What you will hate about your first cruise

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If you find yourself on this page, then you are probably a cruise virgin looking for a cruise. Chances are you are curious about cruising and want to learn more. Keep reading because I have put together some of the top complaints that I have heard from people who have hated their first (and probably last) cruise.

Cruise school in session
Cruise school in session


1. Most first time cruisers that pick the wrong ship will hate the experience.

I am a huge fan of using a travel agent, especially one that is a cruise expert. A good cruise travel counselor can make all the difference in the world when it comes to planning a perfect vacation. For those people that don’t know a travel agent, it gets a little tricky. Searching for a cruise line and ship that will match your budget and lifestyle is a huge challenge.

A popular misconception about cruising these days is about the all-inclusive nature of cruising. It simply is not true unless you are on a luxury cruise ship or a ship-within-a-ship concept onboard the mass-market cruise ships (NCL and MSC have the best ones).

2. Expect to spend from two pocketbooks

What most first time cruisers hate is discovering that their vacation budget must include two pocketbooks: the pre-cruise budget to secure ship, cabin, and costs associated with getting to and from the ship. And the second pocketbook for all the additional charges on the ship that can accrue for shore excursions, specialty restaurants, coffee drinks, soda, alcohol, spa treatments, arcade games, fitness classes (like spinning, yoga, aquacycle, etc.) – the list goes on.

3. Realizing that the ship does not look like the brochure or YouTube video

There are quite a few cruise lines that delver amazing experiences. However, there are also many cruise lines that take shortcuts when it comes to quality. To make matters worse, not all cruise ships in a fleet are the same, which is true for Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Viking River Cruises.

Here are the biggest onboard challenges for first-time cruisers to overcome:

  • Suddenly learning that a mass-market ship that can accommodate 5000 guests means that the ship is crowded and that public spaces like pools and popular venues are over-run with people. The remedy for this is to pick a mid-sized ship that has a higher space-per-guest-ratio.
  • Realizing that the cabin is smaller than a regular hotel rooms (unless you are in a suite, which can be very posh).
  • Realizing that the shower is no bigger than a motor home (not true for all cruise ships, but quite a shock to the system for first time cruisers).
  • Getting overwhelmed by onboard choices, for example: figuring out where to eat besides the dining room (beware the cover charges) and what to drink (consider drink packages, soda cards, and ask about corkage fees if you can bring your own wine onboard).
  • Discovering that your cruise bill at the end of the vacation could be more that the cost of the cruise. Make sure to get a mid-voyage printout of your onboard charges to avoid surprises.

Last word

To avoiding hating your first cruise, make sure to have realistic expecations and try to ask as many questions ahead of time. If you find yourself on the ship with a less than happy feeling make it a priority to head to the guest relations desk to sort out any problems. Cruise lines want you back onboard and will do whatever it takes to sort your issues to help you have a great vacation.

If you have any tips to share with others about how to plan a great cruise, make sure to leave a comment.



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