As much as it pains us to admit, we all have cruise experiences that don't go exactly as planned. Whether it's foul weather or a poor choice of excursion, problems can happen (although we here at Cruise Critic maintain that there are no bad cruises, just people on the wrong ship).
This week, we are taking a look back at 2017, noting our favorite (and least favorite) cruise experiences of the year. We hope it inspires you to share your top cruise memories, and think about where you want to go in 2018. (read our Favorite Shore Experience from yesterday and Biggest Cruise Surprises from Tuesday). Today: our worst cruise experiences of 2017.
ATVs look like such fun -- and the rocky, desert-scape of the northern Aruba coast seemed like the perfect place to give it a whirl. So on a Southern Caribbean cruise, my friend and I booked an independent excursion with a reputable operator. Turns out that even a good reputation can't save an inexperienced ATV driver from potential danger. As I picked our way among the boulders with our vehicle (we originally planned on taking turns in the front seat, but my friend freaked out after a brief test drive), my confidence lessened. Finally, on one particularly steep incline, I felt the ATV rear up, like it was going to fall over. My life flashed in front of my eyes; I suddenly remembered all of the "clueless person dies in ATV crash" headlines I had read. One of the operators saw our predicament and guided me through the rest of the natural obstacle course safely. Still, the event produced an adrenaline rush that I'm loathe to repeat again. Next time, I'll stick to smoother ground.
-- Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor
My mom and I were having a wonderful time on Oceania's Insignia in September, when Hurricane Irma hit. The reports from Texas and areas affected by Hurricane Harvey were still coming through, with initial tallies on damage (it has since been declared the costliest Atlantic hurricane in history), so images of devastation were still pretty fresh in everyone's minds. As more detailed information came in from the National Weather Service, it became apparent that Irma was going to be a major hurricane, and would greatly impact Florida, along with other cruise destinations. I tuned in every free moment to the coverage on our cabin television, and watched the updates with a knot in my stomach. Little did we know Hurricane Maria would form so soon after, marking one of the worst hurricane seasons in modern history. Even though Insignia was well out of the path of any storm, many cruisers onboard lived or had property in Florida, and there were a lot of questions. I helped them by passing on the latest information from Cruise Critic's stellar news team, who reported the latest deviations and port conditions.
-- Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor
I'm guilty. I made the mistake of having my heart set on a port that ended up being canceled due to bad weather. It would have been my first visit to Belize City, and I had booked an amazing, all-day excursion to the Mayan Ruins. I was bummed, at first, but didn't let it put a damper on my cruise. Besides, a last-minute change of plans can be exciting -- and that it was. Carnival rerouted our ship to Progreso, Mexico (another new port for me), and the new excursion I signed up for turned out to be one for the books.
-- Gina Kramer, Editor
On a family vacation that included my parents along with a whole bunch of friends, we experienced a nightmare moment, when my father, who still is suffering from the effects of a stroke that hit him two years ago, had a seizure and fell in his cabin on Navigator of the Seas. It's terrifying to hear a PA announcement calling the ship's medical team to the cabin of a loved one. Dad suffered a head injury and was bleeding, unable to communicate. But the Royal Caribbean medical team was incredible, tending to his injuries, keeping my mom (and me!) calm and treating him with great care. After an IV and some much-needed rest -- plus a trip to the hospital at our next port stop -- Dad was cleared to finish our cruise. The Navigator of the Seas staff helped make a terrible situation manageable, checking in on us throughout the cruise to make sure everything was still OK.
-- Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor
Disembarking early from Holland America's Noordam in New Zealand. I was invited onboard for half of the two-week voyage and had to leave before the scenic sailing through Milford Sound, just when I was getting to know lots of lovely passengers and crew and becoming a regular at Stryker's Piano Bar.
-- Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor
I'm always game for trying something new, so on a visit to Costa Maya, I signed up for a Segway tour -- something I'd never done before. While it was cool to drive a Segway, the tour itself wasn't the greatest. The guides took us over to what might have been an abandoned strip mall, where we had a safety briefing and practiced on the Segways in an empty concrete lot. Then we got in a line and drove down a main road -- not scenic -- to a lighthouse for a photo opp, then down the crowded main drag of Majahual, where we dodged oblivious tourists and merchants hawking their souvenirs. I wouldn't necessarily call the tour fun or enjoyable, and we didn't see anything of interest. Compared to the culinary tour we did in Honduras and zip-lining in Belize, this excursion was a dud.
-- Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
The day before a European river cruise, I injured my leg during a softball game, scraping the top layers of skin clean off. The next day, I bandaged it the best I could and limped to the airport to board my six-hour flight. By the time I reached my pre-cruise hotel, my gam was swollen and throbbing. The week that followed was agony, forcing me to take extreme measures that included a German shopping spree to buy additional antiseptic, bandages and shorts -- no easy feat in 50-degree weather -- because pants were too painful. The lovely ship and European ports more than made up for it, though.
-- Ashley Kosciolek, Editor
Poor planning often makes for a poor cruise experience. Such was the case for me when I assumed my Mekong River cruise that started in Vietnam and ended in Cambodia would include a visit to the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat. It didn't. And while the cruise itself was amazing it was quite disheartening to arrive in Phnom Penh and have to go straight to the airport, knowing there was a good chance I'd never be back to that part of the world again. Just a little research on my part -- or even simply asking the question, will I get to see Angkor Watt -- would have saved me the disappointment.
-- Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor