Overrated Cruise Experiences

The Most Overrated Cruise Experiences

I asked the viewers of my cruising videos about the cruise experiences that they thought were completely overrated. Based on their responses, I collected all the information, compared them with my own views and I’ve drawn up a list of what I think are the most overrated cruise experiences.

Passengers boarding cruise ships

Cabin upgrades

Now, this one could be a little bit of a surprise. I’ve previously done a video about cruise upgrades, and cabin upgrades can be really overrated. When you’re upgraded you could actually end up in a cabin you don’t like. This is because the cruise line will upgrade you to a cabin of their choice. So, you could find yourself in a strangely shaped cabin, or one that’s in a really noisy area. Or, even at the front of the ship or near the bow thrusters.

Choosing your cabin

I like to choose my cabin, so I don’t go for a guaranteed cabin. And I almost always say no to all upgrades because I like to have a cabin in a certain place. I prefer to be surrounded on all sides by other cabins. So it’s nice and quiet and I know I’m going to have a good night’s sleep. Some people think I’m crazy because these upgrades don’t worry them, but cabin upgrades can be unpredictable. You can go from a great cabin into the unknown. I’ve had lots of people contacting me saying they went for the upgrade; they were really excited, and it wasn’t a great choice.

My advice would be to choose your cabin, decide where you want to be and get the cruise experience that you want.

Balcony cabins

The second overrated cruise experience is one that got a lot of debate. Guessed what it is yet? Let me tell you – balcony cabins. A lot of people told me they think balcony cabins are overrated. They cost more than an inside or an ocean view, and you don’t really use them. When you go to places like Alaska, you want to head out on deck to be able to look at the landscape and the glaciers. So, you’re spending money and then not using what you’ve paid for.

Personally, I love a balcony cabin – I enjoy going out into my own private space when I’m at sea. And I really like being out there sailing in and out of port. A lot of people said that for the amount of money, it’s overrated and they would prefer to choose a lower-grade cabin. Therefore being able to cruise more often.

Overrated Cruise Experiences

Speciality dining

The third overrated experience was speciality dining. There was a lot of discussion around the pros and cons of speciality dining. However, the feeling was that the cruise lines use it, basically, to make more money. You’re already paying to have food in the main dining room, buffet and in some cases, for room service. Often, there’s a lot of pressure on cruise passengers to eat in different speciality venues.

There’s a lot of concern that for the amount of money you’re paying – often $30, $40 or more – you’re not really getting a huge change in terms of the quality of the dining experience. The cruise lines also tend to encourage you to eat more in the speciality dining venues. Playing down the choice and availability in the main dining room.

Generally, there was the sense that it’s all a bit overrated. Some people love speciality dining – they build it into their budgets, and they don’t see it as overrated. Personally, I’m not a massive fan. I will do it here and there, just to check it out and report back to my readers, but I do think it’s very overrated.

Big resort attractions

The next area was quite an interesting one, and that was the big resort attractions that you find on larger ships. These can include go-kart courses, laser tag, roller coasters, rock climbing, rope courses, big water parks and more. All sorts of big features being built on ships, largely on the outer decks.

Many people felt these were overrated because they appeal to a small subset of people cruising, yet take up a lot of space. This means that it can be quite cramped around the pools and hard to find deck space. Many people feel they’re overrated because they’re used to generate excitement and publicity, and tempt people to book. But actually, once you’re on a cruise, you’re out in port and you don’t use them.

MSC Cruises MSC Preziosa in Hamburg for Hamburg Cruise Days. For more: https://www.tipsfortravellers.com/hamburg

Hot tubs

For a lot of people, hot tubs are overrated, and more often than not, there’s not enough of them. There were really mixed feelings on this – a lot of people like hot tubs whether it’s cold or warm, but many people thought they were overrated. Concerns about hot tubs included whether they were warm enough, and that they’re perhaps not as hygienic as they could be. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not a big hot tub user. One of the concerns is that lots of kids pile into the hot tubs, and it’s not really regulated, so they use them as a playground.

You expect to relax in a hot tub on deck with a glass of champagne, but the reality is that there are kids jumping in and out. People like the idea of them but feel the actual experience itself is very overrated.

Cruise line private islands

One of the things that a lot of people have commented on is the cruise line owned islands. They are becoming a big trend in cruising. This is particularly true in the Caribbean. Here, a lot of the cruise lines are buying up private islands and adding these as port calls. Calls where they control the whole experience.

Now, bear in mind these islands are small in size and the cruise lines have created their own experiences on them. Some have beach areas, they might have zip lines, snorkelling and cycling. Also, some have really luxurious cabanas where you can go and relax, but these are created artificially. You’re not actually seeing the authentic Caribbean islands.

Captive audience 

The cruise lines have a captive audience, where they can sell you more and there’s a concern that this experience is underwhelming. There are some great things, though. Royal Caribbean opened an amazing place with huge water slides and water parks, so they’re starting to pack them full of features and benefits. But, you’re still not getting a chance to see an authentic island. More importantly, you’re not going to experience the culture, people and history of the place.

A lot of people say they are all much of a muchness – you’re going to the Caribbean, but you’re not really calling on genuine ports.

Cruise ships Gibraltar

Cruise transfers

Cruise transfers to/from airports at various ports are seen as being overrated, partly because they’re very expensive and can be quite a slow process. Particularly if you’re in an airport – you can be hanging around for quite a long time to get on a bus. Similarly, when you’re leaving, you tend to hang around waiting for people when you can often find a private transfer for less cost.

Whether that’s an Uber, or another of these ride-hailing services, it can be cheaper, easier and quicker to avoid the cruise line transfers. Obviously, some people like the security of knowing that they are connecting with the cruise line, and that the cruise line is managing it, but a lot of people see them as pretty expensive.

Cruise spas

Another cruise experience that is often seen as overrated is the spa. Spas on cruise ships are taking over more and more space, and okay, a lot of people are using them, but they can be very expensive. When I compare the cost of treatments to what I can get back in big cities like London, or New York, they are pretty pricey.

Cross-selling

Then there’s the big cross-sell: you have a treatment and then the therapists are incentivised to sell you lots of products. I do find going to the spa a bit stressful. In part because it’s stressful on the bank balance, but you know at the end you’re going to have to fight off the cross-selling of products. It then becomes not quite as relaxing an experience as you’d hoped for. A lot of people feel that they’re very overrated as an experience.

Saying that, there clearly is a huge amount of people who love the spa because they’re always busy, which is why I guess they’re getting bigger.

Diamond Princess Cruise Ship from Room 1609 Four Seasons Sydney

Shopping

Shopping is definitely seen as being something that’s overrated. One of the challenges you have, particularly in a place like the Caribbean and Alaska is that the cruise ships have shopping advisors. These people are incentivised to drive you into many of the chain stores.

They are all the same stores: Diamonds International, those kinds of places. You know the cruise line is getting some kind of commission, and the big focus is on shopping. You almost feel you’re going to some of these places specifically for the shopping, and the feeling is that this is very overrated.

Shopping is not why you’re on this cruise. Plus, a lot of the time these are generic products that you can buy everywhere. On board, shopping is also seen as overrated. It can be relatively expensive and you’ve constantly got all these promotions. They’ll put the tables out selling off inches of gold and watches, bags and so much other stuff.

There’s the sense that shopping has become a big part of what happens around cruising.

Drinks packages

Drinks packages are another area that is seen as being overrated. I think drinks packages are expensive. I’m not a big drinker, but I look at the price of drink packages and my mind is often blown. Even bearing in mind that some of them are just for coffees, or some sodas – they’re all pretty expensive. For some, you would have to drink quite a lot to make them worthwhile.

There’s the sense that they’re overrated because the cruise line is pushing you to buy these packages. If a cruise line is selling something so aggressively, it’s presumably because they’re making a good margin on them. Personally, I prefer not to have a drinks package unless I bought it as part of an overall cruise package and it’s bundled in.

I tend to just buy drinks when I actually want one. I’ve found that I spend less money and I don’t go quite as crazy. I guess, though, some people like drinks packages for this very reason.

Ships and Beach

Art auctions

Another thing that I think is overrated is buying art on a cruise ship. A lot of cruise lines have vast space for an art gallery and they have art auctions. I guess it works as a lot of people do buy art. However, when I talk to the people who bought pieces, again, they feel that it’s overrated. Many said they probably could’ve got it at sharper price on land. Having then had more time to think about it and compare prices. I think the whole concept of buying art on a cruise ship is overrated and something I just don’t understand.

Casino

When I go on a cruise ship, I do like the casino, and I like to play bingo, however a lot of people don’t, and the casinos do take up quite a lot of space. There’s often smoking in a lot of the casinos and the odds are people would argue that it’s not as good as, say, going to a place like Las Vegas.

I’ve never really won much money, so I always see it as a cost, but a lot of people think the whole focus on a casino is very overrated. And that it’s not really something that cruise lines should be focusing on as much because there are other things they could do with the space. Interestingly, a couple of cruise lines, like Azamara, have started to get rid of the casino. This seems to be in favour of using the space to focus on shore excursions, destinations, and more.

Getting rid

They decided that getting rid of the casino is something that’s going to add to the cruise experience overall. I guess on bigger ships that’s less of an issue and they want to give more diversity and choice. There are things I probably could have spent more money on, but I guess that’s about self-control. I like to have a bit of a flutter on a cruise, and I see it as part of the fun experience.

There are lots of wonderful things about cruising and as I’ve said, some of these things that people rate as overrated other people think are a real plus, but these are the things that people saw as the most overrated cruise experiences.

If you find that interesting, why don’t you watch one of my many cruising tips and advice videos.




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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 2 million video views per month.

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