The Pros and Cons of Cruising

Last week my sister and I took a five-day Carnival Cruise that left from Tampa and stopped in the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico. We had a blast, but it is definitely the "lazy" way to travel. Cruising may have some drawbacks, but it is definitely convenient. 

Pro: Once you book the cruise and the excursions you basically have to do absolutely nothing, besides show up at the correct places and the correct times.
Con: There is really very little room for discovery, spontaneity, finding hole-in-the-wall places, or feeling truly adventerous. 

[those little suckers can be hard to catch!]

Pro: Back to excursions. There are tons of optional shore excursions that vary in ability level, cost, and time involved. You can purchase them all on online or or the ship before you're scheduled into dock. We went to a turtle farm in Grand Cayman and to the Mayan Ruins on mainland Mexico when we stopped in Cozumel.  For those nervous about traveling (or planning activities) in a new place or foreign country this option is perfect.
Con: You may end up being stuck with a tour guide you might not like, a group of people you want to get away from, and time constraints you don't appreciate. Our activities allowed us to see and do some pretty great things, but there were a few times where I wished we would have chosen something else or ditched the group. 

Pro: You have a lot of down time. Personally, this is the main reason I wanted to go on a cruise- so that I'd have hours and hours a day to lay outside and read or sleep. 
Con: Some people feel a little restricted on a boat- it's not like you can get off and find something else to do. 

[Caribbean food in Grand Cayman]
Pro: Cruises are great for families. There are a variety of activities for every age group and it's relatively safe (minus the whole falling overboard thing).
Con: There are families on the boat, meaning teenagers milling about in packs, children shrieking and being underfoot, and middle-aged women standing on deck chairs singing Pink songs really loudly.

[Mexico's squirrel, the iguana]

Pro: The base price for a cruise is relatively affordable, at least through Carnival or last-minute deal websites.
Con: There are a lot of charges you don't think about, mostly in terms of gratuity (the porter at the cruise terminal, every time you order a drink, the bill you get for the dining and housekeeping staff from the cruise line, the tour guides, the excursion bus drivers, etc...). Food and juices are included in your overall fee, but every time you want a soda or alcoholic beverage you have to pay extra. You also have to pay for wi-fi, essential if you want to communicate with anyone back home. It all adds up.

Pro: The ship staff are incredibly accommodating, friendly, and efficient. Your room is cleaned in the morning and turned down at night. The dining room tables are kept immaculate and everyone always has a smile on their face.
Con: Because of the volume of laundry that must be done the towels and sheets are really rough. I understand this is a little nit-picky, but I appreciate accommodations with soft linens and high thread counts. 
Con: You start wondering what sort of labor laws the cruise line does and does not follow and vow to research working conditions and pay rates upon return home.

Pro: Since sun bathing at night isn't really an option, there is a plethora of night time entertainment from the casino, comedy clubs, variety shows, competitions, karaoke, dancing, and buffets.
Con: Most of the shows are pretty corny (maybe I should have drank more) and they tend to cater to the anticipated demographics of the ship (so, country music and oldies in our case). Obviously you have to be realistic; it is a cruise ship... it's not like it's the cream of the crop in terms of performers (not that they're bad; if they were that good, though, they wouldn't be on a Carnival ship in the middle of the ocean, though).

Pro: If you like to eat a cruise is the place for you. There's pizza and ice cream 24 hours a day, buffets at every meal, plus a more traditional sit-down dinner option every night with waiter service (included in cost of cruise). The desserts are most definitely the best part.
Con: The food really isn't that amazing, but, then again, I'm not a huge fan of buffets. The sit-down dinners are the best option- they're a slight jump in quality over places like Applebees or BJs. Also, watching people gorge themselves all day every day gets a bit old, as does the obvious waste (did you really think you were going to need a fourth hot dog, buddy?). 

I'm glad I went and had a great time, but I don't see another cruise in the foreseeable future (and when I do go again it will be on a ship like this, which we docked next to in Mexico). I would also be tempted to do a cruise in somewhere like the Mediterranean so that I could stop at a lot of European countries in just a week or so. And remember, my experiences was with Carnival, the equivalent to a floating Courtyard Marriott.


  1. Ah kids underfoot would be a bit of a turn off for me. My fiancé and I went to Sandals...... Adults only! Floating courtyard Marriott is a great analogy.

  2. Thanks for the review! I love the comparison to a floating Courtyard Mariott. I think cruises are just not for me unless someone else pays for the whole thing and I still get to go on a more exciting trip later on.

  3. I worked on a cruise for 3 years when I was 21.....I could have told you so many tips and tricks to avoid some of the 'cons'.
    But I do agree with basically everything you've stated. And the fourth hot dog comment.....omg, you should hear some of the jokes from the staff on that one....we've seen it all!