If you are planning on taking a cruise, you probably know which ports of call you would like to visit and all of the exciting things you can see and activities you can enjoy once you get there. But do you know what you will be doing on traveling days when you will not be able to leave the ship? Do you even have an idea of what a cruise ship looks like or what to expect from life aboard ship?
Since most cruise lines advertise their ships as floating hotels, the image evoked is not unlike that which comes to mind when the name Marriot or Embassy Suites is mentioned. But this image could have been misleading. Generally speaking, newer and larger cruise ships have large staterooms that can be likened to a hotel room, but you will pay more for them. In fact, a hotel-like stateroom may be well out of reach for most cruise passengers.
The most common, affordable staterooms are small, about 150 sq. feet in size, and may not even come equipped with a double bed. Most rooms feature single beds that can be pushed together to create a double. Others have single beds that are bolted to the floor and additional sleeping space that can be dropped out of the walls in the form of bunk beds. You will probably have a TV in your room and a phone, but the quarters are going to be cramped. For an extra fee, you can have a sitting area or balcony in your stateroom which will make the small space seem a little more bearable. A feature on newer ships that makes small rooms livelier is the full-size window. Older ships still have portholes and these may be partially or fully obstructed by lifeboats.
Let me explain that you will love the ship your on (Or you should). I just want you to understand what to expect in regards to your stateroom. The will be spacious areas on the ship and also on deck. Most likely you will not want to hang out in your room but will want to take advantage of all the ship has to offer. Plus there will be the shore excursions at the individual ports of call for you to enjoy. If you are claustrophobic, the size of your sleeping quarters onboard might be a bit of a concern, but most travelers spend a lot of their time enjoying activities out on one of the ship's numerous decks so do not mind the small space. As a rule of thumb, newer, larger ships have more amenities and activities to enjoy, but they also carry more people. Small, quaint ships may not have as many activities, but they are quieter and more intimate than larger ships. Smaller ships can also hug the coastline closer and meander through small bodies of water that larger ships can not.
All ships have numerous public places that you are free to visit during the major of the times that you are at sea. These spaces are usually large and lavishly decorated giving the ship the luxurious feel that most people associate with cruises. Onboard you will find quiet, intimate spots for reading; lounge areas for visiting and watching TV; outdoor areas for playing games and sunbathing; exercise rooms for keeping up with your fitness routine; internet cafés for browsing online; and numerous attractions that will keep you busier than you can imagine.
One of the things that may surprise you about cruise ships is the shopping that you can do while on board. Most cruise ships have several duty-free shops that can keep you occupied for a great deal of your time at sea. These shops generally accept credit / debit cards as well as cash. You can also set up an onboard spending account with most cruise lines.
Cruise ships also have several restaurants, cafés, and snack bars to choose from. Some are formal, others are casual. On any given night you can choose to take advantage of onboard babysitting services to have a romantic dinner with your mate or you can choose to take the whole family down to casual family-oriented café. Free entertainment is usually provided nightly in several of the restaurants.
In addition to dining, most ships offer entertainment such as casino gambling, Broadway and Vegas-style shows, cabarets, nightclubs, movies, talent shows, comedians, and live musical reviews. All of the entertainment, with the exception of gambling, is free and scheduled at different times during your trip to ensure that you always have something to keep you occupied.
During the day, you can absorb some sunshine as you take part in many of the ship's day-time activities. Common activities include ping pong, shuffleboard, sunbathing and bridge tournaments. Other activities that you might not expect can include simulated rock climbing, ice skating, movies and computer classes. Some cruise lines even schedule celebrations and guest speakers to give lectures and seminars throughout the trip.
While there is a lot to keep you out of your stateroom for the majority of the voyage, there are several in-room amenities that you can take advantage of. The amount of service that is available for your particular stateroom depends heavily on the type of stateroom that you book, but most rooms have room service available and are equipped with a TV and a phone. Some rooms on newer ships even have continuous internet access.
As you can see, there is enough to do aboard ship that you may never have to leave your cruise ship at all to have a great vacation. But once you will dock, and it will be up to you how you spend your time in the few exotic locations that your cruise will deliver you to. It is this part of the cruise adventure, not the ship, which makes cruise vacations so popular.