fleet owned by the same company. Collectively referred to as amenities, these activities and/or services are meant to give passengers something to do to pass the time on the cruise. Plus, some of them are advertised in a way to make the passengers think they’ll be saving money or get special rewards if they choose certain package deals that include a particular set of services and activities to do.
But the truth is, some of these amenities aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Because at the end of the day, cruises are entertainment venues for those who enjoy traveling by water either out of personal preference or nostalgia for the glory days of cruise liners back in the early Twentieth century. Then like any entertainment venue, the companies are more concerned about making money than anything else so they hike up prices on a lot of things to get the most profit. So if anyone’s looking to save money while going on a cruise, here are some “Free” amenities that might not be worth the price after all.
25 Planetarium (Cunard Line) - Nothing Better to Do
Of the things to do on a cruise ship, would an onboard planetarium sound appealing? Apparently it is for some, as it’s offered on one of the Cunard Line ships. While there’s nothing wrong with educating oneself in general, it would seem counterintuitive to the notion that one relaxes on vacation and doesn’t try to simulate the brain too much. But for those who are into astronomy, this feature might seem like a dream come true as it offers “Narrated star shows, virtual reality rides and special presentations and lectures in partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society” CNN Travel states.
24 Snow Grotto (Viking) - Great for Cooling Down
Depending on which location one decides to take a cruise to, some places are undeniably warmer than others. Then even with air-conditioning onboard the ship, the heat can still be unbearable for those with particularly sensitive skin. So Viking Cruises offers a solution in the form of a snow grotto, which is available “Aboard Viking's four ocean-going sister ships” according to CNN Travel. As the above picture shows, it is essentially a room that is covered in artificially made snow with cold air blasting into it. Fortunately, there is an “Adjacent steam room and sauna” CNN Travel says.
23 Robotic Bartenders (Royal Caribbean International) - Not as Cool as It Sounds
When one hears the term “Robotic Bartender,” two images come to mind. For nerdy types, they might picture the machine in the original Star Trek TV series that made drinks appear out of thin air. Then for those who saw the movie Passengers, one might picture the good-looking android that mixed drinks for the two lead characters. But none of them would’ve guessed the real thing would look like a pair of miniature robotic arms that are similar to the kind used in car factories. Available on several Royal Caribbean ships, CNN Travel states, it looks kind of disappointing.
22 Perk Promotions - Not Exactly Free
Apart from covering basic essentials such as food and water, there are certain perk-related promotions that cruise companies offer. So the idea is that by paying for them in addition to the cruise itself, certain things like extra beverages may be acquired for free. Yet some of them have to be paid in “Gratuities, or the credited value doesn't cover full costs” according to Cruise Critic. In other words, one either has to still pay a tip for the service that’s provided each day or pay for part of the costs if the company doesn’t cover all of it.
21 Teeth Whitening Procedure - Unexpected Consequences
Now compared to painted nails and toes, teeth are something that everyone feels conscious about no matter what gender they are. After all, certain expressions such as smiles go a long way to establishing relationships with people. But if the teeth not well-cleaned as symbolized by how white they are, it can make or break first impressions of people. So some cruises have started offering things like teeth whitening operations for people to take advantage of. But according to CheatSheet, “The bleach used can cause gum sensitivity” which limits the kinds of meals one can enjoy on the cruise.
20 Ice Bar (Norwegian Cruise Line) - Some Like It Cold
While the snow grotto may not be for everyone, it at least offers a means for people to warm themselves up if need be. But for those who really like the cold, then Norwegian Cruise Line does have an ice bar available on three of its ships. While it does allow patrons to wear appropriate clothing, as seen in the above picture, the admission price is 20 dollars according to CNN Travel and the amount of time they’re allowed to spend at the bar is 45 minutes tops. So with those two things in mind, is it really worth it?
19 Underwater Lounge (Ponant) - Watch Out for Sharks
Even if one isn’t afraid of the water, otherwise there would be no point in going on a cruise in the first place, there’s a certain degree to how much one wants to interact with it. So if an activity such as snorkeling or diving were available somewhere near the ship, some would be more keen to do it than others. The same kind of attitude could arguably apply to this new underwater lounge that Ponant introduced on one of their ships last year with the intention of placing it on more ships in 2020 as stated by CNN Travel.
18 High-Rise Bike Track (Carnival Cruise Line) - Not Great for Those Afraid of Heights
Currently available on two of Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ships, according to CNN Travel, this on-deck feature consists of “An 800-foot-long suspended outdoor track that’s elevated…150 feet above sea level”. With attached bikes that are designed in the recumbent style, meaning one has to lie back in the seat instead of sit straight up, one is able to peddle the circumference of the track. In fact, it is possible to go “18 miles an hour” on the available tracks as stated by CNN Travel. So assuming it’s safe, that doesn’t make it any less precarious-looking.
17 Submersible Dives (Crystal Cruises) - Be James Cameron for about 30 Minutes
While the underwater lodge that Ponant is now offering certainly seems like a tame way to see what lies beneath the water, assuming one doesn’t see anything unpleasant like a passing shark or a snorkeler with an unflattering body-type, some people want to see more. So Crystal Cruises has a special submersible available that comes with “A see-through, 360-degree acrylic capsule for optimal observation” according to CNN Travel. The only downside is that the dives last about 30 minutes, and since the oceans are unpredictable in terms of wildlife it can either be really exciting or boring.
16 Electric Car Racetrack (Norwegian) - Nothing but Blurs
If peddling over a suspended bike track seemed intimidating, then that’s nothing compared to this! On one of Norwegian Cruise newest ships, there is an actual racetrack that spans 1000 feet according to CNN Travel making it the largest one ever built at sea. With small electric cars available, people can race each other along this track. Capable of going 30 miles-per-hour, CNN Travel says, these cars can be hard to watch since they would look like blurs to the people who are watching on the sidelines. They also wouldn’t be heard since electric car engines are silent.
15 Skydiving Simulator (Royal Caribbean) - Something That Could Easily Be Done On Land
Though skydiving simulators are nothing new these days, there’s never been one on a cruise ship until recently. Available on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum-class ships, according to CNN Travel, this was one of the newer features available. As the above picture shows, it allows one to go through the motions of skydiving without actually doing it and get unique views of the ocean. With that said, the feature seems more like a gimmick than a way to enhance one’s cruising experience except for the ocean views. But maybe it’s not a good idea for those who get seasick easily.
14 F-1 Simulator (MSC Cruises) - Doesn’t Work
For those who are into Formula One cars, or F-1s for short, it’s a natural desire to want to be able to drive one. But due to their specialized nature, these cars are expensive price-wise. Thus, one would have to either be a professional F1 driver or extremely rich. So MSC Cruises offers a compromise in the form of an F1 Simulator (as shown above), which operates like an arcade game in that one steers the artificial car to win the race that’s projected on the screen. But according to Cruise Critic, “It's impossible to steer”.
13 1A Cabin (Carnival) - Unpredictable
When it comes to planning a cruise, one should always be mindful of the types of cabins that are available. For instance, the 1A Cabins that are available on Carnival Cruise ships claim to be spacious. Though as the above picture shows, that might not be the case for all of them. Cruise Critic concurs with this notion by stating that, “Some have pull-down bunk beds, while others have a bunk and pull out sofa”. In other words, it’s not very predictable as to what kind of 1A Cabin one might get since they are not the same cabin type.
12 Buffets - Not Good in Excess
Like their land-locked counterparts, cruise ship buffets are meant to offer a seemingly endless supply of various foods for people to consume at their leisure in terms of what they want to eat and how much of it per day. Yet a veteran cruise passenger named Gail Guilliams claims on CheatSheet that one will “Gain weight as the week goes on”. This is largely due to the lack of physical activity that tends to happen on a cruise, though the amount of food one eats at a buffet is probably another factor. So maybe it’s best to not gorge.
11 Family Inside Cabin (Norwegian Epic) - Awkward Layout
In general, there are two types of cabins available on just about every cruise: ones that are big enough for one or two people, and those that are made to fit whole families. Such is the case for Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships, including the Norwegian Epic. But while their one-person Studio Cabins have gotten “High points for their design,” according to Cruise Critic, their Family Inside Cabins on Decks 13-14 have not. If we look at the one shown in the above picture, it’s clear the layout isn’t particularly good with little space between the bed and wall.
10 Standard Inside Cabin (Majesty of the Seas) - Too Small
Among the cabin types, Inside Cabins generally tend to be the smallest. Yet they can be uncomfortably small as demonstrated by the ones on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas ship. Considered to be “Among the very smallest industry wide” according to Cruise Critic, that proves just how infamously small these cabins are. Yet some people might like it this way, if it’s just one person staying in them. Although Cruise Critic claims that up to four people could sleep in these cabins since they come with “Pull-down beds” that form into bunks. But would anyone want to do that?
9 Wi-Fi Access - Super Limited
Because we’re plugged in all the time to the Internet, including the elderly in some cases, there’s a certain notion that we should have the same kind of privilege to connect online onboard a cruise ship like anywhere else in the world. Yet the cruise companies are well aware of this and so they “Charge pricey rates for Wi-Fi, which can be spotty and, at worst, totally unavailable for large swaths of time” according to Condé Nast Traveler magazine. With that mind, it might be better to just go offline during the entirety of the cruise to save money.
8 Cruise-Sponsored Tours - More Expensive than They’re Worth
When one is stuck anywhere for too long, it’s common to develop cabin fever which is extreme restlessness. Such is especially the case on a cruise ship, due to being cut off from the land and seeing nothing but endless ocean on the horizon. So whenever the ship docks at a port, most people want to use this opportunity to get off the boat for a while and get a change of scenery. There are even special tours sponsored by the cruise company itself, but these “Tend to be more expensive” than directly booked tours according to Condé Nast Traveler.
7 In-Port Stores - Cheap but Worthless
Depending on what the intended goal of going ashore is while the cruise ship is temporarily docked, whether it’s to go on a tour or just walk around, there’s no getting away from venues that try to take advantage of tourists and their money. One of the most obvious of these are the stores set up along the port, like in the above picture, which typically sell cheap manufactured items with just enough appeal to make a tourist want to spend a quick buck or two. Instead of going to these, CheatSheet recommends getting “Something special off the beaten path.”
6 Slot Tournaments - Basically Offshore Gambling
Because cruise ships go just about everywhere including areas called international waters, which aren’t controlled by any country’s naval forces, they are protected from laws that would restrict things like gambling from happening onboard the ship. But due to the concept’s negative association with offshore Sin Ships, which were popular during the 1930s, cruise ships offer sanitized versions of gambling such as Slot Tournaments. Yet like most luck-based games, “Some non-first-round-winners will pay more for another chance at the finals, where the whole situation repeats itself until someone wins a cash prize” according to Cruise Critic.
5 Art Auctions - Catered to Suckers
While there are plenty of offshore venues that trick cruise passengers into spending more money than they probably should, there are just as many onboard venues that serve the same purpose. Apart from Slot Tournaments, which may seem harmless at first until several tries leaves one with noticeably less money, there are also Art Auctions. Catered to those who have enough money to purchase expensive paintings, there’s a chance that they’re overpriced and reproductions as opposed to the real thing. Plus, Cruise Critic states “Internet time is too pricey” to check one’s purchases leading to one easily being suckered in.
4 Onboard Manicures - Costs a Pretty Penny
For women of all ages, maintaining one’s beauty is considered to be necessary by most cultural standards even though it really comes down to how one wishes to present oneself to others. Nevertheless, it can be time-consuming to get certain things like manicures done prior to a cruise. Fortunately, some cruises do offer onboard manicures for those who feel self-conscious about not having pretty-looking nails during the trip that they weren’t able to get painted beforehand. But one thing to keep in mind is that, “Prices range from $48 to $101” on certain cruises according to ShermansCruise.
3 Ionithermie Treatment - Isn’t Very Effective
For those who are unfamiliar with this, Ionithermie is a special procedure that involves “Lying on a table” and being “Covered in an algae-based cream with electrodes” that are attached to one’s body according to Cruise Critic. The idea is that the electrodes supposedly simulate the muscles which in turn makes one lose weight. Available on certain cruise ships as part of their onboard spas, as well as land-based ones, it’s made skeptics wary of its actual effectiveness. Plus with onboard treatments “Priced at more than $100 per session” Cruise Critic states, is it really worth the price?
2 Bottled Water - Have to Pay for It
While all cruise ships do offer tap water for drinking purposes, there is bottled water available as well. Now the difference between these two sources is that while the former is free, the latter isn’t. Plus, it is not environmentally friendly to drink from a plastic bottle as opposed to tap water according to Cruise Critic since plastics in general wind up getting dumped in the ocean if they’re non-recyclable. This results in potential hazards for any marine animals that happen to get tangled in them. On top of that, tap water is no less clean than bottled water.
1 Cruise Line Insurance - Might Not Cover Everything
Even in the modern age of cruise liners, which are arguably safer than their predecessors, there’s no telling what might happen during a cruise whether it be an unexpected storm or onboard injury. For scenarios such as this, getting some kind of insurance before embarking on an extended trip is always a good idea. Now according to Cruise Critic, “The cruise lines’ own trip insurance policies do not necessarily offer the same coverage as third-party coverage”. So while the cruise company might cover some things, it might not with others which could be problematic depending on one’s personal needs.
Resources: cnn.com, cruisecritic.com, cheatsheet.com, cntraveler.com, shermanscruise.com