If you've never been on a cruise before, you've probably heard stories from people that have been and shared stories of their adventures, and you might have wondered, "Is a cruise travel right for me?"
Over the last few years, cruise travel has steadily become more popular, with an average growth of 7% per year in passenger numbers. In some ways, it’s not hard to see why this is so. They can offer amazing value for money, everything from your accommodation and food to daytime and evening entertainment is included in the price, and you can visit and explore multiple destinations in one trip.
That being said, cruise travel isn’t right for everyone and if you are thinking of going on your first cruise, there are a number of things you should consider before making that booking. Here are a few questions to help you decide whether cruise travel is right for you.
This is probably the most important thing to think about when you are planning on taking a cruise. As you’ll be spending the majority of your time on the ship, there’s not much point in taking this kind of vacation if you end up spending most of it leaning over a toilet bowl. Even on the bigger and, most stabilized cruise ships, your body will still register that it’s on open water and if you’re particularly sensitive to this kind of motion, you may find that cruise travel isn’t right for you.
If you’re unsure of whether you suffer from seasickness or not, it’s best to try a shorter boat journey first just to see how you fare. Remember that there are onboard medics to help you if you’re feeling ill and many cruise ships can offer a motion sickness shot, although you’ll need to pay for this. But if your seasickness is of the severe variety, it’s better to keep both of your feet on land.
2. Am I OK with being around strangers, particularly at mealtimes?
A huge part of traveling of any kind is meeting new people. However, one of the advantages of meeting new people in a hotel or hostel is that you can retreat and have some alone time if you so need, whether that’s heading off sightseeing, going out for dinner by yourself, or just spending time in your room. On a cruise ship, on the other hand, it’s a little bit trickier to do this unless you are going on-shore for an excursion. When it comes to mealtimes, don’t expect to be on a table by yourself or with just your travel companion if you are traveling as a twosome – unless you are onboard one of the luxury cruise lines such as Silversea, tables for two are incredibly rare.
While it’s possible to request a table change when you get on board (the longer you leave it, the more unlikely it becomes that your request will be granted), you’re still probably going to have to dine with people you don’t know – or at least you won’t know them immediately. Cruises are sociable vessels and are perfect for those who love meeting new people from all walks of life; if this doesn’t sound like you, rethink booking your cruise.
Apart from the seasickness problem, this is the worry that most people have about embarking on their first cruise. However, it’s pretty much impossible to be bored on a cruise these days. Most modern cruise ships have most, if not all, of the following facilities:
bars and pubs
This is just a small selection of what most cruise ships have onboard as standard. Depending on the cruise liner you take, you can be sure that they’ll be plenty of other things for you to do.
It has to be said, for many people sitting on a cruise ship for the vast majority of their holiday isn’t, well, a holiday. There is this idea that going on a cruise means spending most of your time onboard and only occasionally taking a shore excursion, maybe once or twice a week. However, while some cruises run this kind of policy, it’s not true of all cruise companies.
There are many companies that offer a more in-depth look at the countries you’re visiting, such as Hurtigruten, Australis, and Lindblad Expeditions. Also, remember that while on many cruise liners many passengers only head onshore once or twice a week, there are sometimes more excursions available; it’s just that not all passengers take advantage of every single one. If you want to know which shore excursions are available for the cruise you’re hoping to take, contact the cruise company for more details.
In the past, cruises have been associated with the older generations of travelers, and this belief is still held by many people today. However, cruise companies have expanded their services and there are now lots of cruise ships that offer plenty for travelers of all ages. If you’re traveling with children, many cruise liners have lots of activities catering to toddlers, young kids, and teenagers.
Royal Caribbean cruises, for example, have a whole host of fun things to do, such as rock climbing, ice skating, surfing, and DJ classes onboard and hiking, cycling, and kayaking shore excursions. Over the last few years, more and more cruise companies have started to target the millennial and young adult markets; Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Virgin Voyages are all excellent choices when it comes to young adult cruises, with activities and facilities such as spas, yoga classes, and pool parties on offer.
6. Aren’t cruises really formal? Will I have to dress up for dinner?
Again, this is something that has changed immensely in recent years in cruise travel. Nowadays, cruises, in general, are much less formal than they used to be. In fact, many vessels actually have a number of informal dining options available, such as buffets, pizza parlors, and sushi bars, so there is no need to dress up whatsoever. Of course, there are those cruises that will have formal evenings where elegant attire is required, but they aren’t every night and not obligatory. This isn’t to say that you can’t dress up if you want to; you’re at perfect liberty to wear whatever you like on a cruise. If you’re not sure about the dress code, check with your travel agent or cruise company.
7. But surely taking a cruise isn’t a real vacation?
Another myth that seems to persist around cruise travel is that, because you’re spending most of your time on a ship, it isn’t a real vacation. This is a really unfair misconception. If you are going on a cruise holiday mainly for sun and relaxation, how is this any different from traveling to a popular holiday resort hotel? They both have the same facilities, it’s just one is inland and the other isn’t. Besides, as I mentioned previously, cruise holidays have changed significantly in the last few years, so they are no longer just about sitting on deck sunbathing.
All kinds of activities, both onboard and onshore, are available, plus there are also specialty cruises, such as those heading to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands, which offer travelers a completely new experience than what they may get from a traditional vacation. With cruise companies doing all they can to appeal to a wider range of clientele, it should come as no surprise that these kinds of trips have become more and more popular in recent years. So, if you’re considering taking the plunge and booking your first cruise vacation, remember that there is a cruise holiday for everyone, no matter what your likes and preferences.