Wait! Disadvantages of cruises? Can cruising really have a downside? If you believe the glamorous ads—with slender couples wearing crisp white linen, clinking champagne glasses on the large balcony of their large stateroom as dolphins frolic nearby—then you may be in for a bit of disappointment at some point during your own cruise experience.
As with all other types of travel, cruising isn’t perfect. Enthusiasts may not agree, but I’ve bumped into the following disadvantages of cruises:
- Gratuity Gripe: Instead of charging more on the front end, passengers pay in various non-negotiable ways: daily stateroom attendant fee, based on the cost of your cabin; 18% on all liquid refreshment; dining room servers; pool towel staff… In an earlier post, I recommend bringing a stack of $1 and $5 bills. You’ll be handing them out like candy on Halloween.
- Puny Port Times: Unless you’re on an upscale river cruise with overnight docking, time in each port is limited to a few daytime hours. There is simply no way to get the full flavor of a city. To me, it’s not accurate to say, “I’ve been to Naples” when I’ve barely set foot in one of the most complex cities in Europe. My view is one of an unabashed land-travel lover; I like to wander and get lost…not a good idea when the ship leaves promptly at 5 pm. Cruise fans will counter with the opinion that a little Naples is better than no Naples at all, or they favor “sampling” a place to decide if they want to return.
- Interrupted Itineraries: We all want perfect weather for our cruise. And in all fairness, it’s not the captain’s fault when wind/rain/cold/hurricanes happen. But when your ship can’t dock at the only port you were truly excited about, or the private island beach party is cancelled and there is suddenly an extra day at sea, you’re really stuck. On land, you could find something else to do. On a ship, you’ll be offered extra dance or towel-folding lessons. Bingo, anyone?
- Excursion Extortion: Making money at every turn, cruise lines count on you to believe them when they say that only port excursions booked through them are reliable. Absolutely false! There are plenty of ways to see what YOU want, without being herded–with a hundred of your new best cruise friends–by a tour company that’s giving the cruise line a kickback for being on the “Plan Your Excursion Now” page of the website. I fell for this, too many times. Never again. Find out how to make the most of your port time here.
- Wage Woes: In “Overbooked,” journalist Elizabeth Becker shares some unpleasant truths about the life of a cruise employee. The average monthly pay is $55. Yes, you read that correctly. Go ahead and tell me that these hard-working 24/7/365 staff members are getting room-and-board while seeing the world. Yippee. Plus, they’re learning English. Yahoo. And many of them will make cruise hospitality their career, serving tirelessly until they eventually “earn” a cabin with a window…with only one roommate instead of three. This may or may not bother you, but be aware of the fact that they are underpaid, yet committed to making your week at sea as memorable as possible.
Make no mistake, cruises are not only here to stay, they are growing as an effortless way to vacation. There are many things to enjoy about being pampered on a floating resort. It’s a relaxing way to pass time, even for me. But I like it better when I know how to make the most of it. Don’t you?