As the number of people who travel increases, cruise ships are also seeing an increase in their yearly booking numbers. Whatever travelers are doing, article writers are writing about, and cruise ships are no exception.
The advice in these articles focuses on everything from the best time to book a cruise, to the kinds of things that you can expect while onboard, to how long it will take you to get off the ship and to the nearest airport. The issue is that not all of this advice is helpful.
This article will discuss 20 common pieces of advice we hear for cruising that are actually pretty unhelpful. There are a variety of reasons why each of these entries is bad advice. Some of this advice is merely outdated, some are based on mistaken assumptions, and others are so downright terrible that it is hard to believe that they weren’t given without malicious intent.
Hopefully, this article will help you sort through the most common pieces of bad cruise advice, so that you can avoid the most potent pitfalls. This article should also give you the tools that you need to understand the cruise process, and to learn how to weed out all of the bad advice for yourself.
20 Make Cruise Friends Ahead Of Time
This next entry is more about personal taste but I just wanted to let our readers know that you don't have to make a ton of friends to have fun on your cruise. It seems like so many of the advice articles that I read are urging people to join Facebook groups so that they can get in contact with their fellow cruisers prior to when the ship disembarks.
If this doesn't sound like your thing, don't feel pressured into doing this. This is your vacation. Make it something that you are excited for and comfortable with.
19 Have Cash On Hand
For most trips, I would agree with this sentiment. It is always a good idea to have cash on hand when traveling because you never know when you will wind up somewhere that does not accept credit cards. But cruises are a little different.
You will be able to use your card everywhere on the ship. Many cruise lines have even upgraded so that you can use your room key almost everywhere and just charge anything you buy to the room.
While you are on the cruise ship itself, I see no reason why you would have to carry around any cash.
18 Soak In All the Sun You Can
I wouldn't say that this is a bad piece of advice, only that it should come with some restrictions. There is nothing wrong with spending as much time as possible at the pool but don't let it stop you from doing all of the other cool things on the ship. In addition, you have to be very careful about how much time you spend in the sun.
It is so easy to get sunburnt on a cruise ship and you don't want to spend the rest of your vacation nursing your flayed skin.
17 Attend the Captain’s Dinner
The Captains Dinner is the most overrated part of any cruise.
I usually advise our readers to try everything at least once but I feel content recommending that even people on their very first cruise don't try the Captain's Dinner.
Usually, it comes at a fairly modest additional price but even $50 is too much for an underwhelming steak that you eat surrounded by strange people.
I have never felt more uncomfortable than I did sitting in my dress clothes, waiting to get my food at the Captain’s Dinner. All for the chance to take a quick picture with the Captain, that you then have to pay for.
16 Get the Drink Package
I am absolutely opposed to getting the drink package on a cruise. Most cruises come with food included but you have to pay for any adult drinks. The drink package lets you pay one lump fee when you book your cruise but then those drinks are included for your entire trip.
The price of this package varies by cruise but for most ships, you would have to drink more than 6 drinks a day for your entire vacation to get your money's worth. Unless you plan on being toasted for your entire vacation, this just isn't feasible.
15 Stay On the Ship When It Docks
I have seen this recommendation in multiple places. Royal Caribbean itself even supports this idea. It said this on its website, “The really neat sensation of staying onboard when the ship is in port, is the feeling of having the ship to yourself. With so few other guests onboard, it really does feel like you have the ship to yourself.”
I don't exactly buy this line of reasoning. The ship will definitely be emptier when everyone else is in port but just think of what you're giving up for some alone time at the pool.
Cruise ships stop at some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Who knows if you'll ever get the chance to go to those places again.
Then, if too many people have the idea to stay on the ship, it could be almost as crowded as any other day.
14 Shower After Every Time You Get In The Pool
At some point, you have to accept that your body is going to come into contact with some germs while you are on vacation.
Sure, the pools and hot tubs on the cruise ships probably aren't the cleanest, but there are no verified reports of anyone getting seriously sick from swimming in the deck pools.
The travel advisors that tell you to shower each time you use the pool are the same ones that tell you not to kiss the Blarney Stone while you are in Ireland. Going on trips is all about taking chances.
13 Forget the Excursions
This piece of advice is a little strong for my taste. I have seen several websites campaigning for people to skip the excursions sponsored by the cruise line in favor of exploring the destinations on your own. When talking about the benefits of going to a local beach, Cruise Critic said “but it will almost always be less expensive than paying for an excursion, and you'll be more likely to escape the masses.”. I do think that people should explore some (if not most) of the destinations on their own, but I also think that there are some excursions worth trying. On my last cruise, the snorkeling excursion in Mexico was easily the best part of my vacation.
12 Leave the Motion Sickness Medicine At Home
This next piece of advice is just ridiculous. If someone deals with a lot of motion sickness, they should absolutely feel comfortable bringing seasickness medication on board. Some travel writers have pointed out that cruise ships are so large that most people don't get sick, which is true.
Others have argued that the meds will make you too drowsy to enjoy your vacation, which may also be true. With all that being said, shouldn't travelers at least have the option of tacking sickness medication if they feel that they really need it?
11 Upgrade to a Room With a View
Some travel websites have recently put out articles that urge people to upgrade to a room with a window.
I enjoy a view of the ocean as much as anyone else but I'm not going to pay substantially more to have something in my room that I can easily enjoy up on deck.
Besides, the small porthole windows that most ships offer pales in comparison to the view from the deck.
If you are looking to cut costs somewhere on your cruise, I would say that the price of your room is your best bet. You won’t be spending very much time there anyway.
10 Skip the All-Inclusive Restaurants
The food options on cruises can vary but usually there are three styles of restaurants. There is the buffet that is open 24/7 and is included in the price of your ticket, there are a handful of sit-down restaurants where meals are included, and there are some nicer restaurants where you have to pay an actual bill. I have seen some people suggest that cruisers limit themselves to the first and third options because the included sit-down restaurants are too crowded to enjoy. But the reason that these restaurants are so crowded is because they are the best deal. You will quickly get tired of the buffet and you don't want to pay for every meal at the nicer restaurants.
9 Don’t Stay On the First and Second Floors
The room that you stay in on a cruise ship is part of a weird hierarchy. Rooms on different levels of the ship have varying prices to represent how sought after they are but these price ranges don't always make sense. For example, rooms on the two lowest levels are usually inordinately cheaper than anywhere else on the ship. Part of this is the fact that these rooms are farther from all the fun things on deck, which makes sense, but there is also the sense that you are more likely to get seasick if you stay on the lower levels. I have stayed on the first floor with several different people and no one has gotten sick.
8 Pack Light
My girlfriend would be shocked to hear me argue against packing light on a trip but I think a lot of travel sites have overdone it with this particular bit of advice to potential cruisers. The rationale is that cruises are floating malls and that anything that you need you can easily buy on the ship itself. This is certainly true but the prices of the on-board shops are so ridiculously expensive that this is a sure-fire way to find yourself short on money before your trip ends.You don’t want to be counting pennies on your vacation because you spent $40 on sunscreen.
7 Forget “Faster to the Fun” Promotions
I have read a handful of articles lately that advised their readers to forego the "Faster to the Fun" promotion that many cruise lines offer.
The rationale behind this advice is that while the additional pass gets you onto the ship sooner, no one else is on board yet, so it isn't very fun. It is true that you will be one of the only people on board when you arrive, but that is exactly what makes it so fun.
This will be one of the only times of your vacation that you can chill out by the pool without being swarmed by other people.
6 Reserve Seats At the Pool
Admittedly, I have only seen this in one travel article (and I won't cite the author to save him the embarrassment) but this advice is so spectacularly terrible that I had to include it.
Not only is it incredibly rude to try to reserve chairs next to the deck pool, but it is also potentially dangerous. There is a certain crowd on cruise ships and they are not the type of people who you want to feel slighted. It is hard to get a chair alongside the pool sometimes but it is not worth risking your well-being for.
5 Fight For Your Gratuity
If you think that the service you received during your trip was less than spectacular, you can go to the customer service desk when you leave and ask that your mandatory gratuity is lowered.
Most cruise lines now require you to pay an additional fee when you book your trip that goes as a tip to your housekeepers and any waitstaff on the ship.
Some writers have recommended that unhappy customers complain to get some of this gratuity money back, but that's more hassle than it's worth.
I've seen the customer service line when the ship returns to port and it is extremely long.
4 Follow Crew Instructions
This next piece of advice isn’t bad because it is wrong, it's bad because it is so obvious that I don’t think it needed to be said.
When you are on a cruise ship you are under the ultimate control of the crew staff. The captain of the ship even has the authority to hold you under arrest if he feels that you are a danger to his crew or the rest of the passengers.
This is an extreme example, of course, but it can happen. Therefore, I don't understand why travel sites feel the need to tell you to obey the orders of the ship crew. Anyone with even a modicum of common sense would already know that.
3 Skip the On-Deck Movie Theatre
The rationale behind this argument is that you can go to the movies anywhere and that you are better off spending your time on the cruise ship doing things that you don't normally do.
If you've ever been on a longer vacation, you know that at some point during your week-long stay you just need to chill out and take a breather. Going to the ship movie theater gives you the chance to do this while still having a good time.
Cruise ships manage to get films that are no longer in theaters but have not yet come out on DVD. The last cruise that I was on had a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson special, where they showed Jumanji 2, Rampage, and Moana.
2 Make a To Do List
I am all for people getting the most out of their cruises but they should also remember that they are on a vacation. Doing every single thing on the cruise ship sounds like a good idea until you return from your vacation more tired than you were when you left. This is a recipe for disaster. Even worse, if you have a laundry list of things to do in a limited amount of days, you will inevitably stress out the people with you, something that they certainly do not deserve.
1 Avoid Any Off-Shore Gaming
Statistically, you're more likely to come away with a big grin on your face in an off-shore gaming establishment compared to a regular one. So, if that's your thing, then spending a few hours surrounded by the flashing lights and loud noises wouldn't be the worst option of things to do on the ship.
Of course, there are a plethora of activities to keep you occupied and entertained as you set sail from point A to point B. This is merely one of the many options. That is, of course, if you can manage to drag yourself away from the pool.