Ever since my first cruise, I’ve been hooked.
For me, cruising is an almost effortless way to travel and see more of the world, while also de-stressing and unwinding. Too often, my “vacations” end up being frantic, action-packed trips with early wake-up calls and late nights, rather than meaningful time away from work to actually reset. But on a cruise, I can do a little of both — spend one day napping on a beach chair, and the next hiking through the jungle.
Despite my love affair with cruising, I’ve encountered plenty of skeptics. Won’t it be crowded? What if you get sick? How is the food, anyway? Is the air stale?
If you always shake your head and say, “Not for me,” when it comes to cruises, allow me to persuade you. You might just change your mind after you read these seven reasons everyone should go on a cruise at least once in their life.
1. It’s not crowded.
I was recently reminded of why I love cruises so much during a week-long Caribbean trip aboard Oasis of the Seas, a newly renovated member of Royal Caribbean‘s fleet. The ship, which can accommodate up to 6,699 passengers, recently underwent a $165 million “amplification” to upgrade its facilities and amenities.
This ship is massive — when she was built in 2009, she was the largest ship in the world and remains one of the largest today — so I was a bit skeptical about how crowded it would feel. Nearly 7,000 people, plus 2,100 crew members? That seemed like a lot to cram into one vessel.
But I was completely surprised at how spacious the ship felt. The design is bright and airy, with tons of open space everywhere. There are 20 restaurants and 11 bars and lounges aboard, so you never have to wait for a table or for a drink. Even with thousands of people trying to get on and off the ship, the embarkation and debarkation processes were flawless (even on port days, when everyone was trying to get off and on the ship at the same time).
2. You won’t get bored.
You might be wondering: What will I do for an entire week, on a ship? Let me tell you, the better question is: How will I manage to try everything before this cruise is over?
During the day, you’ll be torn between scaling the rock climbing wall, speeding down the water slides (again), playing laser tag, lounging by the pool, taking a workout class, playing trivia, riding the surf simulator, playing putt-putt golf, soaring above the ship on a zip line and so much more. And that’s just what you can do on the ship itself. Of course, there’s even more to do during port days, when you’ll have your choice of dozens of excursions, exploring on your own or lounging on the beach.
After the sun goes down, the activities continue with multiple live shows to attend every night — ranging from stand-up comedy to ice skating to full-blown musicals (like “Cats”) to musicians and more. You can test your problem-solving skills in the onboard escape room, visit the casino, sing in the karaoke bar or soak in a hot tub.
Evening meals will also keep you busy, since you can visit the many specialty restaurants onboard (hibachi, anyone?), eat a delicious multi-course meal in the main dining room or book a seat at the special chef’s table. You’ll also stay busy trying out the various bars and lounges on the ship, since some of them offer a truly unique setting — on the Oasis, for example, you can have a drink made by a robot bartender or sip your cocktail on the Rising Tide bar, which travels up and down between several floors on the ship.
3. It’s not stressful.
Let’s be honest: Planning trips is a lot of work. Especially when you start to factor in big groups of people, children and more. You all have to agree on how to spend your time and where to eat. The whole thing can just get bogged down in details and can spiral out of control pretty fast (have you ever tried to make a group decision when you’re hangry?).
If planning tends to stress you out, consider a cruise. They do all the heavy lifting for you in terms of the itinerary; all you have to decide is what activities you want to do each day. Even better? Everyone in your group can do their own thing and you can still meet up for dinner or drinks afterward. Everybody’s happy. It’s a win-win.
Plus, you only have to unpack once and you always know your way back to your room, which really alleviates a lot of the stress of traveling. If you’ve ever taken a multi-day vacation, where you hopped from hotel to hotel, you know that it’s just a pain to repack every night, check out before noon and carry your luggage with you all day before you can check in at your next spot.
4. The food is incredible.
When you think of cruising, you might picture a sad buffet with long lines and uninspired, mass-produced foods. Think again.
These days, the food on cruise ships is pretty incredible, with world-class chefs, bartenders, pastry chefs and other culinary geniuses working hard to create memorable food and drink experiences. In my experience, the food is fresh, made-to-order and creative. Want to order a steak every night? Go for it. How about lobster? They’ve got that, too, along with tons of other fine-dining options, like a unique multi-course chef’s table dining experience, complete with wine pairings. Oh, and the service is also top-notch. You’ll be taken care of from the moment you sit down at any bar or restaurant onboard.
On the other hand, if you’re more of a casual diner, you can do that, too. Grab a slice of pizza or make your own tacos, then head back to your room or to the pool deck to eat.
And, to set the record straight, there are still buffets, but even there the food stands out. It’s not cafeteria food by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, you’ll be able to load your plate with innovative entrees, tasty side dishes and wonderful desserts. On my most recent cruise, I ate at the buffet every morning for breakfast and had a tough choice choosing between all the goodies — a lox bagel with fresh ingredients, savory eggs benedict, house-made muesli, fresh-squeezed orange juice and way, way more.
5. The entertainment is world-class.
I’m a big theater buff, so the idea of going to a show every night after dinner is like my dream come true. But even if you’re not a regular theater-goer, you’ll agree that the entertainment aboard today’s cruise ships is pretty great.
And it’s not just the talented singers, dancers and actors who make these shows so entertaining — it’s also the production staff, who come up with some truly out-there ideas that will knock your socks off. For instance, the Oasis has an amazing water show, which features synchronized swimmers, dancers and divers. But you’ll also be surprised when two professional slackliners start doing flips and tricks in unison above the water, and when one of them walks a tightrope 60 feet above the ship deck (114 feet above sea level).
Plus, there’s a little something for everyone. If you don’t like musical theater, you can visit the comedy club instead. If you’re a big live-music fan, there’s tons of that, too.
6. You’ll truly disconnect (if you want to).
If you’re looking for the type of vacation where you can shut your phone off and stow it in a drawer for an entire week, a cruise is for you. Since you’re often traveling to far-flung places that may be outside your normal cell phone plan, it’s a great time to set your out-of-office reply and actually unplug. No need to pull out your phone for directions or to read restaurant reviews. It’s all taken care of.
But, on the other hand, you can always connect to the ship’s WiFi or visit one of their wired internet stations to check email, post your photos to social media and more.
7. You’ll feel like a kid again.
Whizzing down the new waterslides and dry slide on the Oasis, I actually squealed and laughed out loud. It reminded me of going to the waterpark with my dad as a kid.
As we get older, these types of carefree experiences are harder and harder to come by. While you might not be inclined to visit a water park or a carnival in your normal life, on a cruise, it’s all right there for you. And adults are encouraged to get in on the action — so go ahead, ride the carousel, visit the candy store, walk around with a melting ice cream cone, let out a little scream on the zip line.
My advice? Try everything at least once, even if it’s a smidge outside your comfort zone. Chances are, you’ll feel giddier and freer than you have in a long time.