If you love cruising, you’re not alone. Millions of us do. But just like a spouse that you love with all your heart, there are some things that can still drive you up the wall.
It’s just natural that over time you’ll start to notice some things here and there that could be improved.
So while we’re nowhere close to asking for the divorce just yet, there are plenty of things we’d change if we were in charge of the cruise ship.
They range from small annoyances to much bigger issues with cruising that can cost passengers a lot of time or money.
If you’ve sailed, you’ve likely encountered some of the annoying things we mention. If not, just know that these are areas where cruising could be better.
Specialty Restaurant Explosion
Who would complain about having more restaurants on a cruise ship?
In the old days you might have had a main dining room and a buffet. These days cruise ships are bursting with restaurants, serving all types of food. From spots that serve burgers to Asian to steakhouses to Mexican, cruise ships today can cater to any taste.
The only issue is that increasingly it’s going to cost you.
Yes, you can eat for free on the cruise ship. Places like the dining room and buffet are always included with your fare. But increasingly specialty restaurants are making their way onto the ship. On one hand it’s nice having more options. On the other, they are only available if you want to pay up.
For those that don’t want to eat at the same spot for an entire week, it means you’re left having to spend more just to get a different taste.
That’s not saying there’s anything wrong with specialty restaurants. It would just be nice to see free options increasing in tandem with the number of paid options.
Some cruise lines like Carnival seem to be pretty good about this with spots like BlueIguana and Guy’s Burger Joint. Others like Norwegian Cruise Lines are definitely pushing toward more paid restaurants.
Constant Sales Pitches
No one likes being “sold” but on a cruise, sometimes it can feel like you just paid a cruise fare for the luxury of entering a shopping mall. Not only are there plenty of places to spend your money — including stores selling everything from photos to expensive jewelry and watches — but there is also lots of advertising.
From the moment you step on the ship you’ll be hit with offers. Drink packages, spa treatments, excursions, and more are all offered.
Now to be sure, it’s not an aggressive sales pitch or pushy sales tactics. But the hum of sales being offered is always in the background, whether it’s a mention during announcements on the ship’s loudspeakers or a flyer put on your cabin door.
Of course, it’s easy to see the “why” behind these pitches. Inviting people to spend more on the ship means more revenue for the cruise lines. That’s why we’d expect that sales pitches and reminders are not going anywhere. Even so, a cruise would be more enjoyable without them.
Cruise pricing is something that to us feels disingenuous. While technically the cruise lines aren’t doing anything wrong, it just feels wrong.
Head to a cruise website and you’ll find some ridiculously cheap fares mentioned. And even beyond those attractive sale offers, any cruise fare you see listed will almost always be much lower than what you actually pay.
That’s because the “list price” that’s shown in just a fraction of what you pay. Prices are shown on a per-person basis, but cabins are sold at double occupancy. So a $500 price that’s shown is actually $1,000 to book the cabin.
On top of that you have port fees and expenses. That can easily be another $100-$200 per person. Then you have gratuities, which technically are optional, but very few of us are going to withhold compensating the crew. Gratuities for a couple sailing for a week easily run $200.
In other words, a cruise that’s shown for $500 actually ends up being about three times that in a lot of cases.
To be sure, all of these costs are disclosed before you actually purchase the cruise. It would be much more helpful, however, if the full price you pay was totaled upfront — including the double occupancy fare, port fees, taxes, and gratuities.
Lack of a Powered Vent in the Bathroom
Call it a minor annoyance, but if you’ve spent time in a cabin with someone else, you know the lack of a powered vent in the bathroom can be a big deal.
First things first, cruise cabins are notoriously small. While it’s plenty of room for two people for a week, there’s no doubt that it’s tight quarters. And with a bathroom that’s usually less than 10 feet from the bed? Let’s just say a strong vent wouldn’t hurt.
Now, there is a vent in the cabins, but it’s not like ones at home. It’s a quiet cabin vent that’s often positioned above the shower.
What we’d like to see is a power vent that you can turn on and have a fan to not only take away smells, but also create some white noise to cover up bathroom sounds. Given the close quarters in the cabin, it’s likely all passengers would appreciate it.
Lack of TV Channels
There is no shame in watching some television during your cruise. When you’ve been in port all day or hanging out by the pool, taking some time to just chill out and relax in front of the TV — in the cool cabin is really nice. It’s also a nice break when you’re waiting on someone else to get ready to head to dinner.
The only problem is that there’s usually never anything on.
The TV channels on a cruise are very few. There might be twenty channels, but many of those are things like safety videos or shopping information. In some cases there might only be a dozen random channels and many of the big networks aren’t available.
Further, some of the most popular channels like ESPN are either unavailable or only showing an international version of the channel (so you better like cricket).
The challenges of getting TV stations at sea are understandable, but today — when you can get Internet access in the middle of the ocean — it seems like it would be feasible to get a few more stations than what’s available now.
Upselling All the Time
Earlier, there was mention about all the sales on the ship. What hasn’t been mentioned is that the urge to get you to spend more isn’t limited to just buying souvenirs or fancy jewelry. These days it seems like so many things are upsells.
Take booking your cabin. Sure, we’ve mentioned that the headline prices are just a fraction of what you’ll actually pay. But throughout the booking process the costs continue to add up.
The rate shown is the base rate. Want to move up a few decks? The price is usually higher — and priced as a number of dollars, per person, per day, instead of the complete total.
What about moving to a room forward or aft on the ship? There’s typically an upcharge here as well.
Even drink packages see the upsell. It seems fair to have to pay extra for alcohol. And drink packages can save you money and offer convenience. These days, however, there isn’t just one package on most lines. There is often a regular package and then a deluxe package that costs even more.
It’s understandable that cruise lines want to maximize their profits, but as a passenger it’s frustrating to have to navigate through the sea of offers to figure out the best deal.
Self-Serve Drinks Not Available Around the Ship
Sometimes you just want a glass of water. And while cruise ships are getting better about it, the only reliable place to get a self-serve drink is in the buffet. There you’ll have all your free options, including water, juice and tea.
But outside of the buffet, it’s hit or miss around the rest of the ship. Sometimes there are spots here and there to pick up a drink, or a bar that has a water dispenser you can serve yourself from. All too often, however, you either need to get the attention of a bartender for a glass of water or head all the way to the buffet to pick up a glass.
Sure it’s a mild inconvenience, but it would be nice if water stations were spread around the ship as often as bars seem to be.
One thing that is very nice is that the cruise lines often put out glasses of water at the entrance of the ship when getting back from a day in port. It’s great to have something to drink waiting on you when you’ve just spent a lot of time in the heat.
Set Dining Times
Now, you should know that while set dining times are a thing, it’s not a law. If you don’t show up right at 5:30 to be seated, they aren’t going to refuse you service. Meanwhile, cruise lines are often switching over to open dining. You just show up when you want to eat and be served.
Even so, it still seems strange — and slightly annoying — that set dining times are even a thing on a cruise ship.
Even if most of us follow a normal routine and eat around the same time, there’s something that feels wrong about feeling like you have a set deadline to eat while you’re on vacation. Who wants to leave the pool when they are enjoying themselves because they have to get to dinner?
Of course, set dining times can help spread out the dinnertime crowds. Without them, it’s likely you’d have a long wait during prime dinner times when thousands are all trying to eat at once.
One solution might be having more free dining options to better spread crowds around the ship during mealtimes.
The Disembarkation Process
Cruising is a funny thing. Everyone wants to be the first on the ship… and everyone wants to be the first off. Unfortunately, it can take hours to get off the ship.
Debarkation is done in stages. Those who are carrying all their bags with them are allowed to get off the ship first. Many people choose to do this, leading to long lines right at the start of disembarkation.
At the same time, the cruise line is reliant on the processing speed of government officials in the terminal checking everyone back into the country.
It all boils down to what can sometimes be a long wait. If you are scheduled to fly out the day your ship gets back into port, it can leave you checking your watch.
The good news is that things are getting better. Many ports are implementing new terminals that allow you to simply scan a passport and exit the terminal. The process takes seconds. That’s much faster than the traditional method of waiting in line to meet with a CBP agent.
Hopefully in the future your walk off the ship when you arrive back in port will have you barely breaking stride.
Let’s just be realistic. Cruising is great, but it can always be better. What sort of annoyances do you see in cruising? Let us all know in the comments below.
I thought that this was a really interesting and helpful article. I’ve been on about six cruises with my wife and it took me about three to finally learn how to deal with most of these nine issues addressed.
I unfortunately think that the priority for cruise lines is working around Covid-19 and regaining all the lost profits over the next 3-5 years. Maybe then they may be open to making adjustments like the ones the article pointed out.