OpinionI'm a Cruiser Since the 90's. What I Miss Most About Cruising...

I’m a Cruiser Since the 90’s. What I Miss Most About Cruising of Yesteryear

Needless to say, I love cruising. I love that feeling you get when you walk into the lobby for the first time and gaze up at the atrium. Dropping off your carry-on bags in your cabin before grabbing a bite of lunch is familiar, yet exciting every single time. 

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Carnival Imagination cruise ship in Long Beach
Fantasy-class Carnival Imagination sailing out of Long Beach, California

My first cruise was in 1994. Now that I am in my forties, I like to refer to that time as the “golden era of cruises”.

We may not have known it in the 90’s, but the cruising landscape was quite different back then. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the things that I miss the most about cruising of yesteryear. 

Smaller Ships

Carnival Imagination embarkation day

I may be in the minority here, but I love a smaller ship. I sailed on the MS Holiday in 1994 and her guest capacity was 1,452. Nice and cozy. 

My next two cruises were on the Enchanted Isle, which held 716 passengers. Truth be told, she is my absolute favorite ship to have sailed on. 

Smaller ships have the opportunity to provide a level of service that you cannot find on a mega ship.

Years ago, cabin stewards and dining room wait staff were not overloaded with passengers.

They were not stretched so thin with their responsibilities that they always seemed to be in a rush. They felt like family and you couldn’t wait to book another trip to see them again. 

Read more: 10 most beloved cruise ships that no longer exist

Midnight Buffets

Midnight buffet on cruise ship

Wasteful? Yes. Amazing and a highlight of the cruise? Absolutely. 

Many moons ago, midnight buffets were the norm on cruises. The daily printed schedule of activities would highlight the event that it truly was.

Before the buffet would actually open for business, vacationers were allowed to enter the dining room for photo opportunities only.

Back then, this was truly an exciting event. Now, it does seem a bit silly, I suppose. 

Yes. I lined up with the crowd, sporting my disposable camera to take photos of carved watermelons, butter sculptures and creations made of ice. Thirty minutes later, you would get back in the line, this time with a plate and an appetite. 

Magicians

Magician shows on cruise ships

While magicians are occasionally on the schedule now, cruises of yesteryear featured them often. In fact, I sailed on a ship where the cruise director was also a magician.

How’s that for multi-talented? 

Sleight of hand with a side of comedic value was always appreciated on a cruise ship. The smaller ships of the 90’s were the perfect stage for these entertainers.

They were able to weave throughout the crowd, providing an entertaining and personable experience. 

Tableside Pasta and Desserts

There was a time that tableside pastas and desserts were the norm. Eating dinner in the dining room was an event and selected appetizers and desserts were prepared at your table.

Bonus: At times, the dishes were cooked by the head waiters and they interacted with the guests like they were old friends. 

I can remember a head waiter preparing pasta with vodka sauce when I was young. Another dish had mushroom sauce and chicken. He prepared the dishes freshly at a cart by your table.

Cherries Flambe was another time that the waiters would prepare food by your table. Did I mention the Bananas Foster? Can’t leave that out. 

New Orleans cruise from 1998
My cruise from New Orleans in 1998 on Commodore Cruise Line.  -Kristi Sellers

Dress Codes

While I love the casual atmosphere of modern cruises, there is something to say about the stricter dress code of years gone by. There was a time when maitre d’s would turn you away from the dining room if you were not dressed in proper dress code.

This may happen now on some level, but things were stricter years ago. 

Everyone in the dining room was dressed up. It was an event and semi-formal attire was a natural part of your packing list.

The dinner bell rang out over the intercom and you made your way to the dining room at your assigned time, dressed in your best. 

Chocolate on Your Pillow

chocolate on bed in Carnival cruise stateroom

This is so minute that it almost didn’t make the cut for my list. Chocolates just aren’t that important, are they? 

Well, when you are on a cruise and your cabin steward has turned your bed down and perfectly placed an Andes Mint on your pillow, it might as well be a wagyu steak. It is the best chocolate you’ve ever eaten and no other chocolates exist. 

It’s a small touch but one that is missed by many. 

Time has gone by and cruises have changed. Change is inevitable, whether it be for the good or bad. Thirty years from now, cruisers will wonder why we loved cruises in 2024. 

I can guarantee you one thing. People will still be cruising and tips will still be a topic of debate. 

Read more: 10 most beloved cruise ships that no longer exist

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Kristi Sellers
Kristi Sellers
Kristi took her first cruise when she was 12 years old and is currently planning her 20th. When she isn’t cruising, she loves to visit the Smoky Mountains. Kristi lives in Alabama with her husband and fur baby, Chico.
OpinionI'm a Cruiser Since the 90's. What I Miss Most About Cruising...
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