Top Reasons Why Cruises May Not Be Meant For You
The main reason to go on a cruise is that it provides a convenient all-in-one package. There’s food, drinks, entertainment, and travel to beautiful places. That being said, a lot of the time, the food is overpriced, the drinks are watered-down, and you can’t enjoy the travel because you don’t have enough time to explore.
In other words, there are plenty of reasons not to go on a cruise. Going on a cruise is kind of like hanging out in a crowded shopping mall for a week, except it’s on the ocean and you can’t leave. Often, this causes people to resent the experience. So, to save you some time and money, let’s take a look at some reasons why cruises are a terrible idea.
Diseases Spread Fast
As anyone who followed the Diamond Princess story back in the early days of COVID, diseases spread fast on cruise ships. This happened long before COVID and will most likely happen long after it. Diseases are hard to avoid when there are thousands of people crammed in close quarters.
When one person gets sick, it’s almost certainly bound to spread to others – the cleaners, the wait staff, other customers, etc. In such a tightly-packed environment, there’s no way around it. Unless, of course, you avoid cruises.
The "doctors" are a bit sketchy
Although cruise ships don’t seem particularly dangerous, people do manage to fall down stairs, stub their toes, or get heat stroke (among other things) during their cruise. So, what’re you going to do? Head to the doctor’s of course.
However, you may want to think twice. Although cruise ships do have medical experts on staff, their “expertise” might be a little iffy. Oftentimes, some of the doctor’s wouldn’t be allowed to practice in the US. Furthermore, it was only in 2014 that cruise ships were deemed accountable for any medical mishaps.
"Overboard" is more than just a rom-com
Although it may seem like a slapstick comedy gag, it’s also a reality. Roughly 25 people fall off cruise ships into the seas below every year. Although that’s a very small number when compared to the millions of people who go on cruises, it’s still important to keep in mind.
As you might have guessed, most of the people falling overboard had one too many drinks. Some, however, were on purpose. Either way, the height of the ship and the fall combined with being out at sea is not a great spot to be in.
Spin around five times and see how you feel
Sea sickness is a major risk while staying aboard a cruise ship. The motion of the ocean is not for the faint of heart – especially if you mix that motion with a stomach full of buffet food and cocktails.
It brings some people down for the count, while others can try to pull through to savor their trip. Either way, most people struck with sea sickness don’t find it fun – especially the part of paying a bunch of money just to get sick!
Save the Earth
Cruise ships are massive. To move such a massive machine, you need a lot more than a team of rowers pulling oars back and forth – you need lots and lots of fuel. So much, in fact, that a week-long cruise uses nearly three times the amount of emissions people would have used if stuck on land.
On top of that energy cost, there’s also the issue of plastic waste and food waste. All those buffet meals and single-serving packets add up. A lot of the trash, unfortunately, gets dumped overboard into the ocean.
Weather does what weather wants
Cruise ship advertising is fantastic. It shows gorgeous people with perfect bodies sitting on secluded deck chairs beneath an eternal sun. The reality of taking a cruise is often far different. People and chairs aside, there’s absolutely no guarantee that the weather will be grand for your week or two at sea.
Depending on when and where you go, it’s far more likely that you’ll get caught up in a tropical storm. If that’s the case, then you’ll have to get used to rain or spend your vacation crammed inside.
You may not like all the friends you meet
The last thing you want to feel when you’re about to drift away into a good night’s rest is a bunch of bugs crawling up your legs, arms, or, worse yet, your face! Despite that, bed bugs do have a way of making it into people’s bags and then from those bags into people’s beds.
Sure, it doesn’t happen all the time – but it happens. Only a few years ago, a married couple on a luxury cruise got bit so bad that the wife suffered an allergic reaction.
Throw your money out the window
Cruises are expensive. Sure, the initial down payment might be a deal – but that’s how they get you aboard. Once on board and far away from land, then all the extras get piled on. Do you want wifi? That’s going to cost you. A watered-down cocktail? Pony up some cash.
What are you going to do? Starve?! Nearly everything you do will cost extra. Often, they offer to charge it to your room so at the end of the trip you get hit with a massive bill.
Crimes can happen
People commit crimes everywhere – from small towns to big cities to, you guessed it, cruise ships. That being said, most reported crimes aren’t too serious. In fact, out of millions of people, only 137 serious crimes occured in 2019. Usually, these involve assault, intoxication, and theft.
When crimes do occur, things get odd. If the crime happens in international waters (more than 12 miles from land), then it falls under the law of the country that the ship sails under. For most tropical cruises, this is The Bahamas or Panama. Noted.
The power can go out
It seems like cruise ships don’t have a middle ground. Either everything is great or it’s a complete disaster. The February 2013 cruise by Carnival Sunrise was a (smelly) example of the latter – a complete disaster. Shortly after an engine room fire was safely contained, the power went out.
When the power went out, the sewage backed up. A tugboat pulled the powerless ship in – but it took a week. During that time, 4,000 people lived without any running water, with a limited supply of food, and with sewage filling up their showers.
Very short stops to explore
The main reason people go on a cruise is to see a few different places in a short period of time. So, spend some time at sea and spend some time in various ports. Unfortunately, the port or land time is usually far too short.
You won’t get much of a feel for the place. Instead, you’ll probably end up walking a few feet from the ship only to buy some souvenirs (most likely made in China), and then turn around to get back on the ship.
You’re not in control
One of the major cons of cruise ships is that you’re on someone else’s time. In particular, the cruise ship’s time. When it comes to traveling, that’s a big problem. One of the central joys of traveling is that you can do what you want when you want.
If you meet a local in a bar, you can hang out for the day. If you want to explore a cute little village an hour away, you can do that. Whatever it is, you decide. On cruises, however, the cruise decides.
Food poisoning is possible
Serious crimes on cruise ships are so rare that you’re probably not going to have to deal with them. However, food poisoning is a lot more common. So, you might have to deal with it. In fact, statistics say that nearly 1 in 10 guests deal with a gastrointestinal illness.
That’s not comforting odds. Most likely that’s due to the fact that thousands of people are crammed into close quarters, and there’s a limit to hygiene. The best way to avoid it? Skip the cruise and eat on land.
Before people board a cruise, they often have (very inflated) ideas about what their room will look like. Some imagine an in-room jacuzzi with a massive king-size bed and a huge glass window looking out onto the ocean.
Nearly all the time, that’s far from the reality. Even if you didn’t think that big, the actual room is probably smaller than you imagined. Usually, cruise ship rooms are very tightly packed together – just big enough for you and your luggage. That is, unless you want to shell out the big bucks.
Although most advertising for cruise ships shows nearly-empty boats where you can relax in peace and quiet, that’s far from the reality of a cruise. The picture below is much closer to reality. You’ve got loads of families cramming into a small pool. Nearby are a few dozen intoxicated twenty-somethings causing a ruckus.
In short, it’s like taking all the worst aspects of an overcrowded beach and squeezing them onto a giant boat. The main difference is that you can leave the beach – but you can’t leave the boat.
Collisions are a possibility
Although a rare occurrence, accidents do happen. Within the last 100 years, only 9 cruise ships have sunk (including river cruises). It is estimated around 900 people have died in these incidents.
One of the largest sinkings in recent history that made global headlines was that of the Costa Concordia in 2012. The Costa Concordia struck an underwater rock and partially sank off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Tuscany. Of the 4,200 passengers and crew onboard, there were 32 reported casualties.
Wifi will cost an arm and a leg
If you think the internet will be complimentary on your cruise, you are sorely mistaken. Most cruise ship deals (even the all-inclusive packages) charge you extra for wifi. They know how attached we all are to our phones and they take full advantage!
Prepaid wifi bundles can cost anywhere from $24 an hour to $0.75 a minute. And with how often we all find ourselves on our phones, this really adds up. Consider this before you purchase your cruise. If your goal is to disconnect; however, this might not be a factor for you!
Solo travelers will pay more
Not all cruises, but most of them, will charge single occupants extra for their accommodations. Having your own room is a luxury, apparently. The charge for “singles” can be anywhere from 10% to 100% more than what the average Joe who is traveling with others is paying.
This is something you should be prepared for if you’re looking to take a cruise trip alone. While it might sound appealing to lounge on deck alone with a drink in hand, just keep in mind you’ll most likely have to pay handsomely for this privilege.
Safety is not guaranteed at sea
As far as we’ve come in terms of safety regulations and precautions, we cannot control the sea or the weather. The ocean can be a dangerous place and as big as cruise ships are, they are no match for the strength of the open water.
This means that your safety cannot be guaranteed. When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, over 20,000 cruise ship passengers were stranded at sea. While we can do our best to prepare for poor circumstances, we cannot control the weather, as much as we’d like to.
Operational problems can and do occur
A cruise ship is a well-oiled machine, but it’s not a perfect machine. Operational mishaps can and do happen on cruise ship journeys. Still, only a small number of people are usually injured from these issues, but they do happen.
An estimated 60 people per year are injured in operational-related accidents. This might include fires on board, collisions with other boats or objects, and sinking ships. Fires can occur due to malfunctioning machinery and systems. Luckily, these can usually be contained and people don’t often get hurt.
Malfunctions can lead to a lack of hygiene
If operational accidents do occur, like small fires or loss of power, hygiene might have to go out the window. In one incident on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship, the boat caught fire and lost power as a result.
They were essentially stranded in the Gulf of Mexico without a working sewage system. Yuck! It got super smelly super fast. Not sure if that’s a risk you’re willing to take. The Carnival Triumph came to be known as “The Poop Cruise” from there on out.
Cancellation fees are gnarly
If some of these concerns have struck a chord with you and you’ve decided you’d rather not take that cruise ship trip you were planning on, beware the cancellation fees. They’re killer! If you miss your cruise or don’t cancel far enough in advance, you’re going to be in the hole for a ton of money.
Cruise ship companies usually make you pay the cost of the cruise ticket itself as well as the cost of destination excursions, hotels, and anything else that was a part of the cruise package. Read the fine print on your agreement before booking that trip!
Be ready to see the same faces everyday
This might be fine for some people, but if you like to see new faces everyday instead of the same ones time and time again, a cruise is probably not for you. Cruise ships are big but not that big. You’ll start to see the same people everyday.
Be careful not to get on anyone’s bad side. If you’re the kind of person that wants to see new faces everyday, a cruise might not be the right kind of trip for you.
Don’t miss your ship!
You definitely do not want to be that person that misses the ship when it takes off for sea after a pitstop. Not only will you feel silly and have to pay for a different way home, but you’ll be without your belongings for the foreseeable future.
Any valuables will be left on the boat with no supervision. There are usually cruise agents who are stationed on each port that will help you find your way back to your belongings, but nothing is guaranteed. And having your items shipped to you will cost you handsomely.
They are not always as luxurious as they seem
If you were persuaded by leisure and luxury to buy a ticket on a cruise ship, prepare yourself for (potential) disappointment. Unfortunately, the more affordable a cruise is, the more outdated and worn the decor is.
If you want the glitz and glam you’ll have to pay for it. Depending on how important aesthetic is to you, temper your expectations. The photos online are not exactly how they appear in real life.
Too much sun!
You should be careful with sun exposure no matter where you are, but cruises are a common environment to get a sunburn. When people take cruise vacations, they often want to lay out and get some good sun.
But make sure to pack your sunscreen! And make sure to apply it. A couple drinks can make it hard to remember the importance of reapplying. Be careful and don’t forget to pack your sunscreen.
It’s hard to eat healthy
All-inclusive cruise ships are known for their indulgent qualities. And if you’re on vacation you should be allowed to enjoy a treat or two. But if you’re trying to eat healthy, cruise ships don’t typically have the best options.
Aside from the potential to get sick from food poisoning, most of the food offered on cruise ships is not healthy. Lots of carbs and sweets might taste good for a day or two but by the end of your trip you might feel ready for a health cleanse.
There’s tons of fun excursions to go on… for a price
There are also tons of fun excursions offered when the cruise ship makes stops. These activities can range anywhere from snorkeling to museum touring and everything in between. But, these fun activities come with a price tag, like anything with a cruise.
The off-boat excursions range in price. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300 per person based on the activity. Pick your excursions wisely if you don’t want to return home with empty wallets.
Pack for your destination
Make informed decisions on what to bring for your journey. Taking an Alaskan cruise? Pack a hat and a blanket to stay warm on deck. Headed to the Bahamas? Don’t forget the sunscreen.
Anything you buy on the boat or at the pit stops will most likely be incredibly expensive so being prepared is the best way to travel, especially on a boat.
Cruises don’t benefit local economies
Cruises make lots of stops at different destinations so you might assume that this would have positive implications on the economies of these places. But their impact on local economies is actually very slight.
To save money, most passengers typically eat their meals on the boat rather than at restaurants at the destinations. They often invest in port terminals as well and direct their passengers to company-owned business for shopping instead of local businesses.
Cruise ships are harmful to marine wildlife
In addition to being major polluters, cruise ships negatively impact marine life as well. These huge ships release tons of waste into the ocean and ocean animals inevitably eat this waste and it becomes extremely harmful and potentially fatal.
Noise pollution is also harmful to marine animals. One example of this is that the noise from the ship interferes with whales communication and echolocation. This disturbs their natural behaviors and causes all sorts of problems.
Sewage is dumped into the ocean (Ew)
Cruise ships dump all kinds of waste into the ocean. Unfortunately, with so many people on one boat, all that human waste has to go somewhere. And it lands into the homes of whales, dolphins, turtles, and fish.
This contains chemicals, bacteria, plastics, and other harmful materials. And these animals can’t escape it! So they’re stuck swimming around in nasty water instead of those clear blue waters they’re used to.
Be aware of cruise law
You would assume that all the same laws apply to cruise ships as they do in the U.S. But this is not always the case. One way to check which laws apply to the cruise ship is to take a look at the flag onboard the ship.
You must abide by the laws of whichever country’s flag is on the vessel. We encourage you to just follow the rules instead of getting yourself into trouble.
Medical Care might be lacking
As we’ve mentioned above, accidents do happen on cruise ships. Most often these are manageable, but sometimes real accidents can happen. And when you’re out at sea there aren’t any hospitals you can go to for care.
There are infirmaries aboard each ship. The infirmaries will treat you for minor injuries or sea sickness but they might not be equipped to handle major injuries. In the case of a real emergency the boat will have to pull up to the closest port to get you proper care.
You’re effectively stuck
While this one might seem obvious, it’s a major reason that people decide a cruise ship isn’t for them. When you take a cruise, the journey is most of the adventure. It’s fun to visit new places, but you spend the majority of your time on the boat.
If you want to get off for any reason, you don’t have a choice but to sit tight until they make a stop. Feeling sea sick? You’re going to have to hang in there. Getting anxious? Sorry, but they’re not going to turn the boat around for you. Consider how much time you’ll be spending on the vessel because it’s a commitment!
Many destinations are not all too happy to see you
Since cruise ships don’t really help out the economies of the destinations you travel to, not every place is all too welcoming of the hundreds of people that come off cruise ships. To be fair, many of these places can’t handle the huge influx of visitors.
Tourists can be rude and leave behind trash which is super disrespectful! Don’t expect to be necessarily welcomed with open arms at each port. Your welcome crew will vary based on the places you’re visiting and the size of the cruise.
Cruise ships are masters of avoiding taxes
Cruise ships are certainly not the only business that avoids paying their fair share of taxes, but many cruise lines have become masters of this malpractice. For example, the Carnival Cruise Line’s HQ is in Florida but it flies Panama and Bahamas flags.
They register their business in places where they can pay less in taxes. While this might not directly affect you as a cruise ship passenger, it might encourage you to seek a different kind of vacation.
Many (but not all) cruise ship lines have a bad reputation for treating their staff poorly
Since cruise ships register in different countries, there are also different labor laws. And some cruise lines have no problem taking advantage of some of these laws. They tend to hire people from countries with limited opportunities to make money.
Many of them take advantage of these people and overwork and underpay them. They also sign contracts that they don’t quite understand which secure them into long periods of work. Complaints are usually not met with any solutions.
Crimes go unreported
Like we mentioned, crime does occur on cruise ships as it can occur anywhere. But these crimes go under-reported in comparison to other environments. This is largely because cruise lines are their own little world and they are able to get away with a lot.
There are conspiracy theories that cruise ships report the number of people who go overboard as less than reality because they don’t want to gain a bad reputation. It’s extremely difficult to prosecute a case that takes place at sea.