Cruises are one of the world’s most popular vacations: according to a report by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association¹, more than 24.2 million people went on a cruise in 2016. Despite this, there are a lot of misconceptions about cruises.
If you’ve never been on a cruise, you likely think cruises are expensive, inconvenient, or dull. However, the cruise industry truly offers options for every taste and budget. Here are a few surprising things you likely didn’t know about cruises.
1. The Possibilities Are Endless
When most people imagine what a cruise is like, images from those ubiquitous Carnival Cruise commercials come to mind: a massive, city-sized ship on the open ocean with thousands of passengers and a lot of entertainment.
In reality, though, the variety across different cruise options is truly amazing. Regardless of your interests or budget, there’s certain to be an option that matches your idea of the perfect vacation. You can choose from cruises with themes ranging from healthy eating to jazz music or from cruises catering to specific groups like seniors, the disabled, or the LGBT community.
2. You Don’t Have to Be at Sea the Entire Time
If the idea of spending your one-and-only yearly vacation at sea seems like too much, realize that the vast majority of cruises include stops at various ports of call. For those who prefer a more balanced mix of time at sea and on land, cruise and stay vacations, in which you typically spend time at the beginning or end of the trip at the departure city, are popular and readily available. There are also cruise tour vacations that incorporate several days and nights on land at various popular destinations with breaks of a day or two at sea.
3. Accommodations Are More Flexible Than You Think
You might dread the idea of being cooped up in a small cruise cabin with no windows. Such cabins are indeed the most affordable — and they’re great for people who only plan to sleep in their cabins — but they’re far from the only option.
Today, affordable cabins increasingly include some private outdoor space. Those who want to splurge can upgrade to a suite with more space and perks like butler service. Families can share one large cabin or reserve neighboring cabins with interconnecting doors for more privacy.
4. Seasickness Isn’t Really an Issue
If you’re susceptible to motion sickness or seasickness, you might be reluctant to embark on a cruise. However, the sheer size of these ships makes this a non-issue; they’re so big and heavy that the sea isn’t generally rough enough to rock them around. Cruise ships are also equipped with state-of-the-art stabilizers that eliminate rocking. Finally, if you do become seasick, all cruise ships have doctors on board who can help, and anti-nausea and anti-motion sickness medications are sold on board.
5. There Are Activities for Every Taste
On-board entertainment on cruise ships has become incredibly varied and refined. These days, you can easily find cruises that offer activities and entertainment options for virtually every interest. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, for example, boasts an on-board planetarium; stargazing at night on the open sea has to be incredible. The Carnival Vista has its own full-size IMAX theater. In terms of activities, you can find cruises that offer everything from laser tag to zip lining to wine tasting.
How to Save Money on a Cruise
If you’re concerned about the affordability of a cruise, here are a few ways to save money on a cruise:
1. Be Flexible
A great way to snag a rock-bottom rate on a cruise is by holding off until about three to six weeks before the cruise is set to depart. At that point, you’ll be limited to whatever cabins are left and may need to book an interior cabin with no windows. However, you’ll enjoy a drastically reduced fare. It also pays to avoid peak seasons and to schedule cruises for “shoulder seasons,” or the periods between summer and fall or spring and summer.
2. Try a Homeport Cruise
One thing that makes cruising expensive is having to buy a plane ticket just to get to the departure city. Increasingly, major cruise lines are offering cruises that depart from coastal cities across the United States. Throughout the year, you can cruise out of virtually any major Florida port city. Depending on the season and other variables, you can also cruise out of cities like Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, New York, Galveston, and Baltimore.
3. Plan a Group Trip and Cruise for Free
Most major cruise lines offer perks to people who bring them large groups of people. By designating yourself as a group planner and rounding up at least 16 people on a two-per-cabin basis, you may be awarded with free accommodations for you and your cabin mate, for example. Other times, cruise lines reward group planners with credits for things like internet access, on-board activities, and shore excursions.
Discover the Joy of Cruising
Knowing what you do now, you won’t want to miss out on the fun of taking a cruise any longer. If you’re ready to book your first cruise, now’s the time to start researching the available options. Search online for different cruise destinations and packages. From weeklong family cruises to romantic weekend sailings and everything in between, the perfect cruise is out there at an affordable price. With a little time, patience, and research, you can find a cruise that doesn’t break the bank and will help you create memories of a lifetime.
Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.