13 Things I Hate About Cruises Even Though I Love to Cruise

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Passengers enjoying a day in the caribbean sun on the Royal Caribbean Independance of the Seas cruise ship pool deck

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If you’ve read this blog, you know I love to cruise.

Cruising represents an escape from the world. And a journey of cultural exploration, travel, and meeting new people.

Despite my love for cruising, I don’t love everything about it. And there are some aspects of cruising that I despise. This list pokes fun at some of the things I hate about cruising.

If you’re new to cruising, this list is a cautionary tale about what you can expect—a balance for all the good stories.

But don’t get me wrong. I love to cruise. And I’ll continue cruising as long as I can.

Deck Chair Hogs

Photo of a cruise ship passenger using a yellow towel on a blue sun lounger to reserve their chair with a clear blue pool in the background. They are known as a deck chair hogPin

Picture a beautiful sea day with the Caribbean sun beaming down, a gentle ocean breeze, and not a single pool lounger in sight. There’s nothing worse than making your way to the pool deck to find that all the loungers are reserved.

Chair hogs are early risers who claim the best poolside spots by placing a towel or book on the chair and disappearing for hours. They leave little choice for those who want to spend the day under the sun.

It’s one thing to use the poolside loungers and another to reserve a spot you won’t use for several hours. While securing a prime spot under the sun is tempting, hogging chairs without using them for prolonged periods shows a lack of consideration for fellow passengers.

The frustration is growing among cruisers. Take a quick look at cruise forums; thousands of passengers complain about their inability to find a spot on the pool deck.

Cruise lines are stepping up and introducing new guidelines to ensure fair play on the pool deck. Crew members monitor unattended chairs and confiscate belongings to free up spots for other passengers.

Muster Drills

Muster drills are an essential part of cruising. The safety briefing is a legal requirement that must be performed within 24 hours of a ship departing. Yet, they are a source of frustration among passengers, including myself.

Safety drills begin with an emergency alarm, signaling you to make your way to your assigned muster station. When everyone assembles their lifeboats, crew members provide instruction about essential safety procedures.

Muster drills take about 20 minutes, but the hassle of everyone gathering on the lower decks can be stressful when starting a cruise vacation.

It’s a necessary but frustrating way to kick off your vacation as thousands of passengers squeeze into designated areas, often in the sweltering heat. There are many better things I wish I could do on embarkation day, like lounge by the pool, explore the ship, or eat at the buffet.

Thankfully, cruise lines are making changes to the muster drill.

Many cruise lines allow guests to complete the muster drill from the cruise line’s mobile app. You’re provided a time window when you must visit your muster station and watch a safety video from your phone.

Mobile app muster drills were implemented when cruising began following the COVID-19 pandemic. They were implemented to minimize crowds and prevent the spread of disease.

However, passengers welcome the new muster drills. They’re more streamlined and less stressful, as you aren’t surrounded by crowds. I’ve also found that doing the drill from your mobile phone is quicker than gathering with thousands of passengers.

Smoking in Casinos

A smoky casino on a cruise ship with roulette and blackjack tables and slot machinesPin

Cruise ships limit smoking to designated areas on the ship’s upper decks. With one exception, the casino. Trying your luck at the casino is part of the cruise experience. However, the excitement is dampened for non-smokers when you find yourself enveloped in a haze of cigarette smoke.

Indoor smoking isn’t just a personal preference; it touches on health considerations and the comfort of all passengers.

The smell of cigarettes can be felt in the areas around the casino, making it difficult for some guests to enjoy nearby amenities. There are discussions in the cruise community about how to accommodate smoking without disrupting the experience for non-smokers.

Slot machines and table games at the casino on Scarlet LadyPin

Many cruise lines are adding improved air circulation and filtering within the casinos. Improved ventilation and smoke extraction systems reduce the impact on non-smoking guests.

Some cruise lines also experiment with designated smoking areas within casinos or even introduce smoke-free casino nights. In my experience, these changes don’t do much to mitigate the effect of cigarette smell.

If you want to gamble without the smoky air, look for cruise lines that ban indoor smoking. Celebrity Cruises is one such line that prohibits smoking in all indoor settings, including cruise ship casinos.

Getting Seasick

Seasickness is the enemy of many sailors, even seasoned cruisers. My cousin and I have had our own battles with seasickness.

I don’t get seasick often, but one night of bad weather sailing off the coast of Vancouver Island on my Alaskan cruise haunts my memories. Despite loving being on the open ocean, I wouldn’t say I like the feeling of seasickness.

It’s enough to ruin any vacation.

Today’s cruise ships are so big that you’ll rarely feel the ship sway in the waves. However, you may join the frustration of motion sickness on the rare occasion of bad weather.

Here are a few tips to keep the seasickness at bay on your cruise vacation:

  1. Book the Right Cabin: Book a cabin on a lower deck in the middle of the ship. You’ll feel less motion in these cabins, reducing the effects of motion sickness.
  2. Focus on the Horizon: Look at a fixed point on the horizon to help your brain reconcile the difference between what it feels (the motion of the boat) and what it sees. The visual cue of the horizon reduces the feeling of disorientation and nausea.
  3. Stay Hydrated and Eat Light: Dehydration can worsen the symptoms of seasickness, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids. Eat light meals that are easy on the stomach to help prevent nausea.
  4. Get Some Fresh Air: Fresh air and a gentle breeze can do wonders for seasickness. Spend time on deck and take deep breaths.
  5. Use Medications or Remedies as Needed: Over-the-counter medications effectively prevent and treat seasickness. Natural remedies, such as ginger, acupressure wristbands, and essential oils like peppermint and ginger, provide relief for some people. My cousin swears by the acupressure bracelets that she wears on every cruise.

Short Ports of Call

The Welcome sign on the pier at Bimini in the BahamasPin

One of the best things about cruising is the exciting places you’ll visit. Every cruiser knows the thrill of waking up in a new port of call and the anticipation of exploring exotic destinations.

However, short stays in ports of call are a bittersweet cruising element. They offer a taste of an exotic locale without enough time to explore.

I hate the rushed feeling of a short port stay where I must choose between shopping, exploring, a shore excursion, or a bus tour.

Cruise lines are looking to add longer port stays and overnight visits. However, it’s best to check the length of the ports of call on the itinerary before booking.

Small Cabins

The ocean veiw from a balcony cabin on a royal caribbean cruise shipPin

One inescapable fact about cruising is the small cabins. When you step into your stateroom for the first time, the compactness might take you aback.

The sleeping quarters are designed with ample storage space, but they’re much smaller than you’d expect.

Unless you splurge on a suite, small cruise cabins are a staple of the cruising experience. The small staterooms allow cruise ships to pack more cabins, entertainment venues, and restaurants.

Here are some tips to maximize your space and not feel claustrophobic:

  • Unpack Strategically: Use the closets, drawers, and storage spaces to unpack your belongings, keeping the space clutter-free. You can store your suitcase under the bed so it’s out of sight.
  • Stay Organized: Small spaces can quickly feel chaotic if items are left out of place. Keep your cabin organized to provide more space.
  • Spend Time Outdoors: With so many activities, entertainment options, and decks to explore, you won’t need to spend much time in your cabin.
  • Choose Cabin Wisely: If space is a concern, consider upgrading to a larger cabin or one with a balcony. The extra cost is worth the added comfort and private veranda.
The bathroom on the Symphony of the Seas cruise shipPin

I don’t spend much time in my cabin. With so much to see and explore, the small size isn’t a deal breaker.

But what I can’t stand is the size of the bathroom.

The bathrooms on cruise ships are tiny. As a taller person, I find it uncomfortable to shower and get ready in the morning. I’d prefer slightly shrinking the cabin if it meant a bigger bathroom.

All the Upsells

If you’ve set sail on a cruise, you’re no stranger to the concept of upsells. From the moment you book your cruise, you’ll receive emails with offers to enhance your cruise experience. When you step on board, crew members begin encouraging you to spend more on drink packages, WiFi, shore excursions, spa treatments, fitness classes, and dining at specialty restaurants.

These options can add a special touch to your journey, but the constant pressure from cruise lines is infuriating.

Unlike most resorts, cruise lines are not all-inclusive. Your base fare covers the necessities of your cruise vacation but not everything.

A tequila sunrise in a clear glass on a wooden table beside a pool on the pool deck of a cruise shipPin

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying for extras.

I actually like that I can customize my vacation and only pay for what I need.

But I hate the way cruise lines push the upsells. An email or two is fine, and a crew member advertising the drink package on embarkation day is okay.

What I can’t stand is the constant push to buy more. Consider your waiter offering for-a-fee menu items, advertisements before shows, and crew members stopping you in the halls asking if you’re interested in “upgrading your cruise experience.”

Some cruise lines are better than others. I find Carnival to be much less pushy than Royal Caribbean. But it’s a pain all the same.

Some cruise lines are making changes.

Virgin Voyages offers all-inclusive pricing that bundles your cruise fare with WiFi and gratuities. There is also no upcharge at restaurants or fitness classes.

I really enjoyed sailing with Virgin Voyages. I felt less pressure from the staff, allowing me to fully relax and enjoy my voyage.

Other cruise lines provide the choice of paying for more inclusive fares, like Celebrity Cruises All Included and Princess Cruises Princess Plus.

But if you really want an all-inclusive cruise line, select a luxury cruise line.

Expensive Drinks

A bright colored tequila sunrise alcoholic beverage sitting on the edge of a pool on the Princess Cruises shipPin

One surprise for new cruisers is the high price of drinks. Cruise ship drinks are expensive, whether it’s a fancy cocktail, a premium coffee, a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer.

Whether you pay for individual drinks or purchase a beverage package, it hits your wallet.

And it’s not just alcohol.

Most cruise lines charge extra for soda, freshly squeezed juice, and water bottles.

Like resorts, cruise lines charge premium beverage prices, capitalizing on the convenience and captive audience. This isn’t to say that enjoying a drink or two isn’t worth the splurge—after all, you’re on vacation! But it does call for strategic planning to ensure your bar tab doesn’t become an unintended souvenir of your trip.

Editor’s Tip

Drink packages are not worth it unless you drink 6-8 alcoholic beverages per day. You can save money on drinks by bringing alcohol on the cruise ship.

Long Lines

Cruise ships offer plenty of exciting thrills and activities. But among the thrills comes the reality of long lines. You’ll find lines at the elevators, buffet, shows, activities, and the tender boat.

These moments of waiting interrupt the seamless and relaxing flow of your vacation.

I don’t like waiting in line on vacation, but there is an unexpected benefit—the social interactions.

Waiting in lineups creates unexpected social interactions with other cruisers. While anticipation builds for the show, activity, or shore excursion, it’s a great time to talk and meet new people.

The Weight Gain

Tacos, Burritos, and Quesedillas served at the windjammer marketplace buffet on symphony of the seasPin

It’s a popular saying that you’ll gain a pound per day on a cruise. With so much food available, it’s easy to go overboard on the eating (pun intended).

The endless variety of food and dining experiences is enough to tempt the strongest of wills.

I weighed myself before and after my Symphony of the Seas cruise.

I knew I had gained some weight, but I was shocked to discover I had gained over 10 pounds on a 7-night sailing.

It sounds bad, but most of it was waterweight that disappeared after a few days.

However, weight gain doesn’t have to be inevitable in the cruising experience.

The fruit serving section of the Windjammer marketplacePin

Many cruise lines are increasingly aware of their guests’ health and wellness concerns. Cruise lines offer fitness centers, active shore excursions, and healthier dining choices. Spa menus offer light options, fresh fruits and vegetables, onboard fitness classes, and jogging tracks, providing many chances to mix indulgence with health.

Mindfulness is key.

You can eat healthy on a cruise ship and still indulge by opting for smaller portions, staying active, limiting alcohol intake, and staying hydrated.

Single Supplement Charges

Woman standing in front of a cruise ship before traveling soloPin

Solo cruisers have long faced a financial hurdle that dims the excitement of cruising alone: the single supplement charge. Cruise lines charge a single supplement fee to solo cruisers who book a cabin alone. The fee essentially pays for the empty bed a second guest could have occupied.

The solo supplement policy feels like a penalty to cruisers traveling solo.

The single supplement results from cruise lines pricing cabins on double occupancy. In other words, cabins are priced with the expectation of two guests sharing the costs.

When a solo traveler occupies a room designed for two, the cruise line has lost revenue.

Photo of a blond woman on the best cruise lines for solo travelers leaning on a raling looking at the ship’s wake and the sunsetPin

The fees charged to solo travelers make business sense. But it f feels unfair to those traveling, solo.

Cruise lines recognize the burden of charging more to solo cruisers and are changing to accommodate solo travelers. Cruise lines offer solo cabins specifically designed for a single person, and these cabins come without a single supplement.

Norwegian Cruise Line goes one step further, providing a solo lounge – a dedicated space for solo travelers to mix and mingle.

The shift towards accommodating solo travelers with more equitable pricing and dedicated spaces is a positive step forward, making cruising a more inclusive and accessible option for everyone.

Gratuities

A stack of hundred dollar bills left on a cruise ship bed beside an open balcony windowPin

Tipping is already a contentious topic, but the conversation becomes even more complex when it comes to cruising. Adding automatic gratuities to the bill is a common policy among most major cruise lines, sparking widespread debate among cruisers.

Cruise lines add a daily gratuity charge to your bill to distribute tips among the ship’s frontline staff. However, many people new to cruising are unaware of the automatic charges until they receive the final bill at the end of the voyage.

My parents encountered this issue on our first cruise over twenty years ago. My dad tipped all the cabin stewards, wait staff, and other crew members throughout the cruise. It’s a practice we were used to from visiting resorts.

At the end of the cruise, we were presented with a bill that included gratuities. Talk about a shock.

American money left on the bed in a cruise ship balcony cabin as a gratuity to crew members. The balcony window in the background is open revealing the ocean horizon and a small island.Pin

Another debated issue is whether it’s ethical for cruise lines to charge gratuities automatically.

Many people argue that tipping should remain a personal matter. Tipping should be a choice to show appreciation for service that goes above and beyond. By charging gratuities automatically, cruise lines remove the personal element of tipping. It turns a voluntary gesture of thanks into a mandatory fee.

Compounding the issue is the fact that, for many, the concept of gratuities is culturally specific.

The expectations around tipping vary widely from one country to another. Cruisers from regions where tipping is not customary often experience sticker shock when they discover the automatic tipping charges on their account.

Crew members standing on the deck of a Princess crusie shipPin
(Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

In response to the criticisms, cruise lines are being more transparent about automatic gratuities. Many provide passengers the option to prepay their gratuities. Prepaying gratuities allows travelers to take care of tipping in advance, making budgeting easier and avoiding end-of-cruise surprises.

Despite the controversy, it’s important to remember that gratuities are a significant part of the income for many crew members. Cruise line staff go to great lengths to ensure passengers have a memorable and enjoyable experience.

If you have a bad experience, several people have reported that you can have the tips removed from your account by visiting guest services on the ship or contacting the cruise line.

Saying Goodbye

Disney Fantasy docked at port canaveral cruise terminal in floridaPin

The final morning of a cruise is a mix of emotions—a bittersweet goodbye to your vacation and a return to the realities of life.

Yes, there are some things I hate about cruising. But I love cruise ships. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than on the open ocean.

Saying goodbye to the cruise ship is what I hate most about cruising.

Disembarking from a cruise is more than leaving a vacation; it’s leaving a community formed on the journey. However, this sadness is tinged with gratitude and the promise of future travels.

Saying goodbye encapsulates the deep impact of these journeys, where the sadness of departure becomes a valued part of the adventure.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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