To Cruise or Not to Cruise: What to Expect if You’re Thinking About Cruising for the First Time

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise shipWith the spring and summer warmth quickly setting in, many people are making summer vacation plans. For many, those plans include a cruise vacation. But, if you’ve never been on a cruise ship before, you may wonder whether taking a cruise is a good choice for your summer or spring vacation. Before you make a decision for or against cruising, there are some things you should keep in mind.

One reason many travelers opt for a cruise vacation is due to the plethora of deals they may find. Sure, it may seem like a deal at first, but while the cost of the cruise itself may seem relatively inexpensive, the price doesn’t include the cost of beverages, shore excursions, or tips for the wait staff. Many cruise passengers get drawn in by exotic destinations and low costs, only to realize that there are additional fees for activities that take place off the ship. These costs, over the course of a five to seven night vacation can quickly add up. Even so, cruises can be incredibly affordable, as long as vacationers plan for the incidental expenses and don’t just base the travel budget on the ticket price.

Secondly, not all cruises are alike. Different cruise lines cater to different vacation needs. Are you an adventurer? Do you like to relax and lounge? Are you looking for a family vacation, or a romantic getaway? Your choice in cruise line and itinerary will depend largely on your vacation needs. Do you have kids? Many cruise lines offer child care and activities for teens and young adults, providing opportunities for parents to have time alone, while also making sure that the family can enjoy the vacation together. Be sure to do your research and choose a ship and itinerary that best fits your interests.

Along with vacation needs, travelers may also want to inquire about onboard activities. Every ship is unique, some offering a bevy of features such as rock climbing walls, casinos, and yoga studios. Entertainment also varies from cruise to cruise. One thing that makes cruise ships so appealing is that they offer amenities that aren’t typical on a “traditional” vacation. Vessels these days are often equipped with onboard Wi-Fi and offer a range of services to ensure that vacationers have everything they need.

If you’re a fan of socializing, cruising also offers the chance to meet like-minded travelers along the way. Passengers are often seated at group tables for meals and have plenty of opportunities to interact in common areas and during shows. That being said, cruise vacations also offer several opportunities for privacy and romance, including private dining options, romantic excursions, and other activities.

However, individuals who are planning on taking a cruise should not let the plethora of amenities lull them into a false sense of security. Cruises are sometimes struck by on-board epidemics, Norovirus being the most notorious of the illnesses affecting passengers. Given that cruise ships create enclosed populations of individuals in close contact, these diseases can sometimes spread rapidly.

Passengers should be sure to bring hand sanitizer, first-aid kits, and all medicines, including painkillers. While cruise ships stock most medicines, the cost of buying these items at sea will leave many with sticker-shock. And, though many ships are equipped with on board medical facilities, as our cruise lawyers here at LMAW have said in the past, these facilities aren’t intended for treating serious emergencies, so travelers shouldn’t expect hospital-quality medical services while on board.

Additionally, potential passengers should research ports of call to ensure that the destinations are safe. Cruise lines may sail to areas where crime is common. Theft and assaults can happen, and passengers should be prepared. What’s even more frightening is the fact that crimes can – and often do – happen on board. Traveling in larger numbers, avoiding secluded areas, and refraining from carrying expensive jewelry and accessories can help reduce the risk of becoming the victim of a crime on the high seas.

Another thing to consider is the fact that while cruising presents the opportunity to ‘get away from it all’, a cruise isn’t exactly a vacation you can take on the fly. Space on board can get pretty scarce the closer you get to a sail date. If you want the freedom and flexibility to just go with the flow, you might want to consider an alternative option.

At the end of the day, each traveler will have to make a decision for himself or herself whether or not to cruise. Regardless of choice in cruise line, passengers should evaluate each ship’s safety record before making a decision to ensure a fun, yet safe vacation.