Are cruises worth it? Many travelers ask this question as they contemplate booking a cruise for 2024 or 2025.
Unlike a one-size-fits-all solution, the answer varies. Numerous factors come into play that can significantly impact your experience.
In this article, we look at the pros and cons of cruises to help you decide if they genuinely justify your time and hard-earned holiday savings. In other words, will a cruise be your dream vacation?
So, let’s dive in and explore the true worth of cruises.
And just so you know. We love to cruise. And I definitely think that cruises can be worth it – with some thoughtful planning on your part.
Let’s talk about the pros of cruising
Cruises offer many advantages that can make them an appealing choice for travelers seeking a hassle-free vacation experience. Here’s a closer look at the key benefits:
One of the most enticing aspects of cruising is exploring multiple destinations on a single journey. Whether you want to wander through the historic cities of Europe, soak up the sun on the beaches of the Caribbean, or immerse yourself in the cultures of Asia, there’s likely a cruise itinerary that matches your wanderlust.
This diversity allows you to make the most of your time and see many places without extensive planning.
Cruises are celebrated for their all-inclusive packages, which typically cover accommodation (that is, your cruise cabin), transportation (that is, sailing you from one port to the next), and meals (in the main dining room or the buffet restaurant, and, one some ships, casual dining at other eateries onboard).
This inclusive approach simplifies your vacation budget, making you less likely to encounter hidden costs or unexpected expenses for essential services. With all meals included, you can enjoy good food daily without paying extra – if you choose not to.
For a complete "All-inclusive" cruise experience, many cruise lines will now offer to book your flights, bus transportation to/from your hotel/cruise port, and pre-or post-cruise hotel accommodation. This will most likely be at a higher price than if you were to plan and book these services yourself. The benefit to you is that you save time searching, planning, and booking yourself. In other words, you are paying the cruise line for their time, knowledge, and expertize in booking these for you as an add-on.
One of the standout advantages of cruises is the convenience of having your trip planned for you. You can leave the intricacies of organizing accommodations, transportation between destinations, and dining arrangements to the cruise line.
This means less time spent on logistical details and more time dedicated to enjoying your vacation.
Onboard facilities and entertainment
Cruise ships are like floating resorts, offering many amenities and entertainment options. This is especially true on board the larger ships such as Royal Caribbean‘s Icon of the Seas, Norwegian Cruise Line‘s mega-ship Viva, and Celebrity‘s signature Edge class ships.
Families with children have dedicated kid-friendly areas and activities, while those seeking relaxation can indulge in spa treatments, lounge by the pool, or enjoy adult-only spaces.
Many cruises also provide entertainment, such as Broadway-style shows, live music, themed events, and quiz nights, ensuring there’s always something to enjoy onboard.
Convenience – many destinations in one vacation
Cruises offer a seamless and time-efficient way to explore different destinations. You wake up in a new port almost daily without requiring lengthy travel days between cities.
This maximizes the time you spend exploring and enjoying your vacation; you can cover much ground with minimal effort. And you only open your suitcase once – when you arrive at your cruise cabin and when you leave.
Cruises are excellent for socializing and meeting fellow travelers. Whether traveling with your family, as a couple, or if you are a solo cruise traveler, you can engage in onboard activities, join organized excursions, or strike up conversations over a cocktail.
You can even start making contact with fellow travelers before you leave home. Join a roll call for your cruise date or a Facebook group to meet others on the same cruise. This social aspect often leads to lasting friendships and memorable shared experiences.
Safety and security
Cruise ships are known for their commitment to passenger safety and security. Highly trained crew members are on hand to assist and respond to emergencies. Additionally, the controlled environment of a cruise ship can offer peace of mind to travelers, especially those concerned about health and safety while visiting foreign countries.
Expedition cruises offer a unique and thrilling twist on traditional cruising. These specialized voyages take you to remote destinations, often unreachable by larger ships.
Led by expert naturalists and guides, expedition cruises provide immersive experiences in wildlife-rich regions like the Galápagos Islands, Antarctica, and the Amazon rainforest.
Get up close and personal with remarkable ecosystems, observe rare wildlife, and embark on adventurous excursions while enjoying the comfort and safety of a well-equipped expedition vessel.
If you’re an adventurer at heart, expedition cruises might be your ticket to exploring the world’s most extraordinary and untouched corners.
Are there any cons to a cruise vacation?
While cruises offer many advantages, it’s essential to consider the potential drawbacks before setting sail. These downsides may influence your decision:
Cruises follow predetermined itineraries, limiting your ability to change plans or explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations. A cruise may feel too structured if you prefer a more spontaneous travel style or wish to immerse yourself deeply in one particular place.
Popular ports of call can get crowded with fellow tourists, potentially detracting from the immersive experience you seek. Additionally, time spent in port can sometimes be limited, leaving you craving more exploration time.
You can easily find out how many cruise ships are due to be in the port on the day of your arrival via Cruise Ship Tracker. This is particularly useful for planning an excursion, for example, to the Greek island of Santorini, where the high season can see huge crowds and long lines that become even longer when many ships are due to reach the port on the same day.
While cruises are typically all-inclusive for accommodation, transportation, and meals, extras such as excursions, specialty dining, and spa treatments often come at an additional cost. These expenses can add up, affecting your overall cruise budget. But remember, they are optional extras.
The one thing that may not be optional and come as a surprise is the fixed gratuity fee that will be added to your booking. Plan for this expense in your cruise budget, and pay before leaving home.
Limited time in port
While cruises provide a visit to multiple destinations, they may only offer a few hours in each port. This limited time can be challenging if you want to explore a particular place or visit a destination further afield.
When you look for your ideal itinerary, check the number of hours the ship plans to be in port. Generally, we like a minimum of 6 hours, but preferably longer.
Potential for seasickness
Some travelers may experience seasickness, particularly during rough journeys on days at sea. While modern cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers to minimize motion, it remains a concern for those with sensitivity to motion.
Look for cabins in the middle of the ship if you are a sufferer. Often, you feel less movement here and choose to be around deck 7 or 8. Choose an itinerary where you visit new ports daily, and avoid those with 2 or 3 days at sea in one stretch.
Formal nights and dress codes
Some cruise lines have formal nights or dress codes for certain dining venues and events. This aspect may not align with your style if you prefer a more relaxed dress code while on vacation. Generally, most major cruises have a far more relaxed dress code these days than before.
Despite the all-inclusive nature of cruises, unexpected fees can arise, such as gratuities and service charges. Reviewing the cruise line’s policies and fee structures in advance is essential to avoid surprises.
Limited personal space
While cruise ships offer ample common areas, cabin sizes vary, and some accommodations may be compact. If you value spacious accommodations, you may need to consider upgrading to a higher cabin category, such as a suite or a cabin with a large balcony.
Understanding these potential downsides can help you make an informed decision when considering a cruise. While these cons exist, many travelers find that the pros outweigh them, resulting in memorable cruise experiences.
The worth of a cruise depends on your individual preferences, priorities, and budget, as well as your willingness to embrace the pros and navigate the cons.
Start by searching for the region you want to visit and the date you can travel, and see which cruise lines offer cruises to where you want to go. We recommend starting your search with CruiseDirect. The easy-to-use website allows you to see suggested cruise itineraries that may suit you.
Some cruises may not align with your interests, but for most travelers, cruises offer a fantastic way to explore multiple destinations, enjoy diverse experiences, and have all your essentials covered.
Researching and choosing a cruise that matches your expectations and aligns with your willingness to manage any potential drawbacks is important. With careful planning, cruises can be a rewarding and memorable way to explore the world.