A cruise ship vacation offers an experience that in many ways is completely different from land vacations, which is actually a benefit.
Cruise lines consider their primary competition not other cruise lines, but rather, land vacations. To that point, they have ensured that the experience and value differs enough from their land-based alternatives in order to highlight the advantages a cruise has.
When comparing a cruise to a land trip, you'll find some inherit nuances and differences between cruises and other forms of travel. For many people that choose to cruise, these subtleties are a compelling rationale to cruise instead.
From value to entertainment to experiences, here are the major ways a cruise vacation is completely different from a land vacation.
Cruises are still the best value
When you consider that a cruise ship is a floating hotel that includes meals, snacks, shows, and transportation during your voyage, it's easy to see how much more value a cruise vacation has over a land vacation.
If you choose to visit a theme park or city, you'll not only need to pay for lodging, but also be on the hook for food and activities.
Cruises include much of that in their cruise fare. There are certainly optional add-ons that will cost you extra on a cruise, such as specialty dining or excursions, but more is included with the base cost than on land.
To illustrate that point, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty told investors in November 2022 that the value gap is sizeable, "We've seen this 40% gap to land-based vacation [this year]. It used to be about 20%"
When travel insurance comparison site insuremytrip.com compared the price of a land vacation to a cruise, it noted customers were paying about 30% less for cruises, with the average land trip costing $6,426 — $1,469 more than the average cruise.
When you consider a mass-market cruise line like Royal Caribbean to land-based hotels and resorts, the value offered is hard to beat.
Part of that gap is because land resorts have seen their prices sky rocket, despite the global health crisis of the last few years. Meanwhile, cruise ship prices did not move much at all during the same time.
While cruise ship prices are certainly on their way up now, a cruise vacation remains a terrific value.
People are more social on cruises
If you've ever walked through a hotel versus a cruise ship, you'll probably get more greetings and get to know your fellow passengers on a cruise ship.
So many cruise ship activities result in passengers participating together, such as shore excursions, shows, and even just sharing a table in a dining room.
The result is you're likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger on a cruise ship more than on land.
Similar to being at a bar on land, there's more opportunity on a cruise ship to be seated next to someone you don't know and that tends to breed conversations.
People that cruise a lot will tell you the friendships they've formed on cruise ships have been life changing in many cases. Passengers meet someone in a lounge or bar, and they become good friends and they end up cruising with.
Even if you don't find your BFF on a cruise ship, the nature of being with other people on a cruise ship in certain situations tends to lead to far more conversations with strangers than I've found when I'm on land.
Stateroom door decorations
One phenomenon of cruising is that some passengers will decorate their cabin door, which is something I've rarely (if ever) seen on land.
I'm not sure where or when this cruising tradition began, but a great number of passengers will bring print-outs, magnets, and all sorts of decor to attach to their stateroom cabin.
Many first time cruisers are unaware of this tradition, but I've seen plenty of them that love the idea and make plans to do it also on their next cruise.
Stateroom door decorations are a fun way to share your excitement about the cruise, as well as convey to others special occasions you're celebrating, or who you're cruising with.
In short, it's a fun excuse to celebrate being on vacation and you probably won't see the same at your land hotel.
Incredible customer loyalty benefits
If you compare a cruise line's customer loyalty benefits to any hotel or resort's program, I think you'll be shocked how much more cruise ship guests get.
Using Royal Caribbean as an example, after just one cruise, you're entitled to a number of discounts that you can use every day of the cruise. The Crown and Anchor Society perks for Gold members include:
- 50% off coupon for any glass of wine, beer, or soda
- 25% off any coffee beverage
- 10% off any wine, beer or soda by the glass
Once you hit the higher tiers, the perks really start to come in, such as free photos, discounts on balcony cabins, wifi plan discounts, and even free alcoholic beverages every day of the cruise.
Read more: The Crown and Anchor perks you should use on every Royal Caribbean cruise
Good luck finding any kind of similar benefits at a land based resort or hotel, even at their top levels.
You're somewhere different every day
It's pretty obvious a cruise ship will take you somewhere different every day, but this is a really big advantage for a cruise ship vacation.
When you do a land vacation, you pick a city, town, or resort and you're there for the duration of the trip. While that place may be wonderful, variety is the spice of life, and being able to move around and see other places means more opportunity to mix things up.
You could do a beach day in one port, but then take in the culture and history of another. Or double down on the beach. It's up to you.
Not to mention the fact that if a hurricane is headed for where you're going on a cruise, the ship can go elsewhere. On land, you're stuck.
Beyond the weather, a cruise affords you the opportunity to visit cities and places in short order that are otherwise difficult to get to on your own. A great example are Alaska cruises, which visit cities, towns, and glaciers that are so remote it would be a more difficult task to see them on land.
And while you could travel around on a land vacation to try to replicate the same experience on land, you only have to unpack once on a cruise!
You don't have to worry about where to stay
If there's one aspect of planning a land vacation that gives a lot of travelers anxiety, it's where to stay to ensure it's clean, safe, and a good location.
With a cruise, you don't have to worry about picking a hotel in a bad part of town, or that the hotel you chose is rated poorly.