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.
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.