Opinion10 Biggest Things That Can Ruin Your Cruise (If You Let Them)

10 Biggest Things That Can Ruin Your Cruise (If You Let Them)

I’m a tad biased when it comes to cruising.  I think it’s just about the best vacation you can take, both in terms of value and experience.

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But that doesn’t mean that everyone will have an incredible vacation.   The truth of the matter is that unexpected things will happen on any vacation, and some of these are out of your control.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships in port at Nassau, Bahamas
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

While I like to focus on the best aspects of cruising, I wanted to highlight some of the issues and situations that can ruin a cruise to help future cruisers avoid frustration.

Some of these things are avoidable, and some are things that just happen, but you should still know how to make the best of these situations.

By the way, most of these things below show the importance of having cruise travel insurance.  So, if you’re still on the fence this should help.


1. Seasickness

celebrity reflection out of port everglades
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Most of the time a cruise ship is so stable you will forget you’re even out at sea.  But once in a while the weather gets rough and the seas a little choppy.  And if you don’t have your sea legs, seasickness can be a problem.

On the dozens of cruises I’ve been on seasickness has never once been an issue, but I’ve traveled with some that struggled with it.  If you don’t have the necessary medication getting motion sickness on a cruise can really ruin your vacation.

If you think motion sickness will be an issue for you here are somethings that can help:

  • Choose a larger cruise ship and a midship cabin
  • Pack some Dramamine or Benadryl after talking to your doctor
  • Pack some ginger as it’s known to help with nausea
  • Stay hydrated and get some fresh air
  • Take part in fun activities to keep your mind off the motion and you will acclimate to it

Related: 12 biggest mistakes cruisers make on sea days


2. Sunburn

sunburn on a cruise

If you’re going on a cruise to the Caribbean and Bahamas you might not realize just how intense the sun can get.  And with all that sun exposure while hanging out on the lido deck of your ship, you could be baking before you know it.

I’ve fallen asleep in the shade on a cruise lounger only to wake up with my leg in the sun which had no sunblock on it.  Needless to say I felt that burn from that the rest of the trip.

I’ve seen cruisers get burnt so bad on a cruise that they could barely walk normally and it was pretty debilitating for any other fun activities for the rest of the cruise.

Not only should you apply sunblock before being out in the sun for prolonged periods of time, but make sure you limit your exposure if you’re prone to burning or have fair skin.

Related: 15 things people always forget to pack on a cruise


3. Failing to Make Reservations

Pirate ship show on Harmony of the Seas in main theater
Theater on Harmony of the Seas. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

If you’re a last-minute kind of person you might miss out on some great cruise experiences.  On some of the larger cruise ships reservations are a must.  If you want to see a Broadway style show, comedy show, or other popular event it may require reserving your spot in advance.  You can often do this through the cruise line’s app.

Making a spa reservation is better taken care of ahead of the cruise, especially if you want to get a massage or nail treatment on a seaday or busy time.  The most convenient times fill up the fastest.

For other reservations you may have to wait until embarkation day.  As soon as you get on the ship you should take care of restaurant reservations or any popular shows that you don’t want to miss.

You can check out our list of everything you should do on embarkation day here.

Don’t let a failure to plan on your cruise keep you from having the most amazing vacation ever.


4. Major Storms


One of my favorite aspects of cruising is that your cruise ship can simply sail around or out of the way of an incoming storm.  So, a storm doesn’t necessarily mean that your cruise will be canceled.  But depending on the storm’s size this isn’t always as easy or practical.

If you sail during hurricane season you may encounter some changes to your itinerary.  You can read more on this with our article on what happens if there is a hurricane during my cruise.

If you had reserved an excursion at one of the ports along your cruise it may have to be canceled if your cruise ship ends up taking a different itinerary or skipping a certain port.   Any excursions booked through your cruise line will be refunded if a destination will have to be skipped.  If you’re looking at 3rd party excursion companies you will always want to look at the refund policies first.

A storm does not have to ruin your cruise, but it may mean you have to be a little more flexible with your plans.


5. Being Late

two cruise ships docked: cruise travel insurance

Whether it’s arriving to the cruise port on embarkation day or getting back to the ship after a fun excursion in port, you always need to be aware of the time.

It’s not the end of the world if you miss your ship, but it sure adds a lot of stress and extra planning into the process.

If you book a shore excursion through the cruise line the ship will not leave without you if something delays the activity.  But if you’re late just because you lost track of time, the ship will most definitely head to the next destination without you.

Set your watch to the ship’s time, give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship, and don’t plan any activities too far from the port.  Every cruise sees its “pier runners” trying to get back on board at the last minute.  While it’s fun to watch and it’s no fun to be a part of.

When it comes to flights, give yourself plenty of time both arriving and departing.  You don’t want a baggage delay or flight delay cutting it too close to the sail time.

Related: How to never miss your ship and get left behind


6. Picking the Wrong Cruise Line for You

Cruise ships lines up in Port Miami
Photo Credit: Cruise Port © Francisco Blanco | Dreamstime.com

I’m convinced there is a cruise line for just about everyone, even for people who swear they will never cruise.  Each of these cruise lines caters to a specific kind of audience.

Some cruise lines are great for families, some don’t allow kids at all, some cater to people who want to be very active, and some are great for those who only want to relax at sea.

We have a blog post on the best cruise line for each kind of traveler in which we talk about over 25 cruise lines and what each one does best.  If you’re not sure what cruise line is best for you, I suggest you take a look.

Choosing cruise line that doesn’t fit what you’re looking for on a vacation can ruin what could have been a great experience.  Consider things like destination, ship size, style of cruise, itinerary, and price when trying to figure out which cruise line is best for you.


7. Selecting the Wrong Cabin

There are dozens of cabin types on any given cruise ship.  And since you will spend every morning and night in this cozy stateroom you will want to make sure it’s actually what you’re looking for.  If you get claustrophobic you may want to steer clear from interior cabins, even though they are cheaper.  Want an ocean view at any given time?  Go for that balcony, but bump it up to a suite if you want a little more room and some extra amenities to go with it.

Cabin location is critical as well.  Try to avoid potentially noisy areas but also make sure you’re close enough to the things you will use the most on a cruise ship.  There are some cabins on a cruise ship that I think most people should avoid.

If you are cruising with a 3rd or 4th person be sure to check out our post on things to know when cruising with a 3rd person.

Related:  Best cruise cabins and how to find them


8. Overdoing it

buffet on MSC Meraviglia
Desserts at the buffet on MSC Meraviglia. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Food and beverages can be found in abundance on a cruise ship.  And since you’re in vacation mode it can be easy to overindulge on some things, making you feel not so great after a few days.

Be sure to pace yourself and show a little moderation so you can enjoy all the things a cruise has to offer.  I tend to overeat on a cruise and will get a little sluggish by day 3 or 4.  A trip to the gym and a little more self-control help me get back on track.


9. Being too Connected Back Home

woman using cell phone near a cruise ship in port
Photo credit: Mehdi- stock.adobe.com

Now that Wi-Fi is available on cruise ships, it can be harder to really disconnect and enjoy your getaway.  And while it’s good to keep up with a few things back home, it can also add to your stress levels when things out of your control are going on.

Remember, just because you can have Wi-Fi on all your devices doesn’t mean you need to be checking your work email and other messages throughout the day.  Give yourself a break.

Part of me misses the old days of cruising when you left your phone in your cruise cabin safe until the last day of the cruise.

Many find that getting out to sea on a cruise and disconnecting for a while can be the most therapeutic and enjoyable aspect of a cruise.  Even if it’s just for a day or two, disconnect for a bit and reconnect with the people you’re traveling with.


10. Not Realizing Some of the Extra Costs

Carnival cruise ship

First-time cruisers always face a little sticker shock when they find out all the extra costs they overlooked.  Especially if you’re cruising on a mainstream cruise line or with a lower cost line, you will soon find out that all the nickel-and-diming adds up.

Sure, the listed cruise price may have looked too good to be true, but every soft drink, Wi-Fi package, spa treatment, excursion, professional photo and gratuity can add up to frustration in the end.

There are many extra costs that I think are definitely worth every penny, but being aware of these costs ahead of time will avoid ruining a cruise because you didn’t expect to spend that much.

Related:  How much does a cruise cost (total cost)


Bottom Line

As you can see, many of these things are preventable.  And even if you plan your cruise two years in advance, having the right travel insurance and flexibility can go a long way in making sure your cruise is not really “ruined”.

Do as much prep-work and research as you can ahead of time, and it will save you a lot of frustration.  Bring all the medication you need (including motion sickness meds), pack some sunblock, make all your reservations as early as possible, and get your travel arrangements taken care of, and you are off to a great start.

Learn the cruise secrets most people don't know and cruise like a boss. Check out Intelligent Cruiser here for a better cruise vacation. (Sponsored)

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
Opinion10 Biggest Things That Can Ruin Your Cruise (If You Let Them)


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