Travelers who haven't yet tried a cruise tell us that popular cruising myths like "I'll get seasick" and "I'll feel claustrophobic on a ship" are among the reasons they've not yet crossed the gangway.
At the same time, compelling lures, like commercials you see on TV of families sliding down onboard waterslides or of couples gazing out to sea from their private balcony are tempting. Friends who have cruised and who come home from holiday just raving about the experience make it sound even more tantalizing.
If you're among those who are considering a first cruise but haven't yet taken the leap, Cruise Critic editors and members highlight what they love most about life at sea.
Photo: Cruise Critic
A Cruise Vacation Offers Great Value
Cruises offer great value for your vacation dollar because the fares include nearly everything you'll need for a fantastic trip: food, accommodations, daytime and evening entertainment and transportation between destinations. We regularly see fares on mainstream cruise lines for under $100 per person, per night, which is astonishingly cheaper than you'd spend on land for a hotel, dinner and a show. On some lines, kids even sail free or at discounted rates when sharing a cabin with two adults. Looking for luxury? Upscale lines are even more inclusive, with alcohol and soft drinks, gratuities, shore tours, onboard spending credits, and even flights bundled into the fare.
See Multiple Destinations, Unpack Only Once
On a cruise, you unpack once and your floating hotel takes you from city to city or from island to island and there’s no need to mess with train or ferry schedules, or lug your suitcase along cobblestone streets. Every morning, you'll wake up in a new place. Can't decide between St. Lucia and Barbados, or Italy or Spain? Why choose? Pick an itinerary that visits all the cities on your wish list.
Cruise Ships Are Family Friendly
From tots to teens, grandparents to grandkids, cruises are fun for all ages. If you're struggling to find a vacation that your 5-, 10- and 15-year-old will all love -- and that has adult activities, too -- ships now have extensive kids' facilities, split by age. Teens have their own cool hangouts, far away from the play areas for the little ones (and certainly a nice distance from parent-friendly pools and bars). How can you not love a trip that features video games and swimming pools, while offering time for families to be together at dinner or on shoreside excursions? And parents can even sneak in a romantic dinner alone, by taking advantage of late-night hours in the kids' club.
Photo: Royal Caribbean
Cruise Ships Come in All Shapes and Sizes
The ideal cruise ship for one person may be a mega-ship outfitted with onboard rock-climbing walls and outdoor movie theaters, while another will prefer an intimate ship with an upscale ambience and someone else will want the seafaring experience of a masted tall sailing ship. Luckily, all those different types of cruise ships exist. From French Country Waterways' 12-person river barges to Royal Caribbean's 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas. More options range from the luxurious Seabourn Odyssey to the minimalist sailing ships of Star Clippers and even to ice-strengthened expedition ships like Hurtigruten's Fram.
Photo: Cruise Critic
Ships Offer a Variety of Onboard Activities
Today's cruise ships are designed to keep everyone happy. Want to pamper yourself at the spa while your spouse hits the casino? Or lounge in the sun reading a book while your family plays basketball. You can go to an educational lecture, a wine tasting, a computer class or a dance workshop; paint pottery, play bridge, learn a language or do yoga; dine at a casual buffet, a fancy sit-down restaurant, a sushi bar, a diner or a steakhouse; and watch a movie, a comedy routine, a song-and-dance show or live music performance. And if all you want to do is nothing while the ship sails from port to port you can do that, too.
Photo: Cruise Critic
Cruise Vacations Are Easy to Plan
Because cruise vacations package together transportation and accommodations, they're very easy to plan. Pick your ship, itinerary and cabin, and away you go -- no searching for hotels in your price range, no coordinating travel between cities. You can even get your travel agent to arrange your airfare for you -- or choose a departure port within driving distance to eliminate that extra planning step. Groups also find cruises a cinch to book. Cruise lines have plans in place for group travel, eliminating the hassle of coordinating your 20 family members and friends from around the country who want to vacation with you. Book enough cabins -- and you'll get extra perks, including a free fare!
Ships Are Floating Cities
If you're concerned about being stranded in the middle of the ocean, relax. Cruise ships are like floating cities with everything you could possibly want onboard. Today's vessels are outfitted with Wi-Fi, cell service and satellite TV so you can stay in touch with the real world during your cruise (if you even want to). Onboard shops sell the toiletries you forgot to pack, medical centers can provide meds or a doctor's services if needed, and laundry facilities let you wash your clothes mid-cruise so you don't need to over-pack. Of course, there's also the fun stuff like gyms, multiple restaurants, movie screens, spas, swimming pools, theaters and discos. And in the rare emergency, there are always enough lifeboats for everyone onboard.
Cruise Vacations Can Be Exotic
Always wanted to visit Asia but are nervous about the language barrier? Curious about the Middle East, but nervous about country customs? A cruise is one of the best ways to see the most exotic and foreign destinations in this world in an easy way. Itineraries offer calls at major cities and picturesque villages, all of which will be regional highlights, so you don't have to do the research on the best places to visit in an unfamiliar destination. If you're uncomfortable with independent sightseeing in a new locale, simply take a ship's tour with English-speaking guides. Or team up with more experienced travelers you meet online or onboard to share a cab or private guide.
Cruising Is Romantic
Anyone who's watched "The Love Boat" knows that there's a romance to sea travel. The wind in your hair, the vistas of endless ocean, the stars twinkling above all set the mood for love may be clichés but they’re real experiences onboard! If you want to rekindle the spark with your sweetie, a cruise vacation provides plenty of together time -- sharing side-by-side lounge chairs by the pool, a table for two at dinner, dancing in the evening or sharing quality time onshore. Cruise lines also have special packages for honeymoons, vow renewals and weddings onboard and onshore.
Cruising Is Social
If you love to meet people from around the country -- and the world -- cruising provides a wonderful opportunity to make new friends. Even before you embark, you can connect with cruisers on Cruise Critic's Roll Call forums and create groups to go on independent excursions. Onboard, you'll meet people at your dinner table, at the piano bar or by the pool. The person seated next to you might be from Paris, Texas, or Paris, France; London, Ontario, or London, England. Kids can find playmates their own age during youth activities, so they're not always with adults or their older or younger siblings. Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? We have proof that many long-term relationships begin during a vacation at sea.
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Cruise ship life can be a little mysterious. Your choices aren't always spelled out in black and white. The more you cruise, the more you pick up on the unofficial secrets the cruise lines don't tell you -- which give you more options, let you save money and generally allow you to have a better time onboard. Maybe it's knowing what your cabin steward is able to bring you or what the off-the-menu items are at the bar or dining room. Or perhaps it's a tip to getting a good deal on an onboard purchase. But why wait to figure these things out the hard way -- possibly after you've missed your chance? We trawled through all the great advice on Cruise Critic's Message Boards to bring you some of the worst-kept cruise secrets ... at least among our readers who love to share. But whether you're a first-time cruiser or an old sea dog, you might find there's something here you didn't already know.
There once was a not-so-savvy seafarer who didn't feel right unless she took two steamer trunks crammed with outfits on every cruise. This, she learned, was not a good idea. Besides incurring the wrath of her male traveling companion, who pointed out that he would have to wrestle with excess baggage through airport terminals and beyond, she quickly tired of cramming her belongings into tiny closets. The now savvy seafarer follows this packing rule: Thou shalt put into one's suitcase only that which will fit neatly in the allocated cabin storage space. Following that advice is getting easier because, for the most part, cruising has become a more casual vacation with relaxed dress codes. Plus, with airlines charging to check bags, it's just plain economical to pack light. To do so, you need to have a good sense of what you’re going to wear on a cruise so you don't pack your entire closet. If you're wondering what to bring on your next cruise, here are our guidelines for what you'll need to pack.
Cruise ship sun decks offer all the convenience of loungers, hot tubs and beverage service -- and all the headaches of screaming children, rock concerts on poolside screens and live bands playing "Hot Hot Hot" for the 20th time. Adults-only sun decks offer all the former in a much more serene environment. We have nothing against kids, but even on the most family-friendly cruise ships, an area explicitly excluding children gives parents a valuable hour or two of "me time," while maintaining the sanity of fellow cruisers who came on vacation for peace, quiet and minimal crying. Adults-only sun decks come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many have amenities not available in the main deck areas and nicer loungers or sun beds; some also require an entry fee. We have not included adults-only solariums that are strictly covered pools. If the only "whining" you want comes with dining, then consider the following six sun decks that maintain a strict adults-only ambiance.
Whether you've never been on a cruise ship or have been on 50, we bet there's something surprising you don't know about your cruise ship cabin. Staterooms are a little more complicated than hotel rooms, and you can learn a few tricks of the trade to make them more user-friendly. Most people stumble