7 Cruise Ship Myths & Truths

by Donna Heiderstadt

7 Cruise Ship Myths & Truths

by Donna Heiderstadt

When asked why they’ve never taken a cruise, people cite lots of reasons, but many of them aren’t always accurate. While cruising isn’t necessarily for everyone, there’s a ship and an itinerary that will appeal to most travelers. Here, we unpack seven common cruise ship myths—and explain the truths.

When asked why they’ve never taken a cruise, people cite lots of reasons, but many of them aren’t always accurate. While cruising isn’t necessarily for everyone, there’s a ship and an itinerary that will appeal to most travelers. Here, we unpack seven common cruise ship myths—and explain the truths.

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Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-Class Harmony of the Seas / Courtesy of the cruise line/Conrad Schutt
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Cruise Ships Are Viral “Petri Dishes”

Before COVID-19, the norovirus was the villain of the high seas, causing outbreaks of gastrointestinal distress onboard a limited number of ships — subsequently garnering bad press for the entire cruise industry. The initial COVID-19 outbreak aboard Diamond Princess in Japan at the onset of the pandemic seemed to exacerbate this point of view. 

Read more: Cruise Lines Announce Suspensions, Credits, and Updated Policies

Before COVID-19, the norovirus was the villain of the high seas, causing outbreaks of gastrointestinal distress onboard a limited number of ships — subsequently garnering bad press for the entire cruise industry. The initial COVID-19 outbreak aboard Diamond Princess in Japan at the onset of the pandemic seemed to exacerbate this point of view. 

Read more: Cruise Lines Announce Suspensions, Credits, and Updated Policies

Viking’s UV robots disinfect its ships each evening
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Truth: Cruise Ships Are Now Cleaner Than Ever

Cleaning protocols developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have made cruise ships more hygienic than ever. To prevent outbreaks, cruise lines require vaccination and/or testing d employ enhanced surface cleaning — Viking even uses robots to disinfect public spaces after hours with virus-zapping UV light — improved air filtration, hand sanitizer stations, and mask requirements in certain venues.

Cleaning protocols developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have made cruise ships more hygienic than ever. To prevent outbreaks, cruise lines require vaccination and/or testing d employ enhanced surface cleaning — Viking even uses robots to disinfect public spaces after hours with virus-zapping UV light — improved air filtration, hand sanitizer stations, and mask requirements in certain venues.

Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer Marketplace buffet
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Myth: Cruise Ship Dining Is All About The Buffet

There was a time when the Las Vegas-style all-you-can-eat buffet was one of cruising’s most ballyhooed amenities—not to mention the midnight buffet that appealed to onboard partiers and gamblers looking for pizza, pasta, and other salt-and-fat-laden fare to tide them over into the wee hours. Today, though, modern cruise ship buffets have undergone a metamorphosis.

There was a time when the Las Vegas-style all-you-can-eat buffet was one of cruising’s most ballyhooed amenities—not to mention the midnight buffet that appealed to onboard partiers and gamblers looking for pizza, pasta, and other salt-and-fat-laden fare to tide them over into the wee hours.

 Crystal Cruises'  Umi Uma & Sushi Bar.
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Truth: Cruise Ships Offer A Great Array Of Dining Options

Today, modern cruise ship buffets have undergone a metamorphosis. While it remains a staple for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner — it's where you'll find an array of cuisines (including Indian, Japanese, Italian, and much more), there's been a rise specialty dining venues — from Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival to Umi Uma & Sushi Bar on Crystal Cruises (the latter of which features menus by Nobu Matsuhisa) — in recent years. 

Today, modern cruise ship buffets have undergone a metamorphosis. While it remains a staple for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner — it's where you'll find an array of cuisines (including Indian, Japanese, Italian, and much more), there's been a rise specialty dining venues — from Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival to Umi Uma & Sushi Bar on Crystal Cruises (the latter of which features menus by Nobu Matsuhisa) — in recent years. 

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class megaships feature a massive Aqua Theater
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Myth: All Cruise Ships Are Crowded

Yes, some of the industry’s largest megaships can hold 5,000-plus passengers, which can feel just as overwhelming as New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Plus, the pools and hot tubs can be a total turn-off when they're filled to the max.

Yes, some of the industry’s largest megaships can hold 5,000-plus passengers, which can feel just as overwhelming as New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And the pools and hot tubs? When filled to the max, they can be a total turn-off. 

The Explorers Lounge on Viking’s 930-passenger ocean ships
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Truth: Most Cruise Ships Offer Ample Space Per Passenger

However, not all ships are megaships. In fact, avoiding crowds is as simple as choosing the right ship. For example, consider one with a high space-to-passenger ratio. What's more, many mid-sized vessels carrying 900 to 2,000 passengers and small ships that can accommodate anywhere from 200 to 750 cruisers. Another tip: Avoid cruising during peak seasons (i.e., summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). 

Read more: 7 Reasons to Book a Small-Ship Cruise

However, not all ships are megaships. In fact, avoiding crowds is as simple as choosing the right ship. For example, consider one with a high space-to-passenger ratio. What's more, many mid-sized vessels carrying 900 to 2,000 passengers and small ships that can accommodate anywhere from 200 to 750 cruisers. Another tip: Avoid cruising during peak seasons (i.e., summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). 

Read more: 7 Reasons to Book a Small-Ship Cruise

Both Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex feature airy Infinite Veranda staterooms
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Myth: You Need to Book A Balcony Stateroom To Enjoy Your Cruise

The whole idea of cruising is to enjoy the surrounding ocean, coastal, and island views, right? Setting sail in an inside cabin without a window or balcony seems like a major waste of time — or so you thought. 

The whole idea of cruising is to enjoy the surrounding ocean, coastal, and island views, right? Setting sail in an inside cabin without a window or balcony seems like a major waste of time — or so you thought. 

Interior stateroom with Magic Porthole on Disney Fantasy
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Truth: Interior & Oceanview Staterooms Offer Great Value

The fact is, aside from sleeping, you’ll spend very little time in your stateroom. While cabins without windows aren't ideal for claustrophobic folks, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have some inside options with virtual portholes and balconies featuring a live video feed. However, oceanview staterooms with a window offer a compromise — and you can always head to one of the outdoor decks for fresh air.

The fact is, aside from sleeping, you’ll spend very little time in your stateroom. While cabins without windows aren't ideal for claustrophobic folks, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have some inside options with virtual portholes and balconies featuring a live video feed. However, oceanview staterooms with a window offer a compromise — and you can always head to one of the outdoor decks for fresh air.

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Myth: Only Old People Take Cruises

Does cruising conjure images of retirees playing shuffleboard or loading into buses for guided tours involving very little on-foot exploration? While these scenarios do exist on certain cruise lines with a more mature clientele and/or on specific itineraries (think: Transatlantic crossings, lengthy world cruises, and river sailings), they make up just a few of many segments across the market.

Does cruising conjure images of retirees playing shuffleboard or loading into buses for guided tours involving very little on-foot exploration? While these scenarios do exist on certain cruise lines with a more mature clientele and/or on specific itineraries (think: Transatlantic crossings, lengthy world cruises, and river sailings), they make up just a few of many segments across the market.

 The Racetrack aboard Norwegian Encore thrills all ages
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Truth: Cruises Have Exciting Activities & Amenities For All Ages

There’s now a cruise ship with a roller coaster (Carnival Mardi Gras), three with go-kart racetracks (Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy, and Norwegian Encore), and dozens (especially from Royal Caribbean and MSC) featuring adrenaline-rush waterslides, surf simulators, zip lines, laser tag mazes, curated kids and teens programming, adults-only pools, and virtual reality gaming. Hence, there's something for guests of every age.

Read more: Norwegian Joy vs. Bliss - A Closer Look at Two Major Cruise Ships
 

There’s now a cruise ship with a roller coaster (Carnival Mardi Gras), three with go-kart racetracks (Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy, and Norwegian Encore), and dozens (especially from Royal Caribbean and MSC) featuring adrenaline-rush waterslides, surf simulators, zip lines, laser tag mazes, curated kids and teens programming, adults-only pools, and virtual reality gaming. Hence, there's something for guests of every age. 

Read more: Norwegian Joy vs. Bliss - A Closer Look at Two Major Cruise Ships

Beverages do cost extra unless your fare is all-inclusive or you book during a promotion
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Myth: All Cruise Lines Nickel & Dime You

The only thing that's included in your fare is three standard meals per day, while everything else (drinks, shore excursions, specialty dining, wifi, and gratuities) will incur an extra charge. These costs can add up to a rather shocking total by cruise’s end — but not always.

The only thing that's included in your fare is three standard meals per day, while everything else (drinks, shore excursions, specialty dining, wifi, and gratuities) will incur an extra charge. These costs can add up to a rather shocking total by cruise’s end — but not always.

Seabourn is one of several cruise lines with all-inclusive pricing
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Truth: Not Every Cruise Line Does— And You Can Outsmart The Ones That Do

To avoid being nickel-and-dimed, look for all-inclusive pricing, which you'll find on luxury lines like Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Viking, SeaDream, and Regent. Alternatively, book major cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America) and take advantage of package deals and promotions. These often include beverages, wifi, gratuities, and onboard credits — making your fare almost all-inclusive. 

Read more: The 6 Most All-Inclusive Cruise Lines

To avoid being nickel-and-dimed, look for all-inclusive pricing, which you'll find on luxury lines like Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Viking, SeaDream, and Regent. Alternatively, book major cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America) and take advantage of package deals and promotions. These often include beverages, wifi, gratuities, and onboard credits — making your fare almost all-inclusive.  

Read more: The 6 Most All-Inclusive Cruise Lines

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Myth: Seasickness Will Ruin Your Sailing

The ocean can be fickle, calm one day and topsy-turvy the next. That’s the gamble you take when stepping aboard a cruise ship — and when it does happen, it’s an awful feeling for sure. But, it doesn’t always happen.

Read more: 6 Seasickness Remedies ... Tested!

The ocean can be fickle, calm one day and topsy-turvy the next. That’s the gamble you take when stepping aboard a cruise ship — and when it does happen, it’s an awful feeling for sure. But, it doesn’t always happen.

Read more: 6 Seasickness Remedies ... Tested!

Norwegian Escape cruises the Caribbean near St. Thomas
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Truth: Not All Seas Are Rough & Ships Are More Stable Than Ever

Yes, some places are known for rough seas — the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica, the northern Atlantic, the Gulf of Alaska, the Mediterranean in fall and winter, and the Caribbean in hurricane season — yet it’s smooth sailing most of the time. That's because ships have stabilizers for mild choppiness. If you are prone to motion sickness, pack anti-seasickness meds. River cruising is always a safe option, too.

Read more: 7 Reasons to Go On a River Cruise

Yes, some places are known for rough seas — the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica, the northern Atlantic, the Gulf of Alaska, the Mediterranean in fall and winter, and the Caribbean in hurricane season — yet it’s smooth sailing most of the time. That's because ships have stabilizers for mild choppiness. If you are prone to motion sickness, pack anti-seasickness meds. River cruising is always a safe option, too.

Read more: 7 Reasons to Go On a River Cruise

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