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10 of the biggest misconceptions people have about a cruise before sailing

26 Aug 2023
Matt Hochberg

Going on a cruise ship can be confusing for a first-timer that has never sailed before.

Liberty of the Seas

You don't have to go very far to run into one of the often repeated myths that exist about what a cruise is all about. Many of these are rooted in experiences from decades ago, and quite a lot has changed in the cruise industry.

Cruise ships have gotten larger and more sophisticated.  Moreover, they've evolved past the generation of ships that people may remember.  Part of the issue is in many cases pop culture continues to portray cruise ships as if it's still the 1990s. Stereotypes are hard to break, and it perpetuates a certain expectation many people that have never cruised think about when they imagine a cruise vacation.

It's been my experience so many tropes about a cruise are outdated and misinformed preconceived notions that are quickly dispelled once you look into what the reality is truly like.

Woman standing in front of pool deck on Symphony of the Seas

People that have cruised many times would be the first to tell you that a cruise vacation can vary greatly depending on the line you choose, cruise ship you pick, time of year, and a variety of other factors.  It's no different than if you were to take a trip to New York City: not every vacation there is the same kind of experience.

Before you write off a cruise vacation, here are the top ten commonly cited myths about a cruise and why they are plain wrong.

I'll get seasick

Balcony view

We will begin with a misconception that actually has some truth to it, in that while it is possible you could get seasick on a cruise, it's unlikely and easily preventable.

I've taken over 70 cruises and I have on a few occasions gotten seasick.  It's not ideal, but when it happens, there are easy ways to combat it.

First, you could prevent seasickness from ever occurring.  You can take over-the-counter medication, such as Dramamine or Bonine once a day to ensure the symptoms never begin. When I started cruising, I always followed this regiment and it always worked. These days, I don't take it preemptively, but if I do get queasy during the cruise, I'll pop one of the pills and very quickly start feeling normal again.


Another option is to ask your doctor for a patch that goes behind your ear that you'll wear throughout your cruise. It's another easy way to ensure you never get seasick.

There are a variety of homeopathic strategies too, such as ginger pills, eating green apples, peppermint, and even wristbands.

The reality is while you could get seasick on a cruise, the chances are quite low, especially if sea conditions aren't terrible.  A cruise ship is far more stable than a fishing boat that you may have been on, and it takes a lot to get a ships swaying.

If you talk to people that cruise a lot, they'll tell you in most cases, you cannot notice the ship moving at all and that instances of motion sickness are pretty low overall.

Only old people take cruises

Couple in Junior Suite

There's an old saying that people that go on cruises are "the nearly dead and the newly wed", and it's a stereotype that comes from cruising in the 1970s or 1980s.

Cruise ships evolved from ocean liners, and in those days, the only people that could really afford to cruise were older people. It was expensive and took a great deal of time, which is something families didn't have a lot of.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and the cruise industry begins its pivot towards the family cruise market. Cruise ships become bigger and offer more to do than ever before.  With more ships comes more inventory and that helps lower prices (more on high prices later).

Family cruise travel really took off in the 2000s, and you'll find a great mix of ages on the mainstream cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean.

On an average Royal Caribbean cruise, you'll find guests of all ages. Toddlers, school-aged kids, teens, adults, seniors and probably a guy named Big Dawg Ron. You get a good mix of people so it never feels like one demographic dominates the ship.

In fact, Royal Caribbean designs its cruise ships to have something for millennials, baby boomers, gen-x'ers and gen-z. It's meant to provide a little of everything, and you get to decide what appeals to you.

Splashaway Bay and Water's Edge

Royal Caribbean's ships have kids club and areas of the ship designed specifically for kids and teens in mind.  Their new Icon of the Seas cruise ship has an entire area of the ship reserved just for young families.

Will there be retirees onboard? Absolutely.  But you will also find lots of other ages too, and probably way more young people than you thought would be there.

I'll feel claustrophobic onboard

In my experience, the top two reasons people have resisted going on a cruise are fear of getting seasick (see above) and the feeling they'll be trapped onboard.

It's difficult to convey in a blog post, but cruise ships are much bigger than you think. It's one thing to see a photo or even a video of a ship, but when you see them in person, you realize just how massive these ships are.

There are public decks and spaces you can go to, and I think you'll find the ship more like a city than a cramped space. 

Promenade Deck

From shows, to restaurants, to the pools, it's more likely you will not feel stuck.

If you're worried that you'll feel claustrophobic on a ship, you should understand there's so many to do onboard and many places to go.  Moreover, your ship will visit plenty of ports along the way, giving you an opportunity to disembark the ship and explore these countries.

With plenty of open deck space, it's easy to avoid that closed-in feeling. 

Cruises are too expensive

Wonder of the Seas in Port Canaveral

Whether based in the old days of cruising or an assumption from seeing the glitzy new ships, the idea that taking a cruise is expensive is truly incorrect.

A cruise vacation remains one of the best values in travel when compared to taking a land vacation.

Just like a land trip, prices will vary depending on a variety of factors, but when you consider a cruise includes not just a hotel room, but food, entertainment, and a means of which to get you to different ports, that's a lot for one price.

Read moreWhat's included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

No matter your budget, there's a cruise you can afford.  There are cheap inside rooms on short weekend cruises, lavish suites, and plenty in the middle too.

Throughout the year there are different cruises you can take and in general, a Royal Caribbean cruise is affordable.  While there are pricey cruises (especially over holidays), bargain values still exist on many ships. The beauty of having 27 ships in the fleet is that there's likely something for everyone, and with a little research and flexibility, I'm certain you can find something in your price range.

Ovation of the Seas docked

Like all mass-market cruise lines, Royal Caribbean offers a module cruise experience. Your cruise fare gets you onboard with a certain set of amenities included, and it's up to you if you want to spend more to get a drink package, shore excursion, wifi, or some other extra.

Read moreWhat's worth paying extra for on a cruise?

Similar to a land vacation, you can take a cruise on the cheap or splurge with an over-the-top vacation. It's just important to remember a cruise is not inherently expensive.

I'll be bored

AquaTheater show on Wonder of the Seas

Similar to the concern of feeling trapped on a cruise, many people worry there isn't enough to do and they'll be bored.

I think this myth comes from all the imagery of people sitting by the pool and enjoying a sunny day.  Sure, that looks great, but what else is there to do besides sleep, eat, and hang at the pool?

The answer is much more than you ever thought possible.

Teenagers on cruise ship slide

Cruise ships offer a myriad of activities and onboard entertainment. There's water slides, rock climbing, zip-lines, ice skating, trivia, shopping, cooking demonstrations, dance parties, shows and so much more.

Browse a past schedule of activities from any Royal Caribbean cruise ship and you'll see an example of just how much there is to do in the morning, afternoon, and evening. One thing Royal Caribbean does better than many other lines is keep the fun going well into the evening.

Royal Caribbean also has full Broadway shows on some of its ships.  This includes Mamma Mia, Cats, Saturday Night Fever and more.  Other ships feature Broadway-style musical revues and dance performances.  All the shows on any Royal Caribbean ship are included in your cruise fare.

There are movies shown throughout the day and evening by the pool deck, karaoke to sing to, gambling in the casino, silent discos, DJs, live bands, and guitarists.

Royal Caribbean likes to compare itself to Las Vegas in terms of entertainment, and you'll find quite a lot of entertainment to keep you busy.

Most people that take a cruise will tell you there's simply more to do than they possibly can handle in just one sailing.  It's why so many people cruise over and over again.

I have to get dressed up


Another myth rooted in the old days of cruising is concern about a dress code.

While dress codes do exist on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, they are minimal and barely enforced.  Think of them as suggestions rather than hard and fast rules.

There's no dress code for what to wear around the ship, other than shoes and a cover-up for a restaurant.

It's really the dining venues that have rules about what you can wear and in practice, these are less stringent than you might think. The Main Dining Room has a daily dress code, and specialty restaurants have their own dress code. Regardless, you won't have to wear the same clothes you might wear to a prom.

Family at Windjammer

Royal Caribbean's dress codes act more as guidelines than rules, and you will see most passengers wearing fairly casual clothing to meals.  For breakfast and lunch, there's really nothing more expected than not a bathing suit.  At dinner, there's a different expectation, but some passengers wear shorts while others get more dressed up. Most guys will wear jeans or slacks with a collared shirt.  Ladies are usually seen in a cocktail dress, blouse and jeans, or something else casual.

If you prefer to skip a sit-down meal all together, there's a buffet and other casual restaurants you can go to and grab something quick to eat too.

At the very least, you will not have to get dressed up if you don't want to. There are lots of options for meals, and outside of restaurants, there are no dress codes to adhere to on Royal Caribbean.

Bad things always happen on cruise ships

Crew member emuster

If you watch the news, you'd think there's always someone "falling" off a ship, power outage, fire, or some other calamity. Unfortunately, the reality of the safety of cruise travel is completely misconstrued by the mainstream media in so many examples.

Let's be clear: statistically, cruising is a very safe vacation.

No one falls off a cruise ship unless they are doing something they're not supposed to or are somewhere they are not supposed to be (such as getting on top of a railing).

Cruise ships are regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard (and other maritime agencies of other countries). Plus, every cruise ship has its own team of engineers and mechanics to keep the ships working properly. 

Crew members drill on every sailing to ensure they know what to do in case of an emergency.  When you go on a cruise, you'll see this in action likely while your ship is docked in port. Ships have fire doors, water-tight sections, sprinklers, smoke alarms, and firefighters to deal with any issue.

Have there been incidents on cruise ships? Of course, just like there have been airplanes or buses that have crashed. They're the exceptions, not the norm.

I have to eat with strangers

Symphony of the Seas main dining room

I don't blame you if you are not interested in having meals with strangers. It's your vacation, and the last thing you want is an awkward meal with random people.

Today's big ships have lots of flexibility so you do not have to eat with strangers if you don't want to.

If you choose to eat at any specialty restaurant or casual dining venue, you will only eat with your own party (with the exception of the Hibachi specialty dining, and to be fair, it's like that on land too).

Family eating in main dining room

Royal Caribbean also offers My Time Dining, where you can eat in the Main Dining Room on your schedule and be seated with just your group. Cruisers who choose this format can head to dinner any time within set hours to get a table by themselves (or with a group if they like).

The traditional dining option in the Main Dining Room could seat you with someone else you don't know.  This is the option where you have dinner every night at the same time with the same table and wait staff.

You can request a table to yourselves for traditional dining by requesting it before the cruise.

Mariner of the Seas dining room

If you are booked in traditional dining, you should contact Royal Caribbean prior to your cruise to make the request. Send an email to [email protected] about 2-3 weeks prior to your sailing with your request.  This strategy usually works for most people. 

Read moreHow to not eat with strangers on a Royal Caribbean cruise

I can't eat healthy

Windjammer food on a plate

Eating healthy on a Royal Caribbean cruise is far from an oxymoron.  Rather, it is a state of mind that is definitely achievable with the right kind of planning, and a little motivation.

Being on vacation is an excuse for some people to indulge more than they would at home, and you'll find no shortage of sweet and savory foods.

Ultimately, it's up to you how healthy you eat on a cruise, because there are plenty of healthy choices and ways to control portion size. While cruises are well-known for their amazing indulgences, there are just as many good for you choices too (but no one really writes articles about those).


Every menu has healthier choices you can order, in addition to salad bars, made-to-order cooking stations, and vegan and vegetarian options.

Just like any restaurant you go to near your home, there are healthy and not-so-healthy choices you can order.  But if you want to avoid gaining weight and eat smart, you will find those options too.

Cruising isn’t real travel

The myth that cruising doesn't provide an immersive or compelling experience like land travel does is simply a case of snobbish opinions within the travel industry.

You will find authentic experiences in the places your ship visits that don't visit the typical tourist spots. The cruise line will provide as many shore excursions as possible that cover a variety of things to do, including the tacky and adventurous.

Plus, you don't have to take a cruise line excursion at all. You could get off the ship and explore on your own and discover your own off-the-beaten path spot.

Tulum beach in Mexico

Some cruises offer overnight visits, but most have enough time to get a taste of what the city or town you visit has to offer.

A cruise is what you make of it, and the same is true of the places you can visit on land. You could choose to see the top tourist spot in town, or hop on a bus and visit a local market.  It's an open-ended choice and offers as much cultural immersion as you'd like.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost experts on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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