When considering a cruise many people feel overwhelmed trying to weigh up the pros and cons. There are multiple positives and negatives to taking a cruise vacation.
Cruises definitely aren’t for everybody but I believe that the majority of people can find a cruise line to suit them. That said, cruises can be expensive and it’s a large investment, not just of money, but also of time.
In this article, we look at the pros and cons of cruising based on the cruises I’ve taken.
Pro – On a Cruise You Can Unpack Once and See The World
I love unpacking once and waking up to new scenery daily. – Lynette
Travelling the world by cruise ship is SO much easier than travelling by any other means of transport.
Usually, transport is a means to an end, a way to get from A to B. On a cruise, the process of travelling is the fun part!
Land to Cruise Comparison
If you wanted to visit multiple European countries in a week without cruising you’d spend a LOT of time traveling either by car or by train. You’d have to carry your bags with you and constantly be unpacking/repacking. On a cruise, you can visit a new country every day without ever having to move your things.
I recently took a week-long Mediterranean cruise with MSC. We visited Italy, Spain, France, and Malta. It was so unbelievably easy but it would have been a different story if we tried to make the journey without cruising.
Pro – Cruises Offer Great Value For Money
I think one big plus of cruising is being able to visit multiple places and stay in the same room no packing and unpacking. I like the package concept, one price for room and food. – Kenneth
There is a LOT included in the price of a cruise. If you were to take into account the transport, accommodation, and food/entertainment costs for an equivalent land trip cruising almost always comes out as better value for money.
To learn more about this, check out this post: Cruises vs All Inclusive Resorts – Complete Comparison
A cruise fare on a mainstream cruise line usually includes:
- The cruise (transport between ports)
- Accommodation (room cleaned at least once, usually twice a day)
- Food (breakfast, lunch and dinner. Usually more!)
- Entertainment (theatre shows, trivia, gameshows etc)
How Cheap Can Cruises Be?
I LOVE a good bargain. I usually pay around £100 per night for my cruises but I have cruised on a number of occasions for under £50 per night. It would be difficult to stay on land for £50 a night in the most popular cruise ports!
Everything I know about how to cruise cheaply can be found in the How to Cruise For Less cruise course.
Pro – On a Cruise You Can Visit New Places You Haven’t Considered Before
We visited Honduras on a cruise and never would have done that if it wasn’t for the cruise – Jono
I’ve been to a number of places which I may not have ever visited if I wasn’t on a cruise.
Being on a cruise is like being looked after, you always have a point of contact and a phone number to ring if you get into trouble.
This means that you can visit places which you might otherwise be a bit nervous to do so. I took a cruise last year from Singapore to Tokyo and it was INCREDIBLE. I probably wouldn’t have decided ‘oh I’ll go to Vietnam for the day’ if it wasn’t on a cruise though!
For nervous travellers, a cruise is a great way to start.
Pro – Cruises Are Relaxing
There is nothing more peaceful or relaxing than a cruise. I love sitting and watching the sun go down, or up!- Belinda
There is nothing quite like sitting on a balcony and listening to the sounds of the ocean. Cruising gives you the opportunity to do as much, or as little as you’d like.
Life can be busy and stressful and I find that cruising is the best way to relax.
It is probably the only time in my life where I sit still and take some time to do nothing. When I’m in the middle of the ocean I stop worrying about my work and all land-based problems feel a million miles away.
Pro – On a Cruise There is SO MUCH FOOD
Great food but no cooking involved ( by me at least!) – Gaynor.
The quantity and variety of food available on cruises is definitely one of my favourite parts. On some lines, the food is available 24 hours a day. There are usually some dining options which cost extra but these are not compulsory, I usually don’t pay any extra for food when cruising and prefer instead to eat the food included in the cruise fare.
Free food options available on most cruises:
- The main dining room (dining times will either be fixed or freestyle)
- Buffet (open for all meals)
- Pool grill (most ships have free food available by the pool)
On a cruise, it isn’t unusual to have breakfast, elevensies, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late-night snacks! If you want to avoid cruise ship weight gain I have another post all about that. 7 Ways to Avoid Cruise Ship Weight Gain.
Cruise Food is of High Quality
It isn’t just the quantity of food which is impressive. The quality of food onboard cruises far surpasses anything I’ve ever had on land.
If I’m on land and I go out for dinner that is probably the highlight of my day, on a cruise you can eat out for dinner, lunch, breakfast, and in between! It’s brilliant.
- No thinking about what to have for dinner!
- No washing up/doing the dishes!
Pro – Cruises Have Great Entertainment
I love watching the shows every evening – Edward
On most cruises, there will be a show in the theatre each night. The show is usually performed twice so that all guests can have an opportunity to watch the show.
I live close to London and love going to the theatre but even the cheapest tickets can set you back £50.
The theatre shows onboard aren’t usually full-length musicals or broadway productions but some are of high quality. The fact that these are included in the cruise fare makes it brilliant value for money. I usually watch theater shows most nights.
The Entertainment Continues Around The Ship
The entertainment in the theatre is usually only the start. Most cruise ships will have live bands, singers and musicians which will play in various bars or lounges around the ship.
A lot of cruise lines also have things like:
- Game shows
- Dance lessons
- Fitness classes
The amount of entertainment onboard does vary by cruise line but most cruise lines will have pretty busy schedules.
Of course, not everything is going to be to the taste of every guest but I would challenge anybody to go on one of the big cruise lines like Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line and not find ANYTHING that they want to take part in.
Pro – Cruises Are So Convenient
On a cruise your “hotel” room is within walking distance to great restaurants, multiple bars and theaters with a variety of entertainment, fabulous pools, sunset and ocean views, a spa, friendly fellow passengers, games, wine tasting, art gallery,etc ….in other words, something for everyone with a 5-10 minute stroll. – Maryann
I truly don’t believe that any other way to holiday/vacation is as convenient as a cruise. If you were to stay in a resort on land you’d either have to go out of the resort in search of food or eat in the resort.
Even if you were to take an all-inclusive trip it’s unlikely you’d have as many dining options as you would on a cruise ship. Some cruise ships have 15+ restaurant options!
Everything is within walking distance and wherever you in the world you go, it comes with you. Imagine being able to travel around Europe and be followed by your favorite restaurants, bars and entertainment? It’s crazy to think of it that way, but it’s amazing.
Pro – Cruises Are Great For Kids
Free childcare! – Jenni
I cruised as a child and had the most amazing time. Cruising gave me a sense of freedom that I had never really had before which I really enjoyed. I was 11 on my first cruise and being able to go to the buffet for pizza with my brother and cousins while my parents went to the main dining room was AMAZING.
Cruise lines have a number of things to keep kids happy:
Cruise Ships Have Kids Clubs
Most cruise lines will have kids’ clubs. These are usually split into age groups with a group for babies/toddlers, children, and teenagers.
At the start of the cruise, parents need to sign up their kids for the kids club and from this point, the children are able to enjoy the kids club facilities and events.
The kids club rooms are usually full of toys and games.
Many Cruise Ships are Designed For Kids
Many ships are now designed specifically with children in mind. They might have water parks, ropes courses and slides on the top decks and specific play areas inside. It is important to do your research before cruising so that you can pick a ship that suits you.
Some ships have much more to offer children than others.
To learn more about the cruise lines I personally recommend for families check out my recommend cruise lines page: The Best Cruise Lines For Families (Tried & Tested, Pros & Cons).
Food Glorious Food
Most cruise lines will provide a kids menu in the main dining room. On occasion, I have thought that the kid’s menu actually looks nicer than the adult version! Some cruise lines also have ‘kids corner’ sections of the buffet.
MSC is great at this. The MSC kids corner breakfast has doughnuts in it and I may, or may not, have snuck in to get one for myself. I am a big child after all.
Con – You Might Get Seasickness on a Cruise
I do get quite travel sick and have on occasion been seasick when cruising. It certainly isn’t pleasant! – Me
I HATE the idea that potential cruisers may be put off of cruising because they fear feeling seasick. The majority of the time you cannot tell that ship is moving at all. If you don’t get travel sick in car or coaches I doubt very much you’ll get seasick on a cruise ship.
Having said that, if you end up cruising in bad weather or a storm you may need to take some steps to treat seasickness.
If you do think you might be seasick the following tips can help:
- Avoid too many sea days
- Pick a central cabin
- Book a balcony
- Choose a mid-sized ship
- Don’t eat too much food or drink
- Find fresh air whenever you can
- Bring medicines
I have a full post about how to prevent and treat seasickness. Check that out here: 13 Cruise Seasickness Tips (From Somebody Who Gets Seasick).
Con – You May Experience Cancelled Ports and Itinerary Changes
Sometimes you don’t get to go where you booked which is annoying. – Caitlyn
Taking a cruise can be a little bit like a magical mystery tour. The itinerary you book may be changed at any time.
There are a number of reasons why this could happen and I think I’ve had most happen to me! It is written in the contract of all cruise lines that they are able to change the ports at any point.
Ports could be cancelled months in advance, I’ve had this happen to me when the cruise line felt it would be unsafe to make stops in Turkey. Our ports were changed for the Greek islands.
I’ve also had ports cancelled the day before and some even cancelled on the day of the port call. These were due to bad weather. Ports which require tendering are more likely to be cancelled due to weather.
Cruises ports are most likely to be cancelled because of the following reasons:
- Political unrest
- Bad weather
- Booking mistakes
- Overbooking of cruise ports
You usually aren’t entitled to any compensation if your itinerary changes although some travel insurance will provide ‘missed port’ cover.
For more information about this check out this post which delves deeper into the question: Do You Get Compensation For Missed Cruise Ports?
Con – On Cruises You’ll Have Limited Time in Ports
One of the biggest negatives I see of cruising is that your shore excursions are normally quite short and almost never include onshore nightlife. You can certainly tick off a lot of destinations but you probably only ever scratch the surface of each location. On the up side it’s a good way of identifying places you’d like to revisit and get to know better. – David
This definitely is one of the biggest downsides to cruising. Having said this, cruise lines are becoming increasingly aware that passengers would like longer in port and are now offering longer stays and overnight stops.
On a typical cruise, you’ll arrive at maybe 8/9 am and leave at 5/6 pm. Of course, this varies LOADS but that is the most common amount of time I’ve had in port over my 22 cruises.
The average cruise length is 7 days.
Overnight Stops Are Increasingly Popular
During the Baltic cruise I took with Marella we spent a night in St Petersburg which meant that we had two full days to explore.
We took two excursions and made the most of our time in the port. I also took a cruise with Celebrity advertised as ‘two days’ in Amsterdam, we docked at 2 pm and left at 10 am the next day.
I wouldn’t really count that as two days in Amsterdam but it was still nice to be able to wander around Amsterdam in the evening.
Con – Cruise Ships Can Get Busy
On some ships, it can be really hard to get to see or do some things because they are so popular. – Mia
Some cruise ships can get busy. The important thing is to make sure that you choose a cruise ship and a cruise line to suit you. The amount of variety in onboard experience is vast.
Some cruise lines will be very relaxing with very little entertainment, others will have parties which go on late into the night every night.
To avoid busy ships I always try to cruise outside of the school holidays. I don’t have any children so it’s easy for me to take a week off in November or February.
Cruise ships don’t usually cruise at full capacity but they cruise much closer to capacity when all beds in the cabins are fully utilised.
A cabin that could hold 3 or 4 might only hold two adults during term time but the room might accommodate 3 or 4 in the school holidays.
Some people do find cruise ships overwhelming. The larger mega-ships are very large and now regularly hold 5000+ passengers. I personally really enjoy the mega-ships but know that they aren’t for everybody.
Con – On Cruises Shore Excursions Can be Expensive
When you add on things like shore excursions the cruise can get really expensive really fast. – Josh
The prices of shore excursions organised by the cruise line often make me want to cry. They can be SO expensive. There are a few perks to booking a shore excursion directly through the cruise line and many do so:
- It is by far the easiest option
- Variety of excursions and activities
- The cruise ship will wait for the excursion if it is late back
There are however a number of other options. When cruising you don’t have to take any excursions at all. I’ve been on a number of cruises where I haven’t taken any organised excursions and it has been FINE.
Do Your Own Thing
In a lot of ports, you are able to completely do your own thing. I usually prefer this option. This is a bit more difficult in ports in the Caribbean where everything seems to cost money but in most European ports you can walk around or take public transport.
Doing your research before the cruise means that you will know what you want to see and do and won’t have to miss out on anything.
It is also possible to book excursions through other third party companies. These are organized for cruise guests and are usually similar to the excursions organized by the cruise line.
The main difference is that the cruise ship would not wait if an independent tour was running late. The ship would depart at the scheduled time.
To avoid this problem I recommend arriving back at the ship a couple of hours before the ‘all onboard’ time.
Con – You May Put on Unwanted Weight
There is SO MUCH FOOD!!! – Steph
We’ve all heard the stories about people who go on cruises and come away 20lbs heavier. It is possible to put on a lot of weight when cruising due to the unlimited food and often frequent drinking but it isn’t necessarily going to happen.
There are a number of ways you can avoid gaining weight on a cruise (if you want to):
- Set Yourself a Stair Limit
- Pre Plan Exercise Classes
- Hop on a Bike
- Get Out of Your Food Comfort Zone
- Drink Smart
- Use a Step Tracker
- Head to The Gym
Almost all cruise ships have gyms and these are usually free to use.
Some cruise lines also have exercise classes onboard. Some cruise ship exercise classes have an extra charge but some are included in the cruise fare. I particularly enjoyed doing Zumba on sea days during my Princess cruise.
You’ll be surprised how much exercise you actually do on a cruise. If you’re on a big ship simply walking around the ship and up and down the stairs can add up to a lot. On one cruise I managed to walk up 99 flights of stairs in a day!
For more information about how I’ve managed to avoid ever putting on weight on a cruise check out this post: Avoid Cruise Ship Weight Gain (7 Easy Things You Can Do).
Con – On a Cruise Internet Access Can be Pricey
I usually try and work a bit when I cruise but the internet can make it really hard. Sometimes it is okay but other times it’s worse than dial-up. – Paul
Purchasing internet on a cruise can be really expensive and it’s also usually quite slow. I usually see cruising as an opportunity to disconnect, being offline for a few days can be very liberating.
There are a number of ways you can buy internet when cruising (WiFi is included on some premium cruise lines):
- Buy Internet by The Megabite
- Buy Internet by The Minute
- Buy Internet For The Day or Cruise
Most cruise ships have internet cafes of some kind or you are able to use the internet on your phone/laptop/tablet. If I do purchase an internet package I will usually buy a ‘social’ package that allows me to access sites like Facebook and Instagram.
Alternatives to Onboard Internet
If you don’t want to purchase an internet package you could find WiFi in the ports you visit on use the roaming on your mobile/cell phone.
I’m from the UK and have a mobile phone contract with Three, Three allows you to ‘roam’ in a number of countries at no extra charge so I often do this.
Con – On a Cruise You do Have to Share The Ship
My only con (and I’ve had to think hard to find one) is rude obnoxious people full of entitlement speaking to staff as if they were their personal servant. I hate that. It’s like cruising brings out the feral side of some normally decent people – Stuart
I have encountered my fair share of rude passengers on cruises. I suppose that is to be expected when you get SO many people together in one place.
I was cruising on the MSC Meraviglia last year when a man caught my attention for very rudely shouting out the waiters. It turns out that his wife had ordered a starter as a main and it had arrived before his main. The waiters were of course very apologetic and offered to take it away until his main was ready.
If this happened to me I wouldn’t have even mentioned it but this man was VERY upset. His wife actually ended up crouching beside him on the floor hugging him and letting him know that it would be okay… all very odd.
The staff on cruise ships work incredibly hard.
They work really long hours and certainly deserve to be treated with kindness. I always try to be extra kind to make up for the rudeness of others.
Con – On Cruises There Are Often Extra Charges
You can come away from a cruise with a massive bill if you’re not careful – Ruth.
Cruises aren’t normally all-inclusive. Generally speaking, the more you pay the more you’ll have included in the cruise fare which makes perfect sense. There are extra charges for a number of things on board, all of which are optional and can be avoided:
- Spa Treatments
- Casino Spend
- Speciality Dining
- Some Exercise Classes
- Most Drinks
- Room Service
- Medical Treatments
There are some cruise lines that advertise their fares as ‘all-inclusive’ although this doesn’t usually include everything.
River cruises generally include more in the cruise fare than ocean cruises. Most will include drinks with meals, wifi and excursions.
Con – Cruises Can be Expensive For Solos
It is so annoying seeing a cheap cruise deal only to try and book it and find out that it is double for solos. – Ron
When cruising solo you will usually have to pay a ‘solo supplement’. This is a charge that cruise lines add to make up for lost income in terms of things like drinks and casino spend.
Cruises are usually priced per person but based on two people sharing. When you see a cruise deal which says £700pp this is assuming that you will be sharing a cabin with another person. If you were to book this alone it may cost you £1000 or possibly even £1400.
Some cruise lines do have specific solo accommodation which means that you just pay a set price. Cruise lines with solo accommodation include:
- Cruise & Maritime
- Fred Olsen
- Holland America
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- P&O Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
I recently stayed in the most amazing solo balcony cabin onboard Saga’s new ship Spirit of Discovery.
Con – Cruises Are VERY Addictive
Can only think of one con – being broke from booking all the cruises – Chillie
Cruising is seriously addictive. It only takes one cruise to get addicted and then that is it. Every spare penny you have will go towards cruising. Life will never be the same!
I actually started this website because I needed somewhere to share my cruise photos and stories. My friends in my real life couldn’t care less about the dining options or entertainment on a certain ship but the internet does. Hooray.