Cruises sound like an amazing way to travel. And we promise, the more you read about them, the more you'll want to set sail on the open sea, with a whole host of luxurious amenities and exciting activities at your fingertips.

But the truth is that cruises aren't always amazing, and there are some rules and requirements that are involved with your trip. Here's what you should know before booking a cruise.

The Majority Of Cruises Are Non-Refundable

The way you pay for your cruise matters. Some cruise lines offer a down payment structure where you can make payments up until a set time before your departure date. Others require you to pay in full at the time of booking.


With either scenario, the odds are low that you'll be able to get a refund. There's a reason for travel insurance, and honestly, booking a cruise is a significant investment for most travelers, so you should think about protecting it. That said, you'll be paying to insure your trip, so make sure it's a good deal before committing.

Also, read the cruise line's policies thoroughly to make sure it's truly a good deal. Fine print can make or break your trip.

You Might Be Able To Get A Free Upgrade

Most cruise lines offer price matching to a certain extent. But they won't price match another cruise line or even a different ship excursion. That said, in some cases, like if you book way early, you may be able to get a price cut (or a room upgrade—hello ocean view) based on how full the cruise is. If cabins don't sell, sometimes prices drop. But if you've already booked, most cruise companies will make up the difference for you.

Onboard credits are another way cruises make up for price discrepancies. So your booking remains the same, but you get onboard credit that you can spend on activities, drinks, and excursions. This can be a good way to get your cash back if the prices waver.

Your Cruise Company Is The Boss

Unfortunately, people who like a lot of freedom and flexibility often fail to consider that the cruise line is literally in charge of your trip. That can mean canceled excursions for any number of reasons, skipped port calls because of itinerary adjustments, and a ton of other inconveniences.

But even when you board the ship, you've got to undergo a basic safety training session. It's called a muster drill, or lifeboat drill, says Cruise Critic, and it must occur within your first 24 hours on the ship. Yes, it's for your safety, but if you were expecting to start tossing back mimosas the minute you step aboard, that's unfortunately not going to happen.

Another way the cruise company gets to boss you is if there's an illness aboard. Consider 2020's coronavirus scare; cruise ships are being docked and quarantined for fear of spreading the illness. Know that you could be at the mercy of the public health department even while at sea, and it doesn't take a big outbreak to set the alarms blaring. Even food poisoning could have a ship on lockdown until health experts aboard can determine the cause.

It Can Get Crowded On Deck

Another aspect of cruises that travelers don't often consider is just how jam-packed ships can be. Even if you book a luxurious cabin, your deck will be connected to another person's. And until you're stopping off at a port, you're going to be surrounded by potentially thousands of other people (and crew members) for days on end.

Whether you're going to the pool, the dining areas, or queuing up for a ride on the ship's waterslide, people will be everywhere. And unless you book an adults-only cruise, children will be underfoot too, which isn't always ideal.

Port Calls & Excursions Can Involve Hours Of Waiting Around

Plenty of cruise ship passengers have horror stories about being stuck on the ship due to malfunctions or emergencies. But even in the best-case scenario, you could be standing in line for far more time than with other types of vacation destinations.

First, you have to board the cruise ship at its departure location. That involves handing over your paperwork, and possibly going through a security check that requires passports or visas (depending on your destination), and queuing up to get on board.

Once you're on board, you have the muster drill, and then you may get some freedom. But mealtimes can involve lines, elevators are often bustling, and waiting for customer service assistance could take forever, too.

Not to mention, if you choose any excursions or to hop off the boat at a port, you've got to undergo processing when you hop off and get back on. This means you may need to carry documents with you while you're on land—not to mention keep track of the time so you don't get left behind.