What to Expect on Your Cruise Vacation

What to Expect: Myths vs. Realities

For prospective first-time cruise travelers, the occasionally outdated misperception can present a big old roadblock. We tackle cruising's five biggest myths and offer a 21st-century reality check.

Myth #1: Cruise travel is, to paraphrase a long-held cliche, for the "newly wed and nearly dead."

Reality: No way is that true -- any more. Cruise ships are increasingly targeting families, with kids-camp-like facilities that rival if not surpass those on land. For younger singles, entertainment onboard some lines is downright edgy. And cruise lines are even offering plenty of shorter-than-usual (three- to six-day) voyages that are marketed to working folk who simply can't give up two weeks or more.

Myth #2: All cruise ships are alike.

Reality: Shopping for a cruise ship is not unlike buying a new car. There are a myriad of variations: big ships, small ships, explorer-oriented ships, absolutely decadent luxury ships, family ships, "swinging single" ships ... and on and on!

Myth #3: Cruise ships are a bastion of gluttony.

Reality: On the contrary, the hottest trend in cruise cuisine is healthy eating. Most if not all lines offer heart-healthy menus, low-carb entrees and low-sodium fare. Some actually have onboard spa cafes. And many have simply done away with midnight buffets, that longtime peon of absolute indulgence (after-dinner revelers can instead partake of hors d'oeuvres served in late-night venues).

Myth #4: Taking a cruise is like visiting a high seas' version of Las Vegas or the Bahamas.

Reality: Well, yes -- and no (see all cruise ships are alike, above). Cruise ships these days do have all the comforts and luxuries that travelers associate with on-land resorts. However -- and this may seem obvious but it needs saying -- you are on a ship. The ocean may usually be calm, and ships, particularly newer ones, may have state-of-the-art technology that offers a smoother ride in bad weather and good, but you may still get seasick. So pack a remedy of choice.

Myth #5: Cruises are an all-inclusive vacation.

Reality: Even the luxury lines are never completely all-inclusive (drinks and gratuities may be included in fares but spa treatments and shore excursions won't be), but the big-ship lines? No way. Yes, your cruise fare includes a lot -- meals in the main dining venues, onboard entertainment, accommodations, use of pools and other recreational facilities, and a free cocktail at the captain's "welcome aboard" bash -- but you'll pay extra for a whole host of amenities. Among them? Alternative restaurants, coffee and ice cream bars, drinks (from soda to wine and cocktails), shore excursions, spa treatments, and gratuities.