The Expectations And Reality Of Cruising

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For many, the perfect vacation is as simple as boarding a cruise ship and relaxing all of their worries away. Cruise lines offer trips from as short as just a few days to more than 4 months. We’ve all seen the enticing commercials that make a 4-month cruise seem like absolute paradise. However, what we see on TV and what we expect from a cruise isn’t always what we get once we get on board. Things can get pretty wild on a cruise and we don’t mean in that fun kind of way. They can be a whole different kind of wild.

What You Expect Boarding To Be Like

Ah, boarding. It’s literally the first step you’ll take on your vacation of a lifetime. We’ve all seen the commercials where happy, young, professional looking people stop for a quick photo at the end of a pier with the cruise ship docked behind them.

There may be a few other happy, young, professional looking people milling about behind them, but the impression is that they’ll basically have that big ol ship all to themselves.

What Boarding Is Really Like

Despite what you might be hoping for, you’re probably not going to get that big ol ship all to yourself. Like many other industries, the more people that get on the ship, the more money the cruise line makes. That’s why you can expect the ship to be crowded.

That also means that the loading area will be crowded. The key is to stay relaxed and just roll with the punches as you board. There’s no sense in getting frustrated before the ship is ever underway.

What You Expect The Hot Tub To Be Like

Remember how we said those commercials tend to imply that you’ll be boarding the ship with just a handful of other passengers?  The same applies to pools and hot tubs.

While it would certainly be nice to be able to grab a cold cocktail and lounge all by your lonesome in a bubbling hot tub while you put miles of blue sea between you and your land-based troubles, that most likely won’t be the case.

What The Hot Tub Is Really Like

So, what will the hot tub really be like?  In a word, full.  Remember all those people you saw trying to get on the ship?  They all want to get in the hot tub just as much as you do.

If you don’t mind sharing your personal space with total strangers this shouldn’t be an issue for you. However, if your idea of a vacation includes solitude and personal relaxation, you might find a cruise a bit counterintuitive.

What You Expect The Pool To Be Like

The pool(s) are generally the center of the action on a cruise ship. Your idea of a relaxing cruise probably entails chilling on the deck in a lounge chair while you soak up some rays and sip a cocktail.

When the heat gets to be too much, you can take a refreshing dip in the pool or play on some water slides with your kids. But remember, that’s everyone’s idea of a relaxing cruise, and you know what that means…

What The Pool Is Really Like

The pool scene is one of the most eye-opening realities to someone who has never been on a cruise before. Oftentimes, you won’t even be able to find a lounge chair that’s free. Inevitably, someone will try to “save” a seat by tossing a towel on it but that won’t stop a determined fellow traveler.

One of the most common reasons for security to be called on a cruise ship is because two passengers are fighting over a chair next to the pool. Don’t expect to have the pool all to yourself either.

What You Expect The Bedrooms To Be Like

The one place you can escape from the crowds that you might not have expected when booking your trip is your bedroom (which nautical folks usually call “state rooms”).

While you might have an idea of a plush, romantic hideaway where you and your partner can relax over a glass of champagne while watching the ocean go by outside, the reality might be a tad underwhelming. You have to remember that there is limited space on cruise ships so you’re not going to get the kind of rooms you’d expect in a hotel.

What The Bedrooms Are Really Like

The good news is that you will be able to get some privacy in your bedroom, but you’ll likely find that you won’t have room for anything other than sleeping. Most cabins aren’t much larger than your actual bed. You can lounge and watch TV if you want, but you’ll also find that the walls are incredibly thin on cruise ships, so you might want to bring along some good headphones.

Rooms located in certain parts of the ship are much louder than others, too (like those near the engine room) so take that into consideration when booking. As for seeing the ocean go by, you can book a cabin with a balcony, but you can expect to pay a premium for it.

What You Expect The Bathrooms To Be Like

So, the hot tub was a bit crowded, but you can always relax in your bathtub, right?  While some ships do have cabins that contain bathrooms (Nautical people like to call them “heads”) that look like the one pictured, you can expect to pay a FORTUNE them!

In fact, you’re probably better off buying your own private yacht, which would not only give you a bathroom like this but would also alleviate that crowd issue, too.

What The Bathrooms Are Really Like

Remember, space is extremely limited on the ships, so they try to cram as much as they can into the confined quarters. The more people they can get on the ships, the more money they make.

That’s why you won’t find much more than a sink, a toilet, and a tiny shower in the bathrooms. But be realistic, if you wanted to spend all of your vacation in your room you should have booked a luxury hotel.

What You Expect The Ocean To Be Like

So maybe the rooms and amenities aren’t all you thought they’d be, but you are on the ocean and that should be pretty cool, right?  You’ll be able to peer out over the seas and see gorgeous blue water.

You can snap photos of dolphins swimming along in the bow wake of the ship and in certain parts of the world you might even see a whale or two breaching the surface of the ocean, right?  To tell the truth, probably not.

What The Ocean Is Really Like

The truth about the ocean while you’re cruising is that there really won’t be much for you to see. If you like miles and miles and miles of open water then you’re in luck. However, that’s about it. You’d be extremely lucky to actually catch sight of frolicking dolphins or breaching whales.

Granted, as you approach islands and other famous landmasses, you’ll have a chance to get some pretty great photos, but try to keep your hopes in check about everything else.

What You Expect The Employees To Be Like

Remember, you’re on a cruise, not a private yacht. While there are a handful of luxury cruises out there that pull out all of the stops in terms of the staff, you likely won’t see the kind of posh servants pictured below.

You should expect the employees to be helpful and be fairly well put together, but try not to set your expectations at the “black tie” level.

What The Employees Are Really Like

While the majority of the “good” employees on a cruise ship will always have a smile for you and be willing to help, it’s important to realize that their daily lives aren’t the easiest either.

They put in some very long hours only to retire to quarters that make your cramped stateroom look like a palace. These cramped spaced and complete lack of privacy might be the reason you’ll occasionally run into an employee who isn’t a total ray of sunshine.

What You Expect The Destinations To Be Like

The cruise ship may be a bit more crowded than you initially thought, and the open ocean might not be as picturesque as you’d hoped, but you always have the destinations to look forward to.

Cruise ships make it a point to head to islands, popular port cities, and various other amazing destinations, so you’re probably thinking you’ll have no shortage of gorgeous places to visit. However, as is the theme for much of the entries on this list, things are not always as they’re depicted in the brochures.

What The Destinations Are Really Like

Simply put, not all of the destinations that cruises stop at are all that great. Many can actually be pretty boring, with nothing to do but head into town and find out that there’s not much to do there either.

You could always stay on the boat and hope that the pool will be a little less crowded. Weather also has a way of putting a damper on many ports of call that would otherwise be amazing. Once again, the key is to roll with the punches and take the good with the bad.

What You Expect The Entertainment To Be Like

One thing you can count on is that the ship will have some sort of entertainment every evening in various bars and designated areas. A few might even book a major A-list band, comedian, or some other such entertainer.

By and large, though, you probably shouldn’t expect a major act to be your source of fun for the evening. That doesn’t mean you won’t come across the occasional diamond in the rough, though.

What The Entertainment Is Really Like

The entertainment on your cruise won’t necessarily be bad but don’t expect to have heard of them before. If you go in hoping to hear a really good cover band, you probably won’t be disappointed. Of course, you’ll also find karaoke bars on most ships, and your odds of hearing anything remotely resembling “good” are much less.

However, if hearing a bunch of drunks try to belt out Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing four or five times a night is your idea of a good time, you’re probably in luck!

What You Expect The Dining To Be Like

When you were checking out the website or brochure for the cruise you finally decided on, you probably saw pictures of a bunch of good-looking folks dressed to the nines and enjoying an amazing meal of the best steaks and seafood available, served by a wait staff adorned in tuxedos.

While the food on most cruise ships is pretty delicious, don’t expect that you’ll be dining at a five-star restaurant for every meal.

What The Dining Is Really Like

Like many of the other amenities on the ships, the dining service has to be able to accommodate thousands of people at times. That means that you shouldn’t expect individual service for every meal.

It’s more likely that you’ll be hitting up a good old-fashioned buffet line from time to time. Again, the food might be delicious, but the atmosphere probably won’t be what you had initially hoped for.

What You Expect The Other Passengers To Be Like

Most of the brochures and websites for cruises will show trendy and attractive young people, clearly having the time of their lives. These marketing materials make it seem like all 20 and 30 somethings think about are taking cruises.

So, many people board the ships thinking that’s exactly what they’ll find in the other passengers. There’s a good chance that you’ll soon find out just how misleading this particular part of the marketing efforts can be.

What The Other Passenger Are Really Like

Here’s the thing. Most trendy 20-somethings don’t think that taking a cruise is the greatest vacation idea. They’re more likely to head to exotic destinations that boast an epic nightlife, beaches, and all-inclusive resorts.

You’ll find that most of the passenger demographics tend to be a little older than the brochures suggest. Another thing to keep in mind is that cruises are pretty cheap vacations, so you’re likely to run into a lot of “budget” vacationers.

What You Expect Seasickness To Be Like

If you’ve never spent any time on the water, you may feel like seasickness is something that happens to other people, but that it couldn’t possibly happen to you. If you do happen to get hit with seasickness, you probably won’t be prepared for just how bad it can actually be.

While there have been plenty of cutesy depictions of seasick folks in the movies and on TV, the reality is far less cute.

What Seasickness Is Really Like

The reality is that there is nothing fun about being seasick, at all. The severity of the illness varies in severity. For some, it’s just a slight sense of nausea that goes away after a few hours.

For others, it’s a full-on bout of vomiting that can take a day or two to get past, and it’s so debilitating that you can hardly do anything but lie in bed and suffer in cramped misery.

What You Expect The Ship To Be Like

Once again, every brochure and website is going to show their ships as totally pristine, unscarred, and spotless vessels that are only matched in beauty by the seas that they float upon.

The reality is that most of these ships have been on hundreds of voyages over several years. Like vehicles with high mileage or a hotel that has seen years of sold-out rooms, time will eventually take a toll on the ship.

What The Ships Are Really Like

The truth is that the ships are going to get dirty. With the high number of passengers they carry every year and the various destinations they visit, sometimes through pretty wicked storms, that spotless paint is going to get a bit dingy after a while.

Most modern ships do a pretty job of cleaning and refurbishing the ships, but it’s important to remember that you likely won’t find a “perfect” vessel anywhere in the world.

What You Expect The Drinks To Be Like

It should come as no surprise that a lot of drinking goes on while aboard a cruise ship.
After all, some cruise packages even include complimentary beverages. It may seem that since you’ll be visiting all sorts of tropical and exotic destinations that all of the drinks on board will be equally tropical and exotic.

While you might find the occasional daiquiri concoction, the other options might let you down if you’re not prepared.

What The Drinks Are Really Like

The truth is that the drinks on a cruise ship are pretty straightforward. You’re not going to get anything more exotic that you’re likely to din at your local bar. Beer and mixed drinks are generally the order of the day.

The other thing to keep in mind is that despite the pretty common dinks, the bars onboard the ships are usually very crowded in the evenings, so getting a “quiet” cocktail will be easier said than done.

What You Expect The Possibility Of Meeting Someone Special To Look Like

Once again, many brochures and websites will show plenty of pictures of gorgeous people lounging around by themselves, just waiting for someone to approach them and start a conversation that might lead to a long-term relationship.

While there might be plenty of good-looking people on board the ship, the odds of starting a relationship with them might not be as good as you’re hoping for. You might not even be able to get them to hang out with you for just a few short days while cruising.

What The Possibility Of Meeting Someone Special Really Looks Like

The truth is that you won’t find an abundance of single people on a cruise. The majority will already be in a relationship of some kind.

If you do come across someone who isn’t in a relationship, you’ll be lucky if they’re actually in the age range you’re attracted to. If you happen to get lucky in that area, too, you also have to roll the dice that the person you meet is someone that you want to be around. On a confined ship that’s a lot of luck to hope for!

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