Expectations Vs. Reality: What Cruise Ships Are Really Like - Parents Dome Stories

Expectations Vs. Reality: What Cruise Ships Are Really Like


Spending your vacation on a luxurious cruise ship sounds like an exciting getaway, especially if you’ve been yearning to squeeze in some quality time with your loved ones. Between the lavish pools and facilities, the endless activities, the stunning views, the exotic locations, and the tours, the fun is never-ending. This is what we expect, anyway. However, it seems the reality of cruise ships doesn’t always live up to our desires.

The glossy travel brochures and cheerful travel agents have nothing but positive things to say, yet there is a darker side to the cruise industry that’s only uncovered when you speak to former passengers and staff members. From odd moments to amusing experiences, these photographs are here to show us another side of cruise ships. Though there are certainly some darker tales to tell, these stories all come from a comical perspective. 

Boarding the Cruise Ship – Expectations

Hollywood motion pictures consistently make everything look so charming, including the most unimpressive of occasions, such as getting onto a plane or a boat. They cut out the part where we need to stand in interminably long queues, go through tedious check-in procedures, and trust that nothing will go wrong. 

So we plan for the huge day, we pack our best garments, and we head out early because we can hardly wait to begin our excursion. 

Boarding the Cruise Ship – Reality

On many occasions, boarding happens inside a terminal. Sometimes it does occur under a brilliant, radiant sky. However, that makes it imperative to pack sunscreen in your tote since you’ll be out in the blazing sun for some time. 

Boarding luxurious cruise ships isn’t what we envisioned it would be. In our creative minds, we never imagined cruise ships could offer such a bland boarding experience.

The Pool – Expectations

Most people have imagined themselves lying by the poolside on a cruise ship, calmly reading a book and appreciating the calming sound of the waves and the delicate breeze rustling your hair. 

That is the way they sell this experience, yet tragically, ‘serene’ is the last word you could use to portray the reality of cruise ship pools. You may want a calm day by the pool, but so does every other traveler. 

The Pool – Reality

The pool on a ship may be awesome and surpass our expectations, but it also may be far too small to accommodate the crowd. Our main issue isn’t with the pool but with different travelers on the ship. The sooner you understand you share the ship with others, the better. 

Did you think each one of those individuals from the boarding line would mysteriously vanish the following day? They all need to appreciate the best features the ship has to offer, and the pools are high on the list.

The Luxurious Hot Tubs – Expectations

When seeing cruise ship flyers, what catches us, in particular, are the pools and the extravagant hot tubs. We envision unwinding in the hot tub without anyone else around, with a decent book in one hand and a cocktail in the other. Obviously, we’d then need to take the ideal picture to post on social media and make our followers jealous.

In any case, the perfect picture does not involve us sitting in a tepid hot tub with a gathering of sweaty, drunk strangers.

The Luxurious Hot Tubs – Reality

The only way you’d enjoy a cruise ship hot tub in peace is if you had one in your room. Just like the pool, you can guarantee that the hot tub will be consistently packed. 

In the morning, it will be filled by older folks who are often the first to rise. When they’re ready to move on, the families will take over, and then before long, the party crew will be out in full force. Cruise ship hot tubs never get a break.

The Bedrooms – Expectations

If you’ve never been on a cruise, you likely envision the rooms as being as lavish as a five-star hotel. You anticipate a luxurious room with top-of-the-line facilities and an amazing sea view. 

Obviously, the rooms vary from one cruise ship to another, and some are more extravagant than others. It depends on the ship and the cost of the room. Still, we expected a certain degree of luxury. It is a cruise after all.  

The Bedrooms – Reality

As indicated by some exceptionally baffled cruise passengers, the rooms may be much more modest than anticipated. Cruise ships look enormous outwardly, and they are, but they also house hundreds of passengers, which implies that not all rooms can be as large as the passenger might like. 

Many rooms don’t even have ocean views. However, they do offer pictures of beaches and ocean waves, which is just as good, right?

The Entertainment – Expectations

We’re guaranteed many attractions and excitements on the boat. In the evenings, after supper, there should be live music, magic shows, comedy, and all sorts of other theatrics. This image, for instance, shows a Rascal Flatts show on a ship with an elated crowd and an exuberant atmosphere. 

While this image is absolutely real, only the most luxurious (and expensive) cruise ships can afford to bring A-list artists on board. Let’s set our expectations right.

The Entertainment – Reality

Reality check: the live show presumably will not be from a famous performer but a striving singer who couldn’t book a gig elsewhere. It’s best not to rely on the live show to be the most awesome aspect of the cruise. Those passengers who do are in for a harsh surprise. 

More often than not, the “professional” entertainment is provided by a novice artist, and at times, it’s actually karaoke. Before booking a cruise, it’s a good idea to check what truly lies behind the advertised “live show.”

The Casino – Expectations

Regardless of which cruise we’re going on, we expect a casino that could match the best in Vegas. The pool may have been a mistake, and the live show was a failure, but the casino never fails. 

We dressed to the nines, primed up our stomachs for an evening of drinking, filled our wallets with cash, and headed out to the casino. All the while, we’re envisioning the Bellagio or the MGM. 

The Casino – Reality

The rooms are a lot more modest than anticipated because of the restricted space on the ship. The rooms, the lounge areas, and the common zones occupy the vast majority of the space inside the boat, so very little is left for the casino. 

This image shows the dismal reality. Given that they have such a small space to work with, the “casino” is often little more than a few slot machines in a dim room. On the plus side, at least it might encourage people to reconsider gambling their savings away. 

The Cruise Ship – Expectations

Cruise ships have elegant names, usually incorporating words like queen, princess, or anything that has to do with royalty. We anticipate that the ship should be nothing short of sublime, lavish, and enormous. However, there’s a trick to this aspect of the ships – the more elegant the name, the less regal the ship often ends up being. 

Indeed, grand, luxurious, and regal is how they generally look in those glossy brochures and promotions. Take this ship, for instance. It looks pretty amazing, we must concede. 

The Cruise Ship – Reality

Not all cruise ships look as glitzy as the brochure suggests. They’re normally not as large, and they don’t always get to park on colorful seashores with the sunlight glinting perfectly off the white deck. 

Once more, this relies a great deal upon the ship you’ve picked. However, it’s a general rule that they rarely maintain the unique shine and shimmer they once had. Some of them look old and corroded while the photograph in the ad was most likely taken when the boat was new.

The Age Group – Expectations

On TV, cruises seem like a perfect getaway for friends and the ideal spot to meet new and interesting individuals. They show us young fellows and ladies making the most of their spring break in style, sitting on the deck drinking fancy cocktails, hanging out by the pool, and making great memories. 

Hollywood has ruined this experience for us. We anticipate that a cruise should be loaded with individuals our age who are there to party and have fun, very much like us, yet that is not always the situation.

The Age Group – Reality

FYI, specialty cruises are intended for a particular demographic, in which case you know ahead of time if this is the correct cruise for you. You should do your research and ensure you’re not going on a cruise where the normal age is 65. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with older folks. They are enchanting and astute and there’s a ton we can gain from them, yet you probably won’t be on the same page when it comes to partying. 

The Dining Hall – Expectations

We generally assume a five-star cruise ship is equivalent to a five-star hotel, yet in reality, the two are so vastly different. We expect the dining hall, and the food, to be extravagant and lavish, with an enormous assortment of meals, a culinary expert directing the food, and a ceiling fixture fit for the five-star rating. 

We’re committed devotees of the buffet – having unlimited choices for breakfast, lunch, and supper is the best part about a vacation. The question is, what does this buffet really look like on a cruise ship? 

The Dining Hall – Reality

In reality, the assortment at the buffet of a cruise ship often leaves a lot to be desired. Even so, the lines are almost always long. The dining hall regularly looks like a secondary school cafeteria. Once more, this depends a lot on the cruise selected – some of them offer a premium dining experience, but of course, this comes with a premium price tag. 

While the dining area may be less than impressive, making regular use of it is a good sign – it means you haven’t gotten seasick, which is one of the worst things that can happen on a cruise. 

The Weather – Expectations

The climate is a key factor in any excursion, regardless of whether it’s a summer escape or a skiing trip. It is significantly more important on a cruise, where you go through the vast majority of the day outside. Regardless of how incredible the ships are, and how extraordinary the company, in the end, everything comes down to the climate. Terrible weather really can ruin your dream cruise. 

A cruise is close to worthless without good weather. After all, a clear blue sky and the warmth of the sun are treats for the mind and body.

The Weather – Reality

If a storm moves in when you’re on a cruise, you can’t really tap out. There’s no spot to run since you’re stuck on a moving boat. So, you’re compelled to remain inside, either inside your room, the packed common zones, or the miserable casino. 

We don’t know which alternative is better, but we do know that we’d be praying for the weather to clear up the whole time. Even meteorologists admit their ability to predict weather patterns is limited. So praying is often a cruise ship passenger’s only option! 

The Activities – Expectations

Cruise ships frequently offer a lot of activities on board to keep you constantly entertained. If you’re the sort of individual who gets bored of spending hours by the pool simply lounging around and sitting idle, stress not. Cruise ships guarantee an assortment of adventures like water skiing, cinemas, and even indoor skydiving.

You most likely didn’t have the foggiest idea about this, yet cruises are a competitive business, and most ships offer similar activities, tours, and facilities. This puts them under a lot of pressure to come up with unique ideas. 

The Activities – Reality

Onboard activities can be very costly and they are often booked out instantly. This makes it essential for passengers to plan ahead and book the things they want to try. Otherwise, there’s little else to do but take part in the less popular activities, like watermelon carving. 

Carving fruit creatures doesn’t sound as invigorating as surfing or indoor skydiving? Even when a passenger books the exercises ahead of time, they usually still need to stand in line, and that is hardly an ideal way to spend a trip.

The Cruise Ship Spa – Expectations

Nothing says “getaway” like a relaxing spa. We travel to unwind, loosen up, abandon our difficulties, and leave work stress behind. There’s no greater method to unwind than a decadent spa day and a soothing massage that leaves you invigorated and revived. 

The ambiance in the spa alone is enough to put a person in vacation mode. We feel the cruise ship spa ought to be as luxurious as a five-star hotel. Given the nature of this list, however, we’re doubtful as to what we’ll actually find. 

The Cruise Ship Spa – Reality

This spa doesn’t look like a calming place. In fact, it looks like the opposite. It seems like it would make us considerably tenser. Those lounges look like they’re made of stone. 

In addition to the questionable ambiance, the spa often doesn’t get the ventilation it really needs, making the rooms muggy and tacky from all the steam and treatments. After a big day of the cruise activities, it’s the last spot you’d want to be.

The Gifts – Expectations

Bringing keepsakes back for our loved ones when we travel abroad has become a social tradition, and it’s now viewed as impolite not to do as such. More often than not, these keepsakes are cheap, useless trinkets that end up gathering dust. 

While on vacation, we hope to return with a bag twice as full as the one we took. There’s something delightful about hunting around, hoping to track down mysterious local shops with classy, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind items with which to wow our loved ones. This photo shows exactly the kind of store we’re talking about. 

The Gifts – Reality

As it turns out, the gift stores most people find on their cruise leave a lot to be desired. What they tend to find are cheap clothing stands on the street, with tacky shirts and shabby dresses that never get worn again once the cruise is over. More often than not, the ship carries you to worn-out tourist traps that all sell similar, overpriced items. 

As much as we disdain these shops, we can’t return home empty-handed, thus we purchase those pricey shirts and feel bitter about it. At least it supports the local economy, right? 

Ocean Tours – Expectations

Maybe the greatest benefit of a cruise is the opportunity to be out in the midst of the ocean where we may be able to catch a brief look at its mystical untamed life. While there are no guarantees, we’re trusting that if we invest sufficient time on deck, we may see sharks, dolphins, and other ocean animals that we don’t frequently encounter. 

It probably isn’t the fundamental reason why individuals go on cruises, yet recognizing the staggering diversity of marine life is certainly a reward. Then there’s the tantalizing promise of being able to swim with dolphins. Do cruises really deliver on such encounters with ocean creatures? 

Ocean Tours – Reality

If a passenger is hoping to see fascinating fish on their trip, they will likely be in for a whole lot of disappointment. Odds are they will not see dolphins perform their mesmerizing acrobatics. Indeed, they are highly unlikely to experience any novel encounters. From high up on the deck of a cruise ship, a person has little hope of being in the right place at the right time to witness a sea creature breaking the surface. 

What passengers do get to witness is miles and miles of endless ocean, with nothing to break the monotony. Of course, this is amazing in its own way, but after days of seeing no land and no animals, it’s easy to get a little stir-crazy. Again, going on cruises is absolutely not what we anticipate that it should be. However, we must say, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. 

The Beaches – Expectations

Having a mixed drink under the sun on a white, sandy seashore seems like the ideal getaway. If that is the sort of thing a person is looking for, however, the last thing they should do is book a cruise for their next vacation. 

Even if everything works out as expected, and the seashore truly is as marvelous as it looked in the brochure, passengers have tight time restrictions. They’re lucky to get two or three hours on the seashore before the ship takes off, and with other things to explore in the location, that gives people precious little time to relax. 

The Beaches – Reality

When we think about the perfect getaway, many of us envision an abandoned seashore with a brilliant beach and clear, turquoise water. However, this fantasy rarely comes true because of the multitude of other people crashing the party. 

Harmony and quietness are the last things on offer at a tourist beach. Remember how a cruise ship can hold thousands of travelers? They’re all disembarking at the same stops, and they all want to appreciate the amazing beaches.

Motion Sickness – Expectations

Travel sickness is a genuine possibility, though they generally neglect to mention it in the cruise commercials. It doesn’t happen to everybody, but it’s much more common than many people realize. Those stepping onto a ship for the first time often have a rude awakening waiting for them. 

When we’re on dry land, it’s easier to do something about nausea when it strikes. If it’s the motion of the ocean getting a passenger sick, there’s much less they can do to remedy the situation. It’s not like anyone can ask the ship to stop rocking! 

Motion Sickness – Reality

Some people are more sensitive to the endless rocking motion and are more inclined to experience seasickness. In the most severe cases, medication doesn’t work, and the poor passenger experiences headaches and nausea throughout the entirety of the cruise. 

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but everybody is susceptible to seasickness. We’ve even heard about voyages in which so many people suffered from seasickness that they had to abort the journey. 

The Titanic Moment – Expectations

Whenever a couple goes on a cruise, at least one of them is usually fantasizing about having a heartfelt encounter complete with the icing on the cake – the iconic Titanic moment. There is something undeniably magical about standing together at the bow, sunset in the background, and the endless ocean stretching out ahead. 

We’ve all seen the widely praised film – it’s a work of art. Supposedly, plenty of people book cruises just to get an opportunity to recreate this historic scene.

The Titanic Moment – Reality

As demonstrated by the photograph beneath, recreating the Titanic scene isn’t as epic as it seems. No matter how solid a relationship is or how keen each partner is to get their Jack and Rose on, the ships simply aren’t designed like the Titanic anymore. 

Snapping a photo without a bunch of other travelers in the background is also an impossibility most of the time. On top of this, the romantic moment would be destroyed by the commotion and music coming from the bar. 

The Ship’s Crew – Expectations

We expect the luxurious ship’s crew to be similarly dignified and accommodating. Their sole reason, to us, is to serve the passengers, and we like to think they make the most of their job. 

Most of us assume it must be pretty enjoyable work – they get to appreciate the tours, see the wonderful views, explore different countries, and get paid instead of forking out cash like the passengers. What’s not to love? 

The Ship’s Crew – Reality

We’ve revealed how minuscule the passenger rooms can be, so it should come as no surprise that the crew’s living quarters are even tinier. They don’t get lavish rooms, and on top of this, they’re usually housed deep down in the belly of the boat.

Cruise ship crews work nonstop, so they don’t have the opportunity to appreciate the facilities and activities. While passengers lounge by the pool and complain about small inconveniences, they’re serving drinks, scrubbing floors, and keeping the massive ship and all its facilities running.

Pirates – Expectations

Let’s face it, we have sympathy for pirates thanks to watching films like Pirates of the Caribbean, and this puts a rather glorious image in our minds when we think of what we may encounter on the high seas. After all, who wouldn’t want to meet Jack Sparrow?

This was one of Johnny Depp’s greatest roles, and he is a major reason why the film franchise was so successful. Because of this film, we think of pirates as the beguiling, entertaining, and somewhat insane characters we saw on the big screen. In short, we romanticize them.

Pirates – Reality

In reality, pirates are nothing like Jack Sparrow. They certainly do exist, but pirate life is far bleaker than the film depicts. They don’t have impressive ships, they don’t have sassy parrot friends, and they don’t go out on thrilling adventures seeking buried treasure. 

Real pirates are individuals searching for ships to loot. Though they are dangerous, and definitely not welcome on a cruise ship, they’re often drawn to the lifestyle out of desperation. All in all, there’s nothing romantic about it. 

The Ship’s Bathroom – Expectations

When thinking about a restroom on a luxurious cruise ship, this is the picture that will enter most people’s minds. We fantasize about being surrounded by windows overlooking the sea, in a bright room, ideally featuring a private hot tub to relax in. 

Despite the power of our fantasies, few cruise ship bathrooms resemble this one. For this level of luxury, a passenger needs to be prepared to pay for the most expensive room on the most expensive cruise ship. However, we still think the bathroom should be presentable.

The Ship’s Bathroom – Reality

Most passengers find their bathroom to be uncomfortably small. They’re lucky if they get a tiny portal window, but the view is the least of their problems. It’s difficult to do everything you need to do in such a cramped space, and for couples, there’s no hope of being able to take showers together.  

We can fantasize about having a hot tub, a sink each, and a fantastic view of the ocean. However, if we wish to make that dream a reality, we’ll have to save up the big bucks in order to secure the most deluxe cruise ship room ever designed.