looking out cruise ship window
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
February 11, 2024 ·  25 min read

Cruise Ship Vacations: Expectation vs. Reality

Many crave a taste of luxury and turn to cruise ships to fulfill that desire. However, the reality often differs from the dream depicted in advertisements. We’ll share some examples that might sway your decision about that long-awaited cruise ship vacation. The choice is yours; read on.

Boarding Expectations on a Cruise Ship Vacation

Cruise boarding entrance platform in sea port. Horizontal view
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Imagine finally stepping onto your dream cruise ship, a getaway you’ve yearned for, perhaps even daydreamed about during office hours. It’s your escape from the monotonous routine of daily life, a chance to flaunt those designer shades you’ve been saving. You might have selected the perfect outfit reserved solely for this moment, envisioning yourself gazing back at the city while seagulls circle above.

Boarding Reality on a Cruise Ship Vacation

boarding a cruise ship
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Yet, reality doesn’t always match our expectations. We tend to forget that many others share this dream, resulting in longer lines than anticipated. Standing in a queue with fellow travelers doesn’t quite align with the fantasy, does it? To make matters less idyllic, you might encounter crying babies, bickering elderly couples searching for seats, and individuals with excessive baggage blocking the aisle.

Poolside Paradise Expectation

View of top deck of cruise ship with luxurious pools and spa facilities.
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Let’s talk about the pool—a quintessential cruise ship vacation setting featured in movie shows like “The Love Boat,” and countless ads. We all yearn for that perfect scene: crystal-clear water, a tropical drink in hand, and the feeling of finally being on the vacation you’ve always craved. In your fantasy, you’ve probably even imagined water slides and an endless row of sunbeds, each occupied by sunbathers with perfect bodies. As you soak in the sun, a handsome server approaches, offering you another piña colada or perhaps a margarita.

Poolside Reality

cruise ship pool
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The cruise ship’s top deck often resembles a crowded scene, far from the serene environment you had imagined. The photo gives you a glimpse of what it’s really like. Not exactly the peaceful setting you had in mind, is it? However, even if it’s not the picturesque scene you expected, there’s a silver lining. The abundance of people around you opens up opportunities to make new friends. Before you know it, you might forge lifelong connections.

Hot Tub Delight Expectation

hot tub pool on a cruise ship
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Now, let’s talk about the hot tub, the prized jewel of the cruise ship that attracts all the visitors looking to unwind. Advertisements often depict this scene as glamorous, with people raising drinks adorned with little parasols and having endless fun. It’s an image that entices many to embark on a cruise. In the background, you spot chic chairs where you can recline and listen to soothing lounge music that transports you into full vacation mode. Everyone appears relaxed and happy, forming cozy pairs and flirting. It feels like a grand, sophisticated, and captivating party.

Hot Tub Disappointment Reality

hot tub on cruise ship
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Unfortunately, your dreams about the perfect cruise ship vacation are about to be shattered again. Other guests on the ship have harbored similar fantasies while toiling away in their cramped office cubicles, hoping for time to pass faster. And guess what? You’ll likely encounter them all on the cruise in the hot tub. Instead of the peaceful atmosphere with relaxing lounge music, you’re met with generic pop tunes blaring from the speakers and constant chatter from those around you. Just when you think you can handle the noise, a crying baby pierces your eardrums.

Room Expectations

interior of a living cabin on a cruise ship - with bunk beds and window
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Room choices vary in comfort, depending on your budget, but the ideal view often involves gazing at the golden horizon from the luxurious embrace of your bed. The lighting is crucial too, just right—not too bright or dim—creating a flattering ambiance for effortless photo-taking. You can upload these envy-inducing snapshots and make non-cruise-goers green with jealousy. Comfort, luxury, perfect lighting, Instagram-worthy photos—what more could you ask for?

Room Reality

room on ship
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However, the reality of cruise ship vacation rooms can fall short of expectations. The lighting often feels more like what you’d find in an improvised emergency room than a cruise cabin. And if you were hoping for opulent interiors, prepare for a bit of disappointment. Brochures might promise spacious suites, but in truth, cruise ship accommodations are far from the roominess of a Hilton. Cruise companies need to maximize occupancy to cover their expenses, so what you’re essentially paying for is, well, a lack of space.

Entertainment Expectations

Cruise Ship, Caribbean Sea - DEC 4: Cabaret performers in stage show on cruise ship off Cayman Islands on December 4, 2011. Cruising now accounts for $30 billion, with 20 million passengers worldwide.
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Some cruisers look forward to more than just the rooms or hot tubs; they anticipate the chance to see famous bands perform onboard. After all, you’ve invested a significant sum in this ticket, so it’s reasonable to expect that some of that money went into booking a performer you’re at least somewhat familiar with. It might not be Rihanna or Drake, but perhaps a mid-tier artist who knows how to get the crowd going. That’s the cruise experience—relaxation, entertainment, and letting loose.

Entertainment Reality

onboard entertainment
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However, the reality can be quite different. Sometimes, the onboard artist feels like they should be paying to perform on the cruise rather than getting paid. And in unfortunate cases, there might not be any notable artist at all, just a random person next to your cabin blasting “Who Let the Dogs Out” incessantly. Before you book your cruise ship vacation ticket, scrutinize the entertainment lineup carefully. Are the performers the real deal, a tribute act, or complete unknowns? It’s essential to verify, especially when you’re parting with months’ worth of savings for your dream cruise. If you’re content with any entertainment, that’s fine. Otherwise, you might end up wasting your money.

Casino Fantasies

Marseille, France - April 10, 2023 : View of the casino and gaming tables inside the MSC Seashore cruise ship.
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For some cruisers, the hot tub isn’t the main attraction; they’re eager to hit the casino and try their luck with some well-earned cash. Despite the already high trip cost, the allure of gambling—roulette, blackjack, or slot machines—can be irresistible. So, you make your way to the casino with visions of slot machines chiming loudly and coins cascading or you dominating at blackjack. You imagine a lavish setting with Baccarat crystal chandeliers, women in elegant gowns, and men in tuxedos, reminiscent of James Bond in “Casino Royale.” You expect it to be just like the movies because, honestly, where else have you seen cruise ship gambling besides in brochures?

Cruise Ship Vacation Casino Reality Check

Cruise Ship Vacation Casino
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Unfortunately, the reality of the ship’s gambling facilities may leave you disappointed. The tables and chairs, while not shabby, prioritize function over ornate design. There might be a dress code, but don’t expect to find a sea of gentlemen in white jackets. Plus, there might not be enough machines and games to accommodate everyone at all times. So, if you’re already having a bad day due to dashed expectations, losing money on the one available game or machine can make it worse because there are no other options.

The Ship’s Grandeur Expectation

Cruise ship in Puerto Rico ready to depart
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We often get captivated by those majestic online images of cruise ships, and somewhere in the back of our minds, a little voice whispers that all cruise ships are roughly the same size. You anticipate that the ship you’re boarding will be as colossal and glamorous as those you’ve seen in your Google searches. The sight of long lines of rooms on the ship’s side makes it appear like a floating city. This might indeed be the case on many cruise ships, especially considering that the destinations often have smaller populations than the vessel itself. Those islands can certainly feel tiny in comparison!

The Ship’s Grandeur Reality

cruise ship
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However, reality can diverge significantly. Cruise ships come in various sizes; some resemble ferries more than vessels capable of crossing the Atlantic without things tumbling over in heavy waves. As you approach what looks less like the ship in the brochure and more like the toy boat you found in your cereal box this morning, you might contemplate requesting a refund for that cruise ship vacation. Frankly, it appears as though this thing might need towing back for repairs after even the slightest storm.

Read: Mom Delivers Epic Rant After Forgetting to Pack Her Own Clothes on a Family Trip.

Age Demographic Expectations

Deckchairs Cruise Ship Relax. Cruise Guest Relaxing in the Sun. Commercial Maritime Theme.
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Cruise ship vacation advertisements often misrepresent the actual age demographic of cruisers. They tend to showcase youthful, radiant individuals with huge smiles, partying the night away. While they may not be supermodels, they’re portrayed as young, exceptionally attractive, and seemingly well-off enough to afford a cruise. If you solely rely on what the ads show, it appears dreamlike. However, a bit of skepticism might make you question whether this portrayal holds true.

Age Demographic Reality

old people on a cruise ship vacation
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As you step aboard, you notice lines for check-in and lines on people’s faces—many, many lines. The age group onboard appears older than anticipated. You start to wonder if this is the sexy, youthful cruise promised in the ads or a pricey floating senior living facility. Perhaps you spot a few silver foxes as you navigate the crowds, but they’re the minority, often accompanied by a significant other. Gradually, you realize this isn’t the floating Ibiza party you envisioned; instead, it seems like the entire senior population of Fort Lauderdale has chosen this ship as their home for the next few weeks.

Cruise ship vacation Dining Expectations

CARNIVAL "CONQUEST" - 4 AM. JUNE 5, 2008: Renoir Forward Restaurant. Cruise ship main dining room for over 1,000 seats is awaiting for new guests.
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So far, your expectations have been met with disappointment, but there must be some aspect of the cruise that aligns with the promises, even just a bit, right? Let’s explore the dining room. Surely, this can’t disappoint. In your mind, you’ve pictured crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, a menu offering gourmet delights that your taste buds and waistline don’t mind indulging in, and servers in elegant uniforms always wearing a smile, perhaps even anticipating your needs. Does this fantasy match the onboard reality?

Cruise ship vacation Dining Reality

buffet dining on cruise ship
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In truth, the actual dining room on a cruise ship might resemble more of a school cafeteria or mess hall than the glamour and elegance you expected. As you approach, you can’t help but wonder if you’re on a luxury cruise or a rugged Arctic expedition. The menu choices could also leave something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong; there are moments when the food is gourmet and quite enjoyable. However, you might wonder if the cruise ship’s menu was copied straight from your local YMCA back home.

Weather Expectations

Source: Shutterstock

Cruise ship vacation ads never feature bad weather because it’s bad for business. You’ll always see rainbows, sunshine, and clear blue skies. Rain seems nonexistent! Imagine yourself basking in the sun, working on your tan, and marveling at why you didn’t go on a cruise sooner. Your mind drifts to all the Instagram updates you’ll post, showcasing your tan and the exotic ports where the ship docks. You pity everyone back home, stuck behind their desks while you embark on the adventure of a lifetime aboard a floating paradise.

Weather Realities

misty weather on cruise ship
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Those familiar with tropical weather know it can switch from sunny to a fierce storm in moments. You might find yourself pondering whether it’s time to start loading pairs of animals onto the ship, much like Noah and his ark. Sailing to northern regions doesn’t guarantee calm weather either. You might not even catch sight of the horizon due to fog on the deck. Heavy rain and strong waves could prevent passengers from going on deck. So, you end up gazing out the window, waiting for the rain to stop, much like you did while sitting in your cubicle back home.

Onboard Activities Expectations

Caribbean Sea -2023: Royal Caribbean (RCL) Jewel of the Sea cruise ship Sail Away. Upper decks of the ship. Pool with life guard, Movie screen, Vortex night club and Diamond Club.
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The onboard facilities and activities often don’t align with your expectations. You might have envisioned yourself participating in thrilling activities or enjoying a water slide while your significant other waits below to catch you. It sounds like the perfect way to unwind from work, right? Cruise ship vacation companies often portray their water slides as larger-than-life, sometimes even bigger than the ship itself, regardless of how implausible it may seem. But if it appears too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for that.

Onboard Activities Reality

watermelon food art
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The actual leisure activities available onboard can be disappointingly mundane, as seen in this photo. Instead of a sun-soaked adventure or hours of thrilling water slide rides, you find yourself carving fruit or putting faces on fruit, resembling an elementary school arts and crafts class. While you ponder how you spent your savings to carve fruit at sea, fellow participants begin to walk away in frustration. Steam may as well emerge from their ears as they storm back to their cramped cabins. Staff don’t need a closer look to realize that guests are furious and on the warpath. They politely, though slightly panicked, step aside.

Spa Expectations on a Cruise Ship Vacation

Massage beds with beautiful tropical beach in background
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When you envision a cruise ship spa, you often picture something more upscale, akin to the photo. You imagine a couple’s massage and heavenly treatments that leave you smelling like a garden of roses. The plush benches you lie on are impeccably clean, and the towels are fluffier than cotton—they look and feel brand new. But do you honestly think the staff went through all this trouble after you snagged that discount cruise ticket from the local newspaper? Not likely!

Spa Reality on a Cruise Ship Vacation

cruise sjip spa
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Waking up in the cruise ship spa after your massage feels more like emerging from cryosleep in a sci-fi movie like “Alien.” While there’s no bloodthirsty monster chasing you, shall we say, the air carries the scents of people who might not prioritize hygiene or perfume like you do. It can certainly spoil any post-massage romantic plans with your partner. As you avoid glancing at the half-naked stranger to your left, who shouldn’t be in that state in public (or even in private, in your opinion), you can’t help but wonder if things are as clean as they should be. Plus, there’s no way to unsee the half-naked stranger.

Souvenir Shopping Expectations

Miami, USA - April 29, 2022: Interior of the shop or store at Atrium in the at new cruise ship or new flagship of MSC Seashore, the largest cruise ship built in Italy.
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Some individuals love shopping just for the sake of it, without necessarily intending to bring back items for friends and family. If you’re not a fan of such shoppers, you might feel they spend too much time in shops instead of exploring the local sights at the cruise ship’s destinations. However, if you’d rather shop than take in the scenery or immerse yourself in the local culture, that’s your prerogative. Shopping can still be a form of cultural immersion. Just consider bargaining for that artisanal piece you plan to gift your mother-in-law. She may still not appreciate it, but at least you managed to haggle a bit.

Souvenir Shopping Reality

ouvenirs you buy on a cruise ship vacation
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The souvenirs you buy on a cruise ship vacation might resemble items you’d find in a run-down downtown shop back home rather than something authentic or special enough to pass down as an heirloom. The unique pieces of art you seek often fall short of expectations. Then there are the t-shirts, hanging in colorful rows at beachfront stores, swaying in the breeze. They look cool, so you buy one and look like a walking advertisement for the island, just like everyone else on the cruise ship.

Dolphin and Whale Watching Expectations

dolphins sighting in Azores Island Atlantic Ocean
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You didn’t embark on this cruise to lounge by the pool or engage in semi-uncomfortable conversations with individuals old enough to be your grandparents. No, you came to witness orcas and cheerful dolphins because you can’t get over your fascination with Flipper even after all these years. Standing on deck at the magical hour, you eagerly anticipate the dolphins and perhaps even whales emerging from the sparkling blue sea. You ignore warnings not to lean too far over the railing as you strain to catch a first glimpse. You wait and wait and wait.

Dolphin and Whale Watching Reality

cruise ship view of ocean
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Soon, you realize the star attractions aren’t showing up on your cruise ship vacation. You’re disappointed, even though the brochure made no promises. Where are the leaping orcas? What about the dolphins twirling on their tails on command? Then it dawns on you that the creatures at Sea World are very different from their wild counterparts. They perform those stunts under duress, not because they naturally feel inclined to flip and twirl as requested. You remain in your spot, even as minutes confirm that Flipper and Willy won’t appear. You refuse to give up hope—maybe the dolphins will sense your desire to see them. Why not, right? On a side note, once, I knew a guy working on a cruise ship, and a guest asked him why the humpback whales hadn’t shown themselves yet, as if they followed a schedule.

Beaches Expectations on a cruise ship vacation

Cruise To Caribbean With Palm tree On Coral Beach
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When you browse the web, it’s easy to be captivated by the stunning beach photos that grace your screen. Some might be of destinations where the cruise ship will anchor, while others showcase unknown Caribbean islands that are equally, if not more, incredible. Who can resist a beach with pristine white sand, crystal-clear water, and abundant sunshine? Who wouldn’t want to kickstart their vacation ahead of schedule? No one in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to relax on a beach, surrounded by the serene sounds of the wind and gentle ocean waves, hoping the moment would last forever. Oh, and you have the whole beach to yourself, by the way!

Beaches Reality on a Cruise Ship Vacation

people swimmig in ocean near cruise ship
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More often than not, the beaches where cruise ships dock are far from untouched, and the dream of sunbathing and relaxing in tranquility rarely becomes a reality. These beaches are often crowded tourist spots that have lost some of their charm and marine biodiversity due to excessive tourism. If you’ve ever been to a beach, you know that when the sun is shining, everyone has the same idea—getting a tan and frolicking in the water—consequently, both the shoreline and the water become congested. If you don’t want your beach visit to consist of constantly avoiding others or worse, you might need to adjust your expectations.

Seasickness Expectations

boy teenager suffers from motion sickness while on a boat trip. Fear of traveling or illness of the virus during a cruise holiday.
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Cruise ship ads make it seem like everyone on board is immune to seasickness. They showcase people smiling, laughing, and appearing to have the time of their lives, never experiencing any discomfort as the ship sways from side to side. The models in these ads never spill a drop of their cocktails or teeter in their high heels because, in reality, the ship is anchored. It creates a convincing illusion, but the truth can be a bit rougher around the edges.

Seasickness Reality

man suffers from motion sickness while on a boat trip. Fear of traveling or illness of the virus during a cruise holiday.
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After a few weeks on the cruise, you may start to notice some individuals within groups, like friends and family, who are frequently absent. When they emerge, their partners may look anxious, wondering if their loved ones will ever exit the bathroom. You can almost count on seeing a dad equipped with plastic bags prepared for a kid or two in case of emergencies. At this point, you might start to wonder if you’re part of some peculiar experiment that has been ongoing for weeks, if not months.

“I’m Flying, Jack!” Expectation

Romantic couple having fun laughing in funny pose on cruise ship boat. Smiling happy man and woman on travel vacation holidays on open ocean sea.
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Everyone remembers the iconic scene from “Titanic” where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) invites Rose (Kate Winslet) to trust him and keep her eyes closed. When he tells her to open her eyes, Rose stands at the ship’s bow with her arms outstretched and exclaims, “I’m flying!” It’s a special moment indeed, and if you ever find yourself on a cruise ship, you might be tempted to recreate it. However, be cautious to avoid any safety risks, as safety should always be a top priority on any trip, whether by air, land, or sea.

“I’m Flying, Jack!” Reality

funny pose on cruise ship vacation
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Even if you attempt to recreate this iconic scene, remember that filming it for the movie involves extensive behind-the-scenes preparation. If you believe you can simply go up to the deck and replicate it for a photo op, in reality, you might be mistaken. While we all want to reenact certain scenes and immerse ourselves in the magic of movies, it’s best to leave this one to the professionals. Leaning out too far might lead to security questioning your actions. It’s safer to follow the example of the woman in the photo.

Working in a Cruise Ship Expectations

Laundry worker is folding a towels. He is wearing a white shirt with his position. Hard worker.
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Movies often portray cruise ship staff as having simple lives, casually conversing with guests occasionally. We see staff members who appear to be lounging around, prompting us to wonder why no one seems to be working. In the photo, they’re lined up, waiting for something to happen and someone to assist. This might seem ideal, but their working conditions aren’t always as depicted.

Working in a Cruise Ship Reality

cruise ship worker in bunk
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Firstly, consider that if you thought your own suite was small, the ones for the ship’s staff and crew are likely even smaller. Unless you have a specialized role on board, you’re often confined to such tight spaces. While the crew is there to work, not vacation, it would be nice for them to have slightly larger accommodations than shown in the photo. Additionally, their working hours are often quite long, leaving them with limited opportunities to explore the destinations where the ship docks.

Read: Horrified dad reveals eye-watering cost of a family trip to Disneyland

Pirates Expectation

jack sparrow
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Hollywood has given us a romanticized view of pirates, epitomized by characters like Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. These movie pirates survive shipwrecks, seek cursed treasures, embark on adventures guided by compasses that don’t seem to work, and deliver witty quips. The portrayal of classical pirates often feels like it’s taken straight from a Shakespearean play, blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

Pirates Reality

LIBREVILLE, GABON - MAR 6, 2013: Two small boats near the port of Libreville. Port of Libreville is a trade center for a timber region.
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In reality, modern-day piracy is a serious issue, especially off the coast of Somalia. Cruise and cargo ships in various regions have had to implement security measures to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. This can include having armed guards on board to deter pirate attacks or installing giant water cannons to repel potential threats. Real-life piracy is far from the glamorous image portrayed in movies, and it certainly doesn’t involve parrots and swashbuckling adventures.

Shipboard Romance Expectation

portrait of lovely couple embracing on cruise ship
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Many envision a romantic cruise experience with their significant other, complete with a perfect sunset on the deck. In this idealized scenario, you and your partner stand together, gazing into the horizon, feeling like you’re in a classic Hollywood movie. Work and daily life stress melts away as you trade your office attire for elegant outfits, creating a memory that will last a lifetime.

Shipboard Romance Reality

Shipboard Romance Reality
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However, real-life cruises often differ significantly from these movie scenes. Cruise ships cater to a wide range of age groups, which means they organize activities that can be noisy and take up space. So, those quiet, romantic moments on deck might be interrupted by screaming kids, adults trying to relive their youth, and activity supervisors shouting instructions through megaphones. Achieving that idealized movie romance on a crowded cruise ship can be challenging, so you might want to consider other options for a romantic evening.

Bathing Accommodations Expectation

Luxury traveling. Bathroom interior of modern motor yacht.
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Luxury cruise ship photos sometimes showcase lavish bathrooms with plenty of glass and elegant design. While they look great, you might wonder about privacy and visibility if you need to use the restroom when other boats are nearby or if people can see inside. However, when you’re far out at sea, you can enjoy a relaxing moment in these luxurious facilities without any worries. Remember that not all guests on the cruise will have access to bathrooms like this.

Bathing Accommodations Reality

cruise ship vacation bathroom
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Most guests on a cruise will find their cabin bathrooms to be more modest, like the one shown in the photo. It’s a compact space where you don’t have to get up from the toilet to wash your hands, but it’s certainly not the epitome of luxury. The small size of these bathrooms means everything else has to fit in tight quarters, making it challenging for guests to feel relaxed. It’s a far cry from the opulent restroom depicted in the expectation and might prompt some reconsideration of life choices.

Tours and the Places You’ll Go Expectation

Cruise ship docked at tropical port on sunny day
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The idealized cruise experience often includes visits to picturesque, tropical destinations where the ship drops anchor at quaint, welcoming villages. Crystal-clear turquoise waters, fine white sand, and the soothing sounds of local music characterize these idyllic places. You can almost taste the aroma of delicious seafood wafting through the air. It’s a world where relaxation and exploration go hand in hand, and every moment feels like a tropical paradise.

Tours and the Places You’ll Go Reality

crusie ship
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In reality, not every cruise ship can visit every interesting place, and some islands may require higher fees for cruise ship visits. Additionally, the size of the ship plays a role, as not all ports can accommodate large vessels. If your ship is on the larger side, you might be docked at a commercialized port rather than a secluded tropical paradise. The reality of cruise destinations can vary widely from the dreamy images often portrayed.

Cocktails Expectation

portrait of young people toasting with cocktail drinks on a cruise ship
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Cruise cocktails often feature tropical flavors like mango, pineapple, kiwi, and coconut. These colorful concoctions, garnished with parasols and fruit slices, look great in photos and provide a taste of the tropics. Plus, they might contain some vitamins (especially in virgin versions), making it easy to enjoy a healthy dose of relaxation and style while sipping these refreshing beverages.

Cocktails Reality

cruise ship cocktails
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The reality of cruise ship cocktails can be different from the expectation. Availability can vary, and sometimes certain ingredients, like specific fruits, may run out. Late-night parties on cruise ships or anywhere else can lead to messy scenes similar to those created by overenthusiastic frat partygoers. It’s not always a glamorous experience, and the aftermath can be less than appealing.

More Tours Expectation

Kirkwall, Orkney Island, Scotland, UK. 4 June 2023. Cruise ship passengers return to their ship by shuttle buses provided by the local authority.
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Cruise passengers often receive catalogs or brochures listing various tour options the cruise company offers. These materials allow passengers to select activities that align with their interests and preferences. These tours are expected to provide memorable and enjoyable experiences, like snorkeling in serene waters teeming with colorful fish.

More Tours Reality

tropical island snorkling
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The reality of cruise ship tours can be somewhat different. The limited choices and availability of tours may not always align with passengers’ interests. Opting for a tour can sometimes mean enduring long bus rides with fellow passengers, which might not be as peaceful and quiet as you’d hope. Tour guides may also engage passengers in sing-alongs or other activities that may not be to everyone’s liking. The actual tour experience can vary widely from what’s advertised in brochures.

The Age Demographic on a Cruise Ship Vacation Expectation Part 2

beautiful happy middle aged couple relaxing on deck chairs of a cruise ship - travel and vacation concept
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Many people don’t consider the age demographic when booking a cruise, assuming that fellow passengers will be similar in age and interests. This assumption often stems from cruise ads typically featuring models from a specific age group. Once the trip is booked, passengers expect the experience to align with the ad’s portrayal.

The Age Demographic on a Cruise Ship Vacation Reality Part 2

kids entertainment on cruise ship
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The reality onboard can differ significantly from what’s shown in the cruise ads, especially when family-oriented cruises welcome children. Kids who are active on land become even more exuberant at sea, excited by mascots, music, and novel experiences. Children tend to be loud, and their enthusiasm can disrupt the calm and quiet experience you anticipate. This can lead to disappointment, making you question the value of the money spent on the trip.

The Tender Boat Expectation

woman driving small boat
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After spending days on the cruise ship, passengers often look forward to a change of scenery and new experiences offered by tender boats. They may dress up and expect the tender boat to resemble something sleek and stylish, reminiscent of what they’ve seen in movies like Baywatch. This expectation matches the money spent on the cruise and adds to the excitement of the trip.

The Tender Boat Reality

Cruise ship at anchor ourside St Peter Port, Guernsey. Large ship with blue hull and a yellow lifeboat or tender off the coast of the Channel Islands, UK.
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The tender boat that transports passengers from the ship to an island for shore excursions may not be the sleek and stylish vessel they imagined. It’s a functional, practical boat, and while it gets the job done, it doesn’t offer the glamorous experience some may have expected. This can lead to a sense of disappointment when passengers encounter a utilitarian boat instead of a sleek, stylish one.

A Rejuvenating Trip Expectation

A cup of coffee on a table overlooking the beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas.
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Many people look forward to cruises as a break from their daily routines, especially if they spend their days in a cubicle or in a colder climate. A cruise promises warmth, open spaces, and an opportunity to explore new places and cuisines. Passengers often expect to enjoy fresh, healthy local cuisine and anticipate a rejuvenating experience. The benefits of such a trip seem to outweigh any potential risks.

A Rejuvenating Trip Reality

man lying on boat
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While indulging in local cuisine on a cruise is a must, it can sometimes lead to digestive discomfort. Trying new spices, herbs, and flavors can shock the body, especially if it’s unaccustomed to such ingredients. The result can be an upset stomach or other digestive issues. To avoid these pitfalls, taking precautions, such as packing necessary medications and being aware of potential allergens is essential. Taking these medical safety measures can ensure that you’re on a first-name basis with fellow cruisers rather than with an upset stomach or other health issues.

A Career in the High Seas Expectation

GIUDECCA, VENICE, ITALY - SEPT 2 2022: Crew in a row during welcome reception of the most luxurious cruise ship MS Europa 2, Hapag-LLoyd Cruises. Giudecca, Venice in Italy.
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Imagine you’re having a fantastic time on a cruise: excellent service, comfortable accommodations, and delicious food. However, your departure date is approaching, and leaving seems unthinkable. Living on a cruise ship indefinitely might be unaffordable, but working on one could be a dream come true. You envision a life as part of the staff, traveling the world for free while earning a salary. After all, how challenging could it be to work on a cruise ship when every day feels like a party? You think about all the incredible places you’d visit while working on a cruise ship—a dream job for travel enthusiasts. But before you get too excited, consider a few factors.

A Career in the High Seas Reality

deck crew accomodation
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Working on a cruise ship often means sharing living quarters with roommates. You might have just one roommate, or it could be several. If you’re accustomed to living with strangers, it might not be an issue, but it requires significant adjustment for others. Having an assigned roommate also means you can’t predict their personality or whether you’ll get along. Cruise ship jobs often involve long hours for everyone. So if you don’t get along with your roommate, you’ll have to face them regularly in your cramped living space. Of course, it’s possible to become friends, but if not, work can feel never-ending, and you’ll continually bump into each other due to the limited space.

Onboard Safety Expectation

Ring life boy on big boat.Obligatory ship equipment.Personal flotation device.Prevent drowning.Orange lifesaver on the deck of a cruise ship.Traveling to an island
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Many people expect cruise ships to be like fortresses, ensuring safety from all potential risks. Cruise ships generally maintain high safety standards, and the staff takes necessary precautions to keep passengers safe. You might anticipate minor incidents like spilled drinks in the restaurant as the most significant issues you’d encounter. Aside from that, you’d assume you can relax without worrying about safety concerns.

Onboard Safety Reality

foot  on ship railing
Credit: Investment Guru

While cruise ships are generally safe, accidents can happen. People occasionally go overboard due to slipping or taking risks, such as jumping into the water from the boat. It’s essential to be cautious and mindful of safety during your cruise. Enjoy your time on the ship, and make memories, but always prioritize safety. Some activities might seem fun and exciting at the moment, but they can lead to trouble if you take unnecessary risks. Even though the trip might not meet your initial expectations, creating positive and safe memories to look back on fondly is essential.

Keep Reading: 28-year-old buys cruise ship apartment because it’s less than renting and he can see the world


  1. Disappointing photos show what it’s actually like to go on a cruise.” Insider. Joey Hadden. June 11, 2023
  2. Expectation vs reality: Reporters share inside look at what cruises are like now.” Over Sixty. Rachel Fieldhouse
  3. Cruise Ship Vacations: Expectation vs. Reality. Investment Guru. Owen Chase