I was speaking with a new friend who has resisted cruising for years, in part because he thought most cruises had regular, serious outbreaks of the norovirus. Like many hearing sensationalistic stories on the news, he didn’t know it wasn’t so.
I’ve been taking cruises for many years. While planning an upcoming cruise, I thought about my early misconceptions about cruising, that of other travelers, and my new friend. I thought about the changes in the cruise industry during the last decade, and decided to examine some of the myths about cruising which persist to this day.
Here are my top ten cruise myths, debunked.
• Many get sick with Norovirus — Noroviruses are a group of viruses which cause gastroenteritis, which attack people almost anywhere large groups of individuals are in close proximity to each other, not just on cruise ships. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are more than 20 million cases of acute gastroenteritis caused by noroviruses each year, or about 1 in every 15 Americans (6.7 percent), but on cruise ships the odds are improved, as just 1 in 3,600 cruise passengers (0.028 percent) get sick from noroviruses. You’re far more likely to get sick from norovirus in a long term care facility, or at your local restaurant.
• Cruisers get fat — It’s true there’s generally an array of food available 24/7 on cruise ships, but there are plenty of healthy food choices for passengers. Most ships have gyms for passengers to work off their overindulgences, a jogging track, and many have classes offering aerobic exercising, and other healthy choices.
• The best cruise deals are found at the last minute — Cheap last-minute cruise deals for some itineraries are offered daily, as cruise lines attempt to fill unsold space. Typically, however, the best cabins sell out first. Also, if a cruise is starting and/or ending in a popular port, hotel space may be severely limited for a pre/post cruise stay. Personally, I look to the “early bird” fares, from a year to 6 months in advance. I’ve gotten “two for one” specials then, plus extras thrown in too. Pre/Post cruise opportunities are normally available when you take advantage of “Early bird” deals.
• Tuxes and evening dresses are a must — Typically there are some dress requirements in the main dining room, but in recent years, dress has become casual. On my last cruise, on a luxury line, a nice shirt and slacks, plus shoes, were all that was needed for any dinner in any of the ship’s restaurants. On many ships, there are venues at which even more casual clothing is fine.
• Ships’ cabins are alike — They’re not. There are a myriad of cabin choices on ships: inside cabins, with no view; outside cabins with fixed windows or a porthole; cabins with an outside veranda, and suites. Within each category there are many variations, including size, layout, amenities and included services. The deck a cabin is on, and where on the deck it’s located, can be very important. From ship to ship, even within the same cruise line, cabins can be considerably different.
• You’ll get seasick — If you suffer from motion sickness in cars, planes or elsewhere, you should be prepared to deal with seasickness. That said, for most people, various sized cruise ships can satisfactorily handle many rough water conditions with their stabilizer systems.
• Cruises are boring since the ships are confining — It’s true you can’t just walk off the ship when it’s at sea, and sometimes not even when in port, according to the country you’re visiting. That said, even on smaller ships there is much to do. Most ships offer all kinds of activities and entertainment, and you can do a lot to control your cruise time. For many, the ship is their destination. I want to visit locations and places as often as possible, off the ship. Your cruise itinerary is your key to making your cruise as busy as you want. I chose cruises with itineraries that have few days at sea and many off- ship excursions. If you’re bored on a cruise, you only have yourself to blame.
• Cruises are all-inclusive — While some are, most cruises are not all-inclusive. To keep their base price low, many cruise lines charge extra for alcoholic beverages, other beverages not at meals, dining in alternative restaurants, small-group classes, spa and exercise sessions, Internet, gratuities, off-ship excursions etc.
Even all-inclusive cruises have some extra charges for special beverages, dry cleaning, Internet, special excursions, etc.
Tip: When choosing a cruise, don’t dismiss what appears to be the high cost of an all-inclusive cruise, compared to a similar non-inclusive cruise. Add up your expected total cost of each before you compare their bottom lines to help make your decision.
• Dinner has assigned times and tables with people I might not like — It’s been five years since I was on a cruise where dinner had assigned seatings and tables. More and more cruise lines are eschewing traditional dinner seatings. Most ships now have alternate restaurants. You can eat there with passengers of your choosing to vary your dinner routine if your ship uses traditional seatings.
• Cruise ships are packed with old people — Many cruisers are senior citizens. I’m one. Most of us are very active and even interesting. When I was younger I met amazing seniors while cruising, and had a marvelous time traveling with them. Generally, longer and more expensive cruises have the most older passengers. Ships with lots of athletic activities generally attract younger passengers.