Imagine this scenario: You have two weeks of vacation. It’s the only vacation time you have all year, and you want to make it count. You know you want to go to Europe, and you’re presented with the option to take a cruise—11-12 nights, departing from Barcelona and hitting ports all over the Mediterranean. You get to see some sites in France, Italy, Greece, and beyond. Your other option is to fly directly into a city—let’s say Athens—and see Santorini and Mykonos, spending a few nights in each place.
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It’s a tough choice, right? If you take the cruise, you see a lot more places, but have less time to explore each. And, you can’t be as flexible. You’re bound by the schedule of the cruise ship. In the second option, you see fewer places, but can spend more time in each, and also have more room to be spontaneous.
And here’s another variable: What about kids? If the question is to cruise or not to cruise, would your answer change depending on whether or not your kids were coming along?
It so happens that we really like cruises—and yes, we even like cruises with our toddler! Just to give context, we’ve been on several cruises—AJ’s been on eight, Natasha on seven. We actually like cruises even more now that we have a son. (Quick word of advice: Check your cruise line’s policy on kids; some cruises won’t allow you to bring babies younger than six months or so.)
If you’ve never been on a cruise before, we hope this post is helpful in determining whether taking a cruise is right for you.
Why You Should Cruise (4 Pros)
Let’s start with four pros to cruising.
- It’s easy and relaxing. With a cruise, you can see different sites and experience different places while still feeling like you’re fairly settled in one place. Natasha, who handled the packing and day-to-day organization on our trip, found cruises especially relaxing. Also note that, when you’re on a cruise, you can avoid the need to get visas for each country you visit; in many cases, the cruise line can arrange day passes for you which is much less hassle. Additionally, most cruise ships have sea days, where you’re just out on the open water all day. We always found these days to be highly enjoyable. We would eat a late breakfast, enjoy a few hours at the pool, work out, and simply engage in some leisure time. We’d eat dinner and see an evening show, catch a movie, sometimes even hit the casino for a little while. Sea days offer a good balance: You’ll get to see a lot of sites on the cruise, but also have some down-time.
- You get to see a lot. One of the big advantages to taking a cruise is that it helps you get a better sense for the places you’d like to spend more time. For instance, we had brief windows in Vietnam and Cambodia, and very much want to return there. Meanwhile, there are some Scandinavian cities we experienced and enjoyed, but don’t feel any special need to revisit. That’s clarifying as we think about future adventures. Cruising also allowed us to see some magical places we never would have seen otherwise. For example, we got to see Kotor, a picturesque city in the country of Montenegro, and it ended up being one of our favorite places on the Mediterranean cruise. We probably never would have chosen it on our own.
- It’s a resort-style experience. Of course, cruise ships have many built-in amenities—included food, bar service, fitness centers, casinos, spas, pools, nightly entertainment… the list goes on. You can really be pampered on a cruise line—and again, it’s all very conveniently available to you.
- It’s great for kids. Cruises are great for kids because of the variety of activities available to them. In addition to the pool areas, many cruises have mini-golf courses, basketball courts, ping pong tables and so much. Also, almost all cruise lines have daycare centers, which is great because it gives your kids space to have some fun and if your child is old enough, you can leave them and enjoy time alone together! Cruises will also give you access to 24/7 kids’ menus—so you can get your little traveler a slice of pizza or a PBJ or a cookie any time you need to, which can be wonderful for parents.
When Shouldn’t You Cruise? (4 Cons)
With all of that said, there are also some cons to taking a cruise.
- You don’t get to spend much time in any one place. Cruises will allow you to stop in different cities, but you typically don’t have more than a day there—sometimes mere hours. And that’s fine if you just want to get a feel for the place, but if there are several things you want to see and do, it can be frustrating. To really immerse yourself, you’ll need more than a cruise.
- Cruises are expensive. Cruises can be expensive, too, which you should know going in. For those on a tight budget, cruises may not be for you. You may get an initial price that seems reasonable, but when you add in other costs—excursions, drink packages, photo packages, you name it—it can really add up. You can end up spending a few hundred dollars a day, which can be several times more than what you’d pay just getting an Airbnb somewhere and seeing sites on your own.
- The food isn’t as good as what you’d get locally. A word about the food: The food you’ll get on your cruise is usually fine, but it’s not as authentic as what you’d get if you stopped in an actual, local city. Experiencing local food is one of our favorite parts of traveling, so this is definitely a drawback.
- You might get seasick. Seasickness can also be a problem. We’re pretty lucky in this regard, but extreme seasickness is a deal breaker for others. If you’ve never done a cruise and aren’t sure whether you’ll get seasickness, we highly recommend taking some medicine with you, just in case. Starting with a shorter cruise on a larger ship is also recommended. Claustrophobia can sometimes be an issue; though these ships tend to be big, the hallways can be cramped and even the cabins aren’t that big. That’s something else to be aware of.
Ultimately, it’s your call, and you can probably make an argument either way. So tell us: Which would you pick? A cruise that takes you to seven or eight places, or being on your own seeing just a couple of cities? We want to know! Leave us a comment and share your take.
never been on a cross-country cruise, this guide has some good points. thanks guys!
Thanks Vandana! Yeah we actually enjoy the cruising across several countries much more than just the typical Caribbean cruise. You can to learn and explore new cultures and foods and that’s exciting for us!
We just got back from our third cruise, first with all 4 kids! We really wanted to visit Atlantis, so we did a quick 4-day cruise out of FL. It was fantastic! We loved the fact that Carnival offers free child care beginning at age 2 (most begin at age 3). Overall we had a fantastic time and will consider adding another cruise in the mix. However, I had a few more “cons” to add to your list. I absolutely found packing for the cruise to be the hardest packing experience we’ve encountered to date (and we travel a lot… Read more »
Monica, thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, we can see how the idea of packing formal clothes especially for so many people can be a pain. Yeah we hear you on the times on the port as well – to us, that’s the biggest downside of cruising for us. You can’t explore as much as you want and have to go at full throttle to make the most out of your time. That’s great to know that Carnival does daycare at age 2 as well – we have only been on Carnival prior to kids so we never checked for… Read more »
I never knew that cruising has a lot of benefits! My mom has always wanted to cruise but she’s thinking about how it’s worth spending on it or not. What you said about how you’d get to visit other places and figure out if it’s worth traveling back to is the experience my mom is looking for. She likes to travel a lot so cruising is now on our list.