As a longtime avoider of mega cruise ships, I had a lot of assumptions going into my first large-ship cruise. It would be crowded, I thought. I would be incapacitated by seasickness. My only dining choices would be sub-par buffets. Realizing I was floating on a raft of preconceptions before even leaving port, I spoke with some fellow cruise-ship avoiders to develop a list of common reasons people don’t cruise. Once onboard, I set out to prove each of these cruise ship myths right or wrong. Here’s what I found.
You Think the Rooms Will Feel Tight
Unless you’re going super high-end, staterooms on large ships are usually on the small side. But, they’re also engineered to use every inch efficiently. For instance, in bathrooms, there may be limited counter space but plenty of vertical shelving, and in-room televisions are often attached to the wall to free up surface space. Keeping your items organized and packing strategically for a cruise can also go a long way toward maintaining a feeling of relative spaciousness in limited-square-footage rooms.
You Don’t Like Crowds
The mere thought of 3,000 people (or more) entering and exiting a ship through a single doorway is enough to trigger claustrophobia in almost anyone. But it turns out that the way most cruise lines organize boarding and disembarkation pretty effectively limits crowds getting on and off the ship.
Initial boarding as well as leaving the ship at the end of the cruise both take place over multi-hour windows. At ports of call, departure times for shore excursions tend to be staggered, which means most people exit the ship in small groups rather than big crowds.
If you’re particularly claustrophobic, though, you may want to avoid itineraries that stop in ports where ships can’t dock, since that will mean passengers need to be shuttled to the shore on small boats called tenders, a process which can slow disembarkation and allow lines to build up.
You Don’t Like Buffets
Is it the sneeze guards? The heat lamps? The overflowing plates? There are plenty of reasons to dislike buffets—but on most large ships, there are also plenty of alternatives.
Casual diners can find walk-up spots peppered around most ships that offer the likes of pizza, sushi, and ice cream. Formal dining rooms offer easy access to multicourse sit-down dining experiences during meal hours. And specialty restaurants offer a more familiar sit-down, menu-driven experience, plus food you won’t find at the buffet. A number of cruise lines also offer free or sometimes-free room service.
You Get Seasick
The seasick among us know that nothing ruins a vacation faster than constant nausea. But it’s not cause for writing off a cruise entirely. In fact, a surprising number of dedicated cruisers are prone to seasickness.
For most, seasickness is something that can be managed. If you can get out in front of it, you can minimize or even eliminate it entirely with the help of medication (or seabands, for those with mild symptoms). Two of the most popular medications are Dramamine and Bonine, though there’s a long list of medicines to address the malady.
Before you go, experiment with the different types—some people report sleepiness with some of the medicines but not others.
You Don’t Like Talking to Strangers
Large cruise lines offer a robust calendar of events each day while also maintaining tranquil spaces for solitary pursuits. Dining areas usually have small-table options where you’re free to sit solo. Libraries, cafes, and other cozy nooks for sitting are perfect for people who want a peaceful moment, as are quiet zones like adult-only pools and relaxation spaces.
And if you don’t like initiating conversations with strangers but still want to meet people, check the daily activities calendar, which is packed with gatherings for everyone from history buffs to dance fanatics—there’s sure to be an event that attracts likeminded folks with whom you’ll have plenty to chat about.
You Don’t Want to Just Skim the Surface of Destinations
A common sticking point among non-cruisers is the sense that, on a cruise, you’re only in port for a few hours, and never get the chance to get to know a destination. Cruise lines understand this, and a growing number of lines are building either a few extra hours (enough, for instance, to check out the nightlife before returning to the ship) or even multiple days in a single port.
On itineraries that do have limited time in port, though, you can take matters into your own hands to get more out of a stop. If none of the ship’s shore excursions offer a local’s-eye view or a closer look at local culture, find your own tour that gives you what you want.
I’m partial to Viator, which lists tours run by locals offering everything from cooking classes to history walks. (Viator is one of SmarterTravel’s sister sites.) And remember that, while a cruise may not offer a deep-dive into a single port, it does offer a good regional overview so you’ll know where you’d like to revisit on your own.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Cruise Passport Requirements: Do I Need a Passport to Go on a Cruise?
- 10 Caribbean Islands Where Cruise Ships Never Go
- Air Passenger Rights: The On-the-Go Guide