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Five common misperceptions about cruising

SmarterTravel

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “The only people who go on cruises are the overfed, the newly wed, and the nearly dead.” You may even believe that today’s sailings resemble the movie Titanic with gussied-up rich people spending hours playing shuffleboard and dining in formal settings.

If so, your vision of the cruise industry is sorely out of date. Today’s sea vacations are nothing like the ocean liner crossings of yesteryear. Don’t let your misperceptions about cruising prevent you from considering a vacation at sea. Instead, let me debunk a few of the most common myths for you.

Myth one: All the guests are newly wed or nearly dead

Once upon a time, the only people booking cruises were retirees and couples fresh from their weddings. Not so today. The average age of a cruise passenger is 49, according to a study done by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); it’s the first time the average has dipped below 50, proving that cruise vacationers are getting younger.

Many cruise lines are actively courting families with young children and teenagers. Dedicated kids’ and teen facilities offer hangouts and activities geared to the younger set. Jumping nightclubs and onboard attractions such as rock-climbing walls, state-of-the art fitness centers, and sports decks attract active adults. Sure, some of the higher-end lines have an older clientele, but other ships can have up to a third of all guests be kids. During the peak summer season, a family-friendly line such as Royal Caribbean can have as many as 1,000 kids onboard a given sailing. Today’s cruise lines can entertain all sorts of passengers, and you’ll find all ages onboard.

NEXT >> Myth two: Cruises are boring

Myth two: Cruises are boring

“There is a cruise for you, even if you don’t know it,” affirms Andy Stuart, executive vice president of marketing and sales for Norwegian Cruise Line and chairman of CLIA. Many people think cruises involve nothing more than lounging in a beach chair all day when you’re not gorging yourself on nonstop food. But, the industry has grown beyond that image to offer a range of activities and experiences.

If you’re looking for an upscale, active, quiet, or gourmet vacation experience, you can find a cruise to fit your needs. Whether you want to spend the entire cruise eating or only care about the destinations visited, a good travel agent can pair you with a cruise you’ll love. Royal Caribbean suits active guests with onboard surfing, ice skating, boxing, climbing, and golfing, and Princess is introducing new programs such as dancing competitions, spelling bees, and cooking lessons for kids. Onboard entertainment ranges from Broadway-style shows to comedians and lecturers, and the ship’s lounges cater to all musical preferences from rock to classical, jazz, and old standards. The key is identifying what you want out of a vacation and finding the ship that fits your needs.

NEXT >> Myth three: Cruising is too expensive

Myth three: Cruising is too expensive

Sure, all those folks on the Titanic were filthy rich (with the exception of the poor souls in steerage). And perhaps you can’t afford the most luxurious vessels out there. But, do you think $399—a mere $57 per night—for seven nights of accommodations, all-you-can-eat food, entertainment, and transportation between the mainland and several Caribbean islands is expensive? Because right now, Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a seven-night Caribbean cruise at that price.

Basically, you can spend as much or as little as you want on a cruise. An inside cabin on a shoulder-season voyage with a mainstream line will cost less than a mini-suite during high season on a more upscale line. But, many cruises are affordable to the general public. Just don’t forget to factor in extras such as gratuities, alcohol and soft drinks, and shore excursions when you’re pricing your next sea vacation.

NEXT >> Myth four: Cruises are too rigid and structured

Myth four: Cruises are too rigid and structured

Do you think that all cruises force guests to eat at one of two dinner seatings with assigned dinner companions at designated tables? Do you expect to don a ballgown or tuxedo on at least two nights to be allowed into the dining room? Do you fear a rigid schedule of ports, embarkation times, showtimes, and activities?

Then lighten up—the cruise lines have. “There have been some very real changes to the cruise product,” says Stuart. “When Norwegian introduced ‘freestyle’ cruising, it did away with formal dress and fixed dining.” Norwegian offers anytime dining in as many as 10 shipboard restaurants, while Carnival offers four dining times instead of two and Princess offers fixed dinner seating as well as flexible dining. “The industry is more effectively differentiated,” explains Stuart. “You now have a genuine choice.” Bigger ships can offer guests more freedom and choice so you don’t have to feel that you’re locked into someone else’s schedule or dress code. And if you prefer the comfort of a set schedule, you can choose a cruise line that offers that option.

NEXT >> Myth five: I’ll get seasick

Myth five: I’ll get seasick

Landlubbers, take heart! A cruise ship is a far cry from a dinghy, and its stability is much greater. Seasickness is rarely an issue.

Modern-day cruise ships employ stabilizers to keep the ship on an even keel. The stabilizers are essentially retractable underwater wings that can change position in order to balance the ship against the motion of the ocean. Today’s ships are so steady, you can easily forget you’re on the water. If you’re still concerned, ask a travel agent whether the ship you’re considering uses the most up-to-date stabilizing technology.

You can also take precautions to minimize the effects of seasickness. The most stable cabins are those in the center of the ship and on lower decks, so ask for one of these cabins when you book. You’ll need to roam the ship during the day, but at least you won’t be rocking too much when you try to sleep. You can purchase over-the-counter remedies such as Dramamine or Bonine or wear a scopolamine patch behind your ear. Ginger naturally reduces the effects of sea sickness, so pack some candied ginger or powdered ginger capsules in your luggage. Another option is to wear special wristbands that press on acupuncture points to relieve nausea. If you plan on taking preventive measures against seasickness, be sure to consult a doctor or pharmacist beforehand.

Make a knowledgeable decision

A cruise is not always going to be the right vacation for every occasion. But the goal is to decide whether to cruise or not based on facts rather than myths. If after reading this article, you find that you’re curious but still skeptical, call up a travel agent who specializes in cruises or browse around in SmarterTravel.com’s Cruise section. The truth is out there, and it’s a myth to think you can’t find it.

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