Don’t let misconceptions scare you away from taking a cruise; the things standing in your way may just be hearsay. Here, the top seven fallacies about cruising, and why they are — at least mostly — not things that should prevent you from booking a cruise:
1. I’ll feel trapped.
Reality: Cruise ships vary in size, but the largest ones are the length of two to three football fields. If you’re concerned about claustrophobia, one of these floating cities may be the right choice. These are not tiny yachts, and feeling hemmed in on any ocean-going cruise ship isn’t likely.
Our Advice: Still worried? Look for itineraries that have a port of call every day, which are easy to find in the southern Caribbean and Mediterranean.
2. I won’t have fun.
Reality: Cruise lines work hard to keep you entertained. Many ships offer lectures and movies, as well as spas, gyms, pools, and activities for kids. At night, the options often include live music, as well as stand-up comedy acts and TV-style singing contests and game shows. Whether you’re laughing at the karaoke singers or with them, you’ll be laughing.
Our Advice: Read up on onboard activities before you book, since the style changes from cruise line to cruise line. A Carnival ship, for example, may organize a men’s hairy chest competition and offer specials on buckets of beers by the pool, while an Oceania ship could have a cooking school and wine tastings.
3. I’ll get seasick.
Reality: Most cruise ships are outfitted with stabilizers to keep the ride smooth, and — unless you’re in a storm — you may not even know the ship is sailing. You will feel more movement on smaller ships and in notoriously rough seas, such as transatlantic crossings in winter.
Our Advice: If you’re prone to seasickness, book a cabin in the middle of a deck, at the ship’s natural balance point. Also, read our article on how to prevent seasickness.
4. It’ll cost too much.
Reality: The extras are what add up. Gambling and drinking can quickly turn a bargain into an expensive vacation. And those aren’t the only activities to watch out for: Others include shore excursions — especially active ones like flightseeing — spa treatments, and specialty restaurants.
Our Advice: Book in the off-season in the Caribbean, Europe, and Alaska, where fares routinely dip below $100 per person a day, leaving room in your budget for extras.
5. Ships aren’t safe.
Reality: While there are the occasional, well-publicized cruise ship tragedies — who can forget that 32 people died when the Costa Concordia ran aground last year? — statistics show that cruise ships are safer than other forms of transportation. In 2012, for instance, there were 475 deaths due to commercial airplane crashes worldwide, more than a million deaths from vehicular accidents, and just those 32 deaths due to cruise ships grounding, sinking, or catching fire.
Our Advice: Cruise ships provide mandatory muster drills to familiarize passengers with the location and use of lifeboats. If you’re the type who reads the safety cards on flights, stay focused during these, too.
6. I could get sick and need a doctor.
Reality: To limit pesky germs, such as the Norovirus gastrointestinal bug, which can be shared by an infected passenger, cruise lines are vigilant about hand sanitation. In addition, most ships have medical clinics; the larger the ship, the more elaborate its facilities. In emergencies, passengers are stabilized and transported from a port to a nearby medical facility.
Our Advice: Ships are subject to regular health inspections by the Centers for Disease Control, which monitors food handling and sanitation practices — but only when operating from U.S. ports, so germophobes should consider domestic embarkations.
7. I won’t like the other passengers.
Reality: Large cruise ships carry between 2,000 and 6,000 passengers, so you’re bound to bond with a few like-minded souls.
Our Advice: Make sure that you, or your travel agent, research the line’s demographics before you book. Check out our evaluation of the different cruise lines. Whether you have tattoos, drink plenty of beer, and like nightlife that lasts until dawn, or prefer to attend a lecture and then dress up for a long dinner followed by an early bedtime, make sure you choose a ship full of people whose idea of fun is similar to yours.
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