A cruise can be a fun vacation, and a great choice for a lot of different types of travelers. Pick the right ship and the right itinerary, and it may be the best vacation of your life. I’ve sailed on most of the cruise lines and been all over the world on ships, and I feel extremely lucky to have been dazzled by wonderful experiences. But that doesn’t mean every moment at sea is as golden as Caribbean sunshine. Here, some of my least favorite things about cruising:
Please, turn the volume down on the intercom! (Photo: Alamy)
On some ships, cruise directors take it upon themselves to walk passengers through information and the roster of the day’s activities, even when those options are already listed in the daily planner. Whether you’re sleeping or just in the middle of a conversation, it’s disruptive and — if the volume is too loud — intrusive. The absolute worst: when they read the roster in multiple languages!
2. Early evening departures
Most ships sail out of ports in the evening, before dinnertime. This is fine in a lot of places, but in places where late-night dining and nightlife are key parts of the experience, there’s no denying that you’re missing out. A few lines — most notably Azamara Journeys, SeaDream Yacht Club, and Oceania Cruises — have started doing more over night stops in these ports, and it’s a welcome improvement.
Related: Confessions of a Cruise Ship Doctor
Everything en masse becomes harder (Photo: Alamy)
3. Large group tours
On some ships, the vast majority of the shore excursions are introductory-level coach tours. Passengers fill up buses, often a half-dozen or so, and caravan to the biggest sites in the port. The guide, no matter how skilled, is forced to herd 40 people all on his and her own, so in-depth discussions about what you’re seeing are rare.
4. Distant terminals
In some ports, the cruise ship terminal is nowhere near the city center – as in hours from it. As a result, it’s just so much easier to book a shore excursion than to plan an individual trip that most cruisers just go the easy route.
Smaller boats take passengers ashore (Photo: Alamy)
When the terminal isn’t big enough to accommodate a ship, many are forced to drop anchor in the harbor and send passengers ashore on small tender boats. This tends to slow down the whole process on both ends and create lines, resulting in less time ashore.
American food, morning, noon and night (Photo: Alamy)
6. American food
Picture this: You’re sailing in Japan, home to some of the most well-planned and diverse cruising in the world. You return to the ship after a long day of touring, and head to the dining room — only to find that there isn’t a single Asian dish on the menu. So now you’re in Japan and you’re eating beef Wellington, roasted chicken, or steak frites. Sad … just sad.
On some ships, particularly smaller ones, a sense of camaraderie pervades, and guests make an effort to get to know one another as the cruise progresses. You trade in your anonymity for a sense of community. But on other ships, people stick to the groups they came with and it can be unpleasant, especially on a ship full of retirees, to watch the social setting reflect an elementary school mentality. Word to the wise: Make sure you enjoy the company of your chosen travel companions, because they could be your whole world for the duration of the sailing.
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