Cruising Myth vs Fact

When I told people that I was headed on my seventh cruise this week, some raised an eyebrow & told me that they’d “never go on a cruise.” Seriously? How about we debunk some of the crazy reasons I’ve been given for never cruising. Here’s a look at five cruise myths vs facts:

1. Myth: “Cruises are all about eating in abundance: buffets are full of disgusting, fattening food available 24/7.”

Fact: This seems to be the first thing people say when I talk about cruising. Here are a few facts: I’ve only ever gained weight on one cruise & it’s because I decided to throw caution to the wind & really indulge. Even then, I only gained 5 pounds!

It’s true that there is an abundance of unhealthy food on cruises: burgers & fries served poolside, rows & rows of fattening desserts on the buffet, & a constant offering of high calorie frozen alcoholic beverages. It is very easy to over indulge. So, like anything, moderation is key. I have a few rules that I live by on the ship:

– I only have dessert in the main dining room if it’s something I really, really like. On a seven night cruise, I might have dessert half the time. It’s just not worth the calories to me to eat meh desserts – bring on the pistachio ice cream & chocolate lava cake!

Carnival’s amazing warm chocolate melting cake
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

– Water is your friend. I drink water like a camel on the ship. I always bring a reusable water bottle, which can be filled up at the buffet restaurant 24/7. It’s a great way to save on the cost of bottled water & stay hydrated in the strong Caribbean sun. If you prefer bottled water, most cruise lines will actually allow you to bring a case of water on at the beginning of your journey. Just slap a luggage tag on it & fill your in-room fridge with it.

– If you wouldn’t eat it at home, don’t eat it on the ship. We eat pretty healthy in my house, so I try to carry that on to the ship. Dinner of grilled fish & steamed vegetables is simple, yet incredibly fulfilling. You wouldn’t eat steak & pasta seven nights in a row at home, so why do it on vacation? Finding the healthy option is like finding a diamond in the rough. For example: who knew that Royal Caribbean would have some of the best, most authentic Greek salad I’ve ever had?

Royal Caribbean’s super Greek salad
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

2. Myth: “The ship might sink/catch on fire/get stranded at sea.”

Fact: Due to a string of unfortunate, high profile, hyped-by-the-media incidents on Costa & Carnival ships, fear now stops many people from cruising. But it shouldn’t be that way. Much like flying, there are millions of people who enjoy cruises every year with no incident. It’s true that something could happen on your ship, but it’s unlikely. Here are some things you can do to keep yourself safe:

– Every ship that sails from the U.S. is required to do a muster/safety drill before leaving port. All passengers are required to attend, but I would encourage you not to just go through the motions, but to actually pay attention. If something happened on board, you want to know exactly what you’re supposed to do & where to go. Pay close attention to where your muster station is (the area where you gather in an emergency), & figure out how to get there from your cabin, the dining room & other places you plan to spend a lot of time on the ship.

– Trust your gut. In the Costa Concordia disaster, passengers were initially told to go back to their cabins. Many passengers said that they chose to stay near their lifeboats instead, a move which may have saved many lives. I tell this story to say: trust your instincts. Personally, if I was on a ship which had lost electricity & was listing to one side, you better believe that I’d be at my muster station, life jacket on, ready to abandon ship.

– If you did have to abandon ship, know what you’d need to grab. We always keep our passports, smart phones & medication in the cabin’s safe. If we needed to leave our cabin quickly, we could grab everything we needed at once. It’s important to note that if we weren’t in our cabin, & there wasn’t time to return, we’d abandon ship without these essentials. They’re all replaceable, your life isn’t.

I know this section is kind of a downer, but these are all things that can be accomplished within 20 minutes of being in your cabin. Right before the muster drill, which is always announced well in advance after getting on board, we study the evacuation map on the back of our room door, check to make sure we have life jackets in the cabin, & talk through a quick evacuation plan. And then we go enjoy ourselves!

muster drill over = time to have fun!
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

3. Myth: “I have no interest in only seeing the Caribbean/Alaska/Europe through the windows of a charter bus.”

Fact: Your time on shore is what you make of it. Sure, the ship offers mostly canned excursions which are heavy on the charter bus & light on adventure, but that doesn’t mean that your excursion has to be. On cruises, we’ve:

– climbed 400+ stairs to the top of a bell tower in Florence (on a ship sponsored excursion!)

Florence
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

– kayaked along the rocky coast of Maine (on an excursion we booked on our own)

Maine
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

– climbed the boulders in Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia (luckily on a ship sponsored excursion, since we hit horrible traffic coming back to the ship & arrived 45 minutes late – but they waited for us, since we had gone through the cruise line)

Peggy’s Cove
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

– hiked to the top of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy (on a ship sponsored excursion!)

Italy
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

– snorkeled in sparkling blue water in Bermuda (on an excursion we booked on our own)

Bermuda
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

– hiked through the jungle of Dominica (on an excursion we booked on our own)

Dominica
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Many cruise lines offer “adventure” excursions – these might be more in line with your preferences than a canned charter bus tour.

4. Myth: “Who wants to be stuck on a ship with a bunch of drunk, sunburned people?”

Fact: Choose the cruise line that works for you. A four day Carnival cruise out of Miami during spring break is definitely going to feature more buckets of beer than a 10 day Celebrity cruise in the middle of February.

We really like the “modern luxury” of Celebrity – their style of cruising is similar to how we live at home. Nicer wines & dinner options, smartly dressed fellow passengers, & little touches, like being handed a glass of champagne when you come on board, really elevates the experience.

welcome aboard mimosa
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Do some research & talk to a good travel agent before deciding which cruise is best.

By the way, make sure you’re not one of these cringe-worthy passengers: I try to drink alcohol in moderation – a glass of wine with dinner & one or two specialty drinks throughout the cruise – as well as a constant slather of SPF 50. I can’t control everyone else’s behavior, but I can control mine.

5. Myth: “Anything that’s worth doing (or eating) costs extra.”

Fact: Much like airlines, cruise lines have figured out the value (for them) of a fee-based structure. While your cabin, food & transportation are included in your price, alcoholic beverages, dining at specialty restaurants, & shore excursions (usually) aren’t included. Some high end cruise lines, like Seaborn, actually include all these features, but obviously you’ll pay more in your base fare.

Other cruise lines, like Norwegian, have made specialty dining their business model, with more specialty dining restaurants than any other line. Of course, these come with a price.

The most important part of budgeting for any cruise is to set your price & go from there. Since everything on-board is charged to your room & there’s no cash transaction, it’s easy to go crazy in spending. We like to check our on-board  account frequently, so there are no surprises when a phone book sized invoice lands on the doorstep the last day.

Murano on Celebrity Equinox
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

our favorite specialty restaurant: Silk Harvest on the Celebrity Equinox
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

6. “Everyone’s old.”

Fact: Sometimes, this is true. We’ve been on cruises where we were known as “the young people.” But we’ve also been on cruises filled with children. There is a happy median though: a cruise with a good mix of ages. Here’s a fact: the average cruiser in the U.S. is 40 years old. Now that’s not too old, is it?

Do you have any other cruising myths that you’d like me to bust? What’s keeping you from going on a cruise? Or what keeps you coming back to cruising over & over again?

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About christina

Christina is a 30-something D.I.N.K. travel writer & photographer who travels the world often wedged into the middle seat. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

10 Responses to Cruising Myth vs Fact

  1. Britany May 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    I have to admit, I am one of those people who doesn’t love cruises. But there is something nice and indulgent about being on a ship for a few days without the pressure of doing ANYTHING. My usual travel style involves lots of activity, but the times I’ve taken cruises with my family have been really relaxing and enjoyable.

    • christina May 2, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      Our travel style includes that as well, which is why we prefer port-heavy cruises. That way we’re off the boat, every day, doing something new. I should have included another myth: cruising always has to be relaxing. There are often one or two relaxing days (you have to get to and from your main port, somehow!), but being in port 4 or 5 days in a row definitely keeps you busy!

  2. Jo May 2, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    I must admit cruises were on my “over my dead body” list for a long time. Then my husband and daughter went on a Pacific Island cruise while I was in Europe on a conference. They had such a great time that I think I’ve changed my mind!

  3. Megan May 3, 2014 at 1:16 am #

    Great article, I haven’t been on a cruise yet but one of the dream trips is a cruise to Antarctica. Wonderful about pointing out the myths, opened up my eyes to it.

  4. Vanessa May 5, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    I want an honest report on sea sickness! I have never done a cruise for that reason. People always say that I’ll never feel a thing on the huge boat, but I tend to be suspicious when people tell me it’s impossible to get seasick under certain circumstances – past history has told me that if it’s on water, I will throw up! So how much movement will I feel?

    • christina May 5, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      This is a great question, Vanessa! I’ll start by saying it’s different for everyone and on every ship. For instance: I got very sea sick on the ferry ride from St. Thomas to St. John on this last cruise – something that has never happened to me before. On our last cruise, the seas were so calm that there were times that my husband and I actually asked each other “is the ship still moving?” If you didn’t look out the window, especially at night, it was so smooth you didn’t even know you were on a ship.

      We’ve also cruises with tropical weather, where the seas were so rough they had to close the pools and you literally had to hold onto the railings to walk. But those motions were so exaggerated that I didn’t feel sick.

      There are many over the counter (and prescription) things you can do – patches, wrist bands, etc. that you see all over the ship. I’d say that if you want to try cruising, but are prone to sea sickness, to choose a large ship (they handle the seas better and are probably more modern, which means the horizontal stabilizers are more advanced), choose a cabin in the middle of the ship, on a lower deck (think of it like a bobbing cork).

      – Christina

  5. Linda June 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I agree with all the points you mentioned Christina, cruising is a good experience if you know how to control yourself at eating and drinking. I think is a great single, couple and family vacation experiencie because there is something for everyone.

  6. Jennifer December 9, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    I love this article. I happened to stumble upon your blog after seeing your post on CNN today – I have been looking into cruises for my daughter and I….What is the real difference between the levels of the ship? I too am nervous about sea-sickness…but I would also like to book a room with a balcony. For both views but I think having fresh air would help with motion sickness (I generally get that when I’m a passenger in a car). Thoughts?

    • christina December 9, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

      Hi Jennifer! I’m glad you found my blog! I’ve written a lot about cruises, so I hope you had a chance to poke around a bit. A few thoughts:
      – I get very nauseous in cars and on the subway – I can’t read, etc. But I have never gotten sea sick on a cruise. The ships are just SO large, it’s a completely different motion.

      – I’d definitely book a cruise on a large, newer ship, as they’re equipped with stabilizers to minimize the rocking back and forth. I’d also look at cruises outside of hurricane season (June – November). Sometimes sailing with a hurricane a few hundred miles away can make the seas a bit rough (it’s totally safe, just rocky).

      – A balcony is the way to go, in my opinion. It’s so nice to have a quiet, private place to enjoy being outdoors. But that unfortunately means that you’re higher up. Think of the ship as a cork: the closer to the surface you are, the less the cork will move. I’ve stayed on the 2nd floor and on the 9th floor and really couldn’t feel too much of a difference.

      – If you’re especially concerned, your doctor can prescribe you patches to wear behind your ear to help with motion sickness (you’ll see lots of passengers wearing those and also motion sickness wrist bands). There’s also complimentary Dramamine on board if you’re feeling a little woosy. I also think that sucking on ginger candy or sipping ginger ale sometimes helps.

      I hope this is helpful to you! Feel free to shoot me a note at christina (at) myviewfromthemiddleseat (dot) com if I can be of more help!

      Happy cruising!
      Christina

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