What to Expect on a Cruise

By Michelle Phi; Updated August 11, 2017

Highlights and downsides of your time aboard a cruise ship

What to Expect on a Cruise

Sea-ing the world for the very first time on a cruise ship can be a bit daunting. What kind of activities are offered on board? What can travelers do to pass the time at sea? The answer to both of those questions is: a lot.

What can I expect on a cruise?

Fun, fun, and... oh, more fun. From poolside activities to comedy shows, there's never a shortage of things to do aboard a cruise ship because being bored is not an option. Hanging out by the pool, shopping and going to the gym are just a few things passengers can do on their own time. Beyond these, travelers can find an abundance of planned activities aboard by checking out the daily newsletter, which typically includes a wide array of options such as art auctions, late night comedy shows, scheduled formal nights and even daytime deck parties.

When a solo trip to the gym gets tedious, try a number of fitness classes such as boot camp, yoga, Pilates and indoor cycling on ships like the Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.

These days, many cruise ships offer so much more than just a simple hot tub and pool for passengers to lounge around in. Both Norwegian and Carnival ships have some sort of water park on board. The Norwegian Escape has an Aqua Park that features a tandem inner tube race attraction as well as a kid version of the park for little ones. Select Carnival ships have side-by-side slide races and water slides for all to enjoy.

When it comes to dining, options abound. A main dining room is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while specialty eateries open at specific times. Depending on the ship, some offer a food station available 24 hours a day.

Tips from experts

There's always something to regret after a first cruise. Use these tips to help make the first cruise regret-free:

  • It's okay to order more food.  Unless it is specified by the dining staff, asking for seconds or two different desserts is a-okay. 
  • Do not settle for less when it comes to choosing a trip. If money is a concern, there are plenty of affordable trips to the destination of your dreams. The key to finding the perfect trip is knowing when to book. The best time to book a cruise is usually 6 to 12 months in advance to get the best deal. 
  • Know which cruise ship best fits your needs. Do a little research to pick the best cruise line for the trip. Traveling with a family or multiple families? The Disney Cruise Line is very family friendly and caters to young children as well as adults. These Disney ships, like many others, have youth clubs and nurseries on board for parents who are looking for a little alone time. Carnival Cruise Lines are great for young adults, couples, and families. Although Carnival cruises are the best fit for young adults because of their nightlife, their ships offer a ton of activities and entertainment to keep almost everyone entertained. 
  • Download a couple movies or seasons of your favorite TV show to bring on board. When curling up on the pool deck with a book gets interrupted by noisy passengers or it's late at night but sleeping isn't an option just yet, spending a little bit of quality time watching movies or TV shows on a tablet can be the best way to wind down. 

Bahamas vs. Alaska: Which cruise trip is better?

A choice between the Bahamas and Alaska is simple. Would you rather enjoy the clear blue sea with the possibility of getting an up close glimpse of tropical sea creatures? If yes, then a cruise to the Bahamas is the way to go.

The route to the Bahamas can be quite boring since the only view is the sea as far as the eye can see. However, views that lack at sea are made up for at each port stop. At port stops, travelers take their pick between exploring the town or relaxing at the many beautiful beaches along the edges of the islands. These stops are typically a day long, so exploring the town and catching a few sun rays on the beach is definitely doable.

Beaches in the Bahamas aren't particularly distinguishable from one another, so if you spend more time in town than on the beach during a port stop, don't fret. Many cruises tend to make a final stop at a private island owned by the cruise line.

If exploring the vast unknown and taking a chilly hike up a glacier is more enticing, then Alaska is the better choice. Unlike the Bahamas, the sail to Alaska itself is as exciting as the port stop. Depending on the route and cruise line, passengers wake to a view of the Tracy Arm Fjord or even Glacier Bay.

When exploring the port stops in Alaska, get acquainted with the many excursions each city has. Want to see the breathtaking sights of Skagway and spend time with friendly huskies? Take a dogsled tour through the Alaskan country or a helicopter ride to the top of Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.

What is something that sets each cruise lines apart?

Aside from the size of their fleet and the number of ships, each cruise line has unique characteristics that make it special. The key to picking the best cruise is knowing these differences.

While some cruise lines are family and couple friendly, they still have a wide range of activities that cater to young adult travelers. For example, things tend to quiet down in the evening on cruise lines like Holland America and Celebrity because of the older crowd, but both the Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines offer an extensive nightlife for passengers who are looking to party the night away.

Of course, Carnival and Royal Caribbean aren't the only lines for young adults, families and couples. The Princess cruise line also caters to both families and couples, but with a more elegant atmosphere. And to no one's surprise, the Disney cruise line is geared towards families, but it's also an enjoyable cruise for anyone who is a fan of the Disney brand.

About the Author

Michelle Phi