Regular cruisers have more in common than not. But there are always a few issues that come up that seem to polarize even the most loyal of seafaring travelers.
In my 14 years of cruising, I see the same topics hotly debated. This article highlights some of the biggest issues that will never find complete consensus, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Some of the issues come down to tradition vs a more casual approach to cruising. There are generational disagreements as well. But some of the divide just comes down to preference.
Here are 7 issues cruisers hardly ever agree on and the topics that most get debated on cruise forums and groups.
1. Formal nights
With a nod to maritime tradition and an era of cruising elegance, formal nights are beloved by cruise passengers who enjoy the finer aspects of a cruise and don’t mind packing a suit or formal dress.
“Elegant” nights or “gala” nights on a cruise allow guests to wear their finest clothes and get some pictures before or after dinner. But since these formal nights are optional, it creates a divide between those who get all dressed up and those who still try to wear flip-flops in the main dining room.
Some cruise lines like Norwegian have done away with formal nights, although they still have a “dress up night” that is really just for photo ops.
You either love the idea or can’t stand it. It’s hard to get cruisers to agree on this one. But as long as people still love to dress up and feel like a million bucks while cruising the high seas, formal nights will continue to be a part of cruise tradition.
If you’re on a cruise ship but don’t want to participate in formal night, you don’t have to visit the main dining room. You can find a more casual eating atmosphere and avoid dirty looks in the MDR.
2. Traditional vs. anytime dining
This goes along with the last point on formal nights. Traditional dining allows guests to enjoy a set time each night for dinner, in which they will have the same waiter and table guests. For those who like the consistency of service and the opportunity to get to know some table mates on the cruise this is a great option.
Anytime dining came in like a wrecking ball a few years ago, and now almost every cruise line has its own version of it. With anytime dining, you can show up at the main dining room anytime, as long as it’s between a 2 hour window usually. You might get a different table each time, so your waitstaff may change as well. You often need to wait for a table and could have different table mates. You can also request a table for two or four, but this could require a longer wait time.
Typically, cruisers who love formal nights also love traditional dining. This isn’t always the case, but it’s part of the traditional aspect of cruising, so the two can go hand-in-hand.
To bring the kids or leave them at home is always a personal debate. Much of it depends on the occasion for the cruise or the age of the children. Some refuse to bring their kids and others can’t imagine cruising without them.
For those who don’t want to deal with children on a cruise at all, there are adult-only options. Cruise lines like Viking and Virgin Voyages don’t even allow children under 18-years-old onto their ships. But what about all the other cruise lines?
If you want to bring the kids along, cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line offer great kid’s programs, water slides, laser tag, rope’s courses, and all kinds of other activities to keep the youngest cruisers entertained.
A family cruise is a fantastic vacation and there’s something for everyone on today’s cruise ships.
Still, cruise travelers will debate if you should even bring kids on that cruise. If you don’t want to sail with a cruise ship full of screaming cruisers you can always focus on the time of year for your cruise.
I just got off Carnival Celebration a couple weeks ago (first week of September). The staff at Camp Ocean told me that there were only 150 kids on the entire ship. A few weeks before there were well over 1,000 children. It all came down to a cruise being in the middle of summer when the kids were out of school versus a cruise when all the kids were back behind their desks.
4. Inside vs balcony cabins
The selection of the cabin category on a cruise often comes down to cost. Interior cabins are great for those wanting to sail for as cheap as possible. But there are some who swear by those windowless cabins tucked inside the ship and wouldn’t have it any other way.
And then there are others who can’t imagine sailing on a cruise ship with anything less than a balcony stateroom where they can enjoy their own private space to catch some sea breezes.
I’ve sailed both cabin categories many times, and for me it comes down to my budget and destination of the cruise.
Any post on social media about cabin category will see its fair share of both sides of this coin. Balcony cabin enthusiasts will vow to never book a stateroom that doesn’t have an outdoor veranda to enjoy. I also have friends who will only book interior cabins because it allows them to cruise more often, and they say they sleep better without having any natural light in the space.
Related articles on this topic: 14 tips to make the most out of interior cabins on a cruise
5. Cruise line loyalty
This is one of the biggest debates with cruisers. It can be almost impossible to get a loyal cruiser with a certain cruise line to try another brand. It’s downright treason to even open an email from a competing cruise brand in their minds.
Those loyalty perks can be quite alluring once you’ve sailed with the same cruise line over the course of many years. But for the casual cruiser these perks aren’t always as great as you might think. I recently wrote about 10 reasons I’d rather sail with multiple cruise lines than stay loyal to just one.
I’m often asked, “What’s the best cruise line?”, but the question that should be asked is, “What’s the best cruise line for me?”. Each brand has its perks and quirks and offers a slightly different experience that is suitable for an exact kind of vacationer.
If you found a cruise line that is exactly what you’re looking for and don’t want to try anything else, that’s awesome!
But the divide between loyalty to cruise brands will continue to go on, and the competition between cruise lines actually benefits the industry as a whole. So, I think it’s a healthy debate. I always love to hear someone brag on their cruise line.
6. Tipping protocol
The debate isn’t whether you should tip or not. I hope we can all agree that you should show your gratitude for the service of the crew with actual gratuity.
The divide is more about the how of tipping. In the “old days” of cruising you would bring an envelope for each crew member you wanted to tip and insert the amount of cash you thought was appropriate. Some still use this method of tipping, even with automatic gratuities being the staple method of modern tipping.
Some will “raise Cain” over the prepaid tipping system and refuse to take part while others will enjoy the convenience of it. I like to prepay my gratuities and then use cash to tip on top of that for my cabin steward and wait staff if I used the same dining room for the cruise. But even that method will face criticism as this can be a hotly debated topic among those who cruise often.
7. Cruise ducks
These little rubber duckies have found their way onto just about every cruise ship these days. The concept was supposedly started by a family with two girls who hid dozens of rubber ducks all around the cruise ship for others to find.
Today, cruisers are packing these ducks in their suitcases so they can hide them all over the ship. Usually, little notes or cards are attached to the ducks so you can post it online with a certain hashtag or post the picture to a certain group.
The practice is either loved or hated by those who are even aware of it. While it’s fun for the kids, and they can choose to either hide them or keep the plastic souvenirs, some have expressed concern about the commercialization of it.
Crew members know to leave the ducks in place, but I’m sure some of the ducks get swept away or thrown out now and then.
A Few Extras
A few comments from our readers brought up some other hotly debated topics that could have been added to this list, so I wanted to mention them here.
- Smoking vs Non-smoking: While smoking on a cruise is getting harder to do these days, there are still cruise ships with designated smoking areas. Some passengers complain that they still smell the smoke or will occasionally walk through a smoking area unknowingly. On about every cruise ship you’re not allowed to smoke on balconies, but I still smell smoke coming from other balconies on many cruises I sail on.
- Lido deck lounger hogs: I thought we were all against this, but apparently not because I still see entire decks of saved loungers for hours on end. Those little plastic clips were supposed to hold towels in place if there’s a strong wind, but more of them are used to secure a spot on the lido deck. Some day a cruise line will come up with a better way to regulate the reservation of deck loungers. Until then, the debate will rage on.
The good news is that cruise ships offer something for everyone. You can go on the exact same cruise with someone who wants a totally different experience than you and both of you can have an amazing time. While you’re relaxing in the spa the other person could be singing karaoke.
Not all of us will agree on the best way to cruise or what cruise line is best. But if you’re reading this it’s probably because you love cruising and you caught Cruise Fever just like we did.
What strong view do you have about cruising? And which of these points is your hot button issue?
Read more: 10 biggest things that can ruin your cruise